"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

No Hangover

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,


When someone feels unneeded and irrelevant, it is tragic.

One of the most heartrending stories I heard this month came from the streets of Patong Beach in Phuket.

The rabbi was walking down the street with his lulav and etrog. Two young men called out in English ‘hi rabbi’. He went over to them. They didn’t ‘look’ particularly Jewish. But when they started speaking Yiddish they identified as having grown up in the Williamsburg Chasidic community. They had been raised in the Chassidic tradition and rejected that way of life. Now there were traveling through Thailand and partying. The Shliach asked them to make a blessing for Sukkot. It took a bit of coaxing, but they agreed. After making the blessings (in which they were proficient) they thanked the rabbi and asked him to explain the meaning behind the mitzvah.

The rabbi explained.

These four species are noticeably different from one another. The esrog has both a pleasant taste and a pleasant fragrance. The fruit of the tree from which the lulav is taken, the date, has a pleasant taste, but no fragrance. The myrtle has a pleasant fragrance but no taste, and the willow has neither fragrance nor pleasant taste.

Each of the four species represents a different type of individual. The esrog represents a person who studies Torah and fulfills the mitzvos, the lulav represents one who studies Torah but does not perform mitzvos, the myrtle represents one who fulfills mitzvos but does not study Torah, and the willow represents a Jew who neither studies Torah nor observes mitzvos.

The mitzvah of the lulav and esrog demonstrates how even the esrog, the species which symbolizes both the virtues of Torah study and observance of the mitzvos, cannot be used for the mitzvah on Sukkos unless it is taken in hand and held together with the humble willow. By the same token, no matter how much we develop ourselves as individuals, we cannot reach our true potential without the help of others. The unity of our people is an indispensable ingredient in the growth and progress of every individual.

The young men were incredulous. They said, ‘we have never heard anything like this before’.

In our community, we grew up feeling that there is no room for a Jew who is a ‘willow’. We, rebellious youth, who have neither Torah study nor Mitzvah observance – willows -, feel totally unneeded by our community. To hear this message emanating from the lulav and etrog is inspirational’.

I cry inwardly when I retell this story.

How tragic that these young people never got to feel how needed and relevant they truly are to the community at large. Notwithstanding their level of Torah knowledge or depth of commitment to Mitzvah observance.

Why people feel the way that they feel is not always to be blamed on the parents and upbringing. Different personalities absorb and reframe things in various ways.

It is quite natural for parents to have expectations of kids.

Most kids take it the right way.

I am sure these too rambunctious young men have many siblings who are excitedly continuing in the traditional path of their parents.

But some children clearly don’t see it in the way it was intended by their (for the most part) well-intentioned parents.

And we need to be sensitive to this and validate it. For it is real. Not to be waved away or belittled. Rather we need to try and guide our youth to hear the narrative of hope and empowerment that Judaism provides us with.

Let us take a stroll through the early stories of the Torah.

(I am going to use some poetic license and superimpose contemporary psychological issues into the eternal teachings of the Torah. If it serves to move us to an enhanced relationship with the Almighty and his Torah and Mitzvah’s it is allowed).

Adam was created as the only human on earth.

G-d communicated with him directly. Told him the ‘house rules’.

The weight of the world rested on his shoulders.

No one to blame. No crowd to hide in. Not even one other person to share with.

A very short time later he was to be joined by his wife Chava (Eve).

Life seemed like it would be blissful.

And it was. Till shortly afterwards they jointly erred.

The aftershocks are still shaking our world.

Adam tries to blame Chava. Chava tries to blame the snake.

Hashem adjusts the world to be a world that is not paradise. The world becomes a place where mistakes are made. The Divinely provided way forward is to own up to your malfunction and change your errant way. Teshuva. It is a world where things are broken. Humankind is charged with trying their very best to fix it.

The birth of children to Adam and Chava and proliferation of man on earth lead to its own set of challenges.

