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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Myriads of Jews ONE opinion!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two Jews three opinions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you care, you get passionate and emotional. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow Jews be heartened and inspired! 

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

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

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

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

We act this way because we love each other. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps we can go a step broader and further. 

Almighty G-d, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the first step toward a new world order.

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

The reaction of humanity is astounding and inspiring.

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

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

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



Prayers should be backed up with good deeds!

Do another mitzvah. 

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

Give charity to the cause of your choice.

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

Light candles before Shabbat eighteen minutes before sundown.

Say an extra prayer.

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

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

Believe, that there will be a glorious future. 

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

Let us enter the Shabbat TOGETHER in unity. 

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if there is anyone looking for a way back to Israel here is a link to a flight that is being organized. I don’t know any details but I am passing it on in case it may be of use to those still stranded here.

More Shabbat (not less)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It doesn’t make sense. 

But then again, nothing makes much sense these days.

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

The Parsha starts off about keeping Shabbat….

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

It was one of those puzzling things.

How does the weekly Parsha fit with the current reality?

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

It dawned on me.

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

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

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

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

It requires a bit of forethought and preparation though. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calm down, I tell myself.

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

It is here with us for eternity.

Shabbat has been here since the dawn of creation. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Till now we offered communal Shabbat meals. 

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

Not much preparation needed. 

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

To do Shabbat on your own? 

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

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

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

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

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

So that you have more time to prepare for Shabbat.

To get set up with food for the body. 

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

Contact me +6681 837 7618 or Yossi Goldberg +6681 753 5071 to arrange delivery.

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

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


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

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

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

You will have a G-dly given ‘detox’.

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

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

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

Say the Hamotzie over Challa/bread.

Have an unhurried meal.

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

Read, discuss, think, about Torah concepts.

Sing, rejoice, relax. 

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

Let the Shabbat spirit pervade your being.

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

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

Sleeping on Shabbat is also a Mitzvah. 

Have a meaningful Shabbat! 

A joyous shabbat!!!!


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

Shabbat SHALOM

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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

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





Jewish Thailand• Email:• Phone:  66-2-663-0244  •
A Word From The Rabbi

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Purim has come but it has not yet gone.

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

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

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


Our lives have been disrupted.

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

Schools closed. 

Quarantined people. 

Travels plans cancellation. 

Financial fallout. 

Supply chain breakdown. 

Yes, there are ill people. 

Sadly, there are even fatalities.

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

And fear.

Fear of what? 

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

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

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

For most people its the fear of the unknown.

The fear of having to be quarantined for fourteen days.

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

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

Lets discuss disruption in more depth.

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

It causes us to stop and reflect.

Our vulnerability and smallness become evident.

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

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

Social status doesn’t help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will leave the optimists and pessimists to their wrestling.

One thing is for certain.

No one is unaffected.

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

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

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

Then it dawned on me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Usually they have been quite tragic. 



Pandemics with huge fatalities.

True, we are suffering a massive cycle of disruption.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t panic!

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

What YES to do?

Have ‘Bitachon’ TRUST in the Almighty. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for loads of information on joy and happiness.

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

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

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


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor



By the Grace of G-d


Do your best to fight the virus!


It’s Purim after all.

The reasons we wear masks on Purim?

Here is a smorgasbord of reasons:

Why do we get dressed up on Purim?

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

A mask conceals and covers. 

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the mask lies something different. 

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

G-d is in charge. 

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

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

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

How big is a virus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This all points to one thing. 

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

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

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

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

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



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

This year, the entire world needs our prayers.

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

As well the entire world is in distress. 

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

REVSERSAL of the sickness.

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

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

Dear Friends,

There is something else I want to share. 

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

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

Not from a virus. From missiles. 

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

However, MIRACLES happened. There were no direct fatalities. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Purim!!!!

Do your bit for the world’s health. 


Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Erasing Doubt - Craving Clarity (Coronavirus)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,


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

There is nothing at all clear about the Coronavirus.

The fatality rate is unclear. 

Is it really super-bad?

Or not as bad as it seems.

The infection rate is clearly impossible to determine conclusively.

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

Where does Thailand stand in this whole story? 

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

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

I humbly admit that I don’t know. 

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

Is confusion and uncertainty a negative thing?

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

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

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

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

We get disproportionately fearful and even terrified from the unknown. 

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

Is there is a pandemic in the world right now.

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

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

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

Clarity and Holiness go together. 

This week we take out two Torah’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A clear pattern emerges here.

Clarity is G-dly. 

Doubt is Amalek – our archenemy. 

Here is what I have to offer. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the instructions of the medical establishment in your country. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This month is the month of Adar.

Click here for a powerful thought about this.

Adar is about reversal. 

Changeover from negativity to positivity. 

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

From fasting and mourning to feasting and rejoicing.

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


Click here for a quick joyous thought about this 

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


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

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

How to celebrate Purim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to Joy.

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

Back to PURIM!!!




Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS as stated above:

Megilah reading times at Bet Elisheva:

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

The daytime Megillah will be read on Tuesday March 10th 

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

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

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

I slept in my bed

By the Grace of G-d

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

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

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


Dear Friend,

What do you do when you are ‘high’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its not just a play on words. 

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

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

Why the difference?

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

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

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

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

Ever heard of the concept ‘Giving is receiving’. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, GIVING is the greatest way to have PEACE.

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

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

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

May we merit the coming of Mashiach NOW, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS do you have time for a story? 

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

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

A nagging thought came into his head.

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

He asked the great rabbi:

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

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

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

The next morning Avremaleh woke up. He remembered… 

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

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

Please pray for me, Avremaleh implored.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,


Yesterday, when I looked at the digital date on my computer it jumped out at me.

What do you notice when you look at the date?

The number 2 of course.

Tomorrow 2/22/2020 will contain even more 2’s than yesterday’s date.

In general, with the year being 2020 there is a lot of the number 2 around.

As the Ba’al Shem Tov taught, everyone we see or hear is a lesson for life.

What does the number 2 teach us?

Let us go back to the very beginning of humanity. 

5780 years ago.

Man was created alone, single. 


Have you ever said to anyone, ‘leave me alone’?

That could mean anything from ‘don’t disturb, irritate, fight or G-d forbid harm me’. 

Adam didn’t have to say, ‘leave me alone’. To be more precise he couldn’t say ‘leave me alone’. 

He was alone.

It is be lonely to be alone.

But it is also peaceful. 

By default. You cannot argue with yourself. 

A little while later, Chava (Eve) was created.

There are now two humans on earth.

Male and female. Husband and wife.


The fun and games begin.

Different. Not the same. Opposites. 

It’s gives an opportunity for arguments. Disharmony. Fractiousness. Divisiveness.

Oy vey!

Yesterday’s date was full of 2’s. tomorrow has even more 2’s. 

Quick, I thought to myself, instead of thinking of the 2’s as negative let me discover the positive aspects of 2!!!

I mean, if the date yesterday and the date tomorrow and the entire year is going to have me looking at number 2, I had better find the positivity in it.

Thank G-d, I did. I discovered that the number 2 is a fantastically empowering number.

Here goes.

Let me use marriage as an example. 

Humanity was not created in a married state. There is a reason that G-d created man single. To teach us the importance of every individual person. Each life matters. YOU count!

(Click here, here and here for more on this).

But Hashem doesn’t leave the world in its one-man state for long. Once that lesson, the indispensability of every person, has been embedded within humanity, G-d no longer leaves Adam alone. G-d upgrades creation to make Adam’s life even better.

G-d gives Adam a helpmate. A female counterpart. A companion of the opposite gender. 

In simple English we call it a wife.

Now there are two people living together.

