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Friday, April 24, 2015

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Hamas: We didn’t fire rocket at Israel, maybe Aliens?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageHamas, the Islamic terrorist organization operating as the ruling authority / government in the Gaza strip (on the border of Egypt and Israel), announced today that “they did not fire the rockets that struck Israel yesterday evening.” 

The spokesperson speculated that dark forces are intentionally trying to reignite the active war between Hamas/Gaza and Israel, specifically mentioning the possibility of evil djinn as referenced in the Quran Sura 72 – Sura Al-Jinn.

He is rumored to have said “Obviously we would not be so stupid as to fire rockets at Israel at this time, as we have neither finished rebuilding our rocket inventory or completed replacement underground bunkers and tunnels for our fighters.  Clearly dark forces are at work.  While silly Westerners would probably say it’s space aliens, the Quran tells us of the evil djinn out to foil men’s plans.  Undoubtedly it’s evil djinn.”

Israel responded to the rocket fire this morning with tank fire to a Hamas meeting house near the border, empty at the time.  Israeli security officials are quoted as having said “We see Hamas as responsible, and expect it to enforce order in Gaza. Hamas is the ruling power in the region and is must maintain quiet; if not it will be held responsible. We will not accept a trickling of rocket fire.”

When asked whether it could have been evil djinn, the Israeli security official is rumored to have said “evil spirits responsible?  They’d do better to try blaming space aliens.”

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

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More on Charedi Blindfold Guy

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths … All images in this article © Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

A discussion of a photo by Yaakov Naumi.

image

This chassidic charedi man is wearing a partial blindfold, so he can only look down (not to trip).  He’s at the airport.

There is a holy strict Jewish custom called Shemiras Aynayim, which literally means “guarding ones eyes” – meaning one shouldn’t see things that are inappropriate.  Generally this means things like one shouldn’t go to a mixed beach or look at women while walking down the street.

A practice of Jewish mystics, a small subsect of certain chassidim practice this by literally partially blindfolding themselves whenever going out into public.

Anon 1 commented: Is it okay for me to say: Bah Humbug.
They remind me of talli banas. all bananas

Anon UK commented: he's not being violent or aggressive. But he is, by wearing this weird eye covering, indicating that ALL women have the potential to be seductresses and invite impure thoughts every time they are seen by a man - kind of insulting both sexes I feel.

Anon 3 commented: Geez he can get tempted so easily by just looking at a woman??!!  Jewish women too do not cover their faces… Yes he is like Tali bananas... not by throwing acid, but by acting like females are like temptresses waiting to make man fall in sin.

I’m always surprised at people’s reaction to such things.  Frankly, if a guy wants to walk around with a bag on this head, what do you care?  If he feels that makes him more religious or more holy, again, what do you care?  If this guy was walking around New York City or San Francisco, and the bag on his head was purple, you’d just say “well, yes, people have the freedom to be stupid or weird or whatever they consider fashionable”.

But because he says this is for a Jewish reason, and because YOU disagree with his approach to Judaism, suddenly he’s Taliban-ish?  I wonder if I wrote “he doesn’t want to look at women because he doesn’t want to break his attraction to MEN” if anyone would have dared to comment. 

He’s following HIS path to holiness.  It’s not my way, but it’s not an aberrant form of Judaism.  It is a personal choice and is affecting no one else.  So what’s wrong with that?

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Mass Murder Attack on Israeli Civilians Just Now

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageAbout an hour ago Southern Israel civilians were targeted for mass murder by the launch of multiple rockets from Gaza.  This was a particularly good day for attempting mass murder of Israelis, as it was Israeli Independence Day.  Therefore many people were outdoors picnicking with their families – far away from bomb shelters.

One might expect to hear something about it in the news, or some UN attention to this WAR CRIME.  Rather, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba will be voting in the UN Human Rights Council about how Israel is the number one oppressor of women in the world, as they did last week.  I would say the farce beggars belief, but what really beggars belief is how the United States and the nations of Europe go along with it.

