"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Today when I saw Yonatan, I exclaimed out loud ‘Blessed are You, who brings the dead back to life’.

Five months ago, I received a call from John’s landlady in upcountry Thailand that John was in the intensive care in their local hospital.

The end was near it seemed. She was calling frantically for help with implementing the final wishes of her tenant for Jewish burial.

One of our team of Chabad rabbi’s, Yossi Goldberg, set off to Hua Hin immediately and placed a kippa on Yonatan’s head to say the Shema as part of the final prayers that a Jew is meant to recite just before passing.

The doctor suggested that an additional CT scan be performed and asked who would cover the expense. We undertook to cover the costs from our humanitarian tzedakah fund.

The doctors came back incredulous. The CT scan showed that the damage in the brain was receding. It was not ‘all over’ as they had assumed.

Not so long later, Yonatan’s landlady called to explain that Yonatan would need to be in a nursing home, but his budget didn’t fully cover it.

A good friend of Yonatan from the Netherlands got on the phone to explain to me Yonatan’s financial situation.

He shared with me that Yonatan is alone in the world without family.

I told him that we, his fellow Jews, are his family and reassured him and the landlady that our Jewish community would commit to the monthly amount that was missing.

We have been sending funds monthly ever since then.

Yonatan called me a few weeks ago and said he was in Bangkok and was going to come to see me. His landlady confirmed that he was dreaming as he was not in Bangkok, he was still upcountry.

This morning, as improbable as it may sound, Yonatan actually came in person to see me at my office at JCafe.

He is still in need of nursing help and came with his aide. But he is very much alive, aware and in good spirits.

He gave me regards from his Netherlands friend and told me that he had saved his life once before.

‘How did he save your life’ I asked Yonatan.

‘A few years ago, I was dead for ten minutes and my Dutch friend insisted that the ambulance personnel work on trying to revive me. I indeed ‘came back to life’.

After the initial exchange of greetings I asked Yonatan what I could do for him.

‘Help me live my life as a Jew should live’.

Yonatan wants a prayer book, tefillin, mezuzah, tzitzit…

When I asked him how he was so familiar with the items of Jewish life, he told me that he was raised in the Jewish orphanage in London and from the age of bar mitzvah till his late teens he had worn tzitzit and put on Tefillin every day.

I asked him if now in his elderly years he was reclaiming the Jewish practices of his youth, and he told me that yes, he had stopped observing for many years but how he wanted to live his life as a Jew should live.

‘My grandfather and great grandfather would be proud of me. They used to spend most of their day in Synagogue praying and learning’.

When I asked him for more details he shared that his great grandparents came to the USA and were denied entry as his great grandmother was deaf and mute. They didn’t want to go back to Russian so they got off the boat in England and stayed there.

To me there seems to be a common thread running through these stories.

The great power of belief in a positive outcome, and the folly and mistake of thinking that the improbable is impossible. Just because you cannot imagine a favorable outcome, doesn’t mean that G-d is not planning a happy ending.

A life was saved because someone believed that his friend was not yet dead and still had a chance to live. If that friend had not taken the initiative to insist that the first responders try their best, Yonatan would probably not be here to tell the story.

The USA immigration officials may have thought that the elderly deaf and mute Russian Jewess wasn’t worthy of being granted an immigration visa, but they obviously didn’t recognize her greatness of spirit. She was a successful person and a wonderful wife to her husband and mother to her children.

Yonatan’s family and teachers may have thought that once Yonatan left ‘the nest’, his observance of Judaism was abandoned never to be reclaimed.

They could not have been more wrong on that.

Improbable the at this late stage in life Yonatan would want to go back to the Jewish observance of his teens. But not impossible.

How powerful is the importance of believing in others.

There is something even more critical than believing in others.

It is believing in yourself.

Sometimes we need help to believe in ourselves.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once shared this about the Rebbe “You saw your reflection in the Rebbe’s eyes, and you were suddenly much bigger than you thought you were.”

