Monday, June 30, 2008

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What is Senator John Kerry Doing in Jerusalem?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

John Kerry in Jerusalem

Mid-day today, US Democratic Senator and Former Candidate for the President of the United States, Senator John Kerry, was spotted in the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel by the Jaffe Gate, exiting from the Christian quarter.

Senator Kerry was accompanied by a senate office staffer and two security personnel, and whisked away in a standard US Embassy armored Chevrolet Suburban. Mr. Kerry was wearing his traditional powder blue shirt and pink-ish tie, as was his senate staffer.

What's Democratic Senator John Kerry doing in Jerusalem on a hot summer's day? His web site is mum about the visit or any such travel plans. Could he be laying the groundwork for a visit by US Democratic Presidential Candidate Barak Obama?

Was he personally visiting holy sites in the Old City? Seems unlikely given he was alone (no family) and with senate staff. Was he visiting with Israeli officials? Given he was coming out of the Old City Christian Quarter, which leads to the Arab Quarter, there are no Israeli meeting sites in those areas, so that's not it.

Most likely he was having a diplomatic meeting with Palestinians. (Which within the bounds of Jerusalem is illegal per all agreements with the Palestinians.) Either Mr. Kerry was discussing international politics and US funding, in line with his senate activities and plans to be a major player in influencing the next US administration, or he was meeting with and setting up meetings with Palestinian (and assumability, in different meetings, Israeli) leaders for Barak Obama.

Whatever it was, shhhh, he's not talking.

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The Spirituality of Mikvah

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The wife’s monthly mikvah (spiritual immersion in a pool of water) can become routine to observant families. It can seem to be little more than a mechanical, required act, merely a ritual cleansing. This is not true. There are no rituals decreed anywhere in the Torah. Each of the Torah’s instructions comes to help us to reveal specific aspects of the pervading, but hidden, holiness that fills the entire creation.[i]

The parents must remember that the child who is conceived by a woman who has taken advantage of the mikvah is called a child “conceived in purity.” This child will have an easier spiritual path throughout his or her entire lifetime. It will be easier for such a child to recognize the spiritual aspects of the Torah than his peers whose mothers did not avail themselves of this wonderful spiritual tool. This gives a tremendous advantage to her children in their spiritual life. When she enters the water she should be aware of this spiritual purity that she is bringing upon herself and is preparing for her child. By following G-d’s instructions regarding the mikvah, she is removing a spiritual impediment. This allows additional holiness to manifest in her soon-to-be conceived child.

The mikvah is not intended to, nor does it bring about, a physical cleansing. The physical cleansing is done prior to entering the mikvah. The mikvah brings about a spiritual cleansing, a mystical, spiritual elevation that allows her body to conceive in holiness.

But what of women who are beyond the age of childbearing? If the mikvah is to prepare a holy life for her children, why should a woman who is not going to have any more children go to the mikvah?

The mikvah does not provide spiritual purity directly to the soon-to-be conceived child. It purifies the woman, not the future child. She then goes on to conceive in purity which passes this spiritual purity on to her child. This is why it is important for even a woman whose childbearing capacity has ceased to go to the mikvah one last time. Her ongoing spiritual status and that of her husband are greatly affected by her being spiritually pure.

The spiritual advantage of the mIkvah is not just for women. The Midrash [ii] teaches that upon Adam’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, he sat in a pool of water (as a mikvah) that was fed from the water that flowed from one of the rivers of the Garden. This was his attempt to regain the purity that he experienced while in the Garden.

The Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the modern Chassidic movement) attributed his unique spiritual height to his frequent use of the mikvah.

[i] Isaiah 6:3 “…the whole earth is full of His glory.”
[ii] Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

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Welcome to Erez and the Culture of Death

The Erez Israel-Gaza Crossing
5 minutes from S'Derot

Erez Crossing Israel Gaza

Cross to Gaza on the left,
Enter Industrial Park on the right

Erez Crossing Israel Gaza

A modern industrial park,
plus wall and watch towers

Erez Crossing Israel Gaza

Observation balloon, high ground
to watch for terrorist infiltration

Erez Crossing Israel Gaza

Radar post, detects incoming missiles daily
Erez Crossing Israel Gaza

Israeli army base (bottom) and
Israeli Gaza-border farming village (top).

Erez Crossing Israel Gaza
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

5 minutes west of S'Derot, and 10 minutes south of Ashkelon, lies the Erez Crossing Point. Erez is unique in that not only was it the major transit point for goods (and workers) in and out of Gaza, a major industrial park was built on the site.

Because we know the poor embattled Palestinians are economically depressed, and that depression and life stress can lead one to despair, and people in despair will turn to anything that gives a glimmer of hope, like ... terrorism. Therefore, building up their economic opportunity is the cure.

So a couple of smart politicians arranged some investment, and some government matching funds, and built an industrial park literally on the border. Direct access from Gaza meant a good supply of workers without them having the extensive border crossing difficulties of working in Israel. Direct access from Israel meant the Israeli management could easily and safely access the site, and goods could be moved out for export without significant security delays.

An inexpensive site, low cost labor force, and government incentives meant companies would be interested for their own benefit and profit.

The park was built, the special security access points put in place, the companies came and opened shop. Thousands of 'Palestinians' were employed at stable high wage positions (relative to other Gaza work), the employers got all that was promised.

But it didn't work. Today the Erez Industrial Park is a ghost town, all access points closed, and the Erez Crossing is closed... Why?

The failure began with small scale terrorism. A few workers successfully slipped in some knives, and decided to hack the people who paid their wages to pieces. Security was increased, to help all the other poor workers continue their jobs. So they came as suicide bombers and blew up the security check point. Security was increased (at which point it became as hard to enter the park as Israel, losing part of the advantage). So they shot mortars at the park.

That pretty much did it. The companies couldn't keep their Israeli workers there with threats of knifing, suicide bombers, AND mortars. The companies left, the poor Palestinians went home without a job.

But why? Why would they literally knife the hand that's feeding them?

This is where the whole Israeli left and American State Department completely fail in their thinking, for they simply can't answer the question, instead they rationalize it away. The simple answer is the same as suicide bombers, and has become a basic tenant of their society as a whole...

They hate us more than they value their own lives, or the lives of their community, or their parents, or their children. Not only don't they mind dying for the cause, or sacrificing others of their own people, community, or family for the cause, they REVEL in it. They have firmly embraced and entrenched a culture of death.

Arab culture is rather brutal, but this is way beyond that. The Torah teaches us exactly what's going in here...

Parshat Haazinu 21: They have made Me furious with no god (believing only in themselves), provoked My anger with their vanities (self indulgent culture), so I will make them furious by a NON-NATION, I will provoke their anger with a VILE NATION. It continues with attacks by misfortune (bombers) and arrows (missiles). (Oh, and it mentions Hamas by name.)

This non-nation, this vile culture, must be crushed. There is no possibility of peace to be made, no compromise or improvement that can satisfy. For our death is more valuable to them than their life.

All photos taken by Akiva, on June 20, 2008 at the Erez Crossing Point, Israel-Gaza border. June 20 was one of only three days when the "truce" held. Since then, Jewish civilians have been missiled EVERY SINGLE DAY.

UPDATE:

You couldn't make this stuff up. Today's news report...

Shortly after Israel decided to open all the crossings into Gaza Saturday night several mortar shells were fired by Palestinian gunmen at the Karni Crossing area. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, in consultation with defense chiefs, decided to allow 80 truckloads of food to cross from Israel to Gaza on Sunday.

Allow food, get bombed. Your death over their life demonstrated live.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

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Blue Strings

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We are SO adverse to change. This trait has generally stood us in good stead, protecting the Torah core from attacks by Xianity, Islam, false messiah's, and the enlightenment.

But today, this tendency to build higher walls is hampering us from dealing with several fast moving (in social terms) situations...

