Printed from JewishThailand.com

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Who Needs Comforting?

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

When a parent punishes a child, for whom is it more painful?

Counterintuitively, often the parent suffers more than the child. 

Let’s say that the parent has discovered the child doing something bad that they cannot ignore. In order to educate their child, they understand that they must administer punishment. However, the pain that the parent undergoes because of the disappointment in their child, may far outweigh the pain of the punishment that the child endures. 

There is a story told by the Rebbe that touches me to the depth of my soul every time that I repeat it. It is about a pious father who discovered that his young son was acting cruelly to animals. The father was terribly disappointed with his son and administered appropriate punishment. The son broke out in tears as to be expected. Strangely, the son heard his father sobbing from a nearby room. The son realized that the father had more pain from administering the punishment than the son had from receiving it. This realization caused a transformation in the son who became a changed person.

Click here for full version of the inspiring story

Today is Rosh Chodesh. The ‘head of the month’. The fifth month of the year named Av. We add a descriptive word before Av. MENACHEM Av. Menachem means comfort. Because it was in this month the the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed and we observe the fast day of Tisha B’av we insert the prayerful wish that G-d comfort us.

The Rebbe pointed out that the literal translation of Menachem Av is to comfort the father. Who is the father in reference to the people of Israel? Almighty G-d is compared to our father and we; the people of Israel are his children. 

Why would G-d need to be comforted?

It’s US who needs comforting isn’t it? OUR temple has been destroyed. WE are in exile. Anti-Semitism threatens US the Jewish people. Why do we talk about comforting our ‘Father’ - G-d.

Our sages taught that when we the Jewish people are exiled, G-d joins us in exile.

When our heavenly Father needs to admonish us and banish us from His Holy table, it is more painful for him that for us.

How do you comfort a distraught father?

When kids get along affably and lovingly with each other, their parents are joyous. There is nothing worse for a parent than seeing their children quarrelling G-d forbid. The best feeling for parents is seeing their offspring getting along with each other and bonding deeply.

I muse to myself. Perhaps this is why providentially so many Jews from Israel travel to Thailand during this month of Av. 

Last Friday night, two thousand one hundred and six guests joined Chabad of Thailand. Most of them were tourists visiting from Israel. They wore all kinds of head coverings. They came from every imaginable background. They were diverse and different. 

It is incredibly inspiring to see how all these different Jews, merge together and blend as one unified family when joining for Shabbat at the Chabad Houses. Political differences fall by the wayside. Geographical origin is not important. Levels of Jewish observance are not a hindrance. The Shabbat table has the magical mystical power to bring us all together despite our external differences.

This gives nachas and pleasure to our Father in Heaven. 

This provides comfort.

You may rightfully point out, the travelers come because of school holiday. Nothing to do with the Hebrew month of Av and the need to be Menachem and comfort our Father.

I will say, look a little deeper. Perhaps G-d destined it so that school holiday would coincide with this month?

I know I am being a little fanciful. I don’t mind if you take a chuckle at my seeming naiveté. 

The main thing is that you join forces with me to cause nachas and bring comfort to our Father in Heaven. By being brotherly. By doing things that express Jewish unity. By eradicating gossip. By doing favors for each other that we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Walking the extra mile or meter for those we usually wouldn’t go out of our way for.

This will bring joy and comfort to G-d.

And will hasten the end of our exile. The coming of Mashiach and rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash.

Chodesh Tov

Shabbat Shalom

We want Mashiach NOW

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS to be a co-host of guests at the inspirational and united Shabbat meals at Chabad of Thailand please click here.



 


The Hero Next Door

 

By the Grace of G-d,

Dear Friend,

When you hear the word ‘hero’ does a certain type of person or action comes to mind?

Acts of bravado. Uniquely courageous behavior. Individuals who do remarkable things and stand out through their heroism.

Perhaps, deep down, you think a hero is a ‘larger than life’ kind of character. Something you would not expect of yourself.

I recently bumped into a person that I haven’t seen for quite some years. That person had really aged and since I had not seen her in a long time I hadn’t gotten used to the changes gradually. She was walking with great difficulty down some steps with a stick on one side and a middle-aged child supporting her on the other.

I asked the elderly woman how she was. She sighed deeply, the kind of sigh that speaks volumes about pain and frustration, and responded, ‘I’ve become an old lady…’. 

And then she carried on laboriously climbing the steps to her home.

It dawned on me that here was heroism in an unsung form.

Many a concentration camp survivor has spoken about the urge to touch the electrified fence and just be over with the excruciating life they faced in the death camp. 

If you think about it (although it is truly unthinkable), not to take one’s life in that kind of circumstance, while imprisoned in subhuman conditions is an act of defiance. To continue living such a wretched existence, day in and day out, was heroic.

I know have given an extreme example. Nothing we know of, can be compared to the unspeakable suffering and torture afflicted on our people during the Holocaust.

I use the example to give a different context to the concept of heroism. To make it more relatable and relevant. 

Heroism is living up to what is expected of you, against all odds. 

You don’t have to be a specialist in ageing to know that getting old is not fun.

Clearly, the aches, pains and restrictions that come with old age are a huge challenge.

Breathing in and breathing out when life is full of aches and pains, seems to me to be a form of heroism.

Unsung heroism. Because let’s face it, for the most part, old people are not looked up to as giants. 

The Torah instructs us to honor our elders. Simply, the fact that one has advanced in years, earns them the right to respect. Regardless of their level of wisdom. 

Sounds nice. Who doesn’t want to be respected? It would be wonderful if this Torah injunction would be more widespread. But even where there is respect, old age is a challenge. To me it seems that it may be a greater challenge than anything the elders may have faced before.

For these veterans of life are still on active duty as well. 

They are expected to live and serve G-d according to the best of their capabilities. Notwithstanding their natural propensity to not be in the best of spirit.

Something shared with me a story that happened with their elderly grandfather. For various reasons one of his grandkids didn’t have where to live. They stayed with this widowed grandparent. The other children would ask the father/grandfather ‘how do you put up with the noise and inconvenience of having young kids running around your house’? His response spoke volumes. ‘Just because I am elderly, do I no longer have the mitzvah of working on my ‘middot’ character traits’? 

Such a statement can only be made by someone who is actually elderly and experiencing the changes that come with old age. 

You can’t learn old age from an app.

I know that the ‘oldify’ app is all the rage now. In brief there is this app that if you upload your picture it can ‘virtually’ add decades to your life and show you how you will look when you are old. 

The app does not however give you the feeling of what it feels like to be old. It’s ‘cool’ to be young, energetic and raring to go, and see how your facial features will look in old age. The app doesn’t give you a taste of the chronic pain of rheumatic bones or the dizzy spell of high blood pressure and the frustration of now being able to hold things firmly in trembling hands. 

You think old people are grumpy and foul tempered. Undeniably when we get older, we ‘kvetch’ more. How you can keep from being grumpy when the aches and pains of life catch up with you?

Let’s look at the elders in our society with a lot more respect! 

As to the care providers, the children who devote themselves to caring for ageing parents. They too are heroes.

Once we have reframed the concept of heroism, you will rightfully notice that there is a hero living right next door to you and even in your own home.

This bumper sticker grabbed my attention when I saw it. 

‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’

When you assume that your neighbor is overcoming his own internal struggles you appreciate them in a different light. Rather than noticing the twenty percent that is not perfect about them, you will start to respect them for the eighty percent that is quite okay.

Here is the catch. 

Don’t use this kind of thinking to accept mediocrity from yourself. Excuses should never be used to support our own laziness. 

Rationalizations should be applied solely in viewing others. 

In the context of how we view our fellow Jews here is a way to achieve greater Jewish Unity. See what your fellow Jew is doing in terms of Jewish observance as being a real achievement. Understand that they may have found it really challenging to do that mitzvah. Don’t try and find what they are not doing and be disparaging. View their observance as being one that took supreme effort!

This is a Torah based recipe for mutual respect and acceptance. It is the basis for humility even before those who may seem to be doing less than you.

In the words of the ‘Ethics of our Fathers’ ‘be humble before every person’. 

Treat your fellow as a hero.

It will inspire them to be more heroic.

Understand that the daily choices and challenges you face are your own opportunity for unsung heroism. The difference between making a right choice or a wrong one, is between you and G-d only.

Nobody else may ever find out. The biggest battles are the ones that remain unknown. But who cares? You didn’t do it to be written up in the news headlines. You did it because it was the RIGHT thing to do.

G-d knows. And YOU know. 

And that is all that counts.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Envelope of Cash

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The Israeli division of CTeen, Chabad’s international teen network (we have a CTeen chapter in Bangkok too) was visiting Thailand this week. 

I was invited to speak to them. The attention span these days is not long. I wanted to say something short that would be meaningful to them and leave them with a practical takeaway. 

The following story that happened to me more than two decades ago popped into my mind. 

It was in my early years of providing kosher supervision to local factories through our Thai Kashrut Services organization. The ingredients at a certain factory I had visited were not up to kosher standard. I explained to the factory management that I was unable to provide kosher certification due to the problematic ingredients. 

The factory owners asked to come and visit me at my office. An envelope was put on the table, with a noticeable amount of cash in it. They explained that they had come to talk about seeing how to ‘organize’ the kosher certificate.

Ostensibly they were asking about what ingredients they needed to change. However the cash filled envelope indicated what they really had in mind. They wanted to influence me to certify something kosher even though it wasn’t. 

I was shocked. I had never experienced ‘bribery’ in its raw form before. 

As part of my childhood education I had heard the story of the imprisonment and ultimate release of Rabbi Yosef Yitschak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad. Even after the communist revolution, the Rebbe continued to actively promote Jewish observance. This enraged the religion-hating communists. 

One morning, while the Rebbe was observing yahrzeit after his father, three members of the secret police rushed into his synagogue, guns in hand, to arrest him. Calmly he finished his prayers and then followed them. Facing a council of armed and determined men, the Rebbe once again reaffirmed that he would, under no threat of compulsion, give up his religious activities. 

When one of the agents pointed a gun at him, saying, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind,” the Rebbe calmly replied: 

“Your little toy can intimidate only a man who has many gods (passions) and but one world (this world). Because I have only one G-d and two worlds, I am not impressed by your little toy.”

 (While he was subsequently arrested and faced with the death penalty, a few weeks later the Rebbe was miraculously released and allowed to emigrate to the free world. Click here for more details about his heroic struggle).   

