"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

missed flight

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Last week I shared an incredulous story of Divine Providence where a young mans life was saved in three miraculous ways.

Where can I go from that?

Something more stupendous?

Counterintuitively, I want to tell a story of Divine Providence at the opposite spectrum, in the most mundane details of life.

You see, many see the hand of G-d in the big items of life. I recall a person who missed the Silk Air flight that crashed in 1997.

I dug up the letter I wrote back then to the person who miraculously was saved.

December 1997

Dear G,

I thank you so much for sharing with me the story of your personal miracle last week in which you missed the ill-fated flight on Silk Air (because of being stuck in the traffic) and thereby saved your life. THANK G-D.

As we discussed briefly no one walks away from such an experience unchanged and certainly being presented by G-d with a special gift of life begs at least a revaluation.

While giving charity is certainly appropriate at this time, I think that this is not yet sufficient to put the feelings of gratitude into their proper perspective. My humble suggestion is that you add in some of G-d’s commandments as in the Shabbat (the night the event occurred) first of all to try avoiding travelling on the Shabbat at all costs (certainly not by plane) and to light candles (before the Shabbat comes in – Friday before sunset) and make Kidush. I also suggested the putting on of Tefillin (if not every morning, then) at least once a week and preferably on a day when the kids are home and can see you doing this (i.e. Sunday).

While this may seem somewhat difficult at first I am sure you will agree that the tremendous tragedy that was averted deserves some kind of focus on the “real things of life” those that don’t get affected by currency devaluation's recessions  etc. the doing of good deeds - Mitzvot

I hope you accept this letter in the good spirit it was written as a friend who is genuinely happy for you all and wishes for your physical and spiritual well-being. May we merit speedily the coming of Mashiach when disasters will be a thing of the past, Amen.





Ever since that event, when someone tells me that they missed a flight, I ask them the rhetorical question ‘if you were to hear that the flight had an accident, would you still be upset that you missed your flight?

After they say ‘no, of course not. If I knew there would be trouble with the plane, I would be happy that I missed the flight’. I then continue ‘so please have mercy and pity on the other passengers who did make it on the flight and pray that they arrive at their destination safely, and still be happy that you missed the flight’.

The really ‘big moments’ of life are few and far between. Many people are open to seeing the Divine input in those seminal events.

It is the daily ‘grind’ and ‘routine’ of life in which we would do well to infuse and inject with meaning.

Finding Divine Providence in the mundane and ordinary is transformational. It is a recipe for injecting meaning and joy into every aspect of our daily lives.

This week I had a wonderful Divine Providence that involved something as mundane as the timing of hearing a joke.

Yep, you heard it, a joke. A good friend in our local community supplies me with (kosher) jokes and on Monday morning just as I was preparing to give a short class via Zoom, a new joke came to my inbox. One of them grabbed my attention and in honor of the month of Adar in which we are instructed to be joyous, I decided to open my class with this joke. Albeit feeling a little bit strange to start a Torah class with an unrelated joke, cute as it may be.

Here is the joke I shared.

Sarah was recently married and called her mother one evening in tears. "Mom, I tried to make Bubbie’s brisket for dinner tonight, and it's just awful! I followed the recipe exactly, and I know I have the recipe right because it's the one you gave me. But it just didn't come out right, and I'm so upset. I wanted this to be so special for Chaim because he loves brisket. What could have gone wrong?"

Sarah’s mother replied soothingly, "Well, Sarah, let's go through the recipe. You read it out loud and tell me exactly what you did at each step, and together we'll figure it out."

"OK," Sarah sniffled. "Well, it starts out, 'Take two dollars’ worth of brisket' ..."

(In the grandmother’s era, two dollars of brisket was a sizeable chunk, today it is a thimbleful if even that).

As I was telling the joke, wondering why I had this urge to share this joke at this class, I realized that it was perfectly aligned with the lesson I was giving (a repetition of the post shacharit daily Chumash class at Synagogue which I had given just moments earlier).

The topic of the lesson was the diminishment of prophecy and ‘holy spirit’ (ruach hakodesh) after the first Bet Hamikdash times.