No one was injured in the war crime mass murder attack on Israeli civilians, thank G-d.  Naturally this means exactly like when someone plans to shoot someone in your neighborhood, and then goes and shoots at them and misses… that because they missed the crime is null and void and should be ignored.  That’s how things work, right?  It must be, because when mass murder of innocent civilians is attempted against Israel and misses it’s not a war crime and can be ignored by the politicians, the UN, and the international news media.

The alarm went off on my computer, where I run several monitoring programs tied into the Israeli Civil Defense alert network.  (One can be seen here at IsraelSirens.com)  Similar to the remembers sirens that blare on Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel (Soldiers) Memorial Day, some of my children freaked out and headed for the bomb shelter.  A whole nations with PTSD that jumps at every siren-like sound – terrorism works, or at least it really does terrorize, but it also causes an intense anger against the enemy that they will carry for the rest of their lives.

HELP GAZANS REBUILD blare the headlines and tweets. After all, so many were made homeless (as their homes being used as rocket launching pads were flattened).  But they do not build for peace, worry about their people or try for prosperity.  They build for war and dream of mass murder.

Support them and support death, war and murder.  It’s sad the innocent suffer, but they can STOP any time they like.

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Their Father is Jewish

Their Father is Jewish

 

Jeffrey R. from New York has become active in reaching out to Jews, trying to bring them to Torah and mitzvahs. He asks:

      "What do we do when the children of Jewish men and Gentile mothers think they are Jewish? Some have had Bar Mitzvah ceremonies and parties at Reform Synagogues. What do you say to these boys when you meet them at the Kotel?"

 

Gutman's response:

     You will do them a big favor if you tell them the truth… that the father does not determine if a child is Jewish, the mother does. Be prepared to show them in the Torah the story of Avraham and Sarah with their son Isaac, and Avraham and Hagar with their son Ishmael. It is truly unfair to let them go on thinking that they are Jews when they aren't.  

     When someone wants to covert and become a Jew, we are to push them away…time and time again…unless their father is Jewish. In such a case we are told to have mercy on their Jewish father and we are to help them right from the moment they ask. This should help guide you in your dealings with non-Jews whose father is Jewish.

     It is certainly easier to ignore the problem, but then you might find Hashem sending one of these confused non Jews to marry some Jew you know and you will say, "Oy, if only I had done what I could have to help."

     Hashem bless you to continue and to increase your good work.

 

 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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More Pics of Rituals of Strictly Orthodox Jews (4)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths … All images in this article © Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

A Digg grabs a photoset from an interesting photographer, Yaakov Naumi.  Mr. Naumi is a charedi ultra-orthodox Jew from Israel, and specializes in taking news style photographs of charedi life and charedi news events.  It notes that because Mr. Naumi is part of the community, it opens the doors for him to come and take the photos.  I’ve decided to grab a few more of his (online) photos and give interesting details…

image

The Torah writes that for the holiday of Succot, one should take a “Pri Eitz Hadar”, a beautiful fruit, as part of the 4 species.  This is the citron (esrog in Hebrew), an unusual type of citrus fruit.  Because it’s set out as special, it’s considered extremely important to make sure it has no blemishes.

When shopping for ones esrog, a close examination to make sure there’s no infestation or black spots or holes is done.  The cleaner it is, the more expensive.

image

Passover matzot have many stringencies to make sure they are kosher – having no chometz, leavened products or have time to rise.  Besides harvesting the wheat during dry season (if it rained on the wheat after it started to brown, that wheat is disqualified), water is taken from a natural spring or well and allowed to sit for 24 hours – to become room temperature.  This is called “mayim shelanu”, and is the only water used for baking Hand Made Shmurah (guarded wheat – guarded from getting wet after it starts to brown in the field) Matzah.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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Unification?

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   

?

 

     From the morning "Verses of Praise"; "For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechina, to unite the Name Yud-Kay with Vav-Kay in a perfect union in the name of all Israel."

     What are we trying to accomplish here? "Union" means "joining together", or "combining", and "unite" means "to join", "fuse", or "mix." Shechina means Hashem's revealed Presence. Why do we have to mix or join Hashem's Name with His Shechina?" Aren't these already one?

