Monday, March 31, 2008

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First Hand Terror Report from Shiloh

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This is a _first hand_ terror attack report from within the last hour...

At the junction to the Jewish town of Shiloh, biblical Shiloh where the Mishkan (portable temple) stood for 350 years, 2 Jewish men were standing waiting for a ride. A car slowed and a Jewish woman got out on the other side of the street.

Seconds later, an Arab car pulled up and an Arab man got out with the car speeding off. The Arab pulled a large knife, turned around and stabbed one Jewish man. As he screamed and they struggled, the second Jewish man pulled his personal gun. The Jewish victim fell to the ground, the second Jewish man fired multiple shots, hitting and killing the Arab terrorist.

Several of the shots almost hit the Jewish woman on the other side of the street. The stabbing victim is in the hospital in serious condition.

In alternate news, President Bush and Secretary Rice declared Peace between Israel today.

UPDATE: HOW IT WAS REPORTED

How do you think the media reported such a story? Remember, the majority of readers never get past the headlines. Here is how the Voice of America and Google spread the "news."

Jewish Settler Kills Palestinian in West Bank
By VOA (Voice of America) News
01 April 2008

Israeli army officials say an Israeli settler shot dead a Palestinian man who they say attacked other Jewish settlers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.

The officials say the incident happened late Monday near a Jewish settlement north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. They say the Jewish settler - who was armed - shot the attacker as he attempted to stab the other Israelis.

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Chassidic Jealousy

by A Simple Jew and Akiva at A Simple Jew and Mystical Paths

A Simple Jew asked:

Do you think an average chassid may feel jealousy if another chassid has greater access or a closer connection to their rebbe? In the case when their rebbe is no longer living, do you think it is natural for a chassid to feel a certain sense of possessiveness of this rebbe when someone else mentions a story or teaching from or about him?

Akiva answered:

Jealousy, almost without exception, is a negative middah (attribute). For, who is rich? He who is satisfied with what he has. (Pirke Avos) Many is the story of the chassidic master who didn't recognize their own deprivation among the material while living a rich spiritual life.

Yet, we are taught that jealously for another's Torah accomplishments, if used to drive oneself to greater accomplishments, is the sole positive use of jealously.

Can a chossid feel jealous of closeness to the rebbe of another chossid? Yes. If used positively, this may drive the chossid to greater heights of avoda and positive service to their rebbe, as they strive to achieve the greater connection they have seen. If used negatively, it's completely poisonous as they either attempt to drag the other down, poison the environment in general, or quietly let it eat away at their heart. This is often the Yetzer's opening into a tzaddik's environment.

It is natural for chassidim devoted to a rebbe, or even those devoted to a particular tzaddik or great rosh yeshiva, to feel a certain possessiveness about their relationship. Whether still physically in this world or only spiritually so, those who build an attachment through their devoted efforts of learning the rebbe's path, learning his Torah, and focusing their efforts in the directions that the tzaddik has set, feel exactly that, a special attachment.

So, they would ask, how can others come forward and represent our rebbe, whether giving over a story or a word of Torah, when they haven't given the years of commitment that we have?

And from one perspective, they're right! Understanding the nuances of the rebbe's Torah are developed through years of relationship, studying his Torah and following his path. Yet, this response would close off these gates of Torah to only those who are devoted followers, rather than enriching all of Klal Yisroel, and that surely isn't the intention of any tzaddik. (Perhaps with the exception of a few mekubalim, kabbalists.)

So I don't think it's unusual for a chossid to feel jealous and protective of his rebbe. (For example, I saw a post a R. Brody's blog of a story that's commonly attributed to the Baal HaTanya, being attributed to another rebbe. I found that very upsetting!!! Was R. Brody trying to be disrespectful to the Alter Rebbe of Chabad? G-d forbid, of course not. That didn't stop my initial feeling though.) However, we need to be on guard as this type of jealously is not positive, and make sure that if we're feeling jealously, we use it ONLY in the right way. Otherwise, we are simply giving ourselves over to the Yetzer Hara.

As I tell my children, the Yetzer Hara doesn't come to a chossid and say eat treif. Ahh, protect the kavod of your rebbe, that's a different matter, right?

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Hebrew U

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Researching an educational option for one of my children took me to Hebrew U. In our ongoing sights and life in Israel photo series, here's some from Hebrew University, Givat Ram campus, Jerusalem...

What is that funky symbol?

Hebrew U

Beautiful green sets off the Jerusalem stone in very standard university institutional style architecture.

Hebrew U

Grassy open spaces were enjoyed by lounging students (not pictured), who were studying or just hanging out in the shady spots.

Hebrew U

No university would be complete without a proliferation of odd artsy something-or-others. Hebrew U has its share.

Hebrew U

The students appeared a bit bohemian, the architecture a bit institutional, the Jersualem stone a bit boring, but the landscaping really does a great job of turning it into a very pretty campus. Just your basic University in Jerusalem.

Hebrew U

A few more photos in the full photo set, here.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

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Safety in Israel

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

On my Windows of Opportunity post, a commentor asked "Will you blog about safety in Israel?". Sure, here goes...

Israel ranks 14 in world life expectancy. The United States ranks 29, the difference being an average of 1.5 years higher in Israel (this includes deaths due to all reasons, old age, disease, war, terrorism, violent crime, traffic accidents.)

Israel has a rate of 2.6 murders per 100,000 residents. The United States has a rate of 7.5 murders per 100,000 residents. Israel finds itself grouped with countries of similar rates such as Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and South Korea. The United States finds itself grouped with countries of similar rates such as Pakistan, Uganda, Costa Rica, and Zimbabwe.

The leading causes of death in Israel are: 16% Heart Disease, 8% Diabetes, 6% Stroke, 4% Colon Cancer, 4% Lung Cancer, 3% Breast Cancer, 3% Emphysema, 3% Kidney Disease, 2% Pneumonia, 2% Skin Cancer.

The leading causes of death in the US are: 21% Heart Disease, 7% Stroke, 7% Lung Cancer, 5% Emphysema, 4% Alzheimer's, 3% Diabetes, 3% Colon Cancer, 3% Pneumonia, 2% Breast Cancer, 2% Traffic Accident.

Israel has an estimated HIV/AIDS infection rate of 0.10%. The US has 0.60%.

Contrary to popular thought (and in researching this, I found I was wrong as well), Israel has less traffic deaths than the US: a traffic accident death rate of 6 per 100,000 residents, while the US as 14.7 per 100,000 residents, making it more than twice as dangerous to travel by car in the US than in Israel. However, Israel almost catches up in the number of injuries (509 vs 626 per 100,000), and does exceed the US in accidents per distance driven (0.8 vs 0.4 per million km driven). (Great review of Israel versus US road stat's here.)

Israel has an incarceration rate of 200 per 100,000 residents. The US has a rate of 738 per 100,000 residents. The US has a rate of 7.6 assaults per 1,000 residents, Israel's is 1/2 that.

In the New York tri-state area, you have an 6 times greater chance of being affected by violent crime than being affected by violent crime or terrorism (combined) in Israel.

The US does beat Israel in infant mortality, at 6.37 to 6.75 deaths per 1,000 births.

Israel does have greater rates of burglary and car theft than the US, but not violent types. Meaning, break in your home while you're out, yes, home invasion, no. Steal your car from your parking place, yes, carjacking, no.

Health care - Israel has universal coverage, but does limit the costliest treatments (transplants for example) and the latest costliest drugs. (Reasonably priced extension policies are available that do cover these things, but not everyone can afford it.)

In summary, safety and life protection in Israel versus the US: Israel has higher life expectancy, lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's but higher skin cancer, lower rates of violent crime and incarceration, but higher rates of theft and burglary. Traffic fatalities and injuries are a wash, with lower rates overall but higher rates per mile driven.

So, while in Israel:

1. Use more sunblock!
2. Lock your doors, get property insurance, make sure you car has an immobilizer.
3. Always buckle up, and take the bus or train for long trips.
4. Worry less about walking around at night.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

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Basra Meltdown - Phase 1

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

There's no question we never have the whole story, we can only watch developments and try to figure out what's going on. US Vice President Dick Cheney makes a surprising stopover in Iraq. A few days later, the Iraqi government goes to war against the Shi'ite militias, with the Iraqi president "personally" running the military operation.

