"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

She is right. Sound familiar? Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

She was right.

That’s the way it’s been pretty much from the beginning.

Ever since Avraham and Sarah had differing views and G-d sided with Sarah. Hashem said to Avraham ‘everything that your wife Sarah tell you, listen to her voice’.

This weeks Parsha too calls our attention to the heroic mother and sister of Moshe. Yocheved who was a midwife, resisted Pharaohs demand that she kill Jewish boys at birth. She did the exact opposite. Not just did she help them at birth, she also provided them with sustenance to keep them alive.

No wonder that Moshe and Aharon her sons were handpicked by Hashem for the epic mission of taking the Jews out of Egypt. (Click here for ‘moments of wisdom’ on that topic).

This time too. She was right. In this instance I am referring to my wife.

How do I know she is right?

Listen to the below story and you be the judge.

Last week I shared the ‘disaster of sorts’ of a honeymooning couple who arrived in Thailand only to have the husband test positive to Covid.

The doctors allowed the young wife to fly back home to the USA as she had tested negative. Jack the husband was admitted to the hospital for ten days including last Shabbat.

I spoke to Jack on Friday and asked him what he needed for Shabbat. He gave me a short list and I sent it.

My wife was convinced that Jack hadn’t really stocked up sufficiently for Shabbat.

Nechama sent a bag with more food just to be sure, and additional reading material.

After Shabbat, Jack left me the following message.


I fell asleep a couple of hours before Shabbat and when I woke up it was 8:00 pm already. As it was already Shabbat  I started praying the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers and then I was sitting at the table that I had set up with my food and I started to say the ‘Shalom Alechem’ prayer to welcome the angels.

I started to cry because usually I say the kiddush with my wife, with my family, with my in laws and this is the first time that I have ever said it all alone. With no one here. Then I thought to myself, you know I'm welcoming in all the ‘malachim’ (angels) so I’m not alone…

A thought went through my mind, I have food enough for myself, but I don’t have enough for the angels.

With angels in mind, I further thought to myself, I should really go to open the door for the angels.

I opened the door and I see a huge bag of food outside my door. Enough for the angels as well. Also, Jewish books to read. I guess the hospital brought it and I was sleeping or something.  

I got such a special feeling. I realized that I'm not alone. Everyone's with me.

Rabbi the package was from you.

Thank you.

It brought me a lot of happiness and it helped me get through the whole Shabbat.

Every time I felt lonely, I just kept thinking of that bag of food showing up at the door. I can’t describe to you how much it helped.

And thank you so much for the books really, I loved them I finished both books.


Do you see why I take this a sign from Heaven to remind me to listen to my wife? 😊

Especially when it comes to Tzedaka, women have the upper hand as they are often in the position to dispense actual food, not just funds to buy food.

You may find this Talmudic story of interest.

Mar Ukva, the reish galuta (“exilarch”), used to slip four coins under the door of a neighborhood pauper on his way to the study hall. One day, the pauper decided to find out who was doing this kind act.

That day Mar Ukva’s wife accompanied him to the study hall, and on the way they stopped by the pauper’s door. As soon as the pauper saw that people were approaching his door to slip the coins underneath, he ran out after them, and Mar Ukva and his wife ran away from him to keep their identity a secret.

They hid in a baker’s oven, which was still hot from the day’s baking. Standing in the huge oven, Mar Ukva felt his feet begin to burn, but his wife’s feet were unaffected. “Place your feet on mine,” said his wife.

Mar Ukva felt dejected; he saw that he was less worthy than his wife. Seeking to put him at ease, his wife said to him comfortingly, “I am generally present in the house, where I’m more accessible to the paupers. Also, the paupers’ benefit is immediate, because I give them prepared foods.”

In my mind there are two highlights to the story of Jack and Shabbat in quarantine hospital in Bangkok.

The first is, that my wife, a special kindhearted person, insisted on implementing her policy of ‘when in doubt send extra food’.

This is something we should all adopt. If you are not sure if someone is hungry, err on the side of caution. Too often, people go hungry because the are too self-conscious to admit that they need food.

There is a saying in Yiddish. א קראנקן פרעגט מען, א געזונטן גיט מען

A loose translation: ‘Enquire of someone ill if he is allowed to eat. Feed the healthy without asking them.’

Next time you ask someone who visits your home, or with whom you are having a meeting, ‘would you like to eat or drink something’, don’t accept their answer. Just serve a glass of water. And if you suspect someone could use some nourishment don’t overthink it, just serve some food.

On a personal note, I implore you.

If you know someone who could benefit from our pre-Shabbat food packages please let me know.

Or if you know of someone who needs help with food, please let me know discreetly.

(If its outside of Thailand I will try to direct you to someone who can help at that locale).

The second message I derived from the story is the importance of acting positive and hopeful.

Jack tried to make the best out of a lonely situation. He didn’t just think about being happy, he started to say happy things, by singing the Shabbat welcoming song. But then he went even further and performed an action that expressed his positivity in a practical way. He opened the door…

The act of opening the door was the catalyst to Jack’s happiness.

