Friday, October 31, 2008


What Happened in Hebron?

Who are the black clothed police? They're called the Yassam Riot Police - they come to break. See them in action here:

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Sephadi Bakashot

Forwarded by friend Joshua Spiegelman, sent by his teacher Yosef ben Shlomo Hakohen of Bayit Vegan: "To some friends: This is a remarkably evocative piece about an ancient tradition of Jewish devotional singing. I hope it touches your heart as it touched mine." Bakashot are requests to G-d.

In honor of the New Month and the approaching Shabbat, I am sharing with you this special article by my brother Kohen, Moshe (Morris) Blanco. This article about a sacred genre of Sephardic songs is very much in the spirit of our series on the “soul” of Zion.

The Sacred “Requests” of the Sephardim Through Song

By Moshe Blanco

The Syrian Jewish community takes pride in its treasured custom of singing the baqashot (pronounced ba-qa-showt), an elaborate order of songs traditionally sung on the Sabbath. The poems that make up the baqashot were written by Sephardic sages throughout the ages and express an array of themes including redemption, Zion, G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people, the yearning of the soul, and the Sabbath. Baqashot literally means “requests,” titled as such because most of them express yearning for G-d’s mercy and redemption. Furthermore, due to the influence of Kabbalah in the Middle East during this period, the mystical notion that the early morning is an auspicious time for Divine compassion encouraged a tradition of saying petitionary prayers before dawn. It seems that these early morning “requests” evolved into the baqashot tradition in which communities would arise early on Sabbath mornings to sing.

Judaism views music as a means of expression and elevation. For example, after our ancestors left Egypt and crossed the sea, they spontaneously poured out their emotions through song. Furthermore, the expressive nature of music enables one to become elevated and to uplift others, as we find that the Levites continuously provided musical accompaniment in the Temple and that prophecy was attained through music (I Sam 10:5-7; II Kings 3:11-16). This perspective, as especially emphasized by Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), served as a springboard for the baqashot.

The origins of the compilation of the baqashot and their melodies are somewhat unclear. Expelled from Spain in 1492, where Arabic and Jewish poetry had flourished, Jews spread throughout the Middle East bearing a treasury of artistic literature. It appears that in the 16th century, Rabbi Yisrael Najara of Damascus, the renowned poet and scholar, compiled and originated the custom of singing the baqashot (Mosseri).1

Over time, various scholars and poets contributed to the baqashot, expanding it into a compilation of 66 songs. As opposed to most other genres of Jewish music in which melodies are adapted from secular, non-Jewish songs (e.g. pizmoneem, zemirot etc…), the baqashot tunes are almost entirely Jewish in origin (Kligman, Modes 26).

The singing of baqashot was most prevalent and advanced in Aleppo, Syria (Arking) and it “continues till this very day in Syrian synagogues world over. The participants reach a sublime feeling of fervor and ecstasy” (Shir Ushevaha 3). Benjamin II, a 19th century Romanian Jewish traveler, vividly describes his experience of the Aleppo community and his astonishment at their dedication to the service of G-d. He witnessed hoards of people, laymen and scholars alike, gathered in the synagogues on Friday nights to experience the holiness of the Sabbath by singing this order of soulful songs until the time for the morning prayers arrived.

As part of the Aleppo community, I have developed a great love and appreciation for the baqashot and have also witnessed the custom’s dampening. In the Syrian community of Brooklyn, New York, knowledge of the baqashot has waned in recent generations, but efforts are being made to preserve their continuity; certain synagogues host baqashot once or twice a year, inviting community members and hazzanim (cantors) to participate after their Friday night meals for a few hours. Gifted children are being taught from young ages to sing the baqashot and have even been placed in choirs. The baqashot are sung by some families around their Shabbat tables, and due to their complex melodies and solo sections, those that know them well are highly respected.

Nowadays, the baqashot are better known in Israel. Some Sephardic communities in Israel have the custom of singing the baqashot in synagogues after the Friday night meal. Certain changes have been made to the traditional melodies, but most of them are fairly subtle to the average listener. In fact, there are a few synagogues that continue the practice of singing them during the wee hours of Shabbat morning.

