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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Humbled, not Overwhelmed

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friends,

This evening the holiday of Shavuot begins. Shavuot is the season of "the giving of our Torah".

This year commemorates 3,332 years since the revelation and Sinai and the giving of the Torah.

Our sages teach us that the giving and receiving of the Torah takes place again spiritually every year. 

The Torah was given in the desert a place where there is no ownership to remind every Jew of their equal access to the Torah. 

The desert is a place which is "unplanted" this reminds us that in order to truly study Torah, the word of Hashem, we must have a humble approach, like a barren land waiting to be planted. 

If we study Torah while we are blossoming with our own prior knowledge, we may study the Torah with a subjective approach and not be proper vessels for the word of Hashem. 

Up to this point in this article I have copied and pasted from the youngest sibling in our family, Rabbi Yaakov Kantor of Chabad Lugano Switzerland.

I read the words and they jumped out at me as being so true. His style is to say deep things in few words. 

I enjoyed his thoughts and found them so pertinent. Especially the part about being humble.

Humbled is a better word than overwhelmed. 

Overwhelmed comes together with anxiety because we are not in control.

Humility allows us to invite knew knowledge and deeper appreciation of G-d into our beings.

The mountain of Sinai was a small mountain.

The greatest gift and revelation of all times was not given on the tallest mountain of all. 

Arrogance can never be a vessel for true blessing. When you are full, you have no room to receive. 

Humility. 

Not worthlessness. 

A mountain, not a valley. 

But a ‘humble’ small mountain. 

Our world is in a state of humbleness. 

Should you be overwhelmed? 

Not at all. 

Depressed?

G-d forbid!

Open to change. Yes. 

At this time so many of us are looking for direction and redefinition. 

Praying and hoping to emerge from our lockdowns into a ‘new normal’ that is kinder, friendlier, and more altruistic.

The Torah defines to us what ‘normal’ should be. The Torah defines for us what true morality is. To be liberated is not to do whatever you feel like. 

Liberty is to live a life of meaning and purpose. 

The first words of the Ten Commandments say it all.

“I am G-d who took you out of Egypt”.

The commentaries all ask, why does G-d use Exodus to describe who he is? Wouldn’t it be more impressive to use his credentials of being the creator of heaven and earth?

If you were G-d, what would you write on your ‘name card’? Exodus or creation ex-nihilo?

Click here for the answer in one minute and 19 seconds.

The lesson here is that even though the Torah looks like a web of instructions, restrictions and selflessness, it is all coming from G-d who takes us out of Egypt. 

G-d takes us out of the ‘big’ Egypt, where we were slaves, sweating away with bricks and mortars. 

G-d gave us the Torah to release us from our inner Pharaohs as well.

There is an antidote to our enslavement to our egos, materialistic urges and mindless passing of time.

It is called the TORAH.

In this atmosphere of the search for direction and meaning, the Torah will be received with even more joy and gratefulness.

Most importantly, we are more open to change, than any other year.

Everything around has changed.

Lets take the opportunity to CHANGE as well.

Adopt a new mitzvah to your life.

Strengthen your observance of a mitzvah you are already performing.

Add some Torah study to your schedule.

Intensify your acts of charity!!!

The Torah teaches that benevolent acts of charity and kindness, tzedakah, are the cornerstone of Judaism.

Chag Sameach,

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS Treat yourself to an inspirational story about raw acts of loving kindness and their power in this world and the next.



 

Was quarantining the easy part?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Babies cry upon birth.

Do you blame them?

It’s traumatic. 

For nine months the fetus was safely ensconced in the mother’s womb. Mothers usually do everything that they can to make that experience as pleasant and healthy as possible.

Emerging from that protective enveloped state to the outside world as an independent being, is fraught with challenge.

It only gets more challenging.

Reminiscing about my own childhood, kindergarten was an okay experience for me as far as I can remember. Entering first grade was far more anxiety filled. I have the blessing of exemplary parents, may Hashem bless them with long happy and healthy years, who were most supportive, but exiting the familiarity of kindergarten to enter the classroom dressed in uniform and school cap (Australia style) was a radical change.

Birthdays are nonetheless days of celebration. It may be a greater challenge to have been born, but it is also a great gift. Good things are not easier, but they are certainly better. 

Nine months in the womb is great. Ten months has the doctors worried. Mothers get very jittery after the ‘due date’ passes. Birth is a very welcome stage for everyone. Even though undeniably it also is more challenging for the baby. Growth and development require effort and energy.

Like a fetus in a womb, quarantining for as long as is absolutely needed is tolerable and necessary. It’s difficult in some way but its very relaxing in other ways. For many it allowed for pushing the looming problem off to be dealt with at a later date. 

Coming out of quarantine is more challenging. Just like birth. 

My dear friends. Look around at the world and you will see something undeniable. 

Closing down our countries was the relatively easy part. Nobody wanted to be an accomplice to spreading a killer virus that was claiming life after life. In the face of a raging forest-fire bravado is not on the menu. That would be sheer lunacy. The vast majority of society was in consensus that the virus was an uncontainable raging fire that threatened to overwhelm our health systems.

Reopening our societies and economies is hardly that consensus filled. On the contrary it is rife with contention and opiniated individuals hurling accusations against each other. Each one retorts that the other is insensitive to the realities of the situation.

I have not come to advocate for any side. There are multiple issues that have to be resolved. There are enough opinion givers out there.

What I would like to impart with these few short lines, is the urgent need for absorbing the timely message of unity that our Torah advocates. 

We are in challenging times.

During times of war, unity is somewhat easier as there is a common enemy to fight against.

It is when the war is over and peace reigns that the real challenge of unity begins.

The Jewish people arrived at the mountain of Sinai six weeks after their liberation from Egypt.

The Torah describes their encampment at Sinai as being unified as one. To the extent that the word used to describe their encampment at the mountain is not ‘they encamped’ rather ‘he encamped at the mountain’. Referring to the entire people of Israel, some 2-3 million souls. The people of Israel was unified at the foot of the mountain of Sinai as one person with one heart. 

They no longer had the common Egyptian enemy to unite them. They were united by something far greater and more inspiring, by the ultimate unifying force. G-d.

Being in the presence of G-d Who is awe inspiring and exaltaed beyond description, melted away their natural differences and they molded together as one. They were united as one in the common goal of connecting to G-d.

This encampment took place 3,332 years ago, six days before the giving of the Torah. It was on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month of Sivan, which corresponds this year to Sunday May 24.

Every year we reflect on this message when this time of the year comes around. The Jewish year, with its holidays is a cycle of recurring spiritual influences, with each year bringing a new dimension to the cycle

The G-dly gift of an ‘energy boost’ and a spiritual ‘grant’ of being able to generate unity couldn’t come at a more opportune time. As we emerge from solitude and reengage in society. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could emerge from our cocoon of quarantine with a deeper appreciation of the gift of society?

We can. If we only focus on our common goal as given to us by G-d at Sinai. 

613 mitzvahs for the Jewish people,

7 universal laws for the entire body of humankind.

By definition, it is more difficult to interact with others than to be all alone.

Pay attention to todays date. 5/22/2020. Almost all 2’s. the only non 2 number is the 5. 

Herein lies the key to unity.

1 is unity because there is no one to fight with. 

Quarantined.

2 provides the possibility of conflict. 

Reemerging to Society.

3 is the mature understanding that 1 can coexist with 2 and create a cohesive society that agrees to disagree on some things and agree on others. Most importantly, 3 means that at all times we maintain respect and tolerance for each other.

(The secret of marriage is inviting the presence of G-d into the marriage. The two opposite partners in the marriage, male and female are both merged through their common surrendering to the presence of G-d in their midst). 

The gift of 3 is the gift of Torah. 

The Talmud notes the predominance of the number three: “A threefold Torah, to a threefold people, through a third-born, on a third day, in the third month.” (Shabbat 88a). click here for more on this.

Unity is not easy. Never was. Especially now. But NOW is the time to try.

When this time period comes around, it’s a special opportunity to generate unity.

Unity starts at home. In your own self. Be aware of who you are and what is realistically expected of you. It’s painful to live with unrealistic expectations of oneself. Be realistic. A spiritual mentor may help you see yourself objectively.

Think about who you are not getting along with. Can those relationships be healed? Some relationships are best left alone, and some require distancing because of the pain involved. But in many instances, we will discover that we could be more tolerant, respectful and even loving of each other.

Hey, with a little bit of G-dly help, that can easily turn into what seems elusive, UNITY.

G-d would be delighted if we were more unified. We would be the first to gain if there were unity as G-d’s Blessed presence is manifest where there is unity.

NOW, as we emerge from the ‘womb’ into ‘real life’, is the time to take up the challenge. 

Let’s eliminate fighting.

Moreover, let’s adopt tolerance and respect.

Let’s take the plunge to be peel away our ‘ivory towers’ even if it means being vulnerable to a certain extent, and embrace unity!!!

Together!!!!

As one united people of Israel we will once again receive the Torah on Shavuot. Some synagogues will be open, others will be closed. Some people are still self-isolating, some have no choice, they have to go to work, and are out there living life as best as they can within the rules. Some are more adventurous and think that its ridiculous to have all this social distancing. Some are super cautious and point to the warnings of a possible second wave G-d forbid. Some go further to call the second wave inevitable, barring a miracle that is. We can certainly all pray that G-d prove them wrong while taking natural precautions at the same time.

I don’t know who is right. 

I do know that 

  1. We need to keep to local laws.

  2. We need to agree to respect the differing approaches that we may have within that framework of adhering to the local governmental laws.

  3. We need to aim for UNITY in our families and communities as we prepare for receiving the Torah on this coming Shavuot – Thursday night May 28 – Saturday night May 30.


Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Self View on Zoom

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Lag Ba’omer has come and gone.

Right?

Wrong!

Jewish Holidays come but they never go.

Their message shapes us and presents us with a different perspective on everything we do.

Lag Baomer is about the students of Rabbi Akiva stopping to die by plague.

The Talmud gives the reason for the plague as ‘they did not practice respect for each other’.

Rabbi Akiva himself had taught them that ‘Love your fellow as yourself, is the great rule of the Torah’. Sadly, they fell short of living up to what was expected of them as students of this great sage. This earned them a harsh consequence which we mourn till this very day. See the Rebbe’s teaching about this. And A short video about this

Clearly, Lag Baomer is thus a day that reminds us and empowers us to be more mindful of treating others with respect. 

Lag Baomer is also the celebration of the passing of the great sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai the author of the Zohar. This bring great joy with it. Click here for a teaching from the Zohar from our Parsha. It will be helpful in looking at your fellow more endearingly. 

In some respects having a pandemic in the technology age of 2020 enables us to interact with others far more than ever before.

There are many similarities between our current plague and the ‘Spanish Flu’ plague.

In 1918 quarantining was the main way to bring down the flu epidemic that raged through the world.

In 2020, quarantine is still the main way to reduce the numbers and spread of infection.

Masks were mandatory or heavily encouraged in 1918. Same in 2020.

In some respects though, there are major differences. 

For one, in 1918 there was no Zoom. In 2020 there is Zoom.

At face value I would say, what a great tool we now have to connect to others.

‘Love your fellow as yourself’ would seem easier now. For starters, you can be in contact with so many others, even while staying safely quarantined.

