Thursday, January 31, 2008

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I Met Eliyahu Today...

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This aliyah thing is becoming difficult. Seems we made an unexpected bad choice, to move into a somewhat American / Anglo area. Why was this a bad choice? In a word, Nefesh b'Nefesh.

I've written briefly about them in the past, and I highly endorse what they do, which is prep, plan, and heavily fund professional Jewish families making aliyah from the US and England (and Canada?) They've got an end-to-end support process, it's a thing of beauty and, thank G-d, highly successful so far.

So why is this a problem? Well, we didn't come via Nefesh b'Nefesh. And, if you're in an area that's seen a Nefesh b'Nefesh influx and you don't have their system working for you, well, you're just the odd man out.

I spent the day in the city's educational office. With all my young children. Traveling through freezing rain. Why? Because none of the local yeshivas will accept ANY of my children. Seems, as I mentioned above, we're odd. We didn't come on multiple pilot trips, we didn't get our children pre-tested, pre-registered, pre-screened, pre-heated, we didn't arrive with a Nefesh b'Nefesh coordinator. So we're odd, and they don't like odd.

I spent the day, while trying to corral my children up and down the hallways and in a conference room, listening to the city educational coordinator speak, shall we say strongly, to the yeshivas. The conversation went something like this..."why didn't you take them? If you get government funding, giving education is not optional, the law says you must take children!" "But, they're odd, and, they don't speak hebrew." "Of course not, they're new immigrants! You're required to take them, and get them language assistance!" "But, we won't." "Yes you will." "No we won't." Ad naseum.

I left the office, hungry tired children in tow, back into the freezing downpour. Enough, I called a taxi. We waited, and waited, rain falling, children whining. (Rainy day, taxis are busy.) Finally, the taxi pulled up.

We jumped in, gave the destination. Picking us up from the education center, the driver asked, "here about yeshiva? How's the children's education going?" I explained it wasn't going at all, he asked how long we've been here. Then he introduced himself, "You should have a bracha to have success in all your children's chinuch (education) needs. I'm Eliyahu."

After the whole day of banging my head against the wall, I actually paused and thought, I don't believe it. HaKodesh Baruch Hu has sent me Eliyahu HaNavi in the guise of a sephardi taxi driver with no kippah (but a business card with tefilas haderech - the traveling prayer - on it.)

I don't know if I met Eliyahu HaNavi today or not, but I know that a kind word and thought from a simple Jewish taxi driver was the difference between a terrible day and a good one, even in the freezing rain.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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Mocking Holiness

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

When the emes is laughed at, when the holy ones are being made fun of, mocked, made into a joke, then you know the time of Moshiach is very very close...

Excerpts from the "lyrics"...

Be warned Holy Land, of the hi definition...
Gevald it's Sodom and Gemorah, HDTV it's against the Torah...
Now the (inappropriate) look well, you will all go to hell,
Or in Hebrew: Yishmor HoKel (G-d save us)

This is a commercial for satellite HDTV service in Israel. In Israel, speech against the government can get you interrogated, speech against the Arab sector can get you investigated and publicly attacked, but speech against the Torah and the ultra-orthodox sector is perfectly acceptable.

This is the worst of all levels, to disagree, to ignore, to argue, to make fun of is the worst.

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Calling Campaign to Rabbinic Leadership

CAJL Conference of Authentic Jewish Leadership
CC Calling Campaign to Rabbinic Leadership
Shvat 6758 January 29th, 2008
Re: President Bush's comments regarding the HolyLand

Once again, with a standing ovation of most of the House, President Bush spoke of his vision of peace and harmony in the HolyLand with Two Democratic States living side by side in the HOLYLAND.

How can we be Silent to this clear disregard of the Torah??? The Promised Land was Promised to the seed of Abraham in the Brith Bein Habesarim. and subsequently to the seed of Isaac and to the seed of Jacob as an EVERLASTING inheritance exclusively to the Nation of Israel and we in turn must observe the commandments..

Please call and/or email:

Rabbi Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Rabbi Avi Shafran, and Rabbi Gertzulin - Public Affaris can be reached at Agudath Yisroel 212-797-9000
Rabbi Pesach Lerner at The Young Israel can be reached at 212-929-1525
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the OU can be reached at 212-563-4000
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky Chabad Headquarters at 718 774.4000 / fax 718 774.2718

and ask them to please end the Silence regarding Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Terror State Chas Vechalilah.

Their respective emails are:

The Silent Majority must break its SILENCE! Otherwise evil will take over G-d forbid.

(This announcement and campaign is not endorsed or run by Mystical Paths. However, we feel it worth publicizing.)
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Buried in Flour?

The Boston Globe has just run an op-ed under the headline "Ending the Stranglehold on Gaza." The authors are Eyad al-Sarraj, identified as founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Sara Roy, identified as senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University...I do want to call attention to this sentence:

Although Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.

You don't need to be a math genius to figure out that if Gaza has a population of 1.5 million, as the authors also note, then 680,000 tons of flour a day come out to almost half a ton of flour per Gazan, per day.

1,000 pounds of flour per day per person. That's a serious quantity of pasta, pita, who knows, maybe sourdough? 1,000 pounds for you to eat, every .. single .. day! Yowza.

And the propaganda machine against the evil Jews rolls on. At what point do you think people will figure out they're being taken?

(Source here, worth reading.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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What's Going On At The Kotel...

Original Photos by Akiva at Mystical Paths

For a couple of years now, the back of the Western Wall Plaza has been walled off, under excavation. Here's what there is to see, as of today...

Western Wall Plaza Work

Apparently, a street and a series of stores from ancient times, possibly from the days of the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) have been found (notice the huge flagstones, known from the time of Herod and the 2nd Beis HaMikdash)...

Western Wall Plaza Work

The assumption being, the reason for stores at this location would be directly to service the Beis HaMikdash. As in, buy your components for korbonos (sacrifices) here...doves, sheep, wine, flour, oil. A large stylized mural has been painted outside the Kotel plaza showing this...


By the Kotel itself, we see that half the womens section has been taken over by the 'temporary' wooden bridge to the Temple Mount gate...

Western Wall Plaza

The temporary ramp was placed there to allow the Mugrabi hill, which was serving as a ramp to Har Habayit for police access and Jewish visitor (very limited and tightly controlled), to be carefully removed due to erosion and earthquake damage. This work was halted mid-way through, one as it slowed due to the discovery of building remains in the hill, and two because the Muslims started screaming that removing a small pile of dirt was going to bring down the Dome of the Rock and collapse the 5 mosques they build on (and under) Har Habayit...

Western Wall Plaza Work

Western Wall Plaza Work

Oddly, they didn't feel a need to scream when Israel dug out the Robinson's Arch area, which actually could have weakened the supporting wall and there was a subsequent small wall collapse near the top...


All daytime photos are from Monday, January 29, 2008, night time photos from January 21. As you may have guessed, I spent the afternoon in the Old City and at the Kotel. It was quite cold today, but my older son wanted to spend the day in Jerusalem before returning to yeshiva in Northern Israel, so we spent the day together walking Jerusalem.

UPDATE: The final collapse of the Mugrabi hill/ramp (into the ladies section!) is attributed to a major Jerusalem snowstorm in 2004. (Picture of collapse here.) In Israel, a major snowstorm is a weather rarity, a once in 5-10 year kind of thing.

