Friday, September 30, 2005

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Returning through Love

An excerpt from a message for the new year from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, kabbalist, chassid and head of the Gal Einai Institute for the inner wisdom of the Torah (online at Inner.Org)...

...The upcoming year is the 5766th year since the creation of the world. It is commonly referred to as the year 766, תשס"ו , leaving out the thousands. This year will signify the spiritual mode of the Divine service of "returning [to G-d] from love" (תשובה מאהבה), as the numerical value of this phrase in Hebrew is 766.

The sages explain that when one returns to the Almighty from fear (be it fear of punishment or fear of other consequences of one's negative actions) then transgressions committed purposely are treated as accidents. But, when one returns from love of the Almighty, then negative actions are spiritually transformed into acts of merit. Chassidut adds that the merit in these re-interpreted acts is even greater than the merits in positive actions. So great is the power of return (teshuvah) from love that not only does it cleanse one's own self, but it even draws enough Divine light into reality so as to uplift that which one has made desolate by one's negative actions even entering into the sin itself and transforming/rectifying it.

Fear (even awe) shrivels us. Shunning the negative because of fear only serves us to escape that which is wrong, in order to save ourselves. But, the wrong itself remains as is and the situation remains blemished and continues to veil the Divine light that permeates all. The feelings of deflation and tension that accompany an attitude of fear lead us on a "shorter, but longer path." Our sins are indeed forgiven, but we remain unable to penetrate the inner core of our being and our environment, unable to rectify its very foundations.

On the other hand, when returning to G-d from love, we are filled with a positive attitude that spreads and contagiously affects everyone around us. We can no longer be satisfied with our own rectification and well-being but seek the same for all of reality (especially those parts that we have hurt by our transgressions). The expansive, calm, and patient nature of one who is motivated by love leads us down the "longer, shorter path." Though it is more difficult to attain, love allows us to penetrate the inner core of reality, revealing its intimate bond with the Almighty's Presence, and rectifies our transgressions from their very foundation, until our transgressions are transformed into merits...

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

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Thoughts for Elul: Challenges, Tests, Trials, Growth

A Simple Jew wrote (here) about challenges in life, and the difficulting of being 'stuck' in the middle of them.

When we are challenged, we often rise to the occasion. Sometimes, though, we fall down, learn how to recover and get up stronger for the experience. A person sitting comfortably rarely progresses or grows, and rarely is such a person motivated to put themselves in an uncomfortable position.

A number of years ago as a young single man, I was part of a small Jewish community. I was closely involved with the rabbi and his family, in running the shul (synogogue) and community programs. If things were happening, I was involved.

Naturally, over time, the rabbi and I and his family became very close. I was comfortable, happy, constantly involved in mitzvot for the community, and even important. It was very nice, very comfortable.

Two things happened that changed the situation. The rabbi was a wonderful man fully devoted to the Jewish community. He was good with people and willing to go out of his way, in any way necessary, to help people out. He was not, however, a good money manager. His programs and operation frequently ran a deficit, and on a number of occasions he got himself to the point of juggling one loan to pay another, to the point of financial collapse. At this point, without me or others being aware of the situation, he would reach out and take risks to prevent the whole community structure he had built from collapsing in financial ruin.

Once, at wits end, he turned to me and some others, requesting a personal loan for a very brief period to keep things operating until (X) big donation or allocation scheduled and guaranteed to arrive (very soon). I was convinced to help, but as a young man I didn't have thousands waiting to be borrowed. Could I, for the sake of the community (with which I was so involved) use some of my credit (meaning, take an advance on credit cards) to help the community through this rough spot.

Some of you reading this might think, how could anyone (meaning me) be so stupid? Anyone that desparate and doing money manipulations like that is definately going to fall flat on his face. You're not going to get paid back! With experience and an outside view, that's pretty obvious. At the time, it wasn't.

Around the same time, being a young man, interests turned to marriage and family. Dating and matches were tried, after not to long a time I met my wife at the rabbi's Shabbos table. Some months later, we were married.

Married life brought new pressures, especially financial ones, as well as a fresh set of outside eyes evaluating the situation. Loans, which had been stretched and stretched, needed to be repaid for me to get by (both financially and due to spousal concern). But they weren't, and now I was putting the community at risk (repaying me could bring financial collapse!)

So I wasn't comfortable being there, he wasn't comfortable having me there. So much for my 'position' and involvement with the community. Plus, I had thousands owed to me that I had piled on my own credit cards. I went to a Beis Din (religious court). Paperwork, proof, witnesses? I didn't have any, after all, I was dealing with the rabbi, who needs a contract with the rabbi? Really, that was besides the point, he didn't deny anything, he just presented his finances and said he couldn't pay without losing the shul (synogogue) and school. The Beis Din was not willing to close down a Jewish community for one man (me).

So I'd been burned and buried financially, with no recourse (or none I was willing to take). In taking the rabbi to court, I had also effectively exiled myself from the community into which I had invested so much.

The challenge and test? How would you judge this? Rabbi's are bad, the system isn't concerned for the little guy? They're all lying money grubbing scum?

No. I encountered a man, a rabbi, a good man who would give you the shirt off his back, a rabbi with a black hat and a long beard, who has an evil inclination. His told him, for the community it's ok to bend the rules, to take risks, and to protect the community it's ok to break halacha and the law. The yetzer hara (the evil inclination) doesn't come to the rabbi and say eat treif (non-kosher), it works on each persons weaknesses.

My family and I had to leave our community, we headed to one of the larger Jewish communities. We encountered new people, made new friends, I had new learning opportunities and career opportunities. I grew, I was forced to grow.

I also learned the wisdom of Torah and halacha (Jewish law) when it comes to business matters as well. If you're making a loan, witnesses and contracts are required, even if you are dealing with a rabbi or a Torah organization. Don't assume that the wisdom of the Torah and Judaism is only in matters of G-d and prayer and spiritual troubles, it's also in matters of property and money and arguments between neighbors, and has equal wisdom in all areas.

Growth rarely comes from sitting around, it's driven by challenges. Sometimes our blessings come exactly from those challenges. Consider them with a good eye.

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The Mystical Secret of Teshuvah - Part 2

Considering we're about to enter the holy month of Tishrei, the season of repetence, return and connecting with G-d, it seems appropriate to talk about exactly that, teshuvah: repenting, returning, connecting to G-d.

But what are the mystical secrets of teshuvah? How does it work? What do we have to do, and what happens then? This is part 2, part 1 is here.


Hashem's "Or En Sof", G-d's infinite light or divine energy, is drawn in to the nature of the world (in to the name Havayah) through the performance of mitzvot (commandments), moving the infinite light through the ten sefirot (divine emanations/attributes) to a level of G-dliness that this world can contain.

