"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Choosing our actions

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The first leg of the trip to New York was aggravating.

We had annoyingly obnoxious people sitting next to us.

We were not seated together and asked the few people sitting between us to change seats with us and allow us to sit together. Although the alternative seats were better or at least not worse than their current seats, they didn’t agree to help us by moving their seats.

(To be fair I will say that maybe there is another side to the story that I don’t know about, but to me it looked like they were simply not interested in making the effort to stand up an sit down in a different seat).

It was unpleasant. In the many trips I have made over the last three decades I don’t recall encountering this kind of unfriendly behavior.

In the scheme of things, it’s no big deal. We got to New York safely thank G-d, we are about to celebrate our daughter Miriam’s wedding Baruch Hashem and a little bit of unpleasantness on a flight shouldn’t really rankle me.

But everything is by Divine Providence. And thus, I ask myself, what can I learn from this experience.

The simple lesson is, don’t act like that.

The people of Sodom acted like that. Hashem so detested this radically unkind behavior that they and their cities were overturned and destroyed.

The definition of Sodom-like behavior is when one doesn’t allow for someone else to benefit from them, even when there is no loss to the one giving the favor.

For example, if you have an internet connection that someone can use without causing any danger or delay to yourself or your family, denying someone else access to your internet connection is Sodom-like behavior.

Not wanting someone else to receive some benefit favor from you, even when there is no loss to you, is not proper behavior in a moral society.

Society is comprised of give and take. While one may not always be in a position to give to others, at least one should not protest when someone benefits from you without costing you. To prevent this kind of sharing is a Sodom-like negative behavior.

Hashem blessed me to hear a story upon arrival in NY that gave me a reminder of how giving and sharing a person can be.

My friend related:

I was walking down the street with my father. I was a young kid and wanted ice cream. I asked my father if I he could buy me an ice cream. My father is a very kind man and agreed that I could have an ice cream. We stopped in to the grocery store on the way home. The storekeeper didn’t agree to put the ice cream on the family bill as the bill was too high and not yet paid. My father tried to give the store the modest check that he had received from the Yeshiva that he worked for. The storekeeper, not being convinced that the Yeshiva check would clear the bank, told my father to first cash the check at the check cashing company.

We carried down the block in the direction of the check cashing shop and met a director of one of the local schools. He told my father that he was desperate and didn’t have money to pay some of the teachers and that some of the teachers wouldn’t have food on the table. My father took out the check and told him that he could cash it at the check cashing office and apply it as a donation to help the struggling teachers.

My friend concluded his story by telling me that this lesson stayed with him for the rest of his life. His father had always said ‘the only thing that really belongs to you, is what you give away’. I had now discovered that it wasn’t just a altruistic slogan. By his living example, the ethos and values of proper Jewish living came to life.

It was inspirational to hear about the selflessness of my friends father.

Someone recently told me a similar story about my own father, may he live a long and happy life.  

It was in the 1960’s and my father was studying at the central Lubavitch Yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway. A young man who was acquainted with me father, wanted to try out the Yeshiva that my father was attending. However, the young man hadn’t found a place to sleep during his visit to the Yeshiva. My father told him that there was an empty bed in his dormitory room that he could sleep in. He came. Only a few days later when he woke up in the middle of the night and saw my father sleeping on the floor, did he realize that my father had given up his bed for him.

This act of kindness so much affected him that he decided to switch over and enroll to be a fulltime student in the Lubavitch Yeshiva.

In his words ‘if this the kind of students that this Yeshiva produces, I want to be a student here’.

We have the ability to choose how we act towards others.

It is all too easy to fall into the apathy and laziness of not caring about others. This can even degenerate further to Sodom-style behavior.

If we choose, however, to put forth some effort, we can develop a second nature of giving and caring for others.

Just last week we received the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.

The core of the Torah is about acting lovingly to others like you would like others to act lovingly to yourself.

This is the basis of myriads of mitzvahs and laws.

The premise of the Torah is that our human natures can be adapted and trained to be less selfish and more selfless.

Just because we ‘feel like doing something’ or ‘don’t feel like doing it’ doesn’t mean that this is what we should be doing.

Sometimes we want what is negative. And sometimes we refrain from expending effort to do what is positive.

Perhaps we can understand it from the analogy of exercise.

Overeating without doing physical activity leads to being overweight and to being out of shape.

Following our natural tendencies just because ‘I feel like it’ without assessing if this is something positive in the eyes of our Creator or not is not the Torah way.

The Torah teaches us that man’s job is to toil. One of the important parts of the effort G-d wants us to put forth is to correct our non-positive human tendencies should they exist.

If G-d forbid you find yourself being mean, cantankerous and saying no to helping someone else for no good reason, it is time to schedule a ‘check-up’ with your spiritual guide. You need to fine tune your ‘fitness training’ to be healthier and G-dlier.

I had another realization.

These obnoxious people irked me so much.

It was quite unusual. This made me realize that usually, I am surrounded by nice and kind people.

Perhaps one of the lessons from this encounter is to give thanks go Hashem for the wonderful people He has surrounded me with.

Thank you Hashem for the kind, nice, respectful and loving people I and blessed to engage with.

And thank you my dear friend for reading my emails and allowing our discussion to continue to develop. May we continue to make progress together, in getting closer to the Almighty as we journey through life

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I waited 17 minutes for the ‘Grab’ rideshare driver to pick me up. The entire distance was a few hundred meters. If the weather was favorable, it would have been a pleasant stroll but in the heat of Thailand, I preferred to wait for the ride than walk.

The driver thanked me for waiting for him.

I thanked him for driving so far to pick me up.

Why were we thanking each other for a simple ride?

I know why I was thankful. Because sometimes when the driver sees that its taking him longer than expected and the entire fare is less than THB 100 ($2.88) he cancels in the hope of finding something more lucrative and then you have to start the process again.

Why was the driver grateful?

The driver explained that some customers get angry when it takes so long to be be picked up, and cancel their ride in frustration and in the hope of finding a car that is closer.

(I loved the ‘gratefulness’ reminder in the middle of a busy day. It is so important to find those things that we can and should be grateful for. This Chag is also called the Chag Habikurim the time of fulfilling the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits to Hashem’s Bet Hamikdash which teaches us the centrality of gratitude).

But, continued my driver, since he is already old (in his 70’s) he doesn’t get angry anymore.

I couldn’t resist asking if he got angry when he was younger and he admitted that indeed he would sometimes get angry.

After he told me his age, I commented that our Torah teaches respect for elders.

To which he responded that when he was growing up, elders were respected here in Thailand.

However, he continued wistfully, now the new generation doesn’t have that same kind of respect for elders that they used to have.

It seems that in many cultures and in many generations, it is commonplace to talk about the ‘young generation’ as being morally inferior to the previous generation.

Elders often wag their fingers at youngsters and say ‘when I was growing up people didn’t act that way…’.

Hearing it from my ‘grab’ driver about the local society wouldn’t have been remarkable, if not for the timing.

The timing of the conversation was impeccable.

A few days before the holiday of Shavuot.

When G-d made the most dramatic statement that he considers the children the most powerful guarantee that there is for Jewish/Torah continuity.

Take a look at this Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:4) and you will see what I mean:

At Sinai, when the Jews were ready to receive the Torah, God said to them,

 “What? Am I supposed to give you the Torah without any security?

Bring some good guarantors that you will keep it properly, and I will give it to you.”

Jews: Our ancestors will be our guarantors.

God: They themselves need a guarantor!

Avraham questioned Me: “How will I know?” (Genesis 15:8). Yitzchak loved Esav although I hate him (Malachi 1:3). Yaakov thought I mistreated him (see Isaiah 40:27).

Jews: Our prophets.

God: I have complaints against them, too: “The shepherds sinned against Me” (Jeremiah 2:8). “Israel, your prophets were like foxes…” (Ezekiel 13:4).

Jews: Our children are our guarantors.

God: Now, that’s a guarantor! “From the mouth of infants and babes You founded oz (strength)” (Psalms 8:3).

The Rebbe transformed this Midrashic teaching into a call for action.

Our holidays are cyclical. We relive the events every year as if they are happening again. On Pesach we eat Matzahs and feel like we ourselves have been gifted liberation.

Similarly, we celebrate Shavuot and the giving of the Torah as spiritually it is recurring again. Not merely a historical event but a current event.

In that sense, the Torah is being ‘given again’ on Shavuot. We reenact what took place 3335 years ago. We read the Ten Commandments at the Synagogue from the Torah scroll.

If we are once again being gifted the Torah by Hashem, we ought to make sure make sure that the children who are the guarantors are present.

Babies, toddles, children, are all included.

The Torah needs to be accepted with joy. Kids need to be provided with things that are joyous on their level to express their inner joy at receiving the Torah.

It has become a widespread tradition to provide ice cream and other sweets to the children in conjunction with the reading of the Ten Commandments.

So now we know what to do.

Come to hear the Torah reading and bring the kids. And provide ice cream and joy.

The takeaway from this is that Hashem clearly believes in the next generation as those who have the potential to be the carriers of the Torah forward eternally.

From this Midrash we learn that we should not automatically be dismissive of the ‘next generation’. No instinctive wagging our fingers in displeasure.

(Of course, there are many things that need fixing in terms of youth. They are not perfect; they need eons of guidance. I am talking about not adopting widespread pessimism about the next generation. When we view children through the lens of Hashems Torah the kids should be viewed as having incredible potential. It is up to us to nurture and develop it).

Let us try and understand this Midrash a bit more.

How can the children whose future is not yet proven, be guarantors for the Torah where our holy Forefathers and venerable Prophets fell short of Hashems exacting standards?

I will sharpen the question by using a joke.

A guy comes to the bank and asks for a huge loan. The banks manager responds, ‘how can I give you such a humungous loan, when I don’t even know you?’ to which the would-be borrower responded ‘that is strange. The bank I usually go to asked me ‘how can we consider giving you such a big loan. We know you too well’. When taking a loan is it better that you know me or you don’t know me?

Are kids that have an unproven track record more fit to be guarantors than the elders and sages who are nearly perfect?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Midrash says clearly that G-d said he is accepting the children as reliable guarantors.

My brother R’ Zalman of Chabad of Rancho S. Margarita shared the following thought with me which sheds light on this topic.

A Torah sold last week for $38 million.


Called Codex Sassoon after the name of the collector, it's an ancient leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume, from the Land of Israel or Syria (which had a large Jewish community for over 2000 years), dating from around 900 C.E..

It's not a kosher Torah scroll; it's more like the printed Torah books we use to study from.

According to Sotheby's this volume "contains almost the entirety of the Hebrew Bible" (all 24 books, the Tanach), making it the most complete early physical copy to exist today.

It is indeed interesting to me, and I'd love to hold it in my hands, and leaf through some of the pages.

But am I impressed?!

About what? 

We have it today too - the original as given to us at Sinai, and then through Moshe and the subsequent prophets - and as handed down through the generations: hand-copied, studied, lived, and even printed. 

Gutenberg's printing press came in 1436; the first Jewish Hebrew books were already published in 1472!

If you want to know what's impressive to me, it's this (photo collage from a recent Mommy and me): 

It's living Judaism - a continuum of history of 3335 years from Sinai, and before.

Beginning with the education of the Guarantors of the Torah, the children, and continuing through the education and observance and celebration of teens, adults, seniors at every stage of life, picking up wherever you are.

It doesn't cost $38 million, and you don't need to go see it in a museum.

This Shavuos, as we celebrate the Giving of the Torah for the 3336th time, let us embrace the precious gift given to our safekeeping.

Unlike the Sassoon volume that requires special handling, this gift, the Torah, stays better when it gets more exposure--when it's used, lived, experienced.

One page at a time, one mitzvah at a time - whether yourself or with others - every bit works to uplift our lives and the world to a better and more G-dly existence.

And after all, isn't that the goal and fervent wish, a world transformed?

(Other article I about where our future lies from the Chabad rabbi of Calabasas click here and from click here).

Bottom line: I think we fully understand that the future of our people, the future of our Torah being kept, is totally in the hands of the next generation.

Here is what we can do. Everyone at their respective stage in life.

Marry Jewish and have Jewish children.

Get those kids involved in Torah study and Mitzvah observance.