The synagogue most renowned for its baqashot is the Ades Synagogue of the Aleppo community in the Nahla’ot section of Jerusalem. About four years ago I attended ‘Ades’ baqashot for the first time. It was a crisp Jerusalem winter night. I got up at two o’clock AM and strolled through the uninhabited streets of Jerusalem that were so quiet I could hear a pin-drop. As I walked up the steps nearing the synagogue, I heard sounds of heartfelt song emanating into the Jerusalem sky. I arrived at the synagogue, and to my surprise, I beheld a mass of people that the room could barely contain – to such an extent that many had to sit on plastic chairs outside. Luckily, I was given a cramped place to sit inside, a cup of Turkish coffee to drink, and a small red book of baqashot with which to sing along.

Some major themes of the baqashot are reflected in the following quotes:

1. Oh Hashem! In the morning I will arrange my prayers to You; in the morning may You also listen to my voice, in Your kindness.

Hear my voice! Oh, You Who dwells in the Heavens, listen to my voice every evening, morning, and afternoon; to You I have raised my heart and my eyes; in Your vast kindness may I come to Your abode.

My soul praises G-d at all times; the heart and tongue are connected with a tightly twirled string; He is the creator of all and He supports everything; He formed you and will hold you up. (Ibn Gabirol)

2. In front of Your Greatness I stand and tremble, for Your eyes see all of the thoughts of my heart; what can the heart and tongue accomplish, and what is my strength? My spirit within me. (Ibn Gabirol)

3. Pay attention (place your heart) to your soul. And her (the soul’s) light is like the light of the sun, sevenfold the light of the dawn. Awaken! For every night your soul ascends on high, to give judgment and accounting of its doings, to the Creator of evening and morning. You find it renewed, with purity and enhancement, like a bride adorned with jewelry – every morning. (Author unknown)

4. How honored is this (Shabbat) day from all days! He gave it as an inheritance, the Rock of the worlds, to the nation He chose from the nations – Israel is sanctified to G-d. (R’ Mordekhai Labaton)

5. Because I will guard the Shabbat, G-d will guard me. It is an eternal sign between He and I. (R’ Abraham Ibn 'Ezra)

6. He on high is mighty and awesome, hidden from all thoughts; may He quickly build the mountain of Zion and bequeath it to the low and poor nation; a day that is complete Shabbat. (R' Abraham Ibn 'Ezra)

7. To Your Temple return and to the Holy of Holies, the place where spirits and souls will rejoice and utter songs and praises – in Jerusalem, city of beauty. (R’ Yisrael Najara)


1. The origin of the baqashot seems to be a matter of dispute; notwithstanding Mosseri’s supported claim that the custom began in Damascus. Shelemay records that the custom began in Tsfat (Safed), while Betesh writes that it began in Spain.

Hazon Comments:

Rabbi Yisrael Najara moved to Tsfat, a city in the north of the Land of Israel, where he became a student of the great kabbalist, the Arizal. He later became the Rav of Gaza.

Refered/Linked/From? Hazon – Our Universal Vision
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Links of Interest

At Hirhurim: Demons and Home Renovations. Don't close a hallway!

At Jobmob: 15 Rules of Job Success. All too pertinent for some friends.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A Moment of Zealotry

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A religious man went to the kever (the holy tomb) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron for a day of zealotry yesterday. He came prepared to defend the holy tomb from those who would defile it.

However, the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is not a site in danger of defilement. This special holy tomb is visited by thousands regularly, and carries a special tradition as the site for religious families to go to for the first haircut of their son at 3 years old. Families of various religious levels from around Israel flock there constantly.

Our "religious man" must have hunted the site for a while, looking for a target for his righteous outrage. He hunted the site for some time, before coming to the picnic and haircutting area. Finding a family that had arrived for the special tradition with their 3 year old son, he screamed at them about the impropriety of entering the same tent together (men and women, married) and standing together as a family. He had found the target for his instantaneous pre-prepared zealotry.

The family did not respond to his righteous screams. They must be kofirim (heretics)! He selected some righteous rocks to convey his message of holiness, and propelled them with the force of his holy Torah learning.

The family did not accept their punishment properly, yelling back at him. Clearly demonstrating that they are apikorsim (completely rejecting Hashem's righteous words), he charged spraying tear gas from his holy canister of heretic repellent (that he had prepared for this spontaneous moment), and drew his blessed knife (that he also carried in case of instant zealotry requirements) to convey his point, literally.