These words of Rabbi Yosef Yitschak Schneersohn, as he faced the loaded gun of a communist officer flashed before my eyes.

I looked at the envelope and felt disgusted rather than tempted. 

Let’s face it, money is a temptation. A big sum of money is a big temptation. But ultimately, when one recognizes that there is but one G-d and that this world is only a temporary sojourn, while the soul lives for eternity, money loses (some of) its compelling allure. 

I thank G-d for having been born to parent who taught me these values. The heroes they told me about were spiritual giants. Stories like this about Tzadikim (plural of Tzadik) who lived in the same physical world as we do, yet were attuned to a higher spiritual reality serve as a beacon of light and inspiration to us. 

Hopefully my sharing with the teenagers about the strength that this story gave me to not be tempted by a unethical bribe, will give them a point of reference when they are faced with moral temptation. 

We need to tell more stories like these.

We need to glorify those who do what is right, notwithstanding whether it is popular. 

When our heroes are not the powerful and the famous, rather the ethical and the benevolent, our society will become a more refined and inspired one.

Later in the week I had the privilege to speak to the kids of Camp Gan Israel when they came to visit the Chabad House Synagogue. 

Much younger kids. I told them the above story of the Rebbe. Are they too young to absorb the message? 

I don’t think so. I heard the story when I was their age. 

It had an effect on me till today. And please G-d will continue to inspire me.

If we inspire the young kids, they will inspire their kids. Their kids will inspire their kids. 

Mashiach will be here way before…..

AM YISRAEL CHAI

A Bangkok/New York/Israel Story

By the Grace of G-d


Dear Friend,

I saw him coming out of the Rebbe’s Ohel and he looked like ‘one of the boys’. Graying beard. Fedora. Long black coat. A typical chabadnik if you judged from his appearance. But if you knew him from before, you would know that his background was totally atypical. 

Liraz, had the soul of a ‘seeker’. His search for the ‘truth’ led him to study Eastern religions and spend more than four years trekking through Asia. A graduate of the one of the IDF elite units, his eventual plan was to cycle from China to Turkey via bicycle. From Turkey he would take a ferry back to Israel.

If there was one ironclad rule that Liraz kept to, it was his decision not to enter any Chabad House. He didn’t want any contact with the observance of Torah. The other religious isms seemed too attractive. It was not easy to keep his commitment not to enter a Chabad House while traveling through Asia but Liraz had thus far successfully avoided entering any Chabad House.

It was in Thailand that his plans took a drastic change. 

While making a new passport in the Embassy of Israel in Bangkok he was told payment can be made only in Thai Baht. A nice fellow traveler offered to lend Liraz Thai currency as he didn’t have any with him. ‘Where will I meet you to pay you back?’ asked Liraz of the magnanimous young lady who had lent him the money. ‘I hang out in the Chabad House’ she replied. To which Liraz said ‘I have a rule that I don’t enter Chabad Houses’. To which the young lady replied ‘I too, am not religious and usually would not enter a place like that, but here it is different. It’s a home away from home for travelers. A warm welcoming environment and no pressure at all’. 

Liraz had no choice but to enter the Chabad House near Kaosarn Rd to return the loan. It was there that he met Rabbi Nechemya. The free coffee and refreshments were a tremendous draw, Liraz recalls. He attended one of the three-day seminars that Chabad of Thailand offers, up in the mountains. A little while after attending the seminar, he realized that the Torah is true and that he would like to live a Jewishly observant life. 

To make a long story short, Liraz went back to Israel, attended a Yeshiva and a few years later married a religious girl and together they are Chabad shluchim on a college campus in Jerusalem. They are a popular couple and run a very successful Chabad outreach program for students.

This part of the story I knew. It had taken several years to unfold, and I was privy to the details as they were taking place. It was inspiring to see the passion that Liraz brought to his Jewish observance.

I greeted Liraz heartily after he finished his prayers at the the Ohel and asked him how things are going.

Things are going very well, responded Liraz. 

‘Actually, one of the students that my wife and I had the merit to inspire to become Jewishly observant, just got engaged to be married. This young man had an interesting idea. He wanted to see what the Lubavitcher Rebbe was doing at the moment of his birth. He calculated the time in New York on the day and time of his birth in Israel. He then went to the website that records all the photos and video footage of the Rebbe and was able to find the moment of his birth. The Rebbe was distributing dollars at that time. A group of children from a Chabad School in Boston was visiting the Rebbe that day and during the minute of his birth these children were receiving dollars for tzedakah from the Rebbe.’

‘There was a young girl named Anat who was receiving a dollar from the Rebbe at that minute’ said the young man to Liraz. 

Liraz asked for the family name of that girl as his wife’s name is also Anat.

After hearing the last name he realized that incredibly, it was indeed his wife Anat, that was receiving the mission of distributing the dollar bill to tzedakah. When she was a young girl, her family had spent time in Boston where her father got a degree from Harvard University. The school had taken the students to visit the Rebbe. The Rebbe had given Anat a dollar and a mission.

This was taking place at the exact same moment as the young man who was later inspired to commit to Judaism by Anat and her husband was being born.

This story, told to me on the eve of the Rebbe’s yahrzeit left me uplifted and inspired.

It adds a deeper dimension to the concept of Jewish leadership. ‘Moshe was a shepherd’ says the Torah. True Jewish leaders are modeled after Moshe. Just as a shepherd needs to look out for every single sheep, so does a true Jewish leader need to look out for every single Jew.

The Rebbe, in his capacity as ‘Shepherd of Israel’ gave Anat the gift to participate in the shepherding of Am Yisrael. As she was receiving her blessing and dollar from the Rebbe, a Jewish boy was being born in Israel. This boy would grow up and be inspired by Anat and her family. 

It was not just to Anat. And it was not a one-time event. 

The Rebbe gave our generation the ultimate gift. He invited all of us to join in this initiative of shepherding the Jews of our generation.

The Rebbe send emissaries/shluchim all around the world to officially represent him and thus the world is dotted with Chabad Houses. From East to West and from North to South.  

The Rebbe also deputized every member of Am Yisrael, to join in this special undertaking.

Don’t be bashful. Invite your friend or acquaintance to deepen their relationship with G-d, Torah and Mitzvahs. In this way they will be connecting to their own quintessential self. Our deepest selves are a part of G-d, and therefore a Jew can never truly be happy in the long term, unless they are actively ‘serving G-d’. Living a lifestyle antithetical to G-d’s intention for your soul, cannot produce a healthy and meaningful life. Cosmically it simply cannot work.

How can you take part? Simply introduce your fellow Jews to a mitzvah that they may not yet be familiar with. 

Introducing a fellow Jew to Torah and Mitzvahs is the greatest gift and good deed you can do for them. You don’t need to know much. The little you know may be more than what your friend knows. Even if you only know the letter Alef, if you meet someone who doesn’t yet even know the ‘Alef’, you should teach them Alef….

The Rebbe chose certain mitzvot to focus on as a beginning step. The ‘10 point mitzvah campaign’ was created to encourage Jews to perform even just one mitzva. Even one mitzvah, done only one time, has eternal value in the eyes of Hashem. 

Don’t take my word for it. Try it. Offer your fellow Jew the opportunity to do a mitzvah. Even if you think they will reject it. You may be in for a surprise. The soul of a Jew is awake to G-d. Sometimes it just needs to be given the opportunity to seize.

May the inspiration of the Rebbe continue to grow and spread as his students inspire other students who inspire further students. Until the day will come when the world will be blessed to be collectively inspired and motivated to serve G-d.

The world with thus be full of peace and meaningfulness with the coming of Mashiach, AMEN

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

You are BIGGER... Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!(NY)

By the Grace of G-d


Dear Friend,

Fine wine gets better with age.

Wise people become more sagely as they advance in years.

A Tzadik, albeit physically passed away, becomes more present, active and alive, even in this earthly world. So says the Zohar.

Last week I shared an example of this regarding the speech by a student of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the UN. The Rebbe had asked for this speech to be delivered in the 1980’s. The difficulties in fulfilling this mission were insurmountable at the time. Twenty-five years after his passing, the Rebbe’s vision to share Universal Morality – the Noachide laws – from the podium of the UN, came to fruition.

This week I would like to share an inspirational experience I had during my trip to NY for our daughter’s engagement just a few weeks ago.

I walked into the visitor area near the Rebbe’s Ohel (resting place) and noticed a visitor who looked different than the average visitor to the Ohel (I have included a picture below). Mathew Charles was indeed not your average ‘Ohel-goer’. He had recently come out of prison where he had spent more than two decades. Mathew looked excited and emotional.

Mathew Charles had every reason to be thankful and happy. He had been released more than a decade early from a thirty-five-year prison term. Due in large part to the activism of the Aleph Institute. The Aleph Institute, the leading Jewish organization caring for the incarcerated and their families, was born directly from the vision, and by the instruction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The meeting with Mathew took me back to the 1980’s when as a teenager, I listened to the Rebbe’s live talks broadcasted from 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn NY to our Yeshiva/Synagogue in Melbourne Australia.

The Rebbe’s message had been a very clear one. Prison is not one of the methods of punishment in the Torah. While it needs to be used in our times to protect society, the rehabilitative aspects must be at its core.

The Rebbe was revealing the deeper cosmic truth of how humans operate.

The only way to change the growing crime rate and prison population was to change the way society operated. For a start we need preventative activism. To ensure the crimes don’t get perpetrated in the first place. Not merely by more policing. That is not getting to the soul and root of the matter. The cause of increased crime is because of the lack of internal morality.

The solution must be to introduce stronger morals to society. A great start would be to teach morals in schools. The Rebbe advocated strongly for a ‘Moment of Silence’ to be instituted at the opening of every school day. A child would need to ask his parent what to think about during that moment. This would be the perfect opportunity for the parent to transmit their values about belief and morality.

It would make a world of difference.

Once a criminal is in prison, he is no longer a danger to society for the duration of his lock up time. This should not be our end goal. We must seek to cure him, to rehabilitate him. The system must consider the inherent ‘divine image’ within every human. G-d said in the Torah that man was created to toil and be productive. When a person has a chance to work towards becoming a productive human being and rejoin society, they can find purpose and meaning to their lives and try to turn themselves around. This motivation would have a great impact on getting people out of jail quicker and have them stay out in higher numbers.

I heard these teachings from the Rebbe in my teens. (Click here for more on this topic) I would never have even imagined that decades later I would meet a fellow human who had had his life rescued through these words of the Rebbe uttered in Yiddish with unwavering moral clarity. How in the world would a Rebbe who never ventured forth from Brooklyn, except to visit his father-in-law and predecessors resting place in Queens, change the reality for prisoners in the USA?

