Wednesday, November 30, 2005

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Don't Worry, It's Not a Cult


Music pop icon Madonna says, don't worry, the Kabbalah Center is not a cult...

In an interview to the New York Daily News, pop singer and Kabbalah devotee Madonna defended her interest in the teachings of the Kabbalah, and said she was angry people found it to be so disturbing.

"It would be less controversial if I joined the Nazi Party," Madonna said.

Madonna's increasing pursuit of Kabbalah has inspired much hostility toward her, which the singer found hard to explain.

"'What do you mean you study the Torah if you're not Jewish?'" she asked rhetorically. "'What do you mean you pray to God and wear sexy clothes? We don't understand this.' It frightens people. So they try to denigrate it or trivialize it so that it makes more sense," Madonna said.

Sorry Madonna, we do understand this, it's called a fraud. Everyone is welcome to study the Torah and learn. But even if you dress up a pig, it's still not a cow and it's not kosher.

I've actually had some e-chats with some people that have attended Kabbalah Centre events with Madonna in attendance. Being the superstar and huge donor, naturally she's treated like a princess and honored guest at all occasions. Word is the dedicated volunteers are not treated very well.

(Source article from YNetNews here, hat tip A Simple Jew.)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

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Great Links and Pictures to See


Israel Lebanon Border
Michael Totten has a series of pictures of northern Israel and the Israeli-Lebanese border taken from inside Lebanon. Check it out!

Hirhurim and Dovbear agree, calling the Holiday Season the holiday season and holiday tree's holiday trees is bad for the Jews. How odd (that they agree!)
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The Cave of the Patriachs Online



The Marat HaMachPeyla, the Cave of the Patriachs, burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob now has it's own beautiful web site.

Check it out - Here. Unfortunately, it's in Hebrew only.

But, here are some important links from the site:

Enter a prayer, have it said there: click here.
Virtual tour, click a dot for that spot: click here.
Video clips, check the word slip the hit: click here.

(Hat tip, Chabad.Info)

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Kosher Jewish Sects - Part 1

Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.

A commentor asked, "it would be nice to have an expanation of what the various "sects" of Jewish beliefs are." Ok, I'll give it a shot and try not to put you to sleep at the same time. Here's the very short edition (well it was short when I started it, it's getting longer...):

A very long time ago (+2500 years), Judaism, the Jewish people and the land of Israel were all one in the same. The first major division came when Israel was conquered by the Babylonians, with the majority of the population being exiled from Israel. Eventually some returned, many did not. If you hear about "lost tribes of Israel" being found, those are usually from this period (some history says that some of those tribes kept heading east and/or south, into Asia and Africa). Coherent Jewish populations did develop in Babylon, Persia and other major Middle Eastern ancient population centers. The two absolutely foundational works of Judaism, the Mishnah and the Talmud, were written during this period (over hundreds of years).

Hundreds of years later, after regaining automony, Israel was again conquered, first partially by the Assyrians, then fully by the Romans. Again, much of the population was exiled, this time north and west. Jewish populations (over generations) developed in Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Libya, Morrocco, etc. Basically across the Arab regions, which extended through Spain. The foundational works of Jewish religious law were written during this period, the Mishneh Torah, the Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch.

Historically speaking, the Arabs (I guess they were called the Moors) were driven out of Europe, but the Jews stayed and began migrating across xian Europe, into France. Eventually came the Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain, which drove much of the European Jewish population northeast.

At this point in history, the 1400's, the Jewish world is divided into 4 basic geographic groups: one is in Persia / Iran-Iraq area, one small one remains in Israel, one is in the north African Arab countries, and one is in Prussia (Germany / Poland / Russia area).

But, the Crusades had done in most Jewish communities in southern Europe and in Israel, and the Expulsion had done in most of the Jewish communities in Moorish, or Arab Spain, leaving very weakened communities in northern Africa. The only communities of consequence remained in the east and in the north, significantly geographically and politically separated from each other.

Those eastern Jews are the Sephardim. Those northern Jews are the Ashkenazim.

The customs of those eastern Jews in many ways stayed similar to their historical Israeli roots. The surrounding languages are all semetic, not massively different from Hebrew. The foods and climate are not too dissimilar. The cultures and philosophies they encountered weren't new, they had been trading with or rubbing shoulders with these historical societies for generations.

The northern Jews lived in a new climate. Cold, short growing seasons, religious or bias restrictions on professions, foreign philosophies bent on converting them, very different languages. Customs had to change, customary holiday foods weren't available, clothing and dress for cold seasons and different cultures. Deep delving into Jewish philosophy and law were required to deal with the new environment and new philosophical challenges.

Since this is getting a little long, I'll stop here for now, with 2 major sects, Sephardim, Jews from modern day Morrocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and Ashkenazim, Jews from France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Austria, Ukraine, Hungary, etc, and the United States (prior to World War 2 and the 50's, things are different now).

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Dark Side Update

Surprise (not)...

Former Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres has finalized his decision to leave the Labor Party, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's associates said late Monday night.
...
"Sharon is willing to pay the price of a slot on Kadima's list for Dalia Itzik to bring about the departure of Shimon Peres from the Labor Party," a Sharon associate said.

When he returns from a trip to Spain on Wednesday evening, Peres will quit party politics and announce that he has accepted an offer from Sharon to become a senior minister in charge of peace talks with Palestinians and developing the Negev and Galilee.

Peres gave a hint about his political future when he told reporters in Barcelona on Monday night that "My goal is to make peace and it doesn't matter with which party."

"We have no doubt that the two most experienced people in Israeli politics will continue to lead the country," a Sharon associate said. "This is a blow for Labor chairman Amir Peretz, whose inexperience will be even more blatant now."

Well, that didn't take very long.

That's right, he is convinced of his righteousness, he is with purpose, his is out to save the nation by forcing peace, even if it kills us all and takes giving away every last scrap of the holy land to do it.

Jerusalem Post source article here.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

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OMG! Failed Abortions, Living Babies!

This is one of those stories that just defies commenting and tends to just leave you there stunned...

A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions...

...guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure.

For the abortion of younger foetuses, labour is induced by drugs in the expectation that the infant will not survive the birth process. Guidelines say that doctors should ensure that the drugs they use prevent such babies being alive at birth...

In practice, according to Stuart Campbell, former professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s hospital, London, a number do survive.

“They can be born breathing and crying at 19 weeks’ gestation,” he said...

Doctors are increasingly uneasy about aborting babies who could be born alive.

So, lets see if I've got that right. Per formal medical guidelines, if you're going to abort a fetus, make sure to kill it first because sometimes it will be aborted-born alive. Oops. And records show that happened at least 50 times last year in England.

I don't even know what to say about what this means for a society's moral character. But I certainly can't think of anything remotely good. This is in England, I wonder what the policy is in Israel and the United States.

Source story here.

