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Sunday, March 01, 2015

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What Am I?

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   

    

What Am I?

 

     If I answer, "I am a man," then I would be talking about my body.

     If I answer, "I am a life," then I would be talking about the force that vivifies me, which actually is Hashem, since He is called "the Life of all the worlds"[i]

     If I answer "I am a soul", then I would be talking about the various levels of the life-force that fills me. Whereas "life" is the general term, "soul" refers to the various details, the levels of that life. But the soul is "an actual portion of Hashem from on High."[ii]

     We know that after 120 years (or so), the body will return to the ground from where it came. The body is made out of dust, simple material, matter, and eventually it will return to just that.

     The life force, the soul, is a portion of Hashem, so when my life is over here, that life force that sustained me will return to the high place from where it came.

     So, if my body is earth, and my life-force is Hashem, what am I?

 

     The Infinite is all. It has to be all, or else it would be limited.

     The finite has to be limited, or else it would not be finite.

     Since the Infinite is all, the finite must be a tiny portion of the Infinite. The Infinite has to also be the finite, but the finite is not the Infinite.

 

     The problem is that the Infinite One hides so well that we finite beings forget that He is even here! This gives us plenty of room to make as many mistakes as we want. But, it also gives us the unique opportunity to grow, to improve ourselves, and to even improve His creation.

 

     We are all on a journey; a physical journey from the womb to the grave, and a spiritual journey from the highest Heaven down to this low world, and then back up to the highest Heaven.

     When we leave this world the only thing we take with us will be our deeds. Our good deeds will thrust us higher and higher in that holy World, and our negative deeds will drag us down lower and lower.

     Our place in that world, our capacity to withstand the Brilliant Light, will be determined by our deeds in this lower world. This journey is a gorgeous opportunity. Take care to pack your bags well.



[i] From the blessing said after eating certain foods

[ii] "a portion of G-d is His People" Deuteronomy 32:9

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

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The Blue Light Returns

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

   

The Blue Light Returns

Michael asks:

     I've had many dreams. My last dream -- went like this:

     I mediated on G-d, fell asleep. During my sleep, I felt myself traveling upwards through darkness. I couldn't see anything as the darkness was thick. When I stopped moving upward I saw a beautiful blue hue of color all around me. The blue was like the blue screen a computer has. I did not have any depth perception because the blue color was against my eyes. I saw that the blue color was constant. As I concentrated on the blue color, I felt as though something else was to begin. Then I realized that I wasn't alone. I felt a presence. I said out loud; "Are you here." A soft voice responded; "I've always been here." I then heard the voice say; "Are you ready to go back." I said "Yes" and then I felt myself going back downward this time. The blue light disappeared. I'd be interested if you'd explain it to me. Actually, I think I already know the answer.

 

Gutman's response:

     From; "Taming the Raging Mind"

    Some Tai Chi practitioners deliberately try to generate a blue light to show the energy moving throughout their body. They manifest this blue light somewhat like a ball of light held between the palms of their hands as they practice their movement meditations. 

    These light experiences are also the source of the "halo" symbol commonly drawn around the head of a picture of a person to identify him as a "saint." Initially, this light seems like steel white in color. Since it is light, it is at first very attractive, but later its heaviness becomes evident.  It is then seen to be a shade of blue. 

    Although the East Indian discipline claims blue to be the highest color,[ii] Jewish sources write that blue is actually the lowest color.[iii]  It is even called the sick color that must be avoided when appearing in dreams.[iv]  The Torah and Eastern teachings on this subject are absolutely opposite.  This is not an insignificant difference.  What you seek in your meditation will depend on which system you follow.  If you do experience such a vision, where you end up will certainly be affected by which path you trust. 

 

Michael objects:

     Why is the shade of blue that surrounded me in my dream considered not good in Judaism? I have never undergone any training in mediation, nor did I ever read any material on eastern practices on this topic – it just happened while concentrating on G-d. Basically, I followed the same pattern of prayer as Shemonei Esrei does. I started with praise and acknowledgement of G-d, followed by requests, and then completed with gratitude and then, whammo, it just happened; I was surrounded by blue. It wasn't a dark blue, like violet or purple, it was a deep blue that was thick. In my dream I tried to see my body as I looked down, but my body wasn't there, all I could see was the blue light. So I felt off balance in my dream so I remained as still as possible, it was then that I asked, "Are you here," and I heard, "I've always been here,".  