Family gatherings via Zoom are very popular. Class reunions are on the rise. My sisters did a great cooking session called ‘Sisters Cook Shabbat’, four sisters over three time zones. (Some great recipes there)

On the surface it seems that we are really more into interacting with others than ever before.

Quarantining is a lot easier now that it would have been before the internet age.

Boy am I happy I am not in 1918….

But, this week as I was wearing my mask, (I try to be religious about fulfilling G-d’s commandments and during this period we need to be religious about protecting lives by not spreading germs G-d forbid) and feeling ever breath of my own carbon monoxide that I was inhaling, I realized that I was thinking about myself a lot. Every breath in and every breath out is an opportunity to thank G-d, no doubt. But it is also a very strong feeling of ‘self’.

That got me thinking.

About how much I have been looking at myself lately. In Zoom. In Facebook. In pre-recording my classes. 

Are we really thinking more about others now than we did in 1918? 

Or do we perhaps need to take precautions to ensure that our new tools are tweaked in a way that they lead us to be loving to others, not just feeling, seeing and thinking about ourselves.

Let me give you some examples.

I have found that it is very common practice for people that post on Facebook to check the amount of ‘likes’ in response to their ‘Facebook Live’ posts.

Which leads to the question. Do you post to benefit others? Or are you posting to create popularity for yourself?

It reminded me of a dating joke.

The guy doesn’t stop speaking about himself. Finally, he takes a break. He asks her, ‘enough about me, now let me hear about you. what do you think about me’?

I discovered that when ‘Zooming’ with people I am attracted to looking at my own face in the screen.

By speaking to people and doing rudimentary ‘Google searches’ I now know that this phenomenon is quite standard and normal. Yes, most humans seem to be attracted to look at themselves on the Zoom screen. And there are many articles that discuss this.

During a Torah class I mentioned that I would really like not to have my own picture on my screen. A community member who is almost eighty, (I mention his age to dispel the notion that the elderly are somehow technology impaired 😊) told me how to fix the Zoom issue. He directed me to the top right corner where there is an option to ‘hide self-view’. So that you can be seen but you don’t see yourself. The reason he found this option is cute. At the beginning of the lesson we couldn’t hear him. Something had gone awry with his microphone. In fiddling around to find the issue, he found the above option of ‘hide self-view as well’. This gave us a vivid reminder that everything is by Divine Providence.

I tried it. 

And I love it.

You can see others without being distracted by yourself.

‘Love your fellow as yourself’.

There is a prerequisite to that. 

You have to first be able to SEE your friend. If you are too caught up and self-consumed, you will not even see anyone else.

This reminds me of a wonderful story I heard as a child.

About a generous man who became wealthy. Sadly, with this wealth came a downgrade in his generosity. One of the favorite upgrades to the newly wealthy persons home, was the ornate mirror that was positioned in his dining room. His Rebbe came to visit and soon noticed this sad change in his disciple.

Then the Rebbe said to Abraham, "It is strange, is it not? A mirror and a window are both made of glass and yet they are very different."

"What do you mean?" asked Abraham.

"Well," said the Rebbe, "when you looked in the mirror you could only see yourself and the things that belong to you. You could see much more when you looked out the window. Then you could see all your neighbors and friends from the whole town."

"That is true," said Abraham. "A mirror and a window are both made from glass. The window is transparent. Light can pass right through it. It is clear and you can see everything through it. The mirror, on the other hand, is covered with silver on one side. The rays of light cannot pass through, and therefore a mirror can only reflect what is in front of it."

"I see," said the Rebbe and nodded his head. "I see. The piece of glass that is plain is clear through and through, allowing you to see others and their lives. But when it is covered with silver, then you can see only yourself. Hm, very interesting. It is really quite fantastic, isn't it? Now do you think it will work the other way too? Could you take a mirror and scrape off the silver so that you would be able to see everyone else instead of yourself?"

Abraham's eyes filled with tears. He felt so ashamed. Finally, he was beginning to understand everything that had happened to him since he became rich.

This is the punch line, but I suggest that you actually read the story in its entirety. Its great to share with kids as well.

Wealth is a fantastic resource to have. You can be of help to so many people. 

This weeks (Double) Parsha Behar-Bechukotai contains fantastic blessings. The verse says:

God continued to instruct Moses what to convey in His name to the people: “If you make sure to advance in the knowledge of My rules by studying the Torah assiduously, i.e., beyond the minimal requirement, and you make sure to study the Torah with the intent to safeguard your proper performance of My commandments, and then indeed perform them properly,

I will reciprocate by granting you material beneficence that exceeds the limitations of nature: I will give you the rains in a manner most favorable to your benefit and convenience: They will fall in their time—i.e., the time I have designated for them exclusively—nighttime, when people are not outdoors working the land. This way, you will be able to work the land by day unhindered by rain. Moreover, I will further limit the rainfall to the time most convenient for you—the Sabbath night, when no one is usually about. Miraculously, the land will yield its full produce from the rain that falls during this short weekly period. Also miraculously, the naturallybarren tree of the field will give forth its fruit.

There will be so much grain that threshing will occupy you until the grape harvest, and harvesting the grapes will occupy you until the time for sowing the fields again for grain. But you will not need this overabundance for yourselves, since your food will be so miraculously satiating that you will be able to eat just a small amount of your food to satiate yourselves. You will live in security in your land, i.e., without fear of drought. 

G-d considers wealth to be a great blessing that He bestows upon people. For when things are good for us materially we can do so much more good. Simply, when you are rich you can give more Tzedaka, when you are healthy you can help others more and study more Torah. With resources, we can live our meaningful lives to an even fuller extent. 

But we need to be cautious not to fall into the pitfalls of the challenges that wealth brings with it.

Technology is an immense gift of wealth that G-d has granted our generation. 

Let us use it for its intended purpose. 

To be a vessel to fulfil Hashem’s plans for this world.

Let us make sure that Lag Baomer has influenced us to SEE others and to LOVE others just as much as we SEE, feel and LOVE ourselves.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Speak up UP

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A little six-year-old boy won’t talk. 

His Mother takes him to the doctor, who says, “He’s fine. Just give him time." 

A couple months later, his Mother takes him to a Child Psychologist, who says, "He's fine. Just give him time." 

A couple months later, his Mother is cooking his breakfast and she accidentally burns his toast. Scraping the burnt toast over the sink, She thinks to herself, "He'll never know the difference". And she serves the toast. 

As she turns back to the sink, the little boy says, “This toast is burnt!" 

Shocked, the Mother turns and says, “What did you say?" 

"This toast is burnt!" 

She says,"OMG! You're talking! What happened? Why did you take so long to talk?" 

"Up till now, everything was OK."

I was reminded of this joke when in connection with the name of this week’s portion which is ‘Emor’ which literally means ‘say’.

What should you say? 

Isn’t it better to ‘not say’?

Well it depends what you are about to say.

Granted, it is safer and easier to remain silent and say nothing at all. 

That is the punch line of the above joke. It was easier for the kid to be quiet. Everything was going fine. Only when something went wrong did he find it necessary to speak.

You will not get into trouble by not talking. You won’t say anything wrong.

On the other hand, you will be losing out on so much.

There is so much that can be achieved by positive speech. 

Expressing your gratitude to those who care for you.

Complimenting someone else about something nice they have done. 

Giving someone encouragement when they go through difficult times. 

The power of positive reinforcement is very well known.

The name of this week’s Parsha says it all. It reminds us to say positive things. The Torah is encouraging us to use our power of speech to be uplifting, inspirational and complimentary of others.

Our choice of words can have far reaching results.

There is a fascinating program I just saw where the Rebbe addresses a meeting of disabled Israeli war veterans during a visit they paid to the USA click here to see the fascinating program 

The Rebbe expressed his unease with the term usually used to describe this group in Hebrew which was ‘Nechei Tzahal’ the ‘handicapped of the IDF’ and insisted on referring to them as ‘Metzuyanei Tzahal’ the ‘exceptional of the IDF’.

As the Rebbe went on to explain, if the Almighty had challenged them in this way, He had definitely given them extraordinary and exceptional abilities to overcome obstacles that other ‘ordinary’ people didn’t have access to.

That extraordinariness needed to be appreciated, not hidden away from sight or shied away from.

This was in 1976. 

It was an inspirationally progressive way of reframing what had traditionally been spoken of in depressing language.

On the one hand we pray from the depth of our hearts that all children be born healthy and that all of humanity be blessed with fully formed bodies and fully functional systems. 

We thank Hashem every morning for all of the blessings of our senses and our bodily form and functions. We dare not take all those phenomenal blessings for granted.

On the other hand, there is something unique and exceptional about those who are created differently. 

As a society and as a people we would be sorely lacking if we didn’t include and learn from the exceptional people in our midst. 

 At the core of the Rebbe’s teachings is that none of us is complete unless all of us are included. 

This concept did not remain in the realm of speech. It led to the birth of one of the most heartwarming programs. 

The ‘Friendship Circle’ with more than eighty chapters around the world.

Here is a brief look at their work (taken from their website).

How we see it:

Everyone in this world has a unique purpose. When we focus on abilities instead of disabilities, those with special needs can be part of the strongest friendships and influence people in positive ways that others can’t. Unwavering acceptance, positive thinking, honesty, and commitment are just a few of the important lessons these individuals teach by example.

What we do

Friendship Circle chapters in local communities create meaningful relationships and friendships between teen volunteers and children with special needs, increasing confidence, igniting dreams, and redefining worldviews for both parties.


 

Words used properly have the power to uplift and motivate! 

They create change in the world!

Focus on the exceptional. Not on the handicapped. 

I like this catchy phrase which has become popular during our current crisis.

Wash your hands well. And every time you do, remember whose hands you are in.’

Join the forces of creating change for the better through positive thoughts, speech and action!

Every thought, speech or action adds to the growing force of good energy and loving-kindness amassing in the stratosphere pushing the world ever-closer to the Redemption. 

Say something loving to a family member or friend.

Keep silent from saying something disparaging.

Never talk about other people behind their backs.

Compliment someone when you see them doing something positive

Zoom and all other forms of communications are great tools for all of this. Its never been easier to communicate! People have never had more time to listen and think! Humanity is inspired and ready to change for the better.

May Mashiach come NOW!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you have the time to listen to a heartwarming

story of ‘compassion done exquisitely’ I think you will be inspired. 


 

 

Keep Fruit Discard Peels

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The world, our generation, has been given a global situation that is unprecedented.

A situation that is beyond our control. 

Beyond any human beings’ control.

A problem of universal proportion. There isn’t a single country that one could have run to, to hide from the proliferating disease.

Who IS controlling it?

G-d of course.

Everyone knows that.

The death, pain and suffering are also well known. We do not seem to be able to escape it. Wherever we turn there are people in need of healing and those who need to be comforted for the loss of a loved one. 

More than two decades ago, as a young man, Benny Wolf then a Yeshiva student, came to Bangkok to volunteer at the fledgling Chabad House for Israeli backpackers. Tragically he passed away last Friday night from complications of pneumonia at age 43. In his short life he managed to achieve great things as a Chabad shliach to Hanover, Germany where he was laid to rest. May his memory be a blessing. Benny was buried in Hanover and his wife and eight children will continue their mission in Hanover. Click here for more. 

There are many other changes that have taken place in our perception of life.

For starters, this situation is humbling beyond our imaginations. 

Having the entire worlds humming norms brought to their knees, has brought about a universal recognition regarding the limitations of humankind.

