Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach From Bangkok!

Friday, 19 April, 2019 - 5:01 am


By the Grace of G-d


Dear Friend,

Pai, in the hills of Northern Thailand

An unfolding story: (I shared part one back in May).

Part One, May 2018

I thought I was going to NY on Saturday night for Chabad-work-related matters. The check-in agent noticed that my Thai passport was expired and my visit to Suvarnabhumi airport turned out to be for naught.

A day later a friend called me from USA and asked me to help out with a Jewish man who needed possibly life-saving counseling in Chiang Mai. I said ‘sure, I will help and if need be fly down there’. I figured maybe this is the reason I didn’t fly to NY. Maybe G-d had kept me here in Thailand to help one of His children. When I called the person in distress, he said he was in Pai, not Chiang Mai. To my American friend no big difference, Pai, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai it all the sounds the same to him. But of course there is a huge difference. Chiang Mai is easy and inexpensive to reach. Pai is tedious and time-consuming as there are no flights and the two lane highway is scenic but dizzying. It was a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai on the windiest mountain roads I have ever experienced. The trip left me dizzy for twenty-four hours.

The person I wanted to see indicated that he may not be prepared to see me. I decided to go nonetheless. The way it seems to me sometimes you have to go even when you are not sure of the outcome.

My thinking goes like this: If you are on the waiting-list for a flight and you don’t go to the airport, you certainly won’t board the flight. If you go, you have a chance.

‘Showing up’ is the first step, without which, nothing starts.

I got to Pai at 1pm and wandered around for two hours.  . Met at least a dozen young Jewish travelers (and one motorcycle-riding Northern Californian ‘hippy’ (her words) with her ten-year-old son).

The guy I came to see didn’t respond to my calls, WhatsApp’s or SMS’s.

No regrets about going there. For some years now I had wanted to see the Israeli backpacker scene in Pai to assess the viability of setting up a Chabad House there. This was a prodding from Above to get me there. Knowing that someone may be in need of help NOW, made this trip actually happen…

The fellow I went to meet? He knew I had traveled far to get there and that showed that I really cared.   The next day we spoke by phone and thank G-d things are on the mend. Hopefully I can help him in his quest for a brighter future.

Part Two April 2019

The person I had gone to visit has since ‘wandered’ around Thailand and more recently made his way back to Pai. His friend from the USA called me a few days ago and reminded me to reach out to him for Passover.  I was very happy to be reminded. For if he was in Pai I had a Seder to invite him to.

Yes. This year Chabad of Thailand is hosting a Seder in Pai. For Jews that were planning not to be at a Seder. They were planning to be in Pai over Passover. We dispatched a young rabbi and his wife from Israel and they are literally ‘walking the streets’ looking for Jews. They already have a guest list of more than one hundred.

I wrote a note to my ‘wandering’ friend, the Jew who I went to see in Pai but who had not come out to meet me. I asked him ‘are you still in Pai’. No response for a few hours.

Then I got a call that filled my heart with joy.

It was the young shliach we had dispatched to Pai. He told me excitedly that he had met a Jew in the street who said he knows me and had confirmed that he would join the Seder.

A classic ‘fifth son’ who would now join the Seder table as one of the ‘four sons’.

Yes, you guessed it. It was that Jew I have been trying to interact with since last May. The rabbi put him on the line and we got to speak for a few minutes. He apologized for not answering my note yet. He confirmed that he would join the Seder. And he sounded like he was doing surprisingly well coping with life thank G-d. I pray that his ‘liberation’ continue and that life goes well for him going forward.

This story brought home to me what I already know but the more reminders the better. G-d runs His world in a way that is full of miracles and divinely orchestrated ‘coincidences’. It is just that most of those miracles are not evident. Like the fact that our body functions day after day. When G-d forbid something small goes awry in the body a person feels it. Very small mishaps in the vital organs can be fatal. Do we know when things almost went wrong and G-d saved us at the fateful moment. These are things we take for granted. We call them nature. The miracle inherent in so many uneventful events are not evident even to the one who experiences them.

