"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

Purim is not yet ‘over’.

For six days a week we work, and on the seventh day we rest. This means that the food that we eat on Shabbat is paid for by the efforts of our ‘six-day’ work week.  

As the six days of the week prepare for the physical needs of Shabbat, so too are the spiritual ‘energies’ of the Shabbat generated by the ‘energies’ that are prevalent during the week.

Purim was celebrated on Sunday, and Its ‘energy’ and ‘power’ continue all the way to Shabbat and becomes ‘uplifted’ and infused with the special holiness of Shabbat.

So let us continue the incredibly empowering, JOYOUS and energetic spirit of Purim for as long as we can. Enjoy the super-elevated-holy version of Purim that the Shabbat after Purim provides.

What would have happened if not for the miracle of Purim?

A young, intelligent Polish born Jew joined us for the Purim feast. In hearing his story on Purim day, I was giving a vivid insight into the epic nature of the Purim miracle.

P. told me that his mother was Jewish, born in Poland to parents who were Holocaust survivors.

P’s grandmother joined the partisans during the war and was one of those who smuggled weapons to her brethren in the Warsaw Ghetto to be used in the ‘Warsaw Ghetto uprising’.  His grandfather spent almost the entire war in the concentration camp Dachau and had an identification number tattooed on his arm.

P was raised totally secular, not even having a Bar Mitzvah yet something stirred within his Jewish soul and when studying in the USA he searched out Jewish community and visited Israel on a birthright trip. On Purim I had the merit to lay Tefilin with P for the second time in his life. The first time had been at the Kotel – Western Wall – in Jerusalem.

P’s grandparents were anomalies. They were of the ten percent who survived the holocaust.

According to Yad Vashem, ‘Jews lived in Poland for 800 years before the Nazi occupation. On the eve of the occupation 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland… At the end of the war, approximately 380,000 Polish Jews were still alive in Poland, the Soviet Union, or in the concentration camps in Germany, Austria and the Czech territories.

In the story of Purim, if the miracle would not have happened, the result would have been a more complete Holocaust than the German one of recent history may Hashem protect us.

Haman had permission from Achashverosh to kill every single Jew in his dominion, which covered the entire civilized world at the time. This international pogrom was slated to take place on one day.

On Purm we celebrate the miraculous turnaround that Hashem made.

Instead of our enemies killing us, there was a reversal and we the Yehudim (Jews) ruled over our enemies.

Our lives were miraculously saved, and the intended Holocaust of Persia never happened.

For this miracle we give celebratory thanks and praise to G-d. We rejoice and bring happiness to every single fellow Jew by the gifts of food (Mishloach Manot) and money (Matanot La’evyonim) that we are instructed to give on Purim.

My dear friend, Hashem made miracles at the time of Purim, Hashem makes miracles now too.

The soldiers who are visiting the Chabad Houses throughout Thailand are sharing stories of heroism. Tragically, there are too many soldiers who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of Am Yisrael. We hear about those in the news reports and they are excruciatingly painful.

The chayalim are sharing countless stories of G-d’s Divine Providence. They tell of their experiences where the ‘near misses’ ended miraculously. Most of these stories are not reported in the press, as thank G-d they ended in a non-newsworthy story as far as the reporters are concerned. As far as you and I are concerned these incidences are precious and attest to Hashems individual Divine Providence..

This is why I want to stretch the Purim ‘energy’ for as long as I can. For in our challenging times, we too need a reversal.

Our hostages must come home. Our enemy must be vanquished. Peace must be restored to Israel ina secure and sustainable way. By extension, we pray and hope for peace and stability in the entire world.  

Purim miracles are sorely in demand in this year of 2024.

At the same time that we draw inspiration from the Purim we just celebrated we begin to prepare for the upcoming Pesach.

Around elegantly bedecked tables, with cups brimming with wine we declare:

This is what has stood by our fathers and us! For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!

We beseech the Almighty for miracles. Both overt and hidden.

This year, as we feel the ‘bondage’ and ‘exile’ more acutely, we ought to put forth more effort in feeling the ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’ more fully.