Our actions in reaching out to and connecting to Hashem through the performance of mitzvot from below evokes a love from above that compels Him to contract Himself within these attributes (the sefirot) to illuminate and provide vitality for the world(s).

The Zohar says, "They are like grapes hanging in a cluster" (Tikkunei Zohar 2a), meaning each of the letters of G-d's name Havayah is like a cluster including many mitzvos (commandments). Mitzvot are called "the limbs of the King", the ten sefirot being compared to a body.

Therefore, the performance of a mitzvah (commandment) drawns down divine energy into a specific section (letter) of a name of G-d, which energizes a specific sefirah. One portion of each sefirah, which is a divine spiritual counterpart to a body, relates to one of the 248 'limbs' of the physical body in this physical world.

Therefore, the performance of mitzvot drawn down divine spiritual energy in to the corresponding limbs of the body in this physical world.

G-d forbid, should a person transgress a negative commandment, or even fail to observe a positive commandment, a blemish is created, reducing the influence of the vitality drawn down to the attribute and sefirah (associated with that mitzvah).

Even worse, the vitality whose channel was blemished is not lost or blocked, it's redirected instead to the kelipos (the negative spiritual influences). So instead of only receiving their minimal separated divine energy, direct divine energy is given over to them.

This is the mystical secret understood from Shir HaShirim (7:6) "A king bound in tresses."

Ongoing presentation of concepts from Derech Mitzvotecha, by the 3rd Lubavitch Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel. G-d willing, the next section will deal with what confession and repentence does.

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Correct your Fellow? Correct Yourself!

More wisdom from HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, for 22nd of Elul, in preparation for Rosh Hashanah...

Chassidic doctrine demands that before reproving another, one must pare his own "fingernails," in order not to gash the other.

"They (the forces of evil) seize by the fingernails"; every stab is K'lipa and Sitra Achra.

After the "nails" are pared there must be "laving the hands," as explained in Chassidus - calling forth intellect into emotion. (Paralleling the physical reality, that after cutting one's fingernails - in the simple sense - he is required by Torah to ritually-wash his hands. Shulchan Aruch (HaRav) Orach Chayim 4:18.)

What in the heck is this all about?

When we touch another, we must be careful that we're not 'gashing'. But, when we're actually going to attempt to correct another, we must be more than careful. We must first check and prepare that we're actually going with love and concern, not with ego or self-righteousness.

Cut back our ego and go with true love for our fellow, we can touch his/her heart and help them out. If we don't, G-d forbid, then we do damage, and worse, damage we don't even notice ourselves.

(Neither are we permitted to avoid trying just because it's not easy.)


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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

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The Mystical Secret of Teshuvah - Part 1

Considering we're about to enter the holy month of Tishrei, the season of repetence, return and connecting with G-d, it seems appropriate to talk about exactly that, teshuvah: repenting, returning, connecting to G-d.

But what are the mystical secrets of teshuvah? How does it work? What do we have to do, and what happens then?

I'm going to try to attempt to explain it, to the best of my ability, giving over the concepts from Derech Mitzvotecha, a book of the mystical kabbalistic explanation of mitzvot, commandments. This holy book was written by the 3rd grand rabbi of Lubavitch hassidus, the Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch.

Understanding the Mystical Side of
Vidui (Confession) and Teshuvah (Repentence)
Part 1


Before we can talk about the mystical side of the mitzvah, it's critical to define the practical aspects of the mitzvah. What is confession and repentence?

This explanation of confession and repentence is provided by the Sefer HaChinuch (the Book of Mitzvah Education) as mitzvah #364 (which is from the Torah, Parshat Haso). And they are:

To confess one's sin's, while turning to G-d with repentence (as it is written in Bamidbar [Exodus] 5:7 "And they shall confess the sin that they committed").

This means, a - abandoning the sin(s), b - confessing and asking for forgiveness.

Abandoning sin means in the future, as well as regreting the sin in the past, which is repentence. Confessing means verbally speaking of one's sin's in prayer to G-d, and asking G-d for forgiveness for having sinned.

The next part will explain how a mitzvah mystically connects the soul to G-d and what a sin does, as we must understand the damage before we can understand the repair.

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The Truth, kind of, sort of.

More thoughts from HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, for the 11th of Elul...

...(in 1843) the (3rd grand rabbi of Chabad Hassidus, HaRav Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known by his magnum opus work, the) Tzemach Tzedek said:

"This world is a world of falsity, therefore even good is adulterated with chaff and must be purified `from below upward' as well as from `Above downward.'

Olam Haba (the Coming World) is the world of truth.

In Torah there are discussions of matters which may appear negative, yet the same matters, as they are studied in Gan Eden are actually positive qualities."

"In This World the meaning of the passage (Sanhedrin 99b) `He who studies Torah Liprakim,' means one who studies Torah intermittently; in Gan Eden they interpret the passage to mean that he studies Torah and the Torah `takes him apart', the words of Torah possess him."

There is no truth in this world that doesn't have at least a touch of falsity. Indeed, if you think of it, you understand that there is no perfectly objective viewpoint. Just by being human, there's perspective that influences our viewpoint.

But, we are promised, if we make an effort, if we try as hard as 'humanly' possible, working 'from below upward', then, G-d will help us finish the job, taking it, and us, to the level that we cannot achieve ourselves, from 'above downward', beyond the level of this world, bringing out the pure truth.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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Islamic holiday coincides with Rosh Hashanah.

It's worth noting (briefly) that the muslim holiday of Ramadan coincides with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) this year, with both starting on October 4.

With world-wide Islamic terrorist threats being what they are, and Islamic holiday's providing extra motivation, and Jews being congregated on the coinciding Jewish holy-day, Jewish congregations and individuals should keep this in mind and take some security precautions.

May the Guard of All Israel guard us all this Jewish holiday season.

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Assisted Emigration.

Among the more unusual Israeli responses to the conflict I've encountered is this one:

Assisted Emigration Services


Palestinians are trapped. Many Palestinians desperately want to, but are unable to, emigrate. Palestinians have the right to escape the incessant cross fire by migration. The Palestinians' decision to resort to terrorism has so reduced the average standard of living that about 380,000 Palestinians recently left their families and homes to emigrate elsewhere.

These emigrants found that there was no support network to help them adjust to the new country. As the security situation deteriorated, the borders to Jordan were closed.

And now, Palestinians are prevented from exercising their option to emigrate.

  • Freedom of migration is a basic human right protected under the 1946 UN Declaration of Human Rights.

  • How can anyone be against the prerogative of a Palestinian Arab to build a new life in a country of his or her choice?

  • There currently is no other organized system to provide assistance in emigration to Palestinians living in buffer zones and in the crossfire.

  • While getting an airline ticket is no problem, obtaining a visa and security clearance from the Arab village to the airport is problematic.

We have established a mechanism for the orderly and compassionate emigration of innocent families to supportive countries.

