Israel, the Torah and the UN

Friday, 17 January, 2014 - 12:11 pm

In his first comment on the Torah, Rashi cites the Talmudic sage Rabbi Yitzchak to explain why the story of creation is relevant to a work that is meant to be a guide for Jewish living. To paraphrase, the Torah should have started from the Exodus because that is where G-d gives the first Mitzvot to the Jewish people. Why does the Torah open with Genesis? So that when the nations of the world accuse the Jewish people of stealing their land we show them how Hashem created the world and he decided to give the land of Israel as an eternal gift to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In the dialogue regarding the rights of the Jewish people to Israel, this vital element of the discussion is often omitted. Recently our good friends at UNESCO, in partnership with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were getting ready to launch an exhibit entitled, The People, The Book, The Land – the 3500 year relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Finally it seemed that even the UN was starting to acknowledge our ancient biblical association with Israel. Well what do you know? Surprise, Surprise! The event was cancelled after pressure from Arab groups, because it might harm the “peace process.”

Obviously this has upset and rankled many people. One person humorously proposed that they run a simultaneous exhibit called the 3500 year relationship of the Palestinian people and the land. Oh wait, they haven’t been around that long? Well who would’ve thought? After all the claims that Jews have stolen their ancient homeland... Once again the UN displayed its impeccable credentials of “impartiality” when it comes to Israel.

The good thing is we still have the Torah to fall back on! Now we need to get more folks (especially our own folks) to read it and we are back in business!

Last week I promised a full report on the Building Naming Celebration. More photos have been uploaded thanks to Alexander Barkoff. The event was beautifully catered by Kosher Cajun. The room was elegantly setup. For the first hour attendees had an opportunity to partake of the delicious refreshments and socialize. Many also used the time to look around the building. Isaac and Bety Btesh arrived and were given a full tour of the facility.

At 8 PM, the MC, yours truly, welcomed everyone and spoke about the concept of the name Chabad House – as a brand that is a place for a Jew to always feel at home in growing as a Jew. He then gave a brief introduction to the video that was produced for the event, entitled: The Btesh Family Chabad House at work. The video was produced by Mushka Kazen (nee Rivkin), and features pictures of Chabad activities and events as well as interviews with members of the community. The video can be viewed at Following the video, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin spoke about his decades’ long friendship with Isaac Btesh. He also acknowledged the other donors to the building campaign. He emphasized the idea that while a beautiful building is important, it is merely a way to facilitate what is supposed to be happening in the building, prayer, study, Mitzvot and the experience of Judaism. That is what brings real merit to the family whose name is on the building. Rabbi Zelig and Bluma Rivkin then presented Isaac and Bety Btesh with a token of appreciation, a framed Muchnik lithograph entitled Bayit – a Jewish home filled with Mitzvot.

Isaac Btesh shared with the audience why he feels so passionate about Chabad. He talked about his time at Tulane, when his relationship with Chabad began. He told the story of his first Seder at Chabad in New Orleans as a 17 year old freshman. In true Tulane style he drank more than just four cups of wine and ended up drinking the bowl filled with the wine poured off for the ten plagues. Apparently that became a source of major blessing in his life, a blessing that he shares generously around the world.

Mazel tov to Tomer and Michal Monfred of Tzefat, Israel upon the birth of a son.

Mazel tov to Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes upon the birth of a grandson to Brocha and Avremi Slavaticki.

Mazel tov to Corey Smith and David Rittvo upon their wedding this weekend. Heartfelt congratulations to our good friends Lee and Steve Rittvo. We are very happy for you!

Condolences to Mrs. Rivka Kehaty upon the passing of her mother, Mrs. Livingston. May the family only experience good and happy times from here onward.

Have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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