Eating Matzah on the first night of Pesach (this year Monday night April 22) is the most important component of the Pesach Seder. It invites G-dliness into one’s material self.

My dear fellow Jew.

The Matza reminds us of our faith in following G-d ‘blindly’ into the desert at very short notice, not even allowing our bread to rise.

By eating the matza, we are recreating that experience of ingesting ‘bread of faith’. This is why we make a point to eat the ‘old fashioned authentic’ handmade matzas (made of wheat that has been guarded from moisture from the time of harvest) at the Seder.

(We will be serving handmade shmura matzah at all of our communal seders across Thailand and will be happy to provide this matzah anywhere in Thailand, to those making their own seder, or unable to attend a seder. Please contact me with your mailing/delivery info to send you the matza – food of faith and healing).

The message of Purim and Pesach is one of liberty.

Stand tall, proud and free.

Embrace the role that Hashem has given our people to be his treasured nation. Spread light, morality and clarity in the world around you with healthy self-esteem about who you are as a Jew.

May we merit the liberation from this exile that we so yearn for. Just like it happened during the miracle of Pesach.

May the darkness be transformed into light just as Hashem transformed the darkness into light in the times of Purim.

May you have a Shabbat Shalom,

Injected with the joy of the Purim culmination and the taste of liberation from the approaching Pesach.

With blessing,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Mounds and pits

Bob and his wife were the architects for the Chabad House Synagogue that my brother built in Westport. They were visiting Thailand two weeks ago and came to meet me.

Bob told me about one of the challenges. The land that had been purchased for the parking lot needed to be raised to conform with local requirements. Getting the ‘fill-in’ earth was a costly undertaking. It just ‘so happened’ (i.e. Divine Providence) that a builder friend was doing a redevelopment and needed to dump earth and other materials to clear his site. The developer was happy to offer his earth for free, so long as the Chabad House sent the trucks to pick it up.

It reminded me of the story in the Megillah of Esther that we will be reading on Purim.

Haman said to King Achashverosh, "There is one nation, scattered and dispersed among the nations throughout the provinces of your kingdom, whose laws are unlike those of any other nation and who do not obey the laws of the King. It is not in the King's interest to tolerate them.

"If it please the King, let [an edict] be issued for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand silver talents to the functionaries, to be deposited in the King's treasuries."

The king removed his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, son of Hamdata, the Agagite, persecutor of the Jews.

The king said to Haman, "The money is yours to keep, and the nation is yours to do with as you please."

It seems that Achashverosh turned out the offer of a large sum of money being offered to him by Haman.


The Talmud tractate Megillah provides more details to this part of the story of Purim.

The actions of Ahasuerus and Haman can be understood with a parable; to what may they be compared? To two individuals, one of whom had a mound in the middle of his field and the other of whom had a ditch in the middle of his field, each one suffering from his own predicament. The owner of the ditch, noticing the other’s mound of dirt, said to himself: Who will give me this mound of dirt suitable for filling in my ditch; I would even be willing to pay for it with money, and the owner of the mound, noticing the other’s ditch, said to himself: Who will give me this ditch for money, so that I may use it to remove the mound of earth from my property?

At a later point, one day, they happened to have met one another. The owner of the ditch said to the owner of the mound: Sell me your mound so I can fill in my ditch. The mound’s owner, anxious to rid himself of the excess dirt on his property, said to him: Take it for free; if only you had done so sooner. Similarly, Ahasuerus himself wanted to destroy the Jews. As he was delighted that Haman had similar aspirations and was willing to do the job for him, he demanded no money from him…

Much has been said about this and how it relates to anti-semitism throughout the ages. For example an article by Aron Moss or Rabbi Josh Gordon.

When I heard this exact story being told by Bob the architect as something that had transpired in real life, with my own brother’s shul, a mere few years ago, it prompted me to look into some of the commentaries on this story.

Chacham Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1832-1909) commented on this story.

From the way the Talmud depicts Achashverosh, he too, was a hater of the Jews and was pleased to have Haman dispose of them. Why then, does Achashverosh not meet an ignominious end just like Haman? Haman was killed for scheming to kill the Jews; shouldn’t Achashverosh have been at least demoted for his role in enabling this diabolical plan? Yet the Megillah ends off with Achashverosh firmly ensconced on this royal throne.