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Lining up the Dark Side



Guysen Israel News (French) : Ariel Sharon offered current vice-premier Shimon Peres the post of Special Envoy for Peace if he is to be himself re-elected as Prime Minister. The former head of the Labor party has yet to give an answer.

"Armilus is also called King Peres (per the Ramban) and this appears to coincide with the maamar chazal (Yoma 10) which says Peres falls under the hand of Edom and Edom falls under the hand of Peres. Initially, Peres is controlled by or is under the hand of Edom and then Edom falls literally at the hand of Peres. According to the text, the duration of the first government is three years and the duration of the second government is not less than nine months." (from a letter from an acquaintance of mine)

Last Israeli Elections held: January 28, 2003
Next Israeli Elections scheduled: March 28, 2006

Suddenly, Peres pops back up, and apparently to be the 2nd in command, again. Will Peres say yes to Sharon, of course. Will the Israeli Prime Minister 'literally' fall (in 9 months) and the government be taken over by Peres???

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

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Calling all Souls

An excerpt from Mishpacha Magazine, column by Boruch Davison, Nov. 23 issue...

The son of the famous rebbe (leader of a chassidic movement), Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum, ztz"l, (known as the Yismach Moshe) became ill. The illustrious father sent a messenger to go the the grave of the Noam Elimelech (famous saintly righteous chassidic leader and miracle worker) to pray there for his son. But since, sometimes, the soul of the Noam Elimelech might not be hovering near his grave, he told the messenger, "Before you enter the cemetery, announce: 'Whichever soul is the first to inform the Noam Elimelech that someone has come to pray by his grave, I hereby donate a coin to charity in his merit.' When you make this announcement," the Yismach Moshe explained, "all of the souls of the cemetery will immediately rush to be the first to inform the Noam Elimelech. Because in the next world, they're not capable of doing mitzvos on their own, and they rejoice at every opportunity to acquire more merits."

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Friday, November 25, 2005

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He Died Bound to His Father in Heaven

A great story over at Rebele, click here and read it.

...There was one man on the second floor, however, who had been quite nasty and had even cursed another volunteer when he was asked to join the minyan. The volunteer was taken aback by the man's tirade, so Mordechai undertook the challenge of speaking to the angry gentleman...

Click here to read the whole thing.
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Chassidim on the Express Train

From the photo blog of Travis Ruse...


Click image for larger view at the source photo blog.

Seems to be a picture of Lubavitch Chassidim at a subway station in Manhattan, New York. Nice contract.

Picked up from the blog hKetG, I don't know what it is, but he/she Blogrolled me and had this cool picture link.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

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The Terror of the Chumra

We desire, we strive, to become closer to the divine. Connect with HaKodesh Baruch Hu, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. Draw closer. Reach beyond the physical and touch the divine.

One traditional orthodox Jewish way of doing this by emphasizing the mitzvot, the action commandments of G-d from the Torah, as it says in HaYom Yom (from Day to Day) on the 8th of Cheshvan:

Mitzva is an idiom of tzavta - "joining," "attachment." Whoever performs a mitzva becomes joined to the Essence of G-d - may He be blessed - Who issues that particular command. This is the meaning of "The reward of a mitzva is the mitzva (itself)" His becoming attached to the Essence of the En Sof (Infinate One) Who ordained the command, is itself his reward.

But, we're also taught that we may not add and we may not subtract from the Torah and mitzvot. Which brings me to a point that I've seen many confuse:

Mitzvah - Halacha : A commandment from G-d and the Jewish law that surrounds it, instructing what, how much, and when. For example, we may not cut the corners of our beard and head hair. What - beard and hair in front of the ears to the crown of the head. How much - we may not shave it off completely, as in actually shaving with a blade (with an updated understanding that shaving with a razor is not allowed, but certain electric shavers use a cutting motion that's like sissors, which is permitted, meaning a shaven face is permitted). When - in this case, constant.

Minhag : Custom, often or usually associated with a mitzvah, differs between communities and Torah groups. In our case above, example custom might be unmarried men shave (in the permitted way), married men wear beards according to the custom of the community (short & neat, longer, etc.) Another example custom would be that all men wear beards from the age when they can grow them, or only community leaders do, etc.

Chumra : An extra stringency taken upon oneself, though sometimes a community custom as well, meant to enhance the mitzvah in the customary (minhag) style. Again, in the example above, a chumra might be to wear one's customary beard (meaning starting from the time when men wear beards in a given community) and never cut it.

Regarding peyos, sidelocks, the halacha would be to not cut side hair from the front of the ear to crown of head, down to the length of the middle of the ear (or rather, the cheek bone). Minhag would be to wear that hair longer to the bottom of the ear and tuck it behind the ear (one custom), wear it fat and fluffy and curl it (another custom). Chumra would be to wear it to the jaw line, shoulder line, or even to never cut it.

(Sorry for the long lesson, it's key though to understanding my point.)

Great, people say, I get it. Ok, so, your wife doesn't like your uncut (and, because you're not a neat person, unkept) beard. Shalom Bayis, keeping peace between husband and wife, is a mitzvah. Uncut beard is a chumra, and unkept is just because you're not so neat. Who wins, the wife's desire causing discord or the extra stringency?

I knew somebody who instructed his family not to carry on Yom Tov (Jewish holy day's). Now by halacha observant Jews don't carry things outside on Shabbos. There's ways to permit it by creating a virtual walled community, called an Eruv, though people will disagree regarding halachic stringencies of the Eruv and therefore even in places with an Eruv, some people won't carry because they're not certain the Eruv meets every halachic requirement. But there is no such restriction regarding carrying on Yom Tov.

So in my first example, the fellow is striving to connect to Hashem by violating a halacha because of a stringency on another halacha.

In my second example the fellow was trying to add to the mitzvah with a stringency, but was actually creating a mitzvah where none existed, which is absolutely prohibited.

We are meant to strive to become closer to Hashem but must be careful to follow the appropriate paths and not end up going the wrong way because we're forging our own way. Be careful, take the time to know what you're doing.

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Ancient Extinct Biblical Date Still Growing!

One of the more odd stories I commented on in the past year was that of a 2,000 year old date pit found in the ruins of Masada (Israel) which has been successfully grown!

A sapling germinated earlier this year from a 2,000-year-old date palm seed is thriving...

First she soaked the seeds in hot water to make them once again able to absorb liquids. Then she soaked them in a solution of nutrients followed by an enzymatic fertilizer made from seaweed.

"I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" she said.

Tu B'shevat, a Jewish holiday known as the New Year for Trees, fell this year on January 25. Solowey chose that day to plant the seeds in new potting soil, hook them up to a drip irrigation system, and leave them locked up.

She occasionally checked on the plants for a few months, and in March she noticed cracked soil in one of the pots—a sure sign of sprouts...

"Dates were famous in antiquity for medicinal value," she said. "They were widely used for different kinds of diseases—cancers, TB [tuberculosis]—all kinds of problems."...

