"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

a tale of two pens

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today is Rosh Chodesh – the ‘head of the month’. In this case the month of Menachem Av. The ninth of this month is the national day of mourning for our destroyed Temples – Tisha B’av.

Together with mourning for our lost Bet Hamikdash, this is a time when we become acutely aware and thus extremely motivated to do things to bring Mashiach and to learn all about the Bet Hamikdash.

It was therefore quite inspiring when a Efraim, a retired Jewish man who lives several hours drive away, came in to say hello on his visit to Bangkok earlier this week and unexpectedly talk to me about Mashiach.

He didn’t just ‘talk’ about Mashiach, Efraim actually brought me a new pen in a sheath and said I would like you to keep this pen and use it when Mashiach comes. I looked at him quizzically. Why would I need a pen when Mashiach comes? Efraim explained, when Mashiach comes we will all go to Israel. Please use this pen at that time, to sign the documents of sale for the Chabad Houses in Thailand. After all, if we are all going to Israel, we won’t be needing the properties here.

I explained to him that there is a tradition recorded in the Talmud Megilah 29a that all Synagogues will all relocate to Israel when Mashiach comes:

It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says: In the future, the synagogues and the study halls in Babylonia will be transported and reestablished in Eretz Yisrael

I am not sure exactly how that will be fulfilled in terms of actual buildings and ‘real estate’. There are many wondrous and above-nature phenomena that our Prophets and Sages have shared with us that will come to be when the Mashiach comes. While we look forward to those prophesies being fulfilled, it is clear that we don’t understand nor do we have to understand, exactly how those things will come to be. When Mashiach comes we will find out exactly how things unfold.

In the words of Rambam (Laws concerning Kings and the Mashiach Ch 12, 2)

All these and similar matters, however, man will not know how they will occur until they come to pass; for in the [statements of the] prophets these are undefined matters, and the sages, too, do not have a clear tradition on these subjects except for the [apparent] implications of the Scriptural verses. That is why they have differences of opinion in these matters. In any case, neither the sequence of these events nor their details are fundamental to the faith.

What we do know very clearly is as the Rambam concludes the above chapter:

In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor strife, because good will emanate in abundance and all delightful things will be accessible as dust. The one preoccupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. The Israelites, therefore, will be great sages and know the hidden matters, and they will attain knowledge of their Creator to the extent of human capacity, as it is said: “The earth shall be full with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea!”

Based on the above, I won’t need the pen for selling properties as the Synagogues and Chabad Houses will relocate. However, I told Efraim that I was very happy that he brought me this pen to be used when Mashiach comes. For it is a good tangible counterbalance to another pen that I was given recently as a promotional item. It is from the Asia-One’ undertaker firm that we use for burials. Khun Hiran of Asia-One brought me some promotional pens from his company. Both pens look quite similar. But what a contrast between their intentions.

One pen is from a company that deals with providing services after death.

The other pen was gifted to me to await the arrival of the coming of Mashiach.

It reminded me of the story of two clocks:

In one of his travels, chassidic master Rabbi Yisachar Dov Ber of Radoshitz occasioned to stay the night at a wayside inn. In the morning, he sought out the innkeeper.

"The clock," he asked excitedly, "the clock you have hanging in my room — where is it from? Where did you get that wonderful clock?"

"Why," said the surprised innkeeper, "it's quite an ordinary clock. There are hundreds like it hanging in homes throughout the country."

"No, no," insisted Rabbi Yisachar Dov. "This is no ordinary clock. You must find out for me where this clock comes from."

If only to humor his guest, the innkeeper made some inquiries, which yielded the information that this clock once belonged to the famed "Seer of Lublin," Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz. An heir of the "Seer" had been forced by poverty to sell all his possessions, and so the clock passed from owner to owner until it came to hang in one of the guestrooms of the inn.

"Of course!" exclaimed Rabbi Yisachar Dov upon hearing the clock's history. "This clock could only have belonged to the 'Seer of Lublin.' Only the Seer's clock could mark time in such a manner!

"Your standard clock," he explained to his host, "strikes such a mournful tone. 'Another hour of your life has passed you by,' it says. 'You are now one hour closer to the grave.' But this clock proclaims: 'Another hour of galut (exile) has gone by. You are now one hour closer to the coming of Moshiach and the Redemption...'

