4:00 A.M. at the Kotel, a young Chassid reading from a Prophet's scroll. His payot (side locks) are the same color and almost as long as the wooden staffs that hold the scroll.
An America man with a slight Russian accent came up to me at the Kotel and asked me to help him to put on tefillin. After he said the Shema and prayed for his family and for his other needs I asked him what he did for a living. He said that he was a doctor, a psychiatrist. He said that he works helping people to recover from alcoholism.
I said, "I have found the greatest mental health tool is simply to focus on good thoughts. All of us always have good going on in our lives and we also have bad going on in our lives. Whichever one we focus on that will be our mental condition. Depression can be left behind by forcing yourself to focus on the good.
"Do you have a tooth ache? No. That's good. Do you have someone chasing you trying to shoot you? No. That's good. On and on until you train yourself to focus on the good things and depression will be left behind."
He said, "You should open a clinic."
I said, "I have. You're standing in it."
Everyone you have the opportunity to speak with was put there for a good reason. You should look to see if you can pick them up so they will have a more successful life. All the more is this so when you help someone who helps others. In those same few minutes you will end up helping hundreds of people.
One question I had: What lessons can we learn from family stories in the Torah?
I remember one rabbi telling me, for instance, that the story of Jacob and Joseph teaches us that showing favoritism to one child over the others can lead to strife. I'd love to know what other wisdom we can learn from the Bible's family stories. (And do you agree with the rabbi's interpretation of Jacob and Joseph?)
Your rabbi friend was telling you what the commentators wrote and is well known.
The value of the Torah is not that it is merely our history, but that it is the ongoing story of our lives today. Every occurrence recorded in our "Biblical" history is there for us to learn how to guide our lives.
As for a prime example of something that happened way back then that virtually no one relates to in their own life, but is truly essential, is the story of Yacov, Rachel and Leah.
Yacov meets Rachel and she is beautiful. Yacov falls in love with Rachel and Yacov marries Rachel. Yacov goes to sleep with Rachel and Yacov wakes up with Leah! Leah is Rachel's sister and she is plain looking… Yacov would not marry her but Rachel's and Leah' father switched the girls without Yacov knowing it!
Yikes! What a miserable disaster. Rachel is beautiful…Leah is not. Yacov loves and marries Rachel and now he has ended up with Leah. It turns out that he has to be with Leah for the week, and then he can also marry Rachel and have both of them for wives.
What can we learn about this unique and once in the history of the world occurrence?
When you stop and think of it…everyone marries Rachel and everyone wakes up with Leah. Rachel is beautiful and Yacov falls in love with her for that reason. Rachel is Yacov's earthly wife, the one he physically loves. Leah is plain looking so Yacov does not want to marry her, but really Leah is Yacov's spiritual wife, the one Hashem has chosen for him, so Hashem, (in the guise of Leah's father) puts her into Yacov's arms.
All of us marry Rachel, the one we love and think is so beautiful, our earthly wives… but then, after the first month or two, or after the first year or so, we look over at our wife Rachel, and see that she is really Leah. The earthly beauty becomes familiar after a while and we see that indeed we have married our spiritual wives the ones Hashem intended for us to marry.
A group 39 Americans came to the Kotel last week. Half of them were Jewish. Almost all of the other half were x-ians. They were firefighters from around the United States and when the call came for volunteers to fly to Israel to help with the terrorists' forest fires they jumped at the chance. They did not receive any money for their work.
What happens in the heart of someone that says, "Someone needs my help and even though I have to leave my comfortable life and family here at home, and even though there is a very real life threatening risk, I'm going?"
It's called their "good inclination". G-d bless them.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
The American Center in Jerusalem, Israel is the U.S. cultural outreach facility of the U.S. State Department. In their own words…
The American Center is a section of the Office of Public Affairs (of the U.S. State Department) and is an information resource as well as an educational and cultural center with a range of activities aimed at the Israeli public. The Center strives to initiate and strengthen bonds between Israelis and the United States, and to promote understanding of U.S. policies, society, values, and culture. It also provides a platform for English language teaching.
The Center promotes public knowledge and awareness of these topics through its information services, cultural programs, exchange programs for groups and individuals and through social networks, and meetings with American experts, in cooperation with local institutions.
