"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

tears? in phuket

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Rosh Hashana was exhilarating.

That is not a word I would usually associate with Rosh Hashana.

But then again, I would never have associated Rosh Hashana with ‘tent’ and ‘outdoor’ minyans. But that was the reality for many people during the past two years. We have just experienced two years of disruptive Rosh Hashana’s. The likes of which none of us have seen before.

The excitement that I felt in the crowd of three hundred local Jews who gathered to celebrate the first night of Rosh Hashana at Beth Elisheva, was palpable.

With visible smiles as we are no longer masked. With seating in proximity to each other for enhanced camaraderie.

Trillions of microbes coexisting freely between people sitting within inches of each other.

After two years of ‘aloneness’ the congregational togetherness of Rosh Hashana was indeed liberating.

I feel comfortable using the word exhilarating regarding this Rosh Hashana.

And once I opened my phone after the holiday went out, I started getting the reports from our branches throughout Thailand. Our biggest Rosh Hashana dinner location was in Phuket with 1400 guests.

That’s a lot of people.

But I want to focus on an individual encounter that took place in Phuket. It touched me deeply.

Rabbi Glitzenshtayn the new Chabad shliach in Phuket related the following:  We went out into the streets of Phuket to blow Shofar for those who were not in the Synagogue. W e met 2 girls who agreed to hear the shofar. One used to be mitzvah observant and understandably when she heard the Shofar she was emotionally moved.

The other girl defined herself as 'secular' and didn't really understand what the shofar was all about... she vaguely remembered blowing a shofar at the end of Yom Kippur

They made a blessing and I blew the Shofar. When I finished, the 'secular' girl was sobbing...

Tearfully she asked her friend in tears:

Why am I crying?!

Aren’t I secular?!

It was an amazing and moving moment. We explained to her that it was her Jewish soul, her neshama that had been aroused from its slumber by the Shofar.

My wife hugged her and invited her to the Chabad house .

The story speaks volumes about the Rebbe’s clarion call to engage with Jews and help them perform mitzvahs. It is the performance of authentic Judaism that touches and awakens the neshama of a Jew.

Ko Samui, Chiang Mai, Kaosarn Rd were also all full to the rafters. Even in pastoral and somewhat more sleepy Pai, we hosted 380 guests.

Collectively nearly 9,000 Rosh Hashana meals were served by Chabad of Thailand.

I realized that people are hungrily embracing their freedom to travel after two years of restrictions. People are traveling now, more than ever.

The biggest no-no during Covid times was public gathering. As the pandemic ebbed and rose, the amount of people allowed to congregate got adjusted upwards and downwards.

Now, events that were unthinkable during the last two years are once again permissible.

I would like to point out something about the cosmic timing of this opening up of the world.

This week’s Parsha talks about a special mitzvah that took place once every seven years. On the Sukkot festival, the year following the Sabbatical (Shmita) there was a ceremony that took place in the Bet Hamikdash called ‘Hakhel’.

“Hakhel’ means to gather. The entire Jewish nation, men, women and children were instructed to gather in the courtyard of the Bet Hamikdash. The king would read select readings from the fifth book of the Torah. This was a form of reenactment of the Sinai experience where G-d gave the Torah to the entire Jewish people.

The Torah says that this gathering was in order that they learn and revere G-d and observe all the words of the Torah.

 Click here for a comprehensive article on Hakhel.

Would you believe it. This year of 5783 (September 2022) is that very once-in-seven Hakhel year. On Monday night after next week (October 10th) if there was a Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem, we would all be there.

Men women and children. Even very small children.

Hearing the reading from the king.

Sadly, we don’t yet have a rebuilt Bet Hamikdash.

We pray fervently that Mashiach come speedily and that we can hear the reading of the Torah from the king Mashiach.

However, in the meantime, even while in the ‘exile’ we can fulfil the spirit of the Hakhel mitzvah.

We can get together in groups, learn words of Torah and get inspired to draw nearer to G-d and observance of His mitzvahs.

The Rebbe taught that during a Hakhel year, one should try to make as many gatherings as possible. Large and small. Family size and community size and even mega size. All forms of gathering are encouraged during this year so that we fully utilize the special ‘opportunities’ that are available in the ‘air’ during this year.