Eventually, some 1565 years into the world’s history, as humankind degenerated into atrociously evil behavior, Hashem said, ‘enough is enough’ and brought the Flood to wipe out the worlds inhabitants, humans and animals. Only eight humans were to be saved. Noach, Mrs. Noach, their three sons and daughters-in-law rode out the fatal Flood in a specially constructed Ark. Together with representatives of all animal, fowl and reptile species (the fish were fine staying in the flood waters) the future of the world was all contained in that one ark.

Then it was time to emerge from the ark.

Noach planted a vineyard.

He made wine. Got drunk. It was an unpleasant event.

I want to meditate on what we can learn from this.

Let’s pretend we are therapists in the year 2022.

A young handsome adult comes strutting in full of self-confidence.

Self-esteem galore.

Feeling super relevant. As if the world is not worth being created without him there.

Except that he seems a drop to sure of himself. Upon listening more closely, we hear him saying ‘I am the epicenter of the universe and therefore I am entitled to anything I want’. It is not just self-esteem that he has, which would keep him serious and grounded with a sense of responsibility, rather it has degenerated into unproductive pride.

When confronted with doing something wrong, he defends himself by using the blame mechanism. He says, ‘I did something wrong only because I am a victim of someone else’s negative influence’. Parents, school, peers or any of the other myriad things that he chooses to blame.

Following him comes another client. A different kind of young adult. Not brimming with confidence but on the contrary, he comes in dragging his feet, clearly unmotivated. He seems overwhelmed. His complaint is that since he was a little kid, he has always felt that here are unreasonable expectations placed upon him. He felt that if he didn’t live up to the dreams that his parents had for him, he wouldn’t be accepted or loved. He doesn’t want to be the center of the universe. He just wants to just be ‘one of the boys’ and not have this great responsibility placed on his shoulder.

He prefers the oblivion of quasi-irrelevance.

Meet Adam and Noach.

Adam knew that he was the center of the world. The mission of humanity rested firmly on him. He was okay with that. It’s just that he was a bit too sure of himself and therein lay the potential for his downfall.

Noach, on the other hand had come from a world where people looked at him as an irrelevant old man. Serving a G-d that no one else had time for. Counterintuitively, it seemed that Noach was fine with that position. It was once the world was destroyed, leaving only him, that he felt the crushing burden of having the full responsibility of the world on him. And that seemed overwhelming.

He looked for some respite. Something to take his mind off the huge responsibility. His ‘drug of choice’ upon exiting the ark was alcohol.

I know I am oversimplifying. There is a point I want to make. Regarding ourselves. Our kids.

Do we want our kids to feel relevant to the point of feeling supremely entitled?

Or do we want them to feel how much is expected of them to the point of being overwhelmed?

Of course, we should search for the perfect balance.

Mr. Therapist, what do you say?

How shall I try to raise my child with balance.

With healthy self-esteem that doesn’t cross the border into entitlement.

How do I empower my child to recognize that the world needs his gift, without making the task seem overwhelming and risking

If I was the therapist I would say.

Meet Avraham who is born at the end of this week’s parsha of Noach.

A child born into challenging circumstances.

His father was an idol merchant.

He had every reason to blame his upbringing and to feel like a victim. The set of circumstances he was born to doomed him to a life of dedication to false g-d’s.

But Avraham doesn’t hang around and say ‘pity me’. From the tender age of three, he searches for the truth. After discovering the truth of the Almighty he focuses not on himself and how he feels, rather he says ‘here I am and ready’ to do your bidding G-d.

G-d takes him up on his offer and gives him ten challenges to prove his faith.

His reaction is instructive to us all.

If in his youth, Avraham teaches us not act like ‘victims’ as Avraham doesn’t run away or try to blame someone else, in this next stage when he is challenged, he teaches us how to rise to that occasion. He doesn’t cry that he is overwhelmed and being asked to do too much. He doesn’t look for a way to oblivion, rather he follows G-d’s instruction to ‘Lecha Leacha’ ‘Go’, ‘Journey’ to the land that I will show you.