But yes, the Rebbe’s words did change the reality of this world, touching the lives of even those who had made serious mistakes in their lives. A short while ago, nearly twenty-five years after his passing, legislation relating to prisoners inspired by the Rebbe’s approach, was written into law. Legislation that was supported by both sides of the political discussion.

Click here for more details on this story.

Once again, Hashem had given me a window of clarity to see the words of the Zohar, that a Tzadik is more present after his passing, in a real and mundane way.

As I write these lines it hits me with force.

This places the onus squarely on me.

I have been shown the reality of the Rebbe’s continually growing influence and his presence and accessibility for blessing and inspiration.

It is now up to me to avail myself of this blessed energy and commit to achieving things that till now could only be dreamed of. For what was impossible yesterday may be possible today if only you dare to continue to try.

It is up to me to connect to the Rebbe’s soul more deeply by studying his teachings more deeply and fulfilling his directives more energetically. The ‘writing is on the wall’. Big changes are taking place as the Rebbe’s vision goes from conceptual to actual. Counterintuitively, time is working in our favor. It will happen to my undertakings too no doubt.

But here is the caveat. It won’t happen without effort.

I need to intensify my determination.

It is Providential that at the Rebbe’s twenty-fifth anniversary dinner in Thailand, I presented the plans for the new Beth Elisheva Campus – The heart and soul of Jewish life in Thailand. The building we envision is a dream. Nechama and I were sent to Thailand by the Rebbe twenty-six and some years ago. With a blessing and a mandate to do whatever needed for igniting Jewish souls and enhancing Jewish life in Thailand. I’d like to hope that we have carried out his mission with some measure of success thank G-d.

But its time for even greater growth.

Twenty-five years since the Rebbe’s passing calls for a great leap upwards of additional light and holiness. The Beth Elisheva Campus is certainly a leap of note. It will take miracles and communal partnership to bring this to reality.

It is a grandiose undertaking which will revolutionize Jewish life in Thailand for the local community, traveling Jewish community and for the all the citizens of the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. (I look forward to sharing more about this with you in a future column).

Now is the time to embark on this great dream. And on other projects that would only have been imaginary till now. G-d will no doubt bless our efforts with success. 

It is with this sense of renewed commitment and vigor that I prepare to visit the Rebbe’s resting place in connection to his yahrtzeit.

And I invite you to share your name and mothers name so I can pray for you too at this holy place at this auspicious time.

I will undoubtedly hear his message resounding in my consciousness ‘don’t be satisfied… keep on adding and achieving… he who has one hundred desires two hundred, two hundred desires four hundred….’

To you my dear readers, join me in taking that leap. If you are reading these lines, you too are a student of the Rebbe and have been impacted by him.

Therefore, you too can, and should, connect to the Rebbe’s vision for you.

If you were to come to visit the Rebbe, the Rebbe would no doubt show how great he things you are for doing what you have done till now. And then he would ask you to do even more. For as much as you are doing, from the Rebbe’s perspective you are greater than you think, and hence you could be doing even more…

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks captures it in a line, (watch him and several others share their story at the video posted below) “You saw your reflection in the Rebbe’s eyes, and you were suddenly much bigger than you thought you were.”

By adding in acts of kindness and goodness, by doing more mitzvahs, by studying more Torah, by adding more light into the world, we hasten the imminent coming of Mashiach!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I have traveled to New York to visit the Rebbe’s Ohel in proximity to his Yartzeit. I wish to pray for you while I’m at this very special and holy site, so I ask for your Hebrew name and mother’s Hebrew name (for a Jewish soul we follow the mother’s name, otherwise it’s the father’s) or whichever names you have. Feel free to ask for general blessing or specify the nature of what you would like to pray for. Or visit www.ohelchabad.org to email your prayer notes directly.

For more information about the customs connected to the Yartzeit/Hilula of the Rebbe click here.

UN 25 years later...

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend

Twenty-five years after his physical passing, yet every day he becomes even more alive here in this world!

These were the impassioned words that my Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn said about his predecessor and father in law.

The simple explanation of this. The life of a Tzadik, a saintly person who is egoless and transparently connected to G-d, was never about their physical bodies even during their sojourn here on earth. Their lofty soul was what made them special. That soul lives on, even once it leaves the body. Actually, souls become freed and unfettered once they leave the body.

We all have souls. And indeed, all of our souls live on. But for average people, the central occupation of their life are the materialistic matters of life. For the Tzadik, the only interest they ever had, even while here on earth, was faith, love and fear of G-d. That doesn’t stop upon passing. It gets stronger.

I understood all that. (Click here for more on the topic). But that is all in the spiritual realms. I wasn’t sure I understood what the Rebbe meant by saying that the Tzadik becomes ‘even more alive here in this world’ even twenty-five years after his passing.

A few days ago a groundbreaking speech was given at the U.N. by Rabbi Goldstein, during a special session on anti-Semitism, calling upon 1 billion global acts of goodness and kindness and a return to the foundational mission given to mankind.  

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, was seriously injured in an  anti-Semitic attack on his synagogue  in Poway, Calif. on the last day of Pesach. He has since then traveled the world sharing his passionate and convincing message of enhancing our commitment to common respect and universal morality.. (Watch or read about the speech here.)

When I heard about this speech, I was flooded with memories of my late maternal grandfather Rabbi Abraham Hecht. I remembered that my grandfather was supposed to give that speech in the UN. Thirty something years ago.

In October of 1987, the Rebbe had requested that a talk of this nature – encouraging all nations of the world to commit to the basic tenets of universal morality as transmitted at Sinai in the form of the ‘Seven Noahide laws’ be given in the UN.

The Rebbe then told my grandfather, a dedicated student and chassid of the Rebbe, that as a prominent Rabbi in one of the largest congregations in America, he would like him to deliver that address in the UN.

My grandfather tried very hard to carry out the Rebbe’s mission but seemingly did not meet with success.

Twenty-five years ago the Rebbe left this physical world.

It would have seemed that his request for one of his students to address the UN was not to be.

This week it came to fruition.

Here in this physical world. At a UN session attended by representatives of the entire world. In front of cameras for the entire world to see.

For me it was a deeper understanding of how a Tzadik continues to live here in this world even after his passing.

His effect, the results of his teachings and inspiration continues to be felt, and his reach even expands with every day that goes by.

Jewish leaders are referred to as shepherds. The Talmud teaches that Moshe was a shepherd. Even after their passing they continue from on high to shepherd and tend lovingly to their flock. Person by person, big and small, young and old.

On a practical note for you and me.

In the 1970s, Mr. Frank Lautenberg was the national president of the UJA and came to meet the Rebbe. After a long night of discussing communal matters, the Rebbe steered the conversation toward the personal, encouraging Mr. Lautenberg to introduce more Jewish practice in his life, saying, “[if] you will look  in the mirror tomorrow morning, and you will see the same Lautenberg from yesterday – that means that I have achieved nothing.”

“You have achieved plenty, plenty!” exclaimed Mr. Lautenberg.

“That all depends on you,” the Rebbe responded.

Click here to hear it in the Rebbe’s own word.

The Rebbe loved every person unconditionally for who he was and where he was at. At the same time, though, he saw the infinite potential of what each of us could be and precisely because of that encouraged--and lovingly demanded--that we reach higher.

The Rebbe’s empowering message: Wake up tomorrow morning and see a new view of yourself. Yesterday was good, but tomorrow can be even better.

Let’s take the Rebbe’s message to heart. Let's do another mitzvah and make sure that today is different from yesterday and that tomorrow is even better.

And may all this speed up the coming of Mashiach. May he come NOW!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS Please join Nechama and I, on Monday evening at the Tribute event honoring the life and legacy of our dear Rebbe who entrusted us with the mission of bringing more light and Jewish life to Thailand. 

Details below. 

Broken Plate Joyous Hearts.

 

Dear Friend,

With songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty we were blessed to celebrate the shiduch-engagement of our daughter Chana to Mendel Lerman of Atlanta, Georgia on Monday of this week. Rabbi and Mrs. Lerman together with Nechama and I, accompanied Chana and Mendel to the Rebbe’s resting place. There we prayed and asked for blessings for the young couple to establish an everlasting Jewish home on the foundations of Torah and Mitzvahs as illuminated by the teachings of Chassidim. Upon exiting that holy space, the engagement was formally announced, and a celebration took place.

During morning services in a Crown Heights, Brooklyn shul, a friend saw me and said, ‘I have a nice story to share with you from Thailand’.

New York is geographically distant from Bangkok. VERY distant. Sometimes though, you must travel far to learn more about your own backyard.  It seems like I had had to get to New York to hear this particular story about Thailand.

Here is the story my friend shared with me.

O.G. is a consultant who is originally from Israel but now lives in the West Coast of the USA. She had been hired to evaluate various aspects of the Chabad school that my friend works for. During his meeting with the consultant, my friend asked her if she had encountered Chabad in the past. Initially she said that she had not had any interaction with Chabad. Then she recalled that yes, she did have an experience.

Her son went for a backpacking trip to Thailand. One day she got a call that put her into a state of major anxiety. Her son hadn’t been feeling well and gone to a hospital in Ko Samui for treatment and had been admitted to hospital. The nurse had told her son that he has 44 degrees fever. While she hoped that the numbers must be a mistake, she went into a panic. Her son is halfway across the world and she has no way of helping him. The language barrier and the physical distance made her feel helpless.

A friend said, ‘why don’t you call Chabad’?

O.G. called Chabad of Ko Samui and within an hour a rabbi was at her sons’ bedside. The rabbi spoke to the doctors and reassured the mother that everything was fine. The fever was not 44 and the situation was under control. The mother didn’t have to go fly out to her son, neither did the son have to cut his trip short.

I got O.G’s number and called her to say hello. I introduced myself as the first shliach that the Rebbe had sent to Thailand and tasked with expanding the presence to the other cities and islands. O.G. thanked me profusely on the phone for having a Chabad House in Ko Samui and for having a rabbinic team that responded to her, a totally unknown Jew from the other side of the world, with love, care and compassion.

As O.G. was telling the story she burst into tears of emotion just recalling the relief she had felt when a Chabad rabbi called her from her sons’ room. She said that while she knew that the rabbi wasn’t a doctor and he couldn’t do anything in terms of medical treatment, but his presence was so helpful and reassuring.