Literally a few days later now, we hear "it's not going well", Iraqi army desertion going through the roof, US areas of Baghdad under major bombardment, and the basic power structure agreements that have kept multiple competing powerful forces in balance has just gone down the toilet.

We don't know the drivers behind this. There's speculation US political considerations are driving it, that it has to do with a deal between the US and Iran! (which also involves hanging Israel out to dry), or that it's just local Iraqi political considerations.

However, what we're paying attention to is the situation. If it devolves into a very major battle that draws in American and British troops with tremendous bloodshed, and especially if Iran gets directly involved, then we're living the words of the navi'im. We're waiting for Basra to blow up. Looks like the timer may be ticking.

Update: Momentarily after posting this, the latest Basra headline, "U.S. jets widened the bombing of Basra."

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

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Basra

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The city today known as Basra, Iraq is a key location in the writings of the navi'im (the biblical prophets).

Yishayahu 34:6 - Indeed, G-d is holding a sacrifice in Basra, a great slaughter in the land of Edom.

Yishayahu 63:1 - Who is this coming from Edom, from Basra, with stained clothing.

Amos 1:11-12 - This is what G-d said: For 3 sins Edom, but for 4 I will not pardon, because he pursues his brother with the sword and quashes his compassion. His anger rages forever, his wrath is sustained eternally. I will send a fire upon Teman, and it will consume the palaces of Basra.

Today's news...

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is promising to pursue his fight against Shiite militias in Basra to "the end."

Today, Basra fell into full civil war. The government of Iraq is in full battle with the massive Shiite militias of southern Iraq, the battle occurring in Basra. If this situation escalates, if the blood begins to flow, if the US gets drawn in, and if Iran gets drawn in, then we are walking the steps right out of the navi'im and Gog u'Magog.

Basra has popped up again out of the blue, it's a key city for the US as it's the ONLY port city of Iraq and the path of all Iraqi oil to the sea (and from there to world markets). And this is spinning up into a major situation very quickly. (The news report describes a very nasty situation with multiple forces involved AND THE US being directly attacked in Baghdad.)

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Decisions

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A reader wrote, "I loved your latest cross-post. BUT MY SPOUSE WON'T BUDGE! I'm in a pickle. The Jewish Agency is offering the best stimulus package for new and returning immigrants/olim, even for a SPLIT ALIYA (which means one of two spouses). And the picture of Mr. Ederi had a smile that was just intended for me! I saw it in his eyes, as if he were speaking directly to me! My spouse is so tired of listening to me threaten to go ... but what can I do????

I'm super-tired of being here.

Languishing in Chutz L'Aretz"


Dear Languishing,

As I noted in my previous article, I'm not going to discuss the merits of living in Eretz Yisroel, nor those who take various positions for or against (such as the Satmar rebbe's). I will refer you to the sefer Eim Habanim Semecha.

But you asked two other questions which bear discussion. First, you have a major disagreement with your spouse on future life direction (to be in Israel or to stay in your current circumstance), how should you handle that? Second, you want to change your spouse's opinion on this major religious matter, how can you do that?

On the first, the physical world does a wonderful job being very physical. The human mind and body are programmed to build patterns into routines and filters. (This is why, for example, people in New York City can sleep through an immense amount of street noise, it's part of their normal pattern and therefore gets filtered out of their attentive consciousness.) The chachamim were and are amazingly aware of this relatively new area of brain science, and we see incredible wisdom in advice on how to make certain things rote for our children, and how to avoid certain things becoming rote for us.

So you're, thank G-d, living in a seemingly stable life situation, and you're approaching your spouse requesting to turn it all upside down. Naturally, you're spouse thinks you're nuts...

You could: spend a lot of time making very convincing logical arguments (it's almost never going to work), scream rant and rave (this is going to turn your current decent situation into an unpleasant one, and who wants to go into a new situation with such a spouse), threaten and/or even begin to leave (this might work but will create incredible future resentment, any problems in your future life will be your fault). None of the above is the answer.

You should present your logical arguments, and your spiritual ones. Discuss and make known your future desires for your united direction, and then leave it be. Because none of the above methods is going to work, but all of them will damage the holy marital relationship. And peace between husband and wife is exactly that, holy.

On the second, you want to change your spouse's opinion. Here's what to do...

1. Daven to Hashem. Ask, in your own words, that you two together be brought to the right decision and direction, and that if that is the right direction for the two of you, than Hashem bring your spouse to that understanding.

2. Find a reason to present to your spouse THAT MATTERS. Change is almost never driven by logical argument. The energy to actuate a change comes from emotion. Fear, love, desire, pain, they drive change. Love of Hashem and wanting to be closer to Him to fulfill His mitzvot in His given Land. Fear of what might happen in chutz la'aretz. Pain of family or religious situations that would be different in Israel.

Naturally, there's an emotion pushing against it that has to be overcome, fear of change and the unknown.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said if there were 10 people who REALLY wanted Moshiach, he would come today. Now, how can you possibly say there aren't 10 Chabad chassidim that really want Moshiach? But, is there really a desire that would drive them to drop whatever was necessary to drop to do whatever needed to be done to bring Moshiach?

Daven to Hashem. And find the emotional key. Then build upon it.

Do NOT damage or destroy your marriage over it. For you can't go up via a negative path.

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Revenge

Received via email, h/t to Neshama...

by HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita,
Chief Rabbi of the city of Tzfat (Safed),

son of HaRav HaMekubal Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita.
From the newspaper Israel Shelanu

It's been 2 weeks since the massacre at Mercaz HaRav and we didn't hear any talks of revenge. Something in the decision-makers is damaged. Revenge used to be a basic part of Israel's policy. Every 'fedayeen' (terrorists previous name) operation resulted in revenge. This is what the army unit 101 did in Gaza and its areas. That's how they stopped the grenade explosions in cities in southern Israel. This is how they operated against murderers driving on the bus towards Eilat. This is how they stopped the theft of farms in Gush Katif.

Today, they forgot this power. They throw rocks on soldiers without fear, every suicide becomes a 'shahid'. Anyone that murder a Jew brings great honor to his family.

A state that is concerned about her citizens has to hang the 10 sons of the terrorist on a high 50 ft. tree for everyone should see and fear.

You must call it by its name. Revenge, revenge, revenge. You must not forget. Revenge on the massacre they did to Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav. I am not speaking to private people, I am speaking about the 'state'. The government must hurt them till they yell out, 'enough', till they lay on the ground and scream, 'help'. This drive is not for the purpose of revenge but rather to frighten them. The vengeance must be so painful until it will scorch our enemies and haters till they realize that Jewish blood is worth more than gold. A revenge is necessary on such a large scale till it will reverberate in the entire world.

I already foresee skepticism from the 'noblemen' and words such as, "barbaric," "it's not ethical," "Rav," "instigator," and the rest of boorish vocabulary coming out of their throat. Don't even take them into consideration. According to them there will be no Israel within 30 years. They already provided their children with foreign passports. We will stay here, we will live amongst people that clearly understand the language of revenge.

The 'leftists' do not determine what is ethical or not. HaKodesh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He) rules and Hashem said לעשות נקמה בגוים do revenge to the nations. It is HKB'H that brought the Egyptians to the seashore in order to drown them. It was only for the purpose of revenge so everyone will see and fear.

Remember, according to the Torah, "revenge" is not a coarse word. ChaZaL tell us that revenge was placed between the 2 letters of HaShem. The Gemara says "אל נקמות ה' אל נקמות הופיע". It is only between 2 friends that revenge is prohibited. When a state avenges, she is praised.

Every state in the world avenges when damages is done to her, including the USA, Turkey, India, Europe and Russia. Even the third-world avenges. How is it that the whole world is wrong and only the 'Israel leftists' are right?