When I realized the preciseness of the timing of this Hakhel, I get goosebumps.

Imagine if the Hakhel year would have been last year?

It would have been impossible to utilize this opportunity in the literal sense.

Gathering were totally forbidden in many places.

How about if the Hakhel year would be in three years from now?

Please G-d there won’t be any more pandemics and we will be fully used to living unrestricted lifestyles and it won’t be so exciting to us anymore.

In a few years lockdowns will hopefully be something studied in the history books.

Communal gatherings will be totally taken for granted.

Having Hakhel come now, just after emerging from two years of restrictions on gatherings, seems like perfect timing.

Here is the Rebbe’s call to action. Click here to sign up for the Hakhel campaign.

Anytime we make a gathering this year and inject a dose of Torah and connectivity to G-d to the meeting, it is a microcosmic fulfillment of the Hakhel that took place in Jerusalem on this post-seventh year.

Right now, after emerging from two years of Covid, gatherings are more exciting than ever before.

I get goosebumps thinking about the timing of this all.


It makes me even more excited about the ‘virtual Hakhel’ gathering that I am currently involved with.

Engaging with fellow Jews about the mitzvah of Tzedaka.

JewishThailand’s crowdfunding days is made up of two components. Smaller amounts of larger gifts and larger amounts of smaller gifts.

A varied group of 866 donors have already participated to cover 30% of the campaign goal.

There is one tzedakah gift that sadly, I will be missing this year.

I would like to share the following story in memory of Rivka Mazal Yaffa bat Simcha a special woman who passed away ten days ago at a tragically young age.

Around three months ago Rivka wrote to me as follows.

Dear Rabbi Kantor,

Thank you very much for your uplifting messages …

Thank you for praying for me….

I also would like to tell you very quickly that in Pesach when I made a small donation- real small, it was a bit difficult at that exact time and you will not believe it just after I pushed the paypal button- 5 min did not pass that I received a generous financial order. Not 5 min passed.

Thank you very much,

May Hashem bless you and your family!

Rivka had given a very small donation. Even that, was more than she could easily afford.

She dearly wanted to be part of supporting Jewish life in Thailand and during the many years that she lived here and even after she moved elsewhere, she made sure to participate in every campaign in the small way that she was able.

And from my part, I always cherished seeing her name and heartfelt tzedakah participation. There was always a blessing note that accompanied her tzedakah.

How tragic that she lost her life so young.

By Divine Providence she shared with me this little miracle that she had with after giving Tzedakah, just three months before she passed.

I share this story with you as I was moved deeply from the sincerity and deep faith in G-d that exude from her words.

No doubt, this Tzedakah is one of the many mitzvahs that provide eternal spiritual bliss to her soul on high.

And I pray that the inspiration from this story will lead to more acts of Tzedakah.

May the Tzedakah that is given due to Rivkah’s inspiration be a merit for the ascent of her soul.

I hope, pray and trust that all of us have been written into the book of Life.

May this year be a year of sweet blessings to you and your loved ones.

And may this be the year that Mashiach comes and then we can fully fulfil the mitzvah of Hakhel, in the Bet Hamikdash, hearing the Torah from the King Mashiach. AMEN.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS to participate in JewishThailand giving days, please click here.

Every person’s contribution is valued and every amount is meaningful.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I just noticed a half-full bag of KN95 protective masks at the edge of my desk.

They are taking up space.

I ask myself, ‘do I still need to keep them handy… just in case… or can I give them away to people in the medical field’?

What would you do?

For starters my dear friend, let us celebrate the question.

It was not so long ago that the hottest item you could trade, was masks and gloves.

For the last two Rosh Hashana’s we have been masked and limited in our traditional holiday observances.

Some geographical locales didn’t have any Rosh Hashana services, some had socially distanced ones. Mostly everywhere there was a mask mandate.

Thank G-d, this year we are able to have full Rosh Hashana services. Minyanim and communal meals. Even if you are still cautious about very large crowds, and the first night of Rosh Hashana is usually a large crowd, joining a minyan of people for Tefilah Betzibur (communal prayer) on Monday or Tuesday day services, is definitely appropriate. It will also enable you to hear the Shofar and thus fulfil the main mitzvah of Rosh Hashana.

