Printed from JewishThailand.com

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Heavenly timing!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

What amazing Heavenly timing!

More than three thousand years ago, Hashem instructed in His Torah that when a baby boy is born to a Jewish mother, G-d enters a covenant with him at his ‘Brit Milah’. The Torah further taught that circumcision should take place on the eighth day after the birth. 

(Provided the baby is in good health, otherwise the healing must take place before circumcision. For however important doing a Brit is, and it is one of the most important an fundamental Mitzvahs we have, preserving life comes first. A Brit can be done later. A life lost G-d forbid, cannot be brought back. Hence we wait for complete health before doing a Brit). 

Baruch Hashem we celebrated the Brit of our grandson yesterday (Wednesday) on the eighth day as proscribed in the Torah. 

My family and I are full of praise and thanksgiving to the Almighty for His absolute kindness to our family for blessing us with happy and healthy things. May Hashem bless you and your loved with gifts of healthy and happy developments in all areas of your life.

Besides for the ‘huge’ miracles like healthy births and things like that, there are hosts of ‘small miracles’. Like the blessing of being shown how even the smaller details like the timing of the birth was also so obviously Providential. 

A Wednesday November 20 Brit in Bangkok meant that I wouldn’t miss the International conference of Shluchim held in NY. I could leave several hours after the Brit and arrive in NY on Thursday morning just in time to participate in the opening sessions.

It is important to point it out and thank Hashem for all his kindnesses. The ‘Big Miracles’ as well the ‘small miracles’.

Our weekly Parsha imparts that message.

This week’s Torah portion tells the story of Avraham sending his trusted ‘servant’ Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer said a prayer that he be led to the right girl. It had to a girl who was from Avraham’s extended family, this was a non-negotiable condition instructed by Avraham. Eliezer prayed that he meets the right girl. He said to G-d ‘when I see a girl, I will ask her to give me to drink. If she gives me water to drink and offers water to my camels on her own accord, this will be a sign that she is the one that you have destined for Yitschak’.

Eliezer the servant of Avraham continues his narrative and says ‘I had barely spoken those words, when Rivka came out. Eliezer asked her for water, and she said ‘I will give you water and I will also give water to your camels’.  Eliezer now knew that he had found the right girl.

Amazing! 

When Eliezer bring back Rivka to meet her future husband, he relates to Yitzchak all of the things that had transpired. He told him about the wondrous miracles and Divine Providence that had been performed for him while on his mission to find his masters son a wife. 

Hence, I too share these stories with you. they are uplifting and inspiring to me and I hope you too are 

Several hours after the Brit I headed off to the airport. Joining me on the very same Korean Air flight from Thailand were three rabbi’s from Thailand’s Chabad team. As we transited through Korea, we were joined by Korea’s Chabad Rabbi and his son.

It was great to see everyone, and we were all excited for the conference. Is it then any wonder that a few hours into the flight we were standing at the back of the big Airbus A380 schmoozing, sharing anecdotes and words of Torah? 

The stewardess came over to us after a little while and asked us to please not ‘congregate’. As this is a plane that is headed to the USA and American law does not allow passengers to stand up and congregate in the aisles or near the lavatories (as you have probably heard over the loudspeaker if you have flown in and out of USA).

This was a law that was instituted as a direct result of the tragic 9/11 events. People congregating on a plane could be G-d forbid a planned hijacking. 

It dawned on me that here was another instance of revealed Divine Providence. G-d was reminding me of the awesome and mighty power of ‘gatherings’ and ‘congregating’.

It can be used to generate immense good. It can also G-d forbid be used to wreak massive havoc.

The TSA is concerned with the evil people congregating and scheming horrible and cruel things. They base their fear on the horrific event that took place on 9/11.

The Talmud has stated this concept very clearly. ‘Gatherings of righteous people is pleasant for them, and pleasant for the world around them’. The opposite is true for the congregating of wicked people. It is terrible for the world. 

I realized that I had been given a message. 

The gathering I am on my way to attend is a gathering of the Rebbe’s emissaries. Shluchim of a great Tzadik. Rabbi’s, spread across the globe, righteous and good people. 

