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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Thursday, July 18, 2019

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Thank You

   by Reb Gutman Locks   
     Thank You


     When the Prayer Leader repeats the silent prayers out loud, we listen to all that he says, except when he says the prayer, "We thankfully acknowledge that You are Hashem our G-d…."

     When he says this prayer, we bow, and we say the congregation's version of the prayer softly. Why is it for this prayer we speak during his repetition, but when he says all the other prayers we simply listen to his recitation?

     We are told that everyone has to say, 'thank you' himself because no one can say 'thank you' for someone else.

     This answer seems weak in that I certainly can ask you to say 'thank you' to so and so when you see him for the kindness he did for me.  

     So, what then is the deeper meaning of our having to also say the prayer for thanks, and not merely rely on the reader's repetition?

     King Dovid tells us, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving…" When we thank Hashem we come closer to His Holy Mountain. This means that we appreciate His goodness and His holiness more. But if I would thank Hashem for you, you would not become more aware of His Presence. This is the meaning of, "Someone else cannot say, 'thank You' for you." Each of us has to thank Him ourselves if we want the benefit of thanking Him.

     Whenever you want to become more aware of Hashem's Presence say, "Thank You."  



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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Buddhism 101?

   by Reb Gutman Locks   


A question from the Philippines;

     "I am a Bnei Noah (non-Jew who keeps the Seven commandments of Noah). Can I delve into the philosophical teachings of Buddhism, but not doing their customs and worship? Does Judaism have the same perspective with Buddhism about suffering?   

Gutman's answer:

     If you take what you call the philosophical teachings, the spiritual teachings will also come along.

     Regarding suffering; they do not teach what the Torah teaches, not at all. For instance, they teach that all life is suffering, and we say that life is a gorgeous opportunity to inherit the World to Come. 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

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A Jew's Donkey

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

How far does the
obligation to help a fellow Jew go? Do I have to pick up his fallen donkey?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

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Even Less Than You Thought

   by Reb Gutman Locks  


     If we could look at a solid stone with a very good microscope, we would see that it is not the solid object we thought it was. We would see that it is made up of many millions of molecules, and (according to science) 99.9% empty space.

     If we could look at those atoms with a good enough microscope, we would see that those tiny atoms are also not solid, not at all. Each atom is made up of many millions of quarks, and what science says is 99.9% empty space.

     And if we could look at the quarks with a good enough microscope, we would see that they too are not solid, but each is made up of many millions of gluons, and what science says is 99.9% empty space.

     If we could go on and on, we would see that all matter from the largest to the smallest is not solid, not at all, but rather is being made up of what science says is 99.9% empty space.  

     And what does the Torah say all matter is made of? Everything is made of nothing! Matter is just formation being held in position by Will. And if or when that Will releases its pressure on matter, all matter will cease, leaving just the empty space where that matter was sitting. This is called yesh me'ayin, something from nothing. All creation is, and always has been, made yesh me'ayin.   

     All created existence is Hashem holding it in its form. And if, or when He chooses, He would release His urge, all form would cease leaving just the empty space where it was located. Even the "empty" space would "unfold" leaving just the Place where it was sitting.

    Now we are getting a better idea of just how dense (or un-dense) that first stone must have been… or are we? 


Tuesday, July 09, 2019


From One Small Stone

   by Reb Gutman Locks


     The Midrash says that when Hashem created the Universe, He made a very small dense stone and from that stone He spread out the physical Universe. Now, how thick could that stone have been? How big was it? Is this a literal teaching? Could all creation come from one small stone?

     Science recently has come to agree with the Torah that the Universe was created. Up until a hundred years ago they thought it was always here.

    Now they also agree that the Universe was made from one small very dense stone. How small was this stone? Well, according to scientists' latest estimation;

     "About 13.8 billion years ago, the Universe as we know it began. This moment, known as the Big Bang, is when space itself rapidly began expanding. At the time of the Big Bang, the observable universe (including the materials for at least 2 trillion galaxies), fit into a space less than a centimeter across (less than ½ inch). Now, the observable universe is 93 billion light-years across and still expanding."

    Trillions of galaxies of mater within half an inch! Who could believe such a thing? Well, science is catching up with the Midrash.

    If you like, I will explain that in fact that first "stone" was a lot thinner than they realize.



