Sunday, September 30, 2007

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Hodu

Hodu L'Adonai Key Tov, Key Le'Olam Hasdo!

Thank you Riboni Shel Olam!

Our lives are so filled with blessings, we take them for granted. Until we seem to be losing them. Then, THEN, then we truly understand what blessings we have.

Hodu L'Adonai Key Tov, Key Le'Olam Hasdo!

A blessing was not lost this evening, though for a time there was great concern otherwise. Chasdei Hashem.

Hodu L'Adonai Key Tov, Key Le'Olam Hasdo!

(Original Photo by my son, "Sunrise over Yam HaMelach, the Dead Sea, from Masada")
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Satire: Many Possibilities

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

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The Miraculous Sukkah of Afghanistan

For Rabbi Nosson (Mark) Sachs, a Reserve Chaplain in the U.S. Army, building a Sukkah last year in Afghanistan against all odds showed him Hashem’s hand more clearly than almost any other experience of his life...

Four days before Sukkot Rabbi Sachs opened the boxes and immediately realized they didn’t hold two Sukkahs, but the broken parts of a single small pop-up Sukkah.

Sukkot was starting on Friday afternoon, so Rabbi Sachs had to quickly design and build a new Sukkah. He sketched plans and brought them to the sergeant major involved with the base’s engineering corps to see if they could build it...

“How long do you think it will take to build it?” Rabbi Sachs asked. “The holiday starts in four days.”

“Maybe we could finish it by December,” the sergeant major replied...


Read the whole thing, here at BeyondBT.

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Thank You and Chag Samayach!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Dear Friends:

For those who sent donations and tefilos for the kevrai tzaddikim in the Ukraine and Uman, thank you! Your prayers were delivered to the sites, may they have been accepted in Heaven and may Hashem grant you plentiful blessings.

For those who sent donations for the needy of Jerusalem and the Shomron (West Bank), thank you! Funds are being distributed, and you've eased the difficulties and brightened the holidays for those in need. May Hashem relieve your difficulties and grant you joyous days.

Tonight starts Succot, the festival of booths (boy I hate the English descriptive names). This time is known as Yom Simchasaynu, the days of our rejoicing! Having come before the King, and trusted in the True Judge, now we celebrate the joy of spending time with our G-d. Avinu Malkaynu, our Father, our King. Now is the time we rejoice in being together with our Father.

Now is also the time when we pray for peace and blessings for all the nations of the world. As is written, if the nations only knew of the incredible blessings of this time, they would rush to help the Jewish people rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Unfortunately, many have not learned.

May everyone have a joyous Succot, and may we merit to spend time with our Father, our King, our G-d, with the rebuilding of the fallen Succah of Dovid HaMelech (King David) in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) Habnuya and the coming of Moshiach Tzidkaynu.

Blogging note, with the holiday tonight through Shabbos, normal blogging won't resume until Sunday. During Chol HaMoed, the intermediate festival days of Succot, we tend to break a bit from our normal blogging pattern, so expect some different postings during that time. Chag Samayach!

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Quantum States and Halacha

by Your-Name at Mystical Paths

According to quantum mechanics, nothing at the subatomic scale can really be said to exist until it is observed. Until then, particles occupy nebulous "superposition" states, in which they can have simultaneous "up" and "down" spins, or appear to be in different places at the same time.

Observation appears to "nail down" a particular state of reality, in the same way as a spinning coin can only be said to be in a "heads" or "tails" state once it is caught.

According to quantum mechanics, unobserved particles are described by "wave functions" representing a set of multiple "probable" states. When an observer makes a measurement, the particle then settles down into one of these multiple options.


Quantum mechanics is the science of the smallest components and forces in the physical universe. This is the level where things like light and subatomic particles, the smallest pieces that make up physical substances, are studied and, to some exent, understood (or at least observed, they may not know all the 'how it works', but they do know 'it works like that' by watching it).

In halacha, Jewish law, we hold by the pasuk "the heavens are Hashem's, but the earth is for the children of man", interpreting this to mean that halachic decisions are made here on earth (by appropriately qualified rabbaim). Even if a heavenly voice rings out "it's that way", the ruling of the earthly court holds.

In the time of the Sanhedrin, the great court, Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month, was declared by observation, meaning witness testimony. But, how can observation by people actually change the world, setting the day of the new month?

While I don't have a spiritual answer, I can say that in the science of today, observation by an earthly source has been shown to directly change the physical!

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A Word for Succot

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Mishnah Succah 3.7) The minimum size for an estrog, Rabbi Meir says, is the size of a walnut. Rabbi Yehudah says, (the size) of an egg --- and the maximum size, for one to hold two (the esrog and lulav together) in one hand, in the words of Rabbi Yehudah. Rabbi Yossi says, even one (it takes) both hands (to hold) is valid.

(Baraita from Gemora Succah) Rabbi Yossi said, it happened that Rabbi Akiva entered synagogue with an estrog (so big he had to carry it) on his shoulder. Rabbi Yehudah said to him, is this proof (that a huge esrog is kosher)? They (the Sages) told him (told Rabbi Yossi), this lacks hadar (it's not pretty, and the Torah says to take a pri etz hadar, a beautiful tree fruit).

Whether a tiny esrog the size of a nut, or an egg, or a large esrog that takes two hands and a backpack to carry it, may you be blessed with a kosher and beautiful estrog this Succot.

(Sefer HaMinhagim of Lubavitch, Succos, gives an interesting kabbalistic custom) One only takes one esrog, one lulav, and two aravos (willow twigs) [that's straight halacha] - but more than 3 haddasim (myrtle twigs) may be taken. (as per the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 651)

(the words of the sefer say) I have heard of various individuals being instructed to take 4, 12, 13, or 26 haddasim (myrtle twigs), but NOT 9, 68, or 69. (custom cited per the sefer Kol Bo)

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Amazing True Story...

by Nava at Mystical Paths

Yoni, an Israeli Defense Force soldier stationed in Hebron, was shot by an Arab terrorist. It happened very early in the morning, and no one else was awake to hear it. Yoni passed out and was bleeding steadily, his life was heading toward a silent end.

But another soldier stationed nearby heard the shot and went to investigate. He found a fellow Israeli soldier bleeding to death. He tried the best he could to stop the bleeding and called for help. Waiting for help to arrive, he kept applying pressure to the wound- literally holding Yoni's life in his hands.

Yoni was taken to a hospital in Be’er Sheva where he underwent surgery. Yoni's parents were notified and they rushed to the hospital. Imagine the fear of the parents who were only told "your son has been injured and is in the hospital." When they arrived the doctor told them that Yoni was shot but will be alright. Had it not been for the immediate actions of the other soldier, their son Yoni would have bled to death. It was a miracle that the other soldier heard what no one else heard, and managed to locate Yoni as quickly as he did. The parents wanted to thank that soldier, but he had just left the hospital after hearing that the soldier he helped would survive.

While recuperating at home, Yoni and his parents called the army to find out the name of the other soldier so they could thank him personally. Unfortunately, that soldier's name was not recorded and although they tried to ask around they simply couldn’t track down who that other soldier was.

Yoni's mother knew that the important thing of course is that Yoni is well, yet she couldn’t help feeling that as long as she couldn’t meet and thank the solider who bravely saved her son’s life- the entire frightening episode is still not fully over. Not being able to thank the soldier continued to give her an empty feeling… but then she had an idea.

The couple owned a grocery store in Kiryat Malachi (a town near Ashkelon), so they decided to put up a sign in the store, describing what happened, figuring that Israel is a small country and eventually they might found out who the mystery soldier was.

Months passed with no response. Finally, one morning about a year later, a woman customer noticed the sign hanging by the door of the store. She recalled how happy her son Yair was when he came home one Friday night and told them how he heard a shot and was able to save another soldier’s life in Hebron. She went back and told the owner of the store. The story matched. The two women now decided to try to reach their sons on cell phones and see if they could meet at the store. Fortunately it turned out that both the young men and even the fathers were able to all meet that afternoon at the store.

The families soon gathered for an emotional "rendezvous". The soldiers recounted army experiences and finally after all this time Yoni’s mother could stand up and thank Yair for saving her son’s life or as she put it, “You saved my world”. She looked forward to feeling “completion” after all this time by thanking the soldier, but little did she know that the story was hardly complete.

