Sunday, August 31, 2008

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Holy Road Trip!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This past Thursday was the last travel day of summer here in Israel, children returning to school tomorrow. With antsy children and Rosh Chodesh Elul on our minds, we headed north.

The first thing we encountered was traffic. Lots of traffic. Long, unending traffic. And children, all my children, in the car, together. Children - traffic, bad mix. They quickly became bored, I quickly became exasperated. Fortunately for them (less so for my sanity), there was no way to turn around, forward or bust.

Finally, thank G-d (thank G-d thank G-d thank G-d) we reached Teveria (Tiberious) and the Kinnert (Sea of the Galilee). The children were able to get wet, the parents enjoy a breather. The children thought this was the focus of the trip, but the parents had other ideas.

Across the road from the Kineret lies the holy kever (burial site) of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, the Master of Miracles. Buses were bringing chassidim from around the country throughout the day, though it cleared out as evening fell...

Kever Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, Left Side Entrance
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It's a large site, with a yeshiva and kollel on the premises. It's very popular with all stripes of religious Jews...
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The kever itself is carved with Rabbi Meyer's famous prayer, "Elokai d'Meir Anayni!" - G-d of Meyer answer me!
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The building itself is classic middle-eastern domed architecture, many hundreds of years old...
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Rabbi Meyer was one of the great surviving students of Rabbi Akiva, afterwards we travelled onwards to another, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) in Meron...
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Given it was now rather late at night, we were rather surprised to find the kever of Rashbi absolutely packed...
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Though this was not organized prayer, everyone squeezed into the available space and offered their hopes and prayers towards the King for a good year with the coming of Elul. The intensity of everyone's personal prayer was astounding. (At the center of the building is the main kever Rashbi area...)
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I stood behind one older chossid for nearly a half hour, watching his intense concentration as he implored the King of Kings with many prayers for himself, his family, for friends, for all Klal Yisroel and even for the righteous among the nations. Neither the push of the crowd, the occasional jostle, or some of the louder people around him disturbed him in the least. I stayed far longer than my schedule allowed, watching to learn a glimmer of how prayer should be. I thanked HaKodesh Baruch Hu, the Holy One Blessed Be He, for placing me there at that moment, and then realized that on this random night on the other side of the country in a crowd of hundreds of fellow yidden, the Master of the Universe had placed me standing behind my friend Rabbi Lazer Brody, shlita...
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While I wanted to greet him with some warm wishes, I could not interrupt the holy conversation he was having with the Borei Olam (Creator of the Universe). I left, a practical lesson in prayer learned, gathered up the children and headed out.


My daughter declared this the "best road trip ever! It had a fun activity and holy sites, isn't Israel great!" As we left Meron literally after midnight, we grabbed a pizza at Pizza Rashbi (open 24 hours) and made the long drive home with the children sleeping peacefully in the back.

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Barak Obama on Gustav

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Mystical Paths neither endorses nor recommends voting against either US presidential candidate. We do occasionally comment on the political theatre.

While listening to a bit of the Gustav live links, the weather report and storm track was interrupted for an incoming call from (thinks he's) president Barack Obama. Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama stated that he's closely monitoring the situation, and will be following up to make sure the federal government is responding in a timely fashion.

?????? I was unaware that US presidential candidates had been granted federal executive powers. Cool.

...Moments later the news announced that President Bush had made a live statement, which the announcer repeated, noting it was pretty much the same as Candidate Obama's and was being made at the same time. However, Candidate Obama got to go live on the news, President Bush was just noted. (Chuckle.)

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Gustav Live

Live Hurricane Gustav Links: (Live Weather Map ->)

Live New Orleans TV links with live broadcasts of hurricane Gustav impacting the US southern coast (Louisianna & New Orleans or Texas or Mississippi).

Live Webcam - Downtown New Orleans RiverCAM

Live Webcam - New Orleans BridgeCAM

Live Webcam - New Orleans French Quarter

Live Webcam - New Orleans Andrew School

- 6-24" of Rain.
- Multiple spawned Tornadoes.
- 10'-34' Storm Surge.

Kudos to the message of local and state government officials, which is: RUN AWAY, NOW NOW NOW. (Bus and Train transportation provided for those in need.)

Blessings of personal and family safety to any of our readers impacted by this storm.

(h/t Dreaming)
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Friday, August 29, 2008

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Gustav

A Guest Analysis by email from "Joe"...

Shalom Chaverim (dear friends), it is with great concern that I write this post.

August 29, 2005 saw the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane "Katrina". Now 3 years on, almost to the day, Hurricane "Gustav" is threatening to strike the Louisiana coastline. Estimates have predicted that its current intensity of category 3 may be upgraded to category 5 as it intensifies over the Gulf of Mexico. The Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans have already instigated plans for mass evacuations should the need arise.

Now, what makes this so significant ? I would like to quote from an earlier post that I wrote:

On the 21th of August 2005 as my friends were being kicked out of Gush Katif, compliments of Ms Condi Rice, a category 5 Hurricane by the name Katrina was forming in the Caribbean. It then made a bee line for New Orleans, Condi's city. The rest is history. In Judaism there is a biblical concept called "Midda Kenneged Midda" or " Measure for Measure". 8,000 citizens of the Gush were made refugees, 800,000 citizens of New Orleans were made refugees. BTW the word Katrina has the Hebrew root word Keter which means "Crown" HaShem was showing the world WHO IS WEARING THE CROWN. The 2005 Hurricane season spawned 26 hurricanes. 26 is the number of HaShem.

The name "Gustav" comes from the Swedish word which means "the staff of the gods"

The letter "g" is the seventh letter of the English alphabet. This Hurricane is the 7th tropical storm of the season. Condi Rice has just finished her 7th visit to the Middle East to procure the relinquishing of Shomron (West Bank) from Israel to the Palestinians. This constant convoluted land for peace deal! You would think that Condi would have learned from the last hammering her home town endured. Midda Kenneged Midda all over again.

The name "Gustav" is made up of 2 Hebrew words GUS (gimmel-vav-shin/sin) and TAV (tav-vav). Depending where you put the dot on the letter shin you can get sin. So GUS can also be pronounced GUSH. TAV in Hebrew means label or sign. Therefore we can deduce that the name of this Hurricane could mean "the Sign of the Gush" - the staff in the hand of HaShem. First the crown now the staff. Is HaShem trying to tell us something???? Remember what happened in Gush Katif three years ago.

I hope that I am wrong. Monday the 1st of September, the day Hurricane "Gustav" is predicted to make landfall is also Rosh Chodesh Elul. This month starts the 40 day countdown to Yom Kippur and is the season of Teshuva (Repentance).

May we all return to HaShem with weeping and fasting. May HaShem protect all our friends along the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines should this Hurricane eventuate as has been predicted.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

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Lies and Statistics

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

"What are you doing here?" asked the pension specialist as he signed me up for the company plan in Israel 10 years ago. "I work here" I responded. "No no, I mean, what are you doing here?" he asked again. "Umm, working here to support my family?" I tentatively responded, clearly not understanding what he was asking. "No no, I mean, what are you doing here, you people don't work."

The common street belief among secular Israelis is charedim (the ultra-orthodox) don't work. And while it is true that they are not significantly represented in the offices and stores of Tel Aviv, today Haaretz prints an article "proving" charedim don't work that shows the exact opposite.

Haaretz: Record yeshiva enrollment predicted to cost economy NIS 5 billion!!!! - Oh my oh me, those darn charedim are stealing 5 BILLION FREAKING SHEKEL from us! Hmm, lets read further...

Some 63,000 young men are expected to begin studying this week in kollels...The rate paid by the Education Ministry for every student is roughly NIS 720 per month, or NIS 8,640 annually. Ok trusty calculator, lets do the math. 8640 x 63000 = 544,320,000. Wait a minute, that's 544 _million_, not 5 billion? Did Haaretz misplace a decimal point? I think they noticed the problem, as next they try to buff up their numbers...

In the regular ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, in which most students are at the age that most Jewish Israelis are serving in the military, some 30,000 students were enrolled last year, a figure also expected to climb this year...The cost of funding study in those institutions is NIS 400 a month, or NIS 4,800 a year. Eww, ouch, nice jab Haaretz on serving in the military - but a statement of incredible ignorance - it's yeshiva if they're not married, kollel if they are. Regardless, lets go to the calculator: 4800 x 30000 = 144,000,000. 544,320,000 + 144,000,000 = 688,320,000. That's not 5 billion, what's going on here? I thought they taught basic math in Israeli secular schools?