It has caused us to look for existential solutions. To turn to the Supreme Being, G-d the source of all life and pray for His help.

It has caused us to reassess the sanctity of life.

The sanctity of every life.

Societies have locked down to preserve life.

Trillions of dollars have been lost so that lives are not lost.

What a powerful statement the world has made. Human life is sacred. Why? Because the Creator has transmitted this message of Divine morality to humanity during the communication at the mountain of Sinai. Because every human being has been created in the image of G-d. Nobody has questioned this absolute value. How inspiring to witness this universal commitment to the preservation of life. 

We have witnessed a sharpening of our core ideals and values vis a vis interpersonal relationships as well.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us that the central rule of the Torah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself’. Or as Hillel paraphrased it, ‘don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you’.

Humanity has risen gallantly to the challenge of reaching out to help each other.

First responders, medics, nurses, doctors, food suppliers, teachers, government leaders, religious leaders are all performing valiantly.

Simple citizens are helping wherever and however they can. Creativity abounds. I read an article about some Jewish teens making masks out of kippahs as many people have stacks of kippahs from bar mitzvah and wedding celebrations that could easily be turned into face masks. There are ordinary people who are providing food for others. Some are volunteering to buy supplies for the elderly. Visits to those who are homebound are taking place through porches and windows. 

The list goes on and on.

And let us not forget the great gift that the world has received called ‘ZOOM’.

Social distancing is difficult. 

It is difficult for people to be at home all alone.

There are many elderly people who have many kids, even more grandchildren and feel totally isolated from their loved ones.

Imagine what a young couple feels like when their marriage turns to a less than twenty-person event. 

Especially during funerals when emotions run high, it is difficult to stay away.

We buried someone yesterday. A sweet Jew by the name of Daniel Dvir. I asked our community to please understand that in the current situation we wanted to do a burial with a minyan of ten Jewish men, but we didn’t want to have more than that.

Daniel was a popular fellow. He was sweet. Spoke a little but did a lot. Personable. Helpful to others without letting his beneficiaries know that he was their benefactor. I only discovered after his passing how tragic and challenging his childhood and teen years were after losing his mother Devorah at a young age.

There were scores of people who wanted to attend the funeral. More than eighty people joined the ZOOM broadcast of the funeral. Yet, our community obviously respected the need for limiting the number of attendees and agreed to stay at home and participate remotely.

ZOOM to the rescue.

Good on ZOOM. For making our lives more manageable. For bringing people together.

I find myself more busy teaching Torah than ever before. Via ZOOM. 

An hour before Shabbat I do a ZOOM pre-Shabbat gathering. 

Yesterday I spoke to a large girls high school in Israel. Via ZOOM of course. 

I have been able to attend gatherings and meetings that I usually could not have attended. Via ZOOM.

ZOOM is a great tool.

From their IPO price of $36 one year ago, they reached a high of $159.56 in March of this year. From ten million users, they reached two hundred million users.

(Do not at all take this as a business tip regarding stock market investments).

Lately the price has fallen. Why? One of the reasons seems to be that society will hopefully emerge from lockdown soon. People may go back to in person meetings. Our dependency on ZOOM may diminish.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do hope that some of the changes that this crisis has brought with it, stay with us.

ZOOM for example. I hope some of its benefits remain with us even as we go back to some form of normal.

I certainly hope that the spiritual and societal changes remain.

Our heightened sensitivity to the existence of G-d, the smallness of man and the upgraded levels of social responsibility we feel toward others, remain with us to allow for a better world.

As believing Jews we know that our end goal is to emerge from this painful world of confusion to a world of clarity with Mashiach.

Until then, we need to remember to throw out the ‘peels’, the suffering and the pain as we keep the ‘sweet fruit’, the benefits and gifts that humanity has been granted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Tazria

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I don’t know which one to believe.

The news reports about a cure that works and a vaccine about to be approved.

Or the reports that next winter during the flu season things will be even worse.

The predictions that things will bounce back quickly,

Or the predictions that it will take years for things to hobble back.

Doubt seems to be our new state of life.

To quote many an editor commenting on today’s situation, “The only certainty is uncertainty during the COVID-19 crisis.”

If you have the exploring spirit in you, don your space suits, and prepare to exit the force of earthly ‘gravity’ in the next few lines. I am going to take you on a virtual trip to Heaven to see what the Academy of Heaven are saying ‘upstairs’. One assumes that from their vantage point they should be in the know. 

In Heaven? No doubts there. Or are there doubts there too?

Let’s visit Heaven and check it out.

The Talmud tells us of a Heavenly debate regarding doubt as it pertains to a nuance of ritual impurity. 

This debate is regarding the laws in our weekly Parsha about ritual impurity caused by the appearance of a white skin discoloration from withing which a white hair is growing. (It’s not relevant to our current post-Temple times so don’t worry about your white hairs or skin discolorations).

If a white patch on the skin comes first and then a white hair grows from it, this is a sign of ritual impurity. If the white hair preceded the white patch the person is still pure. 

If there is a doubt which came first, i.e. whether it is pure or impure, there is a difference of opinion.

The Heavenly Academy says it is impure. The Holy One Blessed Be He says it is pure. 

Fasten your seatbelts for reentering the worlds orbit and landing back on earth.

That was heady. Getting a peek into the workings of the Heavenly Academy. But what does that really have to do with us here on earth?

Well, didn’t we just talk about us being in a state of doubt?

Doubt about the optimistic or not so rosy future regarding the current pandemic.

Turns out, that there is a more fundamental doubt we face.

It is a much longer running state of uncertainty and doubt that has grown every stronger every day for the last nearly two thousand years.

The promise of G-d that after the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem there will be a rebuilding and a redemption. 

That this world will become a utopian peaceful abode for unified serving of G-d by all of humanity.

Where is it? Is it really happening? 

It’s almost two thousand years that the Jewish exile drags on replete with tragedy and suffering. Pogroms, Crusades, Inquisitions, expulsions and the Holocaust. Tragically even in our times we have seen horrible terror attacks in Israel, the army needs to be vigilant to ward off our enemies and the increased anti-Semitism around the world is epically disappointing. 

The thing is, that we have gotten used to it. We give a sigh when we read about an attack against our brethren and move on with life.

Can you imagine how tragic it would be if we resigned ourselves to a ‘new normal’ regarding the illnesses and deaths of the virus? 

Getting used to this scourge would stifle and sabotage any attempt at changing things for the better. We need to resist this sickness with all our might. Our top medical researchers to throw their collective brainpower at overcoming this virus not throwing up our hands and acquiescing to living with this killer microbe.

That’s the way we should also feel about the exile and concealment of G-d which allows for the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer.

In a redeemed world, the ‘good guys’ would always win and the ‘bad guys’ would always lose.

We shouldn’t settle for anything less than that.

Here is the doubt of the last thousands of years.

To use Heavenly terms, 

Is it pure? Or impure?

i.e. is it visionary and forward thinking to think we will have a perfected and redeemed world?

Or is it fanciful and farfetched?

Our Sages taught us that the heavenly debate I just quoted from the Talmud is actually an allegory for the musings we all have about the coming of Mashiach and the building of the Bet Hamikdash.

After so many years there is a doubt.

Has G-d rejected us G-d forbid? 

Or was he angry with us for a short time perhaps, but after the anger will come reconciliation and love.

Which way is this doubt going to be resolved?

If we read this argument into the Talmudic passage, the analysis goes like this:

The Heavenly Academy of souls is pessimistic. The world looks to unredeemable to them. They say impure. When in doubt? Its not going to work out.

G-d Almighty overrules them. 

G-d says have no doubt. PURE!!!!

It may be taking a long time says G-d. But hang on tight. I am in charge, and I am telling you 

PURE!!! 

i.e. the world is not unredeemable. 

You, even in the Heavenly Academy may not see it my way says G-d. But I see things that you don’t see. 

I am going to redeem the world. I am going to send Mashiach.

It is a reality. He WILL come. Just you wait… don’t give up hope when its so close.

May I conclude with a prayerful blessing.

About our current doubts regarding the uncertainties we face in the aftermath of the virus. Let me pray that here too there should be no doubt.

May G-d rule about this doubt PURE by bringing healing to the world. 

May He bless the efforts of our heroic hardworking medical experts and research teams, to find the cure for our world.

We, who are not medically trained, should continue doing more mitzvahs and studying more Torah to bring spiritual blessing and healing to the world.

May this month of healing (IYA’R acronym for ‘I am G-d who heals you) bring complete and speedy healing to all.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I was honored to be asked to give a Torah class on the above topic as presented in the Rebbe’s edited works on the Parsha.

This is part of a recently launched initiative called ‘Project Likkutei Sichos’ which will complete the study of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s edited Parsha commentaries in a period of eight years. If you are an ambitious Torah studier you may want to visit the site and join in. Amazing resources for study in English and other languages. 

 

Your Healthy Body & Soul

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Its ‘after Pesach’. 

I, and I am sure many others, have been putting off a lot of things for ‘after Pesach’. Lots of hopes and dreams were relegated to ‘after Pesach’.

For one, I was sure that the synagogue would open ‘after Pesach’.

I field calls from anxious people who miss praying with a minyan at the Synagogue about when we can resume prayers (albeit with necessary precautions).

But as painful as it is, I have to answer, no. Our Synagogue cannot open yet. Hopefully soon things will change for the better and we can resume prayers with a minyan. 

(I cannot even imagine the unfathomable pain and anguish of so many of my relatives and friends who has lost loved ones and are not even able to say kaddish or receive Shiva visits in person. Even the comforting rituals that bring solace and healing have been suspended during these troubled times).

Kids (or maybe we parents) hoped that the schools would be talking about opening.

Businessmen were hoping that businesses would resume so that the economies could start up again. 

I know a lot of people want to go to the mall to shop and ‘air out’ and how are you supposed to give ‘Afikoman/Pesach gifts’ without taking the kids to the shop? We were hoping malls would be open for business.

All of us were praying and hopeful that a cure would be found.

Or… infinitely better yet, Mashiach would have come.

Alas, as I emerged from the euphoric cloud of the last meal of Pesach, Seudat Mashiach, the headlines didn’t announce any miraculous turnaround.

Actually, the news I got was pretty sad. The list of those who have passed away has grown tragically longer over this Pesach.

That doesn’t sound like the way to go into Shabbat.

Shabbat is a day of peace, delight, and joy.

Then I remembered, there is another way to look at life.

Not only at the things that aren’t going right.

Rather how about focusing on the things that ARE going right!!!

Breathing for example. While some people are suffering horribly required the aid of oxygen or even worse G-d forbid on ventilators, the vast majority of humanity is breathing effortlessly. 

Fifteen breaths per minute. That is what the average is for adults. 

That would make nine hundred breaths per hour.

And 21,600 breaths per twenty four hour day.

With all our concern and the myriad precautions we are taking to outwit the killer microbe, generally speaking the microbe community is on our side.

The average human has over 100 trillion microbes in and on their body.

Obviously, all it takes is one malfunctioning, or hijacked microbe, to wreak havoc, pain, and unprecedented destruction on our planet.

But isn’t it amazing that the other 100 trillion microbes running around our body all function so cohesively?

THANK YOU HASHEM!!!!

For every breath. 

For the labyrinth of veins, the blood cells, the functioning organs, the healthy limbs and the myriads of harmoniously interacting microbes.

