"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

what notes are you taking?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,


Do Rabbis Make Mistakes?



In some of my emails I got the dates of Yom Kippur wrong…

Yom Kippur begins from before sunset on Wednesday September 15 till nightfall on Thursday September 16.


Will we be having ‘in-person’ Yom Kippur services in Bangkok?


Yes. But we are optimistically awaiting the results of today’s meeting of Thailand’s Covid-19 administration to see what further relaxation of rules will allow for.


Is it ‘holy’ to speak about money on the ‘HIGH holy days’?


Short answer. YES it is a mitzvah.

Long answer click here.


Please consider contributing to our annual ‘Jewish Thailand High Holiday giving days’ by clicking here.


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

On Rosh Hashana at the blowing of the Shofar I pray to be taken back in my memories to the golden years that I merited to hear the Shofar blowing by the Rebbe in the overflowing synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn NY.

It was not the actual sounds of the shofar that are so much embedded into my memory, rather the sweetness and soulfulness of the Rebbe’s voice as he said the pesukim (verses) before and after the shofar blowing. As well as the melodious and soul stirring recital of the blessings before the Shofar. These are memories that I hang on to dearly and they become more vivid as I stand near the Torah’s preparing to blow the Shofar for my community.

There was one item in particular that stands out in my mind as it was unique to the Rebbe. I have never heard of it being done anywhere, certainly not by ‘regular’ shofar blowers or rabbis.

The Rebbe would enter the synagogue on Rosh Hashana morning followed by his secretariate who were carrying packages of something wrapped in brown paper and tied by string. These were placed near the Rebbe’s seat till the time came to blow the Shofar. Then they would be carried to the raised bimah upon which the Shofar would be blown. They were placed before the Rebbe on the bimah just in front of the Shofars that he was about to blow.

The Rebbe, before beginning the recital of the pre-Shofar pesukim, would throw his tallis over himself and those packages for several minutes. His body would heave with emotion. Those close enough could hear him sob, deep tearful sobs.

Thousands of people were packed together with not an inch available between them. The natural noise ceased, and it was totally quiet as all eyes would be on the Rebbe as he carried out his holy tasks of the service of G-d. The scene was pure and angelic.

Those minutes felt like eternity on the one hand yet passed fleetingly on the other. We all sensed that something deeply spiritual was taking place, albeit, we had no inkling of what that was.

It was uplifting and spiritually charged. I try and keep it alive and fresh in my mind, anxious that G-d forbid the time that passes could bring forgetfulness and erode those irreplaceable images from my mind and heart. I pray to G-d that those inspiring and uplifting moments of holiness are not taken from me.

What were in those packages?

Notes, or in the Yiddish, ‘tzetalech’. Hundreds of them. Perhaps thousands of them.

Presumably, notes of petition from Jews around the world. Asking the Rebbe to pray on their behalf.

But which of the notes that streamed to the Rebbe throughout the year in thousands made it to be there at the Shofar blowing in front of the Rebbe?

What notes did the Rebbe take under his Tallis and cry copious tears over?

Here is the enigma.  We know that many of the ‘tzetalech’ that were brought to the Rebbe throughout the year, he took with him to his father in laws ‘Ohel’ resting place and after reading them and praying on behalf of the petitioners he would tear them and leave them on the grave.

(We learned from the Rebbe’s conduct how we could best perform our own prayers when visiting the Rebbe’s resting place, and similarly write a note and leave it at the holy site after tearing it. The staff at the Ohel even have a service where you can send a note to be placed at the Rebbe’s resting place by email or fax . During the High Holiday period it is extremely active as people write notes praying for a good, sweet year).

Some notes the Rebbe would bring back with him to his office.

Before Rosh Hashana we would traditionally write a note asking the Rebbe to pray to G-d on our behalf and for those who were in NY we could even hand it to the Rebbe personally before Rosh Hashana. (click here to see some footage of that tradition).

(if you have a few moments, click here to get a fuller perspective on why it is the Jewish tradition, to ask a Tzadik, alive or even deceased, to pray on your behalf. Taking into account of course that it is a cornerstone of our belief that we all have a direct connection to G-d and pray directly to Him without intermediaries, G-d forbid).

Perhaps it was those notes that contained requests for prayer that we had handed him just before Rosh Hashana?