The Parsha relates as follows (Kehot interpolated translation)

Into the  fold of the Breastplate of Judgment you shall place  a parchment inscribed with God’s Name. This parchment shall be known as ‘the urim and tumim,’  since it makes the Breastplate into a shining [or ] and precise [ tamim ] oracle: it will cause the letters of the tribal names inscribed on the stones set in the Breastplate to light up in sequence, spelling out the answer to questions of national importance posed by the king or leader. Placed inside the fold of the Breastplate, the urim  and tumim shall be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before God , i.e.,into the Sanctuary.  Thus attired, Aaron shall carry the instrument of judgment for the Israelites over his heart at all times  he enters the Sanctuary and stands before God.  The Breastplate serves as an oracle only by virtue of the urim  and tumim . Nonetheless, they are not an integral component of the Breastplate; if they are missing, the high priest is still considered fully and properly attired despite the fact that the Breastplate cannot function as an oracle.

Click here for more on this topic.

In talking about the diminishment of the levels of holiness as the world gets spiritually darker the joke about the diminishing value of money fits right in.

This theme of increasing darkness is mentioned in the Talmud Sota 49a ‘Rava says, each and every day is more cursed than the previous one’.

On the surface it sounds very negative.

The Torah is a book of ‘life’ and ‘light’, Why would the Talmud, a book of the Torah, proclaim something that seems so bleak?

The Rebbe explained this as being a call to action. Not G-d forbid a just ‘for your information’ morbid statement of fact. When there is a purpose in sharing ‘bad news’ to do something practical to rectify it, then the ‘kid gloves are taken off’ and the facts, as unpleasant as they may seem, are shared in the clearest way possible.

There is a tendency for us humans to be comfortable in a particular zone and with a particular level of energy output. Comes the Talmud and tells us in vivid language that our energetic efforts of doing goodness and kindness and shedding light that were enough for yesterday, are no longer enough for today.

The world today is darker than yesterday.

And since the world is getting even darker, the efforts of today will not suffice to brighten the world tomorrow.

We can not rest. We need to constantly advance, even if just to keep the status quo.

When trying to climb up an escalator going the wrong way, energy is needed merely not to fall lower.

This is an urgent call to action. A wake-up call for those who may be tempted to slumber or stagnate or just coast along on ‘cruise control’.

Forward march.

Upward climb.

More good deeds.

More Torah.

More shining altruistic behaviors.

No, we cannot just look at what worked in the past and continue the status quo saying all the while that ‘I am doing enough already’.

The Talmud gives us the clarity to know that today the world is more challenging and requires more positive input than ever before.

Two dollars’ worth of brisket was a small meal in the earlier parts of the 1900’s. In the 2000’s it is hardly a smidgen.

The Talmud tells us that in the spiritual world too, there is a decline. We need to do better to get the same results.

And we are blessed by modernity with all its amenities to have more time at our disposal.

) The huge entertainment industries of Hollywood and it’s like are testimony to the ‘disposable’ time available to a large swath of the population).

We also have more access to knowledge and information.

This means that we are able to do deepen our knowledge, and dedicate more time to do much more good activity and thus light up the world with G-d’s light of deeds of goodness and kindness – mitzvot.

Prayers for our brethren all over the world and especially for security and peace in Israel, for the safe return of the hostages, healing of the wounded and for the safety of our soldiers and most importantly for Mashiach to come and usher in Shalom speedily in our days.

With blessings for a joyous and happy ‘Purim Katan’ - ‘minor’ Purim.

Today would be Purim if not for the extra month of the Jewish leap year this year. click here for more info.

Save the date for ‘major’ Purim on Saturday night/Sunday March 23/24.

Shabbat Shalom with much joy.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

incredulous Divine Providence

In this week’s parsha the reason for our creation is spelled out. G-d’s mission statement for us.

‘Make for me a ‘Mikdash’ sanctuary and I will dwell in them (in the people)’.

G-d wants us to create a space for Him in this physical world.

The ultimate fulfillment of Hashem’s plan is that Hashem seeks to ‘reside within us’.

