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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Same same but different

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today I would like to ask you for your help.

What characteristic do you think is unique about Thai society? 

Is there something specific that you have noticed about life in Thailand that is different to life in other places in the world?

Here is why I am asking. 

During the course of the Simchat Torah, I was studying the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe from the Simchat Torah celebrations of fifty years ago.

The theme was a basic one. It was based on the declaration of the Rebbe’s father-in-law and predecessor as he arrived on American shores in early 1940 that:

 ‘America is no different’. 

The leadership of the Jewish community in the USA at the time, had wanted to protect the Rebbe from disillusionment. They wanted him to understand that the landscape in America vis a vis religious observance was vastly different than that of the ‘alteh heim’ back in Eastern Europe. They hoped to influence the Rebbe to relax and adapt his religious ambitions to the reality of a religiously ‘laid back’ and ever increasingly secular American Jewish community. 

It was in response to this notion that the Rebbe passionately and valiantly declared

‘America is no different’

The Rebbe insisted that the same Torah and mitzvahs that flourished till the Holocaust in Europe, was relevant and applicable in the free country of America. It would be hard work and take years of perseverance, but it could be done. 

The Rebbe immediately embarked on the mission of achieving his goals to transform America to a place of Torah and Mitzvahs. Many Jewish immigrants were trying to melt into the melting pot of the American dream. The Rebbe, on the other hand, was influencing young men and women to take up the mantle of leadership and spearhead the growth of Judaism in America. (I know about this personally as my maternal grandfather Rabbi Abraham Hecht dedicated his life from the 1940’s onwards to realizing this mission). 

In his Simchas Torah address in 1969 the Rebbe added a dimension that was a gamechanger.

In some ways, America IS DIFFERENT!!!!

Those differences need to be highlighted and utilized. We ought to harness those very differences to enhance our Torah and Mitzvot observance. 

For example. One of those uniquely American characteristics is ‘publicity’. 

It is time to employ the American fixation on publicity for the service of G-d, said the Rebbe.

And, continued the Rebbe, so it is in every locale. There are unique qualities and flavors in every country and culture.

Unequivocally, Torah and Mitzvahs be scrupulously observed in each locale.  No geographical location is ‘different’ and excluded from the Torah’s instructions on how a Jew is to live life. Yet, there are certainly uniqueness’s and differences inherent in each varied place. 

Those differences should be employed in the fulfillment of Hashems mission.

I would like to apply this thinking to Thailand. 

Thailand is no different.

The same Torah and Mitzvahs that are incumbent upon Jewish people living in Israel, America and any other major Jewish community, are obligatory to Jewish living in Thailand.

This is the primary mission that Nechama and I have been entrusted with. To ensure that in Thailand the Torah and Mitzvahs are fulfilled just like in any other Jewish locale.

Baruch Hashem, we have made some progress. There is still so so so much more to do, and we are raring to go and do it. Yet thank G-d in many ways it is now more possible than ever to observe Torah and Mitzvahs in Thailand. (The recent opening of the JCafe & Kosher Shoppe is a giant leap in enabling keeping kosher in Thailand).

Now, we would like to begin to fulfil the next step of the Rebbe’s mission. 

We would like to identify the special and unique aspects of Thailand. And use those very DIFFERENCES in enhancing the observance of Torah and Mitzvot in Thailand.

I would like to ask for your help. To identify those uniquely Thai things that can be harnessed in the enhancement of keeping the Torah and Mitzvahs.

What in your opinion is a characteristic unique to Thailand, its people or its culture?

Please respond if you can to rabbi@jewishthailand.com with a few words about how you think the  uniqueness of Thailand can enhance our connection to Hashem. 

Thank you in advance for your valuable opinion. 

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I can’t resist pointing out that the ubiquitous ‘tinglish’ (Thai/English) phrase ‘same same but different’ seems to sum up the above article 😊


Roses? on Sukkot?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

My younger brother Baruch is the rabbi of Chabad at Temple University in Philadelphia. Baruch was walking in the streets near Temple University on Sukkot holding his lulav upright in his hand. An older black gentleman out walking on the street took a look at the lulav and told him "I think you’re supposed to give her roses".

I thought that was hysterically funny. And then I thought to myself that this comment, made in passing by an older person to my obviously youngish brother about how to build goodwill with his wife, was spot-on and contained a deep lesson.

‘I think you’re supposed to give her roses’. 

Well, that’s only if she likes roses of course. 

If she likes daffodils, tulips or lilacs then that is what you should get her. 

