A conversation about G-d, mysteries of the universe and soul, Israel... and speculation about biblical prophecies and the end of days.

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Monday, May 02, 2016

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Strictness of Strictness

by Reb Nati @ Mystical Paths

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Sefiras Ha’Omer, the mitzvah of counting the days from Passover until Shavuot.  According to chassidic teachings, each day corresponds to an attribute on the kabbalistic chart of heavenly sefirot.  Day one is Chesed she’b’Chesed, kindness of kindness, the second day is Chesed she’b’Gevurah, kindness with strictness/awe, etc.

Today is the most narrow bridge of all, Gevurah she b'Gevurah (strictness of strictness)....but the greater the constriction of the Light, the sharper the focus of the laser beam will be, the sharper the focus of the beam the easier the Light cuts through all the klipot (husks / shells) which try to block our development.

When things seem hard, GOOD, if the Water (Torah/Life) feels hard it means that the faucet is opened up full force.

L'Chaim – to life!

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International Battle of the Kosher Cream Cheese

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

20160502_112056The taste of home.  If you are from America and keep kosher, chances are you use Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  Tastes of the generations changed and rather than the hard block of cream cheese, the newer “whipped” became popular.

If you are in America and keep glatt kosher (in it’s colloquial meaning – higher level kosher, not in it’s strict meaning relating to shechita), you won’t use Philadelphia Cream Cheese because it’s not cholov Yisroel (without getting into the details - a standard of kosher in milk).  Fortunately there are companies that address this market need and replicate popular market products with up-level kosher-standard products for the glatt level US kosher market.  J&J is such a brand.

In Israel these up-level kosher-standard products are not imported from the US, that market segment is filled by the Israeli dairy companies.  But cream cheese has been an American thing and wasn’t produced by any of the Israeli companies…leading some ambitious importer to bring in Philadelphia Cream Cheese…block style (guess it’s smaller and lasts longer?)  Which is not an acceptable kosher level for the up-level kosher-standard keepers (that’s me!)

(Wow, way to wordy-explanatory.  But I’m not going back and deleting it.)

Fortunately the Israeli companies brought a series of cream cheese onto the market about 7 years ago, iterating through slightly different consistencies and added flavors until they arrived at a popular standard… “Fat Cheese – 25%”, “Fat Cheese 18%”, and “Fat Cheese with Flavors (Dill, Garlic or Onion) 16%”.

Anyway…somebody decided for Passover to bring in the up-level kosher product, and we have in hand one container of J&J (Philadelphia Style) Whipped Cream Cheese – at 2 1/2 times the cost of the local product.  So we can now do an actual side by side comparison of Israeli (Fat) Cream Cheese and US Cream Cheese.

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1. Consistency:  The Israeli product is a little looser, and gets some separation after some days open.  The American product is more fluffy, but I was surprised at the gummy feel of the texture.

2. Color:  The Israeli product was very bright white.  The American product had a slight yellow or tan tinge to it. 

3. Taste:  (of the plain product)  The Israeli product has a milky creamy taste with a bit of sourness like sour cream.  The American product has a creamy cream taste.

4. Mouth Feel:  The Israeli product is pleasant and smooth, with a hint of wetness.  The American product is soft but slightly gummy.

In a side by side I was surprised to note the bit of sourness of the Israeli product, and the gummy feel of the American product – neither taste that I would have noticed without a side by side comparison. 

I’m surprised to say I’ll stick with the Israeli product even with the arrival of the American which formerly graced our table.

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

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I'm Interested in Spirituality

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
    

I'm Interested in Spirituality

 

Hi Rabbi Gutman:)

     I'm reading your book now (Coming Back to Earth), and I really enjoy it. It's fun to see where your search for peace has taken you. 

     I also have an urge to explore this side of life, but I feel that as a Jew I should try and find the same thing in Judaism. I've been attracted by books such as the Bhagavad Gita, and Zen Buddhism, but I'm trying to practice Judaism instead.

    But I don't really know why I'm doing this... 

    I'm interested in spirituality, and all I know is that certain traditions can bring peace and energy. Do I really need to believe that God gave the Torah at Mount Sinai? It seems so irrelevant to my life. Why not just experience God through the way that is most accessible and attractive to me?