He says to G-d, ‘here I am and ready’ to do what is needed.

Avraham becomes the first ‘Jew’.

Here is an important concept to absorb.

Judaism is not a religion of ‘feelings’.

Judaism is an authentic acceptance and undertaking to do what G-d has instructed.

It’s not easy.

I think we all have challenging days.

Although many think that rabbi’s never have challenging days... some days I wake up and consider surrendering to the path of feeling like a victim of circumstance. If only this and that were different….

Other days I am tempted to feel like I don’t want this huge responsibility of ‘doing the right thing’. Hey, let me get ‘distracted’ and have someone else be the ‘responsible adult’.

And then I remember (or I am reminded, thank G-d I am married 😊 ) that I have the great blessing of being a student and emissary of the modern day Avraham, the Rebbe.

There was no greater embodiment of a balanced and wholesome approach to life than the Rebbe.

Click here for a collection of the Rebbe’s letters entitled Healthy in Body Mind and Spirit.

 Torah is a true guide for life—“the Torah of truth, the Torah of life”—the Rebbe pleaded with parents, educators and legislators to  G‑d within themselves, and therefore possess the ability to overcome obstacles in their path and fulfill their Divine purpose.

“When I read the Rebbe’s letters to people on this topic, I’m struck with how much the Rebbe believed in the person he was talking to,” said Rabbi Yanky Raskin, LMSW, a local rabbi and school therapist in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. “You can see how much the Rebbe had a deep-seated respect for his addressees, talking to them with the rapport of a trusted friend who really knows and believes that you can be the best version of yourself.

“So while to some, it may seem that at times the Rebbe sets the bar very high and demands quite a bit, it’s really a reflection of how much the Rebbe insisted that one is never a victim of their circumstances and truly possesses the inner fortitude to realize their greatest potential. Of course, it may be a process to get there, and perhaps one will need to marshal additional resources to climb up to that bar, but in the Rebbe’s view, it is eminently possible.”

For me there are some quick meditations that help keep me on track.

When faced with a feeling of being overwhelmed I remind myself of the Rebbe’s handwritten ‘one liner’.

Taking action, even a small action, is better than going to sleep. Certainly better than falling into the distraction of a deep slumber.

And I get up and try to make one move in the right direction.

Another cornerstone of my life is what the Rebbe oft repeated that the ‘way you set things up from below’ is the way you will be treated from above. Quoting from the Zohar that if you act happy down here, Hashem will reciprocate your happiness from above. When things aren’t working out, don’t be predictably gloomy. Try to force yourself into being happy.

It works.

I am eternally grateful that G-d bestows upon me undeserved kindness, and shows me miracles, large and small, every single time I make even a small move in the right direction.

My dear friends, this is my actionable item.

I know we are all different.

And I know that some people have challenges that seem insurmountable.

I feel humble before so many who confide in me, who have been placed on a journey that is excruciatingly difficult.

They are giants.

With humility I share the following.

In whatever predicament we may be.

We have two choices. To surrender to the inactivity that too often results from feeling overwhelmed.

Or, let us try not to focus exclusively on how we feel.

Rather let us focus on the one question that really counts.

What does G-d want of me now.

What action can I take now, do further that mission.

And let’s try to do that.

One item.

One mitzvah. One step in the right direction. One positive thought that will push aside the other non-positive thoughts.

And here is the best news.

Ultimately doing the right thing will make you feel better about yourself, far better than you will feel with any indulgence.

Oh, and it won’t bring a hangover with it.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

new beginnings

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

On Simchat Torah – just three days ago, the final portion of the Torah was read in Synagogues around the world. Tomorrow, we begin to read the Torah again from the very beginning.

Thus, this Shabbat is called Shabbat Bereshit – the Shabbat that we begin to read the portion of Bereshit.

Beginning the Torah again, brings with it the wonderful experience of relearning the same material that you have read last year, but seeing it with added depth.