     I'll purchase the book and read it thoroughly, but I politely request that you prime me on this because I'll be reading from the perspective of a person who has experienced this in a dream. There was a message given to me here. I didn't try to produce the light as you mentioned Tai Chi practitioners do -- it just happened to me.

 

Gutman explains:

     Our search is for the Infinite One, not for someone you have to ask, "Are You there?"

     In the example of light; the light passes through a prism and we see the seven beautiful colors. The more you pay attention to the colors the quicker you forget the light.

 

Michael sees the light:

     I'm there Rabbi. Thanks a bunch. I look forward to reading your book.

 



[ii] "The Blue Pearl", Muktananda.

[iii] Zohar Chadash 68:4.

[iv] Gemora Berakoth 57b.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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Purim donations...

 

Once a year, I forward Mystical Paths request for donations for the poor. Your kindness will go into the hands and hearts of the truly needy in Israel.

Have a happy Purim

Gutman

 

 

Matanot L'evyonim, gifts to the poor for Purim.  Mishne Torah Hilchos Megillah says we should INCREASE in the amount given to the poor instead of giving more Shloach Manos or having a bigger Seudas Purim (Purim Party).   "During the year when giving charity, one may check and see if a person is deserving / in need.  On Purim, one should give happily to anyone who asks for it, since Matanot L'evyonim has the purpose of creating Purim joy…"

HAVE YOU WONDERED, HOW MUCH OF YOUR CHARITABLE DONATION IS ACTUALLY GOING TO THE POOR?  And how much goes to the advertisement cost, how much to the office and people answering the phone?  How much to the charity collector?  And while these are all valid expenses, can it be that as much as 50% of your donation is going to overhead and operating costs and salaries / commissions?

We the team at the Mystical Paths blog (http://mpaths.com), where Reb Gutman posts his email articles online, say this is simply unacceptable!  For the past 9 years and this year as well we are offering to be your agent to fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot L'evyonim, charity gifts to the poor for Purim, with the poor and needy of Israel… with NO operating overhead, office expenses, salaries, commissions, or advertising fees. Just 100% charity direct to the poor for Purim (minus only Paypal transaction fees of ~3 1/2% and currency conversion costs of 1%).  We do so as a registered Israeli charity with rabbinical supervision – details available upon request. 

People say we're crazy, not taking a cut or commission, and spending our whole Purim morning delivering money to the needy instead of running around giving out pretty wrapped mishloach manos.  We say the mitzvah of helping those in need is simply more important, and helping them out as much as possible on Purim is critical!  Help us help them!

--- CLICK HERE to DONATE – now now now ---

( If for any reason that link-click doesn't work, here's the direct URL - https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=FEUFUM3XED3AE )

needyWe have neighbors in need, people who can't afford clothes for their children, can't cover medical costs, have had their bank accounts seized and sometimes even their refrigerators seized to cover debts. 

--- DONATE RIGHT NOW! click click click ---

Why would we help these people? I'll tell you why – it's a mitzvah, it's chessed, it's sometimes literally saving a life, and because SOMETIMES THEY ARE YOU!  Sometimes, G-d forbid, it's your friend in need of help, or your neighbor, or even your rabbi, or even – G-d forbid, YOU AND ME.

So while the evil inclination would prefer us to ignore those in need, we have an OBLIGATION to do so. 

Bring some light and happiness and joy to those who are in NEED.  Donate today, RIGHT NOW, to help the poor and needy for Purim in Israel.

The YETZER Hara – the evil inclination - says: "I vote sit!  Go watch a nice video instead.  Do not donate!"

--- Last Chance – Click to DONATE! ---

If for any reason that link-click doesn't work, here's the direct URL - https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=FEUFUM3XED3AE

In the merit of helping those in need for Purim, may HaKodesh Baruch Hu bring you and your family abundant blessings for Purim and every day of the year!

A special note to all those who have donated in past years:  Thank you so much for the unbelievable merit of being your shaliach, your agent, in bringing charity to the poor and needy of our neighborhood in Israel for Purim.  It's truly been an honor to do so for you.

