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Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Tazria

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I don’t know which one to believe.

The news reports about a cure that works and a vaccine about to be approved.

Or the reports that next winter during the flu season things will be even worse.

The predictions that things will bounce back quickly,

Or the predictions that it will take years for things to hobble back.

Doubt seems to be our new state of life.

To quote many an editor commenting on today’s situation, “The only certainty is uncertainty during the COVID-19 crisis.”

If you have the exploring spirit in you, don your space suits, and prepare to exit the force of earthly ‘gravity’ in the next few lines. I am going to take you on a virtual trip to Heaven to see what the Academy of Heaven are saying ‘upstairs’. One assumes that from their vantage point they should be in the know. 

In Heaven? No doubts there. Or are there doubts there too?

Let’s visit Heaven and check it out.

The Talmud tells us of a Heavenly debate regarding doubt as it pertains to a nuance of ritual impurity. 

This debate is regarding the laws in our weekly Parsha about ritual impurity caused by the appearance of a white skin discoloration from withing which a white hair is growing. (It’s not relevant to our current post-Temple times so don’t worry about your white hairs or skin discolorations).

If a white patch on the skin comes first and then a white hair grows from it, this is a sign of ritual impurity. If the white hair preceded the white patch the person is still pure. 

If there is a doubt which came first, i.e. whether it is pure or impure, there is a difference of opinion.

The Heavenly Academy says it is impure. The Holy One Blessed Be He says it is pure. 

Fasten your seatbelts for reentering the worlds orbit and landing back on earth.

That was heady. Getting a peek into the workings of the Heavenly Academy. But what does that really have to do with us here on earth?

Well, didn’t we just talk about us being in a state of doubt?

Doubt about the optimistic or not so rosy future regarding the current pandemic.

Turns out, that there is a more fundamental doubt we face.

It is a much longer running state of uncertainty and doubt that has grown every stronger every day for the last nearly two thousand years.

The promise of G-d that after the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem there will be a rebuilding and a redemption. 

That this world will become a utopian peaceful abode for unified serving of G-d by all of humanity.

Where is it? Is it really happening? 

It’s almost two thousand years that the Jewish exile drags on replete with tragedy and suffering. Pogroms, Crusades, Inquisitions, expulsions and the Holocaust. Tragically even in our times we have seen horrible terror attacks in Israel, the army needs to be vigilant to ward off our enemies and the increased anti-Semitism around the world is epically disappointing. 

The thing is, that we have gotten used to it. We give a sigh when we read about an attack against our brethren and move on with life.

Can you imagine how tragic it would be if we resigned ourselves to a ‘new normal’ regarding the illnesses and deaths of the virus? 

Getting used to this scourge would stifle and sabotage any attempt at changing things for the better. We need to resist this sickness with all our might. Our top medical researchers to throw their collective brainpower at overcoming this virus not throwing up our hands and acquiescing to living with this killer microbe.

That’s the way we should also feel about the exile and concealment of G-d which allows for the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer.

In a redeemed world, the ‘good guys’ would always win and the ‘bad guys’ would always lose.

We shouldn’t settle for anything less than that.

Here is the doubt of the last thousands of years.

To use Heavenly terms, 

Is it pure? Or impure?

i.e. is it visionary and forward thinking to think we will have a perfected and redeemed world?

Or is it fanciful and farfetched?

Our Sages taught us that the heavenly debate I just quoted from the Talmud is actually an allegory for the musings we all have about the coming of Mashiach and the building of the Bet Hamikdash.

After so many years there is a doubt.

Has G-d rejected us G-d forbid? 

Or was he angry with us for a short time perhaps, but after the anger will come reconciliation and love.

Which way is this doubt going to be resolved?

If we read this argument into the Talmudic passage, the analysis goes like this:

The Heavenly Academy of souls is pessimistic. The world looks to unredeemable to them. They say impure. When in doubt? Its not going to work out.

G-d Almighty overrules them. 

G-d says have no doubt. PURE!!!!

It may be taking a long time says G-d. But hang on tight. I am in charge, and I am telling you 

PURE!!! 

i.e. the world is not unredeemable. 

You, even in the Heavenly Academy may not see it my way says G-d. But I see things that you don’t see. 

I am going to redeem the world. I am going to send Mashiach.

It is a reality. He WILL come. Just you wait… don’t give up hope when its so close.

May I conclude with a prayerful blessing.

About our current doubts regarding the uncertainties we face in the aftermath of the virus. Let me pray that here too there should be no doubt.