We provide humanitarian assistance to those who find themselves in the cross fire and seek a prosperous, quiet and fulfilling life. Our network of experts work together to provide the tools to build a new life. The network includes social workers, psychologists, lawyers, and financial analysts that have pooled their expertise to facilitate smooth transitions to a new country and adaptation to a new culture.

Check out: Emigrations.Net

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Monday, September 26, 2005

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The Value of a Favor

Excerpted from HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, for the 16th of Elul...

...each soul stands with all the generations destined to descend from it until the coming of Mashiach, the righteous Redeemer.

When one does a favor to an individual, it is a favor to all those souls until the end of all generations.

Sometimes one has an opportunity to do a favor, a kindness, for another. It may seem like a small thing, even insignificant in fact. However, to the recipient, it may be a life saver. And if so, one may have saved a life! Or a family! An impact that could literally, if we had such vision, be counted for generations!

Being kind to another, helping each other out, goes beyond the obvious impact of the event. Don't hesitate when the moment arrives, help your fellow!

Not that one would do such a thing for the reward, but one may find, upon entering the World of Truth, that the reward is staggering.


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Jewish Hurricane Relief - Click - Fix Israel! Click

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The Blessings of the Land

In my last post, I wrote that the hills were desolate for over 1,500 years. I'm not going to go into details on this post to back that up (though I can if anyone is interested), but I read this that makes the point...

I heard this story at a Shabbos table, some ten years ago, from the people who experienced it firsthand.

A Jewish family moved to a small yishuv ('settlement town') in the vicinity of Gush Etzion, in the picturesque and desert-like Judean Hills, southeast of Jerusalem.

The family planted a lush garden and hired a gardener from the neighboring Arab village to tend it. As time passed, the family noticed that the Arab villagers had begun planting grapevines at a furious pace. This aroused their curiosity, because when they first moved to the yishuv, the surrounding area was barren.

One day, they could no longer contain themselves, so they asked their gardener about the seeming coincidence of Arabs starting to plant just as Jewish families were arriving. The answer they received astounded them. "Before the Jews moved here, it never rained here and nothing grew," said the Arab.


(Excepted from an article by Binyamin Rose in Mishpacha Mazagine.)

Indeed.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

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A Jewish Community is Being Destroyed Today

This is Givat Ro'ey, a hilltop start-up town north of Jerusalem, near Shiloh and Eli...

givat-roey


It's only about 5 years old, the dedicated Jewish families that live there are working hard on turning it into a real community.

Until today, when the government of Israel decided that since it's easy to evacuate Jews, they'll just wipe this little town off the map. No one will notice, no one will care, it's easy.

See all the nearby Arabs being inconvienenced...
08-10Israel 043


Well, tomorrow, this hilltop that has been empty for over 1,500 years will be empty again, desolate and destroyed. Oh well, as the people of S'Derot know today (after being hit with rocket attacks all weekend), those are the sacrifices for peace.

Photo Set of Givat Ro'Ey.

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Embarrassment!

(From the writings of Boruch Davidson in Mishpacha Magazine.)

The holy sage and master kabbalist, the founder of the Lurianic school of kabbalah, the Ari HaKodesh (the Holy Ari) taught:

If a person knew the spiritual gains one receives from embarrassment, he would go searching for it in the streets!

The holy Mussar Sefer Chovos HaLvavos (the book of moral education, Duties of the Heart) says:

Whenever you receive embarrassment, humble yourself and thank Hashem (G-d) that He has revealed a little among your many sins so that you can return to Him. (Shaar HaKniyah 4)

The Ramak always used to say:

The best form of punishment is embarrassment. First because there's no physical harm which would disrupt one's avodas Hashem, and second because the shame will purify him from his sins.

But the key in all of these cases is to accept it humbly and silently. Yes, it's painful! However, what's actually hurt? It's the me, the ego. The bigger, the more important the me, the more it hurts! Learning to be more accepting and less concerned with the me is a great step towards making room for Hashem in your life.

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Missed This One: Synagogue Buried / Entombed?!

In all the various news this past week, this one was buried (pun intended) and I just completely missed it...Israel National News reports:

Abiding by a cabinet decision, the IDF left the synagogue standing in Sa-Nur. In Gaza, the synagogues were destroyed by Arab mobs. In Sa-Nur, the army faced a quandry. The solution? Bury it in sand...

Army experts decided that the only way to get rid of the synagogue, and stay within the spirit of the cabinet’s decision, was to bury it.

Monday, the IDF began burying Sa-Nur’s synagogue in sand. To make the job easier, army engineers decided to break down the synagogue’s interior walls. Tons of sand are being trucked in to fill up the prayer sanctuary and entomb it.


While the news of the destruction of synagogues in Gaza was a big news item, some how this wasn't worthy of note. But the world really is watching, what to do with unwanted Jewish holy places?

Well, we got lucky from the standpoint of not having the Israeli army destroy the ones in Gaza. But now we have an answer for the world. If you want to get rid of a synagogue, just cover it over.

Ribono Shel Olam, please protect us from our own stupid politicians.

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News Update: Stripping Continues

I previously wrote (here):

AP News Flash: Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

Here's a big surprise, the stripping of these amazing greenhouses continues...(Daily News story here):

A week after they descended like locusts on the greenhouses that Jewish settlers nurtured in Gaza, looters continue to pillage what should be a prize asset for a fledgling Palestinian state.

And the Palestinian Authority, which took over Gaza after the Israelis evacuated the territory, appears powerless to stop them.

When a Daily News correspondent visited abandoned Jewish settlements in Gaza, he found brazen vandals dismantling farms that once produced some of the world's finest tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

The now-gutted greenhouses were gifts to the Palestinian people from U.S. philanthropists, who raised $14 million to buy them from departing settlers.

"It was our work for a long time and it was supposed to help even more people now," said heartbroken Zaki Karim, 51, a Palestinian who worked at greenhouses in what was the Gadid settlement. "But it's a mess."


The now-gutted greenhouses were gifts to the Palestinian people from U.S. (the article doesn't say, but mostly Jewish) philanthropists, who raised $14 million to buy them from departing settlers.

One of the philanthropists, Daily News Chairman and Publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman, said "We thought it was a chance to show the Palestinians that there were more benefits from cooperation than confrontation. I'm just sad that they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. ... It's almost inexplicable."


It's only inexplicable if you believe, with no basis in fact, that the goal of these people is to build up their lives. If rather, one reads and listens to what they actually say and watches what they actually do, one clearly sees their goal is to destroy Israel and expel the Jews.

Inspired by this post at Elder of Ziyon.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

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Video: Chabad Advertisement

Yearly Chabad of California holds a television telethon to raise funds for their community projects. This year they're running a funny video advertisement (from some popular television show):

Video - Click here.

