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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Sunday, February 26, 2017

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Travel Day

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

It's travel day!  My tefillin are packed, as is some kosher pastrami courtesy of my wife, and I'm off to the land of the free and the home of Trump protests in a few hours.

Wait, where's my boarding pass?  Everything is all online today, as predicted 15 years ago.  This was new...

Apparently my flight is full, and the airline is running an auction to pay people to take a different flight.  I thought that was an interesting approach.

Printed the boarding pass, the itinerary, the car info, the hotel info... am I missing anything?

Whenever I've flown to Israel, I've been very excited.  Previous times I've left Israel I've been sad (after visits), stressed (after moving back to the U.S. when our first aliyah round was not successful).  This time I'm nervous... America seems to have changed drastically since I've been away, and not for the better.

I'll let you know what I find out.
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The Ramp

   by Reb Gutman Locks  
     The Ramp


     The Torah teaches that when the Kohen offered a sacrifice he was to go up to the Altar on a ramp and not by stairs. "You shall not ascend My Altar on steps, so that your nakedness (ervah) will not be uncovered upon it."[i]

     Rashi explains that climbing stairs would cause the Kohen's bare legs to be exposed to the stairs.

     There is another meaning of the word ervah that seems to fit better here. It can also mean detriment,[ii] shame, or weakness.

     When you climb using stairs your strength and immediate drive is to push down on the lower step so you can go up. When you go up on a ramp your head and upper body lean forward in the direction you are going.

     When you go down stairs your attention is on the lower stair where you are going. When you go down a ramp your head and upper body lean back towards the upper end of the ramp.

     When we move toward doing a mitzvah we should be leaning into it, wanting it, reaching for it, not pushing down to go up. When we move away from a mitzvah we should be reluctant, not wanting to leave the holiness that the mitzvah provides.


[i] Exodus 20:23

[ii] Ezra 4:14


Thursday, February 23, 2017


The Soul You Have Given Me…

   by Reb Gutman Locks


     Someone asked "What is the difference between a Jew's soul and a gentile's soul?"

     All living beings have an "Animal Soul". This is what activates the animal. The animal does not have true freewill but acts and reacts only according to its nature.

     A gentile has an animal soul, and he or she also has an "Intelligent Soul." The animal soul animates…activates the body and the intelligent soul gives the human freewill to decide what he or she wants to do. If the gentile chooses to follow the Seven Commandments of Noah he or she will become a righteous person, a pious person among the nations. They will have a wonderful life in this world and a share in the World to Come.

     The Jew has an animal soul and an intelligent soul. The Jew has also been given an additional soul in order to accomplish the Jew's unique mission in the world. This soul is called the "G-dly Soul".

     The animal soul and intellectual souls of the gentile and of the Jew are the same. The animal drives the animal, and the intellect has the ability to direct the animal either to live an entirely animal life, or if it chooses, it can lead the person to pursue righteous goals.

     The G-dly soul the Jew has been given is what provides the Jew with his or her unique opportunity in this world. If the Jew's intellectual soul directs the animal soul the Jew will become a servant of Hashem and a Light unto the Nations, and will receive a fitting reward in the World to Come.

     Mankind either lives out his or her years in a fierce animal jungle, or in the Garden of Eden. It all depends on whether their animal soul rules over their intellectual soul, or if their intellectual soul rules over their animal soul. It is the individual's own freewill that decides.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Travels and Parnossa (income)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageGary commented, “Stay home and write your blog, we need you alive and well.” 

There are those few who have been able to turn these new mediums into income streams.  This blog may have touched some hearts and spread some holiness, and thank G-d has raised a decent bit over the years for charity, but it’s done little for our wallets (not to ignore those generous donors who have surprised us and absolutely made our days on those occasions – and that one special fellow who has subscribed for a monthly donations).  [If you’d like to support the blog, you can do so here.]

So not being a media star, or a successful preacher who draws crowds of donors (not our goal), I’m forced to look elsewhere for parnossa (income). 

