"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Balancing act

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It is quite natural for people to like living life with a plan.

When there are too many unknowns it can be quite stressful.

Let’s face it, no one in this world really knows what will happen in their lives in the future. But balanced people are able to banish thoughts of ‘the sky falling down on their heads’ or being struck by lightning, from their list of concerns and live nearly predictable lives.

We, the Jewish people, have more of a challenging existence.

In every generation there are challenges of a real nature.

To be Jewish means to be straddling two worlds. Trying to live a natural life. At the same time recognizing our reliance on the miraculous’ness’ of Hashem’s protection.

Particularly at this moment of history Jews grapple with the pain and suffering inflicted by the Hamas. And with the anxieties and fears relating to the war in Israel and the resurgence of antisemitism around the world.

At the same time, there is a collective awakening among the Jewish people to strengthen our identity as Jews. Rallies of Jewish solidarity are attended in unprecedented numbers. Synagogues in the USA are reporting higher attendance than usual and there is a flurry of purchase of Tefillin and Tzitzit like never before.

We have become clearer about who we are.

While at the very same time, what the future holds in store for us has become less clear to the rational-logic-oriented mind.

Last week I attended the annual conference of Shluchim in NY.

I spent twenty-four hours in Israel on my way home.

To pay condolences to the family of a fallen soldier.

To say Mazel tov at the wedding of a family friend.  

To drop in and say hi to our Israel based children and grandchildren.

And just simply to ‘be there’ and breathe in the air and atmosphere of the holy land. The land that the Torah describes as being the land that Hashem’s Eyes are always focused on. Thus, the land that is the safest place in the world for a Jew.

The twenty-four hours in Israel was really forty-eight hours. As I traveled from New York to Bangkok on El Al. When you travel El Al, you get the full experience of being in Israel the duration of the flight.

I love sitting surrounded by fellow Jews – especially during this trying time in history. There is a very special feeling while traveling with the airline of Israel that serves kosher food and keeps the day of Shabbat holy. The pilot even said ‘Shabbat Shalom’ when we landed.

So as you can see, this past week brought me into direct contact with literally hundreds of people. Different countries. Varying backgrounds. And multiple differences of opinions.

I come away with two things that stick out in my mind as being universal feelings to Am Yisrael at this time.

Amongst the Jews of the world today there is a unity and a deep sense of conviction about our eternity as a people. Our future is guaranteed by G-d Himself.

Yet on the other hand, in our rational analytical minds, there is a deep feeling of uncertainty as to how the future will unfold. This leads to conscious and subconscious anxiety, fear or even dread.

Most people I have spoken to know and believe that we will be victorious and defeat our enemy with G-d’s help. Yet many feel that the way forward after that is very much unknown.

And that leaves them unsettled and anxious.

Then we have the nuanced task of balance between pain and joy.

It is clear that while our hearts are reeling with pain, our hearts aching empathetically, we must place special emphasis on our Jewish identity and on the joy of our connection to G-d.

The pain and sadness are ubiquitous. If one merely thinks for a moment about the bereaved families, the families waiting for any snipped of news from the hostages or our wounded brethren one feels hurt and agony.

Not very energetically joyous.

Yet, without energy and joy we won’t muster up the incredible energy levels that we need to be victorious physically, emotionally and spiritually.

That would be counterproductive and detrimental to those who need our help.

How does one live with two competing emotions that are both true?

Uncertainty coupled with pain. Vs conviction coupled with joy.

This weeks parsha gives us an answer.

Yitschak the son of Avraham looked exactly like his father Avraham.

In the Rebbe’s words, Avraham and Yitschak had differing styles in serving Hashem. Thus, the Midrash posits that Yitschak would have looked very different than his father Avraham.

Avraham who was extraordinarily kind, had a benevolent look while Yitschak who served G-d from a place of strength and judgment would have naturally looked stricter.

Hashem made a miracle and formed the facial features of the stricter Yitschak to look exactly like the benevolent Avraham.

What does this have to do with us?