In ancient times the Judean date palm was a staple source of food, shelter, and shade. References to it are made in the Bible, the Koran, and other ancient literature. Judean date palms were wiped out by about C.E. (Common Era) 500.

Today's date trees in Israel were imported during the 1950s and '60s from modern cultivated Iraqi, Moroccan, and Egyptian varieties, Sallon said.

Solowey, who also works for Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, said it already appears the ancient plant has some interesting differences from modern dates.

Full article here, credit to Ted at Israpundit for posting about it.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

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Arguing the Value of a Tzaddik's Blessing

Rabbi Student over at Hirhurim questions the value of receiving a blessing from a tzaddik (a righteous saintly Torah focused individual)...

...I just don't get why people travel all over the world and spend a good deal of time and money on obtaining the blessing of a particular righteous rabbi...

Rabbi Berel Wein writes the following:

"A...lesson...in the story of Sodom is that even...our father Avraham – cannot save other people simply with his blessings and entreaties. People, communities, nations, have to save themselves. Avraham can guide and teach, serve as an example and role model, influence and lead, but...only Sodom can save Sodom...

...People are willing to invest a great deal of time, effort and money to obtain the blessings of a righteous person to solve their problems. The same effort invested in their own personal attempts to improve themselves in their daily behavior would perhaps produce greater and more beneficial results than blessings from others, no matter how great those others are.

A commentor on Hirhurim noted, "Gen. 19:29 clearly states that Lot is saved on Abraham's merit, not his own."

There is no question that personal change and effort is critical. And, if one wishes to remain completely in the realm of the physical and practical, then just stop at that.

But, speaking spiritually, where judgements exist and paths open or close at the direction of heaven, a heavenly din (judgement) may be almost beyond the reach of only personnal effort. The normal path for this life, or this year, is set. Judgements may constrict or redirect (in ways we don't always understand with limited vision).

The tzaddik can assist, 'in the merit of'. He can open a channel for new blessings, overcome obstacles that the average person cannot.

Of course, if one hasn't changed one's ways, if one hasn't created a 'vessel' to receive the new blessings, then this doesn't help one bit.

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Hints and Secrets on Moshiach

I am presenting some tidbits of some obscure information about Moshiach that I received from some sources I consider reliable some time ago. If there's interest, I'll also provide the included list of supporting Torah sources:

The false messiah discussed in Navi (in the prophets) is Armilus HaRasha ("Armilus" the evil one.) In Torah, particularly in midrash (midrash is a set of books of 'side' information about the Torah), he is pointed out to be a Jew who will be running the non-observant Jewish government in Israel at the time of the redemption. He works to bring down the Torah via a political war and is responsible for trying to assassinate Moshiach ben Yosef. It is emphasized that Armilus does not know or understand that Moshiach ben Yosef is actually Moshiach. It is stated explicitly in Midrash Talpiot that Armilus is the individual whom the goyim refer to as the anti-christ. It is also worth noting that the Ramban calls Armilus, "King Peres", which most people have traditionally read as the King of Persia. In light of the fact that by way of hashgacha pratis (heavenly coincidence), Shimon Peres (major long term Israeli political leader) changed his actual name from Shimon Persky to Peres after he had moved from Poland to Israel, I find the Ramban's comment very significant. In the same context, gemarra (Babylonian Talmud) mentions that in connection to the war of Gog U'Magog, Peres is originally under the control and power of Edom (Edom is usually described as meaning the West, and currently considered to be the U.S.) and then Edom falls by the hand of Peres. Peres then runs the show.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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Looking Over the Land

Last time I visited R. Nati, he took me up to this high point to get a higher perspective on the land...

08-14Israel 012
Click for larger view.


A view of the hills of the Shomron, West Bank, Israel, north of Jerusalem.

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Brief Concerns on Israeli Political Chaos

Chaos? Chaos!

Well, ok, a parliamentary system is by nature chaotic, shifting alliances can quickly move different people and parties into and out of power. High profile charges of corruption and inappropriate behavior are the norm in such a system. Pandering to one's perceived constituency rather than the needs of the nation is nothing new (regardless of the democratic system). And Israeli public discourse is loud and a little nasty. That's also nothing new.

It surprises many in the U.S., not as many in England where getting up in the middle of a parliament session and insulting the Prime Minister to his face is fair game.

But, the nevi'im, the prophets, make predictions for Israel. Some foundational conditions have to be set...

A leader successfully pushes and pulls the nation in the direction that he's been convinced, contradicting his previous stand, is the only way to save the nation. He's wrong, he's going against the word of Hashem, and he also ends up assassinated at the hand of the one who convinced him.

A great threat draws Israel together, a great leader arises to fight it, he dies in the fight.

A great world leader enters Israel with his armies to 'save it' but really to control it (not to destroy it), his motives are impure and self serving, he and his armies are destroyed at great cost by the final redeemer.

What draws in the great world leader, could it be a breakdown of the Israeli government, a 'nuclear' power?

Hmm...

Sultan Knish sees the situation as more immediately sinister.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

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Dear Daughter...

BS"D

My dear dear daughter:

I'm so sorry that you had a very difficult experience today, with people you trust, people in authority at the yeshiva, mistreated you today.

These people, who for you are religious and educational authorities in your life, in acting as they did hurt you very deeply. Even more, because they are religious authorities for you, they've brought you to question the religious ideas that they supposedly represent. Since they're the experts, if that's the way the experts act then it must all be wrong.

But please understand, as much as we all learn and try to live up to higher ideas, we're also all very human. Part animal, part intelligence, part soul. Humans make mistakes, sometimes they're selfish, sometimes they're in a bad mood, and sometimes they're concerns have all their attention, with other people getting stepped on in the way.

It doesn't matter if the person is a rabbi, has a black hat and long beard or beautiful peyos, or if the woman is an important rebbetzin and head of many organizations or functions. People try and sometimes fail, sometimes hurt others, and sometimes just don't have such great middos (character traits).

One really painful situation is when you and your feelings and person are not only ignored, but just pushed out of the way. They had their concerns, it seemed you were in the way, didn't matter how it felt or what it did to you, you just needed to be knocked out of the way. Even worse when you made an effort to help, beyond what your classmates or roomates did, but not only wasn't that recognized but the opposite was assumed, that they helped and you were thought to be in the way.

We live in this world, this lowly physical world. Here there can be great pain, suffering and sorrow. There can also be great love, excitement and joy. In many ways the wonderful times of life are a reflection of the bad ones, it's because of the difficult times that the wonderful times really stand out. Like a flashlight in the darkness, it's so bright, but a flashlight in the middle of the day wouldn't even be noticed.

G-d willing, as you've had some difficult times you'll have some great times. You don't understand why it seems your prayers aren't being answered. I don't understand why our prayer's aren't either, why are we still in Golus, and G-d forbid, entering yet another time with Jew's at risk. Yet, while we may not like it, sometimes the answer is NO. And though we can't see and understand all the things happening in this world and the worlds above, we trust that our Father is making the best decisions. That doesn't make it easy.

