Printed fromJewishThailand.com
ב"ה

"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Trust

Do you ever get exasperated when no matter how many times you have saved your child or loved one from a predicament, they continue to doubt you?

How many times do you have to prove yourself till your loved one fully lets go and trusts you?

The biggest disappointment with having someone doubt you is not necessarily the negative feeling it gives you. 

It is much deeper than that. 

The big loss is that you cannot make progress together on the big ideas you have. 

If your partner or protégé is skeptical about your abilities, you cannot move forward and be successful.

The Jewish people disappointed Hashem in this week’s parsha by believing the ‘spies’ who reported back that Israel was unconquerable by them. 

The reporting spies assessed the situation. They said with decisiveness that the local populace was too strong. 

Hashem reacted very sternly and said:

all the people who perceived My glory and the signs that I performed in Egypt and in the desert—and who nonetheless challenged me these 10 times and did not listen to My voice—

will not see the land that I swore to their fathers. All who provoked Me this time will not see the land, 

Hashem is saying ‘enough is enough’. After I took the people out of Egypt and wrought incredible miracles, which they all saw and experienced firsthand, and they went ahead and challenged me TEN TIMES, they have lost their chance to have a happy ending and enter the promised land. Rather I will wait for the generation of Exodus to pass away – by the age of sixty – and forty years later, the new generation will enter Israel.

This was already a much more benign outcome then Hashem’s initial response.

Initially Hashem had said in response to the moaning of the Jews about going into Israel:

They have betrayed their mission in this world, so I now have only one choice: I must strike them with pestilence and annihilate them! As for My oath to the patriarchs to give the land to their descendants, I will make you into a nation, greater and stronger than they." 

Moshe prayed on their behalf and averted that punishment. Yet, even after Hashem forgave the people thanks to Moshe intervention, the forgiveness only helped to ward off the immediate death punishment. They lived till the age of sixty. It did not however earn them the G-dly gift of going into Israel.

Why not?

The Rebbe explains that not allowing them to enter Israel was a consequence rather than a punishment.

Simply put. The spies were not wrong. To conquer the land of Canaan you had to be exceedingly mighty as the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were strong. Beyond normal human strength. One would need supernatural strength. 

Conquering the land would require G-dly intervention. 

Miracles.

When they heard that according to the laws of nature their attempt at conquering the land would be disastrous, they cried and said, ‘we don’t want to go to the land’.

Hashem accepts this. It is true. Naturally, they do have reason to be fearful. 

So why is their behavior considered sinful if they correctly assessed the impossibility of conquering the land? 

Because why in the world are they projecting using conventional thinking? What about all the miracles Hashem has done for them. Haven’t they realized by this time that the Jewish people are not bound by the laws of nature?

G-d responds by telling the Jewish people that they have shown that they don’t have the belief in G-d’s powerful abilities to rout out the resisting kingdoms.

There is a consequence to that.

If they don’t believe in the power of G-d sufficiently, and they are closing their minds and viewing themselves as a people who operate only under the ‘laws of nature’, they cannot be the ones to carry out G-d's miracle-based goals and vision. 

What seems to be most irksome is that they actually do believe in G-d. How could they not? They had witnessed Exodus, splitting of the sea, miraculous raining down of Manna. Yet, they were skeptical even as the miracles were pouring down.

For example, one of the ten challenges to G-d was when Hashem told them not to collect the Manna on Shabbat and they disregarded that command and went out to search for Manna to gather on Shabbat.

Additionally, they were told not to keep any leftover Manna for the next day. Hashem would give them fresh daily Manna. Yet they couldn’t resist trying to hoard some.

Can you imagine the absurdity?

G-d is creating this incredible heavenly food. Raining it down from Heaven. It has literally a ‘heavenly taste’. Whatever one wanted the Manna to taste like, it adopted that taste.

And yet, while ‘seeing’ and ingesting the glory and miracles of G-d, at that very same time they were weak in their belief and skeptical of G-d’s abilities. They went out to forage on Shabbat and tried leaving leftovers.

This is what singles out the ‘sin of the spies’ from other transgressions. 