Let’s say she asked you very specifically to get her a lulav (branch from the date palm), hadasim (myrtle boughs), aravot (willow branches) and an etrog (citron), then that is exactly what you should get her. Anything else just won’t do the trick.

The reason my brother was not walking down the street with roses is because G-d didn’t instruct us to take roses on Sukkot. Rather, G-d asked us to take the four species mentioned above on the holiday of Sukkot, join them together and wave them. 

Because HE asked us to bring these exact four species, when we take them, we generate a ‘nachat’-pleasure for Almighty G-d. 


On the day before Sukkot, I was in the Sukkah binding the lulav together with the other species in preparation for performing the mitzva the next day. One of our longtime local staff saw me and asked ‘isn’t it time that you had one of your younger Yeshiva bachur assistants do this for you’?

I want to go back to those roses again. At what stage in a person’s career will he delegate bringing roses to his wife to his personal assistant? 

The answer to that (if he wants to stay married…) is never! The whole purpose of bringing roses is for the husband to personally show his affection and love to his wife by showing her that he cares. Having a personal assistant deliver those roses would be achieving the exact opposite effect. It would show that bringing a gift to his wife is another chore to him just like scheduling a business meeting. 

Clearly, when it comes to doing a mitzvah, you must do it yourself. That is the whole point of the mitzvah, to connect you with G-d.

What about just choosing and buying the gift that you will then bring personally to your loved one? Can you delegate that? (In today’s online world it’s a bit more complicated). Probably it wouldn’t be tragic if you had someone else source and buy the gift. 

However, it is unquestionably more ‘relationship-building’ when a spouse personally picks out and buys a gift than when they just ask an assistant to choose something nice and get it to their spouse. 

The Torah teaches us that when we do a mitzvah, even the preparations for a mitzvah, we should be personally involved. Yes, we can delegate a lot of things, but there are some things that we should be doing ourselves to show our love to G-d and the Mitzvahs He has asked us to fulfil.

The Talmud gives many examples of esteemed rabbis who personally did chores in preparation for the Shabbos.

Rava would personally prepare the fish for Shabbat. Rav Chisda chopped vegetables. Rabbah and Rav Yosef chopped wood. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak would be seen running about on Friday, carrying bundles on his shoulders. Many of these were wealthy men who had numerous servants to do their work; yet they insisted on personally toiling in honor of the Shabbat. (Talmud, Shabbat 119a; Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Shabbat)

This is why I was sitting in the Sukkah on Sunday afternoon binding my four species personally. Of course I delegate many other chores to others. So that I will have more time. More time for this most important relationship in my life – my relationship with G-d.

There is nothing more joyous, inspiring and relationship-enhancing when you do a mitzvah than DIY (doing it yourself), even the preparations for the mitzvah. 

Just like with those roses, more than the joy of the actual roses, is the warm loving feeling of your significant other thinking and exerting himself for you. The more effort you had to expend, the more you will feel the love and the more your spouse will appreciate that gift. 

With mitzvahs its no different. The more you exert yourself for a mitzvah, the more you will feel G-d in your life. Paying money for a mitzvah is important as it makes it feel more precious and special. And G-d promises that ‘the reward is according to the effort’. G-d knows us from the inside, He creates us and any effort expended on doing a mitzvah is known and appreciated by Him.

There are still three days left to make a blessing on eating in the Sukkah, and two days left to make a blessing on the Lulav and Etrog (on Shabbat they are not taken).

If you haven’t don’t it yet, (or even if you have, it’s a new mitzvah each time you do it), make an effort to get to your nearest sukkah and find a four species near you!  (click here for a Global Chabad directory).

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom an a Chag Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you are in Bangkok, I will be available pretty much all-day Sunday please G-d to make a brocho with you on the Lulav and Etrog and to make a brocho on the Sukkah. No need for appointment, just drop by the Shul on Soi Sai Nam Thip 2 and call me 081 837 7618 if you don’t see me in the sukkah. 

 

 

Halle/Holy Miracle

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A tragedy occurred in Halle, Germany.

A miracle occurred in Halle, Germany. 

Tragically, two people were killed in proximity to the Synagogue in Halle, Germany on Yom Kippur this year.

Miraculously, the more than eighty people inside the Synagogue were saved. By a locked door. 

I say miraculously, echoing the words of some of the people who were there during the terrifying ordeal and were saved. They, knowing the particulars of the door and its strength, testified that this was a miracle from G-d. That the door stayed locked and did not open. Even when fired upon and notwithstanding the piece of equipment the assailant used to try to pry it open.

