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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Selfies and Royalty Don't Mix

By the Grace of G-d

(For the answer to last week’s question ‘did Lori Kaye visit Thailand see the P.S.).

Dear Friend,

By now my muscles aches are over. It took a few days though. I guess I am not used to sitting for several hours on an asphalt road.

The rules were very clear though. Anyone who wanted to see HM the King of Thailand as he was carried aloft along the coronation procession route, needed to be seated on the floor. Knees were not allowed to be raised as that would be disrespectful.

Another interesting rule.

NO SELFIES.

Pictures were allowed. It wasn’t as if the cameras themselves were considered disrespectful. Pictures were being taken by official photographers as well as thousands of cellphone users.  Rather it was selfies that were banned.

Why?

I didn’t hear an official explanation but the concept seems quite simple.

Taking a selfie is all about seeing yourself as the epicenter of the universe. The very name ‘selfie’ is just two letters different than ‘selfish’.

When you are in the presence of a king, it is disrespectful to think about anything else other than the king.

For those raised in the western society it is difficult to truly comprehend the absolute reverence and honor with which a king must be treated.

A king is not a president or a prime minister of a country. A king is neither hired nor elected. In the Webster dictionary the definition of King is - a male monarch of a major territorial unit; especially: one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life.

The Thai rules regarding the absolute reverence for the royal family and absolute intolerance of any disrespect to the monarch are among the strictest in the world.  

One thing is for certain. The show of affection, respect and reverence coupled with submission that defines the coronation of a king in the Thai tradition, was an extraordinarily unique opportunity. It was something I much wanted to experience and participate in. It took effort to get to the heavily cordoned-off coronation route, but thank G-d I made it there in time.

It wasn’t just my own personal desire to attend this event, the Torah instructs that one should try to see the honor accorded to a king.

For one, it gives context to the concept of kingship in general and the total submission that is experienced in the presence of a king. It helps better understand the multiple references in our prayers to Almighty G-d as ‘King of the universe’. It definitely reinforces the atmosphere of deference that is required when standing before G-d in prayer.

As well, the Talmud also points out it gives a frame of reference to understand what awaits us when Mashiach comes. For if one merits to see the coming of Mashiach, or as he is called by our sages ‘The King Mashiach’, one will be able to discern and appreciate the nuances and differences of the respective honors accorded the kings.

Not even a blade of grass moves in the wind without being so destined by G-d. How much more so when a human is crowned as a monarch and accorded royal honor it is a blessing that G-d has bestowed upon him. It is not something that someone can work their way up to. Upon seeing a human being accorded such absolute respect, we are instructed to make a blessing. ‘Blessed are you Almighty G-d King of the universe who has given from His honor to a man of flesh and blood’.

Last Sunday, sitting on the asphalt road not far from the Chabad House I was part of this historic event. As the king’s entourage came into view the crowd’s excitement was palpable. When His Majesty came into view the crowd erupted into cries of ‘Song Pra Charoen’ = Long live the King while my colleagues and I made the aforementioned blessing one makes upon seeing a king.

It is a blessing I had never yet made before in my life. I cherished the moment.

The very next day I went to put up a mezuzah at the home of a young Jew who had sent an email via our website asking for help in affixing a mezuzah.

The young man shared with me what had prompted him to get more involved in the observance of Judaism.

‘It was at a large Chanuka gathering that I had attended in Moscow. Rabbi Lazar the chief rabbi of Russia, was explaining to the crowd that while historically and even in modern times, people worship men of flesh and blood and consider them divine, for us, Jews, there is only one authority and one ruler. The One Above. And he pointed upwards to the skies’. The young man continued ‘This got me thinking about my relationship with G-d and how I was uniquely gifted the opportunity to do mitzvahs that allow me a connection to G-d who is Divine and infinite’.

The first thing that sprang to my mind is that I must share with my colleague Rabbi Lazar how the words he had said at a large gathering before thousands of people, had resulted in the affixing of a mezuzah in a condo in Bangkok. And it emphasized to me the absolute importance of sharing eternal truths eternal truths wherever possible. Words have the power to inspire people to connect more deeply to G-d and to their own Jewish souls. You never know who is listening and the extent of the effect that your words may have.

And then it all came together.

The day before I had experienced the most authentic expression of kingship in today’s day and age.

