ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Epic Chanukah 2022 Recap

Chanukah 2022 was epic. I reflect back to my childhood in New Orleans when there were barely a handful of events on Chanukah. Jewish organizations, and even Synagogues, would schedule board meetings on Chanukah nights. Fast forward to this year when there was hardly a night of Chanukah on which there were not multiple events in the community. I believe that the Rebbe’s idea of Chanukah as a public and significant holiday has seeped into the rest of the Jewish world. The strong push for public displays of Chanukah celebration has brought the holiday to the forefront of Jewish communal and individual consciousness.

Here is quick recap of the Chabad Chanukah events around the state. Photos of the events can be viewed on the websites and social media pages of Chabad of Louisiana (, Chabad Metairie (, and Chabad Baton Rouge ( 

Leading up to Chanukah there was a Latke cooking event at Whole Foods in Metairie as a partnership between Chabad Metairie and PJ Library. The was an Olive Press workshop at Chabad Uptown for families as a partnership between Chabad of Louisiana and JNOLA. There was a Latke tasting event at the uptown Winn Dixie in partnership with Chabad of Louisiana.

Through Chabad’s efforts, Menorahs were on display at Louis Armstrong International Airport, Lakeside Mall, Ochsner Medical Center (main campus), and the VA, among others. There was a Chanukah billboard overlooking Veterans Memorial Blvd. Multiple Senior homes had Chanukah events, including Lambeth House, Sunrise, Woldenberg Village, and Laketown.

Chanukah @ Riverwalk was held on the first night of Chanukah, Sunday, Dec 18. Hundreds of locals and tourists filled the Spanish Plaza to watch the lighting of largest Menorah in the state of Louisiana.
Photos by Gil Rubman:
TV Coverage: Menorah Lighting: Rabbi Zelig Rivkin speech:
Proud to be Jewish ceremony:

That same night a Menorah was lit on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol by Chabad of Baton Rouge with a beautiful crowd in attendance.

The Chanukah Israeli event at Chabad Metairie took place on Monday night. –

That same night a public Menorah lighting was held in Lafayette for the first time by Chabad of Baton Rouge.

On Tuesday a public Menorah lighting was held in Lake Charles for the first time by Chabad of Baton Rouge. -

That same night a Chocolate Chanukah Workshop was help at Chabad of Louisiana. -

On Wednesday Chabad Metairie hosted Family Game Night. – 5752528.  

On Friday Slater Torah Academy and PJ Library hosted Latkes on Roller Skates.

On Saturday night, Chabad of Louisiana’s Mobile Menorah Parade rolled through the CBD, French Quarter and Marigny, stopping off to meet the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars on Frenchman St. for a quick Chanukah celebration and menorah lighting with Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin. -

The most important thing is that thousands of Jews have been moved by these events to personally celebrate Chanukah and make this holiday a part of their lives.

We are not doing an official end-of-the-year appeal. But anytime is a good time to support the important work that Chabad does in our community –

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

A Rabbinic tip from the Rebbe to My Father-in-law

In the mid-1970s my father-in-law, Rabbi Abraham Stone, was encouraged by the Rebbe to become a Rabbi at a Young Israel Synagogue in New York. Before Chanukah 1976, he sent the Rebbe a copy of the weekly bulletin he had started to publish. The Rebbe replied with an interesting note thanking him for sharing the material, and then added, “It would have been worthwhile to emphasize that Chanukah is unique in that on every single day of the holiday, Hallel (prayers of praise and thanksgiving) is recited in its entirety, something that only happens on 13 additional days of the year. Perhaps it can be incorporated into your Chanukah sermons.”

I would like to unpack this note a little and explain what the Rebbe was addressing.

First some background on Hallel. The recitation of Hallel is a Mitzvah that was instituted by the prophets. According to Halacha, it is recited on Sukkot (nine days outside of Israel), Shavuot (two days outside of Israel), and on the first two days of Pesach (outside of Israel). A truncated version of Hallel is recited on Rosh Chodesh and on the last six days of Pesach. The reason for the difference between Sukkot and Pesach is that on Sukkot the offerings in the temple varied from day to day, whereas on Pesach it was the same each day. Since there was nothing new being added, after the first day (two days outside of Israel) we revert to the truncated version of Hallel.

After the Chanukah miracle, the eight days of Chanukah were added to the list of Hallel days. The Rebbe seems to be pointing out that although the holiday of Chanukah is Rabbinic in origin, full Hallel is recited each day. This is in contradistinction to Biblical holiday, Pesach when it reverts to the truncated version after day one. What changes on each day of Chanukah that would merit the recitation of full Hallel? The number of candles on the Menorah. The notion that each day there is a new candle that was not there before, is so powerful and compelling that it carries with it the obligation of reciting full Hallel.

This demonstrates to us how special each additional day of Chanukah is. It should also serve as a reminder of how important it is to pay attention to the lessons and depth of meaning within each of the days/candles of Chanukah.