The conference has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, and clearly just as the Talmud says, is beneficial for the attendees and the world around them. The rabbi’s are inspired and rejewvenated (pun intended) by attending this gathering and come back to their posts with a new bounce in their step and more spiritually attuned.

The conference is also of immense benefit to the Jewish world at large. 

The discussions at the conference are all about being more selfless and loving to those around us. The lectures and workshops focus on improving methods and programs aimed at inspiring Jews to reclaim and reengage with their own identity.

Early next week the thousands of Shluchim will head back to their respective posts recommitted to the mission of changing this world for the better, one Jew at a time, one Mitzvah at a time thus hastening the coming of Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS You can tune in to the grand finale of the conference, the banquet on Sunday late afternoon NY EST time.

PPS Shabbat services at all locations in Thailand will continue as usual please G-d.

A NEW STORY JUST HEARD

Last week we buried Shimon Ben Avrohom, a Jew we knew nothing about, other than the fact that his mothers, mothers, mother was Jewish.

Today I got an email from a Mr. Goldstein in NY.

Hi Rabbi Yosef C. Kantor 

I got your info from Simons Friend and he mentioned that you handled his levaya (funeral). Just a little history about myself, my Family back in Manchester England took him to our house when he became friendly with my late brother.  

We arranged his bris and his bris meal was at our home, his fist Pessach Seder at 30 years old was by us, and my late mother took care of him until he left England.  

I would like to know if I can call you.  

Please let me know. 

 Here is what Mr. Goldstein shared with me. 

In the early 90’s my brother and some friends in a summer camp in UK went missing on a hike. The UK mounted police was called in to help in the search and the boys were found thank G-d. Simon was one of the mounted police and when he saw that it was obviously Jewish boys he had rescued, he mentioned that he too was of Jewish decent from his mothers side. 

My mother, Mrs. Goldstein insisted that we bring him into the house and establish a relationship with him. This led to his establishment of a connection with Judaism. His bris took place in our house and it was in our house that he experienced his first seder.

Simon got his Jewish name Shimon Ben Avrohom at his bris and he changed his legal name to that. He had always mentioned that he wanted a Jewish burial. 

My dear friends, we only found out this part of the story after Shimon providentially came to Jewish burial as told last week.

It is so inspiring to see how Hashem runs His world and allows us opportunities to do acts of kindness and partner with Him. 

May we always be blessed to be able to help

SHABBAT SHALOM 


Eternal Soul 🔥

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

My emotions have fluctuated this week. 

Won some. Lost some. But my spirit is strong, and I am optimistic. 

Unquestionably the Neshama, Jewish soul, that has been gifted us since Abrahams times, will emerge victorious.

Good will prevail. G-d based morality will triumph.

Ultimately, that is. 

When Mashiach comes. Then, at that time there will be only good news.

Till then there is good news and not so good news.

There are some moral and religious struggles that have successful outcomes, while others temporarily fail. The good guys don’t always win immediately. It is for sure though that eventually they will emerge successful. 

A quick recap of my week.

On Monday I was in Rechovot, honored with being the ‘sandak’ at the bris of our grandson born to Devorah Leah and Shneor Brod. My heart was overflowing with joy, love and thanks to Hashem for this new addition to our family. Menachem Mendel, as the baby was named, was born in Israel to parents who are committed to living in Israel. 

Israel, what a vibrant, pleasant and Jewish-observance-friendly place.

On Tuesday, as I landed back in Bangkok, I opened my phone and was greeted by the news of missiles flying around Rechovot and hasty trips to shelters. My heart was filled with concern and more than a smidgen of trepidation for our loved ones living there.

Israel, what a challenging place to live. I consider every Jew who lives in Israel a tzadik!

Location: Samitivej Hospital. Sad event.

On Friday night we lost a dear Jew, a long-time member of our community, Richard Frankel. Richard greeted us so warmly when we first arrived and was the epitome of kind and gracious as well as learned and forever-giving mentsch. A truly gentle soul. May his memory be for a blessing. May his children and grandchildren be a source of nachas to his soul through their good deeds and may they carry the unbroken chain of their Jewish heritage with pride and inspiration. 

