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More Shabbat (not less)

Thursday, 19 March, 2020 - 7:46 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It doesn’t make sense. 

But then again, nothing makes much sense these days.

This week’s Parsha is Vayakhel (& Pekudei, it’s a double one, as well as taking out a second Sefer Torah for reading Hachodesh about the upcoming Pesach).

The Parsha starts off about keeping Shabbat….

And just yesterday I sent out a notice that was painful and unprecedented about the cancelling of all communal Shabbat meals in Thailand.

It was one of those puzzling things.

How does the weekly Parsha fit with the current reality?

I know that cancelling our Shabbat meals it is all part of our love to G-d. But it still felt incongruous with the Parsha. (Click here for an explanation of how the love of G-d is keeping us away from communal Jewish expression at this time).

It dawned on me.

This whole situation is an invitation and a unique opportunity to have MORE Shabbat in our lives. Not G-d forbid less.

And I am NOT referring to the ever-widening swathe of lockdowns in many cities of the world. Meaning that people are forbidden from non-essential movements outside the home. This sweeping albeit necessary restrictions on people’s movements, I believe is mostly quite negative. Yet, negativity always has some positive aspects to it. So yes, when it comes to Shabbat in Israel, the side benefit of a lockdown is that in a most unifying way, millions of Jews will not do anything to publicly ignore the Shabbat. But the enforced inability to do things contrary to the spirit of Shabbat is not what I am referring to.

I am referring to the fact that hopefully the CELEBRATION of Shabbat will be upgraded this week. I am optimistic that the spirit of Shabbat will be accentuated in a POSITIVE way.

Let me explain why I think that this current situation is a perfect opportunity to have a Shabbat experience that is above and beyond anything we have yet experienced. 

It requires a bit of forethought and preparation though. 

First let me address you, my dear community member living in Thailand.

My wife and I don’t recall ever having eaten a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal in private with just our family, ever since we arrived in Thailand.

I say that with much joy. One of the highlights of our life is the communal celebration of Shabbatot and Chagim. 

The Friday night dinners, Shabbat lunches, Passover Seders, Rosh Hashana meals, Simchat Torah Kiddushim and all the other rip-roaring, inspiring, sensational times we have spent together, are always exhilarating and inspiring. 

Welcoming hospitality is what our centers in Thailand are known for. 

The Shabbat meals served at Chabad’s centers across Thailand often number close to two thousand per week and during peak seasons, surpass even that number. 

The Pesach Seders that host thousands of people in joyous inspirational unity are legendary. Pesach in Thailand has become a fixture that people have come to rely on. 

So much so, that moments after we put up a notice on our Facebook page about the possible disruption of our usual public Pesach Seders and the strong possibility that we will be rolling out alternate Pesach Seder plans, it became a news headline in the news in Israel. 

Canceling our unifying celebratory meals indicated the next stage of disruption to normalcy. Thailand the ‘mai-pen-rai’ (all is/will-be ok) destination, has also become affected.  

I asked myself in consternation. What will now be with Shabbat celebration in Thailand?

Calm down, I tell myself.

Shabbat is a gift from G-d to the Jewish People.

It is here with us for eternity.

Shabbat has been here since the dawn of creation. 

G-d created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. 

After the Jewish people left Egypt G-d gifted them this most delectable treat, SHABBAT.

Before Covid19 Jews have kept Shabbat. After Covid19 will be over and it will be like a bad dream, Jews will keep the Shabbat.


More than we will keep the Shabbat, the Shabbat will keep US!!!

Nothing in our world is the same as it was even last week.

We need to take the time and invest the thought to adjust to the new situation. School have gone online. 

Preparing for Shabbat is no different. It to requires a reframing and adjusting.

Our sages taught us ‘he who toils and prepares before Shabbat will eat on Shabbat’. In other words, to truly be prepared for Shabbat one needs to invest some time, thought and energy into the Shabbat.

Till now we offered communal Shabbat meals. 

There is a great gift in coming to a communal Shabbat meal. 

Not much preparation needed. 

All you need to do is clear your schedule, freshen up and then ‘suit-up and show-up’. 

To do Shabbat on your own? 

You need to prepare. Perhaps even ‘toil’ a little.

But you know what? If you invest more in something, if you have to work harder to prepare for an event? 

You appreciate it more. It becomes more meaningful and special.

Click here for a comprehensive list of things to do to prepare for Shabbat

This is why I am sending out this email on Thursday. 

So that you have more time to prepare for Shabbat.

To get set up with food for the body. 

Chabad of Thailand will be happy to provide anyone in Thailand (in cities in which we have centers) with complimentary Candles, wine, challas, and a prayer book with the Kidush prayer. Kosher food can be ordered from our restaurants for delivery on Friday before Shabbat.

Contact me +6681 837 7618 or Yossi Goldberg +6681 753 5071 to arrange delivery.

And it’s important to also prepare for Shabbat with ‘food for the soul’. Since we are ‘unplugged’ on Shabbat one needs to prepare reading material for studying and discussion (if you have others with you). on Shabbat we don’t just talk about our mundane lives. That would be too ‘weekday’ and be an affront to the sanctity of Shabbat. 

On Shabbat talk about things that are ‘Shabbat appropriate’. Torah is the best thing to think and talk about on Shabbat. Singing Jewish songs is an integral part of Shabbat.


One of the customs our family loves doing is going around the table and asking everyone to share one thing that they want to give special thanks to Hashem for. 

Shabbat is an island of normalcy and tranquility in the raging sea of tumultuous instability.

Try turning off all your electronics for the twenty-five hours of Shabbat.

You will have a G-dly given ‘detox’.

Light Shabbat candles (all candles are kosher for us for shabbat) at the proper time, within the eighteen minutes before sunset

Recite the Shalom Aleichem welcoming the Shabbat angels to your home. Some have the custom to bless their children at this time. Blessings can be done from afar and virtually. Positive thoughts about others have tremendous powers.

Recite the Kiddush over a glass of kosher wine, grape juice (or bread if you don’t have access to kosher grape juice or wine).

Say the Hamotzie over Challa/bread.

Have an unhurried meal.

Say a lechayim toast. Don’t talk about Corona, unless you mean the beer.

Read, discuss, think, about Torah concepts.

Sing, rejoice, relax. 

Annunciate the things you are thankful to G-d for. 

Let the Shabbat spirit pervade your being.

As the evening progresses, without being bombarded with the stimuli from social media, allow the relaxing aura of Shabbat envelop you in its warm embrace.

Because you have done all this at home, your bed is not more than a few steps away. 

Sleeping on Shabbat is also a Mitzvah. 

Have a meaningful Shabbat! 

A joyous shabbat!!!!


And a great surprise awaits the world. Everyone knows that the world won’t be the same after COVID19. We pray that this disruption is the introductory stage to the coming of Mashiach which will usher in a world of PEACE, TRANQUILITY, a permanent SHABBAT like state. Keeping Shabbat hastens the arrival of Mashiach! AMEN.

Shabbat SHALOM

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS If you need to reach us on Shabbat for anything extremely urgent, please call Paew at 6684 728 8494

PPS I would love to hear how your ‘adjusted’ Shabbat went. Please email me after Shabbat with your experience. 


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