What's the alternative? Chasing a life of only physical desires and pleasures? Doing only what I want? That's fine if you believe that this world is all there is, that this life is all there is. But even then, what if everyone else thinks that also? Then you end up with everyone chasing their own pleasure and trying to bump everyone else out of the way. You end up with more of what you encountered today, more selfish people unconcered with hurting others.

I wish I could be there to hold you, wipe away the tears and hug you until you are confident to run off in to the world again. But, you're not that little girl anymore who's pains I could remove with just a kiss. Though you're at that age when a father's love embarasses you, I miss that. But I'm also proud that you are off learning and growing at your yeshiva, and that you are able to do that. Not everyone your age is. I'm also impressed with the knowledge you brought home. Now, when you're hurt, is when you need them the most. If they, the ideas, remain on the paper and in the book and never enter your heart, then your school really is failing.

You know I'm here to talk to if you need me.

Love,
Tatti

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

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The Origins of Time?

This evening I was learning Mishna Brachos (the laws of blessings) with my boys. One noticed that all the laws about time are stated in relative or relational terms:

From what time may we say the Sh'ma prayer in the evening. From the time the cohanim do such and such.

Till when? Till the end of the first (guard) watch. Or till the middle of the night, or till dawn.

From what time may we say the Sh'ma prayer in the morning. From the time we can tell the difference between the colors of blue and white, or blue and green.

You get the idea. So my 8 year old son asked, "who made time?" I didn't quite understand his question. Initially thinking this was pretty metaphysical, I thought to say, "well, G-d of course". But this didn't really make sense without any context, so I asked, "what do you mean?"

"Well", he said, "if Jews wait an hour after eating daily before eating meat, how did we know long ago that an hour had passed?"

Hmm, good question. I have no idea. Assuming that watches are a relatively recent invention (recent as in less than 500 years old, and now looking on Wikipedia it says the first pocket watch was created in 1524), and also assuming that's the case with large clock towers (may not be a good assumption, Wikipedia says the first mechanical clocks were from the 9th century), and assuming as well that most towns couldn't afford such a thing, then most ancient people weren't living by formal timekeeping.

Now Wikipedia also says that sundials were found in ancient Egypt, but still I don't think that most people were in areas through their days that had formal timekeeping.

So, anyone have any idea how, say about 1,500 years ago, Jewish communities tracked such issues as time between meat and milk or the earliest time for afternoon prayers?
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Friday, November 18, 2005

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A Sunset in the West Bank

Good Shabbos...a sunset looking north in the Shomron (West Bank) down the road that goes north from Jerusalem past Bet El, Shiloh, Eli, Kfar Tapuach, heading towards Shechem...

08-10Israel 093
Sunset between the hills of the Shomron (West Bank), Israel


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Community Notice - Children Under Threat!

This is the kind of note you don't want to get from your children's yeshiva, but I just received:

TO: All Parents

I must bring the following to your attention. In the past week, there have been three incidents of strangers approaching children from our schools, which have been reported to the ... police.

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Is this community under threat? Last year a similar series of incidents occurred, leading to the community placing signs in people's windows identifying safe houses the children could run to if approached.

Yes, this is in the U.S., no it's not Brooklyn or a major urban neighborhood.

I started writing my speculation on what this might be, but it only ranges from horrible to worse.

Hashem should help!

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

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The View from Ariel

Ariel the city, not Ariel Sharon the Israeli Prime Minister of questionable judgement...

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Looking north from Ariel, an Israeli city in the central West Bank south of Shechem (Nablus) and north of Jerusalem.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

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The Order of Connecting to the Divine

A short tidbit from HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, from the entry for the 7th of Cheshvan...

Since Torah was given, the correct sequence [1] is:

First, removal of the Orla [literally "foreskin", but meaning the layer of dullness, insensitivity, or focus on the materialness of the world. As it says in Devarim 10:16 "You shall circumcise the Orla of your hearts] of the body, (deed/action)

Then of the tongue, (speech)

Then of the heart. (thought)

Deed, Speech, then Thought.

Our father Avraham, who lived prior to the giving of the Torah, however, first recognized his Creator - thought;
then he disseminated G-dliness - speech;
and finally circumcision - deed.

So we learn, at this stage of the world, the path to connect is first to focus our actions on the divine, perform mitzvot and good deeds, then to focus our speech on the divine, prayer and proper talking, then we focus our thoughts, learning Torah and contemplating the Holy One, Blessed Be He.

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Urgent Moshiach Info??? Umm, Yeah.

Rabbi Lazer Brody, on his Lazer Beams blog, provides another exciting Moshiach update...

More and more Sephardi Kabbalists are saying that Moshiach is imminent...said recently that the world stage is completely set for Moshiach, and that the powerful natural disasters of this past year are simply the drumroll before his arrival.

...said recently that "we are now so close to Moshiach that all of our current mitzvas are preparations for his imminent arrival".

If that's the case, then we must all hasten to strengthen our Torah and tshuva immediately; tomorrow might be too late.

Great, wonderful, let's prepare, let's pack! Umm, except for that last line.

Now, as I was told by a rav I respect when in looking through many of the pronouncements of last year and questioning some of them in line with some of the classical writings on the subject (such as Kol HaToar, Voice of the Turtle Dove by the Gaon of Vilna), I'm just a pimple compared to the many great rabbinical scholars and saintly men of understanding. I have to remind myself of that when I come to questions others, to make sure to do so respectfully.

There is no question that today, every day, is always a good day to strengthen our Torah and do teshuvah (return and reconnect to G-d). But, "tomorrow might be too late"???

If that's really the case, if we really should believe that, then I should be immediately selling my house to sit and learn Torah all day, every day, until that great day, the day of redemption. Which is a great idea, until the money runs out about a year from now and my family and I start to starve. Of course, that's only if the great day hasn't occurred.

I should pull my children out of yeshiva or at least out of the secular studies part, as they don't need to learn to add or subtract or read English, they won't need to work in the Time to Come. Unless they need to work before it comes.

The yeshiva should stop raising money and building that new building to accomodate more students, because the next term won't be starting, will it? But, what if it does?

Pirke Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) teaches that we should repent one day before we die, but since we don't know if tomorrow or even, G-d forbid, today is that day, we should repent every day! This is wisdom, taking a positive step every day to improve ourselves, our relationship with G-d, and the world. Tomorrow, G-d willing, we'll add one more step. And step by step we'll move closer to G-d.

Or we can leap off the mountain. Some do this, very few survive. People don't change to become saints in a day, and if they do they almost never make it in that mode to the next day, certainly not to the next week.

I believe in the coming of Moshiach, and the possibility that it will happen today. I hope and pray that will be the case. I also think there are many signs that we are approaching that moment. But the great sage Rabbi Akiva also thought that was the case, over 2200 years ago. So did certain great rabbi's 500 years ago, and 60 years ago.

