Monday, April 30, 2007

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On the radio

An interview about the JIB Awards and Mystical Paths on Arutz 7 - Israel National Radio, this morning... (20 minutes, English)

Here.

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Attitude

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A great and holy tzaddik, Reb Yitzchok of Ziditchov (zt"l), had many children and grandchildren. His favorite was little Bershel (who later became his successor), who at this time was five.

One of his other grandchildren, Moshe, was very sick and it was considered almost hopeless. Each time the family went to the holy grandfather, they would say, 'he is just so sick and he doesn't respond.' One night it seemed he was near the end. Someone had to go and tell the grandfather and they decided to send Bershel.

Now, late at night in Ziditchov, nobody disturbed the tzaddik as he was writing a commentary on the Zohar HaKodesh, the Holy Book of Brilliance filled with the deepest mystical secrets of the holy Torah. And it was known that Reb Yitzchok was learning these secrets nightly with Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet). Disturbing him at such a time could literally be life threatening. So Bershel was the only one who coudl go up there where the rebbe was.

Hearing a soft knock, the rebbe opened the door to the dark and said, 'Who's there?'. 'It's me, Bershel.' 'Bershel, you're only five, aren't you supposed to be asleep at this late hour?' Bershel answered, 'Zeidi (grandfather), I came to bring you good news, Moshe is getting better every second, every minute, but zeidi, can you please pray for him?'

So the rebbe did. He prayed with full concern to the Ribono Shel Olam, the Master of the World, and his prayers were heard. Afterwards, the rebbe called in all his children and grandchildren, and said, "You know who is a holy man? Our little Bershel! I'll tell you why. Every one of you who came and told me Moshe was sick, you broke my heart so much, it was hopeless, I couldn't even pray. But you know when Bershel came to me and said, 'I want you to know that Moshe is geting better', ahhh, he uplifted me so I coudl really pray!".

Story told by Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

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Approaches

Tzaddikim, holy men, each have their own sweet approaches.

From Lubavitch, the unconditional love for one and all...
From Breslov, the clarity to deal with adversity...
From Izbitz, the tenderness that is available to us from Heaven...


- Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l

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Friday, April 27, 2007

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The Root

A Simple Jew asked:

As noted in a previous posting, a person's neshoma is rooted in multiple shorshei neshomas. If a person was born during Sefira, is it possible that this person's neshomas is rooted in just the two the corresponding sefiros of that day? (ex. my youngest daughter was born on day 46 of the Omer, which corresponds to Netzach she-b'Malchus)

Reb Nati answered:

Just as physical body is made up of DNA and is made of the genome, the spiritual soul body is made up of a mix of different but similar material. As the soul leaves the heavenly storehouse by the kesay hakovod, it is split and passes through the sefirot, now the sefirot are constantly in motion so the soul is impacted by the particular configuration of it's entry time. Next it passes through the mazalot, which are spinning. As the neshomah (heading towards this world) comes down from the tree of life, it goes into the tiklah, a scale of sort as the deeds of minute, the time of conception and the thoughts of the parents, all contribute to the mix. If everything is going well then it passes down through their tiklah, then through the sefirot, then through the mazolot, then into the physical body of the baby.

I think that was confusing. Let's try it this way...picture this: they reach in and pull a soul from it's spiritual womb of bliss. Kicking and complaining it is brought before Hashem on the kisay hakovod, and complains about having to descend so far away into physical the world. Hashem says, "this is what you were created for, Go!" and poof the 'floor' opens. The soul falls down this tube in the tree of life, as it passes out the other end in falls into a scale where the deeds of man at the moment are decisive on where it is good or bad. Then, if it (the moment) falls on the side of good then it is split in two: male & female. Then they (the male and female of this soul) fall through the sefirot, tiferet she'b'tiferet for example, then the mazolot, Kislev for example. All these traits have an effect on the soul. Then finally the parents, what their kavanot are at the time of conception, like programming the egg and the sperm. Then it passes into the guf of the newborn, nine months later : wow what a ride.

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Abusing the World?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shoshana commented (in reference to the Religion of Warming)... Please tell me you're kidding. And the garbage isn't really piling up? And we aren't really destroying the world's forests - the natural balance that Hashem created? We were charged with guarding the olam, not destroying it. I don't have the exact place, but the Gemara says that before Moshiach the sun will be unsheathed- ozone layer anyone?

Man has become arrogant in his abuse of the planet - not what the Creator intended.


This is where exact terminology becomes important. "Sun out of its sheath." Not "Earth from behind it's shield." I'd been meaning to write a post on this, since I find it very interesting...

Recent solar science has found some amazing relationships between cosmic functions that we never suspected before. The Sun puts out a stream of highly charged particles, called the solar wind, which the earth's shields (magnetic and ozone) deflect (most of). (These are the particles that cause the Northern Lights, cell phone interference, satellite problems, and radiation that can even affect you in an airplane.) Now here's where it gets really interesting.

When the Sun is a calm steady furnace, the flow of these particles is low and the Sun is a little _brighter_ (1-3%). Yet, and it took until just recently to figure this out, the Earth gets a little...cooler! Why cooler when the Sun is brighter?

Turns out (according to the most recent solar and earth science) that high level clouds, those at the highest levels of the atmosphere, are formed from microscopic dust particles. Yet, ground and air based dust, meaning such particles from Earth, don't get that high. Rather, high level clouds are formed from cosmic dust impacting Earth! So when Earth gets more cosmic dust, it gets more high level clouds. High level clouds deflect sunlight, darkening the planet, making it cooler.

Here's the recent solar science tie in...the stream of solar wind pushes away the cosmic dust. So, _more_ solar wind, less cosmic dust, less high level clouds, more sunlight, hotter Earth. Since 1980 or so, the rate of sunspots, solar flares, and coronal holes has jumped tremendously. These are the things that cause major increases in the solar wind (some of them so dangerously high that they can even impact Earth ground power stations.)

Today's solar forecast calls for a Geomagnetic Storm impacting Earth within 48 hours, and a 10% chance of a class M solar flare. (Spaceweather.com) These things used to happen once a year or so, they're now happening every other week or so.

That's the Sun being out of it's sheath. Spots, holes, and flares, regularly. Pushing away the cosmic wind, the Earth gets the full energy of the Sun. In relation to 'global warming', note that the other planets in the solar system are getting hotter as well. This has been discarded as a fact by global warming scientists because the actual heat output of the Sun is less, so it couldn't be the source!

This does not mean it's ok to trash the planet. Nor is excessive consumption appropriate. Damaging rivers and land for generations is clearly inappropriate stewardship. But global warming due to excessive carbon use, as it's proponents fly around in personal jets, is becoming it's own religion. Those who disagree aren't worth an argument, they're heretics to be cast out.

We are to make use of the land and it's resources for good and proper purposes, with proper stewardship. We are not subservient to the land nor it's resources.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

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Counting the Omer Part V

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

When looking forward to a particular event or special occasion, it's only natural that we mark our calendar's and count the days. It's the same thing when we anticipate receiving the Torah on Shavuot. We count the days. We look forward to it's coming. This is the main intent of the Omer counting. By realizing that every day counts, by taking the very most we can out it, by making sure that every single minute matters, we can receive the Torah.

The Children of Israel first came close to Hashem on Pesach, after the Redemption from Egypt. To remove them from Miztrayim, Hashem instantaneously pulled them from 49th level of impurity into which they had fallen. But then they had to enter the 49 levels of kedushah on their own, step by step. This can be compared to a child first learning to walk. Soon as he shows signs of realizing there is something better than crawling on all fours, we enforce and encourage his desire to develop. We hold his hand for the first step, but then we let go so that he learns to walk by himself. It is no different in coming closer to Hashem. we start off with a great desire to repent. It's almost as if we are being called by a voice we cannot locate, or guided by invisible hand. Later, the light of this guiding force disappears and we must continue our quest for Hashem under our own inspiration.