There are some who absolutely believe and trust that mana falls from heaven still, and one must merely fully trust in Hashem (G-d) for sustenance and it will come.  And I have met a few such holy individuals among the religious Jewish community who are successful in this path.  But while I am certain sustenance comes from G-d, I follow that path that believes one must prepare a vessel for blessings – for me that means a job.  And since my job as part of my duties needs me to travel away from the Holy Land briefly, with the permission and help of Heaven I will do so.

And perhaps it will be of great benefit.  I have been in Israel for almost a decade now, perhaps I have begun to take it for granted, to not appreciate the awesome blessings of being in such a place…with holy sites, with tzaddikim (the righteous), with a synagogue on every street and Torah mere steps away.  With kosher food of all types readily available (kosher sushi for lunch, yum!)  With a workplace that has a Jewish prayer quorum, and is closed on Jewish holidays but open on non-Jewish ones.  Where a long beard and a big black yamulka don’t stand out, and seeing men and women of all ages and styles sitting on a commuter train saying psalms on the way to work.

There is always plenty to kvetch (complain) about.  Perhaps it’s time again to see the contrasts and see how many blessings there are to sing about.

The Israeli wild flowers are popping up everywhere!

2017-02-17 Tel Socho 071a


Tuesday, February 21, 2017


(No) Energy Healing!

   by Reb Gutman Locks  
     (No) Energy Healing!                                                 


     Someone called from New York asking if I would help a friend who is having a problem with kishuf (magical, sorcery power). I told him to have his friend call me. Early this morning the friend called.

     "I am having a problem with kishuf."

     "Did you go out looking to deal with kishuf?"

     "No, never, and I feel it on me."

     "Do you have any books about kishuf in your possession?


     "Do you want to have any of this power?"

     "No. I got it from somebody and it was very strong and I went to a mekubal (Jewish mystic) and he told me stories about a woman who had such a problem for thirty years and that I should pray certain prayers to get rid of it and it has gotten better, but it won't go away, and I want to get rid of it."

     "When did it start?

     "I was working on someone who had it and I got it from him."

     "What do you mean you were working on someone?"

     "I was helping to heal him."

     "How were you helping to heal him?"

     "With energy."

     "That's it! There is the source of the problem. I've seen it time and time again. In the beginning you work to develop the feeling of that energy, and then in the end you can't get rid of it."

     "No, it's not the energy that I used. It is not from that. I got it from this guy I was working with who has kishuf."

     "It's not kishuf. It's your own imagination that is feeding the feeling until it has become so palpable that it feels real to you, and as if it is coming from somewhere else. If you really want to get rid of it you have to ignore it. If it becomes too strong, imagine the feeling to spread wider and wider so it will get thinner and thinner until it dissipates. You cannot do so called energy healings and expect the feeling to go away."

     "It is kishuf! I got it from this other guy who has it."

     "It's not kishuf. It's your own natural feelings that you have focused on so strongly that you feel like it is some "other" power. If you want to get rid of it you have to refuse it. You must not fight with it or it will get stronger. Whenever you are bothered by it put a coin in a charity box or put on your tefillin. Do a mitzvah."

     Will he listen? He better or he is going to drive himself totally insane until he ends up in a mental hospital.

     "Energy healing" is poison. The energy they play with is their own natural feelings that they focus on so strongly that the feeling becomes stronger and stronger, even palpable…. In the beginning they have the power… in the end the power has them! 


Monday, February 20, 2017

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Not My Protest!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageMy workplace in Israel is often visited by Americans from a related US corporation.  They have to file travel plans with their security agency, who advises them where they can and can’t go to in Israel to stay safe (no travel to Jerusalem for example) and that they must travel in an armored passenger van.

So when they asked me to visit their corporate office, I requested a security review for travel to their U.S. city.  After all, I wouldn’t want to drive into the wrong part of town and get attacked, or accidentally enter a Lives Matter protest and have my vehicle burned, be pulled out and beaten for the color of my skin.

Here’s what the report said:  (Particular Average U.S. City) – Risk of protests and social unrest on February 20, President’s Day.  Avoid government buildings and protests, which may turn dangerous.  Social unrest is occurring sporadically, avoid downtown areas with large gatherings of people.  Loss of civil control – 2 out of 5.