"All through the night," concluded Rabbi Yisachar Dov, "whenever this clock sounded the hour, I leapt from my bed and danced for joy."

I then shared with Efraim, a saying that I had heard jokingly from my dear friend Mr. Abi Kashani and his older brother and business partner, Yitschak.

‘One of two things will happen during our lifetime. Life will not just continue the way it is for ever. Either the Mashiach will come to redeem us, or the ‘malach hamavet’ the angel of death, will come to take us. The question is only, which will come first.’

I wouldn’t have recalled this exchange with Efraim if not for the following notable fact. This discussion took place on Wednesday afternoon Bangkok time in my office.

At around the same time, but 11 hours behind, in NY, in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, Mr. Yitschak Kashani passed away afer an illness, surrounded by his loved ones. May his memory be for a blessing.

Condolences may be sent to his brother Mr. Abi Kashani by email

I realized that this verbal exchange in which I quoted the Kashani’s regarding Mashiach vs angel of death, had happened at the same time as the passing of Yitzchak. I point this out, because of the impact it made on me as it showed me so openly yet another instance of G-d’s Divine Providence.

May Mashiach come and wipe away all tears and eradicate death, before the angel of death is able to take anyone else.

As I reflect on the life of Mr. Yitshak Kashani I recall the below story about his wedding.

Rabbi Kotlarsky of Lubavitch World Headquarters was invited to attend Mr. Yitschak Kashani’s wedding that took place in Long Island a few days before Pesach. Actually, it took place on the eve of 11 Nissan 1989 which corresponded with the Rebbe’s 87th birthday. Rabbi Kotlarsky came very late to the wedding as he waited till the Rebbe addressed the crowd in his Synagogue and only then did he head out to Long Island. Rabbi Kotlarsky was sure that he has missed the Chupa. He was astonished to find that Yitzchak had insisted to wait with the Chupa till he, the Rebbe’s emissary would come. Rabbi Kotlarsky read the Rebbe’s letter of blessing that he had sent for the occasion and the Chupa proceeded. The Chupa was followed by the wedding reception. It was getting late and Rabbi Kotlarsky wanted to head back to Brooklyn but Yitzchak insisted that he stay a while longer. It was soon evident why.

After the first dance, the lights were dimmed, champagne was poured, and a birthday cake was brought out. With 88 candles. The Kashani’s had prepared this cake in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday as he entered his 88th year.

Rabbi Kotlarsky was very touched, and he explained to the assembled that the way to give a birthday gift to the Rebbe would be via undertaking to do mitzvahs in honor of the birthday. The men should undertake to lay Tefilin, the women to light candles among various other mitzvahs.

Upon his arrival back to Brooklyn very late at night, Rabbi Kotlarsky wrote a note to the Rebbe describing the beautiful and inspiring wedding and gave it to the attendant who was living in the Rebbe’s home. The next morning, before Shachrit, the attendant told Rabbi Kotlarsky that in the few hours since he had penned his note, the Rebbe had already responded to his report.

The Rebbe had made a note regarding the birthday candles, that ‘in general, care must be taken with candles placed upon food, to ensure that there are no non-kosher ingredients’. (Candles, especially in the olden times, often contained animal fats which would render it unkosher).

And regarding the report in general, the Rebbe responded, ‘may you always be able to share good news, and in a growing way’.

The above is an inspiring story that speaks of the deep respect and esteem that the Yitzchak Kashani had for the Rebbe. And it gives a glimpse at the Rebbe’s unflagging devotion to leading the Jewish community, paying attention to even the smallest details. Like the concern about checking that the candles on a birthday cake be unquestionably kosher.  

During these days leading up to the commemoration of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash we are instructed to decrease our joy and enjoyment. Click here for laws pertaining to this time period.

As well, during this time we are empowered to study about the building of the Bet Hamkidash. Through studying about its building, we are credited as if we had actually built it. Click here to study about the Bet Hamikdash

This is a time period where we ought to add in good and loving deeds, study more Torah and give more Tzedaka, so that Mashiach comes NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

toothbrush motivation

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

How would you feel if someone reacted to your challenging situation by telling you ‘keep plodding forward!!’

Initially I was a little disappointed to receive that blessing. Plodding forward? Plodding means moving along slowly. What kind of a blessing is that? To move along slowly?

Running, Jumping, Soaring, now that would be a blessing.

But, seeing that it was my very own brother that blessed me in this way, I knew that he had a deeper intention.

