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"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Doctor in House?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I always knew that our work in spreading Judaism throughout Thailand was spiritually lifesaving. The gift of connection and inspiration that Torah and Mitzvahs provide are an elixir for the soul.

It saves lives quite literally as well.

Recently, our rabbi in Chiang Mai arrived to a routine visit to a member of his local Jewish community. Upon arrival, he found that that the person he had come to visit had collapsed into unconsciousness. He succeeded in getting him the urgently needed medical help that saved his life.

Last Shabbat I got to see how by opening Jewish centers in yet additional locations we can save more lives. Spiritually, that goes without saying. Even physically.

As I have mentioned in this column before, this year is the celebration of 120 years since the Rebbe’s birth. In marking this milestone, we have joined the worldwide effort to add 1210 new centers of Jewish life and observance around the world.

One of our regional undertakings is establishing a Chabad presence to serve the growing number of Jewish people in the island of Ko Pangan. Some of them are digital nomads, some are simply taking some time off from the frenetic pace of modern-day life while others are there ‘just because’.

Click here for the articles describing the Divine Providence we encountered on our initial visit to Ko Pangan.

Miri and Dovi, a young Chabad couple (Miri is the daughter of Eliezer and Rochi Ashkenazi) went out to visit Pangan for Purim. They led Purim activities and scouted out the island to see about taking up the position of leading the Chabad House there.

While there, they met a family with several children who had spent a few months in Ko Pangan. The wife said that her religious parents were coming from Israel to tour Thailand and would be spending a Shabbat in Bangkok. They were debating in which part of town to stay to attend Shabbat prayers and meals. Miri suggested that they come to spend Shabbat at Bet Elisheva as she is currently living there in her parents’ home. The family liked the idea and the family with her parents joined Bet Elisheva for Shabbat.

Last Shabbat, at the luncheon after prayers, one of our older community members went into a state of shock and started to slide off his chair. Those sitting next to him caught him before he fell. All of us have seen him injecting insulin at various occasions and it was clear that it was a case of diabetic shock.

Immediately his pouch was located as this is where he keeps his insulin. Before anyone could find the insulin or inject it, a woman ran over from a nearby table and said that she is a doctor. She took control of the situation and kept him stable till the ambulance came and put him on a glucose drip.

Yes, it was the woman traveling with her family who Dovi and Miri had met in Ko Pangan. She is a doctor.

As a doctor of course she knows that when in diabetic shock, it is forbidden to give more insulin. Actually, the medical term for this shock is ‘insulin shock’ and it comes from too much insulin.

I shudder to think what could have happened G-d forbid if a well meaning but non medically trained person may have instinctively administered more insulin.

Thank G-d we had a traveling doctor in house.

And Miri and Dovi were there too. To share with me the amazing Divine Providence of how the doctor came to be at our Shabbat lunch that day.

A visit to Ko Pangan. A plan put into motion by G-d, to position a doctor exactly where she would be needed.

Clearly, opening more Chabad centers in more locations saves lives. Literally, physically. And spiritually.

The timing of this message is Providential as well.  This weekend, Nechama and I are celebrating twenty-nine years since our arrival in Thailand on May 15 1993.

As we enter our thirtieth year here in service of the community, we have many powerful, positive, and inspirational moments to look back on.

However, the real achievements are still in front of us. As there is so much still to be done.

This story is poignant reminder from Heaven, and it injects an urgency and encouragement to work with alacrity and zeal. Especially when it comes to helping and doing for others, delays must be avoided.

The following poignant story is recorded in the Talmud (Ta’anis 21a). It is concerning the Sage Nochum ish Gamzu, one of Rabbi Akiva’s teachers from whom he learned to thank G‑d for everything. “This too is for the good” was his favorite refrain even when it appeared that something very negative occurred.

Yet, despite his obsessive optimism and the positive spin he gave to virtually every negative phenomenon, Nochum Ish Gamzu never forgave himself for the following incident:

“I was once traveling on the road to the house of my father-in-law and I had with me three donkey-loads; one of food, one of drink, and one of various delicacies. A poor man came and stood before me on the road and said to me, ‘My teacher, sustain me!’ I said to him: ‘wait until I unload from the donkey.’ I did not have a chance to unload the donkey before his soul departed.”

Nochum ish Gamzu blamed his delay for the death of the poor man and accepted upon himself all forms of suffering as penance for what he considered to have been an egregious sin.

In truth, Nochum was not guilty of any crime or moral lapse. If the man had been more forceful and stated “I’m starving” instead of just “sustain me,” Nochum would certainly have acted with much more haste. Apparently the man did not look deathly ill nor did he convey urgency in his request.

Click here for more on this.

The message is clear.

Studying Torah, praying and observing mitzvahs are good for the body and good for the soul.

Facilitating others to be in touch with their inner selves is a doubly good. it is good for the doer and good for the facilitator.

Doing all the above, for yourself and for others, without procrastinating and without delay is the best and most G-dly way.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

 

 

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the 'secret'

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

An elderly Jew living in Prachuap Khiri Khan sent me an email a few days ago that warmed my heart.

Dear Rabbi Kantor, 

For the first time since I was a child I ate only matzah during Pesach, this was due to your provision of Matzah, also the fact that I felt unconnected. Therefore, I made a decision to eat only matzah as a way to feel connected. 

Thanks again for all that you do.

He obviously knows the ‘secret’. Probably his parents instilled it into him during his early childhood.

I met a young Jewish man earlier this week who wasn’t raised with much of a Jewish upbringing but somehow his ‘neshama’ intuitively knew the ‘secret’.

B. was in Bangkok visiting his sister who lives here. His sister has become Torah observant after she left home. Her brother had never yet put on Tefilin in his life. Now that she knows the value and preciousness of performing Mitzvah’s she really wanted to gift her brother the opportunity to put on Tefilin during his visit to Bangkok. She asked me if I would be able to facilitate this. Understandably, I was overjoyed to be handed this special mitzvah on a ‘golden plate’.

I hopped over to the house with my Tefilin just before B. was going to leave to the airport. After introducing the Tefilin and explaining that I was going to ‘wrap’ him with Tefilin, B asked me if I was in a rush or did he have a few minutes for a shower before Tefilin. I said that I needed to get back to the services in the Synagogue, but I assured him that the Tefilin prayers would take just a few minutes and he would have time for a shower before needing to head out to airport.

I was though a little puzzled why he thought about the shower only after I had introduced the Tefilin.

My question was answered when B’s sister sent me this note

‘My brother said he thought you were going to wrap him in something permanent. That’s why he was asking if he should shower first. :-)’

Wow. Now I was totally inspired. A Jewish young man, never put on Tefilin before in his life, was ready to agree to be wrapped with something permanent if that is what the Torah said should be done.

This is a Jew who intuitively knows the ‘secret’.

The ‘secret’ I am referring too, never really loses its ‘secretive’ quality.

Even once we discover it, it remains elusive. The ‘secret’ is so counterintuitive, that our ‘rational side’ resists it. We need to keep reminding ourselves about the powers of the ‘secret’.

The Jewish people discovered the ‘secret’ after leaving Egypt.

The Talmud ( Shabbat 88a ) When they assembled at the mountain of Sinai and G-d asked them if they wanted to accept upon themselves the Torah and its commandments. The Jewish people responded, ‘We will DO (what you instruct) and we will ‘hear’ (i.e. endeavor to understand what the meaning of it is)’.

G-d was very happy with their response and said ‘who revealed to my children this ‘ secret’ that the angels employ’.

Why is this a secret?

Well, conventional wisdom dictates that before one acts, one should first understand what it is they are being asked to do, and become motivated and inspired. Only then should they act.

If so, the Jews at Sinai should have responded to G-d’s offer of the Torah, ‘we will understand and consider, and then once sufficiently convinced and motivated, we will act and do’.

However, they responded in a way that seemed impulsive and even a bit irresponsible. How do you agree to do whatever you will instructed without first hearing and studying the ‘find print’ and details of the instruction?

In Heaven they know the ‘secret’.

The ‘secret’, that the heavenly celestial being know, is that when it is G-d Who is the One to instruct, one should commit and fulfill first and ask about the details second.

Following that, will come epic and immensely powerful inspiration and meaningfulness.

It is not a robotic obedience that creates mindless devotees.

Not at all.

It is a leap of faith that then elicits and ushers-in to the one who has committed, a depth and intellectual appreciation. The level of understanding that follows this commitment is one that mere human efforts could not produce, they can only be achieved through G-d’s benevolent and infinite blessings.

Innately, our souls are privy to this secret.

This is why when one sends matzah to a Jew, he eats it on Pesach and refrains from eating bread.

Another elderly Jewish friend told me that this year he kept nine days of Passover as he miscalculated when Passover ended. He refrained from bread and ate matzah for nine full days.

We know it in ever fiber of our existence that when G-d instructs we act accordingly.

One of the greatest inspirations of my life is when I meet a Jew who is not raised with mitzvah observance and yet is willing and ready to do a mitzvah when offered the opportunity.

Every time a Jewish man rolls up his sleeve to lay Tefilin with me, I sense the power of the soul and depth of its spiritual intuition.

This is a tribute to the Jewish soul – the Neshama.

Our eyes are constantly on Israel and right now it’s very tense. The antisemitic winds around the world, which we hoped were a thing of the past, are most unsettling.

I hate to sound pessimistic. And I am not advocating walking around being scared G-d forbid.

I am conveying a message, a call to action.

A reminder to myself and to those who are listening to me speak to myself, that it is up to us to ADD LIGHT with greater intensity and with more energy.

LIGHT is added by you and I doing more good deeds. Mitzvahs that proclaim our connection to G-d and Mitzvahs that show our selflessness on behalf of others.

Oseh Shalom Bimromov… Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu… Ve’al Kol Yisrael Ve’imru AMEN

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS on the topic of bar mitzvah and tefillin my brother in law Rabbi Alter Korf of S. Petersburg, Florida shared a very meaningful double ‘barmitzvah’ that took place in the most unexpected of circumstances. Click here to read .


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Self/ish/less. Healthier! Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

One day before Purim in 1961 the president of the United States of America gave the following speech:

I have today signed an Executive Order providing for the establishment of a Peace Corps … I'm hopeful that it will be a source of satisfaction to Americans and a contribution to world peace.

A day later came Purim. The Rebbe led his customary Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) in honor of Purim and mentioned the founding of the Peace Corps, referring to it as a most admirable and noble idea.

The Rebbe saw this announcement as Heavenly sent assistance to his own efforts for a Jewish ‘Peace Corp’. The Rebbe had repeatedly requested of his students and Chassidim, to leave the comforts of Brooklyn New York and take up teaching positions in places that Judaism was not yet readily available. It was not easy to inspire an immediate post-Holocaust generation to leave the spiritual safety of the close-knit community to go out to the spiritual wilderness as pioneers. Having this similar ideal espoused by the president of the USA and touted in the media as being a noble and idealistic concept, would help implement this in the Jewish world as well.