After the tearful thank you, Yair’s mother quietly pulled her aside and asked to speak with her outside. The two women went out alone. And she asked Yoni’s mother: “Look at me- you don’t remember me?” “No, I’m sorry did we meet before? she responded. "Yes. You see there is a particular reason I came into your store today… I used to live here and this time I was just passing by but I wanted to give you my business, even though I was only buying a few things.”

“What are you talking about? Yoni’s mother asked. “Twenty years ago I used to live around here and came all the time to buy milk and bread... One day you noticed that I looked really down and you were so nice and asked me why I was so down and I confided in you. I told you that I was going through a very difficult time and on top of that I was pregnant and planning on having an abortion. As soon as I said “abortion” you called your husband over and the two of you didn’t seem to care about your own store but sat down and patiently listened to me and I remember what you said.

“You told me that it is true that I was going through a hard time but sometimes the good things in life come through difficulty, and the best things come through the biggest difficulties. You spoke of the joy of being a mother and that the most beautiful word to hear in the Hebrew language is “Ima” (mother) when spoken by one’s child.. you both spoke and spoke until I was convinced that I actually should have this baby- so you see G-d paid you back!”

What do you mean? asked Yoni’s mother. I had a boy twenty years ago that you saved by telling me to think twice before doing the abortion. With happy tears she declared, "My beloved Yair wouldn’t have been alive if not for you. He was the one you were looking for. He was the one who grew up to save your son, Yoni’s life!"
http://www.friendsofefrat.org/idf-story.php

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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A Hint on Mezuzah

(One of the meanings) The mezuzah (also) represents the divine attribute known as "Rochel". Were it not for the name (of Hashem) Shaddai (inscribed on the back of the mezuzah, that faces outward toward you) facing him as he exits, it would be impossible for a Jew to go out of his house, for the Side of Evil stands to the left of the door. This is alluded to in the acronym of the verse, "Sin crouches at the opening" - which (in Hebrew) is the exact reverse of Rochel. Therefore the name Shaddai is needed to subdue it, as it is written (Iyov 22:25), "And Shaddai (the Almighty) will be your fortress". -- Kav HaYashar 1

(Mezuzah picture from Kever Dovid HaMelech, the holy resting place of King David, Jerusalem, Israel. Click it to enlarge, it's an amazing mezuzah.)
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In Case of Emergency

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israel Homefront Command has come out with an excellent new web site (really). As with any such government emergency preparedness website, they have instructions for appropriate natural disasters, Earthquake, Flood, etc.

But they also have a major flash illustration for preparedness for ROCKET ATTACK. That's right, learn to which room of your home to retreat when under rocket fire. Not the bathroom or kitchen, as even if they're in the most secure location the flying glass and/or ceramic tile won't be good for you.

Now, I fully commend IDF Homefront Command on creating an excellent web site, with English and Arabic editions (though I'm surprised they don't have Russian). However, you have to wonder (and more than that) about a government that tolerates a situation that requires an Emergency Preparedness instruction list that includes:

. Long Range Rocket Attack
. Qassam or Mortar Attack
. Terrorist Attack

and then gets to the standard earthquake, fire, flood. Hashem should have mercy, and the fools of politicians should realize that having mercy on your enemy means not having mercy on your own people. (And the people should realize what their politicians are doing to them!)

Israel Homefront Command Preparedness web site, here. (English)

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Rule of Nations

...Presently, malchus (kingship) and rule are in the hands of the nations. This is the reason they rule over us with the power of malchus they possess. They nurse from the aspect of Malchus...

(Commentary) When the nations have taken control of the malchus and instituted their own religions, cults and statutes, they have subverted Malchus of Holiness and driven it into exile. However, the nations taking control of Malchus can only happen when Malchus is undermined by sin. When a Jew transgresses G-d's will (G-d forbid), intentionally or unintentionally, he is to some extent denying G-d's rule, Malchus of Holiness, and Malchus then comes under the control of the nations.
- (Likutei Mohoran 4.2)

With Rosh Hashanah, we spend a lot of time discussing G-d's malchus, kingship, how he is the King of Kings. Yet here, Rebbe Nachman explains how it can be that we see this high aspect of G-d reflected in the practical function of nations of the world.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

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PR & The Face of Evil

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Haman of our generation, for "they rise up against us in every generation", Ahmadinejad of Iran, spoke today at the National Press Club (via remote hookup from visiting the UN in New York and via translator). I listened for about 30 minutes.

First I would say, kudos to the National Press Club for compiling a series of forthright questions, including direct questioning about the shutting down of media outlets, the arrest of reporters and dissidents, the heavy discrimination against religious minorities and women, the flow of weapons to Iraqi insurgents & terrorists, holocaust denial, and the threatening of Israel.

Ahmadinejad had some good US attitude briefing in response. Questions were answered with lots of smiling while questioning back the facts of the questions asked, declaring freedom of his nations citizens and respect for Xianity. What was NOT given a single time was an ANSWER to any of the questions. Rather, the validity of the questions themselves were, smilingly and intelligently, questioned.

This Haman is sly, look he says, I'm friendly and a nice guy, lets talk and all will be well. Don't mind that I don't actually answer or discuss any topic you raise, I'm happy to be here and ready to sit down. Lets chat for a while.

But he really is just stalling for time. He's building his gallows like the Haman of old, and needs a little more time to finish the job.

Look at the face of evil, and pray that Hashem saves us from their hand.

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My Upshernish!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

At 3 years of a life, (it's a custom among chassidim and many orthodox Jews), a young boy is given his first haircut. Just as (most) trees don't give fruit for their first years, a child begins his real mitzvah education and performing of mitzvot at 3 years. In Yiddish, this event, a festive occasion, is called an Upshernish.

My Ashes Chayil (my lovely wife) came to me tonight and announced, "It's your blog's Upshernish!". 'What are you talking about?' I replied. She said, "It's 3 years ago, before Succot, that you started blogging, it's your Upshernish!".

So, while there are no long locks to be cut, I'll celebrate with some special words of Torah. Further, some flies came by to remind me, we must busy ourselves with Torah, whether the location is virtual or physical matters not. The words of our G-d endure forever... And with that, I celebrate 3 years of being honored to share a few words of Torah and thoughts about the Holy Land...

The Alter Rebbe, the first grand rabbi of Chabad Chassidus, HaRav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, wrote in his monumental work on the path of life for the intermediate man, Tanya, chapter 38... (abbreviated for blog presentation) ...

(it has been laid down) that meditation is not valid in lieu of verbal articulation, so that if one has recited the Shema only in his mind and heart, even with the full force of his kavanah (concentration), he has NOT fulfilled his obligation, and he is required to recite it again [orally]... if he has uttered them with his lips but did not intend with his heart, he has fulfilled his obligation bideved... except for the first verse of the Shema and the first bracha of the Amidah...

The reason is that the neshamah needs no tikun (mending) for herself by means of the mitzvot, but has only to draw forth light to perfect the vivifying soul and body by means of the letters of speech which the nefesh pronounces.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the first and only grand rabbi of Breslov Chassidus, wrote in his monumental work of direction for life, Likutei Mohoran, 4.1... (abbreviated, but commentary added, for blog presentation) ...

When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for his benefit, this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come (Olam Haba). As King David said, "When he is Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay (commonly translated as The Lord) I will praise His word, when He is Elokim (commonly translated as G-d) I will praise His word".

And this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come, as our Sages taught: "On that day G-d shall be one and His name one." They asked: Is He now not one? And answered, At present, the blessing "Who is good and beneficent" is recited over good, whereas "the true judge" is recited over bad. But in the future, it will be entirely "Who is good and beneficent".

Commentary by Rabbi Chaim Kramer... Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay is the holy name that connotes divine compassion. Conversely, Elokim connotes divine justice and judgment. Rebbe Nachman teaches, when a person knows that the bad that befalls him is in fact for his good and that its source is ultimately the name Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay, the divine attribute of compassion, then for him there is no difference between compassion and justice...The person who is capable of perceiving all of life this way essentially has a taste of what it will be like in the World to Come...

Interestingly, I think these two lessons go together. If one is meditating on ones situation, spending ones time worried about the good and the bad, then one is not fulfilling ones obligations and indeed, one will become focused on the judgments in ones life and worried about the bad. If one spends enough time focused this way, one not only doesn't get a taste of Olam Haba (the World to Come, they get a taste of Gehonim (Hell)!

Whereas, if one is focused on fulfilling ones obligations, one is constantly striving on connecting to the King, the King of Kings, HaKodesh Baruch Hu, then both the good and the apparent bad are all ways and opportunities for connecting to Hashem, which is only good, and indeed, one gets a whiff of Olam Haba, where the connection is complete.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

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Findings At The Beis HaMikdash

Renowned archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University, speaking about findings in Jerusalem and at Har HaBayit...