Many of us (almost the majority of world Jewish population) live in Israel. So much so that the core of Jewish learning, the major sphere of influence, has moved from the Diaspora to Israel in the last 5 years. But, we have issues being dealt with on crazy terms, such as Shemittah, where it's now preferable to buy produce from those trying to kill you than working out heter terms acceptable to all. (This situation has gotten so bad that Shemittah supervisors are having to have web cams installed in Arab fields due to the heavy risk of going personally.)

Techeles, the blue string of tzitzit, is another example. There is a great thread (the comments are the best) on Hirhurim dealing with this. Many specialist rabbi's have reviewed the blue-string/blue-dye research done and ruled it kosher. BUT, the leading rabbi's of the generation, the Gedolim, won't touch the issue. They won't say it is, they won't say it isn't.

This mitzvah is stunningly beautiful. It's a stark change from the plain white tzitzit of the past. Which is exactly the problem, it's a change. And all change is suspect.

So we are left with more junior rabbi's, when asked whether the mitzvah of the blue string is required or not, answer "well, we have no rulings (they don't actually anwser this first part, BUT THEY SHOULD), but you can take a lesson from seeing what the Gedolim are doing." What the gedolim are doing is maintaining the status quo, building a solid wall around Torah.

That's a good thing in defense of community standards. But we stand in a time with the (mass) return of Jews to Israel, potentially in the chevlay Moshiach (the time of the birth pangs of Moshiach), in an information age and wave engulfing us, in a time of recovery of mitzvot long unavailable.

It behooves our community to deal with this issues head on.

A few notes: Breslev gedolim are regularly seen wearing techeles. Chabad shluchim are never seen wearing techeles. Interestingly, the majority way of tying techeles is the Radzyner fashion, which is an Ari'zal/Chabad style knot with the outer loop and humps being the blue string (as pictured above).

Picture courtesy of RemarkableMaven.Com, a techeles selling store.


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The Impurade - Ignored!

Tamar Yonah attended today's same-gender flaunting parade targeted at desecrating Jerusalem. Different from past years, as I wrote in a previous article, the Gedolim specifically said to stay away, stay quiet, ignore it, and not to corrupt our own thoughts (or G-d forbid our young people) with even a discussion about it. (And politically moved to have it routed far away from religious neighborhoods.)

Tamar Yonah reports that the strategy was a rousing success. The parade route was empty. Few marchers, and a grand total of 11 spectators that she counted. There was only media and security, for no one else cared to 'enjoy' the spectacle.

Jerusalem has spoken: Keep your disgusting public behavior to yourself, we won't even give you the satisfaction of a glance in your direction. YOU ARE IGNORED.

Full report at Tamar's blog, with pictures of empty streets.

Photo by Tamar Yonah and Arutz 7.

UPDATE: Tamar Yonah has added these comments of her on-site experience -

(Tamar Yonah) I want to address a couple of things that your readers posted...

1) The parade marchers numbered only around two to three thousand people. I've seen bigger weddings in Jerusalem. It is not a very big turn out. However, the bolder they get, the more future participants we might see, G-d forbid.

2) While the de-facto boycott of the parade took place, in that hardly anyone came to view it, I do NOT believe ignoring them is the answer.

I am the daughter of a holocaust survivor and I know that people said the same thing about ignoring Hitler (y"s). We see what happened to 6 million of our brothers and sisters.

I believe that we must fight tooth and nail to prevent these parades from strutting sexual deviancy. However, if we lose and they win, THEN we should react with not showing up, unless it is to protest it, and say Tehillim in public for a public tshuva.

We must NOT ignore this evil. These marchers are also our brothers and sisters, and they are erring gravely in their ways. Their 'pride' makes this worse, but we need to show them the right way, hopefully with love and respect as we would to any individual who sins, but if they refuse to be respectful, then we must also march/protest against it.

(Tamar Yonah has a regular radio program at Arutz 7, and posts at an associated blog.)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

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Roosting Pidgeons & Big Gas Tanks

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

[ Begin Rant ]

Years ago I leased a small car. It got 32 miles to the gallon, was peppy and reasonably comfortable. After a minor collision with an SUV the size of an Abrams Tank resulting in the removal of the front end of my peppy small car and a small dent upon the door of the offending Land Yacht, I went out and got me one of them! I compromised and only purchased a medium sized SUV, with fog lights and 4 wheel drive - because in the suburban US northeast, you never known when you're going to need to ford a river in your SUV in the fog.

It got 17 miles to the gallon, but I could look down on people when I pulled up to a light (or at least eye to eye with the other Yacht drivers.) My family and I were safe from an unbalanced collision.

As I drove my not-overly-huge land yacht to the gas station, it slurped mightily. But I did not care (all that much), for prices weren't that bad.

What my community did care about was seals. And seagulls. Because life and nature are important. So we outlawed the drilling for American oil where it remains, offshore. And since they like seagulls in Massachusetts, they prevented the development of offshore windmills for limitless fuel-free electricity generation. And in Alaska we stopped oil also, because caribou (big fat fuzzy deer with moose horns) deserve to breed in peace without men in trucks shipping oil out watching them.

Because the plant maybe could be possibly wasn't perfect, we shut down the nuclear power plant in Long Island, after building it for 10 years, before it was ever turned on! And we want to shut the one down above New York City, because it's old and hasn't been upgraded (because we won't let them upgrade it!) In the West, we must care for our fish. Salmon are important (and tasty), so we will reduce hydroelectric water flow to maximize their habitat.

New Jersey has a reputation for a funny smell because of refineries near Newark. No other state wants a funny smell, so they don't allow any refineries to be built (for 30 years so far).

No nukes, no refineries, no old power plants, less hydroelectric, no wind plants, no new dams (no new hydro).

I moved to Israel, I prepared for and engaged a lifestyle change. My SUV is gone, A/C is used judiciously. In winter the apartment was cold, we bundled up. Many locations are walked to, others bused to. That was my choice.

And in protecting seals and seagulls and salmon, avoiding nuclear and wind and hydro and refineries, turning corn into gas taking away from the food supply, you have made one too. You just may not have realized it.

[ end rant ]

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I Am and I Am - Part 2

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

(Part 2)

Obviously, all this discussion of the beam and the overall light is a metaphor for the human condition. In truth, there is nothing beside the one Infinite Being, but He apportions and hides Himself in such a way that each portion believes itself to be a separate, individual being with entirely independent will. The portion is free to act according to its limited awareness. It is acting as a beam acts without knowing what the overall, grand light knows. This is what each individual experiences, and this is the basis for the individual’s free will. It is man’s ignorance of G-d’s Infiniteness, His Omnipresence and Omnipotence that allows G-d to give him rewards and punishments. If man were fully aware that G-d is actually All, then G-d’s giving to man would be like your right hand giving a gift to your left hand. But since man does not know his true relationship to the overall One, he receives as if he were other than this One, as If he were a separate entity.

If the individual could see the overall one, he would not be free to choose between right and wrong. He would be like an angel without free will. He would always choose the proper thing. But, since he is so limited in his understanding he is free to choose whatever he likes.

If all of the beam’s awareness restrictions were removed and it had the consciousness of the overall one, it would see that it is the one light, and it would see itself to be the beam too. It would see that it (the beam) is the one light beaming a portion of itself into beams. In such a case the beam would act with the awareness of the one light and not only with the limited, individual awareness of a beam.

We act and receive as limited individuals. We do not have the overall awareness of the One. We experience the overall One giving to and taking from us. The broader truth is it is the single, wondrous One Who is really being all and doing all.

The beam receives its repercussions according to its actions. From the narrow perspective we see it is the beam that is doing its deeds and is receiving those repercussions. It receives what it receives because the overall One is giving it its due.

From the wider perspective, we see that it is the one light that is all, and does all. The one light is also acting as the limited beams since it has dressed up a portion of itself to become those beams.

The results of a beam’s actions are called reactions or repercussions. The returning results of a person’s actions are called his rewards and punishments.

Is the one light doing everything? Yes, it is. Are the beams also doing their little individual actions? Yes they are. This is a not a contradiction. When we look at the lower perspective we say that the beam is shining the light. When we look at a broader perspective, we say that the light is shining the light.