Location: same Samitivej Hospital. Joyous event.

On Tuesday night, a new life was born. A new Jew joined Am Yisrael. Our daughter Mushka (Kaltmann) gave birth to a bouncing boy thank G-d.

Post life:

On Wednesday afternoon at the Bangkok Jewish cemetery a Jewish man was gently buried in the traditional shrouds and wooden casket. The event was inspiring, as it was attended by nearly twenty members of our Jewish community. None of us who had ever known Shimon Aaronson who was being laid to rest. Prayers were said, and the age-old tradition was perpetuated.

On that same Wednesday afternoon, a different Jewish man was taken by his zealously-Buddhist second wife, to a temple. The proposed schedule includes chanting by monks, and may G-d protect him, planned cremation and scattering of ashes into the sea. 

It’s been a week with a lot of emotions.

Overflowing happiness at the bris of our grandson in Israel.

Sadness at the loss of a dear friend who was a great help during our early years here.

Elation that we had managed to visit Mr. Shimon Aaronson in Hatyai and raise the funds needed for paying the hospital bill and subsequent burial. The non-practicing next of kin understood the importance of Jewish burial for a Jew and gave their consent.

Deep and painful frustration at not being able to save a Jewish man, born into a Jewishly observant family some eighty years ago, from the harsh anti-Jewish rites of cremation. 

And painful cremation is. In Jewish thought, the body does not die entirely at death. The flesh of the body still contains some life. That life gradually dissipates as the body decomposes. To incinerate a body is according to Jewish thought a cruel act. For there is still some form of life in the body which should be treated with care. Burning the body is like killing that vestige of life that still lingers on in the body. The fact that cremation is so widespread or that some ask for this to be their means of final disposal, does not make it any more correct. There were many Nazis, including cultured and family minded people, who burned Jews alive. When something is cruel and wrong, the fact that many do it, does not change the immorality of it.

(The even greater immorality of the ‘dying with dignity’ movement which makes it seem okay to choose to shorten life, is certainly something we must rally against. Click here to read more about the Jewish perspective. We must be unyielding in our commitment to affirming the sanctity of life as these immoral trends gain proponents).

My dear friend, I know you are used to me being soft-spoken. Regarding these topics I hope I am coming across quite adamant. I have no choice. Some things must be said forcefully and emphatically!

Life is sacred! Even when one is too sick to enjoy a quality of life.

Cremation for a Jew is cruel and un-Jewish.

‘Rabbi’, someone told me, ‘don’t take it to heart’. Enjoy ‘your family simchas and happy occasions and don’t get disturbed if ‘lapsed Jews’ unrelated to you, turn their backs on their Judaism’

That kind of thinking is anathema to my life mission.

The Rebbe who sent us here to Thailand, viewed every Jew as his family. He considered the most alienated Jew as dear to him as the disciples who drank from his fountain of wisdom. The Rebbe expects that those influenced by him adopt that same perspective.

So, yes. It is painful. Even though the Jew awaiting cremation is not related to me by blood, I am aghast. Ironically, I am happy that I am deeply pained, for it tells me that I am not G-d forbid desensitized to the plight of a fellow Jew. I feel at fault for not having been able to reach him intellectually and convey a compelling enough message to have him insist on the right Jewish choice. 

Dear Friend, I don’t intend to leave you with a message of disappointment. Let’s do a transformative reframing. Remember, the greatest good can come where its least likely, as a result of challenge and apparent negativity.

The situation in Israel? 

Let’s reframe it from a positive perspective. Hopefully things will be quiet now with the ceasefire. But as the missiles were raining down deep into densely populated central Israel, we are reminded that G-d promised in the Torah that Israel is a Divinely blessed geographical location. During the first Gulf War the Rebbe encouraged people to go to Israel, certainly not to leave. The Rebbe quoted the verses in the Torah that say that Israel is a land that ‘the Eyes of G-d are attentive to, from the beginning of the year till the end of the year’. ‘Israel is the safest place in the world’ said the Rebbe during that crisis. Indeed, the miracles in Israel abound. Missiles falling is absolutely unacceptable, yet we must not overlook the wonders. Somehow the damage to life from those bombs were miraculously small. The army may they be blessed, do fantastic work, and G-d provides miracles that are too numerous to count. click here for miracle captured by traffic camera

We must all pray for Israel and support our fellow Jews there, in any way possible!