May G-d rule about this doubt PURE by bringing healing to the world. 

May He bless the efforts of our heroic hardworking medical experts and research teams, to find the cure for our world.

We, who are not medically trained, should continue doing more mitzvahs and studying more Torah to bring spiritual blessing and healing to the world.

May this month of healing (IYA’R acronym for ‘I am G-d who heals you) bring complete and speedy healing to all.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I was honored to be asked to give a Torah class on the above topic as presented in the Rebbe’s edited works on the Parsha.

This is part of a recently launched initiative called ‘Project Likkutei Sichos’ which will complete the study of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s edited Parsha commentaries in a period of eight years. If you are an ambitious Torah studier you may want to visit the site and join in. Amazing resources for study in English and other languages. 

 

Your Healthy Body & Soul

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Its ‘after Pesach’. 

I, and I am sure many others, have been putting off a lot of things for ‘after Pesach’. Lots of hopes and dreams were relegated to ‘after Pesach’.

For one, I was sure that the synagogue would open ‘after Pesach’.

I field calls from anxious people who miss praying with a minyan at the Synagogue about when we can resume prayers (albeit with necessary precautions).

But as painful as it is, I have to answer, no. Our Synagogue cannot open yet. Hopefully soon things will change for the better and we can resume prayers with a minyan. 

(I cannot even imagine the unfathomable pain and anguish of so many of my relatives and friends who has lost loved ones and are not even able to say kaddish or receive Shiva visits in person. Even the comforting rituals that bring solace and healing have been suspended during these troubled times).

Kids (or maybe we parents) hoped that the schools would be talking about opening.

Businessmen were hoping that businesses would resume so that the economies could start up again. 

I know a lot of people want to go to the mall to shop and ‘air out’ and how are you supposed to give ‘Afikoman/Pesach gifts’ without taking the kids to the shop? We were hoping malls would be open for business.

All of us were praying and hopeful that a cure would be found.

Or… infinitely better yet, Mashiach would have come.

Alas, as I emerged from the euphoric cloud of the last meal of Pesach, Seudat Mashiach, the headlines didn’t announce any miraculous turnaround.

Actually, the news I got was pretty sad. The list of those who have passed away has grown tragically longer over this Pesach.

That doesn’t sound like the way to go into Shabbat.

Shabbat is a day of peace, delight, and joy.

Then I remembered, there is another way to look at life.

Not only at the things that aren’t going right.

Rather how about focusing on the things that ARE going right!!!

Breathing for example. While some people are suffering horribly required the aid of oxygen or even worse G-d forbid on ventilators, the vast majority of humanity is breathing effortlessly. 

Fifteen breaths per minute. That is what the average is for adults. 

That would make nine hundred breaths per hour.

And 21,600 breaths per twenty four hour day.

With all our concern and the myriad precautions we are taking to outwit the killer microbe, generally speaking the microbe community is on our side.

The average human has over 100 trillion microbes in and on their body.

Obviously, all it takes is one malfunctioning, or hijacked microbe, to wreak havoc, pain, and unprecedented destruction on our planet.

But isn’t it amazing that the other 100 trillion microbes running around our body all function so cohesively?

THANK YOU HASHEM!!!!

For every breath. 

For the labyrinth of veins, the blood cells, the functioning organs, the healthy limbs and the myriads of harmoniously interacting microbes.

And perhaps, once we recognize G-d’s immeasurable kindnesses to us by providing us with our smoothly functioning bodies, we should do our best to stay healthy. 

Healthy physically. Eat well. Exercise periodically and stay sequestered at home if that is what it takes to maintain our health or our very lives.

We must also become a bit more mature than just thinking about our flesh. 

Our SOULS need to be kept in good health as well.

G-d, the master designer of our universe has a detailed remedy for the good health of His people. If you are Jewish, G-d instructs you to eat only certain things while staying away from others.

It is called the laws of Kosher food. Outlined in this weeks Parsha.

Its preventive medicine. 

For a Jew, eating only kosher food is CRITICAL for their health. 

Can it be proven in a laboratory? 

No. because I am talking about spiritual health.

Whether or not unkosher food is healthy does not make a difference. If healthy unkosher food is developed one day, that will not change the rules of kosher one iota. It will still be unkosher for a Jew. Because it says so in the Torah

Its not about physical health. It’s all about spiritual health.