They are not correct. They are tired. They lost the will to live. We must, simply must, unite our healthy strength in our nation. Remove these tired leaders, send them to an old-age home and bring instead of them invigorated power to rule. Leaders that know what ethics means. Leaders who know the value of life. Leaders who know the value of Am Israel. Leaders who understand where we came from and where we are going. We must.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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Windows of Opportunity

by Akiva at Mystical Paths, cross posted at Dreaming of Moshiach.

YNet posts a front page article on the topic of whether to stay in Israel or not. That's the conversation among the lead Israeli secular elites, all from the top zionist families of the past. Is it worth it to stay and be Israeli, or "The choice of whether to stay or leave. Whether we should leave our children with this exact life, or give them a new start in a new place. Whether we should offer them Canada, or Australia, or the United States."

While the secular elites are debating whether there's enough Western material excesses to keep them in Israel or whether they can get more in Canada, Australia, or the US, the orthodox Western Jews are having the reverse debate. Should they come to Israel?

Is there a chiyuv, a halachic requirement to be IN ISRAEL? I'm not going to go into that here, far better halachic minds than mine have been discussing that for quite a while now. Though, I would ask this question to anyone who says there is not...please explain to me why we don't have a chiyuv right now to bring the, or at least prepare to bring, the korban pesach (the logic I believe is similar, and ends with a similarly unsatisfying shrug for an answer).

The Jews of Bavel (Babylon) did not return. Their Torah lives on (the Talmud Bavli), but the communities did not. The Jews of the West have not returned...

It seems to me that there was a window of opportunity to leave to Eretz Israel, with maximum kavod (respect). All asset prices were up (housing, stocks), and Nefesh b'Nefesh along with the Jewish Agency were literally battling each other over who could do the most to get you to come.

But, like the Jews of Bavel, we didn't come. Interestingly, Ezra HaSofer (zt'l) returned from Bavel with 3,000. Nefesh b'Nefesh is now bringing 3,000 per year (which, btw, is a 90% increase from 5 years ago.) We built the beautiful synagogues and yeshivas and mikvahs, and supported Israel from afar. (We did send our children, at least to learn, planting good seeds for the future though.)

So Hashem changed the situation... there might be a little to worry about, and if you were there you could make a difference. Terrorism wasn't an only Israel thing anymore. We still didn't come.

Ok, we didn't appreciate the opportunity, the tide began to swing. The Jewish Agency stopped trying (their new idea is to put all their money into bringing reform Jews, who have no interest in coming, good luck with that.) Housing prices started to fall. Freak natural disasters started hitting major American cities. We didn't come.

Housing prices started to collapse. Freak natural disasters started hitting American cities every couple months. The stock market went wild, up, down, up, down. The situation in Israel cried for some Western Jewish influence. We didn't come.

Housing prices collapsed. The markets started a steady fall. Major financial tremors began. Freak natural disasters starting hitting American cities every 1-2 months. We didn't come.

The mortgage market completely collapsed. A credit crunch began. Markets fell major percentages. The value of the dollar began collapsing. Freak natural disasters started hitting American cities every 3 weeks! No change, the Jews aren't coming.

It was about as easy as could be, but now it's getting progressively harder to come. Assets may not be disposable anymore without major losses. Can't sell the house, maybe not even the car? Hopefully, Jewish communities haven't been buried in a snowstorm, hit with a hurricane, or a freak tornado, or a flood.

I'm worried, my friends, for the window of opportunity to come to Eretz Israel easily seems to be progressively closing.

It's NOT an easy transition. But, it's the place for Jews to be, it's the land that Hashem gave us, it's a place where even a few people can make a big difference, and a place with Torah like no other.

And the opportunity to come b'kavod seems to be fading.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

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More On Idolatry

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

One school of idolatry goes on to argue, “But the Torah has many Names of G-d, and all we are doing is personifying those many names.” This is their disastrous mistake, and this leads them to invent those many deities that they make. Each of these is a little god that they invent to represent some type of power or spirit that they worship. Even though they admit that they have many little deities, they say that since each of these deities represents one of the powers of the one overall G-d, they are still worshiping the one G-d. This is idolatry.

Another brand of idolatry teaches that the Torah talks of Elokim (G-d as Creator) and this name ends in a plural ending. So what is wrong with their plural deities? What is wrong with them saying that G-d is three, or has different levels, or activities?

Before there was any creation, there was only G-d with no manifestation whatsoever. At this stage, there was only the Name of G-d that signifies Existence, “Hashem.” At this stage, all was only the one “simple” Existence, with not even the slightest thought of multiplicity.

Then, when Hashem chose to create, He did so as Elokim (the Name of G-d as the Creator). At this stage of existence, creation came into being, and with it came multiplicity. Since G-d is still Existence, even after the creation has come into being, He is still all, including the multiple creation. This is why this Name has a multiple ending.

Elokim is the one all, but this Name of the all now appears multiple in manifestation. This is similar to the Hebrew word for water (mayim) that has an apparently plural ending, but still the water is singular. There is one ocean, yet the water within it appears multiple.

The word face in Hebrew (panim) has a plural ending because of the many faces that a person makes. But, even with all of the faces that he makes, still, he has only one face. The faces themselves are not making those faces. The person is making those faces. You cannot call the faces, the person.

Somewhat similar to this, the creation also has many faces, but they are all faces of the One.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

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Almost

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

After 3 days of Purim celebrations, it seems a shame to dive right back into politics. Yet, the urge to RANT at the RIDICULOUS news reports and "POLITICAL" statements is momentarily overwhelming...

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday it will take "painful concessions" from both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the Bush administration's vision of a Palestinian nation alongside Israel.

This standard US refrain has been heard over the graves of Jewish concessions for years. Still burying them, still hasn't been a single 'concession' that has helped.

After meeting with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, Cheney reiterated that the administration wants to see an "independent, viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state."

That's nice. Some people want to see the flying spaghetti monster. I consider that more likely.

"Achieving that vision will require tremendous effort at the negotiating table and painful concessions on both sides," Cheney said at the news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "It will also also require a determination to defeat those who are committed to violence and who refuse to accept the basic right of the other side to exist."

Oops, Cheney DIDN'T kiss their feet! This is actually an astounding statement from a US official. Perhaps the first time someone has kind of almost sort of taken the Pali's to task. Of course, that didn't stop Abbas from touting out the familiar...

Abbas thanked Cheney for the administration's financial support and commitment to a two-state solution, but the two men had notably different views on the obstacles impeding the peace deal. Abbas cited Israeli military operations and settlement expansions as the major deterrents to peace.

Yeah yeah yeah. Slaughtering budding Torah scholars in their holy yeshiva in Jerusalem couldn't have anything to do it with. Firing over 7,400 missiles and mortars at innocent civilians couldn't have anything to do with it. No no, it's those damn Jews building homes on empty rocky hills (pictures of miles and miles of empty rocky hills available on request).

Cheney homed in on the rockets that have been hurtling into Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza. "Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians; they also kill legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," he said.

Oops, another reasonable statement from a US politician. What's going on here? I bet Rice had conniptions after hearing this.

Of course, CNN itself couldn't leave this reasonable statement sink in. The reporter himself had to offset it as best he could, so he added this standard "bad Israel, bad Israel" fecal material...

Speaking before Cheney delivered his remarks, Abbas said Israel was at least partly to blame for the lack of progress in peace talks. "Peace and security cannot be achieved through settlement expansion, or erecting roadblocks around cities and villages, or military escalation against Gaza or continued incursions into the cities of the West Bank, or the arrests that have led so far to the presence of more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails," Abbas said before Cheney spoke.

Israel's settlement activities have long been contentious. The country recently announced plans to expand settlements in and around the West Bank, prompting condemnation from Palestinian leaders.


Standard horse hockey. Some Jew had the nerve to build a house in Jerusalem, so we slaughtered 8 children. And NO, Israel absolutely DID NOT announce plans to expand settlements IN and AROUND the West Bank. Notice that funky language, "AROUND". What's AROUND the West Bank? ISRAEL!

They announced plans to build some homes in ... Jerusalem. Oh the nerve of those Jews!

CNN -> Gag me with a spoon.

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Purim in Jerusalem

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This year, I was fortunate and blessed to spend Shushan Purim (today) in Jerusalem. First, it turns out my home town was a ghost town. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was headed into Jerusalem for Shushan Purim. Every outbound bus was full and the roads to Jerusalem were absolutely bumper to bumper.