After stabbing one of the spawn of evil in a spontaneous moment of zealotry as described in the Torah (Parshat Pinchas), our righteous religious man retreated to the bus stop to catch the bus back home and the evening prayers at his neighborhood synagogue.

(For those who don't get it or for whom English is not their first language, this is written in the style of parody, describing a real news event.) There's not just a little something wrong here. Besides this person having a complete misunderstanding of parshat Pinchas and the Torah concept of zealotry, we have reached a point where "zealous" actions for Torah are becoming normal rather than "loving" actions. Aharon HaCohein was a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace. Before one can be pushy in pursuing, first one must LOVE!

Something is being lost at the inner edge of religious society where chumrot, extra stringencies, are being vigorously defended over mitzvot de'orisa - direct commandments from the Torah. From where is one allowed to physically attack a Jewish family for standing together?????

Wrong Turn?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Do you have emunah (faith) when you make a wrong turn?

I completed the sefer before Succot. For my learning schedule to resume, I needed the next volume for parshat Berashis, right after the end of the holidays. I checked the local stores, they didn't have it. I knew it was available in Geulah in Jerusalem.

Work intervened, I couldn't head there on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday morning, erev Shabbos, getting the sefer was the top item on my schedule. Right as I was ready to head out, a call from my son's school - bee sting and he's having some kind of reaction.

I ran to school to get him (administered a benedryl on the spot) and then to the doctor. Lots of swelling (on his face where the sting was!) but no major allergic reaction, thank G-d. Finally I'm ready to go, my younger daughter joins me. But, it's 12:15, stores close in Geulah at 1:00 and it's a 35 minute trip under perfect conditions. I despair, it's not worth the time to try and miss. My wife pushes me out the door - go!

We (my daughter and I) hop in the car, I'm driving fast. Arg, stuck behind a slow driver till the road changes to two lanes, grr, caught by the red light. Ohh, slow truck up the hill, watching the clock it seems unlikely...

We come to Jerusalem and I have to decide how to go, left and around or straight in - left usually avoids traffic but that puts me on the far side of Meah Shearim, too long to park and run through. Straight in risks traffic, but I think I know how to go and wind up right where I need to, though it's a route I rarely follow.

Straight in it is, traffic is surprisingly smooth. Past the bus station, past the Alef (now Yesh), down the hill look for the right into Geulah. Buses everywhere, I squeeze between and make the turn. Watching the clock, 10 minutes to closing I might just make it.

Ahhhhhh, it's the wrong road. It circles around and puts me back out on the main street. 5 minutes left, maybe I'll get there and he'll be closing a minute late. PLEASE HASHEM, IT'S ALL FOR LEARNING TORAH! I start to despair. I make another turn, it's wrong again!!! I almost want to cry as I circle around finding myself coming into the wrong side of Meah Shearim.

Well at least R. Nati showed me a way through here, I follow through the narrow streets. It comes out in the middle of Meah Shearim, I still can't get to Geulah from here. Well, it's way past time but I might as well check.

Frustrated, I can't figure my way there by car. So I park, grab my little girl's hand, we turn onto the main Meah Shearim street and start to run towards Geulah (she thinks this is great fun).

And right in front of me is a store with the sefer I'm looking for in the window. The store is open, the owner is just starting to move his merchandise table from outside back in. I step in and ask for what I need, he says of course and points to the back corner. They have the full set!

Catching my breath, I take the volume I need and the next (just in case). I can't believe it, surely the store I was headed to was closed by now (and I don't know whether they would have had the exact volume I needed).

Wrong turn, wrong turn, wrong turn, too late. But right store, right circumstances, right time. Led to not where I was headed but where I needed to be.

We don't always see that, it's easy to despair when OUR plans go awry. But occasionally we get a glimpse that it's all working out according to plan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Hanging with the Bad Boys: Big J

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

See part 1 here. The bad boys are Jewish religious society's outcasts who have been thrown out of yeshiva after yeshiva.

When you're introduced to Big J, it's an apt nickname as you crane your head upwards to meet him. Your first impression is this is a big guy who I wouldn't want to meet on a darkened street. Your second impression is what's that big bright blue baseball cap doing on his head?

