"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

what can we do?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I am going to begin with thoughts from a little corner of the world called Pai.

For ‘what can we do’ regarding the global turmoil, please scroll down.

I had just arrived at Chabad House in Chiang Mai on my visit to oversee the activities of our branch there. My phone rang at 3PM. It was from the USA. Which was odd, because it was 3am in the time zone of the USA number that was calling. Mr. J. R. began the conversation by saying that he was looking for some help regarding his son who was in Pai.

I almost dropped the phone. This was just so incredulous.

‘I just this minute came from Pai’ I responded.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I went south to Ko Pangan and Ko Samui to oversee our work there. This time I went to visit our Chabad Houses up North. In Pai and Chiang Mai.

Getting to Pai can is a dizzying experience. The hundreds of curves in the mountainous road have their effect. The three-hour drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is quite a journey. I had driven up to Pai the day before, participated in a dinner/Torah lesson at the Chabad House and after sleeping overnight in Pai, had just arrived back in Chiang Mai for a brief visit and meeting with Rabbi Pikel before my flight to Bangkok.

And then this extraordinary call, from a Jewish man in the USA who was looking for assistance for his son in Pai.

The only other time I was in Pai was four years ago. At that time, I had gone to look for a man who just lost his father and his family was concerned how he would take the news. After that visit, we opened our Chabad House there. Thank G-d there is an active Chabad House there now.

Of all times, just after I ‘descended from the mountains’ of Pai, I get this ‘random’ call about a young Jew who needs some help in Pai.

This was not at all random. To me, this was an incredible display of Divine Providence. It was received by me as a clear confirmation from Above that I was on the right path.

The ‘Divine Hug’ made me feel exhilarated.

I asked Mr. R. what the time was for him. He told me that it was 3am. Mr. R. explained that he was calling me at 3am his time because as a devoted father, he had spoken at length to his son at the time that best suited his son. We chatted, and played Jewish geography for a few minutes and then he asked me if I had time for a meaningful story. He shared a very powerful story with me, that I would like to share to with you.

As a major appliance repairman, I entered many homes in the devoutly Jewish area that I serviced. One elderly rabbi made a deep impression on him. This elderly stooped over rabbi, insisted on serving me something to eat and drink before I looked at the appliance that needed repairing. This gesture touched me so deeply that I mentioned this rabbi’s name and his benevolence to some other people. I was told the following story about him in his role of principal of a religious boys Yeshiva that make me choke up with emotion whenever I tell it over. I think every teacher needs to hear this story.

A certain boy was misbehaving and was sent to the principal’s office. The principal was thoughtful and told the boy that he would need to think overnight about the appropriate way to discipline him. The next day, the boy returned to the principal’s office and the principal reached under this desk and handed him a wrapped box. ‘What is this?’ asked the child, ‘I thought you wanted time to think about my punishment’.

‘this is a gift for all the other days that you behaved well’ replied the principal.

Mr. R. finished telling me the story with a voice holding back tears of emotion.

‘If only the principal in the Yeshiva day school I went to as a child would have had that approach. With that attitude, I may have actually stayed in the Jewish day school I was attending…’

Whenever I meet a teacher, I share this story of the principal who gave a gift to the child who was expecting a reprimand. With this heartfelt gesture he instilled within the child the conviction that he was a good kid, and that he was seen that way by his educators. Thanks to this realization, he then sought to live up to the positive boy he was perceived to be’.

The story touched me deeply, and trust that you too will take it to heart. The future of our children and students is impacted by the way we view them and treat them.

(See this video of ‘Four Individuals Forever Affected by the Rebbe’ (at 3 minutes in, there is a similar story to the one above of a boy kicked out of Yeshiva) which highlights the lifechanging effect we can have on people by viewing them positively).

Let us be uplifting, inspiring and positive to those in our spheres. Its easy to be negative and punitive. It is far more challenging and requires more creativity to impact people from a place of positivity, light and optimism. But it is well worth the effort.

