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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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The Soul You Have Given Me

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
   

The Soul You Have Given Me

 

     The Soul is the life. There is some form of life even in inanimate objects. The molecules within all objects constantly move. This shows that there is life in there.

     The life of a plant is higher than the life of a stone. "Higher" here means that Hashem does not hide as much in the life of a plant as He does in the life of an inanimate object. Not only does life move inside a plant, it causes the plant to grow, to live, and to die. But even in a dead plant there is some form of life as surely there are molecules moving in there, too.

     Life in an animal is higher than the life in a plant. Animals have some form of will. They make conscious choices. They have intentions, likes and dislikes. They become tired; cry out when they are wanting.

     Even higher than the life of an animal is the natural soul of man. Mankind has freewill, he (or she) can choose between good and evil. This soul allows man the advantage of speech.

     Still higher than the natural soul of all mankind is the additional, spiritual soul that Hashem has placed in every Jew. This spiritual soul gives the Jew a tremendous advantage, but it also brings an even greater responsibility. Hashem has assigned the Jewish people to be a nation of priests, and to share His light with the world. In order to fulfill this mission He has placed within us this holy soul. There is nothing manifested anywhere that is higher than this soul. This soul is an actual portion, or breath of Hashem from on High. But even this holy soul has come about only after Hashem has hidden Himself in order to make that soul. "The soul you have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and you preserve it within me…."[i]

     All souls vivify, enliven the bodies they are placed in. That is their function. But this holy soul of a Jew does not physically vivify the Jew. It is placed there to make it easier for the Jew to become aware of Hashem's Presence. But, this added awareness of Hashem does not come automatically, not even to the Jew. Awareness of Hashem must be sought, desired, yearned for. If the Jew ignores this spiritual gift the gift will sleep within him. But no matter how long or how hard it sleeps, it can be awakened in a moment. Wake up…it's time to go to work.

    



[i] early morning prayer

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Monday, July 27, 2015

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After the Fast

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
   

After the Fast

 

     Around 1:30 this morning, I was walking to the Kotel to begin my daily schedule. To tell you the truth I wasn't feeling my normal "up" self. The fast was thirsty to say the least, but more than that my thirst started me thinking about this seemingly unending, extremely cruel exile.

     Okay, so I know that the Redemption is happening. We can see it happening all around, but still, those millions of innocent Jews who were pushed into the gas chambers kept coming to mind. I did my usual best of trying to smile, but in truth it was just a face. I wanted to cry for those innocent Jewish families being herded into hell.

     When I turned the corner I saw the young Chassidim of Belz sitting in their special formation. It seems that they sit like that to remind us of when Moshe split the sea for us to walk through on our way out of Egyptian slavery. I quickly set up for the minyan to the side and sat and began my schedule.

     Their singing was beautiful, not only was it melodic, it was sweet and heartfelt. I started to sing along with them and my soul began to climb back up to its "normal" outlook. It got to me. I cried and I cried again.

     Over and over again I see the answer to this cruel exile is not mourning. It is joy. Only joy will redeem us, not sorrow.

     Have a happy week.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

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Laws of Verbal Harrassement

Appropriate for learning the afternoon on Tisha b’Av.

via Lma’an Yishme’u

by Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Moreh Hora'ah - Beis Horaa Rechovot

The Torah says, "A man should not wrong his fellow."1 Chazal explain that one must be sincere in social interactions just as in business, and one may not harass another person verbally or cause him any discomfort (ono'as devarim).2

Here are some examples of this prohibition brought in halacha (Jewish religious law):

  1. One may not call a person by a derogatory nickname. Even if the nickname is generally used in a friendly manner (e.g. height, hair color), one may not use it if his intention is to make him uncomfortable.3

  2. One may not mention to a person a previous lifestyle that will make him uncomfortable (e.g. before he was Torah observant).

  3. One may not ask someone a question for which he won't know the answer and will be ashamed.4 Thus, one may not ask a guest to recite a dvar Torah if they don't have what to say.5 Likewise, it is forbidden to test a child on material or in a manner which he won't be able to answer, and he will become embarrassed (unless this is necessary to motivate him).6

  4. One may not knowingly send a person to a supplier that doen't carry the sought after product, thereby causing agony to the buyer or the seller.7

  5. One may not tell someone who is going through a hard time that they are at fault, because they didn't do what they were supposed to.8 One may only suggest that they reexamine their actions in a gentle way that won't hurt their feelings.9

Chazal say that verbal harassment is even more severe than causing financial damage since he hurts the person himself (not his property) and the misdeed cannot be undone (unlike a financial loss which can be repaid). If the one who was harassed cries out to Hashem he is immediately answered.10

Beis Din has the authority to punish a verbal harasser. Some say that he should be placed in nidui (a form of cherem) until he will monetarily appeases the offender, while others hold that he deserves makas mardus (lashes).11

1. ויקרא כה, יז.