While I am not sure if to give away the masks or not - they may come in useful against the pollution - what I don’t want to give away, is the gifts that I received during Covid.’

What gifts?

I have a bit of a list.

Let me start with the gift of appreciating community togetherness.

For the last two Rosh Hashana’s I had the painful task of looking at the list of would-be attendees and trying to balance how many people we could accommodate. How many small groups to split and divide into.

During those trying times, when I heard that someone of advanced age was throwing ‘caution to the winds’ and planning to attend a communal event, I felt concern and even a sense of panic as to how I could convince them to be more prudent.

It was the most confusing moments of my thirty years of communal leadership.

For decades I had constantly urged people to come and participate. All of a sudden, I was telling people to practice restraint and not attend.

I was blessed to be schooled in the Chabad model of community-building, focusing on non-judgmental, open-door policy. A synagogue experience should be uplifting and inviting. It should contain the components of hearty handshakes, friendly hugs, communal dining, toasting lechayims and of course spirited dancing.

These were all things that were curtailed and forbidden during the height of the pandemic.

Covid brought with it an enforced isolation. Loneliness and fear of catching infection caused us to withdraw into our own private cocoons of perceived safety.

But that, is thank G-d over.

Even on airplanes, most airlines have dropped the mask mandate.

Many people are of the opinion that the masks can be discarded.

But I don’t want to divest myself of some of the other gifts that Covid brought.

I now have a deepened appreciation of being able to congregate with people.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Feelings of exhilaration still grip me when I sit and ‘farbreng’ with my community. Rubbing shoulders, clinking glasses, shaking hands and signing spiritedly with the inevitable mixing of microbes is really exciting after lockdown.

I don’t want to lose that excitement that communal togetherness now brings me.

The next thing on my list is ‘humility’.

Someone told me that just before Covid, his college educated son told him ‘Dad, there is almost nothing left that science hasn’t conquered’.

Well, a few weeks later, he was reminded of just how intricate G-d’s world is. And how humbled we all became when we grasped how our most sophisticated scientific achievements are infinitesimal before G-d’s might and majesty.

There is a vulnerability and humility that I have noticed in people’s demeanor and behavior.

Gone is the look of arrogant pompousness from so many faces.

How comforting it is to bask in the softness that now radiates from people’s faces.

Sensitivity is definitely on my list as well.

The time people now invest in listening to others. The sensitivity that people have for each other and the attention they now place on engaging in meaningful dialogue. The slowing down ‘to smell the roses’ that has coaxed people out of religiously going to their offices. The conscious choice that so many have made to spend quality time with their loved ones.

The sensitivity that people have developed in tending to the needs of the less fortunate.

I can personally attest to the fact that people have become more open to giving tzedakah to help righteous and compassionate causes.

(Please G-d the morning after Rosh Hashana we will be launching our annual JewishThailand giving days. Details to follow).

Those are some of the things I wouldn’t want to throw out.

However, Covid also exacted a heavy price on the world. A much too painful payment was made by humanity.

For no money in the world would any of us have agreed to willingly consent to such an unspeakable epoch.

People’s lives were tragically cut short by the pandemic. The medical suffering that people went through was acutely painful. Even now, after the pandemic has subsided, ‘Long Covid’ still has people dealing with aftereffects of the virus.

Kids had to contend with ‘virtual learning’ which is really challenging to say the least.

People lost their businesses, their jobs, their financial stability.

A sense of social restlessness fueled many demonstrations and created a lawlessness in many urban settings.

The above is just a sampling of the terrible upheaval that the pandemic brought in its wake.

I pray, that this year of 5783 bring with it the best of both worlds.

The gifts of good health, sustenance and peace.

The gifts of societal collaboration and acts of lovingkindness one to each other.

The gifts of authenticity and humility.

And a continued appreciation of the inherent value of community which will lead to enhanced attendance and Synagogues and ‘simchas’ - lifecycle celebrations.

Another thing that many Jewish people learned, is what it the central mitzvah of Rosh Hashana.

Hearing the sound of the Shofar.

This is THE mitzvah of Rosh Hashana.

While we were not able to host a large community dinner during the pandemic, we were able to fulfill the main mitzvah of Rosh Hashana. For even during Covid, we were able to fully observe the Mitzvah of Shofar by blowing Shofar outdoors.