When our minds are acutely aware of Him. When our hearts are filled with longing and reverence for Him. And most importantly when our deeds align symmetrically with His wishes. All of this invites the presence of G-d to reside here on earth, the fulfillment of His ‘desire’.

This week I received an email that expressed the way Hashem dwells in the heart of the young Jew who wrote to me.

It started off as a simple email.

A young man who lives part time in Israel and part time in Thailand who wanted to say hi to me and to thank me and tell me how meaningful our connection is.

‘I was a typical Israeli living in Thailand, without awareness about Hashem and His Torah’.

‘A family member pressured me to go to Synagogue for Yom Kippur. I joined your services at Beth Elisheva and was inspired and uplifted. Your passionate explanations of the prayers touched me deeply in my heart. Particularly, the high-spirited singing and dancing at the climax of Yom Kippur just at the end of Neilah elated me.

It was on that Yom Kippur that I connected to Hashem, to my Jewish soul and started becoming more Torah & Mitzva observant’.

Then the email took a leap upwards to a different dimension and filled my heart and mind with thanksgiving to Hashem for the incredulous Divine Providence that was shared with me.

Here is the story that he told me.

‘The inspiration of Yom Kippur eight years ago gradually caused changes in my life. A year ago, I began to keep Shabbat, wear a kipah, tzitzit, keep kosher etc.,

During the year prior to this commitment, out of nowhere, I would find myself humming the song ‘for I keep the Shabbat, Hashem will guard me’.

It was as if an inner voice was telling me ‘You are aware of your relationship with Hashem for seven years now, you have no excuses for continuing to live in a secular way without the sanctity of Shabbat’.

I had this deep and urgent feeling that my life is now dependent on keeping Shabbat.

On October 7th of this year, the truth of that inner voice was validated.

I grew up in ‘Otef Aza’ the ‘Gaza envelope’ and my parents and family still live there.

Hashem wanted to show me his kindness and truth and I was there in ‘Otef Aza’ on October 7th.

Here is where the chain of three and a half miracles begins to unfold. There is no other way to explain what happened to me other than an display of ‘Divine Providence’ in full view.

The first ‘half miracle’ is that I wasn’t at ‘THE party’. All my friends were there. Many are tragically no longer with us. If I had not yet changed my lifestyle to one of Torah observance, I would have very likely have been there with them.

The other threesome of miracles are as follows:

Because I didn’t grow up Mitzvah observant, I know that there are many details that I am not aware of. Every Friday morning I study some laws of Shabbat observance and thus I steadily advance in my knowledge and implementation.

On Friday morning October 6th, I studied the laws of Shabbat. By ‘coincidence’ the laws I studied were about the limitation of how far one may walk outside of the city limits on Shabbat.

In the moshav that I grew up in, there is no minyan. Once I started observing Shabbat, I would walk 8 kilometers to the nearby moshav that does have a Synagogue and minyan. After seeing the law that prohibits walking more than (approx) 1 km outside the city, I resolved that I would sleep over in a moshav with a minyan rather than walk to synagogue from my home on Shabbat morning which is prohibited due do the distance.

I asked a childhood friend in a moshav that has a Synagogue if I could stay with him. He said yes. I packed up my shabbat hotplate, kosher food, and anything else I would need for Shabbat and drove over to my friend. On the way my friend called me and apologized. From the tone of his voice I understood that he had a girlfriend coming over for the weekend and it wouldn’t be convenient to have me there as well. Although I always provide him with hospitality when he visits Thailand, I overcame my disappointment and cheerfully told him that he should enjoy his weekend and I would easily find another place.

I then pulled over at the side of the road and searched the internet for ‘tzimmerim’ (literally ‘rooms’ for rent) in moshavim that have a Synagogue. I located a motel in Kibbutz Beeri, but they didn’t answer their phones, perhaps it was too late in the afternoon.