A major Jerusalem snowstorm is expected TODAY. (The damage isn't instant, it comes from the freezing-warming and melting-runoff.) Mekubalim (kabbalists) noted about 8 months ago, when the Mugrabi contraversy was heating up, that there would be major archaeological discoveries uncovered there that would affect the political situation and support the geulah. Since the Israeli government stopped work there in July, 2007, it's been difficult to see how this would come about.

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Isn't That Special?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Obama wins...Hillary says...McCain receives...Edwards responds...Kennedy supports...Guiliani strategizes...

As far as I can tell, all that's been going on in the US for the last 6 months is the presidential election. Of course, it's got another 10 months to go...

  • Not much about ongoing severe disaster level weather that keeps hitting various parts of the US.

  • Not much about the mortgage crisis, increasing foreclosures, "ghost town like" neighborhoods.

  • Not much about the major collapse of world stock markets, along with an almost 10% drop of US markets, ongoing falling US dollar value, and things moving from a "possible recession" to a "hopefully not too deep recession or worse".

  • LOTS about politics, useless politics, silly info, and a process that seems to have gone wacko.

  • LOTS about Britney Spears, Linsey Lohan, and the untimely death of some actor I never heard of before.

My dear readers, if the news media was ONLY manipulative, it would be bad. But when they're out to completely fill your mind with fluff...

Well, lets just say there's emes (truth) and whatever they're dishing out, and never the twain shall meet.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

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The Spiritual Perspective, Part 14

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Another example of searching for the spiritual perspective by moving up the ladder of holiness involves the Chanukah menorah (candle holder). The holder has a degree of holiness since it is used to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah lights. We treat the menorah with respect, but the menorah comes only to hold the oil or candles. The oil or candles have a greater share of holiness since they are essential to light the required flame. But really, it is their wicks that are the essence of the lighting. The oil or candles are there only to feed the wicks. But the wicks come only to hold the flame, so the flame is holier than the wicks. But the flame burns only to give light, so the light is more holy than the flame.

All these ingredients come to create light for us to gaze upon in order to remember the miracles of Chanukah. This is the purpose of the mitzvah, and all of the steps along the way serve this purpose.

Use this same method of inquiry with all of your deeds. Try to understand what the real purpose is for your actions. For instance, why do you eat? Is it primarily to experience taste? Or do you eat mainly for health reasons? To stave off hunger? Do you eat just to gain energy in order to accomplish your goals? Any and all of these are good and proper reasons to eat, but when we have our priorities in order and keep them in mind, we do things differently.

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Motzie Shabbat At The Kotel


Sunday, January 27, 2008

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Stockholm Syndrome

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Stockholm Syndrome - is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as battered person syndrome, sexual assault cases, child abuse cases and bride kidnapping.

Loyalty to a more powerful abuser — in spite of the danger that this loyalty puts the victim in — is common among victims of domestic abuse, battered partners and child abuse (dependent children). In many instances the victims choose to remain loyal to their abuser, and choose not to leave him or her, even when they are offered a safe placement in foster homes or safe houses. This unhealthy type of mental phenomenon is also known as Trauma-Bonding OR Bonding-to-the-Perpetrator.

Welcome to Stockholm Syndrome Israeli style, bonding to your attacker and murderer...

(YNetNews) - Dozens of buses carrying a thousand leftists arrive at Erez crossing to bring food, humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza Strip and to protest blockade on enclave. MKs from Balad and Hadash, youth from Sderot take part...

Shir Shodzik, 17, a resident of the battered town of Sderot also took part in the demonstration in order to express her opposition to the Israeli-imposed sanctions. Despite the fact that Shodzik's aunt and cousin were injured in a Qassam rocket attack in Zikim, the teen wanted to express her dissatisfaction with Israeli government policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip.

"I came to show my identification with the Palestinian people. There is no need for violence or (the use of) force in order to solve this situation," she said.

Shodzik added that she "knows it is absurd that I am taking part in this protest," but explained that it is the path she has chosen.

Tehillim (Psalms) says, "They place their faith in chariots and horses...", yet here we see they've dispensed with the chariots and horses and just place their faith in the idea of the New World Order, where all is peace. Unfortunately, to hold that position right now is a PERVERSION of the idea from the time of Moshiach and AFTER the Geulah, when the lion will lie down with the lamb. But we place our faith in HaKodesh Baruch Hu, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and His Torah. And the Torah directly instructs us how to act in this time, in this world.

And empowering your enemy who's perpetrating evil on you daily ain't it. Even among the nations, it's considered a mental illness.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

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A Tidbit of Media Honesty - Gaza

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

For days, Hamas and the world media have given us stories of the horrible plight of Gaza blackouts (with photos taken DURING THE DAY) and the horrible situation of a 'contained population'. The horror of the Israelis in preventing the Gaza population from buying big-screen TV's (oops, did I just say that) has been regaled to us daily.

Until a few taglines on some photos at the NY Times accidentally leak out the true story...

Those aren't Israeli troops facing those poor souls, those are Egyptian troops. NY Times: Egypt Attempts to Secure Border. Egypt moved to restore its border with Gaza on Friday, stationing border guards and riot police to try to block Palestinians from entering, but Palestinians used a bulldozer to knock down another portion of the wall. But why? I though it was the Israelis doing the blockading and causing the horrible suffering of high priced cigarettes???

Oooh, Ouch, nasty Israelis beating up poor oppressed Palestinians? Umm, nope... NY Times: Egyptian border guards and riot police officers clash with Palestinians. There were clashes throughout the day, with episodes of rock-throwing. Where's the world outcry, poor Palestinians being beaten by oppressors. Oh wait, not Israelis, can't be oppressors I guess.

Oh no, poor innocent girl running for her life from nasty Jews. Or NOT... NY Times: Egyptians fired guns into the air and aimed water cannon above the heads of the crowd to keep them back. The new breaches in the wall were large enough for cars and trucks to drive through, and Egyptian guards then retreated. This is a favorite media picture, catch the innocent in the crossfire and show how terrible the security forces are. But why aren't they talking about the terrible security forces this time??? Are security forces only terrible when they're Jewish?

Now we get a better picture, violent mob overwhelms security forces, who aren't quite willing (yet) to mow them all down. And, for the first time ever, MEDIA HONESTLY... NY Times: Numerous times in the past, Egypt has used force, ranging from water cannons to automatic rifle fire, against Palestinians who have breached this border, and the government will be calculating when its effort to respond generously to a crisis veers into instability or chaos. Nor does Egypt want responsibility for servicing the population of Gaza, removing the burden from Israel.

There you have it, for the first time ever, the media acknowledges that the Gaza border is kept SEALED by EGYPT to keep a BURDEN on Israel.

The suffering of 1.5 MILLION people is IRRELEVANT to Egypt and the world media, as long as it creates a burden on Israel.

Now, having cultivated and helped create a BURDEN, watch, when they are faced with it they will have no problem just mowing it down to get it back under control. The media may report "Egypt takes 'strong' steps to regain border control" as hundreds or thousands are killed. But G-d forbid it would be Israel defending herself, then what do you think they would report?

(Credits: NY Times Photo Expose' - Egypt Attempts to Secure Border.)

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Friday, January 25, 2008

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by Elisheva's Alerts! at Mystical Paths

Event Synchronicity with Gog Bush visited our land....