A sixth-grade teacher was once sharing how much they loved their job. Someone asked him incredulously, ‘how do you teach the same Talmudic tractate to your sixth graders year after year, don’t you get bored?’

To which the teacher answered ‘I don’t teach the Talmud, I teach the students. The students change every year’.

True, we are reading the same words and the same stories. But WE are not the same.

Every day we grow in our knowledge and maturity and when we come to the same verses from the perspective of our accumulated knowledge and experience, we now have a deeper and even newfound appreciation and depth of understanding of the text.

The Torah being the ‘wisdom of G-d’ is unlimited in its depth and content, on can constantly delve into it and reach new vistas of understanding.

Amazingly, notwithstanding the fact that the words of the Torah are more than three thousand years old, we constantly find contemporary messages of G-dly inspiration and direction in those hallowed words.

The Torah is as relevant to us today as it was when it was given. And it is a great joy to start again.

And with the start of the Torah comes the opportunity to make a ‘clean start’ to our year.

Thus the Rebbe would oft repeat that on the Shabbat of Bereshit – the first Shabbat of the year – there are special opportunities available to us and that the way you ‘start things off’, that’s the way things will go for the duration of the year.

That would be a very good reason to take extra effort in doing things as properly as possible this Shabbat.

Now is also the best time to jump onto the bandwagon and start learning the weekly Torah portion – the Parshat Hashavua.

Besides for enhancing your own Torah knowledge by embarking on this study, you will be joining hundreds of thousands of other Jews who are all focusing and studying on the same subject at the very same time.

Essentially you will be uniting with the entire Jewish people via this study. Of course that would be a great thing to do especially in this special year of “ Hakhel ”.

With blessings for a great ‘beginning’ this Shabbat,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS here is something new that I learned this year about the Cain & Abel story .

Now it came to pass at the end of days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord.

And Abel he too brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering.

But to Cain and to his offering He did not turn, and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell.

Two brothers, each of them brought an offering to G-d. To one, G-d turned. To the other G-d ignored.

What was going on here. And what can we learn from it?

According to the Midrash, Cain brought flax seeds as his offering. It was the finest species of vegetation as per the norms of that time. It was considered a superior species. However, he brought flax seeds of inferior quality.

Abel, brought animals as a sacrifice. Actually, he didn’t bring the most impressive animal sacrifice possible. He brought sheep. Not cattle, which would have been a more superior species.

However, Abel brought the fattest of his flocks.

To sum it up:

Cain brought the best species but brought inferior quality within that species.

Abel didn’t bring the biggest kind of animals. He brough sheep not cattle. But he did bring the choice sheep of his flocks.

What was the result?

G-d turned to Abel’s sacrifice.

And rejected Cain’s.

The lesson is foundational.

It’s not about bringing the most superior species.

You may not even be in possession of the superior species.

But that is fine. Because G-d doesn’t expect you to bring what you don’t have.

We need to bring to G-d, the best of what we DO have.

It’s an important lesson to remember.

From both angles.

First of all, it removes the angst of comparing your gift to G-d with someone else’s.

And secondly, it reminds us to put forth the effort to give the best of what we have to G-d.

Why is it so important that the choicest portion go to G-d?

Think about this analogy.

You bring a guest to stay in your home. There is a guest suite and a master bedroom.

Where do you host your guest?

Most probably in your guest suite.

The master bedroom is nicer, but that is for the ‘master’. You as the owner ‘deserve’ the sleep in the master bedroom.

By allocating the ‘first’ and ‘choicest’ to G-d, you are reminding yourself that the world and all that is therein, is really HIS. He is the master. You are the guest.

Once you have proclaimed that all is His by dedicating the ‘first’ to Him, you can partake of His world with His blessing and permission.

So next time you give something to G-d, give your best.

Click here for a more in-depth rendition of the above lessons.

Mazel Tov for our starting of the new cycle of Torah reading!

