Smile in Shule

Friday, 11 March, 2022 - 3:25 am

By the Grace of G-d

Before I begin sharing from ‘my little corner of the world’, let me share these links that address the dire situation in the world.

How to help the situation:

Spiritually, click here for prayers and behavioral changes recommended by the Rebbe during the crises in USA – Soviet relations in the early 1980’s

Financially click here for the Ukraine Jewish Relief Fund


Dear Friend,

Beryl (Bernie) is eighty-five years old and ill with pneumonia. May G-d send him a speedy recovery.

When I visited him this week in Roi Et to say some prayers, he was thrilled to see me.

Speaking is very difficult for him. Yet, he exerted himself and whispered a few sentences. I had to work hard and do some lip reading to understand him. I was very glad that I did.

Bernie spoke about my having smiled to him twenty years ago when he lived temporarily in Bangkok and came to shul on Friday nights.

He further recounted – although speaking required quite some effort - that the Rabbi who had ‘bar-mitzvah’d’ him in New York, had hit him for speaking too much.

Can you imagine? We are talking seven decades later. What remains indelibly ingrained in his consciousness, what appears to be a defining experience in his relationship to Judaism, is the smile or lack or thereof that he received at the Synagogue.

The life lesson that I got from this trip to central northeastern Thailand is confirmation of what the Rebbe has made the cornerstone of Chabad’s outreach-oriented mission.

Accepting everyone with LOVE.

A frown, scowl or angry face doesn’t express love.

It is critical to SMILE SMILE SMILE.

It made crystal clear to me where the emphasis needs to be when welcoming people to Synagogue.

It also reinforced what I believe needs to be the attitude  when it comes to Bar-Mitzvah celebrations.

The main objective of Bar Mitzvah ceremonies needs to be setting the stage for the young man to have a positive and comfortable relationship with their Judaism.

Bar Mitzvah needs to be the BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE of Jewish engagement. Not as it all too often works out, the end of religious instruction and involvement.

Sometimes so much emphasis is placed on the ‘performance’ of the young man, that the excitement and positivity is sucked out of it. Tragically in too many instances, the pressure exerted on the child to ‘practice’ and ‘perform’ ends up leaving a sour taste that doesn’t encourage the child to have a healthy continued relationship with his religion G-d forbid.

This doesn’t mean to say that a child shouldn’t be taught to persevere and even perspire in putting forth real effort. But only if that can be achieved while maintaining the positivity and joy of the experience.

It is critical to ensure that Bar Mitzvah’s, or for that matter children of any ages who attend Synagogue walk away with a positive and uplifted feeling.

(All of the above applies equally to ‘Bat Mitzvah’ for a girl).

This weeks Parsha of Vayikra teaches us that Hashem Himself reached out to Moshe with love. And Hashem instructed Moshe to teach the Torah in a way that the Jewish people would accept it with love.

(Vayikra 1:1 interpolated translation) As we have seen, the Tabernacle was erected and left standing for the first time on the 1st of Nisan, 2449. From that time on, whenever God wished to transmit any of the Torah’s laws to Moses, He first called out to Moses to meet Him in the Tabernacle. … Each time God called out him, He did so affectionately, repeating Moses’ name (“Moses, Moses!”) as He had done at the burning bush, thus preparing him for the address that followed. …

God instructed Moses to address the people in a manner that would inspire them to value His commandments and to inform them that He was giving them His commandments for their sake and in their interest, out of His love for them.

These last two years have been daunting.

One of the things Covid has made very challenging is the face masks. Smiles can shine through masks, but you cannot compare a smile that is concealed to a smile that is revealed.

I know it seems petty to speak about missing smiles, compared to the loss of life and health that Covid wrought.

But if you research the topic (do a ‘covid masks hide smiles’ google search and you will get plenty of material) you will find that hiding smiles is not a small matter.

Visible smiles are critical to proper human interaction.

Ironically, it is on Purim, the day of joy and celebration, that we get ‘masked’ and ‘dressed up’. The masquerade of Purim is to show how the hand of G-d was concealed in the (seemingly) natural unfolding of events that comprise the Purim miracle. It was as if G-d was ‘masked’ and hiding His management of the sequence of events.

The masking up on Purim is to add fun and bring more smiles. Especially to the children.

Conversely, the Covid masking up is not at all fun and especially not for children.

We thought that here in Bangkok, by this Purim, we could have a ‘classic’ party with celebration and fun, the way it was Pre-Covid.

Sadly, the numbers here in Thailand don’t allow for us to responsibly put on the large community Purim extravaganza in the hotel as planned.

But PURIM WILL BE CELEBRATED WITH EXCITEMENT. Albeit we will need to a bit more creative.

Stay tuned for our revised Purim activity schedule.

And in addition to that, take a few moments to plan some fun Purim celebration in your very own home. It is one of the HAPPIEST DAYS OF THE YEAR and we are instructed to FEAST and REJOICE.

Click here for the FOUR mitzvahs of Purim in a one minute youtube

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS Click here for a Purim website with a wealth of information

(We are optimistically looking forward to holding our communal Passover Seders as usual, please G-d).

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