- Yechezkel 36-39: Chapter 38, Gog coming upon the land. Line 9 - "You will ascend like mist. Like mist you will come; like a cloud to cover the earth... "

Commentary - like mist - Hebrew C - shoah. Like darkness that covers the earth, Shoah. Rashi: fog, mist. Radak - like a multitude of abundant water, which comes quickly, making noise and flooding. R. Eliezer of Beaugency defines shoah as follows: It is a cloud that ascends suddenly, as a storm wind, and covers the entire earth. When it comes, its sound is heard from afar. Therefore it is called Shoah, stirring or roaring, as in the roaring of abundant waters.

On January 8, a 'freak tornado' hit Jerusalem, Arkansas, USA -- the day Bush came to Jerusalem, Israel...

1) Tornado season is not in JANUARY.
2) This tornado hits a city called 'Jerusalem'.
3) It destroys a church called, 'Mt. Zion'.
4) Hits in a place called 'Pope' County.

The very next day, Thursday January 9th, another calamity strikes America. As Israel experiences a very unusual heavy fog during Bush's visit, central Florida gets hit with a freak heavy fog. A mega 70 car accident takes place. The worst highway disaster in Florida's history.

What is interesting here is the number 70. A Beitar resident was waiting at the gas station near where Bush's entourage passed on its way to Ramallah. The roads were closed down and he was stuck waiting and watching. He saw Bush's entourage pass by. He counted 70 cars.

70 cars driving with Bush to Ramallah in heavy fog, and 70 cars in a horrible accident in Florida under heavy fog.

Seventy is the number of nations that met in Paris, France, to raise billions of dollars to create a "viable" Palestinian State. 70 is the gematria of Gog and Magog, the Nations of the world who come against Jerusalem and Israel. And the nations of the world number 70 according to the Torah as explained in the story of the Tower of Bavel where G-d mixes up the people with 70 languages, who then disperse to become 70 different nations.

G-d doesn't often shout out HELLO, but sometimes we can clearly see the heavenly orchestration of events, both personal and national.

Update: Minor technical problems with the details above, Beitar is south of Jerusalem while Ramallah is north. Depending on the route taken, Bush could have passed Odom, Pesegot Interchange, Sha'ar Binyomin, and maybe (long route around) Bet El. Going out of the city, he passed along the seamline, west of the old city, past Meah Shearim, French Hill, and Pisgat Ze'ev. But he couldn't have passed Beitar.

That said, R. Nati was standing next to Meah Shearim as Bush's convoy passed, and while he didn't count the vehicles he did note it was the longest official entourage he'd ever seen.

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Mi K'Amcha

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Not content with a fish story, my wife and daughter passing through the Jerusalem Central Bus Station today left our cell phone behind.

It's a nice cell phone, and one of those that you just replace the SIM card and it's instantly yours.

Amazingly, or rather, not so amazingly in Israel, a few minutes after arriving home we received a call, "Allo, I found your cell phone, where do you live as I'd like to return it to you."

Seems a secular Jewish security guard, an immigrant from Russia from many years ago, found the phone and just felt a need to perform the mitzvah of Hashavas Avedah, returning a lost object. But wait, Jerusalem is a big town, and of course buses go from that station all over Israel. Where does the guard live, is it feasible to return the phone (or do we have to arrange for it some time in the future?)

Turns out he lives in the same town! In the same area! Just outside our neighborhood, in the secular neighborhood right next to the religious neighborhood.

With an act of kindness and a mitzvah from the Torah, he crossed that border today, a young man with a pony tail met with his religious brothers. We thanked him profusely, and invited him for Shabbos. While he declined our invitation, he was more thankful for the opportunity for the mitzvah than our immense gratitude in the return of our phone.

Mi K'Amcha Yisroel, Hashem, who is like Your people Israel! And what an orchestration from Hashem!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

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Very Cool - City of David

Very cool flash animations of the city that Dovid HaMelech, King David, built. From Jerusalem of old to Jerusalem today.

City of
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Nasty Israeli Blockade

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israel blockades Gaza! UN Security Council takes up deliberations.

Palestinians hemmed in for two years by Israeli blockade seize the chance to buy food, TVs, sheep and other goods in Egypt (after Hamas blows up border wall).

Nasty Israelis, stopping the poor Palestinians from buying TVs by blockading the Gaza - Egyptian border!!!

Oh wait, the Israeli's don't patrol or control that border, the Egyptians do.

Hmmm, how can the Israeli's be blockading a border they don't control or patrol? Doesn't matter, must be their fault! Bad Jew, bad!

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Aliyah: Forest and Trees, Jerusalem and a Fish

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Sometimes, it's hard to connect. Am I looking at the forest, or lost in the trees? Here I am in Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land, Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel, the land G-d promised to Avraham, to Yitzchok, to Yaakov, and I'm worried about...schools, and fish...

Every step walked in Eretz Yisroel is a mitzvah. I returned a rental car near the Old City and began to walk. Now, I'm not much of a walker. I'm the kind of guy who jumped in the car to go across the street. Walking was strictly a Shabbos activity.

Now, there may be certain, umm, girth oriented negative effects of that lifestyle. But hey, time is money, who has time to actually, like, walk.

But today, in the Holy City, in the Holy Land, I began to...walk. Down the hill, up the hill, through Ben Yehuda (some weird undecipherable protest going by, they're actually holding the signs upside down and chanting something incomprehensible, guess it makes them feel better), up to the shuk. Huffing, puffing, no no, just pausing for the view.

Ahh, the shuk. My wife commented, lets stop and get some fish. No place in Israel to get fish like the shuk! Live, or fresh, or frozen, they've got it. Picked a nice big hunk of neelus (tilapiah, super jumbo size, in the US you get these little 1 person fillets, in Israel you get these huge 40 pound fish that come from Kenya, and you take a hunk) and some fresh salamon (salmon, Israeli pronunciation) from Norway. It was a nice, but pricey, purchase.

Heavier with fish and a few other shuk treats, we continued our journey on to the Central Bus Station. No no, it's not heavy, I'm in great shape, just pausing to take in the view of the Knesset.

Hop on a bus, take a ride home, it's actually nice to enjoy the view rather than be worried about the traffic.

We get off the bus, the fish is gone. Fish for Shabbos, fish for the week, two or three weeks of fish, it's just vanished. Had it when we got on, gone as we went to get off.

Gam zu le'tova, this too is for the best, zol zein a kapara, it should be accepted as a recompense for punishment.

So that's it. I'm worried about fish (where'd we leave that fish? Is it stinking up a corner somewhere, did someone take our package by accident, I mean, you can't go to the lost and found for a bag of fish?) and schools, getting my children in a good schooling situation. The latter is being surprisingly difficult, arriving in the middle of the school year is apparently bad practice.

And so, I miss the forest while I run around the trees.

(Original photo by Akiva: The synagogue stall in the Jerusalem shuk, at Minchah time.)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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The Reality of S'Derot

Noam Bedein
Sderot Information Center for the Western Negev Ltd

“Over 250,000 Israelis now live under the threat of the kassam missiles”- Head of Israeli Military Intelligence to the Israel Knesset Parliament Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, Jan.1st, 2008

Since the first day of January until today, January 20th, over 430 Kassam missiles and mortars were launched towards Sderot, the Western Negev and Ashkelon , according to the IDF spokesman.

In 2007, over 2300 missiles and mortars were launched towards Israel from Gaza.

How many thousands of kassam missiles will be launched in the year 2008 towards Israel?