The reason this happens is not always understood by most people, though it is essential that it should be. The truth is that by seemingly pushing a person away from Hashem, one is actually drawing him closer to Him. Think about it. Didn't the Egyptians let the Children of Israel leave? Didn't they allow them to go into the wilderness to serve Hashem? The Jews must have understood that they were getting closer to Him. But then they saw the Egyptians running after them, the Jews were left wondering if the Almighty was really with them. Were they really getting closer? It was then that they were told to turn their eyes to Hashem and praying to Him for help. Even when we feel distant rather than close, we must always bear in mind that Hashem is very close to us and He is really trying to bring us closer. Indeed, Hashem's kindness is such that it will even bring closer those who are very, very distant from Him. Nevertheless, from the Sefirah we learn that the process cannot be hurried.

When we look forward to something, we want it to happen immediately. Most of the time, especially if the thing we look forward to is something meaningful, it just can't happen right away. The issue cannot be forced at all. We find ourselves with no choice but to wait. The same is true in achieving closeness to Hashem and receiving His Torah. We must wait to achieve it; wait to receive it. Just as the Jews in the wilderness had to wait until Shavuot. And though on Pesach they received a tremendous light and wanted to serve Hashem properly, they still could not reach their goal until the 50th day. It is the same for us. However, if we persist in our desire to achieve this level, eventually we will acquire this great light of Shavuot (Likutey Halakhot, Shiluach HaKen5)

We are almost there, come join us in celebrating Lag B'Omer.

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My Sanctuary Shall You Revere

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week we read two portions of the Torah. The second is Kedoshim.

In this portion of the Torah, we are told, ”My Shabbats shall you observe and My Sanctuary shall you revere—I am Hashem.” [i]

What, if anything, does Shabbat and a sanctuary have in common? Why are we instructed about these two in the same sentence?

Shabbat frames holiness in time, and a sanctuary frames holiness in space. As far as the average person can tell, one day or the next feels the same. That is, unless we do something to make the day special. If we were to awaken from a long coma, we would not be able to tell what day of the week it was unless we saw people doing something that was done only on a specific day. Although mystically, Shabbat has a different feeling than other das of the week, to the average person one day feels just like the next. Because of this, we have to do holy things on Shabbat, in order to feel the holiness of the day. As it says, “My Shabbats shall you observe.” By observing Shabbat we will reap the spiritual benefits of the holy day.

The same concept is true about a sanctuary. To the average person, if it were not for the furnishings, one room would feel just like another. However, when we do special things in that room or furnish it in a special way, then we can feel something special there. Today’s sanctuaries are the places where we gather to pray.

In order to experience the holiness of Shabbat, all we have to do is to observe its details. Just by doing what the Torah tells us to do on this day we will automatically reap the benefits of the holy day.

But to reap the benefits of a holy place, we must do more than merely observe the rules of behavior there. We must revere that place. “Revere” means “to be in awe.” If, when we enter our holy places, we would say, “How full of awe is this place,” and try to sense a deep feeling of respect while we are there, we will experience the holiness of the place.

For instance, if one recognizes the holiness of a place of prayer, he would not walk inside with a burning cigarette in his hand. He would never even think to talk on his telephone there, but would be careful to turn it off before he entered. A spiritually sensitive person would not speak of profane subjects in a synagogue. But without paying attention to the unique atmosphere of the place, there would be no reason to maintain this level of respect.

Both Shabbat and a sanctuary can give us the experience of holiness, yet they can give us this feeling only up to the amount of effort we put into them.

[i] Lev 19:30

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You Think You Know Who Your Friends Are?

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

Haaretz.Com : U.S. had emergency plan for attacking Israel in 1967

For some time, the United States had had an emergency plan to attack Israel, a plan updated just prior to the 1967 war, aimed at preventing Israel from expanding westward, into Sinai, or eastward, into the West Bank.

In May 1967, one of the U.S. commands was charged with the task of removing the plan from the safe, refreshing it and preparing for an order to go into action.

This unknown aspect of the war was revealed in what was originally a top-secret study conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington. The full story is detailed in Haaretz' Independence Day Supplement.


Which, is here. And, is real.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

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The One and Many

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week we read two portions of the Torah. The first is Acharei.

It was during the Yom Kippur service that the High Priest was to go into the Holy of Holies, and Hashem said, “ . . . in a cloud I will appear upon the Ark-cover.”[i] Aaron would bring the required sacrifices, and he would atone for the people’s sins. Thus the name “Day of Atonement.”

In Hebrew and in English, the name of the day refers to similar concepts, such as appease, redeem, amend, and such. The Hebrew has an additional meaning that the English does not have, and the English has a meaning that is not readily seen in the Hebrew.

The Hebrew word Kipur comes from the root “to cover.” And this is what this day does. It covers over our sins. Also, Hashem would appear in a cloud upon the Ark-cover. And His Presence would cover the cover.

In English, the further meaning is found in the word “atone”--at one. When there is a sin that is not forgiven, there is friction, unrest. When there is forgiveness, the friction ceases and the feeling of one returns.

When the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar he would count in a most unusual way. He had to sprinkle it seven times and each time he would say the number of that count. The sages tell us that he counted this way so he would not forget. But the way he counted also had a deeper meaning. He would count,

--One

--One and two

--One and three

--One and four

--One and five

--One and six

--One and seven.

If the sole reason for counting was not to forget which sprinkle he was sprinkling, he could have simply counted one, two, three, four, . . .. But by counting this way, we see the one of Atonement. “One” refers to the All. “One and two.” The “two” refers to the two found in the physical perspective of the one, for instance, “you and I are two.” “One and three” says that all is One and it is also three, for instance, “you, me and it. “One and four”: Again, the One is always one, even though there certainly are four and five, six, seven, and so on here.

He was atoning for the many by bringing them back the peace that comes from recognizing the One.

[i] Lev 16:3

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Is the news media manipulated?

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

How media is manipulated and why I do not believe everything I read ...

When Israel retaliated against Hezbollah during last summer’s war, it was forced to fight two battles: one against the Lebanon-based terrorist organization, and one against a hopelessly biased global media. The first serious study of the media’s behavior throughout the conflict has confirmed this impression.

The study, released in February and titled “The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media As A Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict" (pdf.), was written not by a partisan watchdog organization that would be expected to arrive at these conclusions; rather, it was produced by a respected journalist, Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. (just for the record, he is a leftist)

In meticulous fashion, Kalb details how the press allowed itself to be manipulated by Hezbollah. He also records the mistakes made by Israel in trying to manage coverage, points out several of the outright distortions that were widely reported, and analyzes the impact of the digital media and the fundamental disadvantage a democracy such as Israel faces in a public relations battle with a non-democratic state or terrorist organization.


Read the whole article, or the actual report.

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How they really feel?

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

The current Vatican ambassador to Israel (the one that caused the flap over not attending then attending Yad V'shem) witnessed and did not correct this quote by the Catholic Latin Patriarch in Israel (last year at the end of the Israel-Hizbollah war).

Any questions about how the Vatican really feels about the situation? I don't think so.

Quote: "The patriarch also said Israel's continuing military strikes in the Gaza Strip, an attempt to destroy the Palestinian Hamas militia, were "a crime against man and against his Creator." (Catholic News)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

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Pictures: Prayer

by Akiva at Mystical Paths





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Monday, April 23, 2007

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JIBs - Deciding What's Worthy

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I mentioned previously that I'm one of the volunteers running this year's Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards.

In which the preliminary round of voting starts tonight, and Mystical Paths was nominated for:

Best All Around - Overall
Best All Around - Large Blog
Best in Class - Jewish Religious Blog
Best in Class - Pro-Israel Advocacy Blog

Since I'm involved in running the awards, I think it would be inappropriate for me to recommend voting for anyone. But Reb. Nati would be really excited to see Mystical Paths do well. Personally, I voted for Lazer Beams for Best Overall, for Best Religious, and for Blog That Made a Difference.