So here it is, the secular Israeli complaint against Torah study in Israel. How many people in Israel are studying Torah at the "expense" of the State and working population? How much of a drain are those charedim from Israeli society? What do you think - 25%? 40%? Could, (not G-d) forbid it be 50%? How can poor Israel be expected to support such a burden? Here it is, from secular Haaretz itself...

The 95,000 students in kollels and yeshivas represent 3.5 percent of working-age _men_.

That's it folks, 3.5% of the Israel _male_ population is studying Torah full time. Just to play the same numbers game, most Israeli women are in the workforce, which means we divide 3.5% in half (as men are half the workforce) to see a total workforce impact of:

1.75%

Now lets talk about the money they receive. NIS 720 per month = $200 per month. For a family, husband, wife, children, to live on. While many Torah families live a very frugal life, no one in Israel can live with less than 8 times that number or so (and that's living the poorest lifestyle). So where's all that extra money coming from?

The wife works - the parents help - the husband works a bit on the side - charity collected abroad and locally helps support the Torah learning - local food and clothing charity also helps support the Torah learning - stores and businesses give special discounts (forgoing their profits) to Torah students. This is the choice of the family and the religious communities in Israel and abroad to support Torah learning rather than buying a big screen TV. This is the community's choice on where to put their money. Torah first.

Haaretz's 5 billion shekel fantasy statistic assumes all those men go to work and the whole community starts buying big screen TV's, going to movies and the disco, buys a car, vacations in Cyprus, shops at the mall and hangs out at the espresso bar...


A 2004 Knesset report found that if members of the community participated in the workforce as do the general population, their contribution would be close to NIS 5 billion.

But the religious community doesn't subscribe to the "general population's" lifestyle, and therefore chooses to participate and direct their funds according to their priorities. Funny, I never see articles in Pennsylvania about the Amish not contributing to modern society. Only in Israel. 1.75%

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Just Some Israeli Summer Photos

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Just some random photos during summer travels in the Holy Land...

The shoreline of Ashkelon - within Kassam missile range.

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The Ashkelon Power Plant. Though it provides 30% of Gaza's electricity, it's a regular missile target.

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The Stalagtite Caves at the Avshalom Reserve (Jerusalem Hills)...

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Haifa, as viewed from the Carmel Mountains.

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Just another suburban Israeli sunset.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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Links of Interest

At Hirhurim: Shiriyim - an analysis of the chassidic custom of a rebbe "sharing" food. Very interesting perspectives!

At Yeranen Yaakov: Internet Prozbol. As the Shemitta year comes to the end, the mitzvah of releasing debts at the end of the 7th year comes to us. We discussed this here at the beginning of the year, as according to chassidic understanding a prozbol should be written at the beginning and end of the year. Now that the end of the year is coming, according to all opinions one should examine the issue.
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Hooks in the Cheeks?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

What strange draw does Israel have that every US president (since Carter?) turns to Israel and "Mideast Peace" as his term comes to a close?

"U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her seventh visit this year, called on Israel on Tuesday not to undermine peace negotiations with the Palestinians after a report found it had nearly doubled Jewish settlement construction.

On her seventh visit this year in a long-shot push for a peace deal by January, Rice said the two sides were "somewhat closer" in their secret talks..."


Understand, there is NO PLACE IN THE WORLD the US Secretary of State has visited 7 times this year except for Israel. With a possible new Cold War brewing, the US Secretary of State is focused on. . .Israel. Not being able to negotiate the future US relationship with Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Secretary of State is in. . .Israel. With 5 U.S. Carrier Battle Groups lining up in the Persian Gulf or nearby in the Indian Ocean, the US Secretary of State is visiting. . .Israel.

When Israel builds 2,600 homes, that's a small subdivision by US standards, with the majority within the boundaries of Jerusalem (that the US would like to redefine NEIGHBORHOODS where 200,000 people live as "settlements), the major focus of US world diplomacy is "I think it's no secret, and I have said it to my Israeli counterparts, that I don't think that settlement activity is helpful," Rice said.

RANT: A Jew builds a home, it's an obstacle to peace. A Palestinian bulldozes down 30 Israelis while Hamas fires rockets every day during a "cease fire", that's just normal frustration expressing itself - nothing to get worked up about.

Forgiving my sideline rant for a second, what strange power draws US administrations into this process again and again, and further draws them into supporting the very terrorist model they're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan?

There is only one answer: HaKodesh Baruch Hu, Melech HaMelechim, the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He. Like hardening Pharoah's heart, he brings in the US President to support those who hate America and have built a culture of literal horror.

But, like the first exodus, He's also sending plagues so the people can see a hint of the results. While many are cleaning up from the flooding of hurricane Faye, hurricane Gustav is now taking aim for the US Gulf Oil Platforms and/or the gulf coast of Louisiana or Texas.

A visit a month, a natural disaster a month. It's worth noting.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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The “Life of All the Worlds”

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

When making the after-blessing for certain foods, we say, “Blessed is the Life of all the worlds.” We normally think there is only a single world and many lives living in it. This blessing teaches us that there are, in fact, many worlds, but only one life in them all.

When you make this blessing, try to see how this is possible. How can there be but one life when there are so many people?

Think of the one sun shining its single light onto all, sustaining all of them. Each person has his own sunlight shining on him and reflecting from his own face. But still, the sunlight remains a single one, both before it reaches the people and even after it reflects from each of their faces. Somewhat like this the One Life fills us all.

Think of your most basic physical structure, your molecules. Not one of them ever touches another. Still, they are all you. And when you touch any one of them, you are touching you. So they are not only millions and millions of molecules, but they are also the one you. Similar to this, even though each person stands far away from the rest of the people, this does not mean that their lives cannot be one. Just as your one life vivifies each of your molecules, so does the One Life of the worlds vivify each of us.

Look deeper and become accustomed to this way of thinking until you actually see that all life is sustained by a single life. Then you will understand the deeper meaning of, “Who has found me has found life.”[i]

[i] Proverbs 8:35

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Important Israeli Lifestyle Advice

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Late summer is picking time for many wonderful local and imported fruits growing in the Holy Land. One of the more succulent fruits is the famous sabra.

As they grow wild around the country right on the roadside, they seem readily available for easy picking. So tonight I decided to head out with my children to pick us some sabras!

Now wait a minute you must be thinking, these are prickly pears, you don't just run up and grab them - it's a freaking cactus fruit, grabbing it can definitely be dangerous! Not to worry, I told my dear children, I have a plan. Tools - pliers, crowbar, pipe wrench, items that could reach. We were set, off we went to pick prickly pear at night.

(About this point, you've got to be thinking, this can't end well, how right you are...)

We captured a few fruits, it was going ok. Then one of my children grabbed a fruit noting it had no visible long prickles. She passed it around, see - no long pokey prickles.

At this point, one of the children went to pick up their tool and screamed, OOOUUUCH. Grab the flashlight, let me see. Ohhhh Nooooo, that little happy prickle-less fruit was indeed covered with prickles, little tiny millimeter long prickes which were now embedded by the tens or hundreds in my children's hands (and mine!) Oooouuuuuuch.

We have neither enough light nor the right tools to remove them, everyone is trying to hold absolutely still in the car (ahhh, someone touched their arm moving a prickle from hand to arm, ahhhh - someone scratched their stomach and now has a stomach prickle, a face scratch, ahhhhh). This went on as we carefully drove home, me holding the steering wheel with 2 fingers (prickles in the others, ahhhhh). My little girl is crying, ahhhhh.

Run into the house (carefully, carefully, don't touch anything, fingers are covered in prickles, ahhhh). Help dear wife and mother, where's the tweezers, help us.....

Crazy eldest daughter says, "I got pricked for it, I'm eating it!" She tries to peel it, carefully carefully, ahhhhh, more prickles! Ok, it's peeled, she's biting it, ahhhh, prickle in the mouth!!! We're trying to tweeze her tongue!!!! And lip, double ahhhhhhhh!!!!

Ahh, her brother bumped up against her, prickle in the thigh, ahhhh!