Living through 200 rockets in the past few days launched towards Sderot…Hearing the screeching siren- “Red Color- Tseva Adom’ every time a rocket is launched… Running for cover in the 15 seconds left… Hearing the whistle, and a few seconds later an enormous explosion…And listening to that laconic newscast on the Voice of Israel …“No Damage, No Injuries, a few were treated for shock”… this is Sderot reality.

Watching a 5 year old boy who was crying after he saw his mother blown away from the explosion of a kassam that hit directly into his play room, where he was playing on his computer with his 5 year old neighbor… Witnessing both boys evacuated to the ambulance, both shivering with shock...this is Sderot reality.
190,000 are under the threat of these missiles today, including Ashkelon , Netivot and 20 Kibbutzim and Moshavim.45,000 Israelis are daily bombarded by these missiles.

Officially 20,000 residents, of a normal population of close to 24,000, are left in Sderot, although there are those who say that it is probably less than 17,000 residents.

Each and every resident has experienced an explosion of a rocket\missile in the past few years… this is Sderot reality.

The feeling of helplessness once the siren goes off, seeing young soldiers who were sent to ‘protect’ Sderot running and covering the heads with their hands, their weapons useless…Feeling that my only weapon is my video-camera to try and document this weird reality so that some one would be willing to watch and listen… this is Sderot reality.

Driving around Sderot, with no seat-belt because the seconds spent unfastening it might cost me my life… hearing the siren go off, jumping out of the car and running for cover to the closest bus stop shelter, while holding the hands of a grandmother and her grandchild, until we reach the bus stop, which is already crowded with parents and their children on their way to school…this is Sderot reality.

Trying not to panic in front of the children, thinking to myself that a direct hit on this bus stop would be a death trap since only 2 months ago there was an investigative report showing bus stops\bomb shelters are not qualified as bomb shelters since they are built with only 20 centimeters thickness of cement, when the requirement is 40 centimeters to withstand a direct hit. And now there are 52 lethal bus stop shelters like these scattered around the town where dozens of people take cover from the missiles...this is Sderot reality

10 missiles exploded in Sderot on Thursday morning, while children were on their way to school and kindergarten. My younger sister Liora, who moved to Sderot to work with the children, described their panic. As they ran to the shelter she grabbed three young children and escorted them to the safe room and started to sing out loud so they wouldn’t hear the missile exploding near by… That safe room contained over 25 children. This was their only activity room where in the past few days they have been spending their playtime…For safety, they are not allowed to play outside. This is Sderot reality.

Hearing from families I know, as they all sleep together with parents and children in one bed, with the fear of the siren going off and no shelter to run to, since 752 homes in Sderot have no shelter or safe room… this is Sderot reality.

This past Friday. the 18th of January, there was a memorial in Sderot’s cemetery, for Ella Abukasis, who was murdered when she was only 17, three years ago, by a direct hit from a kassam rocket that hit her as she huddled over her younger brother, who was 11 years old at the time… this is Sderot reality.

Will there be any ending to this terrorism of missiles being launched towards civilian neighborhoods?

How can Israel defend its own citizens, with out being condemned, when 97 percent of the targets of Gazan missiles hit our civilian population, while the Gazans fire their missiles from behind the human shields of their own civilian population?

What about the hundreds of tunnels dug beneath the “Philadelphi corridor” in which Egypt routinely delivers ammunition, army equipment, terrorists and cash to Gaza ?

When will Israel hold Egypt and these Palestinian terror leaders personally responsible for the suffering of the people of Sderot?

When will Sderot reality change?

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Not Bad


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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We Know Who You Are

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

"There's an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all is recorded in a book."

These words of our sages are meant to teach us to carefully measure our words and actions, for we will be taken to account for them at the heavenly beis din (the heavenly court after 120 years, the end of our lives).

For many years, the idea that life was being recorded was somewhat difficult to grasp. How could that much detail truly be captured? Yet, now we have entered the digital age, the information age, the age of MP3 recorders the size of a small coin, cameras the size of a pen, hard disks that can hold the accumulated knowledge of mankind on your own personal computer, and the Internet where that information is published everywhere. And that's just the stuff available to the public.

Yet, will we be afraid of being, G-d forbid, embarrassed or interrogated here in this world? Or will be continue to remember the words of our sages and be careful with our actions that even seemingly are in private OR seemingly anonymous???

There's a story from the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, who was arrested and interrogated many times for the great crime of organizing yeshivas in the early days of Communist Russia. One time, they brought him from his cell to the interrogation chamber, the interrogator entered and screamed at him to give the information on who was running the schools and where they were, pulling his pistol, cocking it, and placing it at the Rebbe's head.

The Rebbe answered, "that may work for those with many gods and 1 world, but is powerless against those with 1 G-d and 2 worlds."

Lo Lo lifached, lifached may af echad, rock m'Hashem echad! Do do do not fear, do not fear from anyone, only from Hashem who's One.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

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The Spiritual Perspective, Part 13

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

(This Tuesday is Tu B'Shevat-The New Year for Trees. It is a custom to pray on this day that when the holiday of Succot comes, you will be merited to have a beautiful esgrog.)

What is the spiritual realm? The spiritual is always right here, permeating all. But it is so unique that it goes unnoticed, or it seems to be an entirely different realm of existence. As unique as it is, still, it is simply a higher perspective of the one creation. How do we begin to access the spiritual?

One way is to recognize that there are different degrees of holiness. This will help to move your thinking up toward spiritual awareness. Start with the straps of the tefillin. They themselves are holy and require special care. However, they are there only to secure the tefillin boxes on our head and arm, so the tefillin boxes have a higher degree of holiness than their straps.

The boxes are holy, but they are used only to house the parchments. So the parchments have a higher degree of holiness than their boxes.

The parchments are holy, but they are there only to provide a place for the letters that are written on them. So the letters on the parchments are more holy than the parchments.

What is so special about these letters? First, there is the form of the letters. The form is so unique that if even a tiny drop of a single letter would be improper, the tefillin would be unfit.

The shape of the letter is so very precise and essential, yet the letters are there only to give us an idea. So the ideas that the tefillin teach are even more holy than the letters.

When we learn these ideas, we can then fulfill the real purpose of the tefillin. We can do what G-d commanded us to do when He commanded us to put on tefillin. When we do what G-d commanded us to do, we become spiritually elevated, and this is the actual purpose of the Torah. So the deed is even more holy than the idea.

Doing the deeds that the Torah commands brings us up in spiritual merit, and, if done properly, this will increase our spiritual awareness.

This level of spiritual awareness is attainable by everyone.

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Aliyah Blues?

A Simple Jew asks:

Instead of merely writing postings about emuna, you have undertaken a monumental step and moved with your family to Eretz Yisroel; placing yourself and family entirely in Hashem's hands. In a posting last month you expressed the sentiments of being overwhelmed with this move and wrote, "Why in the world did I do this? What crazy urge to inflict chaos and instability upon my family came over me???"

Since the time you wrote these words how have you been able to strengthen yourself and combat the arguments that the yetzer hara raises in your mind to discourage your life-changing decision?

Akiva at Mystical Paths answers:

Arriving in Eretz HaKodesh, the holy land, is a tremendous thrill and a great excitement. We're here, we're home, it's a spiritual high point. The children are thrilled, the parents are prepared.