In the Rebbe’s words on Purim (March 2) 1961:

For years now, I have been saying over and over: Don't convince yourself that you can live off the “fat of the land” and serve G-d in comfort here... Listen! There are spiritually “desolate lands” where fellow Jews are wallowing in spiritual poverty. The Mitzva to love your fellow Jew applies even to someone on the other side of the globe whom you have never met. Torah demands that you love him exactly as you love yourself! So give up your own comforts and devote yourself to helping your fellow Jew who is in need.

And with your love of G-d and your love of a fellow Jew, combined with love of Torah and Mitzvos, we will end the exile which was brought about by unfounded hatred, and bring the Redemption through unbounded love.

Click here for the original audio with English translation.

This topic jumped into my mind as I was preparing for the burial of the late Mr. Harvey (Chaim) Price.

I observed that this had been the smoothest, most immediate and most dignified burial process that I have encountered in Thailand to this date.

Harvey passed away on Shabbat which was the last day of Pesach. Day 8 of Pesach. In his 88th year (two days shy of his 88th birthday in the civil calendar) and was buried on Sunday the very next day – the day after Passover.  

Eight is a special number in Jewish tradition. Immediate burial in a Jewish cemetery is a special merit.

One of the things that Harvey was proud of, was that he had first come to Thailand in 1962 as the part of the first group of Peace Corps.

In other words, Harvey’s coming to Thailand was based on an idealistic desire to help others. Quite unique and special. Only years later, in 1969 he opened his law firm.

The lesson I want to highlight here, is the importance that the Almighty places on minimizing self-absorption and maximizing the efforts spent on helping others.

The underlying message of the Torah is about learning and training how not to put one’s own materialistic interests at the core of one’s mission statement for life. Rather we must put our soul-interests at the core of our aspirations.

Rather, than asking G-d what ‘He can do for you’, it is about asking G-d ‘what you can do for Him’.

And G-d tells us that what we can do for HIM is to ‘Love your fellow as yourself’. Put the welfare of others at the epicenter of your life. When you do that, you are more G-dly.

Counterintuitively and surprisingly, the true path to personal happiness is by providing happiness to others.

More fulfilling than eating a good meal and feeling satisfied, is feeding a hungry person and watching the glow of satisfaction shine on their face.

Hashem tells us in His Torah that giving, helping, and sharing with others does wonders not just for the recipient. It creates even more wondrous and blessed outcomes for the giver himself. In other words, Hashem’s recipe for self-happiness is to help others.

It is not surprising that modern medicine also recognizes this universal truth.

Mayo Clinics website says that:

Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such has heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness. In addition, a Longitudinal Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health.

My suggestion to my dear readers is as follows:

Don’t quit your job and become a full-time volunteer for a charitable cause. Wherever you are, and whatever occupation you engage in, may be exactly where you need to be. But DO become a more selflessly oriented person.

Next time that you get a request for help, especially if it is something that will require patience, effort and even toil, don’t irritably reject it out of hand. Rather, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘is it possible that Hashem has brought this person to me for help, so that I will have the blessing of giving’?

Once you reframe things in this light, you will joyously engage in selflessly doing good for those who need it.

You won’t suffer because of it. On the contrary.

And you too, will be blessed with a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction than you had previously experienced.

Try to make sure that at least once a day you do something that this not self-centered but altruistically done to benefit someone else.

It is not so difficult to do, but it requires being mindful and on the lookout for the G-d given opportunities to help others.

With a mindset of benevolence, giving and tolerance, the world will be a brighter place and Mashiach’s arrival will be hastened.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

 

follow the money

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

First of all, I want to share some positive news.

We merited to host 2513 people at the Pesach Seder’s on the first night of Pesach across Thailand.

While it’s not like pre-Covid numbers it is definitely an encouraging sign that life is resuming its vibrancy and people are beginning to travel.

May Hashem bless us with health and stability!

CLICK HERE FOR SHORT VIDEO CLIP

And for those who want to be a partner in this beautiful show of Jewish Traditions, Unity and Pride, we had more people than anticipated and the additional bills now need to be paid. YOUR generous gift can turn into holy Passover Mitzvah energy. Click here to donate for Passover

 

I got an unexpected but very welcome call from Phuket after the first days of Pesach that a dear friend of mine, a long time Jewish resident of Thailand, had attended the second night seder at Chabad of Phuket. What prompted him to come?

A CNN interview with a Rabbi in Ukraine, who explained how important it is to celebrate Passover during these challenging times. Amazing how G-dly inspiration can be spread through the most unlikely of ways.

In that spirit, I suggest that you consider celebrating these last days of Pesach, culminating in the ‘Seudat Mashiach’ the ‘Meal of Mashiach’ click here for more info. as the crises in the world should cause us not to be despondent and lethargic, but to be energetic, hopeful and full of yearning for better times. What we can do to hasten this, is add in awareness and good deeds to hasten the coming of Mashiach.

Click here for a mediation to help you ‘Live with Mashiach’.

 

 

 

Have you heard the term ‘follow the money’?

Or the other term ‘follow your gut/instinct’?

The second part of Pesach Holiday that begins this evening remind us that we need to follow G-d primarily.

The Jews left Egypt and followed Moshe out of Egypt upon G-d’s instructions.

By day seven, the heavily armed Egyptians were in hot pursuit of the Jewish people. The Jewish people were camped in front of the Reed Sea, with no good options. The angry Egyptians from behind, the sea in front, what were they to do? Facing this existential crisis, the first since the recent birth of the nation, there was variety of opinions about what to do.

The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people were divided into four camps. There were those who said, “Let us throw ourselves into the sea.” A second group said, “Let us return to Egypt.” A third faction argued, “Let us wage war upon the Egyptians.” Finally, a fourth camp advocated, “Let us pray to G‑d.”

Click here for a detailed explanation and practical application of this Midrash

So, what did they do?

Well, first of all, they were told that none of their opinions was the correct one.

Moshe rejected all four options, saying to the people, “Fear not; stand by and see the salvation of G‑d which He will show you today. For as you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again, forever. G‑d shall fight for you, and you shall be silent” (Exodus 14:13). “Fear not, stand by and see the salvation of G‑d,” explains the Midrash, is Moses’ response to those who had despaired of overcoming the Egyptian threat and wanted to plunge into the sea. “As you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again” is addressed to those who advocated surrender and return to Egypt. “G‑d shall fight for you” is the answer to those who wished to battle the Egyptians, “and you shall be silent” is Moses’ rejection of those who said, “This is all beyond us. All we can do is pray.”

But what should they do?

G-d gave his clear and concise instruction to Moshe.

“Speak to the children of Israel, that they should go forward.”

There is only one thing a Jew needs to follow as he exits his personal Egypt and journeys to receive the Torah and enter his personal ‘Promised Land’.

GO FORWARD.

Do another mitzvah, ignite another soul, take one more step toward your goal. Pharaoh’s charioteers are breathing down your neck? A cold and impregnable sea bars your path? Don’t look up; look forward. See that Sinai mountain upon which the Torah will be given? Move toward it.

And when you move forward, you will see that insurmountable barrier yield and that ominous threat fade away. You will see that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, you have it within your power to reach your goal. Even if you have to split some seas.

This leap of faith is a difficult one. But it is a liberating leap that changes everything else in your life.

Don’t blindly follow the money. Life is about much more than money. And the obsession with accumulating wealth has led many a good intentioned person astray.

Don’t blindly follow your instincts. Some of our instincts are good and have been instilled within us to protect us. Other instincts however are instilled within us to challenge us. In order to have us put forth an effort to overcome them.

FOLLOW G-D.

This is fulfilled by learning Torah, fulfilling Mitzvahs and generally being aware of G-d’s presence in every single aspect of creation.

The ‘move forward’ mode is truly the G-dly way.

So many times, in so many circumstances, I have seen the ‘splitting of the sea’ as a result of moving forward even when the situation looked insurmountable.

Here is an example of a ‘big’ thing.

Just before year 2000 we had an opportunity to rent a large facility for our then bursting at the seams Chabad House in Kasoarn Rd. The leap from renting a narrow Chinese shophouse, to leasing a three storied. hundreds of meters large, location was a great one. The financial ramifications were enormous.

I took a good friend to see the new suggested location with me. He was honest, and told me ‘Rabbi, this project is too big for you’ and advised me to go for something more modest. After rethinking and consulting with others,  it still seemed to me that expanding was the direction that G-d wanted us to take. For the scope of our work was being hindered by the smallness of our facility and we needed to take this leap to further the work of G-d. We took the leap and thank G-d were successful. Instead of having more financial struggle we actually had less. Counterintuitive but true.

Twenty years later in 2017, a property became available for purchase not far from the main backpacker area. This was an opportunity to get out of paying rent and pay a mortgage instead. But the financial cost of property purchase and subsequent Chabad House building, was staggering. After consulting and thinking, it seemed clear that the path of G-d was pointing towards going ahead with the ambitious project. At various points of this project there were overwhelming challenges. G-d helped and at each stop of the way, dear friends stepped forward to be the angels that helped us bring this project to completion.

MIRACULOUS NEWS. This year - PESACH 2022 - at Kaosarn Rd was celebrated in the NEW Chabad House – Ohr Menachem (official grand opening on June 21 please G-d).

Somehow, the sea split, and we are in the new building.

And there are multitudes of small things.

Times when things looked bleak and overwhelming. Days where it seemed like the ideal place would be to hide out in bed with the covers over the head.

But as the Rebbe once answered someone ‘taking action, even the smallest action, is better than sleeping, and certainly better than falling into a deep slumber’.

Wake up. Get out of bed. Take a step in the right direction. Do the next right thing.

Time after time, I have seen, as I am sure that you too have, that when I follow this instruction ‘go forward’ in the direction of G-d, by doing the next right thing, somehow the seas split. The insurmountable obstacles become manageable, and things start moving forward in the right path to Sinai and the Promised Land.

This Holiday that begins tonight, the Seventh day of Pesach, is about the MIRACULOUS splitting of the sea which was brought about after Nachshon of the tribe of Yehuda walked into the sea ready to give up his life in order to fulfil G-d’s command of ‘Go Forward’. At the last moment, before the waters engulfed him, the sea split. Click here for more on this

This holiday is thus the holiday of commitment to the point of Mesirat Nefesh – Self Sacrifice.

May G-d bless us to never need to exercise this in actuality like our ancestors needed to, but rather may Hashem bless us to show our commitment to Him by  sacrificing our wants, desires and egos.

From this holiday we take the power and energy, courage, strength and conviction to move forward and follow G-d and LIVE the life of a believing Jew .

May the Almighty bring us Mashiach speedily in our days! NOW!!!!

Chag Sameach, Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

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Chag HaPesach Kasher Vesameach

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Hashem sent me a few lessons about freedom and liberation during my trip to USA via Israel.

I must admit that I felt quite foolish.

After standing for 90 minutes in a line that inched along to the El Al ticket counter I hurriedly proceeded to the boarding gate. I glanced down at my boarding pass and saw the letters ‘GL’ followed by my El Al mileage number.

I sent a WhatsApp to my travel agent asking him whether I understood correctly that this meant I was a gold member of the El Al Matmid mileage program. He confirmed to me that yes, I was.

