"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Jewish tenacity



By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

On Wednesday we received news that Jesse Henry (pictures below) passed away at the ripe of old age of ninety-five.

Many years ago, Jesse had made a request of me to bring him to a Jewish burial when he passed. Yesterday this wish was fulfilled.

Later that evening we gathered for our weekly Torah class. Naturally we dedicated our Torah study in the loving memory of Jesse the son of Rebecca.

The text of the class I was teaching, made reference to the following Talmudic passage (Baba Batra 17a):

The Sages taught: There were four people who died only because of the counsel of the primordial snake, (in the wake of which all of humanity became mortal, and not on account of any personal sin).

Click here for the text of the class

While the text of the lesson didn’t specify the name of the four saintly people, all of a sudden, I recalled that one of them was Yishai (Jesse). Just to make sure, we quickly looked up the Talmudic source. Here is how the rest of the Talmudic quote reads:

And they are: Benjamin, son of Jacob; Amram, father of Moses; Yishai, father of David; and Chileab, son of David. 

Incredible Divine Providence. The very day that we had buried Jesse, we were learning about the saintliness of Jesse (Yishai) the father of King David.

Our Jesse looked quite saintly in his white beard. He lived a long full life, outliving many who predicted he would die many years ago. Till a few short years ago he was living independently and enjoying a very social life.

Quite remarkably he was buried the day after he passed away which is quite a feat and a great blessing to the soul of the departed.

His funeral was dignified and inspiring.

One of the non-Jewish friends who attended the funeral wrote as follows:

Dear Rabbi,

After attending Jesse’s burial yesterday at the Jewish Cemetery, I felt compelled to write and extend a very heartfelt and sincere “thank you“. Thanks to you both for every hoop that had to be jumped through in order to bury Jesse a day after he passed away. This in itself, considering Thailand, was absolutely remarkable.

But even more importantly, to me, was the service itself and the people who attended from the Jewish community. Please know how very impressed I was that any number of people that attended  who didn’t even know or had met Jesse. When speaking with one gentleman who asked if I knew Jessie because he didn’t, I asked why he had come? His answer was simple and so telling. He said: because he was Jewish. What a magnificent testimony to the Jewish faith, the significance of that faith and love of one another. I thought to myself, the Christian community could learn a lot from the Jewish community.

The Psalms recited in Hebrew, each man contributing dirt to fill up the burial place and then reciting prayers at the end, to me had so much significance, and obviously tradition. I count myself blessed to have been part of the entire occasion, though sad as it may have been.

Yesterday affected me, and I wanted you to know how positively. May God bless and keep all of you in the palm of His hand, and in the shadow of His wing.

Most sincerely,

From everyone’s life we must learn. The lessons we learn from those who have passed away, serve as a nachas to the soul of the departed.

Some of the things I learned from Jesse, are compassion and responsibility.

Jesse was married to Suda. Suda was afflicted with dementia for many years. Jessed faithfully and responsibly nursed and cared for her till her passing.

A paradigm of selfless devotion.

Another thing that I learned from Jesse was the tenacity of the Jewish people.

Jesse was raised as a Christian.

His mother had told him he was Jewish because she was but had not provided any kind of Jewish experience or education.

Yet, against all odds, the Jewish spark was not extinguished. Jesse joined the Jewish community at an advanced age, performed mitzvahs to the best of his ability and requested time and time again that he be buried amongst his fellow Jews according to the Jewish tradition.

May the soul of Yishai (Jesse) ben Rivka have its rightful ascent in the Garden of Eden.

That Torah states unequivocally that the most healthy and straightforward way of life for a Jewish person is to allow his or her inner self be expressed. Thus, the healthiest and most wholesome way of life for a Jew, is to observe Torah and Mitzvahs.

As we near Rosh Hashana let us recognize that within each of us is a spark of Jewishness a ‘nitzotz Yehudi’ a ‘pinteleh Yid’ that yearns and desires expression and fulfillment.

Pursuits of other types can only serve as temporary panaceas but in the long term they will not quench the thirst of the neshama.

It is only Torah study and Mitzvah observance that will soothe and sustain the Jewish soul.