May I use food as an example. Fast food is quicker and easier. Healthy eating requires more planning, may be more expensive and takes more effort. However, it is effort that is well worth it.

Kosher food may require yet more planning. Because the Almighty, Creator of our bodies instructed it, its benefit in physical and spiritual health are supernaturally powerful. When the ‘manufacturer’ tells you what ‘fuel’ to use in your car, it makes perfect sense to stick religiously to it. As it does to adhere to G-d’s instruction for how to ‘fuel’ our bodies with nutrition.

Before you take the easy, ‘fast food’ approach and criticize someone else instinctively and (all too often) negatively, take a deep breath, and think of whether you can address the issue from a positive place.

The principal who was able to reach the soul of the child by highlighting his positivity changed not just that child, but Mr. R. who told me the story, me who heard the story, and you who are hearing it from me.

I have just shared a ‘small’ story. Regarding a ‘small’ action. To a ‘small’ boy. That I heard after having just come down the mountains from a ‘small’ rural village.

Does it really make a difference in the larger scheme of things?

My friends, during these days of world crisis, it is tempting to be pulled in to the news sites and commentary and disregard our personal behavior as being small an insignificant in the larger picture.

This weeks Parsha talks about the mass gathering of all Jewish men, women and children, by Moshe.  The meeting was to convey the instructions about the construction of the most powerful site on earth. They were instructed to collect materials and funds to build the Mishkan (traveling Temple). This was the most desirable and valuable place in the universe, as it was the place that G-d rested His holy presence here amongst us.

Wouldn’t it be sufficient to have just gathered the ‘top brass’ of the people? The upper echelons. Great saints, accomplished architects and artisans, fabulously wealthy people and anyone else who could be of intrinsic value to this incredible project.

Why the need for Moshe to gather every single man, woman and child?

Furthermore, for the foundational sockets of the Mishkan, there was a mandatory half shekel contribution required by every male over the age of twenty. The poor man could not give less. The rich man could not give more. This really emphasized the point that EVERY ONE needed to be a part of the building.

(For the general collection of materials and money for other items besides the foundational sockets, donations of all sizes and from all sectors of the population were accepted and lauded).

Hashem was telling the Jewish people that every single one of you counts. The collective is made up of individuals. When each segment of the nation does what it is tasked to do, the entire nation functions seamlessly.

One of the ways that we remind ourselves of our indispensability to the collective, is the celebration of our personal birthday.

The Rebbe launched a campaign that everyone of us should celebrate our birthdays. (The campaign was launched on the birthday of the Rebbe’s wife, the first year after her passing).

Why are birthdays so important?

Here is why:

Your birthday commemorates the day on which G‑d said to you: “You, as an individual, are unique and irreplaceable. No person alive, no person who has ever lived, and no person who shall ever live, can fulfill the specific role in My creation I have entrusted to you ... ” click here for more about birthdays.

This leads us to the answer of WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THE GLOBAL SITUATION?

The Jewish people are one organism. When one part hurts, we all hurt. And when one part is strengthened, the whole body is healthier.

Right now, our fellow Jews in the Ukraine and Russia are on all our minds. But if they are the heart of the matter, and we are the other parts of the body we can help them by strengthening ourselves.

Here is some information from some of my colleagues, Rabbi’s in various cities in Ukraine.

Like a person who walks for the health of his heart, though we are so far away we can do Mitzvot for the health and wellbeing of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. And it makes a difference.

Here are four suggestions:

1. Tzedakah

Give what you can to Tzedakah, especially toward the needs of those in harm's way in Ukraine. You can give by using this link (please do so before the arrival of Shabbat,)

2. Prayer

Offer up prayers to G-d on their behalf. Tehillim (Psalms) is always crucial during any crisis. Here is a link to chapter 20 of Tehillim, though you can recite any or all of Tehillim.

Saying the Shema daily is also a great Mitzvah, and for men, reciting it in Tefillin is best.