We, who call the ‘three fathers’ our ‘forefathers’ are expected to embody the modality of serving Hashem with all of the attributes of our forefathers.  

How can that be?

Avraham represented benevolence while Yitschak represented strictness.

How can they coexist within us? How can we be expected to embody these conflicting qualities without some form of spiritual schizophrenia?

The answer is that Hashem is infinite. Higher than definition. Kindness and strictness are definitions. Our souls at their deepest most essential point are a part of G-d. When Hashem’s infinite light that resides within us is accessed, those mutually exclusive traits can be embodied in one person.

Kabala teaches that we ought to have bitterness on one side of our heart and joy on the other side. We need to bemoan our undeservingness while celebrating our relationship with G-d.

Admittedly, I have asked a question with logic, and I have answered with faith.

That blend of the rational and the supra-rational, is ultimately the way we Jews have always lived.

We have a song that proclaims joyously and even jubilantly ‘Ashreinu…’ ‘How happy we are, how good is our lot’.

On the other hand, we look soberly at our reality and recognize the deep pain and suffering that we have undergone and the still unfolding tragedy of war in Israel.

One way of dealing with this dichotomy is by allotting different times for focusing on the painful things and reserving other times for engaging in positive thinking.

An even higher level is trying to simultaneously bear in mind and heart the awareness of both the joyous and the painful.

G-d gives us the gift of being able to aim for that synthesis and make the impossible possible.

From our very inception, the Jewish people were born as an impossibility.

Yitschak, the first Jew, was born to a ninety-year-old barren mother. A miracle of epic proportion.

Couldn’t G-d have blessed Sara to have her son when she was of childbearing age? Did we have to start as a total miracle?

The lesson here is that the Jewish people is born as a miracle.

The continuation and sustaining of our people is also a miracle.

In other words, if your rational mind doesn’t understand how things will work out for the Jewish people, don’t worry.

Place your trust in Hashem and do the next right thing.

Even in 2023, or perhaps especially in 2023 we are acutely and painfully aware of the words in Tehilim ‘if Hashem doesn’t guard the city, the watchman works in vain’. The inference is that with Hashem guarding us, we are safe and secure.

I would like to suggest this exercise.

Don’t try to ‘escape’ and ignore your feelings.

Give yourself permission to feel the two competing emotional states that you are likely embodying at this time.

Feel the deep pain for the loss of life, for the hostages and for the wounded.

Conversely, feel the deep conviction and joy of being Hashem’s specially chosen and endowed Jewish people.

And recognize that both emotional states are very much valid at this time. It is natural to vacillate between the two, though it is helpful to oneself to focus more on the positive and even more beneficial to those suffering if you are energized by positivity as you will be more able and willing to help.

To protect your inner equilibrium and underlying anxiety let us try to liberate ourselves from the crippling fear that pervades us.

Identify the subconscious fears that you have.

Recognize that they are likely coming from the disturbing recent events and the ensuing uncertainty that they invoke regarding Israel’s future. And from the frightening sounds of antisemitism around the world.

Remind yourself that that a Jew is meant to ask not ‘what till be’ but ‘what shall I do’?

Ask yourself, is there something practical that I can do to fix that feeling of insecurity?

If yes, (like providing appropriate security to protect lives) then go ahead and do it.

And then proceed to surrender your dreams of ‘living a life totally reliant on nature’ and take the leap of  strengthening your trust in Hashem, the only thing that is infallible and eternally reliable.

(If there is nothing you can or should actively do, jump straight to the trust).

The most certain thing that exists is G-d.

Meditate on the fact that Almighty G-d is the master of the universe, and He runs every single detail of this world. Place your trust and reliance solely on Him and then breathe in, breathe out and try your hardest to ‘chill out’.

The more you trust, the more calm and peaceful you will feel.

Plan concrete positive actions. Like thinking about and planning joyous events.

(On a personal note, while the thousands of tourists who would usually be in Thailand now, are currently in the army in Israel, we are projecting that once it will be possible, the guests will start streaming into our Chabad Houses in larger numbers than before. This is the time to prepare the appropriate infrastructure to prepare to be able to welcome our soldiers with open arms).