Since G-d is omnipotent He must be the One Who does everything at all times. He has all the power. Is man doing his share of things? Yes, he is. This is not a contradiction. From the higher perspective we say that G-d is doing all. From a lower perspective we say that man is doing what he does.

This is the same question that was raised before. Is it the hand that is holding up that object, or is it the person who is holding it up? Both are true. From the narrow perspective we say that the hand is holding it up, and from the broader perspective we say that the person is holding it up.

This is the meaning of Hashem telling Moshe that His name is “I Shall Be As I Shall Be”[i] He is the One “I AM” Who is all. All that seems to be other than this One are but tiny reflections, beams, shadows and delusions of this One Existence. Each of us says, “I am,” but really we mean to say, “i am.”

[i] Exodus 3:14

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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Simulated Disaster!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Traveling towards Tel Aviv today, I saw a massive fire on the horizon. Getting closer, it appeared to be coming from the airport (G-d forbid!) Closer still, the huge cloud of billowing black smoke got worse and seemed from a distance to be a maintenance hanger on fire. Rounding the highway corner by the airport, O M G, there was a jet at the end of the runway engulfed in smoke. It was hard to tell, but the front looked like an El Al plane.

Fortunately, this was a simulated disaster. All kudos to the airport authority for practicing a real live disaster drill, complete with actual smoking jet. The drill involved a real fire on the tarmac, 200 acting casualties and wounded, 30 ambulances, 30 fire trucks, evacuation helicopters, simulated press briefing area, and even a simulated family and emergency contact center.

There is no way to determine if your disaster process works without actually trying it out. The scale of such events is usually so large that rarely are disaster plans exercised. That's why, when they're brought out, they often fall flat on their faces (resulting in additional disaster in the response).

I am incredibly impressed that the Israeli Airport Authority has seen fit to spend the considerable effort necessary to do so. Chazak v'Amatz.

(News report here.)

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Persian Prophecy - Iran in the News

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Practically daily Iran makes threats against Israel. Not content to merely threaten, the whole world knows they are actively pursuing nuclear weapons capacity. However, when balancing potential genocide against the Jews versus trade deals (France and Russia) and oil supplies (China, Great Britain, and even the United States), gold wins against blood any day. Besides, they can say, no one really knows if their threats are true or hollow. Is it really right to attack a country for a loud mouthed leader? And the UN itself obfuscates and helps cloud the issue, those responsible for nuclear investigation hide their own reports.

People have asked me, do I think Israel will attack Iran? The NY Times thinks nothing of putting Israel at risk by revealing secret plans and practice, but I believe this is just saber rattling by Israel, both for domestic consumption (see, we're doing something!) and to not seem completely weak sitting around while being threatened with genocide. But I don't believe Israel will be the one to take action.

Here's why, the holy writings do more than hint at what will happen, they spell it out:

[Prefix: The inheritors of "Rome" are the Western World, and the primary Western nation of the time. In our time, that means the USA. Similarly, references to Edom are directly tied to Rome, which tie as I just wrote.]

Talmud Yoma 10a - "Rebbi states that Rome is destined to fall at the hands of Persia. Rav states that Persia is destined to fall at the hands of Rome. Question: Can the builders (Persia [Iran], who permitted the rebuilding of the Holy Temple) fall before the destroyers (Rome, who destroyed the Temple)? The sages answer: If the King (Hashem) so decrees."

Yaaros Dvash - Rabbi Yonasan Eibshetz, ztvk"l - "At certain moment the time will come when Moshiach should have already arrived but the redemption has not yet come. The Moshiach will ask how it could be that the time for redemption has arrived and he still undergoes sufferings? The response that he will receive is that he must wait for nine months. Why? In order to wait for the fall of Persia at the hands of Edom, and then the final redemption will come."

Sefer Midrash Eliyahu - The last king in Persia will go to Rome three years, one after the other, until he revolts against it 12 months, and three heroes of war are going against him from the sea, and they will be handed over to him. A very low king, son of a servant, Gigit, will go against him from the sea, and these will be his signs that Daniel [the biblical prophet] saw in him: his face long, between his eyes height(?) (eyebrows?), and he is very tall, and his feet are tall, and his legs are thin.


- Ahmadinejad visited New York, the UN, on September 17, 2005.
- Ahmadinejad visited New York, the UN, on September 20, 2006.
- Ahmadinejad visited New York, the UN, on September 26, 2007.

- Ahmadinejad actually visited actual Rome and the Pope in June, 2008.

Kabbalist Rabbi Daniel Zer, shlita, June 2006 - "...I spoke in the past about Gog Umagog. When the Gulf War broke out, they said that this was Gog Umagog. I told them all: Understand, the Gemara says and the Midrash says and the Zohar says that there is one sign when Gog Umagog is close. Do you know what the sign is?

The Gemara says that the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash started with Paras (Persia, aka Iran), the destruction of the world will begin with Paras. The Zohar and Midrash say that Gog Umagog will begin with Paras. When it was the Gulf War, I told you: as long as Paras is not in the middle of it, this is not Gog Umagog."

Yalkut Shimoni Yishayahu Remez 499 - "Rabbi Yitzchak said: The year that Melech HaMoshiach will be revealed, all the kings (leaders) of the nations will be struggling against each other. The leader of Iran will contest with the leader of Arabia, and the leader of Arabia will go to Edom to get council from them. The leader of Persia will respond and destroy the entire world. All the nations of the world will be trembling and shaking and falling on their faces. They will be seized by pains like labor pains.

The Jewish people will be trembling and quaking and saying: "Where can we go? Where can we go?" And [Hashem] will say to them: My children, do not fear! Everything I did I did only for you! Why are you frightened? Don't be afraid--the days of your redemption have arrived!"

Daniel HaNavi, zt"l 11:40 : "At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through."


This is extensive and seems pretty clear. What we wonder in relation to current events is the trigger. Something happens to or threatens the US sufficiently to overcome a lame duck president with no leverage on military matters. My personal speculation of the moment says this is either a direct terrorist event in the US traced back to Iran, or (and this is supported by further biblical prophecies not included here) a major military event in Basra, Iraq traced back to Iran. Why Basra? It's Iraq's only port, only oil export point. With oil at $130 a barrel and $5.00 at the pump in the US, shutting down Iraq's export capability would be a major blow to world markets (can you say $7.50 a gallon?) And that would get a US response.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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Jerusalem Parade per our Gedolim

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Our Gedolim have balanced the issues regarding the ImpurParade, the same gender public display of licentious and immoral behavior through the streets of the Holy City of Jerusalem scheduled for this Thursday.

The Gedolim have stated that strongly and loudly fighting this disgrace and desecration of the kedusah of Jerusalem is playing into the enemy's hands. We are giving them free publicity and bringing discussions of such horrid things to our own lips, neighborhoods, and (G-d forbid) within range of the ears of our holy children. By doing so, not only do they get to desecrate the physical environment of the holy city, but much worse they invade beyond the streets, beyond the doors of our home, right into our own minds and (worse) the minds of our families.

So, while the Gedolim have registered their political objections, and demanded the city make sure that this event say as far away from religious _neighborhoods_ as the physical layout of Jerusalem allows, that is to be the limit of actions taken.

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I Am and I Am - Part 1

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Comments: You aren't answering if the i that chooses is really the big I -how can it be rewarded? And, Does He do everything since He is all-powerful, or do we have some of the power too?

Use sunlight as an example. The light coming from the sun is a single light that is spreading out in all directions. Although the sunlight is a single light, this one light can be directed and formed into many individual beams. Each beam is but a tiny ray of the one, huge sunlight. Although the beams are tiny, still, they are the one great light that is now forming a portion of itself into those beams. Even though there are many beams of light, still, there is always only the one sunlight.

When a beam acts, its actions go out into the world. For instance, it shines, reflects, warms, and reveals. It does this just as the overall sunlight does albeit on a much smaller scale. Not only do these actions go out from it, but they also cause certain measured repercussions to come back to it. These results return to the place from where the action emanated.