Help us, help us, it's the attack of 1,000 needles.

We are never going anywhere near a sabra again, I don't care if it's in the supermarket and supposedly safe. These are evil fruit, stay away, far far away.

- WARNING - SABRA - STAY AWAY - LETHAL FRUIT -

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

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Sinat Chinam and the Sages’ (Co-Conspiracy) Intent, part 3

by Reb Moshe Newman at Mystical Paths

[Note: I'd like to make clear that the insights shared herein are based on an integration of 20 years experience as a healing facilitator and mind/body scientist (doctor of Chiropractic specializing in Network Spinal Analysis) with 23 years of learning Torah and Kabbalah. I do _not_ claim to be a Torah scholar (perhaps in the future, G-d willing) and do not pretend otherwise. All concepts presented have been validated by knowledgeable Torah scholars as being true to Torah sources. Thank you for your feedback. In response to the comment which took exception to the grammer upon which the drash is based, thank you for the lesson: Nevertheless, the fact that dikduk works this way is, in itself, grounds for all the questions. Translating sinat chinam as "hating their chen" is not wrong. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that it is important and good to formulate one's own Torah insights as long as they in no way go against the Shulchan Aruch. The Torah is alive and we need to have a personal relationship with it in order to have a more complete relationship with Hashem.]

In parts one and two, we discussed that Adam’s main failure was not acknowledging Hashem as the Creator of Evil. Instead, he took the pain—the experience of Evil—personally and ascribed it to being punished for disobeying. The concepts of disobedience and retribution are true only from the side of Free Choice. If Adam had seen the pain of the Evil as Hashem’s ingenious creation which enables the experience of multiplicity, what he would have done is to acknowledge the chen in every part of the Creation. This is called ahavat chinam, the opposite of sinat chinam. Seeing the chen in everything leads to praising and thanking the Creator. Praising and thanking Hashem for the creation of Evil would have completed the entire spiritual rectification and thus, it would have been eternally Shabbat.

Noach Tried to Fix and Failed

The kabbalistic work, Leshem Sh’vo V’achlama teaches that the first person who consciously tried to fix Adam’s sin was Noach. The Leshem says that Noach entered the evil without Hashem’s permission and failed (to rectify the sin).

The first allusion to moshiach in the Torah is by Noach—meaning “comfort” as it says, “This one will comfort us…” (Br. 5:29) The midrash explains that this passage refers to the ultimate redemption and brings two opinions, one saying his name should have been Menachem, the other saying his name should have been Nachman, both of which refer to a comforter, a redeemer. [The reader is invited to consider the names of the leaders of the two groups of Jews who talk the most loudly about moshiach, and say, “Hmmm.”] NoaCH is the same letters as CHeN.

The concluding verse in Parshat B’reishit, is “V’Noach matza chen b’aynay Hashem—And Noach found chen in the eyes of Hashem.” Aynay Hashem—Hashem’s eyes—can also be translated as “Hashem’s ayin’s”. The letter ayin has the value 70 which refers to all the Gentile nations. It also refers to the 70 faces of Torah. The absolute root of multiplicity is duality: Good/Evil, Right/Left, Up/Down, White/Black, etc. That is why Torah is involved so predominantly with absolutes: Kodosh (holy)/Chol (profane), Kosher/Treif or Pasul, Tahur (Pure)/Tamei (Impure) etc. Everything from the side of Good is called “the Right side,” everything associated with Evil is “the Left side”. In absolute terms, there are two groups of people, the Jewish nation which is connected to the side of Good, Holy, Pure and the Gentile nations which embody the opposite. [Please note: This does not mean individual Gentiles are necessarily evil, ch’v. Please G-d, we will deal with this subject in a future article.] So the “ayin’s” are all aspects of the Creation from the Left side. Noach wanted to rectify the damage caused by Adam’s failure to acknowledge Hashem as the Creator of the Evil—a failure which obscured Unity as the root of multiplicity, a failure which led to warfare and idolatry and every other evil throughout history. Noach wanted to enter the evil and reveal its chen—the point of pure Light in the darkness. However, Noach did not have permission because Hashem’s Desire was for humanity to descend much, much further, and so, Noach failed.

The Good Movie

We all know that a good movie or story needs the building of tension in order to enjoy its happy ending. The more tension built into the climax and the more unexpected the resolution, the more we enjoy the overall movie experience. Same with human intimacy. The more we build the yearning, the greater pleasure from completion. Finishing after only minimal building of the tension of yearning, or a movie that is happy and sweet all the way through—yawn. Conversely, a movie that does not include resolution, or unfulfilled yearning for physical intimacy leaves us feeling uncomfortable indeed. Hashem created us that way.

So far, almost 5770 years have passed. The process of the unfolding of Creation— the manifestation of every possible combination of good and evil via the lives of billions upon billions of people through inventions and ideas and experiences, etc.—comes closer and closer to its conclusion. If we were to step back and observe ourselves and the entire history of the universe as a movie, we would be in the part just before the climax. The tension has built up to almost unbearable proportions. In fact, there is so much tension after a century of two world wars, the Holocaust, the fear of nuclear and chemical warfare and the advent of terrorism, that most of Hashem’s audience is numbed out.

In the movie, “The Game”, Michael Douglas plays an emotionless, financially very successful, middle-aged businessman who, due to his singleminded pursuit of money, has alienated practically every person of the many who have ever come to care for him. For his birthday, his brother gives him a gift of a special healing program designed to open his heart. The healing program, called “The Game”, is orchestrated by a team of professionals who, at first gather every piece of information possible about the man, his history and every detail about how he leads his daily life until they can predict, with absolute certainty, every choice that the man will make in a given situation. Then they orchestrate circumstances such that the man tries to kill himself. Knowing the exact point he will jump off the building which he has been manipulated to be on top of, they place an air bag to break his fall. They have arranged that he lands in the middle of a big party—a surprise birthday party for him with all his many friends and family who are ready to love him, even though he has been emotionally cold with them for years. When he realizes that the whole thing has been a setup, at first, the man is enraged. Then, he comes to realize that everything he went through which led to his attempted suicide was part of “The Game”. As he recognizes that his ordeal truly broke open his heart and he now can appreciate the love from his family and friends, he breaks into uproarious laughter to the point of tears of joy and love.

Recalling that: Hashem created the world to bestow His Goodness; the highest Goodness is the feeling of bliss from being unified with Hashem, as it were; the appreciation of good is only through knowing its opposite, thus Hashem created the darkness of Evil; Hashem has orchestrated every single detail of the unfolding of His Creation and that unfolding we call history; we can now understand that the whole of human history has been a setup. We mentioned in the article, “Baruch P’tarani” (see below), that Hashem designed the world to pull people into constricted consciousness. Even the Torah is written in a way which encourages constricted consciousness. It’s Hashem’s Conspiracy, as it were, to bring humanity to the brink of elimination, G-d forbid, only to save us through greater miracles than those Hashem performed for us during the Exodus from Egypt. At first, humanity had clear perception of Hashem’s Existence. Part of Hashem’s Genius has been to pull humanity into a such a constricted state where people actually don’t believe in, doubt or are unsure of the Creator’s Existence. The infinitely powerful, most awesome Creator has totally humbled and hid Himself. This sets the stage for the greatest revelation and the most exultation.

Righteous Co-Conspirators

The true Tzaddikim—sages of the Nation of Israel—have always been aware of Hashem’s Intent to create more and more darkness by orchestrating humanity’s descent into ever-more constricted consciousness. Thus they have always been Hashem’s co-conspirators, as it were. They formulated the Oral Torah and its practical application (halachah) in such a way as to encourage our focus on the Free Choice side, to the detriment of our ability to stay aware of the Divine Providence perspective.

By translating sinat chinam as “causeless hatred” the Tzaddikim implanted several insidious constrictions into our consciousness: if there is such a thing as causeless hatred, then there must certainly be “causeful” hatred—reasons to hate. Actually, we are taught that the only thing we should hate is evil. Thus the feeling of hate is connected with evil which locks us in to the belief that evil is wrong. Of course evil is indeed “wrong” from the side of Free Choice—Hashem has instructed us “sur m’ra va’aseh tov—turn away from evil and do good. However, on the side of Divine Providence, evil is just Hashem’s creation which enables multiplicity and so, is not wrong at all.