Israel’s safety is actually significantly higher than the U.S.  The murder and violent crime rate (including, G-d forbid, terrorism) is much lower than the USA, most streets can be walked at any hour.  And while Israel has a few “best avoided” zones, practically every U.S. city has multiple such areas.  And even minor crimes like pick pocketing and mugging are much much lower.  (Biggest risks in Israel are car accident…always wear your seat belt, and larger theft like car theft.)

But it’s all about perception.  As the NEWS and U.N. are ABSOLUTELY OBSESSED with Israel, from “far away” it would appear to be…a war zone, a camel filled desert, a crazy ultra-religious giant monastery.  But similarly if I watch the U.S. from Israel, I see major civil unrest, hyper abusive police, for the past 8 years major economic meltdown, and people of every gender invading bathroom space.  I’M FRIGHTENED!

Make America Safe Again!


The Yoke of Torah

   by Reb Gutman Locks

The Yoke of Torah


     This is perhaps the biggest mistake in Jewish education today. The rabbi looks sternly at the student and says, "You have to take upon yourself the yoke of Torah." The student shudders and meekly agrees to take upon himself this huge, G-d-given burden.

     Yuck! This is not what accepting the yoke of Torah means.

     The metaphor "yoke of Torah"[i] comes for a good reason. Before the farmer's yoke was invented the animal still had to pull the plow. Man had to eat. But without the yoke the animal had to pull the plow with its neck and teeth. Ouch! Then some bright guy invented the yoke. The yoke rests on the animal's shoulders so it can now pull the plow with its bigger, stronger, shoulder muscles.

     What a relief. The animal loves the yoke. It came and made the animal's life so much better.  

     And this is what the Torah does for us. The Jew has to pull the plow of daily living with or without the Torah. If he (or she) rejects the Torah he will pull the plow with his teeth! He will end up working day and night struggling trying to gain huge amounts of money, or power, or fame, or any of the other empty goals that secular life insists on. His successes will be short lived measured by what he has gotten and all of which is to be left behind when he leaves the world.

     If instead he will accept upon his shoulders the yoke of Torah he will work day and night trying to make the world a better place. He will work to spread the Light of Heaven to every corner of the Earth. The Torah's guidelines will help him to pull the plow of life. The Torah will decide what his standards and successes should be, not Wall Street or Hollywood.

     A Jewish mystic, a most revered Jew, is called a mekubal, a Jew who has received what G-d has given him. And this is what we are to do with the Torah. We are to receive it. The Torah does not come to increase our burdens. The Torah comes to relieve our burdens.

[i] Ethics of the Fathers 3:5


Sunday, February 19, 2017

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Iran Fires Missiles…oh no, Trump yelled at a reporter!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageIran fires missiles in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions…missiles large enough to take a nuclear warhead and powerful enough to reach Israel…and Turkey…and Southern Europe.


North Korea has fired so many missiles that Japan is now rearming and actually beginning discussions of building nuclear weapons in defense.


One of the reasons I’m concerned about traveling to the United States is the new security regimes where one’s rights and human dignity are suspended both at ports of entry (commonly called “the border” but if you fly in and are already in the U.S., it’s a completely pretend thing as you’re already physically in the U.S.) or even just getting in line at the airport.  So while the 9th circuit court suspended Trump’s immigration rules holding that in some cases potential immigrants overseas have rights, EVEN U.S. CITIZENS PHYSICALLY IN THE U.S. DON’T HAVE RIGHTS at a port of entry – and reduced rights in an airport security line. 

I’m rather pro G-d given rights, and don’t really appreciate government actions otherwise.

Have you noticed that the news has turned into a pure entertainment and opinion show?  Real issues that could affect lives and the world are ignored, or at best brushed over and clearly barely understood by the ‘reporters’, and the entertainment value issue of the moment rules. 

Does anyone watch the news anymore, or even browse the news websites?  When they are saying diametrically opposed stuff, how do you know who’s lying? Or who’s manipulating? (Hint, they all are.)

