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I slept in my bed

Friday, 28 February, 2020 - 1:41 pm

By the Grace of G-d

I SLEPT IN MY BED THIS WEEK (not sitting up on an airplane seat... I was scheduled to go to Israel for annual fundraising dinner of Chabad of Thailand but with that not being impossible due to the quarantine restrictions, we improvised and attended our dinner via teleconference … see pictures below). 

MY FRIENDS IN CHINA DIDN’T (sleep in their own beds)!!! 

If I was feeling sorry for Chabad of Thailand at the beginning of the week when I did the urgent ‘don’t let Chabad be a victim of the Coronavirus’ appeal, by the middle of the week when I got the appeal for HELP from my friends of Chabad of China, I was feeling lucky about being in Thailand. Yes, it has gotten worse for us in Thailand. El Al has announced the ‘pausing’ of their flights to Thailand for the month of March and there are other challenging news headlines… BUT thank G-d we are all still able to be at our posts in Thailand. The community members are mostly here, and local Jewish life is continuing and thriving joyfully. We even had a bris earlier this week (see below), and I am still sleeping in my own bed thank G-d!!!! The dire China situation means that most of my colleagues are stranded outside the country of their mission, their communities have evacuated to all corners of the globe, and they are overwhelmed trying to keep their families, communities and institutions alive. I want to turn to you to ask you to help them survive. To help Judaism in China not collapse, so that when things turn around Jewish life can resume. 


Dear Friend,

What do you do when you are ‘high’?

You know, a little tipsy from a good cup or few cups of wine. Or even a little tipsier than tipsy. 

On Purim it’s a mitzvah to rejoice with wine. To the point of extreme joy.

Ever heard of a ‘drunken brawl’? Too often people who are inebriated end up acting wildly and even fighting.

That kind of behavior is prohibited in the most extreme of terms by the Torah.

What is a Jew meant to do when he gets high on Purim?

The mitzvah we are supposed to embellish on the most, on the day of Purim (there are four mitzvahs, hearing the megillah at evening and day of Purim, feasting, sending gifts of food to friends. The one we need to be most attentive to is) giving GIFTS TO THE POOR. 

Giving gifts to the poor should actually be a part of daily life. The word tzedakah is very well known to us Jews. Most Jewish homes have a tzedakah box (the polar opposite of a piggy bank). 

Fascinatingly thought, the language used for giving help to the poor on Purim is not Tzedaka, rather ‘Matana’, (‘Mishloach Manot’ and ‘Matanot Laevyonim’).

What’s the difference between them? A world of difference.

The word ‘matana’ means gift. The word tzedakah has the connotation of ‘charity’. 

Its not just a play on words. 

If you came home on your wedding anniversary with a gift envelope for your wife that says ‘tzedaka’ (charity), you had better duck for cover, no matter how generous the amount in the envelope was. I wouldn’t advise you to try the experiment, rather suffice with imagining it…..

If however the envelope was labeled ‘matana’ (gift), and the amount fit her expectations, you will achieve the desired results. Try it – the gift one – you will no doubt be happy wit the results.

Why the difference?

Charity has a connotation of helping an unfortunate person. There is a certain implicit message that I, the giver, am the gracious savior of the luckless poor person who is receiving my largesse. A hint of condescension. That’s not the feeling that should exist between friends, certainly not spouses.

Gifts are entirely different. Gifts are also given between equals. Spouses give gifts to each other. Parents give children gifts and vice versa. Business associates give gifts. 

The Talmud has a saying ‘if someone gave you a gift, it must be that you did something that made the giver feel good’. Gifts are not usually given in a vacuum. There is a give and take that exists between the giver and the recipient. A ‘matana’ gift is not a ‘handout’ or a charitable allocation. That is referred to as tzedakah, charity. 

How should one feel when they give a destitute person a gift of money?

Ever heard of the concept ‘Giving is receiving’. 

The greatest gift that you can receive from someone, is the merit and benefit of giving to them. Their availability and agreeability to receive from you, is their gift to you of the highest degree.  

On Purim, when you are ‘high’, you should feel that by giving tzedakah to the poor, you are giving a gift, a matana to an equal.

How is the destitute person an equal to me? Moreover, how is the needy person in some way a provider to me?

Here is how. The poor person is presenting me with a priceless opportunity. He is allowing me to have the mitzvah and merit of giving.

This is why even poor people have to give gifts to the poor on Purim and are instructed to give tzedakah once in a while. Click here for further elaboration. 

This weeks Parsha speaks about the collection taken from the Jewish people to build the G-dly abode, the Mishkan.