But, changing countries is not like moving to a new town. The language is different, the culture is different, even many of the foods are different. You need to find a place to live, you need to buy stuff to fill it (even if you bring your US furniture, which we did not with a few exceptions, Israeli apartments or homes don't come with any appliances or closets). Things have a different cost basis (the appliances, ridiculously expensive, a pair of tzitzit, ridiculously cheap). Some of the thrill fades as culture shock sets in.

We lived in Israel before, we were ready for much of it. We were able to smile and laugh as government offices gave us the run around for weeks, we understood how to bank and how not to get taken too much advantage of. We knew which hashgachos to use and what most of the products where. But after a while it started to wear on us...

The government took a month, and literally sent us back and forth from Jerusalem to Netanya, to acknowledge we are here and accept our children for health care (in our situation, having been here before, the parents are barred for a year). A school accepted my little girls, but not my little boys (why, because the principle just didn't like us) while we were in our temporary residence. And of course, everyone wants a commission for every little thing (it's the Israeli way, everyone has to make a living, but when you're not used to it, it seems like everyone is out to empty your pocket). Having found an apartment and moved in, we've visited 3 local schools who haven't accepted, or rejected, my children. I'm told some protexia is needed to get in (meaning you have to know someone and/or have leverage).

Several people have happily reminded me that a portion in Israel is acquired through yesirim, troubles and difficulties. This is, no doubt, the truth.

Yet, I spent erev Shabbat at the kever of one of the sons of Yaakov. My family and I walked the quiet streets of our neighborhood, together with all our neighbors, on Shabbos. My children run to the park constantly, or to the corner store, without my having any concern for their return. The mikvah is a block away, and there are a variety of shuls and minyanim everywhere. A few moments ago I returned from the dentist with my little girl, needed a filling. I had only a large denomination bill to pay him, he didn't have change. So he said, "just stop by and pay me when you have change."

I've driven the hills of Yehuda, stood at the Gate of Binyomin (from the nach, of the future!), seen the Dead Sea in the distance, walked the Old City, prayed at the Kotel, shopped Meah Shearim, learned in Rav Arush's yeshiva with my co-blogger R. Nati, shopped the Yerushalayim Shuk (bo bo borecha, bo bo borecha!), stood looking down at where the Mishkan was, and live in the hills where the Maccabi's fought.

As they say here, le'at le'at, slowly slowly we're making our way. Some days, it seems the country is out to get us. I guess that's us paying our yisurim. Some days, the kedusah of Eretz Yisroel takes our breath away.

In my rental contract, there was a line that said, "tenant promises to immediately vacate apartment in case of the arrival of Moshiach". I refused to accept this line, as why in the world would I leave if Moshiach comes??? (G-d willing, today!) [This line is apparently for overseas religious landlords that want to be assured a place to come when the time comes.] G-d willing, my family is here for now, and until (and after!) Moshiach comes.

May it be today. And may all klal Yisroel join us!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

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Thinking and Questions, Then Again Not

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

I spent the day walking when I was supposed to be in yeshiva learning. I mean the day started ok; Wake up, wash up, get dressed, say brachas. Drink a cup off coffee (fell off the herbal tea and sugar substitute, my diet is shot, Hashem willing I'll have the strength to return to it, the pains are back...Baruch Hashem).

I walked from the yeshiva (in Meah Shearim) to the Old City via the Shechem (Damacus) gate, through the middle of the muslim quarter to Shuvah Banim, the yeshiva of Harav Eliezer Brelend. For the first time in 12 years, and the first time unarmed. I walked with two talmidim of Shuva Banim. We walked and blessed Hashem and each other, talking about our rebbaim and the Torah. Not even paying attention to where we were or what was going on around us.

Emunah chazak, it felt good to just trust in Hashem and not even think about it. Really, I took no thought of it! Wow! I mean, I used to walk around all the time in condition yellow, with one in the pipe, ready to rock, always scanning the doors, windows, classifying targets, judging treats, assigning priories. I mean jacked up and good to go sir let's rock! .... Wait just minute? What Yaakov?

(Emergency Pause, ambulance, child...) I'm now back from the ambulance that just came because my son was shocked with 220v, Baruch Hasem all is well, they checked him out, it only took 3 minutes to get here and we know all the young men. We made a minyan for me to daven ma'ariv. But pray for Yaakov Shmuel ben Leah Malka.

I really felt and realized the matrix today as I prayed for an apartment in Jerusalem near the yeshiva. Also as I went to pull my chavrusa out of his home and drag him back to learn. Bauch Hashem. I looked at a 3 million dollar house in the Old City, I mean a regular apartment in Jerusalem is $300,000, I'm crazy right, but the rav said what's a few zero's, zero they are nothing for Hashem.

Likutey Moharan #33. Mi HaIsh Hechafeit Chaim, Who is the person who desires life, who loves days of seeing good. (Psalms 34:13) The principle is that a person should pursue peace. He should see to it that there is peace between Jews, and that each person is at peace with his attributes - i.e. he should not be conflicted within himself over what happens to him. It should make no difference to him whether he experiences good times or bad, he always finds Hashem in it.

Being at peace means total trust in Hashem, no doubts at all, not even a thought of how or where or if? Just like it's a movie. "When man makes peace with Hashem, then Hashem makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." They can' touch you! How is that a person can find Hashem in every thing? It's only through the Torah, which is called peace, as is written all her paths are peaceful" (Proverbs 3:17). And by means of the Tzaddikim, who are called "covenant of peace".

As a result a person can love peace in every situation, both in good times and... And there can be peace between Jews, with them loving one another. Only in this manner can a person come to true inner peace. This is the foundation of Emunah!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

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Shabbos Shirah

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Shabbos Shirah for us Breslover's was and is a special Shabbos. In the time of the Rebbe all the Chasidim would come to Breslov to hear the Torah of Rebbenu. This was always a time of Him giving over a lesson, whether he was at home or on his travels, the chasidim would come to hear. The major lessons given on these Shabbosim were Likutey Moharon #9 in 5563, #38 in 5562, #62 in 5565, #71 in 5570. Some say the story Master of Prayer was also taught on Shabbos Shirah. On Shabbos Shirah 5563, Likutey Moharan 9 was said while traveling. In it the Rebbe discussed prayer based on the pasuk from Shemos 15:5, connecting it with the Torah reading of the day. The Rebbe himself wrote down the lesson.

During this time the Rebbbe saw a vision of the Baal Shem Tov, and gave over the concepts of the lesson's of #9, 112, and said they were connected with the vision.

Another time on Shabbos Shirah 5565, the Rebbe was in Medvedevka. His daughter Chaya was four years old. (She later was to marry the grandson of the Baal HaTanya). She had a sty in her eye and was in much discomfort. The Rebbe then taught the lesson 62, which speaks of the "Beautiful Maiden" that had no eyes. Through this she was healed.

This week we were to say parshas Hamann, a segulah for parnasah. And this is the Shabbos that we read the song at the sea.

"It happened that when Paroh sent out the people that Hashem didn't take them by the land by the way of the Philistines, for it was near,..." R'Chananel cited by R' Bachya, there is another reason for the decision to lead the nation through the desert. Hashem wanted us to be in circumstances where we would constantly see nissim in order to survive. This would be our schooling in emunah. We would see through the manna, the well of water, the constant protection from the elements clouds of glory, and so on, that the overwhelming presence of Hashem, and His omnipresence and that He is all powerful. As a result of this national historical fact, we would have what to look back at and know "that all is in His hands". The lesson is that our survival is impossible without Divine intervention. As is evident now as we stand at the gate of geulah. 'On only Him can we and must rely'.