Contribute money to Jewish causes that educate children.

Be more patient when children are acting like children.

Don’t ‘wag your finger’ and tsk tsk disparagingly to the next generation, shine your light by doing the right things and teach by being a living example.

Chag Sameach

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

As we enter Shavuot which is the time we became the unified nation of Am Yisrael and mutually responsible for each other, please consider a monthly* gift of $18 - $54 - $180 to our Tzedakah Humanitarian fund that provides ongoing relief and emergency assistance to fellow Jews here in Thailand.

*By clicking the monthly box

Ladies first.

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Ladies first.

Even in this day and age, most women graciously accept the traditional "ladies first" rule, whether it's getting off a sinking ship or going through a ballroom doorway. Commonly perceived as a concession to the weaker gender by the stronger, the rule is actually founded upon a very different rationale, at least in the Jewish tradition.

When G‑d instructed Moses to prepare the people of Israel to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago, He said: "Speak to the house of Jacob, and tell the sons of Israel" (Exodus 19:3). The "house of Jacob," our sages explain, are the women; "the sons of Israel," the men. In other words, speak first with the ladies.

Click here for the rest of the article by Yanki Tauber.

The gist of the explanation behind this drastic change is as follows.At the beginning of creation, Hashem conveyed the message of refraining from the forbidden fruit to Adam. It was not even adhered to for one day. The sin of eating from the tree of knowledge happened almost immediately.

Hashem reversed things at the giving of the Torah and instructed Moshe to broach it with the women first.

The results are astounding. It’s 3,335 years ago and getting stronger and stronger Baruch Hashem.

I had the opportunity this week to ‘so to speak’ ‘imitate G-d’ in this respect.

On my four-day visit to Melbourne Australia, I was invited to teach and share words of inspiration with students and members of the local Jewish community at various venues.

My first speech though, was at the Ohel Chana Seminary for young ladies. I thought it was quite appropriate for these days that are leading up to the holiday of the giving of the Torah.

One of the questions I was presented with during my visit is ‘what are you doing in Melbourne’.

It would have been easy to say that I went to visit our daughter and her family who live in Melbourne, in the role of a doting Zaidy crossing the ocean to see his adorable grandchildren.

For the sake of accuracy though, I told the truth. I was visiting Melbourne primarily to fundraise for the activities of Chabad of Thailand.

(The incredible ‘side benefit’ was the time I got to spend with the grandkids, and I thank Hashem for His boundless kindness).

The students I was addressing were curious to know, why I took time from my schedule to teach them Torah and inspire them to deeper commitment to Hashem and His Mitzvahs.

In other words, wouldn’t the time spent on teaching be a distraction from the main agenda of my visit which was visiting philanthropists to raise funds?

It’s a good question.

The same question that a busy person may ask when it comes to making time to pray to Hashem amidst a frenetic schedule.

A childhood friend of mine indeed told me that he is so busy in his career that he doesn’t have time for regular Torah study.

From the perspective of ‘the order of nature’ it would seem to be a simple fact. If you were to invest the time that you spend praying and studying into business and career activities, you will have more material success.

I am going to say something counterintuitive.

Spending time on praying and Torah study leads to a more profitable bottom line.

I say it with confidence because I am just paraphrasing what our Sages have told us (Ethics of our Fathers 3:5):

Rabbi Nechunia the son of Hakanah would say: One who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted from the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares; but one who casts off the yoke of Torah is saddled with the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares.

I can give you some real examples that I have experienced throughout the years.

In the rush to get to an important meeting, I decided to skip attending a minyan and opted to pray in private. I got lost and a chunk of time was added to my travel time. You can imagine my chagrin when I realized that I could have attended the minyan and perhaps I wouldn’t have made the wrong turn and arrived at my destination even earlier.

Contrast this with the following story.

During the evening hours in Thailand, I checked the American Friends of COT account. To my dismay there was a minus of a substantial amount. A bill had come in for automatic debit and there were insufficient funds to cover it. The bank manager is sympathetic to the fact that we are a non-profit organization and allows me several hours to cover the overdraft.

I was about to start a Torah class. There was a dilemma in my mind. Should I defer the class to try and drum up donations or loans to cover the deficit? Or should I continue my schedule and give the Torah class and hope that I would still have time afterwards to sort things out.

Baruch Hashem I made the choice to proceed with my Torah class.

After the lesson I logged into my bank account and lo and behold. There was a significant positive balance. I could not believe my eyes. What had transpired?

It was a totally unexpected deposit. It came from a supporter who had committed to send a very nice donation a month later. For reasons unbeknown to me, he decided to send the funds a month earlier. The deposit came on the exact day that the bank was overdrawn. It was a sizeable enough donation to create a bigger plus than the previous minus.

I thanked Hashem joyously for the timing of this donation. And even more so for giving me the inner compass that directed me in the right direction.

Can you imagine what would have happened if I had cancelled my Torah class and scrambled together some funds to cover the deficit. And then a few minutes later this donation would have arrived. I would have felt very disappointed about the clearly misguided choice.

This is the way I understand the Mishna quote above.

Follow Hashem’s path, and He will see to it that you don’t have go off on meandering paths that can be avoided.

This is what I explained to the students who were asking me if spending time with them in Torah discussion wasn’t a distraction to my main agenda for my trip which was raising funds.

The way I see it, it was only an enhancer.

If you engage in teaching Torah and helping others, all of your endeavors will be blessed with G-dly success.

If you are having trouble getting your mind around this idea, let me share the following contemporary saying.

The question isn’t “Can I afford to exercise?” but “Can I afford not to exercise?”

On the face of things, it would seem that if you take the time to exercise, you are reducing your productivity as you now have less time to ‘work’.

The reality is different. Engaging in exercise enhances your overall productivity.

Scientifically it makes sense in terms of neurons and endorphins.

According to the Torah, synchronicity between G-dly spirituality and physical materiality is a reality.  We know and believe that Hashem created the world. Thus, there is a direct causality between what we do spiritually to what takes place in our physical environs.

‘Plugging in’ to Hashem’s energy source by studying Torah and doing Mitzvah’s brings energy and blessing all the way down the totem pole into the most materialistic aspects of our lives.

One of the ways we see the connection between spirituality and physicality, is by observing Hashem’s presence in the world. This is revelated to us by the Divine Providence that is prevalent in the intricate pattern of the events that comprise life. If you try hard enough you may find Divine Providence wherever you are, however, when you go out on a trip, and are not in a routine, it is even easier to observe the Hashgacha Pratit and see G-d’s guiding Hand.

I was running late to a meeting at Glick’s Malvern. I wanted to send a WhatsApp to the person I was going to meet that I would be 5 minutes late to our 10:30 am appointment. To my dismay, once I opened the message thread, I saw that I had erred in the timing. It was supposed to be a 10:00 meeting. I sent a message that I had made a mistake and was on my way but didn’t hear back. I figured, let me keep going. It is quite simple. From not going, nothing will happen. If I go, perhaps the person will still be there. I arrived, parked and checked my phone. The person responded that he had already left the venue but said he would be back in 15 minutes. As I was standing in the parking lot, digesting the change in plans brought about by my mistake, I saw an elderly man shuffling towards me on a walker.

He turned to me and said, ‘this year is sixty years since the debut of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. I wanted to respond politely so I asked him if he remembered any of the songs. He said, ‘I don’t really remember the songs, but my mother was Jewish and she would remember’.

My ears perked up and I asked him if he had ever had a Bar Mitzvah and if he would like to put on Tefilin. He said that he is turning 68 soon and he thinks he may have had a Bar Mitzvah. He is not sure if he ever put on Tefillin and was not up to putting on Tefilin just then and there but said he would be interested in the future. In the meantime, he shuffled off. But not before I managed to get his name which was a Polish sounding name as his father was Polish and non-Jewish while his mother was Viennese and Jewish.

Oh, while this exchange was going on, the person I was meant to meet texted me to tell me that he had been called to something urgent at his business. He would still support our work and send me a donation via credit card.

I had no doubt that Hashem had a reason for my mix-up but I felt so blessed that I was shown vividly the exactness of Hashem’s Providence.

(It is still a story in development as I passed on the details of this person to one of the Chabad rabbi’s in Melbourne to try and locate him based on the limited info I provided) .

In Hayom Yom the Rebbe quotes from the verse in Tehilim.

A person who believes in Divine Providence knows that “the steps of a man are made firm by G‑d.” [A person goes to] a particular place because his soul must refine and perfect something there. For hundreds of years, or even from the very beginning of creation, the object that must be refined or rectified waits for that soul to come and do that task.

Click here for full quote and commentary.

As you move around from place to place, recognize that there is a Divine plan for your travels.

Be open to ‘smelling the roses’ along the way.

Don’t be close minded to think that you need to be singular minded on your business.

Pay attention to the people you can help during your journey.

Be alert to the wisdom you can gain and the inspiration you can share.

Engaging in G-dly things during your mundane daily activities will not only bring you to a better spiritual place, it will enhance your material life as well.

Try it.

(I am back safely thank G-d)

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Effort or outcome?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Effort or outcome?

Which is most important?

It depends.

If you are going to eat in a restaurant and the food is too salty, the fact that the chef invested a lot of effort is not going to mean much.

When it comes to relationships it’s a totally different story. With human relationships, effort is supremely important.

Imagine a woman who finds a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting on her doorstep. They may have been delivered in the name of her husband. But if the wife discovers that it’s her husband’s secretary (or AI) that bought the flowers for their anniversary based on an automated reminder in the ‘to do list’, it won’t have the desired effect.

If it was effortless, it will be meaningless.

Kids have it figured out instinctively.

It’s not by coincidence that when things are hectic, babies and toddlers (and even teens) are needy and start vying for their parents’ attention.

When things are calm and the parents coddle them and play with them, that is fine. However, this does not mean that they are the most important thing in their parents’ universe. They are subconsciously looking for an even deeper love. The love that comes out of making a great effort. Like when the parents are caught up with the hecticness of life and need to carve out space for their kids. If you get the cues and give the attention, it will release a lot of the tension.

This has been embedded into creation by the Creator. The greater the efforts that you put forth for something the more meaningful it becomes. The more you work on a relationship with someone, the deeper you connect to that person.

It is very much that way when it comes to our relationship with G-d.

Hashem instructs us to do Mitzvahs so that we have a way to connect to Him.

How can you connect to G-d who is infinite, only when He gives you a path to connect to Him. That is what Mitzvahs are. Connectors.

Hashem desires our connection to Him.

Not just when it comes easy and without effort.

Hashem wants to see how we relate to him when it is not easy.

Hashem cherishes our efforts. The harder the effort the dearer it is to Hashem.

And He rewards us commensurate to our efforts. We are rewarded not (only) based on outcome, but based on how much effort and strain we encountered along the way.

Our sages said it in the Ethics of our Fathers (5, 21): ‘According to the ‘pain’ (aka effort) is the reward’.

The Rebbe takes this teaching and deepens the meaning, from which the following life lesson emerges.  

Why do people get stuck in life without having the energy to get to where they really want.

For many people, it’s fear of failure that holds them back from trying something new.

Here is a simple example.

Riding a bicycle usually involves one or two falls as you learn to balance yourself. Kids are usually flexible and used to falling as they romp around. The fear of falling is usually not a deterrent for them.

When it comes to adults, the fear of falling is scarier and thus it is more difficult to acquire bicycle riding balancing skills. (For me this applies with ice skating as I go around the rink at our ‘Chanuka on Ice’ event, clutching onto the railings).

When it comes to making career changes, launching a new business or relocating to a new place, it is often scary as the future is unknown.

Super optimists may not be so bothered and just move on without thinking.

But let’s face it. It’s nice to be optimistic but one should also have a healthy does of realism. It seems safe to say that in life, if you embark on something bold and daring, there is a chance that you may not be successful.

What happens when an idea is unsuccessful. Isn’t it a waste of time and resources?

And then isn’t there really something to be fearful about?


If your agenda in life is ‘bottom line’ and amassing money and assets, then you are indeed taking a gamble.

Embarking on a new business may yield success or may be unsuccessful.

And if you end up being without profits and even worse, in debt, you will not have achieved your objective. And your vendors may not respect your efforts.