The matter can be understood by the following analogy.

There was a king who had a son that was captured by two people who were sworn enemies of the king. They planned to kill the prince, but the actual killing was delayed.

The motivation for the delay was not the same by each of the enemies. One of them recognized the innate dignity of the royal family and wanted to procure a poison that could be inserted into a drink and kill the prince in a ‘gentler’ and more ‘refined’ way.

The other enemy was delaying the killing as he wanted to create a big fire and cause the prince a more agonizing and ‘dehumanizing’ death.  

The king swooped in just in time to save his son the prince.

He treated the two captors very differently.

The cruel captor he puts to death for his role in planning his son’s murder.

The other captor, who also wanted to kill his son, but was more respectful of the king’s stature and wanted to preserve some of the royal dignity even while killing the prince, was allowed off without being punished by the king. It was this delay that allowed the prince to live. Although admittedly, had the king not come in time, the more ‘genteel’ opponent would have murdered the prince.

Similarly says R’ Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, Achashverosh respected the stature of the Jewish people. To be sure, he hated them and was going to facilitate the extermination plans against them. But at the same time, he didn’t want to do it in a demeaning way. Which is why he rejected the money offer.

You see, Haman wanted to pay money for the right to kill the Jews as part of his plan to demean the Jews. He wanted them to feel like human chattel and mere assets and thus dehumanize the Jewish people.

Whereas Achashverosh did not agree to take the money as he wanted to avoid demeaning the Jewish people in that way.

This also fits the ‘mound’ and ‘pit’ in the Talmud’s analogy.

Achashverosh saw the Jews as a mound, something elevated above the flat earth. Whereas Haman saw the Jews as a ‘hole in the ground’ as something totally worthless and disgusting.

When Hashem brought about a salvation for the Jews on Purim, He treated Haman and Achashverosh differently. For Achashverosh, although he was innately antisemitic, he at least treated the Jewish people with a modicum of respect.

Do you see any parallels in the patterns of anti-semitism as they play out in 20th and 21st centuries?

I find the Haman figures very identifiable. We can quite easily identify our enemies who want to kill us and treat us like dirt.

It is the Achashverosh kind of antisemite that to me seems more difficult to identify. On the outside they may be quite genteel, but a deeply rooted intolerance of the Jews may be lurking in the background, only waiting for a ‘cover story’.

The Talmudic story with its various commentaries is like dots. Applying the story to the contemporary geopolitical situation is like drawing the lines to connect the dots.

I have provided the dots. The drawing of the lines and the lessons for the world news headlines of today, I leave to you. No two people think alike. I am curious how you understand this topic.

Some Torah scholars share Torah thoughts with each other (in addition to food items) as a form of ‘Purim gifts’ Mishlach Manot.

Perhaps you have a thought to share with me in honor of Purim about this story. I would love to hear feedback from you.

To draw two quick lessons from this story that are applicable in our personal lives.

Sometimes a person may have a ‘mound’ in their life. Perhaps they have gone through a very difficult challenge that they would have preferred to avoid. They have layers of experience that others who have not gone through those circumstances don’t have.

The way to move forward in a positive way is to understand that there must be purpose in gaining the wisdom that could only be gained by going through this difficulty. And to pray to Hashem that He guide you to find the person with a ‘hole’ that can be benefited by the experience gained.

I have seen people who have gone through very difficult things take that experience and use it to counsel, console and bring positivity to others. I am in awe of such giants.

For the second positive message garnered by this story, let me end with another story.

The Alter Rebbe once sent a messenger to a chassid of his to ask him to participate in a very urgent life-saving cause. It was a significantly large amount of money that the Rebbe was requesting. The messenger, himself a very devout chassid was sure that it would take a few days for the benefactor to put together such a respectable sum of cash. To his surprise, the moment he arrived at the persons house, he was greeted warmly, and asked by his host ‘how much money does the Rebbe need to alleviate the crisis’. The messenger named the amount, and the host went to the next room and brought the full amount.