I finally found a motel in a different moshav with a synagogue and went there to settle in. I called a friend I know in that moshav and he picked me up to take me to his home for coffee. After we finished our chat he took me back to my motel. A short while later I realized that I had left the keys to my car at my friend’s home. I called him and he said he would bring them right over. Looking at the time, I realized that my friend had no time to bring me the keys and arrive back home before Shabbat. My friend said, ‘I don’t keep shabbat so there is no problem for me to come over’. I explained to my friend that I could not take a favor from him if he was going to violate Shabbat on my behalf. My friend suggested that he would bring the keys to me by foot at the Synagogue that evening. I explained to him that this too wouldn’t fit the laws of Shabbat. He told me ‘You have gone crazy’ and burst out laughing, I laughed together with him and that is how we ended our phone call, laughing hysterically.

At 6:30 am on October 7th I was in the motel and heard the barrage of missiles flying over the area on the way to central Israel. As someone who grew up in Otef Aza, I knew that this was a very unusual barrage of rockets, quite unlike the ‘usual’ ones. I left my motel to go outside, thinking of climbing up on the roof to see what is happening. The former leader of the commandos lives across the street from the motel, and he too came out of his house at that same time. I know him from my childhood. I asked him what is going on. The commander told me that he suspects there is going to be a massive incursion of terrorists from the Gaza border. He did not yet know that the main roads of the region had already been captured by the terrorists.

At that moment I thought to myself, if there will be a terrorist attack on the villages in this region, it is a true case of ‘pickuach nefesh’ danger to life which pushes aside the prohibitions of Shabbat, and I had best be near my parents to protect them.

I realized that my keys were not with me. I couldn’t go to my parents. The biggest contribution I could give to my people right now was to join the ‘security response team’ of the moshav I was in, which I did.

Here are the three open miracles that saved my life.

If I would not have discovered the laws of Shabbat prohibiting walking more than a kilometer outside my village, I would have been walking along the roads at 6:30 am, and would have met the terrorist filled pick-up trucks as they made their murderous way through the area.

My friend in the moshav I wanted to stay in, heard about the incursion into his moshav in the early hours of the morning. He and his girlfriend jumped into their car and tried to escape. They were shot at. My friend escaped miraculously unscathed, while his friend was shot and critically wounded. I shudder when I think that I would have likely been in the passenger seat if I would have been there with him.

I wanted to go to my parents but didn’t have my keys. What we didn’t know at that time was that the roads were being manned by the terrorists. People who tried to drive from place to place were shot at and killed. This would have happened to me if I had tried to get to my parents.

The note now moves into a reflective tone.

‘When I hummed to myself for a year before starting to keep Shabbat ‘when I keep Shabbat, Hashem protects me’ I had a deep feeling that for me this would not just be a song, but it was a message that I must take seriously.

Thank you Almighty G-d the Creator of the world.

And thank you rabbi for being one of the messengers of Hashem in my journey that saved my physical life and spiritual life.

I share this story with you to express my loving gratitude to you… and share with you how unbeknownst to you, through your passionate leading of prayers and teaching Torah you are sometimes saving souls not just spiritually, but even physically….’

Dear Friend, I felt compelled to share this inspiring story of Divine Providence exactly as it was shared with me by the person who experienced it firsthand.

During the current month of Adar, we are instructed to increase in joy.

It takes effort, especially during this very trying times, to focus on the rays of light and of goodness and to fill our consciousness with positivity, joy and optimism.

May Hashem bring an abundance of light and joy to the world.

May Hashem bless and protect our soldiers, bring home our hostages, heal our wounded, and bless Israel and the world with secure and stable peace.

We want Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

A joyous Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Tomer must be in his early thirties. Long braids of hair piled up in layers on the top of his head. A few years ago, after packing up his trade school in central Israel he deposited the tools and workbenches in his parents’ home at Kibutz Re’im and headed off to backpack in South America.

He was homesick and arrived home in Israel for a month or two with his girlfriend who had never visited Israel before as she isn’t Jewish. After some time in Tel Aviv, they decided it was too noisy for them, so they went off to spend the holiday of Sukkot with his parents in the serene rural environment of Kibbutz Re’im near Gaza.

On the morning of Simchat Torah – October 7th 2023 – the Hamas terrorists attacked the kibbutz. Tomer and his family locked themselves in their safe room and piled heavy furniture against the door.

After waiting many terrifying hours and hearing the ominous sounds of gunshots and grenades they were finally able to leave their safe room. Miraculously his whole family was saved as were most of the residents of the kibbutz. The six members of the security team fought valiantly and held off the attackers till the army and police could come.