As we get ready for Rosh Hashana let us develop and massage the neshama within us.

Study additional Torah, perform more mitzvahs.

Especially the mitvah of Tzedaka and helping others in any form or fashion.

From Jesse’s life I take renewed strength never to give up on any fellow Jew as far and estranged as they may seem. And certainly never give up on our own soul and its potential to become aflame with the passion of connection to G-d.

May you have a Shana Tova Umetukah.

A Good and Sweet Year!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

29 day countdown

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I visited the office of a good friend who likes to donate tzedakah to our work.

He had prepared for me in advance, six hundred dollars towards the High Holiday meals that we will serve at the Chabad Houses in Thailand.

We anticipate serving upwards of fifteen thousand meals during the upcoming chagim. Click here to see a video that warms the heart and please contribute generously to bring Jewish holiday unity to Thailand.

The conversation flowed and I shared words of Torah. My friend was inspired and called out to his assistant to write another check for one thousand dollars. He then remembered that he still had an outstanding pledge from the past, and he promptly wrote a check for that amount as well.

In total, during that visit, he had given thirty-one hundred dollars. Not a round figure. And not a Jewishly significant figure like eighteen, thirty-six or fifty four. Just a ‘random’ figure that was a sum total of several different things.

A few days later I met him again.

He was excited to see me as he was itching to share something quite incredulous.

Here is what he shared:

‘Two weeks ago, I sent a package of semi-precious stones to a client. The client selected two stones and sent the rest back.

Or so he claimed. I checked the returned goods and found a stone missing. He said that he had returned everything he had received besides for the two stones that he purchased. I said that according to my records there was an additional stone that was not returned.

I stood to lose money as well as the client.

You, Rabbi Kantor, visited my office. I gave you tzedakah for Chabad of Thailand. Three tranches of money. The total figure was an amount that seemed random to me.

A few minutes after you left my office, the client called to tell me that I was right. He had found the stone in question somewhere in his office.

The value of that missing stone was thirty-one hundred dollars.

The exact amount that I had given to Tzedaka’

I was so inspired to hear that story. When Hashem shows His revealed Divine Providence, it makes the rest of the day more elevated and tranquil. It is so calming and reassuring to know that we are not here in this sometimes-overwhelming world, alone. Hashem is in charge of every single detail.

There is another detail to the story.

The client said that he had found the stone the day before. In other words, before the tzedakah was given. He just hadn’t gotten around to calling my friend till the next day.

This story fits the theme of the month of Elul so perfectly for several reasons.

First of all, tzedakah has a special connection to this preparatory month before Rosh Hashana. Click here for more.

The detail regarding the client informing my friend only after he had already given the tzedakah is also a perfect fit for Elul.

The acronym of Elul is ‘ אני לדודי ודודי לי ’ ‘I am to my beloved (G-d) and my beloved (G-d) is to me’. This is a statement that reflects the deep love that exists between us and Hashem.

Notice that it starts with ‘I am to my beloved’. The ‘I’ in this passage refers to us mortal beings down here.

There are two ways that we can have a relationship with G-d. Either initiated by Him or initiated by us. The process of connection to G-d as it applies to this month of Elul, is one that is predicated on our initiation from below.

Click here for an article on this topic

Were the client to have told my friend that he is getting back his stone just before I visited his office, and my friend would have given me that generous donation to match that money that he had recouped, it would have been a great deed, but it would have been inspired and sparked by the message from Heaven of finding the stone.

Whereas the way that the story actually unfolded, is that my friend simply gave tzedakah. Notwithstanding the fact that he thought he had incurred a loss just recently.

The tzedakah he gave was thus totally to his credit. Not sparked by Divine Providence in finding the stone.

Once he had fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedakah fully at his own initiative, then Hashem showed him how his missing stone had been restored.

We don’t do the right thing because we anticipate or expect reward.

Yet it is heartwarming and uplifting when good things happen as a result of good deeds being done.

May you be blessed to initiate good things and perform acts of kindness and tzedakah. And may you be blessed to see favorable and miraculous results in your life.

This is the twenty-nine-day countdown before the beginning of the new year on Rosh Hashana.