G-d doesn’t need our money. He is the creator of Heaven and Earth. If he wants a ‘Bet Hamikdash’ Holy Temple, here on earth, He can do it without our help. 

The appeal for contributions to build a house for G-d is G-d’s gift to His people. The gift of letting us, mere mortals, be partners in building His abode here on earth.

The ability we have to give to others is the greatest gift that we have been given.

The word ‘natan’ ‘נתן’ is read left to write or write to left. This reinforces the lesson that the giver and the receiver are both giving and both receiving.

Purim induced tipsiness, should lead one to this higher perspective on live. Where giving to a destitute person is called a MATANA a GIFT to an equal, and in some way one view the recipient as a superior.

The Talmud summed up this concept and says, ‘more than the wealthy contributor does for the poor person, the poor person does for the wealthy giver’.

Isn’t it just wonderful that in this week when the Torah speaks about the giving of giving, we had a brit in our synagogue and the baby’s name is ‘Nathan Shalom’. 

Indeed, GIVING is the greatest way to have PEACE.

Peace in your own mind, peace between the different socioeconomic levels within society and PEACE in the world.

May the entire world be blessed with health. May the medical situation be remedied by the only One who can turn it around. 

Almighty G-d, the Healer of all flesh, who does wondrous wonders, bless all of our people, among all the people of the world with health, peace and the gift of knowing and serving You.

May we merit the coming of Mashiach NOW, AMEN

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS do you have time for a story? 

It’s the story that is on my mind every time I see a new Coronavirus headline. In some sense, the situation looks grimmer and grimmer. Nobody knows how long this could last. I insist though, on staying as optimistic as possible. But that requires tools. In particular it requires faith in G-d. Chassidic story about our great Tzadikim can be of major help. Here is the story that helps shape my perspective.

There was a wealth and learned Jewish man. Let’s call him Avremaleh. Avremaleh was blessed with epic success in his business, was blessed with a loving family and was one of the most prominent members of his community. 

A nagging thought came into his head.

He was so disturbed by it that he paid a trip to the great Ba’al Shem Tov who lived in a nearby town. 

He asked the great rabbi:

In our daily prayers when we refer to G-d as the ‘One who brings down the mighty’ ‘mashpil ge’im adei aretz’, I question to myself how could that be true. After all, I, Avremaleh, have such varied business investments and I am so well-respected in my circles, how could I possibly be brought down in an instant? 

The holy Ba’al Shem Tov didn’t respond but gave him a blessing for a safe trip home.

Upon arriving in his hometown Avremaleh felt an overwhelming urge to convert to another faith. The local bishop was very wary of this dignified Jew’s request. He was suspicious that this was a ruse and didn’t want to hear of it. After he saw that Avremaleh was insistent, he finally relented but told him that if he wanted to convert he had to gift his entire wealth to the church. Avremaleh signed a document giving his entire wealth away.

The next morning Avremaleh woke up. He remembered… 

It seemed like a bad dream but he knew it wasn’t. Overnight he was a pauper. On top of that, once his family and community would hear to whom he had gifted his entire estate, he would be an outcast and shunned for the rest of his life.

Avremaleh ran to the holy Tzadik and poured out his heart. I now see how conceited I was. Of course it is G-d who is the source of all my blessing and of course he is the mighty One who can take it all away in an instant.

Please pray for me, Avremaleh implored.

The Ba’al Shem Tov responded, there is a continuation to that aforementioned verse. The verse continues that ‘He can raise the downtrodden to the heights’ ‘umagbiha shfalim ad marom’. Go home, G-d will help, all will be fine.

Avremaleh arrived home to the news that there had been a fire in the church. The bishop had been heard moaning about a very valuable document that had been burned to the crisp. 

Avremaleh realized that he had been given the greatest gift.  Instantly he been returned to his former wealth. The whole matter would never be known. He would not lose his families love and his standing in his community would remain intact. 

If I am may add. In this story, Avremaleh is not just returned to his former state. He now has the gift of appreciating the gifts that G-d had given him. Gifts that he may have previously taken for granted.

My dear friends, this story is a beacon of light for me. When I look at so many things that we have taken for granted for so long, suddenly evaporating in front of my eyes.

I know that Hashem can rebuild and reinstate everything so that the whole matter will seem like a bad dream. 

Then, when things heal and get transformed, we will be wiser and richer. We will have the gift of appreciating G-d’s kindnesses to us. 

May the turnabout happen very soon. After all this is a month of turnabouts. The month of Adar which was transformed to joy by the story and miracle of Purim.

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