I don’t want to think more deeply into what could have happened. It’s too frightening. 

But I do want to shout out praises to Almighty G-d for the ‘wondrous’ rescue of my brothers and sisters in Halle, Germany.

And offer sincere condolences to the families of the victims, the man and woman who lost their lives tragically in the attack. Gunned down mercilessly by a hate filled anti-Semite.

Friends, sadly the scourge of antisemitism has not dwindled. As advanced as we may have become, the hatred against us has not abated over the past years. 

Yet, in an inexplicable way, Jewish pride and heightened Mitzvah observance is on the rise. The events that our enemies anticipate will weaken us, have the reverse affect. They awaken within us our indomitable Jewish essence. The result is a steadfast resolve that we will not yield!!!

AM YISRAEL CHAI!

We need to express our resolute stubbornness and determination by doing acts of Jewishness. 

Start of your day with a prayer.

Put on tefillin when you have a chance.  

Light Shabbat candles before the onset of Shabbat.

Give tzedakah.

Keep a bit more kosher than you have until now.

Make sure to have a kosher mezuzah on your door.

Jewish family purity is the key to a blessed and sanctified family life.

Educate yourself and your loved ones by studying Torah.

Get some ‘Torah’ books for your physical bookshelf. 

Be more loving to your fellow.

These are example of ‘DOING Jewishness’. The light that we add to the world through these deeds will combat the darkness that our enemies are so intent on producing. 

Sukkot is coming up. Siting in the Sukkah, outside, without protection from the elements, reminds us that G-d is our true canopy of protection and peace.

May G-d bless us all with a Chag Sameach a happy and safe Sukkot holiday.

Shabbat Shalom

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor



 

 

 

YOM KIPPUR MEDITATION

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

What does one do to prepare for the holiest day of the year?

So, first of all, let’s be practical. We have a close to twenty-six hour fast beginning this evening so we need to eat and fortify ourselves. It’s actually a mitzvah to eat today.

Holiness can be tricky. 

Let me explain what I mean.

I was invited to visit a dear Jewish friend, who has a huge heart and a great spirit, but not so learned about Torah and Judaism. He wanted me to join a lunch he was hosting for religious leaders. There were at least five religions represented. And me. Not wanting to be alone, I took along my colleague Rabbi Wilhelm. While the others were eating, Rabbi Wilhelm and I sipped our mineral water as the food was not kosher. 

The topic at the table moved to holy people who were to be admired. A tale was told about an ascetic mystic who lived on the peaks of a cliff. For decades he sat and meditated. He was kept alive via some kind fisherman who would put two fish into a basket that would be lowered down from the cliff every day. 

The clergy around the table all nodded and agreed that indeed the meditating mystic was a saintly person. A man of great holiness. Admirably pure and pious.

I found myself blurting out ‘what did the world or any fellow humans gain from his asceticism’? ‘Wouldn’t it have been better if he would have helped others rather than live in solitude for his entire life on an isolated peak?’

Ten eyes looked at me in astonishment. I realized I had said something ‘politically incorrect’ for that setting. 

This morning as I prepared to pray, the story jumped into my mind. 

We are about to enter the holiest day of our year. 

Every Jew feels Yom Kippur in some way or another. There is a G-dly presence that is in proximity to our souls. It is sensed. We don’t always know what we are feeling. Some think it’s only because of their childhood. Others recognize that there is something real, albeit ethereal, in the ‘air’ that makes them feel different than just any other day of they year. 

Across the spectrum, on Yom Kippur Jews look to return to who they truly are. Nary a Jew doesn’t mark Yom Kippur by some form of observance. By fasting, by refraining from forbidden activities or by pledging to be better in the coming year.

That special inexplicable and indefinable feeling is no really ‘earned’ by us. It comes automatically from above. G-d beams it down to our souls so to speak. As long as you don’t consciously fight and block it, you will access it. Yom Kippur will work its holy ‘spell’ on you if you but so allow it to.

But what can one do from below to prepare for that? What can one do that is objectively holy? What would be the best way to prepare for the holiness of the day of Yom Kippur?

G-d granted me the great gift of spending several Yom Kippurs in the presence of a holy person. The Lubavitcher Rebbe embodied everything the Torah says in describing our great saintly Jewish leaders of yesteryears. To me, the Rebbe was the ultimate of what it meant to be a holy man. My mind goes back to reminisce about my Brooklyn Yom Kippur experiences in the presence of the Rebbe. How did the Rebbe prepare for the holy day of Yom Kippur?