Google brings up the following for plodding: To move, progress, or develop at a slow but constant and deliberate pace.

Move. Progress. Constant. This is what he meant by plodding. In this context, my brother words ‘hit the spot’. As this was a theme I have been thinking about the entire week.

This weeks Parsha gives the instruction for the daily sacrifice in the Bet Hamikdash. One lamb in the morning. One lamb in the afternoon. Day in and day out. The same daily ritual has to be followed on a simple dreary Wednesday or on the holiest day of Yom Kippur (when multiple other sacrifices were also offered). The daily sacrifice was brought. ‘Rain or shine’.

During the lead up to the destruction of the Second Temple, this daily sacrifice was discontinued due to a siege that didn’t allow for lambs to be available in Jerusalem.

One of the reasons for fasting on the the 17th day of Tammuz, is that on that date, the daily constant sacrifice was interrupted.

(The Sages continued the tradition of ‘one in the morning’ and ‘one in the afternoon’ by instituting the morning prayers and the afternoon prayers. Shacharit and Mincha. Watch 'moment of wisdom' above to learn about Maariv the third daily (evening) prayer).

Things that are repeated daily can be viewed by some as ‘boring’. However, that would be overlooking the gift of that routine brings. For there is something very special about the constancy and consistency of never-changing repeated rituals.

Let us think about the patterns of behavior in everyday life. There are some activities we perform only when we are in a good mood. For example, when we feel buoyant, we like to be social and host guests for a meal. When we feel down-in-the-dumps we isolate ourselves preferring privacy.

Then there are things that we do regardless of what mood we are in.

Like brushing teeth or personal hygiene in general. Or a morning coffee which for many, is a daily ritual rarely to be missed. Checking for messages on email or other communication forms is for many people a consistent activity done daily.

The ‘regular’ daily things are sometimes boring. Monotonous. Even irritating at times. (Ask kids about brushing teeth. They will tell you how irksome it is).

But these habits are placeholders in our lives that keep us grounded and anchored.

When one is low-energy or in a bad mood, one may not be motivated to do exciting things. There is even a danger that a person may fall into a vortex of self-defeating behavior. Like staying in bed with your head under the covers.

The rituals that are embedded into the day will often be the savior. A person may not be in the mood to get out of bed, but the habit of checking the email may get him out of bed (hint hint: don’t take your phone to bed). Once out of bed he will muster up the strength to start his day. One may be too lethargic to go to work. The daily coffee may provide the perky spark needed to get one out of home and off to work.

For people in ‘recovery’ from addiction, setting a schedule for a phone call with their mentor is a powerful tool for ensuring that they don’t fall back into self-destructive behavior. If they get into the habit of calling their mentor, then even if they have begun to fall, they will be caught early enough.

It’s the same way with our connection to G-d via doing His mitzvahs.

One may not always wake up feeling connected to G-d like they do on Pesach or Yom Kippur. Sometimes one even feels downright disinterested in making the effort to connect to G-d.

The daily rituals that we embed into our schedule, Modeh Ani for example, laying Tefilin, saying the Shema, putting a coin into a Tzedaka box and other similar things, serve as a ‘placeholder’ and catalyst for getting ‘over the hump’ of indifference. Often all it takes, is saying ‘Thank You Hashem’ with ‘kavana’ - ‘meaningful intention’ and the energy of the connection with G-d comes rushing back into our life.

This is why the instruction on the daily sacrifice is so central to the Torah. Click here for more on this.

It's great to feel bouncy. If you are mostly a positive energy person you are blessed. But one cannot just rely on natural buoyant energy to be the only source of motivation.

Its critical to first and foremost have the consistency of ‘plodding along’.

Because if you keep taking one step after the other, you will get ‘there’ eventually.

When the consistent and daily sacrifice was discontinued, this is a reason to be sad and worried. It is one of the causes of our fast day.

(In the parallel of daily life, if one is not keeping up with the daily routine chores like taking care of their personal hygiene, this is a warning sign. If it continues for a while they may need professional help).

When you consistently ‘plod along’ you will find that G-d will bless you with special energetic moments as well. Moments of jumping and dancing.

Just as it was with the sacrifices. Besides for the daily unchanging sacrifices, there were additional much more elaborate sacrifices. For Shabbat and Chagim there were multiple special offerings. There were sacrifices for thanksgiving after lifecycle events like birth. When something extraordinary happened like being saved from a life-threatening situation there was an ‘extra-curricular’ sacrifice.