חג שמח From Bangkok!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This is the special time of the year – the festival of Sukkot - when the Torah instructs us to be joyful and happy.

To be precise, the Torah mentions the mitzvah of having joy on Sukkot three times.

The ways we fulfil this instruction is firstly by doing things that make us happy. Like eating fine food and drinking wine. Buying new clothing and jewelry. Or, in the case of children, by giving them extra treats and sweets.

This is the place to give a shout out about the grand Simchat Torah celebration on this coming Monday night. There will be treats, sweets, fine food and plentiful ‘l’chayim’ and most importantly, joyous camaraderie with fellow Jews.

As humans, the best way for us to be truly and thoroughly joyous is by understanding the reasons behind the joy.

The simple reason for this joy is based on the agricultural cycle of the year. At the time of Passover (beginning of spring) the produce is still in the process of growing. Nothing to rejoice about yet, as it is not yet certain that the yield will be successful. Seven weeks later at the time of Shavuot it is being harvested. Still, this is not the time to sit back and rejoice as the crops need to be dried in the fields and only them brought to the storage holders. During the subsequent summer months, the grain is gathered and placed into the granaries for storage.

Only at Sukkot time, once the summer has passed and the produce is safe and sound in the storage bins,  just before the rains of the winter, can one truly rejoice and give thanks to G-d for his bounty.

Living in Thailand, I am familiar with the way the gem industry works.

There are various stages one must pass through before being sure that one has turned a profit. First you must buy the stone at a favorable price otherwise you won’t be able to sell it for a profit. Then you need to find a buyer who agrees to your sale price.

However, even once it’s sold, the industry standard is to pay with a check dated ninety days later. Only once the check has cleared the bank do you know that your profit has been made.

It is only, then that you can rejoice and be sure of your profit.

The Chag of Sukkot is equivalent to the check being cleared and your profit is safely in your account in the bank.

Now, that is something to be joyous about.

But there is something much deeper going on as well.

The festival of Sukkot comes after the forgiveness of Yom Kippur.

When you have a relationship with someone, and everything is going well, you are happy. But there is always a nagging thought in the back of your mind. How long can the ‘good times’ last in this relationship? What will happen if I mess up and say something out of line. Or even worse, what would happen if I did something offensive to my partner.

If you hit an actual snag in the relationship and your partner is angry at you, it is very painful.

However, if you are able to smooth out the differences between the two of you and work things out, this leads to a feeling of true joy and happiness.

If you have ever been in a fight with a loved one and then you managed to make peace, you will know exactly what I mean. There is a deep joy and relief when you realize that you can overcome hiccups in your relationship and recreate the original love.

Yom Kippur is the day that the Almighty forgives us.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have violated our relationship with Hashem, Hashem has forgiven us and restored His love to us.

Sukkot follow four days after that.

It is the celebration of the resumption of our loving relationship with Hashem even after we had become distanced from Him through our errant behavior.

The culmination of that joy, the climax of the celebration of our deep existential relationship with Hashem, is on Simchas Torah.

This is the case every year. Sukkot and Simchat Torah are one of the happiest days in our calendars.

This year is not a regular year.

It is the year of Hakhel. The year of gathering.

Every seven years, after the shemitah year, the King gathered the entire Jewish people and read from the Torah. This deeply inspiring assembly impacted all those who were there, to draw nearer to G-d and be more dedicated to fulfilling His mitzvahs.

This year, on Simchas Torah when we come together and unite in the rejoicing with the Torah we are also reenacting the Hakhel ritual of the Torah being read by the king and the community recommitting to the absolute adherence to the Torah that they undertook at the foot of the mountain of Sinai.

You ask what does his have to do with you?

The king had an obligation to gather the people and inspire them. But I am not a king, you rightfully point out?

But perhaps you are more of a ‘king’ than you realize.

Do you have a group of people or are you a participant in any activity in which you are the leader?

If you are a parent, you are a ruler of sorts to your child.

If you are a teacher, you reign over your classroom.

