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ב"ה

Now what?

Friday, 7 October, 2022 - 2:54 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Now what?

We have spent the last forty days in a ‘High Holidays’ mode. Thirty days of the introspective month of Elul. Ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur inclusive. We have been ‘written and sealed’ for a Shana Tova Umetuka – a ‘good and sweet year’.

What do we do now?

I am reminded of a joke.

The ‘buy one get four’ sale on cat food was irresistible. Sadie filled up her cart with ‘bargain priced’ cat food. She felt that it was a ‘sin’ not to buy it. On the way home she told her friend Kathy ‘please remind me to buy a cat’.

I am thinking along those lines. If you have a wagon full of reasons to be happy, don’t forget to take the time to be happy about them.

We just got the wonderful blessings of being forgiven by G-d on Yom Kippur, we are in a buoyant mood, anticipating a great year ahead, let’s make sure to celebrate it!

It is not at all coincidental that the Sukkot holiday follow a mere four days after Yom Kippur.

The Almighty designed it that way in the Torah.

As the blast of the Shofar is sounded in the Synagogue heralding the climactic conclusion of Yom Kippur, the joyousness in the air is palpable.

Sukkot is called ‘Zman Simchateinu’ – the ‘Time of our Joy’.

When I was blessed, as a Yeshiva Bachur, to spend Yom Kippur with the Rebbe, one of the most incredible transitioning moments was the climax of Yom Kippur. The Rebbe led the massive crowd in singing and dancing to a triumphant march. (It’s referred to in the Chasidic music world as ‘Napoleons March’).  This symbolized that we, the Jewish People, had just been ‘victorious’ in our Heavenly judgement. Now we were to energetically march on to serving G-d joyously.

From that moment on, the mood in the Rebbe’s presence was a transformed one. From the earnestness and solemness of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur aura, to an uplifted, joyous and energetic one. Sukkot and Simchat Torah were celebrated with unbridled and indescribable joy.

So, first of all, in response to my opening question ‘now what?’ I will say simply ‘now, PARTY!’

There is a deeper layer to this question.

The previous Rebbe asked his father as a child just after Yom Kippur.

‘Father, now what?’

He meant, now that on Yom Kippur we have been gifted the Divine gift of cleansing forgiveness, after that grand finale, where do we go from here.

To which his father responded.

‘Now, we have to really do Teshuva (return to G-d)’.

The way I understand this response is through using the analogy of a businessman who has met with success. He made his first major profit of several tens of thousands of dollars. Does he sit back and relax? No. Now he injects bigger money into his business and nets a bigger profit. Does he sit back and relax after making a few hundred thousand dollars? Most likely not. He will invest in even bigger ventures, hoping to turn a yet bigger profit.

You recognize that you are in an ‘upgraded’ spiritual place after Yom Kippur? Perfect! Now you can really do some serious Teshuva, and progress onward in becoming yet closer to G-d.

Make sure to take the newfound nearness to Hashem that you discovered on Yom Kippur and ‘reinvest it’. Don’t squander the inspiration and let it dissipate.

On a practical note: Upgrade your ‘post Yom Kippur’ life with at least one good resolution.

Put Yom Kippur 5783 on your ‘life-map’ by committing yourself to something, small as it may be, that brings more connection to G-d into your daily life.

And do it with joy.

The Torah instructs us to be joyous on Sukkot.

How do you ‘become’ joyous?

With an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’.

On Sukkot we sit in a Sukkah.

The Sukkah reminds us of the Divine protection that Hashem gave us from the extreme weather, when we left Egypt and spent forty years in the arid desert. Divine ‘Clouds of Glory’ surrounded us and kept our environment comfortable.

Its more than three thousand years later and we are still mindful and thankful for the gift of protection and comfort given to our ancestors.

Have you taken the time to reflect on last year and count your blessings. I mean this quite literally. Not only the blessings he gave you many years ago. The recent blessings of the past year.

Was there anything major that you really ought to be grateful for?

I am guessing that if you take a few moments to think about it, you will come up with some kind of ‘gratitude list’.

So, be grateful! And rejoice on this festival of joy. Show G-d how you are not a ‘sourpuss’ who only knows how to complain when things are not perfect in your estimation. Rather you know how to joyously thank Him for all the good and vital things He has provided for you.