Question: What is the most exciting thing you’ve discovered in your career so far?

Answer: My most exciting find was a personal seal impression one centimeter in diameter from the First Temple period that had the name of a minister who was part of the government of Zedekaya. I found it last year during my excavation in the City of David. His name is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah — he was the one who asked King Zedekaya to kill the prophet Jeremiah because he was telling the people of Jerusalem to surrender to the Babylonians. This is astonishing because it is a direct connection between an archeological find and a biblical document. It reinforces our understanding and appreciation of the bible as an historical source of great authenticity.


Via Smooth Stone, full interview here.

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Magician Tricks

Criss Angel is a very popular ILLUSIONIST in the United States. Some of his best illusions involve minor and major apparent levitation. In this video, he reveals how he does the illusion of minor levitation.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

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Insta-Shiur : Getting Attonement on Yom Kippur

Synopsis of a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, from Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (volume #4), translated and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Goldberg, via CrownHeights.Info.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said in this talk:

1. There is an argument in the Talmud regarding the atonement for our sins on Yom Kippur:

Opinion #1): The Rabanan (Rabbis) say that Yom Kippur only atones for those who do Teshuvah (repent).

Opinion #2): Rebbi says that even if did not do Teshuvah Yom Kippur atones for him, because “the day itself atones for him – Etzoomay Shel Yom Michaper”.

The Halachah (law) follows the opinion of the Rabbis .

2. The Rebbe now explains this argument:

The Rabbis, who hold that one must repent in order to be forgiven, are not arguing that “the day itself atones for him”; the Rabbis just say that in order to tap into this great level of “the day itself atoning for you”, you must do Teshuvah. And Rebbi holds you don’t have to do anything for “the day itself to atone for you”, you are automatically tapped into this great level.

In other words, both the Rabbis and Rebbi agree that “the day itself atones for you”, they only differ in how one reaches this level; the Rabbis hold that you must repent and then you are granted this great atonement which you would not be able to reach if it were not Yom Kippur, and Rebbi holds you don’t have to do anything to be given this great level of atonement.

3. The Rebbe now begins discussing the concept of atonement:

Atonement does not only mean that a person is not punished for the sins he committed; atonement means that any damage that one may have done to his Soul is now fixed and any “dirt” which the Soul may have collected because of the sin is now washed away .

4. The Rebbe now takes the meaning of atonement a step further:
We can even go a step further and say that atonement means that ones previous sins are actually now considered merits !

5. The Rebbe now discusses the logic behind the atonement discussed in number 3 (sins being washed away):

When a person regrets what he did and feels bitter about it, he tears away the passion with which he did the sin and puts it into Holiness. Therefore, through this repentance of feeling bitter, his Soul is now cleansed from any “dirt” it may have incurred from the sin .

6. The Rebbe now discusses the logic behind the atonement discussed in number 4 (sins being considered merits):

Since this feeling of regret and bitterness about the sin brought this person to have a thirst for Hashem, the sin can now be considered as a merit for the person .

7. The Rebbe now asks a question based on the abovementioned logic:

Question: If the reason why one is forgiven and cleaned from his sins is because he had regret and was bitter about it, how can the day of Yom Kippur atone for him? He did not remove the passion of the sin and he did not have a great craving to be closer to Hashem!

8. The Rebbe now answers the question through discussing and analyzing the connection of a Jew and the one above:

There are three levels/types of connection between a Jew and Hashem:

1): The first level of connection is a revealed connection where a Jew connects to Hashem through doing His Mitzvos (Commandments) and accepting the yoke of Heaven upon himself.

2): The second level of connection is the inner connection which a Jew has with Hashem, and this is higher and deeper then the first level of connection.

This inner connection expresses itself when a Jew goes against the will of Hashem (Heaven forbid) and throws off His yoke; when this bothers him and tears him apart, we see that his connection to Hashem is not only because he was fulfilling Hashem’s Commandments, it is even when he went against Hashem’s rules.
And because of this inner connection, a Jew has the strength to fix any damage done to the lower type of connection, the revealed connection of fulfilling the Mitzvos, through Teshuvah .

However, this inner connection is still limited because the connection is measured by the amount of Teshuvah the Jew does.

3): The third level of connection is where the essence and core (Etzem) of a Jew is one with Hashem’s essence (Etzem).

This level of connection is above any limitation and cannot be expressed in any way; even Teshuvah does not express this deep connection. Now, since this level of connection is above any limitation, it cannot be made by a Jew’s work, because a person is limited. And just like it cannot be made, it cannot be destroyed; this level of connection is so deeply rooted in the Jewish Soul that nothing can alter this connection, even sins do not damage this level.

9. The Rebbe now answers our question based on this information:

Now we can understand how “the day itself atones for the person”: On the day of Yom Kippur the third level of connection between a Jew and Hashem is revealed; the level where Hashem and the Yidin (the Jewish people) are one is revealed. And because sins do not reach this level and do not damage this level in any way, when this level is revealed a Jew is totally clean because at this level there was never sin to begin with!

Now we can fully understand the argument in the Talmud between the Rabbis and Rebbi:
The Rabbis hold that one must do Teshuvah in order to be a vessel to receive the great level of “the day itself atoning”- the revelation of Hashem’s core and the Jewish people’s core being one, and Rebbi holds that the level of “the day itself atoning”, the revelation of Hashem’s core and the Jewish people’s core being one, shines on you whether you did Teshuvah or not and you are completely forgiven.

10. The Rebbe now adds that based on all of the above we can understand something else:

The Torah tells us that when the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) went into the Kodesh Hakadashim (the Holy of Holies) no one else was allowed to be there. The Jerusalemite Talmud explains that even the Holiest of Angels could not be there when the Kohen Gadol did the Service.
According to the abovementioned explanation of Yom Kippur we can understand why the Kodesh Hakadashim was so Holy when the Kohen Gadol did the service that even the Holiest of Angels could not handle this great energy:

As we said earlier, the day of Yom Kippur reveals the deepest connection between Hashem and the Yidin, the level where Hashem and the Yidin are one (Atzmoos). Now, since no other being has this high of a connection with Hashem, they cannot handle this level and must leave the Kodesh Hakadashim.

11. The Rebbe now explains how we have the Service of the Kohen Gadol nowadays:

Just like the level of Hashem and the Yidin being one expressed itself when the Kohen Gadol went into the Kodesh Hakadashim and did the Service, we have something nowadays which expresses this level of connection:

Unlike any other day of the year, we Daven (pray) five Tefilos (prayers) on Yom Kippur: 1) The Mariv (evening) service on the first night of Yom Kippur.
2) The Shacharis (morning) service the next morning.
3) The Musaf (additional ) service.
4) The Mincha (afternoon) service.
5) The Ne’ilah service just before Yom Kippur ends.

These five Tefilos (prayers) correspond to the five levels of a person’s Soul:
1) Nefesh. 2) Ruach. 3) Neshamah. 4) Chaya. 5) Yechidah.

Now, we see from this that the Ne’ilah service corresponds to the highest level of a Jewish person’s Soul- Yechidah. This makes perfect sense because:

The literal meaning of the word “Ne’ilah” is “closed” and the simple meaning of this is that we are now closing off Yom Kippur with the last prayer. However, the deeper meaning of “Ne’ilah” is that all gates and doors are closed and no one can enter, only a Jew and Hashem can be here now because at this level the unity of Hashem and the Yidin is revealed.

12. The Rebbe now explains that generally speaking this level of unity permeates the whole day of Yom Kippur:

The actual wording used to describe the prayers on Yom Kippur is, “The day that has the obligation of five prayers”, so we see that the whole day is permeated with all five prayers, including the fifth prayer of Ne’liah, the prayer when the unity of Hashem and the Yidin is revealed.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

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Trepidation

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The holy day of Yom Kippur is approaching. When Elul comes, we start to think of the end of the year, consider our deeds and our year to come. With Rosh Hashanah, we look forward to crowning the King, the King of Kings, HaKodesh Baruch Hu, and going before Our Father, Our King, for judgment for the new year. Yet, we focus on our great opportunity, we wish each other a good and sweet year, we dip in honey to emphasize it, and we look with joy at the opportunity to come before the King of Kings. We say "who will live and who will die", without dwelling on it.