So, being a blogger who's skilled at the technical side of web sites, I've been quite busy with the site work related to the awards program. I was discussing this with Reb. Nati (actually, brushing him off as he was trying to discuss some thoughts with me), who raised an interesting question... How do we balance competing priorities? Or rather, how do we recognize when a seemingly good deed, such as getting involved in a community activity, is really the efforts of the Yetzer Hara in getting us away from where we should be focused (our regular learning, our family, our children, etc.)? When is doing a community mitzvah actually an averah?

The thought gave me a lot of pause. When is throwing your heart and soul into an effort literally throwing your heart and soul away?

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Hubris

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A friend sent me this joke, one of those internet chain mails. But I thought it cute...

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're at the point where we can clone people and do a number of miraculous things, so thanks for everything, but we can take over from here."

God listened very patiently. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest." To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

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Friday, April 20, 2007

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The Religion of Warming

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Orson Scott Card, examining global warming, makes this insightful comment...

What matters right here and now is that it is time for the world's scientists to apostatize from the Church of Global Warming. It is a false religion. It is based on lies, and its leading prophets know that it is because they're the ones faking the data or stretching it to ridiculous lengths to pretend that the real world hasn't already ruled against their claims.

It is time for our school systems to stop accepting the gospel of that false religion and start doing their due diligence. Our children should be taught about the demonstrable solar cycles; and the whole human-caused Global Warming theory, along with the Hockey Stick Hoax, should be taught only as another example, after Piltdown Man and pre-Copernican theories of planetary movement, of how science can be corrupted when ideology gets ahead of the data.


The whole thing, here.
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The Tzadik, R' Mendel Vitebsker

by Chabakuk Elisha at Mystical Paths

I read this story to my children every year on Rebbe Mendele Vitebskers Yohrzeit, which is today (Rosh Chodesh Iyar). In case you havent seen it, I figured I'd share it with you:

In Lubavitch the practice was that after all the candles in the Beis Medrash (the religious study hall) would burn out, the chassidim would close their seforim (the holy books), gather around and repeat words of, and stories of, tzaddikim (the saintly). At one such occasion, it is written that the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe – himself was named after R' Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk), overheard Chassidim telling a story of Reb Mendel anight in the dark, to which he said: "When speaking of Reb Mendele you should be sure to light a candle in his honor."

He then lit a candle and repeated this story of R' Mendel's holiness:

Reb Mendel had a disciple that would often travel together with him, especially to attend circumcisions. It happened once that Reb Mendel was notified of a circumcision far away – but since he was unable to attend, he sent this disciple in his stead. On the road this disciple took a wrong turn and got lost. He traveled aimlessly for hours, deep into the night, until he suddenly saw a light in the distance. Since there was no better option, he decided to head for the light. As he came closer, he saw that this was no ordinary house – the light was coming from a genuine palace.

With his heart full of fear and trepidation he approached the entrance and was allowed in. Upon entering he came to a great hall where he saw a gathering of stately looking men sitting around an impressive table, and what looked to be a great and prestigious elderly Tzaddik seated at the head.

The elderly man was discussing awesome things. He was astounded to hear great secrets of creation revealed, and Torah knowledge the like of which boggled his mind. Little by little, he drew closer to the group until he approached the elderly leader. The stately man extended his hand in welcome and with the greeting of "Shamom Aleichem (Peace unto you)," and warmly asked the disciple a number of questions, why he had come, to where he was going, etc.

The disciple answered his questions and remained for quite a while listening to words of Torah so amazing, that he began to think that this Tzaddik surpassed even his Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel. His rapture was so great that he could not bear to tear himself away from this place, until his exhaustion began to take its toll, and the disciple began to struggle to stay awake.

The elderly man noticed this and said that this disciple was surely hungry and tired, and they prepared for him a fine meal, as well as a room with a candelabra and a bed in which to sleep. It was arranged and agreed that in the morning they would escort him back to the main road, show him the proper way, and the disciple would set back off on his journey – after which, he ate, drank and went to sleep in great comfort.

He awoke refreshed the next morning, and when parting from the elderly man he agreed to return to visit whenever possible. He left them amid friendship and affection, and with a joyous heart he set off on his way home.

On the way home he decided to stop-off once again at the home of Reb Mendel to tell him all that happened on his journey. However, his joy faded quickly when Reb Mendel gave a strict order that this disciple was not to be given entry to see him. Out of desperation the man finally decided to force his way in without permission – but his confusion only worsened when Reb Mendel would not even show him his face. In the past when he would return from a trip, Reb Mendel would greet him with a warm embrace, but after these incredible revelations he was completely shut out! Was this his reward? Had he done something so terrible as to deserve this? Without any choice he was forced to leave his Rebbe's room with a broken heart and full of dismay.

After returning home he could find no peace. He decided that he must return to Reb Mendel and do everything possible – he would not rest until he got to the bottom of the matter. When he came back to Reb Mendel he threw himself at his feet and cried out:

"Rebbe! How have I sinned? What have I done that you have distanced yourself from me? And if I erred in some way, I assure you that it was in no way intentional – please tell me what I have done and direct me as to how I can rectify it! Have I done something so terrible that it cannot be rectified?"

Reb Mendel's replied, "Know that the palace you stayed at was the place of evil, may G-d have mercy; and as such, your enjoyment there has defiled your soul and attached it to the forces of evil. Now, I know of no other remedy other than for you to return there, endangering yourself, and to state clearly that you have no part with them – since their Torah, their words, are rooted in evil. If you will manage to stand up to them, then there is hope for you. But if not, G-d forbid, than your lot is with them."

The man was overjoyed to have an opportunity to rectify his situation, and he immediately sent word to his family that he had to leave on an important trip and that they should pray for his success and for help from Above.

He managed to find his way back to the palace, and this time the entire group came out to greet him joyfully and escort him inside. They gathered around the table as before, and the elderly man began to speak words of Torah. This time Reb Mendel's disciple called out, "The words are beautiful, but know – nothing he says is from the side of Holiness!" This statement created chaos in the room, and all the men gathered there began shouting at once, with the intent to do away with the disciple immediately. But the elderly leader ordered them to be silent, and said: "Retract your words and all will be well; I will even reveal to you new things beyond anything you have heard before."

With that he began to expound words of Torah, and asked if he had ever heard anything comparable in awesomeness – but the disciple maintained his position saying, "Your words are indeed beautiful, but they don't come from holiness."

The group was outraged at the disciple's impudence, and they decided not to allow the man to leave alive. Again the elderly leader stopped them, saying: Who told you this? Who revealed this to you?" To which the disciple replied, "My Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, told me this upon my return from this place."

The elderly man said, "You life is in grave peril; however, in order not to spill innocent blood we must check my book. Inside my book are all the Torah lessons ever taught that contained evil – if your Rebbe's name is not found in here, then you will be free; but if not, than your life has been forfeited."

Immediately the book was brought forth and with palpable fear in the room the elderly man began to turn the pages. The disciple was able to see the names of people he was familiar with – some living and some no longer alive – but with each page turned, Reb Mendel's name was not to be found. When they came to the last page, and Reb Mendel's name had never appeared in the book, the elderly man turned and said, "Since his Rebbe is so pure of ulterior motives, so pure of sin and all his words are truth, then we have no power to harm this man." With that he ordered that the disciple be released and sent on his way.

The man headed home in a state of ecstasy; with thanks to Heaven he raced home and arrived safely in his town. As he entered, Reb Mendel ran to him with joy, embracing his student and kissing him on the forehead, sating: "Happy is he that stands up to the test; how great is your lot that you have severed your connection to evil, and from now on beware of them."

So, said the Tzemach Tzedek to his chassidim, when speaking of a Tzaddik such as this it is only fitting to light an additional candle in his memory. And that is precisely what he did.

(Sefer Pri Eitz)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

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Counting the Omer Part IV

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Sefirah is synonymous with purification. When we are ready to purify ourselves, we discover that it isn't a speedy process. Only through gradual progression will we attain our goal. And to be fully purified, we must wait until after the sefirah, after we've counted again and again. In the meantime, we have to count one day at a time; slowly building up purity until we are able to overcome all the undesirable and impure aspects of our lives.