That is much better than before. The Torah tells us that for that brief period before Chava was created, Adam was extremely lonely. He felt incomplete. Adam knew the great gift of marriage that G-d had given him.

As for Chava? She was literally not able to conceive of life without Adam. He was there from the moment she came into existence. She didn’t ever experience life as a single. (Click here for Kabbala’s teachings on the topic of differences between male and female).

Marriage should be and can be phenomenal.

Yet, we all know the statistic out there about marriage. Obviously as good as marriage is, they are not easy to hold together.

Because meeting your number 2 is a challenge. It requires moving away from the unchallenged peacefulness of the independent ‘I’ as the self-absorbed number 1 who stands uncontested. 

Two is a challenging number by its very definition. It creates a struggle over previously assumed supremacy. At the very least it contests the singularity and monopoly of the One.

Is challenge bad?

In a sense that is like asking Is marriage bad.

Of course not!

It depends on how you perceive it and what you do to make the best of it.

Ask the caterpillar if challenge and struggle is bad. The struggle is the catalyst that enables him to grow wings and become a butterfly.

Same with marriage.

The Talmud says that if ‘you merit’, the husband and wife dynamic can be one of immense benefit and support. G-d gives us the recipes in the Torah for a wholesome and beneficial marriage relationship. The laws of Family Purity and Mikva are G-d’s roadmap for making a marriage the truly wholesome and enchanting experience that it is meant to be.

(Yes, as we all know, a marriage gone awry is the greatest source of fractiousness. Divorce lawyers have their hands full. Its not just a fight between two people, it’s a struggle between two people who were two parts of one whole. The greatest opportunities also have the flip side of great disappointment when they don’t work out).

However, even an enthralling marriage is not a straight line without ups and downs. It is after all a union between two people with differences. The Talmud says it succinctly about people in general ‘just as their faces are not identical, so are their opinions not the same’.  

The Chasidic masters provided a reinterpretation of the verse in the Torah describing the creation of Eve as a partner to Adam: ‘I will make for him a helpmate against him’ as being the great secret of life. 

Her being against him is the greatest help!

This deeply insightful reading of the verse is a gamechanger.

The differences and the ensuing friction that the 2 brings to the 1 is a gift. The very resistance and challenges that it offers, that itself is the gift. 

It is up to us to look at the ups and down of life in this way. To reframe the challenge and the struggle not as a source of angst, rather as a source of opportunity for greater growth.

If you utilize the 2 opportunity correctly, you get to the great gift of 3.

In a marriage, that refers to the G-dly blessing of a third entity that emerges from the union of the two marriage partners. 

A child. A fusion of mother and father in a independent third entity. 

You cannot get to that infinitely valuable gift of a child without going through the challenge of relinquishing your uncontested one’ness. 

Two is thus the greatest source of blessing.

It may not seem obvious while you are engaging the 2. The friction may overshadow the latent gift. 

By the time you see the results, the 3, you look back and realize how good the 2 was.

 (Rabbi Eliezer Posner explains this thought masterfully in relation to the days of creation. Day two vs Day three).

This week’s portion is Mishaptim. Rule of judgment. What to do when people have disagreements. The Torah doesn’t say never disagree. We are humans. We see things differently than each other and we think differently. The Torah teaches how to reconcile disagreement. What is right and what is wrong. The Torah instructs us to overcome our differences via going to an unbiased judge schooled in Torah’s moral code.

How would one implement this kind of reframing?

The date 2/20/2020 contains more than just 2’s. It contains 0’s too.

The key to having productive 2’s is 0 = ZERO = humility.

Think back to an argument you have had with a relative, a spouse or a friend. 

Was the actual difference of opinion the problem? Usually not.

Diversity is helpful and colorful. We don’t like eating bland foods. We like variety. Sweet, then sour. Or sometimes we like sweet and sour together.  

The negativity that is associated with difference of opinion is the ego that is mixed in. It is the arrogance and ego that leads differences of opinions to become personal power struggles and contentious squabbling. 

Take away the ego and you can have a healthy exchange of ideas and come to a happy medium. 

If you can focus on trying to focus on the goal of raising a well-balanced happy and healthy family you will be more successful in navigating the challenges of marriage and discovering the gift of two different identities merging as one.

If you can look beyond personal gain and think about serving Hashem and making this world a better place, you arrive at a better place, a greater depth, a more wholesome conclusion, because of the diversity and challenge of the number 2 who may disagree with you. 

May Hashem bless us to be able to be humble, empowered and inspired to learn more Torah, do more Mitzvahs and be exemplary in our caring conduct to our loved ones and friends.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


PS The world is facing a time of uncertainty.

Our region, China and its neighbors are not sure of the status of the Coronavirus.

For us in Thailand, the Israeli restrictions on travel from Thailand to Israel and the quarantine upon arrival in Israel, have brought Israeli tourist traffic to a trickle.

Chabad of Thailand is used to having thousands of guests every day at the Chabad Houses and Kosher Restaurants. Even after taking emergency measures and slashing costs, the remaining overheads are still substantial. 

Expenses without the usual revenue’s spells HELP. 

Threatened with ruin because of Corona Virus, El Al will receive an emergency $50 million government infusion.  

But who will come to the rescue of Chabad of Thailand?

Hopefully YOU!

It’s a challenge.

No question that it will lead to something great.

It always does.

Shabbat Shalom

Absence has its Benefits

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

At the beginning of the world, G-d told Adam, the first man, what to do and what not to do. 

From all the trees you may eat. From the Tree of Knowledge you may not eat. 

Adam told his wife Chava (Eve).

Without getting into the ‘why’s’ of it, things went awry within a very short time. 

Chava, and subsequently Adam her husband, ate from the forbidden fruit. 

They were banished from the Garden of Eden, death became a natural phenomenon and the world became a place where G-d’s presence is concealed.

Two thousand five hundred’ish years later, G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people. 

This time G-d gave reversed the order. He instructed Moshe Rabeinu to speak to the women first. And only then to the men. 

(Rabbi Ari Raskin posits that this is the source of ‘Ladies first’. And for the societal norm of saying Ladies and Gentlemen – in that order. Yanki Tauber goes even deeper into the Kabalastic underpinnings of this concept. Mrs. Chana Weisberg presents a fascinating insight explaining how Abraham our Patriarch may have been the first feminist as he called his wife Sarah which means ‘Princess’).

However you want to look at it, it worked.

We are more than three thousand years later, and Judaism is alive, well and thriving. 

The centrality of the woman in Judaism is well known. 

Any child born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. 

The ‘Yiddishe Mama’ is a well-known colloquialism that denotes the doting care, exaggerated concern and tender love that mothers have for their children, all mixed in one. 

The saying goes ‘more Jews come to Shul for the Rebbetzen’s cholent, than for the Rabbi’s speech’. As a rabbi I am not supposed to like that comment but I must begrudgingly concede that there may be some truth to it (smiley face 😊).

So this Parsha is a great time to appreciate the Jewish Women of the world. 

To really appreciate something, you must experience its absence. 

The joke is told of a wife who left her husband at home for a day to care for their brood of children. By the time she got home the husband was exhausted and listed the enormous amounts of child-rearing and home-related tasks he had gallantly carried out. ‘Now you know what I do every day before you come home and ask why are you tired if you stayed at home all day’.

Not such a joke.

In the Chabad world, this weekend many of the Rebbetzins are at the international conference in New York. 

We, the guys like to call it ‘wife appreciation weekend’. All of a sudden, we realize more clearly than ever before how central and pivotal the Jewish woman is to her family, her community and the Jewish people at large. 

This is why it’s so special and powerful when they get together to plan their next year of ‘changing the world for the good’.