But Yom Kippur... we may be optimistic during the trial, but come time of sealing the verdict and who doesn't feel trepidation. We ask forgiveness, with greet each other with a bit of ... finality. We bless our children and shed a tear, hoping they'll receive a good life. We greet our friends and offer them hopes, will it be good for them, or will that cough lead to ...

Dear Friends and Readers,


Please forgive me...if my words have offended, or misdirected, or plagiarized, or failed to give proper credit, or misrepresented, or disturbed you negatively in any way.

To the Gedolim, Chachamim, Rebbaim, and Tzaddikim of this generation and all those past, if I have misrepresented your words or concepts, failed to give proper credit, or proper respect, or improperly explained, please forgive me. I ask mechila in this most public of forums.

G'mara v'Chatima Tova, may you and your family and all of Klal Yisroel be sealed for a good and sweet year, one filled with obvious blessings from Hashem, one with the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Tzidkaynu, mamosh now! Please, Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), no more waiting, no more pain, no more tears, no more fear of this world!

---
The story is told in the Gemorah, of when Rabbi Yishamel (ben Elisha), the Cohein Gadol (the high priest) was doing the Avodah, the most holy service of Yom Kippur in the Beis HaMikdash (the holy temple in Jerusalem), he came to the most holy part, the offering of ketores (incense) in the kodesh hakedoshim (the holy of holies, the spot of the holy ark and the divine presence), as he entered alone (as only the kohein gadol can enter the holy of holies) and did the offering, he was presented with a vision of the King of Kings upon the Kisay Kakovod (Hashem on the holy throne).

Hashem said to him, "Yishmael my son, bless me."

Rabbi Yishmael responded, "may it be Your will that Your compassion should be revealed over Your other attributes and You should conduct Yourself toward Your children with compassion and beyond the letter of the law".

He (Hashem) nodded His head. (As if agreeing to the blessing and answering "Amen," Rashi) - [Brachos 7a]
---

Practical blogging note. No further posting is planned until this Sunday, b'ezrat Hashem.

With Ahavat Yisroel and Brachot, with Love and Blessings,
-- Akiva


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Intense Alarm - Run Up to Gog uMagog?

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

American Thinker has an incredible article presenting many related details and some very reasonable speculation about what's going on in the Middle East. Check it out here, but here's some key quotes...

Caroline Glick points out alarming implications of the September 6 Israeli raid on a claimed North Korean nuclear materials site in Syria. If official leaks about the IAF raid are true, the North Koreans have again reneged on their solemn promises to the Six-Nation Group to retreat on their own nuke program. Instead, they have secretly shipped nuclear weapons materials, possibly off-the-shelf fissile uranium or plutonium, to Syria, in close collaboration with Iran...

Here is what we know, and what we can infer.

1. On September 6, the Israel Air Force (IAF) bombed a Syrian site near the Iraq border, soon after a North Korean ship docked with a claimed cargo of "cement." The North Korean ship flipped its ownership identity more than once before it docked in Syria. Israeli, American and European sources hint that the Syrian site was a supposed agricultural research station that in fact was used to store nuclear materials. The site was reportedly destroyed...

d. ...the Germans and the French have publicly given up on their diplomatic efforts to get Iran to back down on its rush to nuclear weapons. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who carries great credibility on the Left in Europe, has just warned that "the world should prepare for war over Iran's nuclear programme,...


Read the whole thing, for while we hear the warnings of the kabbalists, here we find the details that line up for a major world confrontation.

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Flatline

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A Yom Kippur Bracha

Ayal was a young boy standing on the (Lubavitcher) Rebbe’s platform next to the shtender. He looked curiously at the figure who was crying, covered by a tallis. It was the tefilla of Ne’ila, and although he knew this was a special tefilla, he did not appreciate the gravity of the moment. It bothered him to hear the Rebbe cry, and he wondered why he did so. Ayal did not realize that the Rebbe was praying for his well-being, for the doctors had told his father that Ayal had only three months left to live......

Ayal had been having constant headaches for a few weeks. He was the 11-year-old son of an Israeli diplomat who worked at the Israeli Consulate in New York. The family had left Eretz Yisroel for two years, and Ayal went to a local Jewish school.

The Israeli Consulate had celebrated the release of the Jewish hostages in Entebbe just a few days before. Ayal had attended the party, too. He looked proudly at his father who was shaking the hands of famous and wealthy Jews.

The party was when the terrible headaches began. He complained and was given aspirin, but the pain did not abate.
The doctor who examined him confirmed the parents’
suspicion of a virus and recommended bed rest. Three weeks passed and finally the headaches disappeared. But then one day, when Ayal’s parents were busy with their day-to-day activities, Ayal woke up with a headache again, a stabbing pain on the right side of his head, so deep and painful he couldn’t tolerate it. The doctor sent Ayal for tests at a top Manhattan hospital.

Another two weeks passed. Ayal’s parents came home from work to be greeted by Ayal. Although his father smiled and his mother patted him on the head, he noticed their red and swollen eyes. Something was wrong, but his father reassured him that nothing had happened and that he hoped everything would be fine. Ayal knew that something was going on, and he knew that it had something to do with his headaches.

At supper, Ayal demanded to know what they were hiding from him. After much hesitation, Ayal’s father leveled with his son, telling him the doctors had discovered a tumor. Ayal did not fully comprehend the significance of what had been said, yet seeing his father’s shaking hand and his mother’s tears led him to ask, “Is it bad?” His father admitted it wasn’t good but that they would overcome it.

From that day forward, Ayal underwent a plethora of tests, treatments, pain and sorrow.
* * *
Erev Yom Kippur 5737. Jews had come from all over the metropolitan area, joining with the guests and Chassidim who had come to spend Tishrei with the Rebbe. They stood there for hours waiting to receive lekach (honey cake) from the Rebbe along with a blessing for a good and sweet year.

Among the thousands of black hats and shtreimlach, the two white yarmulkes of Ayal and his father stood out. A friend who worked at the Consulate had suggested that they get a bracha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe’s miracles were well known, and what better way to spend the holy day of Yom Kippur than with the Rebbe. A Lubavitcher who regularly visited the Consulate made arrangements for a place for them to stay, and now they awaited the Rebbe’s blessing.

The Rebbe usually smiled at children, but that Erev Yom Kippur he did not smile at Ayal. The Rebbe wished them a good and sweet year with a very somber look on his face.

Ayal’s father sent him to their host’s home to break his fast and rest until Ne’ila. The pushing and crowding were intensifying as the time for Napoleon’s March neared. The Rebbe suddenly raised his tallis and gazed at the crowd with a grim look on his face before turning to his secretary. The secretary then announced that all the children in shul were to go up to the Rebbe’s bima (platform). People made way for the children, wondering what the Rebbe’s intentions were.

The Rebbe stood there watching and waiting. Ayal’s father was beside himself. Why did I send Ayal home? He could have been standing next to the Rebbe! He left a long time ago. Why hadn’t he come back yet?

Hundreds of children were on the bima. The chazan was eager to continue davening, but the Rebbe was still waiting. Finally, another child suddenly arrived. It was Ayal, who was lifted over the crowd to the Rebbe’s bima. His father breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as Ayal stood on the bima, the Rebbe led the singing of “Avinu Malkeinu.” Those who stood near the Rebbe could hear the Rebbe crying. Finally, when the davening was over, the Rebbe smiled as he looked at the children.
* * *
Late at night, Ayal’s parents were getting ready for bed. Ayal emerged from his bedroom and announced, “I think the headache is gone. I want you to take me for tests immediately.”

Ayal’s father was worn out. He was unused to fasting and the crush and heat of 770, and he simply told Ayal to go and get a good night’s sleep. They had an appointment for more tests scheduled in four days time. They thought they would wait until then to check out their son’s claim. But Ayal insisted that he was perfectly fine and that he wanted to be tested immediately to prove it. He seemed so sure of himself that his parents agreed to have the appointment moved up to the next day.

A few days later during supper, Ayal’s father burst into the house and while crying and laughing managed to say, “You were right!”

Ayal and his father went to thank the Rebbe personally during the Hakafos of Simchas Torah. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Mr. Chayim Herzog, took a group of people who worked at the Consulate to the Rebbe, Ayal and his father among them. They were given a place near the Rebbe, who gave them special attention. When the Rebbe turned to Ayal’s father, the latter presented his son to him.

“Thank you Rebbe. I am well,” said Ayal shyly. Ayal’s father emotionally added, “The Rebbe saved his life!” The Rebbe smiled and waved away the comments saying, “Give thanks to Hashem, and always remember that He did this miracle for you.”