If the light had the characteristics of a person it would be conscious and have free will. In such a case the beams too would have these characteristics however; the beams’ consciousness would be narrow, beam-sized. The beam would have no idea that it is actually a ray of the overall, wondrous light. But even the tiniest ray of the overall light is the same magnificent, one light that is being formed into a narrow beam. As far as the beam is concerned, it is just a simple, tiny beam trying to make its way in the world. Since it does not know that it is actually the overall, huge light, and certainly it does not have the overall awareness of the grand sunlight, it chooses its actions from the narrow consciousness of a small beam. This is what gives the beam its free will. It is free to choose whatever it wants, based upon its tiny, beam-sized abilities. If the beam had the overall knowledge and awareness of the grand light, it would act as the grand light and not merely as a beam.

The beam has individual beam-will because it is operating from this limited beam-sized awareness. It is “free” from being aware of the overall light’s omnipresence. The beam experiences what it does, and causes what it causes as an apparent individual entity. If it were aware of the overall light’s presence it would never make an improper choice. It would see the overall light watching and it would always act properly.

If the beam’s awareness restrictions were entirely removed, it would not only see that the overall light was present, it would also see that it itself (the beam) is actually a portion or area of the overall single light. In this case, it would have the overall light’s awareness.

Even though the beam is doing what it does, and is bringing the repercussions of its actions back onto itself, from the broader perspective we see that it is actually the one, overall sunlight that is acting as the beam and is doing everything. The one sunlight is the only light that is ever present. This one light is both the beams and the overall, grand, single sunlight that is within and beyond the beams.

(To be continued)

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Mercaz HaRav Update

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

While life goes on for most of us, those affected by the horrifying attack on the religious students at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva continue to deal with the impact. I was asked by a reader for an update and I queried the family of the most seriously injured student for a status. Here is their reply...

(Information Accurate as of June 19, 2008)

Naftali ben Gila Rachel is progressing nicely in a rehab in Jerusalem. He is now able to walk with a walker. He is not in immediate danger anymore, but he is not totally healed. He will be needing additional surgery on his leg, but I have no idea, at this time, when that will be.


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Monday, June 23, 2008

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The Danger of Ein Ode Milvado

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Ein Ode Milvado - there is nothing else besides Him. A great chassidic and kabbalistic statement, there is nothing else besides G-d.

Since G-d creates all, maintains all, directs all, then all is literally godliness itself, or more simply, all is, in the end, G-d. Shema Yisroel, Hear O Israel, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem Echad. G-d is one, the ultimate one, the oneness of everything.

More and more we hear this refrain. Recently I've seen it quite often on bumper stickers (in Israel), on trucks, even as a motto. But the danger is in improperly contemplating upon what this means.

G-d is one, G-d is all, G-d is the ultimate all. But what of evil? Judaism doesn't hold by separate powers in the universe, for G-d is One. Evil is a creation with a purpose to serve. (Not a nice one, nor one we may understand, but a purpose.) So are bad events. And neutral ones.

So, when evil comes, are we praying to G-d that G-d's planned negative event not occur. But, Ein Ode Milvado, there's only G-d. So is part of G-d praying that the plan of G-d not negatively affect a part of G-d?

This is where this lofty concept comes apart. As we move to higher and higher levels of holiness, closer and closer to HaKodesh Baruch Hu, the Holy One, Blessed be He, as we reach toward the Ein Sof, the Infinite without End, the concept that all of creation and beyond is only G-d makes sense.

But when we translate it down to the physical world, to the performance of mitvot and the dealing with the positive and negative circumstances of life and this world, to impact upon US, there IS good and there is evil, there is holiness and there is it's opposite, there are positive choices and negative choices.

We may strive to reach a little higher and say that all that comes upon us is for the good. That all that G-d has planned is good, though we may not be able to easily understand it as such. But what we can't do is stand there and say it's all G-d, the good and the bad, the kosher and the treif, the positive act and the negative evil act.

For in this world, it's the differentiation that brings the choice, the free will, which G-d has granted us to have the opportunity to do good, choose life, and follow His ways. For even though those negative choices were and are created by G-d, powered by G-d, and brought to us by G-d, and at the higher level indeed it's all G-d, we don't live in that realm. We live here on earth, where Torah separates between the sacred and the profane, and because of that separation (at this level), our choice has value.

Though truly Ein Ode Milvado, there is nothing else besides Him, that is a contemplation as we reach towards higher realms. In our day to day moments, choose life.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

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The Beauty of the Skies

Space shuttle mission shots from an astronauts family...



Many more, much better seen in their higher resolution there.

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Financial Hints

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The financial crisis that the US, and now other Western nations, are undergoing has been a long time in coming. Unbalanced excesses of the past have to be paid for, the extremes worked out of the system before it comes to a new balance.

The US and Western Europe have been torturing Israel for some time now. The more they work for "peace", the more Jews (innocent civilians) die. Oh, and the more Palestinians that die too!

As they have continue to work for a peace process that results only in more death and pain (about which they are motived only for their economic ties with radical Arab countries), they are hit with increasing numbers of natural disasters, and the financial imbalance grew and grew. While it's been collapsing for some time, the true size of the crash, the full impact, has yet to be felt...

It's about to be. Several tzaddikim have come out in the past week and provided some financial instructions to their talmidim. Things are going to briefly appear to settle, it's momentarily going to look like the crisis is past. Markets will soar, and the US dollar will regain it's strength.

But this will be an illusion (in US market terms, a dead cat bounce). By Hoshana Rabbah this year, it will all unravel and the true impact of the financial crisis will be apparent. Markets will fall to record lows, as will the US dollar.

Their instructions to their talmidim are: bail on the summer bubble. They don't appear to be the only ones talking this way...

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyzes the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.

"Cash is the key safe haven..." [Mystical Paths disagrees, with currency values fluctuating as much as 50%, cash is NOT a safe haven, commodities in hand are.] said Mr Janjuah, who became a City star after his grim warnings last year about the credit crisis proved all too accurate.

RBS expects Wall Street to rally a little further into early July before short-lived momentum from America's fiscal boost begins to fizzle out, and the delayed effects of the oil spike inflict their damage.


Morgan Stanley warns of 'catastrophic event' as ECB fights Federal Reserve: The clash between the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve over monetary strategy is causing serious strains in the global financial system and could lead to a replay of Europe's exchange rate crisis in the 1990s, a team of bankers has warned.

"We see striking similarities between the transatlantic tensions that built up in the early 1990s and those that are accumulating again today. The outcome of the 1992 deadlock was a major currency crisis and a recession in Europe," said a report by Morgan Stanley's European experts.

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We Know...

Keli Ata commented...

Thank you for posting Sunset in Ashkelon. It is a sad but important reminder for me when I look at the beauty of a sunset thousands of miles away in the US.

A sober reminder. The fate of Israel and the US seem to parallel each other. Maddening that even after 9/11 the US still wants to force Israel into negotiating with terrorists.

The US can't claim ignorance anymore. The average American cannot claim ignorance.

We KNOW. Sigh. The civilians in the small villages around the concentration camps claimed they didn't know what was happening, and the survivors angrily told "You KNEW" when the allied forces made the townspeople walk through the camps after they were liberated.

The US needs to stop compelling Israel to deal with terrorists and surrender holy land to them. Again, we cannot claim ignorance about terrorism because we know who the terrorists are and what they're capable of. Every American witnessed 9/11 either in person or via live television.

We know. We know and yet we want to condemn Israel to this misery. We can't vote for politicians that condone land for peace or negotiations with terrorists.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

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TODAY in S'Derot, a Pictorial

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

S'Derot Israel is the southern Israeli town, 100% civilian, that has been under constant missile and rocket bombardment by the murderers of Gaza. You know, the peace partner.

Today, I visited S'Derot to see the town that's been hit with over 7,000 (!!!) rockets, on the first full day of the re-arming "truce"...