For those who don’t know, my family and I live in the Land of Israel. We made aliyah, immigrated and became American ex-patriots, from the United States. My wife and I, and all my children, maintain our American citizenship (though I understand the U.S. has made it cost thousands of dollars, multiple months, and require multiple meetings with a psychologist [the last may be a slight exaggeration – it’s multiple meetings with an embassy official] to give up one’s U.S. citizenship.)
My high school daughter’s English language class had a school trip to the American Center several weeks ago, a few days before the U.S. election. This sounded interesting to me before she went, as she’s now been in Israel for about half her life and her exposure to American culture is limited to American Jews who have moved to Israel and whatever Hollywood or Youtube garbage that leaks past our internet filters.
I have 4 children that were of age to vote in the U.S. election, and there was some heavy discussion on whether they should or not, wanted to or not, and whether it matters or not. We did limit our discussion of the candidates to the last few weeks before the election, THANK G-D. (Because who in their right mind wants to listen to the media blather on for a year about every triviality?) So my daughter was primed on political discussions, and on not accepting PROPAGANDA.
She expected her trip to be interesting…some of her advanced English class are Americans or from other English speaking countries, but some are Israeli – and they would be looking to her to help understand or explain (in Hebrew) some concepts that might be presented.
She arrived home and said “the trip was a nightmare!”. I asked what happened. “The whole trip was Democratic Party propaganda. They talked about the American governmental system…and how the Republicans have ruined it (by not voting for what Obama wants in Congress?). They talked about how Hillary is the most awesome candidate with the most experience of any candidate ever (somehow experience was not an important requirement for Obama?). They talked about how Trump was dangerous, racist, anti-Semitic, causing hatred in America.” Finally my daughter couldn’t stand it anymore and stood up and ask, loudly, if they were going to teach culture or Democratic Party propaganda? That didn’t American’s have a right to an alternative opinion? And she said this wasn’t just one person, this was the whole staff…the tour guide, the cultural attaché, the consultant representative.
After the tour her teacher (an Israeli) called her over. She was worried, would she get in trouble for challenging the “American officials”? Her teacher said, “thank you for responding to them, even I was surprised and getting sick of it.”
Apparently the U.S. State Department Office of Public Affairs had decided that foreigners must learn that only Democratic Party positions in the U.S. are valid, and Republican positions are dangerous. Way to teach U.S. democracy guys!
Hi R' Locks,
I hope you are well. Just a quick question:
I understood by reading your books and articles and also by watching your videos that you took on the Hasidic costume, why? Why not stay simply Ashkenazi?
You talk a lot about Chabad, why are you not more into Chabad/Lubavitch? Is it because a majority of them say that the Rebbe is Mashiah?
Regarding dress, it is best to fit into the community where you daven (pray). Here, in Jerusalem my custom of dress fits in with both the daily Ashkenazi and Chassidic dress.
As for Chabad, the Rebbe said, "To please me, you do not have to dress like I do. You have to use your energy as I use mine." I never took on the customs of Chabad, but I have always tried to follow the good advice of the Rebbe.
The unique teaching of the Rebbe is having his Chassidim to not only love their fellow Jews, but to do something about that love. He taught them to follow up on that love by bringing Jews to do mitzvahs. This gives the Jews they find a unique spiritual opportunity, and it gives the Chabadniks a great boost in the eyes of Hashem.
Since you mention this sensitive subject, know that the Rebbe screamed on a number of occasions that his Chassidim should not call him the Moshiach (Messiah). He said, "You will ruin it for me." Once, he even told the speaker at a dedication to tell the huge group of his Chassidim that he was not the Moshiach.
This issue has caused great distress for Chabad. Most people assume that all of Chabad follows the ones who scream "yechi" and wave flags, but really the vast majority of Chabad, especially the ones in the field reaching out to Jews are following what the Rebbe said.
As to which path you should follow; one of the greatest Chassidim of the Rebbe, the holy Reb Mendel Futterfas was asked which path (religious community) was best to follow. He answered; "The one that gives you the most joy."
Dear Gutman Locks,
Please forgive me for intruding on your precious time, which I assume to be very valuable and very limited, owing to all your work that you do.
I came across your videos on YouTube, and I really like your style. I like the straight talking attitude. That is why I wrote to Chabad.org to ask if they could let me contact you, but then I found your address.
Anyway let me explain why I am writing.
First off, my mother was not Jewish, father was because his mother was, but not her mother. So I understand that in terms of Halakha I am not Jewish. My father's family is also mixed up like this but they're not important at this point.