     Yud-Kay are the first two letters of Hashem's most holy Name and Vav-Kay are the last two letters of this holy Name. The Name is commonly translated as Existence with the first two Hebrew letters represent the Higher Existence and the second two Hebrew letters represent the lower Existence. We know this because the letter yud (י) is the only Hebrew letter that is written entirely in the upper area of the line, and the vav (ו) represents the yud being drawn down into the lower realm. The kay(s) represent reality (מציאות), so the most holy Name signifies that Hashem is also the upper reality and the lower reality.

     But why do we have to unite Hashem's Name and His Shechina? Aren't the upper and lower realms and His revealed Presence already One?

     It is not what Hashem's Name stands for, and His revealed Presence that we are trying to unify. It is our understanding of what that holy Name stands for and His revealed Presence that we are trying to "unify". With this prayer we are striving to recognize that Hashem's upper worlds (the entirely spiritual realm) and His lower world (the entire physical realm), and His revealed Presence are actually always One. We are trying to take to heart that, what might appear to us to be many, is in fact a simple One.

  

 

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Monday, April 20, 2015

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More Rituals of Strictly Orthodox Jews (3)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths … All images in this article © Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

A Digg grabs a photoset from an interesting photographer, Yaakov Naumi.  Mr. Naumi is a charedi ultra-orthodox Jew from Israel, and specializes in taking news style photographs of charedi life and charedi news events.  It notes that because Mr. Naumi is part of the community, it opens the doors for him to come and take the photos.  I’ve decided to grab a few photos and give interesting details…

This is one is very unusual…

image

This chassidic charedi man is wearing a partial blindfold, so he can only look down (not to trip).  He’s at the airport.

There is a holy strict Jewish custom called Shemiras Aynayim, which literally means “guarding ones eyes” – meaning one shouldn’t see things that are inappropriate.  Generally this means things like one shouldn’t go to a mixed beach or look at women while walking down the street.

The most extreme version of this is practiced by the kabbalists, the Jewish mystics, and they basically seclude themselves to keep themselves in a holy and pure environment.  A small subsect of certain chassidim, mostly Breslev chassidim, will practice this by literally partially blindfolding themselves whenever going out into public.

This stands out as an unusual and rare practice, as it doesn’t make much sense to attempt to isolate oneself while going through the airport or to stores and in crowds of people.  Regardless of whether I think this makes sense or not, it is a known practice of this narrow sub-sect.

image

On Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day after Passover, there is a custom to light a bonfire and have a small celebration.  This is in honor of a great sage from history, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, completing his life and leaving this world (and telling everyone to celebrate).

Within Israel there is a small group (small is a few hundred) that believes the creation of the secular State of Israel is delaying the coming of the righteous redeemer, Moshiach tzidkaynu.  Therefore opposing the existence of the State of Israel, whiling living within it’s borders, is part of their religious beliefs.

The above picture, most likely taken in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel, is them holding their Lag B’Omer bonefire by burning Israeli flags – combinging the religious celebration with their religious objection to the existence of the State.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

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Making it Count–Chesed shebe’Tiferes

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The Holy Air of Israel

   by Reb Gutman Locks  
   

The Holy Air of Israel

 

     What is so special about the Land of Israel? Hashem G-d calls it the Good Land that He has given to the Jewish people. Even the Muslim's holy book, the Koran says that G-d gave this Land to the Children of Yaakov.

     We are told if a Jew even walks four steps in this Land he or she acquires a share in the World to Come. It is not a large land, not at all; in fact, it is the smallest of all of the Lands in the Middle East. But, like the Jewish People, few in number yet great in accomplishments, so is this holy Land so special in what happens to a Jew when he or she lives here. The Land, its air, its light…all reveal Hashem's Presence more and more every day that you are blessed enough to be here.