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Chabad Today

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
   

Chabad Today

 

A reader asks:

    If you know, please tell me the truth, is it a common belief in Chabad today that the world runs and operates according to the ratzon (will) of the Rebbe? There are sources to base this on - "a tzaddik (righteous person) decrees and Hashem fulfills, Hashem decrees and the tzaddik nullifies it", "the ratzon of those who fear Him, He will do" (from the prayer Ashrei). There are other teachings both Chassidic and non-chassidic that say that Hashem gave tzaddikim a lot of control over both the physical and spiritual worlds. So, I'm concerned that many in Chabad might feel that Hashem has given over the running of the world to the Rebbe or has at least made the Rebbe His partner in running the world; and that the Rebbe has the power to grant requests. Is this an unfounded concern of mine?

 

Gutman's reply:

     When discussing the beliefs of Chabad Chassidim today it is essential to distinguish between the genuine teachings of Chabad, which the majority of Chabadniks follow, and the beliefs of a very vocal small minority.

     It is common for all followers of any rebbe, or any teacher, to embellish and exaggerate their teacher's merits. It is well-known that there are some Chabadniks who wildly excel in this. But what did the Rebbe say about this exaggeration?

     He screamed until he was literally red in the face not to call him the Moshiach! More than once, he screamed, and there were thousands of his Chassidim who heard him, but still, they do what they want to do. When he screamed against this exaggeration a large number of his Chassidim openly said, "He didn't really mean it." He screamed that they would ruin it for him, and as usual, he was right. Today, I am sorry to say, there are even some websites that openly promote idolatry!

     The Rebbe definitely was a tzaddik, and even more. I myself heard him speak prophecy during the Scud War (1990). But tell me, if this belief about a tzaddik's will was literally correct, wouldn't the Moshiach (Messiah) have already come? Wasn't that what the Rebbe wanted most? Wouldn't the Rebbe have had children? How many times do you think he prayed for children? But obviously Hashem said, "No". So, the Rebbe being what he was went out and made hundreds of thousands of Chassidim his children.

     To best understand the Rebbe and what he thought, read his letters answering questions that were sent to him. In these letters you will see his amazing clarity, humility, and genuine sympathy. There is no need to exaggerate a wonderful thing.

     As for my opinion of Chabad today see:

Message to Chabad 

(video link)

READ IT!

Monday, February 23, 2015

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100% Charity Direct for PURIM

This is Mystical Paths 100% Charity Direct to the Needy for Purim Campaign!

--- DONATE RIGHT NOW – click click click! ---

Matanot L’evyonim, gifts to the poor for Purim.  Mishne Torah Hilchos Megillah says we should INCREASE in the amount given to the poor instead of giving more Shloach Manos or having a bigger Seudas Purim (Purim Party).   “During the year when giving charity, one may check and see if a person is deserving / in need.  On Purim, one should give happily to anyone who asks for it, since Matanot L’evyonim has the purpose of creating Purim joy…”

HAVE YOU WONDERED, HOW MUCH OF YOUR CHARITABLE DONATION IS ACTUALLY GOING TO THE POOR?  And how much goes to the advertisement cost, how much to the office and people answering the phone?  How much to the charity collector?  And while these are all valid expenses, can it be that as much as 50% of your donation is going to overhead and operating costs and salaries / commissions?

We at Mystical Paths say this is simply unacceptable!  For the past 9 years and this year as well we are offering to be your agent to fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot L’evyonim, charity gifts to the poor for Purim, with the poor and needy of Israel… with NO operating overhead, office expenses, salaries, commissions, or advertising fees. Just 100% charity direct to the poor for Purim (minus only Paypal transaction fees of ~3 1/2% and currency conversion costs of 1%).  We do so as a registered Israeli charity with rabbinical supervision – details available upon request. 

People say we’re crazy, not taking a cut or commission, and spending our whole Purim morning delivering money to the needy instead of running around giving out pretty wrapped mishloach manos.  We say the mitzvah of helping those in need is simply more important, and helping them out as much as possible on Purim is critical!  Help us help them!

--- CLICH HERE to DONATE – now now now ---

needyWe have neighbors in need, people who can’t afford clothes for their children, can’t cover medical costs, have had their bank accounts seized and sometimes even their refrigerators seized to cover debts. 