(Via Chabad.Info)
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Aushwitz - A Walk In The Park...

...if you were a Nazi. Good working conditions, great social life. If you were an inhuman murderer.

Slide Show - Here.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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Orange Juice


by Akiva at Mystical Paths

OJ? Tasers? Pop star child custody?

This is news? This is what's important to be in the know? Hurricane affects 1 million people, small news item in passing. US economy in major fluctuations and danger, a few items at the bottom of the page. Bank collapse in Britain, small print for 1 day.

Just glancing over the top 20 news items, it's a freaking joke. But it's not, it's worse than that. This is what they want you to pay attention to, complete inane feces. And it's working, there's more and more of it, and less and less of anything that might be of actual value.

Update : Clearly, I'm not the only one thinking like this, Dry Bones comic above.

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The End

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A dvar Torah for Deuteronomy 33 - Vezos Haberachah.

This week we conclude the five books of the Torah. When we look at the closing line of each book of the Torah, we see that it sums up the essence of that book.

The book of Genesis (Bereishith) ends by saying, Yosef died at the age of 110 years; they embalmed him and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. [vi] We see so much from this one line. Yosef's death sums up the forefathers and foremothers, as he lived at the end of that period. The Tribal period closed with his passing, and the period of history identified by the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt dawned. Yosef's embalming hints that we have not seen the last of his story. Something more was to happen to him.

The book of Exodus (Shemot) ends with, For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Mishkan by day, and fire would be on it at night, before the eyes of all of the House of Israel throughout their journeys.[vii] This sums up the most important aspects of this book and the period of our history that it records. The essential content of the book of Shemot is the Jews going out into freedom and their wandering in the wilderness, with Hashem's glory as a guide.

The last sentence of the book of Leviticus (Vayikra) reads, ג€ These are the commandments that Hashem commanded Moses to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai.ג€ [viii] And the essence of this book is the learning of God's commandments.

The last line of the book of Numbers (Bamidbar) reads, These are the commandants and the ordinances that Hashem commanded through Moses to the Children of Israel in the Plains of Moav, at the Jordan, by Jericho. [ix] Again, the last line points to the essence of the book by mentioning the commandments we learned from Moshe, and tells us that at this time we were standing at the end of our journey in the wilderness, ready to ascend into the holy land.

And the final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy (Devarim), ends with, Never again has there arisen a prophet like Moshe whom Hashem had known face to face [x] This points to Moshe's unique role in the history of the world and what he did for the Children of Israel. This sums up the books that are called, The Five Books of Moses.

Now comes the most important question of all:

What sentence is going to sum up your life? Surely there is going to be one. Maybe you do not know who is going to write it, but it is going to be written. What would you like it to say?

The truth is, we are writing this sentence with our deeds today.

[i] Pirke Avot 4:22
[ii] Berakoth 8a
[iii] Duet 34:5
[iv] Gen 1:3
[v] Gen 2:7
[vi] Gen 50:26
[vii] Ex 40:38
[viii] Lev 27:34
[ix] Num 36:13
[x] Deut 34:10

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

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???

"This New Year 5768/2008 should prove to be a real "bang." I highly suggest that all my readers make preparations to deal with whatever types of emergencies that might arise, natural or man- made. Do not panic, but also, do not be caught unprepared." - Rabbi Bar Tzadok, KosherTorah.Com

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Have a Happy Yom Kippur

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The Day of Atonement is certainly the most serious day of the entire year. In fact, it is called the Day of Awe. On this day, we come before the Judge of all creation and ask Him to cover over our transgressions, to forgive us for the errors we have committed.

Many times during the day we call out to God, saying, "Hashem, Hashem". Why do we call out using this most unusual doubling of His Name? The Torah never adds a letter, let alone an entire word that is unnecessary, so this must have been done for a good reason.

Our sages explain that we repeat His name to emphasize that just as He was God before we committed those sins, so is He God after we committed those sins. But this understanding is learned merely by a remez, a hint that the sages must explain for us. There is, however, a clearer, more literal meaning (pshat). We can learn the simple meaning of this unusual doubling of a name from Hashem Himself when He did the same thing. When Hashem called out to Avraham, our forefather, he called, "Avraham, Avraham". It is well known that this was done as a sign of endearment. By repeating Avraham name, Hashem was expressing His love for Avraham.

So must it be with us when we call out to Hashem on Yom Kippur. We call out, doubling His name to express our love for Him. What could be more loving than to forgive someone for their transgressions? How much must we love the One Who is forgiving us! What day could be happier than the day when the King of the Universe says, "You are forgiven"?

Have a Happy Yom Kippur.
Thank you for your attention for all these weeks.
With love and prayers for your well-being,
From The Old City of Jerusalem
Reb Gutman Locks

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The High Holidays - Dinner and a Show???

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I don't normally write grip posts, but...

I used to love Yom Tov davening. In particular, chassidic davening with niggunim (wordless soulful tunes), where the chazan leads the kehilah in these traditional group soul stirring melodies and prayers. Of course, being Chabad oriented, it's the traditional Chabad tunes that work for me.

In the last 3 or 4 years, it seems the trend has been going the opposite direction. The chazzonim have returned to chazzonus, showing off their voices like budding Pavarotti's. Tefilos are extended to the very limits of the human voice, with single words being drawn out for multiple minutes. Traditional tunes are slowed to demonstrate voice breath and range. But, IMHO even worse, traditional tunes are replaced with the latest Jewish pop hits.

Suddenly, we're davening Avinu Malkaynu to the latest Shwecky tune (no offense to Shwecky), only really really slow and deep, Kedusah to Father Don't Cry (Avraham Fried), Melech Elyon to Yeshiva Boys. Now don't get me wrong, these Jewish artists make some nice music that I'm satisfied to drop my $20 to own. But as I'm approaching the Kisay HaKovod, it's not a Mordechai Ben David tune that pops into my head.

For a moment, I thought I was just getting old and stodgey, and as one of my daughters is happy to remind me, grey has crept into my beard and (compared to her I guess) I'm an old man (not really of course, by any reasonable measure, just a generation out of touch to her measure). But my children cry in agony during these tunes as well (though it's less clear if it's from the selection or just the poor job compared to the original pace and artist.)

Though I strongly dislike this trend, finding it incredibly unpleasant and grating and a travesty of Yom Tov davening, trying to draw more of a crowd to be comfortable at Yom Tov davening is a nice thought. But ... but ... I've heard now for some years the chazzonim speaking after Yom Tov davening. They are inordinately proud, PROUD, of their chazzonistic representations of the Jewish pop artists, feeling themselves equal in voice ability to those artists, or better. And in being so, become disdainful of the kehila raising their voices as well (as it could drown out their voice).

And that is NOT a path that will open the gates of heaven to the prayers of the congregation. Quite the opposite.

(This is not, G-d forbid, targeted at any particular chazzan, rather a trend I've observed over recent years of various chazzonim during various Yom Tovim.)

BTW, given the price of high holiday seats, frankly expecting dinner and a show would seem completely reasonable.

Update:: Hirhurim's in the same place.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

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Housing Market Based Bank Collapse -- in England???

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shares in one of Britain's largest lenders tumbled another 30 percent Monday as customers, driven by fears of insolvency, made run on the bank and withdrew billions...

Customers lined up outside of Northern Rock branches across the country on Friday. On Monday, dozens of customers waited outside for branches in Birmingham to open, and more than 100 waited in Leeds...

Northern Rock's problems came against the background of signs of cooling in Britain's booming housing market...Britain was susceptible to some of the problems now roiling the U.S. real estate market..."Britain is more exposed than we are — in the sense that you have a good deal more adjustable-rate mortgages," he said.
AP News

This is worrying, and in line with words of the mekubalim (kabbalists). However, somewhat surprising as I hadn't heard of this being an issue in Britian.

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Selichos Music

Sephardi style, by one of my favorite artists, Erez Yechiel...



The whole album online, here.

(h/t - Nava at Dreaming of Moshiach)
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Foundations?

A Simple Jew asks:

There is a phenomenon within certain Chassidic groups only to learn the Chassidus of their rebbes. If you ask them about Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Me'or Einayim, or Degel Machaneh Ephraim they look at you with a blank stare or suggest you learn one of their seforim. While a person only has a limited amount of time to learn, and it is a given that he will learn the seforim of his Chassidus first, would you still consider it to be a form of spiritual arrogance to believe that a person can ignore these classic seforim that are the bedrock foundation for all Chassidic groups?