With all the goodwill in the world, you cannot take ‘efforts’ to the bank. If you don’t have money in the bank to pay the electricity bill, the explanations to the electricity company about how hard you are trying, won’t keep the power on.

Being fearful of failure in this case may actually be prudent and protect you from falling into crippling debt.

Especially if you are not young and have other people reliant on you.

If you were prophet and knew the future, the wise thing would be, not to embark on the new venture.

With our relationship with G-d, it’s totally different.

When embarking on something ambitious to deepen your relationship with G-d, holding back because of fear of failure is a missed opportunity.

Say a person is considering taking on a commitment to give more Tzedaka to help others. Right now, it looks like a bold undertaking. Not impossible and not totally unreasonable. Just somewhat ambitious and it may be that he will not be able to fully carry through on it.

The fear that he may not be successful in carrying out his commitment dampers his enthusiasm. His internal voice of caution tells him that he should not even make the commitment.

It can be argued, says that little ‘negatively inclined’ voice, dressed up in robes of piety, that it is wise and holy to be prudent in this case.

‘Undertaking something that may be too large, may harm your connection to Hashem’.

‘If you don’t succeed in carrying out your commitment you will fall into ‘spiritual debt’ to Hashem for not succeeding’, argues the inner voice.

What indeed happens if after a person tried and strained and pushed himself to the maximum, he failed. In terms of measurable outcomes that is. He promised xyz and underdelivered.

Perhaps he would be better off not having endeavored the bold leap that he took.

The Rebbe sees this Mishnaic statement ‘according to the pain/effort is the reward’ as an answer to this dilemma.

Hashem welcomes, cherishes, values honest efforts. To prove the point, He even gives reward for efforts that turn out to be fruitless.

Even when the efforts remain just that. Painful and strenuous efforts. Without a successful outcome.

It’s almost like saying that if you had a time machine and saw that in the future your undertaking wouldn’t succeed, you would still be blessed for taking on a good resolution and working hard and vigorously to fulfil your commitment.

In Hashem’s Eyes, the undertaking, the efforts and the straining, are valuable and treasured. Regardless of the success of the outcome.

Moreover, the greater the ‘pain’ the greater the ‘gain’.

So, let’s get a bit more audacious in setting our sights higher and broader.

(Not in a deranged and unrealistic way. That is foolish, not brave).  

The Sages teach us that Hashem cherishes our efforts even if they are not successful.

My friends, is there anything more ‘successful’ than Hashem treasuring one’s efforts?

This is the beauty of being in a relationship with Hashem.

If you live your life as He instructs your every activity is a part of the mosaic of G-d’s work here on earth.

You are like a full time ‘employee’ of Heaven. In whatever you do. From the mundane to the holy.

And your measure for success is not judged by how much ‘value’ you brought as an outcome.

Rather your mission is to put forth every effort.

The only question that really matters is ‘how hard you tried to be what you can be’.

This message was the topic of the ‘Sicha’ I taught at the Thursday night Torah class (in person and Zoom) and follows the Project Likkutei Sichos cycle.

Hashem sent me the message when I really needed it.

It is all about our efforts.

That is what is asked of us.


That is gifted by Hashem.

When it comes to Hashem, He values and cherishes efforts. Strenuous efforts are even more treasured. When you don’t yet get the outcome you need, it doesn’t mean you were not successful. As long as you tried, you are already successful.

Perhaps Hashem is delaying the success and telling you that you need to try even harder.

Friends, if you are thinking about doing something that you know Hashem wants, an additional Mitzvah, some more Torah, helping more people, don’t overthink it.

Even if you engage in something as mundane as raising funds for startups. (Over the last few weeks, I have met by Divine Providence three people in the startup industry in Israel. This is why this example jumps to my mind). If your overall agenda is G-d based your business endeavors are also a ‘mission’ from G-d. For example, if your product is adding goodness to humanity, if your intention is to give more employment to those who need to support their families, grow the economy of Israel, or if you wish to make profits to do kindness and tzedakah, this message about the value of efforts unrelated to outcomes, applies to you as well.

It is not just the successful outcome that is important. Hashem relishes your genuine efforts in bettering the world as well.

Let us stop hesitating about moving forward to do what Hashem wants.

Take a leap.

Try your best. Even strain yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Hashem tells us in the Torah that ‘yagaata umatzata’ ‘strenuous toil leads to finding successes’.

And in the event that you don’t yet see the outcome you are awaiting, reframe your understanding of the word success to incorporate ‘success = making maximum efforts’ to fulfil your commitment to Hashem.

May Hashem crown the efforts of His people Am Yisrael with success.

May there be peace and protection in Israel and in the entire world.

We want Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Balancing Act

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A community member whose son I had the privilege to prepare for his Bar Mitzva, shared with me about his son’s progress in life. His son is currently undergoing intense training for an elite unite in the IDF.

The father also shared with pride that while their family is not fully mitzvah observant, his son puts on the Tefillin that he received at his Bar Mitzvah, at least once a week.

I was deeply inspired to hear of his son’s progress and heroic commitment to protecting our fellow Jews in the holy land of Israel.

As well, I admired his mature insight into the importance of simultaneously bonding with G-d via His mitzvah of Tefillin.

Why do I call it maturity?

Because it takes a combination of two opposite notions.

Nobody needs much convincing to agree that maintaining a strong army is one of the most critical components for Israel’s survival. Surrounded as they are by those who wish to see their annihilation, a strong military is an absolute must.

When it comes to putting on Tefillin, praying and doing G-d’s mitzvahs it doesn’t necessarily see so obvious. Some may ask, how does doing holy and spiritual things help preserve the security of Israel?

And on the flip side, if one believes that prayer and mitzvahs are so invincibly strong, why the need for an army at all?

The answer is very simple.

Hashem has clearly told us in the Torah that just like we have a body and a soul, the world operates in two tracks. There are the ‘rules of nature’ and there is nature defying ‘miracles’.

Are we to rely on miracles, or act within the boundaries of nature?

The Torah teaches us that we need a balance of both.

On the one hand G-d promises that He will bless us with supernatural protection, yet He has also instructed us that notwithstanding His Divine protection to us, we need to act within the parameters of nature.

The Jewish way is very clear.

To support ourselves and our families Hashem tells us that we need to go to work and earn money.

If one doesn’t feel well, the Torah instructs us to visit the doctor and get healed.

To ward off security threats, Hashem instructs us to self-protect. The Torah itself teaches us that we need to create a military deterrent by having a super strong army.

(We are too used to the absurd reality that we live in. A world where anti-Semitism has sadly and tragically not disappeared. The mere fact, that a nation that is chosen by G-d to be a ‘light unto the nations’ needs to invest in weaponry and develop military supremacy is ludicrous. It is insanity. However, for now it is the reality. For some reason unknown to us, this is the way Hashem has set it up for now. Hopefully soon to be changed with the coming of Mashiach and ‘they shall beat their swords into plowshares’).

And at the same time, we must always remember that it is Hashem who causes our actions to be successful.

As King David says in Tehillim (Psalms) 127: If Hashem will not build a house, its builders have toiled at it in vain; if Hashem will not guard a city, [its] watcher keeps his vigil in vain.

Some people get pulled to extremes.

Some consider themselves ‘non-believers’ and they pride themselves on relying solely on nature.

Others, in the name of being super-pious, proclaim that they wish to rely only on Divine miraculous intervention.

My Bar Mitzvah student obviously gets the balance.

He is training for an elite unit in the army which means he understands the critical need for a strong military.

Yet at the same time he is mindful that the blessings for success come from Above and he takes the time to pray to Hashem and wrap his Tefillin regularly.

It got me thinking about the other forms of polar opposites we are called upon to embrace during our lives.

Think about different character modes in terms of interpersonal relationships.

I remember hearing from a very prominent person in the London Jewish community about his frustrations when he arrived home after a high-level day. ‘I had just come home from dining in Buckingham Palace with the members of the royal family, and then my wife sent me to take out the rubbish’.

It can be quite challenging. Imagine a man or woman being an employer of hundreds or thousands of workers, at the top of a business hierarchy that has their wishes turning to commands and then coming home to eat dinner and interact with a spouse and children. One cannot give an ‘order’ to a spouse like one can issue an instruction to a secretary. At home the leader of the company must adjust to being the spouse and parent of that home. For some (or perhaps for many) these adjustments do not come so easily and thus the peace at home is sometimes challenged.

I saw this idea at the end of a long letter to Elie Wiesel in 1967. The Rebbe implores Mr. Wiesel in this long Yiddish letter to get married (pursuant to a previous 1965 letter in this vein) and have children. In a PS, the Rebbe voiced his disappointment at the ‘meddling middlemen’ who derailed his proposed meeting with Mrs. Golda Meir during her visit to New York.

The Rebbe wrote (loose translation from the Yiddish original) ‘ I don't want to dwell on this painful matter, although of course I am disappointed that the meeting did not happen. Apart from all other things, the meeting with Mrs. G.M is also interesting to me from a purely human-psychological point of view. To be able to study a person who, although she has been active in political life for decades, with all the qualities that are associated with it, she has the ability to be a grandmother to small grandchildren, With the softness and heartiness that are required for this’.

Mrs. Golda Meir has been termed by biographers as a ‘lioness’ and ‘indomitable’. The Rebbe also saw her other side as a soft and emotional grandmother. The two opposite set of character traits coming together and being embodied in one person was of interest to the Rebbe.

In the Torah (this week’s Parsha) there is a law that instructs a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) to stay holy and segregated, not ever leaving the holiness of the Temple to engage in burying a dead person even if it’s his immediate relative. But then there is a different directive which stands in direct opposition to those laws of holiness. If there is a ‘met mitzvah’, a person who has died who has no one to tend to him, the Kohen Gadol is instructed by the Torah to go out and ‘impure’ himself by burying the dead person.

How can that be?

The Kohen Gadol occupies the holiest position in the Jewish People. He and only he, entered the Holy of Holies on the holiest day of the year Yom Kippur.

How can be instructed to ‘defile’ that holiness and engage with a corpse which has the highest level of impurity as defined in the Biblical laws of Taharah purity.

Even for his father he is not allowed to leave his perch of segregation from impurity, yet for an absolute stranger he may be instructed to defile himself?

The answer is obvious. There is absolutely no contradiction.

The Kohen Gadol is an agent of G-d.

He has one mission to fulfil.

The instructions of Hashem.

When one views life from that lens, it is quite uncomplicated.

Should you stay in Synagogue all day and pray?

Or go out and get a job to earn a living.

Should you get a job that doesn’t allow Shabbat observance or make a firm resolution that Shabbat will be kept at all costs?

Our singular mission in life is to fulfil Hashems will.

What should you do?

Ask Hashem.

He has made it very clear.

You need to do both.

‘Do what you can naturally. I will bless your efforts’.

It is a blend of human efforts with G-d’s blessings crowning those efforts with success.

It is really quite straightforward.

It is not about following your ‘heart’ and doing what you feel like.

One must follow the instruction of Hashem.

Nice people need to be ready to be ‘tough’ and firm when it comes to standing up for moral values and protecting others.

Tough and unyielding people need to cultivate kind and benevolent feelings in relating to their loved ones and to people who need their compassion and help.

(Because we are all subjective by nature, we must engage an impartial ‘rav’ teacher to help us come to the correct application of what Hashem is instructing us in any given situation).

How fortunate we are that Hashem ‘made us’ and just as He is omnipotent, he provides us with the ability to do the impossible when required. To straddle both worlds and to incorporate all kinds of character traits. As needed in following His instructions.

Thank you, my dear Bar Mitzvah student, for your commitment to the security of our people. I, like every single Jew owe you and of all those brave soldiers, my admiration, my prayers, my support and my love.

And thank you for being a beacon of transmission of our unchanging Jewish tradition by proudly putting on your Tefillin and promoting a message of faith and trust in Hashem as the cornerstone and bedrock of Am Yisrael.

May Hashem bless you and all our people.

Am Yisrael Chai.

May we be blessed with SHALOM, peace and tranquility in the holy land of Israel and the coming of Mashiach to usher in the everlasting utopian world that our Prophets have described – Mashiach NOW!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


how does He do it?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Sometimes I hear a story and it’s just so complex that I find myself asking ‘How does He do it’?