In the Torah concept of kingship, the ultimate value of having a monarch, besides the peace and order that it created in society, was the deeper relationship it engendered between the subjects and G-d.. The people submitted themselves before the king while the king humbled himself before G-d. Actually the king was expected to be the paradigm and role-model of a person who was selflessly subservient to G-d.

Ultimately this meant that the subjects of the king were ‘doubly’ and truly submissive to G-d. For they looked to the king as the highest and most venerated human being and the king in turn submitted himself totally and transparently before G-d.

I would like to take this to a practical lesson.

Every person has people who look up to them. A ‘king’ of sorts. If you are a parent, your children view you was an authority figure. If you are an employer, you have a leadership status in the eyes of your employees. You may simply be the ‘funny guy’ who is humorous and people look up to you for that.

To those who look up to you, you can be a living example of how one should live. How one should be selfless rather than selfish. By your saying a complimentary word about good deeds and moral behavior you create an atmosphere of morality and tolerance among your underlings. By you showing a personal example of how you respect Almighty G-d and observe His Torah and Mitzvahs you create a similar respect among those who look up to you.

Don’t underestimate the power you yield. Through your good conduct you will have an indelible impact and effect on those who look up to you.

Who knows. Maybe that is the very reason you have been elevated to leadership status?

May we soon merit to be present at the celebrations welcoming ‘King Mashiach’ as he comes to redeem us and bring peace to the world, AMEN.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

P.S. I owe you an answer to last weeks email…

Did Lori Kaye visit Thailand?

Here is the answer. In an email I received after Shabbat from a couple who live in Poway, CA:

Rabbi Kantor,

My husband and I meant to write to you sooner but we are still trying to recover from being at shul during this horrific event. We were in Thailand in February. Before we left, our dear friend, Lori Kaye, of blessed memory, gave us 2 checks for Tzedakah. Anytime any of us traveled she always gave us tzedakah to deliver. That is just a small example of the kind of person Lori was.We went to Chabad in Bangkok and to Chabad in Chiang Mai, leaving our tzedakah and Lori's tzedakah, You only mentioned the check was for Chiang Mai but there was a similar check for Bangkok. We were told about you by Rabbi Goldstein. We are sorry we missed personally meeting you. We also had the wonderful experience of davening and having dinner Friday night, at the Chabad of Chiang Mai. The timing of April 28th, when the check finally was cleared ,is so moving. May Lori's memory be a blessing. 

(indeed there was a second check, but because it had been given in Bangkok it had been banked soon after it was given. The Chiang Mai check took its time till it made its way to our Bangkok office. And then it was sent to the USA to be banked. Arriving by Divine Providence a day after Lori was tragically killed).

May we merit to have peace in Israel and the world and may there be no more wars or bloodshed!

Did Lori Kaye visit Thailand?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The world at large has become a smaller place thanks to advances in communication and travel.

When it comes to the Jewish world we have become an even more tightknit family than ever before.

If you ‘bump into’ a Jew you never met before and talk to them for a few minutes, you will likely discover that you know someone in common. If you didn’t find anyone you know in common, you have not spoken long enough. Or one of you is not keeping track on all of there friends.

This week the Jewish world has been focused on the Chabad Poway Synagogue Shooting

Have you ever heard of Poway before?

It wasn’t a place I had heard of much. Till just now after Pessach. As the news of the horrific attack started breaking. Very soon we all knew the name Lori Kaye. Lori had been killed by a gunman simply because she was a Jew and was in Synagogue.

I didn’t think I knew any of the Jewish community of Poway. But by Sunday afternoon I learned that even out here in Thailand there were some people who had actually belonged to the congregation of Chabad of Poway. They shared their personal feelings and thoughts and it made it the attack even more personal.

But then something quite unusual happened. I am still not sure what it means. But it is too ‘coincidental’ to just be a coincidence. What I mean to say is that while everything is always Divine Providence, sometimes you see it even more openly than other times.

On Monday, two days after the attack, I was looking through the USA Chabad of Thailand account. There was a deposit into the bank on Sunday the 28th of April.

A name on one of the checks that we had just deposited jumped out at me.

Howard N. Kaye M.D.

Lori L. Gilbert

Poway, CA

It was a check that was written in February. To the Chiang Mai branch of Chabad of Thailand. As it was an American check it had been sent for deposit to our nonprofit account in the USA. It had taken almost three months from the date that they check was written. I don’t know why it took so long to send the check to the bank, but the fact is that only on April 28th did Lori’s check finally make it to be deposited in the bank.