See information below about Beth Elisheva services at Rembrandt hotel.

And see pictures below from the Beth Elisheva new building progress.

It is the time to make an accounting of the things we didn’t do right or didn’t do at all and to put things in order.

Remember, if you don’t feel inspired it is because Hashem wants us to make the first move.

If he sends you the inspiration from above and you wake up feeling inspired and ‘raring to go’ then it is HIS move. It cannot be fully credited to you.

If we self-initiate, it is much more powerful. Then it is truly our achievement.

During the month of Elul, Hashem gives us a head start. He shows us a smiling countenance and indicates to us how He is eminently approachable.

Then we take the first step to come towards him by learning, praying and doing acts of tzedakah in an upgraded way.

Once we show we are interested, He then shows his love and interest in us and blesses us with a Shana Tova.

May you and all your loved ones and all of us be blessed with a  sweet, healthy redemptive year.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


 Dear Friend,

I never knew that such a little insignificant piece of plastic could be so pivotal.

That little plastic ‘sleeve’ that holds the sim card, broke and got stuck in the phone.

It was quite a big deal to get it unstuck and then to replace it.

Ironically, the sim card, which is the brains of the phone is fairly easy to replace.

I am talking about this little ‘ pichifke ’ that is a sliver of a plastic and retails for $6.98 plus shipping.

Till now, I had looked at the piece of plastic that holds the sim card as a little insignificant thingamajig. A plastic ‘shmontzeh’. Turns out, it’s a pretty important accouterment.

Till I could get the matter sorter out, I was left phoneless….

 ( Click here for some meditations about being phoneless it may actually be a good thing. Thank G-d we have Shabbat which is a Divine ‘technology detox’).

The Baal Shem Tov taught that we are to learn a life lesson from every thing one sees or hears. Here is what I learned from my preoccupation with this simple piece of plastic?

 Our Sages tell us in the Ethics of Our Fathers

Do not scorn any man, and do not belittle any ‘thing’. For there is no man who has not his hour, and no ‘thing’ that has not its place.

The story is told of King David who was wondering what possible usefulness a spider could have. Spiders seem to provide only irritation and have no productive use. King David found his answer as he was escaping from King Saul who was pursuing him. King David entered a cave with his pursuers not far behind. A spider promptly spun an intricate web at the entrance to the cave. His pursuers saw the unbroken spider web and assumed that there was no reason to search the cave. It was obvious that no one had entered. King David now gave praise to G-d for all His creations. Even those creatures that seem redundant.

This, say the commentaries, is what the Sages mean by their teaching ‘do not belittle any thing’.

The Mishna is telling us that everything in this world has its time and place when it is irreplaceable. Nothing is insignificant.

When one needs that little piece of insignificant plastic, nothing can take its place. During certain circumstances, what is usually petty, becomes the most important thing in your universe.

There is a double lesson to be learned here.

If you are suffering from low self-esteem, remember your contribution to G-d’s world is unique. To say that you are redundant is to deny G-d. Hashem does not create extra people. You, yes you, with all your doubts, fallacies and idiosyncrasies.

Hashem created YOU to be YOU. G-d’s world is not complete without YOU.

You are here because G-d has a plan for you.

In the words of this weeks Parsha:

See, I place before you blessing and its unwelcome counterpart’.

It is your choice whether you choose the path of blessing or the other path. It is your choice whether you grin or grimace.

However, regardless of what choices you have made, you are irreplaceable.

On the other hand, if you are feeling haughty and stepping on other people as if they are redundant just remember that even the ‘smallest’ plastic item may be the most important to you at some stage.

Human beings – each and every one of them - are existentially important.

You must treat every fellow human as the valuable part of G-d’s world that they are.

The greatest of our leaders taught us by their example. They treated the lowliest people they encountered with the highest level of respect.

True greatness is to appreciate the worthwhileness in every fellow human.

In every living creature.

In every being of vegetable life.

Even in every inanimate object.

Our G-dly mission is to utilize all of creation for its intended purpose.

The roadmap is the Torah.

The techniques used to elevate creation to its Divine goal are the Mitzvahs.