The thanks does not at all belong to me I told O.G.

It is the Lubavitcher Rebbe who deserves the gratitude. For it is his teaching and personal example that inspires the legions of young men and women to take up postings around the world, in large communities and in environs that have small amounts of Jews. The Rebbe’s shluchim emissaries take up residence in first world countries and in third world countries.  The Rebbe’s lived a life that exemplified his unshakeable love of G-d, His Torah and His people! By his sterling example the Rebbe portrayed and projected an unqualified and unmitigated love of fellow. It is this spirit of commitment and inclusiveness that continues to motivate the Jews of our generation and cajoles them and inspires them to raise their own personal bar of commitment, each according to their level.

It would thus be appropriate, I told O.G. to visit the resting place of this great Jewish leader whose inspiration you benefited from so personally.

O.G. agreed with me that this was something she would very much like to do and will make sure to schedule a visit to the Ohel.

My dear friend. If you are receiving this email you too are benefiting from this said inspiration of the towering leader of our generation. For there is no conceivable way that Thailand would have been on Nechama and I’s radar if not for the demanding and empowering words of the Rebbe reverberating in our consciousness ‘go out and become shluchim to spread the teaching and love of G-d, His Torah and Mitzvahs’.

It was solely this motivation that led us on the path to Thailand some twenty-six years ago. And this too is what motivates the thousands of others who serve Am Yisrael with dedication and love around the globe through thick and thin.

Counterintuitively, the Rebbe’s influence gets stronger and more impactful after his physical passing.

The Zohar has taught the kabalistic axiom that the truly righteous and saintly Tzadikim bear more influence in this physical world after their physical passing than during their lifetime.

When it comes to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we can see this Kabbalistic teaching borne out in numbers as well. Year by year the numbers of emissaries of the Tzadik swell. Even though one may have expected his influence to ebb due to the course of time, the reverse is true. He becomes more alive and more active as time goes on through the ever-growing activities inspired by his teachings.

Moreover, the Rebbe’s message of loving acceptance of fellow Jews, regardless of level of observance, while once a point of contention, it has gradually become the Jewish people’s collective norm.

What does this mean for me and you?

The Rebbe didn’t seek followers. It is leaders that he wanted you and I to become. (click here for illuminating article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) Each of us needs to develop and nurture the unique gifts we have been given and contribute our individual part in the mission of making this world a more divine place.

Click here for a wealth of knowledge and inspiration on this topic.

There are some milestone anniversaries that demand more attention than others.

Twenty-five years is one of those landmark geographic markers that begs and mandates introspective thought that should lead to energetic and even massive growth.

This year we mark twenty-five years since the physical passing of the Rebbe. We ought to utilize the spiritual opportunities available to us for growth both in our personal service to G-d and in our communal activities.

Please mark the date of the Rebbe’s yartzeit in your calendars. It is a perfect time to carve away space to ‘hear’ the Rebbe’s message to our generation and to apply it to your own life. The collective mindfulness of Jews across the globe will create a ripple effect of good deeds, bettering this word and bringing Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you are in Bangkok, please join us for a tribute to the Lubavitcher Rebbe on MONDAY JULY 1st at the Rembrandt hotel.

The program will include two components.

  1. A lecture/study class –  in Hebrew and a separate one in English – exploring the Rebbe’s Torah teachings as they apply to contemporary life.
  2. A dinner, at which time the renowned designer Eliav Nachlieli will present the artistic renderings of the new Beth Elisheva campus.

 

Selfies and Royalty Don't Mix

By the Grace of G-d

(For the answer to last week’s question ‘did Lori Kaye visit Thailand see the P.S.).

Dear Friend,

By now my muscles aches are over. It took a few days though. I guess I am not used to sitting for several hours on an asphalt road.

The rules were very clear though. Anyone who wanted to see HM the King of Thailand as he was carried aloft along the coronation procession route, needed to be seated on the floor. Knees were not allowed to be raised as that would be disrespectful.

Another interesting rule.

NO SELFIES.

Pictures were allowed. It wasn’t as if the cameras themselves were considered disrespectful. Pictures were being taken by official photographers as well as thousands of cellphone users.  Rather it was selfies that were banned.

Why?

I didn’t hear an official explanation but the concept seems quite simple.

Taking a selfie is all about seeing yourself as the epicenter of the universe. The very name ‘selfie’ is just two letters different than ‘selfish’.

When you are in the presence of a king, it is disrespectful to think about anything else other than the king.

For those raised in the western society it is difficult to truly comprehend the absolute reverence and honor with which a king must be treated.

A king is not a president or a prime minister of a country. A king is neither hired nor elected. In the Webster dictionary the definition of King is - a male monarch of a major territorial unit; especially: one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life.

The Thai rules regarding the absolute reverence for the royal family and absolute intolerance of any disrespect to the monarch are among the strictest in the world.  

One thing is for certain. The show of affection, respect and reverence coupled with submission that defines the coronation of a king in the Thai tradition, was an extraordinarily unique opportunity. It was something I much wanted to experience and participate in. It took effort to get to the heavily cordoned-off coronation route, but thank G-d I made it there in time.

It wasn’t just my own personal desire to attend this event, the Torah instructs that one should try to see the honor accorded to a king.

For one, it gives context to the concept of kingship in general and the total submission that is experienced in the presence of a king. It helps better understand the multiple references in our prayers to Almighty G-d as ‘King of the universe’. It definitely reinforces the atmosphere of deference that is required when standing before G-d in prayer.

As well, the Talmud also points out it gives a frame of reference to understand what awaits us when Mashiach comes. For if one merits to see the coming of Mashiach, or as he is called by our sages ‘The King Mashiach’, one will be able to discern and appreciate the nuances and differences of the respective honors accorded the kings.

Not even a blade of grass moves in the wind without being so destined by G-d. How much more so when a human is crowned as a monarch and accorded royal honor it is a blessing that G-d has bestowed upon him. It is not something that someone can work their way up to. Upon seeing a human being accorded such absolute respect, we are instructed to make a blessing. ‘Blessed are you Almighty G-d King of the universe who has given from His honor to a man of flesh and blood’.

Last Sunday, sitting on the asphalt road not far from the Chabad House I was part of this historic event. As the king’s entourage came into view the crowd’s excitement was palpable. When His Majesty came into view the crowd erupted into cries of ‘Song Pra Charoen’ = Long live the King while my colleagues and I made the aforementioned blessing one makes upon seeing a king.

It is a blessing I had never yet made before in my life. I cherished the moment.

The very next day I went to put up a mezuzah at the home of a young Jew who had sent an email via our website asking for help in affixing a mezuzah.

The young man shared with me what had prompted him to get more involved in the observance of Judaism.

‘It was at a large Chanuka gathering that I had attended in Moscow. Rabbi Lazar the chief rabbi of Russia, was explaining to the crowd that while historically and even in modern times, people worship men of flesh and blood and consider them divine, for us, Jews, there is only one authority and one ruler. The One Above. And he pointed upwards to the skies’. The young man continued ‘This got me thinking about my relationship with G-d and how I was uniquely gifted the opportunity to do mitzvahs that allow me a connection to G-d who is Divine and infinite’.

The first thing that sprang to my mind is that I must share with my colleague Rabbi Lazar how the words he had said at a large gathering before thousands of people, had resulted in the affixing of a mezuzah in a condo in Bangkok. And it emphasized to me the absolute importance of sharing eternal truths eternal truths wherever possible. Words have the power to inspire people to connect more deeply to G-d and to their own Jewish souls. You never know who is listening and the extent of the effect that your words may have.

And then it all came together.

The day before I had experienced the most authentic expression of kingship in today’s day and age.

In the Torah concept of kingship, the ultimate value of having a monarch, besides the peace and order that it created in society, was the deeper relationship it engendered between the subjects and G-d.. The people submitted themselves before the king while the king humbled himself before G-d. Actually the king was expected to be the paradigm and role-model of a person who was selflessly subservient to G-d.

Ultimately this meant that the subjects of the king were ‘doubly’ and truly submissive to G-d. For they looked to the king as the highest and most venerated human being and the king in turn submitted himself totally and transparently before G-d.

I would like to take this to a practical lesson.

Every person has people who look up to them. A ‘king’ of sorts. If you are a parent, your children view you was an authority figure. If you are an employer, you have a leadership status in the eyes of your employees. You may simply be the ‘funny guy’ who is humorous and people look up to you for that.

To those who look up to you, you can be a living example of how one should live. How one should be selfless rather than selfish. By your saying a complimentary word about good deeds and moral behavior you create an atmosphere of morality and tolerance among your underlings. By you showing a personal example of how you respect Almighty G-d and observe His Torah and Mitzvahs you create a similar respect among those who look up to you.

Don’t underestimate the power you yield. Through your good conduct you will have an indelible impact and effect on those who look up to you.

Who knows. Maybe that is the very reason you have been elevated to leadership status?

May we soon merit to be present at the celebrations welcoming ‘King Mashiach’ as he comes to redeem us and bring peace to the world, AMEN.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

P.S. I owe you an answer to last weeks email…

Did Lori Kaye visit Thailand?

Here is the answer. In an email I received after Shabbat from a couple who live in Poway, CA:

Rabbi Kantor,

My husband and I meant to write to you sooner but we are still trying to recover from being at shul during this horrific event. We were in Thailand in February. Before we left, our dear friend, Lori Kaye, of blessed memory, gave us 2 checks for Tzedakah. Anytime any of us traveled she always gave us tzedakah to deliver. That is just a small example of the kind of person Lori was.We went to Chabad in Bangkok and to Chabad in Chiang Mai, leaving our tzedakah and Lori's tzedakah, You only mentioned the check was for Chiang Mai but there was a similar check for Bangkok. We were told about you by Rabbi Goldstein. We are sorry we missed personally meeting you. We also had the wonderful experience of davening and having dinner Friday night, at the Chabad of Chiang Mai. The timing of April 28th, when the check finally was cleared ,is so moving. May Lori's memory be a blessing. 

(indeed there was a second check, but because it had been given in Bangkok it had been banked soon after it was given. The Chiang Mai check took its time till it made its way to our Bangkok office. And then it was sent to the USA to be banked. Arriving by Divine Providence a day after Lori was tragically killed).

May we merit to have peace in Israel and the world and may there be no more wars or bloodshed!

Did Lori Kaye visit Thailand?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The world at large has become a smaller place thanks to advances in communication and travel.

When it comes to the Jewish world we have become an even more tightknit family than ever before.