    Another question I have is about spirituality. How do you think Judaism compares, spiritually speaking, to Eastern religions? 

Can it bring the same sort of peace of mind? 

Does it have a different "flavor"? 

Is it stronger/weaker?

     It feels strange writing to you. I've appreciated your videos and your book but never thought of communicating with you, from across the world.

Hope to hear from you soon...

Thank you!

Michael

 

Gutman's response:

Shalom Michael,

     You are a Jew. You were born a Jew for a good reason. As a Jew you have been given the proper path for you to find spiritual success. You will not find it in those other places. What you do find there that you think is spiritually high is really like smoking drugs; you will experience a high that goes up and down but really goes nowhere. It is a "high" that actually prevents you from finding the true High.

     The valid spiritual experience comes when you direct your heart to Hashem. The more you do it the greater the experience.

     The difference between a valid spiritual experience and the East is like day and night. If you do not believe that Hashem gave us the Torah then you will not come to the spiritual goal of Torah. The primary spiritual goal of the East is to come to peace and to prevent reincarnation through detachment. The primary spiritual goal of Torah is to reveal G-d's Presence in the world.

     Compare the peace that comes from total detachment to the peace that comes from revealing Hashem's Presence. When you are totally detached you have ignored the world around you. You are unaffected by the suffering that you either do not see, or "know" was divinely destined.      

     When you have revealed Hashem's Presence you are at peace while you work for Him to relieve the suffering that you cannot help but see.

     Keeping the physical Torah will give you a wonderful physical life, family, stability, joy, but to have the spiritual benefits of Torah that you seek you have to try to direct your heart to Heaven over and over again, especially when you are doing a mitzvah. You have to work hard to receive the valid spiritual experience in Torah. It does not come automatically with the physical Torah.

     Often, especially when we are young, what is most attractive to us is not necessarily what is best for us. In fact, the Torah warns us not to follow our eyes and heart as they will lead us astray. Follow the tradition that your people have followed for the past 4000 years. We are Jews here today because of them. The Jews who follow the Torah have Jewish families, Jewish grandchildren and Jewish greatgrandchildren. The Jews who stray to the East rarely see any importance in maintaining a Jewish People.

     Also, remove those books on idolatry that are in your possession as they can pervert the "High" that you are seeking. The "higher" you come the more dangerous they are. You can nullify the most treacherous poison if you add enough pure water. But no matter how many good thoughts you might have they cannot nullify the tiniest bit of idolatry. 

Be well

Gutman

 

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

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Messianic

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
    

Messianic

 

     I was walking down the stairs by the Kotel to go for mincha (afternoon prayers). I noticed this unusual looking man having his picture taken while he was touching the big mezuzah (scroll) that is attached to the tunnel entrance. He was wearing a kipa (head cover) and tzitzis (religious fringes), but he did not look Jewish, not at all. I wondered if he was a ger (convert) or maybe an overly enthusiastic Ben Noah (a righteous gentile who keeps the 7 Commandments of Noah).

      About an hour later he walked by the tefillin stand and I asked,

     "Where are you from?"

     "Arkansas."

     "What's your name?"

     "Randy."

     "Are you a convert?"

     "No."

     "You're not Jewish, are you?"

     "No."

     "A Ben Noah?"

     "What's that?"

     "A righteous gentile who keeps the Commandments of Noah."

     "No. I'm messianic."

     That explained it all. A "messianic" is a gentile who believes that yushka was the moshiach (messiah). They try to mix the little bit they have read about Judaism with x-ianity. There is no way to change their belief… well not on the spot, but you can give them information that later, when they are ready, when a few more challenges come to their irrational beliefs will help them to move away from that foolishness.

     "Let me ask you a question. You read the Bible, right?"

      He nodded, yes.

     "In the Bible it says that the messiah has to be from King David's tribe. That's the tribe of Judah."

      He nodded that he agreed.

     "And the Bible clearly says that the tribes go by the father; whatever tribe a Jew's father is from, that Jew is also from that tribe."

      He was okay with that… until the next sentence.

     "Now who was your messiah's father? I read your book. It wasn't anyone from the tribe of Judah."

    They believe that yushka was born from a virgin mother, that there was no man involved, that his mother was impregnated by the "holy ghost"!

    "There are no ghosts in the tribe of Judah!"

