Printed from JewishThailand.com

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

'Sacrifice’ the ‘easy’ way!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A congregant and I were commiserating about the difficult times we are living in.

Herman is a leader in the hospitality industry and understandably the current downturn in tourism and the ‘social distancing’ restrictions have created huge challenges in operating the hotel he manages. 

I am in the spiritual leadership field yet for me too it is a difficult time as the restrictions have handicapped many of the standard aspects of Jewish communal life. 

‘But we really shouldn’t complain said Herman’. ‘When my father and cousin were in hiding from the Nazis during WWII there was no ‘FoodPanda’ or ‘Zoom’. ‘Not to mention that my grandparents who were taken to Auschwitz and Sobibor were never heard from again’.

He has a good point. Indeed, it is important to put things in perspective. The previous generations faced threats of mortal danger that we cannot even imagine. For a large percentage of us, the current situation is more about the disruption and the havoc than the actual danger to life. (G-d forbid I am not trying to minimize the toll this has taken in terms of loss of life and health, but for a great majority it has thank G-d been more about major disruption than actual danger).

Jobs are in jeopardy for many. Incomes are less. Uncertainty is rampant. These are not easy times, but they are for the most part manageable. Not life and death. Even our religious life need not be diminished.

Truth be told, we can maintain a great Jewish life even under these conditions. It takes readjusting and learning to do things a bit differently,

Some things have even received an unexpected upgrade during this crisis. For example, I have seen more attendance at my Torah classes than ever before. They are via Zoom, and I can’t serve coffee or shake hands, but the transmission of Torah knowledge, which is at core of what a ‘shiur Torah’ is, takes place fully. G-d has even granted me the opportunity to teach Torah on an international level. Because of this situation I have been invited to do a daily post on Facebook Live via Chabad.org Facebook page. I am not sure how to figure out how many people watch, but it is certainly more than I have ever had before at a class. What a merit this is, to be able to be a Torah teacher in this kind of forum.

The Synagogue was closed for some time. Prayer however, never stopped. You don’t need anything, other than your warm heart to pray to Hashem. You can do it in your own words, at your own pace, in your own place and all by yourself. The prayers I did in solitude over the last few months have been meaningful and inspiring. Many people have shared with me that their prayers have been heartfelt even when done in their own homes.

The Synagogue is now open for prayers on Shabbat. 

(We are phasing our reopening. 

For now, we are open for tefilot/prayer services only.

Communal meals have not yet resumed. 

Sermons and classes are via Zoom only.

Masks required. Social distancing rules followed. 

For those in a higher risk bracket, this is not to be viewed as a professional opinion about the situation here in Bangkok. Please make sure to get professional medical advice as to whether its safe for you to attend.

If you plan to attend, please email me or WhatsApp me in advance so that we can ensure we keep to the limits and requirements.

We hope that things continue to progress here in the miraculously positive way they seem to be going, thank G-d).

Things have not always been so religiously liberated and rosy for our people.

A hundred years ago in Russia things were vastly different. The Bolshevik revolution aimed to replace religion with atheism. The observance of Judaism was seen as being an obstacle in the way to achieving the utopian communist dream.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitschak Schneerson, defied them and courageously led the battle for the preservation of Judaism in Russia. He did this via his clandestine network of students who founded underground ‘cheders’ where Jewish children would study Torah. Often they were discovered and the teachers sent to Siberia or simply killed by the firing squad. Mikvahs and synagogues, bris and chupa, all of these Jewish rituals were considered anti-state activities and were carried out in hiding by these heroic Jews. 

Eventually the communists arrested the Rebbe and after a summary show trial they intended to end his life as they had done to so many other brave religious functionaries. 

Friends and followers got to work around the world raising an outcry in halls of governments that may have some influence, including the USA. Miraculously, although Russia didn’t usually yield to outside pressure, the Soviet commuted the Rebbe’s sentence to a ten-year exile in Siberia. After more pressure was exerted it was commuted to a three-year exile in a less remote locale. After ten days in exile, the order to free the Rebbe was received. 

Shortly thereafter he left Russia and after ten years in Poland the Rebbe moved to America, arriving in NY in 1940. All the while, till his passing ten years later, he fought the Soviet atheistic designs. The ranks of his devoted followers, who were ready to follow his lead and exert supreme self-sacrifice to continue to ensure that the flame of the Torah would stay alight for the millions of Jews trapped behind the Iron curtain, was thinned by the war and by the small waves of emigration that followed the war. Only a miniscule group of devout, non-yielding observant Jews remained behind, expending every effort to keep the underground Yiddishkeit alive.

