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Relief for Baton Rouge / The Agony & the Ecstasy

Thursday, 18 August, 2016 - 1:10 pm

To quote my brother-in-law, Rabbi Peretz Kazen of Baton Rouge, “Baton Rouge has been through the wringer.” This is true of much of the region and the situation is still developing. We all remember what it was like to experience this sort of challenge, and what is was like to be comforted by the support of others. Now it is our turn to show that support to our neighbors in the flooded areas of South Louisiana.

There are many worthy organizations providing assistance and facilitating volunteering to help those in need. I have some first-hand knowledge of what Chabad’s Rabbi Peretz and Mushka Kazen are doing. They are providing moral, physical, financial and nutritional support to as many people as they are able to reach and help. They are coordinating volunteers to clean out houses, delivering food and gift cards, and reaching out in friendship to members of the devastated community.  

They have launched a campaign at Please contribute and help them be the people on the ground helping others. May we always merit to be on the giving end!!!


A Jewish mother was once overheard moaning, “Oh the agony, oh the ecstasy.” When asked what was wrong, she replied, “My daughter eloped without a word to me.” “As to the ecstasy,” she added, “He is a nice young doctor.”

In the current Jewish month we experience the agony and the ecstasy of the Jewish calendar. The ninth of Av is the sad day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and many other historic Jewish tragedies. 6 days later is the 15th of Av, the day our sages declare to be incomparably greater than all other holidays. What is so great about it? A whole bunch of nice stuff happened on that day in history. So the 9th of Av is tragedies in bunches and the 15th of Av is happy endings in bunches. But does that qualify as the greatest holiday of the year? What about Passover and the Exodus? What about Shavuot and Sinai? What about Sukkot and Simchat Torah?

To explain. Many of our holidays are held at the time of a full moon (the 15th of the Jewish month). The Jewish people “calculate according to the moon and are compared to the moon.” The cycle of the moon is a reflection of our people’s history. We wax and we wane. We have highlights and lowlights. We had the days of Moses, David and Solomon. And we had the days of Haman, Hadrian and Hitler. But the cycle is not just cyclical for the sake of being cyclical. Ultimately there is an end game. Kabbala teaches that every fall or descent is for the purpose of an ascent that lifts the person to greater heights than previously experienced.

So when the moon reaches the full point, one may argue that this is the zenith of its existence and there is no point in the waning process. However, the lower the fall the greater the rise. So Passover and Sukkot, Tu B’shvat and Purim and other good days are on or near the full moon of their respective months. But the ascent that follows the greatest fall is the 15th of Av. After the tragic low where the Jewish people hit the rock bottom of destruction and exile, the rebound is that much more powerful and compelling. In truth, the 15th of Av represents the full moon of redemption and that is why it is described as the greatest holiday of the year.

May we merit that this is the year when the potential for redemption associated with Av 15 is actualized through the coming of Moshiach!

Our condolences to Leo Golubitsky and his family upon the passing of his dear mother, Lilia Golubitsky. May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy 15th of Av!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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