On the 16th day of Nissan, the Omer Sacrifice 'a Barley offering' was brought. Using barley, which serves as feed for animals, would seem to indicate the low nature of this offering. But, because animals lack the power of speech, this makes barley a most appropriate choice. This is because the Omer is brought to rectify and endow the power of speech, elevating from the lower level of the animal to the more purified level of man. And this is its connection to the sefirah. During the Sefirah we try to rectify ourselves. Quintessentially, Teshuvah is our accepting that everything which happens is from Hashem. When one is embarrassed before Hashem, he can be likened to an animal without the power of speech. As a result of the embarrassment he feels for having gone against Hashem's will and trangressed, he cannot lift up his head or raise his voice. Thus, a major step in repentence and returning to Hashem is remaning silent as we hear and fell ourselves being embarrassed. Teshuvah means that we rush to counter the insult with rationalizations, excuses, or just plain arrogance. By truly accepting that everything is from Hashem, then even when we know that the person ridiculing or chastising us is no better that we are, we say nothing. We understand that he is no more than Hashem's messenger, and we remain silent and embrrassed before the One who sent him.

This is the significance of the elevation, Tenuphah, of the Omer. TeNUPhaH can be read TeNU-Peh 'give mouth'! This implies that a person who counts the Sefirat Ha'Omer, thereby rectifying his speech, raises himself from the level of animal to that of man. He becomes a complete person. Man is called a 'Ma'daber' one who speaks; as animals are called b'hehmot.

Seven weeks later, on Shavuot, the sacrifice which was brought consisted of wheat. Unlike the lowliness of barly, wheat is a "human" grain. Yet, wheat also carries an aspect of being silent, for there are, in fact two levels of silence. The first level, the animal level, is someone who is so embarrassed by his sins that he can't speak. He finds himself speechless because he recognizes his guilt. But then he repents. He acquires speech, as in, "take with you words and retun to Hashem" (Hoshea 14:3). And through his returning and comming closer to Hashem, he can achieve the second level of silence: The gate of wisdom (Avot 3:17). This higher silence corresponds to the divine Emannation, Sephirah, of Keter; itself an aspect of Shavuot.

On Shavuot, after 49 days of counting 'after 49 gates of repentence and Tehillim reciting' the higher level of silence is finally attained. Even so, it must be remembered that all this begins with PeSaCh, with Peh SaCH, a talking mouth. For the only path to these upper levels is through Tefillah, the true speech of calling out to Hashem (Likutey Halakhot, Simanei Behemah v'Chayah T'horah 4).

Keep counting, you can do it! Chodesh Tov, Iyar the month of Refuah! Blessings, Reb Nati

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A Life in Israel Link

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This blog, The 90th Minute, and this post, are hillarious. Real taste of Israel kind of stuff.

Check it out.
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The Image

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Plenty of others have written about this picture, by Oded Balilty, which was awarded the Pulitzer prize for "Breaking News Photography."

But I look at this picture and see, one Jew(ess) standing against the tide of those without Emunah.

g comments (paraphrased): You see a Jew praying, ever wonder what's on the other side of the wall? - Which means this photo could be titled, "Kavanah!"

Update: The young lady in the photo comments, here.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

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News

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Update on Binyomin Ben Yehudith. He's doing better and Hashem willing will visit tomorrow in the hospital and bring more news. Thank you for your prayers but he's still needs a lot of prayer. We are also trying to collect for his family some funds, so if you can help, please do. Thank you!!!

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Nothing to Brag About

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week we read two portions of the Torah. Here are some thoughts about the second, Metzora.

This portion teaches us the laws of purification. The unclean person described here suffered from a disease that manifested on his skin. Our sages explain that this disease is a physical manifestation of a spiritual disease that was brought about mostly from the sin of evil gossip. The afflicted one is exiled outside the camp and suffers great humiliation as a result of his sin. Since his sin of gossip humiliated the person he sinned against, he too must be humiliated.

We are told that in order to know God, we must be humble, and that Moshe was the most humble of all people. But is this humility that the plagued person suffers the same type humility that we are to strive for?

No, not at all. The humility the plagued person suffers is the result of his sin. He is embarrassed because of what he did, and as a result of the treatment he receives, he realizes how low he is. This is his humility.

The humility we are to strive for is the result of our realizing just how small we are in comparison to our Creator.

Look at your precious body. Is there anything dearer to you than your body? If you would look at that very body with a microscope, you would see that it is really zillions of tiny molecules and mostly empty space. In fact, scientists claim that the human body is 99.9 percent empty space. According to the Torah, they are close but not quite right.

When we magnify the molecules we are made of, we see that they are actually zillions of atoms and mostly empty space. Here too, science says that the atoms are really 99.9 percent empty space.

Look deeper at the atoms, quarks, gluons and other tiny particles. When we magnify them, we find that they too are made up of billions and billons of even tinier particles and even more vast empty space. The smaller the particle, the more empty space. Soon, we find absolutely nothing at all!

That’s right. Your entire body, that physical thing you think you are, is right now being made out of nothing. All of creation is like this. God not only created the universe out of nothing, but He continues to do so at every moment. Right this second, He is forming this entire complex universe out of no preexisting matter. It is simply creation of something from nothing. (yesh me’ayin).

So what is so great about you anyway that you could possibly be arrogant? You are made out of nothing!

This is an exercise in humility. We can come to humility from many directions. Ask yourself if what you have accomplished in all your years was as good as you could have done had you really tried hard. Did you do all that you could have? Ask yourself what are you going to take with you when you leave this world. How important are you? Such thinking will bring you to the humility we seek. Humility does not have to come from sin. It can come from the plain humble facts.

I was praying outside by the Kotel early one Shabbat morning when a very large insect flew over and stopped just a few yards in front me. It was hovering at eye-level, completely still. It was nicely colored, some gold and brown. I was taken by the way it froze there, not moving up or down, just hanging out motionless. I began to wonder how it is that those insect molecules are able to float perfectly still in midair? Its wings must have been flapping fiercely, but I could not see them, just this large, perfectly still, fat, suspended bug.

I thought not to waste my time thinking about and watching such a sight during prayer, but the suspended bug was just so fascinating. How does nature work it out that such a heavy thing could stand there silent, stock-still, in the air? I wondered what its consciousness might have been right then. What was it “thinking” as it perched there, four or five feet off the ground?

I was staring at the floating insect, trying to come closer to understanding what it really was. My eyes were fixed, almost glued onto that wonder, when all of a sudden a large black blur swept fiercely into view. It came racing across the sky, zooming in from the far-left corner of my left eye, streaking in front of me, on to and out of the far-right corner of my right eye, one swift swoop immediately out of sight. ZOOM! The floating insect instantly disappeared! Vanished!

The black blur turned out to be a large, hungry bird. All that majesty, all that mystery floating in the air, that space-station with all its structure that supported a living being that could actually fly, standing fixed in one place, stock-still, hovering while setting its direction, calculating its next move, gone, lunch for something bigger, something that flies faster, with a greater vision that can spot a bug from a block away, something hungry, naturally sweeping the sky, snatching, gulping, so it can keep doing what it was programmed to do.

Quietly somewhere, a large gray cat watches the big black bird, waiting to see where it might land, its steel eyes anticipating.

And us? What is around the corner waiting to eat us? Are we any more sturdy than that bug? “What are we?” [ii] ...Nothing to brag about.

[i] Lev 12:2
[ii] Morning prayers-“Master of all worlds”

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"Sefirah" Counting the Omer Part III

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Reb Nosson teaches that the daily obstacles we encounter are in direct proportion to the spiritual levels and wisdom we seek to achieve. We should therefore not feel discouraged when we see our improvment in serving Hashem suddenly countered by difficulties. As long as we maintain our Mochin de'Gadlut, the forces opposing our advancement cannot affect us. For it is only when we decend to Mochin de'Katnut, to depression and despair, that we find it very difficult to stand up against these obstacles.