Big J won't tell you his hebrew name, all his classmates know to never ask or use it (if they know). After years of being told "Chaim Aryeh, why can't you sit and focus on the Gemora like the other boys. Chaim Aryeh, keep your face in the page or go to the principle. Chaim Aryeh, you have so much potential why are you such a failure?" he can't stand the sound of his own hebrew name.

For his big size, Big J is a sweet shy young man of 17 who desperately wants a feeling of success. After offering to help and being taken into the kitchen to prepare yom tov dishes, as we sat in the Succah he beamed as people enjoyed those he'd prepared, and when asked about them reviewed complete preparation instructions.

Of the group of young men we met, Big J was the only one to come and ask if he could get a copy of the pictures we were taking, both for himself and to share via Facebook with his friends. He's clearly a good friend to have, not because of his size but because of his caring.

Like Moshe, Big J joined us on our family outing to Hevron, and he was lifting my children up on his shoulders to see above the crowd. He's gentle with children, and the kids love having a big teddy bear to play with and break through a crowd for them.

Big J trusts his few friends, but that's about it. He's been taught by the system that the appearance is more important than the essence, and as a big guy who stands out he's the first target for COMPLIANCE, in all it's minute detail. If a preference for a baseball cap is enough to indicate he's not for Torah and Hashem, then he can't see why anyone would be.

Big J is in a bad boy yeshiva with Moshe, working on a program towards a GED (a high school equivalence degree) and even learning for semicha (rabbinical ordination). In that program, a bright blue baseball cap in the beis midrash doesn't matter and each page of Torah learned is a celebration.

Big J called and asked if he could stay with us last night, as the bad boy yeshiva dorm hadn't reopened after yom tov yet and he literally had no place to sleep. Most doors in religious society are closed to Big J, all because his head sticks out above the crowd.

He davened (prayed) ma'ariv (the evening prayer) last night, mentioning it was the first time in a long time he'd done so. Why? Because when he's treated like a mench (a good person), he can see there's goodness and G-d in the world. And when he's beaten down by those who SAY there's G-d in the world and they are His representatives, he's pretty sure their way isn't right.
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In and Above

The name Elokim, who's numerical value 86 is the same as that of the word nature (ha-teva, hei-tet-beit-ayin) signifies G-d as He is manifest in nature, while the name Havayah, being the combination of the words for "was", "is", and "will be", signifies G-d as He transcends nature (the limitations of time and space).

There are 4 kabbalistic spellings of the name Havayah, the 72 letter name, the 63 letter name, the 45 letter name, and the 52 letter name. The Ari Zal describes Parshat Berashis from the kabbalistic perspective as describing the decent of creation from the infinite to the finite through the levels represented each by one of the spellings of the name of Havayah.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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Well Wishes

Mystical Paths wishes HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita, the Breslov tzaddik of Meah Shearim, to be comforted among the mourners of tziyon and Yerushalayim, on the passing of his mother a few days ago.

Mystical Paths wishes a refuah shalayma, a complete and speedy recovery, to HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita, who is recovering from heart surgery on Monday.

You Never Know

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A young tourist from Denmark came to the Kotel Yesterday. I could not get him to put on tefillin. No matter what I tried, he was insistent that he was not going to put them on. He had put them on for a year when he was much younger, but “it didn’t do anything” for him. He has not put them on since.

I tried to explain that he was not doing it right or it would have been “doing something” for him. He pushed all of my answers away. He had just graduated from medical school and had an attitude that if it doesn’t work, you don’t do it. I tried talking to him for some ten minutes. I used all of my examples that have worked in the past, but he would not budge. I was surprised that he didn’t just walk away. In truth, he was so negative that I was about to walk away.

Just then three young Japanese tourists walked by. I looked over to them and said something to them in Japanese. I enjoy seeing how shocked they are when they see someone who looks like I do speaking Japanese. I remember maybe a dozen or two sentences from when I was in Japan over fifty years ago. My accent and vocabulary really surprise them.

It turned out that the Jew was even more shocked than they were. He asked them in English, “Is he really speaking Japanese to you? Can you understand him?” They said yes. He smiled broadly and announced, “That you can speak Japanese … That’s amazing! Okay, I’ll put on tefillin.”

Now I was the one who was amazed. I have no idea why my speaking Japanese changed his mind.

I quickly helped him to put on tefillin. After he said the prayers, I had him pray for his loved ones and his own needs. I saw that he was finally opening up a little and in fact was enjoying his experience. So many long years of negativity fell away in those few minutes. His long-held opinions changed; from being totally negative to somewhat open.