The embers remained but the flame was not evident. Jewish life had gone so deeply underground that it seemed truly endangered.

More details about the imprisonment/release here.

Seventy years later in the late 1980’s with Glasnost and Perestroika, those embers were fanned back to life and they became a roaring flame of Jewishness. Today all across Russia, Synagogues, religious schools, mikvah’s, bris, chupa and kosher food are all readily available. Jews proudly and prominently serve G-d with joy and enthusiasm. 

In 1927 when the Rebbe almost faced the firing squad, it looked like the atheistic enemies of G-d had scored a victory. Today we know that nothing could be further from the truth. Hashem and His Torah are the winners.

The Rebbe was released from the mortal threat of imprisonment on the 12th of Tamuz, corresponding this year to Shabbat July 4th. 

It is a day to be celebrated.

It is a reminder that holiness ultimately prevails over unholiness. Good is ultimately triumphant over evil.

The Rebbe said upon his release that since the battle he had fought was for the essence of Judaism, his release represented a victory for every single Jew. Even for those Jews for whom being Jewish is more of a label than an actual conviction. 

More importantly it’s a day to be mindful that when things are not easy, it is not mean we should give up. It means we simply have to try harder!!!!

We are not being asked for the supreme self-sacrifice of endangering our lives.

For most of us, we have religious freedom. 

With that freedom comes the choice to choose to be more spiritually connected or not.

The ‘sacrifice’ of our times is not risking being shot for upholding our Judaism.

Our ‘sacrifice’ is about giving up some of our self-centeredness and desire for self-gratification and think about what is it that G-d wants me to do.

In the supermarket aisles, the choice of buying something inappropriate for a Jew or keeping the shopping cart ‘kosher’, this is where we are being asked to make a sacrifice.

On Shabbat, to be more mindful of the honor and respect we should accord the Shabbat this is the ‘wrestling-match’ taking place in our consciousness.

Our challenges are about trying to be more G-d conscious. 

To study more of G-d’s Torah.

To pray more to G-d. In your own environment in whatever language works for you. 

And by doing more Mitzvahs. Those that connect us to G-d like Tefilin, Mezuzah and Shabbat candles. 

And those that teach us to how to live more wholesomely with others. By being more honest, benevolent, forgiving and gracious. 

If you are a complainer, lets resolve to stop complaining. Complainer can always find something to complain about. This weeks double-parsha speaks about complainers even after being fed G-dly manna from heaven and being treated to a ‘club-med’ kind of experience. Let’s try to adapt to situations we are not used to and reframe things to try and see how things are good

If you are an optimist by nature, good on you. But there is one place you should tone down your natural optimism. When it comes to your own self-growth you should step up your expectations and demand more from yourself. Find something that’s a bit harder than what you are comfortable with, and practice ‘self-sacrifice’ by undertaking that good deed or character trait development.

May we all be blessed with a life of liberty, happiness and great living conditions, and may we use all of that not to be G-d forbid complacent and pampered, rather to use those blessings to springboard and catapault to ever rising heights by adjusting our goals as we advance.

May your ‘sacrifices’ all be about getting better and better from withing a framework of a blessedly trouble free life.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor




What's the future of travel industry?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Will be people resume traveling after the virus is brought under control like they did before the virus?

The entire travel industry worldwide is wondering the same thing.

I don’t think anyone really knows the answer.

How about working in offices. Will people continue working remotely or will they resume commuting to offices. 

Lots of opinions about this.

Real estate values in cities like New York is very dependent on office rentals. Nobody knows whether that will come back or not.

How about parties and celebrations?

Now that many weddings have taken place in backyards under very basic and modest conditions, will big, large-attendance weddings come back?

There are many similar uncertainties about what our lives will look like after this big disruption. 

Here is another one. A more spiritual one, but perhaps it will help shed light on the subject.

From times yore, it has been a tradition to seek out wisdom by journeying to the great Jewish sages and leaders. Just like Moses was sought out for advice by the Jewish people as they journeyed for forty years through the desert. 

In a nutshell, the Jewish people is analogous to one body, each of us representing and different part of the body. The Tzadik is the ‘head’ of this collective Jewish ‘body’. In recent centuries it became a well-entrenched Chasidic tradition to visit the Rebbe, the ‘collective head’ (also known as the ‘collective soul’) to get spiritually reinvigorated and to realign and fortify their connection with Almighty G-d.

