outstanding light

Friday, 20 October, 2023 - 5:25 am

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By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Let me share a most painfully touching and at the same time inspiring, email I received today from a member of our ‘global Thailand Jewish community’.

Hi Rabbi Kantor!

*Abigail recently turned 3 and I lit Shabbat candles with her for the first time last Shabbat.

She’s not able to hold a match on her own and cognitively really has no idea what’s going on with the candles, Mitzvah, or bracha. Does this kind of defeat the purpose since I’m essentially doing it for her?

I so desperately want her to partake in this mitzvah especially with everything going on but don’t know what the right thing to do is.

*Abigail was born with a rare genetic disorder.

Hearing the question is very emotional. And uplifting. Here is a sweet young Jewish mother who lights candles every Friday night to usher in the Shabbat and she would like to continue the tradition with her daughter as is customary once they turn three.

But her daughter is special. Outstanding.

Is there any point in her lighting the candle?

The timing of the question is perfect.

It is a question about adding light.

This is something that we all want to do now.

Lighting Shabbat candles adds physical light to the world.

It’s measurable. Every added candle contributes to the raising of the level of light in the room.

The Rebbe highlighted this mitzvah, that is primarily associated with women and girls, as one that unleashes incredible Divine power into the world.

It symbolizes the additional positivity and kindness that each and every one of us, can and must add to their immediate environment and by extension to the world at large.

Lighting Shabbat candles is a statement that one is fully committed to bringing light to the world.

This concept of adding light, said the Rebbe, is important to impress upon our young children from the age of three (or even younger if they are more mature).

From the earliest age possible, our children must know that they too can be part of adding light to the world. That their good deeds make a difference.

By lighting their own candle alongside their mother, they are making the most powerful statement that their ‘kleine lichteleh’, their very own small candle, can make a contribution and banish the darkness of the world around them.

The Torah teaches us to inculcate and implant within our children, via their formal education and even more so via behavioral instruction, kindness and charitableness.

Is it meaningful for a girl who is not cognitively developed to light a candle?

If you ask me, I think it is meaningful on the highest level as it is pure, pristine and unadulteratedly goodness.

In a sense it may even symbolize something more powerful than the standard candle lighting of ‘ordinary’ people.

Why do we need to remind ourselves every week to bring light into the world?

Do you know someone would someone choose to bring darkness to the world?

Aren’t people innately good? The Torah teaches in our weekly parsha that ‘G-d made man in the image of G-d’. How could one then become an agent of evil?  

The answer is also to be found in this week’s parsha of Noach.

God said to Himself, "  ">will never again curse the soil because of humanity, for the inclination of a person's heart is  evil  from his  youth .

Hashem tells us in the Torah that he has instilled within each of us an inclination to do the wrong thing.

We are innately good, but we do not remain statically in the good state we are born into.

We are challenged by an evil inclination from very early on.

So tells us the Torah.

Within each and every one of us rages a battle.

Between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing.

Between bringing light into the world through selfless altruistic acts of sharing.

Or bringing darkness into the world by selfish, uncaring or even cruel, treatment of others.

It can happen that G-d forbid someone has lost the internal battle and is dominated by his evil side. Either by misguided education, or even more tragically by being a victim of evil indoctrination. Or more germanely, by slowly and consistently making bad choices. Those misguided actions that these people perform are portals of darkness into the world.

This means that we to constantly remind ourselves and recommit ourselves to continue the struggle, the fight, and sometimes even the war, against evil.

Before we usher in the Shabbat, the day of light and peace, we make this declaration.

When we light the Shabbat candles, we overcome our negativity and demonstrate by a physical deed, our deep-seated commitment to creating a deluge of light in the world.

I know Abigail. A sweet pure soul. She has nothing but good in her personality.

Her light is above the fray. There is no internal battle. Within her is an unchallenged source of light. Her light beams forth with Divine brightness.

I told Abigails mother that yes, she should definitely light the candle with Abigail, and then she should light her own candles and make the blessing for kindling the lights of Shabbat Kodesh – the holy Shabbat.

May Abigails parents be blessed by G-d with the all that is needed to raise her and her other siblings in the most blessed way possible.

For all of us ‘ordinary’ ones, who do need to constantly reinforce the good within ourselves and carry on the battle against the negativity within us, may we be successful in our individual battles.

And in the collective battle of Am Yisrael.

In the critical battle that Israel is fighting now, we the nation of Yisrael, must be resolute and steadfast.

We must not become tired.

As Jews we must not give up.

There is no reason to give up.

Hashem is with us.

We have been here for thousands of years, and ‘we have a secret weapon’, (to quote from the president of the United States of America’s quote of Golda Meir). ‘We have no place else to go’.

When I heard that story, twice in the last two weeks, recounted by Joe Biden, I thought to myself that what Golda’s Jewish soul was really saying was:

Our secret weapon is the knowledge and belief that G-d gave us Israel.

Click here for many video clips of the Rebbe about Israel.