After surviving that ordeal, praying to Hashem all the time, Tomer went to a Judaica store and bought all the religious ritual items needed to observe Mitzvot. Candles for Shabbat. A goblet for making kidush on wine for Shabbat, a cover for the ‘challah breads’ of Friday night and a shofar. He already had Tefillin and Tzizit from his Bar mitzvah.

Tomer went off to New Zealand to calm down.

The awakening in his soul led him to learning how to put on his Tefillin and feeling deeply connected to G-d and Am Yisrael. As the days went by, Tomer felt an irresistible desire to head back to Israel to help rebuild the kibbutz. His girlfriend said that the experience she had endured during those excruciating hours and the continued aftermath, ruled out ever living in Israel. They realized their incompatibility and separated.

I heard all of this from Tomer as he makes his way back to Israel. He told his story in Chabad House of Phuket after the Friday night meal.

As an afterthought, Tomer shared an additional detail.

‘For the last few years, I had this deep gnawing feeling of guilt for having filled the entry hallway/porch of my parents’ home with bulky and heavy workbenches and boxes of equipment from my previous trade school. I had planned to clean it up and deal with it many times but had always procrastinated. As it turns out, the windows that were blocked by this paraphernalia were the first line of defense against the terrorists. Our home is one of the closest to the entrance of the kibbutz. Who knows what would have happened if that window had been accessible and the hallway ‘junk free’.’

I thought to myself how significant a message this is. Sometimes the very thing that you consider to be the opposite of blessing, is a catalyst and a vehicle for your blessing.

Rabbi Sholom G. who does a wonderful job running the Chabad House in Phuket asks people to share with him after Shabbat what memory they take with them from the Phuket Shabbat experience.

If you ask me, Tomer’s story was the highlight of my Shabbat in Phuket. Hearing firsthand how the Divine Providence had weaved itself through the life experience of Tomer.

Here is a response from one of the other guests about their memorable experience.

‘Rabbi, the memory I take with me is a half-undressed young man bursting excitedly in to the full hall at Shabbat dinner, wearing pink ‘wings’ on his shoulders and receiving a warm embrace from you’.

Here is the background. There was a young Jewish man visiting from overseas who was suffering from a mental episode and had his money stolen. Rabbi Sholom had been busy trying to help him and was in touch with the distraught parents who were overseas and quite helpless. He had taken a drink in the bar on Friday night and left without paying. The police wanted to detain him, and he convinced them to follow him to the Chabad House. This is when he entered, the packed dining hall and ran over to the Rabbi.

The rabbi hugged him, calmed him down and sent down a staff member to sort things out.

This was the memory that stood out most in the eyes of the shabbat meal attendee who responded to the rabbi about his impressions from Shabbat.

A humane gesture by the rabbi to someone who was mentally unable to cope with life at that moment.

This week’s parsha of Mishaptim, is the first one after the Ten Commandments related in last week’s parsha of Yitro.

In this weeks parsha we have the basic laws of society.

Here is a sample of one of the mitzvahs in this week’s parsha.

When you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its load, you must disregard your hatred and help the person unload his donkey. 

After all the high power of the Sinai experience of the giving of the Torah, with the lighting, thunder and fire that symbolized Hashem’s epic revelation, the Torah goes on, in the very next parsha, to speak about such mundane earthly things.

Hate is usually not a holy feeling; it is an emotion that expresses our human ego when left unchecked.

Donkeys carrying loads are so mundane and uninspiring.

Is that the first thing to teach after the intense communication of the Ten Commandments?

Really? The most inspiring mitzvahs to be taught after Revelation at Sinai are such unheavenly and even earthly extremes? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to speak about more lofty things when emerging from the revelation at Sinai?

The Torah is teaching us that after all said and done, with all of the supreme G-dly holiness available through Torah study, the most holy thing of all is to fulfil G-d’s instructions for acting and conducting one selves in the physical world according to the dictates of His divine wisdom.

Rabbi Sholom gave some amazing Torah speeches during the Shabbat. That wasn’t what remained embedded in the visitor’s memory.