Perhaps a few months ago some would have been more skeptical to listen to instructions that don’t seem to make a difference to the naked eye. Instructions that provide ‘health’ to the soul.

However, we now know (even if we are not epidemiologists) how every single invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbe is so critical to our overall health.

It’s time we get even more sensitive and realize how important it is to have a healthy soul.

Next time you reach for something in the supermarket aisle, think about the importance of keeping our bodies and souls balanced and choose to eat kosher!

It could make all the difference in the world for your soul. 

Your soul is the G-dly energy source of your body. 

Healthy soul, healthy body. 

Healthy body, healthy soul.

Let’s try to stay healthy, body and soul. By eating kosher food, and following the instructions of our medical professionals.

A healthy does of prayer is always good as well!

Now that the synagogue is closed, your house is a synagogue. Study up about prayer. Even if you don’t have a prayer book you can print out a prayer and incorporate it into your daily schedule. By doing that, the air in your home will become spiritually purified.

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom,

And for AMAZINGLY good news!!!!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor



Reversal-Miracle- Hagadol

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I don’t have to ask you what is on your mind.

It’s on everyone’s minds. 

The horrible sickness, the pandemic which has become our common enemy. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a cure would be found!

Not one that needs clinical trials. That takes too long. We don’t have time to wait. We need a solution NOW.

Rather a cure that is ALREADY FDA approved and being used in treating some other sickness. A medicine that doesn’t have any major side effects. A medicine that is readily available in pharmacies around the world and not expensive to produce. 

That would be a huge relief to the world. 

This is why together with trying to create a new vaccine and treatment, much research is being done throwing existing medications at this new plague.

What a life-saving drug would need to do, is somehow get into the cells and stop the virus cells from replicating.

To use scientific language (harvested from google):

This is the way a drug could help (I have deliberately taken out the name of the drug that this study is discussing (and named it R for Refuah – healing in Hebrew) as it is way beyond my scope to comment on medicines etc. I am merely using this as a way of understanding what an effective drug could hope to achieve, and the dynamics involved).

R interferes with the virus's ability to replicate in two ways. First, the drug enters compartments called endosomes within the cell membrane. Endosomes tend to be slightly acidic, but the chemical structure of the drug boosts their pH, making the compartments more basic. Many viruses, including SARS-CoV, acidify endosomes in order to breach the cell membrane, release their genetic material and begin replication; R blocks this critical step.

The R drug also prevents SARS-CoV from plugging into a receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2, on primate cells, according to the 2005 report. When the virus inserts its spike protein into the ACE2 receptor, it sets off a chemical process that alters the structure of the receptor and allows the virus to infect. An adequate dose of R appears to undermine this process, and in turn, viral replication in general, the authors noted.

In short: we need medicine that gets into the cells of the virus and doesn’t let it replicate and inhibits it.

I would go even further in my wishful thinking. We need the cells not just to stop replicating, we need to get the bad cells themselves to start rebelling and warring against themselves.

There is a precedent to this concept.

It is the essence of the miraculous Shabbat we are about to enter.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol – the Great Shabbat, because of the Great Miracles that happened during the year of our exodus from Egypt.

The Jewish people were commanded by Moses to take a lamb and tie it to their bedposts on Shabbat, the 10th day of Nissan, five days before they were to leave Egypt. 

When the Egyptians inquired by the Jews why they were buying lambs en masse, they were told that these lambs were intended for the Paschal Offering, which would be sacrificed in preparation of the Plague of the Firstborn. This information rattled the Egyptian firstborn, who immediately insisted that Pharaoh grant the Jews the liberty they demanded. When Pharaoh refused their request, the Egyptian firstborn waged war with Pharaoh's army, and many Egyptians who were guilty of atrocities against the Jews were killed on that day.

The uniqueness and greatness of this miracle, that makes it stand apart from other miracles, is the fact the enemy itself started to fight rebelliously against itself. 

Its like the ‘darkness’ started to turn inward and fight itself, starting the process of reversing the ‘darkness into light’. 

This is a greater miracle that vanquishing the enemy using and outside force. This is about using the force of the enemy itself to vanquish the enemy. 

Usual ‘miracles’, like the other plagues Hashem sent against the Egyptians, were outside forces battling the Egyptians by showing them the strength and might of the Almighty.

The miracle of the in-fighting among the Egyptians, had much greater symbolism. 

It was the enemy fighting the enemy. The beginning a of a process that will be completed during the Messianic advent where darkness itself transforms to light. 

