Friday, August 31, 2007

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Chai Elul - The Baal Shem Tov, The Baal HaTanya

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This Shabbos is Chai Elul, the 18th day of the hebrew month of Elul, which is the birthday of the holy Baal Shem Tov, and the birthday of the first Rebbe of Chabad chassidus, the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Many miraculous stories are told about these two great tzaddikim, two generations apart (the Alter Rebbe was taught by a student and successor of the Baal Shem Tov). Yet the truly amazing story is that the path created by the Baal Shem Tov, and codified and explained by the Alter Rebbe, not only are still around but are the driving forces behind much of living Judaism today.

G-d willing, I'll add some stories of them before Shabbat. But regardless, this Shabbos we make a l'chaim and a farbrengen in honor of these two great and holy souls that reinvigorated Judaism of their time and right into ours.

The sefer HaYom Yom notes...

Chai Elul is the date of:

- The Birth of the Baal Shem Tov in 5458 (1698).

- The day his holy teacher and master appeared to him in 5484 (1724).

- The day the Baal Shem Tov became revealed in 5494 (1734).

- The Birth of the Alter Rebbe 5505 (1745).

Outline of the Baal Shem Tov's discourse [3] on Shabbat Tavo, Chai (18th) Elul 5652 (1892), after Kabalat Shabbat:

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

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

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

"You shall take...and place it in a basket," - draw down the (spiritual) lights into (appropriate) vessels.

"You shall go to the place the Eternal your G-d will choose" - a Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going on his own, but is being directed from Above. And the intention and purpose in this is...

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

After Maariv the Baal Shem Tov repeated this discourse and added:

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

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By The Waters of the Kinneret

Original Photos by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Teveria, aka Tiberious, is an ancient and new Jewish city on the shores of the Kinneret, aka the Sea of the Galilee, a large fresh water lake in Northern Israel and Israel's primary water source. The city goes from the shore of the mini-sea up the mountain side. It's a city of beauty, holiness as it's literally filled with the resting places of generations of Israel's greatest tzaddikim, and heat as the summer weather commonly hits 105 degrees F.

Aug-20 013

Aug-20 006

Aug-20 017

Aug-20 146

Aug-20 143

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

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Sometimes You Hit The Wall

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

For my daughter: Sometimes life overcooks your rice, nu, what can you do?

Sometimes you hit the wall, sometimes the wall hits you. Sometimes avoiding is not a choice, rather the only choice is how you deal with it...

Over at the Muqata, there's a nice article on a difficult airplane experience with a Xian monk. That story ended with the monk exploding (well, not physically as in suicide bomber) due to excess airline inconvenience. Here's my recent story...

I was returning from a business trip. It had been a tiring trip. I struggled a bit with local traffic in a city with which I was unfamiliar, getting turned around a few times (even with a cell phone based GPS service). I was getting progressively more worried about making my flight. Checked in a rental car, then waited on a shuttle bus for 20 minutes while worrying more and more about making it through security on time to make my flight.

Fortunately, security was quick, got on the plane with no trouble. Then, we waited. 45 minutes for some delay, finally in the air. It was not a short flight, crossing a major portion of the US. It was bumpy, mildly uncomfortable, and the plane was full. I was in a middle seat (that's all that was left), I hate that.

We arrived to bad weather, the landing was rough. And that's when the fun really began. Because of the weather, planes hadn't been leaving. So we taxied from the runway and...sat. No gates available. And sat. No one was leaving, and they weren't pushing back (or even loading their passengers). No gates, we sat. 1 hour. We're on the ground, the plane is full, it's literally getting stuffy. Everyone has their cell phones broken out, everyone is annoyed. It's loud and stuffy. Of course, we're not parked, so people can't get up to use the bathroom.

2 hours. No change, the captain has come on a few times to apologize, but there's nothing he can do. It's almost hard to breathe. Many people have connections to make, they're practically frantic. Everyone is sweating.

I'm really uncomfortable, tired, cranky, almost feel like I'm having trouble breathing (air quality is deteriorating), squeezed in on both sides. I'm a prisoner of the airline (along with 150 of my closest strangers that I've never met before). I'm taking deep breaths (for all that's worth), ha'kol b'day shamayim, being stuck here is for the best, and trying to resist jumping out of my seat, running and trying to throw open a door. I want to dial 911 on my cell phone and tell the police I've been kidnapped by an airline. I'm barely restraining myself, as I neither want to act that way as an orthodox Jew who clearly looks that way (and therefore represents at some level Torah), nor do I want to get off the plane into the hands of the Transportation Police as an airline threat.

FINALLY, we start to pull into a gate. We're in! Everyone jumps up to grab their stuff. And...the door doesn't open. They didn't line up the gate right. Now everyone is standing and crowding the aisle, I'm bent partially sideways. And people both in front and behind me are practically frantic, wondering if there is any chance to get their flights and make their way home the same day.

Another 10 minutes, the door finally opens. We're halfway back in the plane, it's full, it's emptying slowly. The people are frantic, gotta get off, gotta get off. I turned to those behind me, who were truly freaking out, and said calmly and slowly, "don't worry, if it took us this long to get in, it will be taking your connecting flight the same, there's hope that you'll be fine". With a calm voice and a thought of hope, they calmed down tremendously.

As we walked forward and as they were walking away, I heard those in front of me say, "that rabbi, he really calmed everyone down."

With one sentence I made a kiddush Hashem, and positively affected all those around me. Yet I was so close, so very very close, to doing the opposite, G-d forbid. And that, was why I was on that particular flight that particular day.

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Links of Interest

A few items that caught my eye...

Dixie Yid: Mixing Traditions and the Light of Moshiach

CBS News: Security Hat Checking!

Havroota.Com - Find a Torah Learning Partner

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Now That's Important

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

* NOT *

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Looking for the key to a happy marriage? Then take turns doing the washing up, regularly take out the trash and help bath the dog, according to a U.S. survey on what makes a successful marriage.

A new Pew Research Center study found an increasing number of American adults considered sharing household chores as very important, ranking it third in a list of nine items associated with successful marriages -- and put ahead of children.

Topping the list in the telephone survey of 2,020 people was faithfulness, with 93 percent of respondents rating it very important, with a happy (intimate) relationship coming second, rated very important by 70 percent of respondents.

"But household chores (at 62 percent) are now nipping at the heels of the second-place item - "happy sexual relationship," the Pew Research Center said in a statement released this week.

Researchers found virtually no difference of opinion on this between men and women, older adults and younger adults, or between married people and singles.

The decline and fall of Western civilization can be seen above. When children, the next generation, are no longer a top goal, the society is in deep doo doo.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A dvar Torah for Devarim 26, Parshat Ki Savo...

This week’s portion begins with the laws pertaining to the first-fruit offering that we are to bring to Jerusalem. The law tells us to do certain specific things, such as which fruit to take, to put them in a basket, where to take it, whom to give it to, and what to say when we give it to him.

Fine. Up to here, all of this is easy enough. But then the law states, “You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem, your God, has given you and your household—you and the Levite and the proselyte who is in your midst.” [i]

Whether I feel like it or not, I can put fruit in a basket and do all of these other physical things, but how can I be commanded to rejoice if I do not feel like it? How can He command us to rejoice if we are feeling down that day?

The law given here is not merely the command to rejoice, but the law itself also explains what to do to become happy. Even if you do not feel like it, better yet, especially if you do not feel like it, then do what is commanded here.

The law clearly commands us to “rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem has given” us. This law seems to connote that things rejoice. Hard to believe, yet it specifically says that we are to rejoice with these things!