When I say ‘He’ I mean the Almighty.

How does Hashem keep track of the myriads of souls as they traverse the world enclothed in human bodies and wandering off in zillions of directions.

Listen to this story.

R’ Yair Kalev is a charismatic lecturer who teaches Tanya in Hebrew. Yair was invited to a weekend retreat to give a lecture series on the Tanya.

One of the caretaking staff of the conference facility was enamored by the lectures he was overhearing as he went about his maintenance work.

That may not have sounded so unusual if the caretaker was Jewish. But this particular maintenance worker was non-Jewish of Druze origin. He was hired because he was non-Jewish as his work involved doing things on Shabbat that Jewish people are forbidden to do.

Something about those lectures touched him deeply. They awakened something in his soul and he asked R’ Yair where he could find more of the like. Yair directed him to his YouTube channel.

Several months later, this Druze caretaker made an appointment with a local rabbi in Israel to discuss converting to Judaism.

Even after several attempts to dissuade him, the caretaker insisted that he really truly wants to be Jewish. He implored the Bet Din to accept him as a conversion candidate.

The rabbi saw that he was adamant in his request and agreed to consider it. However, he told him, there is a fundamental problem. You are married and have a few children. If you become a Jew you must be married to a fellow Jewess. It won’t be possible to convert to Judaism and remain married to a non-Jewish Arab woman.

To which the man replied, ‘I am not sure, but I believe according to the Jewish religion my wife may not need to convert as her mother was born Jewish before she converted to Islam’.

After investigating the family history, the story that emerged was quite unusual.

The mother of his wife was indeed born Jewish. Her parents were traditional Sephardic Jews who had emigrated to Israel just after World War II.  The girl herself was born in Israel.

As a teenager she had befriended a young Arab man to the dismay of her traditional Jewish family. This developed into a serious relationship. To get married to him, she had converted to Islam. This estranged her from her Jewish family with whom she had no contact for decades.

She was quite upset initially when the rabbi called her probing into her origins. As far as she was concerned, she was fully Muslim, her daughters had all married non-Jewish men and to poke around in the history of her origin didn’t sit well with her. But the facts were true. She was born a Jew. And if the mother is Jewish, the daughter is Jewish as well from birth.

Once the rabbi confirmed that indeed the Druze man’s wife was born Jewish, the process became more straightforward.

His wife agreed to undergo a formal ‘return to Judaism’ ceremony. While she was not ready to embrace Judaism to the extent of her husband who was committing to be fully Jewishly observant, she was agreeable to keep the basic mitzvot of the Jewish home.

After several months, the conversion of the Druze husband to Judaism took place. Shortly afterwards they got married under the Chupa.

The story made waves in the family. The sister of the bride came to the rabbi’s and confidentially shared that she was suffering in her current life and asked for help in returning to her Jewish roots.

The mother of the bride apologized to the rabbi for her angry tone when he had first contacted her. She too expressed her desire to return to her Jewish heritage when the opportunity would be available.

And I, upon hearing the story, am left with the feeling of incredulity about the meanderings of souls here in this diverse world with its web of varying paths.

‘How does He do it’?

A Jewish girl left her heritage in 1948. Some seventy years later her daughters non-Jewish husband gets interested in Judaism in the most unexpected of ways.

Suddenly, the sparks that seemed almost extinguished came back to life.

This is part of the fulfillment of the verse (Isaiah 27, 13) And it shall come to pass on that day, that a great shofar shall be sounded, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt shall come and they shall prostrate themselves before the Lord on the holy mount in Jerusalem.

Who knows how many of us there are wandering around the world. Sometimes we remember that we are Jewish and try to maintain our heritage, sometimes people meander and wander very far away. To the proverbial ‘Assyria’ and ‘Egypt’. Click here for a contemporary reframing. However far one may wander, Hashem promises the He will take each Jew by the hand and bring them back home when the Mashiach comes.

This week we had a gathering of the Asia regional emissaries of the Rebbe. It was held in Bangkok and provided much needed inspiration and camaraderie for the men women and children who run the Chabad houses spread throughout the many time-zones of Asia.

One of the very colorful parts of the work in Asia is this very phenomenon of the ‘waking up’ of ‘sparks’ of Judaism within the souls and hearts of those who have traveled far away from their ‘home’ of birth.

Stories were shared about the tenacity of the Jewish soul’s clinging to G-d even after wandering to the farthest of shores.

You too can participate in creating these stories. Start by being open to picking up ‘Jewish vibes’ from people around you. Try dropping a Hebrew/Yiddish word or two if you bump into someone that you think may be Jewish. You may discover a ‘spark’ waiting to be reignited. A ‘member of the tribe’ who is longing for a sense of community and family.

And you never know. YOU may be the messenger of Hashem to reunite this brother or sister to their Jewish soul and to their Jewish family.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS My dear friend Bennett Hymer of Hawaii was so inspired by the stories I would share with him, that he undertook the publishing of a book with a collection of anecdotes and inspirational stories relating to life in Thailand. Click hereOr here for more info about the ‘Chai from Thai’ book. Or email me to purchase your copy locally in Thailand.

social over solitary

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Did you notice the news headlines about a Spanish sportswoman who lived underground in a cave for 500 days?

Yep, you heard right. Last week on April 14’th Beatrice Flamini emerged from living solitarily in an underground cave in the Spanish hills for the better part of two years.   

The timing couldn’t be better for the parsha topic which is about the laws of the ‘metzorah’.

And it is also immaculately timed to be just ten days before the new cycle of non-solitary ‘all of Torah – all of Us’ Rambam study begins on April 24th.

Let me explain what I mean.

Spending a week living in solitary conditions outside the city is the key ingredient in the purification of a ‘metzorah’.

What’s a ‘metzorah’?

in English it has been translated as ‘leper’, however it is not leprosy which is a physical ailment. A “metzorah’ is a halachic concept caused by a skin discoloration.

In Temple times, discoloration would sometimes appear on a person’s skin. It was not connected to any physical fungus, and it was not infectious or contagious. It was a G-dly inflicted discoloration that had no ramifications medically.

For all intents and purposes, it didn’t do anything.

Well, not physically, that is.

Spiritually though, it rendered a person impure. The ‘metzorah’ was one of the most intense impurities in the spectrum of impurities.

The purification process required a seven-day isolation outside of the camp. Not for dealing with some kind of contagion. Rather there was a Divinely ordained socially beneficial therapeutic aspect to it.

The Torah teaches that this Temple era skin discoloration came as an ‘early-warning-signal’ to a person who was engaging in negative communications regarding others. By this I mean ‘lashon harah’, spreading unfavorable information about someone else. Lashon harah is forbidden even if the information shared by the gossiper is true.

Yes, some people are surprised to learn this. That even spreading information that is true, if it portrays someone else in a bad light is disallowed by the Torah. (There are various exceptions to this rule particularly if there is a danger that can be mitigated by sharing pertinent information).

This does not mean we should keep our mouths zippered shut all the time. The power of speech is amazing when used correctly. We are mandated to use our mouths and power of speech to spread good energy about other people. To bring people together and create camaraderie and community.

There is a caveat to speaking nicely about someone else. As the world is still not a perfect place, it is not correct to speak too highly of someone else if you know that it will invite a boomerang of negative responses.

Say you praise someone for his extreme charitableness. You mean well. But you must first assess to which crowd you are saying this to. As sometimes, if for example the donor is not liked by his business competitors, this will elicit a cynical response. I have heard people downplaying generous gifts given by genuinely caring donors by saying ‘oh, he’s just looking to build up his ego by flaunting his wealth and acting philanthropic’. Even though I knew that this person was truly trying to be selfless and alturistic.

Just like you check for cars before you cross the road, we always ought to think before we speak. Even when it comes to saying something positive it requires forward thinking to know what to say and when to say it.

That is not the case when it comes to negative talk. Nothing to think about. Just keep your mouth shut. Lashon hara needs to be avoided always.

Spreading negative gossip tears society asunder and causes hatred and infighting.

How many family feuds and community flare-ups have been caused by the scourge of gossip – lashon hara.

During Temple times, Hashem backed up this commandment of not speaking lashon harah by sending the perpetrator a gentle physical reminder. That reminder would come in the form of a skin discoloration that would render the person a ‘metzorah’.

The purification process included a seven-day period of isolation outside the camp.

It was not punitive.

It was curative.

The path to healing someone who spreads gossip is to allow them to experience for themselves how painful it is when one is ejected from society.

Speaking gossip creates loneliness. The gossiper has caused others to be lonely through his negative and cynical talk. He needs to be walked through the process of identifying with the pain of those he has caused to suffer.

To truly feel remorse and make a firm resolution to mend one’s ways, it requires the perpetrator’s empathetic feeling of what it means to be in solitude.

If you are a Spanish mountain climber trying to break a world record and help test scientific theories about light and sleep cycles, living in solitude even for 500 days may be bearable. If however you are forced into solitude, in Temple times, without phones or communication with the outside world, you would likely feel the pain and difficulty of loneliness.

This parsha thus reminds us about the great gift of community and family.

My dear friends, as I am on the topic of speech, I would like to share something that I think is important to know. For while technology brings great things to our society, it also allows for new twists that can be used nefariously.

Continuing on the topic of lashon harah.

Imagine if you heard a recording of your best friend speaking slander about you to someone else. You would be horrified. You thought that this person was honestly and genuinely your trusted confidant. And then they go behind your back and defame you?

If someone asked you ‘are you sure that this friend actually double crossed you like that, maybe it was someone else speaking’? And you say, ‘no, I recognize my (former) best friends voice a million miles away, the inflections in their manner of speaking and many other details, I am completely sure that it was him’.

Till very recently you may have been right to assume that you had no room for doubt.

No longer.

Voice cloning via AI. Have you ever heard about this latest scamming tool?

Look at this headline:

Scammers are using AI-generated voice clones, the FTC warns The agency issued a consumer alert urging people to be vigilant for calls using voice clones generated by artificial intelligence. They can be used by criminals hoping to swindle people out of money.

The authorities are advising that before you go ahead and send money to someone based on your recognition of their voice, check with the person to make sure it if for real.

This newfangled development has an application to the age-old laws of lashon harah that we have just discussed. If you think you heard someone say something nasty and you are sure you know who said it. Don’t be so sure anymore.

The Torah laws of speech have not changed. They are instructions from G-d for eternity.

However, the ever-developing technologies require that we adapt and develop the laws to know how they apply to the advances that are made as the world marches closer to its final destiny.

The incredible revolution of the industrial age and the subsequent techonoly age is all a preparation for the explosion of G-dly knowledge that is developing as we are about to welcome Mashiach.

The coming of Mashiach will usher in a world of peace and utopia.

No wars, no jealousies and not even unhealthy competition.

All the reasons and excuses for societal discord will no longer be around.

This means that all of us will be totally united as one family and community.

This description of the way the world will be when Mashiach comes is depicted in the final chapters of the Rambams 1000 chapters of laws.

 The Rebbe issued a call nearly forty years ago to join a study cycle of Rambam, this studying the entire oral Torah every year or three years.

The fact that so many Jewish people are on the same ‘page’ learning the same material all around the globe, is a unifying exercise that brings blessing and light to our nation.

Here is my call to action.

  1. As we are still close enough to the pandemic to appreciate the worlds emergence from Covid lockdowns,
  2. during this year of Hakhel gathering,
  3.  as we read the portion of the Torah regarding ensuring that our speech doesn’t drive us apart,
  4. especially during this weekend as we finish the united study cycle of the Rambam (click her to join the new cycle),

Let us make efforts to appreciate the gift and power of gathering together with others.

Let  us instigate and initiate gatherings of our families, extended families, communities, and any kind of group that has a commonality that binds them together.

If you are a leader in any kind of group, go ahead and make a gathering of your group and share Divine inspiration.

You will be bringing blessing for the group as a whole and for each individual therein.

It’s not a secret but sometimes we forget just how true it is.

Hashem blesses us most impactfully when we are TOGETHER.

May Mashiach come immediately and bind us TOGETHER FOREVER


May this be a reality speedily in our days. AMEN

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

non-ending Pesach

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Pesach went out last night.