In fact, taking heart and strengthening ourselves each day is the one protection we have. Even when there are difficulties or obstacles, we have to realize that today is also part of the alloted time on earth. It, too, is a day during which we can and must accomplish whatever possible in coming closer to Hashem. If we cannot pray or study study Torah properly, then we should say tehillim (psalms) or perform other miztvot - doing whatever we can. For "Hashem wants the Jews to be rewarded; and therefore He gave them the Torah to study and many mitzot to perform."

In other words, we must never fool ourselves into thinking that since the day started wrong, today is a wasted day, G-d forbid! We must never allow ourselves to say that there is no point in trying to serve and to know Hashem or returning to Him on this day; that we are better off waiting until tomarrow. Rather, we must realize that every day is important and that every moment counts! And this is the lesson of Sefirat Ha'Omer, the 49 days of counting. It teaches us to make the best and the most of what we have, since every day does count! (Likutey Halakhot, Pikadon 4)

Have a great day, from Reb Nati
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

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Conceive and Give Birth

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This week we read two portions of the Torah. The first begins with a very strange concept. It says, “When a woman conceives and gives birth . . ..“ [i] We know there is a strict rule that the Torah does not use extra words, so why does it say, “conceives” here? Why didn’t it simply say, “When a woman gives birth?” Has it ever been that a woman could possibly give birth and not have conceived?

For many thousands of years this was a good question. But today, we see that women do give birth without having conceived. Women with fertility problems often have their egg placed into a vessel, mixed with their husbands’ sperm, and then after the embryo attains a certain stage of development, it is implanted into their wombs. These women will give birth without having conceived.

There are many surrogate mothers today who carry children that are not even from their own eggs at all but are from complete strangers and are merely implanted in them.

How many Torah scholars for thousands of years have vexed themselves over this sentence? And we today can assume that the Torah is making a distinction between the woman who conceived and then gave birth from the woman who gave birth without ever having conceived.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

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Remember

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A Little Busy

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The JIBs, the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards, is active in the nomination phase. If it seems posting is a little light here (on my part), I apologize as I'm one of the volunteers running the awards.

Fortunately Reb Nati is doing a great job picking up my slack!
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Yehoshua bin Nun








by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

One would think that in the nation of Israel, a Jew would be free to visit the holy places of Judaism. One would also think that given that access to holy sites is guaranteed in the Olso, Wye, and Roadmap agreements, that access would be available. Unfortunately, Hashem Yerachim (G-d have mercy), this is not the case. Many sites are inaccessible, and others are accessible only very rarely.

One of these inaccessible sites is the kever, the holy resting place, of the biblical Yehoshua bin Nun, author of the Book of Joshua. The 10th night of the Omer each year is the Yaretzheit of Yehoshua bin Nun, the student of Moshe Rebbenu and the leader of the Jews as we conquered the Land. He is buried outside of the Jewish city of Ariel in the hills of the Shomron, in what is now the Arab settlement of Hares.

Access is provided only once a year, on the holy prophet and leader's yaretzheit, and even then, only literally in the middle of the night. I was fortunate to be able to go.

With army and police protection, and of course only truly with the protection of Hashem, we were able to walk freely in this village which over the years has produced many suicide bombers. What a feeling, to be free to access our holy site.

We prayed and sang through the night. Thousands came, as the government provided buses and security for all of us. Children came to read sefer Yehoshua, and of course we all said Tehillim (Psalms).

Within the same area is also the holy resting places of Calev ben Yefuna (the biblical Calev, who went with Yehoshua to spy out the land and brought back a good report), and also the kever of Yehoshua's father, Nun.

As we prepare to leave, we always pray, "please, our holy fathers, pray before the holy throne, the kesay hakoved, that your children should be able to return freely."

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

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Thinking About Gaza

A brief thought from friend Shlomo Wollins of IsraelReporter

I am so close to Gaza, I can smell war in the air. The noise I heard that was reported on Mystical Paths, what I thought was outgoing Israeli artillery into Gaza, was found to be the sound of terror training going on in Gush Katif.

I still can't believe we gave that to the barbarians as a peace gesture. What a death wish we have. As if Hashem's punishments aren't enough, we punish ourselves.

Hashem Yerachem, G-d have mercy.

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Pirkey Avot - Ethics of the Fathers

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

During the summer months it is customary to recite Pirkey Avot, The Ethics of Or Fathers (Orach Chaim 292:2). There are six chapters, one chapter per Shabbos afternoon, which we study until Rosh Hashanna. This practice begins during the Days of Omer, right after Pesach. Pirkey Avot contains moral teachings from our Tanaim and conceptionally is the receiving of rebuke from true Tzaddikim. Through these lessons a person can achieve great understanding and wisdom on how to serve Hashem properly. Such service brings the kindness of Hashem to be revealed and allows the glory of His Kingship to be elevated.

Introducing Pirkey Avot, we recite the Mishnah, "All Jews have a portion in the world to come", (Sanhedrin 90a). This is to teach us that the rebuke of a great Tzaddik is not intended to turn people away or to distance them from severing Hashem; but rather, to bring people closer to Him. The Tzaddikim are always seeking the good points that exist in every single Jew. They are the Tzaddikim and yet they call all Jews Tzaddikim. By elevating the Jewish people, they are able to guarantee them a portion in the world to come (Likutey Halakhot, Nezikin 4).

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

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Emergency Prayer & News

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Dear Friends:

Please dedicate some urgent prayer for Binyomin ben Yehudit, who was shot last night at point blank range (with a 12 gauge shotgun by Olmert & Peretz's 'peace' partners) as he was returning home from work as a Jew in the land of Israel.

I'm on my way to Bellinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah and will fill in more news as I return.

Hashem Yerachem, G-d have mercy!

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"Sefirah" Counting the Omer Part II

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The AriZal, Rabbi Yiztchak Luria, zt"l, explains that on the night of Pesach it was vital that the Jews be on a level of Mochin de'Gadlut, expanded consciousness. This is because they were lacking in holiness and steeped in impurities, they would have otherwise never have been able to leave Egypt. The Jews were therefore given Awareness, and not in a gradual progressive manner in which expanded consciousness is normally acquired. Their levels of consciousness came to them in an inverted manner: Mochin de'gadlut prior to Mochin de'katnut, the level of constricted consciousness. However, the the very next day, the day after the Exodus, they were back to "normal", receiving the Katnut and having to progressively achieve the Gadlut.

It is possible for us to receive Mochin, this consciousness or wisdom, every single day. A person begins his day attempting to serve Hashem and, as the day wears on, he himself progresses; reaching ever greater understanding in serving Hashem. Every single day we must try to draw this wisdom upon us. It is the wisdom to recognize and understand Hashem, come close to Him and devote ourselves to serving Him. Just as no two days of our lives are exactly the same, the chochmah of the day is never the same. The chochmah of today is never the same as it was yesterday or tomorrow. Each new day provides us with a different set of concepts and experiences which make up that day's chochmah; the wisdom we are to use in order to know and come closer to Him today!

The essence of the day is light, spiritual light (so to speak). Each day, we have to try to attain this light. How? By extracting the good that is inherent in today, in every single day. The day, however, starts with night. It begins with darkness, the barriers that prevent us from reaching our goal. We have to always strengthen ourselves and make every possible attempt to break through the obstructions and obstacles surrounding us on that day. "Only by discovering the good in every single day and utilizing the knowledge that Hashem is in control of everything that happens, "HE IS KING", only then can we recognize and draw closer to HIM."

So as we count, we should grow and realize that this is an evolution from the matrix of this world to the truth of the next.

Tonight is the yarzeit of Yehoshua Ben Nun, and G-d willing I will be at his kever for this event and will post some pictures.

Blessing and emunah from Reb Nati.