Sitting outside in the Sukkah, also reminds us of how much we need G-ds ongoing protection. The Sukka by definition is a non-permanent area i.e. its roofing must be of branches and rain must be able to make its way through. Virtually all Sukkahs are uncomfortably hot in the hot climates (like Thailand) and chilling and cold in the cold climates. Our frailty and vulnerability are evident.

The Sukkah thus reminds us not to put our faith in man-made security but rather to place our reliance solely on G-d.

(While of course also doing everything we can to protect ourselves naturally. G-d has instructed us not to rely on His open and obvious miracles. He prefers to operate in the guise of ‘nature’).

As I was greeting the guests at the ‘break the fast’ meal (after an incredibly uplifting and well attended Yom Kippur service) one person remarked to me that his financial situation allowed him to choose where he wanted to live. He was trying to decide if he wanted to live in Thailand. One of the things he mentioned as being attractive about Thailand is the peacefulness of the country. Almost as if to say, ‘there one less thing to pray for’ in Thailand because it’s peaceful by nature. How tragically ironic that on the very next day we get news of a horrific massacre rampage in Thailand. By a former police officer no less, in which he killed more than thirty four people at a day care center, more than twenty of them little children.

There are no words to say in the face of the utter evil senselessness of such a tragic attack.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Unimaginable what they must be going through.

(The age old questions of why bad things happen to good people (sweet innocent children) remains unanswered).

Thailand is indeed a generally peaceful place thank G-d.

We pray to G-d that Thailand remains peaceful.

But it certainly is a timely reminder. That no matter where you are, life is uncertain, and we need to be humbly aware of our vulnerability.

The Sukkah reminds us that as secure as we may feel by our physical surroundings, we are not truly in control. We need the protective embrace of G-d to shelter us from harm. And to bless us with the wherewithal and blessings of life.

The Sukkah both reminds us to be grateful for the blessings that we already have, and to be reminded that in our lives, we must be constantly mindful of the protection we need from Hashem.

(I will share something a bit lighter. One of my relatives runs a Chabad House in the USA. Some of his congregants very much took to the ‘tent of prayer’ that they were relegated to, during Covid times. The Rabbi couldn’t convince the community that it’s time to move back inside. Maybe the sermons were shorter in the tent as there were no acoustics to carry his voice. A few days ago, when the weatherman predicted inclement weather for Yom Kippur eve, there was no choice. Prayers were moved back to the sanctuary which is a very nice Synagogue. Needless to say, after being ‘forced’ back inside, everyone realized how special it is to pray in the Shul. And they realized that their rabbi gives fantastic sermons which they love hearing. It became clear that you can’t compare the ‘tent’ to the Synagogue. An interesting positive twist to what some refer to as  ‘miserable weather’).

So, ‘now what’?

CELEBRATION TIME

First of all, celebrate the upcoming Shabbat.

And then celebrate the holiday of Sukkot by eating in a Sukkah, blessing and shaking the Lulav and Etrog and by singing and dancing and rejoicing.

The best thing a Jew can do for world peace and for helping those who are in sorrow, is by following the path of the Torah and rejoicing when it is time to rejoice!

And now is the time.

We await eagerly the final Redemption with Mashiach and the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.” In other words, all metals tools that are currently used for murder and war (machetes, guns etc.) will be requisitioned and turned into tools of farming and positivity.

If that happens before this coming Monday, then the mitzvah of Hakhel, where the king reads from the Torah in the presence of the entire Jewish nation – men women and children – will take place in Jerusalem. You and I, and every one of the Jewish people will be there.

May this turn into reality AMEN!

Shabbat Shalom

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Thank you very much for all those who have taken part of our ‘Giving Days’. Many of our branches have successfully completed their portion of the campaign thank G-d. The portion of the campaign for which I am directly responsible which is the engine of Jewish life in Thailand and provides start up funds, emergency funds to those who are in need, end of life assistance, is more than 60% to its goal. It still needs more donations. It has been extended by a few more days to give those who like to contribute, the chance to make a difference by their donation.

Click here to contribute. Donations are still being matched till the last day of Sukkot.

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