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Sunday, August 02, 2015

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Jewish World Population

​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
   

Jewish World Population

 

     It was announced in the News that the Jewish world population has increased substantially. The article explained that due to the greater birth rate in Israel, and the redefinition of who is a Jew, the Jewish population has increased and is now equal to what it was before the Holocaust.

     Wait a minute! That the Jewish birthrate in Israel is high is wonderful news, but since when do we increase the population of a certain group by redefining the group?

     The Biblical definition of who is a Jew has not changed since the beginning of our history, all the way back to Avraham and Sarah. Avraham and Sarah had a son named Isaac. Avraham and Sarah's Egyptian maidservant had a son named Ishmael. If who is a Jew was determined by the father then both Isaac and Ishmael would be Jews. But no, Isaac is a Jew because his mother was a Jew (We were called Hebrews in those days) and Ishmael is Egyptian because his mother was Egyptian.

     But the actual Jewish law does not come from this obvious example. The law comes from the line in the Torah that forbids a Jewish woman to marry a non-Jewish man. "You shall not intermarry with them (non-Jews); you shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son, for he will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others…" [i]

     The Torah says not to intermarry your daughter or your son, but the reason why we are not to intermarry is because he (the non-Jewish man with your daughter) will turn your (grand) child from Hashem. The Torah could very well have said that "they (both the non-Jewish woman and the non-Jewish man) will turn your child away" but it only says "He will turn your child away." The child of your daughter, even from a non-Jewish man, is called your child. But the Torah does not say that the non-Jewish girl will take your child away because her offspring, even with your Jewish son, are not yours, i.e. they are non-Jews and belong to the tribe of their mother.

     We do not get more elephants in the world by calling hippopotamuses elephants.

 



[i] Deuteronomy 7:4

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

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Dead Baby Organs or Dead Lions?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

MANIPULATED OUTRAGE

The abortion industry in the United States, or a least one very large national provider of such a service at significant public finance expense, is selling dead baby organs.  Particular emphasis is made, at pain or risk expense of the pregnant mother, on techniques that preserve the organs whole.  Special effort to obtain whole dead baby livers in particular.

It’s unclear where the profits, in the non-profit semi-public charitable corporation, of the dead baby organ sales are going – though the sellers have joked that prices have to be high enough to finance their swimming pools and Lamborghini's.  (Ha ha, joking… get it?)

- News story here. -

Don’t jump to conclusions and assume something horrific.  Apparently dead babies are particularly useful for new drug testing, medical research, and even attempting to grow organs for transplant by placing them in rats (if the research ever pans out).

Clearly that makes it all worthwhile.  After all, like German medical experimentation on Holocaust victims, we wouldn’t want to let all that life and research potential go to waste.

The abortion officials involved specifically stated they would alter abortion procedures to best preserve body parts, including choosing partial birth abortion – where the baby is killed as it’s born – which is clearly higher risk to the mother.  So even if you are an abortion proponent, THIS is directly putting the mother at higher risk.

On the other hand, a hunter shooting a lion in the wild, now THAT’S A SCANDAL!  Completely dehumanizing pregnancies and babies, to the point we don’t even kill them…we dispose of them --- except when we don’t, now we sell their parts like meat at the grocery store, that’s NORMAL.  But kill a lion, that’s an OUTRAGE.

You can argue for or against abortion as you will.  But if you remove respect for human life, the result is HORRIFIC.

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​Kavanah



​   by Reb Gutman Locks   
  Kavanah

(Directing the Heart)

    

     I saw him walking back from reading the Shema at the Kotel. He wanted help taking off the tefillin. I quickly ran over and told him, "When you do a mitzvah it opens a door in Heaven. It's as if Hashem is listening with both ears. Take advantage of this. Close your eyes and picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling and ask G-d to bless them. Ask Him for all the things that you need … to send you the right girl at the right time … and to make you smart enough to recognize her. Don't forget to thank Him for all the good that He has given you. And pray for our soldiers … that Hashem should protect them. Talk to G-d. You're not a tourist here; you're a Jew coming home."

     He stood there for well over ten minutes with his eyes closed doing what I told him to do. Even when someone bumped into him he didn't open his eyes. When he finally finished he thanked me with tremendous appreciation. You could see that the experience touched him deeply.