2. ב"מ נח ע"ב.

3. שו"ע חו"מ סי' רכח ס"ה.

4 . שו"ע שם ס"ד.

5. ספר חסידים סי' שיב.

6. ראה פתחי חושן הלכות אונאה פט"ו הע' יב.

7. ראה שוע"ר הל' אונאה סכ"ח.

8. ראה שוע"ר שם, ומפרשי הגמ' בב"מ שם.

9. ראה ברכות דף ה' ובמפרשים שם, שהרי אמרו חז"ל שכשיסורים באים לאדם יפשפש במעשיו.

10. שוע"ר שם סכ"ז.

11. ראה פת"ח שם ס"ב ובהערות.

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In The Time of Golus

via Lma’an Yishme’u

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash (when the Jewish Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem), when the Divine Presence was openly manifest, the Divine sparks that had fallen into the kelipos were sifted and elevated as a matter of course: the kelipos spontaneously became null and void, losing their separate identity as they became incorporated in the forces of holiness, just as a candle becomes lost in a great flame. Moreover, Yidden delighted in their divine service on account of the intense revelation of Elokus in the Beis HaMikdash, and by nature they were drawn to it.

In the time of golus, by contrast, a man's avoda is motivated mainly by the attribute of Netzach, conquest. This involves battling and standing firm against all the internal and external forces that hinder anyone who seeks to draw close to HaShem. Indeed, the attribute of Netzach is aroused specifically when one is challenged by obstacles.

Another characteristic motivated by the attribute of Netzach: Even when one does not derive delight from the pleasant flavor (taam) of his service, he persists in his service notwithstanding, in a way that transcends intellectual delight and understanding (lemaala mitaam vadaas).

(אור התורה שיר השירים ע' קכד)

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Come Closer

via Lma’an Yishme’u

The Mezritcher Maggid taught that during the time of golus (exile) it is easier to connect to HaShem (G-d) than when the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) stood. In fact it is even easier during the Three Weeks, when the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed.

Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk explained this surprising statement by means of an "incredible and sweet mashal" that he once heard from the Maggid:

A close friend of the king once invited the king to come to a special feast in his home. The king of course turned down his warm request, since it is unbefitting for a king to leave his palace, apart from exceptional circumstances and extraordinary requests.

It once happened that the king was on the road and night was approaching, so he ordered his convoy to stop at a modest hotel in a nearby village. Although it was nothing like his magnificent palace, he was willing to spend the night there, provided that it was clean.

Similarly, in the times of the Beis HaMikdash one had to refine himself to lofty levels in order to acquire ruach hakodesh. But today, when the Shechina is wandering in golus, it will rest wherever it can find a home, so long as it is clean of sin.

The Koznitzer Maggid quotes the Mezritcher Maggid as finding an allusion to this in Eicha, which says, "All those who pursued her (רודפיה) caught her between the boundaries (bein hametzarim)." At the straightforward level of pshat, that possuk simply describes the nations' pursuit of the Yidden during that three-week period. Yet it can also be understood to refer to the special ability of Yidden to pursue HaShem (רודף י"ה) during this somber time.

(אור תורה אות שצט, נועם אלימלך כא ע"א, עבודת ישראל ר"פ מסעי)

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

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What Are You



by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
-

What Are You?


     What if you have been going through life
thinking that you are something that you are not? Then, somehow you find out
that you are really something else. Your entire life would probably change. You
might very well change the way you do even the smallest things in your life.
Your goals would most likely change and so would your daily experience. If this
were going to happen to you when would you like it to happen? Obviously, as
soon as possible.

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What Are You?

​   by Reb Gutman Locks  
   

What Are You?

 

     What if you have been going through life thinking that you are something that you are not? Then, somehow you find out that you are really something else. Your entire life would probably change. You might very well change the way you do even the smallest things in your life. Your goals would most likely change and so would your daily experience. If this were going to happen to you when would you like it to happen? Obviously, as soon as possible.

 

What Are You? 