This is the key to being happy. Look at all of the good that God has given you. Look at your health, your children, your prosperity—whatever its level, and you will easily rejoice with these things.

Then, when we provide for the less fortunate, three additional things will happen.

Number one: We will see that there are people around who have greater needs than we do. This will help us to be thankful for our lot.

Number two: Making these other people happy will make us happy. Just seeing suffering relieved is a great source of joy, especially when you have been instrumental in removing it.

And number three: By caring for those less fortunate than you, you will acquire God’s additional kindness toward you. He will look down from above and say, “Oh, you see My servant so and so? He is doing such a good job that I am going to give him a raise so he can do even more.”

Again, we see that the law is not merely an obligation, it is a solution. It is not just something that “you got to do.” It is something that “you get to do.”

[i] Deut 26:11

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by Akiva at Mystical Paths

My son informs me that the best kosher shwarma in the world can be found at Dr. Shnitzel in Tzfat (Safed). Just thought you might want to know.

My son recommends the baggette, personally I'm a laffa man myself.

(Shwarma is an Israeli fast food that's quite incredible.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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Giving Mussar - Hard or Not?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I went to the children's playground on Shabbat with my kids. This is a bit unusual for me, the playground on Shabbat afternoon is generally the haven the women and young children in our community, the men are either together for learning or enjoying a Shabbos rest. (For the women this is also a positive social time, my wife always comes home well informed of community events afterwards, as well as info about mitzvot of opportunities for helping our fellow.)

Now our local playground is in an interesting location. Behind it there's a pond. Since our community has a eruv (a semi-virtual Shabbos wall that turns the community in a private domain, permitting carrying), this is something of a problem. That's because you can't have a body of water in an eruv. The solution to this is rather interesting, you create another eruv inside your eruv, effectively walling off the item that can't be in your eruv. (A circle inside a circle, so to speak.) And that's exactly what's been done.

This would seem to be a bit of esoteric trivia. But, because of it's location behind the playground, and because it has a walking path right around it's border, it's rather important to know that the walking path and border of the pond is excluded from the eruv, and therefore carrying in that area on Shabbat is not permitted. And that's important because parents and children come to the playground with toys, bottles, pacifiers, and refreshments on Shabbat.

As I was sitting on a bench inside the fenced-in playground, I see 3 frum Jewish boys sitting by the edge of the pond, tossing rocks into the pond. I faced a bit of a dilemma. I see my brother violating the Torah, I have an obligation to say something. Yet, I have to find a way to say it that they will hear and accept. If this is an adult, I would have to be careful to say something like, "Hey, did you notice there's an eruv line right here. Wow, I just noticed that. I guess that means carrying on the pond-path is violating Shabbat. I guess we better be careful!" For children (these boys were around 8 years old), it's even trickier. How could I say it that they'd actually consider it, and not think they were just being yelled at by a bothersome adult (or worse, screamed at by a stranger)?

In other words, how do you get a reproof across with real love and concern? Because if you're not doing it that way, it's not going to be accepted. Rather, the ego will naturally arise to ones personal defense. And if it's not going to be accepted, the Shulchan Aruch itself says, you can't do it. This is a bit of a catch-22, you have an obligation to reprove, but you can't do it if you're not going to do it the right way. It's as much of an avera for you to just yell at someone (or even worse, be self righteous about something) as it is for that person to be doing whatever they're doing (how much more so if their action is unintentional, whereas your action to reprove is always intentional).

...I thought about it for a few minutes, considering whether to try or not. I really didn't want to, which convinced me that I should. (Figuring if I don't want to do a good thing, that's my inclination working against me.) I casually walked over to the path, came over by the boys, mentioned the pond looked very scummy, and asked the boys if they realized that line over there was the eruv, meaning they can't carry or throw stones on this side of it. They didn't answer me, and just kind of glared at me.

Oh well, I tried. Don't always get it right.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

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Video: Impact

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by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Someone asked a friend, "What does the Bible or other sources say about UFO's?" (UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object, commonly meant to mean a sighting of something in the sky thought to possibly be a spaceship or flying saucer, beyond the capabilities [as far as we know] of human technology, and therefore assumed to be controlled by a non-human intelligence.)

My friend (who I won't identify unless they choose to give explicit permission) sent one interesting answer, and I add two more...

1. In the Holy Zohar it states there are seven Earths, each of which is inhabited by human-like people. In the 17th century Kabbalistic classic Hesed L’Avraham the author, Rabbi Avraham Azulai, zt'l, states that there are 365 different species of creatures in inner earth which are half-human/half-animal, similar to the ancient centaur. In the prayer of Hallel, it says השמים שמים לה', והארץ נתן לבני אדם, Heaven is heaven to HaShem and Earth was given to man. Therefore (based on that pasuk), there could not be UFO's as such.

2. The Holy Zohar speaks of the time of Moshiach, when "1000 tzaddikim will rule 1000 WORLDS". If this is meant literally, then 1000 inhabitable planets exist on which people can live, and will live in the messianic era. It could further mean that there are 1000 planets today that support human life. Historically, this was understood as spiritual worlds or realms, but that was before we had technology to look up and see physical worlds. In this light it's worth noting it's literally just within the last year that astrophysicists have positively identified planets around other stars that lay within the boundaries to have earth-like conditions.

3. Rabbi Bar Tzadok (of KosherTorah.Com) speaks frequently of extraterrestrials, aliens, and intelligences from another world. His special twist is that it doesn't make any difference whether the 'other world' is a distant physical planet or a spiritual level or dimension. Therefore, malachim (angels), shedim (negative spiritual beings), etc, are all extraterrestrials, aka UFOs. Therefore, the question this would raise is, are UFO manifestations a technological manifestation, meaning non-human intelligent life forms living on a different physical planet have created a means of technological transport to our world, or are they a spiritual manifestation generating a temporary physical presence as they enter this world, meaning non-human intelligent energy forms living outside the physical realm and crossing spiritual barriers to this one?

The Gemora discusses INTELLIGENT life from "other places", and concludes that the only intelligent life with free will is humanity. All others would be operating via Divine programming, more what we would consider instinct.

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From The Old City: Wrapping Up

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Dear Friends,

This month (Elul) concludes the series of weekly Torah insights I've been posting. I am very thankful to have been able to send one each week for the past two years (the last year of which have been posted weekly here at Mystical Paths).

These writings have just been published and are now available in hardback copy.

"From The Old City -- A Practical Torah Commentary" is a collection of comments, explanations and/or stories for each of the weekly Torah readings. The common thread running through them is that the Torah is speaking not only of the historical perspective (indeed, it is also a history book), but, even more importantly, it is also speaking about each of us today. This timelessness is its true value.

When we view each of the personalities recorded in the Torah as not only having lived thousands of years ago but also living within us, we can use those historical events to guide our lives today. When we see how the deeds of the forefathers are truly a sign to the children, [i] we can confront our troubles the way our righteous ancestors confronted theirs. And we can thank G-d for what He sends to us the way they thanked G-d for what He sent to them. When we act like our holy ancestors acted, we become like them, holy servants of the One Creator. This is the hope and purpose of creation.

If you order your copy now, it will arrive in time for the holidays and the new cycle of weekly Torah readings.

For the coming year it is my intention to send out letters from time to time, sometimes on the weekly portion and sometimes simply observations of life from the vantage point of the Old City.

Thank you for your attention for all these weeks.