If he wouldn’t have opened the door, there wouldn’t be a story. Just a bag of spoiled food.

If Yocheved and Amram wouldn’t have remarried in defiance of Pharaoh’s orders, we wouldn’t have a Moshe Rabeinu.

Who knows what may change in your life if you take the next step forward.

Sometimes the solution and redemption from sorrows and troubles, boil down to one action. An action that is doable. It may now look like it will be the solution, but it may be the catalyst for solving your problem.

Every mitzvah good deed. Every good word. Even every good thought. They are not insignificantly lost in the vastness of the universe. They achieve something.


Let us add one more good thought, speech and more importantly ACTION and may that one addition be the ‘tipping point’ of the perfectly balanced scales of the world.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Synochricity. Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!



By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two hundred plus years ago a messenger was dispatched from the court of the Alter Rebbe to visit particular businessman.

There was a pressing humanitarian need and the Rebbe was sending his messenger to ask the businessman to contribute the needed funds to save the unfortunate victims.

The businessman opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a pouch with the required cash. Even before he fully heard the request. It was obviously prepared in advance.

The messenger looked incredulously at the donor and said, ‘how did you have the money prepared before I even came to present the need?’

(Remember this is pre telegram days. Not to mention WhatsApp/email/Facebook 😊 )

The chassid said: ‘I recently had a successful business transaction that netted me a handsome financial profit. I thought to myself, why did G-d bless me with this blessed success? I immediately realized, my Rebbe must have an urgent need that he needs me to contribute towards. And Hashem has sent me the wherewithal to be able to help. So, I set aside a generous portion to Tzedaka and waited expectantly for your arrival’.

This documented story happened in approximately the year 1800.

Fast forward to 2021.

Earlier this week I wrote an email sharing some of the opportunities for helping alleviate the suffering of those who are in need. I received very warm feedback to the email. Click here if you haven’t yet seen it yet.

First of all let me say THANK YOU. It never ceases to inspire and uplift me when I see people open their hands and wallets to help others. I am so grateful that G-d has brought me into contact with the generous souls who dependably and consistently respond to these heartfelt requests, with lifesaving funds and with inspiring blessings.   

I wrote a quick note to a donor who had contributed generously. I received this following response. It grabbed my attention. And you will immediately understand why.

Dear Rabbi Kantor,

You know that I am always happy to help.  Strange how your funding pleas sometime coincide with my rise in good fortune  😁 

Shabbat Shalom.

Best wishes,


My response:

Dear D,

Hashem has built into His world giving and receiving….

It is so inspiring to hear how the synchronicity is visible!!!

May G-d continue to bless you to be from the givers!!


Hashem has provided enough for everyone.

However, He has divided the world into two modes. Giving and receiving.

A great Tzadik once told some wealthy people who were complaining about being asked time and time again to help the needy. He told them ‘Hashem has chosen some for the position of giving, and some for the position of receiving. If you are tired of the position of being the ‘giver’ that is fine. The receivers are beseeching G-d to be able to switch rolls and become givers. There is no shortage of volunteers to take your place as one of G-d’s givers. You can be reassigned to the role of a receiver…’.

So let me bless all of those who are blessed to be in the role of givers, to be blessed to stay successfully in that role.

What comes first. The receivers need or the givers resources?

This week there seems to be some good news in the world.

A second oral pill has been approved for treating Covid.

Did you know that the Talmud teaches us that the ‘healing is created before the sickness’?

According to this Talmudic reasoning, Covid could not have been allowed by G-d to develop and mutate, unless the antidote to it was in the offing. It is up to the medical community to work hard to reveal the antidote and make it available to the public. G-d provides the inspiration and knowledge in the minds of the professionals who are then tasked with persevering in developing the healing medium.

I know I am going against conventional wisdom here.

We tend to think that solutions only come to be after there are problems.

The Torah looks at things differently. This week we read the portion of Shemot which describes the opening stages of the Egyptian exile.

Do you know when the exodus from Egypt was promised?

Before the exile of Egypt.

Hashem promised to take the Jews out of Egypt. Only then did he allow their enslavement into Egypt.

It is like this with regard to the overall existence of the world.

The world looks gloomy and dangerous at times.

We have a deep and fervent belief in the coming of Mashiach who will wipe away all suffering and vanquish all evil.

In actuality, the happy end was created before the gloomy beginning.

At the very beginning of creation the Torah describes the situation as follows: "And the earth was chaotic and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G‑d hovered upon the face of the waters."

The chaos is darkness. That is the source of the negativity in the world that rears its ugly head all too often.

But the verse doesn’t describe only chaos and void. It also talks about the spirit of G-d.

This ‘Spirit of G-d’ that hovered upon the face of the waters is described by our Sages as referring to ‘The spirit of Mashiach’.

Click here for more on the meaning of this verse.

Have you ever felt the perfect timing of events when the chronology of how things unfold shows you how Hashem is in charge?

Have you ever helped someone out of a predicament, and then they ask ‘what would I have done if you wouldn’t have been here?’

