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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Procrastination is good

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Who said life wasn’t confusing.

Take for example this humorous anecdote. A guy goes to a rich man that he doesn’t know and asks for a loan of ten thousand dollars. The rich man looks at him quizzically and asks ‘hello, do I know you from somewhere?’ and walked off. Then he goes to a rich man that he does know and asks him for a loan. The guy looks at him and says ‘oh boy, no way. I know you too well to loan you any money’…

One couldn’t blame this poor guy for being confused. Is it better to be known or unknown?

How about this seeming paradox.

On the one hand we say

‘Don’t delay to tomorrow what you can do today’.

Contrast that to another saying which has the exact opposite connotation. ‘Haste makes waste’.

It seems confusing.

Which way is better. Swiftness? Or procrastination?

The answer my dear friend is; it depends what the circumstance is.

Let’s take a stroll through the weekly Parsha and you will see for yourselves that it all depends on the context.

The Torah relates how Moshe ‘sees’ the Shechina (presence of G-d) about to ‘pass’ before him. He hurries to bow and prostrate himself on the ground on honor of G-d’s presence.

The Parsha also tells the story of the golden calf debacle. Aharon was strong armed into making a golden calf on behalf of the misguided Jews who were looking for an image to worship. The calf, fashioned out of gold, was completed. Aharon said, ‘let’s declare tomorrow a holiday’.

Why tomorrow? It is quite clear that Aaron was deliberately procrastinating. He was hoping that Moshe would return by the morning and then the foolish and sinful desire to serve the golden calf would be obviated and cancelled. Aharon was sure that under the firm guidance of Moshe the people would resume their service of G-d and abandon their brief flirtation with the idolatrous calf.

All he needed to do was buy time. Till Moshe came back. Aharon figured it he pushed it off till tomorrow and declared it a holiday, people would sleep in.

It almost worked. But the temptation to sin was so strong (as it so often is – that’s the way G-d designed temptations…). The people got up early. They didn’t sleep in. Moshe came back after midday. By that time the damaging sin had been done.

It would seem very safe to say that this is the rule of thumb.

For good things, say YES right away.

When it comes to negative things. Delay your reaction. Wait, snooze, delay, procrastinate. Don’t speed headlong into a negative activity.  

In today’s email and social media age, it pays to be prudent.

Don’t spill your innermost secrets on a public social media forum. What you say now and what makes you feel cool right now, may not be what you will feel in a while from now.

There is a saying I grew up with (I heard it in Yiddish originally). ‘You are not allowed to lie, but one does not have to volunteer all the truthful information that you know’.

The antics and personal revelations you expose on social media, will be there for anyone to find. For as long as there is an internet.

In such an instance STOP and THINK. DELAY.

When it comes to helping someone and doing a good deed.

DO! ACT! MOVE! IMPLEMENT!

Don’t think, mediate and ruminate over something good that you need to do. Do it quickly. You never know if you will get another chance. It may well be that the help you offer is needed right now. Later may be too late.

Who knows if the person seeking your help has much time left? Every moment may count.

In our current information age, a new tzedaka model has emerged that brings anti-procrastination to a digitized world.

Crowdfunding.

The model used for these fundraising campaigns are quite effective. A limited window of time is allotted for the campaign. The potential donor is urged to give his or her contribution of any size before the stated campaign deadline.

Creating a deadline is a common marketing tool.

Twenty five years ago I hosted Rabbi Riskin of Efrat and showed him around Bangkok. As we exited one of the famous sights of Bangkok, we were approached by a tuk tuk driver. According to this driver we were the luckiest people in the universe. For we had just ‘happened by sheer chance’ to be in the right place at the right time. There was a jewelry factory that only he, this peppy driver, knew, that was having a sale on jewelry. Prices were reduced by 80%. The sale was taking place right now but would end in a few hours. After that, prices would be back at their normal unaffordable prices.

Would you believe it? We went to see the factory. I was new to Bangkok after all. Alas, we couldn’t make any purchase. Rabbi Riskin told me that he has an agreement with his wife not to make purchases over a certain amount without her express confirmation. In 1993 one didn’t make a telephone call to Israel just like that. It was expensive. We didn’t call. Reluctantly we left the factory feeling that we had missed the amazing sale of the century.