Information, showtimes, on-net video stream, and donations can be make here: tolife.com

The telethon is scheduled to run this Sunday from 3pm to midnight, Pacific time.

They do a lot of good things and have a lot of funny video clips. Check it out.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

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Yet Another Rav Kaduri Update

Unfortunately, the situation regarding statements from the great and holy master kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchok Kaduri, shlita, remain confusing. As one of his (supposed) statements said, if you haven't heard it directly from him...

Yeranen Yaakov has the latest update, full info here, here's my excerpt:

Arutz Sheva show host Yehoshua Meiri takes full responsibility for the accuracy of the information in the news item above.

Rabbi Kaduri's remarks regarding natural disasters were said in the framework of a class on Tuesday, Sept. 13th, 2005, which covered the Nevi'im (prophets) section of the book Chok l'Yisrael.
....
(On the other hand...)
....
I went to Rav Kaduri's Yeshivah, Yeshivot Nachalat Yitzhok... Rav Kaduri was not there, but everyone I asked said that these quotes are not true. In the office, the director told me that he is getting 10s of calls every day about these quotes, and they are not true.


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Rita? The Hand of G-d or Random Hot Air?

Is there a heavenly message from Hurricane Rita? Two hurricanes, two of the largest hurricanes every recorded, hitting (or headed for) the same region, in the same time frame, damaging America's economic capacity (11% of oil refining damaged with Katrina, 30% of U.S. oil production at risk by Rita).

Sultan Knish has some points on Rita (read his post here, really, don't just read my excerpt)...

Is it 'Mikra', just coincidence? Or is the 'Yad Hashem', the Hand of G-d.'

When G-d provides Moshe Rabbeinu with signs for Pharaoh, he tells him, Vehaya Im Lo Yaaminu Lach VeLo Yishmeu LeKol Ha'ot Harishon, VeHeminu LeKol Ha'Ot Ha'Acharon. And it shall be if they do not believe you and do not listen to the voice of the first sign, they will believe the voice of the last sign.....

When we read the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt) we often wonder how Pharaoh could have refused to concede the truth. But it is easy to look at him and wonder that when we tend to do the same thing. There have been four class 5 hurricanes that made landfall in the 20th century. Now here's another one a few weeks after the last and yet we say it's all coincidence and means nothing.


as does Rabbi Brody at Lazer Beams (and read his whole post here, really, not just this excerpt)...

The very first tenet of the Jewish faith, the first of the Rambam's thirteen principles is:

I believe with complete faith that The Creator, blessed be His name, is The Creator and Ruler of all the creations, and He only did, does, and will do every single deed.

Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory, the founder of the Hassidic movement who was born exactly 307 years ago (today, 18 Elul, is his birthday), elaborated on the above principle, as follows: Not only does The Almighty decide the fate of the great nations, He also decides what a particular silk worm in Japan shall eat for supper, and the exact moment when a certain oak leaf shall fall to the ground from a particular tree in the Ukrainian forest.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev of blessed memory, teaches that the environment is the language that Hashem uses to speak to a person. Therefore, we are all obligated to try our best to search for the Divine wisdom in every creation, and therefore understand Hashem's personal message to each of us.....

If someone tells you that a hurricane is just a hurricane, a random event in nature external of Hashem's Divine providence G-d forbid, that person is an epikoris, a non-believer by definition according to the above-mentioned very first tenet of our faith. Hashem creates the hurricane and its intensity, then decides when and where it will strike, according to His master plan for the world and according to His individual plans for each of His creations, whether mineral, plant, animal, or human. Hashem decides zillions and zillions of tiny details in exact Divine providence, such as whether or not the wind will blow away Mrs. Wilson's hankies that are hanging up to dry on a Mississippi clothesline.

At the time of this writing, Hurricane Rita is already a Category 4, and with winds of 150 mph, she's only 5 mph below a Category 5. Let's try to understand Hashem's message: Rita is really scary, but she's still 700 miles out at sea. All this is happening during the month of Elul, with 12 days to go until Rosh Hashonna. Since many of us don't have the sense to make Tshuva on our own, Hashem is raising His voice to grab our attention and awaken us from our spiritual slumber. As soon as we make some serious penitence for our misdeeds this past year, Hashem won't need to activate the hurricane any more.


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Happy Birthday Blog!

AkivaBaby

One year ago today, I started this blog. Today, Mystical Paths is exactly 1 year old.

AkivaAge1


Wow, a year gone by. I started this blog in response to Fad Kabbalah, trying to provide some information and perspective on those who have turned an area of great holiness and purity, a way to come closer to the divine, into a fast buck and marketed for a fast food society. Here's my first post...

So, Madonna and other hollywood ilk are into Kabbalah. What does one do when you see the most precious gems dragged through the mud and filth??? How is it that people think you can take the innermost wisdom of connecting to G-d and of G-d's connecting to this world, requiring the highest levels of purity and holiness, and just jump into it without bothering with the holiness part?


Unfortunately, a year later the same kind of stuff is going on, as with my post a few weeks ago (here) about the sale of magical blue mikvah water.

Hopefully though, for those who weren't knowledgable about kabbalah, hassidus and Jewish mysticism, I've provided a little info so you can tell the difference between striving to touch the divine and buying a load of twisted damaged goods.

I've also written about current events, particularly about Israel, and how one can possibly see them through a mystical outlook or looking for insight into the divine plan for the world, as well as possible connections between current events and biblical prophecies. We may be entering a very exciting time.

Occasionally I've written about personal events, and sometimes just my opinion on matters. Those posts tend to get comments, some here and some via email.

One lesson I've learned is a problem of the written word, it's it's suprisingly difficult to convey emotion. Verbally this would be conveyed with inflection and tone, face to face with a look or position of the body (body language). In writing, we often rely on a reasonable common understanding, which we often discover is not reasonable or common between all readers, and sometimes is only so for the author.

I've enjoyed putting my efforts into Mystical Paths, and I've been surprised by the ongoing interest. Readership continues to grow (could always be better, tell your friends!), and considering when I started I was pleased with 8 readers a day (5 of which were me checking it again and again before I knew how to filter myself out of the count, and 1 of which was my wife), I'm very pleased you find what I'm doing here worth your time to read. I've also been surprised to find the Path becoming an 'authoritative' source, showing up on the first page of Google searches on many of the topics I cover as well as being linked to or referred to by many other blogs (for specific posts or in general).

If you have any suggestions, topics you'd like covered, features you'd like added, now is a good time to speak up. Add a comment or email me.

A good and sweet year, Akiva

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Hassidus for Hai Elul

From the book HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, for Hai Elul, the 18th of the month of Elul, a day for life! and preparation for Rosh Hashanah...