Reb Nosson says in Likutey Halchot on this parsha, Hashem took them around about way, Rashi says that he took them from the short simple to crooked longer way? Before the light there is darkness. And before the geulah there is suffering. And before Eretz Israel there is galut.

"How is it possible that Hashem can send us so far from Him, and expect us to follow Him? It is that WE CHOOSE, with our free choice to serve and follow Him! Even when we are down and low, and even here in Israel when we are so far from His Torah, even now today we live in the land and govern ourselves like goyim.

How is it that we can miss His hand in our lives? It is night, the darkest of all the nights and the dawn is coming we just have to wait a bit longer.
The things that are happening here are hard but we must focus on the truth, that He and He alone supports and protect us.

What this week happened to me and others is real, and if I were not a man of emunah I would have been really worried. If here with all the kedusah we can not manage, how does He expect us in galut to survive spiritually? You see, we are on a mission to collect all the sparks that have been spread throughout the world and bring them back here to Him. We were never meant to stay in hutz la'aretz (outside the land), we could and can end the galut now if we choose! The people that are in katnut (spiritual comma) are not able to take out the sparks by themselves, because of sin and lack of faith. Someone who is tamei and dirty and down in the mud of this world is now part and parcel of the mud. 'He in effect is the mud'. He needs an 'Ish kosher the Tzaddik Emet, the Tzaddik of the Dor', he who is clean and clear of mind, only he can to raise up all the people, (ie. someone who is in prison can't release himself it takes someone to let him out). He alone has the power to release and raise up the people with these sparks. That's why Hashem took us on the round about way so as to raise up all the sparks. All the battles and trails in the midbar were for us at this time to look back at and strengthen ourselves to stand the test of fire that is coming. Please Hashem help us on the day we call!

I ask all of you to join us here in prayer for the seven young girls who are being tortured for their faith. And to strengthen the Tzaddkim of the Dor, as to help them to release us from the mud.

Shabbot Shalom

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Are We (Gasp) Extremists?

Empty Shomron

Empty Shomron
by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Ahhh, extremists, run for your lives, ahhhhhhhhhhh!

(Commentor on LGF) Although I'm still a strong supporter of free speech I find my self being cautious about who I'm willing to support. Lionheart and Vlaams Belang have made me think twice. Are my concerns justified? Is Israel just cracking down on extremists and Kahanists?

(Commentor on LGF) I agree that it's a bad idea to yield on free speech. But it's also important to know who you're defending. I'm just wondering if some of these Israeli bloggers are extremists. It does have a bearing on how vigorously I'll defend their rights.

Do not adjust your channel. We control the volume, we control the picture. We control your mind... (1960's US cultural reference, The Outer Limits)

The first step to taking control of the situation is to redefine it in your terms. Good is bad, right is wrong, black is white.

People peaceably living on EMPTY land they bought are settlers, and if they don't freely run away at the drop of a hat (in other words, if they are actually invested in their homes, or even worse believe in something) are, gasp, extremists.

Murderous barbarians who target innocent civilians and specialize in women and children are gunmen, militants, or even freedom fighters. Peace is surrender and arming your enemy.

Winning a defensive war is occupying land (that those who lost it won't take back!), attacking an enemy firing missiles at you from a residential building is attacking innocent civilians, and hitting them without killing civilians is a massacre.

There are honest people in the world who actually consider these matters and don't simply eat up whatever the mainstream media feeds them. Most people, however, can't be bothered to pay attention.

We believe in the words of the Torah, the Navi'im, the Kesuvim. We hold by the mitzvot of Hashem, the majority of which deal with the Land of Israel and the Holy Temple. We do not adjust to the political position or media position of the moment.

So, according to them and those who can't be bothered to make their own decisions, yes, we are extremists.

(Original photos by Akiva of the Shomron, West Bank, Israel, within the last month. The VAST majority of the West Bank looks exactly like this, empty and relatively barren.)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

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The Yaretzheit of the Friediker Rebbe

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Today, the tenth of Shevat, was the yartzheit of HaRav HaRebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson, The Rebbe Rayatz, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. And today at Chut Shel Chesed our resident Chabad shaliach made a farbrengen. It was great to sing the nigunim and to hear stories of this great Lubavitcher rebbe...
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, 1880-1950, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950)

6th rebbe of Chabad-LubavitchRabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, was one of the most remarkable Jewish personalities of the twentieth century. In his seventy years, he encountered every conceivable challenge to Jewish life: the persecutions and pogroms of Czarist Russia, Communism's war on Judaism, and melting-pot America's apathy and scorn toward the Torah and its precepts. The Rebbe was unique in that he not only experienced these chapters in Jewish history -- as did many of his generation -- but that, as a leader of his people, he actually faced them down, often single-handedly, and prevailed.

Shalom Reb Nati
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by MMM_mmm_mm_m at Mystical Paths

The rav noted, when one is investigated below, it's a sign that one is being investigated above. Below, one might concern oneself with whether there is truth or evidence, whether intimidation or reality. Above, one must do a heshbon nefesh, a soul accounting, to determine if one has transgressed and is liable, or should be doing better and is liable...

I hesitate to write this post. R. Nati wouldn't, and wouldn't say why not. He's not writing this, nor dictating it, this is overheard, he's not liable for this post.

R. Nati, a contributor to this blog, was summoned to the (Israeli) police station today. When he arrived, he was escorted to a room. The police were not waiting, instead the Israeli Internal Security (Shabak, or Shin Bet, the Israeli counter-intelligence and internal security service) was waiting for him.

He was interrogated as a right-wing activist (he's not), for possible involvement in planning anti-public activities (he's not involved in any way), and for publishing a Violent (?) Anti-Government (?) & Anti-Homosexual (???) Blog - Mystical Paths.

Well, he doesn't publish it. He does contribute religious and emunah oriented articles somewhat regularly. However, lets address the other points:

Violent - All I can say is ?????. Mystical Paths has never recommended or suggested any violent action against anyone, nor have any writers on Mystical Paths performed any such actions. Anyone who thinks otherwise has misread or excerpted items out of context.

Anti-Government - Mystical Paths does not espouse the overthrow of any Western government. Chaos and revolution is not the friend of the Jewish people. Rather, in cases where we disagree with current government policy, either of Israel or the United States, we recommend democratic actions be taken to replace the current _administration and elected officials_ with leaders that would head in a different direction. Democratic actions means, votes, protests, political organizing, and getting a message out.

Anti-Homosexual - ???? What in the world? The human drive in this area is probably the most prone area for the Yetzer Hara to attack a person. Those challenged with complete misdirection of their drives have perhaps one of the greatest challenges there is. Like people with challenges in any area, people with challenges in this area should be recommended to and given opportunities to improve. Mystical Paths does not agree with, and does recommend _peacefully_ protesting against, those who would flaunt their challenges, especially those who would do it specifically in religious and holy places, and this includes Jerusalem.

Disagreeing with the _administration and elected officials_ positions is not a crime in a Western democracy. Not even in Israel.

I'd like to say we will not be intimidated. But honestly, we just have been.

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Links of Interest : An Important Story


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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by Akiva at Mystical Paths

While rockets rain down on our brothers and sisters in S'derot and now Ashkelon (not to worry, it's still another 15 miles to Tel Aviv), the Israeli government is worried about...

