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, August 21, 2017

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Turning to G-d



by    Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
     The Jewish New Year is a few weeks away.
It is a time when we come before G-d for judgement. Our deeds are put on a
scale to see if we will be judged favorably. Sadly, our bad deeds will also be
weighed.




     No matter how many good deeds we have to
our credit they will not erase the evil things we have done. Only repentance,
turning to G-d can do that. If we turn away from our selfish ways because we
know that this is what G-d wants, our sins will be considered to have been done
by accident. But if we turn away from those evil deeds because we love Hashem
and His Torah, our sins will be considered as if they had been done for the
good.
     But what does it mean to turn to G-d? What
is the sign that a Jew has truly turned to G-d?
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Wine…Jelly?

by Fayga @ Mystical Paths

image(More from the 14th Jerusalem Wine Festival - part 3)

Continuing about the booths around….

Down in the open area there must have been about 20-35 booths, plus food trucks, food products, mini fruit wine liqueurs, etc.

I stayed away from wineries I’m familiar with to save time plus not wanting to get drunk.  It’s customary for wine tasters to taste and…yes, I’m saying it…spit it out.  Then you ask the next booth to wash out your glass with a tiny bit of their wine (to clean it for their flavor).  This shows you know how to do tasting, and more importantly means after a few booths you are not tipsy.  However, not every booth is staffed by people familiar with this…and they then look at you kind of weird.  It’s not unusual to see many people swaying as they leave having imbibed a glass or two too many (and yes, I went with a friend a few years ago and ended up with her…throwing up on me as we left.  Ewwwwww.)

I stopped by the Herzog booth next.  The staff there was just pouring, no interest in talking to the people or doing any marketing.  They had a 2016 Rose that was lightly carbonated, but I did not like the flavor at all nor did I like that it was carbonated.  It was like drinking Rose’ soda.  Yuck.  However, and interestingly, the bottle was decorated beautifully.  A good choice only if you’re looking for a wine for decoration.

They also had one white 2016 Chenin Blanc I really liked, somewhat fruity. They has the Joyvin, which is pretty popular, but were not opening any bottles to give out samples.  People kept coming asking just it, it’s well hyped.  I bought a bottle as it was a deal at the festival, hoping it lives up to the hype for 45 NIS a bottle.

Next I was off to Tishbi…not for the wine or the chocolate (they import Valrhona chocolate from France, supposed to be amazing stuff but its “chalav nochri” – which my family holds is not kosher in Israel with “chalav yisroel” available) but for their wines preserves (wine jelly!) I love to use them in cooking.  Finding them for me can be a bit of a challenge, they are not sold anywhere in my community or town so if I want them it’s a trip to Jerusalem and even there I only know of one place in the Machane Yehuda Shuk that carries the stuff.

I normally find them for NIS 50 a jar, which is the same price as a middle end bottle of wine in Israel, so at the festival having a chance to buy them at a sale price of NIS 25…I took 6 jars.

From Tishbi I was off to Ella. I tried their 2016 Rose, very light fruity and pleasant, nice color as well.  I also tried their Riesling desert wine. Both were very nice and sweet, I took a bottle of each though the Riesling is a pretty small (desert-wine sized) bottle. I did not try any of the reds and was disappointed they were not showing any whites.

…to be continued.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

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Going into a Not Perfectly Kosher Event

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageMoshe Chacohn commented  on "Cruising the Jerusalem Wine Festival":   “Dear Rabbi: is it kosher to visit an event selling non kosher wine?”

First it’s important to say, “consult your local orthodox rabbi”.  This question is rather vague, and the specific details matter…a lot.  Since this question was attached to a specific post, which mentioned a non-kosher wine being given out and sold at The Jerusalem Wine Festival – where probably 90% of the products are mehadrin (glatt) kosher, and the remainder are (just) kosher, and a non-kosher product is an unusual exception – we’ll focus on that situation…when we get there.

Kosher in specific Jewish religious terms refers to foods or drinks that are prepared according to the Jewish religious strictures or “Jewish religious law” aka halacha.  The laws include what can and can’t be eaten, how animals are slaughtered, foods that can’t be eaten together (notably milk and meat), and restrictions in the preparation and handling of wine.

At the very basic, kosher laws state about non-kosher products (such as pork) 3 things:

1. One may not eat (or drink) it.

2. One may not cook it.  (So a religious Jew can’t work as a chef in a non-kosher restaurant, even if he/she doesn’t eat any of the food.)