We were saved from what I later learned was a standard Thailand scam operation.

The point is quite clear. Creating a deadline is a good tool for eliminating procrastination.

The charitable crowdfunds do a great job at that.

The Torah’s rule is crystal clear.

If you can give charity and help somebody else, or do any other good act, don’t hesitate.

You won’t regret it.

If you are tempted to do something wrong or hurtful and can’t seem to overcome the temptation to do it, buy yourself a temporary reprieve at least. Hit the snooze button. Sleep on it overnight. Maybe by tomorrow morning your ‘internal Moshe’ will awaken and help you overcome the challenge.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

A Surreal Story...

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A surreal story.

If I wouldn’t have heard it from the person it happened to, it would be hard to believe.

Why did I even get to hear the story? Perhaps that too is part of the story.

A neighbor of ours from Melbourne Australia passed away in a tragic work accident just short of his sixty ninth birthday. He was well known to be a benevolent man.  Moreover, quietly, behind the scenes he did many nice things that nobody new about. Personally I felt a strong sense of gratitude to him for a significant favor he did for our family just before they relocated to the States.

It’s almost thirty years later. The family was taking him for burial in Israel. They called me to ask about kosher food and minyanim for Kadish for their one-day transit earlier this week in Bangkok. I went to Chabad House to ensure the minyan for Mincha and offered to take the family to the airport later that night to catch their midnight flight to Israel.

While waiting till it was time to head out to the airport, I sat down in the Chabad House restaurant to absorb the bustling atmosphere and have some dinner.

I got to see the touching sight of a tour-group comprising of handicapped men and women coming to eat at the restaurant (picture below). The positive and energized group leader said that she works for an organization called ‘Hotze Gvulot’. They provide tours to those handicapped, allowing them to participate in overseas travel experiences despite their handicaps. It was heartwarming to see how much they were enjoying their trip. I was honored and gratified to be able to welcome them and share some words with them.

(The group leader said that their organization also provides wheelchairs for those who cannot afford it here in Thailand. If you know someone local who needs a wheelchair, please contact Mrs. Merav Shaibi).

Then a wiry Israeli man who I would guess was in his sixties, came rushing in. He excused himself for interrupting a conversation I was having with someone at my table and told me the following story:

In the early eighties I was on a clandestine mission for Israel that required me to be totally cut off from my family and friends for more than a year and a half. Only my mother knew where I was.

My father Levi, worked for the Chabad Yeshiva in Migdal Haemek as the cook. He was an industrious worker and never took time off. One day he came to the head of the Yeshiva and told him that he must go rest as he suddenly feels really unwell. It was uncharacteristic of my father but he just felt so ill that he went to bed. My father fell asleep and had a dream. In the dream he sensed that I was being killed. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (whose picture was in the dining hall of the yeshiva) then appeared in his dream and reassured him that his son would be alright. He awoke, and told the dream to his wife who was upset and perturbed. It was reassuring to them that the Rebbe had assured him that their son would be alright.

Around that time, I was discovered and barely managed to get back to Israel alive. Wounded and beaten I had one request of my superiors. I must meet the person who almost killed me, who had in the meantime been apprehended.

When I met the man who could have easily killed me, I asked him in Arabic ‘why didn’t you kill me’. ‘I was within reach of you, without any energy left to run’. To which he responded ‘didn’t you see the ‘bearded man’ who held me back and didn’t let me finish you?’. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I thought perhaps the other people in the room were a disturbance to him saying the truth. I asked for everybody to leave. It was just me and him looking at each other in the eyes.

Again I asked him why he didn’t kill me. Again he responded that someone had held him back. He again explained to me that a dignified man with a beard had held him back and not allowed him to kill me’.

The teller of this story told me that his name is now Rami. Rami showed me how he still got goosebumps when he told the story, as it was so clear to him that his father’s dream of the Rebbe reassuring his safety indeed came to fruition.