When someone shows that they believe in you, it helps you to believe in yourself.

The most important thing to know is that whatever we may erroneously believe about ourselves, Hashem believes in us.

By the fact that Hashem caused you to be born, He has made it known that YOU are needed in His world.

In this week’s Parsha Terumah, we learn about the erecting of a sanctuary – a home – for G-d.

The first home for G-d, the ‘mishkan’ that the Jewish people built, was in the desert.

The Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem was built many hundreds of years later. It replaced the Mishkan that had been built in the desert and became the permanent place of worship. True, it is now temporarily destroyed (we are nearly two thousand years in this untenable temporary situation) but when Mashiach comes, we will rebuild the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a place of holiness. It always was. Even before the Bet Hamikdash was built. It is not such an unimaginable feat to generate holiness in a holy place.

In stark contrast, the first sanctuary, the Mishkan, was built in the most inhospitable environment possible.

In the desert.

To build a place of holiness in the desert?

The desert is uninhabitable. Building a house of G-d there is incongruous, odd and a little strange.

Yes! said G-d, build me a home right here in the desert.

It is against the backdrop of darkness that light shines forth ever brightly.

It is a more authentic expression of creating a dwelling place for G-d in the ‘lower worlds’ when the location is downright unsuitable.

This message is powerful and empowering if we unpack it and apply it to our times.  

The physical temporary structure of the Mishkan may have been superseded by the permanent Bet Hamikdash but the message it carries is one for eternity.

How sad and painful it is when I hear someone tell me that they are a bag of …. That they feel unneeded. That there is nothing redeemable about them. People look at them like scum. Perhaps they have no money. Their self-esteem is shattered.

They feel like a desert.

It makes me want to cry when I hear someone going through such pain.

But beyond showing my empathy, crying will not help.

I pray that they hear the message that G-d is whispering to them in the deepest recesses of their soul.

G-d says to each one of us. Even if you feel like you are like a desert, you can and should make your life into a sanctuary for G-d.

I wish I could shout it from the rooftops and broadcast it on all of the social media channels available.

G-d believes in you. More than that, G-d is imploring you.

‘Take me up on the infinite gift I am giving you’ says G-d.

Make for me a Mikdash, invite Me in, and I will come to dwell there.

Yes, you, even with all your doubts, insecurities and shortcomings. Even when you feel like you are in a desert, take action to do the next right thing. Let G-d into your heart and let Him guide your deeds. You too will blossom and bloom like a garden once you allow Him in.

My friends, let us act like G-d with compassion and belief. Let us discard our skepticism and sarcasm that we sometimes project to others.

It is all too easy to G-d forbid break those around us.

If you look at your friend with negativity, you are setting him up for failure.

Sometimes one has unrealistic expectations of a child when they are young, and the criticism festers and bubbles till it eventually causes emotional dysfunction.

Put aside the immature and immoral urge to push someone else down as a panacea to making yourself feel better.

Let us take the G-dly path as our roadmap for life.

The joyous HIGH ROAD.

Inject positivity to those around you.

Look at your family members, your friends, your work mate as being full of potential. Believe in them. Compliment them. Appreciate them.

This will help them succeed.

Treat your children lovingly. With unconditional love. Remind them that G-d loves them. Show them how much you trust them. Project to them how much they mean to you even if they have not lived up to your hopes and dreams.

It will propel them to fulfilling their unique potential.

It may even literally help save their life.

Yonatan, thanks for shlepping out to see me and for sharing this inspiration with me.

May G-d bless you with good health.

We are now in the month of Purim (see details about Bangkok celebrations below) and we are instructed and empowered to be JOYOUS.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS If you want to partner with us in the above and numerous other acts of kindness, please consider a gift to our humanitarian assistance tzedakah fund

When the rich need Tzedakah

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It happens every so often that in order to move the ‘wagon’ of Jewish life in Thailand forward, I take a short-term monetary loan to keep the ‘lights on’ and the activities funded.