It dawned on me. Almost three years ago, before covid began, I had a few back-to-back trips to Israel that earned me the ‘gold’ status on El Al. It’s been so long since I traveled that it never dawned on me that I had this status. Apparently however, the status was preserved.

This means that I could have checked in at the business class check-in counter and avoided the long lines. Not to mention the access to the King David lounge which is well stocked with kosher food and drink.

The oversight on my part was so ridiculous that I chuckled to myself. But I was wondering, what lesson could I learn from the experience.

I had a flashback. To the summer of 1991 one of the highlights of my life. I was the head counselor of the main Chabad Gan Yisrael boy’s camp. It was the last day of camp and the entire camp had traveled from the Catskill mountains to 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The Rebbe would address the children after praying Mincha with them. After that they would be dismissed and go home with their parents who would pick them up. Before the Rebbe would enter the Shul for prayers, the head counselor – in this case yours truly – would give a short inspirational speech.

This is the story I told:*

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Vladimir, an illiterate and unworldly Siberian peasant, struck it rich. One day he was offered a very lucrative business proposition. Closing the deal, however, required his presence in Moscow.

Moscow. He was pretty sure that a horse—even the sturdiest his village had to offer—would not be able to make the trip of several thousand kilometers . . . Some of the more sophisticated residents of the town came to his rescue, advising him about the existence of a new mode of transportation, a “train.” If he were to travel to Novosibirsk, the closest large city, he would be able to catch a train to Moscow.

Thus, one fine day found Vladimir in the central train station of Novosibirsk. When he informed the lady behind the ticket counter of his intended destination, she asked him what sort of ticket he wished to purchase. Observing his confusion, she told him that he could purchase a first-, second- or third-class ticket. A third-class ticket, she explained, offered absolutely no amenities, and didn’t even guarantee a spot on the train. If the arriving train was already filled to capacity, he would have to wait for the next one. A second-class ticket offered a greater chance of a spot on the train, along with more comfortable accommodations. A first-class ticket came with a guaranteed seat, and all amenities necessary to ensure a luxurious and comfortable journey.

Money was hardly an issue, so first class it would be. The ticket lady explained to her consumer that the ticket was non-refundable, and should be guarded carefully. Vladimir heeded her advice, and tucked his ticket beneath the many layers of clothing he was wearing.

As it turned out, the train would not arrive for another few days. Vladimir noted the date and time of its anticipated arrival, arranged for lodgings in the interim, and arrived back at the station two hours early, since this was his first time attempting such a journey. He decided to just follow the flow, assuming that he would be fine as long as he copied exactly what his fellow travelers were doing.

The train arrived. After his initial shock at seeing such a monstrously large caravan of cars, Vladimir regained his composure and scanned the terminal to see what to do. As it was early, most of the passengers had not yet arrived, but he noticed three passengers boarding the very last car on the train. He followed them into the car, and when each one climbed beneath one of the benches in the car, he did the same. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fully familiar with proper stowaway protocol, and his feet jutted out across the aisle of the third-class car.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t fully familiar with proper stowaway protocol

It was dark and lonely beneath the bench, and Vladimir quickly dozed off. He didn’t feel the train start to move, and didn’t hear the conductor entering the car. He did, however, feel a sharp kick to his shins, and the startled peasant was expertly hoisted out by the burly conductor.

“You moron, you think this is a free ride?” he bellowed. “You need a ticket to ride this train!”

“What’s the problem, sir,” Vladimir meekly responded. “I have a ticket.”

The other travelers on the train car burst out laughing at this ludicrous claim. Their laughter only intensified when he started peeling off layer after layer of clothing, starting with his expensive fur coat and ending with his undergarments. But, much to their astonishment, he pulled out a ticket—a first-class ticket, no less!

After verifying that the ticket was indeed authentic, the conductor, in a distinctly humbled tone of voice, asked the obvious: “Sir, you have an expensive first-class ticket; pray tell me why you are lying under a bench in the third-class car?!”

“Because that’s what the others were doing . . .” was the embarrassed response.

Boys, I concluded, you have spent eight weeks in camp, and you recognize how at Mount Sinai we were given a first class ticket. One day, the Conductor will want to know whether we used it or not. Certainly, it does not behoove us to just follow what ‘others are doing’. Rather we have the blessing to conduct ourselves as befitting ‘first class’ passengers.

Standing there about to board my flight, with a forgotten GL status in hand, after standing for nearly two hours in a queue, I realized that Hashem was reminding me of this story.

Liberation is available to us. We have the ‘Liberated status’. But we need to remember that we are liberated. On Pessach Hashem gives us the gift of Liberation. This is why we have a seder talking about the miraculous Exodus from Egypt, we eat matzah and drink four cups of wine and thus we remember and become aware that we are liberated and free ever since then. This liberation and freedom can never be taken from us.

Click here for an essay on how you can be free even when you are technically imprisoned.

The second lesson I got was when earlier this week I grazed my car with a NYPD school safety department car coming of the Belt Parkway. It was a minor dent to my car and barely a scratch on the NYPD car.

I knew that it was a blessing from Heaven, as I was coming from dropping my parents off at the airport which is a Mitzvah that is very special and I was on my way to the Ohel of the Rebbe to pray. If I had an accident between this great mitzvah and visiting this holy place, it must be a blessed accident. And indeed, thank G-d, no one was hurt. But it did take about 90 minutes till Seargent Pellegrino came and wrote the appropriate report. I asked if we couldn’t just agree that it was nothing and was told that since it was a government vehicle, a report needed to be written and it was forbidden for me to leave the site of the accident till that time.

I was imprisoned in some sense. I couldn’t carry on with my schedule as planned. And I had a minute-to-minute schedule of important meetings for that last day in New York. That was now not to be.

But I felt wonderfully liberated. I used my phone to make calls to the people I wanted to visit but now would not have time to visit. They were wonderful calls as I was at ease and without the pressure of time constraints. I could even dance. Although I chose not to do a jovial noisy dance (see the below humor section) I certainly hummed a joyous melody and tapped my feet in the brisk sunny spring air. Liberation is a state of being, I reminded myself.

The third instance took place earlier this morning.

I landed in Bangkok and was taken by the hotel for the rapid Covid test on the way to checking in to the hotel. After about three hours, my son Mendel came over to pick up our luggage. They let him up to the room. I thought that this was a concession that he had managed to negotiate from the hotel staff. A half hour later, after calling down to the reception to find out if our test results had come back yet, I was told that about half an hour ago they had received the results but forgotten to tell me.

I was free to go but I didn’t know. (that even rhymes 😊 )

An example of how you can be essentially and existentially liberated but because of distractions and desensitizing decadent practices, be totally unaware of it.

This Passover, make sure to ingest the ‘Food of Faith’ = Matzah Shmurah. Drink four cups of wine = the taste of liberation and spend time listening to the questions of your child and explaining to him the gift that G-d gave us of redemption from Egypt and gifting us the Torah of Truth and Life.

Celebrate your liberation. Be aware of it. Delight in it. Savor it. And LIVE A LIBERATED LIFE. There is no freedom, like living a life consistent with G-d’s Torah and Mitzvahs.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

A KOSHER AND HAPPY PESACH

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

*story as written on Chabad.org

 

Watch a moment of wisdom about Pesach 👇👇👇

 

 

 

 

 

Chai from Thai

Dear Friend,

We are meant to be happy. All the time. It’s a Mitzvah.

Especially now.

Passover is a joyous and celebratory time.

But how can we be happy?

The world seems so scary.

I won’t go into details of world news because that is the job of the news reporters. Suffice it to say the world is covered with darkness in many ways.

It’s even more scary when you realize that what we know is just a tip of the iceberg about what is really going on.

Be happy?

How?

This year we have another reason for special celebration.

In our generation, we were blessed with the great gift of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership.

The day of birth of a leader is cause for celebration. The Rebbe of righteous memory was born four days before Pesach in 1902. This year is thus the 120th year. A most significant and joyous milestone.

But, against the backdrop of our current world predicament how can one be in the state of mind to be joyous?

There is an ancient Jewish tradition to say the chapter in Tehillim – Psalms corresponding to the year of ones life. i.e. when one is born it is year one. When one turns twenty it is year twenty-one etc. Thus as we enter the 121st year since the Rebbe’s birth, we begin to say Psalm 121.

Psalm 121 spells out very clearly how a Jew is able to live his life with joy even while facing adversity.

King David speaks on behalf of all of the people of Israel in his book of Tehillim – Psalms.

I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?

My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth

When things look bleak, rather than hiding in a corner and pretending that nothing is wrong and all is fine and dandy, you should look reality in the eye.

Look up to G-d and be mindful that our lives, our strength, our help and salvation, come from G-d.

And nothing is beyond G-d’s realm of possibility.

As trying and challenging as things may seem, G-d is in charge and can change the course of the world to one of peace and tranquility in no time.

Liberation does not mean living in denial and ignoring the challenges.

True freedom is about recognizing the challenges and transcending them by connecting to the Higher Authority and being enwrapped in His infinite embrace.

On Pesach, each and every year, we are gifted the spirit of liberation and freedom once more.

It is up to us to ‘plug in’ and activate the incredible opportunity of liberation that Pesach brings.

As Moshe shared with the Jewish people on the day that he turned 120

(Devarim 29:33)

Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people whose salvation is through God, the shield who helps you, your majestic sword!

When we but realize that G-d is with us, we truly feel fortunate and JOYOUS.

***

In our post Holocaust generation, inspired by the Rebbe’s leadership, we are witness to the catapulting of Jewish life and experience to the most diverse and widespread locales.

The adaptation of Jewish life to so many varied environments is a source of inspiration and colorful anecdotes.

One of the exciting and incongruous places that Judaism has proliferated, is Thailand.

Nechama and I are blessed to have been sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1993 to provide spiritual leadership to the Jews of Thailand. Over the years, we have engaged in many incredibly inspiring Jewish experiences.

It has been my privilege to share some of these stories in my weekly emails.

These emails began after the horrendous terrorist attack on the twin towers, knows as 9/11. The Rebbe would often repeat the aphorism that ‘a little light dispels a lot of darkness’. This weekly communique was my way of adding a bit of light.

A dear friend Bennet Hymer of Hawaii was so inspired by these anecdotes that he set out to publish a book of these stories.

These are not really my stories. Rather they are a testament to the vision and empowering leadership of the Rebbe. My stories are not unique. Thousands of my colleagues around the world experience similarly miraculous and inspiring encounters as they go around their holy and vital work. The Rebbe propelled and empowered all of us and continues to do so as the soul becomes more radiant after physically passing.

While the book was published more than half a year ago, I hadn’t yet spoken about it in my weekly email. Bennett Hymer, my dear friend, the publisher of the book, asked me last week when would I announce it?

I wasn’t sure. But listen to what happened earlier today, and you will see how Hashem provided me with clear guidance.

Thank G-d I have the merit to be able to be represent the community of Thailand, in New York for the Monday night celebration of the Rebbe’s 120th birthday after which I head back home to Bangkok for the final preparation of our Pesach activities that are being ably handed by my dear wife and our Chabad staff.

