Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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Rice Says What???

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

News Flash: Israeli Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, met with the American Secretary of State in Washington on Tuesday. Rice said that the United States had no intention of abandoning the Palestinians of Gaza, who are suffering from electricity cuts by Israel. - Guysen

Say What??? Yesterday reports came out that the Israeli Attorney General prohibited implementation of the plan to actually do something. So, nothing is being done. No reduction in ANYTHING is happening. Further, even reductions that were going to happen specifically excluded public need facilities (water treatment, sewage plants, hospitals, doctor offices, etc.)

Abandoning? Suffering? Check S'Derot, who's being hit by rockets DAILY. Children dodging under cover every day. Families sleeping in tiny hot safe spots every night. Anyone "not abandoning" them?

Peace? Everyone seems to have forgotten the meaning of the word. Your Sacrifice for our political gain seems to be the new definition. Grrrr.

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Does Olmert Deserve Cancer?

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What's Wrong With "Yoga"?

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

Commentor Yiddishe Mama wrote: "There are various kinds of yoga and not all of them are idolatrous. I don't see what's wrong with stretching your body while focusing on your breath in a relaxing and focused manner. There are many benefits to proper breathing and the mind functions much much better when a person is mentally and physically at peace. I don't think we need to prove that." (and referred to several secular-ish yoga books.)

We have again and again stressed that the problem with yoga is not (most) of the physical exercises themselves, but it is the using of the name "yoga" and the immense associations that come with it, that cause the problem.

Here in the halacha we see that we are not allowed to praise even their virtues because that praise will bring us to accept their idolatries. This is what we have been warning you about.

Call it "stretch and breathe" and everyone will love you and they will get all of the benefits of stretching and breathing without the associations to the worst form of idolatry on the planet today.

"Rambam rules (in Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 10:4) that one is forbidden to praise a virtuous practice performed by an idolater since such praise can cause him to forge a relationship with the idolater and learn from his evil practices."

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Financial Predictions

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

IN BIG BOLD LETTERS - I am not a navi (a prophet), nor is it my profession or special expertise to predict financial markets. (If it was, I'd probably have a much larger bank account.) This IS NOT investment advice, this is me pontificating (thinking out loud). I tend to watch a wide view of sources to detect certain types of trends. On one side is quite a bit of wild economic news coming out of the US, on the other is ongoing concerns of conditions for Geulah, Gog uMagog, and associated financial turmoil and/or predictions...

The US economy faces a major structural imbalance right now, in many ways brought on by ongoing world economic conditions that send major outflows of US money to China, India, and the Arab oil Middle East. Huge portions of those American outflows are reinvested back in America, as the US is the economic engine of the world and the best place (and most stable) for your money to make money, whether it's your 401k retirement investments or some Arab sheik's billion dollar profits.

Awash with cheap money in the 80's, it unbalanced the US stock markets and we had a mini-crash and a moderate recession. Awash with cheap investment money in the 90's, .com's were able to boom and then bust (as 99% had no functional value), leading to a light recession.

The 2000's brought us the highest level of cheap money ever, and the investment of choice this time around was collateralized loan bonds. Meaning, cheap overseas money funded US house loans, especially "home equity" loans. Suddenly, every American was able to pull 'value' out of their home for a (seemingly) cheap price. And they did.

Of course, money follows money, so each round became cheaper (for the Americans) and riskier (for the investors). Then comes the results of the imbalance, the crash...

Too many bad investments, too much money offered to people who couldn't really figure out the complex terms and if they could or could not pay, too many investment bond bundles that hid the riskiest elements.

Now we're in the crash, though it's still somewhat hidden. The real estate bond investment market is dead (Wall Street firms have laid off over 10,000 employees involved in that area). Foreclosures are way up. New loans are hard to get. Property values (because people literally can't afford the money anymore) are falling (20% in many markets, some markets much more, some less). People aren't borrowing, taking the cheap money to upgrade lifestyles (the boat business is dead, luxury car sales are down).

The US is in the beginning of a recession, most people just don't realize it yet. You see the stock market swinging wildly, some have realized and are getting out, others still operate by the 'old' way and think they're going to make a killing picking up on the down swing. However, each swing will settle lower. (A classic "dead cat bounce", though this dead cat is springier than most.)

So the big question is, when there are lots of foreclosures, real estate bond bundles value falls apart, and banks start taking big hits, will the system "collapse"? From a practical point of view, central banks have been very active in stabilizing big financial swings, and with the international reach of the markets nowadays, working closely together as a group to keep these types of situations from spinning out of control. (After all, it would be practically impossible for a major country collapse not to affect others.)

News reports point out the early rounds of those actions are being taken right now. Because it's so technical, it's still rather 'quiet'. Yet, you also see some practical real results, as in the falling value of the dollar, down 25% in the past year. That's massive! (The Israeli shekel is now worth more against the dollar than it was 10 years ago, and the Canadian dollar is at a 47 year high against the US dollar.)

Why is it falling? Because the value of America, all that money collateral, property, is falling.

On to advice. I am not a financial adviser, this is not investment advice, and my advice hasn't made me any great returns in the past for me. All I can say is here are my thoughts:

1 - Get out of the market. No one can predict the top, but we've clearly entered major instability. Up, down, don't want to be caught on the wrong side. Personally, I reduced my market exposure in February, and again in July. I didn't catch the high, but I haven't been caught on a down swing either.

2 - Traditional hedges against money value instability are commodities, in particular precious metals (gold, silver).

3 - If you are truly concerned about real meltdown or real major near term national or world instability, then moving some investments to gold and silver that you can personally hold and transport is feasible. Meaning: gold coins, silver coins, platinum coins.

4 - If you are concerned about an _immediate_ meltdown, walk into your nearest jewelry store and buy them out. I remember stories of Iranian Jews, who were not permitted to take their currency abroad. Many a family walked out of the country with their assets around their necks.

We clearly seem to be in conditions for Geluah and Gog uMagog. Yet, ongoing predictions from various sources _do not seem to have not been accurate_ on a national basis. The predictions of the chassidic rebbe's seem to be closer to fulfillment.

We can only hope and pray that the path of the geulah is tempered with chesed. There is a set of interpretations that say the geulah will be a 3 part event, as almost no one could survive the geulah as a single event. If you read navi Daniel as a single event, you find most of the world being destroyed, most of Israel being destroyed, almost all of the Jewish people being killed, and a tiny tiny remnant surviving.

The other approach would say that through World War 1, World War 2, and the spiritual holocaust of our time, numerically most of the Jewish people have been killed, those of Torah and emunah are the tiny remnant surviving, and the events of Gog uMagog can occur in a relatively bloodless but still painful fashion, such as we saw with Gush Katif (may Hashem have rachamim!)

Can Gog take on Paras with Israel only experiencing fear, yes. Can the troops of Gog march into Israel with the IDF as an escort, to 'protect' the PA in the Shomron and to divide Jerusalem, as only intimidation and herding the population rather than slaughtering them, yes. Can the power of Gog be broken through natural events and "unmanageable economic collapse"? Seeing California now and New Orleans, yes.

Cry to Hashem for the path of rachamim, for the other path is too terrible to consider.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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Power of Tehillim

by Nava at Mystical Paths

My name is Rina (this is not her real name), and I live in Gush Etzion. A few months ago, when I was in my car, riding towards Gush Etzion, there was a serious traffic jam. When I reached the Gush, I saw the reason for the heavy traffic – there had been an accident, and cars were standing in the road. Out of curiosity, I looked quickly to see what had happened. I was startled to see a completely smashed car blocking the road, with a body lying on the road, covered with a sheet.

I wonder who the poor dead person might be, I thought to myself. Is it a single person or somebody married, somebody with a family or not, a man or a woman? Will there now be new orphans or perhaps bereaved parents who do not yet know what has happened? I got out of my car and took out a book of Tehillim, and I prayed with flowing tears and with great devotion. After a little while, the traffic started to move. I returned to my car and went home as fast as I could.

Two weeks later, I was sitting at home, and the phone rang. At the other end of the line, I heard an unfamiliar voice of a young woman. She asked, "Are you the one who stopped on Tuesday two weeks ago at the side of the road and read Tehillim?" "Yes, I am," I replied, wondering what the question meant. And the girl continued in a voice choked by tears. "Listen, I am the girl who was lying on the road. Everybody was sure that I was dead, and that is why they covered me with a sheet and waited for the ambulance. I lay there and experienced what is called 'clinical death.' As it were, my soul left my body, and I was able to see everything around me, from above. I saw my smashed car, the people who ran around the scene, and the long line of cars. I could even see my own body, covered with a sheet, lying on the road. When you started to read the Tehillim, all the letters flew around me, giving me a misty feeling and pulling me downwards. At that moment, a Magen David ambulance arrived, and the medics decided to try to revive me. They tried again and again, in an attempt to start my breathing and to get my heart pumping again. All that time I felt the letters of the Tehillim wrapped around me in a pleasant light, bringing my spirit back to me. The fact that you read Tehillim saved my life, and I am calling to say thank you!"