Rami, apologized that he was in a rush and couldn’t elaborate more. The reason he had rushed in to tell me the story is because the Rabbi at the Migdal Hae’emek yeshiva had told him to tell the miraculous story to any disciple of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he meets. So he felt bound to that commitment and having seen me sitting close to the door of the Chabad House, he came in to share the story with me.

Off he disappeared into the bustling Kaosarn night scene leaving me to my thoughts…and here I am sharing his words with you….

The tradition of telling miraculous stories has a twofold goal.

First of all, it reminds us that one should never give up, even when all seems lost.

G-d’s salvation can come as quickly and unexpectedly as the blink of an eye.

He – with a capital H – often obscures His presence. Yet at other times it’s as if the very Heavens have opened and one gets a glimpse of His direct and detailed involvement in the minutiae of our lives.

Additionally, I see an inherent message in this story that defines Jewish leadership.

That a ‘spirit’ of a saintly tzadik can be sent on missions by G-d to save his flock is quite well documented. A similar story that took place around twenty three hundred years ago is recorded in the Talmud about Shimon the Tzadik.

In 3448, Alexander marched through the land of Israel, bringing Persian rule to an end. Filled with trepidation, the Jews sent a delegation of Kohanim led by Shimon HaTzadik, all dressed in their priestly raiments. Upon approaching Alexander, they were astounded when the great conqueror prostrated himself before Shimon! When asked the reason for such inexplicable behavior, Alexander replied that before his battles a vision of Shimon appeared to him promising victory. After arising, Alexander promised to treat the Jews benignly. In appreciation, the Jewish people honored Alexander in two very special ways. First, all male Kohanim (according to some opinions, all male Jews) born that year would be named Alexander. Second, a new dating system for documents would be instituted, one based on Alexander's rule. This system was known as Minyan Shtaros and lasted more than 1,000 years.

The above Talmudic miraculous story was for the benefit of the general community of the people of Israel. The leader of the Jewish people – Shimon Hatzadik – is no doubt deeply vested in activities on behalf of the general community. What touches me more deeply about the new story I head this week, is that the miracle happened for one person.

The miracle involving the Jewish leader happened for one solitary Jewish man. A heroic man, to be sure. Putting his life on the line for the people of Israel. But ultimately it was one individual.

The story highlights that a true Jewish leader cares, prays and elicits G-d’s miracles even for individuals.

Moshe, our first leader, was chosen by G-d for his care to a little lamb that had strayed from the herd he was shepherding.

Thus was created the everlasting definition of true Jewish leadership.

Caring for the individual who is under your stewardship as well as for the general community.

To care for every individual that you are responsible for, you have to NOTICE and SEE those often overlooked individuals.

Ever heard of ‘inattentional blindness’?

It means when you don’t notice something that is right in front of you because your mind simply hides it from your attention.

Many people I know would help someone IF THEY NOTICED that they needed help.

The tragedy is that so many people simply never notice.

Moshe noticed and cared even for a lamb under his responsibility.

He was chosen as the quintessential Jewish leader.

A hard act to follow. To be a Jewish leader is not about being voted as being most popular. It’s a G-d given mission. To care, fret, uplift, inspire and lead by example the entire community.

The community as a community and each and every one individually.

We can and should endeavor to emulate and imitate this characteristic.

Leadership today is such a challenging topic. There is a dearth of real leadership. Too many leaders only see their own special-interest groups. Their own similarly minded group of friends within the larger group they are supposed to care for and lead.

Maybe somehow we can convince leaders to see EVERYONE they are responsible for. To care. To want to make a difference.

But let us not make this a lesson for others. For the leadership ‘out there in the halls of governments’. It’s a lesson for me. And it’s a lesson for you. For after all, we are all leaders in some way. In our own environments. Some larger in quantity, but all require the same leadership qualities.

Don’t fall victim to ‘inattentional blindness’. Make an effort to notice ALL the people around you. To empathize with them. Try to get a sense of how you can make their lives happier and more meaningful. You may even be able to help them get a few steps forward in their health or finances.