This note that my father-in-law got from the Rebbe was recently shared on a family chat. Since the Rebbe encouraged him to write and speak about this idea, I felt that this encouragement extended to his family as well. As email and blogs have largely replaced the Synagogue bulletins, I share this here with you.

Please see below for a link to dozens of beautiful photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk by the incredible Gil Rubman. They can also be viewed at You will also find photos of additional Chanukah events.

Wishing you a joyous, bright, and warm! rest of Chanukah!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

We Are Surrounded By Good People

A member of our community had their Talis and Tefillin bag stolen from their vehicle one night this week. In addition to the religious and sentimental value of one’s Talis and Tefillin, their loss comes at a significant financial cost. According to the Chabad custom, we use two pairs of Tefillin, following the ruling of Rashi as well as that of Rabbenu Tam. Each pair is handwritten and assembled with extreme attention to detail. Replacement value for what was in that bag could top $4,000. Needless to say, it was a devastating occurrence.

Two days later, the phone rang at Chabad House. I was on the other line, so I did not take the call. A minute later same caller tried back again. I told the person with whom I was conversing that someone is trying very hard to get a hold of us. I answered the call and a woman identified herself as someone who lived in the neighborhood. She said, “I was walking near my house, and I found a bag with a prayer shawl, some boxes with straps and Hebrew lettering.” Why she decided to call Chabad House, I do not know. But I immediately understood that she was referring to the missing Talis and Tefillin bag. Her location was just a block or two from where the theft occurred. Apparently, the thief decided that these items were of “no value” so he dumped them on the street. If he only knew...

I thanked her profusely and within an hour I was at her door to retrieve the bag. She was very glad to be able to restore what she understood to be important religious articles to the owner. I explained to her their value, and she was ecstatic to play a role in seeing them returned. I thanked her for being such a wonderful neighbor and wished her well.

When I left her home, I did a quick check to see if everything was there. To my chagrin, one of the pairs of Tefillin was missing. After consulting with the owner of the Tefillin, I decided to do a little reconnaissance of the area. I walked to spot of the theft and then proceeded toward the home of the woman who called. I was looking on the ground and, in the bushes, nearby to see if the other pair of Tefillin would turn up. I passed her house, and about half a block further, I saw a Ziplock bag with the other Tefillin inside taped to an electric pole.

There was a short message scrawled in marker on the outside of the bag. The finder was either Jewish or was at least aware of what Tefillin were. He wrote that he hoped the person who dropped them would find them. The tefillin bag had been opened and the Tefillin themselves had been scattered on the ground. The finder thoughtfully bagged them and left them where someone who was looking, could find them.

Thanks to the kindness and thoughtfulness of two neighbors, the Talis and Tefillin have been restored to their owner. We do not know who the second person was, but may G-d bless them both for their kindness. To paraphrase the jingle, “and like a good neighbor they were really there” to be thoughtful and kind to a neighbor. This is a heartwarming reminder of the inherent goodness in most people. At a time when there is so much negativity out there, it feels great to know that we are surrounded by good people.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Can a Sheep Identify as an Ox?

Sheep play an outsized role in the life of our forefather, Yaakov. First, he works as a shepherd for 20 years. Then his pay comes in the form of speckled, spotted, and ringed sheep. The Torah tells us that his abundant sheep made him a very wealthy man. Then he uses his sheep to barter for a more diversified portfolio of assets, such as oxen, donkeys, servants, and maids. However, despite his wealth being wrapped up in a sheep-centered income base, when representing his assets to his brother, Esav, he tells him, “I have oxen, donkeys, sheep, servants, and maids.” All of a sudden, the sheep are demoted to third place in his portfolio.

Why the initial obsession with sheep, and why the switch in his conversation with Esav?

Everything Yaakov did, reflected his spiritual state. The nature of a sheep is to be docile and demure. In the service of G-d, this represents humility. In our relationship with G-d, humility is the key component to success. When you recognize that you are small and insignificant, that opens you up to the greatest infusion of Divine energy. With and through that infusion of humility fueled Divine energy, you can diversify your spiritual portfolio to incorporate other forms of service that develop your personal strengths in many aspects of life. These diverse aspects are represented by the assets that Yaakov acquired by bartering his sheep. The gateway to this successful diversification always remains the attribute of humility.

When confronting Esav, who might confuse humility with weakness, Yaakov assumes a personality affectation of an aggressive ox combined with an obstinate donkey. Lest he forget his truth, and allow the assumed personality to slide into permanence, the docile sheep are right there at number three to help keep him real.

There are times in life, when we must slip into a role that is out of character. To achieve a purpose, we may find ourselves acting in a way that is more aggressive that we would care to be. How do we ensure that this does not become our new identity? How can we guarantee that we are employing this anomaly solely for a just cause? What will assure us that when the task is accomplished, we can remove the garments of the ox? This can be done centering ourselves around our true sheep-like nature of humility before Hashem. This enables us to keep things real!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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