There was nothing I could say. I was completely speechless. Before this, I had no idea about the great power of prayer and what could be achieved by reading Tehillim. And I still did not understand how this anonymous woman knew who I was.

It turns out that she had not been religious at all. After this amazing event, she repented (no surprise at all!), and she repeatedly tries to convince people to read Tehillim. Of course, she recites Tehillim herself. After the accident, she asked many of her friends if they had been at the scene and if they had seen somebody reciting Tehillim. Somehow she found my name, and it was then easy for her to get other details, including my phone number.

Ever since these events I cannot stop thinking about my amazing experience. One can never know whom she is rescuing by reading Tehillim. Let us all recite Tehillim regularly, at least five minutes every day. The Almighty is sitting high above, waiting for us, His children, to ask for what we need. And He, the merciful Father, is always ready to give it to us and to forgive us for our sins.

(Source: Received by e-mail, based on a Breslov Radio broadcast)

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Emunah Paths Podcast #9 - Emunah and Jerusalem

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

It's been a while since we've put up a podcast, here's our latest. The first 30 seconds is a bit of a repeat, but I thought it was a good fit. Please join us for our latest podcast, Emunah Paths Podcast #9 - Emunah and Jerusalem (6 minutes, MP3, English)

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

    Play it Now:

Let us know what you think! Click the Comments button below.

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What The .... War by Lawyer???

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

News Flash: Israeli Attorney General Mazuz blocks controversial move to limit supply of electricity to Gaza in attempt to bring an end to rocket attacks against Israel, says defense establishment must present more solid case for such a move.

Mazuz on Monday ordered the defense establishment to reevaluate the decision to partially restrict Israel's supply of electricity and fuel to Gaza in response to the incessant rocket fire by terror groups emanating from that territory.

Mazuz's ruling thereby suspends the decision made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week to push ahead with the proposed tactic.
- (YNetNews)

What the, umm, I'm stunned wordless. Silly leaders listening to ... lawyers??? Wake up, remember Hashem, His Torah, and at least a tiny bit of sechel!!!

Humanitarian conditions of the enemy, but not your own people? Right out of Koheles!!!! Oy va voy lanu!

(Photo of Sadam Hussein's lawyer telling the Iraqi court it had no authority over his client.)

In other news, over at the Muqata they have statistics from CAMERA showing a direct relationship between humanitarian aid for the Palestinians and terrorist attacks from the Palestinians. It's not what you think, despair leading to attacks. IT'S THE OPPOSITE, AID LEADING TO ATTACKS!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

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Did Avraham Avinu Tarry in Fulfilling the "Lech Lecha" Command?

by Dixie Yid at Mystical Paths

I wanted to cross-post the following post of mine to see if the holy readers of Mystical Paths could help me out with this.

I was trying to find the ma'areh makom, citation, for this vort, but since I haven't been able to as of yet, I want to write it up anyway so I don't forget.

I was talking to a local Rav on Parshas Lech Lecha and he pointed out a suprising pshat. The Chumash says that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan. It also says that he was 100 when Sara gave birth to Yitzchak. It also says two different lengths of time for how long the Jewish people were in Mitzrayim, Egypt. In one place, it says they were there for 400 years, and in another place, it says they were there for 430 years. The 400 year count is counting from the birth of Yitzchak. But the 430 year could was counting from the Bris Bein Habesarim, the Covenant Between the Parts, when Hashem made the promise to Avraham about the Gerus, Avdus, and Inui (Exile, Slavery and Torture) that his descendants (starting with Yitzchak) would endure, which was 30 years before Yitzchak's birth, thus being 430 years before the Exodus.

But there's a problem there. That count would mean that the Bris Bein Habesarim was when Avraham was 70, when he was told to leave Charan and go to Eretz K'na'an, the land of Israel. But the Torah says he was 75 when he moved to K'na'an!

To answer this question, the Rosh on a Gemara about Avraham in Shabbos (?) gives a suprising answer. He says that Avraham tarried in fulfilling Hashem's commandment to move to K'na'an when he received the "Lech Lecha" command when he was 70. He made a "pilot trip," so to speak and he experienced the Bris Bein Habesarim at that time. That is when the 430 year date is counting from. However, he returned to Charan and didn't move to K'na'an until 5 years, later, when he was 75. That move is what the Torah was referring to when it says that he moved at age 75.

The Korban Nesanel on the spot affirms this pshat and says it works well with the psukim, the verses. He points out that when Avraham left, it says "וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו יְהוָה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט" (Bereishis 12:4). "And Avraham went, as G-d told him, and Lot went with him." The Koban Nesanel asks why the verse has to say that Avrhahm "went" two times. First is says that Avraham went. And then, it says that he took Lot with him. That could have been consolodated into one statement! However, with the Rosh's chidush that Avraham went twice (once at 70 with the Lech Lecha command and the Bris Bein Habesarim on the pilot trip and once for good at age 75), the verse makes sense. One "going" refers to the first trip at age 70, and when he went with Lot, that refers to the second trip at age 75.

Just as an observation, it seems like I hear more peshatim that take things that we thought were good about one of the Avos, and then it turns out to be something not-so-good, about Avraham than about any other one of the Avos. Usually by the other Avos, we see how things that look outwardly "bad" were really good. However, with Avraham, I have heard many peshatim over the the years that seem to do the opposite. One example was how the Ramban says that one of the 10 tests of Avraham was to stay in Eretz Yisroel once he got there, dispite the famine, and that he failed this test.

One question I have is that the mishna in Avos 5:3 says, " עשרה נסיונות נתנסה אברהם אבינו, ועמד בכולם," that Avraham Avinu was tested 10 times and he passed all of the tests. Obviously, the Rosh, the Korban Nesanel, and the Ramban know the mishna in Avos. So how could they say that Avraham Avinu "failed," to one extent or another, these tests? Perhaps "ועמד בכולם" doesn't necessarily mean that he passed... Any ideas?

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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US Economic News of Note

Video: CBS News Report here.

Summary: Merrill Lynch boss quits due to investing in mortgage portfolios. Oil prices are peaking. Housing market trouble still growing. US Federal Reserve (US Central Bank) must lower rates or AHHHHH. BUT, if it lowers rates, the dollar falls further. AHHHHH.

Recession trend strengthening.

NY Times: Two failed plans so far.

Summary: There have now been two rollouts of plans to help rescue the economy from the worst effects of the housing bust. Banks seem to be having trouble raising money for their rescue fund. Mortgage-backed investments don’t seem so enticing when more foreclosures are coming. The plans are not working.
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The Rebbe on Meditation, and Yoga

In my last post, I alluded to the Lubavitcher Rebbe sending people on missions to find alternatives to Eastern practices. Below is a letter published in Nshei Chabad magazine on the topic of yoga and meditation, what the Rebbe had to say about such, a story which I heard from the source...

by Chabad Shlucha Chaya Kaye of Sydney, Australia

Since my mother A"H ("Mrs. Hasofer of Australia," as referred to on page 14 of the Nshei Chabad 2007 Shvat issue) was misrepresented and misquoted in the last N'shei newsletter in (Double Extra Special Kosher Yoga's) response to Akiva's letter which I found to be quite accurate, I feel the necessity to write to you to make known what the Rebbe told my mother A"H, as printed in her booklet on meditation.

The booklet itself among other things, explains how to carry out non-idolatrous meditation and therefore the booklet has not been available for the broad public but has only been given out on an individual basis to help people who are involved in high levels of non-Jewish forms of meditation, to be able to change to a Kosher i.e. non-idolatrous form of meditation.

In 1979, the Rebbe had a yechidus (a private meeting) with my parents, which lasted over an hour and he sent my mother around the world to find a non-idolatrous meditation which she subsequently found and which can lead to high levels of deep meditation.

