Self/ish/less. Healthier! Shabbat Shalom From Bangkok!

Friday, 29 April, 2022 - 4:08 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

One day before Purim in 1961 the president of the United States of America gave the following speech:

I have today signed an Executive Order providing for the establishment of a Peace Corps … I'm hopeful that it will be a source of satisfaction to Americans and a contribution to world peace.

A day later came Purim. The Rebbe led his customary Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) in honor of Purim and mentioned the founding of the Peace Corps, referring to it as a most admirable and noble idea.

The Rebbe saw this announcement as Heavenly sent assistance to his own efforts for a Jewish ‘Peace Corp’. The Rebbe had repeatedly requested of his students and Chassidim, to leave the comforts of Brooklyn New York and take up teaching positions in places that Judaism was not yet readily available. It was not easy to inspire an immediate post-Holocaust generation to leave the spiritual safety of the close-knit community to go out to the spiritual wilderness as pioneers. Having this similar ideal espoused by the president of the USA and touted in the media as being a noble and idealistic concept, would help implement this in the Jewish world as well.

In the Rebbe’s words on Purim (March 2) 1961:

For years now, I have been saying over and over: Don't convince yourself that you can live off the “fat of the land” and serve G-d in comfort here... Listen! There are spiritually “desolate lands” where fellow Jews are wallowing in spiritual poverty. The Mitzva to love your fellow Jew applies even to someone on the other side of the globe whom you have never met. Torah demands that you love him exactly as you love yourself! So give up your own comforts and devote yourself to helping your fellow Jew who is in need.

And with your love of G-d and your love of a fellow Jew, combined with love of Torah and Mitzvos, we will end the exile which was brought about by unfounded hatred, and bring the Redemption through unbounded love.

Click here for the original audio with English translation.

This topic jumped into my mind as I was preparing for the burial of the late Mr. Harvey (Chaim) Price.

I observed that this had been the smoothest, most immediate and most dignified burial process that I have encountered in Thailand to this date.

Harvey passed away on Shabbat which was the last day of Pesach. Day 8 of Pesach. In his 88th year (two days shy of his 88th birthday in the civil calendar) and was buried on Sunday the very next day – the day after Passover.  

Eight is a special number in Jewish tradition. Immediate burial in a Jewish cemetery is a special merit.

One of the things that Harvey was proud of, was that he had first come to Thailand in 1962 as the part of the first group of Peace Corps.

In other words, Harvey’s coming to Thailand was based on an idealistic desire to help others. Quite unique and special. Only years later, in 1969 he opened his law firm.

The lesson I want to highlight here, is the importance that the Almighty places on minimizing self-absorption and maximizing the efforts spent on helping others.

The underlying message of the Torah is about learning and training how not to put one’s own materialistic interests at the core of one’s mission statement for life. Rather we must put our soul-interests at the core of our aspirations.

Rather, than asking G-d what ‘He can do for you’, it is about asking G-d ‘what you can do for Him’.

And G-d tells us that what we can do for HIM is to ‘Love your fellow as yourself’. Put the welfare of others at the epicenter of your life. When you do that, you are more G-dly.

Counterintuitively and surprisingly, the true path to personal happiness is by providing happiness to others.

More fulfilling than eating a good meal and feeling satisfied, is feeding a hungry person and watching the glow of satisfaction shine on their face.

Hashem tells us in His Torah that giving, helping, and sharing with others does wonders not just for the recipient. It creates even more wondrous and blessed outcomes for the giver himself. In other words, Hashem’s recipe for self-happiness is to help others.

It is not surprising that modern medicine also recognizes this universal truth.

Mayo Clinics website says that:

Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such has heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness. In addition, a Longitudinal Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health.

My suggestion to my dear readers is as follows:

Don’t quit your job and become a full-time volunteer for a charitable cause. Wherever you are, and whatever occupation you engage in, may be exactly where you need to be. But DO become a more selflessly oriented person.

Next time that you get a request for help, especially if it is something that will require patience, effort and even toil, don’t irritably reject it out of hand. Rather, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘is it possible that Hashem has brought this person to me for help, so that I will have the blessing of giving’?

Once you reframe things in this light, you will joyously engage in selflessly doing good for those who need it.

You won’t suffer because of it. On the contrary.

And you too, will be blessed with a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction than you had previously experienced.

Try to make sure that at least once a day you do something that this not self-centered but altruistically done to benefit someone else.

It is not so difficult to do, but it requires being mindful and on the lookout for the G-d given opportunities to help others.

With a mindset of benevolence, giving and tolerance, the world will be a brighter place and Mashiach’s arrival will be hastened.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


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


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