Needing to take a loan does not make me discouraged, as the Torah teaches us the right frame of mind to have. Hashem wants us to be engaged in giving and receiving. There are times when I get the merit to help others, and there are times when I am grateful to receive help from others.

Hashem made his world in this ‘giving and receiving’ model, to allow for acts of interpersonal kindness between people.

It seems to me that sometimes Hashem puts me in a position of need in order to provide a ‘mitzvah’ to someone who may need that extra protection that the mitzvah of tzedakah provides.

For example, in April of 2021 within a few hours after I took a bridge-loan from a friend, that very friend  escaped unscathed from an armed robbery after having a gun pointed at his head.

Click here for that story

The story of the lifesaving qualities of Tzedakah is not a new one. It’s been going on since the creation of the world.

Our Sages taught that ‘tzedakah saves from death’ and tell the following detailed story:

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter once went to the market to buy things for the home. As she passed a group of star-gazers and fortune–tellers, one of them said to the other: “see that lovely girl? What a dreadful calamity is awaiting her! She is going to die on the very day of her wedding. Mark my word!”

Rabbi Akiba’s daughter overheard the words of the star-gazer, but paid no attention to him. She had often heard it from her great father that he who observes the Mitzvoth of the holy Torah need fear no evil.

As the happy day of her wedding approached, she had forgotten all about that star-gazer. On the day before her wedding, there was much to do, and at night she retired to bed, tired but happy. Before going to bed, she removed her golden hair-pin and stuck it in the wall, as she had done before.

The following morning, she pulled her pin from the wall, and in doing so dragged a small but very poisonous snake with it. Horrified, she realized that she had killed the snake that was lurking in the wall's crevice when she stuck the pin into the wall the night before. What a wonderful miracle!

Then she remembered the words of the star-gazer, and shuddered.

She heard a knock on the door. “Are you alright, daughter? I heard you shriek,” her father said. Then he saw the dead snake still dangling from the pin. She told her father what happened.

“This is indeed a miracle,” Rabbi Akiba said. “Tell me, daughter, what did you do yesterday? There must have been some special Mitzvah that you performed yesterday to have been saved from this.”

“Well, the only thing that I can remember was this. Last night, when everybody was busy with the preparations for my wedding, a poor man came in, but nobody seemed to notice him, so busy everybody was. I saw that the poor man was very hungry, so I took my portion of the wedding-feast and gave it to him.”

Rabbi Akiba had always known that his daughter was very devoted to the poor, but this was something special, and he was very happy indeed. “Tzedoko (charity) delivereth from death,” he exclaimed.

The above story as recorded in the Talmud happened a very long time ago. But it has not diminished. This immense power of the mitzvah of Tzedaka is ‘alive and well’ here and now. Earlier I told you a story from two years ago. A few weeks ago,  I got to see the lifesaving power of Tzedakah once again.

I once again needed a short-term loan for something very important. I contacted a friend C. L. He said he would think about it and would get back to me.

I didn’t hear from him and continued to look elsewhere for the loan.

C. L. called me back a week or two later and told me that he could give the loan and would promptly send it. He said he had wanted to tell me that he could do the loan shortly after we had spoken but it had slipped his mind.

It was only after he sent me the loan that I recalled that between the time that we had discussed the loan to the time that he sent the loan C. L.  had been in a traffic accident. Someone ran a red light and went right into him. He came out blessedly and miraculously unscathed.

(In a classic ‘Divine Providence’ story, the other driver who was also fine thank G-d, was a Jewish man and my friend invited him to wrap Tefilin which he was happy to do).

I don’t know why out of all the people I know; I had reached out to C. L. for this loan. To me it seemed that perhaps Hashem had Providentially brought C.L. this mitzvah of loaning a fellow Jew money, so that the G-dly protective shield would be activated for him.

You may be asking; we are talking about a loan which will be paid back in full. Why am I calling this a mitzvah?

Let’s have a discussion about loans.

Especially that the mitzvah of giving loans is instructed in this week’s Parsha of Mishpatim.