So do we drop everything, leap off the mountain because this might be the time? That's not the path of Judaism, nor the path of sanity. We improve ourselves today for a better tomorrow, while hoping, praying, and believing in the ultimate better tomorrow.

Rabbi BT has reiterated...that the imminent tests of faith won't be easy. He also said that political activism is foolish, since Moshiach will establish the true borders of Eretz Yisroel, and as both the Gemorra and the Zohar state, the final redemption depends on Tshuva and Torah learning. Rabbi BT stressed the paramount importance of learning Zohar every day in preparation for Moshiach.

One should never disagree with the Gemora (Talmud). Yet, the Talmud doesn't say "abandon the government of Israel to fools who place the lives of the innocent at risk". I would think (but I'm only a pimple) that Pikuach Nefesh, the critical mitzvah of saving a life, would require one to make sure the government is fulfilling it's responsibility to protect the lives of it's citizens. That foolish 'political activism' could be the difference between the country taking a position of strength or entrusting it's security to paper agreements that are always disregarded by the enemy.

As far as learning the Zohar every day, people might want to take note of the fact that learning it without the proper background and teacher can destroy one's faith or confuse a person spiritually. In the words of the saintly master kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchok Kaduri, only one who has a solid foundation in Torah and Talmud should approach the Zohar. (Having proper age and wisdom is a good idea also.)

I discussed this with my mashpia (spiritual mentor) once, is running around shouting "Moshiach's coming!" of any value? Isn't the path of chassidus and also kabbalah a path of pnimius (an inner focus)? Isn't people running around shouting the very opposite of that.

He said that is exactly the case. One should internalize, improve, focus, learn, make tomorrow a little better than today. G-d willing Moshiach will come, but we don't know when, and we're busy doing our best for G-d, the world, and ourselves until then.

Rabbi Brody, to spend that time repenting and learning Zohar tomorrow, what shall we give up? If we're giving up some TV, reading the newspaper, or a bit of sleep, great! If we're giving up learning with our children, raising money for the yeshiva, doing chesed, maybe that's not such a good idea. And if we're staying up through the night learning to bring Moshiach tomorrow, we might be a little tired come Shacharis (morning prayers). How long can we continue like that?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

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Israel Selling Off Holy Places in Jerusalem?

For the past 2 weeks, a woman in the U.S. has been trying to pin down rumors that the government of Israel is selling off parts of Mount Zion, specifically the area of Dovid HaMelek's (King David's) tomb and the location of the Diaspora Yeshiva (Jewish religious school) in Jerusalem to the Vatican. Vatican Press says it's happening, Israeli government spokespersons alternately say no, yes, maybe, never, could be, and "we can do whatever we want without telling anyone"...

From: Elisheva - Dovid_Protect@yahoo.com -
To: GPONEWS@NETVISION.NET.IL, hagit@president.gov.il, POL_ADV@PRESIDENT.GOV.IL, president@president.gov.il
CC: press@israelemb.org
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005
=======================
B"H

Adventures in Communication efforts with the Israeli Gov't,
An Oxymoronic experience.

This is a brief report of today's conversations, - well sort of, the first two were mainly them yelling - with: Avi Granot, Political Advisor to (Israeli) President Moshe Katav; & Ms. Hagit, spokesperson for Presidnet Katsav (+972-2-670-7223 / 51) & in Washington D.C., the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Jeremy Issacharoff (+1-202-364-5578).

Greetings:

All week I have been trying to be awake in both time zones, trying to stop the attack on Mount Zion, so I'm exhausted. But I wanted to get this out - for what its worth - before Shabbos starts there.

The past 24 hours have been intense. Well the whole week, but - if I have learned anything about how the State of Israel is run, and would advise people about what to do, it is this: Be prepared to yell and scream. It seems to be what the administration is used to! If you are polite and rational and courteous, you will get hung up on immediately. Do make threats, even if you can't make good on them. Also, it earns you bonus points if you can get out a whole sentence and repeat it, regardless of the content. I know it sounds dreadful, but don't let it bother you - its just de Rigueur!

Early the past morning I actually spoke with Avi Granot - "Political advisor" to (Israeli) President Katsav. I expected to just tell a receptionist that the Diaspora Yeshiva (Jewish religious school currently located on the proposed site to be transferred to the Vatican) should get their lease - and today. All of a sudden she transferred me to him. She insisted and just went head and did it. My primary message was to insist that a lease to Diaspora Yeshiva must be given immediately, as it is the only way to show us that something very bad is not being planned. Mostly what I got out of him is that he doesn't think he or Katsav account to the people at all (as in, what the people think is irrelevent, whatever the government wants to to, it can).

I explained to him that everyone is very upset and worried, and angry, and the way to make everything better was just to give the lease so we know nothing bad is happening. He tried to dismiss my concerns by his released statement. I told him that his statements are like being given an empty envelope, and are insulting.

[See the worthless, insulting empty statement, dated November 9, 2005 - STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT KATSAV'S OFFICE - DENIAL OF VATICAN MT. ZION HAND OVER - posted at ISFSP.org, which is hosting the Save Mount Zion information website: http://www.isfsp.org/katsav2.html ]

He started rattling off lists of all sorts of things he said were not happening, in a very odd sing song manner, and offered no proof. He refused to say anyting at all affirmative.

Sometimes he would just start yelling, out of the blue. Other times he started talking gently like to a small child. His affect had almost nothing to do with mine - nor his own words. He kept yelling at me, and then saying if I didn't trust him, he would just hang up. So I started to yell back, and to my amazement, he did not hang up. One would have expected the reverse! This was repeated multiple times, for maybe 20 minutes.

He recognizes that Diaspora Yeshiva did not get a lease, says it is not his concern, and refused to answer the obvious question: well, if you are removing them, Who is going in?

He claims that the President has no authority to sign any agreement [such as with Rome]. At one point, regarding the planned Israeli presidential visit to Rome, and his blanket denials of everything and anything, he said, "That's not on our agenda". So I asked him if "that" is not on the agenda for Rome, what is? He went nuts, "I don't need to tell you what I am doing! We have no reason to tell what we [are going to do]" etc. I corrected him and said that in a democracy or republic The People do have to be told in advance, and their views solicited. I told him that the "agenda" [for the visit to Rome] should be posted and up for public review before acted on, just as governments do in the U.S.A.

He started going on about affairs of the state, and how the government can do what it wants and does not need to post things for public review before they act, and so on. I kept telling him that he has no respect for democracy and The People. The only thing I can remember him not denying is that Arabs might be involved.

So of course I had to call back a little while later to see if he had gotten the lease ready to send to the Yeshiva. It turns out he was in a meeting, but to my amazement, Spokeswoman Hagit personally answered the phone, so I had the opportunity to "talk" with her, too.

I have to admit, Avi Granot is much better to argue with than is Hagit. At least his Engish is comprehensible. Further, if you keep talking, he calms down more quickly. Finally, he does not hang up the phone on you. However, he is much more likely to hurl insults and make patronizing and derogatory statements. But this is just de Rigueur!