One of my missions for my NY trip is raising funds for providing Pesach food, joy and welfare to Jews residing and visiting Thailand via our communal seders and food distribution.

I was visiting some philanthropic supporters in Long Island and prayed the Mincha afternoon service together with them in the buildings conference room. Just before the prayers, a thought went through my mind that perhaps this week I would announce the book in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday. For it was the Rebbe’s fervent wish that every person inspire others to reach beyond their comfort zone. To do another mitzvah, to study more Torah. The purpose of the book is to inspire this kind of growth. But I still wasn’t sure if I would announce it this week.

The payers were over. People filed out of the room, till there was just one person left who was waiting to tell me something. He introduced himself and then said ‘I have regards from Bennet Hymer in Hawaii. He even gave me a copy of your book that he published’.

My dear friends, I am blessed to see many instances of Divine Providence. Somehow this one simply astounded me.

So, in heeding the message from Heaven, I am sharing the details of the book ‘Chai from Thai – Jewish experiences from Thailand’ . (In Thailand this will be available locally via our office).

***

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom and success in selling your chametz, acquiring Matzah and generally preparing for Pesach – the Festival of our Liberation.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

 

Chockablock full of activity

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Pesach is around the corner.

The inebriating spirit of liberation is in the air.

In preparation for the upcoming Pesach, three Torah’s are read from in the Synagogue this week. Busy. In a good and powerful way.

Just like the way the week was for Jewish life in Thailand. Chockablock full of activity.

During this past seven days, we celebrated a birth, a bar mitzvah and (to separate between one form of life and the other form of life) we are about to perform a burial at the Jewish cemetery.

Maybe for New York, London or Melbourne that doesn’t sound so unusual, but for a ‘remote’ Jewish community the size of Thailand’s it was an eventful week.

It showed how deeply rooted Jewish life has become in Thailand.

The Bar-Mitzvah that was held at Beth Elisheva this past Shabbat was joyous and meaningful. It was also highly symbolic. The grandparents of Lucas Rafael Frankel, the Bar-Mitzvah boy, were active and foundational members of the Jewish community since the 1960’s. The Bar-Mitzvah boy’s parents grew up in Thailand. One of the first weddings I officiated at after arriving to Thailand was that of the parents of the Bar-Mitvzah boy.

To see this third generation living in Thailand Jew be called to the Torah at Bangkok’s local Synagogue and to hear him declare how proud he is to be a link in the unbroken 3,334 year golden chain of Judaism was very inspiring.

The words ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ – the People of Israel is Alive – summed it up most fittingly.

Just a few days later, Rabbi & Mrs. Mendy Zayantz who run the Chabad House in Pai, gave birth to a healthy baby girl in Bangkok. This baby too, is third generation Thailand. Her mother is Chanie Wilhelm who grew up in Thailand. She is the daughter of Rabbi & Mrs. Nechemya Wilhelm of Kaoard Rd’s Chabad House.

Sadly a few hours later, we got a call from Roi-Et that Berel (Bernie) Sandow had returned his soul to his creator just shy of his 86th birthday. Berel left instructions that he wanted to have a Jewish burial and please G-d this will take place on Friday. (See below, if you can help with the minyan). Berel was born in NY but spent the last two decades of his life here in Thailand.

Our ‘tzedakah fund’ was very active this week. In a process that took several years, this week we repatriated an elderly man back home to the UK after he had come to the end of his money and was left penniless and homeless. We sent food packages to those who need nutritional assistance. As well, the ‘chessed shel emmet’ tzedakah fund will cover the Jewish burial expenses.

We have launched our Passover appeal so that we can actualize our Passover commitment that ‘all who are hungry should come and eat’.

Pesach supplies will be sold from Sunday.

Many will remember that years ago, when we announced that we would be selling Passover supplies, it meant matzah and matzah meal and a few other items.

Today thank G-d, the choices are many. See the below picture or visit JCafe Pesach Store’s website JCafe Pesach Store’s website to see the range of kosher for Passover products.

Yes, we are an active community thank G-d. It is possible to live a Jewish life in Thailand.

Passover Seders will be held please G-d for our local community with instruction in either English or Hebrew.

As well, we are a hub for Jewish travelers. Thousands of travelers have meaningful and transformational Jewish experiences in Thailand. The Chabad Houses that span Thailand from North to South are welcoming hubs that provide a feeling of home, both physically and spiritually.

And of course, now that tourism has resumed, Chabad House across Thailand will be hosting myriads of travelers at eight different locations. 

My dear friends, the one who foresaw this incredible growth opportunity even in a community as far away as Thailand, was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who believed in the future of vibrant Jewish observance wherever Jews may live. The Rebbe acted on this belief and sent his students as emissaries – Shluchim – to spread Judaism in a meaningful and joyful way.

Jewish life in Thailand of the early 1990’s, when Nechama and I merited that the Rebbe sent us as his Shluchim, was quite challenging to say the least. Fast forward to 2022 and thank G-d one can see the tremendous change and growth. And this narrative is being repeated in hundreds of locations around the globe as the Rebbe’s vision of Jewish outreach is yielding fruits of previously unimaginable proportions.

The Rebbe was born four days before Pesach in 1902. That means that this year on April 12th it will be the 120th year since his birth. This represents a full lifetime. It is a significant date and world Jewry is marking this milestone birthday by giving ‘gifts’ to the Rebbe who gave the world so much. Click here for more.

How do you give a gift to a Rebbe?

How do you give a gift to anyone?

It’s simple.

You do something that is meaningful to him.

If your friend likes cookies, you give them cookies.

The Rebbe’s lifetime was devoted to Torah and Mitzvahs. To illuminating the world. To helping every person by doing acts of tzedakah, goodness and kindness. To selflessly shepherding others, one person at a time. Pushing and uplifting anyone and everyone, to go for the ‘gold’ and bring Mashiach to end suffering and welcome in the utopian peaceful Messianic era.

That is then what the gift should be.

You study some extra Torah in his honor.

You do a Mitzvah in his honor.

Even more, you adopt his ideals, values and ambitions as your own. Join in the mission of filling the world with acts of tzedakah, goodness and kindness. Be imbued with the passion to end the strife, pain and suffering, to yearn for Mashiach.

That would give him real ‘nachas’ satisfaction.

Click here for a video regarding the USA govt proclamation of Education Day in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday.

And since we are in proximity to Pesach it should all be done in the “Pesach mode’.

Pesach means to JUMP OVER.

Applying that to our lives, it means not just not to be satisfied with working at anything less than full capacity.

But that even when reaching full capacity, not stopping to rest but JUMPING ever higher.

The Rebbe would constantly quote the saying of our Sages, ‘If you achieved 100, you should now aim for 200’.

Practically speaking: If you know about Passover and are going to eat Matzah and have a Seder, you should spread the wealth and reach out to another, to make sure that they have matzah and a seder.

It will be our pleasure to partner up with you in reaching Jews who don’t have matzah and provide you with matzah and help in any other way we can help.

If each of us tries a little harder, the unleashing of positive energy and light will be incredibly powerful.

And the world needs positive, powerful and peaceful vibes and energy now more than ever.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

And an early Chag Pesach Kasher VeSameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

 

Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

 

 

 

 

 

homeless not G-dless

 

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

At the beginning of the week, I heard an inspiring story.

(Sadly, I heard many painful stories as well. Like the suffering going on in Ukraine (click her to help relief efforts) as well as a violent terrorist attack in Israel and some close very dear friends going through unimaginable personal tragedy. This week’s Parsha has its painful aspects as it describes Aaron’s great suffering and his response of ‘silence’ click here for more.

The second Torah we read this week is about the mitzvah of the ‘Parah Adumah’ that even the wise King Solomon couldn’t understand. Yes, there are things that happen that we cannot (and dare not) understand or come to terms with. Like bad things happening to good people. Click here for more.

For now, though, I want to share something uplifting, to bring you into the sweet, joyous holy spirit of Shabbat).

Back to the story.

My father-in-law gives Torah lessons to a Los Angeles dentist name Eliyahu. Last week, after visiting his parents, Eliyahu was driving near Sunset Blvd, as he has done hundreds of times before. While driving, he noticed a homeless person sitting there on the sidewalk with a collection cup. He didn’t make anything of it. Somehow, inexplicably, although he is very familiar with the area, he made a wrong turn. He got his bearings and set off once more the party at a friend’s house that he was headed too. Once again, he noticed that same homeless person.

Eliyahu is a sensitive and spiritual person. He said to himself, if Hashem orchestrated my route to make this unusual mistake and notice this unfortunate person, let me embrace the mission that G-d has sent me on and stop and help him.

Eliyahu parked his car and went to speak to the homeless man and said ‘G-d sent me to you’ and gave him some money.

The man started crying. Eliyahu asked him why he was crying. When he heard his answer, he too started crying from emotion.

‘I have been sitting here for more than an hour and a half and no one has yet paid attention or noticed me. I felt abandoned and uncared for. In my hopelessness I turned to G-d. I prayed to G-d and said ‘G-d, it seems like you don’t care for me. I feel like I am worthless in your eyes and you don’t even notice me’.

‘As I finished my discussion with G-d, all of sudden an angel came to me from G-d. I shouldn’t cry’?

Such a powerful, stirring story from the streets of Los Angeles. The predicament of the homeless person was not permanently solved, but he no longer felt abandoned by G-d. Right there in his sleeping bag on Sunset Ave he had a conversation with Hashem, and he was answered in a way that makes it clear to him that G-d is with him.

Prayer is powerful.

And prayer is accessible. To each and every one of us.

Personal prayer, praying when you need something, is a mitzvah. It is simply a conversation with G-d, asking Him to help you with whatever you need.

It doesn’t require any special language. Nor does it require any particular location. There is no charge, nor is there any affiliation requirement.

It is a simple as ‘when you need something, turn to G-d’.

G-d wants us to turn to Him.

No, you won’t be an irritating nudge. Your prayers are ‘music to His ear’ so to speak.

G-d desires our prayers. Our Sages tell us, that sometimes G-d doesn’t give us things till we ask for them. Because He wants our prayers.

May G-d answer all our prayers favorably and bring Mashiach, who will herald in the utopian era of peace and revelation of G-d, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

 

 

 

Happy Purim!

 

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

If you are anything like me, you are celebrating Purim and at the same time you have your eyes on the worsening situation in Ukraine and the millions of refugees.

How can we celebrate Purim to its fullest when there is so much suffering?

First of all, before addressing the question, its important to state the following:

You are a Jew. I am a Jew. We both know that our ‘slogan’ of commitment that we coined at the giving of the Torah at Sinai is ‘Na’aseh Venishma’. We will DO and then we will UNDERSTAND’.

The secret of our existence is that we stick ‘religiously’ to the OBSERVANCE of G-d’s instructions even when they may not be fully understood by our mortal minds. And even when we may not ‘feel like it’.

Obviously, the bottom line for us Jewish people is that we observe Purim during good times and during better times. Unfailingly. Unquestionably.

Now to address the feelings many of us are having regarding what the suffering and how to view it in the context of Purim.

