ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Countdown to 5783

Believe it or not, Elul begins this weekend. Which means… that Rosh Hashanah and 5783 are just one month away. Hard to believe that a year has gone by since last year’s Rosh Hashanah spent in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. (Especially since so many are still fighting with their insurance companies for proper compensation…) Yet, in one month we will be standing before Hashem on Judgement Day, listening to the sound of the Shofar, while praying for our blessings for the year to come.

There is much to reflect on during this month. So many themes and inspiring concepts to contemplate. I would like to share a sampling of articles that have been shared on this forum over the last ten years. I hope that you will each find one or two that resonate with you.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and wonderful month of Elul.

Shabbat Shalom

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The Multiple Images of Elul

Search and Rescue

Are we Dwellers or Visitors

Welcome Home


Let My People Laugh

According to a 1978 Time Magazine article, an estimated 80% of comedians were Jewish. What is it about being Jewish that stimulates the funny bone?

There are many theories. Entire books have been written on the topic. Some see humor as a way of coping with persecution. Others connect it with the wittiness stemming from being steeped in intellectual pursuits. However we understand this phenomenon, there is no doubt that it is both real and deep rooted.

Humor is a gentle way to lighten a tense situation. This is true in the moment, as well as on a broader scale. One writer said, “Oppressed people tend to be witty.” Jews used humor to deal with whichever nation happened to be oppressing them at any given time. Common folk within the Jewish community used humor to deal with a leader’s heavy hand in communal affairs.

In Eastern European Shtetels, a badchan (jester) was often hired at weddings of prominent families in society. He would employ the use of witty verse to poke subtle fun at the important people. This is a practice that continues in some circles until this day.

The Talmud speaks of Elijah the Prophet pointing out people who were given the appellation “men of the world to come.” In explanation he said, that they were folks who used humor to bring joy to the downtrodden.

Jewish mysticism argues that everything one does or experiences, should be oriented toward the service of Hashem. What G-dly purpose could we discover in a good belly laugh? The Talmudic sage Rava, would begin each lecture in the academy with a “milsa d’bedichasa” – a humorous remark. This would cause the Rabbis to laugh and relax, making them more open to absorbing the complexities of the Torah topic upon which Rava was expounding.

Modern science backs this up. “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being, in addition to many specific benefits.

So, join us this Monday night for a good laugh, as we are entertained by British Jewish comedian, Ashley Blaker at Chabad (Uptown). It’s a Mitzvah!

For tickets and info:  

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Loving With All Your Very

In the Shema there is a passage (from this week’s Parsha) that states, “You shall Love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

The obvious question is why the need for three sets of instructions to love G-d? There must be something in “soul” that is not covered by “heart,” and likewise with the third one.

Tangentially, the word for heart, is actually written in a way that implies two hearts. From this our sages derive that we must train both our “hearts” – our drives – the mission-oriented drive as well as the self-oriented drive, to love G-d. We do this by bringing our self-oriented drive to recognize that loving G-d is really good for me.

What about soul? This means that if we are faced with the choice between rejecting G-d or losing our lives, we must be willing to give up our very lives for G-d. Sadly, our history as a people has millions of Kedoshim - people who sanctified the name of G-d through their deaths.

So, the elephant in the room is, what can top giving your life for G-d? What could “loving with all your might” possibly add to the love demonstrated by literal self-sacrifice?

The Hebrew for might in the passage is Meod. The literal translation of Meod is very (much). When we say “with all your might” that means with everything you’ve got. Now, while giving up life itself for G-d is a very lofty level of devotion, at the same time, it is a split-second decision and implementation. Living for G-d, on the other hand, requires a stick-to-itiveness that could be even more challenging. It means maintaining a level of intensity that goes on and on, day to day, week to week, and year to year.

Loving with all your “very” is where the rubber meets the road on the path toward ultimate redemption.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Energized, Not Paralyzed

This weekend is Tisha B’av, a day of mourning and commemoration for the Jewish people. Negative emotions can be paralyzing or energizing. The only type that is appropriate for us to experience as Jews in the mourning period, is the energizing type. Here are a few articles from previous years that revolve around this approach to Tisha B’av.

Dancing Over Destruction:

Spin Doctor or Purveyor of Truth:

Happy Tisha B’Av:

Getting Comfortable with the Beit Hamikdash:

Is it Time to Move On:

May we channel this energy into the actions needed to bring us from mourning to joy, from exile to Redemption with the rebuilding of our Holy Temple speedily.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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