Imagine if we could get the virus to replicate healthy cells that fight the very virus itself. To produce an army of cells that fight the deadly cells and stop them dead in their tracks thus bringing life and health to those infected.

Now that would a great miraculous breakthrough. 

Sure, we will be very happy to find a drug that is successful in stopping the replicating and inhibiting the sickness. Hopefully as I write these words these drugs are already being discovered and deployed so the pandemic can be stopped in its tracks!

But once we are praying, we can pray for the even GREATER miracle of TRANSFORMATION. Where the calamity itself turns into an unimaginable blessing. 

Like the miracles that took place on this Shabbat thousands of years ago, just a few days before Exodus.

We can and must beseech G-d to reveal His omnipotent power of healing and salvation. We pray for the type of miracle that happened to our people on this very Shabbat on this very date 3332 years ago.

And then we must pray that as we exited the Egyptian exile on Thursday the first day of Pesach so many years ago so may we exit THIS exile on or before Wednesday night, the first day of Passover!

Here is a very inspiring piece of info: The day/date set-up i.e. the day of the week that this miracle took place was Shabbat. And the day of the Hebrew month was 10th of Nissan.  This was the way it was in year 2448 from creation, the year of exodus, and that is the same day/date configuration as it is in our calendars this year 5780 from creation. This Shabbat (tonight/tomorrow) is also the 10th of Nissan.

Click here for more on Shabbat Hagadol

May the miracles abound, may the sickness self-destroy. 

May the Jewish people be blessed to be able to celebrate a HEALTHY HAPPY PASSOVER,

May the world at large be blessed with healing from the pandemic and salvation from the economic earthquakes threatening the entire civilized world.

Almighty G-d, PLEASE SEND MASHIACH NOW!!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS, I don’t know about you, but I have never been more ‘zoomed out’ and overloaded with media of all sorts, in my life…. I suspect you too may be suffering from the overwhelming amounts of information coming our way. 

I urge you to take the Shabbat gift that G-d has given you, and UNPLUG for the Shabbat (unless G-d forbid you need to be available for helping save lives, which takes precedence over any other mitzvah, and which is why our Synagogues all across Thailand are closed till the situation gets healthier).

But before you unplug, if you are up to it, join us for our pre-shabbat Oneg Shabbat celebration on zoom https://zoom.us/j/577071555 at 5PM till 6PM (Shabbat candle lighting in Bangkok is at 6:12 PM)

PPS We will also do a PRE-Seder zoom on Wednesday at 4:30 PM for about an hour. Songs, Inspirational thoughts, DIY instruction and maybe even a joke or two!

PPPS This Sunday is the Rebbe’s birthday, the Rebbe would be turning 118 this year. 

If you want to treat yourself to something special, perhaps in honor of our dear Rebbe’s birthday, clear forty minutes from your schedule and watch the inspiring and uplifting, collection of videos, anecdotes and clips from the Rebbe as he addressed situations of illness, danger and fear. Masterfully woven together by Rabbi Elkana Shmotkin director of Jewish Educational Media. CLICK HERE FOR THE JEM PRESENTATION

PPPPS Email me rabbi@jewishthailand.com if you would like to have Matza and Grape juice for your Seder. 

Also available are full seder ‘kits’ (the items used for Seder plate) for THB 250 as well as a catered Passover Seder dinner for THB 1200 by our Chabad House restaurant (email me even if you cannot afford to pay as we have some generous community members who are sponsoring Seder meals for others please G-d). 

Please order by Sunday so we can make sure to be able to fill the order. We will try our best to accommodate all requests please G-d and deliver it to you on Tuesday (limited to Bangkok area for technical reasons).

 

Pesach Resources

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This email is being sent one week before Passover.

G-d took us out of Egypt in 2448 from creation. Now we are in year 5780 from creation. That means its 3,332 years ago. 

Passover has been celebrated since then without interruption.

It has survived the exiles of Babylon, Rome and the Spanish Inquisition. Seders of some form were held heroically in the Russian Gulags, the ghettos and the concentration camps

It will outlive ‘the’ virus as well!!!!

This virus is dreadful and the disruption it brings in its wake touches everyone.

If you have taken the time to click on some of the above accounts of Pesach in duress, (THE GHETTO LINK IS HEARDRENDING AND PUTS OUT “KVETCHING” AND COMPLAINING IN PERSPECTIVE) you will appreciate the many blessings we have in our lives. Click here for my ‘anti kvetch’ Dayenu thought. 