With love and prayers for your well-being,
From The Old City of Jerusalem

Gutman (Gil) Locks

[i] Sotah 34a, Tanchuma 9, Gen 34:1 Rashi

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Friday, August 24, 2007

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The Jewish Extremist

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Sunrise Over the Kinnert

Original Photos by Elchonon at Mystical Paths

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For My Fellow Bloggers

Backing up your blog is a pretty good idea. Till now, if you blog via Blogger, there's been no good options (the options that exist actually have NO ability to restore, and what good is a backup you can't use?)

Now there is: Blog Backup Online

So far, it seems great. It will also let you backup from 1 blog software and restore into another (in other words, convert your blog).


Thursday, August 23, 2007

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Bilvavi Author in Five Towns, Lakewood, Baltimore, and Kew Gardens Hills

by Dixie Yid at Mystical Paths

This just in: The author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim will be making several appearances in major American cities starting this Sunday, during his visit to the United States. The Rav speaks in relatively easy Hebrew. You can see some of his shiurim online on's Bilvavi Video Shiur page.

The picture above is the flyer being distributed regarding the Bilvavi author's appearance at Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere this Sunday night at 8:30. My Aish Kodesh contact was nice enough to provide me with a scanned copy of the flyer.

Please send this information to anyone you know in any of these cities. It'd be a zechus for both of us to share the informaiton! Yasher koach!

Sunday August 26, 2007
Five Towns
Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere at 8:30 PM
894 Woodmere Pl. (corner of Woodmere Blvd. and West Broadway)

Monday, August 27, 2007
Lakewood, NJ
8:30 PM - Yeshiva Ketana at 120 2nd St.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Baltimore, MD
7:30 PM at Congregation Shaarei Zion
6602 Park Heights Ave. - Men and Women Invited
9:15 PM at the Community Kollel of Baltimore
3800 Labrinth Rd. - Men Only

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Kew Gardens Hills
Beit Kenesset Tov
Corner of 147th St. & 68th Dr.

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Far Rockaway, NY
8 PM

-Dixie Yid

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It's The Law

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A dvar Torah for Deuteronomy 21:10, parshat Ki Seitzei.

One of the more interesting laws given in this week portion of the Torah actually tells an entire story. The story goes: A man married two women and had sons with both of them. Then, for whatever reason, he came to hate the mother of his first-born.

There is another law that tells us that first-born sons are entitled to a double portion of their father’s estate. [i] This law is reflected in the word “first-born” (bachor) itself. In Hebrew, it is spelled bet-chof-resh. The gematria of these letters are 2 - 20 – 200. Each letter is a doubling.

Now we are learning that this man may not give the son of his beloved wife the double portion that the son of his hated wife was entitled to receive. Even though she became hated, the husband may not take away her child’s rightful inheritance.

Since God has taught us these laws in order to teach us the proper way to behave, we have to believe that He too (as if it could be) is also subject to this code of behavior. After all, often we are told to “walk in His ways.” So if we cannot demote our first-born, then neither can He. Even though the mother of the first-born lost favor in her husband’s eyes, still the husband cannot take it out on her child.

Mystically speaking, as is seen in such places as the book “The Song of Songs,” we see God likened to the “Husband of Israel.” Throughout scripture, we, Israel, are often called His first-born.

If our ancestors back in the Temple days lost favor in the eyes of their “Husband,” and if He hated them for a good reason or not, still, He is not allowed to take it out on us, the children of that hated wife. According to His own law, He must give us the double portion that His first-born is entitled to receive. Of course, this double inheritance includes good portions in this world now and in the time of the Moshiach, and in the World to Come. After all, it’s the law!

[i] Deut 21:17

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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What Do You See?

by Nava at Mystical Paths
Lightning streaks across Cancun's night sky during a thunderstorm August 19, 2007.

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Secrets of Shema

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

...and you shall speak of them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. - from Shema Yisroel, the key prayer of Judaism, and Devarim 6:7.

One of the most amazing entries in HaYom Yom, the sefer From Day to Day, compiled from the writings of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe by the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe, reads like this (entry for the 13th of Av)...

"Speak of them when you sit..."

Our sages [Yoma 19] explain that "speak of them" refers to words of Torah. However, in Torah-study itself there are many gradations, which we explain here:

"When you sit at home," - refers to the soul's occupation with Torah when it is in the trove of souls, before its descent to this lowly world.

"When you go on the way," - refers to the time during which the soul descends from world to world, from plane to plane, until it comes below to this lowest world to be invested in a physical body. There the soul "goes in the way" of this world until the time of old age, until...

"When you lie down," - when man's appointed time (to leave the physical world) arrives. Then, too, the Torah will protect him, as explained in Chapter Six of Avot, [Mishna 9] until...

"When you rise up," - as it is said, "When you awaken (it shall be your discourse)." [Mishlei 6:22, a reference to the time when the dead will return to to life].

and the referred to Pirke Avos, 6:9 -

At the time of a man's passing from this world, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany him, but only Torah and good deeds, as it is stated: "When you walk, it shall guide you, when you lie down, it shall watch over you, and when you awake, it shall speak for you. (Mishlei 6:22)"

"When you walk, it shall guide you" - in this world.
"When you lie down, it shall watch over you" - in the grave.
"And when you wake, it shall speak for you" - in the World to Come.

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A Bit More on the Earthquake in Peru

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A friend in Peru wrote...

The earthquake did not (seriously) affect the Jewish community here because the epicenter was near Ica, which is around 200 km from Lima (where the Jewish community is located).

The population in Ica is very poor, and their construction very precarious. That's why there are now more than 500 people reported killed in that zone. And also because G-d protected us.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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The Mascot

by Nava at Mystical Paths

Alex Kurzem came to Australia in 1949 carrying just a small brown briefcase, but weighed down by some harrowing psychological and emotional baggage.

Tucked away in his briefcase were the secrets of his past - fragments of his life that he kept hidden for decades.

In 1997, after raising a family in Melbourne with his Australian bride, he finally revealed himself. He told how, at the age of five, he had been adopted by the SS and became a Nazi mascot.

His personal history, one of the most remarkable stories to emerge from World War II, was published recently in a book entitled The Mascot.

"They gave me a uniform, a little gun and little pistol," Alex told the BBC.

"They gave me little jobs to do - to polish shoes, carry water or light a fire. But my main job was to entertain the soldiers. To make them feel a bit happier."

In newsreels, he was paraded as 'the Reich's youngest Nazi' and he witnessed some unspeakable atrocities.

But his SS masters never discovered the most essential detail about his life: their little Nazi mascot was Jewish.

"They didn't know that I was a Jewish boy who had escaped a Nazi death squad. They thought I was a Russian orphan."

His story starts where his childhood memories begin - in a village in Belarus on 20 October 1941, the day it was invaded by the German army.

When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left. "I remember the German army invading the village, lining up all the men in the city square and shooting them. My mother told me that my father had been killed, and that we would all be killed."

"I didn't want to die, so in the middle of the night I tried to escape. I went to kiss my mother goodbye, and ran up into the hill overlooking the village until the morning came."

That was the day his family was massacred - his mother, his brother, his sister.

"I was very traumatised. I remember biting my hand so I couldn't cry out loud, because if I did they would have seen me hiding in the forest. I can't remember exactly what happened. I think I must have passed out a few times. It was terrible."

"When the shooting stopped I had no idea where to go so I went to live in the forests, because I couldn't go back. I was the only one left. I must have been five or six."

"I went into the forest but no-one wanted me. I knocked on peoples' doors and they gave me bits of bread but they told me to move on. Nobody took me in."