Perhaps it was a compilation of extraordinary notes that he had received during the year?

I don’t know, and I don’t know if anyone knows….

But I can bare my soul and share with you, what kind of notes I speculate the Rebbe would take under his tallis for the most sacred moment of the year, the blowing of the Shofar.

You see, I have been blessed to be a rabbi of a community that is very special. A community of Jews that includes such a variety of backgrounds and nationalities all united by a love of G-d, Torah and fellow Jews.  A community that knows how to embrace with love the myriads of guests who pass through their doors and treat them like extended family. The variety of those who pass through Thailand is colorful. From businessmen who come here for work, tourists who come for leisure, to those who just happen to land up here as Thailand and get attracted to stay.

As a rabbi, and especially a rabbi of this kind of special community, I can tell you that there are certain ‘notes’ i.e., situations that come to my attention, that I think may have made it under the Talis.

The heartfelt emotional cries to G-d for health. The pleas to G-d for making enough money to keep a roof over the family’s head. The prayers to G-d to grant mental health and emotional stability even during these ultra-challenging times.

The ‘why’ notes. Why me? Why, after I took upon myself to get closer to G-d and do more mitzvahs, why did G-d send me the greatest challenge of my life?

This just gives me not even the smallest inkling of the frustrations, the pain, the challenges, the absolute ‘I can’t go on like this’ contained in the notes that must have come to the Rebbe. I can only surmise, from my small bag of conceptual ‘notes’ that I have collected over this past year from the people of our community, how vast that bundle that came to the Rebbe from around the world must have been.

Why did the Rebbe bring it to the Shofar blowing.

Once again, the only one who could truly answer that question would be the Rebbe, and I don’t recall ever hearing that the Rebbe had explained this custom unique to him.

But I will share what I feel as it may be inspiring to you as well and then it will be worth it although I tread in terrain that is out of my depth.

The Rebbe quoted many times what the Baal Shem Tov taught, that the blowing of the Shofar is like a plaintive cry emanating from the depths of a young child’s heart:


The shofar blast is wordless.

Not limited to any particular language or any configuration of letters or words.

(click here for R’ Yitzi Hurwitz’s article on this).

It doesn’t even get uttered by a human. Its human breath making noise as it comes from an animal’s horn. This symbolizes that this cry is unfettered and not limited by human intellect which may temper or limit the primal depth of the cry. It is a base, instinctive and innately primal cry.

It is coming from the deepest recesses of our Jewish heart as we turn to G-d and cry out to Him. Wordlessly, existentially, in a compelling piercing cry that is irresistibly arousing of His divine mercy


A father who hears that kind of cry from their young child doesn’t need to hear the word ‘father’ or ‘save me’. The mere sound of voice of the child. The intensity and depth of the tone of the cry, they express it more deeply than words.

This is what is taking place at the Shofar blowing.

The Rebbe’s as the ‘head’ of the Jewish people had a consummate sensitivity to the needs of others. Thus, his piercing cry to the Almighty, carried with it not (just) his requests, but the requests of the entire Jewish people. Furthermore, the Rebbe himself taught, that a true leader places his people even before him.

These requests to G-d that were spelled out in detail, contained in the hundreds or thousands of notes that had arrived at his office. These were the pleas, cries and entreaties that he carried on his shoulders as he prepared to blow the shofar and cry out:


This year, thank G-d, we were blessed to be able to blow the Shofar here in Bangkok. The government relaxed the rules just six days before Rosh Hashana. We had small minyanim (less then twenty five people, as per the law) and we blew Shofar in the park. While it was raining all round us, on the first day of Rosh Hashana it was dry in the park and we had a Shofar blowing and short service with Tashlich.

On the second day of Rosh Hashana there was a veritable deluge that stopped just forty five minutes before the Shofar blowing time, the flooding on the streets was still draining, and it would have been comfortable to assume that nobody would come to our appointed Shofar blowing. We set out, and greeted one Jew who had indeed come to the Shofar blowing only on this second day of Rosh Hashana. It was exhilarating to be able to blow the Shofar in the midst of the Bangkok tumult and proclaim the oneness of G-d amidst the multitudinous distractions around us.

We turned to G-d, as did Jews the world over and cried out


And indeed, G-d our Father in Heaven hears our cries.

And we are supremely confident that He is blessing us with a good and sweet year.