This basic awareness of the importance and significance of every detail of creation becomes even more highlighted at this time of the year.

On Thursday and Friday of this week we mark the beginning of the month of Elul.

Rosh Hashana (this year on Friday eve September 15th see details below about High Holiday services) reminds us that Hashem created the world and every single detail therein.

A capable housewife does not keep useless things in her home. If something has no purpose, it doesn’t stay around in her domain.

Hashem doesn’t make mistakes. Hashem doesn’t keep non-necessary and redundant things in His world.

Rosh Hashana as the birthday of man, reminds us that we each have a purpose and each and every one of us is indispensable to G-d.

Shabbat Shalom

And an early SHANA TOVA

Rabbi Yosef C. Kantor

saying it forward

Get 'Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok' in your inbox,

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Has it ever happened that you heard from someone when they needed something, perhaps they even nudged you multiple times to make sure you helped them exactly according to their specifications, but then after everything worked out, they forgot to thank you.

Or if they did thank you, the thanks were with far less enthusiasm than the request.

Or sometimes even worse.

Like in the following story.

A chassid called the Rebbe’s secretary in middle of the night to ask for the Rebbe’s prayers on behalf of his wife who was having a difficult and dangerous labor. The Rebbe’s secretary called back a few hours later to see how it was progressing. The husband said, ‘oh, all worked out well in the end’. A while back the child was born and the newborn and mother are healthy. The secretary chastised the chassid. The Rebbe has been praying for you and worried about you since you called, hasn’t allowed himself to lie down and rest, and you didn’t update as soon as the crisis passed?

To be honest, I must embarrassedly admit that on occasion I have forgotten to update those who helped me through a rough patch. When they checked in afterwards to see how I was coping and I had to shamefacedly say that things sorted themselves out but I simply forgot to update them, it was quite embarrassing.

Perhaps I am not alone in sometimes slipping in this field. Can you also think of times when you have had such an oversight?

It’s not that we are bad people.

It is just human nature that giving gratitude is not the most natural thing. It needs to be consciously worked on.

In this week’s Parsha of Eikev, Hashem tells us, ‘You will eat, be satiated, you should bless G-d’.

From here we know that we have the obligation to say the ‘Birkat Hamazon’ the blessing thanking Hashem for our food.

Do we really need G-d to command us in the Torah to give thanks?

Wouldn’t it be the most natural thing in the world to give effusive thanks once you have eaten to the point of being satisfied.?

It seems that it is not so automatic.

On the contrary.

After you are satisfied, its all to easy to forget how much you ought to appreciate G-d who gave you the food.

It is most telling that the next words in the Torah following the instruction to thank G-d after eating, are ‘beware that you don’t forget G-d’.

Continues the Torah, don’t say to yourself ‘It is my own strength and the might of my hand that have accumulated this wealth for me’. Therefore, I do not owe God anything for it.

Rather one must remember says the Torah, that it is Hashem who provides you with your wealth.

The Talmud derives from this, that since there is a mitzvah of thanking Hashem AFTER eating it goes without saying, that when you are hungry and about to eat, you first bless G-d for his food.

Furthermore, says the Talmud, since everything belongs to Hashem, one ought to first ask the Owner for permission to partake of His world.

Thus we have the Halacha that before we eat, drink or smell something that gives us benefit, we make a Bracha. Recognizing that it is Hashem’s word that we are partaking of. And expressing our gratitude in anticipation of the benefit we are about to have.

And then after we finish eating, we bless Hashem and thank Him for his beneficence.

One of the things that lull us into forgetfulness to give gratitude is money.

Money is a powerful ingredient.

It can have a  negative effect.

It creates a feeling of invincibility. A sense of control. People with enough money feel that they can get away with things that poorer people cannot.

For example, have you ever seen how a rich person gets away with being rude, while a poor person is immediately put into place.

Society respects money, sometimes obsessively. It may not be too far off to say that in some parts of society money is idolized.

Money blinds. Desensitizes. Plays with one’s sense of morality.

It can do all the above. Possibly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way at all.

Money can and should be an immensely powerful tool for good.

