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Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach From Bangkok!

Friday, 29 September, 2023 - 5:13 pm

From the sublime and holy subtlety of Yom Kippur we dance into the joyous and noisily energetic holiday of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Emerging from a twenty-five hour fast where most of the waking hours are spent in self-introspective meditation and prayer, we leap directly into a hectic schedule of building sukkahs and procuring the four species of vegetation – Lulav, Etrog, myrtles and willows which together constitute the mitzvah of the holiday of Sukkot.

Incredibly, the day of Yom Kippur touches the widest range of Jews possible. It is a day that is indicative of the resilience and eternity of the Jewish soul. Jews that have spent decades uninvolved in anything Jewish throughout the year, will surface on Yom Kippur.

Here is a story from a few days ago of a Jewish soul that was awakened on Yom Kippur this year, by a purely Divine Providence encounter.

Nechama’s sister was blessed to give birth on the eve of Yom Kippur in the USA. The nurse who was helping in the delivery room was chatting with my sister-in-law about religion. She said ‘my son is only 25% Jewish but for some reason he doesn’t want to attend prayers at the church that our family attends’. My sister-in-law asked some more questions and learned that it was the nurse’s mother and maternal grandmother who were Jewish. This of course means that the nurse is Jewish, as well as her thirteen-year-old son. This came as quite a surprise to the nurse. Incredibly, G-d sent down a new soul to be born on Yom Kippur and along the way discover other Jewish souls who were unaware of their true identity.

Closer to home here in Bangkok, it inspired me beyond words to greet the hundreds who attended our prayers at Bet Elisheva.

There is a saying ‘put your money where your mouth is’.

The dictionary explains that idiom to mean: to give or spend money or take some action in order to do or support something that one has been talking about

This is precisely what the transition from Yom Kippur’s holy inwardness to Sukkot’s outgoing mundaneness is all about. Translating our devoutness at Synagogue into impactful good deeds in the outside world.

On Yom Kippur we recluse from the world. We abstain from food and drink and various other earthly engagements.

On Sukkot we feast on delicious food and toast on joyous beverages.

We engage with the mundane and earthly field, picking the four kinds of vegetation for prayer. And building the Sukka huts from wood and other materials.

And giving Tzedaka before Sukkot to help those in need, as well as inviting guests to dine with you in the Sukkah, these are outward deeds that create a powerful impact of kindness in the world.

On Yom Kippur we reveal our true, core identity as being one with G-d. The day of ‘At-one-ment’.

On Sukkot we actualize that identity by acting in a way that ‘walks the talk’.

One of the highlights of Yom Kippur is the feeling of unity that Jews feel with each other. The consensus that we all have around the lofty and inviolability nature of Yom Kippur.

That theme of unity is the thread that runs through Sukkot.

Sitting in a Sukka is like sitting in G-d’s embrace.

Together with tens, hundreds or thousands of fellow children of G-d.

The four species that comprise the mitzvah of Lulav and Etrog teach an even deeper level of unity. It addresses the differences that make us each unique, together with the realization that we complement each other rather than contradict each other.

‘Two right hands’ is just as dysfunctional as ‘two left hands’. The right hand and the left hand are opposites, but only by having those two distinctively different hands, can a human being function effectively.

Going outside, leaving the familiar and safe confines of one’s permanent home to sit in a temporary shaded hut is a leap of faith in G-d. It is quite different than having faith in G-d when enveloped in prayer in the Synagogue on the holy day of Yom Kippur.

Feeling protected by G-d while being exposed to the elements on the eve of Sukkot is quite a feat.

In retrospect it is much easier as looking back we often see G-d’s Hand at work.

Just before Yom Kippur I bumped into a (non-Jewish) retired USA army officer. Seeing that I was a rabbi he wanted to share that he believes in G-d.

