Recycled or New

Thursday, 3 January, 2013 - 4:47 pm

I have heard it declared “go green in 2013.” While recycling may be good for many things, there are still some things that are better if they are brand new. The great Kabbalists teach that most souls that come into the world these days (we are talking 500 years ago) are recycled. This is known in Kabbala as gilgulim or reincarnation. The great Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria - 16th century Kabbalist from Tzfat) was said to be a reincarnation of Moses. The Baal Shemtov was told that his soul came from a hidden tzaddik who died centuries earlier without anyone knowing of his greatness. Souls come back either because they have to undergo a Tikkun – repair, or because they have more to accomplish in the world. Very rarely a new soul, which has previously never been in a body, comes to the world. It would appear that in order to accomplish something that is very revolutionary, the freshness and purity of a soul that has never tasted this world is required.

In 1745 he Baal Shemtov told his students that a new soul would be born to one of them. Twelve days before Rosh Hashanah he declared that the child had been born. Privately he had informed his Chassid Reb Baruch that he and his wife Rivkah would be the parents of this special child and he instructed them in great detail as to how to care for and raise the child. Ironically he said that the child should not be told or taught about the Baal Shemtov or his teachings. He wanted this soul to discover the path to Chassidus on his own accord at a later time. The Baal Shemtov said that the child’s name was Schneur – which means “two lights” in Hebrew. This was an indication that he would illuminate the world with the light of Torah – in both the revealed (Talmud and Halacha) as well as the esoteric areas of Torah.

Indeed this child with new soul grew up and made major contributions in the area of Halacha by writing an updated edition of the Code of Jewish Law. But his greatest contribution – one in which he radically altered the way the inner-spiritual dimensions of Torah would be accessible to every single person – came in the form of the Tanya. This new soul was Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi – founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement and author of the Tanya, among his many other works.

This Saturday night marks 200 years since his passing. The Alter Rebbe, as he is known to Chassidim, was both a great thinker and a pragmatic activist. He established, organized and propelled a movement forward that continues to have far reaching influence on Jewish life and thought until this very day. To learn more about Rabbi Schneur Zalman and his teachings visit Last year Israel issued a commemorative stamp in his honor depicting

The Alter Rebbe’s passing occurred on a Saturday night following Parshat Shemot just a few hours after he made Havdala. Here in New Orleans we will mark this occasion with a Meleva Malka (post-Shabbat meal) held at the home of Uzzi and Rivka Kehaty. Our gathering will feature the teachings, stories and melodies of the Alter Rebbe. Please let us know if you would like to participate.

Condolences to the family of Ben Katz, a Jewish War Veteran and longtime member of the New Orleans Jewish community. As a fellow Kohen, we spent time together standing outside the fence at funerals. I also had the privilege of duchening (offering the Priestly blessing) together with Mr. Katz at Anshe Sfard over the years.

Please also see the article featured below about my grandmother –

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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