3. One may not benefit from it.  (The religious Jew can’t own and operate a non-kosher hot dog stand.)

Since a religious Jew attending the wine festival may choose not to consume the non-kosher offering, they are not violating #1 by attending.  #2 doesn’t apply in this situation.  And, unless they were working at the booth giving out and selling the non-kosher product, they would not be violating #3.

Could a religious Jew be one of the owner/operators of the wine festival and rent out a booth to the vendor selling the non-kosher product?  I believe this would be a problem (consult your local orthodox rabbi)…although if national laws prohibit such discrimination in offering services one could (probably – consult your local orthodox rabbi who has expertise in business religious law) not ask the status in the contract offering but require that each vendor post their particular kosher status and kosher supervision provider.

From a spiritual standpoint, chassidus states (sichos of the Baal HaTanya) that the way one elevates a non-kosher product is to NOT consume it…more specifically, to turn away when one is faced with such an opportunity.  One should not intentionally challenge oneself, but when coming across such a challenge and turning away one has elevated the sparks.

Now if one lives in the US or UK, the average non-Jewish supermarket may carry a variety of kosher products…so is one allowed to visit a grocery store with non-kosher products?  Yes, and it might be impossible to do otherwise with a few rare exceptions of neighborhoods with very high orthodox Jewish concentrations.

But could an religious Jew go to a NON-KOSHER wine festival, going with the intention to NOT consume any product at the event?

This possibility would bring us to another Jewish religious practice called maris ayin (literally appearance of the eye).  This might be best translated as if it looks like it’s wrong, even though it’s not, it must be avoided.  For example, one would not drink a glass of soy milk (which contains no milk) at a meat meal because eating milk and meat together is prohibited and drinking a white liquid looks like it could be milk… which could be avoided by placing the soy milk container on the table so everyone can see that the white liquid being consumed is NOT milk. 

So a religious Jew should NOT attend a non-kosher wine festival, because it would give the wrong impression (either that he’s going to intentionally sin or someone may see him and believe that there are kosher products available there). 

Now it may be possible for a religious Jew, particularly in the Land of Israel, to place him or herself in a neighborhood which has only kosher grocery stores and businesses which cater to the religious Jewish community, and therefore never even SEE a non-kosher product.  There definitely is merit in placing oneself in a “more kosher” environment, yet one may also be poorly prepared to deal with “the world” if one must leave such an environment – such as for work. 

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A Nice Jewish Boy

   by Reb Gutman Locks
     

A Nice Jewish Boy

 

     When I asked this boy to put on tefillin he walked right over. He spoke English with an European accent.

     He said, "But I want to put on my tallis (prayer shawl). My grandfather bought it for me." I smiled thinking that even though the boy was not religious his grandfather wanted him to have a tallis. He brought the brand new tallis with him on his trip to put on at the Kotel. I showed him how to put it on. He could read the blessing in Hebrew. I was surprised. I asked him where he was from.

     He said "Germany."

     I have to admit that I do not like hearing that a Jew is living in that place.

    "What are you doing there? Come live here, you are a Jew."

    "My parents live there. Maybe latter."

     I helped him with tefillin, to read the prayers, and to open his heart praying for his family and all that he loved. When he finished we spoke for a while. It turns out that his family is Russian. They got out of Russia when they could and went to Germany. The boy speaks fluent Russian, German and English. He told me that he was now living in Brussels where he was in medical school.

     The boy was maybe nineteen years old. He had no holes in his ears for ear rings, no tattoos, no hole in his nose for a ring. He was kind, polite and intelligent. He will be a doctor and will spend his life helping people. A nice Jewish boy.

 

 

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

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Cruising the Jerusalem Wine Festival

by Fayga at Mystical Paths

(More from the 14th Jerusalem Wine Festival - part 2)
It’s the start of (grape) harvesting season in Israel so all the wineries were not being represented by the wine makers or an owner of the winey, one and only one booth that I stopped by was the owner there. It was all PR teams showing the wines, either hired teams for the event or or the winery’s own for larger wineries that have one.