If you have a few minutes, click on the below link and you too will see what the Rebbe did all day before Yom Kippur.

The Rebbe stood on his feet for hours upon hours and distributed ‘Lekach’ honey cake. 

Here is the background. There is a minhag custom on the day before Yom Kippur to ‘ask for lekach’. Just in case it had been decreed that one would need to be a recipient of a handout from a human during the upcoming year. By being a recipient of a sweet piece of cake from a fellow human, one would have ‘fulfilled the decree’ of receiving a ‘handout’ and from now on they could be recipients directly of G-d’s beneficence. 

The Rebbe spent hours upon hours receiving anyone who wanted to come and receive a piece of honey cake directly from his holy hand. He would utter thousands of times, annunciating to each individual that passed, the blessing for a ‘shana tova umesuka’ ‘a good and sweet year’. As the Rebbe uttered those words and handed them the piece of sweet honey cake he gazed upon them with kind fatherly eyes. An unforgettable experience.

But what about preparing for Yom Kippur? The holiest day. Wouldn’t the Rebbe’s time be better spent by praying and learning in private meditation?

Obviously not. This, the bestowing of kindness and grace unto others, is obviously the way one should prepare for the holiest day of the year. 

For holiness is not defined by what makes you feel more exclusive or pious. 

Holiness is defined by what brings you closer to G-d.

In a way that is almost counterintuitive, getting closer to G-d can only be gauged by how loving you are to others.

Its confusing. 

Spatial disorientation in the context of a pilot flying a plane means that the pilot no longer knows what is up and what is down. This can obviously pose a grave danger G-d forbid. That is why it is critical to have instruments that remind the pilot where is up and where is down.

In a similar vein, if one finds themselves feeling holy yet those around him are feeling hurt or ignored, they are likely in the state of spiritual disorientation.

The ‘litmus test’ of whether you are acting holy is how loving others perceive you to be. 

Click below inspiring for an inspiring story of how holy Tzadikim expressed their holiness by caring for others.

Chopping wood on Yom Kippur?

So, as you go about your preparations for Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year, make sure to keep your bearing about what true holiness is. 

Look out for those around you and make sure that they are cared for and loved. 

Start with yourself. If G-d gave you back your soul this morning its is because he NEEDS you. and if you are needed by G-d you must be lovable. And you must try to live up to what He expects of you 

Move on to your family and loved ones. Widen the circle if you are able, to include those more distant from you. 

Prepare for Yom Kippur by helping others!!!!

Say a nice word. Give a smile. Send a message via social media to someone you haven’t reached out to in a while. Do some random acts of kindness and goodness. Give tzedakah to those in need.

You will be holier, feel holier and merit G-d’s blessings for a good and sweet year!!!!

Chatima Umgar Chatima Tova

Shana Tova

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you are joining us at the Rembrandt Hotel for services, I will be happy to give you a piece of sweet cake at the pre-fast meal starting at 4:30 PM

PPS Tzedaka for the needy in Israel for the needy closer to home in Thailand



PEI for Redemption|Wondrousness

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Wow. It’s been an exhilarating beginning of year 5780!

Allow me to share that in Hebrew 5780 is ‘תש"פ’ 

In the acronym system, the Hebrew year could be read as an abbreviation to spell out ‘תהא שנת פ'’. May it be a year of PEI. 

The Pei could be used to spell פדותינו which means our Redemption. Redemption through Mashiach is what we are all waiting for!!!

Pei could also spell פלא which means ‘wondrous’. Indeed, we would all love to have a WONDROUS year!!

So first of all blessings to you all for personal and collective redemption during this year. And for a wondrous year in all things good!!!

For me personally, the exhilaration comes from meriting to host thirty-two hundred guests Baruch Hashem on the first evening of Rosh Hashana throughout Thailand.

And I am inspired and amazed by YOU. 

For the tremendous outpouring of support in giving Tzedaka during these special days and funding the work of Jewish Thailand.

Because of you and your support, whether via giving money, whether via offering prayers to the Almighty on our behalf which is the TRUE source of our blessings, it is because of you. The combined merits of all of you is what creates community. 

Our strength is indeed in our unity!!!

Another ‘penny dropped’ for me this week. I would like to share it with you as the message is a universal one.

A colleague, fellow shliach wrote to me yesterday saying how he much he enjoyed my article last week about the great importance of hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana. 

But then he asked me a question that I have often asked myself. ‘Do you think anyone was influenced to actually attend the Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashana because of your article? Is there any way to know?’