What a blessing this was for him. He is at the age where he is looking to get married. With a completely negative attitude about Judaism, he could easily intermarry. These few minutes wearing tefillin and opening his heart at the Kotel may very well have saved him from that.

Am I recommending that everyone learn to speak Japanese in case some day it will convince someone to do a mitzvah? No, I am not. But I am recommending not giving up. When helping someone to come to a mitzvah, try whatever you can. You never know what might work.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Just Rambling

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I'm standing on my patio, laptop balanced on the ledge, on a cool Israeli night. Looking to my right, I see the lights of Jerusalem peeking out between the hills in the distance. To my left I see the lights of Tel Aviv, as the cool breeze wafts over me.

The rains of blessing have already come! It drizzed a bit on Rosh Hashana, and rained a bit late night during Chol HaMoed Succot. But a true watering rain of blessing came late night on Shabbat, after all where home from synagogue on Parshat Berashit. Our rav mentioned the seforim of kabbalah call this a massive blessing, when the rains start to fall on Parshat Berashit, more so when they fall during the night, and at their highest level when they fall after everyone is already home!

Of course, with the rains of blessing having arrived one puts away the sandals and runs to the shoe store to buy the children new closed shoes for the fall/winter. It was raining again this morning as I headed to work - first workday rain of the new year, 5769. Like in New York during the first snow, everyone just seems to forget how to drive as the weather changes - the commute was a nightmare. (But, as a friend from New Jersey said to me, as 25% of my co-workers from my former US employer were just laid off, they'd happily take a bad commute with a steady paycheck!)

Is Hashem sending us signs that we're not even noticing? The rains of blessing start to fall on the first day, a dirty bomb from Iran is stopped by pirates, the Haman of Iran has suddenly fallen ill, and the Kadima left-wing give up everything coalition in Israel has failed (seemingly).

My dear Jewish friends in the US, I attended a new employee orientation today (ok, it's a number of months I've been working there, but they only do it twice a year). I sat at a table with 30 fellow new-employees, and the recruiting department welcomed us and said, "please, don't forget to bring in your friend's resumes - we need people!" Earlier in the day I watched a number of my Linked-In friends and contacts in the US change their status from employed to available. For the moment, Israel's economy is holding steady (B"H, B"H, B"H) - you may want to give that some thought as the US situation deteriorates.

A final note: There was some unpleasant events in the West Bank today, exactly the type we would point out and comment upon in the past. However, the bloggers here have been taken to task for past commentary - one in a moderate way and one in an extremely severe way. Sharing our opinions in these areas is not worth it.
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Dear Prime Minister or Prime Minister To Be

The words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe...

...and if they want peace, they need to know they are the baalei baatim (owners) of these territories of the Land of Israel that, G-d forbid, they want to give away which are currently in Jewish hands in a miraculous manner, they (the words of the Torah) say to every Jew that he does not have any right to touch his children and his grandchildren's inheritance.

Remember this words - as the opposite is true as well. The "steps for peace", the roadmap, the agreements, the trust building measures, have only brought the opposite. It doesn't make sense, b'derech teva (by the natural order). It does if you read the Torah.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

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Don't Kill Yourself ! ! !

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

My daughter visited a friend over Shabbat, who was crying about her father. Her father has been a successful financial adviser. With a market (basically) only going up for over a decade, unsuccessful advise has been only making 5% - versus successful advise of making 30%.

Making a successful "GET OUT OF THE MARKET" call was missed by almost every adviser, and even if they saw it and wanted to make such a call, their companies or shows said NO as it doesn't fit our profit model (when people sit in cash, brokers make no money.)

So her father is dealing with bosses who are talking about total collapse of their firm and literally chatting about personal suicide. He's taking calls from customers every day who have lost 10 years of profits and 75% of their original investment - who are blaming him for destroying their lives and for their considering suicide.

He's more than a little distraught as everyone around him (many are religious Jews) have completely tied their life worth to their financial worth - and with the collapse of their financial worth are preparing to throw away their lives.

This is the ultimate success of momon - haveil havelim - vanity of vanities - people who have completely wrapped their value in their bank account.