The Holy Air of Israel 

(link)

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More on a Digg–Rituals of Strictly Orthodox Jews (2)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths … All images in this article © Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

A Digg grabs a photoset from an interesting photographer, Yaakov Naumi.  Mr. Naumi is (or was, it’s unclear) a charedi ultra-orthodox Jew from Israel, and specializes in taking news style photographs of charedi life and charedi news events.  It notes that because Mr. Naumi is (or was) part of the community, it opens the doors for him to come and take the photos.  He provides brief descriptions of what’s being shown, but because of the brevity often misses many interesting aspects.

I’ve decided to grab a few photos and give those interesting details…

image

On the day before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, one wishes to have done as much repentance as possible.  There are a number of customs for the day which involve “getting your punishment now” rather than being judged and punished “min hashamayim”, from Heaven. 

In the custom above, a punishment for certain sins involve LASHES administered by the Holy Religious Court in Jerusalem – WHICH DOES NOT EXIST AT THIS TIME.  “If I did a sin for which I would receive lashes, if the Holy Court still existed, or should receive such a punishment, rather than become ill or die for this sin, I will receive lashes from my fellow and enter Yom Kippur already having been “punished”.  From a practical standpoint the lashes are only given as a “tap” with a belt.  No real painful lashing is occurring. 

It is yet another practice to bring one to repentance in preparation for the holy and awesome day of Yom Kippur.  It is practiced by a variety of types of chassidim.

image

A number of celebrations are held with young children in their early school years as they progress in their religious studies.  The “siddur party”, when children are old enough to read prayers and receive their first prayer book.  And, as in the photo above, the “chumash party”, when they are old enough to read from the Torah (bible) and receive their first volume of Torah.  (Chumash is an abbreviation for a term that means “the 5 books of Moses”).

At a chumash party the children wear crowns, because it is taught that at the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, the Jews received 2 crowns – one for “we will do” and one for “we will listen/learn”, the Jews response to G-d on being given the Torah.  It’s a happy occasion typically attended by one’s father, who carries the child around on their shoulders, as well as older siblings.  Mothers and grandparents may be in attendance also, depending on the local custom.

Mazel Tov, you’re old enough to learn Torah!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

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How Jews Die in Israel

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I read an article this week that sent me on a research mission.  The article stated, in the name of important rabbonim, that there is a “proliferation of maladies (machala) today” in Jewish communities.  Now I know plenty of people with maladies, have a few myself.  But is there a “proliferation” going on, or is this a case of anecdotal evidence without a basis in reality.

Here’s the relevant quote…

HaRav Yitzchok (redacted – I’m not trying to hold anyone up for scrutiny), shlita, in a powerful speech, emphasizes, “Since the time of the destruction of the Holy Temple, the dwelling place of the Divine presence (Shechina) is in our shuls (synagogues), in our study halls.”  Conversely, “If we disparage (are mezalzel in) the sanctity of shuls and study halls, we chase away the Shechina, we chase away our protection (shmira).”

Famously, the (historical sage) sought to discover the cause behind the pogroms of 1648 and 1649 (Tach v’Tat) and was informed in a divinely-inspired dream that the reason was because of people talking in shul during prayers.  As a result, he authored a special prayer for those who refrain from talking in the synagogue that is recited in many shuls.

HaRav S (redacted, not the same rav as above) similarly emphasizes that the root reason why the Holocaust took place was a disregard of the sanctity of shuls, of honoring Hashem.  The tragedies that result from a lack of k’vod shomayim apply not only on a national level, but also a personal level.  HaRav S cites Rav X, shlita, as saying, “Why is there such a proliferation of maladies (machala) today?  The reason is because people disparage the sanctity of shuls and people talk in davening. … If they would stop talking, the maladies would stop and all of a sudden it would leave us – if we would have the proper respect for davening.”

While it’s always good to keep everyone focused on proper behavior in synagogue and Torah study halls, and the occasional lecture about it doesn’t hurt, my first thought was “wait a minute, life expectancy is UP, as is general functioning into old age – is there a proliferation I’m not aware of?”  Let’s look at the statistics…

imageLife expectancy in Israel has been growing, and is the 4th highest IN THE WORLD.  Note that this INCLUDES war, terrorism, and Israel’s biggest problem – traffic accidents. 