But at all times and on every day, there was the constant and consistent daily offering. One in the morning. One in the afternoon.

There is something else very special about dedicatedly sticking to G-d’s routine rituals. By faithfully maintaining the ‘boring’ and repetitious schedule just because G-d said so, one proclaims the strongest and deepest form of commitment.

Doing the exciting stuff is easy. There are many clients for that work. The unassuming but critical ongoing groundwork, which some see as drudgery, this is where true commitment becomes expressed.

(I would like to take this moment to give a shout out to all those ‘unsung heroes’ who do so much for their loved ones and friends on a consistent basis. They work tirelessly, yet often they are not properly recognized or thanked.

The following joke sums it up:

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.

He found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?”

She again smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?”

“Yes,” was his incredulous reply.

She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”

Take this as a reminder to thank those in your life who do so much for you, with so little fanfare).

Thank you brother for wishing me success in ‘plodding along’. I know what you meant. You conveyed to me the great blessing that only comes from investment of time, energy and effort. You reminded and encouraged me to keep up the consistent effort to do the right thing. Because as we both know, that is the ‘long but short’ way to success.

May we all be blessed that our determined and consistent efforts be crowned with success.

And may the blessing extend to the extraordinary. May Hashem give us the ability to run, jump and even soar higher and higher.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Kids are born with an intuition that borders on genius.

A kid instinctively knows that their whining is a key that can open many a door.

Kids know that crying, with the right amount of determination is like a ‘master’ key.

Making you feel like you are being unfair to them is another tool that kids employ with success. As in ‘everyone else’s mother is letting them do xyz, only you don’t let me do it’.

If your kid finds you in a good mood, they intuit that that’s a good time to ask for the ‘keys to the car’.

If you are in a bad mood, there are ways kids can use that too.

For example, many a kid knows how to identify when their parent is angry and get them to channel that anger against a teacher that may have acted unkindly to them. There is nothing like anger to beget more anger.

How to predict when their parent will be angry, that is a little more complicated. Especially, if we are talking about a perfectly keeled, emotionally balanced parent. Why would they get angry just like that?

With G-d, you would need to be a prophet to figure out when G-d is ‘short-tempered’ and in an ‘angry mood’ so to speak.

Bil’am was a non-Jewish prophet who was given prophetic powers by G-d to create a contra to the positive prophecy of Moshe. The way G-d created our world is that there should be a balance between good and bad. It is then our task to choose good over bad and make the world a holy place.

Bil’am, in his capacity of someone who had a ‘powerful mouth’, was hired by Balak the king of Moav, to curse the Jewish people.

What was Bil’am thinking when he agreed to take on the task. You don’t need to be a prophet to know that G-d loves His children. Why would Bil’am assume that G-d would agree to allow him to curse his beloved children?

Bil’am accepted the job because he had some information that he thought would allow him to succeed. Bil’am knew that G-d has a brief moment every day when He – so to speak – gets angry at the wicked. Bil’am figured that if he curses the Jews at that precise moment, he would be able to get some traction. When G-d is in a ‘judgmental mode’ its possible to point out something negative, even if ever so tiny.

Yet, he was unsuccessful. The Torah tells us that Bil’am was unable to curse the Jews. He couldn’t find that moment of anger, hard as the tried.

Not because he was not a powerful prophet. He was the most high-level non-Jewish prophet in history.

Rather it was because G-d had totally suspended the ‘moment of anger’ during the time that Bil’am was searching for it to use it in unscrupulous ways.

That is how much G-d loves His people.

When you love someone totally and unconditionally, you don’t even want to listen to anything negative about them.

Even if you know that they are not perfect.

You may be having a ‘brotherly fight’. But if a stranger mixes in, both brothers will join together to repel that intruder.

G-d has some complaints about us at times. We are not perfect.

But to let an ‘outsider’ curse us?

No way!

That is the message of this week’s portion.

Unity. Brotherhood. Love. Togetherness.

Friends, the skies have opened. The tourists are streaming into Thailand. The Jewish tourists are visiting the Chabad centers throughout Thailand in large numbers. Israelis in particular are returning to travel in Thailand.

Israelis, and Jews in general have many opinions. As the famous saying goes, ‘two Jews, three opinions’. Follow the election cycle in Israel and you will see that it’s very difficult to get a consensus.