Who knows, you may even end up saving a life!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Offer inside: For those in debt ONLY

 

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I once heard someone complain ‘why is there so little paycheck left when there is still so much month left’?

It’s no secret that many people live from paycheck to paycheck. That may not be so bad if the paycheck would indeed cover all their expenses comfortably. However, that does not seem to be the case. People are not keeping up to their obligations. The reports on debt in America say that 71% of workers in America are in debt. This is not very uplifting.

Perhaps you too feel like you are always chasing yesterday’s bills.

Never getting ahead of yourself. Certainly not managing to build a small nest egg for a retirement or for a rainy day.

What would it take to put you in the black and not in the red?

(I am not talking about the extraordinary cases of massive debt which may inevitably lead to bankruptcy)

For most, a little miracle from G-d of an unexpected windfall would do the trick. You don’t have to win the mega lotto. It could be an unexpected tax refund. A gift from a parent who cashed in a long term investment. Perhaps a forgotten stock investment that appreciated in value. G-d has many creative ways. Many people do eventually manage to extricate themselves from the debt cycle. Some even manage to put away savings.

Life is not all about money.

Far from it.

It is just that when it comes to money it’s easy to calculate and know how far behind you are and how far forward you jump when you get an unexpected windfall.

So it’s easier to make my point about money. That even when we are behind in our finances and we don’t see where the salvation will come from, we should not despair. Sometimes G-d alleviates debt and injects unexpected incomes into the equation.

When we move the discussion to personal achievement it gets a bit vaguer.

Certainly if we talk about healthy lifestyle changes, one can identify certain aspects and create targets. For example, being overweight is not a positive thing for many people. It is relatively straightforward to figure out how much one may be over their ideal weight and create a plan to slim down a bit. The follow up is also a no-brainer as the ‘scale tells the tale’.

Exercise is also something quite easily quantifiable. How long one can exercise for and evaluating stamina levels is the bare bones of any fitness trainer.

In targets for bettering our spiritual lives it gets yet vaguer, but we can definitely find some criteria by which to judge our setbacks and successes.

How well was one able to focus on prayer. How many times did you overcome your anger even when someone irritated you? Did you help the needy person or did you turn away and pretend you didn’t see them? Were you able to shift your mind away from negative thoughts to positive and holy ones. Were you charitable according to your true potential or did you just pay a token of what you really should have.

In all these arenas we have some successful periods and some not such successful ones.

Oftentimes, we fall short of our own expectations of ourselves.

We find ourselves in a form of debt. Unable to do good on our commitments.

In a way that is a good sign. It is a sign that we have reached higher than our current norm.

But then we must ask. If we don’t see success shining its face on us, how should we react?

Should we readjust our aims? Curtail our ambitions? Our keep on trying and hope for some unexpected help?

The leap year is a concept embedded by G-d into our calendars that reminds us how we can always catch up. Even get a little bit ahead and put away something for a ‘rainy day’.

Here is the concept in brief:

We are instructed by the Torah to mark time by using the lunar calendar cycle. The lunar year is twelve months of 29.5 days (rounded off), which equals 354 days.

The solar year is 365 days.

This offsets the lunar year from the solar years by 11 days.

Say for example if we started counting the new lunar year on January 1st. The following lunar year would start 354 days later on December 20th of that same year. The third lunar year would start on December 9th of the second year. By the fourth lunar year the year would begin at the end of November. This would mean that the lunar months would not be linked to the seasons of the year. For the seasons of summer, winter, spring and autumn are all based on the solar cycle and are firmly fixed in the Jan to Dec months. While the lunar year would be floating around the calendar.

This cannot be allowed. The Torah teaches that Pesach must be in the spring. Which means that the gap between the solar year and the lunar year must be offset somehow. We need to make sure that the lunar years missing eleven days do not move Pesach away from the spring season.

The Torah does this by inserting ‘leap years’. A thirteenth month is added every 2 or 3 years.

In this way the lunar year ‘catches up’ to the solar year.

By way of analogy, it would be like getting an unexpected monetary windfall and paying off all your debt.

