ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Chazak, Chazak, V'Nitchazek!

The prevalent Jewish custom is that upon finishing one of the five books of the Torah, the entire congregation declares, “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek - Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened.”

The thrice repeated theme implies a sense of permanence. In Judaism something that is done three times becomes the accepted norm. Kohelet teaches (4:12) “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” This is the obvious explanation for the triple expression of “Chazak – be strong.”

However, nothing in Judaism is random. I would like to explore this a little deeper and apply what we discover, to the current situation facing Jewish people in Israel and around the world.

There are two sources of origin for this expression. One from Deuteronomy/Joshua where G-d tells Joshua (through Moses and then directly) “Chazak V’ematz – be strong and resolute.” The second is from Samuel II (10:12) where the two generals of King David’s army say to one another, “Chazak V’nitchazek – be strong and let us be strengthened.”

The first Chazak is to be strong with regards to Torah. This is an instruction to strengthen our Judaism via the study of Torah and observance of Mitzvot.

The second Chazak is in the context of war. Israel was attacked by the armies of Amon and Aram. Yoav the military commander of David’s armies, says to his brother, Avishai, a fellow general and warrior, “Let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our G-d.”

Jewish people today are facing a challenge. The war in Israel has brought to the fore that our very identities as Jews are under threat. We must respond on two interdependent fronts. Chazak! We must be strong and proud as Jews. We must not cower or demonstrate weakness about our Jewishness. How do we successfully accomplish this? By engaging in the second Chazak! We are strong in our Judaism. We increase our Torah and Mitzvot. We seek out and implement avenues of Jewish connectivity. We are more engaged in our Jewish communities. We are more visible about our Jewish practices and observances.

Then there is “V’nitchazek – Let us be strengthened.” At any given time, I may need to be strengthened by you or you may need to draw strength from me. When one of us is feeling vulnerable, someone else must be their source of strength. We must be there for each other.

The secret of our people’s strength and vitality is the Torah which connects us to Hashem. Thus, when we complete a book in the Torah, we draw strength from that completion. The triple declaration of Chazak affirms this and reminds us from whence we derive our power.

So, my dear fellow Jews, I say to you, and you say to me: Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek! Indeed, let us draw strength from the Torah to be resolute in our Jewishness and our Judaism. A strength that is more powerful than any foe we may face, and a vitality that enables us to overcome any threat and vulnerability we experience.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


It's All About The Benjamins!

As the war in Gaza continues, I have heard from fellow Jews who are starting to get uncomfortable with defending what Israel is doing. I would like to explain why standing strong for defense of Jewish life is so critical and mandatory for us now more than ever.

They say, “It’s all about the Benjamins.” No, this is not a Rabbi peddling antisemitic tropes. (Besides, I thought that a trope is a note for chanting from the Torah...) Way before Benjamin Franklin adorned the $100 bill, there was another Benjamin. He was an innocent Jew who was being held hostage by, what appeared to be, an enemy force in the Middle East. I refer to Benjamin the youngest of the 12 tribes of Israel. When the viceroy of Egypt threatened to keep him as a slave/prisoner, his older brothers came to his defense, arguing on his behalf and threatening to take military action if he was not released. The spokesman of the brothers, Judah, gave justification for why he was risking his life and threatening to attack for the sake of this one “lad.” He declared, “For your servant assumed responsibility for the boy from my father.” He guaranteed his father Jacob, that he would ensure the young man’s safe return home. The Hebrew word for guaranteed is Arav.

Over 3,300 years ago we stood at Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah. Along with the Torah came the mandate of Arvut, responsibility to one another. Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another. We are literally brothers to one another. As such, when one of us is in danger, or when one of us has been hurt or killed, G-d forbid, we regard it as very close and personal. This is not a danger to someone across the world with whom I have no connection. This is not an attack on a group of people in a remote country thousands of miles away. This is my little brother for whom I took responsibility.

We should be and are pained for the loss of all human life. But can we be faulted for taking the attack against our own brother more personally? Every hostage in Gaza is my little brother Benjamin. Each of the millions of Jews in danger of an attack by terrorists in Israel, is my little brother Benjamin. Each Jew around the world that is threatened by antisemites and the “useful idiots” who enable them via moral equivocation, is my little brother Benjamin.

We must each declare as Judah did, “For your servant assumed responsibility for the boy from my father.” We all took responsibility before our Supreme Father for our little brother Benjamin. You’d better believe we are taking this personal. You’d better believe we are standing strong for defense of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. You’d better believe we have no room for moral equivocation. We are talking about our little brother Benjamin.