Sometimes people question whether borrowing money is a healthy thing to do.

It really depends on the reason one is taking a loan.

If expenses exceed current income and realistically potential income, then taking a loan is not a proper solution as it will build a level of debt that may prove insurmountable.

Credit card debt in particular is terrible as the interest that is incurred makes the loan swell and grow out of control.

Responsible loan taking though, is quite common. Taking a loan to keep the ‘lights on’ till you can find a way to cover the expense is quite a regular way of life in large corporations and even governments.

(Talking about governments. The United States of America is famous for racking up debt ever growing amounts of debt.

I took a peek at the national debt calculator, and I got dizzy watching the amounts go up every second.

One of the lessons to be learned from the USA is quite profound although somewhat out-of-the-box.

A Shliach wrote to the Rebbe that he was struggling with accumulating debt and this was pulling his mood down and causing his sluggishness and inactivity in certain aspects of the Jewish outreach activities under his responsibility.  

‘Take a look at the USA government and their debts and observe how the country is still humming with activity notwithstanding their debt’ responded the Rebbe.

Debt is not easy to service and it can be tiring, but the American debt story shows that it does not need to mean stopping to operate.

The rabbi was a bit surprised. He was hoping for a blessing to get out of debt, instead he was given a life-lesson about learning to operate even within the framework of being in debt.

If you are in debt, be heartened by the above observation. Do your best to get out of debt but don’t let it demoralize you or depress you. Rather work energetically at whatever you are meant to be doing).

Please understand that I am not advocating for overspending. Too many people have problems that could have been avoided if they had managed their spending to be in accordance with their earnings.

Common sense tell us that it is not a good fiscal policy to continually spend more than you have.

More importantly, the Torah teaches that one must be frugal with spending (even for Shabbat) rather than supplementing ones income by charitable gifts from others.

However, sometimes people get thrown into an unnecessary panic when their current incomes are insufficient for their expenditure.

Sometimes their crippling fear is redundant and a product of their own inner fears. For when one looks more deeply into the situation it is very possible that in a few weeks or months they will have additional income that will make up for their current shortfall. This is not always the case, but I have observed this in many instances.

What is a person to do if they are waiting for a paycheck that is sure to come but not till a few weeks from now? It’s a ‘catch 22’. If they have no money, they cannot pay for transportation to their place of work. If they don’t get to work, they will lose their job and not have any money.

If they go to a ‘payday-loan’ provider to take a loan against their future salary, a considerable amount will be charged for interest. Those who are the poorest land up spending the most on interest.

In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us about a unique form of Tzedakah.

In Hebrew it is called ‘Gemillat Chessed’ or in short ‘Gema’ch’.

Free Loan.

More accurately ‘Interest Free’ Loan.  

Yes, a loan must be repaid.

Is it a form of Tzedakah?

Emphatically YES.

The Rambam puts it at the top rung of the ‘eight levels of Tzedakah’.

It’s a unique kind of Tzedakah.

It helps people not to fall before they fall. It is much easier to prevent a fall than to pick someone up after they have fallen.

‘Rich’ people are also in need of this kind of tzedakah just as poor people.

Someone may be asset rich but just doesn’t have cash available to carry out a purchase they need to make.

By giving a person who is rich ‘on paper’ an interest free loan you are doing a great act of Tzedaka with him.

This is not possible with traditional Tzedakah which only applies to someone who is in needy.

About the greatness of the mitzvah of giving a ‘Gemach’ interest-free loan, click here and look at footnote 7 for incredible words about this mitzvah.

Every community should have a ‘Gemach’ fund’. A place where one can get an interest free loan.

The large cities and well-established Jewish communities have quite considerable and large free-loan opportunities. However, although we are a relatively small community, we too engage in the mitzvah of ‘gemach’.

For many years, Chabad of Thailand has operated a loan fund called ‘Keren Liba’ and been providing interest free loans to those who qualify. Feel free to reach out to me by email if an interest free loan is something that can help you.