Nechama and I are overjoyed and honored that our daughter, son-in-law and their two children, our adorable grandchildren, are living in our Holy land of Israel. 

Our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness to Almighty G-d for the great gift of a new grandson born this week in Bangkok. We are so very excited to G-d willing have the pleasure of celebrating his Bris with our friends, here in our Bangkok Jewish community (please G-d it will be this coming Wednesday in the late afternoon at the Shul (double check to make sure of schedule)).

The planned cremation? I am still praying for a miraculous change of heart by those who can affect the desired change.

And I am now driven with more passion to intensify my efforts to EDUCATE people about the misconceptions that drive decisions to cremate. Click here for something basic on the topic. 

And finally, I am inspired by Shimon Ben Avrohom Aaronson whose funeral we were privileged to do on Wednesday. Here is why.

Shimon lived in a Thai rural (‘shtetl’) village somewhere within the general region of Hatyai. 

Shimon’s mothers, mothers’ mother was a Jewess from Russia. His great-grandmother was Jewish. They all married non-Jewish men.

The Jewish chain seemed all but snuffed out. How could it not be? It was so diluted.

Yet, that Jewish soul that is transmitted matrilineally refused to sputter and die out. 

Inexplicably, and against all odds, Shimon was proud of his Jewish heritage and chose to reclaim it. To the extent that he changed his legal last name to Shimon Ben Avrohom Aaronson. According to his close friend and housemate, Shimon kept meat and milk separate and always spoke about going back to live in Israel. 

Shimon even made Challa in the hinterlands of Thailand. Click here (scroll down) to see his dialogue with the online recipe tutor. I have now gained a deeper appreciation for the efforts of my colleagues at chabad.org for developing very useful and engaging kosher cooking webpages. It seems that some Jews connect to their Judaism via the culinary path.

Can you see why I am INSPIRED and ENERGIZED and feel incredibly blessed by the events of this week?

I have seen with my own eyes, that the pact that G-d made with Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov and the subsequent birth of Am Yisrael at the revelation at Sinai is ALIVE AND WELL!

Nothing can vanquish or extinguish the spark of the Jewish soul and its attachment to the Eternal G-d.

We need to add in Torah and Mitzvahs. As our good deeds of Mitzvahs, acts of devotion and lovingkindness bring us ever closer to that special day when death will be no more, goodness and G-dly morality will reign supreme and our very mortal eyes will soak up the revelation of G-d. 

We want Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor 

OY to JOY (Part Two of Shabbat Shalom)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I was greeted in Shul at 7am this morning by someone who had already read my weekly email. He was surprised that it had come in middle of the Bangkok night and perused it before coming to morning prayers. Of course, once he read it, he knew why I had sent it early.

I had needed to ask for help to be able to release a fellow Jew’s body from the hospital and begin the burial proceedings.

When I saw him looking at the ‘shabbat schedule’ hanging on the wall of the Shul I knew something was amiss.

 Pointing to the printed schedule on the wall he proclaimed, ‘Shabbat starts at 5:31 PM today not at 5:33’.

I took a quick peek at my emails and saw that not just had I misquoted the starting and ending time of Shabbat, I had also not written the correct Torah portion. Last week’s portion of Noach and last week’s Shabbat times were still listed.

At first, I thought OY VEY.

But then I realized that this was a G-dsend.

Like many other things that initially have a feel of something going awry. And then it turns out that they are actually hidden opportunities.

This weeks Torah portion of Lech Lecha is all about progression. Going ahead. Moving forward.

The thing about moving forward, is that sometimes it looks like the opposite is taking place. It sometimes looks like you are going backwards when really you are poised to move forward.

Very often, challenges look like obstacles. In the absolute reality of G-d’s plans they are often things that elevate and advance us. Looking like obstructions, but actually serving as catalysts, catapulting us to even greater heights.

This week’s Parsha Lech Lecha says it all.