     There are at least two things to learn from this. First, when you help someone do a mitzvah it is not enough for them to just do the physical mitzvah. Okay, so that is something, and they will get that much credit in Heaven for doing it, but doing just the physical mitzvah is unlikely to change their lives. For them to see a noticeable change in their lives you have to show them how to use kavanah, you have to show them how to direct their hearts. If you can get them to open their hearts and softly talk to G-d they will love doing the mitzvah and they will want to do it again. They will be practicing Chassidus.

     The second thing we can learn about helping others go through the gate that a mitzvah opens is to ask… are you taking advantage of it, too? Sometimes things become so automatic that we forget about the spiritual advantage a mitzvah gives us. When you do a mitzvah are you warming your life with awareness of Hashem by opening your heart and talking to Him intimately?

 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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The Soul You Have Given Me

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
   

The Soul You Have Given Me

 

     The Soul is the life. There is some form of life even in inanimate objects. The molecules within all objects constantly move. This shows that there is life in there.

     The life of a plant is higher than the life of a stone. "Higher" here means that Hashem does not hide as much in the life of a plant as He does in the life of an inanimate object. Not only does life move inside a plant, it causes the plant to grow, to live, and to die. But even in a dead plant there is some form of life as surely there are molecules moving in there, too.

     Life in an animal is higher than the life in a plant. Animals have some form of will. They make conscious choices. They have intentions, likes and dislikes. They become tired; cry out when they are wanting.

     Even higher than the life of an animal is the natural soul of man. Mankind has freewill, he (or she) can choose between good and evil. This soul allows man the advantage of speech.

     Still higher than the natural soul of all mankind is the additional, spiritual soul that Hashem has placed in every Jew. This spiritual soul gives the Jew a tremendous advantage, but it also brings an even greater responsibility. Hashem has assigned the Jewish people to be a nation of priests, and to share His light with the world. In order to fulfill this mission He has placed within us this holy soul. There is nothing manifested anywhere that is higher than this soul. This soul is an actual portion, or breath of Hashem from on High. But even this holy soul has come about only after Hashem has hidden Himself in order to make that soul. "The soul you have given within me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me, and you preserve it within me…."[i]

     All souls vivify, enliven the bodies they are placed in. That is their function. But this holy soul of a Jew does not physically vivify the Jew. It is placed there to make it easier for the Jew to become aware of Hashem's Presence. But, this added awareness of Hashem does not come automatically, not even to the Jew. Awareness of Hashem must be sought, desired, yearned for. If the Jew ignores this spiritual gift the gift will sleep within him. But no matter how long or how hard it sleeps, it can be awakened in a moment. Wake up…it's time to go to work.

    



[i] early morning prayer

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Monday, July 27, 2015

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After the Fast

​   by Reb Gutman Locks
   

After the Fast

 

     Around 1:30 this morning, I was walking to the Kotel to begin my daily schedule. To tell you the truth I wasn't feeling my normal "up" self. The fast was thirsty to say the least, but more than that my thirst started me thinking about this seemingly unending, extremely cruel exile.

     Okay, so I know that the Redemption is happening. We can see it happening all around, but still, those millions of innocent Jews who were pushed into the gas chambers kept coming to mind. I did my usual best of trying to smile, but in truth it was just a face. I wanted to cry for those innocent Jewish families being herded into hell.

     When I turned the corner I saw the young Chassidim of Belz sitting in their special formation. It seems that they sit like that to remind us of when Moshe split the sea for us to walk through on our way out of Egyptian slavery. I quickly set up for the minyan to the side and sat and began my schedule.

     Their singing was beautiful, not only was it melodic, it was sweet and heartfelt. I started to sing along with them and my soul began to climb back up to its "normal" outlook. It got to me. I cried and I cried again.

     Over and over again I see the answer to this cruel exile is not mourning. It is joy. Only joy will redeem us, not sorrow.

     Have a happy week.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

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Laws of Verbal Harrassement

Appropriate for learning the afternoon on Tisha b’Av.

via Lma’an Yishme’u

by Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Moreh Hora'ah - Beis Horaa Rechovot

The Torah says, "A man should not wrong his fellow."1 Chazal explain that one must be sincere in social interactions just as in business, and one may not harass another person verbally or cause him any discomfort (ono'as devarim).2

Here are some examples of this prohibition brought in halacha (Jewish religious law):

  1. One may not call a person by a derogatory nickname. Even if the nickname is generally used in a friendly manner (e.g. height, hair color), one may not use it if his intention is to make him uncomfortable.3

  2. One may not mention to a person a previous lifestyle that will make him uncomfortable (e.g. before he was Torah observant).