And perhaps, once we recognize G-d’s immeasurable kindnesses to us by providing us with our smoothly functioning bodies, we should do our best to stay healthy. 

Healthy physically. Eat well. Exercise periodically and stay sequestered at home if that is what it takes to maintain our health or our very lives.

We must also become a bit more mature than just thinking about our flesh. 

Our SOULS need to be kept in good health as well.

G-d, the master designer of our universe has a detailed remedy for the good health of His people. If you are Jewish, G-d instructs you to eat only certain things while staying away from others.

It is called the laws of Kosher food. Outlined in this weeks Parsha.

Its preventive medicine. 

For a Jew, eating only kosher food is CRITICAL for their health. 

Can it be proven in a laboratory? 

No. because I am talking about spiritual health.

Whether or not unkosher food is healthy does not make a difference. If healthy unkosher food is developed one day, that will not change the rules of kosher one iota. It will still be unkosher for a Jew. Because it says so in the Torah

Its not about physical health. It’s all about spiritual health.

Perhaps a few months ago some would have been more skeptical to listen to instructions that don’t seem to make a difference to the naked eye. Instructions that provide ‘health’ to the soul.

However, we now know (even if we are not epidemiologists) how every single invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbe is so critical to our overall health.

It’s time we get even more sensitive and realize how important it is to have a healthy soul.

Next time you reach for something in the supermarket aisle, think about the importance of keeping our bodies and souls balanced and choose to eat kosher!

It could make all the difference in the world for your soul. 

Your soul is the G-dly energy source of your body. 

Healthy soul, healthy body. 

Healthy body, healthy soul.

Let’s try to stay healthy, body and soul. By eating kosher food, and following the instructions of our medical professionals.

A healthy does of prayer is always good as well!

Now that the synagogue is closed, your house is a synagogue. Study up about prayer. Even if you don’t have a prayer book you can print out a prayer and incorporate it into your daily schedule. By doing that, the air in your home will become spiritually purified.

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom,

And for AMAZINGLY good news!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor



Reversal-Miracle- Hagadol

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I don’t have to ask you what is on your mind.

It’s on everyone’s minds. 

The horrible sickness, the pandemic which has become our common enemy. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a cure would be found!

Not one that needs clinical trials. That takes too long. We don’t have time to wait. We need a solution NOW.

Rather a cure that is ALREADY FDA approved and being used in treating some other sickness. A medicine that doesn’t have any major side effects. A medicine that is readily available in pharmacies around the world and not expensive to produce. 

That would be a huge relief to the world. 

This is why together with trying to create a new vaccine and treatment, much research is being done throwing existing medications at this new plague.

What a life-saving drug would need to do, is somehow get into the cells and stop the virus cells from replicating.

To use scientific language (harvested from google):

This is the way a drug could help (I have deliberately taken out the name of the drug that this study is discussing (and named it R for Refuah – healing in Hebrew) as it is way beyond my scope to comment on medicines etc. I am merely using this as a way of understanding what an effective drug could hope to achieve, and the dynamics involved).

R interferes with the virus's ability to replicate in two ways. First, the drug enters compartments called endosomes within the cell membrane. Endosomes tend to be slightly acidic, but the chemical structure of the drug boosts their pH, making the compartments more basic. Many viruses, including SARS-CoV, acidify endosomes in order to breach the cell membrane, release their genetic material and begin replication; R blocks this critical step.

The R drug also prevents SARS-CoV from plugging into a receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, on primate cells, according to the 2005 report. When the virus inserts its spike protein into the ACE2 receptor, it sets off a chemical process that alters the structure of the receptor and allows the virus to infect. An adequate dose of R appears to undermine this process, and in turn, viral replication in general, the authors noted.

In short: we need medicine that gets into the cells of the virus and doesn’t let it replicate and inhibits it.

I would go even further in my wishful thinking. We need the cells not just to stop replicating, we need to get the bad cells themselves to start rebelling and warring against themselves.

There is a precedent to this concept.

It is the essence of the miraculous Shabbat we are about to enter.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol – the Great Shabbat, because of the Great Miracles that happened during the year of our exodus from Egypt.

The Jewish people were commanded by Moses to take a lamb and tie it to their bedposts on Shabbat, the 10th day of Nissan, five days before they were to leave Egypt. 

When the Egyptians inquired by the Jews why they were buying lambs en masse, they were told that these lambs were intended for the Paschal Offering, which would be sacrificed in preparation of the Plague of the Firstborn. This information rattled the Egyptian firstborn, who immediately insisted that Pharaoh grant the Jews the liberty they demanded. When Pharaoh refused their request, the Egyptian firstborn waged war with Pharaoh's army, and many Egyptians who were guilty of atrocities against the Jews were killed on that day.

The uniqueness and greatness of this miracle, that makes it stand apart from other miracles, is the fact the enemy itself started to fight rebelliously against itself. 

Its like the ‘darkness’ started to turn inward and fight itself, starting the process of reversing the ‘darkness into light’. 

This is a greater miracle that vanquishing the enemy using and outside force. This is about using the force of the enemy itself to vanquish the enemy. 

Usual ‘miracles’, like the other plagues Hashem sent against the Egyptians, were outside forces battling the Egyptians by showing them the strength and might of the Almighty.

The miracle of the in-fighting among the Egyptians, had much greater symbolism. 

It was the enemy fighting the enemy. The beginning a of a process that will be completed during the Messianic advent where darkness itself transforms to light. 

Imagine if we could get the virus to replicate healthy cells that fight the very virus itself. To produce an army of cells that fight the deadly cells and stop them dead in their tracks thus bringing life and health to those infected.

Now that would a great miraculous breakthrough. 

Sure, we will be very happy to find a drug that is successful in stopping the replicating and inhibiting the sickness. Hopefully as I write these words these drugs are already being discovered and deployed so the pandemic can be stopped in its tracks!

But once we are praying, we can pray for the even GREATER miracle of TRANSFORMATION. Where the calamity itself turns into an unimaginable blessing. 

Like the miracles that took place on this Shabbat thousands of years ago, just a few days before Exodus.

We can and must beseech G-d to reveal His omnipotent power of healing and salvation. We pray for the type of miracle that happened to our people on this very Shabbat on this very date 3332 years ago.

And then we must pray that as we exited the Egyptian exile on Thursday the first day of Pesach so many years ago so may we exit THIS exile on or before Wednesday night, the first day of Passover!

Here is a very inspiring piece of info: The day/date set-up i.e. the day of the week that this miracle took place was Shabbat. And the day of the Hebrew month was 10th of Nissan.  This was the way it was in year 2448 from creation, the year of exodus, and that is the same day/date configuration as it is in our calendars this year 5780 from creation. This Shabbat (tonight/tomorrow) is also the 10th of Nissan.

Click here for more on Shabbat Hagadol

May the miracles abound, may the sickness self-destroy. 

May the Jewish people be blessed to be able to celebrate a HEALTHY HAPPY PASSOVER,

May the world at large be blessed with healing from the pandemic and salvation from the economic earthquakes threatening the entire civilized world.

Almighty G-d, PLEASE SEND MASHIACH NOW!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS, I don’t know about you, but I have never been more ‘zoomed out’ and overloaded with media of all sorts, in my life…. I suspect you too may be suffering from the overwhelming amounts of information coming our way. 

I urge you to take the Shabbat gift that G-d has given you, and UNPLUG for the Shabbat (unless G-d forbid you need to be available for helping save lives, which takes precedence over any other mitzvah, and which is why our Synagogues all across Thailand are closed till the situation gets healthier).

But before you unplug, if you are up to it, join us for our pre-shabbat Oneg Shabbat celebration on zoom https://zoom.us/j/577071555 at 5PM till 6PM (Shabbat candle lighting in Bangkok is at 6:12 PM)

PPS We will also do a PRE-Seder zoom on Wednesday at 4:30 PM for about an hour. Songs, Inspirational thoughts, DIY instruction and maybe even a joke or two!

PPPS This Sunday is the Rebbe’s birthday, the Rebbe would be turning 118 this year. 

If you want to treat yourself to something special, perhaps in honor of our dear Rebbe’s birthday, clear forty minutes from your schedule and watch the inspiring and uplifting, collection of videos, anecdotes and clips from the Rebbe as he addressed situations of illness, danger and fear. Masterfully woven together by Rabbi Elkana Shmotkin director of Jewish Educational Media. CLICK HERE FOR THE JEM PRESENTATION

PPPPS Email me rabbi@jewishthailand.com if you would like to have Matza and Grape juice for your Seder. 

Also available are full seder ‘kits’ (the items used for Seder plate) for THB 250 as well as a catered Passover Seder dinner for THB 1200 by our Chabad House restaurant (email me even if you cannot afford to pay as we have some generous community members who are sponsoring Seder meals for others please G-d). 

Please order by Sunday so we can make sure to be able to fill the order. We will try our best to accommodate all requests please G-d and deliver it to you on Tuesday (limited to Bangkok area for technical reasons).

 

Pesach Resources

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This email is being sent one week before Passover.

G-d took us out of Egypt in 2448 from creation. Now we are in year 5780 from creation. That means its 3,332 years ago. 

Passover has been celebrated since then without interruption.

It has survived the exiles of Babylon, Rome and the Spanish Inquisition. Seders of some form were held heroically in the Russian Gulags, the ghettos and the concentration camps

It will outlive ‘the’ virus as well!!!!

This virus is dreadful and the disruption it brings in its wake touches everyone.

If you have taken the time to click on some of the above accounts of Pesach in duress, (THE GHETTO LINK IS HEARDRENDING AND PUTS OUT “KVETCHING” AND COMPLAINING IN PERSPECTIVE) you will appreciate the many blessings we have in our lives. Click here for my ‘anti kvetch’ Dayenu thought. 

Passover will be definitely celebrated differently this year but celebrated it will be. 

Guaranteed!!!! But it requires YOUR EFFORTS!!!!

NOW more than ever before, the observance of Pesach is totally hinged on YOU.

Nobody can hold a communal service. Grandparents and parents are isolated from their respective children and grandchildren. Rabbi’s are isolated from their communities. Friends are not able to celebrate in unison. You can’t just ‘show up’ at a seder this year. We are under virtual lockdown all around the world. 

AM YISRAEL CHAI = The Jewish People LIVES and CONTINUES TO THRIVE, this year the celebration of Passover is all dependent on YOU.

YOU need to make the effort to prepare and invest some thought and energy and resources into being a link in the golden chain of our glorious history.

Now more than ever we need to eat matzah – especially SHMURA MATZAH - which is called in the Zohar the food of ‘faith’ and the food of ‘healing’. 

We need faith and we need healing!!!!

We will try to help as much as possible in whatever ways are available. Like getting you matzah so that you too can join the worldwide Jewish communal effort to bring healing to this world.

Here are some pointers in helping to understand the tasks of observing Pesach. 

The two main mitzvahs of Pesach are 

  1. Not eating or even owning any Chametz for the eight days of Pesach.

  2. Eating Matzah on the eve of Pesach and retelling the story of our liberation. 

Below in the second half of the email there are a number of links that may be useful in teaching about how to prepare your home for Pesach.

SELLING CHAMETZ:

In order not to be in possession of Chametz during Pesach one either disposes of one’s Chametz or sells it to a non-Jew by e-signing this chametz sale form

EATING MATZAH

In order to celebrate Pesach one should eat matzah on the eve of Pesach. As well as eat bitter herbs (we use lettuce as horseradish doesn’t grow in this climate) and we drink four cups of kosher wine/grape juice.