Avraham and Sara are sent to the land of Canaan (Israel) by G-d. Upon arrival they are greeted by a famine. They head off to Egypt. Seems like a real setback. As it turns out, they enter Egypt penniless, yet they leave Egypt fabulously wealthy, famous and honored.

G-d had planned their successful emergence from Egypt all along. Avraham had demonstrated his absolute faith in G-d and never questioned why he was meeting with misfortune.

So it was with the Jewish journey into Egypt. We got enslaved in Egypt were downtrodden and oppressed and many lives were lost.

Yet we emerged from Egypt, to go on to receive the Torah and enter the land of Israel as a liberated nation. We soared to heights that were previously unimaginable.

So it will be in the future. We will emerge from this sojourn in ‘exile’ and enter the glorious Messianic future that awaits us.

Back to our reality. Friday November 8, 2019.

I made a mistake in my email that cannot be ignored. Shabbat candles must be lit at the proper time. To light Shabbat candles after sundown is actually the opposite of honoring the Shabbat. Shabbat candles must be lit when the sun has not yet set and the Shabbat has not yet begun. (If the mistake was in the reverse and I had written an earlier time for Shabbat candles, I could leave it. A few extra minutes of Shabbat is certainly good.

But not in this instance where I had written a later time which could G-d forbid cause a mistake of violating the Shabbat).

I realized that I need to send out a second email. That’s a tad embarrassing.

It dawned on me that this was a golden opportunity.

First of all, it gives me the opportunity to report back to you about our success.

I get the chance to thank all the donors who through their joint effort facilitated and enabled the release of the body of the late Shimon A. from the hospital for burial. The embassy and undertaker are working on the next stages. (bureaucracy… bureaucracy… or as my Bobbe would say in her accented English ‘paipehwoik’).

Thank you to all of you generous Tzedaka enthusiasts!!!

YOU DID IT. Collectively. Am Yisrael once more demonstrated their unshakeable and unbreakable bond with each other. Even to a Jew unknown to them or anyone who contributed!

And now to the sweetness. The simchas, joyous events that I want to share with you.

In our community, this week we have been blessed with joyous life cycle events connected with Bris Milah, circumcision. Just like Avraham our forefather in THIS WEEKS PARSHA…

This morning, we were blessed to have the bris of Ari Ariel born to one of the members of our ‘Chabad Young Professionals’ community led by Rabbi Boruch Hecht. The youthful and joyous event was hosted at JCafe and enjoyed by all.

On an even more personal note, our daughter and son in law, Devorah Leah and Shneor Brod were blessed with a baby boy. Please G-d the bris will be in Rechovot, Israel on Monday 14:30 PM. (For exact address please email me).

Nechama and I are full of thankfulness to G-d for His infinite kindness to us. May Hashem bless you too with happy occasions in your families.

So, I hope you agree with me that a second email is not a mistake, rather an opportunity to share the sweetness of this week with you.

May we enter the Shabbat with feelings of joy and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

(An early) Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Is it easier to get help for a destitute human or a wayward dog?

Ouch. It hurts to even write that sentence.

But just Google ‘dog rescue Thailand’ and see what an impressive array of options shows up.

I have tried Googling several variations of ‘help for humans in distress’ and the options are unfortunately not all that notable. 

Why would I be googling ‘dog rescue thailand’?

Here is why.

On Monday I received a call from a woman who lives in Bangkok. She told me that she rescues dogs. She told me that a fellow ‘rescuer’ Shimon Aaronson had fallen ill and been taken to hospital in Hatyai. Knowing that Shimon was Jewish she wanted to know if we had a rabbi in Hatyai who could say some prayers.

I sent out a note to all of our rabbi’s across Thailand to see if anyone knew of a Jew in Hatyai who we could call upon to pay a visit.

Rabbi Moshe Hadad of our Thai Kashrut certification responded to me that providentially, we had a rabbi going the very next day on a scheduled kosher inspection visitation at fish production factories in Hatyai. The rabbi visited Shimon and said the Shma and other prayers recited before passing, as the situation looked quite bleak. We learned that Shimon was destitute, as was the friend who was at his bedside till the end. 