  3. One may not ask someone a question for which he won't know the answer and will be ashamed.4 Thus, one may not ask a guest to recite a dvar Torah if they don't have what to say.5 Likewise, it is forbidden to test a child on material or in a manner which he won't be able to answer, and he will become embarrassed (unless this is necessary to motivate him).6

  4. One may not knowingly send a person to a supplier that doen't carry the sought after product, thereby causing agony to the buyer or the seller.7

  5. One may not tell someone who is going through a hard time that they are at fault, because they didn't do what they were supposed to.8 One may only suggest that they reexamine their actions in a gentle way that won't hurt their feelings.9

Chazal say that verbal harassment is even more severe than causing financial damage since he hurts the person himself (not his property) and the misdeed cannot be undone (unlike a financial loss which can be repaid). If the one who was harassed cries out to Hashem he is immediately answered.10

Beis Din has the authority to punish a verbal harasser. Some say that he should be placed in nidui (a form of cherem) until he will monetarily appeases the offender, while others hold that he deserves makas mardus (lashes).11

1. ויקרא כה, יז.

2. ב"מ נח ע"ב.

3. שו"ע חו"מ סי' רכח ס"ה.

4 . שו"ע שם ס"ד.

5. ספר חסידים סי' שיב.

6. ראה פתחי חושן הלכות אונאה פט"ו הע' יב.

7. ראה שוע"ר הל' אונאה סכ"ח.

8. ראה שוע"ר שם, ומפרשי הגמ' בב"מ שם.

9. ראה ברכות דף ה' ובמפרשים שם, שהרי אמרו חז"ל שכשיסורים באים לאדם יפשפש במעשיו.

10. שוע"ר שם סכ"ז.

11. ראה פת"ח שם ס"ב ובהערות.

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In The Time of Golus

via Lma’an Yishme’u

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash (when the Jewish Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem), when the Divine Presence was openly manifest, the Divine sparks that had fallen into the kelipos were sifted and elevated as a matter of course: the kelipos spontaneously became null and void, losing their separate identity as they became incorporated in the forces of holiness, just as a candle becomes lost in a great flame. Moreover, Yidden delighted in their divine service on account of the intense revelation of Elokus in the Beis HaMikdash, and by nature they were drawn to it.

In the time of golus, by contrast, a man's avoda is motivated mainly by the attribute of Netzach, conquest. This involves battling and standing firm against all the internal and external forces that hinder anyone who seeks to draw close to HaShem. Indeed, the attribute of Netzach is aroused specifically when one is challenged by obstacles.

Another characteristic motivated by the attribute of Netzach: Even when one does not derive delight from the pleasant flavor (taam) of his service, he persists in his service notwithstanding, in a way that transcends intellectual delight and understanding (lemaala mitaam vadaas).

(אור התורה שיר השירים ע' קכד)

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Come Closer

via Lma’an Yishme’u

The Mezritcher Maggid taught that during the time of golus (exile) it is easier to connect to HaShem (G-d) than when the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) stood. In fact it is even easier during the Three Weeks, when the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed.

Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk explained this surprising statement by means of an "incredible and sweet mashal" that he once heard from the Maggid:

A close friend of the king once invited the king to come to a special feast in his home. The king of course turned down his warm request, since it is unbefitting for a king to leave his palace, apart from exceptional circumstances and extraordinary requests.

It once happened that the king was on the road and night was approaching, so he ordered his convoy to stop at a modest hotel in a nearby village. Although it was nothing like his magnificent palace, he was willing to spend the night there, provided that it was clean.

Similarly, in the times of the Beis HaMikdash one had to refine himself to lofty levels in order to acquire ruach hakodesh. But today, when the Shechina is wandering in golus, it will rest wherever it can find a home, so long as it is clean of sin.