That is what it’s true purpose is. To be a tool for doing good.

If you remember Hashem, and that it is Hashem who has entrusted you with wealth, you will have a positive experience with money.

Money will become the conduit for your partnership with Hashem in making this world a better place.

The Alter Rebbe summed it up in one line. Hashem gives Jews materiality, in order that they should turn it into spirituality.

Money, when used to help others and generate Torah study and good deeds, is money that has been transformed into G-d centered spirituality.  

Money turns negative when one uses it to foster selfishness.

However, when one is able to be selfless and focus on the needs of others, that is when money becomes an elevating substance.

Here are a few examples that I personally experienced of how wealthy people can overcome the pitfalls of wealth and leap up to be giants of kindness.

The world economy went through a challenging time during Covid.

A philanthropic Jew met with me and on his own initiative gave a bigger than usual tzedakah donation. When I asked him with curiosity why he was giving more when business was clearly down, and his incomes were not as they used to be, he responded with wise words that he had heard from the famous philanthropist Mr. Sami Rohr z”l

“It’s no big kuntz (trick/achievement) to be a baal tzedaka when things are good. It’s when things are hard, that’s when you have to give more”

Another philanthropic Jew reached out to me during Covid with a substantial donation although I knew that his business was suffering. He told me, Sometimes, when we are stressed, we are blind to others’ greater needs. I know that these times are challenging for you and I’m glad to be of a little help.

There is a story I read as a child, and it has remained with me ever since.

Its titled ‘The Mirror’ written by Chana Sharfstein (I’m copying from as per link)

This is the story about a very beautiful and very special mirror. It hung on a wall in the dining room of a fine house belonging to a rich man.

The mirror was large and square, with a wide, thick gold frame carved with beautiful designs of leaves and flowers. Everyone that saw the mirror admired it, but everyone also noticed that it was imperfect. On one of the corners, you see, the silver backing had been scraped off so that this part of the mirror was plain glass. People would remark upon its beauty and then say, "Oh, what a pity! Too bad the mirror is damaged." To everyone's surprise, the mirror's owner would tell his visitors that it was he himself who had deliberately scraped the silver backing off! Can you imagine owning such a costly mirror, a work of art, and then ruining it? But let me tell you the story of that mirror.

Many years ago, in a small town in Poland, there lived a man called Abraham. He owned a small store and he earned just enough money to take care of his family. He was not a rich man, but he also was not a very, very poor man. He had only a few customers. Sometimes people left without buying anything because Abraham did not have many things to choose from. They went to the big stores instead where they could find what they wanted.

Abraham was happy with his life. Though he was not rich, he always had enough to share with others. No visitor that came to his home ever left hungry. Every time a poor person needed help, Abraham always found money to give him. Abraham and his wife lived a very simple life. Their home was small. The house really needed a paint job, but there was never enough money for that. It seemed to them that it was more important to help someone in real trouble than to paint a house. Their furniture was old for the same reason. The curtains on the window had probably been washed a hundred times. Abraham and his wife had no carpets on their floor. Their clothes were plain, and they did not often buy new things. Many of their cups and plates had chips and cracks. The food they ate was simple.

Yes, it was not a very fancy home. But it was a real home. It was a warm and happy place. Everyone felt comfortable and relaxed there. Abraham had many visitors because everyone knew that he was kind and liked to be helpful.

One day Abraham was standing in the doorway of his little store waiting for customers. Suddenly he noticed a stranger walking toward his store. Abraham lived in a small town so he knew all the people there. When the stranger was near the store, Abraham asked him how he could help. "Maybe you would like to come to my home and rest awhile," he said. "If you are hungry, please be my guest. If you are thirsty, please come with me for something to drink. Perhaps you need money? We will help you."

Abraham's invitation was so warm and friendly that the stranger decided to stop in his house for a rest.

What Abraham did not know was that this was no ordinary stranger. This was a very holy, wise and famous Rebbe from a town far way. He was on his way to a wedding and happened to pass through Abraham's town. The Rebbe was an important man and many people in Poland traveled long distances to listen to his words of wisdom, or to ask for a blessing or prayer in time of need. It would have been a great honor for any home to have this Rebbe as a guest.