However, as much as we like to ‘quibble’ between ourselves, we have to take our cue from G-d.

When someone from the outside tries to challenge our right to exist, when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head, we have to close ranks and stand up for each other.

And we do.

We have all seen it time and time again. When there is a real threat, when danger faces us from the outside we stand together.

So lets get one step better.

When times are good. When there is no threat from the outside. Let’s up the ante, and get better at loving and appreciating each other. And at the same time leaving space for each other’s individuality.

As Bil’am said (intending to curse but it was transformed to blessing) ‘How goodly are your tents Jacob, your dwelling places Israel’. This is understood to mean the tent formation of the Jewish people in the desert. In close proximity to each other, but with entrances that didn’t face each other and allowed each family unit their privacy.

Individual. Each one is important. Important to the collective.

Our Sages tell us that the destruction of the Bet Hamkdash was a result of our inability to get along. The antidote is therefore our togetherness.

Next time you think of quibbling with someone else, consider foregoing your point for the sake of Shalom.

Together. Forever.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Our unity is our strength.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Empowering Expectations

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

With such an eventful sendoff at the Bangkok airport, as I embarked on my trip to the Rebbe on the occasion of his yahrtzeit, you can imagine that the trip itself was special.

It was indeed extraordinarily inspirational.

More than 50,000 visitors prayed at the Rebbe’s resting place during this period. Including the mayor of New York.

There was one particular theme about the Rebbe’s approach to the nurturing of others, that grabbed my attention and became the message I took home with me.

Acceptance | Empowerment | Expectations

These are the ingredients needed when nurturing children, students or anyone else in your sphere of influence.

Let me explain.

Mrs. Rishe D. was interviewed about her experiences as a young girl accompanying her parents to a private audience with the Rebbe. She told about the feeling of love and acceptance and how the Rebbe offered her a choice of lollypops (she chose red).

‘But’, Mrs D. continued, ‘a good grandmother also receives her grandchildren with love acceptance and lollypops’.

‘Visiting the Rebbe was different’ summed up Mrs. R. ‘When visiting the Rebbe, we also felt that the Rebbe had expectations of us.’

Expectations sound a bit judgmental. Many a child has complained that they have felt judged when they didn’t live up to their parents’ expectations. This has sometimes led to negative results and low self-esteem.

It is therefore important to emphasize the overarching feeling of love and acceptance that was the backdrop of all interaction with the Rebbe.

From the context of total acceptance, expectations are an indication not of judgmentalism but rather empowerment.

Expectations on their own, can be a source of feeling judged.

When the expectations for what that person can achieve, are preceded by non-judgmental acceptance, this becomes the empowerment that is so critical to personal growth.

The Rebbe totally accepted every person the way they were and saw the inherent good in them.

Yet he also saw the latent potential that was still waiting to be unpacked and fulfilled.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z”L said ‘ You saw your reflection in the Rebbe’s eyes, and you were suddenly much bigger than you thought you were.’

I met Boruch D. in NY. While he grew up in a Chassidic home he veered off the ‘straight and narrow’ and became a bit of a ‘hippy’. Boruch was not outwardly Chassidic looking. His aunt once brought him to receive a dollar and a blessing from the Rebbe and proudly said about her nephew Boruch that ‘he has now become a good young man. He prays daily, wears Tzitzis….’

To which the Rebbe responded, ‘why do you say he has become good, he was always good’.

This was the Rebbe’s trademark acceptance.

‘Boruch, you are already good’.

But the interaction didn’t end there.

The Rebbe then gave Boruch a dollar for tzedakah and said ‘this is for an addition in all good things’.

The Rebbe was stating his expectations for Boruch to increase in doing good things.

This is a winning combination.

Acceptance plus Expectation = Empowerment.

The Rebbe taught this by example.

Take this message and apply it to your life.

First of all, recognize that you are amazing. Hashem loves you. Just as you are.

Then, recognize that there is a role Hashem is expecting you to play which only you can fulfil.

He expects you to rise to that occasion. To aim for greater heights.

If He has expectations, and of course you believe in Him, then that means that you have the means to fulfill those expectations.

You must be bigger and more endowed than you previously thought.

That should make you filled with an inner peace and self-esteem. And it should produce within you an inner drive to do even better than before.

After all, if G-d believes in you, who are you to say you don’t believe in yourself.

