ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Who Wouldn't Want Matzah?

A philanthropist once asked the Rebbe for guidance stating that he wished to fund a “major project” and he wanted the Rebbe’s advice as to which project to get behind. He assumed the Rebbe would direct him to a building project or major new undertaking that Chabad was initiating. The Rebbe’s reply was “if you wish to get involved in a “major project” then fund the distribution of Shmurah Matzah before Pesach.

Today is the Rebbe’s birthday. Chabad of Louisiana and our affiliates around the state are very proud to gift to the Rebbe that in Louisiana nearly 2,000 Jewish households received Shmurah Matzah. Teams of volunteers assisted the Shluchim of New Orleans, Metairie, and Baton Rouge in this effort. May everyone who was involved in this project be blessed knowing that the Rebbe considers this a “major project.”

The vast majority of recipients responded positively when the volunteers arrived at their homes. We hope that these packages of Shmurah Matzah will grace the Seder tables of Jewish households throughout the state. We did encounter the sad image of enemy flags flying in front of several households in our community. The juxtaposition of that symbol flying alongside a Mezuzah, with a box of Shmurah Matzah on the doorstep, may just be one of the stranger images of this season.

We also encountered some Jews who have gotten involved in other religions. That is a painful thought, especially at this time of year, when our ancestors were killed and persecuted during blood libels while being falsely accused by some members of those same faiths.

The Zohar says that Matzah is Food of Faith and Food of Healing. May Hashem bring healing and faith to all those who have “wandered off” in one direction or another.

The most curious reaction was from those who declined the packages of Matzah. While most were polite and friendly, we did get some harsh responses. One individual was particularly angry in their reaction. When I inquired as to the reason for the antipathy, the individual replied that “when the Witnesses or the Latter Day Saints come to the door I can ignore them or tell them I am not interested. But when Chabad comes, that means somebody is assuming what I should believe and what I should be doing and trying to impose their practices on me.”

I actually found that fascinating. If this individual really didn’t care they would just ignore the delivery like they do when the other groups come. For some reason the delivery of Jewish paraphernalia touched them deeply enough to be upset by it. Perhaps the Neshama doesn’t allow them to just blow it off. Either you embrace or reject, you cannot just be apathetic or dispassionate about something Jewish.

May the day come when all Jews are passionately embracing of their Yiddishkeit, infused with faith, joy, and meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin     

A Dayenu Introspective

One of the more joyous moments of the Seder is singing Dayenu, during which we express our profound gratitude for 15 acts of kindness that G-d showed us in association with the Exodus.

They are: He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Holy Temple.

The Maharal (R’ Yehuda Lowe of Prague) in his commentary to the Haggadah points out that the 15 clauses of Dayenu can be categorized into three themes. The first five, that are directly connected to the Exodus, are about our becoming a nation, Am Yisrael.

The second five are about the miracles that G-d performed for us during our 40 years journey through the wilderness. They demonstrate that we are not a people subject to the laws of nature, rather we are a miraculous nation.

The third set of five are about the spiritual gifts that G-d gave us, allowing us to have a relationship with Him. These convey that our nation, which is supernatural, has a purpose.

To sum it up it would be 1. That we are. 2. How we are. 3. Why we are.

The Passover Seder is not merely about historical reminiscence. Rather, we are meant to internalize the meaning of all that we recall and apply them in our contemporary lives.

As we sing Dayenu this year, let us recall that we are a nation, Am Yisrael. We are one people, and we need to be united with each other in harmony. We are a miraculous people. We have survived 3,500 years of repeated attempts at annihilation. (Can anyone spell genocide?) We are here to tell the story, while our oppressors have been relegated to the ash-heap of history. We will survive this current attempt as well because “Am Yisrael Chai.” We must also remember that our peoplehood, and our miraculous survival and thriving, must be infused with purpose. Those gifts which were given by G-d to our ancestors, the Shabbat, Revelation, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the worship of the Holy Temple, are what make our lives meaningful and purposeful. By remaining loyal to these unique gifts, we can serve as a source of light and inspiration to the whole world.

For this we are eternally grateful, and we declare, Dayenu!

To sell your chametz, please go to

For general Passover information, including Seder how to and recipes,

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Cheer For Our Young Experts

Is there something in which you have expertise? Is there a subject or an intellectual discipline that you have completed? I want to share with you about an expertise being developed by 10 children in our community.

First some background. 40 years ago, the Rebbe launched an initiative encouraging people to engage in daily study of the Halachic works of Maimonides. The advanced track would encompass the Rambam’s 14 volume Mishna Torah – code of Jewish law. The beginners track would encompass the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot – Explanation of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah. The beginner’s track was encouraged even for school aged children.

Ever since then, tens of thousands of Jewish children around the world have followed the daily study program of Sefer HaMitzvot, which is completed each year. Some years ago, Tzivos Hashem, the organization the Rebbe founded for Jewish children, established a Chidon – competition for children in Sefer HaMitzvot. The book was divided into 5 sections. Children in grades 4-8 were allowed to enter the competition, with one of the five sections assigned to each of the five grades. A child that completes all five years of the competition will have mastered all 613 Mitzvot as taught by the Rambam. Tests are administered and prizes are awarded based on achievement. There is an annual gathering and celebration that includes a Mitzvot game show for the top achievers each year. Eighth graders are given the lagniappe option of being tested on all 613 Mitzvot as a whole, in addition to section 5 that is for their grade.

Our New Orleans Jewish community was well represented this year. 10 Slater Torah Academy students successfully competed in this year’s Chidon and just wrapped up their trip to New York for the celebration. Two elementary school girls and eight boys are well on their way to becoming experts in the 613 Mitzvot. Our community should take pride in their monumental accomplishments. We wish them Mazal Tov. May they serve as an inspiration to the adults in our community to commit ourselves to a greater degree of Torah study, especially the Halachic works of Maimonides. For more information on the daily study go to

We welcome new team members to Chabad of Louisiana. Rabbi Yisroel and Chaya (nee Rivkin) Slonim have moved to town to join the staff of Chabad Tulane Grads/Alumni and Young Professionals. They will work under the direction of her parents, Rabbi Yochanan and Sarah Rivkin. We wish them much success in all of their endeavors.

Over the next two weeks Chabad of Louisiana will venture to distribute a Shmura Matzah package to every Jewish home in Orleans Parish. If you know of someone that may not be on our list who would appreciate a Matzah package, please let us know. Chabad of Metairie will be distributing packages in Jefferson Parish. We will also be branching out to surrounding parishes, including the Northshore. If you would like to support this project, please go to If you would like to volunteer with delivery, please let us know. Thank you in advance!

We acknowledge the passing of legendary former senator Joe Lieberman. A tribute can be read at

For this year’s Sale of Chametz form,

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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