The Koznitzer Maggid quotes the Mezritcher Maggid as finding an allusion to this in Eicha, which says, "All those who pursued her (רודפיה) caught her between the boundaries (bein hametzarim)." At the straightforward level of pshat, that possuk simply describes the nations' pursuit of the Yidden during that three-week period. Yet it can also be understood to refer to the special ability of Yidden to pursue HaShem (רודף י"ה) during this somber time.

(אור תורה אות שצט, נועם אלימלך כא ע"א, עבודת ישראל ר"פ מסעי)

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

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What Are You



by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
-

What Are You?


     What if you have been going through life
thinking that you are something that you are not? Then, somehow you find out
that you are really something else. Your entire life would probably change. You
might very well change the way you do even the smallest things in your life.
Your goals would most likely change and so would your daily experience. If this
were going to happen to you when would you like it to happen? Obviously, as
soon as possible.

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What Are You?

​   by Reb Gutman Locks  
   

What Are You?

 

     What if you have been going through life thinking that you are something that you are not? Then, somehow you find out that you are really something else. Your entire life would probably change. You might very well change the way you do even the smallest things in your life. Your goals would most likely change and so would your daily experience. If this were going to happen to you when would you like it to happen? Obviously, as soon as possible.

 

What Are You? 

(video link)

 

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What Are You



by YOUR-NAME at Mystical Paths
- type article here -
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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Defending Rabbi Arush, shlita

Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlita, is the rabbi of yeshiva Chut shel Chessed in Jerusalem, and known as the Breslev Tzadik of Meah Shearim.  He has a sizable following and institutional base in Israel, and is represented by Rabbi Lazer Brody who travels worldwide sharing some of R. Arush’s teachings and fundraising for his Torah institutions.

He’s recently come under fire for announcing he will no longer meet or directly council women (or directly give women blessings), that questions or request for blessings for the rabbi should be brought by their husbands (or, assumedly if unmarried, by their fathers’), or sent in writing to the rabbi.

Almost immediately after making this statement the wolves and trolls attacked.  Here’s a few:

-- If these men can't control themselves then make sure the door is open - which should be anyway - and there is someone sitting in the next room. What's next? Demanding that Jewish women wear burkas????

-- control thyselves.  Rabbis can always walk away or say NO.

-- It sounds as if women should have their own planet and nobody should be trusted in front of them because their have been some sick people who could not control themselves. And of course it must also make alot of sense to you that it is the women's problem that some men can't control themselves.

-- Men of any type can learn self control,so damn ridiculous. I've consulted with many rabbi's and NEVER had any hint of lust from ANY of them!!!!! Surely no mensch would EVER rape a woman! Disgusting to give any excuse for this vile behavior.

-- If these learned men can't control their urges around women why don't they live in enclosed communities similar to monks where they can avoid women at all cost.

The first and important question to be asked is what drove this change in position?  Rabbi Arush, shlita, did not EVER meet privately with women, so what’s driving this change from public / open door / and group meetings to complete avoidance?

The answer is seeing too many rabbis, rabbis of some renown, failing in this area.  And while in percentage terms it may be merely a handful among thousands or tens of thousands of rabbis, clearly:

.. There is inherent risk in this type of pastoral counseling, where vulnerable people are coming in vulnerable situations for advice / assistance / blessings.  This can lead to misdirected emotions toward the person providing help, similar to people falling in love with their doctor or nurse.

.. There is also an inherent power balance problem, and advice can have unintentional emotional impact.

.. Everyone has challenges with desires.  Under normal conditions, people keep their desires in check.  But what if you were presented with THOUSANDS of opportunities, some telling you how much they love and need you?  Are we expecting super-human perfection from our rabbis?

.. In a day of cell phones, Youtube, extreme feminism, and aggressive lawyers, even the slightest incident can be misinterpreted and reputation destroying (and edited down to make it appear that way).  And some incidents can indeed be set ups and attempts to take a rabbi down.

So in a month and year where a number of rabbis have had such negative claims brought against them, Rabbi Arush (shlita)’s reaction is VERY REASONABLE.

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The Home of Rabbi Aryeh Levine

I had a chance to tour the neighborhood bordering the Machane Yehudah shuk in Jerusalem this past week.  One of the special sites passed was the home of the famous tzadik of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, zt”l.