We know that that when the women set their minds to something, they get it done.

G-d taught us that when He gave the Torah, by having Moshe speak to the women first.

Our Sages predicted that the coming of Mashiach will be in the merit of ‘righteous women’ in the final generation of exile.

There are thousands of ‘righteous women’ congregating this weekend in NY for the annual conference of Shluchot – Chabad Women Emissaries. (The timing is to coincide with the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn this Monday).

Let us pray that their conference meet with success. The ultimate success will be the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you would like to get a glimpse of the energy and a snippet of the inspiration, there will be a live broadcast of the culminating banquet details here

PPS if you are a woman and reading this, recognize your immense power and influence and unleash it for changing the world for the good.

If you are a man, appreciate the women in your life. Your mother, wife, sister, daughter and make sure to tell them how special they are to you. More importantly, take the cue from them on upgrading and bettering yourself. 

PPS if you detect that I am missing Nechama who went to the conference in NY, you are one thousand percent right. May she have a successful conference and a safe trip home. 

Virus Lessons

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The hot topics dominating the news headlines this week are not necessarily ones that I can or wish to comment on.

Coronavirus? It’s a medical issue and I am not a professional in the field of physical healing.

USA politics? I stay away from that topic as far as possible. 

The focus of my week was actually neither of those topics. My head was occupied with a more existentially significant item. One that reverberates and will continue to do so with ever increasing intensity.

It was the day and a half I spent at the resting place of the Rebbe marking the seventy-year anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. 

A long journey!

Worth it?

Yes, for sure. 

In focusing on the Rebbe’s leadership and impact, especially from the perspective of seventy years I was inspired and motivated. 

What started in a small room with a group of not more than several hundred, when the Rebbe reluctantly accepted to lead Chabad has evolved into an ‘army of goodness and kindness’ that man the thousands of Chabad outposts around the world.

The theme of the anniversary was not about accomplishment as much as it was about using the inspiration as a springboard to greater and more impactful growth.

In the speech that I was privileged to give at the central anniversary celebration I used the following analogy. 

When someone makes their first million, do they stop to rest?

No. On the contrary. A businessman who makes his first million says ‘now I can really start doing business’!

When he gets to ten million, he doesn’t stop either. For then he can start doing REALLY SERIOUS business. And so it goes, onwards and upwards.

This is the way we have look at spiritual achievements as well. As being steppingstones and catalysts for leaping to even greater, loftier and grandiose goals.

The consensus of the thousands who attended the celebration was very clear. The clarion call issuing forth from the gathering is that ‘now it is time to reach for even higher and more ambitious goals’. 

To transform the entire world into one of goodness and kindness. To spread Torah and Mitzvahs to every nook and cranny of the world.

Most importantly to deputize and inspire every single Jew in the world to view themselves as a ‘lamplighter’. A full partner in the process of changing the world for the good. To think not just about their own morality and holiness but to share that wealth and inspiration with their friends as well. Each and every one of us can be a teacher and a guide to someone who knows even less than them.

Click here for seven lessons from the Rebbe’s inaugural mission statement. 

But I cannot remain totally silent on the topic of the virus. For I have received email enquiries from various people around the world regarding the coronavirus. People who had plans to visit Thailand wanted to know my opinion. Should they cancel their Thailand travel plans or not?

What shall I say?

I am not a doctor. 

My suggestion is that one should ask the experts of their country. The USA currently doesn’t seem to have any travel advisory alert pertaining to Thailand.

We all form opinions from things we read and feelings we have. From everything I can gather, the common flu is a greater enemy and poses a more realistic threat than its newer recently born cousin.

That doesn’t mean to say that the coronavirus should be of no concern to us. It just raises the question whether the extreme disruption of lives and economies is really warranted.

Why is everyone so anxious about this virus vs the more common flu?

Psychologists say that unknown dangers cause more fear and anxiety than familiar ones. This would be the simplest explanation as to why the very same people who engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits that are known to be dangerous, will take overreactive precautions to dangers that are more obscure. 

If you look for optimistic news you will notice the reports that the fatalities from the coronavirus were mostly from people suffering from medical preconditions. This would mean that for most people life could have continued as usual if not for the panicky response by governments and airline carriers. 

If you search for grim and dire analyses, I am sure it can be found as well. 

Google has something for everyone from the OCD to the negligently happy-go-lucky-everything-goes kind of person. You can usually back up any theory with a thorough enough search.

Thank G-d I am happy to go along with the optimistic outlook and pray that Hashem indeed blesses to have a positive outcome.

Ultimately it is G-d operating the world. He brings viruses into being. He also directs which ones will become ‘popular’ and wreak havoc on the economies and social life of entire countries and billions of people. Not necessarily through huge numbers getting sick G-d forbid but simply from the shockwaves of the kneejerk reactions. 

I pray to the Almighty that He heal the sick and cause the virus to go away. May people be able to resume their lives, productively and healthily. 

Should people still come to Thailand?

It depends on your personal level of angst. 

What sense would it make to come to ‘holiday’ in a place and then be nervous all day about getting ill? It wouldn’t be much of a holiday. 

If you are not bothered by these fears? Then there is an angle for you to still come. Whatever motivated you to come to Thailand in the first place is probably still here. 

This is not a medical statement I am making. It’s a psychological one. 

Now I would like to find a spiritual lesson to be gleaned from this topic. For one of the first axioms of Chasidic teaching is that we must learn a lesson from the happenings in the world around us. Nothing is by chance. 

The lesson that strikes me when seeing the huge attention given to face masks, is the importance of keeping certain things out of our bodies.

People are wearing mask to keep droplets from someone who is infected from entering their nostrils or mouths. 

If we want to keep viruses out our bodies, how much more so should we try to keep negative and foreign thoughts and impulses from our minds and hearts.

The following story teaches this quite poignantly. 

A chassid once came to Rabbi DovBer, the 'Maggid' of Mezeritch. "Rebbe," he said, "there is something I do not comprehend. When the Almighty commands us to do something or forbids a certain act, I understand. No matter how difficult it may be, no matter how my strongly heart craves the forbidden course, I can do what G-d desires or refrain from doing what is against His will. After all, man has free choice and by force of will he can decide on a course of action and stick to it, no matter what. The same is true with speech. Though somewhat more difficult to control, I accept that it is within my power to decide which words will leave my mouth and which will not.

"But what I fail to understand are those precepts which govern matters of the heart; for example, when the Torah forbids us to even entertain a thought that is destructive and wrong. What is one to do when such thoughts enter his mind of their own accord? Can a person control his thoughts?"

Instead of answering the chassid's question, Rabbi DovBer dispatched him to the hamlet of Zhitomir. "Go visit my disciple, Rabbi Zev" he said. "Only he can answer your question."

The trip was made in the dead of winter. For weeks the chassid made his way along the roads which wound their way through the snow-laden forests of White Russia.

Midnight had long come and gone when the weary traveller arrived at Rabbi Zev's doorstep. Much to his pleasant surprise, the windows of the scholar's study where alight. Indeed, Rabbi Zev's was the only lighted window in the village. Through a chink in the shutters the visitor could see Rabbi Zev bent over his books.

But his knock brought no response. He waited awhile, then tried once more, harder. Still, he was completely ignored. The cold was beginning to infiltrate his bones. As the night wore on, the scene which unfolded was as incredible as it was true: the visitor, with nowhere else to turn, kept pounding upon the frozen planks of Rabbi Zev's door; the rabbi, a scant few steps away, continued to study by his fireside, seemingly oblivious to the pleas which echoed through the sub-zero night.

