October 10, 2011

Monday Afternoon 

Grey Skies

Fog, Low Visibility 

Pouring Rain 

Dear Friends, 

I am OK.   

I live on the ninth floor of a modern apartment building.  So far, the streets in my neighborhood are passable.  From my balcony I can see the canal.  Despite the rain, the flood waters descending from the north, and the high tides in the Gulf of Siam, the canal is at a normal level and the commuter boats are operating.  

I have my usual supply of fresh fruit, juice, dried fruit and nuts.  And as long as the electric power is on, I have coffee and three different kinds of tea.  Food is available from the shops on the street and at the food court at Bumrungrad Hospital just up the street.  If things really get bad, there is a McDonalds, au bon pain, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks and Pizza Hut in my neighborhood.   But I am not yet that desperate. 

The big story here is Floods.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Thais are affected.  Farmland and towns are under water.  Even large cities like nearby Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan are under water.  Here in Bangkok, the areas across town from me, near the main river, are also flooded.  The pictures on TV are shocking and heartbreaking.   

Yet, here's the thing: the Thai attitudes; the Thai behavior.  Regardless of the loss and suffering, there is no sense of "woe is me" or "how could this happen to me?"   There seems to be no anger or even frustration.   

The Thai TV newscasters are serious yet cool.   The on-the-scene reporters stand in knee deep water on a main street.  They interview the old and the young, rescue workers and hospital workers.  There is no sense of panic or chaos.  No one raises his voice.  There is an air of calm acceptance, and let's do what we can to cope with the situation, and see if we can help others in need. 

A few years ago, at about 6pm one evening, I was caught in a huge downpour that flooded all the main streets and side streets in my neighborhood.  I rolled up my pants and slogged my way home through water that was half way up my calf.  On the way, I passed many Thai office workers also trying to get home through the flood.  They were chatting and joking with each other as if nothing was amiss. 

As I finish this letter, the rain here in Bangkok has stopped and the sun is trying to break through the clouds. 

Let's hope and pray that this tragic rainy season will soon come to an end and that my ever-smiling Thai friends and neighbors can resume their normal and productive lives.


PS  Those flood waters up north are headed for Bangkok.  So stay tuned.  I may have more to report very soon.  Anyway, I hope not.  

PPS  I know what a few of you are thinking, “Jan, why are you still there?”  Well, perhaps, after living here for the past five years, I have absorbed the Thai attitude of “acceptance.”   

Regardless, can you tell me, on this lonely planet of ours, is there any spot at all that is now immune from unexpected, erratic or abnormal weather or natural disaster?  



December 11. 2011


Cool, Bright Sunshine


Dear Family and Friends,

Below is yesterday's Sabbath message from our Rabbi Kantor.

He has included photos of our food distribution to a remote village.  (I didn't ride the truck but I did take the photos when we prepared the packages.)

As the Rabbi mentions, we still need some help.

I also urge you to view the video of the speech delivered by Rabbi Sacks in England.  Both the content of the speech and the Rabbi's oratorical skills are simply brilliant.

All the best,



Jewish Thailand• Email: rabbi@jewishthailand.com• Phone: 66-2-663-0244 • www.JewishThailand.com

A Word From The Rabbi


Dear Friends,


A quick scan of the headlines in Google news about the flooding in Thailand brings up figures of billions of dollars lost due to the floods as well as anticipated shortages of hard disk drives in the world due to the disruption in production.


However things do seem to be getting back to normal. Today we got a delivery of Sprinkle water. The traffic has become horrendous again.


The flood waters have receded in many areas, people are working hard at cleaning their homes and businesses and production is resuming in some factories. At the same time it must now be even harder on those who are still suffering from the floods as most people don’t want to hear them complaining anymore.


I don’t want to downplay their suffering as I can’t even imagine the trouble and agony that they have gone through already, and to think that it is not over yet for them is very disturbing. Let us hope that they too get Heavenly relief and are able to resume a dry life quickly.


A quick thought from the trip we made last week to distribute supplies:  On the way to ‘our’ village, we made a stop to drop off some passengers who were being ferried by the army truck we were on. At that stop, several local people asked us for some of the provisions we had in our truck. One of the organizers of the trip told us not to give any bags out as we needed them all for ‘our’ village. His reasoning was that these people who were now asking for help were situated near a main road which is well traversed and many others are able to help them. Whereas the village we were headed to, was way off the beaten track and therefore were not receiving any other aid so we should save everything to distribute there.


Maybe he had a valid point but then again maybe he actually missed the point.


I am reminded of a story where a pious Jew heard of a tradition that if he fasted for forty days (eating only at night) he would merit getting a revelation of Elijah the Prophet. He embarked on this fasting spell and had already arrived at the fortieth day successfully. The doorbell rang as he was engrossed in prayer in anticipation of the great revelation he would soon be privy to. He opened the door to find a beggar there and impatiently gave the beggar a few coins and then shooed him off saying that he was in middle of preparing for a major event and could not offer him any hospitality at that moment.


He finished the fortieth day of fasting and expectantly waited for the great revelation. The fortieth day passed and the forty first and the forty second…. He turned his eyes Heavenward and cried ‘why did I not merit to the fulfillment of this tradition’? To which he received the response ‘Elijah knocked on your door, but you were too busy to spend time with him….’.


Has this ever happened to you where your mother makes a fancy dish for guests and the family members want to have some before the guests come but Mom is worried that there won’t be enough and in the end she lands up throwing out half of the food?


It’s not always about GETTING THERE. It’s very often about the journey.


In the book of the Tanya Rabbi Shneor Zalman – the first Rebbe and the founder of the Chabad movement - spelled it out quite clearly. Some people ask, he wrote, ‘when is my internal battle going to end? When will I be able to relax my inner defenses against not falling into the snare of the evil inclination with all of its selfish desires?’ ‘Am I destined to have to struggle with my base instincts all my life?’


The Rebbe explains that for most people that internal battle is what the purpose of life is all about. It’s not about achieving sainthood during your lifetime, it’s about overcoming the temptations one after another. The journey is what it’s all about and therefore the battle will never stop. Sure, the level and content of what you are struggling with should change but ultimately we are placed here by G-d to be faced with challenges that we are expected to overcome every day of our lives.


When you are going to distribute charity and someone stops you to ask you for charity, who says that you should not give here and wait till you get there?

While I did not actually give a black and white answer, I hope I gave you so food for thought……


What did we actually do? Since the Torah says when someone sticks out his hand to ask we have to give, we did give out some packages along the way, left the majority for ‘our’ village and when we ran out made the decision to come back again several days later with more than enough provisions.


Click here for some updated picturesof the distributions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

P.S. Click here to watch an amazing speech given by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at the International conference of Lubavitch emissaries.


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