"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

uncover hidden strength

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two weeks ago, I was invited to address the ‘groundbreaking ceremony’ for the new Beth Rivka Teachers seminary in Crown Heights.

I looked around at the crowd and I saw a dedicated group of activists and philanthropists that were determined to bring this dream building to fruition notwithstanding the difficult path ahead of them.

The following story that I heard as a child came to mind.

My great grandfather R’ Moshe Zalman Feiglin, emigrated from Israel to Australia in 1912.  R’ Moshe Zalman was originally from Russia, from a Lubavitch family. He and his family were pioneers in the building of religious Jewish life in Australia. R’ Moshe Zalman was in his early eighties when he traveled with his son Dovid from Australia to New York to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1956.

During their visit with the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked them to establish a Jewish girl’s school in Melbourne. They responded that this seemed to be beyond their capabilities. They were barely managing to support the fledgling boys Yeshiva that they had founded. How could they possibly establish a girls school on top of that.

The Rebbe insisted that opening a girls school was a crucial initiative and that he too would be a partner with them and assist them.

Regarding their reluctance to take on this new project the Rebbe told them ‘This is why I am entrusting this mission to you. if it were easy, others would be able to do it too’.

In other words, the Rebbe was empowering my great grandfather and his son to rise to the occasion and try his best. The blessings would follow.

The rest is history. The Beth Rivka girls school of Melbourne was indeed established and became a highly successful educational institution, educating generations of girls in the traditions of Torah and Judaism.

New undertakings can be daunting. Oftentimes they seem overwhelming.

It is at moments like this that this above story come to mind.

Whenever I think of this story it gives me a lift. It makes me feel empowered to meet the challenge of growing and expanding with enthusiasm and optimistic faith.

I share it with you. For no doubt you too face moments when your mission seems overwhelming. Its at times like that you should remember the Rebbe’s words. ‘If it was easy, you wouldn’t be needed, anyone could have done it’.

The fact that a challenging undertaking has been place upon you is not in order that you should beat a hasty retreat. It is because you are uniquely positioned and equipped to succeed in the task notwithstanding the seemingly unscalable hurdles.

When viewed from this perspective, fences and roadblocks are not to be viewed as obstacles placed in our way in order to stop us. Rather their true purpose is to cause us to dig deeper into the reservoirs of our souls and successfully climb over them.

This is a reframing of the concept of challenge that positions difficulty as a positive thing.

The thing that seemed to be a negative may actually turn into being a hidden positive.

Just like in this week’s parsha when Bilaam wanted to curse the entire Jewish people and cause their eradication from the world G-d forbid.

G-d did not allow it. As much as Bilaam tried to curse the Jews, miraculously, only blessings came out of his mouth.

It thus turns out that the more curses he tried to give, the more blessings we ended up receiving.

May the Almighty turn all ‘curses to blessings’ and rid the world of war, illness and negativity ushering in the era of the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS One of the most difficult topics to talk about is death and the planning of one’s eternal Jewish rest by being buried in a Jewish cemetery. People seem to shy away from looking this in the face.

However, the reality is that death is inevitable until Mashiach comes.

And Jewish burial grounds is a must of every Jewish community.

Our current Jewish burial grounds on Charoen Krung road are almost full. We have been blessed to find new land in Chachoengsao. After much effort by dedicated community members, we have finally received the needed permits to establish the cemetery.

After putting a deposit on the land, it is now time to conclude the purchase.

The transfer needs to be done before months end.


This is a once in a lifetime kind of project.

The clock is ticking and not much time remains… If you would like to participate in the mitzvah, please visit:

If you need bank info for transfer please contact me.

Thanks very much and may we merit to live healthy and inspired lives and most importantly may we be blessed with Mashiach coming imminently.

Unbroken Glass

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The glass didn’t break.

Which glass?

THE glass. 

You know, the one that elicits the joyous cry of MAZEL TOV at the end of the Chuppah. 

Traditionally after the Bride and Groom have completed the ceremony of marriage under the Chuppah, a glass is broken. This is in order to remind us that our joy is not complete as the Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem is still not rebuilt. To symbolize the marring of our joy, we break a glass.

In all the decades of Chuppahs held outside Chabad world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, no one remembers the glass not being broken under the Chuppah.

To be sure, not every groom breaks the glass on the first try. But if it doesn’t break the first time, the Chattan raises his foot a second time and this time applies more pressure and breaks the glass.. sometimes it takes a third try but the chuppah never ends before the glass is broken.