Being I had a short amount of time as well not wanting to just walk around taste everything, I was on a hunt for the good stuff. I looked for recommendations from anyone who had already attended before I arrived, and got a short list of about 3 or 5 booths to stop by that had amazing products.  Thankfully except for one I wasn’t familiar with these wineries so for me it would be a new learning experience, I was excited! 
Getting my ticket was a breeze and there were no line, thank G-d. It was very very very humid outside but no one seemed to mind.  Walking around I was shocked to see there weren’t many booths, lots of open space and it looked less crowded, although all the booths were busy.  
We'll focus on the upper area booths in this article.
The upper area had about 7 wine booths with the usual De Karina chocolate booth - they were extremely busy and people were buying the chocolate and their liquors, which are suburb by the way. I waited about ten minutes and then gave up on getting some chocolate. 
Other booths had some type of beer or cider, did not really pay attention. One cheese booth, 424 Below Sea Level specialty salts (also highly recommended), and an Italian wine glass company - which was a new one for me.
My first stop was by Capsouto. The booth was quite busy with a wait. This was my first introduction to this winery: they have O-K hasgacha and Jacques was there pouring and doing PR. I did not get a chance to speak with him but his wines were really good. I personally liked the 2016 whites- the Cuvee Albert and Cuvee Eva, though for me the Albert was better than the Eva. I also liked the Cuvee Marco 2014 a really nice red - not heavy at all. I can’t say I learned much about the winery besides the vinter Jacques having bought a vineyard here in Israel.
No other booths in the area caught my interest though one who I really wanted to taste had no Hashgacha (no kosher supervision), and a commercial wine without supervision simply can't be kosher - so that was out for me.
...to be continued.
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Don’t Blow It

   by Reb Gutman Locks
    

Don't Blow It

 

     Early this morning I showed one of the Kotel workers that someone lit a candle and placed it on the wall right by the Kotel. It used to be that they were not strict about candles burning by the Kotel and it really got out of hand. Some even put candles right on the Kotel itself! Many of the walls around the Kotel were covered with black gunk from the candles. Then, a few years ago, they had a major cleanup and since then they have been strict not to allow anyone to light candles and set them on the walls.

     The young man ran right over and blew out the candle.

     When he returned I gently told him that we should not blow out candles. "Maybe wave your hand close to them and the wind will put them out, but don't ever blow out a candle."

     He wanted to know why.

     I explained, "Breath is a level of our soul, and our souls have come into this world to share light, not to extinguish it."  

     The word for breath in Hebrew is Neshama. Neshama is also the name of one of the levels or dimensions of our soul. Wind is Ruach. Ruach also means spirit and is the name of another level of our soul.

     He understood right away.

     When we follow our customs such as not blowing out a candle, and if we pay attention, they can be a reminder of our purpose in being here. Obviously, the light we have come to share is not the physical light that comes from a candle but the spiritual light that comes from showing someone how to serve Hashem.

     Also, physical light can be a reminder of spiritual light. For instance, we cannot see the actual physical light but we do see what the light does, what it shows us. Somewhat like this, we cannot see the spiritual Presence, but we can see what It does.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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Hate Me on the Right, Hate Me on the Left, Yell at me from the Center

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths


Tablet Magazine wishes to inform me that MY SILENCE ON CHARLOTTESVILLE is DEAFENING.  Not to be outdone, the Forward wants to know...


Hopefully my fellow co-religionists will forgive my chutzpah for speaking for the Klal (for us all).

To the first author, who notes they self-identify as a Jew of Color but I would merely identify as just another wonderful Jewish neshama (soul), I say first not every problem is my problem, just as I haven't heard statements or only heard basic bland ones by the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Presbyterians, Protestants, or Baptists.  And while you are self-identifying with those on the Left and the counter-protestors, many of those groups represented have been attacking Jews, terrifying Jewish students on college campuses, and calling for my DEATH and the DEATH of those Jews living in Israel - calling for Palestine from the river to the sea.

For the second author, the same reason you didn't condemn Obama for this ties to the Nation of Islam and Jew hating black preachers.  

"The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox leadership has, in general, refused to condemn the President’s anodyne response, and it’s embarrassing."

You know, continuously being told your opinion / statements / response are the most important thing in the world is a bit ego building.  I would appreciate if you'd dial it back before I develop an ego problem.

Seriously, both authors, why is Orthodox Judaism's positions so important after this horrific civil clash in an American Southern city?  One basically allowed to happen by the local police and local politicians. One in which both sides arrived armed and prepared for violence.  

When the communists and the nazis fight, I don't have a position.  When Hezbollah and ISIS fight, I don't have a position.  Nor should I, as they both hate me.  Rather I pray that G-d save me from their hand...of both groups and both sides.  Because they ARE coming after us...


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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Smoking

   by Reb Gutman Locks
     

Smoking

 

      I was walking by the entrance to the Kotel and a religious man was lighting a cigarette. I made a harsh face showing how I hate that stuff and took a few steps to the side as I walked by to avoid smelling the smoke.

     A while later he came up to me and thanked me.

    "What for?"

    "I don't smoke very often and when I lighted that cigarette I thought maybe I shouldn't be smoking in this place and you walked by and made a face at me and I knew that Hashem sent you to tell me not to smoke here."