There are  four Mitzvahs on Purim (Megillah reading by day and night, food gifts to at least one friend, feasting, and gifts of money to at least two poor people). Of these four mitzvahs, the mitzvah we are instructed to MOST EMPHASIZE is the mitzvah of giving gifts to HELP THE POOR!!!

The first thing one can do when celebrating Purim while being more aware and mindful of the dire suffering, is to give tzedakah to help those in need (Purim monies through this link will be distributed those in need locally, in Israel and in Ukraine)

or to direct your tzedaka specifically to the needy in Ukraine  www.jewishthailand.com/ukraine

This is my first point. Purim is about doing things to create joy. For OTHERS and for yourself. Providing joy to others is the G-dly path to becoming more joyous oneself.

Stay away from the urge to walk around with a sad face and sighing. Having a melancholy temperament as tempting as it is when times are tough, doesn’t help the people who need your energetic help.  Sighing is also not enough. It doesn’t create any positive result.

Action is what is needed.

Physical. And spiritual.

Let’s talk about the most powerful tools we have, to change negative reality.

By doing Mitzvahs, all and any Mitzvahs, and as today is Purim, especially the timely mitzvahs of Purim, we create awesome spiritual blessings for everything good, healthy and peaceful.

And by adding in JOY. Yes. Anytime you are joyous, you are drawing down G-d’s Divine positive ‘energies’ down into this world.

On Purim its infinitely more potent.

By being joyous today, you are fulfilling the mitzvah of Purim and inviting the blessings of POSITIVE TRANSFORMATION into the world.

When its challenging to be joyous, it is even more potent!!!

Hashem sent me a special Purim inspiration this morning.

At the 11:00 AM reading of the Megillah at JCafe I met someone who told me that since as far back as he can remember, he has not missed hearing the Megillah.

And he remembers quite far back… He is seventy-two years old and remembers his parents taking him to the Megillah reading since he was a small boy.

This year, after just returning to Thailand after sheltering from Covid in the USA, and seeing that our big party was called off, he thought that maybe the tradition of hearing Megillah would be broken.

Then he saw that we were having Megillah readings EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR at JCafe (last reading at 6pm today) and he got to hear the Megillah to his great joy!!!

The Purim Story in Miniature

This small encounter inspired me. for this is the classic Jewish story.

We have been doing this for thousands of years.

We go through ups and downs. Difficult times, easier times. Richer periods, poorer periods. Yet, we know, that as the story of the Megillah so richly tells us, it is G-d who is pulling the strings.

And when G-d is in charge, we are all in good hands.

May Hashem bless our world with PEACE, HEALTH and REDEMPTION!!!!

Happy Purim

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS this is going to be a long PS. I am attaching below an article I wrote two years ago. As we were beginning to ‘mask up’ for Covid. Then, I wrote it about the dangers lurking in microbes from the inside. Today it is as applicable to the dangers in the forms of missiles from the outside.

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Do your best to fight the virus!

PUT ON A MASK!!!

It’s Purim after all.

The reasons we wear masks on Purim?

Here is a smorgasbord of reasons:

Why do we get dressed up on Purim?

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

A mask conceals and covers.

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the mask lies something different.

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

G-d is in charge.

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

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

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

How big is a virus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This all points to one thing.

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

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

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

If you are Jewish, you have a very timely opportunity during the next few hours.

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

How?

By CELEBRATING PURIM.

In connection with Purim, 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 conflagration that had the potential to get unimaginably worse, ended with a ceasefire. On PURIM DAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Purim!!!!

Do your bit for the world’s health.

CELEBRATE PURIM WITH JOY

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

Watch a moment of wisdom in honor of Purim👇👇👇

 

 

Smile in Shule

By the Grace of G-d

Before I begin sharing from ‘my little corner of the world’, let me share these links that address the dire situation in the world.

How to help the situation:

Spiritually, click here for prayers and behavioral changes recommended by the Rebbe during the crises in USA – Soviet relations in the early 1980’s

Financially click here for the Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund

 

Dear Friend,

Beryl (Bernie) is eighty-five years old and ill with pneumonia. May G-d send him a speedy recovery.

When I visited him this week in Roi Et to say some prayers, he was thrilled to see me.

Speaking is very difficult for him. Yet, he exerted himself and whispered a few sentences. I had to work hard and do some lip reading to understand him. I was very glad that I did.

Bernie spoke about my having smiled to him twenty years ago when he lived temporarily in Bangkok and came to shul on Friday nights.

He further recounted – although speaking required quite some effort - that the Rabbi who had ‘bar-mitzvah’d’ him in New York, had hit him for speaking too much.

Can you imagine? We are talking seven decades later. What remains indelibly ingrained in his consciousness, what appears to be a defining experience in his relationship to Judaism, is the smile or lack or thereof that he received at the Synagogue.

The life lesson that I got from this trip to central northeastern Thailand is confirmation of what the Rebbe has made the cornerstone of Chabad’s outreach-oriented mission.

Accepting everyone with LOVE.

A frown, scowl or angry face doesn’t express love.

It is critical to SMILE SMILE SMILE.

It made crystal clear to me where the emphasis needs to be when welcoming people to Synagogue.

It also reinforced what I believe needs to be the attitude  when it comes to Bar-Mitzvah celebrations.

The main objective of Bar Mitzvah ceremonies needs to be setting the stage for the young man to have a positive and comfortable relationship with their Judaism.

Bar Mitzvah needs to be the BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE of Jewish engagement. Not as it all too often works out, the end of religious instruction and involvement.

Sometimes so much emphasis is placed on the ‘performance’ of the young man, that the excitement and positivity is sucked out of it. Tragically in too many instances, the pressure exerted on the child to ‘practice’ and ‘perform’ ends up leaving a sour taste that doesn’t encourage the child to have a healthy continued relationship with his religion G-d forbid.

This doesn’t mean to say that a child shouldn’t be taught to persevere and even perspire in putting forth real effort. But only if that can be achieved while maintaining the positivity and joy of the experience.

It is critical to ensure that Bar Mitzvah’s, or for that matter children of any ages who attend Synagogue walk away with a positive and uplifted feeling.

(All of the above applies equally to ‘Bat Mitzvah’ for a girl).

This weeks Parsha of Vayikra teaches us that Hashem Himself reached out to Moshe with love. And Hashem instructed Moshe to teach the Torah in a way that the Jewish people would accept it with love.

(Vayikra 1:1 interpolated translation) As we have seen, the Tabernacle was erected and left standing for the first time on the 1st of Nisan, 2449. From that time on, whenever God wished to transmit any of the Torah’s laws to Moses, He first called out to Moses to meet Him in the Tabernacle. … Each time God called out him, He did so affectionately, repeating Moses’ name (“Moses, Moses!”) as He had done at the burning bush, thus preparing him for the address that followed. …

God instructed Moses to address the people in a manner that would inspire them to value His commandments and to inform them that He was giving them His commandments for their sake and in their interest, out of His love for them.

These last two years have been daunting.

One of the things Covid has made very challenging is the face masks. Smiles can shine through masks, but you cannot compare a smile that is concealed to a smile that is revealed.

I know it seems petty to speak about missing smiles, compared to the loss of life and health that Covid wrought.

But if you research the topic (do a ‘covid masks hide smiles’ google search and you will get plenty of material) you will find that hiding smiles is not a small matter.

Visible smiles are critical to proper human interaction.

Ironically, it is on Purim, the day of joy and celebration, that we get ‘masked’ and ‘dressed up’. The masquerade of Purim is to show how the hand of G-d was concealed in the (seemingly) natural unfolding of events that comprise the Purim miracle. It was as if G-d was ‘masked’ and hiding His management of the sequence of events.

The masking up on Purim is to add fun and bring more smiles. Especially to the children.

Conversely, the Covid masking up is not at all fun and especially not for children.

We thought that here in Bangkok, by this Purim, we could have a ‘classic’ party with celebration and fun, the way it was Pre-Covid.

Sadly, the numbers here in Thailand don’t allow for us to responsibly put on the large community Purim extravaganza in the hotel as planned.

But PURIM WILL BE CELEBRATED WITH EXCITEMENT. Albeit we will need to a bit more creative.

Stay tuned for our revised Purim activity schedule.

And in addition to that, take a few moments to plan some fun Purim celebration in your very own home. It is one of the HAPPIEST DAYS OF THE YEAR and we are instructed to FEAST and REJOICE.

Click here for the FOUR mitzvahs of Purim in a one minute youtube

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS Click here for a Purim website with a wealth of information

(We are optimistically looking forward to holding our communal Passover Seders as usual, please G-d).

Holy Bowly

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

First of all,

The war in Ukraine is shocking. Click here, for stories of its 350,000 Jewish men, women and children, who, together with Ukraine's entire population, have been in harm's way as residents and as refugees.

With prayers for the safety of all those who find themselves in danger and that we see the day when “nations will beat their swords into plowshares … and not learn war anymore.”

Many have asked me how they can help?

Spiritually, help can be sent through prayer and mitzvahs.

Today as the sun sets, Shabbat will be ushered in. Jewish women and girls worldwide, light Shabbat candles on time and add light to the world. Shabbat candles are an especially powerful mitzvah that ushers peace and light into the world.

Click here for instructions https://youtu.be/9JYBX56fd0U

 Financially, you can help via The Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund has been established to help provide assistance to the Jewish communities in Ukraine impacted by the war.

These fund will go to directly to the relief efforts, to provide food, shelter, transportation for escape, and other vital provisions to those who are in need.

Oseh Shalom Bimromov Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu Ve’al Kol Yisrael VEIMRU AMEN!!!

Now for something local. Here in Bangkok.

On Monday 4:43 AM a fire broke out in the fourth floor of Major Cineplex at Soi Ekamai (you can see pictures of the flames in this report) and quickly spread to the third and fifth floor.

Why am I writing about a fire in Bangkok?

Because about twelve hours earlier, Nechama and I had taken our local chapter of CTeen to a bowling activity at the bowling alley in the fourth floor of Major Cineplex at Soi Ekamai.

Thank G-d the electrical circuit that is suspected as having caused the fire, did not ignite while we were there.

Who knows how close the fire may have been to breaking out when we were there and hence what big a miracle we experienced?

Before bowling, the five teenage boys put on Tefilin and said the prayers of Shema Yisrael. I am sure that those prayers, pure holiness made in such an incongruous setting, to the blaring music of non-Synagogue-style music, had a great effect.

There is something very special when holy deeds are performed where you would least expect them. The analogy given is that when a bird speaks, it causes much excitement. Not so when a person speaks. The more unexpected and absurd something is, the more excitement it generates. I am therefore quite convinced that the prayers in the bowling alley caused a joy up in Heaven.

(If you think Tefilin in a Bangkok bowling alley is cool... click on this link that shows the CTeen event last Saturday night at TIMES SQUARE in NY. What an epic Jewish Pride event!!!)

I use this forum to say Thank you Hashem, for keeping us safe.

And thank you Hashem that the fire didn’t break out when the building was full of people but happened at a time when the building was empty, and no one was harmed.

During our bowling game, I asked the teens if they could think of a life lesson to be learned from bowling.

The lesson we came up with was:

MAKE IT COUNT.