Akiva at Mystical Paths answered:

First, I don't believe this 'phenomenon' is limited to 'certain Chassidic groups', but rather is a general phenomenon among what some call 'ultra-orthodox Jews', both Chassidic, Litvish, and Sephardic. I'll explain what I mean by this a little further along.

Regarding Chassidim, we see that the students of holy gaon, student and leader of the chassidic movement after the Baal Shem Tov, HaRav Dovber, zt"l, the Maggid of Mezerich, fanned out to become the Rebbe's of various geographic areas. But stories from that time teach us that this was not a random affair, rather the holy Maggid targeted specific leaders to specific areas. As different communities faced different needs, such as a depressed farming district that needing uplifting, versus a more town or city centric area that was dealing with nasty issues of Jewish society class stratification, different leaders, Rebbe's, with different approaches focused on the same goals, were appropriate. More emotional, or more intellectual, more learning, or more davening, more singing, or more meditative.

As the chassidic communities grew and the generations past, the Rebbe's directed the spiritual welfare of their communities. More learning, or teaching, of a particular type. Adjustments to yeshiva curriculum's, deciding which minhagim would strengthen, and which would not.

Historically, these communities where geographically separate. Indeed, one could easily understand the differences in the local environments, political and social conditions, education and work/commerce opportunities, leading to different approaches to which parts of Torah life to strengthen, and which not to. If one would travel from one community to another, itself a major journey of days to weeks to months, one could easily understand a community's directed learning and minhagim in the context of their local conditions.

Ahh, but now we live side by side. A single family may contain members of different chassidic groups (indeed, we had a neighbor with 5 married daughters, one married a Lubavitcher, one a Breslover, one a Gur, one a Tzanzer, and one a 'generic' chossid), and a single neighborhood may have many living. Still, our Rebbe's of today (or spiritual leaders if not chassidic, or one of the chassiduses without a living Rebbe) try to focus the community path in relevance for their situation, whether it be part living in New York and part in Israel, or in tighter communities, or spread around the world. More insular or more worldly.

So now to your question... "would you still consider it to be a form of spiritual arrogance to believe that a person can ignore these classic seforim that are the bedrock foundation for all Chassidic groups?" Given what I wrote above, though the goals are the same, the paths to get there are not. One who has a mature understanding of their path can learn from others, and/or take positive parts from many and synthesize a a wonderful multiple view. However, others can become confused at apparent conflicts between paths. And this is the majority.

G-d forbid, this is not 'spiritual arrogance', this is following the tzaddikim of their generation who focus each path for the generation, the place, and the conditions of our time.

And referring back to my opening comment, we see this among the Litvish and Sephardim as well, to study Zohar or not, to study Rambam or not, to study the Aruch HaShulach or the Mishneh Berurah or the Shulchan Aruch HaRav.

I'll add two personal notes... In dealing with a recent personal problem, I consulted my friend and co-blogger, Rabbi Nati, who's a Breslover chossid, and a Chabad rav of mine. The action answer both gave was identical, but the spiritual reasoning was quite different, one focusing on emunah in Hashem and seeing the best in the situation and emunah that all will work out with the opportunities presented, the other focusing on the value of the mesiras nefesh in working on the opportunities presented, and that doing so will open spiritual channels to blessings being fulfilled.

The other is my spending time learning Tzavarat HaRivash. This is a wonderful sefer with many foundational concepts of chassidus (attributed to the Baal Shem Tov, or at least a direct compilation of sayings from him). Yet, for personal application I found the sefer daunting, as many of the concepts presented seem way beyond reach my reach. I could easily understand how a Rebbe would state that such a sefer is not appropriate for the general community population (the again, maybe it's just me.)

...G'mara v'Chatima Tova, you and your family and all of Klal Yisroel should be sealed for a good and sweet year, one with the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Tzidkaynu, mamosh now! Please, Ribono Shel Olam, no more waiting, no more pain, no more tears, no more fear of this world!

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

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Syrian Nukes Taken Out???

What was that mysterious Israeli overflight or attack of Syria last week?

The Times Online says they know.

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Theological Evil

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

My post 9/11 Memories generated an interesting theological & philosophical discussions. In particular, these words of mine...
There are men motivated by evil in this world. Worse, they are absolutely convinced that their incredible evil is good. That evil is sometimes given power, for it serves a purpose. We may not agree with it, or understand it, that such evil is empowered. Perhaps because it draws good and strength in response, because it challenges us to not be complacent, to dig deep to struggle for good. ... Lets appreciate the blessings we have, thank Hashem for every one of them, and pray that next year, evil will have served it's purpose and be removed from this world.

Simcha commented: Do you realize you that you are separating G-d from the events of that day by calling it an "evil act?" It did not pass without Hashem's approval. This was the opening shot in the final war against Amalek (whose philosophy is one and the same with that of America today.) Bin Laden was just the tool in His hand...

Jon commented: One must never blame God for evil. One can only blame man who abuses his gift of free-will. God DOES turn evil into good (Joseph sold into slavery) but this does not absolve the evil acts which all men will be required (someday) to answer for. Simcha blasphemes when he accuses God of evil. He, no doubt, will similarly claim that Hitler was God’s tool, and that the allies were Amalek.

Chassidic and Kabbalistic concepts around evil are somewhat difficult and often confusing unless studied in total. Now I'm going to see if I can explain a complete theology while standing on one foot... First we start with, there is nothing but G-d, there was not creation in the past tense but continuous creation, in the present tense G-d composes the universe and empowers it, moment by moment, creating, maintaining, and directing everything within it.

This means evil is a creation of G-d, is empowered and permitted to operate by G-d. However, for there to be free will, for there to be value in making a choice for G-d, there must be an apparent alternative. This means alternate choices must appear wholly independent. And therefore, negative forces that would turn us away from G-d appear to offer valid alternatives, and are fully empowered to create those alternatives.

At the highest level, this is a task and force given by G-d. At lower levels, this appears to be independent agents that we refer to as evil.

There are various further and deeper discussions about how such agents are empowered, how they receive their trickle of energy from G-d in a backward fashion (an undesirable path), and how they are also able to capture the holy potential when such is misused. But this is the best I can do in a brief post while standing on one leg.

This theology of evil differs considerably from other religions.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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Charity and A Good Year!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Dear Friends:

At the close of another year, it's been an honor and a privilege to be a part of your lives for this past year. I wish all of you, and all of Klal Yisroel a good and sweet year, a year filled with blessings for health, parnossa, children, Torah, and all the good things of this life, and especially the ultimate good, may this year bring us the ultimate blessing, Moshiach Tzidkaynu.

As the days of awe come upon us, as the King, the King of Kings, sits upon the kisay hakovod and opens the book of judgement, we are taught that three things will help us at the time of our judgement...

Teshuva - repentence, returning and reconnecting to Hashem and His Torah.

Tefillah
- prayer, calling out to our G-d and our King, in the words taught to us by the sages and in our own words.

Tzedakah - charity, giving of ourselves and our hard work to those who have less and are in need.

Fortunately for those who can give, there are always those who desperately need. It's not fortunate for them, and we can help make a difference. We can literally emulate G-d by giving with no possibility of return.

Below are worthy charities that we strongly endorse. Please consider helping those in need...

Help the Hungry in Israel - Yad Eliezer

Help Needy Jerusalem - Chut Shel Chesed

Help The Poorest in Israel - Colel Chabad

Help Terror Victims - Yad Sarah

DIRECT ASSISTANCE - In the days between Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabbah, Rabbi Nati will directly distribute donations to the needy in Jerusalem and in the Shomron - West Bank, to people with practically nothing on their table for the holidays. Every single dollar will be delivered, with no overhead, organizational or salary costs. [Except for the direct cost of the credit card charge, shekel conversion, and ATM fee, coming to ~5%.]


(For those who gave previously, thank you! Your prayer requests have traveled with Rabbi Nati to Uman and the kevorim of the holy tzaddikim.)

L'Shana Tova uMetuka - A Good and Sweet Year!!!

Blogging Note - Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this Wednesday evening. No blogging will occur during these holy days from Wed evening through Shabbat (Saturday). G-d willing, regular blogging will resume Sunday.

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It's All Divine Orchestration

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I was asked to explain Tehillim K'Pital 2, Pasuk 7. Here's what I said...

The translation I have reads, "I am obligated to declare, The Lord said to me, "You are my son, I have this day begotten you". Boy that English style stinks.

