'You are from a place ... not called Near."

Friday, 24 June, 2022 - 4:44 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

‘You are from a place in the East that is not called near’.

These were the words that the Lubavitcher Rebbe told Mr. Abi Kashani when he was introduced by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky as a Jewish community leader from Bangkok.

It seems clear that the Rebbe didn’t want to call a fellow Jew ‘far’.

Hence rather than saying that Mr. Kashani was from the ‘Far East’ the Rebbe reframed it.

‘A place in the East that is not called near’.

Several years after that meeting, Nechama and I had the merit and privilege to be appointed the Rebbe’s Shluchim to Thailand.

As it seems to me, the Rebbe, in that one statement ‘a place in the East that is not called near’ had encapsulated the mission statement that we were tasked to implement.

If Bangkok was ‘a place in the East that is not called near’, it was up to us to make it nearer.

The Rebbe gave us his blessings and off we went.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky said farewell to us in New York. Thirty hours and three plane changes later, Mr. Abi Kashani picked us up in Bangkok on May 5, 1993.

The mission to make Thailand ‘nearer’ had begun.

Near and far are relative.

For a Jew, everything is relative to G-d, Torah and Mitzvot.

If one is aware of G-d, one is ‘near’ to him.

Disregarding and ignoring Torah would be called ‘far’.

One of the most detrimental things one can do to a child, is label him with a demeaning description.

Its beyond pitiful when one hears a parent or teacher call a child a failure. Or telling them how unsuccessful they are. Or even worse screaming at them that they will never amount to anything in life.

Conversely, tell a child how special they are. Find something redeeming about the student and highlight the virtuous quality. Remind them that they are uniquely gifted by G-d to be who they are. The world would be incomplete without them. This creates an impetus within the child to live up to that admirable benchmark.

Healthy self esteem is so dependent on the words we use and the body language we project.

Call a Jew ‘far’ and you have painted him or her into a corner.

Rather, remind them how deeply and dearly G-d loves them.

On the other hand, misleading someone by telling them that they are close, when they are far, is dishonest and counterproductive. Glossing over the need for further growth leads to stagnation.

By acknowledging that someone is not so near, one invites growth and elicits the expending of efforts to become nearer.

There is a balance that must be met.

On the one hand, it is important to know that you are ‘not near’ for then you will make efforts to get ‘nearer’.

On the other hand, it is critical not to define yourself as being ‘far’. For then you may despair of ever getting ‘near’.

Hence the Rebbe’s definition ‘a place in the East that is not called near’.

I would like to believe that this ‘place in the East’, is becoming ‘nearer’ every day.

This week we inaugurated a new Chabad House building in the backpacker part of town.

Click here for article.

Click here for video replay of inauguration event and dinner.

This ‘backpacker’ Chabad House was founded in response to the passing of the Rebbe in June of 1994 – Tammuz 3 – and was named ‘Ohr Menachem’.

It is now twenty-eight long years later. This Chabad House that started off as a fledgling center in a ‘Chinese-shophouse’ has matured into a bustling Jewish center and moved into its new purpose-built building.

The ‘place in the East that is not called near’ is becoming ‘nearer’.

The Rebbe’s empowering words are not just meant in the context of whom they were said to.

This is a message that is relevant to all.

Nobody is ‘far’. Nothing is ‘far’.

It’s just that some people and some things are ‘not near’.

But they are not meant to stay that way.

It is up to you and I to bring ourselves closer to the Almighty and his Torah. By engaging in the world around us according to Hashems instruction we bring the world around us closer to the oneness of G-d as well.

The Rebbe gave a blueprint for doing this.

Add in acts of goodness and kindness.

Do one more Mitzvah.

Study one more word of Torah.

Don’t get overwhelmed by how ‘far’ you look. Reframe your outlook. You may not be so near, but you can change that.

One deed at a time.

Next Shabbat will be the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe. It is a time that the soul of the Rebbe has an ascent in Heaven and all of us who are connected to him, also get the benefits of this elevation.

Benefits in material sustenance as well as spiritual beneficence. We need but open ourselves to this opportunity by being mindful of the mission to make this world a holier place and adding in acts of mitzvahs, goodness and kindness.

The Rebbe’s overarching message was, that by bringing ourselves and the world around us ‘nearer’ to G-d, we are hastening the ultimate ‘nearness’ to come to fruition – the coming of Mashiach, AMEN.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS I will be traveling next week to New York to visit the Ohel, the resting place of the Rebbe in connection with his yahrtzeit. It is a very powerful time to pray for anyone who wishes to be blessed. Letters can be sent directly to the Rebbe’s Ohel where they will be printed and placed at the Ohel. Or if you wish to send me your name and mothers name and nature of request I will be happy to be your representative to pray on your behalf.

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