More on the tzaddik is here.  But here’s his home…

20150707_161025

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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When Brothers Appreciate One Another

“Chany F” shared the following story from our town in Israel on Facebook…

Just witnessed on the bus to Jerusalem:

It's a packed bus and there are no more seats to be had. A soldier gets on, big gun and all. A charedi guy (ultra-orthodox) sitting near the front gets up and tells the soldier to take his seat. Soldier smiles, refuses.

I'm sitting one row behind, across the aisle so I hear the exchange more or less.

The charedi guy says something like "you risk your life for mine, it's the least I can do." Soldier still refuses, thanks the charedi man and insists he sit back down. Soldier says ‘thank you for your offer’. Charedi man answers "no, thank you."

What a beautiful thing to witness, especially during the nine days. These kinds of stories, although not retold nearly as much as the negative ones, are much more indicative of our dear nation. How about we try to publicize these more than those.

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More Shared Divine Providence

Commentor R. Halevy shared this “story”…

MORE ON HASHGACHAH PERATIT:

A Jew flew back home to Brazil from a business trip to Japan, on an Emirates flight. The plane landed in Dubai, where the passenger stopped for 3 and a half hours before boarding another plane.

The day was already dawning, and the Jew was thinking how to do the mitzvah of putting on his tefillin. He wondered where he could find a safe place, walking up and down with his kippa on the head, in the middle of all those strangers who stared at him with an ice-cold look.

Roaming through the huge airport, in the middle of nowhere, suddenly he almost literally bumped into a man walking in the opposite direction — a bearded man with black suit, black hat and tzitzit!! The Jew looked around, a bit stunned, and noticed the crowd of hostile looking, turban-wearing men quickly passing by him and the black-hatted guy.

The chassid asked him in English "— Are you Jewish?". He answered affirmatively. They introduced themselves: the chassid was a Rabbi from Manchester, UK, flying back home from Dubai. He had been there for a few days, in order to perform the brit milah of the newborn son of a businessman on a temporary work assignment.

The Rabbi asked "— Have you donned tefillin today?" The Jew answered "— Well, no... but... I don't feel safe here, I think it may not be a good idea, you know — life risk?"

The Rabbi told him "— Come with me! I know a 100% safe place to daven, right here!!"

Not very happy with the idea, the Jew followed the Rabbi until he opened the door to the... entrance hall before the airport mosque!! There was a room with wooden benches and open cabinets to leave the luggage and shoes, where the muslim worshippers keep their belongings to go to the place where they wash their feet before entering the mosque itself.

The Jew got chills down the spine. Meanwhile the Rabbi opened calmly his bag, removed the tallit, tefillin and prayer book, just as if he were in a synagogue or any "normal" place. The perplexed Jew did the same. Both put on their tefillin and began to pray according to their respective books.

Suddenly, a tough-looking security guard came in, with an impeccable uniform and scary moustache, and asked the Rabbi "— Are you muslim???" The Rabbi softly answered "— No, we're Jewish. May we pray here?" The security guard, somewhat surprised, thought for a few seconds and then said, with an imperative voice "— You may as well pray, but stay here, do not enter the mosque!". The Rabbi agreed, and expressed his gratitude with a slight nod of his head.

The Rabbi and the other Jew prayed in a low voice, while several tall men went in, wearing turbans and tunics. They took their shoes off, stared shortly at the Jews and proceeded to the feet-washing facilities.

The Jew occasionally caught a glimpse of the Rabbi, who calmly prayed with his eyes closed, a slight smile on his face.

When finished, both began to put their tefillin back into their bags. Then the Rabbi opened up another small bag and... produced his “Rabbeinu Tam” tefillin, said the proper berachot, and after completing his mission he carefully and precisely wrapped the stripes around the small tefillin and stored them into the suitcase.
Upon leaving the mosque, the Jew closed the door after them and released a sigh of relief.

The Rabbi shook the Jew's hand warmly and, before parting ways, told him “— Do you see? When a Jew decides to do his Creator's will, nothing stands in his way!!"


====================================


Now for an important detail: the guy who experienced this story... it's me!! And the Rabbi who helped me do the mitzvah is Rabbi Yoel Niasoff from Manchester, UK Beit Chabad.

For me, this was just one more unmistakable proof of the Divine Providence, which seems to conspire in all possible ways in order to guide me through pleasant journeys — that is, whenever I make the right choices.


Shalom!!
R. Halevy.

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