R. Nati. R. Nati has been called in to police interrogation this afternoon. Why? He doesn't know, and they're not telling till he gets there.

Over a decade ago, R. Nati protested against government actions by physically placing his body in the way. Some of those he was with went to jail for their actions, and an oddly large number suffered from terrorist attacks. R. Nati determined that way was futile, and they were essentially being used by protest leadership.

He learned the weapon of choice was the voice of Yaakov. For the past decade, he has been learning the tactics of HaKol Kol Yaakov according to the derech (way) of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Why do the police want to see him today? Perhaps, as his rav suggested, so he has an opportunity to share Torah and the chassidus of Rebbe Nachman with them!

Please take a moment and add a tefilah (prayer) that all should turn out well for HaRav Nataniel Levi ben Yitzchok today.

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There Was a Spiritual Battle Today

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

There was a spiritual battle today...

In the "old days", we read of chassidic stories, and non-chassidic ones even older, of tzaddikim who were informed of a gezira (a verdict) in shamayim (heaven) against the Jewish people. Maybe against a town, or a city, or even all the Jews of a country.

"Seeing" such a verdict being prepared, the tzaddikim would storm heaven to rescind or tear up the decree. They would not come alone, but with their yeshiva or talmidim (students) or chassidim (chassidic followers). The followers were usually not informed of what was going on (at least not before or during), but simply engaged to maximize intense prayer, tzedakah, and good deeds. And, we are told, sometimes decrees were overturned. Small ones affecting towns (Jewish population), and even big ones affecting whole countries (Jewish population).

But you don't really hear about such things happening today...

Today, a call went out from a tzaddik on the Eida Charedit to another tzaddik. A gezira against Am Yisroel is being raised. The whole yeshiva must come with me to the kever of our holy tzaddikim and pray for Am Yisroel.

100 holy men headed to mikvah, loaded up into their cars, and headed down the hills of Jerusalem. They came to their destination and climbed a mountain to a holy kever barely accessible by car (many climbed by foot, which was safer than going by car), and spent 6 hours praying for Am Yisroel on a mountaintop by a holy kever. They fasted the day, as they cried out to Our Father in Heaven, Abba, protect and save Your children!

At the end of the day, the tzaddik led them in the minchah prayer. Mission accomplished (we hope, we pray!), they broke their fast and headed home.

Ribono Shel Olam, protect and save Your children, Your land, and Your holy city!!!

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The Spiritual Perspective, Part 12

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

In the previous sections we discussed using the emotions to become spiritually aware. Basically, the technique is to picture your loved ones while doing a mitzvah, and to ask G-d to bless them. The strength of the emotions energizes the mitzvah experience. The emotions bring warmth into the performance of the mitzvah. But even though emotions can be used as a vehicle to move us toward spiritual awareness, they themselves are not spiritual.

We also discussed how to use the intellect to become more spiritually aware. For instance, by recognizing that the benefit of the mitzvah you are doing is spreading out into the world. This not only helps you to appreciate the mitzvah more, but it actually increases the mitzvah’s effect in the world. The intellect is higher than the emotions[i] and it too can be used as a vehicle to move toward the spiritual, but it is not spiritual.

The spiritual is beyond form and matter. It is beyond energy and time. Gravity doesn’t pull on it and sunshine doesn’t shine on it. It is not physical. But we are physical, and all these things do affect us. So how can we access the spiritual when it is beyond anything we know?

A servant can learn about his master by examining his master’s commands. When doing a mitzvah we can discover G-d’s purpose and nature. So, for instance, since G-d commands us to be charitable, we know that G-d Himself is charitable. When giving charity, we should think about the nature of charity. This will align our consciousness with His consciousness.

G-d does not command us to praise Him in order to placate Him. He has us mention His greatness to bring His glory to our minds. This experience brings us closer to emulating Him and strengthens our resolve to serve Him.

If you trace a beam of sunlight back up in the direction from where it is coming, you will ultimately come to its source. When we trace the physical act of kindness, higher, to the nature of kindness, and then even higher to the source of all kindness, our minds will become filled with the spiritual purpose of the mitzvah. We will have moved our consciousness toward His consciousness.

As we move closer to His consciousness, our minds become filled with thoughts of Him and His Torah. We will go though our day looking for opportunities to help. We will be living as G-d intended us to live, freely choosing His way.

We cannot reveal G-d’s glory at will. We can only move in that direction. Then the effort that we exerted will result in the desired reward. Although the reward is given according to the effort, still, the effort itself does not directly bring the reward. The reward comes from above. It comes from His holy will. The spiritual door opens from the spiritual side, not from the physical side.

[i] Do not follow your heart. Numbers 15:39

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

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Monday, January 14, 2008

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Chilling Effect

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(From Israel Matzav) A bill introduced in the Israeli Knesset would make bloggers responsible for all content on their sites, including the comments! "Web site owners or editors will be legally responsible for any content on their site, including comments made in talkbacks and message boards, a bill passed on Sunday...states. ...While the bill still needs to be approved in three readings in the Knesset plenum, receiving the support of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation gives it a much higher chance of passing into law...

Consider that two months ago an Israeli court forced Google's Blogspot ... to disclose the identity of a blogger who committed the 'crime' of 'slandering' a member of a local council....

As Israel Matzav says, "Can anyone say Chilling Effect?" All I have to say is "Mmm, mmmmm, mm, mmmmm, mmm".

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Return of Simple Jews

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This afternoon, I bought a washing machine from another Jew. He was a police officer, special tactics unit, and he was preparing to move (and therefore selling some items).

He didn't appear to be a religious Jew ... a police officer, shaved head, no kippah, macho looking guy. But he offered me a drink, he asked me a question about a hebrew/english kitzur shulchan aruch (abbreviated code of Jewish religious law) he had on his table, and when I mentioned how fortunate it was that he was moving out just as I was moving in, he responded, "toda l'Ale" - thanks/praise to G-d.

In Israel, you still find what has disappeared elsewhere, a man of simple faith, who knows and appreciates that things are organized and directed by Hashem and isn't afraid to state that. He may not be wearing a kippah, but he appreciates G-d every day.

Israel has many merits, and the simple Jew is a big one of them.

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US Inc still sliding...

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Financial Times) Citigroup (that's Citibank and associated companies in the US, the largest bank in the world) is putting the final touches to its second big capital-raising effort in as many months, seeking up to $14bn from Chinese, Kuwaiti and public market investors...

The deal underscores the depth of the problems faced by banks that suffered heavy losses in the US subprime mortgage crisis. It would follow an injection of $7.5bn into Citigroup by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in late November.

“The second round is going very well, because Citi is seen as US Inc,” says the regional head of a US investment bank in the Middle East.

It's still quiet, it's still only being paid attention to in the financial papers and business sections. But you see the major US financial institutions going back again and again to raise more money, literally monthly. Serious trouble on the horizon.

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Don't Live There Anymore, and Don't Miss That

Nope, don't miss that, not at all.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

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Internet Shabbos Halacha?

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

We don't often delve into halacha here at Mystical Paths, but this struck me as rather interesting...

For some time while in the US, I've been popping over to an Israeli Jewish mystic (mekubal) site, usually Friday afternoon to gather up some Shabbos reading material. The site began instituting a Shabbos outage, according to Shabbos at the author's location, Israel. So when I went Friday to get my material, no can do, site was "offline for Shabbos".