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Elevation

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

Besides discussing the duties of the priests and distinguishing between the animals that may be eaten and those that are forbidden, the Torah this week says that you shall not contaminate yourselves, “For I am God Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a God unto you; you shall be holy for I am holy.” [i]

Regarding this sentence, we must ask:

1. Why did He say that He is the God Who elevates us (brings us up) from Egypt after He already did that? This line comes way after He brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Shouldn’t it say that He is God Who elevated us?

2. And what does God being holy have to do with us being holy?

Both of these questions can be answered with the same answer. He said He is the one Who elevates us because as we focus on Him and His ways we loosen the bonds of physical slavery (Egypt). This is not merely a historical reference but explains the function of Torah today.

Elevating us does not mean that we begin to fly off the planet. It means that focusing on God and His ways frees us to use the physical without being enslaved by it. When our priorities are spiritual and our daily lives become spiritual, the physical does not disappear but is merely put into proper perspective, a tool not a master.

When we live our lives dedicated to holy goals, we ourselves become holy. Although at first this certainly does not sound modest, we are in fact commanded to be holy. [ii] And this explains the second question as well. Because God is holy, when we do His will and follow His ways, we become His holy people.

Now, what does the word “holy” mean? It means to be set-aside for sacred purposes, devoted, consecrated and pure. So instead of viewing ”trying to become a holy person” as being a boastful goal, we see that really it is an attempt in self-nullification. We nullify our selfish desires and take on the spiritual desires, and values of the Torah. We empty ourselves of our selfish desires and when we succeed, the holy values take their place. These holy values give us holy thoughts that lead to holy deeds and then, as a result, we too become holy.

At first, “becoming holy” is an obligation. Then it becomes a privilege.

[i] Lev 11:45
[ii] Lev 11:44

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Coming or Going?

A nice post about coming to Torah in today's society...here at Circus Tent.

A great comment at the end of the post..."Change is not easy for anybody, in any direction. BTs (people connecting to Torah and Hashem) are in love when they start and the love is blind. People who move in the other direction have just despair to guide them. It is very hard."

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

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2007 JIB Awards!

The 2007 Jewish and Israel Blog Awards nominations start tomorrow. Please stop by and participate. Here.

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Sefirah

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The Omer counting. Part I

Rebbe Nachman taught: The 49 days of Sefirat Ha'Omer correspond to the 49 gates of teshuvah, as I mentioned in a previous post. These 49 Gates, in turn, correspond to the 49 letters which make up the names of the 12 tribes of Am Israel. Thus, each tribe has individual gates for each of it's members, so that everyone can return to Hashem through his own gate. And then there is the 50TH Gate, the highest gate: SHAVOUT. This gate is, as it were, the TESHVUAH, "The Return", of Hashem.

The way for a person to to come to his individual gate is through the Tehillim. Thus, during the 49 days of Sefirah, as well as on all other days of repentance i.e. (The month of Elul, Rosh Hashannah), we should recite Psalms. This will be us to our gate of repentance. And by achieving this, we will merit purity and coming back to Hashem.

That these day are a most amenable time for reciting Psalms and repenting can be learned from the begining of the book of Shemos. The verse reads, "these are the names of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt; each man and his wife, they came." In Hebrew, the last letters of these words make up the words Tehillim and Teshuvah. The verses which follow then list the names of the Tribes (their 49 letters). They correspond to the 49 days of Sefirah, corresponding to the 49 Gates of Teshuvah (Likutey Moharan II, 73).

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The Trap of Cynicism

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

We live in an age when it pays to be cynical. Every ad is trying to sell us something that's "good" for us, or rather good for us to pay our hard earned dollar/shekel/euro for. And those ad's, there everywhere, on the road, on the train, on the radio, and of course, on the TV. Seeing is believing, so if the guy on TV can create an incredible 8 course dinner with that must-have knife, it must be incredible! Gotta get me one!

So we build up defenses. We learn to ignore the ads in our face everywhere. We live in a time where we are forced to learn not to believe. Cynicism becomes a survival trait. Trust goes out the door, most messages must be ignored, the remainder, scrutinized.

One of the reasons I started this blog was people were actually believing the fad & fake kabbalah that started being sold. With a general public hungry for a little truth swimming in a sea of lies, fad kabbalah had the glimmerings of truth to it and sold like crazy. Though just a small voice in the multitude, I did what I could.

But this cynical survival trait, which we can't do without in this day and age, is also a trap! Everything is examined looking for the flaw in the picture. But this is not a perfect world, there is always a flaw. In comments on the news report about statements of a mekubal (kabbalist) speaking of an upcoming war, a commentor said,

"Another fake, want proof, he opened a restaurant!" - Another commented, "Impure powers! Where do you think the money to open a restaurant came from?"

If a rabbi sits and learns, he's accused (especially so in Israel) of taking money from the public and refusing to support himself. And now, if he goes around and raises money, and takes that money to open a business to support himself and his yeshiva, he's accused of being a fake and using impure powers! Oy vay.

I have personally met HaRav HaMekubal liyahu Leon Levi, shlita. I benefited from the meeting, and saw only indications of the proper path. He is among those who's words I would take seriously. I know nothing of his restaurant, but if it's for personal support or for support of his yeshiva, I wish it great success. And if it's for tzedakah, as in offering low cost meals in a dignified atmosphere for those in need (which some of these are, especially in Bnei Brak), then I wish it complete success in it's mission and that it may speedily close for lack of need.

Cynicism is dangerous. In today's world we need it to survive, but it's antithetical to emunah (faith) and clouds the vision to the good.

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Shalom Y'All

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Well, I want to say shavua tov, a good week, but it's not after Shabbos. To be honest, I always find Pesach difficult. B"H, being blessed with children, it's an incredibly busy time. Besides the great efforts in preparation (and, just to be straight, it's my wife that does 95% of that work), the children have to be fed (before), a seder has to be run trying to keep the right balance for the various ages at the table (from young child to the various adults), and then comes Chol Hamoed. The children want to be entertained (a Chol Hamoed custom) and the wife, very deservadely, wants a break. So entertainment dad is on duty.

Somehow, for me, it's never until the last days that I find a chance for those quiet moments in davening (prayer), learning (torah), and yes, with the children also. While through much of the first days I feel we're struggling to get through a whirlwind of activity, as the morning of the last day comes I feel a sadness in knowing that the day will end, this time with Hashem will depart, and all the meaningless drudgery of the world will return.

And now it has, we're working feverously (well my wife is) to put all the Pesach utensils away, and tomorrow is a regular day.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

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Shevi'i Shel Pesach

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The Splitting of the Red Sea:

Rebbe Nachman taught: "Even if a person should fall to the lowest level, he must never assume that he is beyond hope."

Our forefathers found themselves in similar circumstances on the shores of Red Sea. Before them, the sea; behind them, the Egyptians; wild animals and wilderness on either side. In the worst possible situation they did not give up hope. They cried out to Hashem and were heard. Similarly, no matter how far one is from Hashem, there is still hope. Atik is the highest, most lofty spiritual level in existence (Etz Chaim, Sha'ar Atik).

It is from there that assistance comes to a person, even if he is to be found in the lowest levels. Thus, the miracle of splitting of the Red Sea can be summed up this way: even though all seems lost, there is still hope for a redemption (Likutey Moharan I, 21).

Reb Nosson teaches a further concept tied in with the splitting of the Red Sea is the breaking of haughtiness. Pharaoh said "Who is Hashem that I should listen to Him!" During this entire episode, Moshe Rabaynu tried to convince Pharaoh that Hashem rules the world and that He could destroy Pharaoh completely. However, the Egyptian ruler had declared himself a deity. Thus Pharaoh, like most people in a position of power, is characterized by arrogance and haughtiness. The splitting of the Red sea demonstrated how this arrogance could be completely broken. Moshe turned the sea bed into dry land. Earth is associated with the concept of modesty. Great rushing water, with it's powerful waves 'sure of it's strength and unchallenged power' is everything that a person views as the epitome of greatness. Yet, within a short period of time, Hashem destroyed the water's arrogance by changing it into dry earth. Thus the song that Moshe and the Jews sang when the red Sea split was one of praise to Hashem, for He is great and rules over all those who are arrogance and haughty (Likutey Halakhot, Orlah 4).