Passover will be definitely celebrated differently this year but celebrated it will be. 

Guaranteed!!!! But it requires YOUR EFFORTS!!!!

NOW more than ever before, the observance of Pesach is totally hinged on YOU.

Nobody can hold a communal service. Grandparents and parents are isolated from their respective children and grandchildren. Rabbi’s are isolated from their communities. Friends are not able to celebrate in unison. You can’t just ‘show up’ at a seder this year. We are under virtual lockdown all around the world. 

AM YISRAEL CHAI = The Jewish People LIVES and CONTINUES TO THRIVE, this year the celebration of Passover is all dependent on YOU.

YOU need to make the effort to prepare and invest some thought and energy and resources into being a link in the golden chain of our glorious history.

Now more than ever we need to eat matzah – especially SHMURA MATZAH - which is called in the Zohar the food of ‘faith’ and the food of ‘healing’. 

We need faith and we need healing!!!!

We will try to help as much as possible in whatever ways are available. Like getting you matzah so that you too can join the worldwide Jewish communal effort to bring healing to this world.

Here are some pointers in helping to understand the tasks of observing Pesach. 

The two main mitzvahs of Pesach are 

  1. Not eating or even owning any Chametz for the eight days of Pesach.

  2. Eating Matzah on the eve of Pesach and retelling the story of our liberation. 

Below in the second half of the email there are a number of links that may be useful in teaching about how to prepare your home for Pesach.

SELLING CHAMETZ:

In order not to be in possession of Chametz during Pesach one either disposes of one’s Chametz or sells it to a non-Jew by e-signing this chametz sale form

EATING MATZAH

In order to celebrate Pesach one should eat matzah on the eve of Pesach. As well as eat bitter herbs (we use lettuce as horseradish doesn’t grow in this climate) and we drink four cups of kosher wine/grape juice.

We are offering a full line of Pesach goods for sale at the JCafe. Click here for the list.

Additionally, we are offering to send complimentary matzahs and grape juice to anybody who requests it so that while we cannot host a communal seder, we can ensure that every Jew has the availability of having a seder in their own home. 

Click here to request the matzah and grape juice for your seder. (As of now we can send anywhere in Thailand but best to order now and not wait as the world is a very fluid place right now).

Our Chabad House restaurant will be kosher for Passover from next week if you wish to order prepared foods. 

You can order a complete Seder plate, as well as a catered full course dinner for delivery on Tuesday (restricted to Bangkok area). Contact Yossi Goldberg by WhatsApp on +6681 753 5071 for details and prices. 

One of the opening lines of the Passover Hagada is ‘all who are hungry should come and eat’. Email me rabbi@jewishthailand.com If you would like to have a Passover Seder dinner this Wednesday night but need a help in covering the cost. We will try our best to accommodate all requests please G-d and deliver it to you on Tuesday (limited to Bangkok area for technical reasons).

DEPUTIZING YOU!!!

Please become a ‘spreader’ of Passover’. If you know of any fellow Jew that doesn’t have matzah yet, please let us know where we can send it or we can send  it to you to deliver to them. If viruses spread so rapidly, we need to counterbalance with spreading healing as well. 

We need to follow safe and FDA mandated medical remedies as well as TORAH taught spiritual remedies of healing.

Matzah is a G-d instructed food. Zohar (Kabalah) says its also a food of healing. This year lets make an even greater effort than usual to eat Matza on the Seder eve and enable others to eat Matzah

You don’t yet have a Haggadah?

There are printable options at this click.

If you would like to cook at home, there is info at the second part of the email about koshering your home for Pesach as well as cooking with limited ingredients.

Click here for a lot of other resources especially pertinent for this year.

At the above link you will also find a bunch of other resources that will come in handy during this virus affected time. 

Feeling like you need help to make your own seder?

Here is Rabbi Dubov’s helpful video about running your own seder.

And here is Rabbi Kantor’s zoom class on how to run a seder.

Below find a bunch more links. Including on instructions on how to make charoset.

With blessings to you my dear friend, that G-d bring Mashiach and then we will all celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem, in a rebuilt Temple, Paschal lamb and all, with all of our loved ones, communally, joyfully, healthily and LIBERATEDLY, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS A LONELY SEDER IS BETTER THAN NO SEDER!!!!!

for contribution toward sending matzah and SEDER food to fellow Jews in Thailand please click www.jewishthailand.com/tzedaka

CLICK HERE To help those in need in Israel HAVE A SEDER











 

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