Clearly the world is on the brink. We are on the cusp of a changed world.

Let us do all that we can so that the change will be for the good and the positive.

Both the ultimate goal of bringing Mashiach and the interim goal, of good vanquishing evil even before Mashiach comes.

Everyone must do whatever they can do to help win this war of good against evil.

None of us may shy away or hide.

What can we do from anywhere in the world that we are?

Rejoice in the fact that you are a Jew. Embrace it. Don’t run away in fear and hide.

Engage more with your Judaism.

Doing mitzvahs, laying tefillin, lighting candles, helping the needy and generating love to others all impact our people, our country and the entire world, with the Divine energy of positivity that they elicit and invite down into our environs.

With blessings for a safe and secure and peaceful Holy Land of Israel

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I found this article by Tzvi Freeman to be very powerful. Rather than sharing a link, since we are in times that require more light, I am quoting the entire article.


You Are Not Powerless. You Never Are.

By Tzvi Freeman

There are those who say there is a war in a faraway land called Israel. They are mistaken.

There is a war against every Jewish woman, man, and child wherever in the world they may be.

The peddlers of terror do not hate Israel because they wish to liberate humanity.

They do not murder children in their mother’s arms because they wish to make commerce over their borders. They have a border with Egypt, closed for decades, yet not a missile fires in that direction.

They hate Jews because they have been taught to hate Jews. That hatred is their oppressor as much as it is ours.

Hatred is not a bullet. It is not a meme. Hatred is a spiritual illness.

A War of the Soul

Which means that this is a spiritual war as much as it is a physical one.

Our bodies have been slain and maimed, but this war is fought principally with our souls.

And with the Jewish people, our bodies may be separate, but the souls are all one. Like a single being.

If someone attacks your right arm, your head, your heart, your feet, your hands—every cell within you is mobilized.

That’s crucial to know. Because it means that none of us is powerless. All of us today are soldiers in this war.

The War Against Hatred

How do you win a war against hatred? Not by scrolling through images of horror. Not by succumbing to sadness and despair. Terror is not vanquished by your horror. Neither can you win against it by despair. Those are its prime tools of mass destruction.

Instead, you’ll need to implement some paradoxical intervention. Because there is nothing hatred hates more than love, and there is nothing more potent against darkness than light.

Hatred attacks when it perceives weakness in its host. It flees when there is unity and togetherness.

Here is your plan of action:

Love Every Jew

Yes, I know you must love everyone. But if you can’t love your brother and sister, how can you love the whole world?

Love all Jews and the world will learn to love all people, indeed, all of G‑d’s creatures.

If you see a Jew you don’t like, do that Jew a favor. Find out what they need, how you can be of assistance. Go out of your way to provide them some help.

Look at every Jew you meet and see only two things: What can I learn from this amazing, holy Jew? And what can I do to contribute to the life of this wondrous member of my tribe?

We are one, many cells of a single organism with a single soul. When you help another Jew, you help all of us, and you help yourself.

Connect to Your People With a Mitzvah

There are many ways that human beings connect. The Jewish People have their unique, mysterious connections. They are called mitzvahs. For three and a half millennia, they have kept us alive and vibrant through every onslaught. They have illuminated the world with our values. They are our lifeline as a people.

We need to strengthen our lifeline.

We connect by lighting Shabbat candles in our homes before the sun sets on Friday, so that the darkness shines.

We connect by all our men wrapping tefillin, connecting their minds, hearts, and arms to the G‑d of Israel and to all other Jewish men.

We connect by affixing mezuzahs to our doors. We connect by studying the wisdom of our Torah together.

And in so many other ways, many explained here.

Enlist the Children

You gotta love those kids. Not just for who they will become, but for who they are right now.

They are the innocent voice of our people in its utmost purity. Their words of prayer reach to the highest places, where ours could never reach.

Tell them that. Empower them.

One of the greatest gifts you can give any child is the knowledge that at any time, in any place, no matter the situation, if you will simply speak to G‑d from your heart, He will listen. And He cares.

Teach them to say words of Torah. Teach them the twelve verses that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, asked all children to say.

And there are other things the Rebbe recommended for kids:

Get them their own little charity box and a pile of coins so they can drop one in each day. They will learn to have a giving hand.

And give them a shelf in their room with their own Torah books, like a prayer book, Psalms, The Five Books of Moses.

Listen to their voices. Celebrate them. Empower them. They will never feel helpless again.

Be Upbeat. Stay Positive.

I know it’s hard at times. I know it can feel callous to smile in the face of tragedy. I know about that little voice inside that tells you that if you don’t look at the horrible images, that means you don’t care.

Tell that voice to make an appointment for another day. Right now is not the time for guilt and insecurity. Right now, you are a soldier.

A soldier who goes to battle in tears is better off staying home. After the war is won, then you can cry as you dance. Now is the time to uplift the spirits of all those around you, to mobilize our people, to get things done.

Now is the time for us to hold hands, not in tears, but in love, joy, and harmony.

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