The messenger asked incredulously, ‘how did you know to prepare such a generous sum and have it on hand’?

To which the benefactor replied ‘yesterday I transacted a very successful business deal, and I said to myself ‘if Hashem sent me such a tidy profit it must be that the Rebbe has a larger than usual need and I have been sent this amount to be able to provide Tzedaka for this need’.

My dear friend, if you have a ‘mound’, understand that your excess is for a higher purpose. The extra money you have found in your budget can be used to help someone. Find someone who has a hole and help him or her fill it.

There are a number of people I know, who are ‘baalei tzedaka’ philanthropists that look at their financial success in exactly this way.

As well as people that are blessed with other blessings, who give freely of themselves and their gifts to fill the needs of others.

This is a truly inspirational way to live life.

So relevant to Purim, as two of the four mitzvahs of Purim are about helping others.

These are the four mitzvahs:

Hear the Megilah by night and then by day

Send food gifts to at least one other person.

Send monetary gifts to at least two other needy people.

Eat a Purim feast.

May Hashem bless us with salvation from our enemies just like he did in the time of Purim.

In closing:

Let my talk about antisemitism not G-d forbid be taken in the wrong way.

The celebration of Purim is all about the reality that has been borne out over the millennia of world history of the eternity of the Jew.

We are Hashems people, his precious children and He has promised that we will always be here.

As we say in the Haggadah on Pesach:

For not just one enemy has risen against us to destroy us. But in every generation they rise against us to destroy us. And the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hands.

Nations and superpowers have come and gone. Am Yisrael is still here, proud, strong, positive, and passionate.

In just a few short moments the history of the world will take a giant leap, to welcome Mashiach and usher in the world of peace that we yearn and wait for.

So let us now cower and hide and pretend that if we act invisible and try to ‘blend in among the nations’ we will be better off. The opposite is true. Let us stand up with determination and pride and engage with Torah and Mitzvahs with joy and enthusiasm.

During those few short moments before Mashiach comes let us have ‘light’ אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר , may Hashem bless our soldiers, return our hostages, heal our wounded and banish antisemitism to the annals of history while we the Jewish people spread the message of G-d and His universal laws of morality to the entire world.

Shabbat Shalom

Purim Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Call for action! Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok

For the joyous month of Adar, let me start off with a joke.

A young man asked an old rich man how he made his money.

The old guy fingered his wool vest and said, “Well, son, it was 1932, the depth of the Great Depression. I was down to my last nickel.

I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.

The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 pm for 20 cents. I continued this system for a week, by the end of which I’d accumulated a fortune of $6.40.

Then my wife’s lost long great uncle died and left us two million dollars.”

The ‘moral’ of the joke?

Sometimes it’s not really our efforts that are at the source of our wealth, rather it’s someone else’s hard work that we were gifted with.

I used this in my Shabbat speech at Synagogue last week in connection with the special reading about the half shekel that was given by every Jew as a donation to the construction of the Temple. 

Fast forward from the story of Pesach (Exodus from Egypt) to the story of Purim which took place almost a thousand years later in Persia. 

When Haman offered Achashverosh ten thousand talents of silver to the royal coffers for permission to kill all the Jews in his kingdom, Hashem said ‘you wicked person, their silver shekels already preceded and preempted your silver shekels’.

In other words, the instruction of giving a half shekel in the year 2448 from creation was the mitzvah that averted the Haman scheme of annihilation of the Jews some 950 years later.

Think about the incredibleness of it. A half shekel was a modest amount and was required to be given by poor and rich alike. Who would have imagined that a mitzvah done so many years back would be the spiritual power needed to generate the miracle of Purim.

Makes you stop to wonder about how powerful our actions are. Not just in our lifetime but for our future progeny.

I spoke about this at the Friday night Shabbat meal last week. At Shabbat lunch, one of our overseas visitors shared how proud she was of the fact that she has three sons who are rabbis. Indeed it is quite something to be proud of, a source of Jewish ‘naches’ (nachat).