When you get a spare or a strike, the next ball you bowl has the power to not just be worth the number of pins you knock down during that frame, it also impacts the amount of points you will get on your previous frame.

The opportunities and gifts that we are endowed with, didn’t start with us. We are blessed to be a link in a glorious chain of history that came before us.

Our parents, grandparents and ancestors toiled, preserved, and sacrificed to bring us to the place that we are in life.

It behooves us to MAKE IT COUNT.

To ensure that their sacrifices are not wasted like a bowling ball thrown mindlessly that goes off into the gutter of the bowling lane.

If we think about our lives as being a continuation and culmination of all of the years of sweat and toil of those who preceded us, we will invest the proper thought and ‘kavana’ in living meaningful and inspiring lives.

We will not just squander our life away without investing it with spirituality and meaning.

A day after the bowling outing I was invited to address Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz’s 50th birthday celebration via Zoom.

This is a person who has chosen to be a beacon of light and positivity while being challenged to the highest degree.

I was humbled to be called upon to share greetings with a hero like R’ Yitzi.

For his first four decades, the life of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz followed the typical contours of a Chassid. He was raised in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the epicenter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, where he observed and learned from the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

He studied in yeshivah, enjoyed singing, strumming his guitar and dancing, and otherwise threw himself into Chassidic life.

Following their marriage, he and his wife, Dina, established a Chabad center in Temecula, Calif., where they raised their seven children.

Then the improbable happened, and the rabbi was diagnosed with a disease that robbed him of his movement but not his optimism and faith.

In the years since his diagnosis, the father of seven became a bastion of inspiration to millions worldwide through his uplifting, transformative (and always optimistic) writings on Chabad.org, his musical compositions and through the bright smiles he shared with the yeshivah students.

The students had the idea ofsurprising him on his 46th birthday with 4,600 mitzvahs, and shepherded the campaign into an organized global effort that gains more and more traction every year.

This year, they are aiming for 30,000 tefillin donnings and thousands of other mitzvahs besides—an ambitious increase over last year’s goal of 20,000 mitzvahs, each one documented and shared with the rabbi.

Visit www.tefillinforyitzi.com and submit your mitzvah gift for Rabbi Yitzi to become part of the world’s largest birthday mitzvahthon in history!

This is a music video of a song R’ Yitzi wrote before being diagnosed with ALS. Shine a Little Light

R’ Yitzi is a source of inspiration for everyone who gets to know of him.

It adds a new meaning to the words MAKE IT COUNT!!!

My dear friends, let us give thanks to Hashem for all the myriads of blessings that we have.

For our mobility, our abilities to speak, laugh, dance and communicate.

Let us get rid of OY vey and replace it with JOY vey, or Oh YEAH as we recognize just how blessed we truly are!!!

Today is the first day of the month of Adar – the most JOYOUS month of the year.

Let us REJOICE with all the blessings that we have. And let us PRAY for peace in the world, for health for all and for the ultimate ending of this exile and its travails with the coming of Mashiach AMEN

Chodesh Tov, Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

what can we do?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I am going to begin with thoughts from a little corner of the world called Pai.

For ‘what can we do’ regarding the global turmoil, please scroll down.

I had just arrived at Chabad House in Chiang Mai on my visit to oversee the activities of our branch there. My phone rang at 3PM. It was from the USA. Which was odd, because it was 3am in the time zone of the USA number that was calling. Mr. J. R. began the conversation by saying that he was looking for some help regarding his son who was in Pai.

I almost dropped the phone. This was just so incredulous.

‘I just this minute came from Pai’ I responded.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I went south to Ko Pangan and Ko Samui to oversee our work there. This time I went to visit our Chabad Houses up North. In Pai and Chiang Mai.

Getting to Pai can is a dizzying experience. The hundreds of curves in the mountainous road have their effect. The three-hour drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is quite a journey. I had driven up to Pai the day before, participated in a dinner/Torah lesson at the Chabad House and after sleeping overnight in Pai, had just arrived back in Chiang Mai for a brief visit and meeting with Rabbi Pikel before my flight to Bangkok.

And then this extraordinary call, from a Jewish man in the USA who was looking for assistance for his son in Pai.

The only other time I was in Pai was four years ago. At that time, I had gone to look for a man who just lost his father and his family was concerned how he would take the news. After that visit, we opened our Chabad House there. Thank G-d there is an active Chabad House there now.

Of all times, just after I ‘descended from the mountains’ of Pai, I get this ‘random’ call about a young Jew who needs some help in Pai.

This was not at all random. To me, this was an incredible display of Divine Providence. It was received by me as a clear confirmation from Above that I was on the right path.

The ‘Divine Hug’ made me feel exhilarated.

I asked Mr. R. what the time was for him. He told me that it was 3am. Mr. R. explained that he was calling me at 3am his time because as a devoted father, he had spoken at length to his son at the time that best suited his son. We chatted, and played Jewish geography for a few minutes and then he asked me if I had time for a meaningful story. He shared a very powerful story with me, that I would like to share to with you.

As a major appliance repairman, I entered many homes in the devoutly Jewish area that I serviced. One elderly rabbi made a deep impression on him. This elderly stooped over rabbi, insisted on serving me something to eat and drink before I looked at the appliance that needed repairing. This gesture touched me so deeply that I mentioned this rabbi’s name and his benevolence to some other people. I was told the following story about him in his role of principal of a religious boys Yeshiva that make me choke up with emotion whenever I tell it over. I think every teacher needs to hear this story.

A certain boy was misbehaving and was sent to the principal’s office. The principal was thoughtful and told the boy that he would need to think overnight about the appropriate way to discipline him. The next day, the boy returned to the principal’s office and the principal reached under this desk and handed him a wrapped box. ‘What is this?’ asked the child, ‘I thought you wanted time to think about my punishment’.

‘this is a gift for all the other days that you behaved well’ replied the principal.

Mr. R. finished telling me the story with a voice holding back tears of emotion.

‘If only the principal in the Yeshiva day school I went to as a child would have had that approach. With that attitude, I may have actually stayed in the Jewish day school I was attending…’

Whenever I meet a teacher, I share this story of the principal who gave a gift to the child who was expecting a reprimand. With this heartfelt gesture he instilled within the child the conviction that he was a good kid, and that he was seen that way by his educators. Thanks to this realization, he then sought to live up to the positive boy he was perceived to be’.

The story touched me deeply, and trust that you too will take it to heart. The future of our children and students is impacted by the way we view them and treat them.

(See this video of ‘Four Individuals Forever Affected by the Rebbe’ (at 3 minutes in, there is a similar story to the one above of a boy kicked out of Yeshiva) which highlights the lifechanging effect we can have on people by viewing them positively).

Let us be uplifting, inspiring and positive to those in our spheres. Its easy to be negative and punitive. It is far more challenging and requires more creativity to impact people from a place of positivity, light and optimism. But it is well worth the effort.

May I use food as an example. Fast food is quicker and easier. Healthy eating requires more planning, may be more expensive and takes more effort. However, it is effort that is well worth it.

Kosher food may require yet more planning. Because the Almighty, Creator of our bodies instructed it, its benefit in physical and spiritual health are supernaturally powerful. When the ‘manufacturer’ tells you what ‘fuel’ to use in your car, it makes perfect sense to stick religiously to it. As it does to adhere to G-d’s instruction for how to ‘fuel’ our bodies with nutrition.

Before you take the easy, ‘fast food’ approach and criticize someone else instinctively and (all too often) negatively, take a deep breath, and think of whether you can address the issue from a positive place.

The principal who was able to reach the soul of the child by highlighting his positivity changed not just that child, but Mr. R. who told me the story, me who heard the story, and you who are hearing it from me.

I have just shared a ‘small’ story. Regarding a ‘small’ action. To a ‘small’ boy. That I heard after having just come down the mountains from a ‘small’ rural village.

Does it really make a difference in the larger scheme of things?

My friends, during these days of world crisis, it is tempting to be pulled in to the news sites and commentary and disregard our personal behavior as being small an insignificant in the larger picture.

This weeks Parsha talks about the mass gathering of all Jewish men, women and children, by Moshe.  The meeting was to convey the instructions about the construction of the most powerful site on earth. They were instructed to collect materials and funds to build the Mishkan (traveling Temple). This was the most desirable and valuable place in the universe, as it was the place that G-d rested His holy presence here amongst us.

Wouldn’t it be sufficient to have just gathered the ‘top brass’ of the people? The upper echelons. Great saints, accomplished architects and artisans, fabulously wealthy people and anyone else who could be of intrinsic value to this incredible project.

Why the need for Moshe to gather every single man, woman and child?

Furthermore, for the foundational sockets of the Mishkan, there was a mandatory half shekel contribution required by every male over the age of twenty. The poor man could not give less. The rich man could not give more. This really emphasized the point that EVERY ONE needed to be a part of the building.

(For the general collection of materials and money for other items besides the foundational sockets, donations of all sizes and from all sectors of the population were accepted and lauded).

Hashem was telling the Jewish people that every single one of you counts. The collective is made up of individuals. When each segment of the nation does what it is tasked to do, the entire nation functions seamlessly.

One of the ways that we remind ourselves of our indispensability to the collective, is the celebration of our personal birthday.

The Rebbe launched a campaign that everyone of us should celebrate our birthdays. (The campaign was launched on the birthday of the Rebbe’s wife, the first year after her passing).

Why are birthdays so important?

Here is why:

Your birthday commemorates the day on which G‑d said to you: “You, as an individual, are unique and irreplaceable. No person alive, no person who has ever lived, and no person who shall ever live, can fulfill the specific role in My creation I have entrusted to you ... ” click here for more about birthdays.

This leads us to the answer of WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THE GLOBAL SITUATION?

The Jewish people are one organism. When one part hurts, we all hurt. And when one part is strengthened, the whole body is healthier.

Right now, our fellow Jews in the Ukraine and Russia are on all our minds. But if they are the heart of the matter, and we are the other parts of the body we can help them by strengthening ourselves.

Here is some information from some of my colleagues, Rabbi’s in various cities in Ukraine.

Like a person who walks for the health of his heart, though we are so far away we can do Mitzvot for the health and wellbeing of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. And it makes a difference.

Here are four suggestions:

1. Tzedakah

Give what you can to Tzedakah, especially toward the needs of those in harm's way in Ukraine. You can give by using this link (please do so before the arrival of Shabbat,)

2. Prayer

Offer up prayers to G-d on their behalf. Tehillim (Psalms) is always crucial during any crisis. Here is a link to chapter 20 of Tehillim, though you can recite any or all of Tehillim.

Saying the Shema daily is also a great Mitzvah, and for men, reciting it in Tefillin is best.

3. Lighting Candles

Women and girls, when you light the Shabbat candles before Shabbat (click here for your local time) whisper a prayer on their behalf following the blessing on the candles.

4. Torah

Increase your daily intake of Torah study. Whether you have Torah books or study online, Torah is G-d's antidote for all the world's pains. Here is a link to a wonderful daily Torah regimen by Rabbi Gordon, of blessed memory.

May G-d bless His world with peace. May Al-mighy G-d send his blessings and protect the Jewish people everywhere and indeed all of mankind know only light, gladness, joy and dignity. 