After about nine months in the forest, a local man handed him over to the Latvian police brigade, which later became incorporated in the Nazi SS.

That very day, people were being lined up for execution, and Alex thought he, too, was about to die.

"There was a soldier near me and I said, 'Before you kill me, can you give me a bit of bread?' He looked at me, and took me around the back of the school. He examined me and saw that I was Jewish. "No good, no good," he said. 'Look I don't want to kill, but I can't leave you here because you will perish.

"'I'll take you with me, give you a new name and tell the other soldiers that you are a Russian orphan.'"

To this day, Alex Kurzem has no idea why Sergeant Jekabs Kulis took pity on him. Whatever his motives, it certainly helped that Alex had Aryan looks. And together, they kept the secret.

"Every moment I had to remind myself not to let my guard down, because if ever anyone found out, I was dead. I was scared of the Russians shooting me and the Germans discovering I was Jewish. I had no-one to turn to."

Young Alex saw action on the Russian front, and was even used by the SS to lure Jewish people to their deaths.

Outside the cattle trains which carried victims to the concentration camps, he handed out chocolate bars to tempt them in.

Then, in 1944, with the Nazis facing almost certain defeat, the commander of the SS unit sent him to live with a Latvian family.

Five years later, he managed to reach Australia. For a time, he worked in a circus and eventually became a television repair man in Melbourne.

All the time, he kept his past life to himself, not even telling his Australian wife, Patricia.

"When I left Europe I said 'forget about your past. You are going to a new country and a new life. Switch off and don't even think about it.'

"I managed to do it. I told people I lost my parents in the war, but I didn't go into detail. I kept the secret and never told anyone."

It was not until 1997 that he finally told his family, and along with his son, Mark, set about discovering more about his past life.

After visiting the village where he was born, they found out his real name was Ilya Galperin, and even uncovered a film in a Latvian archive of Alex in full SS regalia.

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Emunah Paths MiniCast #1 - Sunrise

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Please join us for a mini-podcast, Emunah Paths Minicast #1 - Sunrise (1 minute, MP3, English)

Direct MP3 Download: HERE - - Subscribe to Your iPod:

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Propagated Misconceptions

by Akiva at Mystical Paths, crossposted at DovBear.

...She left her high-powered, high-paid job as a Wall Street lawyer and moved to Israel in 1984. ... Baras moved her family to Karnei Shomron, a settlement deep inside the West Bank.

"Just by building my house ... I was strengthening the Jewish presence here in Samaria," she said, referring to a biblical name for the northern part of the West Bank....

Here we find CNN propagating their misconceptions again. "Deep inside the West Bank." Karnei Shomrom is a 15 minute ride from Kfar Saba. How far do you drive in 15 minutes? To the local mall? Local grocery store? 15 freaking minutes. It's 30 minutes to Ariel, that's central West Bank, 45 minutes to Elon Moreh, that's about as far in as qualifies as West Bank, and another 20 minutes to the Jordan Valley (which, I guess, is past the West Bank.)

For perspective, it takes 15 minutes to drive from the KOTEL to Kever Rochel, that's Bet Lechem (Bethlehem), supposedly another country (Philstine, ah, Palestine).

Perspective is an amazing thing. I recently had a Shabbos guest from Utrich, Holland. She mentioned she sometimes goes on a shopping trip to Berlin (Germany). I'm thinking, O M G, such distant traveling for shopping??? So I asked her, "how long does it take to get there." She answered, "about an hour and a half".

Apparently for this reporter, deep in the West Bank is a 1 hour trip from his hotel in Tel Aviv.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

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Down By The Sea

Original Photos by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Looking down the hills of Haifa to the Yam Tichon, the Greater Sea, aka the Mediterranean. The first photo shows the Israeli Oceanographic Institute, the 2nd shows the skyride up the mountain, the 3rd and 4th show some people enjoying the gifts Hashem has bestowed upon the Land of Israel.

Aug-19 004

Aug-19 016

Aug-19 008

Aug-19 009

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

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Things To Worry About

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

1. Orlando Police Sgt. Barbara Jones holds a surface-to-air missile launcher that had been turned in to the Orlando Police Kicks for Guns 2007 program on Friday.

2. A rocket-propelled grenade found in a stolen van was disarmed and hauled off to the Orange County Sheriff's headquarters in Santa Ana. The sheriff's bomb squad called the Marines' Explosive Ordnance Detail from Camp Pendleton to disarm the weapon.

I'm not an anti-gun person, I strongly believe the in the right to self defense. But one has to be slightly worried by finding these level of weapons floating around in the US. I don't know if these kinds of things are happening more often, or just being reported more often.

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The Right Repairs

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A friend forwarded me a question they received,

"Where can I find 'Tikunei Zohar' in English? I saw an article about 40 days to Spiritual Cleansing. Is it for Jews only? What about Noachite (non-Jewish following of the 7 mitzvot of Noah)?"

I replied...

There is no reliable English translation publicly available, fully published, of Tikunei Zohar that I am aware of. Rabbi Bar Tzadok at KosherTorah.Com has sections up related to a series of lessons he gave, here (PDF).

I would advise being extremely careful about practices from the Zohar as a Noachide. "Tikkunim" are spiritual repairs, they assume a particular set of soul strengths, weaknesses, and responsibilities. Using them in other circumstances may not have the intended outcome. (An example of using an electricians tools to do a carpentry repair comes to mind.)

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Jewish News from Peru Earthquake

Got this tidbit via Elisheva's Alerts...

A reader emailed:

I spoke with my mother, who lives in Lima (Peru). There are no reports of any Jews killed or injured, or of any Jewish property destroyed or seriously damaged by the earthquake. (!!!) All Jewish institutions, including the local synagogues and Batei Chabad (Chabad houses), are intact. The Mikvas aren't damaged at all. (!!!)

But the country is in state of emergency. The death toll raises by the hour, and the local hospitals in Ica and Nazca can't treat all the injured.

Don't know if you caught this: On CNN, a reporter tried to ask a local rescue officer about the issues, they guy screamed back in Spanish: "shut up and let me work, put your camera down and either help out or get the heck out!". They did not translate his words!

Voz Iz Neias corroborates this, with this info...

Sterna Sara Blumfeld, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Peru, said her family escaped yesterday's devastating earthquake relatively unscathed.

Blumfeld told a morning news reporter that all of the glass windows in her Lima house exploded during the 7.9-magnitude trembler that struck the South American country Wednesday night.

I am unaware of any kosher Jewish organization accepting tzedakah to help. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.


Friday, August 17, 2007

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by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Or, Idioot Gamur in Hebrew). Jenny Tonge, British Peer in the House of Lords, is clearly an idiot. At best. At worst...

Jerusalem Post - Here.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

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Making Evil Legal

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Bagel Blogger picked up
on a news item where the Iranian government is issuing International legal arrest warrants for those members of the Argentinian government and Jewish community who found evidence and filed warrants against Iranian agents involved in blowing up the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, killing scores.

"An Iranian court has summoned five former Argentinian government officials to journey to Iran and answer charges of working against the security of the country, state television announced Thursday. The five officials were all involved in an investigation that implicated Iran in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 200."

Mr. Bagel declares this unbelievable, but, Hashem Ya'a'zor, it's not. One need merely look at the past, the Wanasee conference of 1942, where the German government created the legal foundation for the extermination of the Jewish people, to understand. This is not insanity, it's tyranny. And tyranny believes the legal system exists to service the state, in whatever decisions the leaders shall make.