Anyway from a young age I have had dreams of a strange nature. I won't go into much detail but I know that they portray a life that seems like my own, but obviously cannot be because it appears to be pre-1939 Europe. So I thought the most obvious reason was this was due to books or motion pictures influencing this. However there was also a strong desire to be Jewish.
This was at odds with everything around me other than a few remnants of philosophy or artifacts, like a star of David bowl my Jewish aunt gave my parents as a wedding present.
However the older I get, the more I desire to become a fully fledged Jew.
Even though I disagree with some of the Laws. I still want to follow them.
I also know that I don't need to be a Jew, but yet the desire or the wanting is so strong, to join this group of people.
I don't understand it at all. I don't understand why I would desire this; to join a persecuted people, or to "restrict" my life. Because logically it makes no sense to my secular mind, but in a stronger and more forceful part it doesn't seem like a restriction at all.
Am I crazy? Am I lost? Am I confused?
When non-Jews come to convert we are instructed to send them away. The reason is not to be mean, but to encourage them to try to find the spiritual path they were born to. Almost always this is best for them. They should learn and follow the Seven Commandments of Noah. This will give them a wonderful life in this world and a share in the World to Come. This is the easiest thing for them.
You wrote that your "father was Jewish because his mother was, but not her mother." Were you referring to your mother here or your father's mother's mother? If your father's mother was Jewish then your father was Jewish. You have to verify the facts before you can know what to do.
If your father was indeed Jewish as you have stated, then there is an exception to the sending away non-Jews who want to convert rule. If their father is Jewish, for his sake we are to try to help that person convert if that is their true desire.
If your father was Jewish then it could be that your spiritual inclination is being nudged by your father's mother's soul. Maybe you should go to your closest Chabad rabbi and tell him your story and then follow his advice. Any orthodox rabbi should be able to guide you, but do not be satisfied with a non-kosher conversion as the orthodox Jews would never accept such a conversion.
Know now before you might start, it is a long path of study, practice, and tons of rules.
Hi! My name is Yisroel
I emailed you around a year ago about martial arts and chi, you wrote this article afterwards http://www.mpaths.com/2015/10/
Boruch Hashem, since then i stopped doing chi exercises and eventually kung fu. (It's hard to find good forms without chi) and went to Krav maga. I even threw out my books on chi and kung fu. It spoke about enlightenment stuff at the end.
You told me if you feel "energy" moving around your body stop the practice and do not do it again.
The thing is sometimes throughout the day I could feel a sensation or like a small tingle inside. Like when getting up after sitting for a while or while exercising or just plain. Also sometimes while davening i could feel by an emotional part like a sensation rushing through or while learning or when listening to an emotional song.
So whenever i felt it i stopped for a second or till i didn't feel it or kind of "shuckled" a little faster (i used to daven more relaxed and shuckle slowly). but now its harder to concentrate.
What i felt may be natural, its not like a Big feel of energy rushing through just like a tingling feel or like blood circulating.
So should i worry any time i feel something or should i continue like davening and just not focus on it? is it a problem at all?
Thank you very much!
The energy I cautioned you about is stong and might even move around the body. What you seem to be describing sounds completely natural and should be fine.
It is good that you discarded those other systems and found a kosher way to satisfy your desire for martial arts. It is a blessing that you saw in the end that they wrote about enlightenment. Such teachings are invariably interwoven within their physical systems.
Enlightenment is an entirely spiritual subject, and what they call their enlightenment would be darkness to a Jew. A Jew must find his or her fulfilment within proper Jewish sources. No other system will lead to the revelation of Hashem's presence, and this is our goal in life.
If a Jew, even a religious Jew, would feel that his spiritual satisfaction was within any path other than Torah, that system would become his way of life, his very being, while Judaism would become his religion, at best.
Whatever you do throughout your day, be it work or martial arts, think about Hashem and your will life will be successful.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
There is a mitzvah in the Torah called Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick. Technically it’s described as “Bikur holim is from the Torah, when God visits Abraham after his circumcision (Genesis 18:1). Bikur holim is mentioned in the Talmud many times, and Nedarim 39a and 39b state that "[One must visit] even a hundred times a day" and that "He who visits a person who is ill takes away a sixtieth of his pain."
We find a common report from those who are sick for an extended period of time and for mourners… it appears to them that they have entered an alternate reality. For the mourner who has lost a close loved one, life is on hold. He or she struggles to function in a world without their loved one, and adjust to going forward in life without them.