Every bus, every car, was filled with costumed children and men in their Shabbos clothes. We crawled up the road, up the mountains, to Jerusalem.

Upon entering we saw sidewalks filled with all manner of strange folk. The oddly but identically dressed marching band or mariachi band or tails and top hats groups of 5 or so were a frequent site, as they prepared to bring joy to peoples homes while collecting tzedakah. We saw walking chickens, the occasional ape, and a plethora of strange ties, coats, and headwear.

Traffic was a madhouse. Our bus detoured, it's normal route blocked. Finally, we arrived at our destination.

Many were clearly striving to fulfill the mitzvah of ad lo yada. As the wine flows, the secrets come out, or at least the emotions. Many a sight of incredible ahavas yisroel was noted, as men proclaimed their love and friendship for one another. Neighbors shouted their love for neighbors, friends for friends, and even strangers for their appreciation of their fellow Jew.

Leaving was as challenging as coming, as the many who came to share Shushan Purim in Jerusalem all began to head home. Buses were packed, standing room only, traffic was worse, if that was possible, than coming in. Yet, people entertained each others children, shared snacks and drinks, and true appreciation for their fellow.

All in all, Jerusalem on Shushan Purim was truly a place of ahavas yisroel and achdus. May we remember tomorrow the joy of today.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

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The Rebbe Who Saved a Village

Received via email, credits to FaigeRayzel's Alerts and Izzy Kaplan...

Jewish men and women from all walks of life confronted the national pain resulting from an unprecedented terrorist attack on one of Judaism's most famous yeshivas, Merkaz Harav. Many are looking for strong leadership and moral direction to help us deal with this tragedy.

An eerily similar attack happened 52 years ago in the Chabad-Lubavitch village of Kfar Chabad in central Israel. Back then, an Arab gunman walked into the synagogue of the village's agricultural school and opened fire on a crowd of immigrant students and their teachers during Maariv prayers. He killed five children and one teacher, and injured 10 others. [Akiva adds: BEFORE Gaza, BEFORE the Shomron/West Bank, BEFORE Jerusalem, no "occupation", just a joy in spilling Jewish blood and a desire to keep the Jews down.]

Here's the news report, and the Rebbe's response:


"Yediot Achronot," May 5, 1957 (Free translation.)

On the eve of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) last year, as the bonfires were being raised on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the lights were burning also in Tzafrir (Kfar Chabad), the Chabad-Lubavitcher village in the Lod Valley .

For four days the village had been in deep mourning and grievous anguish, the likes of which the Lubavitcher chassidim had not known in many years. On that black and bitter night, a band of fedayeen entered the village. They made their way to the synagogue of the local agricultural school, where the school's young students were in the midst of the evening maariv prayers, and raked the room with fire from their Karl-Gustav rifles. They reaped a cruel blood-harvest: five children and one teacher were killed and another ten children wounded; their pure, holy blood soaking the siddurim that fell from their hands and splattering the synagogue's white-washed walls.

The village chassidim, brawny, broad-shouldered Russian Jews with thick black beards and bushy brows, stood dumbfounded before the terrible scene that met their eyes. A pogrom in Israel ! A pogrom in Chabad! they whispered, and bit their lips in rage. The women stood there too, hefty, handsome Russian matrons, wringing their hands and murmuring to themselves in Russian and Hebrew, their eyes emitting an endless stream of tears.

This was not a common scene for the Lubavitchers. These Chassidim, who had survived the pogroms in Czar Nikolai's Russia and whom the Red Army could not intimidate, who had been banished to the frozen plains of Siberia , whose backs decades in Stalin's prisons and camps could not bow, now stood stooped and despairing. Now, that the blow had hit home in the heart of the Jewish state.

In the center of the village stood Rabbi Avraham Maayor who had been a high-ranking officer in the Russian Army. Avraham Maayor, of whom legend told that he calmly stood and sang chassidic melodies as a band of soldiers beat him with the butts of their rifles, now stood crying out at the heavens: "Master of the Universe, Why?! How have the children sinned?!"

Despair and dejection pervaded the village, and began to eat away at its foundations. There were some who saw what happened as a sign that their dream of a peaceful life in the Holy Land was premature. Perhaps we should disband, seek refuge in safer havens? The village was slowly dying.

The Village Waits

But it was clear to all that before any decisive move would be made, the Rebbe had to be consulted. Nothing would be done without his knowledge and consent. All awaited the telegram from "there," from New York , but the telegram was inexplicably not forthcoming. Four days had passed since the terror had struck. A lengthy telegram had immediately been dispatched informing the Rebbe of all the details of the tragedy, and an answer was expected that very night. But the Rebbe was silent. What happened, many wondered, why doesn't he respond? Has he not a word of comfort for his stricken followers?

A telegram from the Rebbe, it should be clarified, is an integral part of Chabad-Chassidic life across the globe. Every problem, every decision pertaining to the communal or private life of the Lubavitcher chassid is referred to the Rebbe's headquarters in Brooklyn , and whatever the reply, that is what is done. And the answer is always forthcoming, whether by regular post, express mail, or emergency telegram-depending upon the urgency of the matter-and always short, succinct, and to the point.

Why, then, is the Rebbe's answer on such a fateful matter tarrying? The village elders had no explanation, and, as the hours and days went by, the question continued to plague their tormented souls, and their anguish and despair weighed increasingly heavier on their hearts.

The Telegram

And then, four days after the tragedy, the telegram arrived. The news spread throughout the village: A telegram from the Rebbe! The telegram has arrived! The entire village, men, women and children, assembled in the village square to hear the Rebbe's reply.

And the Rebbe was characteristically succinct. The telegram contained a single sentence-three Hebrew words-but these three words sufficed to save the village from disintegration and its inhabitants from despair. “Behemshech habinyan tinacheimu”, wrote the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. "By your continued building will you be comforted."

The Chassidim of Kfar Chabad now had a firm grasp on their future: they knew what they had to do. They must build! The Rebbe said to build! And that by their continued building they will be comforted! That very night the village elders held a meeting to discuss how the Rebbe's directive might be implemented. After a short discussion, a decision was reached: a vocational school will be built where children from disadvantaged backgrounds will be taught the printing trade. On the very spot where the blood was spilled, the building will be raised.

The Rebbe Knew

The next morning, all residents of the village gathered at the empty lot adjoining the agricultural school and began clearing and leveling the land in preparation for the building. The joy was back in their eyes.

In the weeks that followed, letters arriving from relatives and friends in New York described what had transpired there in those four endless days in which the village had awaited the Rebbe's reply.

For the entire month of Nissan, the month of the redemption, it is the Rebbe's custom to devote himself entirely to the service of the Creator, reducing his contact with his Chassidim to a minimum. Rare is the individual who is granted an audience with the Rebbe in this period, and all but the most urgent correspondence is postponed until the close of the auspicious month.

When the month of Nissan ends, a festive farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) is held at the Rebbe's headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn , marking the Rebbe's resumption of his involvement with his thousands of followers across the globe. The Rebbe speaks for hours, his talks interspersed with bouts of song and l'chaims, often until the wee hours of the morning.

That year, the farbrengen marking the close of Nissan was also held. The tragic news from the Holy Land had arrived in New York moments before the farbrengen was scheduled to begin, but the Rebbe's secretaries decided to withhold the news from him until after the gathering. But what his assistants did not tell him, his heart seems to have told him. That night, the Rebbe spoke of Jewish self-sacrifice and martyrdom al kiddush Hashem (for the sanctification of G-d's name), about the rebuilding of the Holy Land, and the redemption of Israel . Tears flowed from his eyes as he spoke. All night he spoke and wept, sang and wept, and wept still more.

Why is the Rebbe weeping? Only a few of those present could guess - those who knew about the telegram from Kfar Chabad.

The farbrengen ended. The chassidim dispersed to their homes, and the Rebbe retired to his room. With great trepidation, two of the Rebbe's closest chassidim knocked on the Rebbe's door and handed him the telegram from Israel . The Rebbe sank into his chair. He locked his door and did not open it for three days. After three days of utter seclusion, he called his secretary and dictated his reply: “Behemshech habinyan tinacheimu”. By your continued building you will be comforted.