It was almost morning when Rabbi Zev rose from his seat, opened the door, and warmly greeted his visitor. He sat him by the fire, prepared for him a hot glass of tea, and asked after the health of their Rebbe. He then led his guest - still speechless with cold and incredulity - to the best room in the house to rest his weary bones.

The warm welcome did not abate the next morning, nor the one after. Rabbi Zev was the most solicitous of hosts, attending to the needs of his guest in a most exemplary manner. The visitor, too, was a model guest, considerate and respectful of the elder scholar. If any misgivings about the midnight 'welcome' accorded him still lingered in his heart, he kept them to himself.

After enjoying the superb hospitality of Rabbi Zev for several days, the visitor had sufficiently recovered from his journey and apprehension to put forth his query. "The purpose of my visit," he said to his host one evening, "is to ask you a question. Actually, our Rebbe sent me to you, saying that only you could answer me to my satisfaction."

The visitor proceeded to outline his problem as he had expressed it earlier to the Maggid. When he had finished, Reb Zev said: "Tell me, my friend, is a man any less a master of his own self than he is of his home?

"You see, I gave you my answer on the very night you arrived. In in my home, I am the boss. Whomever I wish to admit - I allow in; whomever I do not wish to admit - I do not."

How dangerous the coronavirus is I don’t know.

The dangers of letting all kinds of bad influences into our consciousness, I do know.

Perversion, immorality and many other forms of psychologically unhealthy influences are to be found all around us and certainly on the world wide web. These disturbing and even sinister forces are insidious. They burrow their way into one’s inner psyche. Once they penetrate the consciousness, they cause a great danger. They can be fatal in the spiritual sense. They rob people of meaningful relationships. They engender addiction. 

It’s not just an isolated problem. It is an epidemic. Perhaps a pandemic.

The Torah says ‘don’t get led astray after our hearts and eyes’. 

The way these negative things enter is through our eyes. The eyes see and the heart desires and sometimes even lusts.

A mask may not block everything out, neither does a filter on your computer. 

But at least it’s a start. It makes you aware that you need to have control over what enters your being. It may be difficult or close to impossible to keep everything out, but you have to do your bit by making an effort. 

Being aware is critical. By being aware you wash your hands more often. By being aware that you need to make an effort to protect the sanctity of your heart and mind you make sure not to get lured into visiting the wrong destinations in the virtual world of the web or falling into other social ills.

May Hashem bless us all to be healthy, free of flu’s viruses and other forms of unhealthiness and may we merit the liberation from our modern day Egypt. Then we will once more sing a song, even more powerful than the song described in this weeks Parsha at the splitting of the Reed Sea.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS because of the virus and the fear surrounding it, we encourage you to visit the shul if you are healthy. If you are a ‘mask-wearer’ it will be perfectly acceptable to pray with a mask under the circumstances. Also, if someone doesn’t want to shake your hand to say Shabbat Shalom, accept it with understanding. Lastly, if G-d forbid you are not feeling well, please take the needed precautions. If coming to Synagogue causes you to be really anxious, remember that G-d hears our prayers from anywhere and everywhere. If you need wine and Shabbat food please let me know.





Motivation for Post Millennial Generation

By the Grace of G-d


Dear Friend, 

You may have expected me to address the Coronavirus in my column. I would, if I thought I could wrap my mind around it. However, this topic is still unfolding, and I am at a bit of a loss of what to write. I hope it will turn out to be nipped in the bud by Almighty G-d. Both by blessing the massive efforts of the Health authorities and by bringing a much-needed miracle to our region. 

One thing is clear. The world is frightened of China right now.

No one is traveling there. Borders are closed.

Some have even cancelled all Asia travel.


My colleagues in China have built Jewish infrastructure that is dependent on business and leisure travelers for funding. 

They are facing a crisis and have united to try and raise emergency funds so that their communities do not collapse G-d forbid during this period of uncertainty caused by this fast spreading virus.

I feel for them very strongly and want to help them as much as possible. Please accept my plea as I urge you to help them weather this situation. 

Click here to donate to keeping Judaism in China alive as it weathers this humongous challenge.


Dear Friend,

Last week I highlighted one kind of reaction that Holocaust survivors had, which was to hide their Jewishness from their post war children.

I only learned about those stories later in life as I started to counsel people as a rabbi. 

The reaction I am more familiar with, is what I witnessed during my childhood in Melbourne, Australia. The burning desire that many survivors had, to rebuild the Jewish people and community.

Every new Jewish child born was an act of defiance and victory. The building of Jewish schools, shuls and mikvahs and kosher food availability that define and facilitate Jewish communal life, were top priority.  

There was an urgency to these efforts. 

So much was lost during the Holocaust.

There was no time to waste in the rebuilding efforts. 

There was so much to do with relatively so few people to do it.

Nobody could possibly feel that they were redundant, not needed. It was an ‘all hands on the deck’ kind of situation. 

This carried on for a few generations. 

The survivors themselves obviously had a great drive. They knew what had been lost. The children raised by survivors were infused with their parents’ sense of urgency. They too felt the supreme importance of galvanizing to the cause of rebuilding. The children of those children (my generation) still has a remnant of that feeling gained by osmosis from their parents’ sense of purpose.

We are now one generation later. The generation of our children. 

My children’s generation are children of children of children of survivors. The chance that they have interacted meaningfully with an actual Holocaust survivor is slim. Anyone who was twenty years old in 1945 is now 95 years old. The direct link between our current generation and those who remember what was before the destruction and what we lost, is almost over. 

Seventy-five years later you would be hard pressed to convince people that we need to RE-build. In a sense, it has been rebuilt. True, it does not bring back what was lost. What once was, is no longer. It is different. But it is a super impressive edifice that has been built. 

As you look around at the Jewish world you cannot help but be inspired. Jewish life is flourishing thank G-d. In Israel as well as in countries around the world. (Even China has a dozen or so burgeoning Jewish communities. Click here to help them during the Coronavirus crisis).

Yeshivas, Synagogues, mikvahs, community centers, kosher eateries and many other religious and cultural institutions are thriving.

This constitutes a certain challenge.

The challenge becomes motivation. 

The motivation that came along with emerging from the painful smoldering coals with an insatiable urgency for rebuilding a flourishing Jewish life, is no longer. 

The challenge for our generation has become maintaining a feeling of relevance during these times of relative calm and plenty.

There is no burning urge to rebuild as everything has been rebuilt.

What now?

There is nothing more demoralizing than not having a purpose to life.

It is no secret that many of our generation struggle with the meaning of life. 

Some people question their role in life. It seems to them that as an individual they are not really needed, the community is so large as it is. Is one less decent human really going to make a difference in the universe? Is one less observant Jew really going to make it or break it for the Jewish People?

Life has its share of challenges. It is difficult to get up and tackle them when you don’t feel that your contribution is important. Motivation is thus a key component to living life. Without motivation one falls into listlessness and depression.

Let me ask the question out loud. The question that many are scared to voice. 

Am I redundant?

Let me answer that question in an emphatic tone of voice:


G-D NEEDS YOU!!! and ME!!! and each and every person on this planet.

G-d Almighty Himself has created each of us. He waits expectantly for us to fulfil our individual roles.

Now more than ever, we need to be reminded that not only is our presence here on earth not a burden to humanity, on the contrary, me, you and everyone in existence it is absolutely vital to the unimpeded functioning of the universe. 

Stated simply, if he didn’t need us, we wouldn’t be here.

Now that, is an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

Can there be anything more energizing and uplifting upon awakening in the morning than the realization that G-d is waiting for you to wake up and serve Him?

Who has time to philosophize about mediate about the purpose of life?