The day of the birth of the Baal Shem Tov (see previous post), his beginning to learn with his teacher, his starting of hassidus, and the birth of the first grand rabbi of Chabad hassidus, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, zt"l.

(From a discourse of the Baal Shem Tov's on Shabbat Tavo, Hai Elul 5652 (1892)...)

"It will be when you come into the land (Eretz) that the Eternal your G-d gives you for an inheritance, and you will inherit it and dwell in it. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 26:1)

The Midrash notes that Eretz is an idiom of Merutza (running) and of Ratzon (will, desire).

When you attain the level of Ratzon, "desire," (for the G-dly) that is a gift from Above and an inheritance for every one of Israel, then your Avoda (divine service) is "...you will dwell in it" - to internalize all you have attained, "bringing it down" in a settled manner.

"You shall take...and place it in a basket," (Devarim-Deuteronomy 26:2, physically referring to the first of fruits to be dedicated to G-d)- draw down the (spiritual) lights into (appropriate) vessels.

"You shall go to the place the Eternal your G-d will choose" (Devarim-Deuteronomy 26:2, physically referring to the holy Jewish tabernacle or temple) - a Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going on his own, but is being directed from Above. And the intention and purpose in this is...

"...to cause His Name to dwell there" (Devarim-Deuteronomy 26:2) - that is, to make G-d known in his (that Jew's) locale."

(After the evening prayer, the Baal Shem Tov repeated this discourse and added...)

"It will be when you come..." For you to attain the level of "desire" etc. it is necessary that... "you shall go to the place, etc... to cause His Name to dwell there." You are to utterly dedicate yourself to making G-d known there. How does one "make G-d known"? With a B'racha (a blessing, saying blessings over food and physical mitzvot) and a verse of Tehillim. (Psalms, the reciting of Psalms)"

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The 18th of Elul

Since in Hebrew numbers are written with letters, sometimes a "number" also is a word. September 22 this year is Hai Elul (Chet-Yud, or the 18th). Hai, besides representing 18, is also the Hebrew word for life.

Among Hassidim, Hai Elul is a special and auspicious day. This day is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, the Master of the Good Name, the founder of hassidus, in the Jewish year 5458 (1698). According to tradition, it was also on Hai Elul that his holy teacher and master appeared to him in 5484 (1724), as well as the day the Baal Shem Tov actively began gathering diciples (in 5494 (1734)).

A brief biography of the Baal Shem Tov, as well as the historical transmission of the mystical tradition of Judaism in Europe, can be found here.

This day is also celebrated among the Chabad Lubavitch hassidim as the birthday of the founder of Chabad hassidus, the first Lubavitcher grand rabbi (rebbe), the great and saintly Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, zt"l, in 5505 (1745).

Here's a few words from the biography of the Baal Shem Tov...

Israel Baal Shem Tov was born on the 18th day of Elul in the year 5458 (245 years ago) in a little town called Okup in the Ukraine. The name 'Baal Shem Tov' meaning 'the master of the Name', was given him later, when he became known as a great and pious leader, with divine powers to perform miracles.

At the age of 5 he lost his father, Eliezer, who was a very pious and modest man, greatly respected in his community. Before his death, Eliezer called his little son to his bedside and told him: 'My last message to you, dear son, is: Fear no one and nothing, but G-d alone! Love every Jew with all your heart and soul!'

The little orphan was placed in the care of a teacher in 'cheder'. Whenever the little boy had an opportunity, he ran to the nearby woods, spending hours absorbed in thought, watching the great miracles of nature, and seeing the divine hand in every little flower and blade of grass. This nature study in his early youth left a profound impression upon him, and later on, in one of his lectures to his disciples, he said: "When you see a leaf blown from a tree and whirled along the pathway, don't think it's an accident, for it's moved by the will of G-d!"

At an early age he was appointed assistant to the teacher of the cheder. His duties were to recite the Shema and the blessings and prayers with the youngest children, as well as to conduct them to cheder and back home. He loved the little children with all his heart, and it was his greatest joy to teach the pure little children the prayers and blessings. "Those days were the happiest in my life," he once said many years later, "and nothing is so acceptable to G-d as the prayers and blessings coming from the lips of those pure kiddies!"

At the age of 14, the Baal Shem Tov joined the legion of 'Tzadikim nistarim' (pious and learned Jews who disguised themselves as poor and simple folk, so that they could mix with the poor and unlearned Jews and do their good work among them). The spiritual leader of these 'secret service men' was the great and saintly Baal Shem Rabbi Adam of Ropshitz, the successor of Rabbi Joel Baal Shem of Zamushtz, who in turn was the successor of Rabbi Elijah Baal Shem of Worms-all the three of them were renowned for their piety and scholarship and divine powers...


Read the whole thing.

For Hai Elul, to life and the appreciation of every good soul created in the image of G-d!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

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Fleeing TO Gaza???

IsraellyCool notes an interesting phenomena during the recent breakdown of the Gaza - Egypt border:

"When you compare the situation with the Gaza Strip, it's much cheaper to marry a woman from Egypt," said another source. Some of the men were already married and had decided to take a second or third wife after discovering that Egyptian families were eager to send their daughters to a relatively better life in the Gaza Strip, the source added.

One of the brides, who identified herself as Samira, said she agreed to marry the man she met only hours earlier "because this was an opportunity that should not be missed." Samira, 28, lived with her family in Al-Arish.

"In Egypt, it's very difficult for a woman my age to get married because I'm considered too old," she said. "Moreover, the economic situation in Egypt is not as good as in the Gaza Strip."

Reality exposed, propaganda overridden. Read the whole thing here.

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Video: Even More of Uncle Moshie Live, Shalom!!

Yes, it's even more of Uncle Moshie, everyone's favorite uncle!

For those in the English speaking orthodox Jewish world with young children, there's no one like Uncle Moshie. He's a very popular childrens entertainer who sings educational Jewish oriented songs.

Here's yet another video clip from Labor Day in New Jersey at the Jewish Mitzvah Fair...

Shalom - Page - Video Direct

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Communal Punishment

An interesting insight into this week's parsha (Torah portion scheduled to be read this coming Shabbos) as well as the difficult subject of collective or communal punishment, from Aish.com...

There are large sections in the Torah that are addressed to the Jewish body politic as a single, united entity rather than to individual Jews. The account of the blessings and the curses on Mt. Grizim and Mt. Eival, and the 98 curses of the Tochahcha,the rebuke, are the subjects that take up the bulk of our parsha and belong to these public sections. The blessings and the curses of our parsha land on the doorsteps of individual Jews in their capacity as members of the Congregation of Israel. Individual merit or iniquity is not a factor.

PUBLIC CONSEQUENCES

To be absolutely certain that there is no misunderstanding concerning the public nature of the consequences presented, the blessings and the curses are imposed in the context of a dramatic ceremony in which the entire Jewish nation actively participates. Six tribes on the peak of Mt. Grizim another six on the peak of Mt. Eival, answering "Amen" to the curses and the blessings uttered by the Levites positioned in the valley between.