(Questioner) What does it mean by "son"?

In Hebrew it reads...

"Adonai amar" - Hashem, commonly translated as "the Lord", "says"
"ay-lie", to me - "b'nee", my son (I would refer to my own child this way, 'this is Shimon 'b'nee', my son)
"ata" - you - "ani" - I - "hayom" - today - "yleedteecha" (compound hebrew word, literally 'gave birth to you')

So, the literal word for word translation is this (and it will sound odd, as hebrew doesn't follow the same word order as english):

King David says ... "declaring by obligation, Hashem said to me, 'my son, you I this day gave birth to you'". Yeah, that helps. (chuckle).

The commentary (Rashi) notes, this is from the day King David was crowned as king. So the understanding is: G-d is telling King David that the circumstances of his becoming king are directly from G-d's intervention in the world for this purpose.

Intervention - meaning, while we believe that literally everything happening in the world is according to G-d's plan and direction, still most happens in that hidden fashion that we call ... nature. It all appears to be on auto-pilot, random circumstance. Things 'just happen to happen', sometimes people 'get lucky' or 'have bad luck.

This is the normal way of the world, and what we see most of the time. In a way, we refer to this also as 'hesder panim', which means 'the hidden face', G-d's presence is hidden, like someone turning away.

Sometimes, we may be fortunate to see and understand that circumstances are clearly arranged and led, and we see 'hashgacha pratit', divine orchestration.

So, on the day of his becoming king, King David said, though the whole circumstances of this happening appear completely random and crazy, I'm obligated to say, this is only by orchestration from G-d.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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Chatter & Rocket Attack

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

News reports state that an IDF training base was hit by a Kassam rocket in the meal tent and close by sleeping quarters. Reports state 60-66 soldiers injured, 40 seriously.

For some time, there's been hints from the mekubalim (kabbalists) that serious events are coming soon. Warnings of preparation for serious war impact, leading to Gog uMagog, have been posted.

Similarly, several friends have pinged me about Israeli military preparations to protect from northern attack. Lets just say, very very serious preparations.

And, suddenly, there is massive speculation about US preparations for a possible attack on Iran. Again, force levels and preparations seem to be at an all time high. And, we had that rather odd story last week about tactical nuclear cruise missiles being mistakenly transported across the US heartland by long-range B52 bomber. I can imagine such a thing being sent on the wrong route, but I can't imagine primed nuclear weapons being accidentally taken out of storage.

I'd go into more, but I think this latest attack news is particularly important. We're on the edge, may Hashem protect us!

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9/11 Memories

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

On 9/11, I was on my way to the airport to catch one of the flights that was taken out of Newark airport. B"H, not the one that was taken, my flight was the next one.

I watched the smoke roll up into the sky, my children watched from their yeshiva. Our neighborhood, our community, our shul (synagogue), lost members that day.

Below is the local 9/11 memorial, and a distant shot of lower Manhattan today, without the lights of the Twin Towers.

There are men motivated by evil in this world. Worse, they are absolutely convinced that their incredible evil is good. That evil is sometimes given power, for it serves a purpose. We may not agree with it, or understand it, that such evil is empowered. Perhaps because it draws good and strength in response, because it challenges us to not be complacent, to dig deep to struggle for good.

It is not our way to build statues and memorials. Rather, we remember and strive to understand. In a brief moment, the world changed. Like the Berlin Wall falling, like the Soviet Union crumbling, the world turned on a dime that day, 9/11.

As we approach Rosh Hashana this year, only a day away, let us remember that the world, and our lives, can turn on a dime. Lets appreciate the blessings we have, thank Hashem for every one of them, and pray that next year, evil will have served it's purpose and be removed from this world.

09-05-- 112

09-05-- 095

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Go Up

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

This week's Torah portion, coming Shabbat after Rosh Hashana, is Deuteronomy 32, parshat Haazinu.

In this weekly portion of the Torah, Moshe gives all of Israel a song that tells of the ups and downs of Jewish life until the Redemption finally comes. The song gives us our two choices and their consequences: We can do what God says and go up, or we can do what God says not to do, and go down.

After finishing the song, God tells Moshe to “Ascend to this mountain … and die on the mountain where you will ascend … .”

There is a strict rule in learning Torah that every letter is crucial. This means that nothing is extraneous. Each word comes to teach us something; otherwise, it would not be there. So what is the purpose for the seemingly extra words “on the mountain where you will ascend”? The Torah could have simply said, “Ascend to this mountain … and die there.”

The phrase “Die on the mountain where you will ascend” teaches the essential lesson in life that we all die on the mountain that we climb. This means that during our lifetime, we climb a mountain day by day. We get higher and higher as we grow more and more. Our good deeds cause us to ascend higher, and our bad deeds either prevent us from going higher, or, even worse and depending on the deed, can cause us to slip and fall lower. Then, when we pass into the next world, we die at the height we were able to accomplish while we were here.

What difference does it make how high we are when we go into the next world? Remember, “high” and “low” are really metaphors describing the concept of spiritual capacity. In fact, all talk of the World to Come is metaphoric.

Our “capacity” means that our spiritual position in the next world is fixed according to our ability to receive the spiritual light that will accompany that wondrous revelation. The more holiness we bring into our lives while we are here, the greater our capacity will be to withstand the brightness there. If we are accustomed to holiness, we will be able to go right into that great brightness of glory in the World to Come. This experience will be even greater than when Moshe walked into the Cloud of Glory on Mount Sinai. But if we are used to sinning while we are here on Earth, our eyes will squint horribly at the bright light and we will be forced away, as were the Jews at the bottom of the mountain.

The most wonderful thing about living a holy life, even without considering the reward that is in store for us in the next world, is that our physical life in this world is better. When we walk with God in our mind, we walk erect and happy. When we walk with only the physical on our mind, we stoop with its weight. When we live a spiritual life, we look for opportunities to give. When we live only in the physical world, we look for opportunities to take.

It is a well-publicized fact that religious families live happier and longer lives than non-religious families. Even without thinking of the great reward that is surely coming, living a spiritual life gives us the most joy even while we are here.

L'Shana Tova From the Old City,
Reb Gutman Locks

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Thoughts on the Parsha

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

From this weeks parsha, Deut. 29:15-16.

You know full well that we lived in Egypt, and what has befallen us in the territories of the nations we passed through. You saw disgusting, putrid idols of wood, stone, gold and silver that are among them.

The journey of the Jews through these nations showed the futility of the idol worshiping cultures since Israel moved unharmed through them, even when attacked by them. The commentaries say that the reason the Jews had to go through these nations was to “prepare the Diaspora” (exile of the future) for the Jews. Since the holy people and mobile sanctuary went through these nations and lands a certain small amount of holiness was imparted by the very contact with the Jews. This would allow the exile to accept the Jews on some level when the exile came. Also, this was the first blow of the Jews in ending world idolatry. The Gentiles had idols of wood, stone, gold and silver. They hid the gold and silver idols fearing the Jews would steal them, but not the wood and stone idols. This forced these gentiles into recognizing that rather than these “gods” protecting them, they had to protect their gods. This began the lessening of their own respect for such things and the realization of their powerlessness. So too, have the Jewish people caused a lessening of idolatry in the wider world over the years (as per Rambam's comments on the role of Christianity and Islam). May this trend continue.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

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Two Tzaddikim

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

There are two types of tzaddikim. One enters a cold room and wraps himself in a warm coat, thereby fending off the cold.

One enters a cold room and, seeing the room cold, builds up a fire in the fireplace, thereby warming all those in the room.

The former is a good thing, we need righteous people in the world. But the latter is the one to find, and to draw close to.

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Milk and Honey

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A few weeks ago a neighbor from the Old City stopped me on the street. He had just started a tiny homemade sheep cheese business in his apartment and was looking for customers. The guy obviously didn’t have any money, so I wanted to give him some business if I could. I told him that I make lasagna on Friday nights and that I couldn’t find any kosher Parmesan cheese for it. If he could make one, I could use some every week. A couple of days ago he told me that he had something for me to try and he was going to stop by the apartment in the morning. He didn’t show up.

I went to the Kotel late that afternoon as usual, and the nice guy who manages the tefillin booth said that he had something for me. He pulled out a gorgeous bottle of natural honey. It was gift-wrapped in a tiny decorated straw basket. It is a custom to dip our bread in honey during the upcoming holidays, and this was his way of saying thank you for all of the help that I give him at the tefillin booth. It was really nice of him.