I'm sure Iran fully expects Interpol to execute on it's warrants, and will scream about international discrimination if it does not.

The tyranny of Iran has decided that destroying Israel is a goal, and all parts of the state, including the legal system, shall move to support that. (Or else.)

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Emunah Paths Podcast - #8 Opening the Door for Geulah

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Please join us for our latest podcast, Emunah Paths Podcast #8 - Opening the Door for Geulah (7 minutes, MP3, English)

Direct MP3 Download: HERE - - Subscribe to Your iPod:

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Do Not Go Back

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A dvar Torah on Deuteronomy 16:18 - Shoftim.

One of the many laws discussed in this week's portion applies to the king whom we are to set over us. This king is warned "not to have too many horses for himself, so that he will not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses, for Hashem has said to you, 'You shall no longer return on this road again.'" [i]

The literal meaning of this law is just as it says: The king is not to desire too many horses. And the reason is just as it says: so that Israel does not return to Egypt for horses.

But this warning does not make a lot of sense. Would a king of Israel really crave such a large number of horses that he would return his nation to Egypt to get them? And this, coming after what happened there? Also, why is he warned only against Egypt? Aren't horses also available from other places, too?

Although certainly the literal warning is correct, it is much easier to understand this law from its allegorical perspective. Horses represent material wealth. Today, a wealthy person will have a lot of expensive cars.

Obviously, a lot of horses are not needed for the king's use. Note that this law applies to horses " for himself." A king might think it befitting his position to have a lot of horses to show off his wealth, even though they are not needed. He might even direct his people to return to Egypt to work to acquire these horses.

We see here a warning not to lead the Jewish People to slavery in order to accumulate things that are not even needed. This behavior is the sure path of returning to the slavery of Egypt. And lest you find this farfetched, just look at the majority of people in America who work harder and harder to get things that they really do not even need.

The king of Israel should conduct his affairs to prevent our return to Egypt, not to encourage it. Hashem warns, "You shall no longer return on this road again."

When we leave an evil place, we must be careful not to do anything that might lead us back there. We should not even look back at that place. When Lot was fleeing the destruction of Sodom, his wife looked back and God turned her into a pillar of salt. [ii]

When you realize that you are going in the wrong direction, do not stop. Turn. If you stop there, you may get stuck in the wrong place. Often, it is not wise to back up. Instead, turn away from the wrong direction and keep on going.

[i] Deut 17:16
[ii] Gen 19:26

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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The Terrified Israeli Politician

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

What makes an Israeli politician quake in their boots? It's not the possibility of war (G-d forbid). It's not the possibility of terrorism (G-d forbid). It's not the possibility of all their friendly appointments (nudge nudge wink wink) coming out. It's not the possibility of losing an election (which isn't a real possibility as the same people always return).

None of those worry the Israeli politician.

What does the Israeli politician fear more than anything? ... ... The religious Jew, G-d, Torah, and Emunah (faith). That's what keeps the Israeli politician up at nights.

So you're thinking, I've got to be kidding. Either that or I've got a giant ego with overblown self importance (that may be the case, but isn't the point here).

Lets be clear, the Israeli political system has not included a religious Jew from day 1. Ever. Oh, there's been a few fellows with kippah's (yamulkah's) in the Knesset, but there has been no representation of the Torah position. Initially, the numbers of observant Jews in Israel was small, just as in the US in the 50's. The religious were shoved off in the corner, and bought off to keep quiet and out of the way with basic yeshiva funding, army exemptions for Torah learning, and a few national nods towards Judaism (Shabbat as the day off, a national rabbinut and religious controlled kosher standards...what's commonly referred to as the "Religious Status Quo".) As a small group, they were fine with this as the best they could reasonably expect, and the political system felt good about itself for taking care of their poor foolish ignorant impoverished silly backward cousins.

And that was fine by the political system, as in a generation or so, it would all fade away. And when it looked like it might not, for example when the Moroccan Jewish population arrived in mass religious numbers (mid-50's), the government took steps to make sure to break that nasty religious stranglehold (separating children from their parents and sending them to secular indoctrination schools, where they were punished for any religious observant activity).

Maan Tracht, Got Lacht, men plan, G-d laughs. The dedicated struggled, the yeshiva system of the past was rebuilt, financed by the guilt ridden American Jew who, as he assimilated and lived his physically rich lifestyle assuaged his conscience with checks written to those yeshivas (and indeed earned much merit by doing so!) As Israeli living conditions improved and secular Western culture began penetrating, the secular decreased family size. Not so the religious, improved health care and nutrition (and blessings from Hashem) meant increased family size, more births and lower mortality...

Fast forward 30 years. As much as the government has done, some (Hashem Yerachem) successful, the religious population has climbed to 15%. Ah, but the political establishment has the reigns of power, they put in place a plan to keep it. First, divide... They note to the Sephardim, those religious Jews from non-European countries, that the Ashkenazim (those from European countries) haven't tried to help them from the ravages of the government, so they offer to fund the creation of their own political party, and with it's support promise funding of their own school system to recover their unique culture. Second, they played on the difference in position the state, and again with offers of support and establishment, cajoled the 'national religious' into their own party system. Divided 3 ways and funded 3 ways, not only was that political threat diluted, it could also be played against itself!

But it wasn't enough. The long term threat was real, demographics is a dangerous game. Time for round two... Immigration, Aliyah. The Law of Return was written to mirror the Nazi law, if a grandparent is a Jew, the whole family is (even if it's the grandfather). All those atheists with Jewish heritage from the Soviet Union would do quite well, and the Sochnut Yehudit (the Jewish Agency) set about creating the parameters to entice as many as possible. "If any family member or ancestor was Jewish, come to Israel and have a better life!" They advertised, they opened preparation and training centers, they gave enormous benefits ($100,000 worth of benefits per immigrant), and it worked. They drew in almost 1 million. Estimates vary, in the beginning the majority were Jewish, 70% or so, and many maintained some family tradition or heritage of Jewishness that drew them to want to come to Israel. Later the numbers fell, 55% Jewish, with a tenuous connection with their heritage. In the later years of the Soviet aliyah, 35% were Jewish, and the majority had no connection with a Jewish heritage, rather Israel was a gateway to the West and to economic opportunities unavailable in the former Eastern bloc.

Fast forward 15 years. Some of the Russian aliyah actually became, gasp, religious. The secular birthrate continues to fall, the religious birthrate continues to grow! The Russian aliyah wound down, and the Sochnut has been unsuccessful in finding any other large reservoir of non-religious Jews or qualifying non-Jews (they've tried though, especially in South America, and their latest attempt is a major campaign in US Reform synagogues). The religious percentage is growing, by vote they hold 25% of the Knesset, and in MANY cities in Israel, the school age population is 50% religious.

And that's what terrifies the Israeli politician. Take a look at the latest Likud election. The religious candidate won 27% of the vote! And the establishment response...

Sources close to Netanyahu said that he plans to work towards neutralizing Feiglin's power within the party, including possibly removing him altogether.

"As a democratic movement," a Netanyahu aide said, "the Likud must find ways to protect itself. There is no choice other than to find ways to stop this phenomenon [of Feiglin]."
- A7

There you have it..."there is no choice other than to find ways to stop this phenomenon" ... of religious people existing and, gasp, voting!!!

The Israeli politician has no greater fear than your child learning in Yeshiva! Or you, standing by the words of Torah.