The Jewish people believe in G-d. they are eating his heavenly bread. They have just witnessed the splitting of the sea. The most epic miracles possible.

Yet, they remain skeptical.

To the point that they now challenge whether going into Israel is possible,

The spies speak about it being naturally impossible to conquer Canan.

G-d agrees.

It is impossible. Unless you believe in Me and in my miracles.

You, the people who have witnessed the closest relationship with me have now made a grave mistake. You have stated that you are unable to surrender and say “G-d, we will allow ourselves to be taken in your miraculous enveloping cloud to triumphantly and supernaturally enter Israel’.

And if you are not able to go along with my miraculous plan, says G-d, then indeed, you will have your wish. I will withdraw my G-dly protection, you will thus remain bound to the laws of nature and die here in the desert. 

To which Moshe replied, if the agenda of Hashem is to engender belief in Him, to the extent that Hashem is disappointed and ready to let the entire Jewish people perish, how will that ignominious ending help the overall agenda of belief in G-d.

To quote Moshe’s words:

If You kill this nation suddenly, as if You were killing one man, the nations who have heard of Your reputation will say as follows:

'Why didn't He wait to punish them until He brought them into the land, as He promised? It must be that since God was unable to bring this nation to the land which He swore to them, He slaughtered them in the desert. The inhabitants of Canaan are strong, and it is harder to battle a number of kings than it is to battle one Pharaoh.'

Hashem accepts this line of reasoning by Moshe.

The Jewish people continue to live. Albeit they are no longer able to be implementers of G-d’s supernatural plan of entering Israel.

This is such a clear and empowering message.

An eye opener when one looks at oneself in the mirror.

We may find that in some way we also underestimate G-d’s powers even after being blessed by them in an open way.

Mediate on it for a moment.

Think about everything Hashem has done for you.

You may be focused on the things you DON’T have. 

Don’t feel bad if that is your default. It is human nature to be mindful of the problems and challenges of your life. We tend to take for granted the things that are going right.

But if you stop and meditate you will see a different picture. 

For everything that is going ‘wrong’ in your life at this minute, there are trillions and trillions of things that are going ‘right’. Like every breath you take. Like the microbes in your body functioning. The electricity that you are using as you read this. The food that you ate last meal and the drink that is keeping you hydrated. 

Granted, there are irritating and irksome things in your life and G-d forbid perhaps even painful things. But that does not erase all the good things that are happening.

Let us get even more mindful. Bigger picture things.

May I humbly suggest that you try this exercise:

Reflect on the last five years of your life. 

What were your challenges five years ago. Maybe you have old emails, or hopefully your memory is still good, and you can recall your experiences of five years back.

Depending on your age and stage in life you most likely had various concerns. 

I think you will be quite surprised to note how many of your major concerns and worries that you were praying for, Hashem answered your prayers and solved the issues.

Ask a high school student if their worries in elementary school still worry them or if things worked themselves out. 

Whatever stage you are at in life, look back five years and see if those things are still problems.

Or have you been blessed by Hashem that they worked out?

So now the question is why are you so worried now about your current challenges?

Why don’t you trust in Hashem (while of course doing what you can to solve them with the tools you have) and rid yourself of unhealthy anxiety?

You may say ‘it’s my prerogative if I want to be anxious and downcast over my challenges and what difference will my attitude make on the outcome’.

This Parsha highlights that 

  1. Hashem has good things in store for you if you have faith and trust in Him. So its simply not good practice to worry. Much more effective to trust in Hashem that things will be good. This itself will lead to a favorable outcome.

  2. It is downright not ‘menschlich’ and grievously foolish to doubt Him after all He has done for you. In a way it is even ungrateful to not rely on Him after all the myriads of things He has done and is currently doing for us.

My friend, even when things look challenging put your chin up and place your trust in Hashem.

On a national level, we as a people have been blessed and will continue to be blessed. The People of Israel especially in the land of Israel are under the constant direct supervision of G-d. We have seen that throughout the last decades time and time again. He will continue to bless us and protect us everywhere. Especially in the Holy Land. 

Yes, we must do everything we can naturally to protect ourselves and secure our future.

And then we must pray. And BELIEVE in Hashem's protection and blessings.