I don’t want to say Pesach ‘ended’.

Since I was a little child the phrase at the end of my parents black and white wedding movie has been embedded in my subconscious.

This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

Indeed, my parents may they be blessed, concluded their wedding party celebration at the end of that movie, but it was just the beginning of their future blessed lives together. I know, as I was blessed to come onto the scene as part of that new beginning thank G-d.

Pesach doesn’t end.

Click here for a short video on this topic.

After Pesach we have a new beginning, though.

When a Jewish person reenters into the ‘mundane world’ after being elevated to inner freedom after the eight day ‘festival of liberation’, it is not ‘back to square one’.

We don’t land back down at the same height as before we entered Pesach.

Rather, we BEGIN AGAIN.

From a new starting altitude.

Pesach leaving and ‘real life’ starting, provides an opportunity for a renewed liberational beginning, from a higher and more advanced starting point.

As Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, we were blessed at Chabad of Thailand to host nearly 9,500 guests at Seder tables throughout the country. (See below note). Numbers that are inspiring and even larger than our pre-Covid Seders.

Mentioning Covid…

This is indeed a moment to pause, reflect and sing our thanks and praise to the Almighty for having restored the equilibrium of the ‘microbe’ and ‘virus’ world of germs so that the trillions of trillions of cells that are all around us and inside of us are functioning seamlessly and healthily.

The ability to congregate in large groups and remain healthy is something we no longer take for granted as it stands in sharp contrast to the days of the Covid that kept us all isolated for so long. As the pandemic roared through humanity taking an all too precious toll in terms of human life and debilitating illness.

Thank you Hashem for every single breath.

Thank you Hashem for creating and guiding with Divine Providence the peaceful interaction between all of the myriads and multitudes of microbes.

The large numbers create a ‘buzz’ and an atmosphere that large crowds engender. An uplifting and euphoric feeling of ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ pride and joy in being part of Hashems special nation of Israel.

The feedback from individuals about their experiences is inspiring to no end.

Let me share two of the many anecdotes I heard over Pesach from participants at our Pesach celebrations.

A Jew, who just a few years ago didn’t know much more about Passover than the ‘matzah ball’ in the chicken soup tradition, confided to me that they had kept a kosher for Pesach diet the entire eight days of Pesach this year.

At the beginning of Pesach it is daunting to think that you cannot eat your favorite grains for eight days.

However by the end of Pesach, once successfully refraining from those prohibited foods, it is liberating to see how those things you thought you can’t do without, do not hold you hostage and do not define your life.

It may not be easy to change one’s diet for eight days, but once you have successfully done it, you realize that G-d gives you the ability to make decisions about what you will bring into your body. Regardless of your natural inclinations and cravings.

The truly liberational part of this is that when you plan your diet based on the instructions of a ‘Higher Authority’, your entire eating becomes G-dly.

Certainly, this is an ‘aha moment’ that should bring a person to a more mindful place in terms of what they ‘want to eat’ vs what they ‘ought to eat’.

This joke says it well.

A guy comes to the bakery eyeing all the calorie laden things.

The salesperson asks what would you like...

‘I would like a cheesecake and some cream puffs’, responds the customer, ‘but I will take a half loaf of wholewheat bread’.

For a Jew it is critical to eat what is healthy for body and healthy for soul.

After Pesach one can reemerge into ‘chametz’ eating with the knowledge that they can control their intake. It is within their power to choose what they put into their bodies rather than blindly following their palates and appetites.

Here are a few words from one of the participants at Phuket’s ‘supersize’ Seder.

‘My experience at the seder evening in Phuket was very emotional and meaningful. To see so many different kinds of Jewish people sitting together around the Seder table, singing, eating matzahs and celebrating our exodus from Egypt. In Israel, just a few weeks ago, our family was in the streets of Tel Aviv demonstrating, yet here we are in Phuket sitting around the same tables with those whom we disagree politically. Here we feel the unity of our nation. This is something unique that Chabad has contributed to our holiday.’

Pesach may be over, but certainly that feeling of Jewish unity, that transcends our differences and arguments should remain with us and be the starting point for reengaging with each other in a loving and respectful manner.

Lets run with the unity thing. Its our biggest, sturdiest, and most powerful weapon that we have at our disposal. It is what injects the Divine blessing into all of the intense and heroic military efforts of our courageous soldiers in the Holy Land for which we are all praying so hard.

May Hashem bless our people with peace, from the inside, and from the outside.

My friend, during this special time period immediately following Pesach, gift yourself a few minutes of meditational time to capture at least one ‘Pesach moment’ that you can incorporate into your life as you reenter the world invigorated by the Pesach spirit.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Chag Samayach and Shabbat Shalom!

Dear Friend,


The frenetic energetic fast paced battle against the forces of negativity represented by ‘chametz’ is basically over. The chametz that we had in our possession has either been sold to a non-Jew (for whom it’s perfectly fine to indulge in chametz during this next week), our disposed of in some other way . Now we can relax from the offensive struggle with chametz while keeping our defenses up to make sure we don’t let chametz into our environments and certainly keep it far away from our food supply.

But we are not meant to disengage or stay idle. Not just yet. Now we are free to focus fully on the positive mitzvahs of Pesach which are eating matzah on the first nights of Pesach and telling the story of our redemption. This is what a Passover Seder is all about. Eating Matzah, drinking four cups of wine, telling the story of Exodus and having a great time doing it, this all takes preparation and effort!

So during the few remaining hours till Pesach I urge you to make sure that you have arranged to eat matzah and recount the Exodus. Moreover, don’t just be satisfied with having made sure you will fulfil your obligation, think about who else you know who is Jewish and may not be invited to a Seder or have matzah. If you are in Bangkok, we still have a few spaces at our Seder in the Rembrandt Hotel so please let me know if you or someone you know or someone you don’t know would like to attend. For my readers around the world, hopefully you could still squeeze in one or two more guests around your Passover tables and I urge you to think of someone who may not have a Seder to attend.

May we all have a liberating Passover and be liberated from all things that constrict us, worry us, cause us anxiety or just plain bother us, both physical, emotional and spiritual. 

Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom

A Kosher and Joyous Pessach to you and your loved ones!

Leshana Habaah BeYerushalayim!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Gratitude Seders

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The rush hour train from Manhattan to Brooklyn was jam packed with people, yet strangely enough there seemed to be a few empty seats in the carriage I had entered.

My nose picked up the reason for the vacant seats at about the same time that my eyes noticed the forlorn, filthy human being who was sitting on the subway bench with no one near him on both sides.

I am sure that many people in that train car felt pity for that man just as I did, yet I do not realistically think that anyone did anything concrete to help this person out of his plight and I’m not sure anyone even knew what they could do. Just thinking about how to solve this persons predicament seemed overwhelming. A few stops later the man shuffled out dejectedly, leaving the passengers in my carriage able to breathe easier – quite literally.

Being unaccustomed to seeing these sights, I could not seem to get the sad picture out of my mind and searched for a message that I could extract from this encounter other than the obvious ones centered on charity ….

Then it dawned on me.

Imagine if someone in the subway would have taken the man home, bathed him, clothed him, healed his skin sores and given him a place to call home.

Imagine if it was not just a regular person who was his savior, but it was the king of the country who had taken him into his royal chambers to live right near him. Can you even begin to describe the unimaginable feelings of thankfulness and gratitude that the unfortunate man would have to his royal savior?

This is how our Sages portray ever so vividly what Passover is all about.

We, the Jewish people were like that man in his poor wretched state.

As a people we were enslaved and metaphorically smelly and filthy lying as we were in poverty on the garbage heap in Egypt.

And it was from that abject state of poverty and wretchedness that the great King – G-d Almighty himself -extracted us and rehabilitated us, bringing us into his own private chambers and showing us every sign of love.

This gives us some kind of illustration as to the nature and depth of our collective feeling of gratitude and indebtedness for the miracle of Exodus from Egypt.

The Jewish People practices gratitude in a most incredible way. Our gratitude to G-d has not waned over the years. On the contrary, it has gotten stronger and stronger during the more than three thousand years since our redemption at the time of Pessach.

Join a Seder to express your gratitude to Almighty G-d for his everlasting kindness to us.

Also, make liberation a reality in your life.

What does ‘liberation’ mean to us in a contemporary way?

The same thing it meant to the Jews that were redeemed from Egypt.

No one had ever escaped from Egypt. The Jewish people knew that they were destined to stay stuck in slavery.

The game changer was the liberation that G-d carried out.

So too, in our lives, we are stuck in places from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

For some it may be an addiction that they cannot overcome.

Others may struggle with staying focused on what they ought to do without getting distracted by the glitz and glamor of the things that they are not meant to do.

Examples for inner slavery, abound.

It is critical to be self-aware and notice where one is trapped.

The recognition that we are in some form of slavery is the first step to liberation from that ‘stuckness’.

And the awareness that it is only G-d who can take us out and liberate us from that captive state is the first step of our personal Exodus.

This is available to us every day of the year. And indeed we are instructed to remember the going out of Egypt every day because it is relevant and pertinent at all times.

It gets especially heightened during this time of the year when the Exodus from Egypt took place. At this time in the calendar, the month of Nissan, there is an air and aura and potential in the air for personal liberation.

Here in Thailand, we have multiple Seder options.

In Bangkok click here for optionsIn Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, Phuket, Pai, Ko Pangan. Preparations are going on full speed ahead.

If you are hosting your own Seder, please make sure to pick up some special handmade round ‘Shmura Matza’ for your Seder plate. It will be my pleasure to provide you with this special Seder Matza for use on Seder nights.

And click here to sell your chametz.

With Blessing,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Hide it under mattress?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The best place for money is in the bank.


Maybe not.

Over the past few weeks there have been some banks in the USA that have gone bankrupt.

So what should a person do with his money?

Put it under the mattress? Invest it in real estate? Convert it into diamonds?

I am not a financial advisor, and this is not a money management column.

This is an article that transmits Torah teachings and values.

From the Torah’s perspective ‘You only own what you give away’

The following story illustrates this point.

In medieval Europe a rabbi was appointed senior adviser at the royal court. At one point, the rabbi was asked to disclose the records of his holdings. The rabbi, a wealthy man, produced a list and hand delivered it to the king.

However, upon investigation it was discovered that many of his properties were not listed. The ministers brought their discovery to the king, and accused the rabbi of deceit.

The rabbi explained: "When the king asked me to disclose my holdings I included only those properties and funds that I have donated to charity. Those are the holdings I know will always be mine. All other properties do not truly belong to me, for today they are mine and tomorrow they may be taken from me..."

I have heard people tell personal stories that attest to the same point.

Max (Menachem Mendel) who survived the Holocaust by jumping off the train to Treblinka, told me the following.

‘My father used to send me with sums of money to the post office to send ‘money orders’ to his Rebbe for distribution to tzedakah. He asked me not to tell my mother as my mother would chide my father for giving tzedakah too generously. She would say ‘better put aside the money for the expenses of our children that we need to marry off’. (She didn’t really know the intricacies of the business and the extent of my father’s business success).

Max emotionally concluded ‘by the end of the Holocaust no one remained alive and most of the family money was lost due to the war’.

The money that Max’s father had distributed to tzedakah endures and remains the spiritual possessions and legacy of the family.

A friend from my Yeshiva days told me the following inspiring story that took place a year or two ago.

At the end of a spirited ‘Seduat Mashiach’ (meal eating at the end of Pesach) his friend invited him to match his donation of a few hundred thousand dollars to a worthy charity. Under the influence of the inspiration of the ‘four cups’ traditionally drank at that end of Pesach meal, my friend took upon himself the half a million dollars matching donation.

The next day, when the inspiration was not as strong, he started having gnawing doubts about the size of his largesse.

A short while later he noticed that a start-up stock that he had invested one hundred thousand dollars in, had risen to five times its initial price and was now worth five hundred thousand dollars.

He sold the stock and paid his inspired pledge of half a million dollars.

In my friends’ words ‘by nature I am a ‘holder’ of investments and don’t usually sell. If not for this super generous donation I had committed to, I would not have sold this investment stock’.

A few weeks later the stock price came down and was worth less than what he had paid for it.