    "You gave me something to think about," and he turned and walked away.      

     Almost always, when a x-ian is challenged he walks away.

     The truly sad thing about them is that they really want to do good, but someone has sold them a bill of counterfeit information.

     I made a video of me being interviewed by a Pastor. It has been uploaded onto a number of channels, some with Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and even Serbian subtitles. On the combined channels it has received well over 2 ½ million views. It will show you how to answer the missionaries.

Answers to a Pastor 

 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Passover Chol HaMoed Meditations

by Reb Aharon Rubin of www.Jewish-meditation.weebly.com

Just a few thoughts.

G-d always is giving of His. It’s up to us to emulate Him. That’s what Pesach is about.

Matsah is fire, water and earth. No wind. No air. That air is us. This is symbolic of G-d restricting, as it were, to give us free will. To create the illusion of us doing. But in truth, we do nothing except to tune ourselves to the awareness of G-d. (הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים)

Awareness of G-d is  ד'יראת. That is the door to all. That awareness should permeate everything.  Like air. Air in Hebrew is אויר. The original pronunciation is Awir. I. e. ‘aware’! Awareness of G-d is ubiquitous.

אויר makes up the first letters of  ויראהאהבה. אהבה is active. יראה is passive. Through doing (אהבה) G-d-actions [‘Mitsvoth’], one gains awareness of G-d (יראה). That’s the secret of   הולידאברהם

את יצחק.

This is the sequence of Pesach to Shovuos through the Sefiras HoOmer.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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Wandering Jews

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
    

Wandering Jews

 

      Shmuli pointed to two guys sitting over to the side and said, "They're Israelis. The one on the left is living in Hawaii. He said that he put on tefillin today, but I doubt it, and the second one refused. Maybe you can get them."

      I walked over and asked, "Which Island are you living on?"

     "Maui."

     "By Makena Beach"

     "No. On the other side."

     "Over by the waterfalls?"

     "Yeah, close to them."

     He was impressed that I knew the Island. Not so many charedi-looking Jews know Maui. It helps a lot to be friendly with the ones you know are going to refuse before you ask them to put on tefillin. It can open the door.

     They were coming from India, having visited their guru. Such Israelis are very difficult to convince to do anything at all with the Torah. They have already strongly rejected it for many years. They see the Torah as restrictive and their guru's teachings as enlightening. But due to my background I was able to get them both to put on tefillin and to pray deeply for the things they wanted to bring into the world.

     After we took off the tefillin I said, "There are so many things that I would like to share with you but at least let me show you two major differences between the Torah's teachings and the way your guru thinks."

     That put them on the defensive even more.

    "Look at your body. It seems to be solid, but really it is some 99.9% empty space and zillions of molecules."

     They agreed.

     "And each molecule is made up of zillions of atoms and 99.9% empty space."
     They were fine with that, too.

     "And the atoms are made up of quarks, and then gluons, and on and on, smaller and smaller forms until you finally come to what the body is really being made of. Nothing! The entire creation is being made out of nothing."

     "That's right," they insisted, "It's all an illusion!"

     "That's one of the big differences I wanted to show you. Yes, it is being made out of nothing, and yes at any moment it might revert back to nothing, but right now it is something. It is a real creation, albeit temporary, and made out of nothing. The world has been created for a purpose; it is a holy opportunity if you use it right. It might be a delusion to most people, but it is not an illusion."

     "No. It's nothing, a dream, an illusion. Like something being raised up by a magician's wand."

     "No, it is a real creation. It is being put here for a purpose. Think about it for a while."

      And the other thing I wanted to share with you is that G-d is Infinite."

     "Of course, we know that."

     "And the Infinite has to be all or else It would not be Infinite."

     "Obvious."

      "The Infinite is all, but you are finite. You are not the Infinite."

      "I am a part of the Infinite."

      "No, the Infinite has no parts. It is always One."

      "I am a piece of the Infinite."

      "You cannot break off a piece of the Infinite. The Infinite is always One. It is All, and It is everywhere. You are not everywhere. Your guru says that he is a "G-d realized being" so he is G-d. No. G-d is all. Your guru is not all. The Infinite is all including the finite, but the finite is not the all. The finite is just one little finite entity. Only the Infinite is G-d."