When the Jews left Egypt and came close to Hashem, they received great wealth. This is because wealth is rooted in the same source of holiness as the soul. However, there is one bad trait through which it is possible for a person to lose all his wealth. This trait is ANGER. When the opposing forces see that a person is about to receive wealth and blessings, they try to bring him to anger. CHeMaH, anger, creates a breach in his CHoMah, his protective wall, which is also his wealth (Likutey Moharan I,68).

It is forbidden to eat Chametz on Pesach, for chametz is the concept of anger. Chametz rises. Like arrogance and anger, it's blown up. Likewise, we must avoid exaggeration in our lifestyles. The way we live should not be arrogant and blown up. When the Red Sea split, the waters stood like a wall (chomah) for the Jews. Afterwards, the Jews were able to withstand any anger (chemah) and were permitted to have Chametz. This is why, after the Seventh Day of Pesach (in Israel, the eighth day outside of Israel) Chametz is permitted (Likutey Halakhot, Harsha'ah 4).

Chag Samayach! Reb Nati

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Fantasy

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

(Continuing thoughts from Bitul and Emunah...)

We have to "tishtof l'daat shelcha me akol demionot", to wash our knowledge of all its fantasies, all of its preconceived ideas.

Wake up to the fact that we are just guests in this world, we are just passing through! A guest doesn't worry about food or for that matter anything, he just receives from his host and is thankful for what he receives. And if you a guest of the HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Holy One Blessed be His Name forever, what are you worrying about?

What are you actually in need of? I'll tell you..... A THANKFUL HEART!!!!! Just be thankful and receive from Hashem all that you need. See, receiving is bitul, and emunah is asking and trusting that you will receive. You can't have one without the other! You have to have emunah to receive the next level, and be bitul to the last level, it's the way of ascending.

Trusting in the Tzaddik is being bitual to the Tzaddik, then you can increase your emunah in Hashem.

Counting, growing, is hard. We don't always make it. There are mistakes, and then depression, and then giving up all together. But this year, G-d willing, we'll all make it. Something very high to be understood, it's very important to continue to count even without a bracha. It's true, t'shuvah can continue! If we stop after a mistake then we've lost altogether. We have to overcome this and continue.

From Rebbe Nachman's Likutey Eztot (Advice), Pesach:

The days of the month of Nissian are days of repentance like those of Tishrei. Nissan embodies the concept of Tikun HaBrit, guarding the Holy covenant. When you are joyous you can draw the spirit of Nissan, it's joy and holiness, into the whole year. Thus you can make amends for the abuse of Covenant, and you will avoid impure experiences by night (Likutey Mohsaran II, 5:10). The Haggadah which we recite on Pesach is a tikkun for the Covenant. The reason why it is recited aloud is because the voice arouses Da'at, the knowledge of Hashem. So by reciting the Haggadah aloud we can experience a revelation of true Da'at. Da'at itself the essence of redemption, because the exile in Egypt came about through the abuse of the holy Covenant, which brought about a distortion of Da'at. The wine of the four cups which we drink on the first night(s) of Pesach is also a tikun for da'at and for the Holy covenant. (Likutey Moharan I, 20:10). And during Pesach when you pray (hitbedot) you should cry out loud.

Through the joy we have on Purim, clapping of hands and dancing, we are able to fulfill the mitzvah of counting the omer properly. Then we are able to receive the Torah on Shavout, both the revealed and hidden Torah. Each day of the Omer period is associated with a different aspect of the sefirot. Remez (hint) and on that day everything which everyone in the world is talking about is purely an expression of the particular aspect with which that day is associated. "A person with understanding can hear and recognize this if he pays attention to what people are saying."

The 49 days of of the Omer period correspond to the 49 gates of repentance, and these in turn correspond to the 49 letters in the hebrew names of of the 12 tribes. It is though these letters and gates that we must make our return to G-d Almighty. Festival of Shavuot is the 50th gate.

This is the gateway of Hashem's "repentance", when Hashem Himself returns, as it were. That is to say, He returns to us in love. It is possible to reach all these gates and open them by reciting the psalms. You should be careful to concentrate when you recite the Psalms. Then you will be able to reach all 49 gates. During the 49 days of counting the Omer we have to cleanse ourselves of impurity and return to Hashem. Then Hashem will return to us on Shavuot (Likutey Moharan II, 73). Thus we should immerse ourselves every day of the Omer in repentance. When we immerse in the Mikvah on Shavuot (predawn after learning all night) we are connected with the highest levels of Hashem's loving kindness and abundant mercy, and we can attain awesome levels of perception of Hashem. The illumination which radiates on Shavuot is supremely extreme. And this wisdom is it self an expression of Hashem's loving kindness and mercy. For love is bound up with wisdom and perception, as is explained elsewhere. It is a wonderful thing to experience the holiness of Shavuot, and in particular the Mikvah of Shavuot- THE MIKVAH OF THE 50TH GATE- which becomes the wellspring of Holiness and purity for Israel (Likutey Moharan I, 56:7).

Now is a very good time to start to get up and recite Tikun Chatztot, though one special thing during this time, we only say Tikun Leah, we don't say Tikun Rachel, so it's much shorter. Let's make fresh commitment to rise and say this important tefillah.

Come join me, together we can do it if we just try we can live a life that is connected and fulfilling. Know for sure that, you have nothing to lose but a little sleep, and a lot to receive, maybe a blessing?

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Friday, April 06, 2007

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Bitul and Emunah

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

In this time of Sefiras HaOmer, we have to start with emunah and reach the point of bitul. Unlike other mitzvot, each one has to count omer, we can't be included in someone else's count. We ourselves, and no one else, have to count and be included, meaning as an individual we must elevate ourselves, level by level, each day that we count, to rectify the defects that we have caused with our lack of faith. Lack of emunah itself is the shoresh of all sins.

Mikvah is essential to this process. Take a mikvah everyday during Sefiras HaOmer. We work to pass through these gates and obtain new levels of bitul, reaching hopefully toward total nullification and reception of the Torah of truth on vav Sivan. "We will do!!! "and then "we will hear"???. Remez!! (hint hint) Total commitment to emunah and thus achieving bitul.

Now know that it is impossible to come to bitul and closeness to Hashem without emunah, but without bitul it is impossible to come to emunah. In this lies the question, where to start? It's hard to subdue the ego and the yetzer harah to become bitul, so we must first have emunah, as our emunah increases, then we have to become more bitul, the more bitul we become the more emunah is increased, the more emunah we have the more we have to be bitul. We repeat this pattern striving towards the Ein Sof, and finish our tikun.

Hopefully in this life, in this goof.

Moadim L'Simcha, Reb Nati

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Ring Ring

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Prophesy in the news or The Alarm Clock???

Kabbalist Elder: Israel on Brink of War (IsraelNN.com) A highly-regarded kabbalist elder from Bnei Barak has issued a warning that the next war in Israel is on the way.

Rabbi Eliyahu Leon Levi, who frequents the Western Wall every Saturday night to recite Psalms and teach Torah, told his students that there is an "evil decree" of war looming on the horizon. According to the Rabbi, Syria is liable to join Lebanon in firing missiles at the Jewish State in the pending war.

The missiles will have a much greater range and carry much larger warheads than the katyusha rockets fired against Israel this past summer in the Second Lebanon War which claimed some 156 lives, he noted.

"It's not going to be 'katyushas shmatyushas' this time which have only tens of kilograms of explosives. The enemy will launch, G-d forbid, rockets carrying 500 and 600 kilograms of explosives," Rabbi Levi told his students.