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

half-shekel-bliss meditation

Dear Friend,

I met W. more than a decade ago. In Mumbai.

It was not long after the tragic terror attack that took the lives of my colleagues Rabbi Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg.

At the time, I was overseeing the Chabad branch in Mumbai and we were in the midst of renovating the womens Mikva that R’ Gabi had built.

W. was there for business. We ate our Shabbat meals together at the improvised Chabad location and I spoke about the greatness of the mitzvah of Family Purity and Mikvah.

Realizing the golden opportunity of providing funds for this special mitzvah, and realizing that Divine Providence had brought him to do (successful) business in Mumbai, W most generously undertook to pay the entire renovation expense.

It’s a decade later.

Rabbi Yisrael Kozlovsky the shliach in Mumbai, mentioned to me that he is doing an expansion and renovation of that same Mikva.

I said to myself, I should give the first ‘rights’ to this mitzvah to the one who did it a decade ago.

I reached out to W. who lives in America and told him the story.

W. responded

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for reaching out and offering me the opportunity to participate in this wonderful mitzvah. Unfortunately, I will need to take a pass as I am still not in the financial position that I once was. Bezrat  HaShem (with G-d’s help) that will change in the near future, as I have a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah again like I used to. 

May HaShem continue to bless you and give you tremendous koach (energy) to continue the wonderful work that you do for Klal Yisroel.

W

I was so touched by this heartwarming response, ‘a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah’, that I scheduled a call with W.

During our talk, W shared with me how in the last few years his business efforts don’t seem to be yielding the successful fruits that they used to. I listened empathetically and wished him all the best. W then said something that is bouncing around in my consciousness these past few days.

Rabbi, I feel that the problem is that I was trying too hard. Like with Joseph when he was in prison in Egypt.

‘It is time to leave room for G-d ’, concluded W.

Here is the lesson from Joseph that W was referring to:

Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was imprisoned alongside Pharaoh’s royal butler. Joseph befriended the butler and carefully followed his case. When the butler was exonerated, Joseph beseeched him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. The Torah informs us that the butler forgot about Joseph, causing him to languish in prison for two more years. The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler.

Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security.” The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d.

Joseph’s mistake was that he should have realized that he had no way of knowing if his attempt to have the butler intercede for him would bear fruit. For all he knew, G‑d might not have intended at all to bring about his salvation through the butler. He should have realized that while he was meant to pursue the avenue placed before him, he was not meant to rely on it for certain that this would be the avenue that G‑d will choose.

(By Rabbi Lazer Gurkov on Chabad.org click here for full article)

The message is quite clear. Sometimes we think that WE need to do everything. We stress over every single detail to the point of ‘worrying ourselves ill’ as the saying goes. We ‘believe’ misguidedly that it is solely OUR efforts that bring success. The more prowess and diligence, the more successful. The more driven and results oriented we are, the better results we will have.

W, a very successful businessman for many years, was telling me, he feels he needs to shift mindsets. He has come to the realization that he needs to deemphasize his preoccupation with ‘moving and shaking’ and overexerting.

He needs to leave room for G-d and only when he does that, honestly and authentically, the blessings will come raining down.

This message resonated very deeply with me.

Was it because our kosher meat shipment from USA became so entangled?

It should have been a simple importation of meat.

Prime USA beef. Kosher. Health certificates that are approved by the Thai FDA. All set to go.

Oops. No frozen sea containers available. (Those who are in import/export know that there is a worldwide crisis in shipping).

With no alternative options we needed to make some decisions. The meat was paid for already. There was no ‘money back on return’ option. Anyway, we needed the meat. Our freezers here in Thailand are empty and our community deserves to have the opportunity to eat kosher meat. We took a deep breath and decided to bring it over via air.

Singapore airlines cargo delivered the meat to the Thai airport.

With one ‘minor’ thing missing. The health certificates that accompanied the shipment were somehow lost.

Singapore Airlines are not known to be sloppy. Somehow though, they misplaced the documents and admitted that this was their fault. Their fault or not, the meat was now stuck. The Thai authorities were not agreeable to release the meat based on copies. They wanted the original documents. We went scrambling in different directions to see how it could be done. Perhaps since it is USA beef the US Embassy would help?

Thank G-d, we didn’t need to wait to find out.

Inexplicably after five days, the papers showed up in Singapore.

Another few days of dealing with Thai officials, back and forth ‘etc’… thank G-d the meat was released.

(Yep, we now have BEEF AND LAMB in the JCafe Kosher Shop).

Maybe that is why I was thinking about how true it is that we need to realize how critical G-d’s participation is.

Or was it because a close friend of mine traveled overseas for a medical procedure on their one-year-old child, only to have it cancelled when the otherwise healthy one year old came out ‘positive’ on the Covid test? Initially, my friend was devastated as this meant that all of their carefully thought-out plans unraveled totally.

Probably it is because this weeks Parsha so clearly spells this concept out.

The Parsha speaks about the obligation that the Jews have (during Temple times) to give a half shekel to the annual Bet Hamkidash (Holy Temple) collection.

The Torah describes the full shekel as being comprised of twenty ‘gerah’ units. Thus the half shekel would be ten ‘gerah’ units. Why then does the Torah refer to it as a HALF shekel, rather than TEN gerah’s?

Many answers have been given.

One of the lessons is, that we have two view our efforts as being but HALF. The other half comes from the Almighty.

In other words. There are two partners to the ‘dance’ of life. Hashem and the human he created.

The Creator wants the created being to do his best and try his hardest. Hashem instructs us to put forth our sincere efforts. In all aspects of life. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As I heard it put, ‘G-d doesn’t ask you to give what you DON’T have, but He does ask you to give what you DO have’.

At the same time one should always remember that whatever the human being does, is really no more than half. We are dependent on Hashem to provide His blessings and energy.

This way of thinking leads to a much more wholesome and peaceful way of life.

You don’t even need to run to the coconut trees and lapping waves of ‘the islands’. Ironically, there are many ‘stressed out’ people living on ‘the islands’.  Conversely, there are many tranquil people living in the hecticness of ‘the city’.

True tranquility comes from the mind.

It starts from belief and trust in Hashem.

Anxiety is often a product of trying to do more than your half and not leaving Hashems part for Hashem.

When you recognize that you have done your bit, and now it is time to allow Hashem to do His half, this brings the greatest peace of mind.

Actionable take away.

If you hit a spot of anxiety, try to remember this ‘half shekel’ meditation.

G-d only expects me to do half.

The other ‘half’ will come from G-d.

And while the situation does look overwhelming, I can remain peaceful and calm.

For I have done what I can about it.

G-d will do His part.

I don’t know how it will sort itself out, but I don’t need to stress about it. Rather, let me imagine myself as an onlooker, who (while being certain that it WILL work out) is curious to see how Hashem is going to handle this situation.

May you have a tranquil, peaceful and restful Shabbat.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Keep the change

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This week I was cc’ed to an email that inspired me.

Avi, a friend who lives in Israel, alerted our Chabad of Thailand Israel office that his one-time donation had been charged a second time. It seems that a bug in the computer system set up a recurring donation rather than a onetime one.

Our secretary conveyed our apologies and explained that it was a technology glitch. Avi was very understanding and forgiving. Regarding our offer to reimburse him the amount of the mistaken charge, he graciously responded that he would prefer to leave that as a donation. Once it was given to Tzedaka, even though it was unintentional, he didn’t want to take it back.

A few hours later Avi wrote to me to share an incredible Divine Providence.

Avi is working on a project memorializing Jewish life in the Polish town of Ostowiec (Ostrovtza) from before the war. As part of that project, he was translating some old testimonies that had been published in Yiddish and Hebrew in that village.

Just after Avi had said he wouldn’t take back the money from Tzedaka,`he ‘happened’ to translate the following story that took place in the Jewish community in prewar Poland.

‘We, (a group of teens) started a ‘Gemach’ (Gemilut Chassadim – interest free loans) Fund’. In 1914 we had 100 rubles of capital. Our loan amounts were between 6-10 rubles. I was the treasurer and held the cash and any objects that had been given as loan guarantees. Before Pesach 1914 we had given a 6-ruble loan to a wagon driver. He had given us his wife’s earing as a guarantee. A few weeks later when I checked the box of valuables the earrings were missing. We consulted with my father who said that as the treasurer, I must pay 30 rubles penalty and that we should try to negotiate with the wagon driver to accept that amount as compensation for losing the earrings. When we went to discuss the matter with the driver, we were pleasantly surprised. It turns out that he had asked for the earring back before Pesach so that his wife could go to Synagogue looking respectable. This was a very sweet ending as when I tried to return the 30 ruble that my father had given on my behalf, my father refused to accept it. He said that from Tzedaka you don’t take back. It should be added as a donation to the loan fund.’

Avi shared this with me with excitement. As literally an hour or so after he had said he would not take back money from the Tzedakah (even thought it was ‘mistaken’), he read this story from 1914 where that same concept was practiced.

This was inspiring to me. I contemplated sharing it in my weekly email but wasn’t sure.

Except that yesterday I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was an elderly woman who lives in Thailand, she is not Jewish but was asking me for the banking details of Chabad of Thailand Foundation to deposit a donation from her friend.  Here is what she told me.

I offered to help a friend who lives overseas redo the fading wording on their parents’ memorial stone at a cemetery in Thailand and my friend sent me money to cover the expenses. She sent me too much money though. I asked my friend whether she wanted me to send back the extra, or perhaps she wanted to give it to charity in Thailand. She chose to give it to several local charities. As she is Jewish, she asked that I give some to Chabad of Thailand.

Three encounters in one week of money that was not intended for Tzedakah, but once having left the account of the person the giver chose not to take it back. Rather it was reappropriated to Tzedakah.

This third story tipped the scales for me. Three stories in one week! I knew that I must share these stories and I must find the message contained therein.

Surely if I reflected on these stories, I would find a connection to the weekly Parsha. For the Alter Rebbe taught that we should ‘live with the times’ i.e. we should find our lessons for contemporary life, in the weekly Torah portion.

This week’s parsha Tetzaveh, is the only portion since Moshe’s birth at the beginning of the book of Exodus, that his name is not mentioned.

It is not just by chance. It is a result of something Moshe said.

After the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem was so displeased with the Jewish People that He proposed to start a new Jewish people from Moshe. When Moshe heard this, he reacted with an ultimatum saying, that either Hashem must forgive the Jews, ‘and if not wipe me out of the book that You have written’. In other words, either have compassion on this nation by forgiving them and continuing the Jewish people with them, or take me out of the picture.

Hashem did forgive the Jews based on Moshe’s entreaties.

If you follow the exact wording of the ultimatum, this meant that Moshe could ‘stay in the book’ of the Torah.

Our Sages tell us, that since Moshe had uttered those words, ‘erase me from the book’, some residual affect did remain. He is symbolically not mentioned in one portion of the Torah.

The portion in which his name is absent, is this week’s portion. (The Sages point out that this is also providential, as the reading of this ‘Moshe’less’ Parsha is in close proximity to the day of his passing).