For the sick, they are struggling to recovery and struggling to function to whatever extend they are currently able.
In both cases they are intensely turned inward, and in many ways the world passes by without them even realizing it. And in both cases we have G-dly commandments to “comfort the mourner” and “visit the sick” – to draw them out, remind them that loved ones, friends, and community are still there for them, and that they are valued.
This is not a minor thing. It’s very easy for both the sick and mourners to fall into depression, to dwell on the negative of their situation, to get stuck turned inward.
Often those who have mourned are those who rush to others who are mourning, for the fully understand the immense value of being comforted. For those who have not mourned it often seems uncomfortable – you don’t know what to say, you don’t even know if you should sit quiet, or even if your presence is welcome. Be assured, the value the of mitzvah is immense to those being comforted – whatever it’s value may be in Shamayim (in Heaven), it’s value on Earth is great.
And visiting the sick can be even more uncomfortable. What do you say? Will you be staring at tubes or machines, or near someone who is coughing or other things that you might catch? But again, be assured that the value is immense, letting the person know they are cared about and the world and community and family hasn’t forgotten them.
These mitzvot are considered important enough that they are mentioned daily in Jewish morning blessings. And while those blessings end with “and Torah learning is equal to them all”, it’s not INSTEAD of them. Today, Thank G-d, you may not know the value of these mitzvot. Some day, most likely, most of us will.
A bubba meisah is Yiddish for a "Grandmother's tale," an old wife's tale. There are a number of customs, some widely practiced in the Jewish world that have no source, no gemara (Talmud) no halacha (Jewish law), but still they persist. For the most part they are harmless, unless they are being handed down as halacha, because they are not.
One such fairly common custom is to gently tug on your left ear lobe after you sneeze. I can see where such an idea might have come from and it is interesting, but again, it is not a valid Torah custom.
We learn that prior to Yaacov, our Father, people did not get sick before they died. They simply sneezed and their soul immediately left their bodies. Unlike this, the Torah relates that Yaacov became ill before his passing which gave him time to give instructions and blessings to his family.
People are born head first and are put into the grave feet first. So imagine a sweet old lady hearing that people would sneeze and immediately leave the world. Then, if she would hear her husband sneeze, she would say, "Oy!" and quickly reach out and pull on his ear lobe to prevent him from going into the next world. Why the ear lobe? Because the rest of his body may have already started to leave and only his head was left so she tugged him back into this world. Good for her! Well, at least she thinks she did good. After all, her husband is still here even though he sneezed.
Dear Mr. Locks,
I have just received your excellent Gematria, The Spice of Torah. https://www.judaicapress.com/
I am a Jewish playwright beginning research for a new play. Gematria plays a small but interesting role.
The protagonist is a brilliant former Yeshiva student who unfortunately is bipolar and, for the duration of the action, is in a manic (agitated) state. He is giving his interpretation of the concentration camp tattoo (number) on his father's forearm.
I take it from your book that Gematria is most often used to give numerical values to words in order to find the deeper relationships between them. But it can go the other way as well - finding the words associated with the numbers - as laid out in the book.
There may not be a clear answer for what I'm about to ask, but please do what you can.
If a brilliant student of gematria (or more broadly, Zohar) were looking at such a number - let's say 346951 for example - how would he likely approach it?
Each number separately, by pairs, groups of three or some other way or ways?
Your response is most appreciated.
Is that a survivor's actual number?
It is not for anyone to say why horrible things happen to another person. They themselves should look into it to try to find anything that might be telling.
Using gematria, the number could be searched in any number of ways, especially if you have sentence gematria available, but for single-word gematria that number can be searched in a limited number of ways. Such as, 34-69-51 or 3-46-951, and searching there for anything that might be appropriate.
I grouped the first three numbers and the last three numbers and looked in my gematria sefer.
I saw at 346---"the guilt offering" and at 951---"Israelite." This encourages the belief that the number was a sign of the holocaust's spiritual cause. Again, it is not for someone who did not experience that horror to say why someone else had to go through it, but those words are there.
This does not in any way say that the person with that number did something to have to bring a guilt offering, at least not in this life time, but all things happen for a reason, even the holocaust.
We have been told that when all of the causes for this exile have been rectified, then the redemption will finally come. Today, as the Land of Israel is booming we see the redemption prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled in our day.
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