As we were chatting over lunch she also shared the following story:

My father was a soldier in the British army during WWII. As he was about to be sent to the Far East, his commanding officer suggested that he remake his army issued identity disc that bore a J indicating that he was Jewish. His officer explained that the Japanese were allies of the Germans and it would be prudent to take off the J. My father responded, ‘The J represents that I am one of G-d’s children. He has protected me till now, and when I head off to battle, I am even more eager to have His protection. I will keep my disc with the J’.

As the lunch progressed, our London guests shared another story from the war years. This time she shared a story from her mother’s childhood during The Blitz (the German bombing campaign against London in 1940-1).

My mother was a young girl and was part of the evacuation of children to rural areas of England. My grandmother accompanied my mother to settle her in. On Sunday morning they awoke to a smell that was unfamiliar. Upon going downstairs to the kitchen, the mother saw that the smell came from frying bacon. She decided then and there that she was not going to leave her daughter in an environment that could have very wide-reaching consequences and they returned home to London.

While the stories were told without connection to each other, I see a pattern in these stories. They both speak of determination and unyielding commitment to the point of sacrifice. 

All of a sudden it dawned on me that maybe this connected to the theme I had conveyed in my speech on Friday night about the impact of the shekel many generations later.

Could it possibly be that these acts of valor by the grandparents and great grandparents are the spiritual ‘wealth’ that came to this family by inheritance?

To think this way is quite humbling. It means acknowledging that it may not be to my credit that I am the way I am. The power and blessings for what we do may be sourced in the holy and brave deeds of our grandparents and ancestors.

It is also quite inspiring and empowering to think that our deeds have the potential to reverberate and impact future generations even without knowing it.

It’s a call to action.

Next time you think about being too lazy to do a good deed, try to evaluate how much worth it may have to your grandchildren’s grandchildren. 

The next major holiday coming up is Chag Purim (evening of 23 and entire day of 24 of March).

The story of the Megilah is read every single year. To remind us to be grateful to Hashem for saving us then. And we must read it as a contemporary story as well. Hashem is making miracles for us now as well. 

We exchange food gifts so that the joy is shared with everyone in the community.

Monetary gifts are given to the poor so that they too should be able to full partake of the festivities.

And of course, a festive meal. A Purim feast.

These are the four Purim Mitzvahs.

Click here for more information and for instructions on how to fulfil the mitzvahs the way they were instructed. 

In the meantime, Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Saving lives

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Two people shared similar stories with me this week.

Is this a sign from Heaven to share the stories and find how the parsha or date relate to the stories?

Perhaps I can ask you for your help.

Here are the stories. Please share with me if you see the connection with the Parsha of the week – Vayakhel. Or with the time of the year, Shabbat when we read about the Shekalim (half shekel) or Rosh Chodesh Adar the first day of the month of Purim.

S.Y., a community member who was eating lunch at JCafe, told me that he had merited to save a life this week.

A business client was visiting him from the USA and started experiencing pain in his chest. The visitor brushed it off and said he would check it out in the USA when he went back the next day. S.Y. insisted on taking him to the doctor to check it out. It was a 95% blockage in one of the main arteries. Who knows what could have happened G-d forbid on the plane. An angioplasty cleared the blockage and now he is free to travel back home safely.

A life was saved thank G-d through S.Y.’s caring and responsible intervention.

As S.Y. told me his story, I remembered that I had heard a similar story just a few days earlier from a visitor to Beth Elisheva’s daily afternoon service.

It was related to Tefillin.

Dr. H. told me that he was in the airport in NY checking in to a flight to Israel. He needed to use the bathroom and didn’t want to take his Tefillin which he was carrying by hand, into the bathroom. He saw a Jewish couple nearby and asked them if they could hold his Tefillin for the few minutes. After retrieving his Tefilin he conversed for a few minutes with the couple and noticed that the woman didn’t seem right. Being a doctor, he asked a few questions and came to the conclusion that she has a delicate medical condition and shouldn’t be flying. They indeed went straight to a medical clinic, and it was confirmed that she needed medical treatment. Again, a life was saved because of a concerned person who acted to intervene responsibly. In this instance it was a doctor who through his commitment to honoring Hashem’s mitzvahs, was granted the gift of saving another life.

The common denominator of both stories is the great mitzvah of saving another person’s life.