     A couple of their friends walked in. The friends were obviously on the same "spiritual" trip as they were so it strengthened their negative attitude towards Torah.

     They walked away seemingly unchanged. Actually, the one on the left had an especially warm experience praying for his loved ones.

     Will they change? Not immediately, at least not that I could see, but the information is in their heads now, and when they are ready it could very well help them to come home.

 

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Monday, April 25, 2016

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Trends Tell the Future–Children Around the World and Among Religious Jews

image(Washington Times) American fertility has reached a record low... Overall, America’s total fertility rate fell to just 1.86 births per woman, the lowest since 1986 and a 1 percent decrease from 2012. That figure puts the U.S. on the same course with many Western European nations and Japan, where the birth rate has fallen below what demographers call the “replacement rate,” usually around 2.1 births per woman, needed to keep a country’s population from falling. The U.S. last had a total fertility rate of 2.1 births in 2007.

(LA Times) In 2015, the nation’s birth rate rose 1%, the first increase in 7 years.  But that wasn’t enough babies to keep the U.S. population steady.  Calculations show that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would give birth to 1,861.5 babies over their entire lives. But in order for a generation to replace itself, those 1,000 women would need to have 2,100 babies.

(The Japan Times) In Japan, there has been a generation of birth rates below replacement level.  The population has begun to decline and the proportion of people of working age continues to decrease. The birthrate is well below replacement level. Japanese people are aging fast while life expectancy continues to increase. The implications for the Japanese economy and for Japan’s position in the world should be obvious.

Japanese political and business leaders prefer not to discuss the long-term issues.  The decline in the number of young Japanese people has implications for high schools and universities as well as for industry and commerce. It also means that it will become more and more difficult to fund pensions for old people and to find carers for them.  Japan faces massive demographic problems that will not go away.

(Gizmodo) What are the long term effects of China’s one child policy?  It's much easier to reduce the fertility rate than to increase it. So the growth rate of China's population will probably continue to go down — and the population actually shrink.  "If you count the so-called ripple effect and echo effect, it could be endless,". Within 200 or 300 years, the population of China could "diminish very dramatically," with the population being cut in half if current trends continue. Usually, population experts consider 2.1 births per woman the minimum amount needed to maintain a stable population size, so China's rate of 1.5 per woman is one-third below "replacement level." This means every generation is smaller than the last, and the number goes down exponentially.

Thus, even if the one-child policy has had a less dramatic effect than the Chinese government likes to claim, it could have a huge effect in the next century.  A general population decline, around the world, might not be a bad thing, since "we have enough people to go around," but if the trend continues too long, "that's a different story."

And what’s the story in Israel?

(Jewish Virtual Library) Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world.  As opposed to the international average of 1.7 children per woman, Israel's rate stands at 3 children per woman because of Israel's large Orthodox Jewish population (that have large families of 5 or more children – however even secular Israelis commonly have 2-3 children families).  Israel also provides many services and child benefits including job protection before and after maternity leave that make raising a child more attractive to people who live there. 

Trends tell the future.  In the modern world where birth control is the norm, and abortion to cover mistakes, the decision to have children and incorporate children into our lives is a personal choice with intense societal implications.  If one’s culture or society or religion does not emphasize having children and building for the future… then we see the results of all the choice modern medicine has granted women –> no children (or not enough to maintain the population we have.)

Think countries might start to outlaw contraception if birth rates fall too low?

(The Guardian) Iran is seeking to reverse progressive laws on family planning by outlawing voluntary sterilization and restricting access to contraceptives.  Iran has pursued an effective birth control program for over two decades. It included subsidized vasectomies, free condoms and affordable contraceptives, as well as countrywide education on sexual health and family planning.  A parliamentary bill under consideration to increase fertility rates and prevent population decline will ban all surgeries intended for permanent contraception, except in cases in which there are threats to physical health. The legislation will also slash state funding for birth control programs which provided subsidies for modern contraceptives.

A second proposed legislation, the comprehensive population and exaltation of family bill, “instructs all private and public entities to prioritize, in sequence, men with children, married men without children and married women with children when hiring for certain jobs,” The bill will also tighten the divorce laws, which are already heavily in favor of men.

That’s one way, one bad way, to go about it.  Another way in Russia is to pay women to have children.