If you ‘bump into’ a Jew you never met before and talk to them for a few minutes, you will likely discover that you know someone in common. If you didn’t find anyone you know in common, you have not spoken long enough. Or one of you is not keeping track on all of there friends.

This week the Jewish world has been focused on the Chabad Poway Synagogue Shooting

Have you ever heard of Poway before?

It wasn’t a place I had heard of much. Till just now after Pessach. As the news of the horrific attack started breaking. Very soon we all knew the name Lori Kaye. Lori had been killed by a gunman simply because she was a Jew and was in Synagogue.

I didn’t think I knew any of the Jewish community of Poway. But by Sunday afternoon I learned that even out here in Thailand there were some people who had actually belonged to the congregation of Chabad of Poway. They shared their personal feelings and thoughts and it made it the attack even more personal.

But then something quite unusual happened. I am still not sure what it means. But it is too ‘coincidental’ to just be a coincidence. What I mean to say is that while everything is always Divine Providence, sometimes you see it even more openly than other times.

On Monday, two days after the attack, I was looking through the USA Chabad of Thailand account. There was a deposit into the bank on Sunday the 28th of April.

A name on one of the checks that we had just deposited jumped out at me.

Howard N. Kaye M.D.

Lori L. Gilbert

Poway, CA

It was a check that was written in February. To the Chiang Mai branch of Chabad of Thailand. As it was an American check it had been sent for deposit to our nonprofit account in the USA. It had taken almost three months from the date that they check was written. I don’t know why it took so long to send the check to the bank, but the fact is that only on April 28th did Lori’s check finally make it to be deposited in the bank.

Exactly a day after she was tragically killed.

I have not yet been able to confirm with the family when and where Lori visited. But the timing of this deposit left me with my mouth open. I am sure that you too will find this juxtaposition unusual and thus I share it.

What is the message?

One message may be a reminder for all of us who are blessed to be alive. We must remember that what goes with a person for eternity is their good deeds.

Another message may be that even after the passing of a near and dear one, life must go on with vitality and optimist and joy.

Our Sages taught that the souls of those who pass on, desire that their loved ones not mourn excessively but move on and live life joyously.

The way Lori’s funeral was described was that it was ‘defiantly optimistic’. Her family and her community will go forward with strength and vitality.

The consummate timing of this check deposit means that after Lori’s death as she was waiting to be buried, she was giving tzedaka. Lori’s was empowering the continuation of joyous Jewish life even as she no longer lived physically. And not just close to home. In far off Thailand of all places.

May Lori’s memory be a blessing.

The Torah portion this week speaks about the death of the two sons of Aharon. The Torah describes their passing as being an even that ‘sanctified G-d’s name’.

No one can understand the ways of G-d and we may never justify when something bad happens to someone else.

Yet it is undeniable that somehow through her tragic passing, Lori has made an impact of epic proportion to the world at large.

The message regarding the need to focus on teaching all inhabitants of the world about Universal Morality has been broadcast from one of the most public and powerful places in the world. The White House.

From the lawn of the White House, Rabbi Goldstein spoke about the Rebbe’s impassioned call for reintroducing morality into the American society by instituting a ‘moment of silence’ into the daily school schedule.

Click here to read more about the ‘Moment of Silence’

I am not giving explanations… Far be it from me to voice opinions on such sensitive and painful things. I am just pointing out things that I think may be of interest to you. Hopefully providing food for thought.

I would like to finish with a story I just heard about a tragic event that took place thirty-nine years ago.

On Friday night May 2nd 1980, a group of Jews walking through the streets of Chevron were attacked by terrorists. Six Jews were murdered. The tragedy was a colossal one.

Two days later on Sunday May 4th was Lag Ba’omer. Chabad Houses all over Israel traditionally organize joyous parades for the children on Lag Ba’omer.

The Chabad of Kiryat Arba (neighboring Chevron) was not sure what to do. One the one hand, their region was plunged into deep sorrow. On the other hand, Lag Baomer is a joyous holiday. They were in doubt. Should they continue their celebration as planned? Or perhaps it would be viewed as insensitive and they should ‘let it go’ for this year.

When a person has a doubt they ask the Rebbe. And ask they did. A few hours later they received a brief message from the Rebbe’s secretary.

The Rebbe quoted a passage from the Talmud. The Talmud speaks about a scenario that a funeral procession and a procession leading a bride to her marriage arrive at a one lane passageway. Who has right of way? Who gets precedence?

The Talmud says. ‘you move the deceased to the side and make way for the bride’.

מעבירין את המת מלפני הכלה

The commentaries explain that Hashem created the world to be inhabited and settled. Marriage is a process of continuation of life. It thus takes precedence.

The Shluchim understood what the Rebbe was telling them. Life needed to go on. Especially a day like Lag Baomer which is such an important spiritual day.

The Lag Baomer celebration in the Chevron area went on as planned. The Jews of the area were inspired and uplifted.

This is the message I would like to leave you with.

Those who are obligated to sit shiva must mourn for seven days as proscribed.

We all need to empathize and reach out to offer comfort.

But we dare not fall into a misguided heaviness of mood. It is all too easy and tempting to walk away from horror and tragedy with a downcast desponded spirit. We must not wallow in morbid and tragic projections.

We need to focus on continuing to LIVE.

On a practical level, safety and security needs must be reassessed at Jewish institutions all over the world. This is critical.

But most importantly we need to FILL the Synagogues!

We need to walk proudly and joyously as Jews.

Now more than ever before we need to act in a way that brings light to the world around us.

We need to add in our Mitzvah observance.

Encourage our fellow Jews to do one more mitzvah.

Unabashedly share the message of the rules of morality predicated on belief in one G-d with all the inhabitants of the world.

Through adding in acts of goodness and kindness we will merit the ultimate time of peace, when the ‘wolf will lie with the lamb’ with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

5758 Guests

 By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Wow!

Nearly six thousand guests were hosted at the first night Seder by Chabad of Thailand.

That news made the headlines in Jewish websites around the world.

The mere breadth and scope is exciting. The Seders pulsated with a G-dly inspiration. (scroll below for a video recap of the multifaceted preparations leading to Seder).

Though, if I have to choose, what particular moment inspired me this Pesach, it comes from an unlikely incident that took place just before Pesach.

On the morning of Erev Pesach one of the Shluchim in Thailand called me to guide him on how to deal with the following sad situation. A traveling couple had lost their child during the sixth month of pregnancy. There was now a fetus to be buried. Parents to be guided through their loss.

At the same time it was less than ten hours away from the Seder night. There were hundreds of guests expected at the Seder and the rabbi had a whole list of preparations that still needed to be carried out.

The details are not important for this discussion. Let me suffice by saying that the Jewish traditions pertaining to burial of the fetus were carried out exactly as they should be.

As well, the Seder for many hundreds of guests at that location went off without a hitch thank G-d.

The delicate balance between hosting the crowds while not overlooking the needs of the individual were achieved in this situation. While the collective of the community of hundreds was tended to and inspired by the well-organized Pesach Seder, the individual needs of a couple going through a traumatic event were equally filled.

I am inspired by my younger colleague.

It must have been a challenge to get this curveball of an unexpected sad issue to deal with on the morning before Pesach. He rose to the task and did what was the right thing.

And somehow it all came together.

He did the right thing, and G-d blessed him to have time both to deal with the individual and to go on to successfully implement his large communal Seder.

As with any inspiration, it’s all about the better life choices and actions that it spurs in the behavior of the one who was inspired. G-d willing it will influence my actions as well as those who choose to be likewise inspired by my recounting of the event.

Not to lose focus on individuals even while catering to the masses.

And to do what is right even if it looks overwhelming. Just focus on doing the next right thing. G-d Almighty is the Master of the universe. He can and does make the unthinkable become a reality.

Interesting that the topic of fetuses has dominated my thinking as I write this column. It is actually quite relevant to the second part of Pesach that begins tonight.

On the Seventh day of Pesach (beginning tonight April 25) we commemorate the splitting of the sea and the crossing of the Jewish people on dry land. A dry sea bed where the enormous amounts of seawater usually was.

This was one of the greatest miracles of all times. The Jewish people were overwhelmed with gratitude to G-d for this unimaginable miracle of epic proportion.

They sang a song of thanksgiving. It is called the ‘song of the sea’. (We sing it every day in our morning prayers).

Who sang?

Better ask, who didn’t sing!

Everyone sang. From young to old. The men sang. The women sang. Suckling babes sang.

The Talmud tells us something quite startling:

The fetuses in their mother’s wombs sang!

Thus, truly the entire body of the People of Israel sang out to G-d.

The adults gave conscious thanks to G-d for the mighty and awesome miracle. The children followed the example of the adults.

The fetal singing represented something even deeper that the song of those who had already been born.

The singing of the fetuses to G-d emanated from the very deepest space in the human experience. From the primordial stages of life. Even while safely ensconced in the womb of the mother, as the developing body and soul were fusing and preparing to become a new life, they already sang out in thanksgiving to G-d.

Tonight, thirty-three hundred and one years ago, G-d split the sea for our ancestors.

As we enter the day of the splitting of the sea, the Kabbalists tell us that these events are once again spiritually reenacted.

Both the miracle of the sea splitting. Represented by the ability to achieve the previously unimaginable. (see below article by Aaron Moss).

As well as singing the song of praise to G-d.

A song that emanates from the deepest place in our souls.

The song of thanksgiving to G-d that resonates in every fiber of our being. From our earliest embryonic subconscious state, to the highest peaks of our intellectual prowess.

We are saved and thus we sing.

We sing and thus we are saved.

Join in tonight and tomorrow as we celebrate our complete escape from Egypt via the splitting of the sea.

Sing because we have been saved!

And then Sing to be saved!

On Shabbat – the grand finale of Pesach – sing the song of anticipation. We do this by celebrating the Seudat Mashiach (meal symbolizing our longing for the coming of Mashiach).

Click here for ‘what why and how’ about the Mashiach meal.

May Hashem grant us all the gift of liberation from our personal vices and constraints.

May Hashem bring Mashiach and liberate the world from the pain and insecurity of un-G-dly living, ushering in the everlasting peace we all yearn for.

Chag Sameach,

Shabbat Shalom,

We Want Mashiach NOW!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach From Bangkok!

 By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Pai, in the hills of Northern Thailand

An unfolding story: (I shared part one back in May).

Part One, May 2018

I thought I was going to NY on Saturday night for Chabad-work-related matters. The check-in agent noticed that my Thai passport was expired and my visit to Suvarnabhumi airport turned out to be for naught.