(video link)

 

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What Are You



by YOUR-NAME at Mystical Paths
- type article here -
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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Defending Rabbi Arush, shlita

Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlita, is the rabbi of yeshiva Chut shel Chessed in Jerusalem, and known as the Breslev Tzadik of Meah Shearim.  He has a sizable following and institutional base in Israel, and is represented by Rabbi Lazer Brody who travels worldwide sharing some of R. Arush’s teachings and fundraising for his Torah institutions.

He’s recently come under fire for announcing he will no longer meet or directly council women (or directly give women blessings), that questions or request for blessings for the rabbi should be brought by their husbands (or, assumedly if unmarried, by their fathers’), or sent in writing to the rabbi.

Almost immediately after making this statement the wolves and trolls attacked.  Here’s a few:

-- If these men can't control themselves then make sure the door is open - which should be anyway - and there is someone sitting in the next room. What's next? Demanding that Jewish women wear burkas????

-- control thyselves.  Rabbis can always walk away or say NO.

-- It sounds as if women should have their own planet and nobody should be trusted in front of them because their have been some sick people who could not control themselves. And of course it must also make alot of sense to you that it is the women's problem that some men can't control themselves.

-- Men of any type can learn self control,so damn ridiculous. I've consulted with many rabbi's and NEVER had any hint of lust from ANY of them!!!!! Surely no mensch would EVER rape a woman! Disgusting to give any excuse for this vile behavior.

-- If these learned men can't control their urges around women why don't they live in enclosed communities similar to monks where they can avoid women at all cost.

The first and important question to be asked is what drove this change in position?  Rabbi Arush, shlita, did not EVER meet privately with women, so what’s driving this change from public / open door / and group meetings to complete avoidance?

The answer is seeing too many rabbis, rabbis of some renown, failing in this area.  And while in percentage terms it may be merely a handful among thousands or tens of thousands of rabbis, clearly:

.. There is inherent risk in this type of pastoral counseling, where vulnerable people are coming in vulnerable situations for advice / assistance / blessings.  This can lead to misdirected emotions toward the person providing help, similar to people falling in love with their doctor or nurse.

.. There is also an inherent power balance problem, and advice can have unintentional emotional impact.

.. Everyone has challenges with desires.  Under normal conditions, people keep their desires in check.  But what if you were presented with THOUSANDS of opportunities, some telling you how much they love and need you?  Are we expecting super-human perfection from our rabbis?

.. In a day of cell phones, Youtube, extreme feminism, and aggressive lawyers, even the slightest incident can be misinterpreted and reputation destroying (and edited down to make it appear that way).  And some incidents can indeed be set ups and attempts to take a rabbi down.

So in a month and year where a number of rabbis have had such negative claims brought against them, Rabbi Arush (shlita)’s reaction is VERY REASONABLE.

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The Home of Rabbi Aryeh Levine

I had a chance to tour the neighborhood bordering the Machane Yehudah shuk in Jerusalem this past week.  One of the special sites passed was the home of the famous tzadik of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, zt”l.

More on the tzaddik is here.  But here’s his home…

20150707_161025

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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When Brothers Appreciate One Another

“Chany F” shared the following story from our town in Israel on Facebook…

Just witnessed on the bus to Jerusalem:

It's a packed bus and there are no more seats to be had. A soldier gets on, big gun and all. A charedi guy (ultra-orthodox) sitting near the front gets up and tells the soldier to take his seat. Soldier smiles, refuses.

I'm sitting one row behind, across the aisle so I hear the exchange more or less.

The charedi guy says something like "you risk your life for mine, it's the least I can do." Soldier still refuses, thanks the charedi man and insists he sit back down. Soldier says ‘thank you for your offer’. Charedi man answers "no, thank you."

What a beautiful thing to witness, especially during the nine days. These kinds of stories, although not retold nearly as much as the negative ones, are much more indicative of our dear nation. How about we try to publicize these more than those.

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More Shared Divine Providence

Commentor R. Halevy shared this “story”…

MORE ON HASHGACHAH PERATIT:

A Jew flew back home to Brazil from a business trip to Japan, on an Emirates flight. The plane landed in Dubai, where the passenger stopped for 3 and a half hours before boarding another plane.

The day was already dawning, and the Jew was thinking how to do the mitzvah of putting on his tefillin. He wondered where he could find a safe place, walking up and down with his kippa on the head, in the middle of all those strangers who stared at him with an ice-cold look.