--- DONATE RIGHT NOW! click click click ---

Why would we help these people? I’ll tell you why – it’s a mitzvah, it’s chessed, it’s sometimes literally saving a life, and because SOMETIMES THEY ARE YOU!  Sometimes, G-d forbid, it’s your friend in need of help, or your neighbor, or even your rabbi, or even – G-d forbid, YOU AND ME.

So while the evil inclination would prefer us to ignore those in need, we have an OBLIGATION to do so.

Bring some light and happiness and joy to those who are in NEED.  Donate today, RIGHT NOW, to help the poor and needy for Purim in Israel.

The YETZER Hara – the evil inclination - says: “I vote sit!  Go watch a nice video instead.  Do not donate!”

--- Last Chance – Click to DONATE! ---

In the merit of helping those in need for Purim, may HaKodesh Baruch Hu bring you and your family abundant blessings for Purim and every day of the year!

A special note to all those who have donated in past years:  Thank you so much for the unbelievable merit of being your shaliach, your agent, in bringing charity to the poor and needy of our neighborhood in Israel for Purim.  It’s truly been an honor to do so for you.

READ IT!
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Meditation and the Unconcious Mind

(Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths)

When we involve ourselves with meditation, beyond whatever the goals or focus of that meditation may be, we are also interacting with our unconscious mind at a level not normally done.  What is the “unconscious mind”?  Modern science has puzzled on this and continues to research this, to attempt to map out what’s going on “under the covers” – inside the engine of the mind.  A new article from Mind Hacks brings forth some interesting recent Israeli research on the subject. 

One of the reasons meditation must be approached carefully as well as being properly focused is exactly because of the impact on the unconscious mind and the impact of conscious/unconscious interaction.  Can meditation “implant” thoughts / positions / beliefs into the unconscious mind, thereby affecting a persons conscious direction?

Mind Hacks - The smart unconscious by Tom Stafford

We feel that we are in control when our brains figure out puzzles or read words, but a new experiment shows just how much work is going on underneath the surface of our conscious minds.

It is a common misconception that we know our own minds. As I move around the world, walking and talking, I experience myself thinking thoughts. “What shall I have for lunch?”, I ask myself. Or I think, “I wonder why she did that?” and try and figure it out. It is natural to assume that this experience of myself is a complete report of my mind. It is natural, but wrong.

There’s an under-mind, all psychologists agree – an unconscious which does a lot of the heavy lifting in the process of thinking. If I ask myself what is the capital of France the answer just comes to mind – Paris! If I decide to wiggle my fingers, they move back and forth in a complex pattern that I didn’t consciously prepare, but which was delivered for my use by the unconscious.

The big debate in psychology is exactly what is done by the unconscious, and what requires conscious thought… One popular view is that the unconscious can prepare simple stimulus-response actions, deliver basic facts, recognise objects and carry out practised movements. Complex cognition involving planning, logical reasoning and combining ideas, on the other hand, requires conscious thought.

A recent experiment by a team from Israel scores points against this position. Ran Hassin and colleagues used a neat visual trick called Continuous Flash Suppression to put information into participants’ minds without them becoming consciously aware of it. …The technique takes advantage of the fact that we have two eyes and our brain usually attempts to fuse the two resulting images into a single coherent view of the world. Continuous Flash Suppression uses light-bending glasses to show people different images in each eye. One eye gets a rapid succession of brightly coloured squares which are so distracting that when genuine information is presented to the other eye, the person is not immediately consciously aware of it. In fact, it can take several seconds for something that is in theory perfectly visible to reach awareness (unless you close one eye to cut out the flashing squares, then you can see the ‘suppressed’ image immediately).

Hassin’s key experiment involved presenting arithmetic questions unconsciously. The questions would be things like “9 – 3 – 4 = ” and they would be followed by the presentation, fully visible, of a target number that the participants were asked to read aloud as quickly as possible. The target number could either be the right answer to the arithmetic question (so, in this case, “2”) or a wrong answer (for instance, “1”). The amazing result is that participants were significantly quicker to read the target number if it was the right answer rather than a wrong one. This shows that the equation had been processed and solved by their minds – even though they had no conscious awareness of it – meaning they were primed to read the right answer quicker than the wrong one.