Sunday, July 07, 2019

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Your Favorite Time of the Week

   by Reb Gutman Locks
       Your Favorite Time of the Week


     I asked, "What is your favorite time of the week?" Almost everyone answered, "Shabbos." Then I asked, "What time on Shabbos?"     

     Their answers were all very interesting. But first, what is your favorite time of the week? After you recall that, then you can go on and read what they said.

     What is so interesting about asking this question is you bring people to recall something they love, and when they do that you see their faces recalling joy. It is a very warm thing to do.

      Here are the responses I received:

  Shabbos morning, the prayers and everything…

  Kaballas Shabbos… When Shabbos first comes in.

  Friday night… I can catch up on my much-needed sleep.

  Shabbos morning after davening when we make kiddush in Shul and I am with all my buddies.

  Shabbos afternoon, nap time.

  I don't know. I have to think about it.

 1:30 until 5:30 in the mornings.

  Early Shabbos morning at the Kotel when I come and set up for the minyan.

  Shabbos night dinner with the family.

  Shabbos afternoon…the third meal.

  Shabbos morning meal.

  7:00 o'clock in the morning on Shabbos. No one is up yet. It's totally quiet. I love it.

  Late Friday afternoon… work is over.

     Each of us seems to have his or her own special time of the week when we enjoy what we are doing the most.

     Indeed, Shabbos is a wonderful gift to the Jewish people. Thank You.



Friday, July 05, 2019

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Four Levels of Divine Embrace

by Lazar at Mystical Paths


Four Levels of Divine Embrace


מֶלֶךְ עוזֵר וּמושִׁיעַ וּמָגֵן - King, Helper, Saviour, Shield


Four levels of relationship with the Infinite Creator -- seeing G-d as a King, a Helper, a Saviour, and a Shield -- constitute a deep meditation, and take us from the level of servant to the Almighty King, all the way to a divine embrace with the Eternal One. 
This meditation guides the listener through these four levels. https://youtu.be/rIwtG-ePgXg

Lazar can be reached via email: guidedjewishmeditation@gmail.com

Thursday, July 04, 2019

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Save the Entire World

   by Reb Gutman Locks   


     One who saves the life of even one Jew in this world, is accredited as if he has saved the entire world.[i] This is referring to a Jew who saves a Jew's physical life.

    And all the more so … even many times more so, does this teach that a Jew who saves a Jew's spiritual life is accredited as if he has saved the entire spiritual world.    

     This means, when you help even a single Jew find his or her spiritual life in Torah and mitzvahs you are credited with having saved the entire spiritual world.

(P.S. Have a Happy Birthday - USA)



[i] Sanhedrin: Chap 4, Mishnah 5


Tuesday, July 02, 2019

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Dancing at the Kotel

   by Reb Gutman Locks   


     First-year charadi yeshiva students visiting the Kotel. Their custom is for the first-year students to continue to wear the almost brimless hats, and then in their second year they begin to wear the "regular" brimmed hats like their rabbi is wearing. 


Sunday, June 30, 2019

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Paradise Torah vs Islam


Thursday, June 27, 2019

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Akiva's Latest 'Net Security Primer

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Being of the techie genre, I'm frequently asked by friends and family about computer / internet / phone security advice.  Here's my latest advice... and it's kind of long and detailed, but since everyone is now managing many life activities through their phone and computer -- YOU ARE A TARGET for criminals because that's where the money is!

Security Tip #1 - use 2-factor authentication on any service that offers it.

What does this mean?  It means you can't just log in to a service with your password, the service will require either another special code or send you an SMS with another code (or call you with it).

How do I do this?  Each service has it's own option you have to find and turn on in settings.  For Google (Gmail, etc), go here.  Facebook go here.  For any other service, check for a 2 factor or multi-factor option in settings.

This is a major security control to immediately put in place!  Also make sure there is a recovery or work-around option in case the device (usually phone) is lost or stolen, and keep track of the recovery information.