Another thing that stood out was the uplifting way the protagonists of the story related this to me. Their voices reflected joy and feelings of gratitude to Hashem for being able to have the merit of saving someone else's life.

There are so many things that we can be grateful for in our lives.

Every morning when we wake up, we make twenty blessings of thanksgiving.

Click here for more information and guidance to incorporate these blessings of gratitude to your life).

Before we eat, we make a blessing and recognize the gift G-d gives us of food. After eating we thank G-d for the food. These are parts of our life that we are aware that we ought to be thankful for.

For the most part we recognize the great gift of helping someone else. Often helping someone else is not so easy. Effort, sometimes great effort, is required. Some people refer to it as a ‘pain in the neck’ when they get requests of help from people.

However, at the end of the day, they recognize that this is the greatest form of joy.

When looking back at your day, your week, your month, your year or your entire life, there is so much precious joy in the knowledge that you were able to contribute beneficence and goodness to someone else.

How much more so the gift of literally saving someone’s life.

What we sometimes don’t realize is that we need to be grateful to G-d even when He places us in a position of neediness. When we need to be recipients of favors from others, we must also thank G-d for that role in life.

If you are like many people I know, when you need to ask someone else for a favor, you cringe. You would rather be the provider, rather than the receiver.

Let me present a reframing of asking for favors.

(Care must be taken that this information doesn’t fall into the ‘wrong hands’).

Have you ever considered that when Hashem puts you in the position of needing kindness from someone else, He has given you a ‘giving’ role as well?

How so?

Hashem has designated you as His messenger to deliver a gift to the person you are asking for help.

The gift of the mitzvah opportunity of being kind to a fellow.

(I say it must be saved from ‘wrong hands’ as it is possible for someone to use this way of thinking in a dysfunctional way becoming an ingrate and taking advantage of the kind persons benevolence).

To sum it up.

Hashem has created His world with giving and receiving built into the very rubric and rhythm of creation.

Sun and moon. Male and female. Givers and receivers.

In each of these roles, the receiver is also a giver.

A group of wealthy people were once complaining to their Rebbe that he was asking them to help the poor too much. To which the Rebbe responded that Hashem created two groups. Receivers and givers. Hashem intended for the wealth he entrusted to the rich people, to be His way of supporting the poor people from whom He had withheld abundance. If you – the wealthy ones – are not happy with your role as being the Givers on Hashems behalf, the other group – the poor ones – are standing by and quite happy to take on that role. “Would you like to flip roles”, asked the Rebbe?

You can imagine the answer. Nobody volunteered to give up their role of being on the side of the wealthy ‘givers’ to be on the side of the needy ‘receivers’.

Today I want to speak to those in the role of receivers.

Fortify your faith and trust in G-d.

He has not withheld from you the gift of wealth.

Rather, He has GIFTED you the individual financial status that you are currently struggling with.

It is valid to ask Him and pray to Hashem for a change in that gift, for a few more zeros in your bank account, but from a place of inner serenity and peacefulness knowing that Hashem is your loving Creator and is directing and overseeing every single aspect of your life.

While you are still in the receiving mode for the most part, meditate on the fact that as well as receiving, you are also giving.

You are giving your benefactors the gift of giving.

Sometimes, allowing someone else to help you through a touch patch, may be lifesaving – literally – for the giver.

A social worker once told me that a woman she was counseling through suicidal depression would ‘come to life’ whenever talking about the help she was providing to others.

Conventional thinking is ‘woe to me that I need to ask someone else for help’.

Counterintuitive thinking is, ‘I will embrace my role in the world of giving and receiving and right now I need to receive graciously’.

As I have said, and it bears emphasizing, this way of thought, requires caution not to be misused. But it’s the truth.

Do you see the connection with the Parsha of Vayakhel?

Hint: every Jew contributed to building the Mishkan sanctuary for G-d in his or her own way. (Click here to see it spelled out).

Do you notice the connection with the second Torah we are going to read from on this Shabbat speaking about the half Shekel?

Hint: by giving a non-complete shekel, we are reminded that each of us is in need of the other to become complete. (Click here for more on this theme).