Turns out, that many people do have the luxury of available time. The luxury to think, to ruminate and even fall into a ‘negative-thoughts’ self-induced mild depression. (in cases of clinical depression G-d forbid a doctor must be consulted).

In the olden days there was not much free time. Living life was like being on a fast-paced treadmill that didn’t let you stop for too long.

Today, we have loads of leisure time. Kids don’t go to work in their father’s pushcart at tender ages. Doing laundry requires a push of a button not a trip to the river with sticks to pound out the dirt from the clothing. Our nutritional levels are better. Thank G-d our overall good health allows us to live longer. 

We have much more time to think.

About what life is about. Why we live. what difference does my individual presence on earth make to anyone.

This makes it critical not to brush off this question. We need to really address the core truth of what we are needed for.

It’s a challenge to live in such a privileged generation.

It is also a great gift.

Materially we are blessed, that is without doubt.

Our challenge is being motivated.

Have no fear. In this field too we are blessed. 

We are a privileged generation that has the time and energy to be able to focus on the real existential reason for life.

And what is that reason?

To create an awareness of G-d in ourselves, in our environment and thus in the world at large.

G-d is the ultimate Energy Source, infinitely greater than infinite, the only true ‘I’, the omnipotent, omniscient existence, immanent everywhere and for eternity. G-d is truly beyond description. 

Nothing can be more meaningful or more inspirational than the opportunity to connect to G-d.

And you and I are absolutely vital for this mission. 

The proof that we are irreplaceable? 

We are here! That is the simplest and truest proof.

A good home-manager doesn’t have unnecessary clutter in their home. 

G-d certainly doesn’t keep ‘extras’ or ‘spare parts’ in his world. If you and I are here, it’s a sign that He needs us.

When you know G-d is waiting for YOU, you cannot and dare not feel irrelevant. That would be irreverent to G-d himself. 

That would not be humility*, it would be a sheer mistake. For G-d knew who you are, with all your shortfalls, and yet waits for you to fulfil your part in His symphony. 

The Rebbe, who took the reins of the Chabad movement seventy years ago (this week on Wednesday February will be the 70th anniversary), spoke to the immediate generation of survivors. Yet he also spoke to our generation. I personally was blessed to spend many years drinking from his fountain of wisdom during my Yeshiva-study years.

The Rebbe taught this above concept, as one of the central themes of his leadership. 

His message remains unwavering and applies equally to both generations. 

How so?

On the one hand, the urgency of rebuilding in 1950 when he began to lead Chabad was palpable and pressing. 

Not so seventy years later. Today many grapple with finding meaning for life.

How could one message address both extremes?

The Rebbe, from the very beginning of his leadership, addressed the core of who we are and why we are.

The essence of who we are and what our mission is has never changed since the Torah was given. Nay, since the world was created.

Its about creating a ‘dwelling for G-d in the world below’

When you are needed by G-d to create a dwelling for Him, you have a purpose to live. The purpose motivates you to consciously give forth your best efforts when things are calm and serene (and in a way it may be a challenge to feel motivated) just as you instinctively and naturally do, when you have just experienced the worst destruction in history.

It’s a message that resounds with equal relevance in 1950 as in 2020. Nay with more relevance in 2020 because in the here and now we can make a difference for tomorrow. 

When the ultimate goal is creating a permanent ‘dwelling fo G-d in the world below’, living life in this world becomes like a delightful stroll in the Garden of Paradise. When you are inspired, life can be joyfully enjoyable.

Those efforts, to create a comfortable space for G-d here in this world, are ongoing. The fulfillment and success of these efforts will only be realized by the coming of Mashiach. 

We are almost there. 

It is up to us to add in the things that make G-d apparent. More acts of goodness and kindness.

To sum it up simply: Ask know what G-d can do for me, ask what I can do for G-d. With that rule of thumb we will get the job done. Once and for all. May Mashiach come NOW!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

*(The Rebbe gave a watershed teaching in 1960 that deals with this, for an audio class in English on this teaching click here (starting at 29:20) 

74 Years...

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Israel was full of world leaders this week. 

January 27th 2020 marks the seventy fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It was on that day in 1945 that the Russian army entered the gates of the infamous extermination camp. 

I think it would be accurate to say that ‘you can take a person out of Auschwitz, but you cannot take Auschwitz out of a person’.

Anyone who survived the nightmare of living under the Nazis came out changed forever.

Not many survivors are still alive.

Today it is in the children of the survivors that we are interacting with. To get married after the Holocaust and bring Jewish children into the world was a heroic act. It was the ultimate act of defiance against the monsters whose goal was to eradicate every Jew. Bringing more Jewish children in the world was our best way of defeating the goals of our enemies.

Raising children after themselves being so scarred and injured was bound to have repercussions on the children. Children of survivors can attest to the challenges of their childhood that were unmatched by those of their peers whose parents hadn’t been through this hell. The children still suffered the inevitable results on their parent’s persona resulting from the Holocaust.

Some parents continued to identify as Jews. 

But not all. 

How many parents were simply terrified to raise children as Jews. If being Jewish could make you a target for hate, degradation and even extermination wouldn’t it be safer to abandon the Jewish designation? Many survivors hid their Jewish identity from their post-war born children.

A few examples of this have come my way here in Thailand. 

I’m currently trying to help a French gentleman whose mother was hidden as a child in a Catholic convent during the war. He was raised as a Catholic because his mother had converted. His mother and her brothers were hidden in the convent because their mother was Jewish, and the Germans had occupied France. The difficulty here is that his mother has Alzheimer’s and his uncles are very unwilling to talk about the war years and their family background before the war. However, the man who came to see me feels that his Jewish soul has awakened. and he is looking to gain certainty about himself and who he truly is.

It was not long ago that we buried a Jew from the UK, Shimon Aaronson whose connection to Judaism was established only by a chance connection with a Jewish family when he was well into his adult life. I just received the copy of a previously overlooked conversation that Shimon had with Rabbi Boruch Hecht via Facebook a while before his passing. 

My mother’s family. Well only she and her brother out of 38 other family members were the only 2 who walked out of Auschwitz.

I made the awful mistake as a 6-year-old to ask why she had a tattoo on her arm... Silence, but uncle told me…

His mother was obviously terrified to raise her kids as Jews.

Our dear rice farmer friend Zevulun was raised by a Jewish mother who didn’t want her children to know they were Jewish. The reason? Her mother had traveled to Europe to save her family and was trapped in the hornet’s nest of Jewish persecution never to be heard from again. Zevulun’s mother, angry and shaken to the core over the loss of her mother, felt it was best to just raise her kids without the Jewish identity.

The Holocaust was an unprecedented low point in Jew hatred. Jews have suffered since time immemorial, but nothing, not the Crusades, Inquisition or even Cossacks was so thorough and so horrifyingly mechanized and systemized.

Britain’s former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, famously said at his keynote address to the Shluchim conference,

 And how can you redeem a world that had witnessed Hitler? And the Rebbe did something absolutely extraordinary; he said to himself: if the Nazis searched out every Jew in hate, we will search out every Jew in love.

This was the most radical response to the Holocaust ever conceived and I don't know if we still – if the Jewish world still – understands it.

Today, in many parts of the world anti-Semitism has returned, and baruch Hashem [thank G-d] there are hundreds of organizations fighting it. But still, even now, no one is saying what the Rebbe said – not explicitly but implicitly in everything he did.

If you want to fight sinas yisrael [hatred of your fellow], then practice ahavas yisroel [love of your fellow].

Providentially, the 27th of January, the day of the Holocaust memorial is Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the Jewish month of Shevat. World Jewry marks a special anniversary during the month of Shevat. On Shevat 10 (February 5th) we will mark the seventieth anniversary since the beginning of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The Rebbe’s stated goal was to promulgate Ahavat Yisrael – love of Jews. Through outreach, social services and anything and everything that could be helpful to fellow Jews anywhere they may be. 