After I finished helping at the booth and was about to go daven, the guy with the cheese business came up to me. He had a bag with several slices of smelly cheese in it. He wanted me to taste it there at the Kotel and maybe buy a piece.

“This is weird,” I said to myself. When was the last time I ate a piece of cheese at the Kotel? I didn’t want to do it, but I saw how disappointed he was, so I took a small piece and walked out of the davening area to taste it. Hey, it was pretty good. I bought enough for two lasagnas, but he didn’t have a bag to put it in. It was wrapped in a small piece of clear, thin plastic wrap. “Oh, boy, here I am again in a weird situation.” I was sitting by the Kotel about to daven, holding a nice-sized piece of smelly sheep cheese in one hand and a bottle of honey in the other.

Then it hit me. I smiled warmly at God’s kindness (and good humor). I had written this week about how God has given us a Land of Milk and Honey, and there I was, sitting by the Kotel with cheese in one hand and honey in the other. Okay, so according to the sages, the actual honey He was talking about was date-honey and not bee honey, and Parmesan sheep cheese is a bit of a stretch from milk, but so what. I got the message.

It is so nice to be here. Thank You.

By the way, there is room for you here, too.

From the Old City of Jerusalem, Have a wonderful, sweet, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

- Reb Gutman Locks

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

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The Law Says: Kill The Child

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Life of Rubin has up an incredibly tragic story
about a Jewish family in Florida who's young child drowned. The horror of the story is this, the child is alive but on life support. Apparently Florida law says, "Several doctors have declared the little one brain dead, and claim that, by Florida law, the girl has to be taken off life support.

So apparently in Florida, there's a law that says if doctors feel your brain isn't functioning well enough to support 'quality-of-life', then you must be killed. Religious belief doesn't matter, ability to pay (or not) doesn't matter. All that matters is doctor declaration. (I'll grant it's a council of doctors and hospital 'ethicists'.)

Is eugenics making a return?

(Credit to A Simple Jew.)

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Unintended Consequences

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I've mentioned in the past the secular fear, specifically among the power elites, of being overrun by the unwashed, ignorant, medieval, religious Jews. One of their efforts to prevent this has been maximizing the Law of Return's provision that intentionally matches the Nazi law defining a Jew as a person of Jewish blood, up to 3 generations distant on either side.

10 years before the Israeli power elites turned to this provision to draw massive numbers of non-Jews into Israel from former Soviet countries, the Lubavitcher Rebbe pushed hard to have the law changed in line with halacha, which defines anyone with a Jewish mother (religious or not) as Jewish. Why? Maybe to prevent this...

Ten teenagers from Petach Tikva were arrested recently on suspicion of membership in a local neo-Nazi cell... The cell performed cruel attacks on innocent by-standers, including minorities such as gays, foreign workers, and homeless people, as well as men wearing kippot. All but one of the group members are non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who arrived in Israel via the law of return. The last member is a temporary resident of the State. - YnetNews

This last line should say, "who's families were enticed to immigrate to Israel with large monetary benefits and promises of tremendously improved economic conditions." There are many wonderful Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are major contributors to Israel. Much of the science and technology workforce of Israel are made up of these immigrants. But as the Jewish Agency (the Sochnut Yehudit) continued to push harder and harder to draw in more Soviet immigrants, to get that religious dilution, they went way way too far.

And now there's a price to be paid. Neo-Nazi's and anti-semitism IN ISRAEL!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

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Israeli Killing World Honey Bees!

Newsflash: Israeli Acute Paralysis Bee Virus found to be the source of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder that is destroying up to 90% of honey bee hives in the US and France.

Will Jews be blamed for a decrease in world pollination? Oy!

Sorry world, the name comes from the fact that Hebrew University researchers discovered the virus. We didn't do it, we just found it.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007

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Shemitta - Preparations for YOU

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shemitta is the 7 year growing cycle and mitvah in the Torah, where on the 7th year a number of special rules apply about leaving the land fallow, specifically the Land of Israel. (Similar to resting on the 7th day, for Shabbat, we allow the land (and ourselves) to rest on the 7th year.)

Nowadays, when most of us are not farmers in the Land of Israel, there are not too many practical impacts to one's life, especially if you are outside of Israel. But, here are two you should pay serious attention to...

1. Forgiving of Debts. There are a number of specific required mitzvot relating to the forgiving of personal debts in the 7th year. While there are differences of opinion on whether this activates at the beginning of the shemitta year or at the end, if you have personal debts owed to you that you're not prepared to forgive, you should consult your competent orthodox rabbi immediately about a pruzbul. Immediately means BEFORE the start of Rosh Hashanah.

2. Consuming the produce of the Land of Israel. Fruits (and vetitables) of the 7th year are considered to have a special level of holiness, and therefore special rules. G-d forbid, one should not avoid Israeli food products or the fruits/vegetables, rather one should learn a bit and/or consult one's competent orthodox rabbi. Hirhurim has a nice brief overview here. Naturally, this only applies to Israeli produce from Jewish farms harvested after Rosh Hashanah.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically noted in the past...

We must encourage, motivate and stimulate the proper preparations for the observance of the laws of Shemittah in Eretz Yisroel. Many of the pertinent laws apply during the period starting with Rosh Chodesh Elul.

The observance of Shemittah incurs financial sacrifices on many levels, for this reason it is good and proper that everyone should contribute, as soon as possible, to the "Keren HaShemittah" (fund to support the observance of Shemittah). In this way the donor will be counted among the "guardians of Shemittah," who are referred to as:

His messengers, armed with strength that fulfill His word, to obey the voice of His word. - (Tehillim 103:20) ...

Another important practice connected to the Shemittah year applies in contemporary times for all Jews in Eretz Yisroel as well as in the diaspora. This is the "Pruzbul" contract which transfers all debts receivable to a rabbinic court.

The Alter Rebbe writes in the Shulchan Aruch:

Every G-d-fearing individual should be strict to make a Pruzbul in which there is no loss and which is easy to do. He should gather three qualified men and form a Bais Din and he should make the following declaration: "I hereby transfer to you all debts receivable which I have, so that I may be permitted to collect them whenever I wish." ...the proper time for the enactment of the Pruzbul is at the close of the sixth year before Rosh Hashanah of the seventh (Shemittah) year. - (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Choshen Mishpot, Loans, 1:35-36)

It is likewise a mitzvah to publicize this rule in all places. Since the appropriate time for the Pruzbul is Erev Rosh Hashanah, it will be good and proper to make the Pruzbul immediately after Hataras Nedarim (absolution of oaths) on the morning of Erev Rosh Hashanah; at that time the three competent people will be available.


L'Shana Tova, may Hashem grant you a good year!

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Moshe Cannot Enter!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

In this portion of the Torah (Deuteronomy 31, Vayeilech), Moshe is about to die. He was not allowed to bring the Children of Israel into the Holy Land. But why couldn’t Moshe enter the Land of Israel? Certainly, no one loved this land more than he did, and who, if anyone, did more to bring the Jewish People there? Surely, he deserved to go up into the land.

We know about the episode when Moshe hit the rock instead of speaking to it, but was that such a great sin? And even if it was, God forgave the Jewish People for the sin of idolatry, so certainly He could forgive Moshe for hitting the rock.

Really, there is a deeper reason as to why Moshe was not allowed to enter the land. When Moshe was with us, we were much stronger; we were a spiritually higher people. Had Moshe brought us up into the land, there would have been such great merit that our eventual exile could not have happened.

We see the same thing much later when King David was not allowed to build the Temple. Some say the reason this privilege was withheld from him was because of all of the blood that he had to shed in his battles throughout his lifetime. But this is not the real reason. The reason he was not allowed to build the Temple was that Hashem knew the Temple was going to be destroyed in the future. Either Hashem would have to destroy the Temple or He would have to destroy the people. Had David built the Temple, its spiritual merit would have been so great that it could not have been destroyed. [v] Then God’s wrath would have had to come against the people instead.

God wants us to have free will. Free will means that whatever we do has to bring similar results back unto us. If we do things that require exile as their repercussions, and if exile was blocked, we would not really have free will. Had Moshe been allowed to bring us up into the land, the spiritual merit of that event would have elevated us to such a level that we could not have been exiled.

We see from this that even terrible things that happen somehow also come for the good.

[v] Midrash also see Sotah 9a

"From The Old City" is now a book. Two years of weekly commentary and stories have been printed and are now available.

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Don't Be Confused

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Don't be confused, don't give up, just be happy! (Play it below!)


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

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