There is a fascinating story told by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe about his journey from Israel to the USA in the summer of 1929.

“When the sad news of the pogroms perpetrated in the Holy Land reached me on Sunday [August 25], on the boat from Alexandria to Trieste, I fell ill with a kidney ailment out of sheer pain and distress. Thanks to G‑d, the most precious of men, the wise and truly G‑d-fearing Dr. Wallach was with us on the boat, and did much to relieve my illness . . .

(Dr. Wallach was a very senior doctor and a devout Jew. The Shaare Tzedek Hospital on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem was built by Dr. Wallach in 1902).

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak related that at the conclusion of the voyage Dr. Wallach approached him and begged his forgiveness. “Rebbe!” he said, “How can I atone for my being the cause of your illness?”

“You, the cause of my illness?” asked the rebbe in amazement.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not been on the boat with you, you would not have fallen ill. You, Rebbe, are a man upon whom the entire Jewish nation depends; surely, G‑d would not have allowed a life-threatening illness to befall you unless the instrument of your cure was on the ship with you.”

I admit, this may be a bit of a reframing of how to view life. Perhaps like a chiropractic adjustment of sorts.

However, if you try looking at life in this way you will be more empowered to step up to the plate when opportunities to be proactive come your way. You will realize that you don’t just ‘happen’ to be somewhere when help is needed. On the contrary, Hashem prepared your helping hand in advance by placing you in that location to be available to help. You should embrace your role and mission and run with it.

Sometimes a guest comes to town here in Bangkok (in the olden days… and hopefully in the coming days it will start again) and we ask him to be the tenth man to the minyan. It may not be so convenient for them to come to the service, so sometimes the tourist will ask ‘what would you have done if I wasn’t here?’.

There are two ways to answer that. Either, if you weren’t here there indeed wouldn’t be a minyan.

Or, precisely because we need a tenth is the reason (or one of the reasons) that you are here.

I have taught you the general perspective.

Now go and have fun by putting on these glasses and seeing new vistas of responsibility, opportunity that are there in open view but you may not yet have fully engaged with them.

Your life will become super meaningful and blessed.

Shabbat Shalom

rRabbi Yosef Kanto


Does it make sense? Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Have you ever heard people using the term ‘making sense of the madness’

That is what it feels like sometimes in this world. Especially when things don’t turn out the way you anticipated and hoped.

Some people dismissively say, don’t bother trying to making sense of it. Its madness after all. It doesn’t have to make sense.

Others say its not ‘madness’. Nothing happens by ‘chance’.

Everything is from G-d. Therefore, quite obviously it is not madness. It DOES make sense.

As believers in G-d -

By the way, the Torah states unequivocally that all the people of ‘Israel, are believers the children of believers’. Which is why if a Jew tells me that they don’t believe in G-d. I respond that because I do believe in G-d and His Torah, ‘I don’t believe you that you don’t believe’.

- should we be trying to figure things out, or just go with the flow without meditating too deeply on why things unfold the way that they do.

To be honest, I used to think that it’s better not to try and search for meaning in those haphazard things that seem to make no sense. Hashem knows what He is doing, and he doesn’t need me to try to understand.

But is this the case?

Is it really showing that I trust fully in G-d’s supervision of every single things when I DON’T look for reason, or perhaps when I DO look for a pattern in the world, it highlights the depth of my believe in G-d’s presence in every detail of life.

Let me give you a scenario (pre mobile phone days) and you decide.

Scenario: You live out of town, and you have just come to your doting parents’ home after not visiting them for some time. You have told them that you are arriving on this and this day. They confirmed that this is suitable for them and that they will be expectantly awaiting you. You travel to their home, show up to their front door and surprisingly the house is dark! No one answers the doorbell. You let yourself in, and find that your parents aren’t there.

Would you just shrug your shoulders and say ‘this is pretty random’ and go about your life without a second thought? Or would you look around to see if your parents left a note about where they may be. Perhaps you would call one of your siblings to see if they have heard from your parents lately while you were in transit to them. (Remember, no mobile phones in this parable).

I daresay that every single one of you who is reading this article would be uneasy or at the very least inquisitive about why your parents aren’t home as they said they would be.

Why? Because you know that your parents are responsible people. You know that they love you. You had confirmed your time of arrival in advance. They are usually dependable in their scheduling. It can’t just be carelessness. There must be a reason that they are not home.

When they walk in ten minutes later with your favorite desert that they picked up at the store, and describe the unusual traffic on the way home, you now understand why they weren’t home when you arrived.

Do you get where I am headed with this?

Believing in the Almighty as taught by our Torah means that every single aspect of the universe is created and directed by G-d.

It is not just ‘madness’ or ‘chaos’ or ‘random’.

When we search for reasons WHY things happen, we are acknowledging that there IS a supreme being who makes everything happen.

As created beings who are finite, we also know that we cannot always be privy to WHY things are happening.

So that when we don’t understand things that are happening we don’t doubt that Hashem is here, we simply know that His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours and we humbly submit to His will.