The Rebbe’s far reaching vision to have legions of ‘Shluchim’ -‘do-gooders’, representing him and his vision throughout the world, started small. A shliach was sent to Morocco. Another to Italy. Another to Michigan. Australia, Brazil and other cities and countries followed on. 

Today the world is dotted with Shluchim, emissaries of the Rebbe whose stated goal is to do whatever is needed to build, nurture and reach out to every single Jew they can reach. One Jew at a time, one mitzvah at a time.

The Rebbe saw to it that when a Jewish soul awakens, be it in Jerusalem, New York or even a village in Southern Thailand, someone should be there to nurture their Jewish soul. 

Seventy years is indeed an anniversary worthy of being noted. 

When one turns seventy, thoughts often turn to retirement or slowing down.

The Rebbe taught that seventy is a time to start to plan even more achievement.

What can we do more? 

YOU, my dear friend holds the answer to that question in your hands. 

The impact and reach of the Rebbe’s vision of love can be instantly multiplied and quantified by thousands and tens of thousands. 

Dear Friend, YOU can and must view yourself as an ambassador of that vision of love. As a lighthouse that shines forth welcoming beacons of light and love to your fellow Jews. 

You may meet a Jew through your business, on plane, train bus or just in the street. He/she looks Jewish? Find out, maybe they are. Connect with them. See if you can help them in any way materially. Maybe with some advice on how to navigate life in Thailand if they are newcomers and you are veteran. Perhaps they would welcome an invitation to a Friday night dinner (in Bangkok you can always invite people to our dinner and say the rabbi would love to have you, you don’t need to ask us first). Even getting their name and email to have them on the local Jewish events list may massage their Jewish soul.

Yes, the liberation of Auschwitz is a day that should not be glossed over. But it should not just be remembered for history’s sake. Rather, we must learn the obvious lesson of the tragic consequences of unbridled hate. 

Moreover, the unspeakable events of those calamitous and tragic years must continue to fuel our indefatigable push towards true world peace. Peace of an everlasting and universal nature. A new world order that can make the word ‘utopia’ look like an understatement. 

The Rebbe stated his goals as nothing less than bringing the world to the coming of Mashiach. This can only be done if we all participate, unite and join forces to give the final push. One more mitzvah, one more act of goodness and kindness. Your one act may be the one that ‘tips the scales’ and causes the coming of Mashiach AMEN.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor



 By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

He was ‘barmitzvah’ed’ sixty years ago. 

Still practices orthopedic surgery at a hospital in L.A. 

A fellow surgeon at the same hospital has a wife Elizabeth whose father moved to Thailand and remarried. 

Elizabeths father passed away three years ago and asked his family to have the rabbi put on his ‘Jewish Cap’ before the ceremony. That lead to my going out to Pathum Thani and facilitating Jewish burial in place of the planned cremation.

Elizabeth had wanted to send a donation to the Jewish community in Thailand to help with the burial costs but never got to it. Her husband the surgeon heard that his colleague Dr. B. was traveling to Thailand. Elizabeth asked if he could please deliver the donation personally.

On Monday January 13, Dr. B. looked for our Synagogue, found me at our offices behind J Cafe and hand delivered the donation. After a delightful conversation, I offered Dr. B. the opportunity to put on tefillin. He accepted gratefully and told me it was the first time since his bar mitzvah. Some sixty years back. 

He enjoyed the experience and wrote me the following note:

Dear Rabbi Kantor,

It was our pleasure meeting you and spending time with you at the Cafe! We enjoyed you company and hospitality very much. You have rekindled my desire to use my Tefillin and attend more services at home!! 

Respectfully Dr. B.

I decide to share the story because it follows on so aptly from last week’s story about Paul Stone.

It brings home the point how sometimes good deeds can be added in this world through things you have done, children you have raised or people you have inspired.  

There is a reason I choose to share these stories. Through telling these stories, others are inspired to add in their own Jewish observances and kindnesses to others. The eternal merit of these good deeds goes to those whose memory inspired them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had registered a patent and would keep getting royalties long after you were retired? It’s the same thing when people do mitzvahs and deeds of kindness in one’s merit or fueled by something they have planted in the past. By sharing these inspirations with the many who read them, the souls of those who have passed are getting nachas and delight in Gan Eden.

Here is a classic case of an investment that yields Mitzvah dividends after many decades. Tzedaka was given in memory of Al Baron and tefillin laid because of the child he had raised ages ago in his youth. She in turn inspired her husband’s colleague to come and visit the shul. 

Here is the part that gives me goosebumps: 

As I was writing this article, I looked up the article I wrote three years ago about Al’s burial. I noticed that it was also the same Parsha of Shemot. That is providential I thought to myself. I decided to look up the date of Al’s passing. 

According to my records, Al passed away on the evening leading to Tevet 17. The meeting with Dr. B. took place on Monday Tevet 16, within hours of the beginning of the third yahrtzeit. 

I find myself tearing from emotion as I realize the preciseness of G-d’s Providence. What a gift Al got in Heaven, exactly three years after his passing a few hours short of the exact time of his passing. What a way to mark the yahrtzeit. By Dr. B. giving tzedakah and laying tefillin and undertaking to please G-d continue to use his tefillin to Al’s credit.

This story reminds me of what King Solomon taught in the book of Mishlei (Ecclesiastes) Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days…

To our youth, the millennials and post millennials, I want to use this story to remind us that we need patience. Some things take decades to develop…

This weeks Parsha is a classic example. The Torah tells us that Moshe grew up and fled Egypt. The next time the Torah identifies Moshe’s age is when he comes back to Egypt. By that time Moshe is eighty years old. The Midrash, quoting the orally handed down tradition from Sinai, fills in the blanks. It gives a description of Moshe’s dazzling rise to becoming the king of Ethiopia during the many decades that are unaccounted for in this weeks Parsha. 

Click here for more details.

In summation. 

Doing the right thing is always the right thing!

Sometimes you get to see the blessing inherent in making the proper moral and religious choices immediately.

Sometimes it takes time.

For those who have patience, and persevere in treading the right path, invariably G-d shows His presence.

Don’t despair if you don’t see the ‘endgame’ right at the beginning. 

You don’t fulfil your mission on earth in one fell swoop. It takes seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and even decades. The heroes, the righteous Tzadikim of our Torah and in our contemporary times, remind us by the way they lived their lives, that we need to keep on sprinting, jogging, brisk walking or at the very least trudging. 

If need be, focus on putting one foot in front of the other. 

My friend David Keen took me with him to the 23.5 km bicycle path around Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. It sounded really cool and fun. Cycling around the airport. It wasn’t as blissful as it sounds. I will be honest, at the 10km mark I had had enough. But the only way to quit is to have the embarrassment of the emergency ‘pickup truck’ deliver you to the end of the track. David kept on telling me that ‘you can do it’ and I just focused on keeping on pedaling. Thank G-d, I made it. It gave me plenty of time to ponder and realize the lessons to be learned. 

One of them is that you simply must keep moving forward. 

When the going gets tough? The tough get going. 

Don’t stop. Onward march. 

Eventually we will get there. 

Where is there?

The endgame is that we all go to the The Promised Land! With Mashiach’s coming. May it be soon, AMEN!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

after 23.5 km around bangkok airport.jpeg 


Chazak ENCOURAGMENT the power of it.

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I was reminded this week that sometimes the greatest thing you can do is give someone else a nod of approval when they are doing something good. 