The chassidim of Kfar Chabad have fulfilled their Rebbe's request. Without the aid of philanthropists or foundations, they have raised 50,000 Israeli pounds, and today, one year after the tragedy, the new building of the vocational school is completed.

Tomorrow, as the citizens of Israel celebrate their eighth Independence Day, the chassidim of Kfar Chabad will hold a farbrengen and relate, again and again, the story of the three-word telegram that saved the village.

[That was in 1957, before the 6 Day War, before the "Occupation", before all the reasons spewed today for "causes for their attacks and anger" and idiotic "sacrifices for peace". Yet the Rebbe teaches us how to respond. Then, and now.]

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Friday, March 21, 2008

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News Flash: Iranians Celebrating Lag B'Omer Today

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(This is a real, not Purim, news report...)

(Fox News) Iranian youths staged a massive protest Wednesday, calling for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demise during the Persian celebration of Lag Ba'omer, United Press International reported.

Angry mobs shouted “Death to Ahmadinejad” while lighting bonfires in the city of Sanandaj, UPI reported. Bonfires and firecrackers are traditional in marking the occasion.

Police officers attempting to arrest the revelers were greeted with a barrage of firecrackers, but the situation never escalated beyond the typical celebration.

Mazel Tov to the Iranians for adopting the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer, where we light bonfires to signify the fire of the Torah as taught via the secrets of the Torah by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, zt"l.

(h/t Chaim Bray's Blog)

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Happy Purim - The Video

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

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Striving for Holiness


burka1
burka2
by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shiloh commented: "Modest is fine, but who's standards? One must wear a Jewish burka? We have a heck of a lot bigger problems then this version of 'spilling the seed'!! Damn will we ever wake up, I sadly doubt it. I completely understand why so many Jews run from Torah when it's been so misrepresented by erev rav for so many years. As a dog returns to his vomit so does a fool return to his foolishness. We better wake up, and that goes for all the power hungry rabbi's."

It has been taught, Gemora Niddah end of chapter 3, "An oath is administered to him [before birth, warning him]: 'Be righteous and be not wicked...'". (Opening words of Tanya)

We are obligated to strive to be righteous, to literally be a kingdom of priests, a holy people. Therefore, we have mitzvot of Hashem in abundance with which to focus upon, and by doing so, by following the commands of our Father in Heaven, particularly when they differ from the desires of this world, we are righteous and come a little closer to Heaven in this world.

But that's only half the battle. We must turn away from evil, we must suppress our desires for the gross physicality of this world. We must run from the blatant displays of sexuality of our times, and turn our backs on the excesses and rampant materialism.

At the obvious levels, that's easy. Guard your borders (watch what enters your eyes and ears). Don't get involved in activities that would immerse you within inappropriate influences. Build an appropriate environment around oneself.

However, this striving never stops. We want to get closer to Hashem. We've done all the above, now what? Now is where we must CLOSELY follow the examples of our gedolim, our holy sages, the holy leaders of our generation. For as we're striving, we can go too far...

There is a Baal Shem Tov story about a rav who was so afraid of violating any of the even most minor or unintentional provisions of Shabbat that he would sit quietly, in the dark, in his chair throughout Shabbat. (Because, for example, if he moved he could step on an insect or cause the air to move affecting the wick of the candle.) While he was ultra-meticulous in every negative detail of Shabbat, he completely lost the essence _and_ the mitzvah.

Judaism doesn't have monks. We aren't celibate, we don't sit quietly. We live life, and involve Hashem in this world, and our lives with Hashem. We celebrate the gift of live and the opportunties it brings, for our bodies and mitzvot and for our neshamas (souls).

(There are a very few exceptions. Mekubalim, kabbalists, to reach the highest spiritual levels required for their particular path, need to purify themselves from many aspects of the material world.)

An area of frequent conflict in all the above is Tzniut, modesty. We want holiness in our communities and environment. We don't want to see inappropriate images or revealing styles of dress. The Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) for physical relations is the 2nd strongest in this world (only the desire for physical survival, food, breathing, etc, are stronger). We must both use it properly and keep it tightly guarded.

Yet, what's "modest"? Modesty is a community standard, it changes with the time and place. What's reasonable in Brooklyn may not be reasonable in Meah Shearim. What was reasonable after World War II may not be reasonable after 60 years of relatively peaceful times.

This is where leadership is critical. A free for all, decide what you want, just doesn't fly. We must refer to our holy leaders to use their best judgment to set community standards. In this day and age of everyone decides his own path and complete personal freedom, the idea of a community standard to which one must abide seems to just drive people crazy. It's not democratic! It's not right! I can do what I want!

Welcome to the ways of the Yetzer Hara!

The photos above show a woman from a tiny group who's leader, striving for extremes of holiness, has set a standard requiring a BURKA for the Jewish women who follow her. This is not a Purim costume nor a Purim joke. No one, no religious authority, considers this required or desirable. Further, my daughter's first reaction upon seeing this was "I thought we're not supposed to dress in the way of the nations, and even more so our declared enemies." Is this the opposite extreme, also a trick of the Yetzer? Just taking "our own chochma", our own thinking, too far? Or a trend of the future?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

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2nd Attempt on the Tzadik of Meah Shearim!!!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Yesterday an attack upon a rav (rabbi) of Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim was reported by the news. The rav was attacked while walking to the yeshiva with a bodyguard, being stabbed. His attacker escaped.

Approximately 1 hour later, a man wearing a yalmuka entered the yeshiva of the Breslov Tzaddik of Meah Shearim, HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita, asking to see the rav. He wandered the yeshiva asking for the rav, becoming increasingly agitated when not immediately pointed to him. Finally, ascertaining where the rav's office was located, he began moving there in a violent and forceful manner. Calls for help went out, and one of the yeshiva members who was a trained security agent in his former life confronted the assailant. The man immediately began to attack the yeshiva member, attempting to penetrate the tzaddik's office.

With thanks to Hashem, the yeshiva member was able to disable the assailant, then removing him from the yeshiva building. Israeli security forces were already present in the area (the yeshiva is a 15 minute walk from the spot of the Ateres Kohanim attack 1 hour earlier), they took charge of the assailant and whisked him away. Events happened too quickly for the yeshiva member to determine if the assailant was armed or not (if he was, he did not have a chance to draw his weapon, the attack on the rav of Ateres Kohanim was via knife).

This is the second time in a week that the Breslov Tzaddik of Meah Shearim (Jerusalem, Israel) and author of the popular Jewish sefer The Garden of Emunah, HaRav HaTzaddik HaChossid Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, has been targeted by negative forces.

May Hashem protect the tzaddikim and all of Klal Yisroel through these difficult times!

Rav Brody posted these words at Lazer Beams from HaRav Arush, shlita, yesterday...

* There is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict;
* There is no viable political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict;
* The security situation here is worsening because of spiritual apathy;
* Hashem has put the people of Israel in a situation where nothing can help them but teshuva, prayer, and hafatza (spreading emuna). There is no government in Israel that can solve today's problems.
* Hitbodedut (personal prayer to Hashem) on Purim can achieve miraculous salvations.

Rav Shalom is neither an alarmist nor a doomsday prophet. Yet, he's terribly troubled about Israel's predicament. He urges everyone to devote at least 10 minutes a day in praying for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.


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Hair

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

A reader asked via email...

I have been reading the Mystical Significance of Hair at KabbalaOnline and there the article by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria states:

2. According to some, a man does not allow his peyot, i.e. the hair of his temples and upper sideburns between forehead to back of ears (i.e. sides of the head) to be trimmed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:11) except when the peyot extend past the length of the beard and then are trimmed with a scissors. (Writings of the Ari, Ta'amei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim)

My questions are:

1. Is this in practice today?

2. If so what would be the measurements, fingers/inches on top of the ear and behind it that are not cut?

3. Where do you place all this extra hair as it seems to me that it would hang over ones ear.


First, I should note the article isn't by Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, zt"l, as that is the name of the Ari HaKodesh, who hasn't been writing articles in this world for some hundreds of years. Rather, his writings (or rather his teachings captured by his student Rabbi Chaim Vital, zt"l) is the source of some of the quotes used in the article.