    "He sent me to tell you not to smoke anywhere, not just here."

     Danny, a rabbi friend of mine has smoked cigarettes for most of his life. He tried to quit from time to time but always went back to them. Now he has that horrible disease. He (G-d forbid) is at the end of his life. He is barely into his sixties. I begged him time after time to stop but he wouldn't listen. Only a miracle will save his life.

     I saw a couple of other men here in the Old City smoking and I said, "You know what is going on with Danny, right?" They both made a sad face and nodded that they did.

    "Then why are you still smoking?"

     They smiled meekly and said something like, "What to do?" as if they do not have it within their power to stop.

     I really do not understand how the rabbis allow that poison, and the governments, too. They say that now some 8 million people a year will die from smoking, and still the governments allow the tobacco companies to sell that addictive poison to anyone who is foolish enough to buy it. The tobacco companies seem to be evil drug dealers.

What's Wrong with Smoking?

Link

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Monday, August 14, 2017

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Kosher Blue Nun spotted in Jerusalem!

by Fayga at Mystical Paths

Jerusalem had its 14th yearly "Jerusalem Wine Festival" at the Israel Museum (and being in Jerusalem almost every offering is mehadrin kosher). As opposed to past years I did not see the event heavily advertised, perhaps they wanted less of a crowd or knew what they offered this year would not be as extensive.

The festival in the last few years has been getting a reputation of going up in price and down in quality. Personally I haven’t agreed till this year where the cost of a ticket plus transport plus time wasn’t so worth it for someone coming without a car.

Ticket cost was 95 NIS + transport with a chofshi yomi 26.5 NIS. NIS 121 is quite expensive for an evening that doesn't even include food for the average Israeli who’s trying to get by. The festival isn’t supposed to be a fancy event though it is upscale. It’s more to get people drinking wine and a fun night out in the summer.

The festival certainly gives a chance to meet new wineries and other wine compatible producers and products (chocolate and olive oil, for example) to people who would not otherwise get exposure to them. For me I like to go for the night out and see what’s new from different wineries or find wines that I've never heard of… Israel has a lot of boutique wineries that are hidden secrets.

I also enjoy going to buy and see the gourmet products like 424 salt or Tishbi wine jellies as I don’t find such things sold in my community and truthfully you don’t find them much either in the kosher community focused supermarkets.

In the next article I'll talk about some of the wines I tried, and a few I purchased for special occasions.  One of the oddest for me was the picture above, "Blue Nun".  My father from the U.S. mentioned this is a known popular mid-market non-kosher wine in the U.S., but I had never heard of it before.  As you can see from the photo, they've come out with a kosher product (under U.S. Triangle-K supervision).  Many of the kosher-keeping attendees were put off by the photo (Judaism has a history of persecution by the Catholic church, the source of "nuns") as well as not being familiar with U.S. kosher supervisions.  In Hebrew it says it's a Gewurtztraminer Riesling.

If kosher wine articles from Israel are something that interests you, please let me know in the comments and we'll see if we can make this a regular article here.
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

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Where do you want to go?




    by Reb Gutman Locks   
 

Where do you want to go?

 

     If you are a young Jewish man with a burning desire to find G-d there are a number of choices you might try. For instance, if you try India and the Far East as so many young Jews have, and if you are really serious about it, you might end up looking like the first guy pictured below. Or, if you try the spiritual path that has been in your family for the past 4000 years, and if you are really serious about it, you may end up looking like the guy in the second picture. It's your call. 










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Thursday, August 10, 2017

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The Aleph Bet


by Reb Gutman Locks

The Aleph Bet

 

     Hashem creates the Universe with the Hebrew letters and the Aleph Bet reveals the wonder of it all;

 

     The story of man marveling at Hashem's creation, speaking as if seeing it has just moved to something from nothing;

 

     Father, what good fortune has come that You have made the seven days of creation. It is as a tiny grain of completion, starting to grow, traveling on, departing, tearing away from the initial explosion heading on delivering to its fulfillment, it's precious foundation has been put.

 

                                                                                                               אב  Father

                                                                                                 גד Good fortune 

                                                                            (א) הו   That 

                                                                                                 ז  (days of creation)                         

                                  חטי    Grain of

                                                                               כלמ  Completion (root of (כלה

                                                                      נסע Traveling-Cause to depart

                                                            (ה) פצ   Tear away-Deliver

                                                    קר (י) Precious (root of קר)

                                             שת  Foundation-Put (root of שית)

 

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

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Peace Rockets of Love and Firey Death This Evening, War Tomorrow?



by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Less than an hour ago, Palestinian Peace Rockets of Love and Firey Death were shot from Gaza at Israeli Jewish civilians in the southern city of Ashkelon.  Bringing a message of love and peace through explosions and shrapnel, the Palestinian Peace Rockets of Love and Firey Death fell like flaming butterflies upon Israeli Jewish civilians.