When a person is excited and inspired, his or her peer’s positive reaction can ensure that the positive and uplifting behavior continues and even grows.

By the same token, you can easily burst someone’s ‘inspirational bubble’. All it takes is a snide, cynical comment and like a pinprick deflates a balloon, so does the person lose all their previous excitement and motivation. 

Paul Stone did the former for Zevulun the Rice Farmer from Sakon Nakon. He inspired him and encouraged him. With a fantastic outcome Boruch Hashem

Back then when Zevulun was still Scott, he looked for a rabbi to talk to. 

I was the rabbi he met. I have the distinct merit of being the first rabbi Zevulun ever spoke to in his life. Naturally, at that very first meeting I offered Zevulun the chance to put on Tefilin. Even though he didn’t know exactly what Tefilin were, he was happy to put them on and recite the Shema prayer with me. 

Except that after he left that meeting, he was a little ‘freaked out’ (he only told me this later :-)). With the hat, beard, Tzizit and especially the Tefilin.  He wasn’t sure. Was this Tefillin ritual something standard in Judaism or had he stumbled into some kind of a ‘fringe’ practice.    

Knowing that Paul Stone who lived in Hua Hin was born as Shlomo Silverstein, Zevulun gave him a call to ask about Tefilin.

(Born to immigrant parents in Brooklyn NY, Shlomo Silverstein had changed his name to Paul Stone way back, to seek employment in a country club that didn’t allow Jews).

Paul put Zevulun at ease. He reassured him that Tefillin, Tzizit etc. was all part of mainstream Judaism.

About ten days later Zevulun received a package in the mail from Paul. It was a mezuzah. Parchment and case! And as Zevulun is proud to report, it is that same mezuzah case that houses the mezuzah on his door till this very day.

Ten year ago, right after I heard this story, I contacted Paul. He agreed to meet me if I was passing by Hua Hin. When I learned that he was about to celebrate his eightieth birthday I made arrangements to ‘happen to be passing by’ Hua Hin on the day of his birthday.

 (I love celebrating eightieth birthdays with people, if you, or a fellow Jew is turning eighty this year please let me know so I can schedule a visit for that day, cake and all.  There is so much to learn from our elders if we but take the time to listen and turn off our gadgets for long enough).

Our meeting was cordial at the beginning and then warmed up. Paul came across as staunchly and proudly Jewish. Obviously, I offered Paul the opportunity to lay Tefilin. He knew very well what they were, having grown up in a practicing Jewish family. He politely but firmly declined. 

Paul may not have put on Tefilin at our meeting, but it was undoubtedly Paul’s positive reaction to Zevulun’s first Jewish experience that was the key to the subsequent spiritual growth of our dear friend Zevulun. Zevulun who is a beloved, inspired member of our Thailand Jewish community, living and breathing a life full of Torah and Mitzvahs, looks back at that conversation with Paul as being pivotal.  

Click here for Zevuluns story.

I bring up this story now because last week Paul sat up in bed and complained that his chest hurt. A short while later at age 89 Shlomo ben Israel Silverstein aka Paul Stone, returned his soul to his maker.

May these words in his honor be source of nachas and elevation to his soul in the Garden of Eden.

And may we, who live, take to heart. 

How sensitive we need to be in our reaction to others.

Cynicism and sarcasm are sure killjoys and deflating. 

Positive reinforcement and encouragement can make all the difference in the world.

At the very least, let us resolve to never discourage anyone from trying to better themselves. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.

On the flip side, may we realize the power of our words and body language and constantly encourage those around us to believe more in themselves and aim for even higher goals and achievements in their spiritual and religious growth.

This highlights the opportunity we have for adding light and holiness in the world through doing mitzvahs. At the very least by not discouraging or disparaging others who are excited about doing the Mitzvahs. 

And even better than that, even if you are not in the ‘mood’ or in the mindset of doing more mitzvahs yourself right now, when you get the opportunity to encourage someone else to do a Mitzvah,

Seize the opportunity!


In the synagouges around the world we will be doing just that tomorrow.

We will finish reading the first book of the Torah, Bereshit and when we read the final words of the book we will all call out:

Chazak Chazak Venitchazek

Be strong, be strong and we will be strong!!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


6/6 or 20/20

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Happy 6/6!

Oops I mean 20/20.

At the beginning of this new calendar year of 2020 I asked some of our Israeli congregants at the post-Shacharit breakfast table, ‘what does 2020 remind you of’?

When I didn’t get any immediate response, I asked ‘how do you say in Israel that someone has good vision?’ 

This is when I learned that in Israel perfect vision is called ‘shesh shehl’ 6/6. While in the USA it’s called 20/20.

6/6 means you see at 6 meters what an average person can see at six meters, and 20/20 is the equivalent in feet.

Please allow me to use the 20/20 term in this instance so I can make a point pertinent to the beginning of the year 2020 in the ‘Common Era’ civil calendar.

There is a prophecy in the book of Yeshaya (Isaiah 40,5) referring to the time after Mashiach’s arrival ‘the glory of Hashem will be revealed, and all flesh will see that it is Hashem’s words (that sustain the created universe)’. 

Granted, ‘seeing’ G-dliness would be ‘awesome’ kind of like a supersonic 20/20 vision. It would be having perfect and impeccable insight into the true reality and source of all existence. 

But how would that make the world Messianic and utopian?

This week’s Parsha describes the incredibly emotional reunion of Yosef with his brothers when they stood before him in Egypt. 

In a dramatic revelation, Yosef tells his brothers ‘I am Yosef’. 

They are stunned. They had absolutely not expected the Egyptian viceroy who seemed manipulative and scheming to be their long-lost brother. Their last contact with Yosef was when they had sold him into slavery more than two decades earlier. 

This revelation by Yosef that he was their long-lost brother, answered all their questions and dispelled all their suspicions. They now understood how the Egyptian viceroy knew to seat them according to their age when they had dined together. They now also understood why he had staged the theft of his special goblet having planted it into the sacks of Benyomin. 

This new piece of information reframed the entire situation. A new light had been shed on a previously confounding predicament.

Before this revelation, the sons of Yaakov were furious at this Egyptian manipulative tyrant. After they had learned of his true identity, they were now fully understanding that this had all been a charade for their own benefit. Yosef had created the right scenario to unmask himself. Before they had felt anger at the injustice of their treatment by the hands of Pharaoh’s’ right hand man. Now they felt a deep shame at their prior mistreatment of their brother Yosef when he was but a lad of seventeen years. 

It’s amazing what new information can do in terms of reframing. 

Can you imagine what the revelation of G-d’s presence will do to our perspectives?

Putting on 3D glasses is an exhilarating experience. 

Getting G-dl’y glasses is infinitely more enlightening. 

To perceive G-d as He is means many things on many levels.

The most basic implication is that the true purpose of our lives will become as obvious as the fact of our being. The dumbest animal does not leap into fire. 

The entire ‘flesh’, all of humanity, will receive that vision when Mashiach comes.

Can anybody steal when they ‘see’ G-d’s presence everywhere?

Is it possible for nations to do battle when Hashem’s glory is revealed?

When man will openly perceive the purpose of his existence, he will be no more inclined to act against it than he is to destroy himself.

This is why we toil so industriously and wait so anxiously for Mashiach’s coming. 

Everything will make sense. We won’t have questions. It will all be utopian. 

The good news is that we can try and get a glimpse of that vision now as well. By learning from our Torah, particularly the teachings of the inner wisdom of Torah as taught in Kabala and Chasidism. Click here to access a treasure trove of articles about G-d and us. 

It pays to get a head-start on delving into the unimaginable spiritual treats that await us. 