Besides for the wisdom and Torah knowledge that is gained by visiting one’s Rebbe, there is also a vital ‘accountability’ and ‘realignment’ that visiting the Rebbe engenders.  

It is so easy to lose sight of our spiritual goals and missions. We all have egos. Our impulses are vulnerable to the pulls and attractions of materialism and indulgence. It need not even be a vast divergence from the course. It takes but a slight deviation from ones intended route, to eventually become an (almost) irreparable great gap. 

The function of a Moses-like Jewish leader, is to remain steadfast and unwavering in their commitment to G-d and Torah. Thus, the leader serves as an inspiration and lighthouse empowering and enabling the people to stay committed and inspired to the best of their ability. 

Since the Rebbe lives in the same contemporary physical world as his students and is aware of the contemporary challenges posed by material life and its myriad temptations, the student knows that his masters hopes for him are achievable. They are not unrealistic and beyond the scope of reality. 

True connections are built around love. It’s a two-way street.

You become attached and connected to those you love. 

You love those to whom you are attached and connected.

When there is no connection and love, when you don’t care about that other person, living up to their expectations of you is quite unimportant.

It’s the reverse when you respect and love someone. You don’t want to let them down. Even if it means working hard and putting your own self-interest somewhat to the side.

This, says Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch in a Chasidic text on the subject, is one of the reasons for traveling to a Rebbe. Seeing one’s spiritual master awakens the love. It fosters a recommitment by the visitor to employ the means needed to live up to the lofty expectations of his teacher from him. 

When the teacher passes away, this is achieved by visiting the physical resting space.

Continues the text, ‘what if the person is unsure whether he truly feels that love for his Rebbe any more’? 

The answer to that is ‘since he had a desire to travel to the resting place of the Tzadik and he acted on that desire, this is a sign that the love is still there, at last in a minimal way’. If he no longer cared, he wouldn’t inconvenience himself to make the journey.

It is a custom to visit the resting place of a Tzadik and pray there on the auspicious day of passing.

For twenty-five years I have been blessed to be able to fulfil that tradition and it has always been a very special, meaningful and spiritual journey. 

In reflecting on what visiting the Ohel usually means to me, I realized that indeed coming to the Rebbe’s Ohel on his yahrtzeit was always an opportunity to fortify my connection and reassess how well I was living up to the Rebbe’s expectations of me in terms of my commitment to Hashem and His Torah. 

Every year I ask myself the following question. 

Am I still sensitive to the relationship of love with the soul of my Rebbe? Has the passage of time diminished my connection? 

Perhaps...

However, one thing is for certain. The feeling of love and connection is still there. The Chasidic treatise says it clearly. If you cared enough to travel to your Rebbe, you obviously still have a connection.

Yesterday was the Yartzeit, the 26th anniversary of passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory. As the ‘Shepherd’ of the Jewish people, the great ascent that his righteous soul enjoys at this anniversary, translates to great blessings for all of the beloved flock, the People of Israel.

This year I couldn’t go to NY to visit his Ohel.

Of course I was disappointed that I could not physically travel but I was also forced to give the matter deep thought.

It was not at all an indication of whether my connection was still strong. The disruption of this virus has changed life for everyone. I wanted to go. I just couldn’t go. Thank G-d, I still had a very meaningful observance of the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit this year.

In a certain way, because of the inability to participate in the usual way, I felt the yearning and connection even more.

In our age of technology, I can even have my notes printed out and placed on the Rebbe’s resting place. Indeed, so can you via www.ohelchabad.org (there are guidelines in several languages on this site).

But if next year the borders are open and I am able to travel, what will I do?

I don’t know. Hopefully Mashiach will have come long before and the question will be irrelevant.

Clearly though, making an effort to travel and be present at an important destination or event is a sign that you care.

Will people really tell their relatives and friends, ‘I won’t be attending the wedding of your child because I learned from the Corona that the world won’t fall apart even if I stay home’?

Will the human desire to escape normal life and travel to exotic vacations really change because of these few months that it was not possible to travel?

Will we really not do in-person meetings because we have learned about zoom?

Only time will tell.

However, if expending effort for something shows the endearment and cultivates it will we really do away with making efforts in building interpersonal relationships?

This is a deeper look at challenges in general. When things something go awry and Hashem seems more distant from us, it is that Hashem intends to push us away. G-d forbid. Rather, it is in order for us to be even more thirsty for Him and thus generate even greater efforts by us to overcome the apparent distance.