On several occasions, Rabbi Levi first alerted Israeli military authorities of security threats and movements of massive amounts of enemy weapons, that were subsequently verified by IDF intelligence. The kabbalist Rabbi said just before the Passover holiday that he does not want to cause panic, but suggested that the Israeli public stock up on two weeks of water, food supplies, candles and matches in case the delivery of basic commodities is disrupted.

Rabbi Levi said that though Israel "may, G-d forbid, pay a heavy price initially, the Jewish People would muster strength to crush their enemies leading to a great sanctification of G-d's name through ultimate victory."

He emphasized that the decree can be annulled through prayer, repentance, and good deeds. "In the spiritual world, things can rapidly change. But right now, it appears that war could break out soon after or even during the Passover holiday." Rabbi Levi said that the allocation of food to the needy and the great acts of charity which preceded the Passover holiday made a great impression in the heavenly court and sweetened the judgment to a degree.

"We are on the brink of redemption, and a great war is coming." he said. "Whoever doesn't prepare himself spiritually is at great risk. A person must turn to G-d in prayer and cry and confess his wrongdoings, and rectify his ways. A person must recite Psalms as we do every Saturday night here at the site of our holy temple. The recitation of Psalms constitutes a spiritual rinsing of the mouth from idle talk, as well as from the transgression of causing others pain through our speech. Come with your children to cry and pray before G-d and ask forgiveness."

Rabbi Levi said that once the rockets start falling, it is too late for a person to wake up and begin to rectify his ways. "Now is the time to ask for mercy. If one doesn't do so, G-d have mercy on his soul - there will be problems."

Rabbi Levi said that those who recite Tikun Hatzot (the Midnight Rectification) along with a Tikun Yesod (rectification of the covenant of sexual purity) will have an invincible shield of protection (ohr makif) around him.

The kabbalist pointed to sexual wrongdoing, immodest dress, and addiction to pornography on the internet as additional factors which bring about harsh decrees on Israel.


Hashem Yerachem, we have to do something before it is to late. Wake my people, wake up!!!!

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

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What’s The Most Important Thing To Look Out For?

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

This coming week we will read the Torah portion that deals with the holiday of Passover. Although Passover is by far the most memorable and beloved holiday of the entire Jewish calendar, it also brings the greatest number of details, requirements and restrictions. Observing each of these elements is crucial this week of preparation and especially for the Seder itself. To list them all would (and does) fill an entire book.

There are the Torah commandments and there are the rabbinical commandments. There are also the customs that, surprisingly, vary tremendously between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There are the unique customs that have developed around the diaspora. For example, Indian Jews eat different foods on Passover than Temanni Jews, and some Jews will dip their matza in their soup while others would be aghast at such a move! Some will eat beans, and some would never do such a thing. There are strict requirements as to the minimum amounts of matza, bitter herb and wine that must be consumed, and only within a specific period of time. And perhaps most important of all are the amazingly strict requirements not to have any leavening or related products in our possession for the entire week. Confusing this even more is that some authorities say certain foods are leavened while others swear that they are not.

On and on, the list of requirements that ensure a successful Seder can certainly seem overwhelming. It is no wonder that the favorite question a sharp student will ask his rebbe right before the Seder is, “What is the most important thing that I must watch out for?”

Last Pesach, right before leaving the Kotel to rush home for the Seder, a rabbi friend of mine asked me that very question. To his great surprise, I immediately answered, “Make sure that the children have a good time.” He looked at me as if I might be joking; his face was all twisted up. He wanted to know some great Kabbalah about the four cups of wine, or maybe how to lean to the side when drinking them. Or maybe I could give him some great Chassidic teaching on how to do teshuva (repentance) while trying to gulp down that impossibly hot horseradish. AAGHHHH! But, no, I simply said, “Make sure that the children have a good time.”

The next afternoon, he came up to me, smiling. He’s a smart guy and he took my words to heart. He said, “It was the best Seder ever. The kids were great. Everyone was laughing. We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But tell me, how can you really say that keeping the kids happy was the most important thing to watch out for? After all, this is a very serious holiday.”

I explained, “There is only one reason we have the Seder at all: to remember the Exodus from Egypt. And there is only one reason why we must remember the Exodus from Egypt: so we will remain Jews. If we forget our past, there will be no reason to go on as a people. There is only one way for us to remain Jews, and that is to raise Jewish families. Without the children coming back next year, there won’t be any Jewish families. It’s for the kids’ sake that we go through all this each year and, G-d willing, we will get to do it for them again next year too. And if they have a good enough time, then surely someday we will even get to do it for their kids.”

Have a happy Pesach. It’s crucial.

-- Reb Gutman Locks

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Tizku l'Mitzvot! Thank You!

The response to Reb Nati's passover campaign has been great, Thank G-d and Thank YOU!

Reb Nati tells me that people, when being handed 200 shekel (about $40), literally broke down in tears, as for them that was the difference between having wine and matzah, or maybe even a piece of chicken, or not.

Reb Nati arrived at a few places where the poor turn to, where they looked at him and said, "I'm sorry my friend, we don't have anything left for you, Hashem Ya'azor (G-d should help), but the lines of those in need have been very very long." Reb Nati was able to smile back and say, "No my friend, today I haven't come to take but to give, help sent by people from around the world."

Thank you. May Hashem bless you, may your seder be accepted and your kindness merit great blessings!

Any further donations received will be distributed during Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days, G-d willing.

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A Kosher and Happy Passover!

(Picture of Jerusalem, the Belz synagogue in the center.)

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A Kosher and Happy Passover to all our readers and to all Klal Yisroel!

Today, the Pesach (Passover) seder is our only korbon. There is no other time when we sit down in ritualized sacrifice to G-d. Yes, we have other religious meals, every holiday and every Shabbos, where we incorporate brief moments of elements from the Beis Hamikdash (challot, salt, etc). But only on Pesach do we sit down for a meal that is a korbon (sacrifice).

On Shavous, with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai), we learn that the children are the ultimate guarantors of the Jewish people. On Pesach, much of our korbon is for the children.

There is a chassidic story, and I apologize for I don't remember either the name of the tzadik nor the name of his student, though I think the tzadik was the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin... The student (who was a tzadik in his own right) prepared extensively for the seder. He studied, and prayed, and meditated extensively on the in depth mystical meanings in preparation. The first seder came and he put all his work to application. Great was his intensity, and he suddenly felt himself flying through the heavens! He flew and flew, and experienced heavenly views and intense joy. Such heights he reached, such intensity he experienced!

When he was done, he was utterly exhausted. He completed his seder and collapsed into bed. When he finally awoke, it was already late at night the second night! He hurried hurried to put together his seder, crying as he was rushing that without all the proper concentration and focus his service was inadequate. He rushed to get through enough before it was too late, literally crying (and trying to keep his tears off the matzah) that his poor service just wasn't enough.

After the holiday, he went to visit his Rebbe. As his Rebbe looked at him, he said, "lets see how your seders went...what's this, flying flying, what kind of Jew goes around flying? What kind of self serving is this? And what of the second night...ahhh, a broken heart before Hashem, a true service."

Chag Kasher v'Samayach!

Mystical Paths recommends these haggadah's for the english speaking/reading crowd:

  • For the children and the adults, the amazing artwork haggadah: The Kleinman Haggadah for Passover.

  • For adults who appreciate chassidic stories: The Carlebach Haggadah.

  • For instruction and commentary of a chassidic seder: At Our Rebbe's Seder Table.


  • If you don't have a haggadah, At Our Rebbe's Seder Table (the English portion only) can be downloaded and printed for free, here!

    Blogging Note: Regular blogging is suspended until Wed. April 11, after the end of the Passover holiday. We may pop in with a little something in the meantime, but not daily posts. Passover begins this Monday night, continuing through Teusday and Wednesday (outside of Israel, just through Tuesday in Israel). The end-day holiday of Passover is next Sunday night through Tuesday (outside of Israel, just through Monday in Israel.) To learn more about Passover, check out Passover.Net.

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