Or in the realm of personal development, finding that your goals and aspirations came to fruition.

Really exciting concept. Who wouldn’t want to be debt free? And how exhilarating to be able to actualize your dreams and goals of self-fulfillment.

It gets even better than that.

The lunar year doesn’t just ‘catch up’.

It creates a reserve.

The extra 30 days that is inserted to the lunar year ‘oversteers’ and pushes the lunar calendar further ahead relative to the solar calendar than it usually is.

You may have wondered why this year Pesach is so ‘late’. It is always on the fourteenth of Nissan in the evening. Never changes. But in the Gregorian calendar, Pessach this year starts ‘late’ on April 19th in the evening.

This is because this year we have an added month.

To explain this simply, using my earlier analogy.

If we started counting our lunar year at January 1st, and every subsequent lunar year started eleven days earlier, by year three we would start the lunar year on December 9th.

However, because year three is always a leap year (sometimes year two is a leap year instead), we add thirty days and now year three lunar year will begin on January 9th.

The added month, pushes the lunar year ‘ahead’ and gives it some ‘wiggle-room’. So that for the next year at least, the eleven day per year ‘shortfall’ will not affect the positioning of the lunar year vis a vis the seasons of the solar system.

I speak about this idea now, because this year is a Jewish leap year. An additional thirty-day month has been inserted. On Wednesday we celebrated the first day of the month of ‘Adar rishon’ the first Adar. In four weeks we will have ‘Adar sheni’ the second Adar.

This most empowering message is one that the Rebbe would speak about during leap year.

The leap year teaches us that G-d injects opportunities to ‘catch up’ into our lives.

Furthermore, He sometimes even gives us the ‘wherewithal’ to build up a ‘reserve’.

I want to use this powerful message to encourage ambitious undertakings.

(A note of caution here. I refer to those goals that are within the realm of ambitious. It is critical not to cross the thin border to irresponsibility or recklessness).

Truly ambitious projects require a leap of faith.

If you have truly undertaken something ambitious, beyond your current norms, you may wonder where will you get the strength from?

It is tempting to consider staying away from committing to advance. A person may ask himself ‘why should I overextend and overexert’? Let me stay away from making ambitious resolutions of personal refinement and deeper connection to G-d.

That sounds tempting. More relaxing.

But not more fulfilling. Certainly it is not an attitude that will lead us to greater achievement.

Here is something you can think about that will make it easier to jump into commitment.

Imagine if you knew that once in a while G-d will surprise you with a windfall. That G-d would send you everything you need to ‘wipe away your debt’. That He would relieve you of the financial, psychological, physiological and spiritual baggage that was holding you back from reaching more ambitious goals?

But, with one important caveat. He would only send those opportunities to those who had gone out of their comfort zone. Only those who had committed using faith, even before they knew how they would cover it, would be allotted those unexpected blessings. Only ‘debts’ would be repaid. Those who hadn’t overextended themselves would not gain from this surprise and most generous offer.

Wouldn’t you feel really bad that you hadn’t committed to those seemingly elusive goals?

In certain scenarios, having this mindset is not just admirable, it can be critical. Imagine if a school said no to a Jewish kid who wanted to study Torah because they didn’t have enough money. They could have created more spaces in the school but they didn’t want to go into (temporary) debt. Imagine if then along comes a surprise donor who is looking to donate specifically to pay debts of schools.

How foolish that school management would feel. And how disappointed they would be with themselves. It is simple to understand that they would regret their earlier misguided decision.

The kid they rejected may be lost forever G-d forbid. Whereas the debt they were scared of, would have been wiped out if they had just had the courage to take a loan and invite that child in.

That is why the Rebbe instructed his emissaries not to be fazed by temporary debt incurred while doing Jewish outreach. Certainly the work must not stop because of financial nervousness. Debts can be repaid. Souls cannot be easily restored once the opportunity to reach them has passed.

This is a golden rule when it comes to charting one’s advancement in life.

Knowing that Hashem wants us to do good beyond our comfort zone, should give us the faith and courage to jump beyond what seems easily achievable.