I can only quote from the Yechidus the Rebbe gave my mother, which she printed in her booklet, "Dialogue With Atara" (Atara H.Y. Hasofer):

Excerpt from the booklet: "The only meditation that is enjoined to all Jews is that which is part of G-d's service, prayer . The Code of Jewish Law states that before each prayer one must meditate `on the Greatness of G-d and the humble state of man' (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chayim Chap. 98 Paragraph 1). This meditation is done with a fixed intent and at a fixed time. Its goal is to enhance the quality of one's prayer, not to calm one's nerves."

"Other types of meditation should only be used by those who need them for therapeutic reasons. A healthy orthodox Jew does not need meditation to attain tranquility. On the contrary, if he begins to meditate, he may hurt himself psychologically."

"Meditation shares a parallel with other therapies. They are only valuable when needed and used in the necessary amount. They can be detrimental to health if taken in excessive doses, and when they are not needed".

"The above are excerpts from a talk given by Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1979. Rabbi Schneerson is the spiritual leader of Judaism in this generation, and his words are therefore a definitive formulation of the Jewish point of view on meditation. No one could express this view with greater authority than him."

To clarify some other issues, my mother, Atara Hasofer, A"H, was not a yoga teacher. She was not involved in yoga and to her experienced understanding yoga is based on idolatry and she did not recommend any type of yoga because anyone who would want to get more involved in it than just plain exercise, and want to reach higher levels would be getting involved with Avoda Zoro, as the higher levels are idolatrous by nature.

I can't comment on what the Rebbe wrote personally to other people about "Kosher Yoga" and maybe, like meditation, there is a place for it to help people who are already involved in idolatrous yoga - to make the switch, but I also don't think that it is something for us to recommend for chassidishe women, Chabad Shluchos, and chassidishe maidlach.

In addition, Rabbi Groner (one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's secretary) was quoted as saying "[You have] blessings for strength and growth from the Rebbe to develop the kosher way." However, he was not talking about yoga either. At the time Rabbi Yehudah Landes was also searching for a non-idolatrous form of meditation.

I personally recently heard about a frum woman with a frum family who began going to yoga classes to help her stress. She started slowly getting more and more involved till it became the main focus in her life until now she is unable to reconcile yoga with Yiddishkeit and has problems keeping mitzvos!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

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Yoga Questions

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A reader asked by email:

"If you are a heavy yoga practitioner, these programs may be a great alternative for you to work your way out of such things.

I am not and never was, but the above wasn't clear.

Programs? Alternative? Work your way out of what? Such things?

Our next major post will clear these up thoroughly, but in brief...

A number of yoga systems are being offered to the religious Jewish community. Some are individual teachers, yoga practitioners who have become religious and feel the practices can be taught, just without the Hindu god names. There are also some formalized systems, where some people have made effort to refocus yoga in a more Jewish way. These may be offered through synagogues, Chabad houses, or Jewish Community Centers.

For those who consider yoga a major portion of their life, a kosherized program may provide a good substitute that's less dangerous that straight yoga, providing a path away from the more troubling aspects of yoga. Less dangerous, not "not dangerous".

Note this applies to meditation as well, for those involved in Hindu or Buddist meditation, or Transcendental Meditation. There are kosherized versions of these to allow one to wean oneself away from the non-kosher aspects.

But in both cases, they are not for general use, they are specialized tools for those with major involvement in non-kosher systems, who can't just drop the practice from their lives.

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Yoga for Good, Don't Believe It!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I'm certainly going to have to go back and compile all the yoga posts we've put up here. In very very brief, yoga contains straight idolatry. Yet, it keeps coming back into segments of the orthodox Jewish community as kosher. It's not, it can't be made so, though there's nothing wrong with "stretch exercises", there is so much wrong with yoga that anything that involves a person with the concepts of such must be avoided.

So here someone goes and publishes a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the topic. Note they preface the letter saying, "The Rebbe said NOT to publish this..."

"It should be noted that the Rebbe stipulates that the opinion be kept confidential since it could lead people to associate with improper practices and groups which are related to forms of meditation."

Which is exactly what Reb Gutman Locks and I have been saying!

Here's an excerpt (the post is marked copyrighted, therefore this is an excerpt under the fair use doctrine) of the letter, the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

The reason it has been written as a separate piece without a signature, and to some extent confidentiality is that the subject matter is of a sensitive nature and the memo could be used to encourage that which it seeks to discourage and preclude, namely involvement in eastern cults. For it may be argued by many who are already involved in the therapy discussed in the memo, or are tempted to become involved, that until such time as a medical profession, will openly adopt the same methods of treatment and provide an alternative, they are justified in seeking this therapy elsewhere, especially if they take care to avoid active participation in the idolatrous rites and ceremonies that go with it. In support of this contention they can site this memo which (1) confirms the therapeutic value of the said methods and (2) indicates also that the idolatrous elements in the said cults germane, indeed non-essential, to the therapy itself.

For this reason I am asking you- as all others whom I intend to approach in this matter- to use your discretion in connection with the enclosed memo, as to its source and its utilization, etc.

I must, however, point out with all due emphasis that in my opinion the problem has reached such proportions that time is extremely important. Every minute that could be saved in speeding the implementation of the program suggested in the memo could be a matter of spiritual Pikuach-Nefesh for many actual and potential victims of the said cults.

So here's the straight story: In the mid-60's, as many Jews became involved in Eastern practices, meditation, yoga, and associated Eastern religions, the Rebbe approached a number of special people and asked them if it was possible to extract the techniques, in a neutral fashion, from the religions.

As the Rebbe notes above, these missions were confidential, and the results were specifically targeted at those deeply involved in Eastern practices. The missions, by the way, failed. At best, they came up with "not-too-terribly-horrible" alternatives that could be targeted at those completely involved in such things that couldn't get out without substitutive alternatives. NEVER were any such neutral techniques published to the Jewish community as "kosher" alternatives, nor could they be.

Yet now, we have some people presenting yoga programs as kosher exercise, and worse as ways to physically focus your yiddishkeit, to some frum Jewish communities. And, some are buying it.

If you are a heavy yoga practitioner, these programs may be a great alternative for you to work your way out of such things. But they are NOT appropriate for the general Jewish community. No way, no sale.


Friday, October 26, 2007

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The Solution

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Becoming Aware of the Spiritual Perspective

You asked about the prayer that I taught the Bar Mitzvah boy at the Kotel. In truth, it is not a prayer. It is a method.

The objective is to have the person open his or her heart and try to become aware of G-d’s Presence. One way to do this is to use their deepest emotions as the catalyst. These emotions are their feelings of love that they have for their family and friends. These feelings can be increased when they share their mitzvah moment with their loved ones. Then, the increased natural love that they have for their dear ones can be used as a springboard to move them toward spiritual awareness.

To do this you must lead them. It is not enough to command them. You cannot command someone to become spiritually aware. They must be taken by the hand and walked to the place that you are trying to bring them. You have to guide them, and utilize both their love and the strength of the particular mitzvah that you are showing them as fuel to move them higher.

I reminded the Bar Mitzvah boy (and his father) that he was standing in the holiest place in the world; that it was one of the four most important days of his entire life, [i] that he was wearing tefillin, and that this was the holiest thing he could possibly do. Then I told him to close his eyes and try to picture everyone he loves one at a time; his mother, his father, each of his family members and his friends. “Picture them with light on their faces and smiling. As each person comes to mind, say in your heart ‘G-d bless you, and you, and you.’ You can share this holy moment with them by asking G-d to bless them.”

When we do a holy deed we gain a spiritual bank account. And although the way to make a physical bank account grow is to hold onto it tightly, the way to make a spiritual bank account grow is to spend it, to share it with everyone you love.

I also told him to pray for his future; his education, that when he grows up he should get the right job so he can fulfill his greatest potential and become the best possible man he could, that he should marry the right girl, that G-d should protect our soldiers and everyone who is in danger. "Open your heart. Talk to G-d, and listen."

That's pretty much it. The rest is automatic. After hearing these instructions, they usually stand there with their eyes closed for some time, often with tears streaming down their cheeks.

Again, the objective is to teach them how to become spiritually aware by bringing their emotions into the mitzvah, and not just to teach them the mechanics of the mitzvah. Then, as they talk to G-d about their great desires, G-d becomes more real to them.

[i] The other three are the days of his Circumcision, wedding, and death.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

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by Akiva at Mystical Paths

** My dentist moved back to America. 15 years in Israel, he up and left. Why? Well, times were tough, dealing with running a small business in Israel is painful, the national medical system started offering dental plans with their own dental network (eating into his business), and he couldn't stand to watch the anti-religious anti-Torah government disassemble Israel piece by piece.