3. Lighting Candles

Women and girls, when you light the Shabbat candles before Shabbat (click here for your local time) whisper a prayer on their behalf following the blessing on the candles.

4. Torah

Increase your daily intake of Torah study. Whether you have Torah books or study online, Torah is G-d's antidote for all the world's pains. Here is a link to a wonderful daily Torah regimen by Rabbi Gordon, of blessed memory.

May G-d bless His world with peace. May Al-mighy G-d send his blessings and protect the Jewish people everywhere and indeed all of mankind know only light, gladness, joy and dignity. 

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

half-shekel-bliss meditation

Dear Friend,

I met W. more than a decade ago. In Mumbai.

It was not long after the tragic terror attack that took the lives of my colleagues Rabbi Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg.

At the time, I was overseeing the Chabad branch in Mumbai and we were in the midst of renovating the womens Mikva that R’ Gabi had built.

W. was there for business. We ate our Shabbat meals together at the improvised Chabad location and I spoke about the greatness of the mitzvah of Family Purity and Mikvah.

Realizing the golden opportunity of providing funds for this special mitzvah, and realizing that Divine Providence had brought him to do (successful) business in Mumbai, W most generously undertook to pay the entire renovation expense.

It’s a decade later.

Rabbi Yisrael Kozlovsky the shliach in Mumbai, mentioned to me that he is doing an expansion and renovation of that same Mikva.

I said to myself, I should give the first ‘rights’ to this mitzvah to the one who did it a decade ago.

I reached out to W. who lives in America and told him the story.

W. responded

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for reaching out and offering me the opportunity to participate in this wonderful mitzvah. Unfortunately, I will need to take a pass as I am still not in the financial position that I once was. Bezrat  HaShem (with G-d’s help) that will change in the near future, as I have a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah again like I used to. 

May HaShem continue to bless you and give you tremendous koach (energy) to continue the wonderful work that you do for Klal Yisroel.


I was so touched by this heartwarming response, ‘a tremendous desire to distribute tzedakah’, that I scheduled a call with W.

During our talk, W shared with me how in the last few years his business efforts don’t seem to be yielding the successful fruits that they used to. I listened empathetically and wished him all the best. W then said something that is bouncing around in my consciousness these past few days.

Rabbi, I feel that the problem is that I was trying too hard. Like with Joseph when he was in prison in Egypt.

‘It is time to leave room for G-d ’, concluded W.

Here is the lesson from Joseph that W was referring to:

Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was imprisoned alongside Pharaoh’s royal butler. Joseph befriended the butler and carefully followed his case. When the butler was exonerated, Joseph beseeched him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. The Torah informs us that the butler forgot about Joseph, causing him to languish in prison for two more years. The Midrash explains that this was because Joseph should have placed his trust in G‑d, not the butler.

Why was it wrong for Joseph to ask the butler for help? Was he not meant to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity placed in his path?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the person who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d will be his security.” The Midrash explains that this verse refers to Joseph. Joseph fulfilled the first half of this verse, but not the second. He trusted G‑d to provide an opportunity for salvation. He believed that G‑d had placed the butler in his path. But once the butler arrived, Joseph looked to him for redemption. The butler became his security, not G‑d.

Joseph’s mistake was that he should have realized that he had no way of knowing if his attempt to have the butler intercede for him would bear fruit. For all he knew, G‑d might not have intended at all to bring about his salvation through the butler. He should have realized that while he was meant to pursue the avenue placed before him, he was not meant to rely on it for certain that this would be the avenue that G‑d will choose.

(By Rabbi Lazer Gurkov on click here for full article)

The message is quite clear. Sometimes we think that WE need to do everything. We stress over every single detail to the point of ‘worrying ourselves ill’ as the saying goes. We ‘believe’ misguidedly that it is solely OUR efforts that bring success. The more prowess and diligence, the more successful. The more driven and results oriented we are, the better results we will have.

