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Emor - say a kind word

Friday, 17 May, 2024 - 5:59 am

A small group of children went out on a hike with their teacher.

They stopped on a road, near a farm, at the foot of a large mountain range. Running down from the mountains was a bubbling brook of fresh water.

The children drank some water. But first they said a  berachah (blessing).

They washed their hands (ritually) before their lunch, and again they said a  berachah. They sat under a tree. They ate their lunches, and then they said  Birkat Hamazon ( Grace After Meals). They then studied Torah under the tree.

The water they drank.

The grass they sat on.

The water that washed.

The shade of the tree.

The development.

For over five thousand years, this little farm was waiting for development.

The children came.

And they went.

They saw two cows as they went.

Click here to find out about the rest of the story written by my dear esteemed father Rabbi Mattis Kantor.

The part of the above story that I wish to focus on, is the centrality of speech in our human experience.

With our mouths we make blessings, we study Torah and we say prayers. This is uniquely human.

Humans are often referred to in the Torah as ‘speakers’.

Minerals, plants and animals do not have the gift of speech.

As the part of G-d’s creation that is identified by our abilities of speech and communication, it is important to stop and think periodically about the power of our words.

Not just the Torah and Prayers holy words, but regular mundane day to day words.

Words can maim and injure.

We are all familiar with the saying ‘you have hurt my feelings’ when someone is rude, condescending or even poisonously vindictive.

Words can also uplift and empower.

Jewish mothers have been doing it right for millennia. They label their little children ‘mien tzadikel’ (my little ‘tzadik’ saint), ‘sheifaleh’ (my little soft, cuddly and gentle lamb), my ‘little bubaleh’ and other endearing words.

I shudder when I hear people refer to their children with words like ‘demon’ ‘monster’ and things like that.

Let us not underestimate the power of our words and choose our words wisely.

How much more so the power of our kind deeds.

Even the simplest of kind gestures can be transformative.

A colleague called me from Europe this week to share the following story.

Yanky is the oldest of many children who grew up in a very religious family in Israel. Before he turned fifteen, he had run away from home and his close-knit religious community. His escapades took him to places and experiences that were irresponsible, wildly hedonistic, and downright dangerous. Besides being totally irreligious.

Over the past few years Yanky started to make steps to leading a more responsible and balanced life. He started working and gradually built himself up to a self-respecting member of the society around him.

As well, Yanky started to reengage with his Judaism. He prays with Tefillin daily, doesn’t work on Shabbat and comes to join in the Shabbat meals at this European Chabad House.

Last week, said my friend, we went around the Shabbat table and asked everyone to share something. Yanky shared the following:

‘Do you know what the catalyst for my turnaround was?

I was partying in Thailand, in an environment that is very inappropriate for the way I was brought up as a religious boy. Judaism, responsible living and being a ‘metsch’ was not in my sights.

A Chabad Shliach saw me, realized I was Jewish and offered me a donut – a sufganiya.

‘Today is Chanukah’, he told me.

I took the donut.

That moment was a catalyst for everything that happened next.

I looked at myself and said, ‘I am still looked at as a Jew, a member of my people, despite the vast distances I have traveled from my Jewish observance?’

That donut told me that my presence and participation is still valued by the Jewish people.

Something in me changed on that day with that donut.

The rest is just a gradual evolvement, a step-by-step process which is bringing me more and more in touch with my inner self’.

My rabbi friend shared this story with me, knowing that because it happened in Thailand I would be interested to hear.

This donut story does much more than just make me feel happy.

It comes at a special time.

As our family celebrates our three-decade anniversary of Shlichus in Thailand.

Yes, this week on Pesach Sheni (the day of ‘second chances’), we will be celebrating the great gift of empowerment that the Rebbe gave our family in 1993, when he sent us to Thailand to be his emissaries in spreading Jewish life in Thailand.

To mark this milestone, we will be holding a Gala in New York, benefiting the work of Chabad of Thailand in one month from today on June 17. (Formal details to follow next week please G-d).

At the benefit dinner we will share our vision for the next decade. The new Beth Elisheva Synagogue community center and various other bold and exciting capital projects throughout Thailand.

Big projects, new buildings, expanded centers, are all critical for developing vibrant Jewish life.

It is easy to get swept up in the exhilaration of exciting projects.

Hosting more than thirteen thousand meals during Passover is exciting.

But ultimately it is the individual interactions that create the big change in people’s lives.

When you get to hear how meaningful even one interaction can be, you recognize that each of us has a contribution to make.

It is tempting to say, the vision is so big, if I am not a ‘big macher’ (‘big cheese’ in American English) how can I contribute something meaningful towards it?

So here is a message to each and every one of us.

There is something unique that every Jew can contribute to Am Yisrael – to our strength as a nation.

Ultimately building Jewish continuity all boils down to one empathetic and compassionate word.

One positive interaction with a fellow Jew.

One word.

One kind deed.

One mitzvah. Click here to see how your one mitzvah can make a world of difference.

Even one donut.

There is not one of us who cannot afford one inspiring and uplifting word.

We have an almost unlimited reservoir of words in our ‘soul’.

This weeks parsha is ‘Emor which literally means ‘Say’.

Take this as a empowering instruction of G-d to you in your own life and your own interactions.

Say something nice.

Say something positive.

Say nice things about others.

See something, say something.

Something NICE. Something EMPOWERING. Something INSPIRING.

And of course, DO ANOTHER MITZVAH. ANOTHER ACT OF GOODNESS AND KINDNESS.

To bring Mashiach sooner.

To protect our soldiers, to heal our wounded, to return our captives and to bring SECURE PEACE to our fractured world.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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