We are offering a full line of Pesach goods for sale at the JCafe. Click here for the list.

Additionally, we are offering to send complimentary matzahs and grape juice to anybody who requests it so that while we cannot host a communal seder, we can ensure that every Jew has the availability of having a seder in their own home. 

Click here to request the matzah and grape juice for your seder. (As of now we can send anywhere in Thailand but best to order now and not wait as the world is a very fluid place right now).

Our Chabad House restaurant will be kosher for Passover from next week if you wish to order prepared foods. 

You can order a complete Seder plate, as well as a catered full course dinner for delivery on Tuesday (restricted to Bangkok area). Contact Yossi Goldberg by WhatsApp on +6681 753 5071 for details and prices. 

One of the opening lines of the Passover Hagada is ‘all who are hungry should come and eat’. Email me rabbi@jewishthailand.com If you would like to have a Passover Seder dinner this Wednesday night but need a help in covering the cost. We will try our best to accommodate all requests please G-d and deliver it to you on Tuesday (limited to Bangkok area for technical reasons).

DEPUTIZING YOU!!!

Please become a ‘spreader’ of Passover’. If you know of any fellow Jew that doesn’t have matzah yet, please let us know where we can send it or we can send  it to you to deliver to them. If viruses spread so rapidly, we need to counterbalance with spreading healing as well. 

We need to follow safe and FDA mandated medical remedies as well as TORAH taught spiritual remedies of healing.

Matzah is a G-d instructed food. Zohar (Kabalah) says its also a food of healing. This year lets make an even greater effort than usual to eat Matza on the Seder eve and enable others to eat Matzah

You don’t yet have a Haggadah?

There are printable options at this click.

If you would like to cook at home, there is info at the second part of the email about koshering your home for Pesach as well as cooking with limited ingredients.

Click here for a lot of other resources especially pertinent for this year.

At the above link you will also find a bunch of other resources that will come in handy during this virus affected time. 

Feeling like you need help to make your own seder?

Here is Rabbi Dubov’s helpful video about running your own seder.

And here is Rabbi Kantor’s zoom class on how to run a seder.

Below find a bunch more links. Including on instructions on how to make charoset.

With blessings to you my dear friend, that G-d bring Mashiach and then we will all celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem, in a rebuilt Temple, Paschal lamb and all, with all of our loved ones, communally, joyfully, healthily and LIBERATEDLY, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS A LONELY SEDER IS BETTER THAN NO SEDER!!!!!

for contribution toward sending matzah and SEDER food to fellow Jews in Thailand please click www.jewishthailand.com/tzedaka

CLICK HERE To help those in need in Israel HAVE A SEDER











 

Myriads of Jews ONE opinion!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two Jews three opinions?

We like to joke about ourselves that we are a people that can’t get along. 

The problem with some jokes, is that sometimes we start believing them. 

But its not true. We are not fragmented. We are united.

Yes, we bicker a bit here and there. So do all good families. But we are deeply connected with each other at the same time. 

And this is precisely the reason we argue a fair bit. 

Because we care about each other. And because we care about the future of Judaism. 

When you care, you get passionate and emotional. 

Sometimes you even say something you wish you wouldn’t have said. 

(This is one of the significant challenges of being quarantined for long periods together with your loved ones).

To me it seems that we now have an indisputable proof that we are a very united people.

The spread of ‘the virus’ (I don’t even want to call it by name…. this is an ancient Jewish practice) among the Jewish community is a shocking yet quantifiable proof.

See the below quote from a prominent American Jewish publication explaining why the American Jewish community has to be extra careful in precautionary measures against the virus:

That’s because Jews today are among the most socially intimate groups in the nation, according to data. The Jewish American community, from the most religious to the most secular, is at unique risk from the coronavirus because the density of Jewish social networks across all denominations is almost twice as thick as that of the average American.

In a grim way, it is obvious that we are a VERY united people. 

OUR UNITY is a VERY good thing. Nothing negative about that AT ALL.

From the medical perspective this means we need more urging about keeping distance and protecting each other by staying away from each other.

But let us always remember. Our CLOSENESS is our strength. 

Right now, our closeness and love is expressed not by hugging and hand-shaking, rather by staying distanced physically. 

But emotionally we need to be even more present for each other. 

Dear fellow Jews be heartened and inspired! 

You belong to a nation that practices mutual responsibility for each other. 

The Jewish people LOVES going to Synagogue. RELISHES going to weddings. 

Yet, for the love of each other the Synagogues are closed. Weddings are held outdoors under a Chupa and exactly a minyan all distanced from each other as mandated by the laws of the various countries.

We are terrified that G-d forbid someone should be infected inadvertently by someone else who unknowingly was carrying the virus.

We act this way because we love each other. 

And we act this way because we love G-d.

G-d has told us to cherish and protect life. The sanctity and sacredness of life is what the entire world is now focused on.

How fortunate we are to be G-d’s children.

Look at yourself, look at those around you, and recognize the unique expression of social responsibility that we are blessed to be able to perform. Albeit at great expense to our financials and with huge sacrifice in myriad ways.

I would like to use this line of thought as a plea to our Father in Heaven.

And I invite you to join me in this in a kind of ‘class action’:

The Torah teaches us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred between us. This was the final blow that thrust us into the exile that we have still not emerged from. Since then we have been persecuted and hounded and the world has been a morally lacking place. 

True, the world has shown signs of getting more civilized and morally sound, but these are baby steps compared to where we need to go.

Almighty G-d, it is quite clear that Your people is a united one! 

Now that we are certifiably and provably a loving and integrated nation, isn’t it only right that the sickness CEASE immediately, the exile be ended, Mashiach redeem us and the Temple be rebuilt again?

Perhaps we can go a step broader and further. 

Almighty G-d, 

Look at all the inhabitants of Your world, all of whom are created in Your image.

Look at the increased belief in You, G-d the Creator of the universe. No longer does anyone live with oversized and misplaced trust in might, money, power or fame. 

The tiny microbe has not skipped over royalty, government, militias or people of religious stature. 

There is no one who is not disrupted. No one who thinks they know or understand. Everyone is in a state of disbelief. 

All of humanity is in awe of Your absolute might and grandeur.

Some know how to say the word ‘G-d’, some still call You by your ‘disguised name’ ‘nature’ or other various names that really just mean You. 

This is the first step toward a new world order.

A world that fulfils its moral mandate of G-dly inspired laws for humanity. 

The reaction of humanity is astounding and inspiring.

The world has banded together to care more about human life than about money. Economies flounder but governments and society at large stay home to protect lives, one of the cornerstones of the Seven Universal laws given by G-d to the human race.

We need to ensure that when we emerge from this ‘war’ we rebuild a more G-dly, moral and compassionate world!

Let us pray. Together. Albeit from the individual homes and rooms that separate us physically but with a love and care that transcends the walls of bricks and mortars. Our collective voice will pierce the Heavens!

OUR FATHER OUR KING, SEND A COMPLETE HEALING TO OUR PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK!!!!

OUR FATHER OUR KING MAY THE SALVATION SPROUT FORTH IMMEDIATLEY!!!!

Prayers should be backed up with good deeds!

Do another mitzvah. 

If you have tefillin at home, put them on and say Shema.

Give charity to the cause of your choice.

Print out a magazine of Torah study and thought provoking articles to study over Shabbat.

Light candles before Shabbat eighteen minutes before sundown.

Say an extra prayer.

Make kiddush and usher in the sanctity and light of the Shabbat

Reach out to family and friends to touch them with your ‘virtual’ warmth and caring. 

Believe, that there will be a glorious future. 

It is a mitzvah to believe that MASHIACH is coming. Waiting in anticipation for him, speeds his arrival.

Let us enter the Shabbat TOGETHER in unity. 

With FAITH, with JOY with unshakeable TRUST in Hashem that all will be GOOD and IT WILL BE GOOD!!!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if there is anyone looking for a way back to Israel here is a link to a flight that is being organized. I don’t know any details but I am passing it on in case it may be of use to those still stranded here. https://www.flyeast.co.il/contact-us.html





More Shabbat (not less)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It doesn’t make sense. 

But then again, nothing makes much sense these days.

This week’s Parsha is Vayakhel (& Pekudei, it’s a double one, as well as taking out a second Sefer Torah for reading Hachodesh about the upcoming Pesach).

The Parsha starts off about keeping Shabbat….

And just yesterday I sent out a notice that was painful and unprecedented about the cancelling of all communal Shabbat meals in Thailand.

It was one of those puzzling things.

How does the weekly Parsha fit with the current reality?

I know that cancelling our Shabbat meals it is all part of our love to G-d. But it still felt incongruous with the Parsha. (Click here for an explanation of how the love of G-d is keeping us away from communal Jewish expression at this time).

It dawned on me.

This whole situation is an invitation and a unique opportunity to have MORE Shabbat in our lives. Not G-d forbid less.

And I am NOT referring to the ever-widening swathe of lockdowns in many cities of the world. Meaning that people are forbidden from non-essential movements outside the home. This sweeping albeit necessary restrictions on people’s movements, I believe is mostly quite negative. Yet, negativity always has some positive aspects to it. So yes, when it comes to Shabbat in Israel, the side benefit of a lockdown is that in a most unifying way, millions of Jews will not do anything to publicly ignore the Shabbat. But the enforced inability to do things contrary to the spirit of Shabbat is not what I am referring to.

I am referring to the fact that hopefully the CELEBRATION of Shabbat will be upgraded this week. I am optimistic that the spirit of Shabbat will be accentuated in a POSITIVE way.

Let me explain why I think that this current situation is a perfect opportunity to have a Shabbat experience that is above and beyond anything we have yet experienced. 

It requires a bit of forethought and preparation though. 

First let me address you, my dear community member living in Thailand.

My wife and I don’t recall ever having eaten a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal in private with just our family, ever since we arrived in Thailand.

I say that with much joy. One of the highlights of our life is the communal celebration of Shabbatot and Chagim. 

The Friday night dinners, Shabbat lunches, Passover Seders, Rosh Hashana meals, Simchat Torah Kiddushim and all the other rip-roaring, inspiring, sensational times we have spent together, are always exhilarating and inspiring. 

Welcoming hospitality is what our centers in Thailand are known for. 

The Shabbat meals served at Chabad’s centers across Thailand often number close to two thousand per week and during peak seasons, surpass even that number. 

The Pesach Seders that host thousands of people in joyous inspirational unity are legendary. Pesach in Thailand has become a fixture that people have come to rely on. 

So much so, that moments after we put up a notice on our Facebook page about the possible disruption of our usual public Pesach Seders and the strong possibility that we will be rolling out alternate Pesach Seder plans, it became a news headline in the news in Israel. 

Canceling our unifying celebratory meals indicated the next stage of disruption to normalcy. Thailand the ‘mai-pen-rai’ (all is/will-be ok) destination, has also become affected.  

I asked myself in consternation. What will now be with Shabbat celebration in Thailand?

Calm down, I tell myself.

Shabbat is a gift from G-d to the Jewish People.

It is here with us for eternity.

Shabbat has been here since the dawn of creation. 

G-d created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. 

After the Jewish people left Egypt G-d gifted them this most delectable treat, SHABBAT.

Before Covid19 Jews have kept Shabbat. After Covid19 will be over and it will be like a bad dream, Jews will keep the Shabbat.