Hagit just yells things in Hebrew which she seems to think are in English. This actually turned out to be helpful, because when she started yelling, I could yell at her that I did not understand her, and it helped her to manage her anger. I am certain that if I understood Hebrew and if she thought that I actually knew what she said, the discussion would have ended immediately.

Frankly, my experience with this "spokeswoman" is that she really doesn't say anything at all. She did not address the concerns presented to her. How about if we dub her an Un-Spokeswoman? But maybe this is just more de Rigueur!

Finally, at the end of the afternoon here, 4:00 pm EST, I called the Israeli Embassy in Washington. I happen to have the old phone list which includes the direct line for the Deputy Chief of Mission. [This number is not on the new list.]

So when I called it, Deputy Chief Issacharoff personally picked up the phone. He was in a meeting, but actually sounded kindly compared with the first characters. Maybe he couldn't follow the de Rigueur of yelling due to eye witnesses in his office. I thanked him for taking the call; told him we are all heartsick out here and that the government is keeping it a secret which is upsetting. I asked him to please save Mt. Zion for us, and to have a lease immediately be given to the Yeshiva. I also told him that Gen. Halutz is threatening the Hesder Yeshiva's (a religious studies/army framework in Israel) again, and is making us look stupid to the Muslims, which encourages them to attack. I followed this up with a FAX of the Israel National News article on Halutz. [10 November 2005 "The Chief of Staff is Transient - The Torah is Not" http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=92786 ]

Anyhow, if I remember more specifics, I will send it along after Shabbos. And I encourage everyone to go right ahead, call these nasty officials and argue with them. If enough of us do this, it will wear them down and they will give in.

Its now 2 am E.S.T., and I need sleep. But first I think I'll call Mr. Granot and wish him a good morning. And while I'm at it, I will ask him if he brought the lease to the Yeshiva like I told him to do yesterday. In Faith, Elisheva

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What are Good Years?

What are good years? What's a good life?

From HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, for the 6th of Cheshvan...

When the Alter Rebbe (the first grand rabbi of Lubavitch chassidus, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) wished to bless R. Yekusiel Liepler with wealth, the latter said he did not want it; he did not want wealth to distract him from studying Chassidus and from his involvement with Avoda (divine service).

When the Rebbe wished to bless him with longevity, his answer was: "But not `peasant years' - men that have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear, who do not perceive G-dliness nor do they hear G-dliness.

For R. Liepler, good years are years intimately involved in G-dliness and G-dly matters, the material being a chariot to get there, not an end in itself of any value. We are frequently at risk of being blinded by the material.

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The Shuk

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The Machane Yehudah Open Air Market in Jerusalem

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Most of the market is devoted to food,
this fellow is selling Jewish trinkets.


This is the Shuk (open air market) that has been blown up, killing scores of innocent shoppers, 3 times (I think, maybe more?).

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Monday, November 14, 2005

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Pictures from Kevel Rochel

Point of Pinchas has a series of pictures from a visit to Kevel Rochel, the holy burial site of Rochel Emaynu (Rachel our Matriach) on the road in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem), from her yaretzheit (anniversary of death) yesterday.

Check them out!

(Hat tip, Cosmic X)
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Spam Blogs (Splogs!) , Ugh.

A little technical and off topic, but, I've mentioned previously adding the tag line at the bottom of each article because I found some 'blog's' that seem to be automatically stealing some articles. This Newsweek article explains why, and naturally it's spam and money...

in addition to e-mail spam and instant messenger spam (spim), there's a new form of exploiting the Net's openness—splogs. "It's due to the fact that readership of blogs has grown so much,"...

Here's how they work: first find a subject that draws consumers who may be valuable to advertisers on Google or Yahoo, and register for the programs that let those search companies place ads on your blog. Then set up a blog that automatically sucks in items from the news (via easy-to-set-up feeds) about that subject. If you've done it right, Google's search engines will identify your blog as a prime place for a high-value ad. Then, as Sifry says, "you can pay housewives in India to sit there and click on the ads." Because programs like Google's AdSense pay out each time someone responds to the ad, it's possible to make a bundle from this.

Ugh, messing it up for all us honest guys.

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Crunchy in Jerusalem!

08-12Israel 020


If you find yourself in Jerusalem with an urgent need of a granola bar, never fear, they're available! Whether your need is for apple, cinnamon, or brown sugar, Nature Valley's got you covered!

Whew!

The label reads: Granola Bar, Crunchy! Apple, Cinnamon, or Maple & Brown Sugar.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

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Paradise Now and Evil Today

I previously posted about the movie Paradise Now, a lovely non-judgemental flick about two bored guys who decide to blow up Jews to relieve their tedium.

A Simple Jew unhappily noticed that this topical movie made the National Geographic Film Festival and had a popular Tel Aviv movie premire as well.

Paradise Now received three awards from the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, including the AGICOA Blue Angel for Best European Film.

I mean, what can you even say about such a thing? Go a film festival, see a movie about penguins, native Amazon people, wolves, and blowing up Jews. Just another part of nature, I guess.

Of course, the movie about blowing up Jews wins first place. I mean, what's the surprise? HAVE WE ALL FORGOTTEN ALREADY? ANYONE REMEMBER THE WRITINGS OF THE 1930'S???

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Jews, Guns and Crime

Soccer Dad writes about a crime increase in his neighborhood in Baltimore, and the glaring lack of reasonable police response.

Over the last year I've noticed a serious rash of graffiti moving closer and closer to my suburban neighborhood, which is very strange as this is not an area that's ever had that problem.

I'm starting to wonder, what's going on? Is it police focus on terrorism and security moving efforts away from regular crime work? Or is there just a growing crime situation?

And why is it that most (U.S.) Jews are horrified by the concept of self defense and especially gun ownership? I know some people who own firearms (in places where it is legal and they have proper permits or licenses), and they've specifically told me "don't tell anyone, my son might get thrown out of yeshiva".

Say what? Your son might get thrown out of yeshiva because his father is prepared to defend his family?

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Blogger's Block

I think I've come down with my first case of Blogger's Block. I can't think of anything particularly interesting to write or say. Check the archives, there's some pretty good stuff in there (or not if you prefer).

It's not like I'm depressed or anything, though a boatload of important life details keep springing up and taking all my focus, as well as a change in workload (unfortunately more, not less).

Maybe I'll post some pictures, been a while since I've done that. Yea, that's a thought.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

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Iran, Haman Unveils His Plan!

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for exposing this...

The World Without The Jews - The Website - Officially Supported by Iran (note the site address in the picture below.)


President of Iran Unveiling His Plan

View From a Height points out many details in his article on it here, Iran: Worse Than You Think.

And it is. An incredible nasty group of pictures and cartoons (at least one picture is extremely graphic).



There's nothing hidden about this danger. Physically, the world and Israel must take action, the enemy has announced his intention to slaughter every Jew.

Spiritually, we must turn and return to G-d in whole hearted repentence. Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe, protect your children and nation who clings to you from harm!