The 98 curses listed in the Tochacha (the rebuke) at the end of the Parsha are clearly addressed to the Jewish public regardless of individual merit. Most of them concern national calamities in which the righteous necessarily suffer along with the wicked. The death of the innocent and the righteous in the context of the actualization of the curses is taken for granted as a matter of course. Those who question God's attribute of Justice on the grounds of the undeserved suffering of the righteous in cataclysmic events such as the Holocaust have not fully understood the Tochacha.

Read the whole thing here.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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Fad Alert: Blue Ari Mikve Water

The mikvah of the Holy Ari, the master kabbalist who formulated the Lurianic school of kabbalah in the mystical city of Safed (Israel), is a special and holy place. It's fed by a pure mountain spring and is renouned for its freezing temperature year round.

It's considered a very special place to clean the soul and bring a person to teshuva, repetence and reconnecting with the Creator. It's also located on the edge of the ancient Jewish cemetary of Safed, which according to tradition includes the graves of many ancient (and not so ancient) Jewish sages and a biblical prophet...

Aug-21 081 Aug-21 059
Aug-21 068 Aug-21 069

What it's not, G-d forbid, is a source of magical water....

Now you too can spend $10.00 for a few drops of this amazing water. Yes, it dices, it slices, it heals, it takes you to a higher plane of energy, it instantly removes all sin, it brings health and wealth and property and good spouses and money from heaven!!!! It doesn't yet raise the dead, but we're working on that!


Ari H2O will glady sell you a drop of water, in a bottle of mystical protection blue, for $10.00 (yes, this is real, see it here).

I recommend you visit the mikvah, but I can't figure out any reason why you'd want to waste $10.00 on a drop of water in a blue bottle. Save your money, or better yet, give the $10.00 to charity.

"Do not make it a crown for self-aggrandizement, nor an axe with which to cut." - Pirke Avos 4:5

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Bloggers, Run Into Automated Post Stealing?

Just wondering if any fellow bloggers have run into the problem of 'automated' post swiping. I've noticed some of my posts (on particular topics or particular types) being picked up by other sites.

Example: My Uncle Moshie video post, here, was taken by this site and posted, here.

Now, I'm not talking about people quoting or excerpting a post, or even picking it up and saying "I found this really interesting item on ..., and here it is...". I'm also not talking about blog catalogs or summarizers (such as JewishBlogging.com).

That's why I added this line at the bottom of all my posts: This article was posted on the Mystical Paths blog, mpaths.com. If you're reading it somewhere else without an attribution, then it's without permission. Please check it out at the source, click here!

Any thoughts or other ways to prevent this from happening?
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Photo: Sharon's Reward, UN Speech Photo

Forwarded to me by Elisheva R, via Letter from Israel...

Photo of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon speaking before the United Nations General Assembly:

sharon_un


For an unusual change, the Israeli press team did a wonderful job running up the success of Sharon's political moves and his rewarding and excellent speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

Of course, they didn't bother to mention that he addressed a practically empty hall.

Do not seek greatness for yourself, do not covet honor... (Pirke Avos 6:5)

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Update from Rav Kaduri / Correction / Invalidation

In a previous post (here) I posted some information attributed to the holy master kabbalist, HaRav Yitzchok Kaduri, shlita, that stated an imminent prediction for natural disasters and a suggestion to move to Israel to avoid this.


Today, Rabbi Brody of Lazer Beams received some information that the source of this quote from Rabbi Kaduri was not accurate and gave Rabbi Brody direct contact information for Rabbi Kaduri. Here's what he found:

Since this morning, I received six letters claiming that Yehoshua Meiri is not a bona fide spokesman for Rav Kaduri shlit'a. One person put me in contact with Shimon Tetrashvilli, Rav Kaduri's personal attendant and bodyguard, as well as close associate of Rabbi Yisrael Kaduri, Rav Kaduri's grandson. Shimon, with the approval of Rav Yisrael Kaduri, dictated the following statement:

1. No one is a bona fide spokesman for Rav Yitzchak Kaduri shlit'a.

2. Accept only what you hear from Rav Kaduri first hand.

3. Although Rav Kaduri recognizes the value of making aliya, he has not called for immediate massive aliya. Indeed, the Rav continues to bless many of his followers who choose to remain abroad.

4. No website is sanctioned to speak in Rav Kaduri's name.

5. Rav Kaduri has not predicted or forecasted any natural disasters other than what appears already in the writings of the Navi'im (prophets).

So, though some like to make jokes about it, turns out the mistake is believing everything they read and not giving anyone the benefit of the doubt.

Assuming the above statement itself can be believed, the web site Kaduri.Net (hebrew) is also an unreliable source. Some have also noted that there are those collecting in the name of Rabbi Kaduri or to "get a request for blessing" to him. It would seem (and this isn't surprising) that they're not 'authorized'. Hashem YeRachem.

(This site has some pictures and info about Rabbi Kaduri.)

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Monday, September 19, 2005

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Video: More of Uncle Moshie Live, The Kosher Song!

Yes, it's more of Uncle Moshie, everyone's favorite uncle!

For those in the English speaking orthodox Jewish world with young children, there's no one like Uncle Moshie. He's a very popular childrens entertainer who sings educational Jewish oriented songs.

Here's another video clip from Labor Day in New Jersey at the Jewish Mitzvah Fair (and don't worry, more to come!)...

The Kosher Song - Page - Video Direct

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Art for the Season

Nachshon_Tefillah_Bracha
Bracha v'Tefilah
Prayer and Blessing

New art from Jewish mystical artist Baruch Nachshon. Reb Nachshon lives and paints in Hebron and gains his inspiration from prayer and meditation at the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Check out his online web-site collection here, a small sampling of his work.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

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Video: It's Uncle Moshie, Live

For those in the English speaking orthodox Jewish world with young children, there's no one like Uncle Moshie. He's a very popular childrens entertainer who sings educational Jewish oriented songs.

I had a chance to see him with my children this past Labor Day. Here's a few video clips (and wait, more to come after this post, but having trouble getting them uploaded)...

Simcha (Happiness) - Page - Video Direct

For those with older children, they just groan and go, "not Uncle Moshie, that's not cool!" When you go with both together, one group's groaning while the other is dancing and singing. Ugh.
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Friday, September 16, 2005

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The Levels of Man

From HaYom Yom, for the 4th day of Elul...

In describing the unique qualities of humankind, four terms are used:

  • Adam refers to the quality of mind and intellect.


  • Ish to the quality of heart and emotion.


  • Enosh, weakness in either intellect or emotion or both.


  • Gever, who overcomes inner weakness and removes obstacles and hindrances to the attainment of an intellectual or emotional quality.