That is until Benyamin, son of Zevulun Brewer, (our very own ‘Jewish Rice Farmer’ in Thailand) got married.

Here is what happened. The glass that was used for the ceremony was wrapped in foil and placed under Benyamin the groom’s foot, to be broken. There was a breaking glass sound. It sounded like it broke. Everybody shouted out MAZEL TOV. 

However, after the Chattan and Kalla had already left the Chuppah area, someone picked up the ostensibly broken cup and it was COMPLETE.

What to do? Nobody thought that this would impact the validity of the Chuppah but still it was so unusual that there was a bit of bewilderment.

A senior rabbi was called, and he confirmed that the glass breaking had nothing to do with the actual marriage taking place under the Chuppah. It was simply a prop to remind us of the mourning we need to have for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. This could be done without a minyan, and without still being under the chuppah. He said that the glass should be broken wherever the chattan was now, when it was noticed after the chuppah ceremony.

Benyamin gave a stomp on that glass and it smashed to smithereens to the delight of the onlookers. We all shouted out MAZEL TOV!!!

What a story.

There has gotta be something inspiring to be learned from this.

What do you think the ‘moral of this story’ is?

I invite you to share any insights you may have about its meaning.

Here is what I was thinking.

Hashem wanted the unmarred joy to continue for longer than the average chuppah.

For this was no standard Chuppah.

This was a chuppah that symbolized a victory over Hitler. 

A Chuppah that proclaims AM YISRAEL CHAI.

Here is the history.

A Jewish immigrant to the USA ran back to Europe during the second world war to save her family. She didn’t succeed in saving them, got trapped in Europe and perished by the hands of the Nazis.

Her daughter, who remained in the USA, was heartbroken and angry. Angry at G-d who had taken her mother from her as she was valiantly trying to save her family.

She decided to raise her children without religion. 

The Holocaust had taken her mother. The Holocaust now threatened to sever her future generations from their illustrious Jewish heritage.

Zevulun is the youngest of her four children.

Growing up without Judaism, he knew only that his mother was Jewish. 

After serving in the USA navy, marrying a Thai woman, having three children, owning a rice farm complete with tractor and combine, Zevulun was spiritually restless. His searching led him to the Beth Elisheva Synagogue where he would put on Tefilin with me for the first time and embark on a journey of learning and ritual. 

The branch of the Jewish tree that had been almost severed was now being reconnected. 

Benjamin his son, saw the wonderful growth in his father’s spiritual life and he too wanted to follow in the path of his Jewish ancestors. Being born of a non-Jewish mother, he turned to the Beth Din in Australia to see about how to convert to Judaism. The path included studying in Yeshiva for several years and observance of all the mitzvahs. After graduating the Yeshiva, Benyamin moved to the heart of the Chassidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and joined the work force. A while later he was introduced to Elisheva Schwartz from Toronto.  Their marriage was celebrated earlier this week in Crown Heights.

The wedding ceremony took place just outside the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, at 770 Eastern Parkway. The date of the wedding was a mere two days after the day of yahrtzeit of the Rebbe.

This is more than symbolic.

Rabbi Jonathan Saks of blessed memory once said about the Rebbe:

"… the Rebbe was different from other Rebbeim, because the Rebbe did so with particular urgency, and although he never specified why, I’ve speculated on this, and I thought this – maybe I'm wrong, but I think not – because he was the first Rebbe to become Rebbe after the Holocaust.

How can you redeem a world that had witnessed Hitler? And the Rebbe did something absolutely extraordinary; he said to himself: if the Nazis searched out every Jew in hate, we will search out every Jew in love."

Do you see where I am going?

Hitler succeeded in killing Benyamin's great grandmother physically.

The immediate ripple effect was the killing of Benyamin's grandmother spiritually.

By the time it came to Benjamin’s father there was barely a sliver of Judaism left in the family. 

It looked like this branch of the Jewish family was forever lost G-d forbid.

The Almighty promised that the Jewish people is eternal. 

G-d’s sent a modern day Moshe, the Rebbe to work relentlessly on searching out Jews with love. It was for this reason that the Rebbe dispatched his students and disciples to all four corners of the globe, literally. 

Zevulun made contact with a shliach of the Rebbe in Thailand. His neshama was activated and the Jewish light began to shine brightly in his soul. Subsequently, the next generation that looked cut off, was inspired to travel the brave path of Halachic conversion and rejoin the Jewish people in the most inspiring of ways.

Benyamin, a proud Chassidic Jew is now a husband to a wonderful Jewish wife Elisheva.