Our prayers are with Israel. The soldiers, the hostages, the wounded and the regular citizens.

Additionally, we facilitate and invite Hashem’s blessings to us, by believing in the blessings of G-d to the Jewish people for eternity.

Adopt this too in your own personal life. Allow the miraculous energies of G-d to uplift you and carry you, by brushing away destructive skepticism and heightening your faith and belief in Him.

Think GOOD because you believe in Hashem who is GOOD, and it will be GOOD. 

GOOD - Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Clouds of direction

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

How wonderful it was for the Jewish people traveling from Egypt to Israel just after Exodus.

They had absolute clarity.

They knew when they had to stop to rest and when to travel onward.

This week’s parsha Behaalotcha spells out how the cloud of Hashem traveled in front of the camp and stopped at the location and the time that Hashem wanted the Jewish people to stop at.

Imagine if we had a personal cloud of glory that traveled in front of each of us. And we could know with absolute clarity that Hashem wants us to be in a particular place at a particular time.

Wouldn’t that be great?

The fact of the matter is that while we don’t see the ‘cloud of G-d’ telling us where to live, it is G-d who Divinely orchestrates our movements. Without us consciously knowing it.

The place you are born. The time in history in which you are born. The family you are born to. The opportunities that come your way. All of these things shape your destiny, and they are all chosen by G-d.

I was thinking about this in the context of our anniversary dinner of our arrival in Thailand. We had the heavenly blessing of being able to present a written note to be read the Rebbe by his secretary Rabbi Krinsky.

The Rebbe nodded his holy head in the affirmative that we were to become his Shluchim emissaries to Thailand.

Off we went. With clarity that this is where we are meant to be.

And fortified with all the blessings that are needed to carry out the mission of spreading Torah and preparing Thailand for Mashiach.

Every person has a mission. That mission is G-d given and G-d sees to it that everyone lands up where they need to be and has the faculties and wherewithal to do what they are tasked by the Almighty to do.

It is tempting to look at ‘the grass on the other side of the fence’. Invariably it ‘looks greener’. But ultimately that is simply a distraction from doing and fulfilling the mission G-d has prepared for you.

Usually, our missions are delivered directly to us. We just need to do them.

And sometimes the ‘heavenly cloud’ moves on, and it is time to move.

More than one person has come to me frantic with worry that circumstances may force them to move to a different country. It is unsettling to move from place to place. Especially if you feel very comfortable in the place you are living.

My response to that is ‘if G-d wanted to tell you to move to another place, how would He communicate that’?

‘As believers in G-d, we believe that the circumstances that are causing your move are Divinely ordained’.

When the cloud Hashem rested the people encamped.

When the cloud rose to move onward, the Jewish people moved onward.

Embrace your own personal ‘clouds of glory’ and try and make the best of where you live and the opportunities you have.

Very soon, the enveloping clouds of glory of Hashem will whisk us off to Israel for the coming of Mashiach when the world will become filled with the knowledge of the glory of  Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Giving of Torah & Giving!

The Torah was ‘given’ once more for the 3337th time this Shavuot.

I recently ordered new checks from the bank. The check printing company wanted to know if I would like to write on the checks ‘doing business for 30 years’

Why would someone want to advertise how long they have been in business? 

One of the reasons is that there is automatic credibility attached to things that withstand the test of time.

We don’t add any inscription on the Torah scroll and there is no official announcement before we read the Torah on Shavuot about how many years ago it was given. 

It’s incredibly impressive when you think about it. More than three thousand years after it was given, the Torah is fresh, current and teaches how to live life in our day and age.

This is because the Torah is meant to be studied as a current set of instructions.

The Torah is a book of teachings and instructions that not just tell us how to life, it literally gives us life.

The Torah is ‘Emet’ – Truth.

The word ‘א מ ת’ in Hebrew has the first, middle and last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This symbolizes the fact that the Truth of Torah is eternal. From the beginning, through the middle and till the end of time the Torah is unchanging. 

Hashem didn’t just give the Torah way back at Sinai, He is constantly ‘re’giving the Torah to us. 

This is why every single morning, as we start our day, we thank Hashem for giving us the Torah.