All of the former reasons were difficult, but he'd lived through difficulties in Israel before. The latter, how could he sacrifice to survive in Israel while it's ruling elites seem bent on destroying it?

He lives in Monsey (NY) now, he's happy and comfortable and doesn't worry daily about the next idiotic government move.

** My friend left a Wall Street position about 8 years ago to commit himself to Israel. He settled the land, and made it his mission to promote it and it's products, to make all those there successful.

He didn't cry or worry when the government stopped protecting him, nor when they started strangling business in the area. He didn't loose faith when some friends and neighbors were murdered.

But when they dragged him from his home, and most of the nation stood back and watched without concern, he disengaged mentally from them. And, after the results and the wacko government starting again, he can't stand it anymore. He's headed to Texas for a "time-out".

We have always faces towards Israel for our prayers, and Jews have struggled through the generations to get to and live in Israel. It was never easy, for most generations it would better be described as horribly difficult.

Now, when Israel needs us most, will we disengage? Not to support Medinat Israel, the State of Israel, where secular zionism bound with soviet socialism has devolved into materialism, selfishness, and leaders that feel comfortable selling off their own limbs for the illusionary goal of the moment (and a fatter bank account). No, not to support that, that we should disengage from. But to support Eretz Yisroel and Klal Yisroel, the Holy Land of Israel and the Holy People of Israel.

DESPAIR is a trick of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. Despair, the leaders are all powerful and destroying what was good. Despair, the enemies are frightening and our defenses in disarray. Despair, that which should be good and strong is preoccupied and confused.

DESPAIR FEEDS AND STRENGTHENS THE ENEMY. We stand with emunah, faith in Hashem, and prepared for mesiras nefesh, self sacrifice, for what is TRULY important.

The glass is half full!

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Unethical Society

Question: "What can we can do to make illicit computer-related activity a less attractive pursuit for young people?"

Answer: “There are about four reasons why we have crime to begin with. One of them is, of course, that we live in an extremely unethical society. We live in a society that doesn’t teach ethics at home, a society that doesn’t teach ethics in school because the teacher would be accused of teaching morality. We live in a society where you can’t find a four-year college course on ethics. ... So today you have a lot of young people who have no character, no ethics, and they find no problem in defrauding somebody or stealing from somebody or cheating somebody. Until we change that, crime is just going to get easier, faster, more global, harder to detect.

I really think the more technology there is in the world, the more you have to instill character and ethics. You can build all the security systems in the world; you can build the most sophisticated technology, and all it takes is one weak link — someone who operates that technology — to bring it all down...

You need to bring character and ethics back into schools. You need to bring it back into colleges and universities as part of a curriculum.”

- Frank Abagnale, former con man, current law enforcement fraud training expert. From Computerworld.Com, here.

Or perhaps, in the home.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

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Kudos of the Day

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Kudos of the day goes to Member of the Israel Knesset Moshe Sharoni of the Pensioners' Party. MK Sharoni did something very unusual in the context of Israeli politics...

After sitting in the government for over a year that has done nothing for his party (but plenty for his party bosses), he raised a bill in the Knesset that directly served his party constituency. His bill called for an increase in the national pension program to Israeli retirees. Being from the Pensioneers party, one might think this is nothing exceptional.

But, for the nerve of raising a bill for his constituency (and that would affect the budget of Kadima), the ruling coalition has fired him from his Knesset chairmanship and party roll.

Oh, and he also had the nerve to say, ""The government may not talk about dividing Jerusalem. It has no mandate to do so", and threatened to collapse the ruling coalition by pulling out his party. (His party chairman disagreed, saying the government Volvo and salary is more valuable.)

MK Sharoni, yasher koach for trying to serve your constituency and Jerusalem.

(News Source Here - Arutz 7)
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An Invitation

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

When a korban ho'day'a was brought at the Beis Hamikdash (an offering of thanks), one brought a lamb together with 40 loaves of bread, and small amounts of fine flour, wine, and oil. The loaves were different sizes, from huge (like the challah for the bride & groom at a wedding), of which there were 10, down to matzah-loaves kneaded with oil, flat matzah's smeared with oil, and fine quality small loaves kneaded with oil.

A few parts of the animal were offered on the alter, along with the flour, wine, and oil. The breast and thigh of the animal was given to the kohanim, along with 4 loaves (1 of each type). The offering of loaves and the animal were waved like we wave the lulav on Succot.

Then the person bringing the korban had to take home 36 loaves and 2/3 of the animal, which had to be consumed within Jerusalem by the end of the following day.

So what do you do with a lamb and 36 loaves of bread, 9 of which are huge party size challahs? Naturally, you invite 100 of your closest friends and neighbors to dinner and extol the name of Hashem!

What a sight it must have been to share thanks of Hashem and the blessings of Hashem with 100 friends, just to praise Hashem's blessings!

I sat with my daughter this evening and she told me how rich we are! How we have a full home, what we need and more, and how we're just so well off compared to some of her friends. The only thing it seems we have any trouble with is yeshiva tuition.

Ah my friends, how truly blessed I am. I am not rich in bank balance, and the pile of bills by my keyboard would testify otherwise. My home contents, at least the physical contents (furniture and so forth), well the best that can be said is they are functional.

But my daughter knows what's important, she's not only satisfied with what we have, she's rich with it! As Pirke Avos teaches us, who is rich? He who appreciates what he has!

As I contemplate the challenges with which I am faced, which at the moment offer more, shall we say...opportunity than other times have offered, I must remember - I am rich! For Hashem has granted me many blessings.

And for that, I would like to offer a lamb, 40 loaves, some flour, wine, and oil, and invite you all to dinner to praise Hashem.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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Momma Rochel

by Akiva's Wife at Mystical Paths

Today is the yaretzheit of Rochel Imaynu, Momma Rochel. The Gemora teaches that when terrible decrees and events come to the Jewish people, all the avos (fathers & mothers) get up and beseech Hashem. Avraham aveenu (Abraham our father), Yitzchok aveenu, Yaakov aveenu, Moshe rabaynu (Moses our teacher), etc. They cry before Hashem to save the Jewish people, in the merit of the Jewish people and in their merit as the fathers and teachers. But, sometimes, Hashem rebuts each one, pointing out their faults as why their prayers should not be heard.

Then comes Momma Rochel. She says to Hashem, "look at my sacrifices, I disregarded all my honor for the sake of my sister", Hashem heeds her cry and promises that Bnei Yisroel will return.

She sits by the side of the road in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem), crying for her children. But Hashem promises her... geulah, her children will return, to her, to Hashem, to geulah, Moshiach tzidkaynu, and the 3rd Beis HaMikdash.

May it be today.

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Petition of the Day

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I received another sign-our-petition request. This one declares itself to be a "no-confidence motion" and demands the Israeli government immediately resign.

Humor: For Israeli citizens, it's only in English.

Not Funny: No petition has ever had any impact on the Israeli government. Nor does the Israeli governmental system have ANY method for direct citizen input - no referendum, no proposition, no direct representation.

These petitions are worse than useless, they make you think you're doing something. They're diverting your positive concern and energy.

Tefilah (prayer), Tzedakah (help organizations that are going to make a difference), or direct action in Israel. I see people are concerned, and they should be. G-d willing, I'll prepare a list that I think might help.


Monday, October 22, 2007

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Kever Rochel Live

On the yaretzheit of Rochel Imaynu (our mother & matriarch, Rochel, zt"l), there's a live webcam up in Kever Rochel.

Kever Rochel Webcam - Here. (somewhat bandwidth limited on this special day)

(h/t Nava at Dreaming.)
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Light Out Of Darkness

by Nava at Mystical Paths

For the past several years Joel Gallis, together with his associate Dr. Robert Wolf, produced and broadcasts a live radio show every 6 weeks called LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS.

Their work contains many original ideas and findings, as follows:
  • Torah Codes in the Book of Daniel
  • Torah Codes reveals an amazing connection between Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and the End of Days.
  • The connection of Moshe Rabenu, zs'l, striking the rock and 9/11.
  • In what way are we dancing around the Golden Calf today?
  • Discover an amazing breakthrough in decoding Daniel's secret date of our redemption.
  • What is the connection between our rarest brocha, the blessing of the sun every 28 years, and the redemption?
  • What is the connection of a whistle from a thin, innocent looking bird have with redemption?
  • What happened on Nov. 9 when Rav Kaduri, zs'l, spoke to Moshiach?
  • What connection does the song of Devorah HaNevia, a'h, have with American Jews?
  • What hint did Rav Kaduri give about Devorah HaNevia in his secret message about Moshiach?