DURING THE DISRUPTION OF COVID19 JEWS WILL KEEP THE SHABBAT TOO. NOT TOO, DURING THE COVID19 WE WILL KEEP IT EVEN MORE.

More than we will keep the Shabbat, the Shabbat will keep US!!!

Nothing in our world is the same as it was even last week.

We need to take the time and invest the thought to adjust to the new situation. School have gone online. 

Preparing for Shabbat is no different. It to requires a reframing and adjusting.

Our sages taught us ‘he who toils and prepares before Shabbat will eat on Shabbat’. In other words, to truly be prepared for Shabbat one needs to invest some time, thought and energy into the Shabbat.

Till now we offered communal Shabbat meals. 

There is a great gift in coming to a communal Shabbat meal. 

Not much preparation needed. 

All you need to do is clear your schedule, freshen up and then ‘suit-up and show-up’. 

To do Shabbat on your own? 

You need to prepare. Perhaps even ‘toil’ a little.

But you know what? If you invest more in something, if you have to work harder to prepare for an event? 

You appreciate it more. It becomes more meaningful and special.

Click here for a comprehensive list of things to do to prepare for Shabbat

This is why I am sending out this email on Thursday. 

So that you have more time to prepare for Shabbat.

To get set up with food for the body. 

Chabad of Thailand will be happy to provide anyone in Thailand (in cities in which we have centers) with complimentary Candles, wine, challas, and a prayer book with the Kidush prayer. Kosher food can be ordered from our restaurants for delivery on Friday before Shabbat.

Contact me rabbi@jewishthailand.com +6681 837 7618 or Yossi Goldberg yg.kosher@gmail.com +6681 753 5071 to arrange delivery.

And it’s important to also prepare for Shabbat with ‘food for the soul’. Since we are ‘unplugged’ on Shabbat one needs to prepare reading material for studying and discussion (if you have others with you). on Shabbat we don’t just talk about our mundane lives. That would be too ‘weekday’ and be an affront to the sanctity of Shabbat. 

On Shabbat talk about things that are ‘Shabbat appropriate’. Torah is the best thing to think and talk about on Shabbat. Singing Jewish songs is an integral part of Shabbat.

HERE IS A MAGAZINE YOU CAN PRINT OUT (before Shabbat) ABOUT THE PARSHA AND OTHER VALUABLE INSIGHTS

One of the customs our family loves doing is going around the table and asking everyone to share one thing that they want to give special thanks to Hashem for. 

Shabbat is an island of normalcy and tranquility in the raging sea of tumultuous instability.

Try turning off all your electronics for the twenty-five hours of Shabbat.

You will have a G-dly given ‘detox’.

Light Shabbat candles (all candles are kosher for us for shabbat) at the proper time, within the eighteen minutes before sunset

Recite the Shalom Aleichem welcoming the Shabbat angels to your home. Some have the custom to bless their children at this time. Blessings can be done from afar and virtually. Positive thoughts about others have tremendous powers.

Recite the Kiddush over a glass of kosher wine, grape juice (or bread if you don’t have access to kosher grape juice or wine).

Say the Hamotzie over Challa/bread.

Have an unhurried meal.

Say a lechayim toast. Don’t talk about Corona, unless you mean the beer.

Read, discuss, think, about Torah concepts.

Sing, rejoice, relax. 

Annunciate the things you are thankful to G-d for. 

Let the Shabbat spirit pervade your being.

As the evening progresses, without being bombarded with the stimuli from social media, allow the relaxing aura of Shabbat envelop you in its warm embrace.

Because you have done all this at home, your bed is not more than a few steps away. 

Sleeping on Shabbat is also a Mitzvah. 

Have a meaningful Shabbat! 

A joyous shabbat!!!!

A HEALTHY SHABBAT!!!!!

And a great surprise awaits the world. Everyone knows that the world won’t be the same after COVID19. We pray that this disruption is the introductory stage to the coming of Mashiach which will usher in a world of PEACE, TRANQUILITY, a permanent SHABBAT like state. Keeping Shabbat hastens the arrival of Mashiach! AMEN.

Shabbat SHALOM

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS If you need to reach us on Shabbat for anything extremely urgent, please call Paew at 6684 728 8494

PPS I would love to hear how your ‘adjusted’ Shabbat went. Please email me after Shabbat with your experience. 

 

In a word. DISRUPTION

 

 

 

 
Jewish Thailand• Email: rabbi@jewishthailand.com• Phone:  66-2-663-0244  • www.JewishThailand.com
A Word From The Rabbi

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Purim has come but it has not yet gone.

Considering that the entire month of Adar is considered a joyous one, we are still empowered by the instruction of our Sages to be joyous during this month.

Someone who is seeing major hiccups in his China-based business just asked me ‘Rabbi, if this is a good month, what would a bad month look like’?

There is one word that seems to jump out at me regarding this whole world situation.

Disruption. 

Our lives have been disrupted.

As of now, the majority of problems I am hearing about are really all about disruption. 

Schools closed. 

Quarantined people. 

Travels plans cancellation. 

Financial fallout. 

Supply chain breakdown. 

Yes, there are ill people. 

Sadly, there are even fatalities.

For the friends and acquaintances that I am in touch with, and to whom these words are addressed, I find that it is not really their health they are so worried about. The main challenge of the Coronavirus is the disruption it is causing to their lives. 

And fear.

Fear of what? 

Fear of having been in the same room as someone who was discovered to be infected.

Mind you, what they fear about having shaken hands with an infected person is not fear for their health necessarily. 

 (I am aware that older people have to be even more careful as their immune systems are naturally weaker. It is a testament to our society that so much care is being taken to protect our elders from illness G-d forbid. May we remember to respect and cherish them when the epidemic is over as well not relegate them to mothers-day and fathers-day visits).

For most people its the fear of the unknown.

The fear of having to be quarantined for fourteen days.

The disruptiveness to the normal flow of life by being quarantined is significant. 

Disruption faces us all as the domino-effect of closures and restrictions continue. 

Lets discuss disruption in more depth.

Besides for being a major nuisance and source of angst, there is a side benefit to disruption.

It causes us to stop and reflect.

Our vulnerability and smallness become evident.

The suave and confident feeling of ‘being in control’ is lost. 

Money, with all of its feelings of invincibility, cannot buy you protection from this virus. 

Social status doesn’t help.

The wife of the Prime Minister of Canada is apparently infected. 

Guns and ammunition are of no help either. Some of the most fearsome terrorists in the world have been infected.

I have seem quite some ‘macho-men’ who tried to play down the seriousness and contagion rates of this disease that have been soundly disproven.

When your life cannot just continue ‘as usual’ you are forced to reassess. 

Optimists continue to point out that its not as bad and not as lethal and there are many ways to interpret the figures.

Pessimists will say that this time around it is they, the pessimists who have the upper hand. They point to many gloomy predictions that are coming true.

I will leave the optimists and pessimists to their wrestling.

One thing is for certain.

No one is unaffected.

While we pray and take natural precautions to stay away from being infected and may G-d protect us from being infected, by this stage, everybody is affected in some way.

After spending countless hours dealing with the disruptiveness of this epidemic, I wondered to myself, my friends question is a good question. 

How indeed does this massive disruption fit with the theme of joy and light that the month of Adar is endowed with?

Then it dawned on me.

We all know and believe that G-d is completely in charge of every single microorganism, and thus in total control of the entire universe. 

It is also clear that we are being forced to stop life as usual. 

In other words, G-d is definitely the One introducing this major hiccup in the worlds smooth functioning. 

When G-d brings upon us such a disruption what we ought to do is quite clear.

We should not feel punished or ‘beaten-up’ by Divine forces G-d forbid.

In Chasidic thought, most people are generally good and deserving of good lives. Disruptions and suffering are thus generally not brought upon people as retribution. Rather they are brought to help a person reflect and meditate on the trajectory of their lives. They are meant to soften a person’s rough exterior and insensitivity. 

We believe that G-d is the ultimate of Good. We don’t understand WHY sometimes bad things happen to good people, but we accept that we can’t expect to understand, as G-d is beyond our understanding.

Disruptive events cause one to be humbler and more reflective. This allows for a deeper sensitivity and connectivity to spirituality. When our egoistic armor is peeled away, we are more receptive and attuned to the G-dly presence in the world. 

How does our current period match up with other ‘wake-up calls’ by G-d? 

There have been many periods in the world’s history when G-d has introduced massive disruption.

Usually they have been quite tragic. 

War.

Famine.

Pandemics with huge fatalities.

True, we are suffering a massive cycle of disruption.

The word pandemic has been used by the World Health Organization. 

We hope it will be a far less deadly pandemic than the pandemics that have come before it over the centuries. The rate of fatalities is still to be seen. We need to do our very best to fight it. Besides for following the instructions of our governments, we need to pray to the Almighty that all those who are stricken, should recover fully.

For the most part though, the massive disruption is only to our preplanned schedules. To our financial systems. To our nerves. Most of us are sleeping in our own beds thank G-d. We are not running away from falling bombs G-d forbid. We are not starving, not knowing where our next bite of food will come from. 

What is undeniably already here and seems unrelenting, is the pandemic of chaos, fear and anxiety.

But that pandemic is something we DO have some control over. 

Now WHAT happens, but how we react to it. How much we allow it to infiltrate our lives. How depressed or gloomy we are at our breakfast or dinner tables. 

It is against that pandemic, the pandemic of fear, panic and confusion, that I wish to protest!

Our Torah portion tells us about what NOT to do in the case of disruption, fear and anxiety.

Don’t panic!

The Jewish people reacted in panic to Moses’ delayed arrival by making a golden calf. Click here for more on the topic.

What YES to do?

Have ‘Bitachon’ TRUST in the Almighty. 

In Rabbi Tzvi Freemans words: Situations may arise from time to time when you can’t see any natural means by which you can get out of this. At that point, bitachon needs to wake up and step up to bat. Rather than saying, “Woe is me! Who can help me?” you say, “My help is from G-d, who makes heaven and earth—and therefore can do whatever He wants with them.” (Click here for the complete article). 

When Israel was in a state of fear and turmoil in 1991, we were blessed with the calming saintly voice of the Rebbe who quoted the Torah as saying: ‘…Israel, too, will be thrown into turmoil and terror, and will cry: `Where shall we go? What shall we do?'  And G-d will say to them: `My children, do not fear! All that I have done, I have done only for your sake.  Why are you afraid?  Do not fear, for the time of your redemption has come...’”

Click here for the full article on ‘1991: Missiles and Miracles’ 

No doubt now too, the Rebbe would have a message of faith and optimism to calm the frayed nerves of our fatigued, frazzled, disrupted and confused world. 

The Rebbe would remind us that that its still the month of Adar. That the Torah teaches that simcha-happiness is a lightning rod that attracts good health and good spirit. 

That if you Think GOOD it will be GOOD!!!!

That the month of Adar is at its height and increasing in intensity as we advance further into the month. And therefore we should practice even more joy and happiness – SIMCHA during this last two weeks of Adar.

Click here for loads of information on joy and happiness.

And that MASHIACH IS ALMOST HERE, it is up to us to do more good deeds to make him comes even sooner.

Shabbat is about to start here in Bangkok and I can’t wait to be enveloped in the gift of the Shabbat, the ‘Noah’s ark’ of calmness. To turn off the relentless barrage of the media reports. To spend time in prayer to G-d, in studying and teaching Torah and in feasting and celebrating with my beloved family and community. 