Incredible story. The four hundred thousand dollars that my friend ‘made’, would have dissipated and disappeared. It would have been one of those ‘paper money’ stories that was merely a ‘mountain and valley’ on the graph of the stock value.

Now that the money was given to Tzedaka, the money was transformed into the mitzva of building a House of Prayer and a House of Torah Study.

This kind of ‘profit’ can never be taken away.

I am in New York visiting donors to solicit funds for our Passover Seders, (we are expecting some nine thousand guests at our Thailand locations).  By Divine Providence I visited one of my dear donor friends just after he finished wiping tears of emotion from his eyes.

Listen to his uplifting story.

Someone had tried to swindle me by selling me an item that turned out to be inauthentic. It took several years and much effort and expense to get my money back. I had decided that I didn’t want that money back. If I succeeded in reclaiming the money, I would give that recouped money to tzedakah. I would distribute these funds to charities that were not in my usual repertoire.

I won the case thank G-d. The swindler was forced to reimburse me for his dishonesty. I now had a respectable amount of money to distribute to tzedakah.

One of the causes that I donated to, was a fund that provides financial support to couples suffering from infertility.

Just before you walked in, I received a note of gratitude from a couple who was blessed with children after receiving my help with infertility treatments.

I am overcome with emotion at the great gift that I received through giving this tzedakah.

This is a gift of tzedakah that is everlasting. As the children born through the gift of his help, will in turn please G-d have children etc etc.

The Parsha’s of this week (Vayakhel and Pekudei) describes the exemplary generosity and giving that the Jewish people exhibited in the contributions to building the Mishkan. The women led the way with their enthusiastic participation and the men followed suit. To the extent that Moshe had to announce that the collection was over as the coffers were full.

By giving physical tzedakah one is able to create a space of holiness for G-d to reside. It’s empowering and uplifting to know that we can transform our physical possessions into conduits of G-d’s Holiness. Click here for a deep teaching on this concept.

The first thing we should do when we get reminded about the uncertainty of money by failing banks and financial markets shakeups, is to make sure to invest in the most secure and everlasting asset.


Giving to others.

During such times we ought to strengthen our commitment to tithing our money. The Torah teaches us that we should be giving ten (to twenty) percent of our incomes to Tzedaka. (If someone doesn’t have enough for their own rudimentary needs of life this obligation is adjusted accordingly).

The Torah also promises that if you give Maaser (tithe), you get blessings that bring you additional finances. Click here for more regarding this ‘promise’.

Try it.

And what to do with the other eighty or ninety percent?

As I said from the outset, I am not a financial advisor. However I do want to bring to your attention the special blessing that is connected to the holy land of Israel. Even when it comes to investing your money.

Click here to see the Rebbe advise someone that Eretz Yisrael is the surest place for Jewish people to invest.

May we all be blessed with an abundance of material blessings so that we can give tzedakah to help Jewish institutions and needy people with abundance.

Tzedakah is a most impactful way to bring the Redemption sooner.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Unity Reality

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The taste of Purim is still fresh. The exuberance and joy are still palpable.

The togetherness at the Purim celebrations all throughout Thailand is uplifting and exhilarating.

I don’t want to get down from the ‘high’.

And I don’t have to.

The next joyous holiday is upon us in less than thirty days.

The smell of Pesach is already wafting through the air. The aromas of the cleansing agents that are part of cleaning the home from Chametz are triggering childhood memories of cleaning for Pesach.

The Shmura Matzah, kosher wine, matza-ball mix, and other Pesach food items have been shipped and in ten days or so should be ready for distribution by JCafe Kosher Shoppe.

The real spirited high of Purim is the unity and ‘beyachad’ (togetherness) which catapulted me to exhilaration.

Sometimes we Jews are skeptical about our cohesion and commonality. It’s fashionable to ‘kvetch’ about our intolerance and highlight the differences between us.

But I am supremely optimistic about belonging to the most incredibly united nation in the world. When ‘push comes to shove’ we are united. in a way that is insane and defines rational explanation.

A phrase from more than a decade ago jumps into my mind.

‘Lihyot Yehudi, Zeh Guarantee’

להיות יהודי זה גאראנטי

It’s a mix of Hebrew and English and only rhymes if you use the original respective languages.

In English this means ‘being a Jew is a guarantee’.

The author of that slogan is a Jew by the name of Yosef. Here is the story behind that slogan.

More than a decade ago, I received a call from the Shliach in Cambodia….who had received a call from the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok that was overseeing matters relating to Israeli’s in Cambodia.

The call to R’ Butman was about a man was in hospital in a small village in Cambodia called ‘Ko Kong’. Rabbi Butman traveled five hours by taxi from Phnom Penh, a harrowing journey, to get there. He discovered a seventy-year-old Israeli Jew who looked like he was close to dying. He literally looked like a sack of bones. The ‘hospital’ was not more than a rural clinic. It was decided that rather than bringing him to Phnom Penh, which was already very far, it was worth traveling an extra hour to reach Bangkok where the hospitals are better and there is nonstop flight to Israel. We had a car take him to the border of Thailand and organized an ambulance from one of the Thai hospitals to pick him up from the border.

I remember receiving him at the ICU in one of the hospitals in Bangkok and am thankful that you cannot smell what I smelled when the doors of the ambulance opened. It was unforgettably putrid. He had obviously been neglected for quite some time. After several weeks in hospital Yosef healed thank G-d.

During his time in hospital, Yosef, who was penniless, and being fed and cared for by us his fellow Jews, came up with the slogan

‘Lihyot Yehudi zeh guarantee’.

What he was saying in a simple slogan contains the deepest truth.

Notwithstanding his physical and spiritual bankruptcy and even his stated future plans which did not at all fit with the Torah, he had been saved. Just because he was a Yehudi he had had been cared for by other fellow Jews. Simply because he has a neshama and therefore he and we, all of us who took care of him, are one.

(And because of that Ahavat Yisrael the Shliach in Cambodia came armed with tefillin and a shofar as it was the month of Elul. Yosef in his delirious state recounted that the shofar blast was so strong it shook the very building….

When the Shliach wrapped tefillin with him it became clear that he knew some basic prayers. The rabbi said the words ‘Shma Yisrael’  and Yosef continued by saying ‘Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad’. When the Shliach prompted Yosef to say the next paragraph of the Shema ‘Ve’ahavta, you shall love, which continues ‘et Hashem Elokecha’, Hashem your G-d, Yosef in his state of confusion continued, ‘lereacha kamocha…..’ i.e. he instinctively recited the verse ‘you shall love your fellow as yourself’. Quite providential as indeed this verse, Veahvta Lreacha Kamocha is G-d’s instruction for mutual responsibility between Jews).

I thought of this story, because during the past few days I have been busy with helping N., a Jew who fell unexpectedly ill in Phitsanulok. N. came to Thailand to do a mitzvah to visit an ailing friend. But then he too fell ill in the hotel and was taken to a hospital. Too ill to speak. His sister called me from the USA quite frantic. All she knew was that her brother was in a hospital in Thailand and too ill to speak. After a few hours she found out that he was in Phitsanulok. My secretary called the hospitals and located him. I had a kindhearted community member fly down from Bangkok and pay a personal visit on my behalf. Please G-d N. will recover but, in the meantime, he will need some nursing care which we have arranged. N. is blessed that he has siblings who are stepping in to make sure he is cared for and that he has fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in Thailand that are able to facilitate and coordinate his care.

It brought back to mind that story with Yosef from some eleven or twelve years ago.

The statement still echoes in my ear.

‘Lihyot Yehudi, Zeh Garauntee’.

To be Jewish is to have a guarantee that you belong to a large family that cares for you. Unconditionally and wholeheartedly.

We are one united Jewish family.

The togetherness of Purim that was experienced at the communal celebrations, is please G-d about to get even better. Especially here in Thailand. I anticipate that the large joyous and united crowds of Purim will be outdone by the even larger communal Pesach Seders that we are looking forward to blessedly host.

Purim and Pesach are so much about celebrating TOGETHER. As we have all painfully learned during the restrictions of Covid. Purim under Covid lockdown was just not at all the same. And Pesach in solitude was sheer suffering for so many people.

This is not just incidental.

Purim and Pesach share the common theme of Jewish Unity because the GEULAH – liberation and redemption, of Purim and Pesach are centered around unity.

What is most striking about the Purim and Pesach stories, is the absolute hate that Pharaoh and Haman had for the Jewish people regardless of their tribal or familial affiliation. And regardless of their level of devoutness.

In the story of Pesach and then Purim, the Jewish People as a collective was in grave danger and Hashem made a miracle and they were saved.

It hasn’t changed. Our enemies, the virulent antisemites that sadly still exist in our world, have a desire to harm each one of us.

We need to fortify and strengthen ourselves to be stronger than our enemies. Not just militarily and with brute strength, which are limited, but with G-d’s protective blessings which are unlimited and invincible.

Let us take a deeper look at the ‘cosmic’ underpinnings to the near disaster of Purim. What enabled the diabolical Hamanic threat?

Our sages point to the verse that following verse (Esther 3:8):

Haman said to King Achashverosh, "There is one nation, scattered and dispersed among the nations

Haman wished to imply that the Jewish people were not united and thus vulnerable.

It was not just a statement of fact that Haman made to Achashverosh. There was a deeply existential phenomenon that Haman was exposing. And Haman understood this to be the weak point of the Jewish people at that time.

The fragmentation of the Jewish People divested them of the G-dly protection promised to them. It made them vulnerable.

The Jewish response at the time of the Purim story was, "Go gather all the Jews"(Esther 4:16).

Jewish unity would be the antidote to Haman's slander.

When we Jews are united, we are armed with a supernatural G-dly protection that makes us indestructible.

This is also the reason for the special and unique interpersonal mitzvahs of Purim. If you notice, the theme of the specific practices of Purim are unity amongst the people. Sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.

Purim is a holiday one cannot celebrate alone.

My friends, we do not need a Pharaoh, a Haman or a Hitler may their names be obliterated to unite us.

We need to learn to celebrate together.

To agree to differ.

Yet at the same time recognize our shared origin and our common destiny.

And let us stop being so pessimistic about our ability to unite.

Don’t try to solve the global problems. Start locally. Do do one more deed of love and caring and sharing to a fellow than you are currently doing.

How about choosing a ‘fellow’ who you don’t feel such ‘fellowship’ towards.

Reach out in love to someone who thinks differently than you.

Engage with someone who you don’t naturally want to hang out with, and say a friendly word.

This is what I absolutely love about our Jewish life in Thailand.

The unity.

The brother/sister/hood.

Feasting together.

Singing together.

Rejoicing together.

Forgetting our arguments.

Highlighting our common aspirations and dreams.

If I daresay so, we need to export back to Israel the Ahavat Yisrael that Jews feel while traveling here and celebrating in unison.

It’s a holy undertaking. And it’s an achievable one.

As I am about to head off to the USA to raise funds for the deficit associated with the large communal Seders which we will be hosting throughout Thailand (Phuket and Ko Samui probably win the worldwide contest for the largest Seders in the world), I am imbued with this sense of mission.

The mission that you and I agree on, the mission of AM YISRAEL CHAI.

It’s simple. If we act like an AM – a nation, of YISRAEL – with the values of Judaism, we will be CHAI – alive and vibrant.

Let’s go for it.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS To reemphasize. This is a practical take away message from the Megillah.

Jewish unity.

Additionally, this year we find ourselves in the year of Hakhel, gathering.

The Torah portion of this week as well Ki Tisa, teaches us of the half shekel in which we are reminded that without another Jewish person we are only half.

So, all the arrows are pointing in the same direction. Jewish unity. It is dependent on each on every one of us to do our part.

With blessings for the immediate redemption Amen. 

Joyous and Inspired

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

How are you?

I am joyous and inspired thank G-d.

I have been seeing G-d everywhere these days.

Perhaps it has to do with the absence of G-d’s name in the Megillah.

What? The great and uber-celebrated miracle of the Megillah omits G-d’s name?

Yes. You heard right.


It’s a much-discussed topic. For further reading click Why isn’t G-d’s name mentioned in the Megila and Miracles Masked and The Shushan Files watch my newly recorded ‘moment of wisdom’ video here.