Truly, they are right! Hakol Kol Yaakov, the voice is the voice of Jacob, our strength is our voices raised in prayer to HaKodesh Barach Hu, the Holy One, Blessed be He. (The Medrash explains the power of Yaakov lies in his voice. The voice is that of Yaakov. Esav’s power, however, lies in his hands.) As Yaakov's voice grows, their power weakens.... And they know it.

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32 Years to a Bracha

By Shifra Hendrie, excerpted from Algemeiner.Com

S. Paul, Minnesota, February, 1979: I sat in the hall waiting for the program to start. I felt alone in a room filled with hundreds of people. I had missed my ride to the country. Instead, I was here, in this hall full of chassidic Jews--a stranger in a strange land...

I grew up like any other middle-class American. I went to college, dated, had fun with my friends. Although I happened to be Jewish--and was proud of it--my Judaism didn't play a big role in my life.

My mother grew up in Chicago in an observant home. Her father, my beloved grandfather, passed away in 1973. When I was little he held me on his lap and told me stories of his own childhood--stories that seemed like fairy tales to me.

When he was six years old and his little brother only five, their parents left Europe for America to build a better life for the family. The two little boys--practically babies--were left in the old country. There, they lived and studied full time in a "yeshivah"...

At night, the children slept on benches in the school. They studied standing up so that they wouldn't fall asleep over the complex texts. All was for the purpose of passing the learning, the tradition, to the next generation in a pure and unbroken chain.

Although my grandfather's stories told of a life of struggle and sacrifice, when he spoke of his life in the old world it seemed filled with magic and beauty.

My great-grandparents worked hard, and by the time my grandfather was seventeen years old they were able to bring him and his brother to America... The foresight and self-sacrifice of his parents saved the family's lives. Some years later, when the Nazis rolled into that very village, not one person was left alive...

I loved my grandfather very, very much. But when my grandparents passed away, whatever little bit of connection to our Jewish roots my family still maintained eroded. I was no longer an adoring little child. I was a hip college student, quite disinterested in tradition or religion.

And then, out of the blue, my fifteen-year-old brother suddenly declared that he wanted to be observant. My reaction was… huh??? That's for grandparents, not for you! Judaism is beautiful, yes -- in its place. In the past.

But my brother persisted, eventually introducing me to the vast mystical world of Kabbalah and Chassidut... But it still didn't seem to feel right. The problem wasn't with the observance itself. It was me. I felt acutely and painfully out of place, caught between two worlds without a solid foot in either one.

Hardly any of my friends were Jewish. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I believed in G-d--and I was sure that if there was a G-d He wouldn't particularly notice or care about me.

So when the opportunity came up to drive to the country that Friday night with some friends I was tempted to go. But at the last minute I decided to give the Shabbat one last try. I said no.

So there I sat, that Saturday night, feeling that I had very little in common with these odd people--but still curious to get one final glimpse into their fascinating, mystical world.

The white-bearded Chassidic rabbi at the dais was a disciple of a Rebbe--a great Chassidic Master--whose passing, some 29 years before, was being commemorated this night. The Rebbe was said to be a great tzaddik--a righteous and holy man on the spiritual level of Moses himself. He was said to have the power to do miracles and the Divine insight to see into a person's soul...

The visiting rabbi, whose home was in Chicago, was known as an unusually talented speaker. Interestingly, the small chassidic community of St. Paul, Minnesota had been trying to book him, on and off, for the last ten years, but somehow it never worked out. But he was there that night. His talk began.

"It's no accident that we're all here together on this particular night," began the rabbi in a deep, sonorous voice. "The Rebbe often quoted the Baal Shem Tov, first of the chassidic masters, concerning the principle of Divine Providence. He constantly emphasized that everything a person sees, he's meant to see, and everything that he hears, he's meant to hear. He taught that whenever something happens that makes a particularly strong impression on a person, that person needs to be aware that this experience was custom-created by G-d specifically for him, in order to give him direction and insight in fulfilling his Divine mission.

"The fact that I'm here tonight--together with all of you--is surely significant."

The rabbi continued speaking. He talked about the Rebbe, telling stories of his life--stories that illuminated his greatness, his genius, his holiness, his kindness.

Then he began a story that caught my attention. In fact, it riveted me.

"In the months and years after the Holocaust," he told, "we had a fund. We collected money to distribute to the desperate refugees left in Europe after the war.

"Among those there at the time was a man by the name of Mr. Samuel Broida. He was the owner of a kosher meat packaging company in Chicago. He was also the president of our fund.

"Altogether we managed to collect $180,000; a great deal of money at that time. Mr. Broida was delegated to take the money to Europe, to help a group of refugees who had fled from Russia to a suburb of Paris. When he returned home, he told us that something had happened to him; something he would never forget.

"'When I was in Paris,' said Mr. Broida, 'I met a little boy about eight years old. I asked him if there was something I could do for him. I thought the poor little boy would ask me for shoes, clothes, food, candy, a suit, a hat… but I was wrong. He asked for none of those things. Instead, he said to me, "I want to be able go to America and see the Lubavitcher Rebbe someday."

"'I myself,' continued Mr. Broida, 'am not a follower of the Rebbe--not at all. I've heard stories of the Rebbe, of his holiness and greatness. But I didn't really believe them. I thought to myself: How is this possible? How is it possible for any human being to leave such a powerful impression on his followers, that he is more real to them than their hunger, their devastation or their poverty? And this was a small child! His answer was completely spontaneous. How it is possible that a small child, a poor child, a hungry child, wants nothing in the world but to catch a glimpse of this holy man?'

"'If a Rebbe,' concluded Mr. Broida, 'thirty years after leaving a place, leaves this kind of impression, then it has to be because he truly is the kind of human being that the world knows nothing of. The kind of human being that I had assumed could not exist. The kind of human being that is head and shoulders greater than the rest of us...'"

"After this," the rabbi said, "Mr. Broida asked me if I would take him to New York to meet the Rebbe for himself. This was 1947, just a couple of years before the Rebbe's passing. The Rebbe's health by this time was frail. He had been imprisoned and severely tortured by the Russians who found his powerful religious leadership a great threat to the communist regime. He was able to see very few people each day and there was a long waiting list--but I managed to get Mr. Broida an appointment. And he told me afterwards that it was one of the most profound and incredible experiences of his life.

"But then," continued the rabbi, "Something even more amazing happened. A Rebbe, like any person who receives the confidence of others, never repeats a word of what happens in a private audience between him and any other person. If a lawyer or a doctor is bound by confidentiality, how much more so a Rebbe! Nevertheless, after Mr. Broida saw the Rebbe, the Rebbe called me into his office to tell me about his meeting with Mr. Broida.

"'Mr. Broida came in to me today,' the Rebbe told me. 'I asked him about his business, his community work. We talked. And when we were done talking, I asked him: "And what are your children doing?" He burst into tears and told me that of his six children, none were observant anymore. I promised him,' continued the Rebbe, 'that he would have the joy of seeing his Judaism come alive again one day in his grandchildren.'

"I have often wondered since then," concluded the rabbi, "what happened to the Rebbe's promise. Mr. Broida passed away years ago and I don't know what happened to his family. But one thing I do know. The promise of a tzaddik, of a Rebbe, is never made in vain."

The speech was over. I sat in my seat with tears pouring down my face.

I knew what had happened to the Rebbe's promise.

Mr. Broida was my grandfather...

On that night, I, the agnostic, was granted a rare privilege. I was given an open glimpse of Divine Providence.