If you hire workers you are a boss to your employees.

I think you get my point. Every person has an area in which he or she is a leader of sorts. You may not immediately associate being the head of your family, the director of your company or the teacher of your classroom with the word ‘king’ but there is no question that in the eyes of your subordinates your word carries weight far greater than that of a mere peer.

Let me use the example of a parent to his child. In a parent child relationship, the parent is like a king and the child is his or her subject. The effect of the words and beliefs of the parent make an indelible impression on the child.

A while back, I met a young man who was telling me that while he was not very observant, he certainly did believe in G-d. He told me that he believed in G-d because his father had told him that he believed in G-d.

His father had also shared that he had not always believed in G-d himself until he had a miraculous incident.

He had undertaken to say Kadish for his father and one summer Sunday afternoon realized that he was not going to make it back from the beach in Long Island before sunset to his usual congregation for the afternoon service. In desperation, he pulled off the highway and turned into a gas station to as for directions to the nearest Synagogue. As he turned into the Synagogue just as the sun was setting, he met someone outside who was looking for a tenth man for the afternoon service.

‘That Divine Providence allowed me to truly believe in G-d’ he said to his son. The son has now incorporated that same belief into his own set of values. Today, as a grown man, successful in his field, he believes in G-d because his father had told him so when he was little.

For sure, he has studied and deepened his knowledge and understanding of belief in G-d but unquestionably the most important roots were planted by his father many years ago.

Our children look up to us as role models or at very least as ‘big bosses’ and are extremely impressionable and dependent on our guidance which then becomes their default position. And it works that way with morality as well. In all areas, we have huge influence on our children.

Hakhel empowers us to use our ‘kingship’ positions to inspire our ‘subjects’ to be more connected to G-d and to continue to move forward in the right direction.

So while we may not have a rebuilt temple yet, and we may not have an actual Jewish king, we do have a mission to make our own environments into a place that G-d resides – a mini Temple.

And we are all rulers and ‘kings’ of sorts within our own environments.

This means that we can reenact this ‘Hakhel’ gathering idea in our own way with our own circle of people with whom we have contact and upon whom we bear some influence.

The agenda? Just like the Hakhel of yore. To gather Jews together – enjoy each other’s company, maybe even eat or socialize – but always bearing in mind the end goal of this gathering is about generating more awareness and sensitivity to G-d and His commandments, thus generating a superior moral environment in our families, in our communities and in the entire world.

You may be thinking, I’m not a rabbi or a community leader. Why are you asking me to gather fellow Jews and inspire more connection to G-d and our heritage?

Well, you don’t have to be a rabbi or ‘official’ to do this kind of work, on the contrary, if you look like ‘one of the guys’ your invitation to get together at a Jewish event, may meet with even more success.

The Rebbe taught that during the year of Hakhel there are extraordinary opportunities for getting Jews together. In other words, there are G-dly cosmic energies that enable achievements in the field of gathering Jews together that in other years may not be so easily accessible to us. To read more about this wonderful year click here.

My suggestion to you is, try it! You will see that it will work. Think of a way to get your circle of friends together, keep in mind the overarching goal of heightened spirituality and morality that this gathering should engender, and you will see inspiring results.

Feel free to reach out to me if I can be of assistance in advising regarding your gatherings or even addressing your gathering.

May this year be the year that we merit to have the ‘ingathering of exiles’ the greatest Jewish gathering of all times, Amen.

With blessings of Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom and may you and your loved ones be provided with everything good and sweet in this new year.

Chag Sameach!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Now what?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Now what?

We have spent the last forty days in a ‘High Holidays’ mode. Thirty days of the introspective month of Elul. Ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur inclusive. We have been ‘written and sealed’ for a Shana Tova Umetuka – a ‘good and sweet year’.

What do we do now?

I am reminded of a joke.