Try it. Undertake to exert yourself beyond your comfort zone. Even if you don’t know how you will keep up.

G-d will certainly bless your ambitions with success.

Maybe not immediately. Lunar years fall behind solar years for the two years in between leap years. But then eventually things even out. They even get skewered in favor of the moon.

Here is my call to action:

Take the ‘leap-year offer’. Make good resolutions that are at least slightly beyond your immediate capacity.

Undertake to observe more mitzvahs. Commit to deepening your relationship with G-d and your Jewish soul that He has breathed into you. To study more Torah. To give more tzedakah. To become more physically fit and healthy – this too is a mitzvah. To be more loving and pleasant to those around you.

Of course you should try your hardest to fulfil your undertakings. But don’t give up if you don’t see success overnight. Or if it seems beyond easy reach.

Hearten yourself with the lesson of the leap year in our calendar.

G-d injects ‘windfalls’ and ‘surprises’ to offset our lack of resources. He may even send some extra, to give some ‘wiggle-room’.

May you, my dear reader, as well as I, see this come to fruition in all aspects of our lives. Materially and spiritually.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS the month that is added is Adar. About Adar it says that when the month of Adar arrives, we must increase in JOY!!!! this year we have SIXTY DAYS of joyous Adar (two months). Let us be joyous and ambitious and merit to see Hashem’s blessings of windfalls and miracles beyond our wildest imaginations!!!

Bangkok Air Quality

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By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Air.

Oh wonderful air.

Cheaper than water.

Available, in plentiful quantities.

Accessible to all.

Essential for life.

Air quality?

That is a different question and an ever growing concern.

In Bangkok the air pollution became an acute problem this week. Causing the local authorities to close the schools.

I will not comment on the actual problem, that is for experts. At best I could become a self-taught ‘google’ expert. But so can you.

It is about the schools being closed that I want to comment.

When it comes to teaching children Torah we are taught that even building THE (capitals intended) Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not a reason to cancel the Torah study of young children.

True, building the Bet Hamikdash is crucial to our nations identity and their connection to G-d. Actually, the Bet Hamikdash is a source of blessing to the ENTIRE world! Nonetheless, children’s Torah study is even more important. Classes are not cancelled to facilitate building the Temple.

I would argue that this concept should be taken to heart in our general outlook on education. Educating children is something that is of extreme importance for the betterment and advancement of society. Schools provide knowledge and for the most part they try to impart moral values (or so they should).

This raises the question in my mind, as to why the students and their studies were the only sacrifice made to lower the pollution. Shouldn’t educating the next generation be the last thing we tamper with.

Couldn’t some other measures (like closing down some construction sites) have come first?

Some will say that the government specified that it is for the safety of the children to close the schools. My eyebrows are raised when I hear that. For couldn’t the children stay indoors in the schools. Where are they going to be if they stay at home? Perhaps there is something I am missing, and there is importance in children not going to school during these pollution spikes. But on the face of it, I wonder if the kid’s health has really been helped. The streets seem filled with children accompanying their parents on errands outside.

The other reason I found mentioned in the press about school closures, was the reduction in traffic through closing schools.

It is a no-brainer that on school days the traffic is a snarling maze throughout the city.

But is this the only way to reduce the emissions that are causing the damage? There are various other steps that could have been taken. Steps that may actually address the true culprits that have led to this urgent predicament.

I am concerned that this closure of schools and the fact that this was the only major measure taken, shows where the importance of education rates on the totem pole of society. We need to do whatever we can to highlight the importance of wholesome education.

Truly, I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion about air quality indexes. As I said, I am not an expert and will be happy to hear back from you if you have information to share.

It is the ‘air’ that our ‘hearts and minds’ ingest that I want to focus on.

Each and every one of us lives in a particular peer-based ‘environment’. We are enveloped in a societal embrace that pervades our consciousness.

The value system of the society around us affects us deeply. Peers, coworkers, relatives and just about everybody we come into contact with, leave their imprint on our conscious and subconscious.