CNN right now – Pence pledges support for NATO, Being an Immigrant in the US today means…

FoxNews right now – Trump to hold campaign rally in Florida, Man behind ‘93 World Trade Center attack dies in prison

Are they reporting on the same country?

It’s been cold and rainy much of the past week here in the Land of Israel. It is the rainy season, so that’s a blessing, and leads to incredible sunsets like the one below.  Thank G-d, it was sunny on Shabbos if a bit chilly.  But Israel’s rains are seasonal, so it’s important that they fall.  In the times of the Holy Temple, the Cohein Gadol (the high priest) would pray that the prayers of travelers (that there be no rain during their journeys) be ignored so the Land would get the rain it needs.  The early rains were weak, so these strong late season rains are important.

2017-01-10 Sunsets 009

Shavua Tov, a good week from the Holy Land.


Friday, February 17, 2017

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Wildflowers for Shabbos

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Kislev Showers bring Shvat Flowers…in the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.  These pictures are from a few hours ago…
The bright red wild poppies have started to pop!
2017-02-17 Tel Socho 001
It’s a little early for the purple lupins, but this guy is an early achiever…
2017-02-17 Tel Socho 045
The wild “rakefet” is a protected species, the children in kindergarten are taught it’s illegal to pick them.  They like it wet and a bit shady, and grow next to rocks or shrubs.
2017-02-17 Tel Socho 048
Wow the poppies glow in the field when the sun is out…
2017-02-17 Tel Socho 004
Good Shabbos from the Judean Hills in the Land of Israel.
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​   by Reb Gutman Locks  


     Hashem listens to all of our prayers all of the time. He especially loves to hear the prayers of the smallest children. Teach them how important it is for them to ask Hashem to bless your family.



Thursday, February 16, 2017


Wandering & Blogging

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageReb Gutman Locks wrote to me, “The Rebbe said you shouldn’t retire….(too busy for the blog?)” 

After over 10 years of blogging, and the loss of my learning partner Reb Nati (who’s loss is departing Israel, not loss from this world thank G-d) who often brought spiritual Jewish points on which we would battle from our different perspectives, together with being beset with a series of health issues and scares (including a very serious one brought on by weight loss exercise), my interest and focus on blogging waned.

Yet life moves on, and I feel a missing component in not having a voice in the Jewish world.  At the same time I should mention I moved neighborhoods and gave up a position as a shul gabbai.  So while that took a load of responsibility off my shoulders, I also moved from a strong voice in front of the synagogue to one of the grey bearded guys quietly davening (praying) in the back. 

I’ve also considered retiring the blog, as readership is down and many have moved to newer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, with which I have little experience and on which a lengthy written conversation isn’t the pattern.

However the growth of FAKE NEWS, anti-semitism, world instability, Jewish Moshiach theories which have moved from alignment with biblical scripture to WTF? plus that prodding by the special yid Reb Gutman, I’m going to see if I can find some inspiration and a voice…

I have been blessed to be in Eretz Yisroel – the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, G-d’s gift to the Jewish people, for the past 9+ years.  I have not stepped foot outside the Land, and fortunately my parents have been healthy and able to visit.  For the first years it was difficult, we missed many things from The Old Country.  Foods we were used to (Israeli ketchup is sweeter), products we were used to (I detest Israeli bar soap versus Dial), even clothes and brands we were used to.  And of course many products are taxed much higher in Israel, leading to significantly higher prices.  So having things brought in from “over there” was an important life line in our family comfort level.

Over the years we’ve gotten used to the local products, even come to prefer many, and for my children it’s the norm.

In a little over a week I have to travel to the U.S. for business.  And on asking what they want brought back the answer basically is nothing.  Oh, my daughters want some inexpensive U.S. makeup.  But that’s about it.

I’m surprised.  I didn’t even realize we completely settled in…while we came home as Jews to the Land of the Jews, we’ve grown home as Jews living in the Holy Land.