Which leads me to discuss another kind of note that may have been there under the Rebbe’s tallis.

The notes of good news.

Many thoughtful people wouldn’t just share their troubles with the Rebbe and ask for his blessing. They would come back to him with the reports of how his blessings had helped. How the situations of grim prognosis had resolved themselves miraculously. How they turned out to be opportunities to be recipients of G-d’s miracles and to proclaim the greatness of G-d.

They would share how the Rebbe’s blessing and insight helped them gain clarity. How they now realized that even as they were suffering, the closeness to G-d that was brought about through their trials and tribulations had birthed something special within their soul.

How even though it didn’t make logical sense, and the ‘why’ wasn’t answered, the fact that they had come closer to G-d before their suffering, was a source of strength to withstand their difficult times. Without having had that closeness to G-d brought about through the mitzvah, the challenge would have thrown them into a sense of despair and hopelessness.

Then there were the many notes of commitment and achievement that people sent to the Rebbe. How they had pledged to study more and had successfully progressed in their study of Torah and observance of Mitzvahs. Some shared their goals of tzedakah giving and how that had brought them success in their earnings.

There were ‘lifecycle’ notes asking for confirmation and blessings for engagements, marriages, informing about births, bar mitzvahs, weddings and passing’s.

So I ask you, which notes do you think were under the Rebbe’s tallis?

Once again, I don’t know.

But I do know what I can learn from the Rebbe’s notes under his tallis.

Today, in 2021, thirty years since 1991 when I last heard the Rebbe blow the shofar himself we live in an ‘information age’.

We have access to information from around the world.

Things that only the Rebbe would have been informed about, as people wrote to the Rebbe from around world literally and shared their news.

Back then, we didn’t know most of those things. Our knowledge was limited to people in our immediate circles.

Today we know about a lot of those things that once upon a time were known only to the Rebbe. (I refer to ‘natural knowledge’ not to the spiritual powers that Tzadikim have, that is beyond the scope of this article).

It is incredible how many more painful situations we have become aware of because we live in an information age.

People passing in an untimely way. Orphaned families. People battling illness. Parents receiving a special-needs child to raise. Breadwinners struggling to place bread on the table. Loved ones tormented and traumatized by a dear one taking their own life G-d forbid.

The list goes on an on. We are in an ‘information age’, we know so much about so many people. We take it in and often promptly forget about it.

I know we forget about it, because sometimes when I say ‘WE WANT MASHIACH NOW’ I get a look from the person I am talking to who is not sure why it is so critical for Mashiach to come. In our minds we may sometimes be thinking, times are pretty good these days.

But that is because we have forgotten. The needs and suffering of others is not obviously in our consciousness.

Here is my humble suggestion about what we can learn from the Rebbe’s custom in enhancing our own Yiddishkeit.

As we stand before Hashem during these special days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we ought to bring all those ‘notes’ and entreaties to G-d and put them into our consciousness.

To remember and pray for all those people suffering.

To emphasize with and pray for all those who are having a rough ride.

To pray for ourselves as well. But to pray first and foremost for others.

And not just to pray.

To act. To help. Assist. Encourage. Reach out. Say a nice word. Bring a smile to someone else, and if need be, a loaf of bread and money for essentials. Share an inspirational thought.

But most importantly not to forget to activate those ‘notes’ whose content, when we recall them, cause us to cry out to G-d from the deepest recesses of our hearts


SAVE US!!!!!

And then, to also, to recall those notes of ‘nachas’.

Particularly to remember those blessed things that have been gifted to us personally by the Almighty.

We tend to ‘kvetch’ and remember the problems. It is really important for us to remember and praise Him for the good things.

The big things, and the small things. Pay particular attention to the gifts that are taken for granted. That are really HUGE but we call them small because we rely on them being constantly here.

Like every breath that we take.

And thus let us cry out in joy!

at the same time that we cry out in pain, yes, its paradoxical, but we are an enigmatic nation after all. (click here for related story)



May you be blessed with a SHANA TOVA UMETUKAH

A Good and Sweet Year!!!!

Shabbat (Shuva) Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

פ"ב F(uture) B(etter) Shana Tova

I cannot resist sharing this ‘message from Heaven’ of sorts.

The ‘grab’ car that came to pick me up today was literally brand new.

The driver spoke a mixture of Thai and English with me.