Placing your trust in Hashem will give you inner calm and a sense of tranquility.

Connecting to Hashem and sending Mitzvah spiritual hugs to our soldiers, captives, wounded and citizens of Israel, is the ‘order of the day’ for all of us.

Each Mitzvah adds light to the battle of light against darkness.

During our conference, much emphasis was placed on how to spread the joy of being Hashem’s chosen Jewish people with our respective communities.

Jews world over are starting to make plans on how to best celebrate the upcoming Festival of Lights – Chanukah!!!

Chanukah is around the corner starting on December 7th.

Save the date for the Bangkok community celebration on Monday December 11th at Rembrandt hotel.

May Hashem bless us with secure peace, the coming home of our hostages, the safety or our soldiers, the healing of our wounded, and peace and serenity for all of the humane and good people of our world.

We want Mashiach NOW!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS here is a link to a number of inspiring articles related to the war in Israel.


I write these lines in between attending workshops, lectures and general sessions at the International Conference of Shluchim in New York.

I would like to highlight the incredible energy that fills the room as dedicated rabbi’s fill the conference hall.

And speak of the resoluteness and conviction that fills our hearts as we recommit to being faithful to our mission of spreading Judaism and Chasidism notwithstanding the winds of hatred that blow in all too many places.

Truth be told, there are two directions I could go with this article.

I could have chosen to highlight the glaring absence of the many hundreds of rabbi’s from Israel who are at their posts. During the current war situation, they are not able to attend the conference.

I could speak about the comparing of notes that points to the resurgence of antisemitism almost everywhere in the world right now.

Do I focus on the looming issues that are not ok, or do I hone in on the many points of light that shine brightly from the darknesss?

As the Torah is our guiding light, I look to the Parsha to get my ‘marching orders’.

This weeks parsha tells the story of Avraham sending his servant Eliezer as his agent to find a wife for Yitschak his son.

Eliezer faithfully sets out on the mission without having any idea how he will successfully find the right girl.

On his way into town he prays:

"O God, God of my master Abraham, arrange events for me this day such that You grant a favor to my master, Abraham.

Here I stand by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townsmen are coming out to draw water.

Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, 'Please tilt your pitcher so that I may drink,' and she replies, 'Drink, and I will also give water to your men and camels,' will be the one whom You have designated for Your servant Isaac. She will be a fitting match, because her demonstration of considerateness and generosity will prove that she is worthy of becoming a part of Abraham's household. Let her be from his family and a suitable companion for Isaac; thus I will know through her that You have acted kindly with my master."

He had not yet finished speaking when three-year-old Rebecca came out. She had been born to Bethuel, the youngest son of Milkah, the wife of Abraham's brother, Nachor. Her pitcher was on her shoulder.

The maiden was of beautiful appearance, … She went down to the spring, and the water level rose as she approached, making it easier for her to fill her pitcher. Eliezer duly noted this miracle and concluded that the girl enjoyed this Divine aid because was righteous. She filled her pitcher, and came back up.

The servant ran toward her and said, "If you would, let me sip a little water from your pitcher."

She said, "Drink, sir," and quickly lowered her pitcher onto her hand and gave him a drink.

When she had finished giving him to drink, she said: "Let me draw water for your men and camels, too, until they have drunk their fill."

She quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough and ran to the well again to draw water, and she drew water for all his men and camels.

Seeing that Rebecca had performed precisely those acts that he had requested from God that she perform as a sign that she was a suitable wife for Isaac, the man wondered about her if she would also prove to be from Abraham's family. He thought silently to himself, wanting to know whether or not God had made his journey successful.

But his doubts were outweighed by the confidence he had in Abraham's merits and his reliance on Abraham's promise that God would prearrange success in advance. When the camels had drunk their fill, the man took a gold nose-ring … and two gold bracelets for her arms, and gave them to her, thereby engaging her to Isaac.