Rav Kaduri's message about the secret about Moshiach: הינו סוד חצי מדינה the secret of half the country.

Gematria of "חצי מדינה half the country":
חצי 108
מדינה 109
Gematria numberic value 217, same as אני יוסף, I'm Yosef. Also gematria value of Devorah דבורה (HaNevia, a'h). The pursuit of Prophet Devorah and her song, Shirat Devorah, is right on target because her burial place contains the key to unlock the door of redemption.

To listen to their original ideas and findings about the Redemption, go to

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Oy, a Cookie with a Kick

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Erev Shabbos my wife sent me to the store for a few last minute Shabbos ingredients. While I was there, I saw an impressive display of a new brand of cookies. There it was, in all it's glory: the ultimate in a cookie for the middle aged man...

Sugar Free. Trans-Fat Free. Low Calorie (for a cookie). Spelt Flour. Good Hashgachah. Pas Yisroel. And, most important, NOT Taste Free.

And, I must say, they are tasty. Good consistency, good smell, good flavor. It's a nice cookie.

But, like all things, too good to be true. I turned over the package, after eating a few (in the car on my way home, you know, to make sure they were worthy of being a Shabbos treat), to check the calorie content (and maybe it was more than a few). I came across this...

In case the picture is unclear, here's what it says:

Maltitol (a sugar substitute) - excess consumption may have a laxative effect. Oh My Goodness. A cookie with an after-kick!

Or, as Wikipedia says, "maltitol is particularly associated with gastric issues". Translation: Eat more than 2 cookies and you're going to be spending a LOT of unpleasant time in the bathroom.

Oh My Goodness. Talk about needing to read the nutrition label!!!! You'd think they'd put a warning label across the front... WARNING: EXPLOSIVE AFTER-EFFECTS. DO NOT EAT MORE THAN 2 COOKIES IN A 24 HOUR PERIOD.

Buyer beware!!!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

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A Light in the Darkness of War

This story is going around via email and a few blogs. I'm not sure of the original source, but it's a special story...

by Shula Weissfer

A year has passed but First Lieutenant M. has not forgotten about the activities of Migdal Ohr which had been discreetly accomplished. With minor changes, we publish here for the first time in English, Lieutenant M's written recording of his experience.

"I remember the two weeks of near face-to-face combat, the confused orders and insufficient combat gear, the intense hunger, physical and emotional exhaustion and toughest of all, the self-imposed silence and disassociation with our surroundings."Now is not the right time to complain, but when it is over," we thought to ourselves, "when the air raid sirens stop and we are out of these fatigues, we can talk and the truth will be known."

When the news came that we were receiving a day off, our hearts soared. We suffered so much stress and hardship. Where would we go? How should we take full advantage of this gift? Rumors begin to circulate that we were going to some school in Migdal Ha'Emek. "This must be a joke! Who ordered ten buses to bring us to some yeshiva with some Rabbi who is just going to try and brainwash us?"

Then, a few of the guys remembered. "Rabbi Grossman, that's the Disco Rabbi right? The guys all give him great respect." But what do they know? He is still some rabbi. Tired and emotionally drained, we got off the buses and stood face to face with an old-world looking Jew, complete with a white beard, side locks and long jacket.

"So here it comes," I thought, "the push to put on tefillin or to say prayers together. Some day off." "Boys," the rabbi's words thundered, "I suggest that first thing you do is take a dip in the pool and freshen up. In the meantime, we will make you something to eat."

In amazing simplicity, Rabbi Grossman heard in passing that the brigade was looking for a home for a day, and he immediately volunteered his campus. "What's the problem? 600 soldiers? They should all come, of course we have room!"

With the echoes of war from the battlefield still in our ears, it seemed like a mirage or hallucination. Soft music came from everywhere and flowing water and greenery surrounded us. Within minutes, the tables were set with cold refreshing watermelon, cakes, and beverages, followed by cheeses, fresh vegetables, and soft rolls.

Then we heard, "Out of the pool, get dressed and eat something."We saw piles of new undergarments. 600 new undershirts and underwear appeared as if out of nowhere, laid out on tables for our choosing.

Rabbi Grossman sat with us and laughed, "Have a good time boys! Have a great time! This evening, I will put on the most spectacular performance you have ever seen."

I am not a religious person by any means, but I can't help but envision the first Jew, Avraham, standing and personally serving his guests perfectly naturally and without the slightest hint of condescension. He respected each individual and cared for all their needs. Like Avraham, Rabbi Grossman saw in this an obvious act of kindness, a mission of a Mitzvah that had fallen into his hands.

As the evening continued, we learned quickly that this was the essence of who Rabbi Grossman is and what he is all about. He loves everyone and accepts everyone as they are with all his heart and soul. "Tell me friends," Rabbi Grossman said, "I heard you are lacking different pieces of equipment. Do me a favor. Here is a pencil and paper, just write down everything you are missing and leave the paper on the table."

That night, we enjoyed the entertainment and afterwards, slept in soft beds and air-conditioned rooms. Like in a fairytale, we awoke in the morning and could not believe our eyes. Mounds of gear which we so desperately needed had arrived at Migdal Ohr. Attached, was a small note from Rabbi Grossman, "To my dear soldiers, from all my heart!"

Rabbi Grossman personally and immediately raised over $60,000 worth of equipment from friends literally overnight! The essential equipment included ceramic bulletproof vests, helmets, canteens, knee pads, backpack water canteens, night vision goggles, toothbrushes, socks and more.

Interestingly, a few months before the war broke out, a special friend of Rabbi Grossman from France was interested in donating a new Torah scroll to the main Migdal Ohr Beit Midrash (studyhall).

For some reason, Rabbi Grossman requested to postpone the event until an unspecified later date."Now is the right time!" Rabbi Grossman realized. He immediately made arrangements and in an early evening ceremony, we participated in the completion of writing the Torah.

While the scroll was carefully laid on the table next to a special pen and ink, Rabbi Grossman addressed the soldiers. "My holy ones! I am going to bestow upon you the merit of a holy mitzvah, which can be considered a once in a life time opportunity. Each one of you will complete a letter in the Torah scroll. While you are executing this holy task, each one of you should pray the prayer of his heart and request from G-d that the merit of the letter he has completed will protect him in battle. Holy sparks will emanate from these sacred letters and disperse around you, creating a protective shield which will keep you safe and bring you home safely.

"Those moments were the most exciting and emotional ones in my life. Shaking from the intensity of the immeasurable experience,still not believing, we held the edges of the Torah scroll while our hearts beat rapidly. There was complete silence all around. One after the other, we dipped the quill in the ink and completed a letter in the Torah scroll.

A bystander would have seen a breathtaking scene of incredible elation and spiritual exuberance. The world seemed as if shrouded in silence. The strings of our heart felt strummed and the tears flowed freely down our cheeks.

"Mother!" cried one of the soldiers into his cell phone, "you wont believe what I have done! I have written a letter in a Torah scroll! Mother, are you there? Can you hear?! Me, a Shmutznik (a member of a non- religious Kibbutz), who can't differentiate between Shabbat and the rest of the week, who has not seen tzizit (ritual garment) in my life. Me, I wrote a letter in a Torah scroll! I can't believe it. I can't believe it. "

After the completion of the Torah, the ceremony continued. Leading the procession was a decorated car with multi-colored lights strung all over it and with a crown of lights spinning around on its roof. Following the car, bearers of a decorated canopy marched while people danced around it. Under the canopy, others held the Torah scroll, which was clothed in white and crimson with a silver crown at its top. 600 soldiers and thousands of the town residents marched and danced in the procession, a loud speaker accompanying them, playing traditional Jewish music.

As the ceremony came to a close, Rabbi Grossman approached every soldier and kissed him while placing a half-shekel coin in his hand and said "shliach mitzvah aino nezok," messengers of a mitzvah are not harmed. Rabbi Grossman concluded, "When you return, G-d willing, healthy and unharmed, you will fulfill this mission I am placing upon you, and you will donate this money to charity.

"The night came. Twelve buses made their way atop the Galilee Mountains. Heavy darkness engulfed us, yet behind, in the growing distance, a bright flame pierced the night sky. In the midst of war and violence, we found love and unending human compassion at Migdal Ohr, the educational center established in Migdal Ha'Emek by Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. Rabbi Grossman speaks "This was an immense "Kiddush Hashem."

