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ב"ה

what can we do?

Friday, 25 February, 2022 - 2:33 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I am going to begin with thoughts from a little corner of the world called Pai.

For ‘what can we do’ regarding the global turmoil, please scroll down.

I had just arrived at Chabad House in Chiang Mai on my visit to oversee the activities of our branch there. My phone rang at 3PM. It was from the USA. Which was odd, because it was 3am in the time zone of the USA number that was calling. Mr. J. R. began the conversation by saying that he was looking for some help regarding his son who was in Pai.

I almost dropped the phone. This was just so incredulous.

‘I just this minute came from Pai’ I responded.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I went south to Ko Pangan and Ko Samui to oversee our work there. This time I went to visit our Chabad Houses up North. In Pai and Chiang Mai.

Getting to Pai can is a dizzying experience. The hundreds of curves in the mountainous road have their effect. The three-hour drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is quite a journey. I had driven up to Pai the day before, participated in a dinner/Torah lesson at the Chabad House and after sleeping overnight in Pai, had just arrived back in Chiang Mai for a brief visit and meeting with Rabbi Pikel before my flight to Bangkok.

And then this extraordinary call, from a Jewish man in the USA who was looking for assistance for his son in Pai.

The only other time I was in Pai was four years ago. At that time, I had gone to look for a man who just lost his father and his family was concerned how he would take the news. After that visit, we opened our Chabad House there. Thank G-d there is an active Chabad House there now.

Of all times, just after I ‘descended from the mountains’ of Pai, I get this ‘random’ call about a young Jew who needs some help in Pai.

This was not at all random. To me, this was an incredible display of Divine Providence. It was received by me as a clear confirmation from Above that I was on the right path.

The ‘Divine Hug’ made me feel exhilarated.

I asked Mr. R. what the time was for him. He told me that it was 3am. Mr. R. explained that he was calling me at 3am his time because as a devoted father, he had spoken at length to his son at the time that best suited his son. We chatted, and played Jewish geography for a few minutes and then he asked me if I had time for a meaningful story. He shared a very powerful story with me, that I would like to share to with you.

As a major appliance repairman, I entered many homes in the devoutly Jewish area that I serviced. One elderly rabbi made a deep impression on him. This elderly stooped over rabbi, insisted on serving me something to eat and drink before I looked at the appliance that needed repairing. This gesture touched me so deeply that I mentioned this rabbi’s name and his benevolence to some other people. I was told the following story about him in his role of principal of a religious boys Yeshiva that make me choke up with emotion whenever I tell it over. I think every teacher needs to hear this story.

A certain boy was misbehaving and was sent to the principal’s office. The principal was thoughtful and told the boy that he would need to think overnight about the appropriate way to discipline him. The next day, the boy returned to the principal’s office and the principal reached under this desk and handed him a wrapped box. ‘What is this?’ asked the child, ‘I thought you wanted time to think about my punishment’.

‘this is a gift for all the other days that you behaved well’ replied the principal.

Mr. R. finished telling me the story with a voice holding back tears of emotion.

‘If only the principal in the Yeshiva day school I went to as a child would have had that approach. With that attitude, I may have actually stayed in the Jewish day school I was attending…’

Whenever I meet a teacher, I share this story of the principal who gave a gift to the child who was expecting a reprimand. With this heartfelt gesture he instilled within the child the conviction that he was a good kid, and that he was seen that way by his educators. Thanks to this realization, he then sought to live up to the positive boy he was perceived to be’.

The story touched me deeply, and trust that you too will take it to heart. The future of our children and students is impacted by the way we view them and treat them.

(See this video of ‘Four Individuals Forever Affected by the Rebbe’ (at 3 minutes in, there is a similar story to the one above of a boy kicked out of Yeshiva) which highlights the lifechanging effect we can have on people by viewing them positively).

Let us be uplifting, inspiring and positive to those in our spheres. Its easy to be negative and punitive. It is far more challenging and requires more creativity to impact people from a place of positivity, light and optimism. But it is well worth the effort.

May I use food as an example. Fast food is quicker and easier. Healthy eating requires more planning, may be more expensive and takes more effort. However, it is effort that is well worth it.