Make Torah study a part of your day.

It is contemporary and current. It contains the blueprints and recipes for living a wholesome and beneficial life. 

Realistically, things have changed radically over the last 3336 years. 

Imagine what the world looked like back then. Vs what the world looks like now.

For example, today we are able to learn Torah with a Kindle or online, where in the past we  needed books and scrolls.

We are blessed with being able to study at night without having to light candles. Electricity is a great innovation.

Yet, the mitzvas and values of the Torah have not changed one iota.

For example, one of the verses in our Parsha of Nasso that never ceases to grab my attention and inspire me is: 

Everyone's holy things shall belong to him; whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his.

Rashi comments that this verse can also be read, "if a person keeps his holy things and does not give them to the priests altogether, he will in the end possess only as much as he should have given, and no more. Whereas if a person does give the priest what is due to him, he will be rewarded by being wealthy."

Let me explain what is meant here. If for example, a person’s field yielded 100 bushels of produce. Out of those 100, ten percent, needs to be given to a Levite as ‘Maaser’ tithe. If the person withholds from the Levi his rightful tenth, he, the owner may land up next year only making 10 bushels of yield. i.e. ‘he (the owner) will in the end possess only as much as he should have given (10 bushels, that he was meant to give to the Levi).

Conversely, if the owner gives the Kohen and Levi their rightful portion, he (the owner) will be rewarded by being wealthy.

This verse teaches us an eternal G-dly truth.

Hoarding and being frugal in sharing with others doesn’t pay in the long run.

Sharing and being charitable are more beneficial even in the financial sense.

Does it make logical sense? Not really. Rationally speaking if you ‘hoard’ and keep more for yourself you will have more. If you give and donate to others, you will have less.

The Torah tells us the supra rational truth and reveals to us how Hashem’s world operates.

In a counterintuitive way. If you give to others, you have more for yourself. 

Yes, the Torah states unequivocally that kindness, sharing, and Tzedaka are the conduit for blessing.

And the Torah has withstood the test of time. Different philosophies and movements have come and gone, while the Torah has emerged time and time again as the only everlasting truth.

Try it. 

Give generously. 

Of the commodity that you have been blessed with. 

Money to tzedakah is the obvious and default definition of being charitable. 

But there are multitudes of ways that one can give. 

A helpful piece of advice for someone who needs guidance. A listening ear to someone who is in pain. An uplifting compliment to someone who is feeling low. A nutritious meal to someone who is hungry. 

One of the most pristine forms of Tzedaka is helping someone perform a mitzvah that they wouldn’t think of doing themselves. 

A community member brought a guest to Bet Elisheva synagogue on the eve of Shavuot. Besides for attending the holiday services it was still before sunset and he got to put on Tefillin for the first time in his life. The person who brought him gave his guest a uniquely valuable gift.

In whatever way you are blessed to be able to give, give freely to others, you will find your own wherewithal enhanced not diminished.

At this point in my article, I could share a story, or two, or three about how giving to others doesn’t diminish your own ‘bottom-line’ but on the contrary it enhances it. 

Click here for many stories about Tzedaka

However, I would like to suggest that YOU tell the story. Think about the times that you have been kind to others and recall how that let you feel more uplifted and invited more blessing to your life.

Even better, create NEW stories. Broaden your circle of giving and watch the blessed outcomes.

I would love to hear your stories.

Our Sages tell us that Tzedaka has a unique power to hasten the coming of Mashiach. 

We Want Mashiach Now!

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Uplifting Counts

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

We just started reading the fourth book of the Torah.
Also known as the ‘book of Numbers’.

Numbers are used to count.

They can be used to uplift. They can be used to utterly demoralize.
The most demeaning thing in the world is to treat people as mere
numbers. Indistinguishable from each other.

The Nazis ‘yimach shemam’ branded the Jews as cattle, each given a
number, when they entered the concentration – work and death –
camps.

On the other hand, there is something incredibly uplifting about being
counted.

When you count items, it means that each one of those items counts.
It depends on who is counting. And the reason that one is counting.
The instruction by Hashem to count the Jewish people was all about
imbuing each individual with an non-dilutable individual intrinsic self-
worth.