A day later a friend called me from USA and asked me to help out with a Jewish man who needed possibly life-saving counseling in Chiang Mai. I said ‘sure, I will help and if need be fly down there’. I figured maybe this is the reason I didn’t fly to NY. Maybe G-d had kept me here in Thailand to help one of His children. When I called the person in distress, he said he was in Pai, not Chiang Mai. To my American friend no big difference, Pai, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai it all the sounds the same to him. But of course there is a huge difference. Chiang Mai is easy and inexpensive to reach. Pai is tedious and time-consuming as there are no flights and the two lane highway is scenic but dizzying. It was a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai on the windiest mountain roads I have ever experienced. The trip left me dizzy for twenty-four hours.

The person I wanted to see indicated that he may not be prepared to see me. I decided to go nonetheless. The way it seems to me sometimes you have to go even when you are not sure of the outcome.

My thinking goes like this: If you are on the waiting-list for a flight and you don’t go to the airport, you certainly won’t board the flight. If you go, you have a chance.

‘Showing up’ is the first step, without which, nothing starts.

I got to Pai at 1pm and wandered around for two hours.  . Met at least a dozen young Jewish travelers (and one motorcycle-riding Northern Californian ‘hippy’ (her words) with her ten-year-old son).

The guy I came to see didn’t respond to my calls, WhatsApp’s or SMS’s.

No regrets about going there. For some years now I had wanted to see the Israeli backpacker scene in Pai to assess the viability of setting up a Chabad House there. This was a prodding from Above to get me there. Knowing that someone may be in need of help NOW, made this trip actually happen…

The fellow I went to meet? He knew I had traveled far to get there and that showed that I really cared.   The next day we spoke by phone and thank G-d things are on the mend. Hopefully I can help him in his quest for a brighter future.

Part Two April 2019

The person I had gone to visit has since ‘wandered’ around Thailand and more recently made his way back to Pai. His friend from the USA called me a few days ago and reminded me to reach out to him for Passover.  I was very happy to be reminded. For if he was in Pai I had a Seder to invite him to.

Yes. This year Chabad of Thailand is hosting a Seder in Pai. For Jews that were planning not to be at a Seder. They were planning to be in Pai over Passover. We dispatched a young rabbi and his wife from Israel and they are literally ‘walking the streets’ looking for Jews. They already have a guest list of more than one hundred.

I wrote a note to my ‘wandering’ friend, the Jew who I went to see in Pai but who had not come out to meet me. I asked him ‘are you still in Pai’. No response for a few hours.

Then I got a call that filled my heart with joy.

It was the young shliach we had dispatched to Pai. He told me excitedly that he had met a Jew in the street who said he knows me and had confirmed that he would join the Seder.

A classic ‘fifth son’ who would now join the Seder table as one of the ‘four sons’.

Yes, you guessed it. It was that Jew I have been trying to interact with since last May. The rabbi put him on the line and we got to speak for a few minutes. He apologized for not answering my note yet. He confirmed that he would join the Seder. And he sounded like he was doing surprisingly well coping with life thank G-d. I pray that his ‘liberation’ continue and that life goes well for him going forward.

This story brought home to me what I already know but the more reminders the better. G-d runs His world in a way that is full of miracles and divinely orchestrated ‘coincidences’. It is just that most of those miracles are not evident. Like the fact that our body functions day after day. When G-d forbid something small goes awry in the body a person feels it. Very small mishaps in the vital organs can be fatal. Do we know when things almost went wrong and G-d saved us at the fateful moment. These are things we take for granted. We call them nature. The miracle inherent in so many uneventful events are not evident even to the one who experiences them.

Pessach is a time for remembering the miracles of going out of Egypt. The ten plagues. The splitting of the sea. The raining down of the Manna.

It is also a time to remember that G-d is always ‘liberating’ us. G-d is performing miracles for us on an ongoing basis. Usually, we don’t notice them. But sometimes we do get a peek into G-d’s interaction with us. Either by experiencing something that is incredible enough to be called a miracle. Or by experiencing an intersection of events, where the pieces of the puzzle come together in a way that is too immaculate be written off as happening by chance.

Through this sequence of events I was gifted a sensory reminder of G-d’s Divine Providence at work in this mundane world.

It is liberating to realize that there is a ‘Boss’ to this universe.

When you look at the world as being run directly by G-d, the world becomes a kinder and less stressful place.

It is also obligating.

Some people mistakenly think that liberation and obligation are mutually exclusive.

Ironically, it is liberating to be obligated.

Rabbi Gurkow summed it up well in an article about the liberation of Passover. He was explaining how leaving Egypt and becoming obligated to serve G-d at Sinai was liberating.

In our own lives we also experience these two pulls. On the one hand we resent the obligation to wake each morning and go to work; we aspire to freedom and leisure. On the other hand, as soon as we retire or vacation for several days we feel the emptiness of life and yearn for structure and commitment.

Both desires are real. The first is a desire to be free of others so that we can serve ourselves. The second is much deeper. It is a desire to be needed. We cannot be needed without serving another’s needs and we cannot serve another’s needs without sacrificing some of our leisure in order to help others.

The desire to be needed is fundamental to the human experience. Without it the soul feels empty; drained of all significance. If I serve no one, I am important to no one. Gripped by the imprisoning vise of isolation, I am left utterly and completely alone. Ironically, true freedom comes with commitment. CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

This unfolding story also drove home to me the importance of giving attention to each and every individual. It comes at a pivotal time. This is a time when at Chabad of Thailand we are involved in providing Seders for some six thousand guests spread throughout Thailand. It is critical to remember that each one of those thousands is an individual and requires personal attention and inspiration.

This was the theme of my motivational talk to the staff of thirty ‘roving rabbi’s’who had been dispatched from Chabad world headquarters to help run the Seder for thousands in Ko Samui (see pictures below).

While hosting more than two thousand guest at an epic Seder event, I urged them to notice each individual and ensure that they have an enjoyable and meaningful Passover evening.

As budding emissaries of the Rebbe, I urged them to look at the Rebbe’s leadership as one to emulate.

Rabbi Shmotkin summed it up well in an article:

 Rebbe was a global leader whose towering personality, innovative methods, organizational skills and vision impacted the entire world. At the same time, to hundreds of thousands who came in direct contact with him, he was their personal Rebbe.

The pain of every individual was his pain, and the joys of every individual were his joy. No one was dispensable. Everyone belonged and everyone counted.

 Moses, who with loving tenderness fed the right type of grass to each type of sheep and chased a single lost sheep in order to return it to the flock.

 Midrash says, is why Moses was chosen to be the shepherd of the Jewish people. CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

May this Pesach be a truly liberating one for you.

May you be blessed with liberation from worries. This includes material worries like health, nachas and money. Namely you should be blessed with an abundance of all those blessings. You should also be liberated from spiritual angst. Finding purpose in life. Knowing that you are an integral part of G-d’s plan for His creation and connecting more deeply to the spark of G-d within you.

May we be collectively blessed with the liberation from this exile, with the coming of Mashiach.

L’shana Habaah Beyerushalayim!

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach – Kosher and Happy Passover.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS ALL WHO ARE HUNGRY COME AND EAT – the traditional Pesach invitation to all those who don’t yet have a place for the Seder, is extended to anyone reading this note! rabbi@jewishthailand.com

So many of you have helped us prepare to host the six thousand guests we anticipate at our Seders around Thailand. We still need more help… if you are able to host some guests at our seder please click here.

Wicked? Perhaps. But needed!

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Which of the ‘four sons’ (or daughters) are you?

Truth be told I kinda always believed my momma who said I was the ‘wise son’.

This year will be different though.

No, my mother hasn’t stopped calling me a good child and I still try not to let her down. But I have recently given a lot of more thought to the ‘wicked son’ character who is mentioned at the Seder night.

Let me explain why.

A recent encounter with Ron, a Jew from the Hollywood in his seventies, opened up new vistas in my empathizing with others.

It wasn’t the first time I had put on Tefilin with a man in his seventies for the very first time in his life. Thank G-d, I have had the inimitable pleasure of introducing many a fellow Jew to this awesomely inspiring mitzvah.  

Roneleh (as I endearingly refer to my new seventy-one-year-old friend) didn’t just put on the Tefilin. He bared his soul. He emotionally told me what had changed his feelings toward his relationship with G-d and his Jewish birth religion.

In anticipation of our meeting he had watched a video on our website in which I shared the teaching that every Jew is comparable to a letter in the Torah. We all know that every letter of the Torah is critical to the validity of the Torah. If one letter is missing the entire scroll is invalid. Similarly, every single Jew is an integral part of the Jewish people. From the greatest saint, down to the most wicked. Every single one of us is an irreplaceable ‘member of the tribe’.

Ron told me emotionally, ‘I never knew how important I, the non-observant Jew, am to the Jewish people. To realize my critical importance to the nation of Israel, to the extent that the entire nation of Israel is incomplete without my contribution, is a game-changer’.

It was a game-changer for him. Ron, aka Reuven, put on Tefilin and gave me an appreciative hug.

I hugged him back. It was no less game-changing for me. Ron gave me a glimpse into the feelings of a Jew who did not at all feel like a ‘wise son’ in terms of his relationship with his Jewishness.

I have not been the same since that meeting.

My world has changed.

It’s like a lightbulb went on in my head!

I’ve attended Pesach Seders for as long as I can remember.

At every Seder we have spoken about the ‘four sons’ who attend the Seder.

The four kinds of children that comprise out Seder tables. Wise, wicked, simple and the ones who do not know how to ask.

I will be unabashedly honest. While I try to be an empathetic person, I now realize that I had never put myself in the shoes of the ‘wicked son’.

What would it feel like to attend a Seder if you viewed yourself as a ‘wicked son’?

Actually, why would you even bother attending the Seder if you felt so wicked?

Wouldn’t you feel really out of place?

This is precisely the point of the Seder declaration highlighting the different kinds of children.

Every single Jew has a place at the Seder table.

The Seder is not only for the wise, good, full of mitzvahs kids. Or for kids who are simple but at least don’t create waves by their rambunctiousness and questioning of their heritage.

The Seder is held for the ‘wicked’ child as much as it is for the other less provocative ones.

A JEW IS A JEW IS A JEW.

We need the wicked son to know that he is NOT merely a tolerated ‘outside guest’ at the family table. He is an integral member of the family. He may need to be tamed, he may be asked to tone down his rhetoric, certainly he is expected to be respectful, but he will not be asked to leave.