Ok, but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t suffering and being (successfully) treated for X horrible life threatening diseases.

First I had to look up causes of death in Israel, with a further narrowing of Jewish population deaths.  Here they are (source – Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, latest figures 2012) :

#1 – Cancer, at 156 per 100,000  (1 Lung, 2 Colon, 3 Breast, 4 Pancreas)
#2 – Heart Disease or Stroke, at 147 per 100,000
#3 – #3 Pneumonia + Flu + Respiratory Diseases (not cancer), at 49 per 100,000

Well, the word “machala” is sometimes used as a slang for cancer, so maybe he meant cancer, which is statistically the #1 cause of death in Israel.  So we have to look at some historical statistics, is cancer increasing?

Cancer deaths in Israel (all citizens)…

1984 – 146/100,000
1989 – 122/100,000
1994 – 133/100,000
1997 – 145/100,000
2002 – 145/100,000
2007 – 139/100,000
2012 – 135/100,000

(Note the 2012 number is different from above.  My research found that’s because the first number was for Jews, the second number for the full Israeli population.  Interestingly it seems Eastern European Jews carry some genetic predispositions for cancer, so Arab Israeli cancer rates are LOWER than for Jewish Israelis, bringing the “for all Israel” rates lower for the multi-year statistics.)

Ok, we have a problem.  Cancer rates are FALLING in Israel.  So why does the rav quoted above think otherwise?

The answer seems to be… while cancer death rates have only fallen slightly OTHER causes of death have fallen significantly.  So it’s not that there’s an increase in cancer, it’s that there’s a decrease in everything else!  Baruch Hashem – Thank G-d!

So while I don’t know if there’s more talking in synagogue, and cell phone ringing was a problem for a while (it’s getting better), there’s not a proliferation of machala – but there is a reason it could seem so.

Let’s do a comparison, how are things in New York?  Causes of death in New York:

#1 Heart Disease or Stroke, 184 per 100,000  (higher than Israel)
#2 Cancer (1 Lung, 2 Colon, 3 Breast, 4 Pancreas), 159 per 100,000  (higher than Israel)
#3 Pneumonia + Flu + Respiratory Diseases (not cancer)

And finally, how are things in Jerusalem, a city in Israel with a higher population concentration of ultra-orthodox Jews?

- “From 2001 to 2005, the cancer diagnosis rate among men in Jerusalem consistently fell at about 17% below the national average, and 10% below average from 2006-2011.”

BUT…

- “Israel has a high rate of breast cancer, one of the highest among Western nations with a death rate of 25 per 100,000.  The high rate is attributed to the “Jewish gene” – three mutations in the genes BRACA1 and BRACA2 – which raise the likelihood of breast cancer by 60 to 80 percent. These mutations are higher in Jewish Ashkenazi women, at a rate of 2.5 percent (as opposed to 0.3 percent among the general world population).”

So Jewish women should get appropriate checks regularly for breast cancer, all Jews should stop smoking, and should perform checks for colon cancer as they get older.  (Oy, I think I’m up for that.) 

That said, overall cancer rates are STILL lower in Israel than in the U.S., life expectancy is higher, and higher still WITHIN the religious Jewish communities.  Stop on by, the water’s fine and healthy for you!

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We Survive and Live, They Hate and Kill


