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Chai from Thai

Friday, 8 April, 2022 - 3:19 pm

Dear Friend,

We are meant to be happy. All the time. It’s a Mitzvah.

Especially now.

Passover is a joyous and celebratory time.

But how can we be happy?

The world seems so scary.

I won’t go into details of world news because that is the job of the news reporters. Suffice it to say the world is covered with darkness in many ways.

It’s even more scary when you realize that what we know is just a tip of the iceberg about what is really going on.

Be happy?

How?

This year we have another reason for special celebration.

In our generation, we were blessed with the great gift of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership.

The day of birth of a leader is cause for celebration. The Rebbe of righteous memory was born four days before Pesach in 1902. This year is thus the 120th year. A most significant and joyous milestone.

But, against the backdrop of our current world predicament how can one be in the state of mind to be joyous?

There is an ancient Jewish tradition to say the chapter in Tehillim – Psalms corresponding to the year of ones life. i.e. when one is born it is year one. When one turns twenty it is year twenty-one etc. Thus as we enter the 121st year since the Rebbe’s birth, we begin to say Psalm 121.

Psalm 121 spells out very clearly how a Jew is able to live his life with joy even while facing adversity.

King David speaks on behalf of all of the people of Israel in his book of Tehillim – Psalms.

I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?

My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth

When things look bleak, rather than hiding in a corner and pretending that nothing is wrong and all is fine and dandy, you should look reality in the eye.

Look up to G-d and be mindful that our lives, our strength, our help and salvation, come from G-d.

And nothing is beyond G-d’s realm of possibility.

As trying and challenging as things may seem, G-d is in charge and can change the course of the world to one of peace and tranquility in no time.

Liberation does not mean living in denial and ignoring the challenges.

True freedom is about recognizing the challenges and transcending them by connecting to the Higher Authority and being enwrapped in His infinite embrace.

On Pesach, each and every year, we are gifted the spirit of liberation and freedom once more.

It is up to us to ‘plug in’ and activate the incredible opportunity of liberation that Pesach brings.

As Moshe shared with the Jewish people on the day that he turned 120

(Devarim 29:33)

Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people whose salvation is through God, the shield who helps you, your majestic sword!

When we but realize that G-d is with us, we truly feel fortunate and JOYOUS.

***

In our post Holocaust generation, inspired by the Rebbe’s leadership, we are witness to the catapulting of Jewish life and experience to the most diverse and widespread locales.

The adaptation of Jewish life to so many varied environments is a source of inspiration and colorful anecdotes.

One of the exciting and incongruous places that Judaism has proliferated, is Thailand.

Nechama and I are blessed to have been sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1993 to provide spiritual leadership to the Jews of Thailand. Over the years, we have engaged in many incredibly inspiring Jewish experiences.

It has been my privilege to share some of these stories in my weekly emails.

These emails began after the horrendous terrorist attack on the twin towers, knows as 9/11. The Rebbe would often repeat the aphorism that ‘a little light dispels a lot of darkness’. This weekly communique was my way of adding a bit of light.

A dear friend Bennet Hymer of Hawaii was so inspired by these anecdotes that he set out to publish a book of these stories.

These are not really my stories. Rather they are a testament to the vision and empowering leadership of the Rebbe. My stories are not unique. Thousands of my colleagues around the world experience similarly miraculous and inspiring encounters as they go around their holy and vital work. The Rebbe propelled and empowered all of us and continues to do so as the soul becomes more radiant after physically passing.

While the book was published more than half a year ago, I hadn’t yet spoken about it in my weekly email. Bennett Hymer, my dear friend, the publisher of the book, asked me last week when would I announce it?

I wasn’t sure. But listen to what happened earlier today, and you will see how Hashem provided me with clear guidance.

Thank G-d I have the merit to be able to be represent the community of Thailand, in New York for the Monday night celebration of the Rebbe’s 120th birthday after which I head back home to Bangkok for the final preparation of our Pesach activities that are being ably handed by my dear wife and our Chabad staff.

One of my missions for my NY trip is raising funds for providing Pesach food, joy and welfare to Jews residing and visiting Thailand via our communal seders and food distribution.

I was visiting some philanthropic supporters in Long Island and prayed the Mincha afternoon service together with them in the buildings conference room. Just before the prayers, a thought went through my mind that perhaps this week I would announce the book in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday. For it was the Rebbe’s fervent wish that every person inspire others to reach beyond their comfort zone. To do another mitzvah, to study more Torah. The purpose of the book is to inspire this kind of growth. But I still wasn’t sure if I would announce it this week.

The payers were over. People filed out of the room, till there was just one person left who was waiting to tell me something. He introduced himself and then said ‘I have regards from Bennet Hymer in Hawaii. He even gave me a copy of your book that he published’.

My dear friends, I am blessed to see many instances of Divine Providence. Somehow this one simply astounded me.

So, in heeding the message from Heaven, I am sharing the details of the book ‘Chai from Thai – Jewish experiences from Thailand’ . (In Thailand this will be available locally via our office).

***

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom and success in selling your chametz, acquiring Matzah and generally preparing for Pesach – the Festival of our Liberation.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

 

Watch a moment of wisdom for this week's Torah portion👇👇👇

 

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