Furthermore, since the feeling of hate is associated with evil, then the feeling of hate is perceived as wrong as well, which, again, is only true from the side of Free Choice. Focusing solely on the Free Choice/Multiplicity aspect of the paradox precludes the ability to see Hashem as the Ingenious Creator and the ultimate Embodier of the feeling of hate and of the evil itself. For the very concept of hating can only exist from the side of Free Choice/Multiplicity. From the side of Unity, there is only love. That is why the word for love—ahavah, has the same gematria (numerical value) as the word for “one”—echad. So in translating sinat chinam as causeless hatred, the Tzaddikim are truly co-conspirators in the process of creating the evil of constricted consciousness.

The Revelation Process

Everything we have said above is contained in the teachings of the Kabbalah. Moshe Rabbenu received all of Torah on Mt. Sinai. He was instructed to keep Kabbalah secret. He was informed that the secrets of Kabbalah would be revealed slowly throughout history. In order that the darkness would not completely overwhelm humanity, it was balanced just enough by the light of Kabbalah, revealed at the appropriate times. This allowed for the darkness of constricted consciousness to descend upon humanity gradually. Thus we see the revelation of the Zohar, the teachings of the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nachman coming into the world at specific times. The Tzaddikim know that Hashem’s Goal is the ultimate revelation of His True Awesome Goodness to elicit the rejoicing of humanity.

Many of us, upon realizing that the whole of human history is a setup, at first, might be very upset with Hashem—how dare You give us so much pain and misery! However, once we experience the final redemption (please G-d, may it be soon!), humanity's ordeal will allow us to truly appreciate Hashem's Good and we will break into laughter and tears of joy and love. For we will clearly see that every event in the history of man has been perfectly orchestrated by Hashem in order to reveal His Greatness as the Awesome Creator that He is, as the unfathomably Kind Bestower of Good. By living in the paradox of feeling the pain of the horrors of this world and praying and acting to eliminate them through Torah and ma'asim tovim while maintaining the joy that comes with awareness of the perfection in every detail of history and our lives, we are truly Hashem’s partners. However, we are His partners only from the Free Choice side. From the Divine Providence side, we are His tools for the creation of the experience of paradox. Wow! What Genius! (as it were)

Bravo!

At the conclusion of a good show which has truly inspired its audience, the audience, as one, springs to its feet in applause with shouts of “Bravo!” When the Divine, Supreme, Ultimate Show is concluded with the completion of the Redemption, we will behave no differently. However, even though the "end" of Hashem’s “Show” is going to be so awesome, we cannot begin to imagine it, nevertheless, we can direct our awareness now and, in faith, choose to feel deep joy. When we remember that our entire existence is paradoxical, then we can perceive Hashem’s Glory in every single part of the universe. We can exist in a perpetual state of gratitude and applause, loving the chen in every single thing. Thus we can access Shabbat—the state of perfect bliss and unity which Hashem has planned for us all along. Amen!

Please G-d, future articles will discuss practical, beneficial ramifications of living a consciously paradoxical existence —specifically regarding health and healing. Feedback is greatly appreciated.

Yours for greater Peace, Love, Joy and Gratitude,
Dr. Moshe Newman


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

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Final JBlogging Conference Thoughts

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

By now, with over 200 bloggers attending in person, and over 1,000 attending virtually, there's got to be hundreds of articles on the conference. Having read a few, here are my final thoughts on the event and the coverage, both by bloggers and by the main stream media...

- Most bloggers I met were surprisingly friendly and nice to talk to. As the attendees cut across a wide swath of cultural and factional ranges, this was particularly enjoyable. I was actually rather surprised at a couple of bloggers who definitely avoided me - the black hat, black coat, bearded ultra-religious guy image they have of charedim just being more than my friendly smile and big hello could overcome.

- It's unfortunate that some people are so grumpy about the convention.

-> Some wanted more social time (here's a conference hint for those people, ignore the speakers and go to the food area to socialize, I often get more out of socializing and making contacts at conferences than I do from the sessions).

-> Some were upset that Bibi didn't stay very tight on a blogging topic and was political. Hey, he's a politician, what do you expect? The fact a JBloggers conference warranted a high profile politician stopping by spoke volumes more than his words.

-> Some were upset the "high profile" bloggers making up the panels didn't have more to offer (from the technical magic ways to make your blog big time). Guess what fellow JBloggers, it's still a young new space - there are no professionals yet to give away the industry secrets.

-> And some were upset about a host of little details - the invitation list, the speakers, that Nefesh b'Nefesh hosted it, that it was in Israel, etc. This space is still young enough and open enough that anyone can literally (try to) organize anything they want. No one will be bucking the Jewish Bloggers Professional Association (JBPA)(tm) by creating their own carnival, awards, conference, or blogging technology.

Last year, I ran the JIB Awards, the Jewish & Israel Blog Awards. I found that like in any shul, there's a back row of grumpy old men (so to speak) at any event who can criticize every point and always talk about how they could do it better. But of course, they never actually do anything.

To Nefesh b'Nefesh and WebAds, congratulations on running a fine event.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

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Bumper Sticker Hasbara

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

In discussing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs branding program discussed at the JBloggers convention, Daled Amos made the point (in comments) that:

One of the problems with Hasbara (Israeli PR) --no matter how well it is done-- is that Palestinian PR at this point can be encapsulated in a two-word bumper sticker: FREE PALESTINE. Any pro-Israel bumper sticker would be too long, because our PR is not visceral, it is full of explanations, history and dates.

I disagree. I think that's true only when one cow tows to Western media and is fearful to embrace the Jewish heritage of Israel. (For maybe marketing it means you believe it? Oy.) So, here's my idea for a counter Free Palestine bumper sticker:

Israel: God's home, and so are we!

So, what's your suggestion to encapsulate Israel in a bumper sticker? Click on comments and add yours.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

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JBlogging Conference Follow Up

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Unfortunately, the live blogging ended with a local wifi overload. So, here's some more on the conference, as well as more pictures.

-> FrumSatire provided some halftime entertainment. He was reasonably funny. Afterwards, he and a few buddies wanted some pictures with me, as a particularly chassidic looking guy (offsetting their beach casual appearance). It was an interesting contrast.

Photo: Yisrael Medad of MyRightWord interviewed by Ben Bretsky of Israel National News and JMusic blogging at Israel Beat.

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-> Panel Session Two was on the topic of presenting Israel and Aliyah. Yisrael Medad, as a long time Israeli political activist, shared some interesting thoughts on making things happen. My Shrapnel shared some strong thoughts that basically were "I write want I want, hope people like to read it, and if not or if that doesn't present Israel nicely, blow off." Powerful, but a bit weird given the topic of the panel she was on.

Photo: Break time, Ted Belmen of Israpundit in the shorts to the left, he won one of the prizes of the night, a copy of DovBear's new book. (The other prize was a waffle maker - readers of The Muqata will get that joke - won by Yisroel Medad of My Right Word)

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-> The final speaker of the night was Zavi Apfelbaum, Director of Brand Management, from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The topic - Israel's image in the world.

Photo: Speaker from the Foreign Ministry

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They did extensive marketing and brand research and what did they find out? ...

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And guess what, that's not how Israeli's view themselves! This was a shock to the bloggers in the audience (NOT!) Next, she presented some really interesting research on how different people of the world view different nations. They were presented with a country and had to describe the features of a family and house that represented such a country. Was the house colorful or plain, happy or reserved, etc. And here's what they said about Israel...

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Frankly, that's pretty frightening. World views of Israel is pretty negative. But, to sum up Israeli hasbara - Israeli PR efforts by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1 picture is the following picture - the marketing images Israel is going to use to fight these negative stereotypes...

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Look closely, here's what you see to combat negative stereotypes and create the future brand and marketing image of Israel:

1. Tel Aviv Fashion Brands
2. Tel Aviv Modern Dance Troupes
3. Tel Aviv Beach Life
4. Israeli High Technology Developments
5. Tel Aviv Night Life
6. Israeli High Technology Medical Developments
7. Israeli Wine

Those are the images that Israel is going to use to sell Israel's uniqueness and specialness to the world. The campaign is being prepared and the Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to sign off on the budget next month. Go team! (I thought I was going to gag.)

In the only controversy of the night, one blogger had the nerve to speak up and challenge this joke of an effort...