In that glimpse I saw many things. I saw the complex and awesome power and the infinite care with which G-d weaves together the events of every person's unique and personal life. I saw the awesome power of a true tzaddik, his ability to see beyond time and beyond worlds, to reach into the reservoir of souls and empower a specific soul to fulfill its destiny, to make a promise and keep it.

And finally, I saw that G-d plants messages for us all, and those messages, if we allow them to, can change our lives. Sometimes they're big and blatant, sometimes small and subtle. But they are always there if we want to see them.

Read the whole thing. I cut out some good parts to prevent it from running too long here.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

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Mesiras Nefesh at the Time of Geulah

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Midrash comments (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:2) comments: "The congregation of Israel says to G-d, 'Master of the Universe, I slumber in my performance of mitzvot, but my heart is awake to acts of kindness; I slumber when it comes to pondering the time when the exile will end, but my heart is awake to the redemption; I slumber too deeply to think about the redemption, but G-d's "heart" is alert to my redemption.'"...

In times of exile Jews feel humiliated, for 'slaves rule us' (Eicha 5:8). Even the "lowest of the low" laugh and scoff at those who are G-d fearing. However, Jews possess the quality of mesirus nefesh (self sacrifice) [and with this power are able to overcome all obstacles.]

The Talmud comments (Kesuvos 67a): "A camel is loaded according to his capacity to bear." During ikvesa deMeshicha (the birth pangs of the Messianic time) the power of mesirus nefesh (self sacrifice) is even greater than it was during the time of the Beis HaMikdash's existance. The parable that helps us understand how this is so is that it is easier to immerse one's heel in hot water than one's head.

-- Sefer HaMaamarim, Maamar 1, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch

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Likud Elections

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Tuesday, Rosh Chodesh Elul, the Likud party is having party elections. Netanyahu is the primary candidate, with Moshe Feiglin of the Jewish Leadership Faction the primary contender.

Netanyahu speaks a reasonable game, he's charismatic and speaks well to English speaking audiences and overseas diplomatic situations. But, as he's shown clearly from his past actions as Prime Minister, he has no commitment to Jewish values nor any reasonable position on safety and security. There's no noticable difference between his position's and Olmert's, just the speed at which they will move forward.

If you are in Israel and a member of the Likud, I urge you to vote for Moshe Feiglin. He's not charismatic, he speaks Hebrew with a weird accent, but he's not owned...

(Unfortunately, expect that if he wins, the election or Moshe will be suddenly disqualified, for the system will not allow a man like him into power. But don't let that stop you from voting!!!)

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Unbearable Plot...

by Elisheva/Nava at Mystical Paths

Tomorrow the Likud holds its primaries for leadership of the party. The candidates are Bibi Netanyahu, Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon. Barry Chamish explains who Bibi Netanyahu is working for and when it started.

Interesting to note from the Milkman's Warning Proclamation:
"... He hints about new elections and says, "In the time that you rule and degrade (the government), the enemies of HaShem are uniting in secret, Yishmael, Esav, and Amalek, and the worst of all, the leader of this united group are the Erev Rav that are within us. This time, their unbearable plot to have a 'secular government' is closer than ever and ready for execution."

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Monday, August 13, 2007

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Thoughts on Avoiding Being a Judgmental BT

by Dixie Yid at Mystical Paths

Mark and David, at Beyond BT, asked in their suggested topics: Am I more judgemental of the non-observant since becoming a BT?

Please click here to read my Guest Posing over there!

-Dixie Yid

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Chen & Haifa

The Chief Rabbi of Haifa once said in a shiur, "if you don't live in Israel you don't have 'Chein'". Chet Nun is the gematria 58, which is the number of mitzvot tilui h'aretz (the mitzvot which can only be performed while living the in the land of Israel).

(h/t Shlomo Wollins, IsraelReporter & WeJew.)

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Around Town in Haifa

Photos by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Haifa is Israel's main port city, as well as being the city up the side of a mountain. Beaches and commerce are Haifa's claim. With a mixed Jewish and Arab population, it's Jewish religious segment is significantly lower than other Israeli cities, but does exist. The holy site of the Cave of Eliyahu HaNavi is located here.

The views are fabulous in Haifa.

Aug-18 024

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Aug-18 040

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

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A Single Deed, A Single Word

A must listen talk on the "end-times". Skip to timestamp 6:50 (to avoid the intro fluff)...

(h/t Dreaming)

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Video: Standing Together


Friday, August 10, 2007

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Protesting Hebron

“It wasn't easy for me to come out with a public call last week to Israeli residents to oppose the evacuation of Jews from Hebron. Hebron is Jerusalem, NOT Yamit.

“I called for passive, non-violent resistance against the declared intentions of the government in Hebron. It was only because I am convinced that the security and inalienable rights of Jews in every part of Eretz Yisrael will be irreversibly eroded if the government carries out its plans in Hebron, that I decided that we must arise and passively resist the uprooting of Jews from Hebron. And if, G-d forbid, the government does carry out its intention, it should know, in advance, that we will return to Hebron. […]

“For most of my life I have obeyed orders as well as issued them as a soldier and commander in the IDF. Therefore, I am aware of the absolute importance of the duty incumbent on every soldier to carry out the legal orders, in order to preserve the military system which defends us.

“At the same time, warning must be given, that if the Israeli government dares to uproot Jews from the heart of Eretz-Yisrael - a situation will develop in which the military will eventually have nothing to defend except itself, and will ultimately fall apart and disintegrate. After all, the IDF was organized to defend the Zionist settlement drive, which was threatened from the start as a result of Arab aggression, even before we returned home to Hebron. It was only with tremendous pain that we were able, in 1948, to retain part of Jerusalem.

“If the government uproots the Jews of Hebron, it will be uprooting a vital cornerstone of the IDF - which is indispensable for the defense of all parts of Israel. Therefore, although every soldier and commander must obey the legal orders of the government, so too, must every citizen in a democratic country ask himself what he is supposed to do when he is convinced that the policy of the government endangers him, his future and his family. […]

“Every Jew must feel as if he is personally going to be ousted from Hebron. Each one of us must understand that if we will not stand up to stop the uprooting of Jews from Hebron, we may very well - in the future - be uprooted from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beer Sheba or from any other place.

“In contrast to the days of exile, it is not only the right, but the obligation of every Jew, in a Jewish democratic state, to stand up and warn his government, through passive resistance, of the disaster that it is bringing upon all of us. What Jews could not do in Germany and Poland before their extermination, they must do in their own country. They have to rise en masse and resist.”

-- Ariel Sharon, April 15, 1994, the former IDF General & former Prime Minister of Israel who destroyed Jewish Gaza, written before he was bought.

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Science Ego

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Whoops, current evolutionary theory is wrong. But that's ok, they have a new one to replace it. Because, no matter what details are wrong, it must be right.

Must? Yes, not only must it be right, but it PROVES religion (all religion, every single one of every single type in the world) are wrong. How do we know that? Because the evolutionary scientists say so!

Susan Anton, a New York University anthropologist and co-author of the Leakey work, said...

"This is not questioning the idea at all of evolution; it is refining some of the specific points," Anton said. "This is a great example of what science does and religion doesn't do. It's a continuous self-testing process."

So there you go.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

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Can American Society Improve Morally?

by Dixie Yid at Mystical Paths

In order to stay sane while doing the mindless portions of my job, I use my mp3 player to keep my mind occupied while my hands are busy on the keyboard. Sometimes I listen to shiurim but I like to put more intellectual attention into listening to a shiur than I am able to while working. Therefore, since I have always liked literature, I have listened to a couple of free mp3 books that I got for free online at I recently listened to Alexandre Dumas' books, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Three Musketeers. I had an observation, to be taken with a grain of salt since it assumes some similarity between the reality of the norms of French society and the picture of that society that the author portrays.