The ‘buy one get four’ sale on cat food was irresistible. Sadie filled up her cart with ‘bargain priced’ cat food. She felt that it was a ‘sin’ not to buy it. On the way home she told her friend Kathy ‘please remind me to buy a cat’.

I am thinking along those lines. If you have a wagon full of reasons to be happy, don’t forget to take the time to be happy about them.

We just got the wonderful blessings of being forgiven by G-d on Yom Kippur, we are in a buoyant mood, anticipating a great year ahead, let’s make sure to celebrate it!

It is not at all coincidental that the Sukkot holiday follow a mere four days after Yom Kippur.

The Almighty designed it that way in the Torah.

As the blast of the Shofar is sounded in the Synagogue heralding the climactic conclusion of Yom Kippur, the joyousness in the air is palpable.

Sukkot is called ‘Zman Simchateinu’ – the ‘Time of our Joy’.

When I was blessed, as a Yeshiva Bachur, to spend Yom Kippur with the Rebbe, one of the most incredible transitioning moments was the climax of Yom Kippur. The Rebbe led the massive crowd in singing and dancing to a triumphant march. (It’s referred to in the Chasidic music world as ‘Napoleons March’).  This symbolized that we, the Jewish People, had just been ‘victorious’ in our Heavenly judgement. Now we were to energetically march on to serving G-d joyously.

From that moment on, the mood in the Rebbe’s presence was a transformed one. From the earnestness and solemness of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur aura, to an uplifted, joyous and energetic one. Sukkot and Simchat Torah were celebrated with unbridled and indescribable joy.

So, first of all, in response to my opening question ‘now what?’ I will say simply ‘now, PARTY!’

There is a deeper layer to this question.

The previous Rebbe asked his father as a child just after Yom Kippur.

‘Father, now what?’

He meant, now that on Yom Kippur we have been gifted the Divine gift of cleansing forgiveness, after that grand finale, where do we go from here.

To which his father responded.

‘Now, we have to really do Teshuva (return to G-d)’.

The way I understand this response is through using the analogy of a businessman who has met with success. He made his first major profit of several tens of thousands of dollars. Does he sit back and relax? No. Now he injects bigger money into his business and nets a bigger profit. Does he sit back and relax after making a few hundred thousand dollars? Most likely not. He will invest in even bigger ventures, hoping to turn a yet bigger profit.

You recognize that you are in an ‘upgraded’ spiritual place after Yom Kippur? Perfect! Now you can really do some serious Teshuva, and progress onward in becoming yet closer to G-d.

Make sure to take the newfound nearness to Hashem that you discovered on Yom Kippur and ‘reinvest it’. Don’t squander the inspiration and let it dissipate.

On a practical note: Upgrade your ‘post Yom Kippur’ life with at least one good resolution.

Put Yom Kippur 5783 on your ‘life-map’ by committing yourself to something, small as it may be, that brings more connection to G-d into your daily life.

And do it with joy.

The Torah instructs us to be joyous on Sukkot.

How do you ‘become’ joyous?

With an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’.

On Sukkot we sit in a Sukkah.

The Sukkah reminds us of the Divine protection that Hashem gave us from the extreme weather, when we left Egypt and spent forty years in the arid desert. Divine ‘Clouds of Glory’ surrounded us and kept our environment comfortable.

Its more than three thousand years later and we are still mindful and thankful for the gift of protection and comfort given to our ancestors.

Have you taken the time to reflect on last year and count your blessings. I mean this quite literally. Not only the blessings he gave you many years ago. The recent blessings of the past year.

Was there anything major that you really ought to be grateful for?

I am guessing that if you take a few moments to think about it, you will come up with some kind of ‘gratitude list’.

So, be grateful! And rejoice on this festival of joy. Show G-d how you are not a ‘sourpuss’ who only knows how to complain when things are not perfect in your estimation. Rather you know how to joyously thank Him for all the good and vital things He has provided for you.