Or you could have a culture that looks to build the future like Judaism.

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Ten Years

   by Reb Gutman Locks   
    

Ten Years

 

     It has been ten years since this Israeli started to let his dreadlocks grow. That is when he stopped cutting or brushing his hair. He was wearing the Kotel handout head cover on top of his piled up "dreads". To put the tefillin on I had to open the top knot and make the strap a foot or more wider than normal and then, after I got the strap past the locks, I had to make it small again so it would fit his head... and I had to do it again to take it off.

     Why would someone do such a thing? It doesn't bother me… he is free to wear his hair as he likes, but it seems to me to be a lot of extra work... carrying that extra weight on his head all day long. Looks like he wants to make some kind of statement. Maybe, "I'm different," maybe, "Look at me". I really do not understand the headspace. He was a nice enough guy, really, but again, why does he want people to look at him like that? What's keeping him there all these years?

     Now that I think of it, I bet lots of foreign visitors ask the same kinds of questions when they see my payot (sidelocks) flying.

 


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

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Gutman’s annual Passover advice:

   by Reb Gutman Locks   

 

     Although Passover is by far the most memorable and beloved holiday of the entire Jewish calendar it also brings the greatest number of details requirements and restrictions. Observing each of these elements is essential during this week of preparation and especially for the Seder itself. To list them all would (and does) fill an entire book.

 

    There are the Torah commandments and there are the rabbinical commandments. There are also the customs that, surprisingly, vary tremendously between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There are the unique customs that have developed around the diaspora. For example, Indian Jews eat different foods on Passover than Temanni Jews, and some Jews will dip their matzah in their soup, while others would be aghast at such a move! Some will eat beans, and some would never do such a thing. There are strict requirements as to the minimum amounts of matzah, bitter herb and wine that must be consumed, and only within a specific period of time. And perhaps most important of all are the amazingly strict requirements not to have any leavening or related products in our possession for the entire week. Confusing this even more is that some authorities say certain foods are leavened while others swear that they are not.

 

     On and on, the list of requirements that ensure a successful Seder can certainly seem overwhelming. It is no wonder that the favorite question a sharp student will ask his rebbe right before the Seder is, "What is the most important thing that I must watch out for?"

 

     Last Pesach, right before leaving the Kotel to rush home for the Seder, a rabbi friend of mine asked me that very question. To his great surprise, I immediately answered, "Make sure that the children have a good time." He looked at me as if I might be joking; his face was all twisted up. He wanted to know some great Kabbalah about the four cups of wine, or maybe how to lean to the side when drinking them. Or maybe I could give him some great Chassidic teaching on how to do teshuva (repentance) while trying to gulp down that impossibly hot horseradish. AAGHHHH! But, no, I simply said, "Make sure that the children have a good time."

 

     The next afternoon, he came up to me, smiling. He's a smart guy and he took my words to heart. He said, "It was the best Seder ever. The kids were great. Everyone was laughing. We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But tell me, how can you really say that keeping the kids happy was the most important thing to watch out for? After all, this is a very serious holiday."

 

     I explained, "There is only one reason we have the Seder at all: to remember the Exodus from Egypt. And there is only one reason why we must remember the Exodus from Egypt: so we will remain Jews. If we forget our past, there will be no reason to go on as a people. There is only one way for us to remain Jews, and that is to raise Jewish families. Without the children coming back next year, there won't be any Jewish families. It's for the kids' sake that we go through all this each year and, God willing, we will get to do it for them again next year, too. And if they have a good enough time, then surely someday we will even get to do it for their kids."

 

  Have a happy Pesach. It's essential.

 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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Just a few Pics of Jerusalem

Hope you’ll be here…for the korbon Pesach…l’shana ha’ze b’Yerushalayim.

(It’s called “Dovid’s Citadel and is part of Jerusalem’s Old City walls…but it’s really a Crusader fortress later taken over by the Muslims who added a prayer tower.)

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Over the last few years, the city has done a nice job of beautifying the Old City Jerusalem walls area, adding a strip of grass park land and small plaza’s.  They get very crowded with people during holidays.

