tears? in phuket

Friday, 30 September, 2022 - 4:01 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Rosh Hashana was exhilarating.

That is not a word I would usually associate with Rosh Hashana.

But then again, I would never have associated Rosh Hashana with ‘tent’ and ‘outdoor’ minyans. But that was the reality for many people during the past two years. We have just experienced two years of disruptive Rosh Hashana’s. The likes of which none of us have seen before.

The excitement that I felt in the crowd of three hundred local Jews who gathered to celebrate the first night of Rosh Hashana at Beth Elisheva, was palpable.

With visible smiles as we are no longer masked. With seating in proximity to each other for enhanced camaraderie.

Trillions of microbes coexisting freely between people sitting within inches of each other.

After two years of ‘aloneness’ the congregational togetherness of Rosh Hashana was indeed liberating.

I feel comfortable using the word exhilarating regarding this Rosh Hashana.

And once I opened my phone after the holiday went out, I started getting the reports from our branches throughout Thailand. Our biggest Rosh Hashana dinner location was in Phuket with 1400 guests.

That’s a lot of people.

But I want to focus on an individual encounter that took place in Phuket. It touched me deeply.

Rabbi Glitzenshtayn the new Chabad shliach in Phuket related the following:  We went out into the streets of Phuket to blow Shofar for those who were not in the Synagogue. W e met 2 girls who agreed to hear the shofar. One used to be mitzvah observant and understandably when she heard the Shofar she was emotionally moved.

The other girl defined herself as 'secular' and didn't really understand what the shofar was all about... she vaguely remembered blowing a shofar at the end of Yom Kippur

They made a blessing and I blew the Shofar. When I finished, the 'secular' girl was sobbing...

Tearfully she asked her friend in tears:

Why am I crying?!

Aren’t I secular?!

It was an amazing and moving moment. We explained to her that it was her Jewish soul, her neshama that had been aroused from its slumber by the Shofar.

My wife hugged her and invited her to the Chabad house .

The story speaks volumes about the Rebbe’s clarion call to engage with Jews and help them perform mitzvahs. It is the performance of authentic Judaism that touches and awakens the neshama of a Jew.

Ko Samui, Chiang Mai, Kaosarn Rd were also all full to the rafters. Even in pastoral and somewhat more sleepy Pai, we hosted 380 guests.

Collectively nearly 9,000 Rosh Hashana meals were served by Chabad of Thailand.

I realized that people are hungrily embracing their freedom to travel after two years of restrictions. People are traveling now, more than ever.

The biggest no-no during Covid times was public gathering. As the pandemic ebbed and rose, the amount of people allowed to congregate got adjusted upwards and downwards.

Now, events that were unthinkable during the last two years are once again permissible.

I would like to point out something about the cosmic timing of this opening up of the world.

This week’s Parsha talks about a special mitzvah that took place once every seven years. On the Sukkot festival, the year following the Sabbatical (Shmita) there was a ceremony that took place in the Bet Hamikdash called ‘Hakhel’.

“Hakhel’ means to gather. The entire Jewish nation, men, women and children were instructed to gather in the courtyard of the Bet Hamikdash. The king would read select readings from the fifth book of the Torah. This was a form of reenactment of the Sinai experience where G-d gave the Torah to the entire Jewish people.

The Torah says that this gathering was in order that they learn and revere G-d and observe all the words of the Torah.

 Click here for a comprehensive article on Hakhel.

Would you believe it. This year of 5783 (September 2022) is that very once-in-seven Hakhel year. On Monday night after next week (October 10th) if there was a Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem, we would all be there.

Men women and children. Even very small children.

Hearing the reading from the king.

Sadly, we don’t yet have a rebuilt Bet Hamikdash.

We pray fervently that Mashiach come speedily and that we can hear the reading of the Torah from the king Mashiach.

However, in the meantime, even while in the ‘exile’ we can fulfil the spirit of the Hakhel mitzvah.

We can get together in groups, learn words of Torah and get inspired to draw nearer to G-d and observance of His mitzvahs.

The Rebbe taught that during a Hakhel year, one should try to make as many gatherings as possible. Large and small. Family size and community size and even mega size. All forms of gathering are encouraged during this year so that we fully utilize the special ‘opportunities’ that are available in the ‘air’ during this year.

When I realized the preciseness of the timing of this Hakhel, I get goosebumps.

Imagine if the Hakhel year would have been last year?

It would have been impossible to utilize this opportunity in the literal sense.

Gathering were totally forbidden in many places.

How about if the Hakhel year would be in three years from now?

Please G-d there won’t be any more pandemics and we will be fully used to living unrestricted lifestyles and it won’t be so exciting to us anymore.

In a few years lockdowns will hopefully be something studied in the history books.

Communal gatherings will be totally taken for granted.

Having Hakhel come now, just after emerging from two years of restrictions on gatherings, seems like perfect timing.

Here is the Rebbe’s call to action. Click here to sign up for the Hakhel campaign.

Anytime we make a gathering this year and inject a dose of Torah and connectivity to G-d to the meeting, it is a microcosmic fulfillment of the Hakhel that took place in Jerusalem on this post-seventh year.

Right now, after emerging from two years of Covid, gatherings are more exciting than ever before.

I get goosebumps thinking about the timing of this all.


It makes me even more excited about the ‘virtual Hakhel’ gathering that I am currently involved with.

Engaging with fellow Jews about the mitzvah of Tzedaka.

JewishThailand’s crowdfunding days is made up of two components. Smaller amounts of larger gifts and larger amounts of smaller gifts.

A varied group of 866 donors have already participated to cover 30% of the campaign goal.

There is one tzedakah gift that sadly, I will be missing this year.

I would like to share the following story in memory of Rivka Mazal Yaffa bat Simcha a special woman who passed away ten days ago at a tragically young age.

Around three months ago Rivka wrote to me as follows.

Dear Rabbi Kantor,

Thank you very much for your uplifting messages …

Thank you for praying for me….

I also would like to tell you very quickly that in Pesach when I made a small donation- real small, it was a bit difficult at that exact time and you will not believe it just after I pushed the paypal button- 5 min did not pass that I received a generous financial order. Not 5 min passed.

Thank you very much,

May Hashem bless you and your family!

Rivka had given a very small donation. Even that, was more than she could easily afford.

She dearly wanted to be part of supporting Jewish life in Thailand and during the many years that she lived here and even after she moved elsewhere, she made sure to participate in every campaign in the small way that she was able.

And from my part, I always cherished seeing her name and heartfelt tzedakah participation. There was always a blessing note that accompanied her tzedakah.

How tragic that she lost her life so young.

By Divine Providence she shared with me this little miracle that she had with after giving Tzedakah, just three months before she passed.

I share this story with you as I was moved deeply from the sincerity and deep faith in G-d that exude from her words.

No doubt, this Tzedakah is one of the many mitzvahs that provide eternal spiritual bliss to her soul on high.

And I pray that the inspiration from this story will lead to more acts of Tzedakah.

May the Tzedakah that is given due to Rivkah’s inspiration be a merit for the ascent of her soul.

I hope, pray and trust that all of us have been written into the book of Life.

May this year be a year of sweet blessings to you and your loved ones.

And may this be the year that Mashiach comes and then we can fully fulfil the mitzvah of Hakhel, in the Bet Hamikdash, hearing the Torah from the King Mashiach. AMEN.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS to participate in JewishThailand giving days, please click here.

Every person’s contribution is valued and every amount is meaningful.

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