Update: Seems the domain Zionot.com and Zionot.ir are offline, so the photo and cartoon links won't work. I guess they figured out exposing their revolting selves to the world opening might not have been such a good idea.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

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Haman and Moshiach ben Yosef?

In a previous post I asked, is a modern day Haman arising? (Referring to a post by Yeranen Yaakov on the topic.) While this would seem to be a terrible question, with a terrible man coming to power with absolute hatred and desire for destruction of the Jewish people, it could be leading to...

The essential function of Mashiach ben Yossef is to prepare Israel for the final redemption, to put them into the proper condition in order to clear the way for Mashiach ben David to come. Of that ultimate redemption it is said, that if Israel repent (return to G-d) they shall be redeemed immediately (even before the predetermined date for Mashiach's coming). If they will not repent and thus become dependent on the final date, "the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a ruler over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman's, thus causing Israel to repent, and thereby bringing them back to the right path." (Sanhedrin 97b)

In other words, if Israel shall return to G-d on their own and make themselves worthy of the redemption, there is no need for the trials and tribulations associated with the above account of events related to Mashiach ben Yossef. Mashiach ben David will come directly and redeem us. (Emunot Vede'ot VIII:6; see there at length. Cf. Or Hachayim on Numbers 24:17)

-- from The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet


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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

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The Body versus The Spirit

Normally we don't pay much attention to the balance between the body and spirit or body and mind. Generally, the spirit runs the show with continuous subtle influence from the body. At least, until a strong body need arises (hunger, thirst, tiredness).

It's not something I pay any attention to, until a day like today. My body is ill, the needs, demands and responses are all on a different level. Multiple sites of significant discomfort together with a lower energy level make it harder to function.

G-d willing, with the help of the healer of all flesh, this virus will pass and the 'normal' balance will return. Yet for today, while I may not be able to concentrate on my learning, I have had a chance to see a glimse of the practical difference between the human and the nefesh (G-dly soul).

On that note, I collapse again in to bed.



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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

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Sparks

From HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, from the 1st of Cheshvan 1, we have the story of the Sparks!

"Ever since G-d told our father Avraham, `Go from your land etc.' and it is then written `Avram kept travelling southward,' we have the beginning of the mystery of Birurim.

By decree of Divine Providence man goes about his travels to the place where the "sparks" that he must purify await their redemption.

Tzadikim, who have vision, see where their Birurim await them and go there deliberately.

As for ordinary folk, The Cause of all causes and the Prime Mover brings about various reasons and circumstances that bring these people to that place where lies their obligation to perform the Avoda of Birurim." (elevating the sparks)

A Simple Jew wrote here about finding meaning at work. The meaning might simply be you need to be there to connect with divinity in that place, elevating the world!

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How to Build a Hot Water Heater, 2200 year old instructions.



While this is a little out of the mystical purvue, I think it's interesting nonetheless. In learning some Mishna recently, I came across a halacha (Jewish law) discussion which includes instructions for building a hot water heater. I was struck by this, considering the Mishna is over 2,200 years old...

Mishna Shabbos, Chapter 3, Mishna #4: It once happened that the people of Teveriah (Tiberious, the city by the Kinneret or the Sea of the Galilee) laid a pipe of cold water through a channel of hot springs. The Sages told them: (1) On Shabbat [the status of such water] is like that of water which was heated up on Shabbat: it is forbidden for bathing and for drinking. (2) On Yom Tov (Jewish holy-day, Passover, Shavuos, Rosh Hashana or Succos) [the status of such water] is like that of water which was heated up on Yom Tov: it is forbidden for bathing but permitted for drinking.

(Medieval age commentary, Bartenura) A PIPE: They conducted water through a pipe, which was submerged in the hot springs of Teveriah; the pipe would be heated up by the waters of the hot springs. When cold water was conducted through this pipe, the water was heated up by the pipe, which, in turn, had been heated by the hot springs.

The Sages ruled:

(1) The water which is conducted through this pipe on Shabbat has the same status as water heated up on Shabbat: it is forbidden to bathe in it, not even one of the smaller members of the body, and it is also forbidden to drink it.

(2) The water which is conducted through this pipe on Yom Tov has the same status as water heated up on Yom Tov: it is forbidden to bathe one's entire body in it, but one may bathe in it one's face, hands, and legs, and one may drink it.

The Halakhah is in accordance with the ruling of the Sages. (The people of Teveriah reversed themselves, and dismantled the pipe.)

So when you ask your rabbi about using a hot water heater on Shabbos and wonder how ancient Jewish law can be applied to a hot water heater, wonder no longer.

(The picture is from The Illustrated Mishnayoth, illustrator Yoni Gerstein, published by Feldheim.)


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Monday, November 07, 2005

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The Enemy Arising?

Yeranen Yaakov asks, is the new president of Iran the prophesized Haman of the generation of Moshiach? Check it out here.

A little explanation. Haman is the antagonist in the Purim story, the figure out to destroy the Jewish people. He's a descendent of Amalak, the first people to attack and try to destroy the Jewish nation after receiving the Torah.

Spiritually, we learn that Amalak plays the role of cooling off the nation of Israel's fervor for G-d, planting seeds of doubt personally about mitzvah observance.

But physically there is an archetypical enemy who keeps returning generation after generation to attack or endanger the nation. As we say in the Passover haggadah (prayer book), in every generation they rise up against us, against our fathers and against us, but G-d saves us from their hand.

In the time of Moshiach, there is a final rising up and a complete wiping out of the enemy.

Do we see the enemy arising now?


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The Living Dead?

The Talmud often side tracks into odd discussions or stories, not related to the religious law topic being discussed but to teach a moral lesson or occasionally to hint at secret knowledge.

DovBear, in drawing me to some posts on Bloghead, has inspired me to post a few of these to point out that the strict legalistic non-mystical 'normative' Judaism may itself be the oddity.

Talmud Bavli, Gemora Shabbos 152b:

There were grave diggers who dug in the earth belonging to R. Nachman and were rebuked by R. Achai bar Yashai (who's grave they disturbed). They came and said to Rabbi Nachman, "We were rebuked by a man. (from within the grave!!!)" Rabbi Nachman went there (to the distrubed grave) and asked him (the non-decomposed animated body in the old grave) "Who are you, master?" He (the non-decomposed dead body) responded "I am Achai b. Yashai".

"Has not Rav Mari said that, 'In the future, the bodies of the righteous will return to dust?" said Rabbi Nachman (and therefore why is your body preserved?)

"Who is Mari? I know him not." said the dead one.

"But", again said Rabbi Nachman (arguing with the dead non-decomposed animated sage) "this is the passage, 'When the dust will return to the earth as it was'".

The dead responded "He who learned with you Kohelet (Ecclatisies) didn't learn with you Mislay (Proverbs), where it is written 'But jealousy is the rottenness of the bones', which means that (only) he who has jealousy in his heart, his bones shall rot after death".