Security Tip #2 - 2-factor authentication usually offers an option to use an "Authentication App" (here's Google's), which is much more convenient that having to receive an SMS - and therefore I recommend.  But what if your phone is stolen or hacked (and the app is on your phone)?  I use Authy, an authentication app that works with everyone (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc), and requires a pin code to enter - so the app is protected if your phone is stolen or hacked.  A further advantage of Authy is it can be shared on multiple phones, so your spouse and you can have access.  (Other authentication apps only work on one phone at a time, so if the phone is lost or stolen - or the person is unavailable to unlock it, then the access is unavailable.).  Here's Authy for Android, and here it is for iPhone.

Security Tip #3 - Your internet browser is a weak point, select a new one focused on security and control.  Chrome used to be the fast and secure browser, and it's the default on all Android phones.  But between hacks, attacks, and Google tracks, it's become a risk point and a way to track you.  I currently recommend Brave browser, which has many security and privacy capabilities built in and turned on by default.  Brave is available for all platforms - Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad.

If you are on a Mac, then Safari is an ok choice...with some adjustments (see Ghostery below).

BUT, if/when you must use Chrome... there are a few sites that only work correctly in Chrome.  Since sometimes Chrome must be used, I recommend installing the following Chrome Extensions - get them here - to improve security and the browsing experience.  (But note, the extensions can also cause some rare sites to have issues and may need to be disabled for that site - click on each extension icon to 'disable or trust this site').  Chrome extensions work on all versions of Chrome - Windows, Mac, phone.

Extension - uBlock Origin.  This add-on blocks most ads and some forms of attack.

Extension - Ghostery.  This add-on blocks tracking and data leakage.  I strongly recommend this one also if you are using Safari, special version for Safari available here.

Extension - Poper Blocker.  This add-on blocks pop ups, pop under, and overlays.  Stops both ads and attempts to fake you out by laying things on top of a page without you knowing it.

Security Tip #4 - Use a Password Manager and DO NOT use the same password or derivative versions of it on different sites.  When a site you belong to gets hacked, it's likely your email address and password to that site will be shared across the internet.  Want to check?  Use this site.  Note it says I've had my info stolen 8 times, and it includes (for me) my email, username, password, phone number and date of birth.

The reason this is important is because if you use the same email address and password, attackers will use stolen lists to try known combinations.

Avoid this by using a password manager that will both generate long random passwords, and then enter them for you when you go to the sites (since no one is going to remember 30 different 15 character passwords).  I recommend LastPass, the free version is adequate for most situations.  I particularly like and recommend their "security audit", which identifies weak passwords, hacks and attacks that you should pay attention to.  I also like using it across computers and phones, and therefore (again) sharing it with my spouse.  But others prefer other options that store the passwords (securely) locally or share via Dropbox.  I see PCMag is recommending Keeper, may be worth trying.  I see some nice advanced features like choosing users to share a particular password with (like sharing bank password access with your spouse).

Switching over to a password manager is a pain, and updating passwords across sites even more so.  But it's a critical security control with information being stolen from major sites and companies weekly.

Security Tip #5 - Turn on your iPhone and Pad security!  Android phones are logged into your Google & Gmail account, and iPhones are logged into your Apple account (and you set up your email access on your phone).  So if your phone is in someone's hand, they can reset passwords through an email recovery -- if they can access your phone.  On older phones, this means you will have to enter a code or diagram every time you access your phone - newer phones should have fingerprint or facial recognition to make it quick and easy.  But regardless, turn it on!

Double secret hint... in the U.S. you can't be required to give your ID for your phone, but you can be forced to put your finger on it by authorities (a quirk in U.S. law).  So ID is better for confidentiality.

Triple secret hint... U.S. border authorities are permitted to require you to dump your whole phone ignoring the law above and ignoring business, legal or journalistic confidentiality.  So you may want to LOG OUT of Google, Apple, and Social Media accounts before coming to border control stations, and making sure anything really confidential is encrypted.

Security Tip #6 - Encryption is complicated and a pain, BUT if your device is taken it's the only way to make sure your data / pictures / financial information / etc is not.

For your computer / laptop - if you have Windows, turn on Bitlocker or Windows Device Encryption.  Here's some instructions.  (Note some Home versions of Windows have neither option.  There are free but more complicated alternatives, but I don't recommend them because of the complexity to set up and deal with if there are problems.).

If you have a Mac, here's instructions for Mac FileVault.