Pessach is a time for remembering the miracles of going out of Egypt. The ten plagues. The splitting of the sea. The raining down of the Manna.

It is also a time to remember that G-d is always ‘liberating’ us. G-d is performing miracles for us on an ongoing basis. Usually, we don’t notice them. But sometimes we do get a peek into G-d’s interaction with us. Either by experiencing something that is incredible enough to be called a miracle. Or by experiencing an intersection of events, where the pieces of the puzzle come together in a way that is too immaculate be written off as happening by chance.

Through this sequence of events I was gifted a sensory reminder of G-d’s Divine Providence at work in this mundane world.

It is liberating to realize that there is a ‘Boss’ to this universe.

When you look at the world as being run directly by G-d, the world becomes a kinder and less stressful place.

It is also obligating.

Some people mistakenly think that liberation and obligation are mutually exclusive.

Ironically, it is liberating to be obligated.

Rabbi Gurkow summed it up well in an article about the liberation of Passover. He was explaining how leaving Egypt and becoming obligated to serve G-d at Sinai was liberating.

In our own lives we also experience these two pulls. On the one hand we resent the obligation to wake each morning and go to work; we aspire to freedom and leisure. On the other hand, as soon as we retire or vacation for several days we feel the emptiness of life and yearn for structure and commitment.

Both desires are real. The first is a desire to be free of others so that we can serve ourselves. The second is much deeper. It is a desire to be needed. We cannot be needed without serving another’s needs and we cannot serve another’s needs without sacrificing some of our leisure in order to help others.

The desire to be needed is fundamental to the human experience. Without it the soul feels empty; drained of all significance. If I serve no one, I am important to no one. Gripped by the imprisoning vise of isolation, I am left utterly and completely alone. Ironically, true freedom comes with commitment. CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

This unfolding story also drove home to me the importance of giving attention to each and every individual. It comes at a pivotal time. This is a time when at Chabad of Thailand we are involved in providing Seders for some six thousand guests spread throughout Thailand. It is critical to remember that each one of those thousands is an individual and requires personal attention and inspiration.

This was the theme of my motivational talk to the staff of thirty ‘roving rabbi’s’who had been dispatched from Chabad world headquarters to help run the Seder for thousands in Ko Samui (see pictures below).

While hosting more than two thousand guest at an epic Seder event, I urged them to notice each individual and ensure that they have an enjoyable and meaningful Passover evening.

As budding emissaries of the Rebbe, I urged them to look at the Rebbe’s leadership as one to emulate.

Rabbi Shmotkin summed it up well in an article:

 Rebbe was a global leader whose towering personality, innovative methods, organizational skills and vision impacted the entire world. At the same time, to hundreds of thousands who came in direct contact with him, he was their personal Rebbe.

The pain of every individual was his pain, and the joys of every individual were his joy. No one was dispensable. Everyone belonged and everyone counted.

 Moses, who with loving tenderness fed the right type of grass to each type of sheep and chased a single lost sheep in order to return it to the flock.

 Midrash says, is why Moses was chosen to be the shepherd of the Jewish people. CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

May this Pesach be a truly liberating one for you.

May you be blessed with liberation from worries. This includes material worries like health, nachas and money. Namely you should be blessed with an abundance of all those blessings. You should also be liberated from spiritual angst. Finding purpose in life. Knowing that you are an integral part of G-d’s plan for His creation and connecting more deeply to the spark of G-d within you.

May we be collectively blessed with the liberation from this exile, with the coming of Mashiach.

L’shana Habaah Beyerushalayim!

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach – Kosher and Happy Passover.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS ALL WHO ARE HUNGRY COME AND EAT – the traditional Pesach invitation to all those who don’t yet have a place for the Seder, is extended to anyone reading this note! [email protected]

So many of you have helped us prepare to host the six thousand guests we anticipate at our Seders around Thailand. We still need more help… if you are able to host some guests at our seder please click here.

Comments on: Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach From Bangkok!
There are no comments.