Roaming through the huge airport, in the middle of nowhere, suddenly he almost literally bumped into a man walking in the opposite direction — a bearded man with black suit, black hat and tzitzit!! The Jew looked around, a bit stunned, and noticed the crowd of hostile looking, turban-wearing men quickly passing by him and the black-hatted guy.

The chassid asked him in English "— Are you Jewish?". He answered affirmatively. They introduced themselves: the chassid was a Rabbi from Manchester, UK, flying back home from Dubai. He had been there for a few days, in order to perform the brit milah of the newborn son of a businessman on a temporary work assignment.

The Rabbi asked "— Have you donned tefillin today?" The Jew answered "— Well, no... but... I don't feel safe here, I think it may not be a good idea, you know — life risk?"

The Rabbi told him "— Come with me! I know a 100% safe place to daven, right here!!"

Not very happy with the idea, the Jew followed the Rabbi until he opened the door to the... entrance hall before the airport mosque!! There was a room with wooden benches and open cabinets to leave the luggage and shoes, where the muslim worshippers keep their belongings to go to the place where they wash their feet before entering the mosque itself.

The Jew got chills down the spine. Meanwhile the Rabbi opened calmly his bag, removed the tallit, tefillin and prayer book, just as if he were in a synagogue or any "normal" place. The perplexed Jew did the same. Both put on their tefillin and began to pray according to their respective books.

Suddenly, a tough-looking security guard came in, with an impeccable uniform and scary moustache, and asked the Rabbi "— Are you muslim???" The Rabbi softly answered "— No, we're Jewish. May we pray here?" The security guard, somewhat surprised, thought for a few seconds and then said, with an imperative voice "— You may as well pray, but stay here, do not enter the mosque!". The Rabbi agreed, and expressed his gratitude with a slight nod of his head.

The Rabbi and the other Jew prayed in a low voice, while several tall men went in, wearing turbans and tunics. They took their shoes off, stared shortly at the Jews and proceeded to the feet-washing facilities.

The Jew occasionally caught a glimpse of the Rabbi, who calmly prayed with his eyes closed, a slight smile on his face.

When finished, both began to put their tefillin back into their bags. Then the Rabbi opened up another small bag and... produced his “Rabbeinu Tam” tefillin, said the proper berachot, and after completing his mission he carefully and precisely wrapped the stripes around the small tefillin and stored them into the suitcase.
Upon leaving the mosque, the Jew closed the door after them and released a sigh of relief.

The Rabbi shook the Jew's hand warmly and, before parting ways, told him “— Do you see? When a Jew decides to do his Creator's will, nothing stands in his way!!"


====================================


Now for an important detail: the guy who experienced this story... it's me!! And the Rabbi who helped me do the mitzvah is Rabbi Yoel Niasoff from Manchester, UK Beit Chabad.

For me, this was just one more unmistakable proof of the Divine Providence, which seems to conspire in all possible ways in order to guide me through pleasant journeys — that is, whenever I make the right choices.


Shalom!!
R. Halevy.

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The Baal Teshuva vs. the Baal Mussar

​    by Reb Gutman Locks
   

The Baal Teshuva vs. the Baal Mussar

 

      A baal-teshuva is a "master of return." This is an encouraging title given to any Jew who returns to, or begins to follow the teachings of Torah. A baal-mussar is a religious Jew whose main Torah focus is self-improvement. The dictionary says that he is "virtually never free from his abiding and all-embracing drive for self-improvement.

     To be upfront about this, I am allergic to mussar. They seem to me to be doing exactly what keeps the vast majority of Jews away from the Torah. But it is a valid path of Torah studies, and it is a main school of thought within the religious community.

     Another main school of Jewish religious practice is broadly called Chassidus. A Chassid might be defined as a Jew who strives to reveal the soul of life by following the Torah and its mitzvahs.

     A baal teshuva can follow either, or both of these paths, or as often happens he (or she) might follow pretty much whatever he wants!

     I was looking at a mussar booklet that was discussing the Three Weeks. The Three Weeks recall the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temples. The booklet was explaining how you can maintain the grief and mourning without becoming depressed and miserable. My first reaction was; "I'm out of here!" but I decided to read a little more. It explained that their way of mourning was the solution to the Three weeks and the Nine Days.

     Next, it told of a major rabbi being visited by the Moshiach (Messiah) in a vision saying that he has not come yet because not all of the Jews are on a level to deserve it, and if he comes now they would lose out. The mussar rabbi told him to wait for all the Jews. I couldn't read any more.

     I am a baal teshuva, and as such I have my own ideas how to do things including the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, and what to tell the Moshiach.