Exactly a day after she was tragically killed.

I have not yet been able to confirm with the family when and where Lori visited. But the timing of this deposit left me with my mouth open. I am sure that you too will find this juxtaposition unusual and thus I share it.

What is the message?

One message may be a reminder for all of us who are blessed to be alive. We must remember that what goes with a person for eternity is their good deeds.

Another message may be that even after the passing of a near and dear one, life must go on with vitality and optimist and joy.

Our Sages taught that the souls of those who pass on, desire that their loved ones not mourn excessively but move on and live life joyously.

The way Lori’s funeral was described was that it was ‘defiantly optimistic’. Her family and her community will go forward with strength and vitality.

The consummate timing of this check deposit means that after Lori’s death as she was waiting to be buried, she was giving tzedaka. Lori’s was empowering the continuation of joyous Jewish life even as she no longer lived physically. And not just close to home. In far off Thailand of all places.

May Lori’s memory be a blessing.

The Torah portion this week speaks about the death of the two sons of Aharon. The Torah describes their passing as being an even that ‘sanctified G-d’s name’.

No one can understand the ways of G-d and we may never justify when something bad happens to someone else.

Yet it is undeniable that somehow through her tragic passing, Lori has made an impact of epic proportion to the world at large.

The message regarding the need to focus on teaching all inhabitants of the world about Universal Morality has been broadcast from one of the most public and powerful places in the world. The White House.

From the lawn of the White House, Rabbi Goldstein spoke about the Rebbe’s impassioned call for reintroducing morality into the American society by instituting a ‘moment of silence’ into the daily school schedule.

Click here to read more about the ‘Moment of Silence’

I am not giving explanations… Far be it from me to voice opinions on such sensitive and painful things. I am just pointing out things that I think may be of interest to you. Hopefully providing food for thought.

I would like to finish with a story I just heard about a tragic event that took place thirty-nine years ago.

On Friday night May 2nd 1980, a group of Jews walking through the streets of Chevron were attacked by terrorists. Six Jews were murdered. The tragedy was a colossal one.

Two days later on Sunday May 4th was Lag Ba’omer. Chabad Houses all over Israel traditionally organize joyous parades for the children on Lag Ba’omer.

The Chabad of Kiryat Arba (neighboring Chevron) was not sure what to do. One the one hand, their region was plunged into deep sorrow. On the other hand, Lag Baomer is a joyous holiday. They were in doubt. Should they continue their celebration as planned? Or perhaps it would be viewed as insensitive and they should ‘let it go’ for this year.

When a person has a doubt they ask the Rebbe. And ask they did. A few hours later they received a brief message from the Rebbe’s secretary.

The Rebbe quoted a passage from the Talmud. The Talmud speaks about a scenario that a funeral procession and a procession leading a bride to her marriage arrive at a one lane passageway. Who has right of way? Who gets precedence?

The Talmud says. ‘you move the deceased to the side and make way for the bride’.

מעבירין את המת מלפני הכלה

The commentaries explain that Hashem created the world to be inhabited and settled. Marriage is a process of continuation of life. It thus takes precedence.

The Shluchim understood what the Rebbe was telling them. Life needed to go on. Especially a day like Lag Baomer which is such an important spiritual day.

The Lag Baomer celebration in the Chevron area went on as planned. The Jews of the area were inspired and uplifted.

This is the message I would like to leave you with.

Those who are obligated to sit shiva must mourn for seven days as proscribed.

We all need to empathize and reach out to offer comfort.

But we dare not fall into a misguided heaviness of mood. It is all too easy and tempting to walk away from horror and tragedy with a downcast desponded spirit. We must not wallow in morbid and tragic projections.

We need to focus on continuing to LIVE.

On a practical level, safety and security needs must be reassessed at Jewish institutions all over the world. This is critical.

But most importantly we need to FILL the Synagogues!

We need to walk proudly and joyously as Jews.

Now more than ever before we need to act in a way that brings light to the world around us.

We need to add in our Mitzvah observance.

Encourage our fellow Jews to do one more mitzvah.

Unabashedly share the message of the rules of morality predicated on belief in one G-d with all the inhabitants of the world.

Through adding in acts of goodness and kindness we will merit the ultimate time of peace, when the ‘wolf will lie with the lamb’ with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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