ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Roger Goodell is Good for the Jews

They say that 13 is the age when a young Jewish boy realizes that he is more likely to own a professional sports team than play for one. In fact, nearly one third of owners of the five major pro sports league teams in the US are Jewish or of Jewish parentage, including over 25% of NFL owners. So, if Roger Goodell is good for the NFL owners, he is good for the Jews. But more specifically, I refer back to an article that I wrote 7 years ago entitled, “Fire Roger Goodell.” At that time the NFL flexed a Saints game from noon to the later time slot, which collided with the scheduled time for Chanukah @ Riverwalk. You can read it here:

Ever since then I have been anxious each time there is a game scheduled on the same day as Chanukah @ Riverwalk. This year, the first night of Chanukah is on Sunday, Dec. 18. When planning the event, we looked at the schedule and noticed that the NFL had the Dec. 18 game start time designated as TBD. We have been anxiously awaiting the schedule to be determined so that we could set the time of the program. This week the NFL announced that the game is being moved to Saturday, Dec 17. This is good for the Jews. Now we have been able to schedule Chanukah @ Riverwalk 2022 without any concern of the conflict with the Saints game. We hope you will all join us at the Riverwalk Spanish Plaza on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 4-6 pm for this year’s special celebration. (See below for information on a gathering to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine, that will take place before the event at 3 pm.)

On a different note, while I was in New York last Friday for the annual Kinus (conference of) HaShluchim, I got a message from my friend Lior, who met my son Sholom in Tel Aviv that day at the Tefillin stand on Dizengoff Square. While they were chatting, another man walks by and Lior says to him, “Do you know who this young man is? He is the son of Rabbi Mendel Rivkin in New Orleans.” The man’s name is DSC01964.jpgYehuda Peretz. He was here in 2011 for aSholom and Yehuda Peretz.jpg liver transplant. Sholom looks at him in disbelief. 11 years ago he was at death’s door, and now he looks robust and healthy, thank G-d. He said to Yehuda, “Were you in the hospital on Purim? Do you remember a delegation from Chabad coming to read the Megillah and play music?” Yehuda remembered. Sholom continued, “I was the little boy who accompanied my father to your room that day.” They took a photo together and it was a beautiful full circle that demonstrates the power of connection through Ahavat Yisrael – love for one’s fellow.

May we experience many miracles from Hashem that allow us to offer constant Thanksgiving for His blessings.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Remove Your Blinders

There is an old proverb, “Do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” Some attribute it to the Native American culture, where they substituted moccasins for shoes. The origin of this concept is a Jewish saying in Pirkei Avot, 2:4, “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.”

What this piece of wisdom teaches us is that we all have our biases and circumstances. These are not identical to another person’s set of biases and circumstances. If we attempt to assess a situation based solely on our perspective, we will usually be off mark in truly understanding experience of the other person. If this is true of individuals, it is certainly true of groups. Groups tend to view the experience of other groups through the lens of their own history and cultural experience. This almost always results in one group not “getting” what makes the other group tick.

I want to wade into a situation that has spun off from the Kanye West story. The Jewish experience and the black experience have historical similarities in that both peoples have suffered persecution at the hands of other groups. However, the discrimination and persecution has not been identical. While we are both targeted for our “otherness,” the nature of the persecution and the method of the discrimination has been unique for each group. Certainly, there are plenty of people who hate us both. But that does not mean that our experience is the same.

I watched as a conservative black commentator twisted herself into a pretzel to stand by Kanye, while not endorsing his antisemitic tirades. In the process she came across as minimizing the egregiousness of his words. She ended with the usual “some of my best friends are Jewish.” I, for one, sincerely believe that she is not antisemitic at all. She simply did not make the effort to understand the Jewish experience of antisemitism. She sees all hatefulness towards another through the lens of discrimination against black people. She failed by judging the situation without “reaching our place.” We Jews are often equally guilty of doing the same in reverse.

In fact, Jews even do this to each other. The antisemitism experienced by someone who is a visibly “observant” Jew might be different than that of a person whose appearance is more “secular.” The antisemitism experienced by a person in an academic or professional setting might be different than that of a person who moves mostly in Jewish circles. We get stuck wearing our own blinders when assessing a situation, not allowing ourselves to see it for what it is, thereby diminishing our capacity for real empathy.

The Torah cautions us against this because it is human nature to be this way. We must strive to refine our sensibilities and remove the blinders that do not allow us to see through the eyes of another.  

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Addition By Subtraction

When G-d gives Avraham the instruction to circumcise himself, He tells him, “I am the Al-mighty G-d; walk before Me and be perfect.” This implies that through the act of circumcision Avraham perfects himself. This constitutes addition by means of subtraction. That is some fuzzy math. Yet, our sages intimate, by the act of circumcision a male can achieve truly being “in the Divine image.” (Females are considered to be in the “Divine Image” without the need for circumcision.) How a physical form can constitute the “Divine Image” is challenging enough to understand. Throw the perfection reached by circumcision into the equation, and now we are thoroughly confused.

Obviously, when we speak of the “Divine Image” we are not referring to a literal physical form. Judaism rejects any concretization of G-d. As the poet declares in Yigdal, “He has no body, nor the image of a body.” Therefore, the notion of Tzelem Elokim (Divine Image), must refer to something conceptual and/or metaphoric. How we interpret that is for another discussion. But with respect to the association with circumcision, I would like to offer the following insight.

The Zohar uses the anthropomorphic analogy of the human male body to describe nine of the ten Divine Attributes, known as the “Sefirot.” One of those ten Sefirot is called Yesod. Yesod is the connection point between the Divine Masculine Energy and the Divine Feminine Energy (known as Malchut). Here is how the Zohar frames it. “Yesod is the body's extremity, the sign of the Holy Covenant.” From this we derive that since the anthropomorphic analogy of the body is presented as an extremity that has the sign of the covenant on it, in order to be in the “Divine Image” one must be circumcised.

Why did Hashem leave this to us instead of creating us already circumcised? Clearly, He wanted us to have a role in achieving this state of perfection. This is similar to the role we play in the rest of creation, where we take the raw materials created by G-d and turn them into usable goods.

From here we see how vital this tradition is to the Jewish people. Sadly, there is a subset of folks who wish to stem the trend of devotion to the Covenant of Abraham. The short-sightedness of their action and the detriment it brings to their children and to the Jewish people as a whole can hardly be understated.

Maimonides relates that while there is a threefold covenant for all Mitzvot, there are thirteen mentions of the covenant when it comes to the Mitzvah of circumcision. This gives us some understanding into just how integral circumcision is to Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.