S'Derot is just about as far south as you can travel down the Israeli coast. Go past Tel Aviv, past Ashdod, past Ashkelon, turn left at the Gaza fence, definitely turn left...

sderot israel

Welcome to S'Derot, a pretty town, green with palm trees and flowering bushes...

sderot israel

Like your average Israeli town, it has some unidentifiable municipal art, your basic Israeli grocery chain, and your basic American chain store...

sderot israel

Recently most Israeli towns have escued traffic lights for the annoying (but successful in slowing road speeds) traffic circle, with decoration, and S'Derot is no exception...

sderot israel

The shopping district looks pretty average, in fact most of the town looks pretty average, nicer than many poorer towns actually...

sderot israel

Green spaces, parks and playgrounds, were plentiful and well kept...

sderot israel

In fact, it all looked pretty normal, a nice pretty well off southern Israeli town, until we saw this...

sderot israel

We didn't realize until that, all the bus stops have been converted into minature bomb shelters. Most of Israel gets bus stops with a bench and some shade, S'Derot gets a bench and a concrete box.

Given you've got 15 seconds to find cover, this makes a lot of sense. Further, as you can see, they've started to move ugly to tastefully done. (Did I just write that, tastefully done bomb shelters?)

sderot israel

Not all areas are covered by the bus stop shelters. Some parks and public squares have these cheap-insta-shelter, a bunch of concrete barriers in a square pattern creating a narrow corridor to quickly duck between. Some local residents have taken up the task of making them a bit less ugly...

sderot israel

There's no real obvious signs that this is a town under international war crime civilian bombardment. The first we came across was this burned down cypress grove...

sderot israel

All in all, just another pretty tree lined town under constant attack placing all the citizens in life threatening terrorizing torture multiple times every day...

sderot israel

All photos by Akiva, taken on June 20, 2008 in S'Derot, Israel.

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Book Review: 2020 Vision

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

2020 Vision is a new Jewish religious-oriented fiction novel by Roy S. Neuberger. Set in the near future, it builds a picture of a world at seems at peace. Terrorism has stopped, Islam has integrated, the West is working together against environmental concerns.

Then the unthinkable happens. The story begins with the primary character, an older Jewish man living with his wife on Long Island (NY, USA) sitting at home when the attacks begin. After a decade of 'integration' and preparation, the 'peaceful' Islamic population stages hundreds of simultaneous major terror attacks across New York, the whole United States, and (we find out later) the whole Western world.

In that moment, Western civilization falls. Paralyzed by the destruction of modern facilities (communications, electrical grids, transportation systems), society enters an instant meltdown.

But that's not the story, that's the context. The story is of an older Jewish couple on Long Island's attempt to make it to their grown children in Lakewood, and from there to try to make it to Israel. Bridges are down, roads are blocked, people are panicking, and rogue elements of society are taking advantage.

We follow them as they hop on their bicycles and make their way across Long Island, facing challenge and threat with faith in Hashem. Through almost miraculous circumstances, they make it to Staten Island, where they almost die from the effects of one of the terror attacks, and finally to New Jersey. Meeting up with their children and a larger group of Jewish families trying to escape the deteriorating urban situation, they begin a journey to a possible gateway to Israel...

The story is exciting! The author does a wonderful job of presenting dangerous circumstances, and giving us the character's inner thoughts and faith as he and they struggle through them. It does not detract from the excitement, it enhances it. The book is a real page turner.

However, late in the story it veers in two odd directions. First, journey choices are made that lead the group into the worst of situations. The choices are both odd, as well as lacking in the detail of previous parts of the journey. The author seemed to be trying to make a point, but lacked the surrounding environment information he had on the earlier parts. That portion is much more hollow for that lack. Second, for the ending the story veers completely off track. Almost like the author just got tired or felt he couldn't sustain the excitement, it just kind of cuts off with a pat ending. (My teenage daughter disagrees on this point, she thinks the ending was very climactic.)

While those are some weaknesses, they don't detract from a very exciting story. The book takes you on a journey of excitement, danger, and faith. A story that, G-d forbid, is not so impossible.

I recommend it, and consider it appropriate from bar/bat mitzvah age on up. It can be found online here or here.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

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Tel Aviv Highway Blockage This Afternoon

- A Public Service Announcement for Israeli Readers -

Tel Aviv Fuel Protest This Afternoon - Major Road Blockage Expected

(IsraelNN.com & JPost) Motorists who want to leave Tel Aviv Thursday are advised to do so by 3 p.m., when thousands of protesting drivers of diesel fuel vehicles are expected to clog the Ayalon Highway and other major arteries. Taxicabs, buses and trucks are arriving from all over the country, including 900 taxis from Eilat, almost four hours away.

They are protesting excise taxes on diesel, which have made the fuel more expensive than regular gasoline. As recently as two years ago, diesel fuel was more than 20 percent cheaper than benzene.

Police advise the public to stay away from the area between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m unless absolutely necessary.

"Those who do not need to travel on the Ayalon Freeway or the Gush Dan [Tel Aviv and surrounds] area are advised to stay away," said a source in the Tel Aviv Police.

"For people who need to travel in the center of the country during the afternoon, we recommend using Route 6 or Route 14 and staying away from the Ayalon Freeway," said the source.

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Dreaming in Golus

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

It states (Yeshayahu 27.6) "In days to come, Yaakov shall take root, Yisroel shall blossom and bud, and the face of the world shall be filled with produce."

The verse refers to the time of golus (exile). Though planting is on the level of Yaakov, growth is on the level of Yisreol. As we know, Yaakov and Yisroel allude to two spiritual levels. Yaakov is yud eikev (eikev means heel),a nd is at a lower spiritual level. Yisroel is the lofty level of li rosh - to me a head. Through spiritual service during golus, we ascend from the level of Yaakov to that of Yisroel.

Exile is known as a time of slumber. When a person sleeps, he dreams, and during a dream it is possible for totally contradictory matters to unite. So too concerning golus.

A mainstay of spiritual service during golus is the proper recitation of the Shma. When one says the words "Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One", he should ponder their meaning. He should understand the phrase to mean that the four 'corners' of the world, the seven heavens and the earth, are totally nullified to the 'aleph' - the Infinite One, Master of the world.

Yet golus affects a person in such a manner that soon after this lofty contemplation, all sorts of stray thoughts enter his mind. It is as if G-d's unity was never pondered. This is particularly true when, after prayers, a person becomes involved in worldly matters. ...

All the above comes about because the state of golus is like a dream, in which opposites can unite.


- The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, Sefer HaMaamarim, vol. 1, maamar 3.5.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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More on Agriprocessors - The Schochet in Jail

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Whoops, we pulled the wrong file, misread the paperwork, didn't let you get your passport with it's visa, so you sat in jail in the backwoods of Iowa for 5 weeks and a day. So what?

(Crownheights.Info) Yesterdays release of R. Tal Ginter, a Shochet and Menaker in Agriprocessors, prompted great Simcha in the small town of Postville. After 5 weeks and 1 day Tal was released yesterday evening after the Immigration Service admitted a mistake on their behalf and canceled the deportation order.

Jail and INS bureaucracy almost had Tal needlessly sitting in jail for another day, throughout the day the transfer of paperwork between the courts in Chicago to the jail located in a town as remote as Postville.

After delivering the paperwork to the jail authorities, they attempted to delay the release by stating issues with the paperwork even though the judge’s order was clear, but just before 5:00pm as the jail offices close the release order was given and Tal was released.


Baruch Hashem he's free, but when the authorities go on a rampage, they usually get much of it wrong. That's ok because we're going to stop that illegal immigration in the US! If a few Jews get in the way, oh well.

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Flaunting It

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

It has been insinuated by some in authority that this blog advocates violence against same-gender oriented people. That is an absolute lie and complete misunderstanding of what we write here. We advocate NO violence...

Next Thursday, June 26, the annual same-gender flaunt-your-sexuality-in-the-streets parade is scheduled for it's yearly desecration of the holy city of Jerusalem. During this event thousands of people will walk through religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem, dressed or undressed in ways completely inappropriate for any public location, performing personal acts illegal in any public location.

Even setting aside religious sensibilities for a moment (and don't worry, we'll get back to that), for people to walk through public areas significantly undressed and performing acts that no one wants to see in public, and G-d forbid if children see such things damaging their innocence, is just SICK. While these people have done an incredible PR job in convincing the world that their personal actions should be an acceptable lifestyle, no one but the most perverse wants intensely private acts between adults occurring in public.