Lechayim! To LIFE, To JOY! To HEALTH!!!!!

TO MASHIACH COMING NOW!!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor

 

DO YOUR BIT TO FIGHT THE VIRUS: HAPPY PURIM 🎉

By the Grace of G-d

Dear NAME

Do your best to fight the virus!

PUT ON A MASK!!!

It’s Purim after all.

The reasons we wear masks on Purim?

Here is a smorgasbord of reasons:

Why do we get dressed up on Purim?

Let me focus on one of the reasons that I think is pertinent to us now.

A mask conceals and covers. 

The constant Providence of G-d, the guiding Hand that is always on the ‘steering wheel’ is also concealed and covered.

The miracle of Purim is a miracle that took place under wraps. It was guised as a natural event guided by political intrigues. 

Only from the perspective of hindsight can we see the miraculous in the events that took more than a decade to unfold.

On Purim we celebrate the miracle that wasn’t overtly ‘miraculous’ like the splitting of the sea. It was a miracle that could have been interpreted as being a series of lucky coincidences. 

Wearing a mask reminds us that things aren’t always the way they look.

Behind the mask lies something different. 

It’s not nature that runs its haphazard course and creates ‘coincidences’.

G-d is in charge. 

G-d makes the constant miracles that we call nature. 

He masks His presence so that we don’t see Him unless we choose to look beyond the masks.

My dear friends, now more than ever we have the chance to WAKE UP and realize that it is G-d who is the Master of the Universe. 

How big is a virus?

Virus particles are about one-millionth of an inch (17 to 300 nanometers) long. Viruses are about a thousand times smaller than bacteria, and bacteria are much smaller than most human cells. Viruses are so small that most cannot be seen with a light microscope, but must be observed with an electron microscope.

Yet, this miniscule, creature called a virus, has the entire world at its knees.

Click to read this story from the Talmud about Titus the Emperor of Rome

Our lives have all been affected by this little nothing. By this speck of viral matter. 

Superpowers. Space-age countries. All have been brought to their knees by this teeny-weeny brat. 

It seemingly has no boundaries and doesn’t recognize different religions or political affiliations. All are equally at risk. The contagion is universal. We struggle mightily with being able to contain it. Every once in a while, someone gets it and we can’t even find out how he picked it up.

This all points to one thing. 

It is time to peel away the veneer of our belief in haphazard evolution. 

It is time to wake up and identify the sophisticated denial of a Supreme Creator as being a subtle and genteel variation of idolatry. 

It’s time to put on our Purim masks and recognize that G-d is the Master of the Universe!!!!

If you are Jewish, you have a very timely opportunity during the next thirty-six or so hours. 

The gift of being able to help the world out of its great time of need.

How? 

By CELEBRATING PURIM. 

This afternoon as we near the end of Taanit Esther the fast of Esther, we give the Machatzit Hashekel half shekel about which the Torah uses the words ‘there will not be a plague’, and we pray to the Almighty for His constant benevolence to us.

This year, the entire world needs our prayers.

First of all, let us pray for Israel. The situation there is very tense. The economy is facing unprecedented challenges from the huge numbers of people in quarantine as well as the severe limitations on its borders and subsequent tourism fallout.  

As well the entire world is in distress. 

We need to pray on behalf of all of the inhabitants of the world, to send a Purim miracle to the world.

REVSERSAL of the sickness.

Eradication of the fear, panic and terror that grips us and threatens and disrupts our lives.

As there was for the Jewish People in Persia of yore, so may there be for us here and now ‘light and joy’!!!

Dear Friends,

There is something else I want to share. 

I want to invoke the memory of a more modern-day miracle and perhaps tap into that miraculous energy of contemporary times and thus ‘draw down’ the G-dly miracles that we are so desperately in need of now.

Twenty-nine years ago in the weeks and months before Purim, Israel was gripped with uncertainty and fear. 

Not from a virus. From missiles. 

Sadaam Hussein did not just threaten to rain down missiles on Israel. He actually sent barrages of missiles that landed on Israel.

However, MIRACLES happened. There were no direct fatalities. 

On February 28 1991 – PURIM DAY 14 Adar 5751 the Gulf War ended the miracle reached its crescendo. The regional conflagaration that had the potential to get unimaginably worse, ended with a ceasefire. On PURIM DAY.

The Rebbe had spoken about this beforehand, encouraging us to believe in G-d and anticipate miracles. 

Here is an article from ‘kabala online’ about the unfolding of these events from the Rebbe’s perspective.

The Rebbe wrote several letters just after these events, directing us to look at these event at the Divine G-dly miracles that they were. 

Not content with simply pointing out our responsibility to thank G-d for these miracles, the Rebbe encourages all of us to become "even more strongly aware that this is the time of urgent preparedness for the fulfillment of the prophecy 'and the kingdom shall be G-d's,' when all nations will recognize that... '(the world) has a Master' — a recognition that will lead 'all of them to call upon the Name of G-d, to worship Him with one consent.'"

Furthermore, in his signature manner, the Rebbe urges everyone to reciprocate to G-d by elevating our own "daily Jewish conduct to the level of the supra-natural... everyone, man and woman, elevated above their natural tendencies and habits, in the area of Torah study and doing Mitzvos with hiddur (excellence) in a manner of "multiple miracles," striving ever higher and still higher..."

Purim is about remembering the miracles and by wearing masks we remind ourselves that the miracles are still here with us. Constantly. We need but peel away the exterior and reveal the every steady guiding Hand of G-d in every single iota of existence.

Happy Purim!!!!

Do your bit for the world’s health. 


CELEBRATE PURIM WITH JOY

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


 

 

 

Erasing Doubt - Craving Clarity (Coronavirus)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Confusion.

This is the word I would use to sum up the worldwide situation right now.

There is nothing at all clear about the Coronavirus.

The fatality rate is unclear. 

Is it really super-bad?

Or not as bad as it seems.

The infection rate is clearly impossible to determine conclusively.

How exactly does it spread, we know a lot, but there are still some mysteries.

Where does Thailand stand in this whole story? 

Israel obviously thinks Thailand is a hotbed for infection. Anyone coming from Thailand has to enter quarantine for two weeks. Other countries don’t seem to share that opinion as they haven’t placed any travel bans on people coming from Thailand thank G-d. What approach is right?

Even we who live in Thailand also don’t know. Some say the reporting by the authorities is true. Others posit that there are coverups and things are much grimmer than what is being reported. 

I humbly admit that I don’t know. 

The only thing that is crystal clear is that there is a lot of anxiety, panic and confusion.

Is confusion and uncertainty a negative thing?

Perhaps not always. But very often at least, doubt and insecurity are negatives. 

Faith, certainty and dependability are the pillars and foundations for a positive and well-balanced life.

We all know that to raise children healthily we need to provide them a secure environment. Its much the same for adults as well.

Stability, clarity, steadiness and predictable reliability are craved by most human beings. 

We get disproportionately fearful and even terrified from the unknown. 

This is what seems to be adding to the prevalent fear. sUnlike the ‘common’ flu, this virus is highly uncommon and till very recently totally unknown. 

Is there is a pandemic in the world right now.

Medically? I don’t know for certain. I think it depends who you ask.

Mentally and emotionally? Definitely. The pandemonium has crossed all borders and affected all aspects of life.

Nothing is clear anymore. The future seems unpredictably disrupted. Supply chains. Airline schedules. From toilet paper supplies running out in several countries around the world because of mass-hysteria hoarding, to Passover plans being called into question as travel bans are increasingly broadened. All plans seem open for renegotiation. 

Clarity and Holiness go together. 

This week we take out two Torah’s.

In the first one we read the portion of Tetzaveh. One of the topics in the Parsha is about the ‘Urim Vetumim’. This was a function of the breastplate, one of the High Priests special articles of clothing, which allowed the leadership of the Jewish people to get divine answers to critical questions. Click here for more. It would be very helpful in our current situation to be able to ask G-d about how we should react to this virus. Sadly, this level of Divine communication is unavailable to us since the First Temple’s destruction. 

After the destruction of our first Bet Hamikdash the level of G-d’s revelation in our world decreased and was not yet recovered. We need Mashiach to come for its reinstatement. 

What we do have available though, is access to G-d’s timely wisdom as taught in the Torah. 

Let’s take a look into the Torah to glean some sanity and shed some light on our current situation. 

In the second Torah reading tomorrow, we read the portion of “Zachor’, ‘remember what Amalek did to you when you were on your way, leaving Egypt’.

The numerical value of Amalek is ‘safek’ which means doubt. 

A clear pattern emerges here.

Clarity is G-dly. 

Doubt is Amalek – our archenemy. 

Here is what I have to offer. 

For doubts? For pessimism? You don’t need me. There is Google. If you are looking for the bad news, there are plenty of news sources and analyses that give you doomsday responses. 

What I would like to share with you is articulation of the clarity that G-d has transmitted to us through the Torah.

First of all, try to get rid of anxious thoughts. Think about positive pleasant things.

The Torah teaches that joy borne of faith and optimism is the best therapy for creating a healthy and positive outcome. 

The panic and pessimistic defeatism is just not the way we are supposed to live.

I too want to send you to Google. It’s a great source of knowledge. But only once you are fortified with the Torah perspective of being joyous. With a reframed perspective that has you searching for good news not for bad news. If you are looking with that illuminated perspective, you will dig up articles in which you will get a healthy dose of optimism. There are plenty of those too. It depends what you are looking for.

Secondly, act responsibly. The Torah says that doctors were give the Divine mandate to heal. Optimism doesn’t mean irresponsibly putting your head in the sand. 

Follow the instructions of the medical establishment in your country. 

Some may ask, if this is a medical crisis what does faith have to do with it? Isn’t it purely scientific?

The answer is that G-d is the creator of our universe. Every cell is created by G-d. Every atom, to be more precise, every proton neutron and electron, is created by G-d. 

G-d is still at the helm of His universe calling all the shots.

He and He alone, oversees who gets the virus, how it is transmitted, the effect it will have on the one who is smitten and the subsequent rate of recovery.

The very building blocks of nature are miraculously created and enlivened by G-d. 

G-d himself has told us in the Torah that living by His instructions is a source of blessing and healing. 

Strengthening our faith and trust in G-d is in itself the most powerful tool and a pivotal catalyst for prevention and healing from all sickness.

JOY is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Click here for ‘The Chassidic Approach to Joy.

This month is the month of Adar.

Click here for a powerful thought about this.

Adar is about reversal. 

Changeover from negativity to positivity. 

Purim was a hundred- and eighty-degree turnaround from sadness to joy.  

From fasting and mourning to feasting and rejoicing.

I will go as far as to say that I believe unequivocally, the best way to help yourself, your family, your community, your country and the world at large is to (I will write it in large font):

CELEBRATE PURIM JOYOUSLY. MORE JOYOUSLY. EVEN MORE JOYOUSLY

Click here for a quick joyous thought about this 

And no less importantly (and in the same size font): 

RESPONSIBLY, MORE RESPONSIBLY AND EVEN MORE RESPONSIBLY 

Here in Thailand based on the local government instruction this is our Synagogues policy:

We are going to encourage people to celebrate Purim of course. And we are going to encourage people to be responsible.

How to celebrate Purim?

As we have done for the last thousands of years. Hearing Megilah, gifts of good to exchange with friends, monetary gift to the poor and a Purim feast with plenty of ‘lechayim’ and oodles of joy!