Can you imagine what joy this must cause in Heaven?

So much joy, that it was too early to shatter that joy by breaking the glass. 

It seems like somehow Hashem wanted the joy to continue. The glass remained complete. For a few minutes longer. Physically that is. As eventually the glass was broken.  Spiritually however, the cup remains whole and overflowing with blessing.

My dear friends, I cannot tell you how joyous the wedding was. It was truly a beautiful and freilcheh simcha. 

I am sure you join me in blessing Elisheva and Benyamin with a happy marriage, healthy children, and a joyous future.

May we all be blessed with joyous and happy occasions in our lives. 

And yes, we did need to break the glass, albeit a bit later. Because we must always be mindful that we don’t live in a perfect world. We still have a mission to complete. To do one more act of goodness and kindness, to bring more holiness into the world which leads to the coming of Mashiach and rebuilding of the Bet Hamkidash.

THEN, once the Bet Hamikdash is rebuilt, chuppa’s will NOT have any glass breaking ceremony. 

For THEN it will be a world of complete happiness, bliss and divine inspiration. 

May it come VERY soon.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I have heard many stories lately of Jewish people discovering that they are Jews without knowing anything about it. If you are reading these lines, you are already connected to your Judaism. You are in a perfect position to enlighten others and bring them closer to the truth of Torah and the warmth and holiness of our traditions. Seize the opportunity if it comes your way, to help a fellow Jew get a little bit closer to who they TRULY are. The world will be the better off for it.

PPS Last Tuesday night we screened UNFAZED - A Symphony of Living Voices, Story & Song in honor of the Rebbe's Yartzeit. It was inspiring and uplifting. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE REPLAY.

From NY

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Nechama and I were a few days away from boarding our flights back to Thailand a few weeks ago. We were both two weeks after our second vaccination. The quarantine hotel was booked and just about to be paid for. The Thai Government certificate of entry was about to be issued pending the payment slip for the hotel.

G-d has His ways of adjusting plans.

Something important cropped up in the family and it was obvious that we needed to stay a little while longer before coming back and embarking on the two-week hotel quarantine.

Once we took care of the important matters that had cropped up, we went back to the drawing board and began coordinating our return this time waiting till after the Rebbe’s Yartzeit – Hilula commemoration which we will mark by visiting the Rebbe’s resting place in prayer. While Nechama and I will be praying for all of you, our community and friends and your families, feel free to email me your name and mothers name and any special request you may want me to pray for.

And of course, once we are here in NY we cannot leave before attending the wedding of Benjamin Brewer (son of Zevulun, our very own Jewish rice farmer) to Elisheva Schwartz. Click here for YouTube live streaming of Chupa at Lubavitch World Headquarters 770 Eastern Parkway Tuesday June 15 4:00 PM EST.

The detail we are still waiting to clarify is the Phuket reopening. It would certainly seem wiser to return on July 1 via the Phuket Island quarantine if that indeed is a viable option and oversee the Phuket Chabad House reopening. I am sure Hashem will guide us to make the correct decisions and get back in the best and most effective way possible. Will keep you posted please G-d. In the meantime, we can be reached as usual via email and WhatsApp and will continue the Facebook/Zoom virtual teaching.  

That was a long introduction to the story I want to tell.

Because I was here longer then intended, I got to attend a wedding of the firstborn child of a dear friend. It was there that I met a friend of one of my uncles who shared a story I had never heard before. A story that has left me inspired ever since hearing it.

I will tell the story in the voice of the one who told it to me.

‘Your grandfather Rabbi Avraham Hecht called me, as I live in Miami and am friends with his son from our days in Yeshiva. Rabbi Hecht told me that his wife is in their family’s winter apartment in Miami while he is in New York. Something small needs to be fixed in the apartment and he asked me if I could help his wife to get it fixed. I gladly did them this favor.

A while later when Rabbi Hecht came to visit Miami, he asked to come and see the Chabad Center that I direct. I gave Rabbi Hecht a tour and he commented on how beautiful the center was. I didn’t feel that our center is one of the nicest around, and I told Rabbi Hecht that he is probably giving the compliment to be nice without it necessarily being true.

Rabbi Hecht related the following. ‘When I returned from a visit to one of my children in a USA city which has a respectable Chabad presence, the Rebbe asked me for a report. I responded generically that everything was ok. The Rebbe insisted that he wanted a more detailed and honest report. I started giving a report and did not leave out any of the criticisms regarding the imperfections I had observed. It seemed that perhaps I had embellished on those points of fallacy. For when I finished, the Rebbe turned to me and said ‘all of these institutions that you were just criticizing are on my shoulders, and I bear ultimate responsibility for them. I would like to ask you to look at them with a more favorable eye’.