W, a very successful businessman for many years, was telling me, he feels he needs to shift mindsets. He has come to the realization that he needs to deemphasize his preoccupation with ‘moving and shaking’ and overexerting.

He needs to leave room for G-d and only when he does that, honestly and authentically, the blessings will come raining down.

This message resonated very deeply with me.

Was it because our kosher meat shipment from USA became so entangled?

It should have been a simple importation of meat.

Prime USA beef. Kosher. Health certificates that are approved by the Thai FDA. All set to go.

Oops. No frozen sea containers available. (Those who are in import/export know that there is a worldwide crisis in shipping).

With no alternative options we needed to make some decisions. The meat was paid for already. There was no ‘money back on return’ option. Anyway, we needed the meat. Our freezers here in Thailand are empty and our community deserves to have the opportunity to eat kosher meat. We took a deep breath and decided to bring it over via air.

Singapore airlines cargo delivered the meat to the Thai airport.

With one ‘minor’ thing missing. The health certificates that accompanied the shipment were somehow lost.

Singapore Airlines are not known to be sloppy. Somehow though, they misplaced the documents and admitted that this was their fault. Their fault or not, the meat was now stuck. The Thai authorities were not agreeable to release the meat based on copies. They wanted the original documents. We went scrambling in different directions to see how it could be done. Perhaps since it is USA beef the US Embassy would help?

Thank G-d, we didn’t need to wait to find out.

Inexplicably after five days, the papers showed up in Singapore.

Another few days of dealing with Thai officials, back and forth ‘etc’… thank G-d the meat was released.

(Yep, we now have BEEF AND LAMB in the JCafe Kosher Shop).

Maybe that is why I was thinking about how true it is that we need to realize how critical G-d’s participation is.

Or was it because a close friend of mine traveled overseas for a medical procedure on their one-year-old child, only to have it cancelled when the otherwise healthy one year old came out ‘positive’ on the Covid test? Initially, my friend was devastated as this meant that all of their carefully thought-out plans unraveled totally.

Probably it is because this weeks Parsha so clearly spells this concept out.

The Parsha speaks about the obligation that the Jews have (during Temple times) to give a half shekel to the annual Bet Hamkidash (Holy Temple) collection.

The Torah describes the full shekel as being comprised of twenty ‘gerah’ units. Thus the half shekel would be ten ‘gerah’ units. Why then does the Torah refer to it as a HALF shekel, rather than TEN gerah’s?

Many answers have been given.

One of the lessons is, that we have two view our efforts as being but HALF. The other half comes from the Almighty.

In other words. There are two partners to the ‘dance’ of life. Hashem and the human he created.

The Creator wants the created being to do his best and try his hardest. Hashem instructs us to put forth our sincere efforts. In all aspects of life. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

As I heard it put, ‘G-d doesn’t ask you to give what you DON’T have, but He does ask you to give what you DO have’.

At the same time one should always remember that whatever the human being does, is really no more than half. We are dependent on Hashem to provide His blessings and energy.

This way of thinking leads to a much more wholesome and peaceful way of life.

You don’t even need to run to the coconut trees and lapping waves of ‘the islands’. Ironically, there are many ‘stressed out’ people living on ‘the islands’.  Conversely, there are many tranquil people living in the hecticness of ‘the city’.

True tranquility comes from the mind.

It starts from belief and trust in Hashem.

Anxiety is often a product of trying to do more than your half and not leaving Hashems part for Hashem.

When you recognize that you have done your bit, and now it is time to allow Hashem to do His half, this brings the greatest peace of mind.

Actionable take away.

If you hit a spot of anxiety, try to remember this ‘half shekel’ meditation.

G-d only expects me to do half.

The other ‘half’ will come from G-d.

And while the situation does look overwhelming, I can remain peaceful and calm.

For I have done what I can about it.

G-d will do His part.

I don’t know how it will sort itself out, but I don’t need to stress about it. Rather, let me imagine myself as an onlooker, who (while being certain that it WILL work out) is curious to see how Hashem is going to handle this situation.