Living in a wholesome, happy, mindful and G-d-based-morality environment, leads to a healthy, wholesome and happy spiritual as well as material life.

It’s as simple as that!

Life in a morally-untethered, self-centered and cynical society, causes near irreparable damage to the innocence and positivity of the human experience.

Because we are all initially created in the image of G-d, humans can only be truly healthy, well balanced and psychologically sound if G-d’s ‘handbook for life’ is adhered to.

Breathing in the kind of polluted values and ethos that so many segments of contemporary society propagates, can be downright injurious and detrimental. It causes short term as well as long term damage.

For the citizens of the world it is the seven universal laws given at Sinai to all the ‘children of Noah’ that create a purified and healthy atmosphere.

As Jews, it is the Torah and Mitzvahs that purify the ‘air’ around us. The only truly healthy way to raise Jewish children, is by exposing them to the pure ‘air’ of Torah. The morals, ethics and wisdom of the Torah, filter out all the ‘toxins’ and long term ‘havoc-wreakers’ on the moral fibers of our own selves, our families and our wider communities.

Some people tell me that they don’t want to teach their kids about Judaism and its values at a young age. They would prefer that they get older and make their own choice.

Here is the reality. You can’t say ‘my child, please don’t breathe for the next two days, as the air-quality-index says it is dangerous. Wait till the weekend when we will be out of town’.

Sounds ludicrous. Right?

It’s just as mindless to think that you can delay the moral development and decision making of your child till they are old enough to make their own choices.

Nope. They are absorbing, like we all are, from the atmosphere around us.

When society is not sure that saving a human life, even if he may be a total stranger, comes before saving a beloved animal-pet, we have veered way off the correct moral path. There a host of other issues that I could point to which society now tolerates, nay, in 2019 even encourages, which are totally warped from the perspective of G-dly based morality. .

Friends, I know that some don’t understand why in the traditional way of raising Jewish children we limit the information reaching them from the ‘outside’ world. Thank G-d and kudos to my parents, I was raised that way. Please G-d, I hope to raise my kids in that very same way. It is the healthiest way in my opinion.

I know it sounds outdated. A lot of sensible things sound so antiquated these days. Like traditional marriages. Kids respecting elders. Families getting along with each other in a loving way. Selflessness. Self-control. Stuff that the Torah constantly reminds us about.

It is actually very simple.

If the pollution outside is dangerous, keep the kids indoors.

When they do go out, equip them with masks.

It’s the same with the environment you choose for living in. It is critical to find the proper society to surround yourself with. Values and morals slide so easily when the society around you is decadent or even vulgar.

Time to get out the masks.

Except that masks, the effective ones that is, are not so easy to find in Bangkok right now.

Air filtration systems are more in demand than ever. The laws of supply and demand push up their prices.

Not so when it comes to spiritual air filtration systems. For spiritual refinement tools, we live in unprecedented times. Torah is more accessible in any language and any delivery medium than ever before.

If you are in Bangkok and staying indoors, wanna know what you can do while you are cooped up indoors escaping the pollution? Or if you are sitting at the seaside lapping up eons of fresh air and have time on your hands, think about helping the world get purer. Contribute to the betterment of humanity by spiritually purifying the ‘air’ of our society as well.

Here is how you can do that.

Study Torah. Better yet, commit some concepts of Torah to your brain cells by memorizing them. By doing this, you will clean your own ‘air’ and you will be contributing to bettering the ‘air’ and environment for all of those around you.

Especially when it comes to our kids, give them the purest material possible to ingest and absorb.

www.jewishthailand.com/kids

As you will see in the above site. No one said you can’t have fun while doing the right thing!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS on the topic of Torah study. If you are in Bangkok, have a pretty good head on your shoulders, and interested in seeing how Torah speaks to the burning issues of our time please consider joining our next JLI course. Labeled ‘Crime and Consequence’ it is compelling and thought provoking. (For lawyers in the USA it even provides CLE credits). It is a serious class and attendance is by registration only. Takes place on six Sundays starting in mid-February. Let me know if you are a candidate and drop me a note so that I can try to convince you to come and streamline the process for you.

 

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