by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
My daughter watched the Holocaust Remembrance Day events with my wife last night.  My wife cried, remembering her father, a survivor of Dachau.  
The children of survivors, the grandchildren of survivors, and of course so so many lives lost, worlds destroyed.  The affect is still percolating through my family, but my children are HERE - the Nazi's failed though they tried so hard, G-d saved us from their hand.
My children listened with horror as a survivor described how he was taken as a child for medical experimentation by the Nazi's and Dr. Mengele.  He had to speak through a machine because he had been injected with cancer, multiple times, and came out with huge tumors that were removed together with his vocal cords after the war ended.  
To our great sorrow we hear regularly as others describe the desire to kill us... just for existing.  It's strange to hear the hatred...even here on the blog and sites that syndicate our articles we get nasty hate and horror filled comments.  Yet, with G-d's help, we will live and grow and build, while they dream of tearing down and destroying.
We awoke to a terror attack in Jerusalem, a bus stop being hit by a car and Jews killed...because they were Jews.  Hamas, ISIS, and yes the government of Iran dream dreams of destruction, murder, torture, death.  
Though my father-in-law, a"h, went through the HELL of DACHAU, he rebuild a life.  Today we remember…
prisoner
In (honor?) of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we reprise our leading Holocaust post.
Few survivors of the Holocaust remain with us. Their lives and experiences tell a story not only of man made atrocity and silence in the face of unspeakable evil and willful ignorance of events for personal or national agendas, but also a story of families for the next generation. While the horror is past, like the numbered tattoo's on their arms it left an indelible mark on the Jewish people. Today, we live with the scars of the survivors, and the strengths of the survivors. Certain fears have rightfully become a part of our family and national psyche, and certain strengths to overcome the greatest of obstacles. In loving memory of Nazi Prisoner #92740, a life in a post...
Nazi Prisoner #92740
Mr. Chone (redacted) 
Born – July 15, 1917 in Utena (Lithuania) 
Nationality – Stateless 
Survivor of : Stutthof Concentration Camp: Dachau (Mulldorf sub-camp) Concentration Camp

Nazi Prisoner #92740 was a Jew born in Lithuania. He grew up with two brothers and a sister.
He attended the Ponevetz yeshiva until it was shut down by the war, at which point he somehow returned home. One brother had left a few years earlier for South Africa (avoiding the holocaust). He was trapped with his family in the Kovno ghetto and avoided early deportation (to work camps for able bodied men) by living in a kitchen cabinet. His remaining brother was not so lucky, and he never saw him again.
His mother and sister kept him fed (barely), while he sewed and cooked and hid. As the ghetto was gradually being liquidated, his sister escaped with a small group into the woods and joined the Jewish partisan's, fighting back against the Nazi's. He didn't see her again for 40 years (she survived but was trapped behind the Iron Curtain after the war, emigrating to Israel in the late 70's, but that's another story).
He was eventually deported from the Kovno ghetto to work camps, and then to the infamous concentration camp Dachau. How he survived almost a year in Dachau we don't know. We do know that he traded 2 weeks of food rations for a pair of tefillin, and while working in the kitchen somehow hid some children in the large 'coffee' pots, keeping them alive.
He was liberated by the 92nd Signal Battalion of the United States Army on April 29, 1945, having entered Dachau from the labor camps on August 22, 1944. He spent 6 years in the Displaced Persons camp Feldafing, run by the U.S. provisional governing authority in Germany. During that time he assisted the numerous Jewish orphans and was instrumental in starting both the camp girls and boys Jewish schools. He also provided religious services and eventually became a camp staff member, a paid rabbinical post. (Prisoner #92740 was a young ordained rabbi from Ponevetz, as well as a trained schochet [ritual slaughterer]).
Having no home or family to return to, he worked to contact his brother in South Africa or family (an uncle) that had emigrated to the U.S. before the war. He was eventually successful in contacting his uncle in the U.S. and in obtaining sponsorship both via his uncle and the Vaad Hatzala to come to the U.S.
He came to the U.S. and started life anew, such as he could. He eventually married, and had the honor of having 2 great rabbonim at his wedding. Rabbi Naftali Carlbach (the father of Reb Shlomo Carlbach) wrote the tenoyim (engagement contract). Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman, zt"l, the Rav of the Ponevetz, the great rebuilder of the yeshiva in Israel, had only 5 students who survived the holocaust from the yeshiva in Lithuania. Prisoner #92740 was one of those 4 students. The Rav honored him by performing his marriage ceremony.
While Prisoner #92740 did his best to rebuild his life and live as normal as possible, his daughter speaks of his lifetime terrible fear of dogs, always sleeping in a tiny balled up position, and terrible fear of loud noises.
He worked in the U.S. as a Rabbi, shochet (ritual slaughterer), mashgiach (kosher supervisor) and cantor, and was known as a Torah scholar. As a cantor, he was in special demand for the high holy days, where his prayer's had a depth of feeling that we cannot comprehend.
His parents were murdered, as was one of his brothers. He didn't know the status of his sister for 40 years, after which she and her family emigrated from the USSR to Israel and contacted him. They were briefly reunited in the late 70's.
He eventually made contact with his other brother in South Africa, but his brother past away before he could afford to visit.
He was buried at his request in the holy land, Israel, with a simple marker. His Torah and Mesorah (tradition) live on, a link in the chain forged in the fires of hell, through his daughter and grandchildren, and through his oldest grandson (born after he past away) who carries his name.
Today that grandson services in the Israel Defense Force, by choice (re-enlistment), standing strong - with the help of Hashem - to defend the Jewish people.
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Early, Early Morning