He said: "Whose daughter are you? If you would, tell me if there is room in your father's house for us to spend the night."

Answering his questions in the order in which he asked them, she said to him, "I am the daughter of Bethuel, son of Milkah, whom she bore to Nachor."

She then said, "We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as a place to spend many nights."

Hearing this, the man bowed his head and prostrated himself to God.

He said, "Blessed be God, God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld His kindness and truth from my master. God has guided me along the right road, to the house of my master's brothers!"

It is an uplifting story.

Everything went right. Worked out perfectly.

Eliezer took on the task and he was blessed with the miracles needed to carry out the task.

The thousands of rabbi’s attending the conference of Shluchim have all experienced similar stories. Of times that they had no idea how they would prevail, yet by Divine Providence, things worked out.

It is inspiring and exhilarating to hear those success stories.

Yet, at the same time it’s true that at the same time these rabbi’s also have their share of challenge. In some instances, formidable challenges.

I am sure you are facing the exact same dilemma. Do you immerse yourself into the constant stream of news and social media and feel like you are drowning in a raging sea of a world gone mad.

Or do you limit your media intake and open your eyes and heart to the many myriad of blessings that are being given to you by the Almighty.

Which mode should we focus on? The miraculous successful side of things or the challenging aspects?

As I said. I take my cue from the weekly Parsha. Unlike the Parsha of past weeks which had the dramatic destruction of Sodom, this week the topic is much more positive and calmer. This week the parsha is focused on the successful matchmaking efforts of Avraham’s servant to bring Rvika as a wife to Yitschak.

In line with the success story of this week’s parsha, I would like to focus on the good news that surrounds us. On the success stories, rather than the challenging ones.

There is a actionable item in this weeks Parsha.

After Eliezer saw the miraculous outcome of this mission, that Hashem has led him to the exact girl that fits Avraham’s criteria, he prostrated himself on the ground to God in thanksgiving for the good turn of events. 

This teaches us that we must thank G-d for good things.

Let us implement this.

As a people we are experiencing turbulent times. In Israel. And outside of Israel.

At the same time, we are also being blessed with many positive things.

In honor of this week’s parsha, may I suggest that you take a moment to thank G-d for something good in your life.

For example, if you are reading this article you are blessed with eyesight. That is a gift from G-d that you ought to thank him for. If you have a roof over your head, food in your refrigerator, etc. all of these things are blessings from G-d.

Take a moment to think about them and be grateful to Hashem.

Don’t feel guilty for taking your mind off the troubles and focusing on the good. This is also good for the collective people of Israel.

By expressing gratitude to Hashem you become a lightning rod for attracting healthy and positive energy upon yourself and upon our people of Am Yisrael.

By performing mitzvahs you bring down Divine energy that provides protective blessings to our brave and heroic soldiers.

May Hashem bless us with secure peace, the coming home of our hostages, the safety or our soldiers, the healing of our wounded, and peace and serenity for all of the humane and good people of our world.

We want Mashiach NOW!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I will be visiting the Ohel – the holy resting place of the Rebbe in a few hours with thousands of my fellow Shluchim, to pray on behalf of our soldiers, the hostages, our local communities and the collective people of Israel.

If you would like me to mention your name in prayer, please send me by email your Hebrew name and your mothers Hebrew name. As well as writing if you have a particular request, you would like me pray for.


Undefeatable LIGHT!

Dear Friend,

I am more inspired than I have ever been in my life.

Never in my lifetime have I felt so acutely connected to every single Jew in the world.

A profound joy and sense of purpose as a Jew suffuses my being.

Let me explain why.

Our eyes and hearts are directed to Israel.

We have family in Israel. Friends in Israel. Fellow Jews in Israel.

Many of us are not physically living in Israel.

Yet we are at war.

All of us.

If you are a Jew, you are witnessing a phenomenon that you thought was a relic of the past.

We say it every year in the Haggadah of Pesach:

For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.

Many have thought that we can relate to this statement as something of allegory.

But no. It is quite literal as we see with our own eyes.