How much worse is this when it's in residential areas, religious areas, and in the holy city of Jerusalem?

Every year, the Yetzer Hara holds it's head high and marches through the city, escorted by the Israeli police and led by senior Israeli politicians.

On the day of the planned parade, religious neighborhoods will be flooded with the dreaded Israeli riot police, who will simply charge and beat any group of 3 or greater on the possibility that they might raise their voice against the desecration of their neighborhood and city.

Times are darker even than they appear. May Hashem help, and may we all raise our voices in disgust.

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Learning about Moshiach

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

In the period immediately before Moshiach, certain people of little faith will not listen to the call of those urging them to prepare for Moshiach. They will argue, "After such a long and bitter exile...how is it possible that we will suddenly be redeemed?"

Thus they will not listen to those who attempt to inspire them.


- The Chofetz Chaim- Tzipita L'yshua, via LchaimWeekly.org

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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Hi-Tech Babylon

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

During the Migdal Bavel, the Tower of Babel, we read that G-d brought them down by dividing them with 70 languages. From those 70 languages developed what we generally refer to as the 70 nations of the world. Yes, there's more than 70 physical countries, but we learn there are 70 primary ethnicities, core national concepts so to speak.

One of the signs of the acharit hayamim, the end of days scenarios, is the reversal of this division. First the 70 nations come together in a joint political entity. Then the division of languages begins to be overcome - both with a primary language and with the means to functionally erase the language divisions.

If one goes to the Google Translation page - automatic language translations - the list of languages is now up to 22. Hebrew is noticeably absent.

In Apple's iPhone announcement last week, they specifically noted they have increased their international distribution to ... 70 nations. The list interestingly includes Jordan and Egypt, but noticeably avoids Israel.

The hi-tech Babylon is growing.

(BTW, if you're looking for automated Hebrew-English translation, I've had reasonable experience with ... Babylon software :-). Reasonable means you can get the gist of it, but that's it.)

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Contradictions & Giving to G-d

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Question: How can we give anything to the Infinite, Who fills and animates, surrounds and sustains everything? Everything, including the not yet religious Jew, is a manifestation of Hashem’s will and is an aspect of Hashem really! “Ice chips in the ocean” was one of the examples you employed, wasn’t it?

True, we have free will & are obligated to choose, but Hashem alone is the doer. As the Rambam states in the 13 Basic Principles, Hashem alone “made, makes and will make all happenings.” Isn’t Hashem in fact giving us (at the lower perspective of “self”) the opportunity to bring others close to the Torah to manifest His light in the world? That’s a real gift, one that is eternal!

Questions:

- Haven’t you said that there are no “others” from the deepest, truest perspective, but only the One?

- Is Hashem the actual Doer of all deeds as the Rambam says? If so, why do we receive the rewards and punishments for our actions? If He is doing all these things let Him have those results and stop giving them to us. But, if indeed we are the ones who are actually doing what we appear to be doing, then G-d does not have all the power. So which is it? Does He do everything since He is all-powerful, or do we have some of the power too? And if we have some of the power, no matter how tiny an amount, then He is not really all-powerful after all? This seems to be an impossible paradox. How can it be resolved?


The resolution is really quite simple. Keep in mind which perspective we are addressing. Are we addressing the lower perspective with a view of created objects being individual and separate? Or are we addressing the higher perspective of the Only One? When we are addressing the higher perspective, there can be no separation between objects, but when we are addressing the lower perspective, the tables are certainly separate from the chairs. Note that we are talking about separateness and not about distinctions. Even from the higher perspective of the overall One, still there will be distinctions. The table is distinct from the chair even at the overall perspective. But when we are dealing with the perspective of the overall one, there will be no separation.

Use your body as an example. When we look from the lower perspective we say that your hands and feet are separate from each other since the trunk of your body intervenes and separates them. When we look from the higher perspective we see that there is no separation in your body. It is a single, one, whole body. None of it is separate. If any member of your body would be separate it would fall off!

Back to our case; yes, Hashem is actually the doer of all. There is nothing other than G-d so certainly He is doing all. But from the worldly perspective, the perspective that we normally deal with on a daily basis, each individual does what he does and reaps the results of his individual actions. So it turns out that both of these statements are true. G-d does all, and you do do what you do. There is no contradiction.

Although G-d is truly all, when we address the worldly perspective we cannot say that everything is G-d or we would not be able to communicate. We cannot say “Table-G-d, chair-G-d, person-G-d” and such. Although He is all, when we deal with the physical world we have to address it from the physical perspective. Besides the confusion that calling everything G-d would cause, G-d is so much more and also so beyond the tiny physical creation, that we cannot call such things G-d.

Pick up an object with your thumb and forefinger. Is your thumb and forefinger holding up that object, or is it your hand that is holding it up? Is it your hand or is it your arm that is holding it up? Your body? Your strength? Your will? Your life? And so on until we ask, “Or is it the One Existence Who is All Who is holding it up?” All of these statements are true but we address each as is appropriate for what we are trying to communicate.

Yes we are doing these things. Yes G-d is doing all things. No contradiction. Which perspective do you want to address?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

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A Comment on Agriprocessors

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Agriprocessors is the corporation that includes well known kosher name brands Aaron's Best, Shor HaBor, and Supreme Kosher. They are the largest kosher meat producer in America.

Agriprocessors is an American success story. A hardworking immigrant comes to US shores, works hard and scrapes together enough money to open his own corner kosher butcher shop. He grows his business to a sizable meat market, and opens a series of branches throughout the New York city areas where kosher meat is in demand. They provide good service and good product at a competitive price, they do well.

His son takes over and asks, why are we taking all the markup of the middlemen? He scouts out a _bankrupt_ meat packing plant in cow country (be close to the product, reduce cow transport costs), buys it and puts a bankrupt industry town back in business. They provide a good product at a lower price than the competition and at a higher kosher supervision level.

With some good marketing and market positioning (such as having different kosher supervisions for different segments of the market), over 5 years they become the majority supplier within the US. Literally from rags to riches with hard work, smart business, and good mazel and brachos.

Their products are consumed by the kosher consumer, the Muslim consumer!, and the health conscious.

But success makes you a target, and striving to stay successful sometimes leads to some questionable business choices. First, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) went after them, by getting a camera inside. Surprise, cow slaughter is not very pretty, and Agri was taking a small step to speed the meat processing that just looked horrific on camera. While it did not affect the kashrus, they removed that step to make that problem go away.

Now they've been targeted by Homeland Security for employing illegal aliens. By the law of the land and common business practice, they did what they were supposed to do, required 1 form of (non-photo) ID to provide right to work (for example, a social security card). But it was likely that many of the applicants were fake, and they ignored that. Doing so is normal business practice, nor are they required by law to investigate or call the authorities for suspicions. (Further, most calls to the authorities for such are routinely ignored.)

The result is their production is halved, and kosher meat will be more expensive and harder to obtain in the US, as half of their employees were found illegal.

The Torah question is, does halacha require them to act beyond the letter of the law, even when their competitors are doing the same and the authorities routinely ignore calls for help in this area?

In not doing so, they have created a Chillul Hashem. But if they had done so, they probably would have been sued for discrimination. Catch-22.

Photo from GlattOnDemand.Com - kosher steaks shipped to your house, how cool is that?

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The Non-Jew and Giving to G-d

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Responding to the comments on “Giving to G-d?”, "What it is a non-Jewish person can ever do to really give something to G-d? Is this knowledge from a Holy Sefer or 'just' some nice thoughts of yours?"

One may give to God, even though it ultimately comes from Him anyway.

There was a posting some months ago where I discussed the seven commandments that G-d gave to Adam and Noah. These commandments are for all mankind to treasure. This gives the non-Jew a wonderful way to serve G-d too. These commandments concern idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, stealing, eating flesh that was taken from an animal before it was killed, and having just courts in their lands.