Is it not entirely possible, that the great thirst being built up for human interaction because of the extended lockdowns will cause to an even greater rebound after the full reopening?

I for one, hope to cherish and relish the in-person interactions with people once they are returned to me.

A handshake. A communal meal. Brotherly backslapping. And yes, the ability to get onto a plane to travel for something that is very meaningful to me.

All of the above are not just things I like. Or you like. 

G-d Almighty likes us to do them. He has told us in His Torah that He cherishes the efforts we make for togetherness. 

The Torah is all about Shalom, peace. There is nothing more peace enhancing than camaraderie. Zoom helps when there is no choice. But once we are able to safely fully reopen, I think the Torah mandates us to resume social NEARNESS!!!!

I cannot wait!!!!! 

And once we are talking about not being able to wait… I can’t wait to have G-d’s nearness. We can’t wait for Mashiach to come. Then we will finally be totally at one with G-d. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor




Grasshopper Prognosis

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today they have a fancy name for it.

Emotional intelligence.

In the language of our Sages it is called to ‘recognize your place’.

The spies who were dispatched by Moshe in this week’s Parsha erred gravely.

Perhaps they were emotionally unintelligent.

They started off as reputable people says the Torah. Perhaps even mentally super intelligent.

But they were incorrect in their thinking.

In two ways.

The famous mistake we all know about is that they came back from spying the land of Israel with a negative report.

It was not untrue. 

They had been asked to report on the state of the population in the land of Canaan and they had done that faithfully. 

They worked hard and shlepped back samples of the fruit, doing even more than they had been asked.

Where did they go wrong?

They gave a prognosis.

‘We cannot go up against the people for they are stronger than us’ they said. Thus, instigating a mass rumbling and complaining amongst the people. 

This was their mistake.

Moshe had never asked them for their opinion about whether or not it was a viable conquest.

G-d had said He is taking the Jewish people to Israel, that was not up for discussion.

The job of the ‘spies’ was to bring back information. 

It seems that they felt an exaggerated sense of worth and thus felt compelled to share their viewpoint with the people. 

They then added another line. In describing the hair-raising nature of their difficult mission, they said

We appeared like grasshoppers in our eyes, and that's how we were in their eyes." (Numbers 13:31-33)

This statement screams out about their pitiful state of self-esteem. 

They saw themselves as small and insignificant as grasshoppers. No wonder that this is the way they were viewed by the giant inhabitants of the land they were gathering intelligence on.

Again, a total lack of emotional intelligence. Click here for more.  

Here is what we should learn from their double mistakes.

Feeling too unimportant when facing challenge and conversely feeling too pompous when back home in their comfort zone.

We would do well to flip that around. 

Feel empowered to overcome the adversarial situation we may be in.

Be humble when reporting back to the more spiritually endowed leader.

In plain language:

If you are asked to carry out a mission, do what you are asked. 

If it a request for information, provide the information.

A doctor for example, should give a diagnosis. But not make a statement like ‘you have ….. amount of time to live’. Only G-d knows that.

Prognoses are often not in the purview of the medical professional, yet professionals sometimes feel compelled to try and act prophetic.

There is even a well know joke about the person who sued his physician. His doctor had told him he has one year to live so he went ahead and spent his savings on an opulent yearlong vacation. When he went back to his doctor feeling as ‘fit as a fiddle’ his doctor said ‘oy, I made a mistake’ you look like you are healthy again. The patient, having depleted his pension fund wanted to sue the doctor.

Could this perhaps be a lesson for our current situation?

In the cacophony of opinions about the virus there are so many prognoses. 

I think that the message of the Parsha is that we should listen to the experts when they share with us what they think we should do to protect ourselves. We should also pay careful attention to the what the immediate future holds so that we plan accordingly. It wouldn’t be wise to buy an airline now, I think.

But beyond that? 

We need to pray, trust and place our hope in Hashem that He bless our world with healing.

And not stop believing for a second that He and only He is in charge.

The situation can be changed by Him in a split second. How? He doesn’t need my help or suggestions. If He wants, it happens!

What about feeling like grasshoppers?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe whose 26th yahrtzeit comes out this Thursday, Tamuz 3, taught us how to view ourselves and how to project that to others.

In Rabbi Jonathan Sacks words, “You saw your reflection in the Rebbe’s eyes, and you were suddenly much bigger than you thought you were.” Click here for his full remarks

We need to feel like giants. Not because of who we are or what we have achieved. Rather because of the greatness of the mission that has been entrusted to us. 