May you have a tranquil, peaceful and restful Shabbat.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Keep the change

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

This week I was cc’ed to an email that inspired me.

Avi, a friend who lives in Israel, alerted our Chabad of Thailand Israel office that his one-time donation had been charged a second time. It seems that a bug in the computer system set up a recurring donation rather than a onetime one.

Our secretary conveyed our apologies and explained that it was a technology glitch. Avi was very understanding and forgiving. Regarding our offer to reimburse him the amount of the mistaken charge, he graciously responded that he would prefer to leave that as a donation. Once it was given to Tzedaka, even though it was unintentional, he didn’t want to take it back.

A few hours later Avi wrote to me to share an incredible Divine Providence.

Avi is working on a project memorializing Jewish life in the Polish town of Ostowiec (Ostrovtza) from before the war. As part of that project, he was translating some old testimonies that had been published in Yiddish and Hebrew in that village.

Just after Avi had said he wouldn’t take back the money from Tzedaka,`he ‘happened’ to translate the following story that took place in the Jewish community in prewar Poland.

‘We, (a group of teens) started a ‘Gemach’ (Gemilut Chassadim – interest free loans) Fund’. In 1914 we had 100 rubles of capital. Our loan amounts were between 6-10 rubles. I was the treasurer and held the cash and any objects that had been given as loan guarantees. Before Pesach 1914 we had given a 6-ruble loan to a wagon driver. He had given us his wife’s earing as a guarantee. A few weeks later when I checked the box of valuables the earrings were missing. We consulted with my father who said that as the treasurer, I must pay 30 rubles penalty and that we should try to negotiate with the wagon driver to accept that amount as compensation for losing the earrings. When we went to discuss the matter with the driver, we were pleasantly surprised. It turns out that he had asked for the earring back before Pesach so that his wife could go to Synagogue looking respectable. This was a very sweet ending as when I tried to return the 30 ruble that my father had given on my behalf, my father refused to accept it. He said that from Tzedaka you don’t take back. It should be added as a donation to the loan fund.’

Avi shared this with me with excitement. As literally an hour or so after he had said he would not take back money from the Tzedakah (even thought it was ‘mistaken’), he read this story from 1914 where that same concept was practiced.

This was inspiring to me. I contemplated sharing it in my weekly email but wasn’t sure.

Except that yesterday I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was an elderly woman who lives in Thailand, she is not Jewish but was asking me for the banking details of Chabad of Thailand Foundation to deposit a donation from her friend.  Here is what she told me.

I offered to help a friend who lives overseas redo the fading wording on their parents’ memorial stone at a cemetery in Thailand and my friend sent me money to cover the expenses. She sent me too much money though. I asked my friend whether she wanted me to send back the extra, or perhaps she wanted to give it to charity in Thailand. She chose to give it to several local charities. As she is Jewish, she asked that I give some to Chabad of Thailand.

Three encounters in one week of money that was not intended for Tzedakah, but once having left the account of the person the giver chose not to take it back. Rather it was reappropriated to Tzedakah.

This third story tipped the scales for me. Three stories in one week! I knew that I must share these stories and I must find the message contained therein.

Surely if I reflected on these stories, I would find a connection to the weekly Parsha. For the Alter Rebbe taught that we should ‘live with the times’ i.e. we should find our lessons for contemporary life, in the weekly Torah portion.

This week’s parsha Tetzaveh, is the only portion since Moshe’s birth at the beginning of the book of Exodus, that his name is not mentioned.

It is not just by chance. It is a result of something Moshe said.

After the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem was so displeased with the Jewish People that He proposed to start a new Jewish people from Moshe. When Moshe heard this, he reacted with an ultimatum saying, that either Hashem must forgive the Jews, ‘and if not wipe me out of the book that You have written’. In other words, either have compassion on this nation by forgiving them and continuing the Jewish people with them, or take me out of the picture.