For a long period of time, I cried and was very emotional." Thus Rabbi Grossman recalled the moment when he first read the words above written by First Lieutenant M.Rabbi Grossman has what to add to the end of this exciting memoir. "A moment before they returned to Lebanon, I told the soldiers, 'in the merit that you said "shema" and put on tefillin, wrote a letter in the torah, and are messengers of a mitzvah, I promise you, that you will all return safe and sound. None of you will be wounded or killed.'"

"Wasn't the Rabbi scared to commit to 600 soldiers that they would return home safe and sound?" asked Shula Weissfer, a journalist. "That is what came out of my mouth word for word," he replied. "This was a moment of exuberance."

"I continued and told them," Rabbi Grossman relates, "if this does actually happen that you come back safely, the first place you must come back to - before you go home - is Migdal Ohr. We will thank G-d together and from there we will say goodbye." I told them, "think of this as an emergency call-up. Do you accept?" The commanding officer replied in the affirmative.

Two weeks later, around midnight, Rabbi Grossman received a phone call. "Rabbi, your blessing has come true!" exclaimed the commander over the phone. "Everyone is safe and we are on our way to you. We will be there by two 'o clock in the morning"

Rabbi Grossman immediately contacted the kitchen staff and asked them to prepare a meal while he worked to organize a band. People asked him 'You need a band at 2 a.m.? Is Moshiach here?'

"At 2:30 a.m. the soldiers disembarked from the buses, each one carrying 60 kilo of equipment on his back. The band started playing music and the soldiers approached Rabbi Grossman, each one lovingly received with a hug and a kiss. This continued for two hours.

"I felt as I had never felt before," recalls Rabbi Grossman. "Each one told me his personal miracle. "One soldier, a kibbutznik and a lawyer in civilian life, relayed an incredible miracle. A group of soldiers were gathered in an empty house in a Lebanese village when one of them forgetfully lit a cigarette. Hezbollah terrorists immediately noticed the light and fired an anti-tank missile at the house. Coincidentally, two horses from the village ran in front of the house and were hit and killed. The missile, deflected by the horses, veered away from the house, landing elsewhere. Incredibly, the horses miraculously saved the soldiers inside the house.

After the warm reception, the soldiers recited "birkat hagomel,"and together with Rabbi Grossman, sang and danced until daybreak.

"To this day," says Rabbi Grossman, "we maintain contact with each soldier and have thus become one family."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

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The Problem

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

According to most opinions, there is a Jewish crisis going on today. Apparently, a huge percentage of nonreligious Jews are flocking to other religions, while very few are coming to their own. It seems that the crisis is not only in the Torah-ignorant community, but has hit the religious community as well. Today, young Jews are leaving orthodoxy at an astonishing rate. Of course this means rampant intermarriage and the loss of those future Jewish families. This is a catastrophe. What to do? Like all things in Jewish life, there are various opinions on the subject.

Believe it or not, one opinion says, “Hey, this has happened before. It is just part of the design of things. When the Jews left Egypt with Moshe, eighty percent chose not to go with him and were lost. When the Jews who were exiled to Babylonia were allowed to return, the vast majority chose not to return and many were lost. Over one third of the Jewish people were lost to the holocaust, and now the same thing is happening in America. It is just the way it works.”

But this attitude can’t be the solution. According to this, the destruction of the majority of the Jews in the world is ok. Do they really say this about their own family too?

Another opinion says that the problem is, “The religion is artificially strict. What with two days of holidays when the Torah says only one. It is the rabbis who insist on all these extras. We should reject their burdens and return to authentic Torah Judaism. Get rid of all of the man-made decrees.”

But this can’t be the answer. We already tried something like that. That is how Reform Judaism got started and we see where that went. And if it were not for those ancient rabbis and their decrees, there wouldn’t be any Jews in the world today. Throughout the ages, every Jewish family that left the tradition also left the Jewish people. Those very practices have kept the Jews from disappearing.

Another opinion says that the solution is to move away from “cultural Judaism” with its bagel and klezmer identity, back to authentic Jewish practices, Shabbos and Pesach and davening three times a day. But how can this be the answer? This is exactly what those religious kids are running away from.

Even the most strictly religious communities are witnessing young people leaving. The reason there seems to be that their entire society is structured around lifelong, full time learning. And if a child is not gifted in this area, he is soon left behind. He still has to attend, but is sidelined and quickly becomes bored. He then yearns for excitement, or at least for something interesting.

There are most likely a number of other opinions out there as to why Jews are going away or not coming home.

My opinion as to why they are not coming home: Because they were taught a dead Judaism. Their teachers gave them a dry Judaism with a distant, demanding and grouchy G-d. Those teachers kept all those laws only out of fear of retribution, or for some vague promise of a reward in a distant world. They even seem depressed! Who in their right mind would want such a thing?

What is the solution? Teach the Torah the way it is supposed to be taught; a life lived with daily spiritual awareness, a Torah that talks to me about me, teachings that solve my daily problems. Not just a promise for someday in another world, but a Jewish spiritual life today.

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News Tidbits to be Aware Of

by Elisheva's Alerts at Mystical Paths

Israel is determined to move police to a new West Bank headquarters by the end of the year, officials said yesterday, despite US concerns that Israeli development in that particular area near Jerusalem harms prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state (hah, what a joke, viable???). The United States has blocked past Israeli efforts to develop the 12-square-kilometer area, known as E-1 and located just east of Jerusalem. Development plans envision 3,500 homes, several hotels and an industrial park there, but were frozen at the urging of the US.

The US prevents Israel from developing Jerusalem? Yep.

A large American charity organization has told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that it would “review” questions raised about funds channeled to Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), following a critique by an Israeli NGO watchdog.

NGO Monitor, based in Jerusalem, has recently released a report on donations by the Ford Foundation to a number of Palestinian organizations. In its report, NGO Monitor said the Ford Foundation had “violated its own funding guidelines.”

Ford officials had pledged in the past to stop ‘supporting organizations whose conduct is antithetical to our objectives of promoting peace, justice, tolerance and understanding’. However, ... many Ford-funded (Palestinian and Arab) NGOs continue to violate Ford’s terms,”

A listing of the organizations funded by the Ford Foundation consistently includes those who's purpose includes or is focused upon undermining Judaism as a religion, and destroying Israel as a nation. Henry Ford would be proud.

(News source - ArabNews)

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More on Instability

Josh commented at length...

Since as long as I can remember, we've been told that the X economy is on the point of collapsing, and it has not occurred.

The business world is commemorating the 20th anniversary of 'black monday', and since then, October is still considered to be a 'bad month' even though statistically it is not, so it is natural for everyone to be a bit worried about the 'end of the world' right now.

In any case, the United States and the world, for that matter, are probably at the most productive periods ever, and there is no stop in sight. Unemployment around the world is at very low levels, relatively of course. Hashem's humans are working, eating, consuming, and spending their money in the giant chain of world economy.

And while all this is extremely strong and stable it is also at the same time very fragile because it depends on one major thing: the psychology of the herd. If we all think everything is fine, everything will be fine. If we think that something is going wrong, we will start spending less and this itself will cause a down turn.

Now if we all think that all is fine and dandy, we will keep spending, and asking for more credit (mortgage, car loans, etc...) because we think that since today is fine, then so will tomorrow be the same. So the central banks every once in a while need to raise interest rates to 'remind' us to just be a bit careful, not to get too excited, and to make sure the economy does not grow to fast.

Now, more than ever, it's also in the interest of many around the world, even 'enemies' that this all stays stable. Seeing the American economy go 'under' affects the whole world. If real estate prices in NYC drop, then Saudi billionaires get screwed just like Japanese and Chinese investors as well. The Iranians and Russians will also not enjoy any form of Noah's ark since they enjoy the demand for oil which will be reduced when people stop buying Hummers and Lincoln Town Cars.

So frankly, the only think to be worried about is some idiot leaders making stupid decisions based on ego and greed. And we have no clue if and when Hashem will put these sentiments into their hearts.

So while we must never be complacent, I think the vast majority of rabbis, mekubalim, and FCs tell us not to quit our day jobs. Though I think that nonetheless, I'd like to see more Jews get out of the diaspora.

The one point you miss is, with a system so complex and subject to so many factors, there's a bit of chaos theory at work. There will be swings and unexpected impacts, that's considered normal. They used to call that the 'business cycle', with recessions considered normal. As the system has grown bigger, which much more international involvement and interconnection, significant effort has been built in to prevent unexpected impact from causing those swings. BUT, when those efforts fail, they will be part of the cause of a resulting bigger swing.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

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Kosher Stretch

Given our previous post on yoga (and it's avodah zarah, idol worship, aspects), a reader asked, "I have a friend who practices yoga for some back pain issues, and after reading your article advised them to stop (which they did). What's an alternative?"