Yet, many times Hashem does give us a window into His wondrous workings by showing us blatant acts of ‘Divine Providence’.

I am referring to seemingly ‘random’ things that happen and somehow fit in and form part of a mosaic in which there is a clear pattern. From what seemed to be something random, you now are able to see that there is rhyme and reason to what seemed before to be haphazard unrelated events.

Let’s face it. Hashem doesn’t get ‘stuck in traffic’ or have to deal with any other unforeseen event. He knows everything in advance, for He directs everything. Thus, there is truly nothing ‘random’.

Searching for Him, and possible reasons that He has for the events that happen to us in the details of life is the strongest statement of belief in His Presence.

When you reframe your life, seeing it from this perspective, miracles start to happen. You come to a deeper understanding of how G-d works through the multiple layers of ‘nature’ that He has created. Nature no longer obscures Him, rather it highlights Him.

I am going to share an example that someone just shared with me after hearing a talk where I shared this concept. it’s a little thing. It may even sound childish. But it’s precisely in the ‘small stuff’ where we can often find the guiding ‘hand of Hashem’.

Rabbi, thanks for your class. In the spirit of what you taught; I too just had an interesting Divine Providence story that I would like to share. There was an issue with some of the catered food we ordered. We unintentionally over-ordered potato knishes. I got in touch with someone who delivers food to people in the community in need to see if they could use it. I got this response

‘Just letting you know of Hashem's beautiful ways. A family who hasn't requested food from us in a while reached out today and asked specifically if I had potato knishes available for them. Hashem always provides for his children before we even know that we have the need. Thank you for helping us be a part of the mitzvah.

That incident was special because it happened so instantaneously. Things don’t always happen so quickly. It may take many years to see why things happen.

In this weeks Parsha it took more than twenty years till the story of the sale of Yosef was understood. It seemed like a simple case of jealousy that led to Yosef’s sale to the Egyptians. After many twists and turns, Yosef becomes the second-to- the-king of Egypt and is positioned to save and support his entire family.

Now, after all of this unfolds, Yosef said to his brothers

Though all of you together intended me harm, God intended it for the good, in order to bring things to their present state and to save the lives of many people.

Ultimately, Yosef’s being positioned as the man in charge of Egypt actually contributed to the fact that the Exodus from Egypt was sooner than it otherwise would have been. Ultimately the things happening in our day and age are also leading up to a redemption. THE Redemption. With Mashiach. Amen.

On a practical note, here is what I would like to propose.

May I humbly suggest, that if you are ready to put on transformational glasses and embark on this journey, you will not regret it.

Adopt this approach. Recognize that the Almighty is in ‘charge’. Then open your eyes and search actively for the things in your life that come together in symmetry. Particularly the unplanned things.

When you open your eyes and mind to seeing life in this way, you too will have many stories. ‘Small miracles’ you could call them.

They are always there. Everybody has these things happen to them. But like anything else in life you have to develop a sensitivity to see and hear them.

It behooves us, as believing Jews to ACTIVELY search for these ‘Divine Providence’ points.

(For those reading this who are familiar with Hebrew, here is a link to the letter of the Rebbe that clearly teaches this concept. To me, it was something new. The importance of proactively looking for ways that Hashem’s Providence can be found in your life).

Once you do, your life will not be the same. It will be like a form of ‘alchemy’. Turning mundane life into excitement and curiosity about how Hashem is working miracles and wonders through the happenings of the world.

And lo and behold, once you get those special glasses, you will be blessed to have even more loads and loads of inspiring and positive things that unfold before your eyes. And then you will be blessed to have wagonloads of amazing things to give thanks to Hashem for!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS on a personal note, Nechama and I are blessed to give gratitude to Hashem for the upcoming Bar Mitzvah of our youngest, Leibel. See below.

Cherubically Elderly: Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!

 By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Babies are so cute.

Don’t you agree?

The soft skin, cherubic smile, and countless other feature cause us to instinctively adore our babies, toddler and infants.

Thank G-d for that!

I want to be a bit provocative here.

First a story.

Grandpa was pretty poor and grumpy. It wasn’t fun to have him around. He came to his son’s house to ask for a winter coat yet again. He had misplaced his coat for the umpteenth time. The exasperated son sent his own son (grandpa’s grandson) upstairs to find an old coat to bring to dad. Grandson brings back and old coat. Cut in half. When his father angrily asked, ‘why did you cut the coat’? the naïve grandson responded innocently ‘I will give grandpa half the coat and I wanted to leave the other half of the coat for you, father, when you will be a grandpa, old and forgetful’.

I say thank G-d that we treat our newborns who are helpless, dependent on us and quite limited in their ‘quality of life well.

And that we don’t treat them like large segments of society treats those who are in the waning hours of their life. They too are helpless, dependent and quite limited in their quality of life. But for some reason they are often not treated with the same care.

I would like you to join me in thinking this through.

An elderly person I was helping to work through adapting to some of the limitations of being in the late 80’s once wrote to me


They will ask "Where is the Rabbi" and they will say he was put in the Jewish Home for the aged.