I.e. Gever works upon Enosh to elevate him to the plane of Ish or Adam.

Since it is possible to turn Enosh into Ish or Adam, it is obvious that Enosh already possesses the qualities found in Ish and Aadam.

Just as Eskimos have a great number of words to describe snow, enumerating the levels, quality and very specific features, hassidus and kabbalah enumerate the different levels, quality and specific features of 'a man'. Each is a level of quality and abilities which move 'the man' farther from the realm of intelligent animal and closer to the realm of 'spiritual being with a relationship with the divine'.

One does not improve levels except by effort, committment, training and time, focused in the right direction.


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According to Palestinian Sources...

Cosmic-X posts about a movie showing the media machine working against Israel..

Pallywood, "According to Palestinian Sources..." a film by Richard Landes & Nidra Poller. International news media extract a few convincing instants of staged scenes - sight-bytes, and present them as news...

Streaming movie link here - High resolution movie link here.


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Thursday, September 15, 2005

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A Sad Sight - Recuing Flooded Torahs from New Orleans

Zaka, the Israeli recue organization that responds to bomb attacks and other disasters, entered New Orleans to save the holy Sefer Torah scrolls that were left in a synogogue there.

Unfortunately, the Torah's were severely damaged by the flood...

T02

T06

All photos - click here.


Mr. Isaac Leider, of the New York ZAKA Rescue & Recovery Organization, waded through waist-deep toxic floodwaters with six Torah scrolls from Congregation Beth Israel, an Orthodox synagogue in New Orleans. A few of the Torah scrolls are believed to be more than 250 years old.

"Out of six, only two are possibly restorable," Leider said, as he sat in an inflatable rescue boat with the Torah scrolls he recovered. "I'm glad that we did this, but I'm terribly saddened. It's hard to see them in this condition." The scrolls are blackened from the toxic water and severely damaged.

Mr. Leider, who spent five years with ZAKA's search-and-rescue squad in Israel, arrived in New Orleans last week to ensure that the bodies of Jews killed by Hurricane Katrina are treated in accordance with Jewish religious law.


(Photos and info from Zaka USA, www.zakausa.org [though the site was not working when I posted this article.])

Update: Why weren't the Torah's taken out? A response from a Chabad rabbi from New Orlean's (though that was a different synogogue than the one above)...

I, for one, drove out of New Orleans with a mini-van loaded with six members of my family and two guests who needed a ride out. The trunk was packed with clothing, diapers and food that we would need for the next few days.

Five Torahs take up a lot of space in a cramped car. We placed the Torahs on the second floor of our Chabad House (synogogue / Jewish community center) and covered them. Covered Torahs are not in danger from slivers of glass blown by 140 MPH winds, nor are they in danger of dying of thirst or of disease if they are caught in a flooded city after the storm. Being on the second floor, they were in little danger of flooding, and being in an interior room, they were in little danger of being damaged by water coming through broken windows.

After the storm and rescue efforts wound down, we asked our rescue team to remove the Torahs, so that we could be sure that they would remain in a climate controlled area to avoid long-term damage, and so that they could be used for services for our community in exile.

I think that the same logic applied to the Beth Israel Torahs (those in the picture above). However, the Shul (the Beth Israel synogogue) had the terrible flooding, which caused very high water levels and caused the damage.


(Source link.)

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Kabbalist warns of disasters, Scientists warn of much higher earthquake risk.

Various Sources: Israel's leading known Kabbalist, the great and holy Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri called upon worldwide Jewry Tuesday night to return to Israel due to natural disasters which threaten to strike the world.

"”This declaration I find fitting to issue for all of the Jews of the world to hear. It is incumbent upon them to return to the Land of Israel due to terrible natural disasters which threaten the world.

In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bring about great disasters in the countries of the world to sweeten the judgements of the Land of Israel.

I am ordering the publication of this declartion as a warning, so that Jews in the countries of the world will be aware of the impending danger and will come to the Land of Israel for the buliding of the Temple and revelation of our righteous Mashiach (Messiah).”

The government agency Geological Survey of Canada reports an important seismic event imperceptible to humans has begun in the Pacific Northwest, as predicted.

The event is called episodic tremor and slip (ETS). It involves a slow movement of tectonic plates in southern British Columbia. Faults associated with the plates have been the sites of major earthquakes -- akin to the colossal tsumani-causing quake last December in Indonesia -- every 500 years or so, the geologic record shows.

The chance of a major earthquake is 30 times higher now for a roughly two-week period, but the odds are still remote, scientists say.

Hmmm.

Sources:

Kabbalist - Israel National News - Click here.
Scientists - Live Science - Click here.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

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Important Gush Katif Comments & Photo Sets

Current Photo Sets of Gaza and Gush Katif (click on them to view):

Forced Out - Set 1
Forced Out - Set 2
Forced Out - Set 3

Looting and Pillaging with Glee

Commentary from Reb Schaeffer:

Of the thousands of soldiers and policemen I PERSONALLY encountered during the final 8 days in Neve Dekalim, I maybe saw a handful crying, and that was when we had a dedication of a new Torah procession. The VAST majority (95+% at least), coldly and numbly fulfilled orders to expel Jews from Our Land. They overwhelmingly coldly turned away from hysterical mothers and crying children, smirked and joked when teenage girls were pleading for their homes and land, looked at the ground when grown men were reduced to tears like a 5 yr. old because they were being ordered by these same soldiers and policemen to permanently leave their homes which were to be destroyed only a week later!

And what was the PENALTY to these soldiers for disobeying orders that contravened our Holy Torah? 28 days in jail. That's all that separated the dozens that refused from 60,000 that obeyed!

Why is the TRUTH so difficult to confront? Why can't we lay our cards on the table, with brutal honesty, and say we, the entire Jewish People have FAILED?!

When the NEXT TIME to expel Jews comes around, and there WILL be a next time if we do not merit the arrival of Moshiach, I sincerely hope that an emese cheshbon hanefesh (truthful soul reckoning) will take place and that each one of us will be there PERSONALLY to stop this Chillul Hashem (Desecration of G-d's Name) and prevent the soldiers and policemen who will once again "just be following orders" from carrying out their dastardly plans to destroy our Homeland and Our People.

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Interpreted News Report: Looters Strip Greenhouses

AP News Flash: Palestinians looted (hmm, can you loot your own property, they just 'bought' these) dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.

American Jewish donors pie-in-the-sky fools had bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million last month and transferred them (not even going to ask how you 'transfer' buildings in a lawless area with no real estate title authority) to the Palestinian Authority...

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said. (These 'people' have 40,000 armed 'police', but they couldn't find a couple hundred to protect these 'prize' assets?)