The result suggests that the unconscious mind has more sophisticated capacities than many have thought. Unlike other tests of non-conscious processing, this wasn’t an automatic response to a stimulus – it required a precise answer following the rules of arithmetic, which you might have assumed would only come with deliberation. The report calls the technique used “a game changer in the study of the unconscious”, arguing that “unconscious processes can perform every fundamental, basic-level function that conscious processes can perform”.

These are strong claims, and the authors acknowledge that there is much work to do as we start to explore the power and reach of our unconscious minds. Like icebergs, most of the operation of our minds remains out of sight. Experiments like this give a glimpse below the surface.

READ IT!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

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Upping the Game

by Reb Gutman Locks   
   ​

Upping the Game

 

     My name is Ari (Aharon). I am 32 years old, I am blessed, thank G-d, with a wife and two beautiful children. I work as a mental health counselor. I have always been frum (religious) more or less, and have been struggling for years with spirituality and Judaism.

     I hit some harsh lows over the past few days and was thinking last night about the following irony. I care so much yet I do so little. I feel like I care more than the average person about these matters but seem to do less about it, at least consistently, then the average person. I am also preparing to "up my game" being that it is the new moon of the month of Adar and I have been mostly down for so long.

     I just stumbled across some videos of yours on YouTube and your words and energy really resonate with me. I am basically trying to reach out to you, as a fellow Jew to make a connection. I have many questions and issues but am, at this point, primarily saying "Sholom Aleichem" and introducing myself. I would love to hear back from you, even just for some one-time, brief words of encouragement.

Ari

 

Gutman's response:

Shalom Ari,

    You are indeed very fortunate, even blessed. Most people when they are down do not know enough to do something right to pick themselves up. They usually just stay there and complain.

     Here is how I suggest you "up your game." If you will do this consistently you will not only pick yourself up, but you will put yourself in an entirely different world of spiritual awareness. Try it and see.

     Whenever you make a braucha (say the blessing), as you say "…asher kiddishanu b'mitzvahtav" (…Who has made us holy with His commandments) stop there in the middle of the blessing for a moment, look at the tefillin, or the candles, or whatever you are using to do the mitzvah, and think, "When I put these tefillin on I become holy."

     Do you know what it means to become holy? Who could even dream of such a lofty thing, but here we are saying that doing this mitzvah actually makes us holy!

     The fact is only Hashem is holy and everything that we call holy, be it a mitzvah, or a Sefer Torah (scroll), or a righteous person, simply points to Hashem's holiness. This is why He commanded us to be holy and why He has given us these precious mitzvahs.

     Stop and think what is happening when you fulfill the will of Hashem, and if it does not bring you spiritual joy when you do it, you didn't do it right.   

     After you have done it a few times, and you see how it works, if you really want to get high, show another Jew how to do it, too. You'll see. It's guaranteed!

   Stay in touch

   Warm regards

Gutman

 

 


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Friday, February 20, 2015

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Snow at the Kotel


by Reb Gutman Locks

Rosh Chodesh Adar 
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

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United Against Jews?

via @alananewhouse & @Doranimated - Sticker on train in Rotterdam, Holland.

Note: Against JEWS, not Israel.

Canary in the coal mine.  When action is not quickly taken against this, the result is attacks and breakdown of civil society anywhere that THEY feel bothers them this week.  ATTACKS ON MAGAZINES, attacks on FREE SPEECH EVENTS, and just general attacks.  No go zones in your cities.

“It’s only the Jews being threatened” is coming home to roost.

image

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Arrival

20150210_225314

Arrivals Hall, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel.  The important question, how do they get down balloons people let go?

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A Little Jewish Boy

by Reb Gutman Locks   

   

A Little Jewish Boy

 

     I was sitting by the Kotel waiting for maariv (evening prayers). This cute little boy was standing some 15 feet away. I smiled at him and waved my fingers a little to say hello. He looked at me for a moment and then suddenly ran over to me. I wondered what he was doing. He bent over and gently kissed the back of my hand. Small children learn their ways from their parents. We grow with the values that we see when we are young. This little boy is leaning to respect his elders and will listen to their advice instead of only what the television teaches. If there were no other benefit than this, it would worth the energy it takes to keep a Torah observant home.