The non-Jew also has freewill, so his acceptance of these commandments is just as optional for him as is it for a Jew to accept the Torah. G-d loves all mankind (on the condition they do good and not evil) and He loves it when anyone turns toward righteousness. So the same opportunity exists for the non-Jew, both to come to the wondrous awe of G-d, and to bring others (non-Jews and Jews too) to this awe. They can also show others how to pass this holy gift on to their friends. This way one good deed can go all the way around the world.

The non-Jew who keeps these seven laws has a wonderful share in this world and a share in the World to Come. There can be nothing better.

As for your second question, the footnote in the article shows that the concept “All is in the hand of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven” comes from the Talmud.[i] Phrasing it as I did comes from my personal experience.

Although, as you pointed out, all creation comes from G-d, awe of G-d is left up to us to choose or to reject. This alone is not in His “hand.”[ii]

[i] Gemora Berachos 33b
[ii] Deuteronomy 10:12

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

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"Natural" Disasters




by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We live in a natural world. It used to be said there is no such thing as an atheist farmer. But now we believe that it's not G-d who is controlling the weather, it's MAN. Not by direct choice, but by accidental impact a.k.a. global warming. We don't bother to correlate disasters with communal deeds, but rather with the size of communal SUV's.

Every time the US State Department speaks against Israel, there's a US natural disaster. Every time they speak against Jerusalem, there's a MAJOR US natural disaster. I know, I know, can't be true, and if it is, must be coincidence. And its getting worse (graphic 2 - number of natural disasters by year since 1900).

Whether global warming is true or not (seems at the moment the theory is falling apart, even while every media and political organization jumps on board), global environmental change is a fact. But friends, we simply don't know why. We do know a lot about how the environment was in the past, and we do know many factors that clearly play a part. But we don't know how it's being orchestrated. (Graphic 3 shows a current sun picture, noted for having NO sunspots. The sun almost always has sunspots, sometimes many, sometimes few, but none? Solar scientists don't know why.)

The question is, in ancient Egypt, how many plagues occurred before they called it from G-d instead of just natural disasters?

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Straight Talk about Jerusalem

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The Land of Magog Located?

An intriguing article from Hashem1.net, pointed out by commentor BT from AL...

The Land of Magog located. (Long, English)

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

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Technical Note - Mini-Blog

The mini-blog is a neat idea. It allows us to post quick notes, including from IM and even from a cell phone. Given how events sometimes run in Israel, this is a great ability.

However, the service provider (Twitter) has been having major load issues. The ability to post by IM has been down for a month, and the mini-blog display on the sidebar stopped working.

So for now, until Twitter gets their act together or another service comes along, the mini-blog is offline.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

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More on the Shepherds

via FaigeRayzel's Action Alerts...

Watch the shepherds herd themselves, and shove the sheep out of the way...

Multiple complaints were sent to the Inbal Hotel Manager regarding the recent flying of the Palestinian flag because of a convention at the hotel. Here is the manager's response...

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am responding to your note of concern regarding reports of "PLO flags" displayed at our hotel during the last two days of May.

Firstly, let me say directly that I am very sensitive to the concerns of our guests, and that I, too, felt uncomfortable when asked, even by the Israeli government, to fly the colors of the Palestinian Authority at the hotel.

But that is exactly what happened. The Israel Minister of Public Security Avi Dicter chose the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel to be the venue for the International Security Forum, a conference on “Challenges to Homeland Security”, of which MK Avi Dicter was the chairman.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertkoff and a dozen other internal security ministers from Europe and beyond were invited and Minister Dicter also invited the Palestinian Minister of Interior.

We were instructed by the Israel Ministry of Public Security and the organizing committee to fly the flags of all those participating in the conference, including that of the Palestinian Authority.

While not meaning to add to anybody's distress, I think it important for me to mention that other prominent hotels are often asked by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host Israel-Palestinian negotiating sessions. Sometimes this also involves flags.

I can assure you that I, as the General Manager of the hotel had no intent of making a political statement and have no desire of doing so in the future.

I would like to apologize for placing the flag on the building. I have now since learnt how sensitive this issue is to the feelings of our nation and our people, but I believe I had no choice but to follow the request of the Ministry.

Yours sincerely,

Rodney Sanders
General Manager

This manager is concerned. Whether his personal concerns are real or not, he is at the very least concerned that such an action will upset his guests, his vacationing Jews guest from America, England, Australia, etc. Yet, regardless of any personal concerns, and regardless of any business concerns for his facility, he was instructed and he complied.

For the shepherds only recognize THEIR concerns.


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Herding Themselves

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

...prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. ...say to them, Hashem G-d says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been herding themselves! Shouldn't the shepherds be herding the sheep? You eat their fat, wear their wool, and slaughter the healthy ones, but you do not herd the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, or bandaged those who were injured. You did not bring back those who strayed or search for those who were lost... - Micha 34:1-4

The Israeli government is teetering, Olmert has lost his support. Abandoning the nation to constant enemy attack (on civilians, a war crime) didn't do it. Losing a war and wasting lives of soldiers didn't do it. Trying to give away the Golan didn't do it. But Olmert getting payments under the table (and not sharing), that did it.

So those who will let the nation rot to maintain their comfy positions finally must take their paychecks and pensions and go home, and try to be elected again.

...shepherds, hear G-d's word. ...because My sheep have become prey for the beasts of the field... I will deal with the shepherds... I will make them stop herding sheep, the shepherds will no longer herd themselves...

I will save my sheep... I will establish one shepherd over them, My servant Dovid... I, G-d, will be their Hashem and My servant Dovid will be their leader.
Micha 34:10, 34:20

The Israeli politicians with absolutely no care for the country is a sign of Moshiach. Hashem will save us, Moshiach will lead us. And the politicians, who CHOSE TO BEAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PEOPLE AND NATION, will be dealt with.

May it be today.

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Sunset in Ashkelon

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I stood on my patio and watched the sunset over Ashkelon. It was a beautiful sunset, orange and purple and red and blue. The kind of sunset that you almost sigh over, as the beauty of Hashem's creation takes your breath away. As I watched the sunset, I didn't know the very city I watched in the distance was under major missile attack. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians, Jews, mothers and children, fathers and sons, running for their very lives to safety.

You'll have to look far and wide to catch this on the news. Not a headline, not even a noticeable article. A civilian city of Jews being hit with 50 missiles & mortars isn't even news worthy anymore. (Perhaps that's because the government declared CALM yesterday?)

The current situation is ridiculous. Bombs are intentionally targeted on civilians, no one notices (and makes sure you don't either). Major natural disasters are occurring bi-monthly in the US. Fuel prices through the roof. Food prices through the roof. US economy moving from recession signs to possible depression signs. And all we hear about is politics.

Lulled to sleep and desensitized. Beware. You will be affected. Prepare.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Lies and Videotape


by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Years ago, my chavruta (Torah learning partner) used to refer to the news as "lies, all lies". However, if it was only lies, we'd be fortunate. For lies can usually be identified. Propaganda and attitude manipulation, that's a little harder (to detect)...

A new term has popped up in the Israeli media -> the "Gaza area community". S'Derot, Ashkelon, and all the small farming towns in the Israel southwest under war crime civilian bombardment by the (not) peaceful (not) Palestinians are no longer southern Israeli communities, they're Gaza area communities.

With this simple twist of words, those communities are moved from Israel under attack to people living in an inappropriate area. Because if you move to a dangerous neighborhood, you're partially responsible for putting yourself in the situation. Right? Right? right????


Today, the Israeli Security Cabinet (an oxymoron if ever there was one) voted for a period of "Calm". With this declaration, the IDF has been ordered to stand down from preparations to take steps to defend Israel. Because, we have voted on Calm, therefore things must be . . . calm.

The above graphic (provided by WeJew Jewish Media Sharing Community) is of S'Derot, Israel. Each red mark is a rocket strike upon the civilian population of the town. Don't worry S'Derot, the Security Cabinet has announced Calm!

To face the propaganda, you need an anchor of the Absolute. As everything is manipulation, disinformation, misinformation, we have only our Father in Heaven to turn to for the truth. Torah.