The customs and understandings of the halachot of peyot (the term for sidelocks) are as diverse as each sect within Orthodox Judaism. From the most practical halachic standpoint, if one places two fingers (the index and pointer) vertical along the side of one's face aligned with the edge of one's hair to the face, with the middle finger joint aligned approximately with the top of the ear, the space covered by the fingers is the space of the peyos. The hair covered by those fingers should never be shaved off or cut extremely short.

According to the Arizal, as given over by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the name of the "Shulchan Aruch of the Ari, al pi kabbalah", hair growing from that area should never be cut shorter than the cheek bone. Meaning, the hair from the top would be expected to grow about 3 inches long before being cut. (Of course, this assumes one has long straight hair.)

And that is the custom among most Lubavitch chassidim.

Among many Litvish groups, one sees the rabbanim holding the custom is the same area (of hair), but to let the hair grow to either the bottom of the ear, or to the bottom of the jaw. In either case, the resulting hair is placed behind the ear. It would seem that is specifically to prevent the peyos hair from mixing with the beard hair, to separate the mitzvot.

Many other chassidic groups expand the area of hair (add a third finger to the width measurement above). The resulting hair is then rolled into a sidecurl, which results in the common chassidic sidelocks appearance.

While customary practice is to keep the peyot at a specific length, some Breslev chassidim as well as Sephardi mekubalim don't cut their peyot. As you can imagine, this can result in foot long or two foot long peyos.

ALL of this discussion, however, is in the range of enhancing the mitzvah. Simply not shaving the hair in that area and maintaining a small sideburn clearly fulfills the halacha.

(Photo credit, Mentalblog - Jerusalem Hats & Heads)

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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Rav Avraham Schorr's Shiur on the Day of the Merkaz Harav Attacks


by Dixie Yid at Mystical Paths

I realize that I should have cross-posted this here earlier. But better late than never. If you haven't heard this, it's worth it to give it a little time to listen.

I think that every Jew should listen to this short shmooze by Rav Avraham Schorr on the killing of the yeshiva bochurim at Yeshiva Merkaz Harav, given that same day. Listening to a true Ohev Yisroel's reaction to what happened is heartbreaking and shows just how small my problem is with regard to the issue of truly being part of the Jewish people in mind and heart.

Update 3/25/08: It appears that I will not be able to re-post this shiur. I appologize to those of you who did not yet get to hear it. However, an anonymous commenter has been kind enough to post a summary of some of the main points of the shiur. Here is that summary:

A brief Shiur on the significance of this tragic event -- the murder of eight young men while they were learning Torah in a Yeshiva in Yerushalayim -- was given by the distinguished Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Avraham Schorr SHLIT"A a few hours after it occurred, on Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni. The following is my recollection of this outstanding Shiur:

1. As we have learned, "MiSheNichnas Adar Marbim BeSimchah." The timing of this tragedy -- Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar II -- indicates that the Ribono Shel Olam intended to disturb our Simchah with an urgent message. What what He telling us?

2. The Gemorah in Maseches Taanis (29a) states: "KeSheim MiSheNichnas Av MeMaatim BeSimchah, Kach MiSheNichnas Adar Marbim BeSimchah." To the well-know question -- What is the connection between the two? -- the Sfas Emes ZT"L answered: The Ribono Shel Olam expects us to mourn the loss of the Batei HaMikdash. Our reward for doing so is Simchah in the month of Adar. According to Rav Shorr SHLIT"A, the fact that the Ribono Shel Olam disrupted our Simchah this Adar indicates that is He is unhappy with our mourning and concern for the Churban Batei HaMikdash. It is call for us to repent and mend our ways!

3. Why is our era known as "Ikvisa DiMashicha" (the heels of Mashiach)? The Rosh Yeshiva quoted his father, HaRav Gedaliah Schorr ZT"L, as saying that the heels are the only part of our body where one can cut with a knife and the victim may not feel it. Unfortunately, we have become so callous that we do not sense the imminence of Mashiach!

It is the fervent hope of the Rosh Yeshiva SHLIT"A that we will mend our ways through genuine Tshuvah and thus hasten the Geulah Shleimah, BB"A.


-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Artutz Sheva)

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Don't make us come and talk to you

Don't make us come and talk to you...

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Monday, March 17, 2008

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Idolatry

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Idolatry is the worship of anything other than G-d. But we have learned that G-d is existence, so G-d has to be all that exists. But if G-d is all that exists, there can be no such thing as worshiping anything other than G-d, because there is nothing other than G-d.[i]

Can we say such a thing? Can we say that a certain object or person is G-d? G-d forbid! But if we say that that object is not G-d, aren’t we saying that there is something other than G-d? G-d forbid! How can this contradiction be resolved?

Think in terms of the infinite and the finite. The infinite, by definition, must be without limits. Therefore, it must be everywhere at all times. The finite, by definition, must have limits. Therefore, the finite must be in a certain limited location. But if the infinite is already everywhere, where can the finite be? Wherever you try to put it, the infinite is already there.

Indeed, the infinite is everywhere at all times. It is up, down, around, and throughout all. The one, endless infinite fills and surrounds all of creation. But even though the infinite is everywhere, still, if we want, we can draw a small circle within the infinite. After drawing that circle, we now have the finite (the circle) which is within the infinite (the all). Is the infinite still infinite? Of course it is. It is still everywhere.

When you touch any point in the entire creation, are you touching the infinite? Yes, because the infinite is everywhere. When you touch the area within the circle, are you touching the finite? Yes, because you are touching the area that is within the finite circle. When you touch within that circle, are you also touching the infinite? Of course you are, because the circle does not stop the infinite in the least. The infinite is still everywhere. Since the infinite is all, and everywhere, it must also be the finite.

But, if this is so, then the finite must be the infinite. So what is wrong with calling the finite the infinite? Why can’t I say that the finite circle, or table, or any other object in creation is the all?

You cannot say that a finite object (such as a table) is the all, because you are identifying that object as a specific finite object (a table), and that finite object is not any of the other finite objects. The circle is only its own personal, little finite circle. The table is not the chair. What we call the Infinite must include the entire all, including all of the finites.

This is why we cannot call a finite object, the infinite. And idolatry does just that. They claim that a man, a spirit, or a statue is (or represents) the Infinite One. And it does not. Nothing can represent G-d.

(To be continued)

[i] Deuteronomy 4:36, 4:39

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News of Note

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

* As a follow up to our public service announcement of the march on the terrorist's village and family home, Israel National News has the report of what happened. The State of Israel took every action to stop the protest and beat the protesters, yet a small contingent did succeed in penetrating the village and expressing their dismay in the village support for the murder of Jews. Arabs attacking Jews, ok, Jews defending themselves or responding to Arabs, not ok. What's wrong with this message?

* Arutz 7 reports, via the charedi paper Yom Chadash, the most important news in a long while involves a major Torah rabbinic leader declaring “According to Jewish law, it is completely forbidden to hire Arabs, especially in yeshivas,” Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said. “There is a concern of endangering lives.”

The rabbi continued, explaining, “After all, we are at war with them…and are there not Jews that can work and make a living?” Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is considered a top Torah sage of the generation in the hareidi-religious community, his words will be followed.

Within my own community, there was immediate talk today about how to change a situation where most local construction has a majority of Arab labor. This is a very big deal which may lead to a significant change in both Arab employment prospects and Jewish ones (skilled Jewish labor has been priced out of the market in Israel, as Arab labor, especially imported ones, are much much cheaper.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

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Chevra Mishnayot Neshamot

For Iluy Nishmat Devorah HaNevia, a'h, all of Am Israel, and all the Jewish souls that have no one to say Kaddish for them, Reb Yaakov Shlita has began the Chevra Mishnayot Neshamot.

If you would like to be part of this very unique and special Chevraya, please send your Masechta request, include name, email, and telephone number, to yaakovshalom@comcast.com
אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו ומה נעים גורלנו

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Wow! Secular Court Refers Criminal Case to Sanhedrin!