 

READ IT!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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A Historian Predicts What’s Next

Victor Davis Hanson is a historian’s historian.  He writes on what was, and how it brings us to what is.  He’s watched the deteriorating world situation not with alarm, but with an eye to historical patterns.  He’s latest article is a stark prediction of, from a historical perspective, where things are headed.  It’s long, and detailed, AND A CLEAR VISION.  It’s worth the time…  (highlighting, bolding, color changes, and [comments in brackets] are my additions)

THE RECKONING by Victor Davis Hanson

Let us start our grand tour of an increasingly out-of-control world in Russia. Putin plays a two-bit Hitler in trying to gobble up his neighbors. The West responds with a one-bit imitation of 1930s Britain and France [pandering, ignoring, appeasement] . ISIS reminds us that beheading and human incineration are contemporary, not pre-modern, practices. The only difference is that we video them on iPhones now rather hear rumors about them by word of mouth a year later.

Jews are wise to leave Europe in the manner that some of the lucky got out in the 1930s. The danger is not that we are facing a sudden war on any one front, but that all these fronts — the former Soviet republics, the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the roaming Islamic terrorist gangsters inside the West, and the Iranian soon-to-be-nuclear co-prosperity sphere from Yemen to Lebanon — are combining to create chaos as the new normal.

Whole swaths of the globe are becoming badlands that sane people avoid — the former Soviet republics, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, Persia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, and perhaps soon Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus — as if they were the national no-go-zone versions of our own New Orleans or Detroit.

Ceding prior U.S. influence to regional hegemons — China in Asia, Russia in the former Soviet Union, ISIS and Iran in the Middle East — is turning the world into a pre-globalized Wild West. Think of travel plans. See the Parthenon? But will Greece be bankrupt and on strike from the airport to the Acropolis? See the Dead Sea? Will the rockets come in from Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, or Iran? See South America? Tiptoe around the mess in Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, or Venezuela. See Paris or Copenhagen? Just don’t walk near a synagogue or kosher market. See St. Petersburg? Make sure there is not the next war nearby in Tallinn. See Turkey? The Hagia Sophia will probably be a mosque again soon.

The American Economy?

Hardly confidence there either. Bill Clinton slashed defense, hiked taxes and at least won a year or two of balanced budgets. Obama slashed defense, hiked taxes, and now brags that a $600 billion annual deficit is success — as if he still might not in his eight years double the amount of debt of all previous administrations combined.

What have zero interest rates accomplished? Another Wall Street bubble to implode, the end of passbook savings as we knew it for a century, and the encouragement of running up more national debt at a low annual service cost?

The Government?

What is terrifying about government now is not just that Obama has made it a tool of fundamental political transformation, by ignoring the enforcement of laws, overriding statutes through executive orders, and expanding entitlements to create new Democratic dependent constituencies. Scarier is the new 1984 state. The IRS is a rogue, but politicized organization that considers your politics in choosing audits. What exactly is NASA doing? The Justice Department sees the law as a hindrance to social justice. We can’t seem to find a secretary of Defense who can stand the White House effort to turn the Pentagon into something other than the military.

Government measurement of GDP and unemployment has been altered to suggest a robust economy. There is no such thing as an enforceable border, or perhaps a border at all. An illegal alien no longer exists. Amnesty is not so much a new law, as simply the relaxation of all immigration laws. The U.S. border is resembling the badlands between Syria and Iraq, where smugglers, cartels, and drug lords do as they please. What exactly is the status of ICE? Do agents arrest and release illegal entrants, or simply not arrest them at all? And if so, what then exactly are they doing?

Civic Harmony?

[In the U.S.] Racial relations have hit a new low in the age of “my people,” “punish our enemies,” and a “nation of cowards.” If an African-American entertainer does not win a Grammy, a celebrity rushes the stage to intimidate the winner. If an all African-American Little League team breaks the rules to win a crown, then the enforcement of the rules is deemed racist. If an Israel prime minister speaks to Congress without President Obama’s approval, then he is racist. What can be racism when almost everything is racist?

Is the new racism something akin to integration and assimilation, racially blind criteria for admissions and employment, a wish to make skin color incidental not essential to our characters, and a desire for legal, measured and ethnically blind immigration?

Where Does the Center Hold?