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Formerly run down buildings opposite the Old City walls are now hotels or, in this case, an indoor section of the Mamila outdoor mall.  In some cases, such as Mamila, they numbered and photo’d each brick, disassembled the outer building (the façade), removed the old inner building, built a new one, then re-added the ancient façade numbered brick by brick.  In another nearby case (the hotel on the corner), they built a support frame around the front and window openings, then tore the building out behind it, built the new one in it’s place and gently re-attached the façade.  The result from both methods…modern new safe structures with the original look from many hundreds of years ago.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence)

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
    

Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence)

 

     Hashem does everything, but He hides so each individual believes that he himself, or the people around him are the "doers," but really Hashem is the Doer of all. Hashgacha pratis is when you see that Hashem is doing something.

     Everything that happens to a Jew, everything he or she sees or experiences comes for a specific reason. There are no accidents. Hashem brings everything to us for a reason.

     I had to go to the dentist. His office is in the 'charedi neighborhood, Geulah. It was a week or so before Pesach. The street was full of hurrying shoppers, everyone rushing to get the things they needed for Pesach cleaning so they could get back home to finish the cleaning. I love walking there at these times. Big rolls of very thick tinfoil to cover the stoves, huge sheets of plastic to cover the tables, new pots to hold the extra Pesach dishes…on and on,… but pretty much everyone buys the same things.

     I love seeing it; the little kids, the hurrying baby carriages, and then I noticed a woman run out into the street right up to a guy riding towards her on a bicycle. She held up what looked like a black flashlight and he shook his head "no" and peddled by. I wondered if she was trying to sell him something, or what was she was doing, and then I quickly forgot the incident.

     A couple of minutes later I saw my dentist coming toward me on his bicycle. I yelled, "Turn around. You're going the wrong way." He pulled up to the curb, and holding a black U-shaped metal bar said, "I lost the bottom of my bicycle lock."

     "Oh, a woman found it and she is looking for you."

     "Where is she?"

     "I don't know now, but she was right over there looking for you."

     He peddled toward where I had seen her holding the U-shaped lock part in up that maybe she would see it, but the place was very crowded.

     Ten minutes later I was waiting in his office and he walked in.

     "Did you find it?"

     With a big smile he said, "Yes. She gave it to me."  

     Now we know why, out of the thousands of things that were happening on that street at that moment, why Hashem had me notice that woman run up to the guy on the bike and say something to him. Hashem wanted to return the lost lock part to my dentist and he had me help Him do it.

     Hashgacha Pratis is when you see that Hashem is doing something. It happens everywhere all the time, but it is easier to see it in Jerusalem.

 

 

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Monday, April 18, 2016

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…Yet More Israel Sunsets

…no color adjustments – color & images by G-d.    The amazing Israel sunsets over the Mediterranean continue! 
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

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I Gotta Go

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
    

I Gotta Go

 

     They live in America. The father spoke English with a very thick Russian accent. The boy was born in America. When they finished saying the Shema the father quickly began to take off the tefillin. It was a meaningless act for him. I jumped in to try to stop him but he argued,

     "I gotta go! People are waiting for me over there."

     "You came all the way from America. You can take one minute to pray. Put your hand on the boy's head and repeat after me."

     I had him say the blessing that fathers say for their children and to add what he personally wants Hashem to give to the boy. Then I told him, "Tell him that he has to marry only a Jewish girl." The father laughed and agreed.

     I explained, "When you fulfill a commandment, especially at the Kotel, it opens a spiritual opportunity. It's as if G-d is listening to you with both ears. Picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling, and ask G-d to bless them. Then thank Him for all the good that he has done for you… and ask Him to protect the Jews in danger."

     It worked. They followed the instructions and stood there for a long time praying. You can see from the picture that they were sincere, and because of that they finally spoke to Hashem from their hearts and felt that warmth. Those few minutes of talking to Hashem in their hearts were the highlight of their entire visit.

     Not just tefillin... but with every mitzvah there comes a "Time of Favor"…a time when Hashem listens more favorably to all of our prayers.

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The Beit Shemesh Palace of King David(s governor)

(Haaretz) Two or three rows of stones stretching across 30 meters. That is what remains of what is believed to be King David's palace, or at least the palace of a senior district governor that served the king some 3,000 years ago, according to scholars from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority.  These vestiges have been excavated at Khirbet Qeiyafa on the Judean foothills, not far from Beit Shemesh.