This is significant Sanhedrin news!

(via Arutz 7 - Israel National News) Tzvia Sariel of Elon Moreh, who has been held in jail since December for refusing to recognize the authority of the secular court system, was allowed to testify before a Torah court set up by the nascent Sanhedrin Friday. The Sanhedrin Court for Matters of People and State ordered her immediate release.

The court, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, heard Sariel’s testimony after a judge from Netanya’s Magistrates Court ordered that she be allowed to attend the hearing on the limits of the youth’s struggle against the Israeli judicial system. It is presumed that Netanya Magistrates Court Judge Samdar Abramovitch hoped the Sanhedrin court would instruct Sariel to put and end to her struggle and recognize the civil courts....

“It is no coincidence that the hearing took place on the anniversary of the passing of Moses our teacher, the father of Hebrew law, and close to the days of Purim, when it is said that the Jews reaccepted and affirmed their commitment to the law of the Torah,” a statement from the court said.

After the verdict was read, the court's rabbis, wrapped in prayer shawls, stood and recited the special prayers accepting the justice of the Almighty, according to IsraelJustice.com: "Everyone in the courtroom followed in a loud chant to say the words, 'Hear O' Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One,' despite an attempt by prison guards to prevent supporters, including Ruth Sariel, Tzvia's mother, from entering the hearing."

Following the hearing, the officials present from the Prisons Authority affirmed their commitment to carry out the verdict of the Sanhedrin court. Prisons' Authority warden Hila Furis reportedly told those present: “The Prisons' Authority recognizes the authority of the [Sanhedrin] court and will act to implement the verdict.” They removed Sariel's leg restraints and claimed she was being brought to the Ramle Magistrates court, where she would be released before the Sabbath.

Sariel was returned to Neve Tirza Prison, however, where she spent the Sabbath. Her parents say she has been placed in solitary confinement. Rabbi Ariel said the court would continue to follow the case and work for Sariel’s release, in accordance with the directives of the Netanya court.

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Next

Received by email...

Most Syrians struggle to even read Arabic, much less have a clue about reading English. So, how do a group of Syrian protest leaders create the most impact with their signs by having the standard 'Death To Americans' (etc.) slogans printed in English?

Answer: They simply hire an English-speaking civilian to translate and write their statements into English. Unfortunately, in this case, they were unaware that the 'civilian' insurance company employee hired for the job was a retired US Army Sergeant! Obviously, pictures of this protest rally never made their way to Arab TV networks, but the results were PRICELESS!


NOTE, the story is NOT true, the picture is Photoshopped (faked), the crowd is (apparently) Pakistani, but still, it's funny.
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Action Announcement: March on Terrorist's House

Received via email, shared as a public service...

March to Demand Destruction of Merkaz HaRav terrorist's house

A week has passed since the massacre in the "Merkaz Harav" Yeshiva where eight of our dear boys were murdered by an Arab terrorist, resident of East Jerusalem.

The murderer's aunt has been quoted as saying that the entire family and the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabbel Mukhaber are proud of what he did.

Unbelievably, the house of the Arab terrorist has not been destroyed yet, even though in many other instances in the past, the Israeli government did destroy houses of terrorists. Why is this not being done now? How can the government not do the most elementary moral and punitive action after such a massacre, which is destroying the house of the terrorist and expelling his family and supporters?

In the absence of any effective government, it is the people who must show the way.

The bereaved families have called upon everyone who can to take action. WOMEN in GREEN and several other groups have joined the call of the bereaved families to demand that the government destroy the house.

WHEN? This coming SUNDAY, March 16th, 2008, at 5:00pm.

WHERE? Meet in Jerusalem on the Promenade (Tayelet) of Armon Hanatziv and from there march to the house in Jabbel Mukhaber. The more people show up, the more the demand to destroy the house will be listened to.

Even if you can't walk all the way, at least show up at the Promenade.

Buses to the Promenade: 8,12,7,74,30,163

Organized by bereaved families together with Komemiyut (Be Righteous), Halev Hayehudi (The Jewish Heart), Virashtem Otah (Inherit the Land), and Women in Green.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

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Attacks Spread

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shavua Tov! A good week...hopefully, G-d willing. With Purim this week, Mystical Paths normally turns to silly humor and a bit of wackiness, as is common during the time of Purim. Unfortunately, the situation in Eretz Yisroel is deteriorating significantly, and it's not being reported. Therefore, in the midst of a joyous season, and the hope of the final destruction of the spirit of Amalek from this world, we present you with news tidbits that must get out.

- The Jewish West Bank towns of Itamar, Bracha, and Elon Moreh have been partially cut off, as the arab town of Hawarah goes on the rampage. Daily stonings and molotov cocktail (fire bomb) attacks have become the norm. In one incident in which a Jewish driver attempted to defend himself by firing at those throwing fire bombs, he was interrogated and just avoided arrest by Israeli security authorities. (Because, you see, they had missed his car, you can only fire back if you're hit, at which point, it's too late.) Israeli security forces sit outside the town, ordered to do nothing.

- (Lazer Beams reports) Three Arabs tried to hijack an Egged #350 Mehadrin bus on its way from Ashdod to Bnai Brak. Thanks to Hashem and the lightning fast action of Ashdod's Police special forces, the 3 were seized. Rabbi Brody's wife and daughter were on that bus.

- Israeli arab citizens are stoning Jewish drivers on several major Israeli traffic arteries, especially those in the Israeli north. (Remember, these are stones the size of baseballs hurled at full force.) Travel to and from Teveria (Tiberious), Tzfat (Safed), Meron and the Golan have become dangerous as they pass through Arab majority areas. Israeli police have taken very limited action (out of hundreds of attackers and attacks, 3 have been arrested.)

- Travel in and out of Jerusalem to the Shomron (West Bank) has become a dangerous affair daily, as the arab village of Hizma is stoning the main road below. This road was relocated years ago to avoid passing through the village, though several village businesses relocated next to the road to sell their wares (polished marble and large garden pottery). Now, groups of residents come down the hill to stone the traffic as it backs up from the Jerusalem security checkpoint 1/2 mile ahead. Israeli security forces sit on the road below doing nothing. When queried why, they responded that no one had been killed yet, and they were permitted to take action only then.

- In the midst of the above, the media is keeping people asleep by reporting items such as this, "The political murder of an Arab public figure is a matter of where and when," Amir Mahoul, chairman of a committee for the protection of freedoms, told a conference put together by the organization in Umm el-Fahm (an arab city in Israel where Jew's fear to tread). "We are a group that is in real danger, and the state is responsible for this," he said. Mahoul said incitement against the Arab community is by Israeli Jewish leaders.

As Rabbi Brody wrote on Lazer Beams, "Rav Shalom (Arush, shlita) told me to say that the entire people of Israel are in grave danger. The IDF doesn't have the answer. The only thing that can save us is Teshuva, Hitbodedut, and spreading emuna far, wide, and fast. We appeal to all of our friends and readers to devote 10 minutes of your daily personal prayer to begging Hashem to have mercy on the people of Israel. There's no time to waste.

Amein, and may we truly have a Shevua Tov, a good week.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

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Akiva!

by Nava at Mystical Paths

Reb Akiva, your furniture still for sale?

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The 8 Kedoshim

Via Email by Sharon Millendorf (Nefesh B’Nefesh coordinator)

Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.

When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed. After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.

As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor. She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every Friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.

When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.

We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.

This coming Wednesday morning, I was at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel . We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.

Sharon Millendorf
Nefesh B'Nefesh

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Tzadik of Meah Shearim ATTACKED BY ARABS!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Exclusive to Mystical Paths!)

The Breslov Tzaddik of Meah Shearim (Jerusalem, Israel) and author of the popular Jewish sefer The Garden of Emunah, HaRav HaTzaddik HaChossid Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, was attacked together with his 18 year old son, Moshe Dovid, while in intense prayer for Klal Yisroel at Kever Shmuel HaNavi (the tomb of the biblical prophet Samuel) in Jerusalem, yesterday around 11:30 AM (or so).