I had an online argument recently with a young woman who was complaining about understanding how the Torah could demand genocide (Amalek). Judging by the standards of the modern world, that seems ... horrible. Yet, judging by the standards of the modern world, Armenia happened, the Holocaust happened, Cambodia happened, Rhwanda happened, and Darfur IS happening while the modern world sits by and does NOTHING. Oh wait, they do something, they condemn Israel for defending her civilian population and demand that she allow her enemy to arm and supply, worse, they demand that Israel army and supply them (and heal them as well!)

Politics has not changed since the time of the Mishnah, where Pirke Avos tells us that politicians only stand for themselves. In the "old" days, this was clear, the people were servants of the government. Today we think it's not so, that the government serves us. But it's just a modern facade, the politicians are still just serving themselves. The words of the Mishnah don't change because a politician put on a layer of makeup and made a nice speech on TV.

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Perspective

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I was speaking to some secular Israeli's today in Tel Aviv, trying to provide some American perspective on a business issue. They want to make a deal with a US company for exclusive distribution rights for their product in Israel, the American company isn't willing to give exclusive rights to a single distributor for a whole _country_.

Many years ago, I got into my car parked by the Kotel, the holy Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem with my wife and drove to Kever Rochel in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem). (In those days one could safely make such a drive.) It took me ... 12 minutes. (It was a time with no traffic.) I used to ask American friends, American JEWS, how far is it from Jerusalem to Bet Lechem, from the heart of Judaism and Israel to Palestine? They would commonly answer, a few hours? A few hundred miles? Like New York to Philadelphia?

That's the American perspective. BIG. Lots of space. I used to drive 15 minutes to the supermarket. My commute to work was 1 hour. My kids traveled 50 miles a day to school. I had family living in Florida (22 hours by car, 2 1/2 by plane) and California (96 hours by car, 6 by plane). The grocery store carries 100,000 items, and you can get lost in a Wal-Mart (or Target or Home Depot).

In Israel, I drove from Jerusalem to Haifa last week, 2 hours. With traffic. Passed Tel Aviv along the way, and Hertzaliya, and Netanya, and Cesaria, and Zichron Yaakov. The BIG shopping complex (there are actually shopping strip centers called BIG, in BIG BOLD ENGLISH LETTERS) has ... 10 stores, count 'em, 10. That's a BIG shopping center in Israel.

As Americans are thinking about the "peace process", they're thinking of distances such as Washington to Mexico. In Israel, we're talking about ... 3 miles away.

A little perspective is warranted.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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How Can We Give Anything to G-d?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

We have a real problem. Once we realize how wonderful G-d is to us, after all, He gives us our very lives, and He gives us our families, and He gives us our health, and all of our material things, then on top of all this He gave us His wonderful Torah to guide us in the direction He wants us to go, well, once we see how wonderful He is to us, we really want to give Him something. Just to show our love for Him.

After we begin to do the mitzvahs as they are intended to be done, and we have such great joy from them, we deeply feel the desire to give something to G-d. We want to give Him a special gift. And this is where the problem comes in.

How can we possibly give anything to G-d? What is there to give Him? If we say that we will offer a sacrifice to Him, like a cow or something, well, there are two problems with this idea. Not only are the sacrifices nonexistent today, since we do not have a Temple, but even if it was standing, those cows that we would be offering up already belong to Him. So, all we would be doing would be giving Him something that He had already given to us. It was His cow in the first place.

In fact, when we stop and think about it, He owns everything. The Torah tells us that the earth and all that is in it is His. It even says that the earth is merely “His footstool.”[i] So what is there to give to Him?

What about giving Him the present of giving a poor person some charity? It is well known that He loves the mitzvah of charity. So, we will find a poor person and give him some money. Here, we are giving something that is ours. After all, it is our money that we would be giving away, Isn’t it? No, not really, because we know very well that He is the one who allowed us to earn that money in the first place. It came to us as a result of His blessing.

Okay. Let’s do a mitzvah for Him. That will do it, right? No, that won’t work either, because as we just said, He gave us the mitzvahs. So, what can we give to Him that He has not given to us? There must be something that we can give to Him.

Ah, I know what, I will do teshuvah. I will repent and give Him my repentance. Ha! This must be something that we can give to Him, because it says that everything in the world is in His hand except for the fear of Heaven.[ii] So this is something that we can give to Him. But wait a minute, we already did teshuvah, or else we would not be trying so hard to give Him something. That’s how we got this far.

What can we do? The more we think about it, the more we really want to give Him a beautiful gift. Ah! I got it. There is only one thing in the entire world that we can give Him that is not already His. If we will go out and find a Jew who has lost his way and lovingly bring him to Torah and mitzvahs, this is something we can give to G-d.

We will help this Jew to learn the great and wondrous awe of Heaven. He will start to do the mitzvahs with great joy. His life will take on real meaning. Awe of Heaven is something that G-d has left for us to choose if we want. It is not something that He has already given to us and we are merely giving it back to Him, like a cow. He never gave us the fear of Heaven. Had He given us this fear, we would not have free will. When you have the fear of G-d upon you, you would never sin. For there to be free will, there must be the possibility of wanton sin. So for us, awe of G-d is just an option that we can choose if we want. It is entirely up to us whether we search for this or not.

What a great opportunity this is. We can go out and find Jews who do not yet know the joy of Torah, and lead them to teshuvah. This way, we will be giving their repentance to G-d.

It turns out that this is the only thing in the entire world that He does not already control. And it is something that we can give to Him.

[i] Isaiah 66:1
[ii] Gemora Beachos 33b

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Obama's Real Jewish Problem

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Does Barak Hussein Obama, Democratic presidential candidate in the United States, have a Jewish Problem? The full Jewish community in the US has traditionally voted overwhelmingly democratic. In the primaries, Obama has been receiving 80% of the Black vote, but democratic candidates have ALWAYS received 75-80% of the Jewish vote.

But there's a sea change happening in the US Jewish community, in two separate directions. First, the older generation is passing, and with it traditional automatic support for the UJA and Jewish Federations, as well as a firm commitment to Israel and a firm attachment to Jewishness (if not Judaism). For the subsequent generations who are lightly committed to Jewishness, traditional Jewish concerns are of passing interest. As such, they fade as a faction into the general voting population.

Second, as in most Jewish communities in the world, the orthodox continue their multi-generational high growth rate while simultaneously successfully maintaining an extremely high level of community commitment. In the US as elsewhere, a very high percentage of children in Jewish schools are in orthodox Jewish settings. The generational picture is drawn, if not the majority in 1 or 2 generations (as they will be in many Jewish communities), the orthodox certainly will be close to it (this terrifies Israeli politicians, but that's another story). Meaning, orthodox Jewish concerns are coming into play in Jewish community politics, and traditional concerns and power brokers are weakening.

Hillary Clinton learned this surprisingly well as part of her Senate campaigns in New York. While she attended the traditional UJA dinners and Federation fundraisers, she also met with chassidic community leaders (both in Brooklyn and upstate, such as New Square). Her outreach netted her over 95% of the vote in places such as New Square (as well as political contributions of the WHOLE community, in many ways more valuable than the votes).

While there are many Jews excited by the Obama candidacy, as Jews are known for being passionate about a cause (any cause), the orthodox community is not. Partially this is an ethnic problem - not with Mr. Obama's ethnicity, but rather with his community support - because many orthodox Jewish communities have found themselves in physical proximity to African American communities, with significant attending conflicts over many years (note the current spate of serious attacks by African Americans against chassidic Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY). Similarly, members of the African American community that he has been close to, as well as the Muslim community and the ultra-liberal community (including a number of direct advisrers), clearly espouse anti-Israel positions that frequently stretch into anti-semitic positions.

The question will be, can Mr. McCain and the Republicans take advantage of this? Traditionally, the Republicans have been clueless about how to reach the Jewish community, and attempts such as the Republican Jewish Coalition are simply pathetic.

The Republicans have an opening, interestingly opened by Hillary Clinton. It would seem they're going to need it.

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