​by Reb Gutman Locks  
    

Early, Early Morning

 

     Why is it that so many hundreds of religious Jews come to the Kotel so early in the morning to daven neitz? (praying at sunrise) A large number of us are there every morning hours before sunrise, learning, waiting for the minyans (quorums) to begin. Why do so many religious visitors to Jerusalem who never daven neitz at home make it a point to be at the Kotel every morning they are in Jerusalem to daven neitz?

    First; why neitz? The Rambam calls davening neitz the proper way, and all later davening as merely okay if you have to. That should be enough reason for everyone to make it a point to daven neitz, but modern society doesn't seem to fit so well with going to sleep early so you can wake up early to daven. Because of this, the vast majority of religious Jews are satisfied davening well after sunrise.

     But why is neitz the proper time? From noon until sundown we see that the sun goes down. Chassidus explains that the diminishing of light continues from noon until midnight. When light diminishes it is a time of Heavenly judgment. Then, from midnight until noon the light gets brighter and brighter. Brightening light is a sign of Heavenly kindness. Our prayers are more readily accepted in times of kindness, which is not so in times of judgment.

     Hashem is equally everywhere at all times. So why come to the Kotel to daven? The Kotel is the closest we can get to the Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount). Avraham Avinu called the Temple Mount the place where "Hashem will see", "The mount where Hashem will reveal Himself." Referring to the Mount Yaakov Avinu said, "G-d is in this place!" The Temple Mount is where the First and Second Temples stood and where very soon the Third Temple will stand. All of the prayers of Jews wherever we are in the world are said to first come to the Kotel and then they ascend to Heaven.

     Yes Hashem is everywhere and He sees everywhere at all times, but here by the Temple Mount He makes it easily for us to see, and for us to be seen by Him.

 

 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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More on a Digg–Rituals of Strictly Orthodox Jews

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths … All images in this article © Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

Today’s Digg grabs a photoset from an interesting photographer, Yaakov Naumi.  Mr. Naumi is (or was, it’s unclear) a charedi ultra-orthodox Jew from Israel, and specializes in taking news style photographs of charedi life and charedi news events.  It notes that because Mr. Naumi is (or was) part of the community, it opens the doors for him to come and take the photos.  He provides brief descriptions of what’s being shown, but because of the brevity often misses many interesting aspects.

I’ve decided to grab a few photos and give those interesting details…

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This is a Jewish ultra-orthodox wedding.  The father or rabbi or Rebbe is “dancing” with the bride.  But why, and why like this?  First some details…

-> The man is dressed in a gold kaftan, this being a special occasion garment of ultra-orthodox in Jerusalem.  It’s a unique garment of Jerusalem and actually involves a special number of buttons and ties from kabbalah.

Why?

a – It’s a mitzvah, biblical commandment, to “rejoice with the bride and groom”, to make them happy! 

b – Your father, brothers and/or rabbi coming to honor you and dance with you as a bride will make you happy.

c – But, restrictions on gender interaction (only with your spouse) mean your rabbi isn’t going to come and touch you.  Hence the rope.

d - The sheer curtain in front of the women is not to separate the women from the men, but to separate the men from the women.  It’s there so the man can fulfill the mitzvah without having his gaze drawn to any women other than his wife – the exclusive focus of his womanly interaction.

e – Besides the rope, the bride is also not dancing – because the dancing of a woman is considered attractive and therefore would only be done alone with one’s spouse or in a gender segregated situation.  At ultra-orthodox weddings, the dancing is gender segregated with a barrier between the men’s and women’s sections.