He is right.

Because one day you and I will be old.

The way we treat our elders should be the way we would like to be treated.

Interestingly, in a standard healthy society, raising children, notwithstanding all of its challenges, is seen as something positive and meaningful.

It is seen as an entry way to a productive life. Investments of time, love, care and money are made into raising children. Then they mature and enter the next stage of their life where they are please G-d independent and active participants and contributors to society.

I say interestingly, because nobody enters the world and immediately lives the lifestyle of a fully mature adult.

They go through the process of being totally dependent on their parents and caregivers. Slowly growing into independence. This process takes several years. In our current society it is not even uncommon for children to be supported financially till their twenties. Things like cooking meals and doing laundry are often carried by parents when the children are still living at home.

Shouldn’t we look at life as a spectrum.

A soul enters a body and is born into the world from its mother’s womb as a helpless newborn. Newborns grow up to be toddlers. With time, children grow up to be teens. The progress to becoming young adults. Older young adults. Middle age. Just past middle age. Elderly and independent. Old and dependent. Sick and not much quality of life. Soul leaves body – death.

We do pretty well in doing our moral and ethical duty during the first stages of the spectrum. We raise kids to be independent adults. But I think we need some rethinking of the end of the spectrum.

What I have observed, and all the more acutely lately, as I am involved with some ageing members of our community, is that our instinctive feelings towards old age are tinged with immoral overtones.

We are not to blame. We live in a society that has shed many of the classic moral values that used to be sacrosanct.

But we need to be aware. So that we don’t look to newspaper articles to find out what our moral code should be. So that we educate ourselves about our Jewish values and make sure not to be led astray. We need to set the moral tone, not drift lifelessly pulled by the waves.

Yesterday, I studied the below Chapter of Rambam (Maimonides) as part of my daily study.

Meilah Chapter 8 scroll down to Paragraph 8

To paraphrase:

Rambam writes that when G-d gives us a Mitzvah we ought to treat it with much respect and guard it meticulously.

Particularly when it comes to Mitzvahs that don’t make much sense to us as mortals.

Say, not stealing, not murdering, respecting father and mother, these are mitzvahs that we relate to intellectually and we are all fully cognizant of the reasons behind them. We recognize these behaviors to be critical to the benefit of society at large.

There are other mitzvahs that are not so logically imperative. Like not eating pig produces, or not mixing meat and milk, or the law of the ‘Eglah Arufa’ or ‘Para Aduma’ (red heifer) or the Goat sent away on Yom Kippur.

Not just do we not understand them and thus feel challenged not to keep them, but the society around us may ridicule us about them.

Concludes the Rambam, if they are from G-d, we need to cherish and respect and of course adhere to, all the rules that Hashem gives. Whether the Mitzvahs in discussion are understandable or totally non-understandable.

A Mitzvah is an instruction by G-d. It is thus holy and requires our vigilant attention and fulfillment.

Did you notice what I noticed?

Two of the ‘logical’ mitzvahs that are listed are not allowing bloodshed and honoring parents.

Let me clarify ‘bloodshed’. Obviously, the readers of these words don’t need to be told not to take a knife or a gun and kill someone cold-bloodedly. Our moral compass would totally abhor that.

How about letting someone drown when you could save them?

Or choke to death when you could do a Heimlich maneuver and eject the blockage.

Sometimes people need that kind of help.

We have a responsibility to prevent loss of life. This too is part of the mitzvah of not shedding innocent blood.

How about if they are not in their ‘prime years’ anymore?

What about if they are alive, but not blessed to have a ‘quality of life’.

Talking about ‘quality of life’ I must interject with a story.

It was nearly thirty years ago. I was asked to visit a young man who had suffered a terrible motorbike accident. He was in a nursing home with elderly people. He was lucky to be alive, but his leg was shattered, and he needed to have his leg suspended for several months as his bone healed.

In making small talk, this young man said ‘the old people here should be shot’. I couldn’t believe my ears and I asked for some clarification. He explained ‘there are some old people here who have dementia, one old woman even walks around at night in her sleep and talks nonsensically. These people have no value to society and are a burden on the taxpayer being supported in a nursing home’.

I didn’t know much about this young man, but I did know that he loved playing soccer and was quite good at it. I asked him ‘do you think you will be able to play soccer again’. He responded that he probably wouldn’t resume soccer playing.

To which I retorted ‘Then I think that you are pretty valueless to society because what is someone worth if they can’t play soccer’.

Obviously, I was just trying to make a point.

Life, quality of life, contribution to society or burden on society, these things have nothing to do with the moral questions of life and death.

For some reason our values when it comes to honoring or ageing parents or saving infirm elderly patients when they may be drowning in water on their lungs or choking on their food unless a feeding tube is inserted, center around ‘quality of life’.

It is an insidious pervasive societal misvalue.

As if the sanctity of life as prescribed in the Torah is somehow hinged on what you and I consider ‘quality of life’.