The big warning with both of these is - if you loose your password and recovery key, the disk/data is unaccessible forever.  Therefore, take your password and/or recovery key and put a copy of them somewhere else... like in your password manager.  This is particularly important that your spouse or family know how to get access -- so if you are unable or unavailable (like in the hospital) they can access things they need to.  And disk encryption ONLY protects you if your device is taken - it does not protect the content when the device is logged in and running.

How about phones?

If you have an iPhone 3GS or later, when you turn on the password it encrypts the phone.

The same is true for most Android phones, just adding the password encrypts the phone.  But I have noted with my Samsung that it offers both "secure albums" for (double?) encrypting select photos and also has a "Secure Folder" option (under Security) for (double?) encrypting other content - in both cases not allowing access to the content without another entry of PIN or biometric ID.

As they say, stay virtually safe out there!
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Get Away from Them!

   by Reb Gutman Locks  


     In this week's Torah portion (Korach), Hashem tells Moshe, "Remove yourself from among this assemble and I shall destroy them in an instant!"[i]

     The commentaries ask; But couldn't Hashem have picked out the ones to be punished without the righteous ones having to separate from them?

     Ramban says this is a cue to the righteous that they should pray and seek atonement for their brothers.

     There is a much more basic teaching learned from the command to separate from the evildoers, and not to rely on Hashem punishing only them while sparing the innocent who are by them.

     This teaches us not to be by evildoers at all, not even when we have no intention of following their ways. Evildoers spread their intentions and few of us are strong enough not to be affected.


[i] Deuteronomy 17:10


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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What Happens Next?

   by Reb Gutman Locks   


     One of Rambam's thirteen principles of Jewish faith is belief in the resurrection of the dead. But what, if anything, happens to us after we leave this world and before the resurrection comes?

     There is very little written in the Talmud and in mystical Jewish writings about what the soul will experience at that time; its judgement, its rewards and its punishment. On the surface, it seems that the Torah itself (the Five Books of Moshe) does not say anything about this… or does it?

     Hashem tells Abraham, "You shall come to your fathers (ancestors) in peace: you shall be buried in a good old age."[i] He tells Moshe, "Behold, you will lie with your forefathers…."[ii]

     If nothing will be going on after the soul leaves this world until the resurrection, then what did Hashem mean when He told these two greatest tzaddikim (righteous) that they were going to be with their fathers? If the soul does not exist at that time, or if it experiences nothing at that time, then what information was Hashem giving to them? How are they with their forefathers if they do not exist, or if nothing is happening?

     Obviously, something is going to happen to us after we leave this world.

     There is one way to change the future. Do something different today.

[i] Genesis 15:15

[ii] Deuteronomy 31:16


Sunday, June 23, 2019

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I Pulled Rank On Him

   by Reb Gutman Locks
      I Pulled Rank On Him


    He was visiting from America. I asked him to come put on tefillin but he refused, He just wanted to keep walking by. I saw that he had a huge US Marine Corp symbol on his shirt.

      I asked, "Were you in the Marines?"


     "What year did you join?"


     "I joined in 1955"

      He did not seem impressed.

     "What was your rank?"

     "Lance corporal"

     "I was a sergeant… so you have to listen to me. Come put on tefillin."

      I pulled his arm and put the tefillin on him…. First time I ever tried that one.



Thursday, June 20, 2019

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Are You Alright?

   by Reb Gutman Locks  


     Robert is from Oregon. He is in his late Seventies, a retired bankruptcy lawyer, and very stubborn. He strongly refused to put on tefillin. Both Shmuli and I worked on him, but he refused over and over again.

     Finally, Shmuli just pulled his arm out and I slid the tefillin up onto his arm. He stopped arguing and followed the instructions.

    When he finished, I showed him how to pray for his family and the important things in his life. He closed his eyes and stood there for the longest time. He was so focused on his prayers that I did not want to disturb him, not even to tell him that it would be better to face the Kotel.

     After at least five minutes his friend walked over and asked him if he was alright.

     I yelled at the friend, "Leave him alone, he's praying!"

     His friend said, "I'm sorry, but I never saw him like that before."

     Robert went back to talking to Hashem in his heart. When he finally finished, he thanked me.

     When I took his picture, I told him, "Next time don't be so stubborn. When someone invites you to do a mitzvah, cooperate. You'll have a good time.


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