Almighty G-d created me and you. He created us in His image and blew a soul into us.  Thus, He has clearly stated that you and I are each able to contribute something respectively unique to His world.

There is nothing more ‘non-grasshopper-mentality’ than absorbing the above lesson. If you but meditate on this for a few moments you will be a turbo-charged, pumped-up, ready to go warrior of light in ‘Hashem’s army’ of darkness-dispellers and energy and light providers. 

We can, and must continue this legacy.

By viewing not just ourselves, but our fellows from that same light, we will be mirroring the Rebbe’s everlasting legacy of empowering others. We have the mandate, we have been deputized, to inspire anyone we meet. To live up to their full capacity of serving Hashem and thus contributing their irreplaceable portion to the beautiful and intricate mosaic of G-d’s creation. 

Indeed, the Rebbe taught this by example. Way into his late eighties the Rebbe made it a custom to spend hours on this feet greeting people in blessing and forging a partnership with them by giving them tzedaka to distribute. To use his idiom ‘when two people meet, they should be be looking for ways to help a third person’. Click here for more explanation and video footage.

Let us keep up the chain of goodness and kindness. 

Let us cumulatively, mitzvah by mitzvah usher in the change we are all waiting for, the coming of Mashiach.

If we all do our bit, WE WILL GET THERE!!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS for more information on how to mark the auspicious day of the Rebbe’s anniversary of passing, click here. Here in Bangkok we will mark the anniversary virtually, via hosting a ‘Zoom’ program with guest speakers. More details to follow during the week.

Escaping this world?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

In observing the events that have recently unfolded in my birth country the United States of America I was filled with dismay and horror.

Much has been written and said about the tragic events. Chabad.org posted R’ Tzvi Freemans article which I am linking to here. I am sure you have read and heard much about this and are equally appalled. 

I would like to use this forum to think out loud about how to channel my rage into practical contributions to the betterment of society. There is much to say, way beyond the scope of one article, but let me begin at least.

There is a famous motivational story told, of two salesmen from competing companies who are sent to a foreign country to assess the market for shoes. 

 

Salesman One scouts around for a few days and then heads for the telegraph office to contact company headquarters.  He writes:  "Research complete.  Unmitigated disaster.  Nobody here wears shoes."


Likewise, Salesman Two does his research and heads for the same telegraph office.  Once there, he composes the following: "Research complete.  Glorious opportunity!  Nobody here wears shoes!"  


On the one hand, the world is a mess. 

A real jungle. 

There was a WhatsApp meme going around after the launch of the spaceship last week.

‘Congratulations to the astronauts who left earth today. Good choice!’

If I had the option, would I want to run away from the world because of its degradation? 

Nope. That would be running away from the purpose of creation. 

The junglelike behavior that we are seeing in the world, is the very reason we have been sent down here on earth. 

Not so that we should be giving-in to our animalistic urges and self-centered temptations.  Rather, we have been sent here by G-d to do our job of transforming this junglelike world where G-d’s presence is obscured, into a luscious garden for G-d to be recognized and revered.

How? 

It is precisely for this reason that we have been given the Torah which is G-d’s communication to humanity on how to live. When we follow the ‘user manual’ that the ‘manufacturer’ (G-d) has provided to us, we are able to transform this world into the sweet-smelling garden that it truly is. 

The Torah is the transformative Divine key that unlocks the hidden potential within humanity and within the universe. 

Note. The Torah is not a book for angels in heaven. The Torah is given by G-d to us physical beings of flesh and blood in THIS MATERIAL WORLD .  Not despite the fact that we are imperfect. Rather, precisely because of our natural unsaintliness. Because we have challenges in being moral. Because murder, theft, and infidelity are possibilities in this world. This is why Hashem gave us the Torah.

The Talmud (Shabbos 88b) relates that when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, the angels challenged him saying, “What is this mortal doing amongst us?” Moses replied, “I have come to take the Torah to the Jewish people.” Whereupon the angels, addressing G-d, petitioned, "leave the Torah with us and we will honor and cherish it.” G-d turns to Moses and says “go ahead, answer them” and Moses responds, "My dear angels, just take a look at what the Torah commands – 'I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt,' 'Honor your parents.' Do you have a father and mother? Have you been enslaved in Egypt? Have you a selfish and evil inclination?” clearly demonstrating that the Torah was intended for souls vested in physical bodies confronted with the realities of our material world.  

To come back to the shoe salesman analogy, humanity can definitely not send a message to Heaven that there is no ‘market’ or no need for a Divine code of morality here in this world. 

