Tefillin Trails

Thursday, 10 July, 2014 - 7:37 pm

As our brothers and sisters in the holy land are experiencing difficult times, the IDF is engaged, and preparing to engage even further, in a large scale operation in defense of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. We all want to do things to support those efforts. In addition to the many material ways to support the efforts of those on the front lines – such as Chabad Terror Victims Project – – there are also ways that we can provide spiritual support.

In 1967, during the weeks leading up to the Six Day War, the Rebbe launched a Tefillin Campaign encouraging all Jewish men to lay Tefillin as a way of bringing protection to those defending the Jewish people and their land. The campaign was based on Talmudic and Midrashic commentary to the verse in Deuteronomy, “And the nations of the world will see the name of G-d upon you and they will fear you.” Thousands of Jewish men lined up all over the world to lay Tefillin, some for the first time in their lives, as a way of doing their part for Israel and the IDF. For more about that campaign

The Rebbe also introduced a number of Mitzvah campaigns in a similar manner, such as the Shabbat Candles and Mezuzah Campaigns. These are things that we can do in these troubling times. We should all find ways to strengthen these Mitzvahs for ourselves and others.

In that spirit I would like to share a small Tefillin trail that I experienced this week. Early Sunday morning I arrived at JFK airport to fly back to New Orleans. As I made my way to the gate, I heard a man ask me if I spoke Hebrew. I replied in the affirmative so he asked me to help find his gate. While we were talking I asked him if he had a chance to lay Tefillin that day. (Being 7 AM I had a pretty good idea what the answer would be….) While I removing my Tefillin to put them on him, he informed that he had just gotten married the week before and introduced me to his bride. He told me he was headed to Vegas and he was hoping this would bring good luck to turn a profit. I smiled and told that he had already turned a good profit by marrying his wife and he must be thankful to G-d for the blessings. We parted with good wishes and a good start to the week.

Two days later on Tuesday, at New York Camera, we had our monthly Lunch N Learn. Uzzi Kehaty, the owner of NY Camera, always offers the men that come for the class to lay Tefillin before the lunch starts. One young man put on Tefillin and he later informed me that this was the first time in his life and that it was spiritually uplifting – in his words, “it felt comforting and right.”

Fast forward one day, I was driving back from a visit to the Jewish prisoners at the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, LA. I pulled into a rest area to take a quick break. As I walked back to the car, someone standing next to a nearby vehicle calls out “Shalom.” The young man, who is an Israeli living in the US and now on a cross country road trip, and I started chatting. Of course I asked him if he would like to put on Tefillin. He was very happy to comply and put on Tefillin right in the parking lot of the Atchafalaya Welcome Center. We parted in friendship and I left him with a kippa and a copy of the Shema and travelers prayer.

Condolences to Jeffrey Smith and the entire family upon the passing of his mother, Mrs. Bertha Smith. May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Mazal Tov to Yaakov and Chaya Muskha Brum upon their marriage last night. Special Mazal Tov to Charles and Sandra Brum. Much Nachas!!!

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Rabbi Gabe and Abby Greenberg as they assume Rabbinic duties at Beth Israel.

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Miriam and Ben Schenker and to Ariel and Paul Cohen, who recently moved to New Orleans. Wishing you all a smooth transition and we look forward to you being a part of the New Orleans Jewish Community.

Congratulations to Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall upon being appointed to be the Rebbe’s new Shluchim to Southern Mississippi. The Halls will be moving to Biloxi in the fall to establish a permanent Chabad presence in the state (the 49th state in the union to host a Chabad Center). To read more To support the new center go to We welcome them to the extended Chabad of Louisiana family!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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