(video coming soon)

That's it for the First International Jewish Blogging Convention. It was interesting to meet many people with whom I've corresponded in person, and meet some that I haven't. A very wide diversity of people, more diverse, more people, and more topics than expected. To the organizers, congratulations on a good effort!

Photo: Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths with Rabbi Gil Student of Hirhurim

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Photo: Speaker from the Foreign Ministry presenting Israeli PR to the bloggers.

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Living Blogging the Blogging Conference

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I'm at the Nefesh b'Nefesh / Webads.co.il International Jewish Blogging Conference in Jerusalem right now - and I'll be live blogging and posting photos during the event. Stop back at this post for periodic updates!

5:45 PM - The room is packed, I've met a number of bloggers I've corresponded with over the years. One of the surprises is the amount of press present. I don't think most bloggers have come to realize the level of impact they are having.

And the bloggers gather...

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6:00 PM - Only took 15 minutes to get everyone to take their seat. They announced they had over 600 Jewish bloggers register, though the physical facility is limited to around 200-300. Hundreds are logged into the online video and chat room.

I'm honored to be sitting next to IsraelMatzav and IsraellyCool.

6:10 PM - Various intros and sponsors presented. A surprise guest is former Israel PM Binyamin Netanyahu. The first speakers are My Urban Kvetch, Hirhurim, Jewlicious, Treppenwitz, and IsraelMatzav, with Esther of My Urban Kvetch moderating the panel. Here's some new pictures...

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6:15 PM - The introducers and the speakers seem a little nervous, mentioning that the crowd has been much larger than expected. The first panel started off with Hirhurim. R. Gil opened with a word of Torah, tying the conference to the parsha of the week. A good way to start off a Jewish blogging convention.

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Ahh, they're taking my picture! Apparently liveblogging a bloggers conference is a site to behold (or maybe it's the black hat and beard with the laptop?) Close up's of me? Who wants to see that?

An update from earlier, they said they have over 600 people live online right now following the conference.

6:25 PM - "We don't just take from the blogosphere, we give. It's a community." Talking about blogrolls, comment interaction, and links to other's articles to create a model of communal interaction. - Jewlicious. Nice points, surprising the amount of offline events they've done (a birthright trip, a conference, and more).

Speakers are having trouble staying within their time allotments, find themselves being cut short (none is actually going over). They find themselves rushed.

6:30 PM - While Treppenwitz is speaking, Binyamin Netanyahu has arrived. He got a front row seat, his security behind him in the second row. I got a great picture of the back of his head.

6:35 PM - They cut the panel off after Treppenwitz to allow former PM Netanyahu to speak. He read the panel names and got into a little give and take with Jewlicious, asking what kind of name was that. Jewlicious asked right back, and what kind of name is Netanyahu. Everyone cracked up.

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He shared a line that we are in our city, and Jerusalem will remain our city. That received a lot of applause.

He was asked about hasbara - Israeli PR and if they are making any effort to blogging. He said: No, but it should be. He then started to get technical, about how he learned about blogging and info sharing at CERN (the particle accelerator in Switzerland), and asked if we were actually interested in hearing about it. The majority quickly responded yes, and he proceeded to talk for about 3 minutes on fiber optic network switching - then moving to information sharing. "We are the talking creatures."

"We should use the internet in an organized way to spread truth - just respond to them."

6:55 PM - Netanyahu is still speaking, bloggers are being allowed to directly ask questions. Israeli Army Radio has arrived, their reporter is recording the event. IsraelMatzav got a question in, as did IsraellyCool. Much of the discussion is around hasbara - Israeli PR - and blogging, and the complete failure of the Israeli government to either use blogging or use the resource of bloggers to boost the Israeli message and position. Netanyahu seems very up on these issues, including having real statistics on attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinians from around the world.

Photo - Israeli Army Radio reporter...

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Bibi is a great speaker, went long on answers and was finally asked to wind up. He's pretty reasonably informed on internet and blogging topics, but also sounds like a campaign commercial. Hey, he's a politician, so I guess that's expected.

...UNFORTUNATELY, the WiFi connection was lost at the conference center (perhaps overloaded as many on site bloggers unpacked their laptops). A follow up post soon with more photos and conference info.

More pictures and thoughts in my after-conference post, here.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

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The JBloggers Conspiracy

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

JBloggers (the Jewish blogging community) are a diverse lot, from anarchists and anti-religious to zionists and zealots. There's rabbis, new rabbis, and former rabbis. There's pro-Israel, pro-"Peace", and anti-Israel. In real life, most Jews are a little left or a little right, but like a crowded room in blogging you have to speak LOUDLY to be heard. And strongly voicing your opinion is certainly a shared Jewish trait.

When people look to JBlogging as an organized community (or even an organized conspiracy, muhahaha), they look to the communal events...

o Haveil Havelim - The Weekly Jewish Blog Post Carnival - Started by Soccer Dad, now operated by Joe Settler

o The Jewish Cooking Blog Post Carnival - Started & Operated by Shiloh Musings

o The Jewish Photo Blog Post Carnival - Started & Operated by Bagel Blogger

o The JIBs - The Jewish & Israel Blogging Awards - Started by IsraellyCool, operated in 2005 by The Jerusalem Post, and in 2007 by me - Mystical Paths.

And now we have the International JBloggers Conference, started by Webads.co.il and Nefesh b'Nefesh.

Some JBloggers, and even the mainstream press in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, have stood up and shouted it's a right wing orthodox JBloggers conspiracy (muhahaha). Why? Because the majority of speakers are pro-Israel and/or right-wing and/or orthodox (or generally religious).

Well, I'm here to let the cat out of the bag. Yes, they're right, it's a right wing pro-Israel pro-settler pro-orthodox JBlogging conspiracy! At tomorrow's conference, we'll be receiving our secret decoder rings as well as being taught the secret handshake.

But why, why have the poor pro-Arab anti-Jewish Jewish bloggers been excluded from so many JBlogging community functions (the carnivals, the awards, etc.) Here's the truth:

Much of the left wing Jewish bloggers spend much of their time fighting Judaism, fighting the growth and success of Israel, digging for the failings of the community (yes, plenty to be found) to hurt the community. In other words, they blog to destroy.

The "right wing" / "orthodox" / "pro-Israel" / "settler" bloggers are (often) driven with a purpose. They're building - building for the future, building a (real world) community, or a country, or Torah and Judaism, reaching out to their fellow, sharing good words and good thoughts.

They build, they create - the blogging carnivals, the awards, and now - the conference. There will be plenty of room to kvetch, it's not perfect, it could be better, etc. But until you build it, there's nothing to kvetch over.

G-d willing, Mystical Paths is attending the JBloggers conference tomorrow evening in Jerusalem, the Holy City, capital of Israel, heart of the Jewish people. Why? For the same reason it has been announced Likud leader and former Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu is attending, the same reason Ha'aretz wrote their negative article, and the same reason Israeli Channel 10 has done 2 televised interviews with a panelist - we now have a chance to speak for our community, and we're now being heard. As bloggers, we need to understand that, understand our impact, and the responsibilities that come along with that.

I'm told all are welcome, but I'm sure that statement is just to perpetuate the conspiracy. Muhahaha.

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Gog Links

Yeranen Yaakov has a series of current Gog uMagog links, worth checking out.

Dreaming of Moshiach has an excellent post on knowing the time of the geulah. A top notch Torah analysis.

Josh at Parsha Blog reviews the often cited Gemora Sanhedrin (97a) on the time of the Geulah.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

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Tzitzits (Fringes)

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Except for a three-year-old boy who puts on his first pair of tzitzits, who really gets excited about this mitzvah? The commandment to wear tzitzits applies only when we are wearing a four-cornered garment. There is no requirement to put on such a garment, so when we put on tzitzits we are actually “volunteering” to do this mitzvah. And what are we volunteering for? When you join the King’s service, the King gives you a garment to identify yourself with him. This garment also protects you because it reminds you of the King’s commandments, and this keeps you from straying.[i] If you remember this when you wear your tzitzis, you will wear them with great joy. You are a servant of the Holy One Whose service you have joined by putting them on.