I will be first to say that it is excruciating and painful to watch a person who is elderly and infirm, bedridden and sometimes uncommunicative. But they are very much alive. Breathing, digesting, and reacting.

True, they don’t have any ‘quality of life’ if we define life as actively contributing and interacting socially with society.

But they do have LIFE. Their soul and body are together. And we don’t know what is going in their minds, hearts and even less so in their ‘soul’.

Who are we to define at what stage of ‘quality of life’ life is sacred?

LIFE is given and taken by the Almighty.

The same G-d who GIVES life, instructs us to PRESERVE life and eventually TAKES life.

Important to note, that there may not always be an obligation to engage in ‘heroic medical interventional acts’ to preserve a person’s life.

At the same time, I have found that most people are not familiar with the difference between ‘heroic act’ and simple ‘life-saving’ procedures that we morally must administer. Even to people who’s quality of life we don’t envy or understand.

(The details of what should or shouldn’t be done during end of life scenarios in hospitals and so on, is intricate. The contemporary rabbis who specialize in ‘medical Halacha’ are very advanced in their knowledge and application of eternal Torah law to modern day medical situations. I am not trying nor am I qualified, to lay out the details of this matter conclusively in the course of a few paragraphs.

My intention is to educate about the need to ask these moral questions before just deciding to end someone’s life based on ‘hearsay’ or ‘water cooler’ discussions. Or ‘google searches’.

These are moral Halachic questions of the highest degree, and we must consult competent Rabbinic authority if we are to know what to do from the standpoint of G-dly morality.

Societal norms cannot be our moral barometer ).

Perhaps, and I am just thinking out loud here, it would help us to view the spectrum of life a bit differently.

To use a very simple example, when you bake a cake, you need to consider the cleanup of the work area before you take out the ingredients and make a mess. Baking a cake has three parts. The work of mixing ingredients. The fulfilling smell of a baking cake wafting through your home and subsequent enjoyment of eating the cake. The clean up after baking. In my house it is said ‘the clean up after baking is part of the baking’. i.e., don’t offer to bake a cake and do the fun part if you are not ready to do the tedious part.

Naturally, many of us view the work in preparing the cake much less tedious than the clean up after the baking.

Couldn’t life be viewed that way?

Shouldn’t we see the end years of life as being a precondition to being born.

Humans are not disposable that we discard them after they have contributed.

There is a build up from birth to adulthood. We do that beginning part lovingly thank G-d.

Then there is fully active life. When the person interacts, contributes and makes their mark in G-d world.

Following that comes gradual easing out of life.

Dying a sudden death is not a blessing.

Living till 120 with ALL our senses, being able to take care of ourselves and just passing in our sleep, is certainly the most peaceful option.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Oftentimes elderly people reach a stage of being dependent. Sometimes even reaching the stage reminiscent of a newborn. Eating and sleeping most of the time.

Don’t our elderly deserve to be cherished?

And have their lives protected?

Here is the gazillion dollar question.

How does our Creator, G-d Almighty expect us to treat our elderly?

Indeed you will ask, how do we know what is Eternal G-d’ly morality?

The answer always was, is and always will be.

By looking in the Torah….

The Torah is our G-dly moral compass.


That is why it is so exciting that we just began writing a new Sefer Torah in Bangkok.

The Torah is our LIFE and it instructs us how to live our moral LIFE and thus provides us with long meaningful and spiritual LIFE.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I would love to hear from you about this above very sensitive topic.

PPS This new Torah is being written by our community and for our community. For the sake of Unity. Not in memory of someone. No sponsored by someone in their families honor.

A UNITY Sefer Torah in which please G-d all of the Jews connected to Thailand ( if you are reading these lines, you are part of that group 😊 ) will participate in this ONE Torah that UNITES us all together.

Click here of details on how to become a partner in the Torah.

Letters can be purchased starting from THB 180 (USD $6).

Options for dedication parshas etc can also be found at this link.

Chanukah GELT: Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

After the kindling of Chanuka candles we sing the song called ‘Haneirot Halalu’. Below are links to some renditions of the elaborate Chabad melody sung to this prayer that I grew up with.

Haneiros Halalu with childrens choirHaneiros Halalu adult choir.

This prayer that we joyously sing, spells out the reason that we kindle the lights of Chanuka. We kindle the lights of the Menorah to commemorate the miracles, wonders and saving-acts that G-d did for us during the Chanukah time period some twenty-one hundred plus years ago.

At the end of the five-minute melody there is an addendum that rolls off my tongue without me even thinking.


(Gelt means money in Yiddish. In Hebrew it would be called ‘Dmei Chanuka’).

G-d blessed me to be born to wonderful and devoutly observant parents. My earliest memories of life are intertwined with the gamut of Jewish celebrations and rituals. One of the most prominent of them must be the family kindling of the menorah. Lighting our own menorahs following our fathers lighting of the family menorah was special. But definitely a central highlight of the menorah lighting ceremony was the Chanuka Gelt that seamlessly followed the singing of the Haneirot Halalu.

My children will attest to the fact that Chanuka Gelt has continued to be a pivotal aspect of the Chanuka observance in our family.