If you start to feel the creep of discomfort inching up your conscience about the war in Gaza, remember that we are talking about a threat against your little brother Benjamin. This is not an academic discussion about who has the right to the land. We simply cannot stand by as a single Jewish life is lost, how much more so when the lives of millions are at stake.

Remember our action plan! (Copied below). Do your part! May Hashem bless us all with peace and protection; and bring redemption to our world through the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Action Plan Highlights
See our page
Add your Mitzvah today!

  • Tefillin: Please visit Chabad Uptown or Chabad Metairie and lay Tefillin or reach out to have someone come by with Tefillin. If you have Tefillin, put them on daily and offer to share them with other Jewish males over Bar Mitzvah.
  • Shabbat Candles: Ladies and girls, you have the power of light in your hands. Light Shabbat candles before sunset on Friday (this week at 4:48 pm). If you need or know someone that needs Shabbat candles, let us know and we will get a package to them.
  • Mezuzah: Put a Mezuzah on the door of your home or check the existing ones to make sure they are valid. Reach out to us if you need a Mezuzah or help checking the ones you have up.
  • Tzedakah: is a great resource to get funds directly to the organizations on the ground in Israel helping with the war effort. There are many other reputable organizations raising funds as well, see for the Jewish Federation’s initiatives. The main thing is to offer our support.
  • Pray: Chabad Rabbis in Israel have asked that recite the following Psalms for the safety and security our people in Israel - Psalms 20, 22, 69, 122, and 150. At Chabad (both locations) we recite them twice daily during the morning and evening minyan.
  • Letter in the Scroll: Get your child a letter in the Children’s Torah Scroll – The Unity Torah for people of all ages –
  • Study Torah: Join a Torah class or study on your own. Check out the upcoming course Advice For Life –
  • Take a tour of a Mikvah and explore the secret to Jewish family purity and harmony. For more info,

A Minyan at the Smoothie King Center

It has been a whirlwind of a Chanukah. Beautiful events throughout the week drawing record crowds of people looking to connect with their Jewishness and the Chanukah holiday. Hundreds came to the Spanish Plaza – Riverwalk on the first night of Chanukah to participate in the annual lighting of the Menorah. Meaningful words and a moving tribute to the IDF infused the festive lighting and celebration that surrounded it with heartfelt meaning.

Photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk by Gil Rubman, and other Chabad of Louisiana Chanukah events can be found at

A photo spread from the Time Picayune can be found at:

Coverage from WWLTV of the event can be found at:

The Mobile Menorah Parade Saturday night was a big hit with the viewers along the streets of New Orleans. We made a stop at Margaret Pl where a JNOLA Chanukah party was taking place, and they all came out to watch the parade drive by. A similar stop was made at BJ’s Lounge where the Klezmer All Stars were playing.

Public Menorah lightings in Metairie, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Jackson and Gulfport, MS along with events at multiple hospitals, senior centers, and schools, really brought the spirit of Chanukah to thousands of people in the region.

One unique event this year was the Chanukah event before the Pelicans game at the Smoothie King Center on Monday night. The large group that attended the Kosher pregame and Menorah lighting was treated to great food and the Chanukah spirit. (See photo gallery). There was even a Minyan for Maariv right before the game near the Menorah lighting. Gabe, our Jewish contact at the Pelicans, was gushing about how meaningful it was to him for a Minyan taking place in the Smoothie King Center and how excited he was about his role in coordinating the event.

Which brings to mind the irony of having a Chanukah event at a sports arena. The Greeks originated the concept of sports arenas. Chanukah celebrates not only the victory in battle against the (Syrian) Greek army, but more importantly the spiritual victory in the struggle over the soul of the Jewish people. For many years Greek culture (Hellenism) infiltrated the land of Israel and a broad segment of Jewish society. The Maccabees fought against the oppression of the Syrian Greek army, but also in the war of culture and spirituality that took place within the Jewish people themselves.

It would seem antithetical to the spirit of Chanukah to connect a holiday celebration with a sports arena. Yet, the lights of the Menorah have the power to illuminate even the “darkest of spaces.” The Menorah is kindled at night, when it is literally dark, facing the outside street, away from the brightness of a Jewish home. The lights of Chanukah are so powerful that they can not only mitigate darkness, but they can even transform that which appears antithetical to the spirit of Chanukah into a vehicle for spreading the message and spirit of this special holiday.

At a time when there seems to be an extra measure of darkness clouding our world, this year’s Chanukah celebrations were that much more poignant and meaningful.

Happy last few hours of Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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