The Torah tells us to wear tzitzits so we will see them and remember the commandments and “…not go after your heart and your eyes after which you stray.”[ii]

But even if we do see the tzitzits, and even if we are able to remember the commandments at that time, how can we possibly turn from what our eyes and heart want? Our eyes see that delicious thing and it looks very good. It looks so good, in fact, that the desire for it enters our heart. Now we want it even more. It pulls us to it. How can we possibly turn from such a craving?

Once you recognize the huge difference between you and your desires, controlling them can become surprisingly easy.

Try this exercise. Say, “I am going to try to look and see the wall over there.” Now, do that. Without analysis this entire process seems to be a single event, a flash, like a photo. But see how many individual stages are actually involved in this one act. Each of these functions is entirely different.

I - The I is unique and distinct from the things that the I does.

Am going to try - Going to try is not yet trying.

Try - Trying to look is not looking.

Look - Looking goes out from our eyes toward the object we are looking at.

Seeing - Seeing comes back from the object, enters through our eyes and goes into our brain. Looking and seeing are two entirely different actions.

The wall over there – You are not seeing the wall over there. We see the wall over here in our head, somewhere deep in our brain. We never see anything outside of our mind. The light brings a reflection of the object we are looking at to our eyes. Really, we should say, “I am going to look at the wall that is over there, over here (in my mind).

When an object of lust has grabbed your attention, stop and take a quick look at the stages that are involved in that lust. Ask such questions as: What part of my body really wants that thing? Where does the lust reach me? Where do I feel it? On my tongue? My stomach? My mind? What is the difference between these lusts that I am craving and me, the one who is experiencing them? After all, I am not my thoughts. I experience my thoughts. My thoughts are mine, but they are not me.

Trying to understand the players in our emotional experiences allows us to “step back” from the immediate sensual pull and see where that pull is coming from. That desire does not come from the object we lust. It comes from within our mind as we quickly fantasize what we might be able to experience by taking that object.

When we look objectively at our actual experience we can see where the desire affects us. Then we can choose whether to relax our resistance to that desire and simply slide into that lust, or instead, to turn and say, “I do not like where I will end up if I let that lust take me away. Even at these times of great desire, we can look away from that attraction and go on to something else.

Once you learn to do this, each time you do, it becomes easier. After all, you want what is best for you.

[i] Numbers 15:39
[ii] Numbers 15:39

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

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Motzie Shabbat Under a Red Moon

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Kotel, the holy remnant of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash, the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, is beautiful on motzie Shabbat (Saturday night, after Shabbos). It's busy but quiet, and the greater plaza area is also acting as a social meeting ground.

Chassidim are sharing Torah thoughts for the week, some tourists are planning the next holy site to visit, a few families have come to be together. A group of young men is in the back of the prayer area, singing and dancing. Some fathers are arriving with their sons in tow, the ladies section is busy.

As I looked up, I watched a Lunar eclipse! A sign of a moment of negative mazel for the Jewish people, the thought clashed with the quiet beauty of the moment. Jerusalem fell under a 3/4 Lunar eclipse, may Hashem have mercy (still in progress as I write this).

Mishpacha magazine, a nice Jewish religious magazine targeted at the frum community, had a major article this past week on a dream we shared here a few weeks ago, about an elderly rav who was a talmid (student) of the Chafetz Chaim, perhaps the last student of the Chafetz Chaim still alive, who had a dream of his teacher from so many years ago, specifically instructing him to inform everyone that the time of Moshiach is very close. Mishpacha interviewed the rav directly, who confirmed the story. Our occasional teen contributor Chavi pinged me on this, noting that the chassidic rebbe's and the sephardi mekubalim have been talking seriously about Moshiach and geulah for some time now. This is the first time, however, we see the Litvish world getting involved.

As the world moves into more risk and chaos, and America is about to suffer another monthly natural disaster, let us pray that Hashem brings us the geulah mamosh now, according to the kind path.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

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Sinat Chinam and the Sages’ Intent (Part 2)

by Reb Moshe Newman at Mystical Paths

In part one of this article, we discussed that, according to proper grammar, the phrase, sinat chinam should be translated as “the hatred of their chen.” Why, then, have our sages promulgated a tradition to translate it as “causeless hatred”? And how does this relate to the destruction and rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash?

In our article, “Baruch P’tarani”(see below), we discussed the idea that the most expanded consciousness is to know that everything is ultimately Hashem and His orchestration. Remembering that every event occurs within the paradox of Free Choice/Multiplicity vs. Divine Providence/Unity, let us focus on the Divine Providence aspect of the destruction of the Holy Temple.

If Hashem controls everything, why would Hashem orchestrate the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash? Why would He orchestrate events such that His Holy Nation would sink to the level of hatred in the first place? Sharpening our question, let us consider that, according to our Tradition, Hashem’s Desire is that His Holy Nation should keep Torah. So, if from the perspective of Divine Providence, we are merely puppets of His Will, why would Hashem cause history to unfold such that, over the past 150 years, the Jewish People has shifted from about ninety per cent keeping Torah to about ten per cent?

Intensifying our question even further, according to Tradition, the reason Hashem created the world was in order to bestow Goodness. If Goodness is Hashem’s goal, why is the world so full of pain and evil—the antithesis of goodness? If Hashem is Good and controls everything, why is human history so replete with horrors of barbaric cruelty, natural disasters, etc.

The ToKoGaE--Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: The 'Temporary' Mitzvah

To resolve this, we go back to Adam and Chava who, at first, lived with only one experience—Goodness manifested as bliss in the heart and a clear knowledge of Hashem’s Unity. However, Adam and Chava experienced, but did not appreciate Hashem’s Goodness. The only way we can truly appreciate Light is to know darkness. Hashem wanted his prize creation to fully appreciate His Goodness. So Hashem created darkness/evil, embodied it in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (ToKoGaE ) and placed the tree in the Garden of Eden.

Many Jews who have grown up in a Western society are surprised to discover that Torah Tradition teaches that the mitzvah prohibiting the fruit of the ToKoGaE was temporary. Hashem’s “plan A”, as it were, was that they would eat the fruit just as Shabbat was beginning. One of the main consequences of eating from the fruit of the ToKoGaE was, as its name connotes, the knowledge of good and evil. The main knowledge is experiential. Before eating from the tree, Adam and Chava experienced Good. So the main new awareness activated by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was Evil. The human experience of evil is physical and/or emotional pain and/or confusion.

Hashem created humans that, when we experience sudden, intense pain, the instinctive reaction is to scream and go into a defense/survival state. This includes a certain decrease in the function of the frontal lobe of the brain—the part of the brain active in higher consciousness and awareness of emotions of bliss, love, etc. We become constricted in consciousness, focused externally on survival. We remain in this state as long as we perceive threat.

If They Would Have Eaten from the ToKoGaE with the Onset of Shabbat

Shabbat has the power to illuminate Truth. The Truth was that Hashem created Evil—the feeling of pain—in order to allow Adam to fully appreciate the Good. Eating the fruit at the onset of Shabbat would have illuminated that truth, and thus, Adam’s experience of evil would have been as just one more amazing creation of the Creator. His response would have been an initial instinctive scream from the darkness of the pain followed by the illumination: “OOWWW!!! Wow, Hashem, You created this too!?!? What an amazing, intense experience! You are an amazing Creator!! Now, if you don’t mind, I prefer the experience of bliss. This infinite pain is just too much! Please take away this experience of evil!” And Hashem would have complied—Adam and Chava, having made the tikun by acknowledging Hashem as the Creator of the experience of evil, would have come into Shabbat with a true and complete appreciation of Hashem’s Goodness. That tikun being made, Shabbat would have been eternal.

Plan B is Really Hashem's Plan A

However, plan B was Hashem’s true Desire. How do we know? Because, that’s what happened. The perspective of Divine Providence mandates that everything that unfolds is a perfect manifestation of Hashem’s Will. Plan B was that Adam would not withstand the test. He would eat from the Tree before Shabbat. Now, without the illumination of Shabbat, Adam’s experience of sudden pain caused the natural human defense state to kick in. One of the strongest instincts in a defense state is to explain the threatening circumstances. Adam’s reaction to the sudden, “Infinite Pain” was to interpret it as punishment for disobeying Hashem. And from the perspective of Free Choice/Multiplicity, this is true, but from Divine Providence/Unity, there is no such thing as punishment (as discussed in “Baruch P’tarani).