He – G-d the Creator of all of existence - knows better.

Treat your children in this way. Your students. Peers. And anyone else you interact with. The world will be a kinder more loving and more good-deeds-filled place.

I came home to Thailand (yes, Thailand is home…) feeling that more is expected of me.

To do more good, to more people, in a more beneficial way.

And if that is expected of me it’s not because I am being judged disparagingly.

Rather, it means that G-d has empowered me to do even more.

Feeling empowered is blessedly uplifting.

I hope you read these lines and apply this way of thinking and feel that way too. Because if we act collectively, we have so much more power. The power of community and joint effort is very great.

Let’s change the world together, deed by deed.

And bring Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

In G-d we TRUST


Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

By the Grace of G-d,

Dear Friend,

I would say that I experienced an anti-Semitic incident as I waited to board a Thai Airways flight this week, but to be honest, I cannot be sure that the person who accosted me was anti-Semitic. He didn’t scream any hateful epithets about me being Jewish. Yet, clearly my appearance (beard, black fedora, dark suit) agitated him.

It happened in the Bangkok airport as I was waiting to board my flight to NY with a stop in Munich. Out of nowhere, a man in what seemed to be his 70's screamed at me: "take that off, you don't trust in anything! '. I gave him a questioning look as I was not sure if he was talking to me and walked on towards the passport-check at the boarding gate. The man got up and walked over to me, pulled at my jacket and repeated in a screaming voice 'take that off! You don't trust in anything!' 

The man who had accosted me looked Western and his accent didn’t give much else away. He was not wearing a mask even though in Thailand airport it's still mandated and everyone else was wearing a mask. I had initially thought he was ticked off by my mask, but when he pulled at my jacket and continued screaming it was clear to me that it was my obviously Jewish looking garb that was sparking his outburst.

By this time all the people around noticed this unprovoked incident. He went back to his seat and sat down but I pulled out of the line and told the Thai airways staff that I would not feel safe boarding a plane with him on board. The Thai Airways staff handled the matter very professionally. A senior supervisor came and reassured me that this person would not be boarding the flight. A passenger who had been sitting next to him at the gate area told me that he was drunk. 

Obviously, my rabbinic style clothing had set something off.

Could it be that he my appearance reminded him of something or someone?

Or perhaps he was just a deranged person with prejudice and bias spilling over when he had too much alcohol. 

Regardless of who that man was and what ticked him off, I was shaken up by the experience. It was a mixture of fear and indignance. This turned to thankfulness to Hashem that the person had been denied boarding and my flight passed without incident.

Yet, as I reflected on the incident, it hit me with intense clarity that G-d had sent me a powerful message. I felt incredibly inspired and grateful to Hashem for sending me that message exactly at the time that He did.

You see, during the few days before my flight, there were some matters that were causing me stress. Yes, Rabbi’s have many duties and some of them involve stressful situations. 

Of course, I was mindful of the fact that if one has true faith and TRUST in Hashem, one has the ability to remain calm and not feel stressed. There is an entire treatise called ‘Gates of Trust’ teaching about the centrality of trust in Hashem. And how when one truly relies on Hashem, one is able to live life in a calm near blissful way. ( Click here for articles and lectures on this topic). 

In reality though, I wasn’t exercising proper ‘trust’ mindset and my feelings were not matching my mental awareness. 

I ‘knew’ in my mind that Hashem is in charge and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. It was also clear to me that I need to be proactive and do what I am supposed to do, and Hashem will take care. However, in my heart and nerves I was ‘feeling’ pressured by various challenging situations I was facing.

Standing in Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, I heard ‘a voice from Heaven’ through a drunken person. (The fact that he was drunk means he was not aware or in charge of what he was saying, merely a mouthpiece for a Higher Power) A voice reminding me to TRUST in Hashem.

And it came to me as I was about to board a flight to travel to the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit. Reminding me so clearly what the function of a Rebbe is and how critical it is for wholesome service of G-d.

I had a long flight to meditate on this.

What is the purpose of a Rebbe?

The word ‘Rebbi/Rebbe’ in Hebrew stands for an acronym of ‘Rosh Benei Yisrael’ = the Head of the Children of Israel.

Think of the great and holy foundational Jewish leaders. Moshe Rabeinu. Mordechai of the Purim story. The Baal Shem Tov who founded Chasidism. 