Hashem did forgive the Jews based on Moshe’s entreaties.

If you follow the exact wording of the ultimatum, this meant that Moshe could ‘stay in the book’ of the Torah.

Our Sages tell us, that since Moshe had uttered those words, ‘erase me from the book’, some residual affect did remain. He is symbolically not mentioned in one portion of the Torah.

The portion in which his name is absent, is this week’s portion. (The Sages point out that this is also providential, as the reading of this ‘Moshe’less’ Parsha is in close proximity to the day of his passing).

Does this sound like a punishment? Moshe’s name is taken out of one parsha because he ‘stood up’ on behalf of his people?

In light of the above stories I had an interesting thought. Perhaps following through on being omitted from the ‘book’ (in a very reduced way) was actually Moshe’s will.

Moshe had ‘given’ the greatest ‘tzedaka’ possible to his people. He had said I will remove myself if my people is not saved. The sacrifice Moshe was prepared to make on behalf of his people was an epic ‘tzedaka’ gift!

Now Hashem has said that he is going forgive the people and thus according to the ‘deal’ Moshe proposed, his name can stay in the Torah.

Perhaps Moshe says, I don’t want to take back that Tzedaka that I have  given.

A compromise is reached. Moshe’s name is omitted from one Parsha.

Once we are discussing this topic, let’s try to analyse, what  was Hashem’s view of Moshe’s act of sacrifice?

Was it viewed by Him as ‘chutzpah’ G-d forbid? I mean, Moshe did give an ultimatum after all. Is that the way one should speak to G-d?

The opposite is true. We see in the final words of the Torah how Hashem cherished and lauded Moshe for this heroic self-sacrifice.

Click here for an article that explains the breaking of the tablets, a similarly bold undertaking of Moshe.

In Hashem’s eyes (so to speak) Moshe’s statement was the statement of the ultimate Jewish leader. A leader who puts himself aside on behalf of his people. Being that these are G-d’s children that Moshe is caring for, Hashem is ‘happy’ to hear that Moshe is ready to forego everything on their behalf.

The message to us?

You got an unexpected windfall? A reimbursement? The money is out of your domain?

Redirect it to Tzedaka to help others.

When you have undertaken to do something good, don’t walk back on it.

You committed verbally to do something nice for someone?

Make good on it. How often do people say ‘lets stay in touch’ and then not do anything about it. Or make a commitment like ‘I am going to take you out for coffee…’ and then promptly forget about it. (If you are in Bangkok, JCafe is a great place for coffee and schmooze 😊 ).

Make good on your verbal commitments.

Furthermore, even if you only had a good THOUGHT to do something good, take yourself seriously and ACT on it.

And while we can’t be as great as Moshe, we can certainly try to act more ‘Moshe’like’ and learn to put ourselves on the side on behalf of others.

With blessing of Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS in honor of the month of Adar, where anguish was turned to joy, I share this below link. It is a story that inspired me deeply, and I trust that you too will be likewise touched.

From Con Man to Chassid – the true story of Pinchas ben Peretz Halevi

May we all be motivated to have the courage to transform ourselves, from good to even gooder.

blizzards to sunny beaches

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

During these winter months, it is quite comfortable to be living in Thailand.

Just reading about the recent weather patterns in Israel and large parts of USA makes one shiver.

My brother-in-law Rabbi Shalom Paltiel, is the founder of Chabad of Port Washington, in New Yorks Long Island. Maybe that is why he shared a story about a blizzard in a recent email newsletter.

The story inspired me deeply, and I am sharing it the way he wrote it.

Growing up, my father (may he be well for long and healthy years) would tell us a story of a man journeying on foot from town to town, back in the day, when he was confronted by a huge snowstorm. He's in middle of nowhere between towns, there isn't an inn or any house in sight, and he's beginning to freeze.

After trekking for hours in blizzard conditions, he's feeling weak and tired. But he keeps on moving in the direction of the nearest town. Each time he's tempted to succumb to the temptation to take a little rest, he forges ahead, realizing that even a short nap means he'll surely freeze to death.