On the contrary. The recent events have shown that there is a huge gaping hole in our world that needs Divine guidance more urgently than ever before.

My friends, this is not a time to give up on the world and run away from contributing to healing our fractured society. This is a time to roll up our sleeves and get to work! 

It seems overwhelming. What can I, as an individual possibly do? Who will my reinforcement of morality and mindful living make a difference in the world?

Rabbi David Lapin, from South Africa, once shared this experience.

As soon as I entered the rabbinate of South Africa, I became concerned about retaining my intellectual independence – something I am fiercely protective of – while serving as a community rabbi at the will of a synagogue’s board of directors. Therefore, I believed that I also needed to secure an independent source of income. And so I first went to work for an international commodities trading company, and later I founded the leadership consulting firm which I currently lead.

At about that time, an opportunity arose to join a company of commodity traders in Johannesburg, and this is what I did. But I was not sure I was on the right track. Was I right to divide my time between my business and my rabbinic duties? It seemed as if I had two full-time jobs and my family was paying a heavy price as a result.

There came a time when I felt I needed the opinion of someone much wiser than me, someone who had a global perspective that embraced modernity, history and the future. I decided to seek the advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In 1976 I came to New York, but I had not realized that to see the Rebbe one had to make an appointment many months in advance, and at first I was turned away. Only when I wrote a letter to the Rebbe in which I made the argument that my questions impacted the larger Jewish community – and which I insisted be presented to him – did he invite me to wait until he finished his appointments for the night when he would make time to see me.

I will never forget meeting the Rebbe. I recall that he got up from his chair as my wife and I came in, greeted us and insisted that we sit down. At that moment, I realized that we were going to have a real conversation – this was not going to be just a symbolic encounter.

Indeed, the meeting lasted about fifteen minutes, during which time I felt that he was looking right inside me and communicating with me on a level that transcends the mind, getting straight to the heart and the essence of being. In addition, I sensed a kindness and warmth – all at once I was in the presence of a great man, an intellectual genius, a leader of the Jewish people, but also a grandfather who cared about me. In short, it was an amazing experience.

I asked him about the responsibilities that I faced and the limitations that I felt, which seemed overwhelming. How could I manage it all? What should I give up – my business or my Torah teaching? Where should I direct my energies?

His answer to me was that I should give up nothing and continue working in business while still teaching Torah. I do not remember his exact words, but the gist of it was that my being in business increased my ability to bring people closer to Judaism; my profession increased my influence and was a vehicle of kiddush Hashem, of sanctifying the name of G-d. He stressed that I would have greater impact if I was involved with both business and Torah.

I was still very young, and I couldn’t imagine how I could continue to do both. So, I burst out with: “I don’t think that this is realistic. I’m already up to here… I feel very humbled and very honored that you would even talk to me this way, but it just isn’t realistic!”

I remember clearly his response to my outburst. He said: “I’ll tell you what your difficulty is. You think that human interaction is like a chemical reaction. But it isn’t. In a chemical reaction, there are two elements which interact with each other, and they result in a third compound. But people aren’t chemicals. When people interact, the result is a nuclear reaction. A nuclear reaction occurs at the core and then it radiates in a spherical, rather than a linear, way. As the outer rings of your sphere get bigger and bigger, the number of people you are touching gets bigger and bigger – indeed, there is no limit.

“When you touch the heart of one person, there is a nuclear reaction because that person in turn touches so many other people. So, each person you touch – even if it is a moment’s interaction – represents a nuclear reaction in terms of impact. That’s what it really is.”

He was right of course, and way ahead of the research that, since then, has proven his words to be true. For example, the Framingham Heart Study showed that people’s mood affects others three times removed – that is, one’s friend’s friend’s friends. We impact people not just with our words but with our moods and our energy.

Rabbi Lapin concluded:

“I remembered this whenever I stood in front of a class of fifty people. I contemplated that these fifty could in turn be impacting at least one hundred and fifty others. This meant that, both in my work as a rabbi and as a business person, week after week I was affecting tens of thousands of people without realizing it. That’s what the Rebbe tried to get across to me. He was talking about the huge amount of holiness that I had the potential to bring into the world.

“I got it. Indeed, he changed my entire mindset when he said, “Don’t underestimate what each person is capable of doing. Just remember that when you touch one person you are causing a nuclear reaction.” And that’s something that I’ve never forgotten.”