For bewildered and increasingly quietist Americans, the center holds mostly in family, religion, a few friends, the avoidance of the cinema and nightly news, the rote of navigating to work and coming home, trying to stay off the dole and taking responsibility for one’s own disasters — as the world grows ever more chaotic in our midst.

All sorts of escapism from the madness is now epidemic. Home-schooling. Gun ownership. A second home in the mountains. A trunk of freeze-dried food. Kids living in the basement. A generator. Some gold coins. A move to Wyoming. An avoidance of the old big cities. A tough choice between death and going to the nearby emergency room (at least your relatives are safe as you pass away at home). A careful and narrow selection of channels on cable TV. A safe room or escape plan. And on and on.

There is a strange new and dangerous sentiment brooding below the spoken surface that whatever is going on in the world and in America today cannot go on much longer — although as the sages say, there is a lot of rot in the West to enjoy for some time yet.

The postmodern world of our new aristocracy and the pre-modern world of those they both avoid and romanticize won’t hold. The old caricatured middle shrinks and turns inward. Even if the doomsday mood is a mere construct of the new instantaneous media, it is a dangerous mood nonetheless.

We all know what follows from this — either the chaos grows and civilization wanes and tribalism follows, or the iron hand of the radical authoritarian Left or Right correction is just as scary, or a few good people in democratic fashion convince the mob to let them stop the madness and rebuild civilization.

I hope for option three. I fear option one is more likely at home. And I assume that option two will be, as it always is, the choice abroad.

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Dear G-d…

by Reb Gutman Locks

Dear G-d…

 

      A Charedi boy is leaning against the new doorway to the inside area of the Kotel writing a note to Hashem.

     It has been a custom for some time to leave a note with a personal prayer between the stones of the Kotel and at the gravesites of Jews who lived holy lives. The idea is that Hashem listens more closely to prayers at these holy places.

     Prayer is a good way to become aware of Hashem's Presence. After all, if He weren't present what good would our prayers be? The fact is that Hashem is equally present everywhere at all times. There is no more of Hashem in a holy place than in an unholy place. But in holy places Hashem allows His Presence to be experienced more readily than in unholy places. Thus the custom of leaving prayer notes at the Kotel and at the graves of people who lived righteous lives.

     And, how should we pray our personal prayers? We should talk to G-d like we talk to our father when he is standing very close to us. The gemora tells us when we pray for others, especially for the very things that we need, Hashem will answer our prayers quicker. When we feel for others, Hashem "feels" for us. 

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

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“Did I Eat That Cookie?”

by Reb Gutman Locks

    

"Did I Eat That Cookie?"

 

     If you are over 50 years old… have you ever put a cookie down on the table in front of you, read for a minute or two, and then looked up and see that the cookie is gone? "Where'd that cookie go? Did I eat that cookie?" If you do not have small grandkids running around the room, the chances are you are experiencing the process called "getting older".

     There are things you can do to help, but for the most part, forgetfulness, of at least some degree, seems to be part of senior life.

     When you want to remember something, for instance today's date, say it in a couple of ways, such as, "Today is the 12th of the month. Twelve is two times six," and maybe also add, "Twelve is six plus six." If you want to remember someone's name think of that person and connect him with the one that name originally comes from. Such as, "My new acquaintance is called Moshe. Moshe led the Jews out of Egypt." By saying what you want to remember over again in a different way it gives you double the chances of remembering it.

     When you walk into a room and stop by the door and ask, "What did I come in here for?" do something else that has to be done for a minute, such as tidy the room…hang up something. Often the original reason you went in there will come back to you. Whenever you forget what you were supposed to be doing, clean up things that have to be cleaned anyway, and worse comes to worse you may not remember what you wanted to do, but at least the house will look nicer.

     Some say drink coco (I don't know if it works but it tastes good). The Talmud recommends olive oil (so do the health nuts).

     Most of all don't get frustrated. Frustration just makes things worse. Remember, the alternative to living a long life is living a short one. Thank G-d we still have what to do, and we are still here trying to do it.

 

 

 

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

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Birthright

​by Reb Gutman Locks
   

Birthright

 

     How do you make 16 young Jewish men happy? You bring them all the way from America to the Kotel, put tefillin on them and make them promise to marry only a Jewish girl. If that doesn't make them smile, then you tell them, "If you don't marry a Jewish girl, your mother will break both your legs!" That almost always does it.

 

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