It was the implementation of the mitzvah of ‘loving your fellow as yourself’, that made the deepest impression.

For the Torah itself teaches us that it is not the inspiring study that is the main thing of the Torah, it is the deed, the action of kindness that the Torah instructs.

One of the most mundane items of life, perhaps even more than a donkey, is money.

This week’s parsha instructs us in a not so well-known mitzvah regarding money.

The mitzvah of tzedakah, giving monetary help to others is well known. However, what is a bit less known but every bit as important – even more important  - (see the eight levels of tzedakah), is the mitzvah of lending money to others without interest. Simply as help and kindness to someone who may be cash strapped at the moment.

The Torah sees money as a tool for serving Hashem. That is the true purpose of it.

The following story involves the giving of a ‘gemach’ an interest free loan, which leads the giver to a very deep level of revelation.

As this story illustrates:

Although his grandfather, the saintly Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, had passed away many years earlier, the Tzemach Tzedek merited to envision his grandfather often. At times he saw him at night, other times by day. This afforded him the unique opportunity to present his Torah difficulties before his grandfather for resolution. After becoming accustomed to these visions, the Tzemach Tzedek prepared for them by accumulating his questions in advance.

The Tzemach Tzedek was therefore quite distressed when the visitations suddenly ceased. It was 5575 (1815); he was twenty-five years old, and his father-in-law, Rabbi DovBer, was the rebbe in Lubavitch. The Tzemach Tzedek had gathered many complex Torah questions for which he could find no solutions. He had always relied on his grandfather for answers, and felt greatly anguished at this sudden change.

One morning, as the Tzemach Tzedek was walking to synagogue, he passed through the village marketplace, where he was approached by one of the merchants, a chassid by the name of Reb Mordechai Eliyahu. “Could you lend me five or six rubles just until tonight?” he asked the young scholar. “I expect to make a profit during market hours today.”

“Certainly,” replied the Tzemach Tzedek. “Come to my house after I return from the synagogue, and I will lend you whatever you need.”

When the Tzemach Tzedek arrived at the synagogue, he prepared himself for prayer. He had already taken out his tallit and put it over his shoulder in readiness to wrap himself in it, when a sudden thought occurred to him. “Doesn’t the Talmud (Bava Batra 10a) say that Rabbi Elazar would give a coin to the poor, and pray only afterwards? And doesn’t the Talmud (Sukkah 49b) also say that lending money is greater than giving charity?”

The Tzemach Tzedek immediately regretted his actions. Rather than delaying the good deed, he should have offered Reb Mordechai Eliyahu the loan immediately. In the meantime, the chassid could possibly have earned something. He laid down his tallit at once, returned home, and took out the amount of money the merchant needed.

The Tzemach Tzedek could hear a loud commotion as he retraced his steps to the marketplace. Dozens of merchants had descended on the marketplace, each offering various kinds of wares. The hundreds of customers haggled loudly, animals brayed and clucked and mooed, and merchants fought with each other over prospective customers. Finding Mordechai Eliyahu now would be no easy task.

The Tzemach Tzedek walked slowly through the bustling marketplace, looking intently at every face. The minutes ticked away as he sought out the needy merchant. Finally, after much effort, he located Reb Mordechai Eliyahu, and gave the grateful merchant the funds he so desperately needed.

Leaving the busy market behind, the Tzemach Tzedek returned to the synagogue to resume his prayers. A pleasant surprise awaited him; no sooner had he donned his tallit and tefillin when his grandfather suddenly appeared to him, his face radiating spiritual joy. “Lending money to a fellow Jew in a wholehearted fashion has great merit,” said R. Schneur Zalman. “Doing a selfless favor for a fellow Jew without imposing restrictions, in accordance with the great precept to love your fellow as yourself, throws the portals of heaven wide open.”

The Tzemach Tzedek realized that he had merited this divine revelation with the act of lending charity before even starting his own prayers. He then advanced his complex questions, receiving his grandfather’s replies to all his queries.

Decades later, when he related this incident to his youngest son and successor, Rabbi Shmuel, the Tzemach Tzedek added the following: “Helping another Jew earn his livelihood—even just to earn a small amount on a calf—opens the doors of all the heavenly chambers.”