Reb Gutman Locks provided this reply...

There are many systems out there that are totally physical, that is, without any pseudo spiritual aspects. Any one of them would be sufficient for back problems and would introduce no spiritual problems. It seems (and I have not checked it out completely) that the system called Pilates is healthy and fine. There are also many systems to be found by googgling "Canadian stretch exercises".

Know that if the exercises practiced up to now were completely stripped of their religious spiritual connections, they too would be fine. This means not even saying that you are doing yoga, nor can there be any association to that practice. This means no names of postures, and certainly none of the linked philosophy such as kudalini, serpent power, chakras, pranayama, and so on. The goal must be physical and not spiritual.

In the merit of your (and their) devotion to Torah, may Hashem heal their back quickly and lead them to a healthy and happy life.
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Instability - and Gog uMagog?

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Jews on the Tube


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

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Parshas Vayeshev, Shishi

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Occasionally, Emes

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Occasionally, emes (truth) does leak out of the mouth of a politician...

Binyamin Netanyahu (former Israeli PM and current chairmain of the Likud party) is warning against the division of Jerusalem. During the International Congress of Mayors taking place in Jerusalem this week, the head of the opposition said that the division of Jerusalem would not mark the end of the conflict but indeed, the "start of a war". - Guysen Israel News

I am no fan of Bibi (nickname for Netanyahu). He's had multiple opportunities to turn the country and his party the right way, but consistently chosen the Israeli politician / political power way. The Israeli "right" or conservative parties make the same steps as the "left", just a little slower and with a little more yeshiva funding and consideration for religious party concerns. (A little more, not a lot more.) Yet, sometimes a bit of emes does slip through.

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Pushing Forward

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Nava at Dreaming
wrote of an interesting personal insight taught by the AriZal, zt"l...

To know the purpose of why you were sent to this world and what tikun is expected from you, the Vilna Gaon and Arizal, zt"l, wrote that it's possible for each person to know this, according to their Hebrew birthday.

If a person was born 1 Cheshvan, on Tuesday, 1980, he should look what Parsha it was the week he was born. Each Parsha is divided into 7 parts, according to days of the week, Sunday, Monday, etc.. Let's say that week's Parsha was Parshat Noach, go to the 3rd part (Tuesday) of Parshat Noach and read it. From this, you will know what is your tikun in this life.

A person asked about a particular parshah, and I was asked to reply... "If we are dealing with the Va’era portion 3, the parsha teaches that Moshe Rabeinu was reluctant to lead because he was not a good speaker, how does this translate into a person's tikkun? Do we take the pshat and realize that we are supposed to become more assertive and lead in our own lives?"

I wrote...

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains on this parsha and section - The Ramban
points out that Moshe had already made this complaint (at the burning bush), so why is he repeating it here? The Rebbe explains that at the burning bush, Moshe complained of difficult speech (a heavy mouth and tongue), here Moshe now complains about a more severe problem, "blocked lips", the total inability to speak.

G-d replies, "You should _first_ say all My commands". G-d was not merely telling Moshe to speak, He was promising He would help him speak.

Moshe was a shaliach, an emissary, of G-d, to break the forces of evil which Pharaoh embodied.

How would I translate this into a life lesson (without knowing the details of a person's circumstance)? I would say that when we find ourselves seemingly blocked from moving forward towards the positive, towards Torah and Mitzvot, we must realize that we are emissaries of HaKodesh Baruch Hu in this world, literally a 'kingdom of priests, a holy nation'. Rather than relying on our strengths and our chochma (our own wisdom and calculations), we must trust in the strength of G-d to help us break all barriers and push forward.

And Moshe was the most humble of all men. When, G-d willing, we succeed, we must realize this is was only through the help, gifts and strength of Hashem, and not think for a moment that successes can be attributed to us.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

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Twilight Zone Article of the Day

The Ezzedine Qassam Brigades have denied reports published in Israel that Hamas intends to carry out attacks to derail the Maryland peace conference. In a quite unusual press release, the armed wing of Hamas said that the Israeli report was "fabricated".

Hamas, however, intends to continue its "routine" attacks against Israel, the spokesman for the Abu Oubeda organization added.

(Insert spooky music here.)

Peace conference. Routine attacks don't derail? Non-routine attacks do? Are those peaceful murderous routine attacks or non-routine derailing pleasant attacks?
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Yoga Redux

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Once again, purveyors of Double Extra Kosher (with triple chechsher) YOGA and/or excited supports/users of such programs (no particular program is targeted by this comment) have come to tell us that literal avodah zorah, idol worship practices, are kosher (because it's double extra kosher and has a triple chechsher).

This time around, they do so by using letters of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who put forth considerable effort in the 60's and 70's, to find options for those who became heavily involved in eastern meditative practices and religious practices for them to gradually move from these practices into kosher directions.

They use these statements to say this is totally kosher and beneficial, so lets all go out and jump right in. But they fail to read the letter, and fail to note the many limitations the Rebbe placed in it...

To the Author of the Article:

Please read the details of the letter from the Rebbe again. You wrote, "The Rebbe's view articulated in the memo was that, after culling the suitable elements from the improper, the benefits should be utilized." I believe you missed important points from the Rebbe's letter:

1. The Rebbe wrote, "have a therapeutic value, particularly in the area of relieving mental stress. It follows that if these therapeutic methods – ... – would be adopted by doctors specializing in the field of mental illness" -- This indicates it's for those _suffering_ from _mental stress_, who are in need of "therapeutic value" and specifically focuses on doctors involved with mental illness!

2. The Rebbe wrote, "insofar as they are utterly devoid of any ritual implications"

Forgive me, my friend, but are you a qualified expert in eastern religious practices to certify that a particular yoga program being presented as 'kosher' is indeed thoroughly cleansed and "UTTERLY DEVOID of any ritual implications"? Please consider that yoga classes are now a common thing among the women of Crown Heights, and are being marketed via some Chabad houses (and not just the particular 'kosher' program you refer to, Hashem Yerachem!). The majority of people involved are neither overly stressed nor mentally ill. They were never previously involved with yoga and now selecting a more kosher version. No, they are actively becoming involved in yoga, because it's being presented as kosher.

It's hard enough to take the kedushah out of the kelipa noga, but here it's necessary to extract the kedushah from practices that are completely intertwined with avodah zarah. It may be appropriate to take such a risk for people who are mentally ill, overly stressed, and those already involved with more avodah zarah-ish yoga (giving them a more cleansed version). But to present it as globally kosher to the klal is of great concern.

Please consider these thoughts.
Akiva of the Mystical Paths Blog -

Reb Gutman Locks, a frequent contributor here who has a significant historical background and expertise in eastern practices, has this to say in response to the same article:

The Rebbe clearly said after culling the suitable elements from the improper, the benefits should be utilized.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS KOSHER YOGA. You should be ashamed that you even wrote this. Yoga is idolatry. There is no way to get around this. You have presented this false teaching as being ok and it is not. This is not the Rebbe's perspective!

There is no way to kasher yoga. It is not only tainted with idolatry, it is idolatry. There are those that would like to say this has the Rebbe's blessings, and it does not. The Rebbe said to take out of the meditation teachings what is proper and YOGA IS NOT PROPER.

The author should write an immediate follow up letter and straighten out this mess. We fought a battle to get Yoga out of an orthodox Jewish women's magazine, and here you are putting it back in!

The Rebbe wrote, "It follows that if these therapeutic methods – insofar as they are utterly devoid of any ritual implications – would be adopted by doctors specializing in the field of mental illness, it would have two-pronged salutary effect"

The name yoga and its practice is not irrelevant to religious worship. (As you pointed out in your letter) These people are not mental health doctors and their practices (and yoga programs) are not devoid of ritual implications. (Which is the whole problem!)

The Rebbe wrote, "It would, therefore, be very wrong to deny such treatment to those who need it, when it could be given by a practicing doctor."

These yoga teachers are not practicing doctors. They are teaching yoga! And people who learn yoga from them also buy yoga books with idols all over them and go on to take on many other yoga practices and even the philosophy (Read; religious precepts) of yoga!

Clearly, the Rebbe did not say to teach yoga. He said, not to teach such things that are associated with idolatry, which yoga is.