On the side of the ‘givers’, if you would like to contribute money to be used expressly for this mitzvah of being loaned out, please contact me.

The Rebbe once related that certain chassidim of the Tzemach Tzedek used to lend each other money — not because they were needy, but because they appreciated the lofty standing of the mitzvah of giving interest-free loans!

The Rebbe concluded: May G‑d grant that loans be given not because of need, but only because people appreciate the lofty standing of the mitzvah of giving interest-free loans.

This week we take out a second Torah at the Shul and read the portion of Shekalim, which speaks about the giving of the half-shekel. A great time to be talking about ‘shekels’ and giving tzedakah and ‘Gemach’s.

On a practical note.

Look for opportunities to do acts of kindness and benevolence with others. Sometimes by giving a monetary gift or a gift of food and clothes or the like. And sometimes not by ‘giving’ but by ‘lending’.

Don’t overlook, and on the contrary, pay special attention to the opportunity to help someone by giving them a loan. A loan that is to be repaid in full but with no interest charged.

(A word of caution. When being approached for a loan, one should assess whether it is really a ‘gift’ of Tzedakah that is being asked for. If a person is asking for a loan but has no means, and thus no intention to pay it back, it would be better for you to give an amount that you could afford to give them as tzedakah.

I know some kind-hearted people who are resistant to giving ‘gemach’ loans because they have had an experience where they lent someone funds and it was not returned. This is why many ‘free loan societies’ responsibly require guarantors and other forms of security to ensure full repayment when the time comes).

I am not even talking about large sums. Giving a loan may sometimes be for a small amount.

A small deed with great effects.

The reverberations in the world are epic.

Every time we do an act of kindness, the forces of light gain traction and supremacy over the forces of ‘darkness’.

Let’s add LIGHT and do acts of kindness wherever and however we can, until Hashem does the great Tzedakah with us and brings us Mashiach NOW.


Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov (Tuesday and Wednesday are Rosh Chodesh).

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Questions better left unanswered

Dear Friend,

This is the week!

The most transformative moment of world history took place in this weeks Parsha more than three thousand years ago at a mediocre mountain in a deserted desert.

G-d descended onto the Mountain of Sinai and said:

I am Hashem your G-d…..

With these opening words of the Ten Commandments Hashem laid out the ‘game plan’ and the ‘manufacturers intention’ for the inhabitants of the world.

The foremost goal and Mitzvah is to believe in G-d.

The mission is to create an abode for G-d here on earth. This means that the entire universe should be permeated and convinced of the existence and relevance of G-d.

We do this practically by filling the world with acts of goodness and kindness as per Hashem’s moral code.

By living our lives the way Hashem instructed us, by sharing the Universal Morality laws to all of the worlds inhabitants, we created an abode for the Divine.

Once that is completed, Hashem moves on to His ‘end game’ which is utopian. It will be all about basking in the presence of the G-d’ly ‘light’ and ‘energy’ that we have ‘drawn down’ into the world resulting in a new reality of a world that is naturally peaceful, good and idyllic. Our entire occupation at that time will be knowing G-d in a deeper and more inspiring way. It’s called the coming of Mashiach. We all await this and work industriously towards its realization.

So for now, as we edge ever closer to that Mashiach epoch, we are busily carrying out our G-d given mission. An important mission. A good mission. A holy mission.

But nowhere does it say that it is an easy mission.

On the contrary. It’s a mission that takes our innermost strengths to be galvanized. G-d designed a world that is full of concealments. He has obscured himself in order to create an intricate web of disguise which makes it’s a truly challenging ‘hide and seek’ situation.  

He hides, we seek Him.

Sometimes He uncovers His Presence in epic ways. Like Exodus from Egypt, splitting the sea, raining down the Manna for forty years in the desert.

More often He delivers His miracles in a more ‘natural’ way. Albeit, nature is not so ‘natural’ when you think about it. It is a series of miracles that we get used to because of their predictability, thus we refer to it as ‘nature’. However you want to look at nature, there are small almost imperceptible exceptions to the rules of nature that appear at time. Within the natural and predicable order of ‘nature’ He embeds events that can be aptly coined ‘small miracles’ as well as ‘coincidences’ that are just too ‘coincidental’ to be waved away as mere happenstance.