For if he leaves, the family is not complete.

Hey, it’s pretty amazing that the kid showed up at the Seder. He couldn’t be all that wicked you say. Well, the Haggada does call him wicked. So I believe that he may indeed be wicked.

But wicked as he may be, he has been blessed that he is not alienated. Obviously, his Jewish self-esteem is intact. He may feel that his actions are aggravating to his family and his G-d but he just can’t control himself.

Not for one moment though does he think he is redundant. Not for a second does he think he is now an outsider. He knows and feels that he is a Jew as much as any other Jew at the Seder table.

This is what we proclaim at the Seder. It doesn’t matter how you view yourself. It may even be the truth that you are quite a wicked Jew. But you are a Jew and therefore you belong. And if you don’t show up, something is missing.

But here is the catch. Only the Jews who actually show up to the Seder get to hear about this.

I shudder when I think of how many Jews may not be showing up at Seders simply because they are feeling a low Jewish self-esteem.

It could be that the reason so many Jews stray so far is because they don’t really think their absence will be noticed?

What I learned from Ron is just how critical it is for a Jew to realize that he is absolutely critical to the community.

It’s a vicious cycle. If they don’t come to the Seder, they don’t get to hear the Seder leader explain how important every single Jew is to the entire people.

This Tuesday, the world celebrates the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory 117 years ago.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe called upon all Jews who are planning to attend Passover Seders to think about those who are not planning to attend.

Four sons come to the Seder. Even the wicked ones.

There is a ‘fifth son’.

The one who wasn’t planning to come.

Get him or her to come to the Seder. Explain to them that the table is not complete without their presence.

Once they get to the Seder they will get the point. That they matter. That the table is not complete without them. Next year they won’t be the fifth son. They will join the other four. And they too need to reach out to those who are not yet planning to be at the Seder table.

The Rebbe constantly taught that it is not at all difficult to connect Jews to their Yiddishkeit.

All it takes is to impresses upon our fellow Jews that they belong.

That they matter.

That G-d loves them and waits for their Mitzvahs longingly.

That the Jewish People NEEDS them to be whole and complete.

Once they know and feel that they are needed, there is no doubt that they will connect more to their Judaism.

So, my dear friend, G-d loves YOU. Am Yisrael needs YOU. And YOU can best express your love to G-d and strengthen our people, by doing another mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom and happy Passover preparations.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS. Please email me if you need help with a place at a Seder or if you can’t make it to a Seder we will be happy to send Matzah to you!

Tradition Transmission

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It is always special to visit my parents in New York and spend time with them.

During my current visit I got a special treat. My father shared a deeply personal story with me. One that took place more than six decades ago, at the celebration of his Bar Mitzvah. The celebration took place in the fledgling Chabad community of Melbourne, Australia.

At the Bar-Mitzvah celebration Mr. Zalman Yankelevitch (Ben-Yaakov), a visiting politician from Israel, was honored to address the crowd.

Mr. Zalman Yankelevitch, a religious Jew born near Lodz in Poland, was a powerful orator. In his passionate address delivered in Yiddish, he spoke as if he was the mouthpiece of the myriads of children who had not survived the recent Holocaust.

In descriptive language he painted an imaginative throng of children who were pleading not merely to be memorialized but to vicariously carry on living. ‘The children whose lives were cut tragically and brutally short, are standing here, imploring you to live your life on their behalf.  To carry on the Jewish traditions and create the meaningful Jewish future that was cruelly denied them ….’.

‘Mr. Yankelevitch’s passionate words to me as a young Bar-Mitzvah boy, placed an overwhelming weight on my young shoulders’. ‘'I was sobbing so heavily and was so overcome by emotion that I was unable to deliver my ‘pilpul’ (Talmudic discourse) that my father had prepared for me to recite’ recalled my father.

My father concluded his reminiscence with the following statement that left me with a lot of food for thought. ‘This message delivered at my Bar-Mitzvah and its highly demanding call to action, remained embedded deeply in my subconscious.  It was likely what created that insatiable, unfulfillable desire within me to achieve. It was that mission that was thrust upon me to achieve the goals of those saintly souls whose lives were cut short unnaturally’.

This story touched me deeply, because while I had never heard the story before, I felt as if I knew it from the inside. It was no doubt an event that shaped my life too. My father’s constant drive to achieve, and rebuild the post-Holocaust battered Jewish world, impacted my siblings and I. It affected us in a very positive way as far as it seems to me. The effect of that immemorial speech impacted the way I raised my children.  

I asked my father for permission to share this story with you.

For this is truly the story of our people. The story of Am Yisrael.

The Jewish people is no stranger to the colossal influence of transmission of tradition.

On Pesach the Torah instructs fathers to answer their children as to ‘why is this night different that all other nights’. The message of indebtedness and thankfulness to G-d for the Exodus from Egypt has been passed down through the generations in an unbroken chain, for more than three thousand years!

Pesach is without question that most celebrated Jewish holiday.

It is the basis of the entire Judaism. For it is only once we were freed from Egypt that we became an independent nation. Forty-nine days after we left Egypt, G-d gave us the Torah.

Eating matzah on the night of Pesach, particularly the handmade shmurah matzah which is called ‘the bread of faith’, is a mitzvah that strengthens our faith in Al-mighty G-d.

It is for this reason that the Rebbe urged and encouraged us to be proactive about reaching out and providing Pesach to all whom we can reach. To do all that is within our power to ensure that every Jew has a Seder on the eve of Pesach. So that not just the ‘four-sons’ come to the Seder. To make sure that the ‘fifth-son’, the one who wasn’t planning on coming to the seder, also comes!

For the unbroken and uninterrupted chain of Jewish tradition must continue. It is we, who need to transmit to our children and it will be they who will transmit to their children in an lengthening chain of generations.

Chabad of Thailand has ambitiously taken up the challenge to host in excess of fifty-five hundred guests at a dozen locations around Thailand. Many of them young heroes who have just given three years of their life defending our people in our homeland.

It is a challenge to pay the bills for the Seder.

This is what brings me to New York during this hectic time before Pesach. To knock on the doors of offices of generous Jewish donors. Asking them to add their link in the chain of Jewish continuity by hosting guests at our Seders.

You too can participate in providing this essential Jewish experience by clicking here.

Please consider this a personal invitation to our communal Seders in Thailand.

Reservations can be made here, or if its easier, just email me back that you will be coming. Please invite any other Jewish people that you know. We will be most happy to have them.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS (a long and special PS) Last Friday, Chabad of Thailand had the indescribable merit to save a life. Literally.

Hear the story in Rabbi Wilhelm's words, (translated into English)-

"This past Friday, I received a call from a concerned man in Toronto. He told me that his elderly parents had arrived in Bangkok to visit on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday evening, his mother left their hotel room and had not been seen since. She had simply disappeared.

I immediately went to the hotel, with the Chabad Houses’ security team. We met with the missing woman's husband and tried to get as much information as to where she may have wandered off to. By this time, we had reached out to the police and they conducted an intensive search operation in the area of the hotel.

After an extensive search, the woman was found, thank G-d.

She had become disoriented due to the long and arduous trip to Thailand and had left her hotel room and wandered around areas of the hotel which were not usually accessed by guests. She had landed up falling into a deep three-meter shaft near the hotel's pool and refrigerator rooms. Lifting her from the shaft was not an easy process. In order to reach the woman, the hotel had to break open the walls of the refrigerator rooms which they graciously agreed to do. When she was brought up from the pit, she was unconscious and very weak. BUT ALIVE thank G-d.

We brought her by ambulance to the hospital where she was checked. Thank G-d, there were no significant injuries and a little later, she regained consciousness. As of now, she is feeling good and should be released very soon.

We are grateful to YOU, our friends, who through your support, create happy endings to dramatic stories like this one.

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov

Divine Hug

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

We didn’t time it consciously that way…

Is it not clearly the hand of Hashem’s Divine Providence?

Let me tell you the background. And then you can decide for yourself.

After weeks, actually years, of dreaming and planning, the J Café and kosher shopin Sukhumvit area finally opens on Sunday this week.

Just as we begin the week of the weekly Torah portion of Parshat Shemini.

What am I so excited about?

It is in the portion of Shemini that G-d gives the laws of what is kosher and what is not.

Until this morning, when I sat down facing my computer screen meditating on what I would like to share with you this week, I didn’t realize that there was this major and obvious connection between the weekly Parsha and the opening of our new kosher food establishment.

It is so heartwarming to get this ‘Divine-Hug’ so to speak. When G-d shows you how your efforts from down below are in sync with His Torah reading schedule it is truly inspiring and heartwarming.

You may be wondering, what do I find so exciting about a new kosher eating establishment? Why would Chabad rabbi’s expend efforts and resources to establishing a food eatery? Something that seems to be in the realm of body building and revenue generating rather than soul tending and altruistically flavored.

You would be right if we were talking about opening a new kosher food venue in New York, Jerusalem or even Melbourne. In those bastions of Jewish life, kosher venues are business enterprises and hardly a reason to make a rabbi’s weekly Torah column.

Not so in Thailand.

Two and a half decades ago, just after we opened the backpacker Chabad House in Kaosarn Rd it was clear that we needed a kosher food solution. Young people were visiting the Chabad House, becoming inspired to connect more to Judaism but left unable to feed their bodies in a kosher way. It was difficult to encourage travelers to commit to eating kosher when there was virtually nothing available for them to eat.

Opening a restaurant at the Chabad House twenty-five years ago was a mitzvah. It was founded as an outgrowth and result of the Jewish outreach mandate of Chabad. Rather than being a revenue source, it was another significant expenditure. It didn’t seem to have a future as a commercial enterprise but that didn’t matter. It was nurturing Jewish souls and guaranteeing Jewish continuity. These are critical values that you cannot put a price tag on.

The value of a kosher eating establishment where there are none, is immeasurable.

The obvious benefit is that enables more people to keep kosher. G-d instructed Jews in a detailed dietary code and without proper resources it can be quite difficult to adhere to the kosher laws.

Providing a kosher eatery is thus a great mitzvah. It’s as simple as that. Which is why the kosher restaurants at the Chabad Houses are still open, notwithstanding their inherent non-profitability. They have become an expected feature at each of our Thailand Chabad Houses and thousands merit to keep kosher because of the availability of kosher food that they provide.