As the Hamas spokesperson said, 'nothing shows our love and respect and desire for peace like trying to blow you up and kill your children.'

In Jerusalem, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be looking at the rocket attack as mana from heaven.  Under political threat because of rumors that his wife may be indicted (for trivial issues) and he may be indicted for advisors taking advantage and a percentage of a military equipment deal and/or political financial support from abroad, it's a perfect wag the dog moment for him to take a real attack and threat and turn it into an active war.  And trivial or questionable claims or indictments disappear when there's an active national threat.  I am not claiming that Netanyahu will do this...but you couldn't hand him a more perfect scenario.

The crazy question becomes...is there someone in Gaza supporting Netanyahu by handing him a completely valid pretext for starting a war?

And given 2 of my sons are in active service in southern Israel, should I worry?

May Hashem bless and protect Klal Yisroel, the nation & people of Israel, and curse, deter, and destroy our enemies.

(Image via the Jerusalem Post).  Image from here.
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Who Was Moshe Yelling At?

   by Reb Gutman Locks
      

Who Was Moshe Yelling At?

 

     Again, in this week's Torah reading Moshe is condemning the prior acts of the Jews standing in front of him. They were about to cross the Jordan river and enter the Holy Land.

     "OY! Over the past forty years you did this, and OY! you did that…," and on and on. But who was Moshe yelling at? The Jews who were standing there before him were all either young children or not yet even born when those things he was complaining about happened!                                                  

     This is because the Jewish people are one, a single people, from those who lived a very long time ago… to those who are not yet born… and you and I who are alive today…. G-d blesses us as one, and (G-d forbid) punishes us as one… all together, a single people.

     This is why our enemies hate all of us, and this is why it hurts each of us so much when a Jew is attacked anywhere in the world ….  And this is why we should love one another…  and why we should try to help one another in any way we can. We are one.

 

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Monday, August 07, 2017

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Is the Times of Israel being provocative, or trying for violence?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Is the Times of Israel attempting to foment religious violence in Jerusalem?  Or are they just trying to force culture change incompatible with the religious, cultural, and political environment of Jerusalem?  Because here's todays headline...


Here's the letter I wrote, them, and I urge you to contact them as well...

Dear Times of Israel:  With all the interesting, exciting, and life threatening events happening in Israel, could you explain how "A Gender Bending Taming of the Shrew" is the #1 top head line on your home page?

An event that may even be attended by tens or (even) hundreds, versus the many events in Israel that affect millions.

Could it be that you're trying to culturally influence your readership towards acceptance of alternatives that are traditionally unacceptable in the Middle East and particularly in Jerusalem?

Or are you trying to manufacture news?  Because I'm certain that if this play was taken to East Jerusalem or even to any of the various Jewish or Xian religious parts of Jerusalem, you would have

a bloody event to report.
 Are you trying to incite violence?

You can Contact Them here.
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Sunday, August 06, 2017

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What Should We Be Looking At?



   by Reb Gutman Locks
    

What Should We Be Looking At?

 

     After the fast I spoke with a fine, religious, highly respected, retired doctor at the Kotel. Somewhat tongue in cheek, I said, "It's all a mistake."

     "What's a mistake?"

     "The fast. It should be changed into a holiday and we should be happy."

      He pointed to the Kotel and said, "For this?" He meant to compare the Kotel to the Temple.

     "Look how far we have come. We should be extremely happy that we have come this far."

      He persisted, "Look how far we have yet to go!"

     "If you look for how far we have left to go you will always be sad. If you look at what we already have you will always be happy."

     

      A young man jumped in, "What about that rabbi who cries, screaming all the time when he prays. Shouldn't we be doing that?"

     "'Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courtyard with praise.' Nowhere does it say to keep on crying."

     "It says that the gates of tears are never closed."

     "That's because when you cry you close all of the other gates and there has to be at least one gate open since Hashem always hears our prayers."

      Even after the Moshiach comes we will still want more. We will want the Temple. And even after he brings the Temple we will still want more… and more…until we actually see Hashem's Presence. Until that happens, there will always be more to go.

     Are these fine, respectable, religious Jews recommending being sad until we are blessed with the Revelation of G-d's Presence! All of the wonderful things that we are expecting (may they all come right now) will still leave us wanting more until we see Hashem's Presence. There is nothing to want beyond that.

 

 

 
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