Here in Bangkok, we blew Shofar at the lake in Benjasiri Park (behind Marriot Marquis hotel) and we will do so as well this year on Monday September 26thIn other places there was a schedule drawn up in advance detailing at which street corner one could hear Shofar at designated times.

As we stand on the threshold of a new HEALTHY year, it seems like the appropriate time to take a moment to consider what good things you can take with you from the past two pandemic-influenced years, into the coming healthy year.

Make a good resolution for this coming year. Add a mitzvah. Change yourself and change the world around you, good deed by good deed.

And if you really want to be nice, please drop me a note with your insight and resolution. I would love to hear from you.

May I take this opportunity on behalf of Nechama and myself, to wish you and your loved ones a SHANA TOVA – GOOD and SWEET YEAR.

May this be the year in which Mashiach comes and peace reigns supreme, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

spirituality in the 'air'(plane)

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The Torah teaches us about gratitude in this week’s Parsha.

Once the Jewish people had entered into Israel and settled in the land, they were to bring ‘first fruits’ up to the Bet Hamikdash and proclaim their gratefulness to G-d for the gift of the land and its yield.

(That produce were then given to the Kohanim and their families).

The technical fulfillment of this precept requires the coming of Mashiach, and the building of a Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem.

The soul of the mitzvah applies now more than ever.

Gratitude is a cornerstone of the Torah’s teachings. As a matter of fact the first thing we do in the morning upon awakening is giving thanks to G-d for returning our souls.

The mitzvah of ‘honor your father and mother’ is another mitzvah that emphasizes the lifelong gratitude we must have for those who have given us the gift of life.

Living your life in the ‘gratitude lane’ is transformational.

Thing of things that you can be grateful to G-d for and verbalize your thanks.

Try it. Say: Thank you Hashem for…..

And pay attention to the opportunities that present themselves to be appreciative of those around you.

(It should go without saying that spouses, parents, children and cousins are also included. Ironically, we all know that it is sometimes the people closest to us that never hear how deeply we appreciate them. Seize the opportunities while they are available. Don’t wait till it’s too late. It’s a mitzvah, its being a ‘mentsch’ and it will make your life more pleasant. Guaranteed).

To quote the actual verse regarding the first fruit offering:

You must place   "> go to the place on which God, your God, will choose to rest His Name

The Baal Shem Tov – founder of the Chassidic movement three hundred years ago – gave a powerful and practical interpretation on these words.

"You shall go to the place the Eternal your G‑d will choose"  - a Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going on his own, but is being directed from Above. And the intention and purpose in this is...

" cause His Name to dwell there"  - that is, to make G‑d known in his (that Jew's) locale.

How does one "make G‑d known"? With a b'racha and a verse of Tehillim.

This teaching is saying that wherever you are however you got there and for whatever reason you think you chose to go there, it was Hashem who chose for you to go there.

Therefore, where you are, is exactly where G-d wants you to be.


For what reason?

To make G-d known there.

How does on do that? Do I need to carry around a megaphone and scream in the streets G-d is here?

Not exactly. The Ba’al Shem Tov told us how to make G-d known in your place.

How does one "make G‑d known"? With a b'racha and a verse of Tehillim.

In other words, when you eat in that place and you make a blessing before eating thus recognizing that the world and all that is therein belongs to Him, this is making G-d known.

By saying a verse of Psalms – i.e. praying. In this way you proclaim G-d as being present.

Enjoy the two following stories that I think illustrate the above point.

My brother-in-law recently met a Jew at 2:00 am who had come to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ohel (resting place) to pray. It is not unusual for people to be there at any hours of day or night, but this individual did not look like he was familiar with the Ohel. My brother-in-law asked him if he would like some help.

The visitor related the following.

I was on the plane a few months ago from NY to LAX and there was a rabbi sitting next to me on the plane. We chatted for a long time. The Rabbi spoke to me about G-d about Yiddishkeit, and the rabbi asked me several times if I would be interested to put on Tefilin with him. I didn’t really know what Tefilin were or how important they are to Judaism. I resisted and politely declined. Before getting off the plane I asked the rabbi for his name and he told me it was Shlomo Cunin. I found myself curious as to who this rabbi was and why he was so keen and eager to the point of repetitively asking regarding tefillin.