How about the connection with Rosh Chodesh Adar II (Sunday and Monday)?

Hint: the fact that we have two Adar months – i.e. a leap year – is to realign the moon and the sun. Giver (sun) reflector (moon). The leap year represents their alignment. (Click here for more on this).

May Hashem give us the gift to give to others graciously. If we need to receive, may Hashem give us the healthy mindset of seeing the blessing in receiving.

And most importantly, may we recognize that each and every one of us is an indispensable part of the community.

In the spirit of Adar, here is a joke that Rabbi Gordon told: (click here for full article).

I am reminded of an adorable story about a mechanic that was called in to try to fix a gigantic cruise ship that suddenly stopped working. Surveying the situation, and after making an elaborate show of taking out all his tools, he proceeded to tighten one single screw, and then announced that the ship was repaired. The mechanic’s bill arrived a few days later, for $10,000! Unwilling to pay such a hefty sum for seemingly minimal work, the cruise operator requested an itemized invoice. The revised invoice arrived: $1.00 for turning the screw; $9,999 for knowing which screw to turn.

My dear friends, what we know from the stories regarding space shuttles (tragic Challenger explosion) and airliners (Boeing door blown off) is that every rubber seal and every bolt a small as it may be is critical to the functioning of the huge and powerful aircraft.

Each and every Jew is even more critically needed for the community to be wholesome.

Every person must look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I was created to serve my Master’. I am needed. I am not a spare part. Without me Hashem’s world is incomplete.

The proof? He created me. He doesn’t create ‘junk’.

Engage in your mission. G-d will bless you and bless the collective.

May Hashem bless us with secure peace, health, and the safe return of all who are in captivity and let us ask for the real ‘gold’ – the ushering in of world peace and harmony, the coming of Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov (for Sunday).

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Inspired to be a hero?