He was saying that he feels optimistic about things become better in the ‘pee mai’ which means ‘new year’ in Thai. The driver meant December. But obviously for us, ‘pee mai’ means tonight when the new year is ushered in.

Nice. Hashem sent me a new car, with a driver who is talking about a new year. Cool, as they say.

But it gets better.

The driver says in English ‘FUTURE BETTER’ and repeats it a few times ‘FUTURE BETTER’.

My mind converted the words ‘future better’ to Hebrew and the letters F and B as in פ  and ב  jumped out at me.

I couldn’t resist sharing it.

It’s a blessing that was relayed to me by an unsuspecting Thai taxi driver… . תשפ"ב may this year bring a FUTURE BETTER as in a BETTER FUTURE.

I hope it brings a smile to your face… the Rabbi hearing messages through taxi drivers?

Yes, Hashem is everywhere and messages of Divine Providence can come to us in every which way. It is only up to us to recognize G-d’s presence and to act as we would act in His presence.

And it’s a call to action. To become better in the future!!!

May WE become better in the future and may our future indeed become better.

And for those who recall that תשפ"א   stands for פלאות אראנו may G-d show us wonders (Pei for wonders), then this year the ‘bet’ in 5782 can stand for ‘everything’ as in ‘may it be a wondrous year in every single aspect’ in absolutely everything פלאות בכל

The main reason I am writing to you today, is to send you my prayerful wishes for a good and happy year materially and spiritually.

In the traditional words, may you have a Ketiva Vechatima Tova, Leshana Tova Umetukah.

May you and your loved ones be written and sealed in the book of the righteous. For life, health, prosperity, peace at home, nachat from offspring and may the ultimate blessing of Mashiach coming be a reality NOW.

Rabbi Yosef & Nechama Kantor

mummy proud of me

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

One of my grandkids brought home the following note to their mother from their pre-school teacher:


‘Levi had a great day today, … the cutest thing happened the other day he made a drawing and he said he hoped you would like it. He thought about it and then said actually, mummy likes everything I make even when I don’t try, she likes it’

I am deeply impressed at the quality of our daughters’ parenting skills which has impressed indelibly on her child’s inner self that he is loved and valued by his parents no-matter-what.

This unconditional love is a fundamental part of building a child’s self-confidence.

I started to ponder.

How does one provide that feeling of total acceptance and at the same time instill within the child a motivation and drive to put forth effort and keep progressing?

It’s a dance of sorts.

As children, in our formative years, we look to our parents for validation.

On the one hand, when parents show children that they value effort, the children are driven to try harder.

On the other hand, when parents are judgmental and demanding, the child may feel intrinsically unworthy. That they are only loveable if they perform to the expectations of them.

Obviously, there is a balance that is required.

For some, the balance comes naturally. For many, it requires constant revisiting and recalibrating.

I can’t stop revisiting the note in my mind and admiring how relevant it is to our pre-Rosh Hashana self-reflective mode.

Our relationship with Hashem our G-d also incorporates these two facets, for He is our Father and we are His children.

On the one hand, He loves us unconditionally.

Yet, He has expectations from us.

He redeemed us from slavery by taking us out of Egypt and thus expressed His love to us. He liberated us. Fed us. Clothed us. Gave us the greatest eternal gift of divine communication, the Torah at Sinai. And continues to nurture and sustain us.

Yet, He also spelled out in no uncertain terms that He wants us to live up to certain standards.

What happens though if we don’t live up to his expectations?

It jumped out at me from the Parsha this week.

Last week’s Parsha related what happens if G-d forbid we don’t listen to Hashem. Quite harsh words are used.

From reading JUST those verses one could mistakenly feel that G-d’s relationship with us is intensely judgmental.

And actually, that is what the Jewish people felt. After hearing how seriously G-d took their adhering to His commandments they began to feel that they could never ‘make the grade’ and it wasn’t even worth it to put for the effort to try and please their stern Father in Heaven.

Immediately after those strict words, Moshe reacts to this feeling and reassures the Jewish People that first and foremost G-d loves them. Unconditionally.