After searching it on Google I found out that Tefilin is a very important and meaningful mitzvah. It is actually one of most fundamental mitzvahs. I also found out that Rabbi Shlomo Cunin was sent to LA by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the 1960’s and is the head of Chabad of the West Coast.

I went to a Judaica store to buy tefillin and learned how to put them on. I now wear Tefillin daily.

Now I came, for my very first time, to visit and pray at the Ohel as I have witnessed firsthand the effect that the Rebbe is still having in this world. I wanted to come and pray at the resting place of this great leader-Tzaddik.

In hearing this story what comes to my mind is that Rabbi Cunin had no idea of these developments. He thought that he tried to do a mitzvah with and fellow Jew and didn’t succeed.

Little does he know (by know my brother-in-law has certainly told him), that his efforts gave birth not just to a one-time mitzvah of Tefillin but to a daily Tefilin mitzvah.

I have another story that happened to me recently that is even more incredible.

Someone told me that there is an elderly Jew visiting Thailand, a Holocaust survivor, who needs to supplement his diet with calorie laden foods. In particular he wanted potato latkes. Nechama made him latkes, and I went to deliver them. I offered him the mitzvah of putting on Tefilin to which he readily agreed and told me that he had never done this mitzvah before in his life. I felt so blessed to be able to provide someone who had gone through so much, with this exquisite opportunity of putting on Tefillin at least once during his life.

The next time, my wife brought him the latkes and our son went along to offer him the Tefillin laying to which he again agreed.

He asked, ‘do you know why I feel comfortable putting on Tefilin?’ and he responded to his own question.

Because I have seen people laying Tefillin on the airplane!

Imagine that. A Jewish person was on a flight. He donned his Tefillin and prayed with them.

Unbeknownst to him, a fellow Jew saw his putting on Tefillin. They were not in a Synagogue; they were on a plane. But now, this not-yet-practicing Jew became familiar with the concept of Teffilin. Having seen it performed before his eyes.  

Years later, as an elderly person, he agrees to perform this mitzvah for the first time. Because someone else had performed the mitzvah in a public setting.

I found this so touching and inspiring.

Truly, wherever and whenever you are in a place you are creating an environment of G-dliness around you.

Whether you know it or not.

By making a blessing. By saying a prayer. You are creating awareness of the Divine Creator of the Universe.

Once the world recognizes the Omnipresence of G-d and commits to His system of moral values, the world becomes more peaceful.

And then, sooner than we anticipate, Mashiach comes to usher in the epoch of Shalom, world-peace and an unfiltered revelation of G-d in the universe.

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Only One 'Like'

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Can you imagine a world where people base their moral choices on how many ‘likes’ they will get for their social media post?

I get it if people base their fashion choices on the feedback they get from people around them. Clothing and fashion are after all have very much to do with making an impression on those around us.

But moral choices? To decide whether I will feel good about being charitable or not, do I really need to hear from some stranger giving me a thumbs up?

You don’t have to imagine a world that looks to ‘likes’ for moral guidance.

It is here already.

At this juncture I can go two ways.

I can start raining down ‘brimstone and fire’, using rhetoric that will make us wish we were born in the pre-industrial-revolution days.

Or I can be true to the core values of Judaism through the enlightening prism of Chassidic thought.

And that indeed is what I will share.

The Rebbe taught that the way to look at technological advances is not that it’s something to bemoan or wish that it goes away.

Hashem made His world and guides the world. Inventions are G-d allowing humans to innovate. That innovation has a purpose. It is to be used for holy, moral, blessed and benevolent things.

We live in the reality of 5782-2022. It is this exact world that Hashem has created for us at this moment of time. We must be mindful in what kind of a unique moment of history we are blessed to be living. And we have but one question to ask ourselves.

How should we be conducting ourselves in our contemporary environment.

The answer has never changed. From the very first communication of the Torah at Mount Sinai the message has remained eternal and unchanging.

We have a mission from G-d.

The ‘playing field’ of this mission is our current world. If you were born in the Middle Ages, that would be your reality. But you weren’t born then. You were born in this generation. If you are born in our current age, then this is a G-dly sign that this is your set of circumstances. Tailored immaculately for your mission.