Thereupon Rabbi Nachman tried to feel (the substance of the non-decomposed animated dead sage) and he found it to be a real substance. Rabbi Nachman then said to him, "Let the master arise and go to his home.".

The dead responded, saying "You show you haven't even read the Nevi'im (Prophets), for it is written (Yechezkel Lamed-Zayin), 'And you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I open your graves, and when I cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people'".

"But", said Rabbi Nachman, "it is written (Berashis, Genesis, 3-19) 'For dust you are, and to dust shall you return'."

Whereupon the dead explained to him, saying, "This is meant for one hour before the arrival of the final resurrection of the dead (that all dead will return to dust)."


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Sunday, November 06, 2005

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A Baal Shem Tov Story: Divine Unifications

It's a custom to tell stories of tzaddikim (the righteous sages) during melava malka (the post-Shabbos meal). The custom among hassidim is to tell Baal Shem Tov stories or stories of other rebbaim (grand rabbi's).

So, here is a hassidic story. Many miraculous stories are told about the hassidic masters, those who lead the paths of hassidus and teach that every soul has a immeasurable and special value and every person should be treasured. Are all the miraculous stories the literal truth? Of course not. But could they be, of course!...


The Rebbe Rashab, the 5th grand rabbi of Lubavitch chassidus, told this story which he stated was told to him by the Baal Shem Tov when visiting his holy resting place at Mezhibuzh.

The Baal Shem Tov related that on his 16th birthday (18 Elul, 5474/1714) he had found himself in a small village. The local innkeeper was a very simple person who hardly knew how to read the prayers, let alone understand what they meant. He was, however, a very G-d-fearing individual. On all matters and at all times he would quote the same phrase in the Holy Tongue, "Blessed be He; may He be blessed forever." His wife too would always say in Yiddish, "Praised be His holy Name."

That day, in accordance with the age-old custom of meditating in solitude for some time on one's birthday, the Baal Shem Tov went off by himself to the fields. He recited chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) and engaged in unifying the Divine Names that emanate from its holy verses. (The kabbalist practice of yichudim via kavanot.)

"As I was immersed in this," the Baal Shem Tov related, "and unaware of my surroundings, I suddenly saw Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet. There was a smile on his lips. I was taken aback. For when I had been with the tzaddik (righteous saint) Rabbi Meir, and also when I had been in the company of the hidden tzaddikim (righteous saints, a 'secret' group of which existed from the mid 1600's through the mid 1700's), I had merited to see Eliyah (Elijah), but this was the first time that I had merited his appearance while all alone. I wondered about it. And besides, why was he smiling?

"Eliyahu (Elijah) said to me: 'You are toiling so mightily to have the proper mystical intentions in bringing about the Supernal Unions of the Divine Names that emanate from the verses of Tehillim (Pslams). And Aharon Shlomo the innkeeper and his wife Zlata Rivkah know nothing of the Unifications that result from his "Blessed be He; may He be blessed forever," and from her "Praised be His holy Name." Yet the Divine harmonies they create resonate in all the heavens more than all the Unifications of the Holy Name that are effected by the mystical intentions of the greatest tzaddikim. (righteous saints)'

"Eliyahu (Elijah) described to me," continued the Baal Shem Tov, "the great pleasure, as it were, that results in heaven from the words of praise and adoration uttered by men, women and children. Especially so, when they come from the mouths of simple folk. And most especially, when these praises are offered consistently, for then these people are constantly united with G-d in pure faith and with an undivided heart."

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Friday, November 04, 2005

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The Value of Blogging

We're not talking like intrinsic value or moral value here, we're talking cold hard cash...


My blog is worth $147,909.48.
How much is your blog worth?



Yep, this is like for real. Well, in this world it is. Ok, maybe if you work for Enron it is. Or an Israeli bank. Or a U.N. relief agency.

No, my lovely wonderful wife didn't buy the value story either.
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Kabbalah Energy Drink, Now On Sale!



It's worse than a fade or a fake, it's potentially actually dangerous, it's the Kabbalah Energy Drink (now available in Sugar Free!)

I'm so stunned by this one I'm not even sure what to say about it. Heavy sugar, triple the caffeine, and a bunch of really weird chemicals such as taurine, which is derived from, get this, ox bile!

The BevNet review kind of says it for me...

Well, this stuff does manage to have a lighter, less syrupy taste than you’d imagine; maybe that’s because, as the can says, this product is “Infused with Kabbalah Water.” (whatever that is) But it’s actually infused with high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, and all kinds of artificial flavors, none of which really taste like anything except other energy drinks we’ve tried. We like the red-and-silver on blue can, which has nice, rich colors, and the product doesn’t have the energy drink bitter caffeine taste, but we’re not sure who this is aimed at: Kabbalah practitioners who go to nightclubs? Hasidim who shop at 7-Eleven?

As far as I can tell, it's also not kosher. Not that that matters, I'm not drinking anything with ox bile, thank you very much.

Let there be no doubt that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with kabbalah and everything to do with money.

(Many thanks to A Simple Jew for sharing a link to this lovely product with me.)

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

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Sanhedrin News Update



A really nice news update from Israel National News about the Sanhedrin, which ends with this incredible thought...

One of those who took the day off from work to attend the conference was Efrat resident Jeremy Gimpel. “I had read everything written about the renewed Sanhedrin with such excitement, I had to see for myself,” Gimpel said. “What struck me is that ever since Mt. Sinai, there were always 70 elders leading the Jewish people and I believe that G-d, in His infinite wisdom, knew the Jews would be dispersed among the 70 nations. To see all these rabbis and leaders gathered back in the land of Israel, bringing with them different traditions, cultures and approaches to Torah is a humbling experience and an answer to our daily prayer of Hashiva Shofteinu K’Varishona, Return our judges of old.”

A conference this week unveiled the Sanhedrin project to the public, shifting away from euphoric satisfaction with the launch of the Court one year ago and moving toward broadening participation.

Since it was launched in Tiberius last year, the Court of 71 rabbis has strived to fulfill the halachic (Jewish legal) requirements for renewing authentic semicha (rabbinic ordination passed down from Moses) and for reestablishing the Great Court, which was disbanded 1,600 years ago. At Sunday’s conference, distinguished members of the Court, led by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), presented a humble, yet exhilarating plan to widen the scope and acceptance of the Court to truly move toward becoming the restored Sanhedrin of old.

Read the whole thing!

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Video: How To Set Up Your Mortar and Kill Jews

Guysen Israel News (French language) presents this Palestinian Instructional How To Video:

How To Set Up Your Mortar To Kill Jews - Click Here.

On Wednesday evening, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket and mortar shell in the direction of the major city of Ashkelon. The shells knocked out power in Netiv HaAsarah and wounded at least one person. Five others were treated for shock following the attack, and a car and home were damaged.

Another mortar shell fell near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, halfway between northern Gaza and the Ashkelon power station. The power station serves the entire southern part of the country.



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