Sitting outside in the Sukkah, also reminds us of how much we need G-ds ongoing protection. The Sukka by definition is a non-permanent area i.e. its roofing must be of branches and rain must be able to make its way through. Virtually all Sukkahs are uncomfortably hot in the hot climates (like Thailand) and chilling and cold in the cold climates. Our frailty and vulnerability are evident.

The Sukkah thus reminds us not to put our faith in man-made security but rather to place our reliance solely on G-d.

(While of course also doing everything we can to protect ourselves naturally. G-d has instructed us not to rely on His open and obvious miracles. He prefers to operate in the guise of ‘nature’).

As I was greeting the guests at the ‘break the fast’ meal (after an incredibly uplifting and well attended Yom Kippur service) one person remarked to me that his financial situation allowed him to choose where he wanted to live. He was trying to decide if he wanted to live in Thailand. One of the things he mentioned as being attractive about Thailand is the peacefulness of the country. Almost as if to say, ‘there one less thing to pray for’ in Thailand because it’s peaceful by nature. How tragically ironic that on the very next day we get news of a horrific massacre rampage in Thailand. By a former police officer no less, in which he killed more than thirty four people at a day care center, more than twenty of them little children.

There are no words to say in the face of the utter evil senselessness of such a tragic attack.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Unimaginable what they must be going through.

(The age old questions of why bad things happen to good people (sweet innocent children) remains unanswered).

Thailand is indeed a generally peaceful place thank G-d.

We pray to G-d that Thailand remains peaceful.

But it certainly is a timely reminder. That no matter where you are, life is uncertain, and we need to be humbly aware of our vulnerability.

The Sukkah reminds us that as secure as we may feel by our physical surroundings, we are not truly in control. We need the protective embrace of G-d to shelter us from harm. And to bless us with the wherewithal and blessings of life.

The Sukkah both reminds us to be grateful for the blessings that we already have, and to be reminded that in our lives, we must be constantly mindful of the protection we need from Hashem.

(I will share something a bit lighter. One of my relatives runs a Chabad House in the USA. Some of his congregants very much took to the ‘tent of prayer’ that they were relegated to, during Covid times. The Rabbi couldn’t convince the community that it’s time to move back inside. Maybe the sermons were shorter in the tent as there were no acoustics to carry his voice. A few days ago, when the weatherman predicted inclement weather for Yom Kippur eve, there was no choice. Prayers were moved back to the sanctuary which is a very nice Synagogue. Needless to say, after being ‘forced’ back inside, everyone realized how special it is to pray in the Shul. And they realized that their rabbi gives fantastic sermons which they love hearing. It became clear that you can’t compare the ‘tent’ to the Synagogue. An interesting positive twist to what some refer to as  ‘miserable weather’).

So, ‘now what’?


First of all, celebrate the upcoming Shabbat.

And then celebrate the holiday of Sukkot by eating in a Sukkah, blessing and shaking the Lulav and Etrog and by singing and dancing and rejoicing.

The best thing a Jew can do for world peace and for helping those who are in sorrow, is by following the path of the Torah and rejoicing when it is time to rejoice!

And now is the time.

We await eagerly the final Redemption with Mashiach and the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.” In other words, all metals tools that are currently used for murder and war (machetes, guns etc.) will be requisitioned and turned into tools of farming and positivity.

If that happens before this coming Monday, then the mitzvah of Hakhel, where the king reads from the Torah in the presence of the entire Jewish nation – men women and children – will take place in Jerusalem. You and I, and every one of the Jewish people will be there.

May this turn into reality AMEN!

Shabbat Shalom

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Thank you very much for all those who have taken part of our ‘Giving Days’. Many of our branches have successfully completed their portion of the campaign thank G-d. The portion of the campaign for which I am directly responsible which is the engine of Jewish life in Thailand and provides start up funds, emergency funds to those who are in need, end of life assistance, is more than 60% to its goal. It still needs more donations. It has been extended by a few more days to give those who like to contribute, the chance to make a difference by their donation.

Click here to contribute. Donations are still being matched till the last day of Sukkot.

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