Old fashioned antisemitism.

If you are not sure, just google ‘antisemitism 2023’ and see what shows up.

Unapologetic and stripped naked of any sophisticated cover ups.

We have nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

You cannot run away from yourself. Wherever you go your identity goes with you.

I have many friends who have Jewish names.

They may not dress or act outwardly Jewish, they may feel totally blended into their respective ‘western’ societies, but ultimately, they cannot hide their identity.

My name may not be so Jewish, (the original Kantorovitch had a more Yiddish tone to it) but I was blessed to be raised by parents who taught me to make every effort to look and act as Jewish as I can.

What is the most troubling to so many Jews is the shock of this all.

Many thought that they were so integrated within societies that they occupy that they were looked at without bias or judgement.

Yet somehow, just being a Jew means that you are a prospect for antisemitism.

The ‘excuse’ now? The war that has been forced onto Israel on Simchat Torah this year.

I grew up in Australia in a community made up of many Holocaust survivors. One of the reasons survivors emigrated to Australia was to get as far away as possible from the region in which they had suffered inhumanely.

Today that is not the case.

To quote Josh Frydenberg the formal federal treasurer of Australia

“As a person of Jewish faith growing up in a tolerant and multicultural Australia, I never thought I would feel as my grandparents did in 1933 the rising tide of European antisemitism which would consume their families in the flames of the Holocaust. But now I do.”

How does this make sense?

When America fought back after 9/11 was every American a target to be screamed at all over the world?

When Russia invaded Crimea was every Russian looking over their back to see if the protesters against Russa’s aggression would be hurling catcalls at them?

Why when people have complaints about Israel is every Jew a target for demonstrating against?

Why is that a reason for a Jew in Australia to feel unsafe?

(The hypocrisy of the demonization of Israel is a very important topic beyond the scope of this article. It is important to familiarize yourself with basic facts as our enemies have a very well-oiled PR machine. If you need guidance email me privately).

I have never lived through such a time of upheaval. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed the evil head of antisemitism come out so forcefully and openly without shame.

My intention is to make a serious point but NOT to depress you.

You and I are soldiers in this war of light against darkness. We dare not fall asleep at our posts.


I am more inspired than I have ever been in my life.

Never in my lifetime have I felt so acutely connected to every single Jew in the world.

You see, what the antisemites got right, is the fact that we are one people. The best analogy for that is that describe the Jewish People as one organism.

The Sages taught us that the Jewish people is compared to one body.

Every Jew is part of the collective Jewish body.

When our enemies persecute anyone of our nation anywhere in the world, it is a blow to every limb of that collective body.

Right now, in Israel our soldiers are fighting, putting their lives on the line, may Hashem protect them, to protect our people.

As I am writing these words, I get the tragic news that the 28 year old son of my dear friend Rabbi Chanan Brand fell in battle – ה' יקום דמו .

Our fellow Jews who are living in Israel are heroes for staying in the Holyland and going about their daily routine of life as much as the situation allows.

What should we, you and I, be doing?

It has never been clearer that we are all like one body. The best way to help your body fight illness is by strengthening your overall health.

We need to strengthen and fortify ourselves spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy body can ward off illness more effectively.

Likewise, when one part of the body gets a dose of energy and health, the other part of the body gets the benefit as well.

The ‘body of Israel’ is spread out over the entire world in multiple and varied locales.

We must all contribute to the war effort.

We in the diaspora are not bearing physical weapons. Our children are not in the army.

Our job is to be healthy, proud, devoted and joyous Jews.

We have G-d’s recipe and instructions for the collective strength and health of the Jewish people.

Hashem’s ‘manufacturer instructions’ to us have withstood the test of time and endured through the worst circumstances in history.

In every generation they have risen against us to destroy us.

We are still here. Hashem has promised to Avraham our forefather that we will forever bear His torch.

Hashem has given us the mission of being a light unto the nations. It is a mission that will usher the world into the eternal Messianic peace we believe in and hope for.

The spiritual weapons in the Jewish arsenal are eminently accessible.