So I’m coming to visit to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave…and Lives Matter protests…and a travel system that abuses the travels…and bathrooms that any species may use…and where religious ideals are no longer respectable but choices opposite reality and biology are…where health care is covered but unavailable and extremely expensive.  Are my remote impressions valid or out of line?

If you’d like to join me for a journey, I’ll let you know.

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Thank You

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
     Thank You


     He was visiting Israel from Chile. He owns a restaurant there. When he walked into the Kotel area I tried to get him to put on tefillin but he refused.

     "I just want to go put a note in the Kotel."

     "Put on tefillin first so when you put the note in you will have the merit of having done what G-d wants you to do."

     "No, I just want to go put the note in, that's all."

     "Come, it will only take a minute. You'll have a good time."

     He gave in. I put the tefillin on him and he read the Shema in Spanish. Then I told him, "Go stand by the Kotel and before you put your note between the stones picture all the good things you want to bring into the world…and say thank you for all the good that G-d has given you…pray for all the Jews, especially the ones in danger. Take a couple of minutes and talk to G-d, then put your note between the stones of the Kotel."

     He was gone for some 5 or 10 minutes. When he returned we took some pictures and he said to me, "You made me very happy today. Thank you."

     "I didn't make you happy. The mitzvah made you happy. You did the mitzvah right and you became happy."

     "It is a wonderful gift you have…to be able to make people happy."


     You know, he's right. It is a wonderful gift to be able to go out and help another Jew to do a mitzvah. When you do it right it makes them happy and it makes you happy... and for sure, it makes G-d happy, too!



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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Welcome Home

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
     Welcome Home


Melanie wrote:

     Gutman, I wanted to thank you. When I was a little girl we would go to our neighbor's house for Shabbos. They were Orthodox Jews from Poland that made it out before the Holocaust. The elderly woman took me like her Grandchild. I would light the candles and say the prayers with her. We would have a wonderful dinner and it was very special.

     Then my parents got divorced and everything stopped. No religion. Nothing. As I got older I got into a christian cult. I didn't know. Around this time I went to visit my Father who was about to die of Cancer. He grabbed my hand and said, Melanie we are Jews. I was stunned but suddenly it all came back to me. When I got home from London I saw your video.[i] I ran out of my bedroom and my daughter was running to meet me. She was watching the same video at the same time. Neither of us knew. Everything made sense. I left the cult instantly and met with a Rabbi. Well it was like coming home.

     Thank you for speaking such wisdom and inspiriting me to seek Torah. You truly did a wonderful mitzvah in making the video and helping me find my way home. 


Gutman's reply:

     Welcome Home. See if there is a little Jewish girl in the neighborhood who can come light Shabbos candles with you and your daughter. Your adopted grandmother from Poland would love that.

Melanie's reply:

     What a wonderful idea!!!! Yes I will 

[i] Answers to a Pastor Answers to a Pastor 


Sunday, February 12, 2017

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Why Do You Do It?

    by Reb Gutman Locks  


     Someone asked me, "What do you tell someone who asks you why you go out and help another Jew to put on tefillin?"

     "There are many reasons. For instance, how many Jews are there in the World?"

     "15 million."

     "Because you answer like that you could have such a question. There is only one Jew in the entire world and each of us has a portion of that one body. The Jewish people are one. You help him, you help us."

     There are other good reasons to help a Jew to do a mitzvah. For instance, what would you do if you saw a Jew's donkey fall down? For sure, you would run over and help him to pick it up. The Torah commands this. And if we are obligated to help another Jew to pick up his fallen physical burden, how much more so are we obligated to help him to pick up his fallen spiritual burden!

     When you help a Jew to do a mitzvah that very mitzvah could be all that was needed to tip the scale of judgement in his favor and he will receive forgiveness or a great reward. You never know how much good comes from helping another Jew to do a spiritual deed.

     You help him because you love him. He's your brother who doesn't know the value of doing the mitzvah. But maybe most of all, your reason for helping him is, he needs it. Is there any better reason than this?




Friday, February 10, 2017


Talking to a Cat at the Kotel

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   

Talking to a Cat at the Kotel


     To us, it's just a dirty animal lying in the street. To small children, it's an opportunity.

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