Now halachically, this struck me as odd. We don't hold like Shammai in Mishnah Shabbos, who states that we rest our tools on Shabbos. So, for example, I can loan my rake to a non-Jewish neighbor for use over Shabbos, though I can't loan my horse (we do rest our animals). So why is the site resting their computer server over Shabbos?

Now, lets through in a bit of technical detail. If you run a web site, you usually don't run it on the computer in your office. Rather, you rent computer server space from another company, often in another part of the country or world. For example, Mystical Paths is running on Blogspot computers in Massachusetts, though I'm no where near there.

So, your web site may not physically be operating in the same time zone as you, and your reader may not be in the same time zone as you or your web server.

A little while ago, I needed to look up the cost of a sefer (Jewish holy book). I went to Artscroll, and found they are doing the same thing. The site is "offline for Shabbos" according to New York time. Being I'm connecting from Israel, it's not Shabbos here.

Now this gets technically and halachically weird. You close your store for Shabbos, but you don't cover the windows or the store sign so the merchandise can't be seen. Should a web site be up but not take orders on Shabbos? (Of course, don't forget the question above, Shabbos where, for the web site computer, for the store owner, or for the customer?)

Lets try a deeper example. You own a mail order catalog business in the US. Do you print DON'T READ ME ON SHABBOS on the catalog cover? US mail service arrives on Shabbos. Do you throw away orders that arrived on Saturday? Or maybe not ones that arrived, but ones who are postmarked Saturday (they were actually ordered on Shabbos but arrived later?)

It seems to me that people are taking very simplistic initial approaches to the problem of the Internet and Shabbos. No orthodox Jew wants any part of any business benefit from Shabbos. Yet, I don't think most approaches I've seen yet make much sense.

Correction: I just popped over to B&H Photo (a New York based photography store, probably the best in the world IMHO, which is owned and operated by orthodox Jews), and got something amazing. The site is up, but a message overlay says, "We are not accepting orders at this time. We resume full operations 6:15 PM EST Saturday. We will reopen in 0 hours and 39 minutes." You can browse their catalog, but you can't place an order on Shabbos. That makes sense to me, where the owners are and the business is, they don't accept orders during their Shabbos.

I've also seen at least one company selling web site technology that does the opposite, it attempts to determine the location of the browser, and if it's Shabbos at that location, it doesn't permit the person to access the site as it's "down for Shabbos" at the visitor's time.

This area remains unclear.

--Shavua Tov, a good week.

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Moon over Maaleh Levona

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A crescent moon rising over Maaleh Levona (Shomron, West Bank, Israel). At the bottom of the hill upon which Maaleh Levona sits, along the road up to the town, there's an ancient partial ruin of a stone inn. The walls still partially stand, a common room, multiple back rooms, and a _mikvah_ are still there. The Jews of Maaleh Levona come down the hill before Shabbat to use this ancient but still functional mikvah, which is clearly over 1,000 years old, but may be much older than that. The local Arabs call it Ibrahim's Inn, Abraham's Inn.

It sits on what today is called palestinian land, and George Bush and Olmert would hand it away for grushim, or not even that, just the promise of grushim.



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Friday, January 11, 2008

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Bizzare, not Bazzar

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Neshama wrote...

That is just too bizare for words. Your poor daughter! BE"H I hope she is able to get through this ok.

Does "this man" bring all this threatening apparatus to EVERY nation he visits? Will he do the same in Saudi Arabia, in Abu Dabi or wherever else he is going? And do they threaten all innocents the same way? Is he trying to send the Pals an unspoken message?

Or is this message for the Israelis, so they don't even think about going against what "this man" wants them to divide, rip apart, uproot, abandon? Oh, and he says it will be "painful for us."

I think "this man" is sending some kind of gigantic message by terrorizing yidden in this way. Do you really think it was warranted? What is going to happen to the psyche of the ordinary Israelis? I mean, little children playing in the street in Geula (or wherever) get the Gush Katif Treatment?!!!!

I actually toned down the experience a bit, it was R. Nati's, not mine. (Note the post has two authors.) His son had the soldier experience, the shopkeeper experience was mine.

There is a select group of security forces here who are specifically trained to divorce themselves from the population, see themselves as elite servants of the government, and they are actually trained to brutalize. This was instituted by Rabin, and ramped up to a much higher level under Sharon.

Two groups clash with them regularly. The national religious / settlers, who are targeted at times and continue to push into expanding into the Land (the mitzvah of yishuv ha'aretz, settling the Land) and get beaten back. The other is the charedim, the ultra-orthodox, who minimally recognize the civil government. They (we) get beaten up whenever the government crosses religious lines or community boundaries, and since they (we) aren't going to reduce their (our) commitment to Torah values, you get repeated confrontations in these areas.

This was not the work of the US government, this was the work of the ISRAELI government. You even have the Israeli courts (which are very very left wing) turning free people arrested on trumped up charges now. The executive government is divorcing itself farther and farther from the people.

Regarding the result of Bush's visit, we see the declaration and what's today's headlines? CITIGROUP, MERRILL LYNCH Seek More Foreign Capital...GIANT WRITE-DOWN OF $15B. AMERICAN EXPRESS to Take $440 Million Charge; cardholders failed to repay debts. US Federal Reserve prepares "aggressive" interest rate cuts. Gold soars, dollar continues to fall in value.

Something about Nero, Rome and Fiddling comes to mind.

The photo (by Akiva), a sign on Route 1 through Jerusalem headed West, reads: OLMERT, my mother would be alive today if there was a hospital in Ashdod. This type of political speech is allowed. If it read "if you stopped the attacks from Gaza", it would be illegal or at least not accepted by the advertising company.

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Jerusalem Update

by Akiva & Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

On entry to Jerusalem this morning, every single car was closely searched. By men, in black, with machine guns. They opened the doors, pointed the gun right at me and my daughter, and ran the barrel up and down our sides (checking for weapons, or just intimidating). For my daughter I objected to the rather inappropriate treatment. They offered to prevent me from going in, or to shoot me if I'm any more trouble.

As we waited for Bush to pass by our yeshiva, some local children decided to enjoy a moment on the traffic free road (which is always normally busy). The police took out their billy clubs and immediately went right after them. They were not fooling around.

I have a son who attends school in Bet El. As his bus traveled to school this morning, it was tracked along the road by a US Army Humvee with a 50 caliber machine gun turret. Very threatening, Jewish school bus with children. Later in the day, as the boys went up to the school fence to see what was going on in Ramallah (the back side of Bet El faces Ramallah, where US President Bush was declaring a guarantee of the creation of Palestine today), there were US soldiers in full battle gear who tracked the boys with their weapons and laser targeting dots. A teacher saw this and went up to the fence to yell at the US soldiers. This drew him 4 dots on the head.

The thing is, those soldiers were right. Bush truly has more to worry about in the success of his Palestine plan from those who are learning Torah than from those who know how to fire an AK-47 or RPG.

By the end of the day, it had all vanished as if without a trace. The security was gone, the roadblocks gone, and the President, having done what he came to do, went on his way. In the meantime, S'Derot Jewish residents got a triple load of incoming missles today. And ... No ... One ... Cares

I spoke briefly with a shopkeeper today, who asked me what Bush was doing. I responded, he's president of the US, he's doing what he thinks makes sense for the US, he doesn't care what that means to Israel. Right, he said, but what about Olmert, why doesn't he care what happens to Israel? Wow, I said, that's a good question.

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