The Zohar calls Moshe the ‘faithful shepherd’. Just a shepherd tends to his sheep, Moshe, and subsequent Jewish leaders tend lovingly to the Jewish people. Caring for them and providing any form of help they can. In our generation it is so obvious how the Rebbe cares for all the generation. There is virtually no place in the globe where the the Rebbe’s emissaries are not standing by, willing and able to help others, in whatever way they can.

It goes far deeper than that. That same kabalistic term can also be translated as ‘shepherd of faith’. Just like shepherd makes sure that the sheep graze, Moshe makes sure that the Jewish people ‘ingest’ and internalize their faith.

You see, faith can remain dismembered from the persons behavior. How many people have professed to be believers in G-d, yet use that belief to act in a way that is not consistent with that belief. 

I know it sounds ludicrous, but it is not uncommon for someone to pray to G-d to help them succeed in a swindling endeavor. 

The Rebbe’s job is to be a nurturer and shepherd of faith. To ensure that the persons natural, deeply rooted faith, become the reality of their existence. That they breath, eat, live and act in a way that is consistent with their deeply rooted connection to the Almighty. 

Now, that unity and consistency between beliefs, feelings and actions, is not so simple. It requires help from the Moshe who is empowered and tasked by Hashem to shepherd and nurture the B’nei Yisrael so that their faith be real and implemented. 

R' Tzvi Freeman of summed it up nicely

In every generation, the Zohar says, the soul of Moses extends itself into the teachers and leaders of the Jewish people. 

What is the job of Moses? 

To be a shepherd of faith. To nurture his flock with faith. 

But the Jewish people are a people of innate faith, heirs to great men and women of faith all the way back to Abraham. 

So the job of Moses in every generation is not to feed them faith, but to ensure they digest the faith they already have.

To bring the wisdom of their souls into their minds, their hearts, and their everyday actions. 

Until every cell of a Jew is saturated with the deepest wisdom of the soul. 

It is this consistency that is one of the most important goals and outcomes of a trip to the Rebbe. 

How fortunate I am that Hashem sent me this ‘mission statement’ just as I was about to board my flight.

I share this you my friend, because it’s not just a story relevant to me. The day of passing of the Rebbe presents a special opportunity to Jews world over. 

Connection to the Rebbe allow for your already existent faith, to be nurtured and deepened. 

To ensure that the deepest connection to G-d that exists in your soul, becomes the way that you actually live your life.

The way to do this, to live in a way that is consistent with your deepest self, is to do deeds that are instructed by G-d our Creator. These are called Mitzvahs.

You may encounter external or internal resistance to heightening your Mitzvah observance. Voices, outer and inner, may scream out to you ‘take that off’ stop acting religious. 

Don’t listen. 

The true YOU of a Jew is his or her connection with G-d. Anything that detracts from that is ‘drunken’ irrational negative chatter.

The rest of the flight went smoothly thank G-d. I enjoyed the quiet time which I used to study, rest and study some more. I arrived in New York safely thank G-d, and headed straight over to Queens where the Rebbe’s Ohel is located. 

As I was reading the notes of blessing request, I opened a note that someone had given me just before my trip. It was from a couple I had visited in hospital who had been going through medical challenges. In this note, the wife asked for blessings for health for her husband and herself and then added a line asking for a blessing for our family. The language they used was not the usual language one would have used in Hebrew. The word ‘lehagen’ jumped out at me. She had written ‘Please beseech the Almighty to ‘protect’ the Kantor family….’. 

Providentially, she had asked for a blessing for ‘protection’. She couldn’t have known that protection was the blessing I was in immediate need of. Her prayer was indeed, thank G-d, fulfilled. The possible threat to my safety was removed just in the right time. (I don’t want to think of what may have happened if this had unfolded on the plane).

Over the next few days, I will be visiting the Rebbe’s Ohel to pray to the Almighty for myself, my family, my community and beyond. If you would like to send a note to be the read by the Ohel you may do so either by visiting or by clicking here and emailing me with your Hebrew name, your mothers Hebrew name (if you don’t know Hebrew names just use the names you know) and the nature of your request.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS On the anniversary of a tzadik’s passing, all the light that he planted in this world—his teachings, good deeds, and everything in which he invested his life and being—all this shines brightly, so that anyone connected to him can receive blessings of life, happiness, and wisdom.

How should we spend such a day? How do we make that connection? CLICK HERE to find out:

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