Less words. More action.

Because the world is holistic, and Hashem created the material as well as the spiritual and holy, doing a physical act mandated by Hashem can engender the most sublime feeling of G-d’s presence.

Forward march to adding in good deeds, kind deeds, G-dly deeds.

They will bring healing, peace and Mashiach to the world ever sooner.

Shabbat Shalom

And Chodesh Tov – today is the ‘head of the month’ of the first Adar as is tomorrow Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh together.

This year is a leap year with two Adars.

Purim will be on the 14th of Adar 2. Saturday night and Sunday March 23/24.

Our local Jewish Community party will be held on Sunday afternoon please G-d.

About the months of Adar we are told to increase in joy.

משנכס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Have a Joyous Shabbat,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok


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By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I always get excited when I see the number 770.

Since I was a little boy growing up in Australia, when someone said ‘I’m going to seven seventy’ it meant not an address somewhere in Australia, but ‘770’ in Brooklyn NY, many thousands of kilometers away.

The address of the main synagogue/study hall/office of the Rebbe’s of Lubavitch since arriving in the USA in 1940, is 770 Eastern Parkway.

Therefore, seeing that my flight number to Phuket yesterday was flight number 770 was heartwarming to me. I don’t recall ever being on a flight that was numbered 770 before.

It was especially meaningful to me, as yesterday was the 36th yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzen Chaya Mushka Schneersohn the wife of the Rebbe and the daughter of the previous Rebbe who escaped war torn Europe and established the Chabad movement at 770 Eastern Parkway.

Click her to learn more about the Rebbetzens inspiring legacy.

The Rebbe pointed out that by Divine Providence the number 770 is the numerical value of ‘Paratzta’ as in ‘spread out’ and ‘burst forth’. These became the marching orders and mission statement of Chabad. It spawned the growth of thousands of Chabad Houses, centers of Jewish outreach and social services.

Over this weekend the Rebbetzen’s of Chabad, the Shluchos are having their international annual convention at… 770 Eastern Parkway. Click here for link to their banquet that will stream live early Monday morning (5am Bangkok time)

And my day in Phuket was indeed a ‘770’ day. A day that highlighted and expressed this borderless outreach that the Rebbe taught. The Rebbe’s paradigm of leadership was fashioned after Moshe who the Torah describes as a shepherd who tended to every one of the sheep according to their individual needs and I witnessed so many people from such varied backgrounds at the Chabad House.

On my way from the airport to the Chabad house I stopped to pay a visit to dear friends and supporters who have a holiday home in Phuket. They help fund the activities and it is a pleasure to be able to express my gratitude to them in person.

Upon my arrival at Chabad house, I assisted the Chabad of Phuket rabbi in providing urgent intervention and life-saving help to a youth who had gotten into an entanglement. The kind of which, there are no shortages of in this colorful country.

Later in the day a couple visiting from Moscow ambled into the Synagogue. They are not very observant they say, but they make it their point to visit a Synagogue in whatever country they visit. They had driven an hour from the other side of Phuket, just to visit the Synagogue. The Jewish visitor happily performed the mitzvah of Tefillin with me.

Dinner at Chabad house restaurant was with some old-time friends from Australia.

For after dinner activities, I was invited to give a Torah class at our new location in southern Phuket.

(For those who have settled down in Phuket for longer term, Rabbi Avraham Greenberg and his family run a Chabad House location in Rawai beach as well as organizing communal activities in the Laguna beach area).

The topic of my class was about seizing the ‘here and now’. Recognizing that wherever you are is exactly where Hashem wants you to be. And endeavoring to carrying out the mitzvah opportunities – between man and G-d and between man and man - that are available to you at the unique intersection of time and place in which Hashem has placed you.

It is not smart living, to think wistfully ‘if only I was there’ or ‘if I only had the chance to go back in time’ while finding excuses why you can’t do what is available and appropriate for you to do in your exact location and time.

More importantly, neither is it the holy way of living,

In this week’s parsha Yitro we read the Ten Commandments.