Does this sound like a punishment? Moshe’s name is taken out of one parsha because he ‘stood up’ on behalf of his people?

In light of the above stories I had an interesting thought. Perhaps following through on being omitted from the ‘book’ (in a very reduced way) was actually Moshe’s will.

Moshe had ‘given’ the greatest ‘tzedaka’ possible to his people. He had said I will remove myself if my people is not saved. The sacrifice Moshe was prepared to make on behalf of his people was an epic ‘tzedaka’ gift!

Now Hashem has said that he is going forgive the people and thus according to the ‘deal’ Moshe proposed, his name can stay in the Torah.

Perhaps Moshe says, I don’t want to take back that Tzedaka that I have  given.

A compromise is reached. Moshe’s name is omitted from one Parsha.

Once we are discussing this topic, let’s try to analyse, what  was Hashem’s view of Moshe’s act of sacrifice?

Was it viewed by Him as ‘chutzpah’ G-d forbid? I mean, Moshe did give an ultimatum after all. Is that the way one should speak to G-d?

The opposite is true. We see in the final words of the Torah how Hashem cherished and lauded Moshe for this heroic self-sacrifice.

Click here for an article that explains the breaking of the tablets, a similarly bold undertaking of Moshe.

In Hashem’s eyes (so to speak) Moshe’s statement was the statement of the ultimate Jewish leader. A leader who puts himself aside on behalf of his people. Being that these are G-d’s children that Moshe is caring for, Hashem is ‘happy’ to hear that Moshe is ready to forego everything on their behalf.

The message to us?

You got an unexpected windfall? A reimbursement? The money is out of your domain?

Redirect it to Tzedaka to help others.

When you have undertaken to do something good, don’t walk back on it.

You committed verbally to do something nice for someone?

Make good on it. How often do people say ‘lets stay in touch’ and then not do anything about it. Or make a commitment like ‘I am going to take you out for coffee…’ and then promptly forget about it. (If you are in Bangkok, JCafe is a great place for coffee and schmooze 😊 ).

Make good on your verbal commitments.

Furthermore, even if you only had a good THOUGHT to do something good, take yourself seriously and ACT on it.

And while we can’t be as great as Moshe, we can certainly try to act more ‘Moshe’like’ and learn to put ourselves on the side on behalf of others.

With blessing of Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS in honor of the month of Adar, where anguish was turned to joy, I share this below link. It is a story that inspired me deeply, and I trust that you too will be likewise touched.

From Con Man to Chassid – the true story of Pinchas ben Peretz Halevi

May we all be motivated to have the courage to transform ourselves, from good to even gooder.


blizzards to sunny beaches

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

During these winter months, it is quite comfortable to be living in Thailand.

Just reading about the recent weather patterns in Israel and large parts of USA makes one shiver.

My brother-in-law Rabbi Shalom Paltiel, is the founder of Chabad of Port Washington, in New Yorks Long Island. Maybe that is why he shared a story about a blizzard in a recent email newsletter.

The story inspired me deeply, and I am sharing it the way he wrote it.

Growing up, my father (may he be well for long and healthy years) would tell us a story of a man journeying on foot from town to town, back in the day, when he was confronted by a huge snowstorm. He's in middle of nowhere between towns, there isn't an inn or any house in sight, and he's beginning to freeze.

After trekking for hours in blizzard conditions, he's feeling weak and tired. But he keeps on moving in the direction of the nearest town. Each time he's tempted to succumb to the temptation to take a little rest, he forges ahead, realizing that even a short nap means he'll surely freeze to death.

But eventually the exhaustion gets the better of him. He's exhausted. He's totally depleted. He can't move another inch. He's feeling dizzy and faint. He makes the bad decision, against his better judgement, to take a little rest, telling himself it'll be a short rest and it'll be ok...

As he sits down near a tree, and clears away some snow, he feels a human hand beneath the snow... OMG! He quickly moves away more snow to uncover a full human being lying frozen under the snow. He takes the man's pulse. It's still beating. He jumps into action! With newfound strength he lifts the man, shakes the snow off of him, throws him on his shoulder, and runs to the next town...

Saving two lives...

My father would explain the anecdote to give insight into the Rebbe's approach to Jewish outreach. The Rebbe encouraged every Jew to be an ambassador for Judaism, sharing whatever he or she knows and practices to help inspire another Jew, paying forward the love and the inspiration, one Jew at a time, with one Mitzvah at a time.

 

"Warming up" a fellow Jew is the surest way to keep ourselves warm and inspired!

When it's cold and snowy outside, my heart is always warmed with the sweetness of the message this story conveys. Let's keep the inspiration going. Let's keep it warm on the inside, and these freezing days will have served their purpose well.

Stay well and stay warm!

Thanks dear brother-in-law for sharing that inspiring concept.

Now, let me get you out of the cold and bring you back to the sun and its warmth. I write to you from the heat of Bangkok with air-conditioning on, not heating.

It’s a very special time. We are in the first week of the month of Adar, (of which this year we have two due to the Jewish ‘leap year’).

Adar, is the month that the sages instruct us to be happy. It’s a healthy and happy month. G-d Almighty saved us from the despotic, tyrannical Haman who intended to carry out genocide against our people. Things were transformed. We didn’t just get our lives back, and succeed in repelling the pogrom, we got a new holiday added to our calendar. The holiday of Purim (this year Wednesday night/Thursday – March 16-17). The most joyous day of the Jewish calendar is Purim.

The joy of Purim spreads to the entire month. In this year its two months. SIXTY DAYS of Adar. Sixty days of joy.

The Rebbe made a very passionate plea to urge all of us (you, I, and anyone else who hears the message) to rejoice, but not just keep the joy to ourselves. Rather we should be sure to bring joy to OTHERS!!!

Starting of course with your own immediate family. Spouse. Children. Other family members.

But not limited to your family circle only.

Preferably your ripples should spread even broader, to a ‘minyan’ of people – to TEN other people at least.

Do you know what happens when you cause others to be joyous?

Yep. You guessed. YOU TOO BECOME JOYOUS.

And do you know what happens when you become joyous?

Your LIFE BECOMES MORE HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL!!!

So here is the recipe to happiness.

Look to make someone else joyous. Moreover, look to make a ‘minyan’ of people joyous.

Just like that snow story. If you are busy making others happy you too will be happy. You can take a look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate the great joy that you have been suffused with. Don’t put up barriers. Just let yourself ‘go with the flow’ of healthy and positive energy that comes your way.

Hashem gave me a special opportunity this week.

As Covid shut the world down, I had been hearing more and more, of Israeli families relocating to the island of Ko Pangan. As part of my mission from the Rebbe to spread Torah throughout the Thailand region, I realized it was time to pay a visit, and feel out what Ko Pangan was like and consider how to best service the Jews living there.

An opportunity arose. A friend from Bangkok was visiting Ko Pangan and introduced me via video call to a family living on the island who has a son approaching Bar Mitzvah. The ceremony and celebration will take place in Israel, but they asked me if I could teach the boy to prepare him. I now had a concrete mission. A Jewish boy, reaching the age of manhood, and I had the opportunity to teach him how to put on Tefilin and be called to the Torah. This to me is presented the perfect and irresistible reason to make time to visit Ko Pangan and meet the family.

It is always a challenge to find the time to make exploratory trips of this nature. Hashem presented me with the perfect opportunity. Earlier this week I found that some appointments on my schedule had been changed unexpectedly, leaving me with two days that I could make this trip. I asked my wife if she would be game to go to Ko Pangan for the day. When she heard the reasons, to further our mission of spreading Torah and meeting a potential Bar Mitzvah student, she gave the green light.

Off we went. Flight to Samui. Transfer to pier. Speedboat/ferry ride of 30 minutes to Ko Pangan. Hot sun. Choppy waters. Strong smell of engine fuel. I can’t say we enjoyed the ride. In the pictures it sounds nice, and the word speedboat ferry sounds glorious. Which is why you can’t rely on social media posts to experience life. You need to get out there and actually experience things.

We visited various areas of the island and had some very enlightening and informative meetings and experiences. We wound up our visit with our meeting with the Bar Mitzvah boy. We met just across the street from pier. I put on tefillin with the father and confirmed that they would come to Bangkok for some lessons, which we would complement with lessons via Zoom. Off we went to the return ferry.

The ferry departure time was 16:30. At about 16:25 they started boarding. Jumping into the bobbing boat was not something I do every day but we made it in safely thank G-d. After sitting down on the boat, I took out my phone and noted the arrival of a new voice note from a number in the USA that I didn’t recognize. That voice note had arrived at 16:28.

As the boat was revving up its engine to leave the island, I listened to the note. It was from a friend of mine in Yeshiva. He called to tell me that his son – who has the soul of a ‘searcher’ – would be coming to spend six months on some island not far from Ko Samui to learn Muay Tai. He was sending me the note to introduce his son to me and tell me that he was coming. He didn’t know the name of the island. Only that it was near Ko Samui as his son said he would visit Chabad of Ko Samui periodically.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

I asked my friend (not sure what he was doing up at 4:28 AM in the USA) is the name of the island Ko Pangan? He confirmed a few minutes later that yes, his son was coming to Ko Pangan. I told my friend that I was just concluding a fact-finding mission and was on my way off that very island.

Divine Providence at its best.

I could not have received greater heavenly confirmation to our itinerary than this.

Just as we had concluded a pioneering visit to the island, we got a further sign that indeed Ko Pangan, while being famous for its parties, has another dimension to it. It is also a haven for people looking for meaning and purpose in life. Apparently against the backdrop of this calming and peaceful island people are able to slow down and get more in touch with themselves.

Wouldn’t this be a wonderful location to spread the depth and meaningfulness of Torah? We left from this short visit with a much deeper understanding and feeling about the nature of the island and the mindset of the Jewish people who choose to call it home or pay it visits of varying lengths.

To be continued please G-d.

The ferry ride back to Ko Samui was even more turbulent than the way there. not very enjoyable to say the least. After a brief visit to Chabad House of Ko Samui where we enjoyed Rabbi Mendy Goldschmiedt’s warm hospitality, we flew back to Bangkok. Happy to be back ‘home’ in our familiar environment.

It’s a few days later, but Nechama and I are still elated and uplifted from the positive energy of this trip and the possibilities that exist for reaching more Jews and spreading more Torah and Mitzvahs. Especially this G-dly ‘caress’ of the voice note showing up when it did. This showed us in a tangible way just how every detail of our lives is directed by the Almighty down to the exact timing of visits and voice notes.

Our visit was on the first day of the month of Adar.

Clearly, Hashem gifted us with a JOYOUS trip and an affectionate gesture by showing us the openly Divine Providence coming together of events.

My month of Adar blessings to you, my dear friend.

May Hashem remove all obstacles to happiness.

May Hashem provide you with all of the ingredients that engender JOYOUSNESS.

Good health, stable income, nachas from children, amongst all of the other ingredients that make happiness easier to achieve.

And may you adopt the Rebbe’s advice, to make others happy, and have much success in achieving the mission of spreading happiness to others, and becoming a HAPPIER YOU!

May the Almighty grant our world the ultimate happiness. The coming of Mashiach NOW!!!

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