These above words were penned by Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson in an article he wrote on his TheYeshiva.net website and I shared them because they resonated deeply within me.

The words we use. The actions we engage in. They all create ripples of change. 

We need to all be spreading belief in G-d as the Eye that Sees and the Ear that Hears, emphasizing that G-d’s will is the absolute moral compass that decides what constitutes good and what is evil. 

We need to study about this. Learn the words to use. Get comfortable in sharing moral ‘elevator speeches’ as we often don’t get much time to impart lessons to others. Most importantly we need to reframe the way we view ourselves and our universe to embrace an overarching G-d’ly moral outlook. 

Click here for an article outlining G-d’s rules of Universal Morality. And here for a collections of articles on Jewish Universal Ethics. And here for the Rebbe’s words to Mayor David Dinkins about the ‘melting pot’. 

And most importantly we need to ‘walk the talk’ and make sure that we make every effort to live our lives in the most moral way possible.

Acts of goodness and kindness will make the world a better place. Words of kindness, of dialogue and of peace will lead the discourse of society to a more peaceful place.

And it will propel the world forward ever closer to its utopian next phase. As more mitzvahs will hasten the coming of Mashiach!!!! We need Mashiach more than ever, it will bring HEALING and PEACE to a plagued and fractured world. May he come NOW!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS below find links to my three ‘Facebook Live’ posts about Torah and its pertinence to our times shared this week on Chabad.org facebook page.

Torah: A Beacon of Light for our times

Torah: Oseh SHALOM – the path to Peace

Torah: EMMET – Eternal Truth

PPS I am still not so adept at Facebook, so telephone, WhatsApp and email are still the best way to reach me.


Humbled, not Overwhelmed

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humbled is a better word than overwhelmed. 

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

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

The mountain of Sinai was a small mountain.

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

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

Humility. 

Not worthlessness. 

A mountain, not a valley. 

But a ‘humble’ small mountain. 

Our world is in a state of humbleness. 

Should you be overwhelmed? 

Not at all. 

Depressed?

G-d forbid!

Open to change. Yes. 

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

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

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

Liberty is to live a life of meaning and purpose. 

The first words of the Ten Commandments say it all.

“I am G-d who took you out of Egypt”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is called the TORAH.

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

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

Everything around has changed.

Lets take the opportunity to CHANGE as well.

Adopt a new mitzvah to your life.

Strengthen your observance of a mitzvah you are already performing.

Add some Torah study to your schedule.

Intensify your acts of charity!!!

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

Chag Sameach,

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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



 

Was quarantining the easy part?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Babies cry upon birth.

Do you blame them?

It’s traumatic. 

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

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

It only gets more challenging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are in challenging times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

613 mitzvahs for the Jewish people,

7 universal laws for the entire body of humankind.

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

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

Herein lies the key to unity.

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

Quarantined.

2 provides the possibility of conflict. 

Reemerging to Society.

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

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

The gift of 3 is the gift of Torah. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s eliminate fighting.

Moreover, let’s adopt tolerance and respect.

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

Together!!!!

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

I don’t know who is right. 

I do know that 

  1. We need to keep to local laws.

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

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


Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Self View on Zoom

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Lag Ba’omer has come and gone.

Right?

Wrong!

Jewish Holidays come but they never go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In some respects though, there are major differences. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boy am I happy I am not in 1918….

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

That got me thinking.

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

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

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

Let me give you some examples.

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

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

It reminded me of a dating joke.

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

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

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

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

I tried it. 

And I love it.

You can see others without being distracted by yourself.

‘Love your fellow as yourself’.

There is a prerequisite to that. 

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

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

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

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

"What do you mean?" asked Abraham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us use it for its intended purpose. 

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

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

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Speak up UP

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This toast is burnt!" 

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

"Up till now, everything was OK."

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

What should you say? 

Isn’t it better to ‘not say’?

Well it depends what you are about to say.

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

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

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

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

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

Expressing your gratitude to those who care for you.

Complimenting someone else about something nice they have done. 

Giving someone encouragement when they go through difficult times. 

The power of positive reinforcement is very well known.

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

Our choice of words can have far reaching results.

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

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

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

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

This was in 1976. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we see it:

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

What we do

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


 

Words used properly have the power to uplift and motivate! 

They create change in the world!

Focus on the exceptional. Not on the handicapped. 

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

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

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

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

Say something loving to a family member or friend.

Keep silent from saying something disparaging.

Never talk about other people behind their backs.