That mission is to do what is right in G-d’s eyes. Even if it may be at the price of ‘going with the flow’.

Even at the cost of ZERO LIKES from those around you.

Avraham our Father went against the entire pervading culture when he declared his belief in One G-d.  The idol industry didn’t give him any ‘likes’. They even had him thrown into a fiery furnace when he wouldn’t change his monotheistic ‘tweets’.

The days leading up to Rosh Hashana are an appropriate time to do a little introspection.

Taking into account and recognizing that we currently live in a world that is so clued in to what every single person is thinking at the other side of the globe, we need to solidify and strengthen our internal GPS system.

Try to do what is RIGHT regardless of what is POPULAR.

Is social media our enemy?

Granted, it can be very destructive.

On the other hand, social media can be an amazing tool. It can help create a vibe. The goal is to make it popular and ‘cool’ to do what is right.

Technology and scientific advance is not a curse G-d forbid. It is a blessed tool from the Almighty which is intended to allow us to get closer to him and promote Divine values.

Humans who are grounded in moral values choose to use technological tools in a productive and wholesome, holy manner.

To give us credit for fulfilling our mission, Hashem also provides a challenge in the form of choice. Technology can also be used or bad and even horrible things.

As the Torah clearly states: G-d says that ‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live’.

It is up to us to make the right choice and channel the commodities and tools at our disposal to holy and good things.

It seems to me that the Torah speaks directly to the point of not being dependent on ‘likes’ in this week’s portion.

How so? The Torah was transmitted by G-d thousands of years ago. Where does it talk about ‘likes’?

Towards the end of this week’s Parsha the law of collateral and securities for loans is taught. (Interpolated translation by Kehos Publications)

‘As you have been taught, when a loan comes due and the borrower does not have the means to repay it, the lender may take him to court and demand collateral against the unpaid loan. Similarly, when you demand back something that you loaned your fellow Jew—even something other than money—and he cannot return it to you immediately, you may demand collateral. However, you must not enter his home to take his collateral.

Rather, you must stand outside, and the person from whom you are demanding the return of what you loaned him must bring the collateral to you outside.

Also, as you have been taught, if he is a poor man, and the only thing in his possession that he can give you as collateral is his night clothing, you must not lie down to sleep with his collateral still in your possession.

Rather, you must return the collateral to him by sunset, so that he may lie down to sleep in his garment. Similarly, if he is a night-worker and gives you his daytime clothing as a security, you must return it to him by morning. 

He will bless you for your consideration, and even if he does not, it will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God.

(Emphasis is mine, the Torah text doesn’t have emphases or highlights per se).

Imagine the scenario. You have given a poor man a loan. He has given you his silk pajamas that remind him of better days as a security. He doesn’t have another pair of pajamas. The Torah thus instructs you to return his pajamas every night so that he can sleep properly.

You find yourself majorly inconvenienced every evening in returning those pajamas to the man who owes you money.

And because you expend so much effort in tending to this poor person, you feel like a saint. For lending him money in the first place. For returning his collateral every night.

You expect the beneficiary to appreciate your efforts.

Indeed, the Torah points out, that ‘he will bless you for your consideration’.

But then, he happened to send you an email intended for his friend. He sent it to you by accident. Before you realized it wasn’t meant for you and stopped reading it, you noticed that in his mail that he is complaining about you in the context of the loan that he owes you.

Let me ask you to take this self-assessment test.

Stop to ask yourself how would you feel?

You thought till now that he feels so blessed by your efforts. Now you find out HE DOESN’T EVEN APPRECIATE YOUR EFFORTS!!!

I am guessing you may not be feeling so positive about what has happened. You may feel like you have been taken advantage of.

You may be screaming WHAT CHUTZPAH. WHAT NERVE that fellow has after all I do for him he doesn’t even appreciate it???

You may consider reacting negatively and even do nasty things in trying to reclaim your loan. Not because anything has changed in terms of dollars and cents. And deep down you know that you did the right thing. But the ungratefulness of the recipient gets you indignant and very upset.

The Torah continues:

it will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God.

Cool down.

Stop relying on others to make you feel validated.

Ask yourself, what does G-d want me to do?

How does Hashem look at my deed.

Hashem tells us in His Torah LOUD AND CLEAR. Even if the recipient doesn’t bless you as he should, in the eyes of G-d it will be considered a merit.