I noticed in The Count of Monte Cristo, which takes place in the first half of the nineteenth century, that ideas of religion and moral propriety were very deeply ingrained in French society in general at that time (which was current with the authorship of the book, which was in 1844). That atmosphere was in stark contrast with the moral environment portrayed in The Three Musketeers (which took place in the 1600s), which was much looser, much less formal, and things were done publicly in that world which would never have been acceptable in the world of The Count of Monte Criso.

It is apparent to me that Dumas expected his readers to be shocked by the conduct of the characters in the Musketeers book because he makes an off-hand comment to explain the difference between the readers' sensibilities and those of the characters he portrays in seventeenth century France. He briefly states that his readers should not be shocked at the behavior of some of the characters, as the morals in those days were not as strict as they were today (early 1800s)

If this general picture is somewhat reliable, then my impression is that the values and propriety improved markedly in France between the 1600s and the 1800s. Now, it seems that every year, the morals in today's society get worse. And each year, I think that we've hit the rock bottom. But things continue to get even worse. It seems like there is an inertia which makes the attainment or re-attainment of a moral society in America seem impossible. Perhaps there is hope for American society though. If the French people can do it between the 1600s and the 1800s, perhaps we in America can do it as well! (Any ideas on how this could realistically happen?)

-Dixie Yid

P.S. Here's another interesting quote from The Count of Monte Cristo.

"[T]he application of the axiom, 'Pretend to think well of yourself, and the world will think well of you,' [is] an axiom a hundred times more useful in society nowadays than that of the Greeks, 'Know thyself,' a knowledge for which, in our days, we have substituted the less difficult and more advantageous science of knowing others."

(The picture above is of Alexandre Dumas [Sr.])

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Emunah Paths Podcast - #7 Rebuke!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Please join us for our latest podcast, Emunah Paths Podcast #7 - Rebuke! (7 minutes, MP3, English)

Direct MP3 Download: HERE - - Subscribe to Your iPod:

    Play it Now:

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Blessed to Give

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

(Deuteronomy 11:26 - Re’eh)

The three holidays when all males must appear in Jerusalem are listed at the end of this week’s Torah reading. They are Pesach, Shavuot and Succot. These holidays follow the historical sequence and the spiritual sequence.

Historically, first came God’s taking us out of Egypt. This is celebrated during Pesach. Next came the giving of the Torah, which is celebrated on Shavuot. Then came the wandering in the wilderness, when Hashem sustained us in Succot (booths).

This is also the spiritual route we all take. First comes knowledge of God, which brings us out of bondage. Then we move on to learning His Torah, which teaches the way to live and, finally, we see Hashem providing for all our needs.

When we bring our holiday offerings, we are told that we “shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed, everyone according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem, your God gives you.” [i]

The simple meaning here is that each of us should give according to how much God has given us. This recognizes the important lesson: All that we have has come to us from God’s blessings.

But with only a slight change in emphasis, this sentence can be read quite differently: Everyone bringing offerings will (want to) give (an amount) according to the blessings that he has received from God. The blessing spoken of here is not merely the blessing that God gave him so that he could acquire his property from which his offerings are taken. The actual amount he decides to give will be according to the blessing God has given him.

Some people have been blessed with a lot of wealth. But they have not been blessed with the desire to give any of this wealth away. They will not want to give any of their blessings away. Other people have been blessed with less wealth, yet they have also been blessed to enjoy giving. These people will give even more than those who have a lot of property but did not receive the blessing to give.

It is a blessing to be able to give—not only is it a blessing to have what to give, but it is also a blessing to want to give.

There is More Than One Way to Give

Yesterday, I was standing by the entrance to the Kotel area trying to get men to put on tefillin. Three tough-looking police officers walked in and ignored my invitation. They were senior officers and as such were not used to listening to other people tell them what to do. As they walked away from me and toward the Kotel, I yelled out, “Come! Come!” Sometimes a last-minute call can pull them in.

A few minutes later, as they were leaving, a friend from the tefillin booth tried his luck with them. The tough cop replied angrily, “No! I’m not going to put on tefillin, and you know why?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He was looking at me fiercely. He pointed his finger at me and harshly said, “Because that guy over there called me a goy! That’s why!” (A goy is a non-Jew.) I was helping someone with tefillin and didn’t really hear what was going on, but his look and finger did not feel good at all.

After I finished with the guy I was helping, I asked my friend what that was all about. He told me what the cop had said, and obviously I denied it completely. My friend suggested that I go find him and straighten it out. I said, “He’s the one who is spreading the malicious lie, not me. Let him come straighten it out with me.” He said, “Well, he is not going to do that, and there is a Jew going away with a bad taste in his mouth.” I immediately saw that he was right. I went out into the plaza area and walked around, trying to find him. There was some kind of police officers’ gathering and there were dozens of them around. I finally find him. He was talking on his mobile phone. When he saw me coming, he looked at me just like he did when he yelled at me. I waited and he did not rush to get off the phone.

He finished and I explained, “I didn’t call you a goy, God forbid. I called out, ‘Bou, Bou’” (“Come, Come” in Hebrew). Just then the other two officers walked by looking at me just as they had when they thought they heard me call him a derogatory name. He told them what I had actually said, but still they didn’t smile.

He looked at me, apparently appreciative that I had walked over to explain, or maybe he was feeling bad over his mistake. He said, “Come, let’s put on tefillin.” We walked back to the tefillin stand and I put tefillin on him. I felt so much love for him that I stroked the side of his face. After all, he could just as well have shrugged off my effort. But he didn’t. He wanted to be nice.

What’s the point of the story? Being right is not the goal. Bringing peace is.

Helping to Help

A small group of young Americans came to the Kotel. Most of them did not want to put on tefillin. I went over and tried to convince one of them, but he wouldn’t listen. He was stubborn. He walked away, saying, “I am just coming to the Kotel to put a note there, and I am going to do it my way.” I gave him the standard arguments, such as, “Do it His way,” but he wouldn’t listen.

A few minutes later he came over to me and said that he wanted to put on tefillin. Apparently, he had thought about it and changed his mind. (This is a good lesson when trying to help people. Even if you do not see the results immediately, do not be discouraged. You never know what good you may have done.)

When he finished and prayed nicely for his family, I told him that I was going to go over and ask his friend to put them on. “No,” he insisted, “that guy won’t do it. He is really against it.”

“Then you tell him to do it,” I said. “You had a good time, so go share that with your friend.” Sure enough, he spoke to his friend, and the other young man listened to him. He came over with a small smile, saying that if his friend said to do it then he was going to do it. He, too, had a good time.

After the second young man walked away, one of the men who works at the booth told me that he had spoken to that young man and that that was the first time in his life he had ever put on tefillin. By then the group was standing by the Kotel.

I walked over to them and told the first guy (with the others listening), “Look what you just did. It says if you put on tefillin only once in your entire life, it saves you from the deepest punishment in the afterlife. You (I patted him on his chest) helped your friend to put on tefillin. Because of you he did this mitzvah, and this was the first time in his life that he ever put them on. You saved your friend from the deepest punishment. What a wonderful thing to do!”

Boy, did he smile. How happy he was that he had helped his friend. Then one of them said, “That was the first time I ever put them on, too.” How great it is to be able to help people, but it is even greater to help people to help people.

[i] Deut 16:17

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