In brief, (without giving you the ‘gantzeh megilla’ aka the ‘long version’), G-d is there in the Megillah. But His presence is hidden. If you take a moment to look beneath the veneer you will see Him.

The tapestry of the Megillah has G-d ‘woven’ into every fiber. The intricate story with its unpredictable twists and turns, leading to Haman’s downfall and Mordechai and Esthers elevation is indicative of G-d detailed providence.

From the Megillah we learn and infer that G-d is here with us in our times as well, in our daily ‘grind’. It does however take a dose of meditative reflection to ‘join the dots’ and recognize the otherwise hidden presence of G-d in the minutiae of our lives.

There was a Gem Show last week in Bangkok. I attended the prayers and Shabbat meal that were held at the Shangri-La Hotel (the hosts of the event, the Even Chen Synagogue, has its permanent location in nearby at the Novotel Silom. To accommodate the larger crowd of overseas gem dealers we held services at Shangri-La).

After the Friday night Shabbat dinner, I started to say my Shabbat Shalom’s before I headed off for my hour-plus walk home to Sukhumvit 22. Mr. L. one of the attendees at the dinner asked me something about Beth Elisheva Synagogue in Sukhumvit. I naturally assumed that Mr. L. was staying for Shabbat at or near Shangri-La and made a comment to that effect. Mr. L. turned a bit red and said, ‘I want to be honest, actually I am staying tonight in a hotel in the Sukhumvit Rd area …’. I said, oh, so join me on my walk. He said he didn’t feel he would be able to manage the walk.

Mr. N., a friend of Mr. L., who was also visiting for the show, noticed the conversation and spoke up. ‘Come stay with me in my room in the Shangri-La hotel, I have two beds’. Mr. L. asked, ‘do you really mean it’? Mr. N. responded that yes, he was serious about the invitation and indeed Mr. L. slept the night in his friend’s room and thus kept the Shabbat properly.

I was inspired. After Shabbat I called Mr. N. to tell him how special it was that he initiated the sharing of his room with his friend for the sake of keeping the Shabbat holy. Mr. N. told me ‘Now I would like to share with you why I had two beds in my room. When I came to check-in to the hotel they told me that my pre-ordered king-size bedroom was not ready and I would have to wait a few hours. I told them that I wanted to go to work at the gem fair and couldn’t wait that long. After the long flight from NY, there was no way I could go to work without a shower. The hotel told me that I would agree to take a twin-bed room, I could receive it immediately. I decided to take the twin beds. Now I know why’.

It got me thinking about the myriad details that Hashem had to coordinate for this special keeping of Shabbat. The timing and the conversations had to be immaculately and precisely coordinated so that Mr. N. would hear Mr. L. and I talking. Mr. N. did a wonderful mitzvah by choosing to invite Mr. L. to spend Shabbat with him. The hotel staff at the Shangri-La hotel had to make the right offer. Who knows how many guests checked in and checked out on that day, which led to the hotel not having a king-size bed and only having twin beds at the precise moment that Mr. N. wanted to check in. Just to add to the plot, afterwards there were people who wanted a twin-bed room but there were none to be had. There was a shortage of twin-bed rooms. The fact that Mr. N. had one unintentionally was highly unusual. The unseen Hand of G-d.

On Sunday, after finishing the JLI lesson I decided to visit the kosher food dining room at the gem show. I went to see one or two friends who were exhibiting. One of them told me ‘I met Gilad, and he whispered in my ear that he would have put on Tefillin at the kosher food dining hall but forgot to do so. Perhaps you want to find him and offer him to put on tefillin’.

I took up the mission and looked for Gilad at the booth he was exhibiting at. But he wasn’t there. I figured to myself that looking for him in the large hall wouldn’t be feasible and headed off to the exit.

Right there, in my path was Gilad and his senior partner. I asked Gilad if he would like to put on Tefillin and he responded enthusiastically.

We went back to the booth and put on tefillin.

To me it was all in a day’s work. Thank G-d I get many opportunities to share the mitzvah of Tefillin with fellow Jews. I saw that Gilad was beaming with joy (see below picture) but I didn’t realize that there was more to the story.  

In Gilad’s words: ‘For two weeks straight I have been putting on Tefillin daily (except for Shabbat of course). I didn’t miss a day. It never happened to me that I was consistent about this for such a long period. Only today I missed putting on Tefillin. And then the rabbi came looking for me at the show and I got to put on Tefillin just before the end of the day. I am so emotionally touched. Thanks for all’.

What Divine Providence and how many myriads of details had to come together to set this rendezvous up. I almost didn’t go to the show that afternoon. I almost didn’t go to say hi to the friend who told me about Gilad. After looking for Gilad and not finding him I was on the way to leave the show and Hashem led me directly to Gilad.

I was so touched and uplifted by this story.

And once we are on the topic of Tefillin and Divine Providence.

Mr. I. recently reminded me that a number of years ago he had taken a business trip to Myanmar and discovered that he had left his Tefillin in the bag that he had left in his Bangkok hotel. Mr. l. looked for someone with Tefillin in Myanmar but did not find. After two days he arrived back in Bangkok and resumed his daily Tefillin prayer. But he felt really bad and came to see me.

‘Rabbi Kantor, since my bar mitzvah I have never missed a day of wearing tefillin, and now for the first time, I missed out two days of Tefillin, what shall I do’.

I recalled that sometimes the Rebbe would answer people in similar situations that they should influence someone else in the observance of the Mitzvah that they had omitted. In this way they would be ‘regenerating’ and ‘replenishing’ the ‘kedusha-energy’ that was missing due to their omission. I asked Mr. I. if he had any friends who don’t put on tefillin regularly. He told me that he had one friend who was not a regular Tefillin donner. I suggested that he ask him to put on Tefillin for at least two days. Mr. I. called his friend, and without telling him why, asked him to put on Tefillin for the next two days. His friend agreed without asking why.

Mr. I. shared with me, ‘it’s quite a few years now since then, and my friend has been putting on tefillin daily, ever since’.

I share these stories to thank Hashem publicly for the incredible detailed Divine Providence that He shows me.

I have had many other instances during the past ten days when details that seemed random turned out to be precisely timed and positioned. I don’t share them here, as the article would be too long, and I think by now my point is clear.

I invite you to take a moment to put on ‘Megillah glasses’. To try and find the Divine Providence and Hashem’s guiding hand in all of the details of your life.

It is so liberating to know that He is in charge.

Reading the Megillah and seeing how the tragic near-decimation of the Jews is totally transformed to the extent that the Jewish people of that time had ‘light, joy, gladness and honor’ ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר   leads into the extreme joy and celebration that Purim is celebrated with.

About this holiday it says that our joy should be unbridled.

Let us celebrate Purim in the way it is meant to be.

By fulfilling the four mitzvahs of Purim

Hearing the Megillah on the eve of Purim and on the day of Purim (Monday evening and Tuesday day).

Give to the Needy. (Matanot La’evyonim)

Send food gifts to friends (Mishloach Manot).


May the camaraderie and joy of Purim be immediately joined by the joy and liberation of the greatest and most yearned for joy of all, the coming of Mashiach.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today when I saw Yonatan, I exclaimed out loud ‘Blessed are You, who brings the dead back to life’.

Five months ago, I received a call from John’s landlady in upcountry Thailand that John was in the intensive care in their local hospital.

The end was near it seemed. She was calling frantically for help with implementing the final wishes of her tenant for Jewish burial.

One of our team of Chabad rabbi’s, Yossi Goldberg, set off to Hua Hin immediately and placed a kippa on Yonatan’s head to say the Shema as part of the final prayers that a Jew is meant to recite just before passing.

The doctor suggested that an additional CT scan be performed and asked who would cover the expense. We undertook to cover the costs from our humanitarian tzedakah fund.

The doctors came back incredulous. The CT scan showed that the damage in the brain was receding. It was not ‘all over’ as they had assumed.

Not so long later, Yonatan’s landlady called to explain that Yonatan would need to be in a nursing home, but his budget didn’t fully cover it.

A good friend of Yonatan from the Netherlands got on the phone to explain to me Yonatan’s financial situation.

He shared with me that Yonatan is alone in the world without family.

I told him that we, his fellow Jews, are his family and reassured him and the landlady that our Jewish community would commit to the monthly amount that was missing.

We have been sending funds monthly ever since then.

Yonatan called me a few weeks ago and said he was in Bangkok and was going to come to see me. His landlady confirmed that he was dreaming as he was not in Bangkok, he was still upcountry.

This morning, as improbable as it may sound, Yonatan actually came in person to see me at my office at JCafe.

He is still in need of nursing help and came with his aide. But he is very much alive, aware and in good spirits.

He gave me regards from his Netherlands friend and told me that he had saved his life once before.

‘How did he save your life’ I asked Yonatan.

‘A few years ago, I was dead for ten minutes and my Dutch friend insisted that the ambulance personnel work on trying to revive me. I indeed ‘came back to life’.

After the initial exchange of greetings I asked Yonatan what I could do for him.

‘Help me live my life as a Jew should live’.

Yonatan wants a prayer book, tefillin, mezuzah, tzitzit…

When I asked him how he was so familiar with the items of Jewish life, he told me that he was raised in the Jewish orphanage in London and from the age of bar mitzvah till his late teens he had worn tzitzit and put on Tefillin every day.

I asked him if now in his elderly years he was reclaiming the Jewish practices of his youth, and he told me that yes, he had stopped observing for many years but how he wanted to live his life as a Jew should live.

‘My grandfather and great grandfather would be proud of me. They used to spend most of their day in Synagogue praying and learning’.

When I asked him for more details he shared that his great grandparents came to the USA and were denied entry as his great grandmother was deaf and mute. They didn’t want to go back to Russian so they got off the boat in England and stayed there.

To me there seems to be a common thread running through these stories.

The great power of belief in a positive outcome, and the folly and mistake of thinking that the improbable is impossible. Just because you cannot imagine a favorable outcome, doesn’t mean that G-d is not planning a happy ending.

A life was saved because someone believed that his friend was not yet dead and still had a chance to live. If that friend had not taken the initiative to insist that the first responders try their best, Yonatan would probably not be here to tell the story.

The USA immigration officials may have thought that the elderly deaf and mute Russian Jewess wasn’t worthy of being granted an immigration visa, but they obviously didn’t recognize her greatness of spirit. She was a successful person and a wonderful wife to her husband and mother to her children.

Yonatan’s family and teachers may have thought that once Yonatan left ‘the nest’, his observance of Judaism was abandoned never to be reclaimed.

They could not have been more wrong on that.

Improbable the at this late stage in life Yonatan would want to go back to the Jewish observance of his teens. But not impossible.

How powerful is the importance of believing in others.

There is something even more critical than believing in others.

It is believing in yourself.

Sometimes we need help to believe in ourselves.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once shared this about the Rebbe “You saw your reflection in the Rebbe’s eyes, and you were suddenly much bigger than you thought you were.”

When someone shows that they believe in you, it helps you to believe in yourself.

The most important thing to know is that whatever we may erroneously believe about ourselves, Hashem believes in us.

By the fact that Hashem caused you to be born, He has made it known that YOU are needed in His world.

In this week’s Parsha Terumah, we learn about the erecting of a sanctuary – a home – for G-d.

The first home for G-d, the ‘mishkan’ that the Jewish people built, was in the desert.

The Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem was built many hundreds of years later. It replaced the Mishkan that had been built in the desert and became the permanent place of worship. True, it is now temporarily destroyed (we are nearly two thousand years in this untenable temporary situation) but when Mashiach comes, we will rebuild the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a place of holiness. It always was. Even before the Bet Hamikdash was built. It is not such an unimaginable feat to generate holiness in a holy place.

In stark contrast, the first sanctuary, the Mishkan, was built in the most inhospitable environment possible.

In the desert.

To build a place of holiness in the desert?

The desert is uninhabitable. Building a house of G-d there is incongruous, odd and a little strange.

Yes! said G-d, build me a home right here in the desert.

It is against the backdrop of darkness that light shines forth ever brightly.

It is a more authentic expression of creating a dwelling place for G-d in the ‘lower worlds’ when the location is downright unsuitable.

This message is powerful and empowering if we unpack it and apply it to our times.  