Stop looking at how many ‘likes’ you are getting from the people ‘out there’.

Start living your life based on what He, the Almighty in Heaven, and the ‘piece of G-d’ within ourselves ‘likes’.

That is all that counts.

And I have some good news for you. When you do what HE says is right, ultimately the society around you will also appreciate you. Maybe not instantly but ultimately.

Leaders, parents, educators, this is especially important for you.

It’s time to ween ourselves off ‘likes’.

Its time to provide to those who look to us for leadership and guidance the moral clarity and guidance that they are looking for. Albeit they may protest outwardly. They may not bless you.

But if G-d has put you in the position of leadership/parenthood/teacher-hood, then He has given you the responsibility and mission of acting and doing what Almighty G-d wants you to do. Lead the way forward in moral G-dly behavior by personal example of keeping Mitzvahs and by teaching the truth of Torah.

 ‘It will be counted for you as a merit before God, your God’

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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



By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Something I learned last Shabbat has me ‘jumping for joy’ or even flying with euphoria the whole week and I would like to share it with you.

But first some background.

Sometimes to see the guiding ‘Hand of Hashem’ takes a long time. Like decades long.

Our daughter D evorah Leah got married to Shneor, a young man from Israel, several years ago. At the wedding, my father-in-law shared an interesting piece of information. He recounted that his mother, had nursed this young man’s grandfather back to health. He was recalling something that had taken place in the early 1940’s when they still lived in the Soviet Union.

In other words, seventy years before these two young people ever met, the groom’s grandfather had been saved by the bride’s great grandmother.

My wife’s grandmother ‘Bobbe Tzila’ was a young mother at that time. Her hands and schedule were more than filled to the brim, with caring for her own two children. Yet, when a frail young Yeshiva boy names Chatzkel, fell ill and there was no one to care for him, she selflessly brought him into her home.

Decades later it turns out that while she was fulfilling the great mitzvah of saving a life, she was also, unbeknownst to her, preparing the future husband for her great granddaughter.

I thought of this story because thank G-d our daughter Devorah Leah and her husband Shneor were blessed with a healthy baby daughter in Israel earlier this week.

It is uplifting when we sense, and even see, the Divine Providence as Hashem directs every aspect in His world. Albeit, sometimes it takes a little (or a long) while to see how things unfold and fall into place.

During this month of Elul, we talk about the acronym of Elul as spelling out

  אני לדודי ודודי לי  (Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li)

which translates ‘I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me’.

It is a verse from King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) and refers allegorically to each of us Jewish people and our relationship with G-d.

In simple English we could paraphrase it as ‘I love Hashem, and Hashem loves me’.

The great kabbalist the Arizal taught that in the month of Elul, ‘I (as in you, me, and all of our brethren), turn to my beloved’. i.e., each of us turns to G-d with love.

What causes us to love G-d?

One of the most potent ways of generating love within our hearts towards G-d is by sensing G-d’s nearness to us. By observing and seeing His Guiding Hand in the events unfolding around us, we naturally feel love towards Him.

If the Torah says that during this month every Jew turns to G-d with love, it must be that G-d sets the stage for this to happen.

The set-up for this to happen is via Hashem allowing us to see His Divine Providence in a more obvious way.

But while sometimes it takes decades to see the Providence of Hashem, there must also be more expeditious opportunities provided for pre-High-Holiday love for Hashem. During this month, in support of the love we are supposed to have for Him, Hashem prepares scenarios where we can see G-d’s Divine Providence in a more immediate way. And thus the love is generated naturally.

The Rebbe suggests this in a letter to someone at this time period in 1972. The Rebbe writes that since the month of Elul is a month in which we turn lovingly to G-d, it is clearly an opportune time to reflect more deeply on the Divine Providence taking place around us.

My understanding in reading this, is that obviously this is not only talking about the Divine Providence that takes decades (or centuries and millennia) to develop and become evident, rather this refers to ‘microwave’ and ‘supersonic age’ moments of Divine Providence that can provide immediate loving feelings toward G-d.

I discovered this letter from the Rebbe last Shabbat. Ever since, I have been blessed to see many instances of Divine Providence unfold in front of my very eyes.