Kosher food may require yet more planning. Because the Almighty, Creator of our bodies instructed it, its benefit in physical and spiritual health are supernaturally powerful. When the ‘manufacturer’ tells you what ‘fuel’ to use in your car, it makes perfect sense to stick religiously to it. As it does to adhere to G-d’s instruction for how to ‘fuel’ our bodies with nutrition.

Before you take the easy, ‘fast food’ approach and criticize someone else instinctively and (all too often) negatively, take a deep breath, and think of whether you can address the issue from a positive place.

The principal who was able to reach the soul of the child by highlighting his positivity changed not just that child, but Mr. R. who told me the story, me who heard the story, and you who are hearing it from me.

I have just shared a ‘small’ story. Regarding a ‘small’ action. To a ‘small’ boy. That I heard after having just come down the mountains from a ‘small’ rural village.

Does it really make a difference in the larger scheme of things?

My friends, during these days of world crisis, it is tempting to be pulled in to the news sites and commentary and disregard our personal behavior as being small an insignificant in the larger picture.

This weeks Parsha talks about the mass gathering of all Jewish men, women and children, by Moshe.  The meeting was to convey the instructions about the construction of the most powerful site on earth. They were instructed to collect materials and funds to build the Mishkan (traveling Temple). This was the most desirable and valuable place in the universe, as it was the place that G-d rested His holy presence here amongst us.

Wouldn’t it be sufficient to have just gathered the ‘top brass’ of the people? The upper echelons. Great saints, accomplished architects and artisans, fabulously wealthy people and anyone else who could be of intrinsic value to this incredible project.

Why the need for Moshe to gather every single man, woman and child?

Furthermore, for the foundational sockets of the Mishkan, there was a mandatory half shekel contribution required by every male over the age of twenty. The poor man could not give less. The rich man could not give more. This really emphasized the point that EVERY ONE needed to be a part of the building.

(For the general collection of materials and money for other items besides the foundational sockets, donations of all sizes and from all sectors of the population were accepted and lauded).

Hashem was telling the Jewish people that every single one of you counts. The collective is made up of individuals. When each segment of the nation does what it is tasked to do, the entire nation functions seamlessly.

One of the ways that we remind ourselves of our indispensability to the collective, is the celebration of our personal birthday.

The Rebbe launched a campaign that everyone of us should celebrate our birthdays. (The campaign was launched on the birthday of the Rebbe’s wife, the first year after her passing).

Why are birthdays so important?

Here is why:

Your birthday commemorates the day on which G‑d said to you: “You, as an individual, are unique and irreplaceable. No person alive, no person who has ever lived, and no person who shall ever live, can fulfill the specific role in My creation I have entrusted to you ... ” click here for more about birthdays.

This leads us to the answer of WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THE GLOBAL SITUATION?

The Jewish people are one organism. When one part hurts, we all hurt. And when one part is strengthened, the whole body is healthier.

Right now, our fellow Jews in the Ukraine and Russia are on all our minds. But if they are the heart of the matter, and we are the other parts of the body we can help them by strengthening ourselves.

Here is some information from some of my colleagues, Rabbi’s in various cities in Ukraine.

Like a person who walks for the health of his heart, though we are so far away we can do Mitzvot for the health and wellbeing of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. And it makes a difference.

Here are four suggestions:

1. Tzedakah

Give what you can to Tzedakah, especially toward the needs of those in harm's way in Ukraine. You can give by using this link (please do so before the arrival of Shabbat,)

2. Prayer

Offer up prayers to G-d on their behalf. Tehillim (Psalms) is always crucial during any crisis. Here is a link to chapter 20 of Tehillim, though you can recite any or all of Tehillim.

Saying the Shema daily is also a great Mitzvah, and for men, reciting it in Tefillin is best.

3. Lighting Candles

Women and girls, when you light the Shabbat candles before Shabbat (click here for your local time) whisper a prayer on their behalf following the blessing on the candles.

4. Torah

Increase your daily intake of Torah study. Whether you have Torah books or study online, Torah is G-d's antidote for all the world's pains. Here is a link to a wonderful daily Torah regimen by Rabbi Gordon, of blessed memory.

May G-d bless His world with peace. May Al-mighy G-d send his blessings and protect the Jewish people everywhere and indeed all of mankind know only light, gladness, joy and dignity. 

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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