Prayer. Tefilin. Shabbat Candles. Tzedakah. Love of our fellow. Being joyful about our Judaism. Everyone has a plethora of mitzvahs that they can engage in.

The overarching mood and perspective we must work on projecting is POSITIVITY and JOY.

I am incredibly joyous to be a Jew. Every day when we wake up in the morning we thank G-d for the gift of a healthy body.

And we thank G-d for the G-d given gift of being a Jew.

My friend Rabbi Aaron Moss sums it up well:

Judaism is the most powerful idea that the world has ever seen. Jews should survive because we have a message that the world needs to hear.

The Jewish way of life is a revolutionary force that can transform ordinary lives into lives of meaning. A family that keeps Shabbat is always reminded of what is really important—that there is more to life than accumulating wealth. The kosher laws teach us that we are not mere animals that must feed our every urge and desire, and that eating itself can be holy. A mezuzah on the door tells the world that this home is built for a higher purpose.

Judaism teaches lessons that the world urgently needs to learn—that every individual person is created in the image of G‑d, and is therefore unique and valuable; that morality is not relative but absolute; that humans are partners with G‑d in creation, with a mission to create heaven on earth.

These bold Jewish ideas are more relevant now than ever. But bold Jewish ideas need bold Jewish people to perpetuate them. The world can only be elevated if individuals first elevate themselves. We can only make the world into a divine home if we start with our own home. This is Judaism's formula to change the world for better. This is why we must stay Jewish.

The biggest threat to Judaism is not external pressure but rather internal confusion. When we lose sight of our mission, we lose the strength and stamina to survive. The Jewish feeling we need to develop in ourselves and our children is not fear of anti-Semitism, or guilt about assimilation. It is a humble pride in the greatness of the Jewish mission and confident resolve to fulfill it. When we are clear about our identity, no threat in the world can shake us.

Click here for complete article

Don’t be a victim. Be a proactive initiator.

Transform from being a worrier to being a valiant warrior.  

Soldiers don’t cover away in hideouts. They come out and fight.

This is a defining moment in history.

As rabbi Tzvi Freeman put it to 1200 Jewish kids on American college campuses:

Be like Abraham. Don’t let the world define you. Sure, there are people out there that don’t like Jews so much. Don’t let that define you. You are not a Jew because they want to destroy you. You are a Jew because you are an emissary of light to the world. (click here for full article).

Spread light by studying Torah.

Spread light by praying in Synagogues.

Spread light by being openly and proudly Jewish.

Spread light by giving your child Jewish education.

Spread light by laying Tefillin .

Spread light by lighting Shabbat candles.

Spread light by affixing Mezuzahs to your doors.

(To purchase or inspect your tefillin or mezuzahs contact me).

Spread light by keeping the laws of Jewish Family Purity (Mikvah)

Spread light by giving Tzedakah.

Spread light by buying letters in the Global Jewish Unity Torah scroll being written in Israel.

Spread light incessantly and join the thousands of years of Jewish history as we fight for the victory of light over darkness.

May Hashem bless us with secure peace, the coming home of our hostages, the safety or our soldiers, the healing of our wounded, and peace and serenity for all of the humane and good people of our world.

The destination is so near. Mashiach is about to come. We must each try our hardest to do one more good deed, one more act of goodness and kindness, so that we can cross over the hill from the darkest part of the night to the breaking of dawn over the gentle pastures of G-d’s peaceful and benevolent utopian endgame that we all eagerly await. AMEN

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS: UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY: history being made in Thailand

My friends, here in Thailand we are writing history. A new shul is being built on Soi 22. The Bet Elisheva campus will contain a Synagogue and other aspects of Jewish life. Mikva’s, kosher dining, children educational wing, and even a Jewish Museum.

Now is the time to build.

By building a strong Judaism in Thailand, we strengthen the Jewish collective.

An investment into Jewish life in Thailand is a statement of hope, optimism and pride in the future of our people.

Click here for ways to participate or contact me for more information.

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