The Torah describes the giving of the Torah as follows:

In the third month of the children of Israel's departure from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the desert of Sinai.

Rashi comments on the choice of the use of the word ‘on this day’ and explains:

On this day: … It could have said only, “on that day.” What is the meaning of "on this day"? That the words of the Torah shall be new to you, as if they were given just today.

Here lies one of the most important life lessons.

To truly receive the Torah in the way Hashem gives it, is to know that the Torah is not a book of antiquity that was given three thousand and some years ago, rather it is a current and vibrant Torah that is contemporary as if it were given today.

The Torah is a book of life that has a directive for you in this exact point of time that you live in.

Where was the Torah given? Not in a dazzling, developed and bustling metropolis. Not in a holy location. Rather the Torah is given in a desert. A neutral place.

This teaches us that the Torah is relevant and accessible everywhere an anywhere. And to be sure, it is applicable in the exact geographical location that you find yourself in.

From Paraguay to Phuket and every place in between.

And as it turns out Phuket (and Thailand in general) seems to be a crossroads of the world.

In the space of just a few hours, I met a Jew from Canada who prays with my nephew from Florida. A group of young Jews from South Africa are on a company trip and come in to eat a kosher dinner and reserve for Shabbat.

(When I meet these young Johannesburg Jews, they ‘name drop’ and tell me that they are friends with S. from South Africa/Australia. I tell them, S. is in town as well and just happens to be sponsoring the Shabbat meals this week. They had no idea, a Divine rendezvous).

A while later, a young honeymooning couple from Panama brings me regards from the Chabad house there.

And then we have the VIPs I have been blessed to meet.

The VIPs for this Shabbat are the heroic soldiers who are visiting from Israel. They are coming to get the well-deserved respite and rejuvenation that will restore their inner selves.

We thank them for their selflessness and sacrifice in doing their holy duties of protecting our people in our land.

Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

The chayalim thank us for being here to host them so warmly. Expressing how meaningful it is for them that Chabad House provides them with inspiration and light on their furlough.  

One of the visitors to Chabad House last week, sent a beautiful note, expressing his feelings after Shabbat. I share it here:

Aside from weddings and bar mitzvahs, it was the biggest reunion of Jews I have ever seen in my life—so much spirit, togetherness, and life in the room. So special to have seen everybody singing together and strong during these times. Best of all, it was in Phuket, Thailand, which seems so random to me. It shows how unbelievable the Jewish community is—to have this many Jews in the middle of nowhere and a massive Chabad and organization there. From start to end, there was never a dull moment. I ate amazing Kosher food with people all over the world, and sang songs and prayers mid meal. After dinner finished, there was an amazing transition to the Rabbi’s house. It was an intimate setting filled with people who, one hour ago, had never seen each other before. At one point, we went around the room introducing ourselves. There was a group of 10 boys from the same unit who had just fought the war in Gaza. It was unbelievable to see such comradery, happiness, and joking around from these boys who were around the same age as me. Then, a guy who sat in the corner smiling all dinner introduced himself. He was present on October 7th. Everybody from his Kibbutz got killed other than him. After 30 hours of hiding, he said, “I was not religious before, but the first thing I did when I was free was go to the Kotel and buy myself a Kiddush cup.” Amazing. What an experience. Absolutely honoured to have been part of it and welcomed undoubtably with open arms. 

Am Israel Chai,

I thank Hashem for the honor and pleasure to be spending Shabbat this week in Phuket and to join with Jews of varied backgrounds and from multiple locations.

This is especially exciting for me on this Shabbat.

One of the highlights for me of this week’s Parsha  is the verse describing the perfect unity of the people as they anticipated the receiving of the Torah:

The people of Israel camped at Sinai ‘As one person with one heart’

Wherever we are in the planet, may we absorb the special blessings of unity that are shining through on this Shabbat.

And may we take those opportunities given from Heaven and ‘run with them’, develop them further, accentuate them, commit to them and never every forget that we are all parts of one singular united entity.


Our prayers go up to Heaven to protect our soldiers, to bring home our hostages, to heal our wounded, and to bless Israel and the world with secure and stable peace. And of course we pray for Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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