By the Grace of G-d Dear Friend, In this week’s Torah Parsha we read about the Jews worshipping the golden calf and G-d’s suggestion to Moses that He wipe out the current people of Israel and make a fresh start. Hashem proposed that He would rebuild a new Jewish nation from Moses’ offspring. Moshe’s reaction was unequivocally decisive. Moses told G-d ‘And now if You would forgive their sin (all is well) — but if not, erase me now from this book that You have written.' This constituted the ultimate sacrifice by a leader who’s entire being was about Torah. Nothing was more important to Moshe than the Torah. Nevertheless, when his flock was facing a serious danger, he put himself and his own wellbeing on the side, in order to save his people. A truly selfless act! Indeed, Moshe is described as being the humblest man on the face of the earth. We are living in times when heroism is tragically very prevalent. So many of brothers and sisters in Israel, army, first responders, medics and civilians have given their lives as heroes. A friend has shared a fund he is involved in to help the families of the heroes and when you watch the video it’s heartbreaking. Every hero that has fallen affects all of those loved ones around them. At the same time, it is deeply inspiring and empowering to recognize that selfless sacrifice is not embedded in history and books, but it is alive and well within people of flesh and blood like us. Often it leads to the feeling that if one’s time on earth is up one would hope to pass on in a selfless heroic way in the service of others. This kind of death is called ‘Kiddush Hashem’ sanctification of G-d’s name. Those who pass away for being Jewish, for standing up for G-d and His people are called ‘kedoshim’ ‘holy’. We are privileged to be hosting scores of living ‘holy’ heroes at our Chabad Houses throughout Thailand. The stories that these chayalim of the IDF are sharing depict valiantly heroic bravery and unlimited commitment to protecting and saving our people. Meeting heroes brings one to contemplate their own life from that prism. How can I be a hero is what comes to mind. I would like to address a different form of selflessness. One that it is within reach of each of us. A few years ago, I busy working in my office at Chabad House near Kaosarn Rd when one of the rabbinic interns called me to tell me that there was a young lady who was in tears and asking to see the Rabbi. I interrupted what I was doing and met with the distraught young lady. Rebecca told me that she had just gotten tragic news via her email. One of her friends from college in the USA had been found dead, apparently it was suicide. For the better of an hour Rebecca poured out her heart and expressed emotions that ranged from pity for the loneliness her friend Joe must have felt to do such a terrible thing, to anger at the selfishness of inflicting this kind of pain to the circle of family and friends who will grieve him. Rebecca was no stranger to the tragedy of self-inflicted death as her grandfather had done the same thing. Rebecca’s very own mother had not known her father who had taken his own life when she was but a young girl of three. There was not all that much I could add to the conversation through words. Most of my contribution was my empathetic silence which I find to be the most important in these kinds of conversations. The strong message that I heard from this young lady was the fact that taking one’s life was simply something that was selfish. She was well positioned to make that observation. Her mother had grown up fatherless as a result of such an act. ‘Didn’t Joe know how much I and all of his other friends cared for him’ Rebecca kept asking in anguish. I tried to steer Rebecca more towards feelings of pity for the young man. He was obviously in great pain, and we should view his act as a moment of ‘temporary insanity’ (indeed Rebecca confirmed that he did have a history of emotional illness). Here is the ‘counterintuitive’ message I would like to share. Inspired to be a hero? Sometimes the most humble, selfless and noble thing you can do is simply to be the best ‘you’ that you can possibly be. It may not seem glorious or heroic to fulfil the responsibilities you have to those around you and to G-d, but that is exactly why it is so honorable and holy. You may be the only person who can fulfill the role, even if you feel like escaping from it. Don’t run away from yourself. Embrace your mission. Believe it or not, we are happiest when we do what we are meant to do. Our lives become most fulfilled not when we spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out what makes us happy but rather when we step up to doing that which we are needed for. And each and every one is needed. Every single creation of G-d has a task. Here is the basic meditation to battle feelings of worthlessness if they come to bother you.. It is quite simple. Tell yourself: ‘G-d created me, and He doesn’t create anything in vain. He doesn’t create ‘spare parts’. My job is to concentrate on doing the next right thing that deep down I know I should be doing. Sometimes it’s not exciting to fill the roles G-d has given you in life. Sadly, it may sometimes even be excruciating. But ultimately, doing what is right (absolute right is defined according to the instructions of G-d in his Torah) is the only way to be truly and authentically living up to G-d’s intention for you in His world. And there is a great benefit to following this path. Fulfilling your life-tasks is the ‘long short path’ that brings with it the most happiness both for the person himself as well as for all his loved ones. The heroes who have fallen in the line of defending and caring for the Jewish people in our times and throughout our long and event-laden history, deserve our admiration and gratitude. They also implore us, that we turn this inspiration into positive action. As King Solomon taught (Kohelet 7, 2) ‘the living shall take to heart’. Our lives should be lived more ‘heroically’ and ‘selflessly’ one deed at a time. For some people, going to work and faithfully bringing home a paycheck to care for their family is tedious and uninspiring. But it is selfless because their loved ones are fed, clothed, and housed. Doing a mitzvah even when you don’t feel like it. Helping a person in need when they irk you. For a person who feels G-d forbid like they are not interested in being alive, their heroism is even more basic. Simply by not doing anything self-destructive and by breathing, eating and drinking they are heroes in their selfless determination to keep going. Choosing life is a G-dly choice. Staying true to your values even when severely challenged, is selfless and heroic. On the other hand, surrendering ones moral values in the face of confrontation is cowardly. Let us be inspired by Moshe, the Macabbees, our soldiers and all of our glorious heroes throughout our history who have stood up for truth, faith, community and all of the moral values taught to us by Hashem in His Torah. This period of adversity, is our moment to be a golden link in the chain of Jewish history. Let us recognize the opportunity we have. Let us stand together, proud of our role to be ambassadors of light, moral clarity and holiness to the world. Click here to see thousands of Jewish teens in NY’s Times Square last week in show of positive and optimistic Jewish pride. And here for their ‘count on me’ event. Minute by minute, mitzvah by mitzvah, choice by choice, keep choosing right over wrong, light over darkness, good over evil LIFE OVER the opposite of life. These steps are not earth shattering, they are eminently achievable, and if we do them consistently they will break through the darkness and pain of our current state and usher in a world of peace, holiness, goodness and kindness. MASHIACH NOW! Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Yosef Kantor
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