The physical temporary structure of the Mishkan may have been superseded by the permanent Bet Hamikdash but the message it carries is one for eternity.

How sad and painful it is when I hear someone tell me that they are a bag of …. That they feel unneeded. That there is nothing redeemable about them. People look at them like scum. Perhaps they have no money. Their self-esteem is shattered.

They feel like a desert.

It makes me want to cry when I hear someone going through such pain.

But beyond showing my empathy, crying will not help.

I pray that they hear the message that G-d is whispering to them in the deepest recesses of their soul.

G-d says to each one of us. Even if you feel like you are like a desert, you can and should make your life into a sanctuary for G-d.

I wish I could shout it from the rooftops and broadcast it on all of the social media channels available.

G-d believes in you. More than that, G-d is imploring you.

‘Take me up on the infinite gift I am giving you’ says G-d.

Make for me a Mikdash, invite Me in, and I will come to dwell there.

Yes, you, even with all your doubts, insecurities and shortcomings. Even when you feel like you are in a desert, take action to do the next right thing. Let G-d into your heart and let Him guide your deeds. You too will blossom and bloom like a garden once you allow Him in.

My friends, let us act like G-d with compassion and belief. Let us discard our skepticism and sarcasm that we sometimes project to others.

It is all too easy to G-d forbid break those around us.

If you look at your friend with negativity, you are setting him up for failure.

Sometimes one has unrealistic expectations of a child when they are young, and the criticism festers and bubbles till it eventually causes emotional dysfunction.

Put aside the immature and immoral urge to push someone else down as a panacea to making yourself feel better.

Let us take the G-dly path as our roadmap for life.

The joyous HIGH ROAD.

Inject positivity to those around you.

Look at your family members, your friends, your work mate as being full of potential. Believe in them. Compliment them. Appreciate them.

This will help them succeed.

Treat your children lovingly. With unconditional love. Remind them that G-d loves them. Show them how much you trust them. Project to them how much they mean to you even if they have not lived up to your hopes and dreams.

It will propel them to fulfilling their unique potential.

It may even literally help save their life.

Yonatan, thanks for shlepping out to see me and for sharing this inspiration with me.

May G-d bless you with good health.

We are now in the month of Purim (see details about Bangkok celebrations below) and we are instructed and empowered to be JOYOUS.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS If you want to partner with us in the above and numerous other acts of kindness, please consider a gift to our humanitarian assistance tzedakah fund

When the rich need Tzedakah

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It happens every so often that in order to move the ‘wagon’ of Jewish life in Thailand forward, I take a short-term monetary loan to keep the ‘lights on’ and the activities funded.

Needing to take a loan does not make me discouraged, as the Torah teaches us the right frame of mind to have. Hashem wants us to be engaged in giving and receiving. There are times when I get the merit to help others, and there are times when I am grateful to receive help from others.

Hashem made his world in this ‘giving and receiving’ model, to allow for acts of interpersonal kindness between people.

It seems to me that sometimes Hashem puts me in a position of need in order to provide a ‘mitzvah’ to someone who may need that extra protection that the mitzvah of tzedakah provides.

For example, in April of 2021 within a few hours after I took a bridge-loan from a friend, that very friend  escaped unscathed from an armed robbery after having a gun pointed at his head.

Click here for that story

The story of the lifesaving qualities of Tzedakah is not a new one. It’s been going on since the creation of the world.

Our Sages taught that ‘tzedakah saves from death’ and tell the following detailed story:

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter once went to the market to buy things for the home. As she passed a group of star-gazers and fortune–tellers, one of them said to the other: “see that lovely girl? What a dreadful calamity is awaiting her! She is going to die on the very day of her wedding. Mark my word!”

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter overheard the words of the star-gazer, but paid no attention to him. She had often heard it from her great father that he who observes the Mitzvoth of the holy Torah need fear no evil.

As the happy day of her wedding approached, she had forgotten all about that star-gazer. On the day before her wedding, there was much to do, and at night she retired to bed, tired but happy. Before going to bed, she removed her golden hair-pin and stuck it in the wall, as she had done before.

The following morning, she pulled her pin from the wall, and in doing so dragged a small but very poisonous snake with it. Horrified, she realized that she had killed the snake that was lurking in the wall's crevice when she stuck the pin into the wall the night before. What a wonderful miracle!

Then she remembered the words of the star-gazer, and shuddered.

She heard a knock on the door. “Are you alright, daughter? I heard you shriek,” her father said. Then he saw the dead snake still dangling from the pin. She told her father what happened.

“This is indeed a miracle,” Rabbi Akiba said. “Tell me, daughter, what did you do yesterday? There must have been some special Mitzvah that you performed yesterday to have been saved from this.”

“Well, the only thing that I can remember was this. Last night, when everybody was busy with the preparations for my wedding, a poor man came in, but nobody seemed to notice him, so busy everybody was. I saw that the poor man was very hungry, so I took my portion of the wedding-feast and gave it to him.”

Rabbi Akiba had always known that his daughter was very devoted to the poor, but this was something special, and he was very happy indeed. “Tzedoko (charity) delivereth from death,” he exclaimed.

The above story as recorded in the Talmud happened a very long time ago. But it has not diminished. This immense power of the mitzvah of Tzedaka is ‘alive and well’ here and now. Earlier I told you a story from two years ago. A few weeks ago,  I got to see the lifesaving power of Tzedakah once again.

I once again needed a short-term loan for something very important. I contacted a friend C. L. He said he would think about it and would get back to me.

I didn’t hear from him and continued to look elsewhere for the loan.

C. L. called me back a week or two later and told me that he could give the loan and would promptly send it. He said he had wanted to tell me that he could do the loan shortly after we had spoken but it had slipped his mind.

It was only after he sent me the loan that I recalled that between the time that we had discussed the loan to the time that he sent the loan C. L.  had been in a traffic accident. Someone ran a red light and went right into him. He came out blessedly and miraculously unscathed.

(In a classic ‘Divine Providence’ story, the other driver who was also fine thank G-d, was a Jewish man and my friend invited him to wrap Tefilin which he was happy to do).

I don’t know why out of all the people I know; I had reached out to C. L. for this loan. To me it seemed that perhaps Hashem had Providentially brought C.L. this mitzvah of loaning a fellow Jew money, so that the G-dly protective shield would be activated for him.

You may be asking; we are talking about a loan which will be paid back in full. Why am I calling this a mitzvah?

Let’s have a discussion about loans.

Especially that the mitzvah of giving loans is instructed in this week’s Parsha of Mishpatim.

Sometimes people question whether borrowing money is a healthy thing to do.

It really depends on the reason one is taking a loan.

If expenses exceed current income and realistically potential income, then taking a loan is not a proper solution as it will build a level of debt that may prove insurmountable.

Credit card debt in particular is terrible as the interest that is incurred makes the loan swell and grow out of control.

Responsible loan taking though, is quite common. Taking a loan to keep the ‘lights on’ till you can find a way to cover the expense is quite a regular way of life in large corporations and even governments.

(Talking about governments. The United States of America is famous for racking up debt ever growing amounts of debt.

I took a peek at the national debt calculator, and I got dizzy watching the amounts go up every second.

One of the lessons to be learned from the USA is quite profound although somewhat out-of-the-box.

A Shliach wrote to the Rebbe that he was struggling with accumulating debt and this was pulling his mood down and causing his sluggishness and inactivity in certain aspects of the Jewish outreach activities under his responsibility.  

‘Take a look at the USA government and their debts and observe how the country is still humming with activity notwithstanding their debt’ responded the Rebbe.

Debt is not easy to service and it can be tiring, but the American debt story shows that it does not need to mean stopping to operate.

The rabbi was a bit surprised. He was hoping for a blessing to get out of debt, instead he was given a life-lesson about learning to operate even within the framework of being in debt.

If you are in debt, be heartened by the above observation. Do your best to get out of debt but don’t let it demoralize you or depress you. Rather work energetically at whatever you are meant to be doing).

Please understand that I am not advocating for overspending. Too many people have problems that could have been avoided if they had managed their spending to be in accordance with their earnings.

Common sense tell us that it is not a good fiscal policy to continually spend more than you have.

More importantly, the Torah teaches that one must be frugal with spending (even for Shabbat) rather than supplementing ones income by charitable gifts from others.

However, sometimes people get thrown into an unnecessary panic when their current incomes are insufficient for their expenditure.

Sometimes their crippling fear is redundant and a product of their own inner fears. For when one looks more deeply into the situation it is very possible that in a few weeks or months they will have additional income that will make up for their current shortfall. This is not always the case, but I have observed this in many instances.

What is a person to do if they are waiting for a paycheck that is sure to come but not till a few weeks from now? It’s a ‘catch 22’. If they have no money, they cannot pay for transportation to their place of work. If they don’t get to work, they will lose their job and not have any money.

If they go to a ‘payday-loan’ provider to take a loan against their future salary, a considerable amount will be charged for interest. Those who are the poorest land up spending the most on interest.

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us about a unique form of Tzedakah.

In Hebrew it is called ‘Gemillat Chessed’ or in short ‘Gema’ch’.

Free Loan.

More accurately ‘Interest Free’ Loan.  

Yes, a loan must be repaid.

Is it a form of Tzedakah?

Emphatically YES.

The Rambam puts it at the top rung of the ‘eight levels of Tzedakah’.

It’s a unique kind of Tzedakah.

It helps people not to fall before they fall. It is much easier to prevent a fall than to pick someone up after they have fallen.

‘Rich’ people are also in need of this kind of tzedakah just as poor people.

Someone may be asset rich but just doesn’t have cash available to carry out a purchase they need to make.

By giving a person who is rich ‘on paper’ an interest free loan you are doing a great act of Tzedaka with him.

This is not possible with traditional Tzedakah which only applies to someone who is in needy.

About the greatness of the mitzvah of giving a ‘Gemach’ interest-free loan, click here and look at footnote 7 for incredible words about this mitzvah.

Every community should have a ‘Gemach’ fund’. A place where one can get an interest free loan.

The large cities and well-established Jewish communities have quite considerable and large free-loan opportunities. However, although we are a relatively small community, we too engage in the mitzvah of ‘gemach’.

For many years, Chabad of Thailand has operated a loan fund called ‘Keren Liba’ and been providing interest free loans to those who qualify. Feel free to reach out to me by email if an interest free loan is something that can help you.

On the side of the ‘givers’, if you would like to contribute money to be used expressly for this mitzvah of being loaned out, please contact me.

The Rebbe once related that certain chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek used to lend each other money — not because they were needy, but because they appreciated the lofty standing of the mitzvah of giving interest-free loans!

The Rebbe concluded: May G‑d grant that loans be given not because of need, but only because people appreciate the lofty standing of the mitzvah of giving interest-free loans.

This week we take out a second Torah at the Shul and read the portion of Shekalim, which speaks about the giving of the half-shekel. A great time to be talking about ‘shekels’ and giving tzedakah and ‘Gemach’s.

On a practical note.

Look for opportunities to do acts of kindness and benevolence with others. Sometimes by giving a monetary gift or a gift of food and clothes or the like. And sometimes not by ‘giving’ but by ‘lending’.

Don’t overlook, and on the contrary, pay special attention to the opportunity to help someone by giving them a loan. A loan that is to be repaid in full but with no interest charged.

(A word of caution. When being approached for a loan, one should assess whether it is really a ‘gift’ of Tzedakah that is being asked for. If a person is asking for a loan but has no means, and thus no intention to pay it back, it would be better for you to give an amount that you could afford to give them as tzedakah.

I know some kind-hearted people who are resistant to giving ‘gemach’ loans because they have had an experience where they lent someone funds and it was not returned. This is why many ‘free loan societies’ responsibly require guarantors and other forms of security to ensure full repayment when the time comes).

I am not even talking about large sums. Giving a loan may sometimes be for a small amount.

A small deed with great effects.

The reverberations in the world are epic.

Every time we do an act of kindness, the forces of light gain traction and supremacy over the forces of ‘darkness’.

Let’s add LIGHT and do acts of kindness wherever and however we can, until Hashem does the great Tzedakah with us and brings us Mashiach NOW.


Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov (Tuesday and Wednesday are Rosh Chodesh).

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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