Compliment someone when you see them doing something positive

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

May Mashiach come NOW!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you have the time to listen to a heartwarming

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


 

 

Keep Fruit Discard Peels

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

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

A situation that is beyond our control. 

Beyond any human beings’ control.

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

Who IS controlling it?

G-d of course.

Everyone knows that.

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

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

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

For starters, this situation is humbling beyond our imaginations. 

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

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

It has caused us to reassess the sanctity of life.

The sanctity of every life.

Societies have locked down to preserve life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list goes on and on.

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

Social distancing is difficult. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZOOM to the rescue.

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

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

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

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

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

ZOOM is a great tool.

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

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

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

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

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

I certainly hope that the spiritual and societal changes remain.

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Tazria

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I don’t know which one to believe.

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

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

The predictions that things will bounce back quickly,

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

Doubt seems to be our new state of life.

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

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

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

Let’s visit Heaven and check it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is it? Is it really happening? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shouldn’t settle for anything less than that.

Here is the doubt of the last thousands of years.

To use Heavenly terms, 

Is it pure? Or impure?

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

Or is it fanciful and farfetched?

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

After so many years there is a doubt.

Has G-d rejected us G-d forbid? 

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

Which way is this doubt going to be resolved?

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

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

G-d Almighty overrules them. 

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

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

PURE!!! 

i.e. the world is not unredeemable. 

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

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

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

May I conclude with a prayerful blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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

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

 

Your Healthy Body & Soul

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Its ‘after Pesach’. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or… infinitely better yet, Mashiach would have come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would make nine hundred breaths per hour.

And 21,600 breaths per twenty four hour day.

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

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

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

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

THANK YOU HASHEM!!!!

For every breath. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its preventive medicine. 

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

Can it be proven in a laboratory? 

No. because I am talking about spiritual health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy soul, healthy body. 

Healthy body, healthy soul.

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

A healthy does of prayer is always good as well!

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

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom,

And for AMAZINGLY good news!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor



Reversal-Miracle- Hagadol

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

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

It’s on everyone’s minds. 

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

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

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

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

That would be a huge relief to the world. 

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

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

To use scientific language (harvested from google):

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

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

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

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

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

There is a precedent to this concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that would a great miraculous breakthrough. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more on Shabbat Hagadol

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pesach Resources

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This email is being sent one week before Passover.

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

Passover has been celebrated since then without interruption.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need faith and we need healing!!!!

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

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

The two main mitzvahs of Pesach are 

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

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

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

SELLING CHAMETZ:

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

EATING MATZAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEPUTIZING YOU!!!

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

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

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

You don’t yet have a Haggadah?

There are printable options at this click.

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

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

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

Feeling like you need help to make your own seder?

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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

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

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











 

Myriads of Jews ONE opinion!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two Jews three opinions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you care, you get passionate and emotional. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear fellow Jews be heartened and inspired! 

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

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

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

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

We act this way because we love each other. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps we can go a step broader and further. 

Almighty G-d, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the first step toward a new world order.

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

The reaction of humanity is astounding and inspiring.

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

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

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

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

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

Prayers should be backed up with good deeds!

Do another mitzvah. 

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

Give charity to the cause of your choice.

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

Light candles before Shabbat eighteen minutes before sundown.

Say an extra prayer.

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

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

Believe, that there will be a glorious future. 

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

Let us enter the Shabbat TOGETHER in unity. 

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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





More Shabbat (not less)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It doesn’t make sense. 

But then again, nothing makes much sense these days.

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

The Parsha starts off about keeping Shabbat….

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

It was one of those puzzling things.

How does the weekly Parsha fit with the current reality?

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

It dawned on me.

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

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

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

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

It requires a bit of forethought and preparation though. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calm down, I tell myself.

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

It is here with us for eternity.

Shabbat has been here since the dawn of creation. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till now we offered communal Shabbat meals. 

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

Not much preparation needed. 

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

To do Shabbat on your own? 

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

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

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

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

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

So that you have more time to prepare for Shabbat.

To get set up with food for the body. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will have a G-dly given ‘detox’.

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

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

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

Say the Hamotzie over Challa/bread.

Have an unhurried meal.

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

Read, discuss, think, about Torah concepts.

Sing, rejoice, relax. 

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

Let the Shabbat spirit pervade your being.

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

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

Sleeping on Shabbat is also a Mitzvah. 

Have a meaningful Shabbat! 

A joyous shabbat!!!!

A HEALTHY SHABBAT!!!!!

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

Shabbat SHALOM

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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

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

 

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.