It’s not just in my family.

The custom to give Chanuka Gelt is well entrenched within Jewish life.

There are various reasons given for this minhag.

The reasons for giving Chanuka Gelt are beautifully explained here. In this article I would like to share the beauty of this custom through my personal experience.

I got the opportunity to really think about the custom this year because of the reaction of one of our grandchildren when she was given Chanuka Gelt by her parents. The child was not very happy with receiving money.

She cried ‘WANNA OPEN IT’. She wanted something she could open.

Now, her request for a gift rather than money was quite simple. This is a girl who is being raised in a very religious home. She has not been influenced by any outside ‘winds’ i.e. by the ‘other seasonal holidays’ that are taking place in the USA during December where gifts are given. She was expressing a very valid point for a child her age. She genuinely didn’t see the point in receiving bills or coins that ‘cannot be opened’. They seem valueless to her.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, she is truly in a utopian world. She does not care about money. Why would we want to uproot that paradise-like attitude to money and replace it with a desire for accumulating money?

Let me ask a question that requires a level of vulnerability. I mean in know that I grew up with the custom of Chanuka gelt. But couldn’t it be argued that giving Chanukah Gelt give a certain prominence to money that kids should still be protected from?

I took a stroll down memory lane to my own childhood. My father gave us Chanuka Gelt every single night. The BIG night was the fifth night. It was on that night that he gave us a full handful of coins. He would tell us to put our hands into his cloth bag that he got from the bank. Into our hands he would deposit a stack of one penny coins. We would count them afterwards and couldn’t figure out how he knew when we hadn’t counted accurately. Only later did we understand that the reason he had a ‘bank sack’ is because he had gone to the bank to get newly minted coins. For the night of the ‘BIG’ distribution, he simply broke open a one-hundred-coin roll in out cupped hands, so that we had each received exactly one dollar in one cent coins.

After Chanukah the fun began. We went to the store to shop for things we wanted to buy with our Chanuka Gelt. We usually didn’t have very much gelt but it was hugely exciting nonetheless. Our ‘budgets’ allowed modestly priced things like crayons, coloring books, and things like that. The poor shopkeeper had to bear with us as we counted out coins of various sizes (including those one hundred one cent coins…).

We didn’t spend our money till we carefully separated at least a tithe – ten or twenty percent – to Tzedakah for the needy.

(The Rebbe would remind us often what Halacha teaches, that ten percent is obligatory for a Jew to separate from his income. But the even better way to give Tzedakah is to separate twenty percent to the needy).

This was my introduction to money.

To both aspects of money. To the Tzedakah, giving to others that one can achieve with money. And to the value of money in terms of what I could buy with it for my own enjoyment.

Money was now not something worthless in my eyes. It was a very tangible commodity that could buy me things that I wanted.

My grandchild’s protest upon receiving gelt vs a gift, granted me a deeper understanding on the exquisite beauty of the traditional Jewish way of raising children.

Let me ask you. How do you view money?

Chances are that you view is as a necessary evil.

It shouldn’t be viewed that way at all.

Money should be seen as a powerful commodity that can be either a ‘snake’ that causes you to slither down, or a ladder that allows you to climb closer to G-d?

(If you appreciate gematria/numerology, consider that ממן money, and סלם ladder, both have the numerical value of 130. This conveys the message that money is like a ladder. It can be a form of elevation, or G-d forbid a descent into negativity).

Giving Chanuka ‘Gelt’ as a holy ‘minhag’ custom at the inspirational moments of kindling the menorah, gives money a higher purpose and meaning. It shows that we view money as a tool to serve G-d. This perspective on money will G-d willing accompany the child through adulthood and through the duration of his or her life.

I had lunch this week with a man in his eighties. He said ‘Rabbi, I admire you, its not easy to be a rabbi’. He leaned toward me and whispered confidentially, ‘you have to ask people for money, which must be so hard’.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a leader in the jewelry industry. I blessed him with success in all matters of his life. He asked me an honest question. ‘Rabbi, isn’t money a non-blessing? I have seen money cause so much strife and marital disunity in my community’.

Let me explain how the Torah looks at money and then let’s revisit those two above statements.

The Tanya explains why Tzedakah is the most powerful mitzvah of all.

Because it involves money.

Why is money so powerful?

Because with money you can buy life sustaining staples. You can use money to pay for a level of medical care that could be literally life-saving. Money can buy you enjoyment such as indulgent treats and toys.

With money you can buy things for YOURSELF.

Tzedakah means giving YOUR money to SOMEONE ELSE.

By giving Tzedakah you are GIVING AWAY YOUR (commodity that could buy you) LIFE. You give it to someone in need because Hashem said that this is the correct moral thing to do.

As well, any other mitzvah is involving one aspect of your physical energy. Lighting Shabbat candles and putting on Tefilin for example, use the energy of your arm and hands.

Tzedakah, involves every aspect of your life. For to make money you need to use every single facet of your faculties and body. When you give that ‘hard earned’ money you are giving of the sum total of all of your bodily energies.