…Completed excavation attest to the fact that this was an important district capital that was subordinate to Jerusalem and ruled its surroundings, and that the culture was Judahite-Israelite rather than Canaanite or Philistine. Qeifaya can be identified with the city of Sha'arayim that is mentioned in the Bible. "And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Sha'arayim," relates the book of 1 Samuel, describing the pursuit of the Philistine army immediately after David's glorious victory over Goliath.

Most of the palace was destroyed 1,400 years after it was built, and replaced by a large Byzantine building (that would be cultural imperialism by the Byzantine Romans).

Let’s take a look at this biblical palace, shall we?

Huge stone walls, this was both a large building and a defensive building.

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Mosaic tile floors.  Each piece is hand chipped and hand painted.

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Close up, grapes.

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Another room with a large tile floor but no mosaic.

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Olive or wine press.

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This was a large building, or maybe a series of interconnected buildings.

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Inside the hole a tile floor can be seen.  Was this a cistern or food storage?  A sleeping chamber?  I’m not an archeologist, but you don’t normally see underground rooms that are tiled.  Maybe even a mikvah?

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There’s this nearby olive tree that has a literal mound of broken pottery.  This is something you find also in Tel Shiloh, the site of the Mishkan (the portable temple before the Temple was built in Jerusalem).  It’s because pots were discarded before Passover, and broken to prevent their use (since they could not be kashered – made kosher).

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Here’s a piece up close…notice every piece has this fine detail work…

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Sadly the area is right in the middle of the construction site of Ramat Beit Shemesh Dalet.  Hopefully it’s set aside and won’t be bulldozed.  (There’s so many findings in Israel that not every one can be kept and allow for natural growth.)

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

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Living Nation vs Spiritual Image

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Welcome to the many coming to visit Israel for Passover!  May we merit this year to bring the korban Pesach, the Passover offering, together in Jerusalem at the Holy Temple!

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(yesterday’s sunset from the Judean hills in Israel – colors by G-d, no photoshop)

On several recent picture posts, commentors have responded about “the concrete jungle” and “I guess that’s ok if people are getting parnossa to buy kosher food” and the like.  The responses hint at an unrealistic view of Israel, Jerusalem, and Judaism – Torah – the Jewish People.

We are taught: When the Jewish people first came, or rather were brought by G-d, to the Land of Israel after spending 40 years in the desert sustained by manna and protected by the Clouds of Glory, there was a complaint.  “How can we leave our current situation – where we can focus all day exclusively on spirituality, Torah, and being connected with G-d?  How can G-d want us to live in the Holy Land, where we will have to work to grow food, and defend ourselves, etc?”

And the answer is: “G-d brought you out of Egypt, brought you here to the Holy Land, and commands you to live there, with all that entails.  And by living there AND fulfilling the commandments, you will bring G-d’s will down to earth.”

Israel is the Holy Land, as Jerusalem is the Holy City.  And it is filled with holy sites and Torah and spirituality, and if one peaks closely one can occasionally glimpse G-d’s presence.  BUT it is also a country (and Jerusalem a city).  People have to work to earn a living, roads have to be built, offices created, homes built, hospitals staffed, electric plants operated, food grown, water captured – filtered – and piped, garbage collected, bread delivered, marriages held, funerals held, babies born, crime prevented, defenses created and operated, borders guarded, criminals caught, justice operated, etc etc etc. 

AM YISROEL CHAI – the Jewish People LIVE!  And grow!  And built!  And invent!  And create!  And defend!  And all the messiness of LIFE, in their land, the Holy Land, G-d’s gift to the Jewish people.  Lands that have been fallow for hundreds and thousands of years are flourishing again with the effort of the Jewish people and with G-d’s blessings.  And that means fields are being plowed, factories are being built, power lines and pipes and roads are being laid, and garbage disposal facilities created, and even sewage treatment plants.

Life is messy, and involved, and complicated.  In Israel, the Jewish people live, on their own – together with G-d, with all the messiness that entails...and buildings, and cube farms, and cities with skyscrapers, and even with waste disposal facilities.

In Israel it is not a dichotomy that in the morning one may pray at the holy Western Wall, and in the afternoon do a business deal in an office tower.

Am Yisroel Chai

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