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Leaders Needed

by Aharon Hoffman at Mystical Paths

Excellent quote from Sunday Jerusalem Post:

"After all, if (Israel) it is to survive in the years ahead as what Wisse rightly calls "the fighting front line of the democratic world," the Jewish state will need leaders and a citizenry who possess both the reckless courage of the Zealots (from the first century CE) and the prudent judgment of a Yohanan ben Zakkai."

- from her new book Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse - Professor

This from a Diaspora Jew now an Israeli prescient - this is nothing less than a general description of Moshiach ben David.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

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Jerusalem Petition - I think not.

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I've recently received several requests forwarded by various friends to join petitions for a United Jerusalem. Let me state that I strongly and emphatically stand for a United Jerusalem. Further, no deal made with the 'palestinians' has been kept by the palestinians, each has damaged Israel more and more. Neither life and safety nor holy sites have been respected by the palestinians, rather holy sites have been destroyed and turned into garbage dumps, and we all know the story of rockets falling every day in the Israeli south.

However, that said, unfortunately the Israeli government has never responded or taken into account a petition for anything. IMHO, no petition presented to anyone, no matter how many signatories are included nor what it says, is going to make any difference whatsoever.

To have any effect in this situation, one is going to need to affect the driver - the US State Department, be bodily involved in Israeli political action (the Israeli government does respond to strike and civil disobedience), add your prayers, or strongly support those doing the above.

Israpundit has an article with a number of preliminary physical steps inside Israel. These have more of a chance of impact, but only by people actualy standing up for Jerusalem with a difference be made.

As I hear of or find steps that will made a difference, both practical and spiritual, I will be sure to share them. May Hashem have rachamim (mercy) on Jerusalem and Klal Yisroel, and save us from foolish leaders.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

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Review of the Occult?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Studies of "occult" are directly prohibited by the Torah. This does not mean that we do not believe in the possibility of such things, rather that such powers come from the opposite side of kosher and holiness. As such, if sin separates one from G-d, this is directly diving into the pool of separation and the corruption of holiness.

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Masada - Topside

by Elchonon at Mystical Paths

Photos from Masada, taken from the top...

08-Eli-Israel-Trip-- 039

08-Eli-Israel-Trip-- 091

Remains of the Roman army camp that attacked...

08-Eli-Israel-Trip-- 043

Part of the King's palace built literally on the edge...

08-Eli-Israel-Trip-- 094

Inside the buildings, which include a full size kosher mikvah (not pictured)...

08-Eli-Israel-Trip-- 105

More photo's here - or a slide show here.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

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Sunrise, or Sunset?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Is it sunrise, or sunset? Is the day about to get brighter, or be plunged into darkness?

Will we stand to light the way, or hide in a darkened corner?

We cannot know. All we know is that we will have to upset our comfortable corner. There are too many factors, too many hints both ways, which is the right choice, how the outcome will be, is beyond human figuring and decision making. Instead, faced with a plethora of choices, we will agonize at a picture too big to grasp, if we let ourselves.

Or, with the Torah as our guide, the advice and direction of our holy rebbaim and rabbis, and with our best intentions for fulfilling G-d's will and Torah goals, we can step forward with emunah that HaKodesh Baruch Hu will open the right path for us.

Yet, the right path won't help if we don't get up and walk it.

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The Shield of David

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Great Faith in the Midst of Great Sorrow

(click the image for the site)

May Hashem give a complete and speedy recovery!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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Out of Sync

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Seems like I'm frequently sharing a "warning" story. While it's not, G-d forbid, my intention to be negative, it seems I run across my share of people who have been, well lets just say, misunderstood peoples intentions or perspectives, to their personal detriment. This story is one of those, from first hand knowledge, and happened in the last year. Names have been changed, loshon hara is not the objective...

-- Leah's Story --

Leah was a young woman in her early twenties when she first encountered a Jewish outreach organization. She spent some months with them and her soul was ignited. She burned to learn more. The organization encouraged her to attend their women's yeshiva in New York, and she worked hard to arrange to be able to do so. With great joy she learned for about a year and half, and took an apartment with some of the other young women students in Boro Park (NY City very-frum community). As she learned, she looked around her neighborhood and idolized her neighbors. The women with 4 or 5 or 7 young children moving down organized the street in and out of the stores, walking regally with their husbands and children on Shabbat, this was her goal, and a worthy goal it was.

And her neighbors, warm, helpful, inviting. The children, as children almost always are, were engaging, and a large table covered with a white tablecloth, Shabbos finery and the warm smells of Shabbos food, oh, she ached for such beauty in the norm in her life.

One day, after she'd been there a year, a neighbor invited her in for a cup of tea. The neighbor asked, "what would you think of a shidduch offer (a marriage proposal)?" Well, she was thrilled! She could be the one regally walking on Shabbat, and preparing the fine Shabbos table, it was all within reach! The neighbor continued, "there's a young man in Williamsburg, he's a Michlov chossid (fictional chassidus name replacing the real one), who would make a nice match."

Now we pause a moment for some explanation. There are some frum groups that are heavily involved in outreach, and their communities are full of baalei teshuvah [BT's] (growing Jews [re]connecting to Hashem). There are some that are lightly involved, and their communities have some BT's. And there are those who are not involved at all and are, frankly, pretty darn insular. Among those that are involved in Jewish outreach/inreach, some in those communities greatly appreciate the BT fervor and zest for Torah and Hashem, but there are those who don't... because it's different, because it shows a family problem, because it creates lots of relationship complications. Those that don't would have concerns about their children marrying a BT (straight up, they would discourage it).

Most living in Williamsburg, a wonderful place full of Torah, are in the insular category. Lets just say when it comes to having their children marry a BT, it wouldn't normally be considered. And with that, back to our story...

So Leah consulted her Rosh Yeshiva. He expressed strong concerns and advised her against considering it. She spoke with her rav, same answer. But, this was her dream and she was chasing she went on a date. He was a nice looking young man, had an income, and his family was extremely, extremely, welcoming. Another 2 dates and the match was agreed. But why? Why would a nice looking young man from an insular chassidic group with a good family and parnosa be looking so far outside his community for a match? I mean, Leah is a nice young woman of average looks, no special job skills, and from an average family (no special wealth)?

The Rebbe of the chassidus gave a bracha, but also strangely went on about how he was there should she ever have a problem, she shouldn't hesitate to come right over and discuss it.

The wedding was nice, the kallah was beautiful, the music was good. The Get, the divorce, came 6 weeks later. See, he had dropped out of the community (so he no longer was considered an acceptable match for anyone in it) and, supposedly, returned. But in reality, Leah was headed up, he was headed down, she was burning for Torah and Hashem, he was burning with other, less savory, desires. To the shadchun, the matchmaker, it looked like they were in a similar place. But their ships were headed opposite directions, and when they arrived in the same house, this became apparent very quickly.

-- Zahava's Story --

Zahava's story starts similar. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother was part of a marginal community but moderately religious. Full religious education was not available in her area, but in college she became interested and starting looking to learn more. She actually ended up in the same women's yeshiva as Leah, at the same time. For Zahava, the whole family picture was the draw. Ah, look at the couples lovingly walking together and making their life together. She didn't grow up with that, and she desired it.

The story from here is similar. A neighbor, a shadchan (matchmaker), a chossid of Memlachta from a Williamsburg family (though living in Flatbush, a bit odd right there). This one takes some interesting twists though... The chasan's family (groom's family) wanted to make sure it was properly kosher for their son. So, first, prove you're Jewish. Well, the mother doesn't have actual paperwork (do you?). So they push her to go through a geiurus safek (a conversion of doubt). Then, what kind of properly chassidic name is Zahava? So they make her take on an additional name, now she's Fraida Zahava. They took her to the store and set her up with the right wardrobe (according to their Williamsburg chassidic standards), right down to the type of underwear.

The wedding just occurred, all proper. But again, the question of why an insular chassidic family is taking a BT for their son stands out. A few tidbits have leaked out, and indeed, there's a reason he was living in Flatbush and not in his chassidic community. He has requests for his home that, well, lets just say are outside the bounds of his community's strict standards, gaining interest in things that you wouldn't consider bad, but have negative potential and are drawing his interest. Perhaps, G-d willing, it will work out, yet it would seem that, as she's growing in Torah and looking for a pure holy family, they are headed in opposite directions.

My dear friends, there are many who greatly appreciate the zeal and drive baalei teshuvah (BT's), Jews (re)discovering Torah and Hashem, bring. Yet others don't appreciate the background BT's bring. Whether this is fair or not is not the point. If those that are known for not, suddenly begin involving themselves with you (as a "BT"), just keep your eyes open and try to recognize why.

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