Hashem orchestrated Adam’s “fall” for a Reason.

As we said, the instinctive human response to pain is constricted consciousness/defense state. For the sake of survival, we become much more aware of our physicality. Thus, the constriction of Adam’s consciousness resulted in a profound change in his body—he went from having a “light-body”, to a body of flesh. A body of flesh seems more separate from the Supreme Unity. So, in his state of separation, Adam could not relate to the pain as coming from Hashem. In his interpretation of the pain as punishment for his failure, he felt shame, and realizing his nakedness, covered it. Next, out of fear and a further sense of separation, he hid. Thus we see that, in his constricted state, he reacted as if there could be such a thing as hiding from Hashem. Finally, so removed from the truth that everything he was experiencing was perfect from Hashem, and in a desire to get as far away from the unpleasant experience as possible, he blamed his wife. [ : ) And ever since, men have been blaming their mistakes on their wives ( : ] From that time on, the human condition became a “permanent” state of discomfort and feeling unsafe.

The True Partnership with Hashem

If Adam would have maintained higher consciousness, acknowledging Hashem as the Creator of the Infinite Pain of Infinite Evil, he would have totally rectified the Evil. Since he didn’t, that short period of time became a process of 6000 years which, through the unique existences of trillions of people, would enable every possible mixture of good and evil to make its appearance in the world. Hashem thus orchestrated it that, by Adam eating the fruit, a “worm” of constricted consciousness began infecting the “computer” which runs all of humanity. This worm was destined to replicate until it took over the entire “hard drive”. Mankind would be pulled into ever greater darkness, the nadir of which would be a state where humans would come to not believe in Hashem at all, r”l. This was necessary for the expression of Hashem’s Ultimate Will—that mankind would eventually reveal Hashem as the Creator of the very darkness into which it had fallen. Humanity would come to reveal that the Darkness is, in truth, only Hashem’s “hiding place”. That revelation rectifies and transforms the Evil. Thus mankind truly becomes a partner with Hashem in the Creation.

Hating the Chen

In part one, we said that chen is the glow of G-dLight emanating from something. Now we can more completely understand why the hatred of the chen would cause the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. When we hate the chen in something—whenever we say, “G-d is not there,” we strengthen the state of constricted consciousness in humanity. Whenever we acknowledge Hashem as the Only One, especially in the unpleasant or horrible experiences, we contribute to the final redemption. This is called eating from the Tree of Life.

This is not to say that we are permitted to do evil things, G-d forbid. For Hashem’s Will is that we “turn away from evil and do good.” The above explanation does not permit sinning, G-d forbid. Rather it gives us a way to relate to everything that has happened throughout human history and the history of each of our lives, including all the falls into sin, r”l, from a place of greater peace, love, joy and gratitude. Living with a paradox perception enables us to have disagreements and still love each other. That is ahavat chinam—love of the glow of G-dLight in the things in the world with which we take exception.

Please G-d, in part three, look at the difference between the translation of sinat chinam as “causeless hatred” versus “the hatred of their chen” and come to a deeper appreciation of the role of our Tzaddikim—our sages, in this process.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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News Flush: Israel Offers Everything, Palestinians Say Not Enough

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Yesterday news reports stated that Israel Prime Minister Olmert offered 99.9999% of Israel to the Palestinians, only demanding that his personal apartment in Tel Aviv (to be renamed New Jaffa) remain Jewish territory (with the IDF based in his parking space).

Palestinian spokesman Erekat responded today, "we never heard of such an offer, we never received such an offer, and the offer we didn't receive is completely unacceptable. A proper offer would include the parking space and permit 10 million Palestinian refugee's to live in the apartment together with Olmert."

Israeli Kadima MK's commented, "Olmert clearly exceeded his authority as a caretaker Prime Minister. Now, if he had offered all of Israel except for the Ramat Gan luxury towers, we're certain he would have been able to get legislative support for the plan."

Do you think this article is a parody or a joke? Here's the real one, you tell me the difference. Only through Hashem's great blessings do we see a government divorced from everything it was founded upon and everything meaningful to it's nation keep trying to give everything, but only getting a response of MORE MORE MORE!!! If, G-d forbid, the "Palestinians" were serious for even a moment, they would get everything that anyone could want for them - including full world support, financing and help in building their new "nation". Of course, that's not what they actually want, so they increase the demand every time they're close to getting it.

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Russian Connection

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Ultra-Secular Appreciation

In a surprise article, an ultra-secular Israeli Jewish reporter spends time in China (for the Olympics) and pens an article, "Thank G-d We're Jewish!". Having seen the communist result of a truly (almost) completely secular nation, he doesn't like it, realizing that if he actually won his battle against the religious in Israel - the result might be a bitter victory.

Worth a read.

He pens one point worth repeating, the human values of the world come from Judaism, meaning from the Torah - from G-d. "perhaps the most significant advantage religion (Akiva adds - specifically JUDAISM) grants us is humanity and respect for human life. Since we, as a nation, believe that each man is made in G-d's image and that killing a person is tantamount to killing a whole world."

As I have never been religious, and have always supported the separation of religion and state, I always wondered what it would be like to live in a land with no religious tendencies whatsoever. In my mind, such land had all the makings of a utopia: There would be no religious fanatics dressed in 19th century garb, no holy wars, and gender equality would reign supreme.

This utopian dream was shattered, however, after I recently had the opportunity to live in such country: China. I soon found myself thanking God we have religion in Israel...


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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Liveblogging a War - Georgia & Russia

The news from the Georgia - Russia war is surprisingly sparse. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, MSM has always been hollow - just a facade of reality on it's best day. Now, however, with the reductions in audience and corresponding reductions in income, all MSM outlets have been cutting back on maintaining offices and reporters around the world, relying on local feeds and the AP - AFP - Reuters world stringers to get their info (like a recent AP video of Russian troops attacking - a former soldier friend of mine says "obviously staged for the reporter, soldiers under fire don't act like that, nor do soldiers advance like that).

Fortunately, information is coming out via some regional blogs. Here's some links that are providing info. Note, though, each is obviously skewed towards their particular position. I say that's ok, at least it's clear and with the MSM it often wasn't.

Georgia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Blog: War Events by the Hour

The Discovery Institute Real Russia Project: The Russia Blog

La Russophobe : Recording the Rise of the Neo-Soviet Union

Photo Credit: The Russia Blog, Russian forces entering Georgia.

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A Suspended Mitzvah

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A large number of commandments have been suspended since the destruction of the Temple. For instance, we cannot offer up sacrifices on the altar because we do not know exactly where it is.

There are other mitzvahs that are involved with the Temple that have also been temporarily nullified. For instance, we are commanded to take certain first-fruits to the Temple, and to give them to the kohenim (priests). These first-fruits are automatically sanctified by virtue of their being first-fruits. When the Temple was standing, these fruits had to be eaten by kohenim in a state of spiritual cleanliness. Since this degree of cleanliness is not available today, the sages have suspended the giving over of these fruits.

As we have been discussing, there are the physical aspects of a mitzvah, and the spiritual aspects of the mitzvah. The physical aspects are obvious. In this case, simply give the physical fruits to the kohen, which then become his property. This is to help provide his financial support. Since the physical act is presently in abeyance, we have to see that our priests (our teachers of Torah), are financially provided for from other sources.

But the spiritual teaching that this mitzvah came to teach us in the first place, is applicable and available even today. Why did G-d command us to give the kohen our first-fruits? If it was only to support the priests, then why not just give them gold? That would have been easier for everyone. There must be some special reason for giving them those first-fruits.

The kohen represents the Temple service, prayer, praising and thanking the Giver of all, learning Torah and looking to G-d to satisfy all our needs. Our fruits are our produce, what we accomplish. We gave the kohen these fruits to enact the process of dedicating all of our initial actions to G-d.

Before we take upon ourselves to do something, a project, or to walk in a certain direction, we should give that action, the steps along its way, and its very outcome to G-d. We cannot be sure if we will finish any given endeavor. The end is not in our hands. But the beginning is. It is entirely up to us whether we start or not. If, when we start, we dedicate our deeds to G-d, our paths become holy, even when we are working in the mundane.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

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We Are Possibly Mistaken

by R. Nati & Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

For several years we have been writing about the possibilities of the Geulah combined with Gog u'Magog. In most of these possibilities, we have been analyzing the United States, and the current president (George Bush) as a likely candidate for Gog. (Further, there are even those who are starting to find gematrias relating to Obama and Gog.)