Rabbi Hecht finished telling me that story and said, ‘since then, when I visit holy institutions I look with a positive eye. It’s not even that I have to try and whitewash the faults, rather I have trained myself to see only the good in the first place’.

I heard the story once, and then asked the one telling the story to please repeat it. And I have not stopped thinking about the story ever since.

There are so many aspects of the Rebbe’s life and legacy that are inspirational and empowering. Click here for more. Looking at things from a positive perspective and seeing the good, rather than homing in on the negative, is a truly transformational trait.

Ever since hearing this story a few weeks ago, I find that I am able to ‘catch myself’ either just after I have chosen to look at a situation in an unfavorable light, or better yet, just before making that negative judgement. Once I realize that I can and should adjust my approach to be more positive than critical, the result is always a better and more uplifted one.

Surely, some things need fixing. This is not about whitewashing things that need correction.

This is about how one goes about effectively fixing those things need correcting or that can be upgraded.

It is about recognizing the conscious choice we can make to color our overall opinion about a particular situation in a positive way.

Let’s say for example you went to an event and are asked how was the event.

To be honest, there were some amazing aspects, but there were also some parts that could have been done differently and better.

How will you sum up that event? In your own mind and thus in the way you speak to others about it.

Was it a great event that could have been ever better if a few things would be changed? (and of course, in a respectful way you will point those out to the organizer if there is a repeat event planned, so the next one can be even more perfect).

Or will you relate to it as a terrible event and begrudgingly admit that there were a few good points to it as well.

Sometimes a kid comes home at the end of a day and you ask ‘how was your day’. If the kid responds that it was a terrible day, you would do well to ask for details. Chances are that that there were many good things that happened as well. This works with spouses as well, as with all of us human beings. We tend to generalize. We can choose though, in what direction we went our bias to be.

The Rebbe’s approach to life was a positive one. Adopt a ‘good eye’. Look at others favorably. Look at your life circumstances favorably. Think positive. Be hopeful. Be joyous. Try your very best and have faith that G-d will bless you with all the best.

Most of all, think positively about others! When you believe in someone else’s innate goodness the results are astounding. Read this story about how the Rebbe believed in every single Jew and his or her unbreakable connection to G-d.

One of the great books I have seen recently exploring the Rebbe’s legacy and sharing it in a way that we can adapt it to our lives, is Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson’s ‘Positivity Bias’. You can browse it on line here.  

On this special weekend as we mark the Rebbe’s Yartzeit – Hilula on Saturday night, let us avail ourselves of the special spiritual energy associated with this day.

I think you will enjoy reading this article ‘Why has everybody at been so busy’ as it will give you a broad look at what this day ‘Gimmel (3rd) Tammuz’ means to world Jewry.

Let us embrace the Rebbe’s vision and mission and make it our own.

To transform our world into a dwelling place for G-d, by doing one more mitzvah, by reaching out to one more person with kindness and love, by becoming more united with G-d by studying his Torah, and thus bringing the world one step closer to its ultimate perfected state of G-dly revelation with the coming of Mashiach and the utopian idyllic world that will become our new reality.


Rabbi Yosef Kantor


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friends,

Have you heard the story of the person who walked by an archery and saw target after target with arrows protruding from the bullseye. He asked the owner of the archery; ‘how do you get a perfect bullseye every single time’.

The archery owner replied ‘I am an unconventional archery. While other archeries draw the target and then shoot the arrow, I first place the arrow and then draw the target around it’.

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone in a bad mood who doesn’t cheer up no matter what you do or say? You almost feel like asking them ‘is anything ok’?

Or the reverse. Someone who is bounding with good energy. Whatever information you feed him to try and get him upset simply doesn’t work.

It seems like we sometimes place our arrows and then draw the target around it. We decide what feeling we want to feel and then build the case and color the events in our life to support that feeling.

Take the story of this week’s portion. The spies go to check out the land of Israel (at this stage its still called the land of Canaan) with the intention of finding fault with it. Yep, they found a good reason to reject the land. People were dying in the land of Canaan at an accelerated rate. They returned to the people of Israel and told them ‘this is a land that consumes its inhabitants’ and people frequently die here.