A group of Arabs came upon the Rav during prayer at the holy site and began to viciously assault him. As his son heard the cries and came to defend his father, the group turned upon the son and directed the full force of their attacks, severely beating him.

The son's wounds were of sufficient severity to require hospitalization. The Tzaddik himself refused treatment, and was seen briefly slowing and painfully making his way in and out of his yeshiva in Meah Shearim today.

With this attack, as with many "small" attacks now occurring throughout Israel, we see the arabs feel completely unfettered and free to openly perpetuate both physical and now spiritual terror. And the government, even while under constant missile attack during a "truce", continues to dither.

Hashem Yerachem!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

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Ban Caught in Clown Scandal!

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon Caught in Clown Scandal

(MP) NEW YORK, NY - Investigators today released information showing that United Nations Secretary General has been involved with illicit clown activities for some time.

Chief investigator Tim Brown said, "We realized over the past few months that the Secretary General's Israel situation pronouncements could only be made by someone who was either incredibly poorly informed, on the take, or just plain stupid. As an example, take today's statement made while Israel's civilian population was under a barrage of 24 missiles and Israel has made no attacks on Gaza in a week..."

'Israel's disproportionate and excessive use of force has killed and injured many civilians including children ... I condemn these actions and call on Israel to cease such acts.'

"Now," the investigator continued, "such a statement in blatant contradiction of reality required serious investigation. We closely reviewed the Secretary General's mental health records and IQ, and found both acceptable. But, a close review of his financial records found a series of suspect transactions. At first we suspected corruption, but finding payments to a series of shell corporations ultimately associated with the NY Apple Circus, we determined that the Secretary General has been taking illicit clown training. As part of this training involves ongoing hits to the head with a large rubber mallet, we believe the Secretary General's recent statements can be attributed to serious confusion resulting from this illicit clown training.

The above photo of the Secretary General was captured by our undercover investigators prior to his recent press conference."

Phew, that clears a few things up.

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The Kabbalah of Haman - Part 1

by R. Nati at Mystical Paths

It's parshas Zachor this week, we're supposed to remember to wipe out the name of Amalek. But why this eternal command, what trait is so horrible that it must be eliminated from this world?

Rebbe Nachman teaches that for one to have Malchus, to gain rulership or influence over people, one must loath the desire for wealth. Reb Noson of Breslov explains, this is why Amalek seeks to blemish holy wealth, to make a person desirous of wealth, as this will prevent a person from obtaining Malchus of Holiness. (Torat Natan 20)

Our goal in this world is to subdue our desire to serve ourselves, to exercise our malchus for our own self gratification, but to nullify that negative desire and use our malchus only to serve Hashem. Malchus is an aspect of gatherer, it can give over nothing of it's own, it only gives over what it has received.

Malchus of the Sitra Achra, the reflection of Holiness in the Other Side, gathers up money. Since it's fearful that we might remove from it the sparks of holiness that it's swallowed (that it's captured from our sins, G-d forbid, it fortifies itself by gathering money. What's the connection? The holy sparks are an aspect of the supernal colors of gold, silver, and copper, at the low level of this world a refection of them can be seen in the physical gold, silver, and copper.

This is the aspect of desiring wealth, which is an aspect of Malchus. Therefore Amalek, which is the Malchus of Evil, pursues the Malchus of Holiness. It seeks to "cut down all the stragglers". Since the Other Side is fearful of the loss of it's life force, which it maintains through the capturing of the holy sparks, it diligently goes about trying to capture more holiness to maintain it's existence.

A reflection of that in this world is the desire for money. That's why, particularly in this generation, there is a great ta'a'va (desire) for money.

An aspect of Malchus corresponds to fear. For Malchus of Holiness, this spreads the fear of Hashem. But for Malchus of Evil, it spreads fear of poverty. This negative fear brings the uncontrollable desire for wealth, through which the Malchus of Evil is able to gather up holy sparks, concealing Godliness and maintaining it's negative existence (G-d help us). Further, this fear leads people to doubt (safek) in Hashem's ability to provide for them, leading them to believe that they have staved off poverty throw their own efforts.

Amalek is a gematria of dollar. The reason Malchus of Evil attacks holiness via wealth is that wealth/feet is within the lower levels of holiness, those that relate in this world. And that's the highest level of holiness to which the Other Side can reach.

Malchut of Evil only attacks when the Malchus of Holiness is blemished. Meaning, our lack of emunah is literally what brings on the attack of Amalek. When we doubt Hashem's ability to provide for us, we blemish our emunah, cutting off our shefa and blemishing Malchus of Holiness. This blemish not only affects our own shefa (path of blessings), but the blessings of the entire world.

...And cracks the door to Malchus of Evil, opening the path and drawing in an attack by Amalek. (To be continued.)

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The Song of Minchah

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Song of Minchah, a few moments of some beautiful Minchah (afternoon prayer) I encountered in Jerusalem today, with a little musical introduction. I really enjoyed it, and wanted to share.

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

    Play it Now:


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

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THE POLICE STOOD BY AND DID NOTHING !!!!

by AKIVA at Mystical Paths

Whoops, the police accidentally reported...

(Haaretz) Where did David Shapira, the Israel Defense Forces officer who killed the terrorist, obtain a police detective's cap he wore inside the yeshiva?

Police officers had been saying that Shapira got the hat from the first police officer to reach the scene, who decided not to confront the terrorist. But in Monday's meeting it became clear that Shapira had been wearing a special detective's cap, not a regular uniformed-officer's hat.

Franco was unable to explain whether Shapira got the hat from the patrol officer or perhaps from a second officer, a detective who was at the scene but who, like the patrol officer, also declined to confront the terrorist.


Let me repeat that, LOUD AND CLEAR:

A regular patrol Israeli police officer arrived while the shooting was in progress, "declined" to enter the building and attempt to stop the US financed arab terrorist. Instead, he decided to prevent others from entering!

Then, a Israeli police detective arrived while the shooting was still in progress and 'decided not to confront the US State Department sponsored arab terrorist.'

They stood by while children were murdered, while holy Torah students were slaughtered in their yeshiva over their holy books. "Declined to confront." Nice euphemism.

It's unclear exactly how he was stopped between two separate men who took immediate action. One man rushed in past the police (probably with them trying to stop him) and got a shot off hitting the terrorist (this man is discussed in the article above, seems he grabbed one of the policemen's hats on the way in, probably to let those inside know he was a good guy). Another man climbed a nearby building and hit the terrorist with two M-16 rifle head shots through a window. (These two men are reported as David Shapira and Yitzhak Dadon respectively, both heroes for their actions.)

And the police set up a perimeter. (Ok, I'm a little upset hearing this report. Maybe the police had only pistols, and even with two of them were just too afraid to go against a terrorist with a machine gun. But they could at least have gone in together with the hero who did enter the building, that would be 3 of them, one at least (probably) with an M-16.)

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Faith and Media Manipulation

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Now is the time of emunah (faith). Shamayim (Heaven) itself is telling us so, by removing all the vaunted strengths upon which we normally rely. Truly, we have no one upon whom to rely except our Father in Heaven...

(Ynet) Israeli Prime Minister Olmert - 'Grad rocket attacks were not a one-time thing; this has been Israel's reality for the past 60 years,' PM says during visit to Ashkelon, 'we have no way of preventing these attacks from recurring.'

The IDF is powerful. But a weapon left lying on the floor for fear of lawyers, or under command of the US State Department, is useless for ones defense. The level of power is of no use when you're afraid to use it.

The Israeli government has amazing abilities to accomplish great things. But when it's leaders walk away from everything Jewish, Zionist, and even Israeli, then those abilities are of no use.

If we knew it, Heaven is reminding us of it. If we didn't, Heaven is educating us, fast and hard. We have no one upon whom to rely except our Father in Heaven.

Dear friends, do teshuva and pray for Klal Yisroel. Lets not wait for stronger messages.

BTW, Haaretz kindly deleted the Prime Minister's actual words, for they wouldn't want to portray one who follows their ideology (no Judaism, no Hashem, no zionism) as having giving up on the country. All they offer is failure, but they ain't giving it up! Hashem ya'a'zor!

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