But eventually the exhaustion gets the better of him. He's exhausted. He's totally depleted. He can't move another inch. He's feeling dizzy and faint. He makes the bad decision, against his better judgement, to take a little rest, telling himself it'll be a short rest and it'll be ok...

As he sits down near a tree, and clears away some snow, he feels a human hand beneath the snow... OMG! He quickly moves away more snow to uncover a full human being lying frozen under the snow. He takes the man's pulse. It's still beating. He jumps into action! With newfound strength he lifts the man, shakes the snow off of him, throws him on his shoulder, and runs to the next town...

Saving two lives...

My father would explain the anecdote to give insight into the Rebbe's approach to Jewish outreach. The Rebbe encouraged every Jew to be an ambassador for Judaism, sharing whatever he or she knows and practices to help inspire another Jew, paying forward the love and the inspiration, one Jew at a time, with one Mitzvah at a time.


"Warming up" a fellow Jew is the surest way to keep ourselves warm and inspired!

When it's cold and snowy outside, my heart is always warmed with the sweetness of the message this story conveys. Let's keep the inspiration going. Let's keep it warm on the inside, and these freezing days will have served their purpose well.

Stay well and stay warm!

Thanks dear brother-in-law for sharing that inspiring concept.

Now, let me get you out of the cold and bring you back to the sun and its warmth. I write to you from the heat of Bangkok with air-conditioning on, not heating.

It’s a very special time. We are in the first week of the month of Adar, (of which this year we have two due to the Jewish ‘leap year’).

Adar, is the month that the sages instruct us to be happy. It’s a healthy and happy month. G-d Almighty saved us from the despotic, tyrannical Haman who intended to carry out genocide against our people. Things were transformed. We didn’t just get our lives back, and succeed in repelling the pogrom, we got a new holiday added to our calendar. The holiday of Purim (this year Wednesday night/Thursday – March 16-17). The most joyous day of the Jewish calendar is Purim.

The joy of Purim spreads to the entire month. In this year its two months. SIXTY DAYS of Adar. Sixty days of joy.

The Rebbe made a very passionate plea to urge all of us (you, I, and anyone else who hears the message) to rejoice, but not just keep the joy to ourselves. Rather we should be sure to bring joy to OTHERS!!!

Starting of course with your own immediate family. Spouse. Children. Other family members.

But not limited to your family circle only.

Preferably your ripples should spread even broader, to a ‘minyan’ of people – to TEN other people at least.

Do you know what happens when you cause others to be joyous?

Yep. You guessed. YOU TOO BECOME JOYOUS.

And do you know what happens when you become joyous?


So here is the recipe to happiness.

Look to make someone else joyous. Moreover, look to make a ‘minyan’ of people joyous.

Just like that snow story. If you are busy making others happy you too will be happy. You can take a look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate the great joy that you have been suffused with. Don’t put up barriers. Just let yourself ‘go with the flow’ of healthy and positive energy that comes your way.

Hashem gave me a special opportunity this week.

As Covid shut the world down, I had been hearing more and more, of Israeli families relocating to the island of Ko Pangan. As part of my mission from the Rebbe to spread Torah throughout the Thailand region, I realized it was time to pay a visit, and feel out what Ko Pangan was like and consider how to best service the Jews living there.

An opportunity arose. A friend from Bangkok was visiting Ko Pangan and introduced me via video call to a family living on the island who has a son approaching Bar Mitzvah. The ceremony and celebration will take place in Israel, but they asked me if I could teach the boy to prepare him. I now had a concrete mission. A Jewish boy, reaching the age of manhood, and I had the opportunity to teach him how to put on Tefilin and be called to the Torah. This to me is presented the perfect and irresistible reason to make time to visit Ko Pangan and meet the family.