Earlier this evening (Thursday) Shimon passed away. His family in the UK had not been happy with his decision to live in Thailand without any social welfare benefits. As pensioners, they are unable to settle the hospital bill, nor deal with the expenses of burying the body. Additionally, they really had no interest in helping with burial as they do not practice the Jewish faith. But to their great credit, they understood that this is the right thing for Shimon and acquiesced to my request to allow us to bury Shimon in the Jewish tradition. 

As a fellow Jew, albeit unknown to our community, it is our sacred duty to see to it that Shimon not be cremated but be buried as a Jew. 

There are many organizations engaged in helping animals. 

The Torah tells us not to be cruel to animals.

Infinitely more important however is to ensure that our fellow humans are cared for.

It seems to be a far greater challenge to help people.

First of all, people talk back. People have attitudes. People can make bad choices. Animals are just acting their natural selves. Nothing can really make you upset at an animal.

Moreover, caring for humans is far more costly. 

As Jews we are the continuation of our ancestors Abrahams legacy of righteousness and justice.

We must keep reminding ourselves of our G-dly responsibility to care for others.

We Jews as the recipients of the G-dly moral code taught at Sinai must make it our mission and goal to teach the world about the laws of Universal Morality.

Tzedakah is one of the greatest mitzvahs. 

One of the greatest forms of tzedakah kindness is helping bring a person to their final rest. It is a kindness that is one of ‘truth’ without any possibility to be repaid by the person you have helped.

I must be honest. When I get a call that someone has passed away in Thailand, a feeling of anxiety overcomes me momentarily. I don’t think I need to explain why. There are more enjoyable things to be involved with than burying the dead. 

But once I jump into the work of preparing and tending to the deceased together with my colleagues, I feel the uniqueness of being part of the ‘chevra kadisha’ literally the ‘holy society’ who do their work with love and with a benevolent spirit. 

And I realize with gratitude, that Am Yisrael truly is one people. No matter where a Jew dies, he or she will be tended to with that same care and compassion. 

May we live and be healthy and well till the Mashiach comes and dying will be but a relic of the past!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I hasten to send out my weekly email tonight, because I need your help. I can appeal to you my readers, to participate in this great mitzvah of helping to bring Shimon to his proper Jewish rest in the Jewish cemetery in Bangkok.

We need to pay up the hospital bill, arrange transport from Hatyai and cover the burial expenses. All of this will cost between 7-8 thousand dollars. 

Any amount will be helpful.

www.jewishthailand.com/tzedaka


Impulsive Spontaneity

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Thanks for all the wonderful, varied and colorful responses that I received to my email of last week.

This story happened way back, some twenty six years ago. We had gone to Singapore for a few days to apply at the Royal Thai embassy for a visa. 

We had tried flagging down a taxi in middle of the street, not at a designated taxi stand. A uniformed policeman appeared and told us it was against the law to stop a taxi without going to the designated stand. We already knew that Singapore was a strictly organized country because of the well known chewing-gum ban. Now we became trepidation filled not knowing what other laws we may be inadvertently breaching. 

It was then that my wife told me ‘I think I like Thailand better’. It was a pivotal moment. Until then we had thought that the clutter, chaos, smells and ‘balagan’ endemic to the streets of Bangkok were distasteful to us. Singapore had appeared to us from the distance as being the ‘greener grass’. We had now come to the realization that we had gotten quite used to Thailand and were even fond of its uniqueness.

It goes without saying that our work and mission in Thailand was very dear to us. We loved, love and hopefully will always love being emissaries of the Rebbe to reach out to every Jew in Thailand with love and care. But during that Singapore visit we realized that there was something about life in Thailand that we had become attracted to. Not just the spiritual work, but the actual ‘atmosphere’ if you wish. 

No, it wasn’t the smells we had gotten attached to. Nor was it the uneven sidewalks. The cacophony of noises, smells and sights that comprise life in the teeming city of Bangkok was surely not what we found attractive. 

(I grew up in Melbourne, Australia before my family moved to New York and my wife was raised in Los Angeles. Both of those locales are suburban, green lawns, backyards, orderly, sanitary and just generally very livable). 