“We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”

The failure of the security forces to prevent scavenging and looting in the settlements after Israel’s troop pullout Monday raised new concerns about Gaza’s future. (Hmmm, uncontrolled looting with 22 people sent to secure $14 million dollars worth of super-high-tech farming greenhouses that previously produced over $150 million of farm exports, and the reporter thinks maybe there might be 'new concerns'??? Ya think? Hmm, maybe there's another part to the problem besides Israel? Kind of hard to ignore local behavior when there's no scapegoat anymore? Or, maybe not, it's just a 'concern'.)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told his people in a televised speech Tuesday that he would take immediate steps to impose order. “We have one law for everyone and no one is above the law. We are not going to tolerate chaos after today,” he said. (But, today it's a-ok, go ahead and destroy our future $150 million dollar greenhouses, I'm sure you need the plastic sheeting more than we do.)

I'm sorry, said Mr. Abbas, addressing the world. We can't control ourselves after millenium of Israeli oppression. In their justified uncontrollable anger the people couldn't help but destroy anything Israel built. So please, dear world, transfer another $10 billion to my account so I can rebuild my mansion in Switzerland people's economy.


The greenhouses are were a centerpiece of Palestinian plans for rebuilding Gaza after 38 years of Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Authority hopes hoped the high-tech greenhouses left by the Israelis will would have provided jobs and export income for Gaza’s shattered intentionally self-destroyed economy.

Oops, then again, maybe not.

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It Will Be A Year Of Secret And Revelation

The great and holy master kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchok Kaduri, shlita, announced today that the rashay teivot (the meaning of the initials) of the coming Hebrew year, which is the year 5,766 since the creation of the world, or Taf-Shin-Samech-Vav in Hebrew, represent the Hebrew phrase "Tehiyeh Shnat Sod V'Gilui", which means "it will be a year of secret and revelation".

תשס"ו הם תהיה שנת סוד וגילוי

Rabbi Kaduri had other very important things to say as well, but that's for a later post after some additional verification.

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A Day in Court

I spent my day in court today. Fortunately, Baruch Hashem (Thank G-d), not defending myself, nor trying to win a case, and not as a witness. Rather, in that unique American way, as a juror, one of the public assigned to judge a case.

This entailed mostly waiting, waiting to be assigned to a courtroom and case and then waiting to be considered for that case's jury.

While waiting, I considered my surroundings. Case after case being brought to judge. Prosecutors bringing evidence. An angry defendant screaming at the judge as he's taken away.

On being brought to a case, the jury member selection process can be (and was) time consuming. This was a major case, a young man accused of robbery and murder. A large group of jurors was brought to determine appropriateness and availability for a potentially long trial.

While waiting, I looked at the accused young man. Was he innocent or guilty? What circumstances brought him here? What choices did he make, what led him to this moment?

It's the month of Elul. Soon, our court case, the case of the Jewish People and each one of us individually, is coming to trial. The prosecutor is readying the case and gathering last minute evidence. Will the defense be weak, or will it make it's case? Will the judgement be for the good, or, G-d forbid, otherwise?

I spent my time waiting with a sefer tehillim (a book of Psalms). I'm concerned, my defense council needs a better case. Teshuva, Tzedakah, Tefilah (Repentence/Returning to G-d, Charity, Prayer), our Torah and our Mitzvot (good deeds) are all we have to present before The Judge of all judges.

It's time to get ready for Rosh Hashanah.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

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Love and Fear, Part 4

Expanding on the emotional mitzvot, to Love G-d and to Fear G-d, I take an excerpt from Kuntres Ha’hitpa’alut, A Pamphlet on Excitement, by the second grand rabbi of Chabad hassidus, HaRav Dov Ber Schneuri, which delves in to how to 'perform' these mitzvot of emotion as well as the results in this world...

The entire goal of my own heart is that the teachings of Chassidut be internalized as specifically heartfelt excitement, for this is the main instance of the revelation of Divinity in Knesset Yisra’el. This is also the foundation and the root of the wholeness that will be during the time of the Mashiach, may it come speedily in our days. As all who are fluent in faith know, the Almighty wants the heart, especially, and “G-d seeks out all hearts,”
...
G-dly excitement in the heart, from whence originates the cry to G-d, comes from meditating upon the unity of the Almighty, and how far he himself is from feeling that. This causes the heart to feel bitterness, and to seek repentance, and tears, from which comes the sudden cry, unintentionally. This is the true repentance that comes from the depth of the heart, and is the essence and foundation of teshuvah and prayer, which is called “the pouring out of one’s soul.”

Even if one meditates quickly on the ideas of G-d’s transcendence and His imminence, one’s heart will immediately be moved to feel love, to feel a yearning to cling to the One G-d in joy and happiness and the like. This is the main instance of the commandment of loving G-d… by exciting the mind, as is well known to any beginner in the ways of Chassidut who seeks to be close to G-d.

This excerpt was taken from an email lesson from Rabbi Ginsburgh at Inner.Org.

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Video: The Flames of Hatred Will Increase!

A video of Rabbi Menachem Froman discussing the situation after the disengagement, directly from conversations he has had with Palestinian leaders.

Video - Click here (Hebrew with English Subtitles).

Note for me the link only worked in Internet Explorer.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

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Focusing Emotional Energy

The little boy Yosef Yitzchak was asleep when his father, the holy Rebbe, Reb Shalom Ber, entered the room with his friend Reb Yaacov Motel Paltova. "What a beautiful shiny forehead your son has!" Reb Yaacov commented. The Rebbe, being the boy's father, naturally reacted with a desire to kiss his little son. As he was about to follow through with the impulse, a thought entered his mind: "Instead of giving him a kiss, I'll substitute a discourse of Torah based on Chassidic teachings."

He went into his study and, with the intense emotional energy of the feelings that led him to want to kiss his son, wrote the discourse. In the morning, Yosef Yitzchak woke up. His father told him, "I have a present for you, but I will give it to you on another occasion."

Eight years went by. One day the Rebbe called his son Yosef Yitzchak into his room. "I have a gift for you," he said, "a 'Chassidic kiss.' " He then shared with his son the whole story of what had happened and how he came to write this particular essay.

Let's analyze this experience. The Rebbe could have easily kissed his son. He would have felt wonderful and certainly would have been honest and sincere in expressing his feelings. However, he realized that to truly show one's love and care for an individual, there is a deeper and more meaningful way of expressing one's emotions. The kiss would be only temporary and the child would not really gain anything from it; he was asleep. The father expressed his passion by elevating it to a more refined expression of love for his son (by using the energy and drive of the feeling to create something, in this case a written Torah work). He gave him something very special and everlasting and shared with him a profound lesson in life.

To express your emotions is indeed healthy. However, you must think of what is best for the other person, not just for yourself. Otherwise you are only helping yourself feel good and not really sharing the positive aspects of the experience with the other person.

From Your Better Self by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin.

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