     First off, the destruction happened because Jews hated Jews without reason, so the main, if not sole avoda (service) of the Three Weeks and Nine Days should be an all-out effort by the entire Jewish people to show Jews love without reason. This should be our extra daily effort these days. No mourning and no depression…just extra friendship and love without reason.

     Next, if the Moshiach would come to me in a vision and tell me about the Jews who were not ready for him to appear I would tell him that there will always be people not ready so he cannot wait for everyone but he should come immediately. And Hashem will have to forgive those of us who are not yet on the level to deserve him to come. If he asks why He should forgive all of us I will explain that the life we led that prevented us from being ready for him was enough of a punishment so we already paid the bill, and now Hashem can just let us in by a side door…that's pretty much how all the baal teshuvas got in anyway.

     With all my heart, I am telling you that the solution to the problems of the Jewish people is to love each other in a way that the other Jew sees what you are doing. Everything else, all the details, will work themselves out from the merit of this love. Try it and see. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

 

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Monday, July 20, 2015

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Knowing G-d

Reb Eliyahu di Vidas, student of the Ramak and the AriZal, writes in his classic work Reishis Chochma, that a Fear of HaShem can be acquired only by understanding who He is. A servant who doesn't know his master will not serve him properly.

(ראשית חכמה שער היראה פ"א)

Reb Avraham Ibn Ezra was traveling incognito and a certain Yid invited him in. He gave his guest a nice room and fine food, and treated him well.

Somehow word got out that the visitor was none other than the famous Ibn Ezra, so all the scholars of the town lined up outside the house to meet the great gaon and bask in his teachings. When the host found out who his guest was, he fell before Ibn Ezra and asked forgiveness for not having treated him properly.

"Why are you begging forgiveness?" asked the gaon. "You treated me wonderfully!"

"Yes," said the host, "but had I known who you were, I would have treated you even better."

Hearing this, the Ibn Ezra raised his eyes heavenward and said, "Ribbono shel Olam, I too must ask forgiveness for not having served You properly. Had I known Your true greatness, I would have served you much better."

(טללי תשובה ע' 533)

This, the Rebbe Rashab explains, was one of the reasons for the revelation of Kabbala and Chassidus in recent generations. Yidden of earlier times had lofty neshamos and they could bring themselves to love and fear HaShem, unaided. With the spiritual devaluation of successive generations, the potent spiritual revelation of the Zohar was revealed, to make people aware of HaShem. Later, due to a further descent, the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe were sent to bring introduce people to a deeper recognition and understanding and of HaShem.

To use a parable: A person who is healthy needs only regular food and drink to thrive; a person whose health is impaired also needs medicines. Similarly, in earlier generations, when klal Yisroel was spiritually healthy, it thrived on the simple meaning of the Torah. The secrets of the Torah were reserved for the spiritual elite. However, as the spiritual health of our nation gradually deteriorated, a strong medicine was needed.

(קונ' עה"ח פי"ג, לקו"ש ח"ל ע' 170, אג"ק ח"ד ע' שע"ז)

A Yid living in the times of the Alter Rebbe could boost his neshama to withstand the challenges of golus with concise and potent chassidic teachings, such as those of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid. The thorough understanding of Chassidus, as introduced by Alter Rebbe in Chabad Chassidus, was then a luxury, a foretaste of the revelations of Moshiach.

However, as the darkness of golus has deepened, the only way to withstand and survive its increasing challenges is to study and comprehend G-dliness.

(לקו"ש ח"ל ע' 170)

via Lma’an Yishme’u

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Hey, That’s My Prayer!

A commentor wrote…

B"H haTov vehamativ! I had the great fortune of having Shabbos dinner with Reb Gutman on my only trip to Israel back in February. It was full of open miracles, many regarding his words and advice to me. And now you've just randomly posted pictures of prayers tucked into the wall, and mine is very distinctly there! (Even after the Pesach cleanup, and he wouldn't have known where I put it!) May its message be heard and answered continuously! And may you be doubly blessed along with it, Reb Locks!

We occasionally merit to see open Hashgacha Pratit, Divine Providence in action.  The picture above was not taken by Reb Gutman, rather by Reb Akiva.  I was on a trip to the Old City with my father, may he live and be well, who was visiting from the U.S.  After I finished mincha (the afternoon prayer) at the Kotel (Western Wall), I decided to try a few macro pictures with my phone… apparently right where our commentor left his prayer many months before.

May all our prayers be answered!

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