It’s like doing homework before you go on a journey…. Let’s say you are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and you read all the descriptions about its beauty and magnificence. It cannot at all be compared to actually visiting and experiencing it. But it certainly primes you to notice all the nuances and details. 

If we study about the G-dly revelation that we are looking forward to, we will be able to say ‘aha’…. once they become a reality. ‘Aha’, that’s what the holy books were talking about’…. 

The Rebbe said that learning about the awaited for Messianic reality will actually hasten his coming. 

Let’s look forward to the that time coming speedily in our days!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

G-d is Steering Shabbat Shalom Chanukah Sameach from Thailand

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Miracles. Happening all around us. Let’s open our eyes and recognize them….

Here is a small example.

Ten years ago, in 2009 we decided to try and broaden our reach with the kindling of the Menorah at Siam Paragon.

The intention was, to pull in people who may not otherwise have attended a Chanukah program at the Synagogue. Siam Paragon is one of the most successful malls in this city and there is almost no one who has not visited there one time or another. The Infinicity Hall located just outside the theater was a wonderful venue to host our Menorah Lighting and delicious Chanukah dinner (traditional doughnuts and all).

Being that the theme of Chanukah is to light up the darkness in the street, Siam Paragon while indeed a very classy mall, represents in the spiritual sense what would be on the darker side (certainly compared to a Synagogue). The lighting of the Menorah there, resonated ever so powerfully…

Choosing this venue was a bold move at the time. Till then we had always held the Chanukah parties in the courtyard of the Synagogue. 

Moving the party to an outside venue, especially a mall, immediately brought a much larger crowd and fit well with the theme of ‘lighting up the darkness in the street’ in the most public and accessible way.

To be honest, we would have loved to light the Menorah somewhere even more public, out in the street where thousands of people would see it. The message of the Menorah, that G-d makes miracles and that light dispels darkness is a universal one and must be shared with the world at large.

To quote a letter penned by the Rebbe “To all participants in the Public Lighting of the Chanukah Menorah:

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, recalls the victory—more than 2100 years ago—of a militarily weak but spiritually strong Jewish people over the mighty forces of a ruthless enemy that had overrun the Holy Land and threatened to engulf the land and its people in darkness.

The miraculous victory—culminating with the rededication of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem and the rekindling of the Menorah which had been desecrated and extinguished by the enemy—has been celebrated annually ever since during these eight days of Chanukah, especially by lighting the Chanukah Menorah, also as a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.

It is a timely and reassuring message, for the forces of darkness are ever present. Moreover, the danger does not come exclusively from outside; it often lurks close to home, in the form of insidious erosion of time-honored values and principles that are at the foundation of any decent human society. Needless to say, darkness is not chased away by brooms and sticks, but by illumination. Our Sages said, “A little light expels a lot of darkness.”

The Chanukah Lights remind us in a most obvious way that illumination begins at home, within oneself and one’s family, by increasing and intensifying the light of the Torah and Mitzvos in the everyday experience, even as the Chanukah Lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day. But though it begins at home, it does not stop there. Such is the nature of light that when one kindles a light for one’s own benefit, it benefits also all who are in the vicinity. Indeed, the Chanukah Lights are expressly meant to illuminate the “outside,” symbolically alluding to the duty to bring light also to those who, for one reason or another, still walk in darkness.

The move to Siam Paragon Mall was a blessed one.

We continued to light the Menorah at that venue for four years with much fanfare and success.

At year five we had a hitch. 

Or what we thought was a hitch!

A few months before Chanukah 2013 after we got confirmation for holding our main Chanukah event at the Siam Paragon Mall, we suddenly got a note cancelling our reservation. It seemed as if there was a scheduling conflict with another party and our reservation was cancelled. We were understandably upset and proceeded to look for other Malls or similar public venues in the area. Our efforts to find a similar venue bore no fruit so reluctantly we booked the ballroom at the Grand Millenium Sukhumvit Hotel on Soi Asok.

You may recall that in November of 2013 the political situation in Thailand started to become turbulent again. Demonstrations began increasing in their intensity as time went on. Over the weekend they were particularly intense and resulted in some fatalities and casualties. 

On Sunday morning December 1, 2013, the fourth day of Chanukah just a few hours before the Chanukah celebration was to begin, we received word that the Siam Paragon Mall as well as all other similar venues had been ordered closed on Sunday due to the danger posed by the demonstrations. This meant that were we to have planned our Chanukah Celebration at the Siam Paragon Mall we would have had to cancel our major Chanukah event. But thank G-d Who had made sure that we did not get what we THOUGHT would be best, but we got the Hotel venue that would be best under the circumstances.

And what a party it was…. 

People called me and asked me ‘how did you know not to hold the event in Siam Paragon this year?’ 

Now you know the truth. We had no idea. But G-d did.

When I made the blessing at the Chanukah Party thanking G-d who made miracles during ‘those days, in these times’ I really felt the deep meaning of those words. Indeed G-d makes miracles in our times also. May we all be blessed to see the constant miraculous guiding hand of G-d in our lives!

The Chanukah parties continued at the Millennium hotel (which changed its name in the interim to the Pullman Hotel). The celebrations were amazing. The venue was superb and the reputation of this being THE CHANUKAH PARTY NOT TO MISS grew from year to year thank G-d.

Oh no, I said when I was informed earlier this year that the Pullman Hotel was not able to provide us with space due to a competing multi-day event. The staff there was very accommodating and suggested we go to the Landmark Hotel.

If you attended the party, you know.

The Landmark Hotel venue was EVEN BETTER than the previous one. It was bigger, roomier and just provided a more pleasant background for the five hundred or so guests who gathered to celebrate Chanukah in the heart of Bangkok.

I tell this story because this is what Chanukah is all about.


Winning the war. The Maccabees are victorious over a vastly bigger Greek army. Outnumbered and overpowered though they be, G-d miraculously granted them a decisive victory.

And the miracles of the oil. Finding the jug of uncontaminated oil. They searched high and low and thank G-d their efforts were blessed with success and they found the pure oil.

The oil that was meant to last for one day, lasted for eight. 

Every night we make the blessings on the kindling of the Menorah and we praise G-d for the miracles He has performed for our forefathers in those days at this time period.

And we praise G-d for the miracles that He does for us NOW IN OUR TIMES.

Our lives are full of G-dly blessings. Every time we open our eyes. The sun that rises every morning. The car that starts. The gift of having ample nourishing food to eat. The ability to help others through a kind word, a warm smile or tzedakah help. And perhaps the greatest blessing of all. The awesome and inspiring awareness that our presence here on earth is of value and importance to Almighty G-d Creator of Heaven and Earth and the gift of Torah and Mitzvahs that He has communicated to us.

So, next time something doesn’t work out exactly the way you thought it would, stop for a moment before you despair. Think about Chanukah and the lesson it teaches us. 

Miracles abound. Just close your eyes for a minute. Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. Think about the good things you have been blessed with. Give thanks to G-d for the miracles He performs for you with every breath.

Sometimes it takes time till you see the happy ending. But never give up. And try as hard as you can to stay positive and joyous.

Joyous about what?

Well, if the oil is burning, and everything is going well, rejoice. 

What will happen tomorrow? If there is a way to make new oil, go ahead and prepare for tomorrow. 

But if there is absolutely nothing you can do, worrying won’t help either. It will only disturb. 

And the worrying may really be a waste. As Chanukah teaches us that if G-d wishes, it will continue burning for as long as needed. 

Imagine how silly you will feel if you walk around worried about what may go wrong and then it lands up going right.

And how wise you will have been if you didn’t fret and get anxious and the end everything worked out. 

When it continues burning remember to give thanks and praise to the Almighty.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Chodesh Tov

Chanukah Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


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