Today, more than ever we need to remind ourselves and our loved
ones that they count.

People need to keep on hearing from people who truly mean it, that
the world would not be the same without them.

In that sense, counting people individually means that every individual
counts.

Are some people bigger than others?

This week with the passing of Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, I lost a mentor,
advisor and friend.

It was Rabbi Kotlarsky who I approached in November of 1993 to
inquire about the position of rabbi in Thailand.

That first meeting led to our writing to the Rebbe to ask if we should go
to visit Thailand to meet the community.

After a brief visit to Thailand in December 1992, we merited to be sent
by the Rebbe as his Shluchim to Thailand. Rabbi Kotlarsky flew down
with us to settle us in and iron out the ‘wrinkles’ of the challenges
associated with beginning a new thing.

A subsequent lifelong connection of caring, guidance, mentorship and
love by Rabbi Kotlarsky to our family developed. My family and I will
miss him.

One of the elders of our community reached out to me upon hearing of
the passing and wrote:

Rabbi,

So sad to hear of the passing of Rabbi Kotlarsky who was instrumental
to the community in Thailand

My condolences


Rabbi Kotlarsky was indeed a larger than life individual, sent by the
Rebbe from mission to mission, from country to country, building and
guiding Jewish life.

Click here for a snapshot of his life.

One of my greatest enjoyments was to hear Rabbi Kotlarsky share
nuggets of wisdom from the guidance and instructions that the Rebbe had given him during his many years of community building and outreach work.

Below read a fascinating story about a Jew in Curacao.

Kotlarsky went wherever he was needed, sometimes not even knowing
why he was being sent.

Like the time in January of 1984 that he got a phone call at home from
Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, the Rebbe’s chief of staff, telling
him, “the Rebbe wants you to go to Curacao immediately.” Upon arrival
to the Caribbean Island with a friend, they promptly hailed a taxi to the
synagogue. However, instead of taking them to the
famed Mikveh Israel synagogue, the cab driver took them to another,
much smaller one, from which a man was exiting. “We were sent here
by the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” Kotlarsky told the man.

The man, named Chaim Groisman, nearly fainted. Groisman, it
emerged, was a local Jew who’s family was going through a crisis. Their
son, Eli, was being harassed in his Protestant school for not attending
mandatory religious services. It got so bad that they started keeping
him home from school, only to receive warning letters that by law they
had to send him to school. The Groismans did not know what to do.

One night Chaim Groisman had a dream in which his late grandmother
appeared and told him that if ever there was a time he was in trouble,
he should turn to the  Lubavitcher Rebbe. He’d never heard of the Rebbe
before. The next day Kotlarsky and his traveling companion showed up.
“Rabbi Kotlarsky invited me to go to New York and attend Camp Gan
Israel in the Catskills that summer, and later to  Yeshivah that started in September,”  Eli Groisman recalled. “This was the answer to our prayers,
and I accepted the offer immediately.”

Groisman later wrote a letter of thanks to the Rebbe for sending his
emissaries and caring for “a small Jew from Curacao.”

“I must … take exception to your referring to yourself as ‘a small Jew
from Curacao,’” the Rebbe wrote to him… [T]here is no such thing as a
‘small Jew,’ and a Jew must never underestimate his or her tremendous potential.”


For the rest of his life Kotlarsky would cite these words from the Rebbe
as a source of personal guidance and inspiration.
As we move forward in a world of AI and robotic technology that makes
many former human tasks obsolete, we must remember this crystal
clear teaching of the Rebbe.

Each of us COUNTS.

No one is ‘small’. If to measure our potential, we are all tremendous.
By bringing us into this world Hashem has stated that His world would
be incomplete with you.

Hashem loves you. Make your life meaningful and inspiring.
Study Torah. Perform Mitzvot. Acts of loving kindness and caring.
Most important of all, leave room for someone else.
Even better, feel yourself as one with all of your people.

Today, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, is the day that we the Jewish people
arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. A day of unity.

Through our unity against all odds, we will usher in the ultimate unity of
Mashiach’s coming.

Shabbat Shalom
Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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