I wouldn’t have known what to answer… except that by Divine Providence I was able to share the below email that I received just several hours earlier.

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi:

This email inspired me to attend the Shofar service on the morning of Rosh Hashanoh

and I’m so happy that we did.

Thank you for the sermons you send me in California.  They are very meaningful.

Best,

Yes, people read what we write, absorb the messages we convey and ACT on that inspiration and newfound knowledge.

Another example of this.

This year we conducted the funeral for a fifty-five-year-old Jewish man who had lived in Thailand for a number of years. He was not a regular Synagogue goer as he lived in a remote part of Thailand. I met him only a few times. But he was a recipient of this weekly mail. Occasionally I write about the fundamental importance for a Jew to be buried rather than cremated G-d forbid. An about how imperative it is to bury in a Jewish cemetery in the traditional hallowed way. 

A few weeks ago I got this WhatsApp 

hello, are you Rabbi Yosef Kantor?

my name is .... I am contacting you because my father died yesterday and he has mentioned you in his will

your synagogue was the place he wished to be buried

I looked back at my email records and saw that indeed Leo had written to me asking how to ensure that he would receive a traditional Jewish burial. I had advised him that he could simply leave written instructions that he wanted to have a Jewish burial.

(I also would like to insert here the importance of providing for a ‘Jewish Tomorrow’ in one’s final will & testament)

Indeed, L left instructions for Jewish burial and his son who lives in Europe made sure to fulfil his request. Earlier this month he was laid to rest in the sanctified grounds of the Jewish cemetery in Thailand.

I gained a deeper understanding of one of the teaching of the Rebbe that goes as follows:

Groaning by itself won't do a bit of good. A groan is only a key to open the heart and eyes, so as not to sit there with folded arms, but to plan orderly work and activity, each person wherever he can be effective, to campaign for bolstering Torah, spreading Torah and the observance of Mitzvot. One person might do this through his writing, another with his oratory, another with his wealth.

Wealth is an old and classic way for influencing change. Money buys influence. When used in the right way it can be a powerful catalyst for creating positive change.

Oratory is another form of influence that has since the times of the Prophets and before, been a powerful method of swaying the minds and moods of the hearers.

Writing. Is that only for prominent authors?

No longer!

To me it seems that writing has risen to much greater prominence in the last decade or so.

Social media, emails, WhatsApp, Facebook, all transmit written words for the large part. 

It used to be that you had to be an author of note to make a difference. Today you can write an article, post it on the web and have it read by large audiences unbeknownst to you. In remote places and at odd times.

Imagine what kind of an opportunity that affords you and I?

And the tremendous responsibility that comes with that!

If you and I can generate more Yiddishkeit, promote more Torah study and Mitzva observance and make the world gentler and more morally upright, we dare not ‘groan’ about the situation. Rather we must DO something about it.

As the Rebbe says One person might do this through his writing, another with his oratory, another with his wealth.

Any means at your disposal. 

I am grateful to the reader who shared her Shofar mitzva with me. It has reinforced the importance of sharing the eternal values of our heritage so that more people will be inspired to take an additional step in their observance of Hashem’s mitzvahs. It has impressed upon me beyond doubt that people read what I write and for this I feel blessed, privileged and obligated.

And I share this enlightenment with you.

Don’t underestimate your power of influence.

Use your ‘writing’ to generate good will. To influence good behavior. When in doubt about writing something negative, snooze indefinitely. Conversely, when unsure about writing something positive and inspiring, go ahead and write.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU…. FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT IN MAKING OUR GIVING DAY CAMPAIGN A SUCCESS…

OOPS… WE ARE ALMOST THERE. 

EACH BRANCH RAN THEIR OWN CAMPAIGN WITHIN THE GENERAL CAMPAIGN… SOME CAMPAIGNS HAVE FINISHED WITH SUCCESS…. BUT SOME STILL NEED A SMALL EXTRA PUSH…

IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY YOU WILL OBSERVE THAT IT IS THE BRANCHES THAT SERVE YOUNG POST IDF BACKPACKERS THAT NEED OUR HELP NOW… AS WELL AS THE TEENS AND YOUNG PROFESSIONAL’S

WHEN THEY GROW UP, THEY WILL BE THE ‘BIG DONORS’ RIGHT NOW THEY NEED SOME MORE HELP FROM US THE ‘MATURE’ (NICE WORD FOR OLDER😊) CROWD

https://www.shutaf.im/p/jewishthailand


 


 

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