The Rebbe soon noticed Abraham's kindness and generosity. He knew many rich people who could have helped the poor much more easily than Abraham, but who did much less than he. The Rebbe enjoyed his short stay. Before he left he blessed Abraham with riches, so that he should be able to continue helping the poor and needy more easily.

After the Rebbe left, Abraham's store suddenly became a very busy place. All day long customers were coming in. Everyone found what he wanted, and no longer did people leave his store to shop somewhere else. With each day that passed, Abraham had more new customers and more money to bring home. Soon he had to make his store larger to fit all his new customers. After a while, Abraham became a very big, important and rich storekeeper. He became one of the richest men in the town. The Rebbe's blessing that Abraham should become wealthy had been fulfilled.

To be rich seems mighty good when one is poor. People sometimes think that if they were rich, life would be beautiful. But being rich can be a problem too. Now that Abraham had a big store, he had a lot more work to do. He worried about robbers breaking into his store or home. He worried about his business. He wanted his store to keep on growing. He wanted a very beautiful home. He wanted new, fancy clothes. Because Abraham was busy with his store, he found less and less time for studying Torah and going to shul to pray. He did not even have time to bother with poor people. Abraham could only be seen by special appointment. His secretaries were told to give money to needy people who came for his help, but Abraham had no time to listen to their stories or problems.

Abraham and his wife built a brand new house that almost looked like a palace. It had many rooms, and all the rooms were large and beautiful. On the windows hung soft velvet drapes. The floors were covered with thick rugs. There was wallpaper on the walls. The kitchen was filled with new pots and pans. There were lots of fine dishes in the cabinets. All the furniture was new and expensive. The dining room table was made of shiny wood. The chairs in the living room were soft and plump. On the walls hung paintings by real artists. And on one wall in the living room there hung a huge mirror. It was so big it almost covered the whole wall. All around this mirror there was a wide, thick frame of gold. No one else in town had such a fine mirror. Everyone who saw it spoke of its beauty. It was truly a masterpiece.

There were many servants in this new house. But this house was so fancy that Abraham did not want to let beggars or poor people come in. Strangers were no longer invited for a meal. Servants would open the door and give some money to the needy, but that was all.

"Abraham is different," people said. "He has changed since he became rich. What a pity! He was always so kind and good, and now look at him. He has no time for any of us any more." And they would shake their heads sadly and remember the good old times when Abraham had never been too busy to help others.

Time passed. One day a messenger came to visit Abraham. He had been sent a long distance from the famous Rebbe who had given Abraham the blessing of riches. The news of Abraham's good fortune had reached the ears of the Rebbe and now he needed his help. An innocent Jewish man had been put in prison on false charges and a great deal of money was needed for his ransom. Of course Abraham was happy to help. He gave the messenger the money and sent him off with good wishes for a safe trip home. He also sent regards to the Rebbe.

The messenger had completed his job, but he did not feel happy. It had been difficult for him to speak to Abraham in person. His secretaries had not wanted to let a stranger into Abraham's private office. Abraham had given him the money, but he had not invited him to his home for some food and rest. The messenger was surprised. The Rebbe had praised Abraham and often spoken of his hospitality and charitable ways. The messenger could not understand what had happened.

When he came back to the Rebbe, he gave him the money and told him everything about his trip. The Rebbe shook his head sadly. He understood that Abraham, the poor man, had a heart of gold, but Abraham, the rich man, with all his gold, seemed to have a heart more like stone. The Rebbe decided to visit Abraham to see what could be done.

When the Rebbe arrived at Abraham's house, Abraham welcomed him warmly and invited him into his home. This house looked very different from the home that Abraham had lived in when the Rebbe first visited him. It was big and beautiful, but gone was the friendliness and warmth one had felt in the simple, old home. The Rebbe walked on the heavy rug. He saw the costly paintings. He looked at the expensive, new furniture, and at the drapes made from the finest, softest velvet. And then he noticed the mirror. He looked at its shiny gold frame. It was the biggest mirror he had ever seen.