The officer told me that He – pointing upwards – is clearly in charge. He explained. He was taken to hospital in Iraq where he was stationed with the USA army for a bleeding ulcer. He was evacuated to the States. A short while later, an explosive device was detonated at exactly the spot that he had been manning. His replacement was tragically killed. This officer told me choking with emotion, ‘I saw the Hand of G-d. What I thought was a big problem in my health, actually was sent to me to save my life’.

It is more challenging to believe and put absolute trust in G-d in the present and regarding the future.

Sukkot is the exercise of practicing our faith in G-d in the present.

I have a friend who for many decades had a steady job as a salaried worker.  Circumstances changed and he had to make the change to be an independent contractor. This meant that he would now not have any ‘guaranteed’ salary at the end of the month. If people needed his services, he would issue an invoice. But nobody was ‘obligated’ to contract him for his services.

My friend told me that initially this caused him anxiety. How would he pay his bills at the end of the month? Till he adapted to the mode of ‘G-d will provide’ and came to the realization that he now had the blessing of feeling Hashems direct beneficence to him in a more palpable way.  

Feeling more secure when you rely on other humans than when you rely on G-d is quite common but admittedly immature.

Yet, it does take work, and requires ‘exercising the muscle of faith’ to feel totally comfortable while relying on Hashem.

One has to work on it. One of the ways to strengthen faith is by learning more about it. Click here for an exhaustive study.

On Sukkot we have Divine assistance in developing our faith in G-d.

Going out to eat, hang out and live life in the vulnerable space of the Sukkah which is covered with branches that provide shade from the sum, reminds us how G-d shielded us from the sun and heat when he took us out of Egypt.

He had enveloped us in His clouds of glory and we the Jewish nation emerged from the ravages of Egypt into the soft comforting atmosphere of G-d heavenly ‘clouds of glory’.

This is what we are to be reminded of when we sit in our Sukka’s on the holiday of Sukkot.

Hashem took care of us in the desert.

Hashem takes care of us now.

Hashem will take care of us in the future.

Let us take this one step further and discover a way to live healthier, smarter and more relaxedly by projecting your faith in a positive outcome and living as if that outcome is already here.

Let us say you are a contractor, and you haven’t received enough work this month to have sufficient income although you are already halfway through the month.

Obviously, you have to try and drum up business. Hashem instructs us to not rely on miracles. We have to try our hardest and best to make things work according to the rules of nature.

However, with regards to your general mood, two options are available to you.

You can either become very anxious and run around frantically trying to drum up business, or you can project in your mind the serenity of arriving at the end of the month with enough income, and now go out optimistically and calmly to try and generate new work.

Which way is better?

Let’s analyze it.

Please G-d you will arrive at the end of the month and discover that things worked out better than you feared.

If you acted stressfully, you will ask yourself ‘why did I stress out when after all it worked out’. You will now be further disappointed in yourself for having overreacted in the first place.

If you trusted in G-d and acted optimistically calm and even joyous in the anticipation of your hope for a good resolution, when things work you will be doubly happy. First of all, you are happy that it worked out. And you are further happy for not having succumbed to the natural reaction of feeling anxiety which would have been misplaced.

Try it.

If you are currently facing something challenging, use the Sukkah approach.

Do what you can to solve your problem. But do it from the perspective of entering into the enveloping embrace of Hashem and trusting in Him to bring things to a positive outcome.

It takes effort but it is the only true way to live and well worth the effort.

The switch from relying on the unreliability of mortals, to relying on the infallible G-d is liberational.

And very good for one’s health.

Tap into the Divine opportunities of this time of the year. Jumpstart the process of trust in Hashem, during this joyous chag of Sukkot with the mitzvah of eating a meal in the Sukkah.

Lechayim!

Shabbat Shalom

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS if you are here in Bangkok please come and join us in the Sukkah during Sukkot at Bet Elisheva, or from Monday to Friday at JCafe (in the parking lot).

Or if you wish to be visited with the lulav and etrog to do the mitzvah, reach out to me and we will please G-d dispatch one of the Yeshiva Bachurim who have come back home for the Chagim, to visit you to perform the mitzvah.

 

 


 

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