What they didn’t take into account is that G-d had orchestrated the deaths so that the inhabitants of the land of Canaan be busy with funerals and not pay any attention to twelve spies walking around their country scouting it out to conquer it. The temporary increase in deaths was a blessing for them. It was providing them ‘cover’ for their own safety. It was not something to complain about.

Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who retained their faithfulness to G-d and Moshe, came with the pre-determination that going into Israel was the best thing possible because G-d had chosen it for them. Thus they saw ONLY GOOD when they scouted the land. They weren’t put off by the challenging circumstances they saw. They saw a golden opportunity to inherit their G-d given inheritance.

Very often the circumstances are not objectively good or bad. They are dependent on the eyes of the beholder. Even the color black. You can look at a black suit as being classy and wear a black tuxedo to a wedding. Or you could term it mournful and relegate it to funerals.

The choice is often ours. Are we victims of our circumstances. Or do our circumstances present us the possibility to forge ahead and carve our induvial niche of positivity in G-d’s world.

I want to share something that was very dear to me when I was a young man of twenty-two and has become even more meaningful now, thirty years later.

On Monday Sivan 28, June 3, 1941 the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn arrived with his wife on the safe shores of the United States of America.

In 1991 as a twenty-two-year-old student in the central Lubavitch Yeshiva, I participated in the fifty year celebration. The Rebbe acknowledged the specialty of the occasion and personally handed each of the thousands, myself included, a printed booklet containing deep words of Torah. As well as a dollar for Tzedakah.

This Tuesday, 28 Sivan thirty years later, I am once again blessed to be participating in the celebration. This time it’s the eighty-year mark.

Thirty years ago, as a student of the Rebbe I was personally celebrating the saving of my Rebbe’s life from the burning shores of Europe. If not for that day where the Rebbe safely arrived on American shores the world would have been bereft of his great wisdom and leadership.

Now, from the perspective of my current age and life experience I see it far more powerfully.

In his fortieth year, the Rebbe arrived to a culture that was totally different than the European culture he had escaped. The Jewish landscape in the USA was lifetimes away from the pious ‘shtetl’ life and centuries of Jewish scholarship and devoutness that the European Jewish community was known for.

There were two choices.

Look at the American journey as a necessary but spiritually regressive move.

Or look at the arrival to America as being G-d’s sign that now American culture could and should be harnessed to create a vibrant and committed Jewish future.

The Rebbe chose the latter.

He considered his move to America as being a bullseye. It was exactly where G-d wanted him. Coming to America was the Divine plan. And then he started reframing everything else based on that. The circumstances in America were opportunities to be used, not problems to complain about.

America had a ‘chutzpa’ and boldness that was trademark. The Rebbe would embrace that forthrightness and big mindedness and use it as a weapon in the battle against assimilation.

Famously, a young man accompanied his immigrant father to see the Rebbe in the 1940’s. The young American put his feet up on the desk. The father who remembered from Europe how one needs to respect rabbinic leaders was horrified. The Rebbe calmed the father and said that the bold spirit of the American youth is good, we just need to teach the youth how to channel this assertiveness for positive things.

My dear friends, look around the world today and you will see the Rebbe’s success in the replanting of Judaism in the Western world. The thousands of Chabad centers in every part of the world attest to this.

The Rebbe’s approach to modernization and technology was assertive and bold. They are tools to be used in making this world a G-dly place.

Let us take a moment to think about how we can use our life circumstances to best create a dwelling place for G-d here on earth. By studying Torah and doing mitzvahs. Putting on Tefilin, lighting Shabbat candles. By being benevolent to others and loving even to those whom you don’t care for.

Not despite the ingredients of our life, some of which we may think we would rather not have. Rather let us try to use all the aspects of our life, like them or not, to catapult us to loftier places.

Sounds too lofty and unreachable?

Don’t aim for perfection at the beginning.

Try it with one thing.

The next time you say ‘oy vay’ about something you find challenging, stop for a moment and thing whether perhaps this very thing also gives you some traction and acceleration in your journey of getting closer to G-d.

For example. Someone just irritated you. You experienced a classic ‘oy vey’ moment?

Think to yourself how this is your opportunity to overcome your own natural self-centeredness and be tolerant of others. Our Sages taught that sometimes G-d brings us things that challenge our equilibrium to give us the chance to work on refining our characters.

By viewing life as a journey steered by G-d, you can embrace every aspect of the journey as being Providential and tailor made for you.

Your arrow is in the bullseye. You are, exactly where G-d wants you to be. Now its up to you to draw the target around it.

With blessing of Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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