The morally repugnant things that Thailand is famous for, are still and hopefully will always be, abominable to us. 

What then was unique about life in Thailand that we had become attracted to?

I think that what we find special about life in Thailand is the SPONTENAIETY. Doing things at the spur of the moment, with a touch of impulsivity. This characteristic seems to be part and parcel of the ‘This is Thailand’ experience. 

Singapore is the polar opposite. Everything is organized. Melbourne and Los Angeles are likewise well-planned cities. The gutters drain excess rainwater without having constant flooding. The traffic lights are predictable and almost never overridden by police officers. The sidewalks are walkable, street vendors are licensed and five people on a motorbike is unthinkable.

Being reliably predictable is great. There is much goodness to organization. The Torah considers being orderly a virtue. The dinner of Pesach is called a ‘Seder’ which means ‘order’ as it is an orderly set of rituals that constitutes the order of events for the Seder.

But that is not to say that impulsivity and spontaneity don’t have their contribution to make to our lives in a positive way.

Thailand is a place where people do things spontaneously. There is something in the air that almost elicits spontaneous impulsivity. 

This unfettered energetic trait is what I would like to suggest we can adopt in our service of G-d.

Let’s say for example when it comes to giving tzedakah. There is the orderly, responsible and structured Torah obligation. The mitzvah of giving ten percent of one’s earnings to tzedakah. 

Then there is the spontaneous additional tzedakah that one is motivated to give because they saw someone in real need, or because they are so thankful to G-d for giving them so much.

Yesterday someone called me to ask where my home is. I had just arrived home from a trip and was a bit surprised that someone who was not even Jewish was coming to see me without coordinating in advance. The person said that it involved possibly saving a life. Immediately I agreed to meet. 

A few minutes later that person showed up at my home. He explained that his friend needs an urgent surgery, but they can’t operate without having blood ready to transfuse. The blood type (0 negative) is not prevalent in Thailand. The man sitting with me told me that he has Jewish friends in the States and knows the Jewish people to be kind and resourceful. He came to me for help. I told him that I will spread the word and see if I can find any blood donors.

(Please urgently let me know if you have the blood type O negative, are in Thailand and able to give blood. I will then put you in touch with the relevant people).

I thought to myself, here is a good example where being organized and formal may have been a handicap. Calling to make a meeting and setting a time may have delayed this matter further. Moreover, the urgency of this matter was much more adequately conveyed by the fact that the friend simply showed up at my doorstep to plead for help. 

My colleagues around the world have their Passover guests ‘glued in’ to their guest list way in advance of Pesach.

But not here in Thailand. Last minute seems to be quite popular in Thailand.

The day before Pesach, my email inbox always floods with people asking if they can still join the Pesach Seder. The dates of Passover are known hundreds of years in advance. We open up to take reservations at least a month in advance. Yet, on the day before Pesach, people who had not made firm plans to attend the Seder sent urgent emails asking if there is still room.

Here in Thailand we are prepared for them. We anticipate that as the day comes closer the Jewish soul will awaken and not let the Jew rest till he finds a Seder dinner to attend. 

For after all, TIT = This is Thailand. Unpredictable. Spontaneous. Unfettered.

It is this unrestrained energy and joy that I would like to inject into the performance of G-d’s Torah & mitzvahs. 

Thailand is famous for hosting the largest Pesach seders and Rosh Hashana dinners. People who wouldn’t necessarily be open to performing a mitzvah back at home, somehow become inspired to draw closer to G-d in Thailand. Spontaneously.  Impulsively. 

I would like to leave you with this practical tip.

Do you sometimes feel an impulse to do a mitzvah you don’t usually do?

Perhaps you saw a person in need and though impulsively to give them a gift that is more than you would usually allow yourself to give.

Go ahead and give it.

Be spontaneous and consider joining Torah class that you usually wouldn’t consider attending.

(If you wake up on Sunday morning and spontaneously decide to join the first lesson of ‘From Worrier to Warrior’, come on over and join…we will push in an extra seat for you). 

And may Almighty G-d bless all of us with greater than expected blessings in every way possible, especially with the coming of Mashiach spontaneously.. NOW!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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