Click here for the four mitzvahs of Purim and for a wealth of teaching and knowledge about Purim

And responsibly. If you don’t feel well, stay at home so as not to G-d forbid spread anything contagious (even if it’s ‘only’ the ‘old-fashioned’ flu). 

Handshaking? I would suggest that you not be the first to extend your hand to someone else so as not to potentially embarrass him. If someone extended their hand to you? I think it depends on your own personal levels of anxiety. Whatever the case, wash your hands thoroughly as often as you can.

While our Purim party has changed locations based on the reality of less visitors, as well as implementing financial austerity measures during these challenging times, I do realize that some people may be wary about attending a public event at the shul. 

I have good news. Not wanting to attend a large avent does not at all have to interfere with your celebrating Purim properly. 

Purim does not absolutely require big crowds. One can hear the megillah with a minyan in a smaller setting. Giving a food gift to one other person is simple. Money to the poor can be fulfilled online www.jewishthailand.com/tzedaka and you can party away in a smaller setting. Plenty of good kosher wine for saying lechayim is available at www.jcafekosher.com as well as many flavors of hamantaschen (poppyseed, halva, chocolate and maybe one or two others).

To accommodate the current situation, we have added additional Megillah readings during the day which will be attended by smaller groups of people. 

If you feel very anxious about coming to Synagogue contact me privately about the possibility of having someone read the megillah in your home.

Now back to Joy.

Something that made me really bursting with Jewish Pride and Happiness this week, was the NY Saturday night TIMES SQUARE CTEENS event. Click here if you too want to be inspired and energized and if you have a little more time, and want to feel youthful, the very moving dinner with speeches and all is also online here.

Back to PURIM!!!

MIRACLES HAPPENED ON PURIM

MIRACLES CONTIUE TO HAPPEN ON PURIM

MAY THIS PURIM BRING ALL THE MIRACLES WE NEED and PRAY FOR!!!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS as stated above:

Megilah reading times at Bet Elisheva:

The evening Megillah reading will be on Monday March 9th 18:45 (6:45 PM)

The daytime Megillah will be read on Tuesday March 10th 

At Shacharit (Prayers begin at 7:00 AM) 7:45 AM

Other Megillah Readings 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM and at the party 5:00 PM and final reading at 6:00 PM

PPS Who is right? The optimists or the pessimists? In my thinking, the optimists are praying that they are right. And the pessimists are also praying that the optimists are right. So what chance do the pessimists stand? 😊



I slept in my bed

By the Grace of G-d

I SLEPT IN MY BED THIS WEEK (not sitting up on an airplane seat... I was scheduled to go to Israel for annual fundraising dinner of Chabad of Thailand but with that not being impossible due to the quarantine restrictions, we improvised and attended our dinner via teleconference … see pictures below). 

MY FRIENDS IN CHINA DIDN’T (sleep in their own beds)!!! 

If I was feeling sorry for Chabad of Thailand at the beginning of the week when I did the urgent ‘don’t let Chabad be a victim of the Coronavirus’ appeal, by the middle of the week when I got the appeal for HELP from my friends of Chabad of China, I was feeling lucky about being in Thailand. Yes, it has gotten worse for us in Thailand. El Al has announced the ‘pausing’ of their flights to Thailand for the month of March and there are other challenging news headlines… BUT thank G-d we are all still able to be at our posts in Thailand. The community members are mostly here, and local Jewish life is continuing and thriving joyfully. We even had a bris earlier this week (see below), and I am still sleeping in my own bed thank G-d!!!! The dire China situation means that most of my colleagues are stranded outside the country of their mission, their communities have evacuated to all corners of the globe, and they are overwhelmed trying to keep their families, communities and institutions alive. I want to turn to you to ask you to help them survive. To help Judaism in China not collapse, so that when things turn around Jewish life can resume. 

Click here to HELP CHABAD OF CHINA

Dear Friend,

What do you do when you are ‘high’?

You know, a little tipsy from a good cup or few cups of wine. Or even a little tipsier than tipsy. 

On Purim it’s a mitzvah to rejoice with wine. To the point of extreme joy.

Ever heard of a ‘drunken brawl’? Too often people who are inebriated end up acting wildly and even fighting.

That kind of behavior is prohibited in the most extreme of terms by the Torah.

What is a Jew meant to do when he gets high on Purim?

The mitzvah we are supposed to embellish on the most, on the day of Purim (there are four mitzvahs, hearing the megillah at evening and day of Purim, feasting, sending gifts of food to friends. The one we need to be most attentive to is) giving GIFTS TO THE POOR. 

Giving gifts to the poor should actually be a part of daily life. The word tzedakah is very well known to us Jews. Most Jewish homes have a tzedakah box (the polar opposite of a piggy bank). 

Fascinatingly thought, the language used for giving help to the poor on Purim is not Tzedaka, rather ‘Matana’, (‘Mishloach Manot’ and ‘Matanot Laevyonim’).

What’s the difference between them? A world of difference.

The word ‘matana’ means gift. The word tzedakah has the connotation of ‘charity’. 

Its not just a play on words. 

If you came home on your wedding anniversary with a gift envelope for your wife that says ‘tzedaka’ (charity), you had better duck for cover, no matter how generous the amount in the envelope was. I wouldn’t advise you to try the experiment, rather suffice with imagining it…..

If however the envelope was labeled ‘matana’ (gift), and the amount fit her expectations, you will achieve the desired results. Try it – the gift one – you will no doubt be happy wit the results.

Why the difference?

Charity has a connotation of helping an unfortunate person. There is a certain implicit message that I, the giver, am the gracious savior of the luckless poor person who is receiving my largesse. A hint of condescension. That’s not the feeling that should exist between friends, certainly not spouses.

Gifts are entirely different. Gifts are also given between equals. Spouses give gifts to each other. Parents give children gifts and vice versa. Business associates give gifts. 

The Talmud has a saying ‘if someone gave you a gift, it must be that you did something that made the giver feel good’. Gifts are not usually given in a vacuum. There is a give and take that exists between the giver and the recipient. A ‘matana’ gift is not a ‘handout’ or a charitable allocation. That is referred to as tzedakah, charity. 

How should one feel when they give a destitute person a gift of money?

Ever heard of the concept ‘Giving is receiving’. 

The greatest gift that you can receive from someone, is the merit and benefit of giving to them. Their availability and agreeability to receive from you, is their gift to you of the highest degree.  

On Purim, when you are ‘high’, you should feel that by giving tzedakah to the poor, you are giving a gift, a matana to an equal.

How is the destitute person an equal to me? Moreover, how is the needy person in some way a provider to me?

Here is how. The poor person is presenting me with a priceless opportunity. He is allowing me to have the mitzvah and merit of giving.

This is why even poor people have to give gifts to the poor on Purim and are instructed to give tzedakah once in a while. Click here for further elaboration. 

This weeks Parsha speaks about the collection taken from the Jewish people to build the G-dly abode, the Mishkan.

G-d doesn’t need our money. He is the creator of Heaven and Earth. If he wants a ‘Bet Hamikdash’ Holy Temple, here on earth, He can do it without our help. 

The appeal for contributions to build a house for G-d is G-d’s gift to His people. The gift of letting us, mere mortals, be partners in building His abode here on earth.

The ability we have to give to others is the greatest gift that we have been given.

The word ‘natan’ ‘נתן’ is read left to write or write to left. This reinforces the lesson that the giver and the receiver are both giving and both receiving.

Purim induced tipsiness, should lead one to this higher perspective on live. Where giving to a destitute person is called a MATANA a GIFT to an equal, and in some way one view the recipient as a superior.

The Talmud summed up this concept and says, ‘more than the wealthy contributor does for the poor person, the poor person does for the wealthy giver’.

Isn’t it just wonderful that in this week when the Torah speaks about the giving of giving, we had a brit in our synagogue and the baby’s name is ‘Nathan Shalom’. 

Indeed, GIVING is the greatest way to have PEACE.

Peace in your own mind, peace between the different socioeconomic levels within society and PEACE in the world.

May the entire world be blessed with health. May the medical situation be remedied by the only One who can turn it around. 

Almighty G-d, the Healer of all flesh, who does wondrous wonders, bless all of our people, among all the people of the world with health, peace and the gift of knowing and serving You.

May we merit the coming of Mashiach NOW, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS do you have time for a story? 

It’s the story that is on my mind every time I see a new Coronavirus headline. In some sense, the situation looks grimmer and grimmer. Nobody knows how long this could last. I insist though, on staying as optimistic as possible. But that requires tools. In particular it requires faith in G-d. Chassidic story about our great Tzadikim can be of major help. Here is the story that helps shape my perspective.

There was a wealth and learned Jewish man. Let’s call him Avremaleh. Avremaleh was blessed with epic success in his business, was blessed with a loving family and was one of the most prominent members of his community. 

A nagging thought came into his head.

He was so disturbed by it that he paid a trip to the great Ba’al Shem Tov who lived in a nearby town. 

He asked the great rabbi:

In our daily prayers when we refer to G-d as the ‘One who brings down the mighty’ ‘mashpil ge’im adei aretz’, I question to myself how could that be true. After all, I, Avremaleh, have such varied business investments and I am so well-respected in my circles, how could I possibly be brought down in an instant? 

The holy Ba’al Shem Tov didn’t respond but gave him a blessing for a safe trip home.

Upon arriving in his hometown Avremaleh felt an overwhelming urge to convert to another faith. The local bishop was very wary of this dignified Jew’s request. He was suspicious that this was a ruse and didn’t want to hear of it. After he saw that Avremaleh was insistent, he finally relented but told him that if he wanted to convert he had to gift his entire wealth to the church. Avremaleh signed a document giving his entire wealth away.

The next morning Avremaleh woke up. He remembered… 

It seemed like a bad dream but he knew it wasn’t. Overnight he was a pauper. On top of that, once his family and community would hear to whom he had gifted his entire estate, he would be an outcast and shunned for the rest of his life.

Avremaleh ran to the holy Tzadik and poured out his heart. I now see how conceited I was. Of course it is G-d who is the source of all my blessing and of course he is the mighty One who can take it all away in an instant.

Please pray for me, Avremaleh implored.

The Ba’al Shem Tov responded, there is a continuation to that aforementioned verse. The verse continues that ‘He can raise the downtrodden to the heights’ ‘umagbiha shfalim ad marom’. Go home, G-d will help, all will be fine.

Avremaleh arrived home to the news that there had been a fire in the church. The bishop had been heard moaning about a very valuable document that had been burned to the crisp. 

Avremaleh realized that he had been given the greatest gift.  Instantly he been returned to his former wealth. The whole matter would never be known. He would not lose his families love and his standing in his community would remain intact. 

If I am may add. In this story, Avremaleh is not just returned to his former state. He now has the gift of appreciating the gifts that G-d had given him. Gifts that he may have previously taken for granted.

My dear friends, this story is a beacon of light for me. When I look at so many things that we have taken for granted for so long, suddenly evaporating in front of my eyes.

I know that Hashem can rebuild and reinstate everything so that the whole matter will seem like a bad dream. 

Then, when things heal and get transformed, we will be wiser and richer. We will have the gift of appreciating G-d’s kindnesses to us. 

May the turnabout happen very soon. After all this is a month of turnabouts. The month of Adar which was transformed to joy by the story and miracle of Purim.












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