ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Ukrainian Traveler's Prayer

There is an ancient Jewish custom to recite a prayer when on the road, called Tefilat Haderech – the Traveler’s Prayer.  It reads as follows:

May it be Your will, G‑d, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace (If one intends to return that day, one adds: and return us in peace). Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world. May You confer blessing upon the work of our hands and grant me grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, and bestow upon us abundant kindness and hearken to the voice of our prayer, for You hear the prayers of all. Blessed are You G‑d, who hearkens to prayer.

If you read it carefully, you will notice that there is a line there that is to be read if one intends to return that same day, “and return us in peace.” If one is taking a longer journey, where the return will be delayed beyond that day, that passage is omitted.

Back in late February or early March, at the early stage of the conflict in Ukraine, people started to flee to wherever they could to avoid the threat of attack. Many of the Chabad Shluchim, though initially hoping that they and their families could stay, realized that it was not prudent to do so. They helped and continue to help tens of thousands of Jews in their communities to escape to safer locales. Many of the Rabbis have since returned or go back and forth between their cities and where their families are located, travel permitting.

A video circulated of one of the Shluchos (female emissary) who was in a car with her children evacuating from their hometown to safety. The mother was reciting the Traveler’s Prayer with her children. They read the first part of the prayer word for word. When she got to the passage “and return us in peace,” she hesitated and then opted to include it in her prayer. When asked why she said that passage if it was only meant for a same day turn around, she replied, “We hope that to return this very day. We have a mandate from the Rebbe here in Ukraine to take care of the Jewish community. It is up to Hashem to grant us the fulfillment of that possibility.”

While that part of the prayer was not granted, this story conveys their attitude toward the whole situation. Many people, especially those with foreign citizenship, are eager to get away and never come back. The Chabad Shluchim and their families and chomping at the bit to return to restore Jewish life to their communities. May Hashem grant that peace and safety be brought to the region so they can continue their holy mission of keeping Yiddishkeit thriving in their communities. May Hashem take us all out of exile and bring us to the Holy Land in peace with the coming of Mashiach speedily.

In the meantime let’s continue to support their work,

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


Do Jews Really Control the World?

I want to share with you some of what our network was able to pull off this week to facilitate the observance of Passover for our fellow Jews. We got a Facebook message from Texas asking us to deliver Matzah to a Jewish acquaintance in New Orleans.

We got a phone call from a Rabbi in Massachusetts asking us to place a young man from his community who doing Peace Corp work in New Orleans at a Seder.

We got a WhatsApp message from an Australian Chabad Rabbi, who was seated on a plane to the US near a young Jewish attorney whose destination was New Orleans. Could we place him for the Seder?

Got a family chat message from a cousin in Northern California about a member of his community who had a daughter living in NOLA. Could we get some Matzah to her?

We learned about the daughter of a woman in our community living in New York that had not received any Matzah. Within 24 hours she was visited by a Rabbi with Matzah and an invite to a Seder. He also found another Jew who worked at her place of employment and left him with the same.

My son was asked by a Rabbi who oversees Chabad’s activities in Cuba, to travel there to conduct the Passover Sedarim with a friend. Less than 24 hours later, they landed in Havana.

This is of course, in addition to the 1,000 boxes of Matzah that Chabad distributed in the greater New Orleans area, and the dozens of people that will be attending each of the Chabad Seders all over town. (If you still need a place reach out to Rabbi Nemes – [email protected].)

The same scene repeated itself all over the world. Wherever Chabad is found, this powerful network orchestrates the facilitation of Jewish needs for locals and visitors. Utilizing swift methods of communication and friendships between Rabbis, people can be helped in real ways in a very short time. Just today, Jake Tapper of CNN had a Chabad Rabbi in Kyiv lay Tefillin with him just before Passover and then they did a quick Seder together.   

The Sherlockians among you may recall Holmes describing his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, as a spider who sits at the center of his web of crime. He never moves from his place, but he oversees every quiver in the London crime world through his carefully crafted network of evil.

On the side of positivity, we have the Rebbe, whose 120th birthday was celebrated this week around thew world. You may not know this about the Rebbe, but from 1947 until 1994 the Rebbe hardly left a 3 square block area in Brooklyn. Apart from regular visits to the Ohel (tomb) of his predecessor in Queens, three visits in the 1950s and 60s to the Chabad summer camp in upstate New York, and a rare medical appointment, the Rebbe did not get around much. His Synagogue/Office/library, home, Mikvah and the apartment of his mother (until her passing in 1964) pretty much sums up the extent of the Rebbe’s circle.

Yet, the Rebbe was intimately familiar with thousands of locales around the world. He knew the inner workings of every community where a Chabad Shliach was present, and even where there was just occasional visitation. Utilizing the network that was developed by his inspiration and urging, the Rebbe continues to positively impact the lives of Jews in every nook and cranny of the world.

As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks phrased it, “Just as Hitler sought to hunt down every Jew in hate, the Rebbe sought to hunt down every Jew in love.”

It is a privilege to a part of this network of love.

Wishing each and every one of you, a joyous and meaningful Pesach. May we all experience true liberation and freedom from all that keeps us down!

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Education and Sharing Day New Orleans

Yesterday, I was joined by several Chabad of Louisiana colleagues and Richard Cahn, at the New Orleans City Council Chambers to accept a proclamation by the city council designating the Rebbe’s upcoming 120 birthday on Tuesday, April 12, to be Education and Sharing Day New Orleans. If you would like to see some video footage and photos click here:

Similar designations take place on the federal level in Washington DC, in every one of the 50 states, hundreds of municipalities, and in countries around the world. In fact, this has been a trend that began in the late 70s and has been growing each year.

Why is the Rebbe’s birthday acknowledged by so many? What moved presidents from Carter to Reagan to Biden and everyone in between, to honor the Rebbe in this way? What brought members of the United States Congress from Shirly Chisolm and John Lewis, to Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich, to unite in bestowing the National Medal of Honor upon the Rebbe? Why are governors, mayors, and city councilors from states and cities with minimal Jewish populations declaring the Rebbe’s birthday as Education and Sharing Day in their respective jurisdiction?

It is because the Rebbe’s message and vision resonates universally with all people. The Rebbe’s perspective of valuing every individual’s uniqueness can and should be appreciated by all. The Rebbe’s recognition of the inherent goodness and spark of G-d within all, is a source of hope for so many for whom hope seemed to be lost. The Rebbe’s persistent positivity coupled with a relentless striving for growth is an inspiration to all of humanity.

How much more so should this day be meaningful every one of us, who were directly touched by the Rebbe’s teaching and example. We must surely celebrate this day by increasing our commitment to “Education and Sharing.” Doing so will bring us one step closer to the realization of the Rebbe’s vision of a world of goodness – the world of Redemption through the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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