So it has culturally evolved that the rabbi or Rebbe will honor and rejoice with the bride with a dance, but a rope, curtain, and no dancing by the bride are all required to keep it kosher.

This practice is somewhat exclusive to chassidim, and often only with one’s Rebbe or a rabbi of significant stature.  It is also sometimes done with a father upon marrying off one’s youngest child.

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There’s a live man lying in a grave!  And he’s not a vampire, zombie, nor some type of Goth groupie.

So how does “lying in a grave lengthen one’s life expectancy”?  By selecting a grave site, purchasing a grave site, going there, and/or actually lying in a grave, one is brought to consider that life is fleeting, one’s end will come, and one better be prepared to stand before the Beis Din Shel Maala, stand before the Heavenly Court and give an accounting of one’s life and sins.  By involving oneself in one’s future eternal home in this world one should come to Teshuva, repentance and return/re-connect with G-d.

Some become involved in Chessed Shel Emes, literally the True Kindness, but meaning the holy burial societies that are responsible for preparing Jewish bodies for burial and performing the actual burial, to similarly be involved in end-of-life issues and thereby keep the limits of this physical world constantly in mind.

The physical grave site shown above is in Israel, where nowadays they pre-prepare the area by pouring concrete over the graveyard to be, with cutouts for each individual grave.  This allows for a higher graveyard density.  Further, the custom in Israel is not to use coffins.  Rather, the bodies are wrapped in layers and placed directly into the grave.

While the practice of lying in a grave is known and discussed in some Torah sources, I’ve never known anyone who has actually done so.

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Should We (verbally) Bash Some Jews Today?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Longtime readers of Mystical Paths may notice that we generally avoid bashing the religious Jewish community.  One might wonder, is this because religious Jewish communities are all perfect and wonderful?  And the answer is…yes!

When I open my local phonebook (for my Jewish community), I have pages filled with “gemachim” and “chesed organizations”.  These are charitable and community organizations, often started by just one person, offering free or discounted or assistance services to the community.  For example we have the free medical equipment organization, the medical office on Shabbat (staffed by non-Jewish personnel), the discount van back and forth to local hospitals, the medicine reuse organization (if you didn’t use a sealed bottle of medicine it’s available to someone else who needs it), the food assistance organizations, help for families with newborns (giving the new mother a break and time to acclimate), etc etc etc.

The crime rate in my community is miniscule, the violent crime rate extremely low, and the majority of property crimes from outside.  These are benefits that come in tight night communities everywhere, religious communities in particular, and Jewish religious communities especially. 

Does this mean there are no problems?  No crime?  No deviants?  No problems falling through the cracks or being addressed poorly?  Sadly no. 

And does the Jewish religious community deal with certain problems and topics badly and ineffectively.  Sadly, yes.

The question is:

- Is anyone listening?  Griping about a problem and tarring the community with a broad brush serves no purpose if no one in the community is listening.

- Aren’t there enough other people already griping about Jews?  This is a serious question as there are plenty of sites ranging from anti-semites to disgruntled former community members already sharing loud and unpleasant opinions and positions, as well as highlighting every time a rabbi sneezes. 

- Is it possible to gently and appropriately discuss a problem point in the religious Jewish community without veering into Lashon Hara (religious prohibitions against tale bearing) and yet still have a positive affect?

- Is it possible for me to do this without exciting my Yetzer Hara (evil inclination)?  I certainly don’t need to awaken urges to “let people have it”.

What type of things would we discuss?  Here’s examples…

--> Recent funeral for a major Jewish religious figure where several people were crushed to death and over 100 seriously injured.

--> Are religious Jews doing something wrong by maximizing benefits available to them from government programs?

Let me know what you think.

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