Here is how it reads in the Torah (Interpolated translation of Kehot based on Rashi):

29:1 After the people heard Moses’ 98 curses and recalled the 48 curses God had threatened them with earlier, they became frightened, doubting if they could endure such suffering. Moses therefore summoned all of Israel in order to reassure them of God’s love for them, and said to them, “You have seen before your very eyes all that God did in Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to his entire land:

the great trials that you saw with your own eyes and those great signs and marvels. You have indeed appreciated these miracles, and they have taught you to believe in God’s omnipotence and to respect His word.

3 But this is not enough. You must also learn to appreciate God’s kindnesses. However, until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear—that is, with which to appreciate—His great kindnesses, specifically, how—

4 and here Moses continued in God’s name, “I led you through the desert for forty years, during which time your garments did not wear out and fall off of you, nor did your shoes wear out and fall off your feet.

You neither ate bread nor drank new wine or old wine, but instead ate the miraculous  manna and drank the miraculous water from the well—all this in order that you would know that I am God, your God.”

Continuing in his own name, Moses said, “Furthermore, you came to this place, the territory east of the Jordan River, and King Sichon of Cheshbon and King  Og of Bashan came out towards us in battle, but we smote them.

We took their land, and we gave it as an inheritance to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

8 So you see that God truly loves you. In order that you be sufficiently impressed by God’s kindness, you must safeguard the words that constitute this covenant by studying them diligently, and fulfill them, in order that you succeed in all you do.”

Moses’ words of reassurance continue into the first verse of the next  parashah: Look around; you see that, despite having angered God on numerous occasions already, you are all still standing firm. Just like the day, which is overtaken by the night but overcomes it in turn, you have enjoyed periods of tranquility in the past and so will enjoy more in the future, despite whatever suffering you may endure in between. And it is precisely the dark periods of life that will strengthen you, enabling you to endure forever.”

In other words, Moshe told the people of Israel, G-d loves you unconditionally.

Even when he punishes you it is rehabilitative. For your own good. Not to be vengeful or vindictive G-d forbid.

Our traditional observance of Rosh Hashana highlights this balanced relationship.

On the one hand, every year at Rosh Hashana we prepare copiously, examining our deeds and making resolutions to be better. In a sense we tremble with trepidation before the ‘day of judgement’ of Rosh Hashana.

Yet, we don’t express our nervousness in our demeanor. We dress in our finest clothing. We eat a festive meal. Our general behavior is intended to portray a sense of confidence that we will be written and signed into the book of life, health, and sweet things.

Some communities focus more on the judgement aspect of the day and don’t get so intimately involved in the joy derived from the festive culinary and clothing component.

Some place more emphasis on the joy generated by the culinary and festive component.

They are both true. It’s a question of emphasis.

Coming back to that note about my grandson.

Here is what I am thinking.

For a child, knowing that he will be valued even if he doesn’t do anything is critical. It is the gift of a healthy self-esteem that will empower him for life.

That is the foundation upon which education can best thrive.

As an outgrowth of this healthy sense of self worth a clearly defined sense of values and standards should be communicated.

Not the mistaken message of being valued or validated only if the child lives up the expectations of them.

The exact opposite.

A child should feel that because of the high esteem in which they are held, it behooves them and is appropriate that they live up to a certain value system.

In our generation, the Rebbe taught us that the proper way to reach out to fellow Jews is by following the Ba’al Shem Tov’s path of highlighting and emphasizing the love that G-d has to each and every Jew.

Not by wagging fingers and criticizing.

By projecting the unconditional love of G-d to each of us.

That whether or not a Jew does a mitzvah he or she is loved unconditionally by G-d.

And because He loves us so unconditionally, He gave us the Torah with its list of do’s and don’t-do’s. Those are the standards and values He wants us to live by because of His great love for us.

The mitzvahs are essentially not for ‘Him’. They are for us. To give us the chance to be in a relationship with Him.

When we don’t live up to His expectations what happens?

Last weeks Parsha said that their are consequences.

But this weeks parsha reconfirms, that even those consequences don’t in any way indicate a lessening of His unconditional love to us.

It starts with love.

It continues with love.

It will end with love. When I say ‘end’ I mean this stage of the world referred to as the ‘galut’ ‘exile’. ‘Redemption’ means that G-d’s love with be expressed openly and in a revealed way.  

My dear friend, may G-d’s love to you be expressed by your being inscribed and sealed to the book of life, health and sweet things, culminating in our total redemption with the coming of Mashiach.

Shana Tova

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.