Not to mention the incredible Jewish unity opportunities it enables. The kosher restaurants at Chabad of Thailand’s four locations, provide more than two thousand Shabbat meals every single week. These meals are inspirational celebrations that foster and cultivate Jewish unity.

The kosher establishment in a remote location goes beyond just providing kosher food.

A kosher eatery in a place that is off the traditional ‘Jewish grid’ becomes a Jewish meeting point of sorts and provides a vital community service.

The new J Café and Kosher Shoppe is a cause to celebrate for any Jew living in Thailand. It’s a ‘one stop shop’ for Yiddishkeit and Jewish accessories. It may be a Yartzeit candle one is looking for. Chanuka candles. A half kilo of rugelach. Challa bread on Friday. Hamantaschen on Purim. Israeli soup croutons. Tahini or Humus or Matzah & kosher wine for Pesach.

Not to mention the Israeli style café menu that is mouthwatering (don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself).

All of this and more is now readily accessible and centrally located at Mille Malle Mall on Sukhumvit Soi 20.

Going to a community focused kosher shop can do wonders in fanning the flames of Yiddishkeit and Jewish identification in one’s soul. Especially if you bump into other community members and have a good schmooze. Or you may even meet me or one of my colleagues and get to put on Tefilin or hear a Torah thought.

For all these reasons and more, I am excited about the new venture.

Will it be sustainable. I am hardly worried. Because it’s a community service at its core, I am not fazed by the possible or (as the pessimists say probable) lack of profitability. The benefits to the community far outweigh the possible deficit.

But I challenge you and invite you to prove the naysayers wrong.

Support the new endeavor. Invite your business associates and friend to dine with you. Order deliveries to your home or office. Help build it up till it becomes financially self-sufficient and then continue to support it till it even turns a profit.

As indicated on the signage, J Café is a project of Chabad. This means that any profits go back to the community chest. So if you succeed in making this new project viable, the community benefits further by having more resources to provide ever increasing Jewish and social services.

It’s a win-win proposition.

Eat kosher. Support the community. Nourish your body. Nourish your soul.

And check out the wonderful selection of kosher wines.

LECHAYIM!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS to those of you who live in established Jewish communities I hope you too can relate to the game-changing nature of providing kosher where it was scarce. And perhaps I can suggest that you be more mindful about the need to support the kosher establishments in your cities and towns. This would be done by shopping and eating at kosher stores and eateries wherever the option exists.

Did Volvo time it for Purim?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Purim in Thailand was AMAZING thank G-d!

For me personally, the grand finale was the WhatsApp messages that kept coming all night.

I don’t mean the thank-you’s for the party and that kind of stuff.

The community Purim party at the Rembrandt Hotel was fantastic! Hundreds of people may G-d bless us all, joyous atmosphere, fantastic food (see below notice about new café/bakery/kosher-shop opening in Sukhumvit) and inspiring Torah thoughts. Indeed, there were plenty of gratitude notes, and I send a special thank you to those who said thank you.

The flurry of messages was in reaction to a selfie I had sent out.

At the end of our community Purim party I saw one of the young men who was helping with the security arrangements. Wanting to give the young man’s father some nachas, I took a selfie and sent it to him.

And what I discovered the next morning, is that I had also sent it to 256 other people. Apparently without realizing it, I sent it to a WhatsApp list I had compiled some time back when we were doing a crowdfund ‘giving day’.

Two hundred and fifty-six people got this random picture from me. Each of them sure that I had sent it personally to them.

Most responded with ‘am I supposed to know the guy?’.

Some were sure they knew the guy and had just forgotten who he was. They wrote ‘please remind me who that is standing next to you’. Some even tried guessing the name, they were that sure that they had the person before.

Others just sent a question mark (or two or three ???,s).

My favorite response was from one of my friends. He wrote, ‘Send regards! And please don't tell him I have no idea who he is’.

An interesting social experiment.

But it wasn’t at all planned from my side as an experiment.

It could have been a major mess-up.

I thanked G-d from the depth of my soul that the message I had inadvertently sent out was simply a selfie. It was not some private correspondence that went unintentionally public.

It gave me a very clear message though.

How absolutely careful we have to be during this exciting information age.

In the olden days it was a bit simpler. We had to watch what we said with our mouths.

Our Sages taught that our mouths are formed in a way that reminds us to be cautious about what we say. The teeth and lips can be viewed as two gates that control one’s speech. The Torah places much emphasis on what comes out of our mouth. Words are very powerful. They can build and they can demolish.

I am going to digress here. Take it as a Purim meandering…

Parents, must pay particular attention to the power of their words. It is so sad to see when a parent verbally pushes down their child. ‘You are such a klotz’ may seem like a statement made in exasperation. It slipped out of your mouth without you even noticing. You didn’t mean it to be a clinical assessment of your child’s motor skills. But too often this kind of speech turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy and shapes the kind of adult our children turn into.

On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to lie to your child and tell him he is a Yehudi Menuhin if he is really an amateur beginner violin player.

You should though, find uplifting and empowering things to say to your child. Find something that you can give your child a compliment about. It will make a world of difference. It is a major factor in whether a person will grow up with low self-esteem or healthy self-esteem.

I cringe and cry when someone confides to me that their parents said they were ‘a mistake’. What kind of emotional strength are you giving a child by essentially telling them that they were unwanted.

One of the most critical parts of my work is to tell people how absolutely essential they are. How much they are irreplaceable. As humans. G-d doesn’t create ‘spare parts’. It’s not like there are just a couple of extra billion people kicking around. If G-d put a soul down here on this world, it is for a reason. Whether your parents consciously thought about the reason for bringing another child into this world or not, is immaterial. If you are here, it means that Hashem wants you and ‘needs’ you here.

You need to have patience though. Sometimes it takes time till one gets to see what their contribution to the community is.

This is one of the powerful lessons of the Megillah which we just read.

Esther was in the court of Achashverosh for five years. Long painful years. For a virtuous Jewish maiden who was forced to be the Queen to a Persian king of dubious character it must have been excruciating.

Five years later, Mordechai asks Esther to intervene on behalf of her people. She sends back a message that Achashverosh may be her husband but he is unpredictable and she would be endangering her very life by trying to approach him without being invited.

Mordechai told her the fateful words that ring so loud till today (Esther 4, 14) For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position."

One of the sometimes overlooked details of this story is the fact that Mordechai went every single day to the palace gates to enquire about Esther and see to her welfare. Mordechai’s persistent support gave Esther the needed strength. Can you fathom the depth of that commitment? Mordechai came every single day for 5 years to check up on Esther, an orphan who was taken against her will to the palace. By doing this, Mordechai showed that there is someone who cares for her, loves her, and that she is never alone

This is what a true Jewish leader does. A true leader imbues and inspires those around them with the knowledge that they are essentially good and that they have a unique contribution to make.

Albeit it may not always be obvious. It may take many years. But G-d does not create anything redundant. Not even a blade of grass. Certainly not a human being.  

The Rebbe, in our generation, reinforced this critical message and made it central to the mission of the Shluchim he sent around the world. Tell every Jew that G-d is waiting for their mitzvah. The community is not complete without their unique persona. No Jew is too ‘small’ to be a critical member of Am Yisrael.

For the Jewish nation in its entirety, is like a Torah scroll. Every Jew is like one letter in that one Sefer Torah. If even one letter is missing from the Torah, it renders it invalid.

My dear friend, take the opportunity to be one of those who builds people and strengthens them. You don’t to have a degree, no money needed either. All you need is a sincere desire to help someone else. Your uplifting words can make a person. Just as negative words can G-d forbid break a person.

You can do it! Your words can make a difference!  

End of digression. Back to my WhatsApp mistake….

The mouth used to be the main thing we had to look out for. To use it for good. not for negativity.

Today it’s our index finders as well. With the flick of a finger a lot of emotional damage can be wreaked. By the same token, self-esteem can be built by that same smart phone. ‘Likes’, empowering emoticons, inspiring pictures and videos all of these are amazing tools to build people up.

You really have to be careful with this. I learned this lesson. Thank G-d not the ‘hard way’. Rather the ‘fun way’. My apologies for the infringement on the time and attention of those two hundred and fifty six recipients. Most of them were in Purim mode and more open to being laid back and ‘chilled out’.

Actually, part of me is happy that it happened. It gave me a chance to touch base with a few hundred people I wouldn’t have made contact with.

Okay, I am going to go clean here and be unabashedly honest. Probably this unintentional message was sent because I was operating my smartphone ‘under the influence’. I was under the joyous influence of Purim. Enhanced by the lechayim’s I had toasted at the Purim party & farbrengen. That is probably what made this mistake much more prone to happening.

I haven’t searched for studies on this topic, but I think it would be common sense that one should be extra careful about operating their smart phone when ‘under the influence’. When one’s judgement is impaired, it is easy to post pictures and write texts that may prove embarrassing afterwards.

Look at this fascinating headline from the day before Purim about Volvo’s safety feature to prevent drunk driving.

I thought it was amazing that one day before Purim when we drink wine and spirits this very significant breakthrough was announced.

Do you think Volvo executives timed the announcement for Purim?

The saying ‘don’t drink and drive’ has become an ironclad rule in society.

It is clear beyond clear, that when one drinks one is forbidden to drive.

There used to be a huge billboard on a building in Bangkok that read DRINK DON’T DRIVE. I don’t care much for that messaging as it is clearly promoting drinking alcohol which is not a positive message. However, on Purim that saying makes some sense. The Talmud says one should celebrate with ‘drink’ on Purim. Click here for some important clarifications about this. The Torah strict instructions about protecting one’s life, automatically leads to the next part of the statement. ‘Don’t drive’!

Technically, the smartphones could implement such a feature as well. There could be a feature where the phone would shut down its broadcasting if the operator was under the influence of a mood altering substance. It could probably also figure out if you are angry based on certain criteria and limit some functionality on your phone if you so desired.

(Is this an idea for a new app? Or is it perhaps out there already?).

For the meantime though, till those features are added, we gotta rely on the ‘old-fashioned’ way. Which is to think before we speak. And before we tweet. And before we post pictures or send WhatsApp’s.

This ‘mishap’ also reminded me of another very exciting possibility that technology provides.

The Chasidic Masters said that when Mashiach will come, it will be broadcast in the newspapers.

Today, our virtual newspapers and transmission of news is yet swifter and further reaching than the newspapers of yore.

May we merit to get tweets, WhatsApp’s. Facebook posts and Instagram’s (and all the other platforms I haven’t mentioned) that MASHIACH IS HERE!!!

AMEN

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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