Even if you haven’t worked hard for your money (like getting it as Chanuka Gelt), when you choose not to buy something for yourself but give it to another, you are giving to someone else, what could have bought YOU life. Or enhancements to your life.

Giving money to Tzedaka is the way that we take all our worldly achievements and efforts and direct them to G-d.

This mitzvah thus has the ‘most bang for the buck’ (pun intended).

Money, when viewed this way is a vehicle for doing holy things.

Shouldn’t a child be trained in this holy and uplifting approach to money?

Or should we wait till the child enters the world and is exposed to the other side of money. The ‘snakelike’ and negative dark side of money. Greed, corruption, selfishness, and the various other ills that money can breed when used without guidance.

I think it’s a no brainer. Let us not avoid the topic of money with kids. Rather let us teach it to them the way G-d intended it to be. So that they develop a healthy relationship with it. So that they see it as a medium for living a moral and G-dly life.

How does Chanukah Gelt teach this?

Let me try to analyze what would have happened if I would have received Chanuka gifts instead of Gelt?

Two things.

First of all I wouldn’t have given tzedakah from the gift. How do you give a needy person part of the Lego set that you were gifted? Can you give a part of the doll that you got as a gift? By receiving money, you are able to separate a portion of that money to give to Tzedakah.

But it is not just about the part you give away. It’s easy to give away what seems worthless to you. However, when one receives money, rather than a gift, there is a learning experience regarding the purchasing power of money. It is critical that the child learn the value of money.

When a child goes to the store with his Chanukah gelt he starts to experience what money is. Money now translates in the child’s mind to the ability to buy things. To purchase toys or sweets.

NOW when the child gives Tzedakah the effect of what he is doing is tangible. It is no longer just like putting marbles in the ‘box’. Rather it is giving away another potential chocolate bar that they could have bought for themselves. Now they will be giving money to the needy so that the poor people can also buy themselves what THEY need.

Don’t you agree that this Jewish custom is just so subliminally powerful and attitude forming in molding a positive and holy relationship with money?

The Jewish approach to money is that it is a blessing. G-d blessed our forefathers with wealth. Moshe was wealthy. Wealth comes solely from G-d. No amount of wheeling and dealing can make someone financially successful if G-d doesn’t will it.

As a rabbi I am privileged to be able to serve as a ‘matchmaker’ and a facilitator between those who have money and those who need money.

I am entrusted with the holy mission of granting people the ability to give life, joy and sustenance to others who need it.

That is not the hard part of my work. It is the inspiring part of my work. I never cease to be inspired by the fact that every person I have ever met is a giver or Tzedakah.

Granted, not everyone has the same ‘tastes’ in Tzedakah. Some like providing food for the needy. Some are really into providing Jewish education for Jewish continuity.

Some are not able to give money, but they give time. They give good energy.

I find that when presented properly, every Jew is prepared to give. It’s a ‘soul’ thing. Part of our spiritual DNA.

To wrap it up.

The Greeks of the Chanukah story would love us to think that money is unholy.

To quote

There is also a deeper reason for this age-old custom. In his record of the Chanukah events, Maimonides writes: “The Greeks laid their hands upon the possessions of Israel.” The Greeks invaded the possessions of Israel in the same spirit in which they defiled the oil in the Holy Temple. They did not destroy the oil; they defiled it. They did not rob the Jewish people; they attempted to infuse their possessions with Greek ideals, so that they be used for egotistical and ungodly purposes, rather than for holy pursuits. Chanukah gelt celebrates the freedom and mandate to channel material wealth toward spiritual ends. This includes donating part (10%) of the gelt to charity and using the remainder for kosher, wholesome purposes. Gelt giving is a great opportunity to teach your kids about this important Jewish value’.

To my dear grandchildren thanks for being a source of inspiration. (With praises and thanksgiving to G-d, we were blessed with a new grandchild during Chanuka. Our daughter Mushka and her husband Rabbi Gabi, had a baby boy in Melbourne Australia earlier this week thank G-d) .

Oh, my advice to my kids on how to change their three year old daughters adverse reaction to Chanukah Gelt? Take her to the store to spend her Chanukah Gelt RIGHT AWAY. Don’t wait. If she sees what money can buy, she may have a very different reaction 😊 .

My dear friends, there is an actionable item here. It’s not too late.

While we don’t give Chanukah gelt on Friday afternoon as we light the menorah just before lighting Shabbat candles. But there is still Saturday night and Sunday night in case you haven’t yet given Chanukah gelt.

Chanukah Gelt can be given to children, to grandchildren, to employees, colleagues, friends.

It’s a Jewish custom. Keeping to our customs ensures a Jewish tomorrow.

It creates joy.

It stimulates Tzedaka.

Tzedakah hastens the Redemption of Mashiach’s coming!

Shabbat Shalom,

Chodesh Tov,

Chanukah Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you need some help with distributing your Chanukah tzedakah, I will be happy to share the opportunity with you to help others with life-sustaining needs, literally. Click here

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