If you are sensitive to seeing them you have a much better chance of noticing them. If you search for those signs from G-d, they often show up (sometimes when you least expect them). Those are uplifting and heartening moments.

The Almighty is infinite. We are finite.

Why do we need try to find His presence? Can we as finite beings ever get closer to Him the infinite One.

Yet, G-d asks us to ‘know Him’ as the Rambam writes in describing the most fundamental Mitzvah of the Torah ‘to know G-d’. For that reason he gathered the entire Jewish people, men women and children, to reveal Himself to them by saying ‘I am your G-d…’.

As much as He is unfathomable, He really wants us to get to know Him as best as we can.

There are so many ways we can find Him and perceive Him. Through studying His Torah. Particularly through the study of Kaballa and Chassidut the scholarly works that explore the many facets of G-d’s Being that we can somewhat understand.

We can find the Divine design through studying the marvels of His universe. Science, especially modern science, points to the unity of G-d in so many ways.

It is for this reason, to try and discover G-d’s presence in everyday life, that I love sharing stories of how we can find G-d in the Divine Providence that shows up as we go about life.

The Torah teaches that G-d is good. G-d is merciful. G-d’s love to us is like a loving parent to an only child born to elderly parents who despaired of ever having a child.

To know G-d is to know that He and only He is the source of every atom, microbe and guides with precision every interaction in the universe.

Which makes it so painful and inexplicable when one encounters tragedy.

Earlier this week I received an email that made me cry:

Lkovod Rabbi Kantor

I receive your weekly parsha thoughts and I very much enjoy them. A number of weeks ago you spoke about the concept that Hashem is with someone even when they are going through a challenge ,and that a person should find comfort in that Hashem is there with him as he is navigating through the challenge. I Have thought about it a lot over the last few weeks and have difficulty with this concept. Hashem is the one that caused my child to be in a terrible physical situation and has done nothing to help him in any way since he became ill 13 months ago. How can I find comfort in the fact that Hashem is here with us if he is ignoring our tefillos (prayers) and pain .Of what benefit or comfort can i one have from this concept if the fact that Hashem is there does not help him in any way . Conversely the thought that Hashem is there but yet ignores our pain and suffering makes it more difficult for me to handle and not less so .

You spoke just 3 weeks ago about the fact that more than a parent loves a child Hashem loves us. How can that be true. There is no sane parent that would destroy his child and rob him of the ability of talking moving eating etc . and yet that is exactly what Hashem did to my child. To my understanding that is the opposite of love. That is anger and a deep hatred to do that to a young child. To me Hashem hates us and our family for doing this to us and what use is it if he is there with us, if the only thing he does with his presence is hurt us and not help us.

Any illumination you can provide on these concepts would be much appreciated.

It’s the age old question that even Moshe asked of G-d.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Honestly, there is nothing I can answer that person who wrote me the letter as to WHY this is happening to them.

Moreover, I don’t believe we should ever make peace with suffering like this by suggesting an answer. Some questions are better to remain unanswered.

As to trying to find the good in the bad? That is not for someone on the outside to speculate.

Only the person going through this unspeakable tragedy has the right to try to blaze a path of light through this stifling darkness.

For the rest of us, we should provide a shoulder to cry on, and galvanize to act in a way that we can help and alleviate to the maximum possible.

I was not sure if I wanted to address this from a public column. It was written to me by an individual, going through a private and individual excruciating situation.

However, this very question got bumped up to headlines in the Jewish world.

Tragically, this week we got the news that Mrs. Henya Federman the Chabad Shlucha of St. Thomas Island passed away. Henya passed away at the age of 40 on Wednesday after battling for her life for more than two months in the aftermath of a water accident that claimed the life of her 4-month-old daughter, Shterna.