"Quite a change, is it not?" said Abraham with a pleased smile on his face. "And that mirror, " he continued, "is my favorite treasure. Of all the lovely things I own, I like that mirror the best. It cost a great deal of money, but it was worth it. It is truly a masterpiece, a work of art, is it not?" he said and turned to the Rebbe.

"Yes," the Rebbe answered. "Quite a change. Quite a change." He said this softly, in a low, serious voice, and his face looked sad.

Suddenly, the Rebbe called to Abraham. "Come here," he said, and asked him to walk over to the mirror and stand in front of it. The Rebbe then walked away a bit and asked Abraham to tell him what he saw.

Abraham was puzzled at this, but answered, "Myself. That is what I see in this mirror. My own reflection — that is all I can see."

"Look closely," the Rebbe said. "What else do you see?"

"I see my lovely furniture reflected in the mirror. I see my paintings, I see my rugs and drapes. I can see many things in my beautiful home," answered Abraham.

The Rebbe then walked over to the window with Abraham. He pushed aside the drapes and told Abraham to look out into the street. Abraham's home was on a big street and people were always passing by. Since it was a small town, Abraham knew almost all the people walking past his house. The Rebbe asked him many questions about all the people they saw. And Abraham told him that the woman with the basket was a poor widow with many small children. She was hoping that kind people would put food in the basket for her family. He told the Rebbe about Bentze, the water-carrier, who was getting old and found it hard to carry the water. He pointed out Yankel the tailor, a fine Jew who went to shul every day, but was very poor and never had enough money for his family.

Abraham was wondering why the Rebbe was asking him all these questions. The Rebbe was a serious man who never had time to waste. Why should he be so curious about all these people?

Then the Rebbe said to Abraham, "It is strange, is it not? A mirror and a window are both made of glass and yet they are very different."

"What do you mean?" asked Abraham.

"Well," said the Rebbe, "when you looked in the mirror you could only see yourself and the things that belong to you. You could see much more when you looked out the window. Then you could see all your neighbors and friends from the whole town."

"That is true," said Abraham. "A mirror and a window are both made from glass. The window is transparent. Light can pass right through it. It is clear and you can see everything through it. The mirror, on the other hand, is covered with silver on one side. The rays of light cannot pass through, and therefore a mirror can only reflect what is in front of it."

"I see," said the Rebbe and nodded his head. "I see. The piece of glass that is plain is clear through and through, allowing you to see others and their lives. But when it is covered with silver, then you can see only yourself. Hm, very interesting. It is really quite fantastic, isn't it? Now do you think it will work the other way too? Could you take a mirror and scrape off the silver so that you would be able to see everyone else instead of yourself?"

Abraham's eyes filled with tears. He felt so ashamed. Finally, he was beginning to understand everything that had happened to him since he became rich.

That evening, Abraham made a big party in his home. The whole town was invited, especially all the poor people. Everyone had a fine time. Then Abraham asked for silence. He made a short speech and asked for everyone's forgiveness. He told his guests that he was sorry for the way he had acted after he became rich. His life would now be different. He promised them that his doors would always be open for everyone, and that he never would be too busy to help those that needed him.

After all the guests had left, Abraham walked over to his beautiful mirror. With a sharp knife he scraped off the silver covering in one corner. He did not stop until that part was as clear as glass. Only then was he satisfied.

My dear friend, the lesson is clear.

When we recognize that all that we have is from Hashem, when we acknowledge Him before we partake of this world, when we follow up and thank Him after we have been eaten from His food, we will remain mindful of the gift that wealth is.

And then the wealth will truly be a gift.

The gift of being able to partner with Hashem and give to others.

This applies to money. This applies to sharing good cheer. This applies to any gift that Hashem has granted you.

Try to be empathetic to the needs of others. Put yourself in your friends shoes and try to help them. Praying for a friend is a huge gift.

The Torah promises that if you pray for someone else you too will be answered.

Not just will you be answered, but you will be answered first.

Because Hashem loves it when we look out for each other, help each other, pray for each other and uplift each other.

And always remember to say THANK YOU to Hashem and thank you to your fellow man after they have made the amazing choice to do something beneficial to you.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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