Yet, this has by no means been clear cut, and the navi (biblical prophet) Ovadiah appears to write about a "friend" of Israel who is only judged in a somewhat minor way for hanging Israel out to dry, rather than being involved in direct actions against Israel.

With the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and the nation of Georgia, and the Israeli connection to Georgia, it could very well be that Russia is Gog. Russia is allied with Iran on many issues, and some have identified Iran as "the Land of Magog" (together with southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan).

Given such a scenario, America would have to become a non-entity, which fits with the holy prophecy of Ovadiah HaNavi. We should begin looking for the connections Gog, MaGog, and the head of Meshech and Tuval. We need to research where these are, there is an opinion that these are Moscow and Tubulsk, the capitols of both white and red Russia (from the north). Of course, both Iran and Russia create an oil connection in the current situation, and the pipeline that passes through the area being warred over in Georgia is part of the equastion.

Now Israel is being threatened by Russia that she should stop helping Georgians. (Seems a number of Jewish Israeli Georgian immigrants became businessmen in arranging significant arms and training deals between Israel and Georgia.)

An unexpected catalyst has appeared literally out of nowhere.

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Israel Today

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

On Tisha B'Av, we mourn the destruction of the Temple, of Jerusalem, and of Israel. B"H, with many blessings Israel is growing in ways that are astounding - and occasionally annoying...

The beauty of the past and the Land... the Haifa shoreline with ancient Roman port in the distance...

Picture 193

Point the camera the other direction (literally), and it's Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft (off camera to the right)...

Picture 209

The Carmel mountains of Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the prophet) are framed by the new Israel Electric Company building, and clearly Israelis are not afraid to create some great interesting architecture...

Picture 217

Toys R Us, McDonalds, Ace Hardware, Speedo, are you sure this is Israel? This mall is fully equiped with the latest in national and international brands. The hebrew signs include the Pelephone cell phone company, Neve Pharm drug store, Cell Com cell phones, Bank Leumi, Shekem Electronics, and...Bowling.

Picture 204

The past, the future, the Land, the beauty, just depends on which direction you point your camera. That's Israel!

All photos by Akiva, on the Haifa shoreline a few weeks ago.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

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Har HaBayit Today - A Massive Pictorial



by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

As we mourn over the destruction of the holy Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and more importantly over the exile of the Shechina, the Divine Presence, here is a massive photo pictorial of Har HaBayit - the Temple Mount, as it exists today.

This photo set is from a tour I did several years ago, attending to only enter those areas clearly permitted by all authorities (who allow entry at all).

Har HaBayit Slideshow - click here.

Solomon's Stables - NEW Destruction on Har HaBayit Slideshow - click here.

Photos above:

1 - Stones from the 2nd Beis HaMikdash unearthed by the moslems during their illegal creation of a 5th mosque on the Temple Mount some 10 years ago in the Solomons Stables area.

2 - The Dome of the Tablets (or Dome of the Spirits?), theorized by some to be the proper location of the Kodesh HaKedoshim of the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy of Holies when the Holy Temple stood, the most holy spot on Earth) rather than under the golden dome - dome of the rock.


May Moshiach come today and the Temple be speedily rebuilt!

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

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Animated 3D Beis HaMikdash Tour

An incredible tour of the Temple Mount and the Beis HaMikdash, with a 3D cut through of the mountain.

Perfect for Tisha B'Av.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

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Friday, August 08, 2008

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Sinat Chinam and the Sages’ Intent

With the article Baruch P'tarani, we introduced a new contributor to Mystical Paths, Reb Dr. Moshe Newman. Reb Moshe is a doctor and chossid living and healing in Jerusalem. Here is is second contribution to Mystical Paths...

by Reb Dr. Moshe Newman at Mystical Paths

Thank you for your responses to “Baruch P’tarani”. If that article has helped you have more peace through an expanded consciousness, then I am grateful and humbled to be Hashem’s agent on behalf of my brothers and sisters. May we soon experience a world of peaceful people full of the love, joy, wonderment and gratitude that accompanies expanded consciousness.

The Bet HaMikdash embodies our ultimate intimate relationship with Hashem. Its destruction represents indescribable distancing from Hashem. In light of Tisha B’Av, I would like to discuss the prime cause of the destruction of the Second Temple, “sinat chinam.”

Please G-d, may we come to ever-deeper faith in You to the point where we experience peace, love, joy and gratitude no matter what happens to us. Then, surely You will rebuild Your Holy House. Amen!

Sinat chinam is usually translated as “causeless hatred”. Yet, a look at the grammar makes us question that translation. The word causeless is an adjective, describing the type of hatred. Which hatred? Causeless hatred. In correct Hebrew grammar—deekdook—causeless hatred should be sinah chinamah. The phrase sinat chinam is a feminine construct. Other familiar feminine constructs are ahavat Yisrael—the love of Israel; yirat shamayim—the fear of Heaven; etc. In Hebrew, feminine words generally end with the letter hey. When a feminine word is used in a construct, the hey becomes a tav. Constructs have the form “x of y” Thus sinat chinam means “hatred of” chinam. Very nice, but what does “hatred of causeless” mean?! Moreover, “causeless” as we said, is an adjective. In the construct form, the y is a noun. So, let’s see what happens if we look at the word chinam from the perspective of it being a noun.

The suffix mem affixed to a noun “x” means she’lahem—third person, masculine/general, plural, possessive. The x belonging to them. So, in a noun form, the word chinam would be short for chen she’lahem—the chen belonging to them. Chen, usually translated as grace or favor, can be understood as the glow of G-dLight emanating from something. So sinat chinam, in correct deekdook, means the hatred of the glow of G-dLight belonging to them.

Who is “them”? Let us say that “them” is anyone or anything about which one would say, “Hashem is not there.” So sinat chinam would be the hatred of the G-dLight emanating from “negative” things.

Example A: A stupid idea or an idea with which one vehemently disagrees.

If someone thinks of a stupid or contrary idea, is it not Hashem who ultimately placed that idea in the person’s head? Is Hashem not in that idea itself? Of course He is. Hashem surrounds and embodies everything.

Example B: A religion different than the one Hashem chose, i.e. the religion of the Torah. Did not Hashem place the thoughts in the hearts of the people who believe the way they do? Is not Hashem’s Light the very thing which gives existence to any thought or belief?

Example C: The Satan and Evil. Did not Hashem create those as well? They are the part of Hashem’s Creation which allows for free choice. Is it not Hashem’s Infinite Light at the foundation of their existence?

Example D: Physical or emotional pain (lo alenu). Did not Hashem create those sensations? Does not the existence of those sensations depend on their being made of G-dLight?

In other words, there is absolutely nothing devoid of Hashem in the entire universe.

The highest choice we can make is to live a paradoxical existence. We do that by fulfilling Hashem’s Will by acting according to the Torah in the aspect of “sur me’ra va’aseh tov—turn away from evil and do good, while always choosing to see and feel the Goodness of Hashem in everything—including the “negative” things. This is the aspect of serving Hashem “b’tov levav—with goodheartedness.” Choosing to see and love the glow of G-dLight in everything is the aspect of ahavat chinam—the love of their chen. When we love “their chen”—when we choose to see and love the aspect of Hashem even in the things that are from evil or from opposing opinions, we cause the transformation of darkness into Light. This is one of the main purposes of the world. Thus ahavat chinam builds the Bet HaMikdash. Sinat chinam, hating the G-dLight in the “negative” things, blocks the transformation of the darkness into Light and so, is the antithesis of Hashem’s Will. It causes the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, r”l. May we be zoche to build the Bet HaMikdash with every moment of our lives!

Now, dear readers, the question should arise, “Then why do we translate the phrase as causeless hatred? The sages are the guardians of the transmission of the Oral Torah through the generations. The tradition to translate the phrase as “causeless hatred” is from them. Certainly, the sages know Hebrew grammar perfectly, so why this phrase and its translation?”

Stay tuned for Part 2. In the meantime, I bless you that, if G-d forbid we must fast (because the Geulah has not come before Tisha b'Av, Saturday night this year), it will be an easy, effective and meaningful one.

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