It is always a challenge to find the time to make exploratory trips of this nature. Hashem presented me with the perfect opportunity. Earlier this week I found that some appointments on my schedule had been changed unexpectedly, leaving me with two days that I could make this trip. I asked my wife if she would be game to go to Ko Pangan for the day. When she heard the reasons, to further our mission of spreading Torah and meeting a potential Bar Mitzvah student, she gave the green light.

Off we went. Flight to Samui. Transfer to pier. Speedboat/ferry ride of 30 minutes to Ko Pangan. Hot sun. Choppy waters. Strong smell of engine fuel. I can’t say we enjoyed the ride. In the pictures it sounds nice, and the word speedboat ferry sounds glorious. Which is why you can’t rely on social media posts to experience life. You need to get out there and actually experience things.

We visited various areas of the island and had some very enlightening and informative meetings and experiences. We wound up our visit with our meeting with the Bar Mitzvah boy. We met just across the street from pier. I put on tefillin with the father and confirmed that they would come to Bangkok for some lessons, which we would complement with lessons via Zoom. Off we went to the return ferry.

The ferry departure time was 16:30. At about 16:25 they started boarding. Jumping into the bobbing boat was not something I do every day but we made it in safely thank G-d. After sitting down on the boat, I took out my phone and noted the arrival of a new voice note from a number in the USA that I didn’t recognize. That voice note had arrived at 16:28.

As the boat was revving up its engine to leave the island, I listened to the note. It was from a friend of mine in Yeshiva. He called to tell me that his son – who has the soul of a ‘searcher’ – would be coming to spend six months on some island not far from Ko Samui to learn Muay Tai. He was sending me the note to introduce his son to me and tell me that he was coming. He didn’t know the name of the island. Only that it was near Ko Samui as his son said he would visit Chabad of Ko Samui periodically.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

I asked my friend (not sure what he was doing up at 4:28 AM in the USA) is the name of the island Ko Pangan? He confirmed a few minutes later that yes, his son was coming to Ko Pangan. I told my friend that I was just concluding a fact-finding mission and was on my way off that very island.

Divine Providence at its best.

I could not have received greater heavenly confirmation to our itinerary than this.

Just as we had concluded a pioneering visit to the island, we got a further sign that indeed Ko Pangan, while being famous for its parties, has another dimension to it. It is also a haven for people looking for meaning and purpose in life. Apparently against the backdrop of this calming and peaceful island people are able to slow down and get more in touch with themselves.

Wouldn’t this be a wonderful location to spread the depth and meaningfulness of Torah? We left from this short visit with a much deeper understanding and feeling about the nature of the island and the mindset of the Jewish people who choose to call it home or pay it visits of varying lengths.

To be continued please G-d.

The ferry ride back to Ko Samui was even more turbulent than the way there. not very enjoyable to say the least. After a brief visit to Chabad House of Ko Samui where we enjoyed Rabbi Mendy Goldschmiedt’s warm hospitality, we flew back to Bangkok. Happy to be back ‘home’ in our familiar environment.

It’s a few days later, but Nechama and I are still elated and uplifted from the positive energy of this trip and the possibilities that exist for reaching more Jews and spreading more Torah and Mitzvahs. Especially this G-dly ‘caress’ of the voice note showing up when it did. This showed us in a tangible way just how every detail of our lives is directed by the Almighty down to the exact timing of visits and voice notes.

Our visit was on the first day of the month of Adar.

Clearly, Hashem gifted us with a JOYOUS trip and an affectionate gesture by showing us the openly Divine Providence coming together of events.

My month of Adar blessings to you, my dear friend.

May Hashem remove all obstacles to happiness.

May Hashem provide you with all of the ingredients that engender JOYOUSNESS.

Good health, stable income, nachas from children, amongst all of the other ingredients that make happiness easier to achieve.

And may you adopt the Rebbe’s advice, to make others happy, and have much success in achieving the mission of spreading happiness to others, and becoming a HAPPIER YOU!

May the Almighty grant our world the ultimate happiness. The coming of Mashiach NOW!!!

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