A quick example from early Sunday morning.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting Israel. It was 2am, there was not a car on the road, and I had unknowingly taken a wrong turn. Google Maps (rightfully) took me 5km further on the rural road I was on. It then told me to turn right, and only then did I realize it had taken me there simply to make a U-turn in the parking lot. It ‘just so happened’ to be the parking lot of a business that is owned by someone I was very friendly with. He used to visit Thailand often. Over the past few years, he hasn’t traveled much and while I deeply cherish our friendship, our contact wasn’t that frequent. When Hashem (via Google) brought me to his parking lot, I made a commitment to call him at an earthly hour.

The next day we had a very nice chat.

Fast forward a bunch of days. Early this past Sunday morning I checked my email. Totally unexpectedly, my aforementioned business friend had sent a message instructing his financial office to send a generous donation for our Rosh Hashana programs.

I was elated. First of all, the financial help was very helpful. Secondly, it was uplifting to receive his help in such a gracious way. It was totally self-initiated and unexpected as I knew that his business was going through its own set of challenges and he was a bit stressed. It didn’t seem to me to be the time for him to give donations.

However, as he explained in the accompanying note:

Sometimes, when we are stressed, we are blind to others’ greater needs. I know that Rosh Hashana will be a challenge for you and I’m glad to be of a little help.

May you continue to enjoy good health and strength to carry out your very necessary work. 

But what really lifted me to the clouds was the obvious and open Divine Providence of this story. I thought I had driven 5kms out of my way. Hashem gave me the gift of showing me that He had taken me exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

It is my privilege and honor, that you are reading my words.

G-d has thus granted me the great pleasure of sharing with you, the gift that Hashem bestowed to me in placing this insight from the Rebbe before my eyes, and in a way that it grabbed my attention.

My week has been an uplifting and joyous one.

First of all, Nechama and I thank G-d for the most exquisite blessing in the world, a new healthy granddaughter. There is no greater miracle than the miracle of birth. It is just that we get used to miracles quite easily and we start to refer to them as ‘nature’. In truth, G-d’s Hand is clearly evident in the miracle of birth.

And I thank G-d for showing me so many other items of Divine Providence. From Torah insights that came my way in a Providential way. To phone calls that came exactly when they were most needed. Even delayed meetings that turned out to be much more effective because of the delay as new information was available that changed the nature of the meeting.

So many things that came together in a way that points to the Hand of G-d who is guiding and directing every single detail.

I am pointing all of this out, as these opportunities are available to you too. If you but open your eyes to look for it. I am confident saying this, as I am paraphrasing the words of our Torah Sages.

But don’t take my word for it. Now that you have learned that the month of Elul has special properties and allows for more obvious recognition and vision of Divine Providence, take a few moments to ‘smell the roses’ or in this case to reflect on G-d’s Guiding Hand in your very own life.

You don’t readily see the pattern of Divine Providence in your life?

Perhaps the following anecdote will be of help.

Professor Velve Greene ( A former Fulbright scholar and a pioneer in exobiology, Professor Velvl Greene spent years working for NASA searching for life on Mars. He continued to lecture right up until his passing in 2011) had his first private audience with the Rebbe in 1963. By this stage Professor Greene had come to learn of the Rebbe’s genius in Torah as well as science. He had learned of the Rebbe’s incredible leadership qualities. But now he was going to have his first personal meeting with the Rebbe.

He later described the encounter:

The Rebbe was so warm and welcoming,” he recalled of that first meeting. “He seemed more like a loving uncle than the spiritual leader of the Jewish world [that he was].”

They discussed the concept of Divine Providence, that “everything that a person sees or hears is designed by G‑d to bring us closer to Him.” The Rebbe told Greene that as a professor in a medical school and as a frequent traveler, he probably saw and heard things most people don’t experience.

“Why don’t you keep a journal, just a few notes at the end of the day, and see if you can find the divine message?” the Rebbe suggested. If he needed help finding the meaning, they could discuss it together.

 Anything I add will be superfluous.

But I can’t resist adding a little request if I may be so bold.

I love hearing stories of Divine Providence. If you do keep a journal, and notice a pattern of events that turns into a remarkable story, (and its not too personal to share), would you consider sharing it with me so I too can be inspired?

Shabbat Shalom

Shana Tova

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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