Many thousands prayed for her and did mitzvahs in her honor during the past few difficult months.

When people confide in me, sharing their challenges and difficulties, I often think about the difference between ‘subjective’ problems and ‘objective’ ones.

Some problems are ‘in the mind’. For example, if you are bothered because you are not sure how you will pay your rent next month, it’s a real problem because having a roof over your head is a real need, but it’s a ‘subjective’ problem in some ways. For if you train your mind to trust in Hashem that He will provide, you can live without angst till the rent is actually due and hopefully something will happen that allows you to pay the rent. Oftentimes, problems ‘solve themselves’ (hidden miracle?) and then we see how misplaced our stress was. And yes, many of us live with stress over things that we ought to solve at the ‘mind’ level.

Some tragedies though, are objectively tragic.

Like a young child being robbed of his health as the letter above.

Or a forty years old mother to twelve surviving children, passing away.

These are ‘objective’ tragedies that defy explanation.

How can one reconcile these unimaginably painful events with our firm belief in G-d who is Good, Kind and Omnipotent.

I have no answers. And at the same time, I have no doubts. Why do I have no doubts.

Because intellectually it makes perfect sense not to be able to understand G-d and His ways.

G-d is infinite. I am finite.

By definition it is impossible for me to fathom Him.

The interaction I had with a Holocaust survivor in my early teens in downtown Melbourne keeps coming back to me.

We, young budding Yeshiva students would visit our ‘Mitzvah route’ ever Friday in the Melbourne CBD to share Torah pamphlets and lay Tefilin with the Jewish men. There was a Holocaust survivor who loved our visits and always refused our gentle requests that he perform the mitzvah of Tefilin. He would say ‘after what I saw in the Holocaust, I cannot believe in G-d’. We never pushed him. As we were taught from a very early age that we needed to be sensitive to everyone. Especially to someone who had gone through the inferno of the Holocaust. We were given to understand that we could never understand the depth of a survivors hurt and their subsequent relationship with G-d.

One week, the survivor shocked us when he said ‘I envy you, for your belief in G-d’. We asked him incredulously, ‘what? Why do you envy us for our belief’? To which he responded ‘if you couldn’t pay your bills (evidently his sign-making business was struggling) you wouldn’t get mad at yourself and consider yourself a failure. You would say ‘it’s bashert’ – Divinely ordained to be this way. You would ‘blame’ G-d. I have nobody to blame when I can’t pay my rent other than me. I wish I could believe in G-d’.

To have questions on G-d’s actions when one faces something that defies explanation, is a valid relationship with G-d.

G-d allows us to question Him.

Only someone who has gone through tragedy is able to feel and relate to the depth of the hurt and pain that yields the painful questioning of G-d is really able to address this difficult question.

(In this vein, a very good book on this topic just came out written by a rabbi who suffered the great tragedy of losing his wife, mother of their eleven children, at the tender age of 36. Why G-d Why?: A Guide for the Brokenhearted  or its tag line ‘how to believe in Heaven when it hurts like Hell’).

I pray that we all be blessed to only have ‘subjective’ challenges and ‘mini’ problems.

And I stand humbly and in awe of those giants whose belief in Hashem is steadfast even during the most trying of situations.

It is inspiring beyond belief to witness their acceptance of their ‘Divinely delivered package’ without them wavering from their path of following Hashem in every aspect of their lives.

I pray that G-d gives you and I many uplifting stories of Divine Providence to share with each other in good health and happiness.

They abound. We all have so many things to be grateful to Hashem for.

Hashem allows us to complain when things are tough.

And Hashem rejoices with you as you SING when you feel blessed.

Every morning when one wakes up and his or her soul has been restored, rested and refreshed, we thank Hashem.

Every time one recalls that Hashem has given us His special mandate to connect to him via doing His commandments, this is a cause for true celebration.

In this week’s Parsha we read about receiving the Torah.

Mazel Tov for receiving the Torah.

Let’s celebrate it. By studying it. And by singing with joy about it.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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