Don't kill yourself! You are more valuable than your fiscal net worth! The value of a person is inestimable. The stuff around you, the bank balance, in the end it's just stuff - here today, gone tomorrow. It's not what you take with you from this world anyway (whether you have a little or a whole lot).

Trust in Hashem! If you're bank balance is falling, fill up your Torah balance! Maybe Hashem just wants to hear your tefilos (prayers)! Be thankful, there are many who would trade their stuff for other more horrible situations (health, disaster, children, marriage). Hashem has been kind, there's been a good time. Now it may be a little tougher, but there's other blessings awaiting.

Shavua Tov, Shana Tova from Shabbos Berashis, a good week from Israel.

Simple Kindness

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I was sitting at the Kotel waiting for the evening prayers to begin. There was a young boy standing in front of me facing the Wall. He was holding his father’s hand. He was three or four years old. His pants were partially rolled up and his right leg seemed to be artificial. Such a sad thing to see. After a while they turned to leave. His father steadied him as he limped away.

He looked at me and I smiled at him warmly. My heart went out to the little boy, knowing what a struggle he had in front of him. He did not smile back, but as they walked by, the little boy reached out his hand and softly stroked my arm three times as if he was petting a big, shaggy dog. It was so warm. I smiled and gently touched his hand.

He never smiled back but showed his appreciation in his own very loving way. His father, who had not seen me smile at the boy, was quite surprised at his little son’s behavior.

When you stop and think about it, it is very easy to be kind.

Friday, October 24, 2008

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Things Worth Noting

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

"...and Yaakov went on his way." A pasuk commonly quoted by the Rebbe as the holy days ended and people began to head back out to their regular tasks. One can imagine after aliyat haregel, going up to the Beis HaMikdash to be by the Shechina for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succot, the somewhat depressing feeling of packing up and heading home to ones regular life. The Rebbe would always remind us, pack up the holiday experiences and take them home with you! Then, unpack a bit of them all year long.

While we've been focused on spending our month with G-d, the world has been busy going nuts...

- US Police Departments preparing for Election Day RIOTS.

- Dirty NUCLEAR attack on Israel thwarted by pirates?

- Massive US layoffs begin.

- Post US Election "Crisis" Scenario that reads LIKE THE NAVI ON GEULAH!

That last one is of special note. Written by a well known political blogger focused on Israel, the scenario presented (from current events and political background knowledge) reads EXACTLY like the biblical prophets end of days prophecies. The author IS NOT particularly religious, verses in the prophets or bringing a religious perspective. His scenario is completely created from current events, political background, and taking the direct words of those involved on their plans.

Dear friends, good Shabbos. As with the holy tanna Rabbi Akiva, when we see one of the words of the holy navi'im - the biblical prophets - coming true, we can know with certainly that they all will.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Waiting for a Mitzvah

It's said that the Chafetz Chaim used to stay up all night after Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah. This being an unusual custom (many stay up all night on Shavuot, and some the night of Hoshana Rabba, but after Simchat Torah???) he was asked why.

He responded, "it's been a whole week since I've had a chance to be able to put on tefillin" (tefillin are a daily mitzvah for men that many have the custom of not doing during Chol HaMoed Succot and Pesach). "How can I not stay up and be ready at the earliest moment?" (The earliest moment being immediately as dawn breaks.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

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Some Simchas Beit HaShoeva Music

From Toldos Aharon in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel. Live band during the week of Chol HaMoed Succos nightly for Simchas Beit HaShoeva. Hosted by WeJew.


Hanging with the Bad Boys: Moshe

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

From Shabbos before Succot through part of the week of Succot, I've been hanging with the bad boys. The bad boys are young men that frum (religious Jewish) society has declared failures, persona non grata. They've been thrown out of an average of 5 yeshiva's each (the record of the group is 10).

The bad boys come dressed to make a statement, they've embraced their role as religious society's outcasts. Frum teenages from Boro Park, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Montreal, Monsey, wearing AC/DC devil pants, chasing the chicks tee shirts, hunting for my next beer messages. They know the best way to tie a lulav, can say kiddush by heart (with a yiddish accent), and can also tell you the best hang out joints in Jerusalem and which cheap vodka can be downed straight and which has to be mixed to survive.

Moshe (all names have been changed to prevent embarrassment) is 17. He's done the full circuit of bad boy recovery schools (who knew there was a circuit?). He grew up in a strong chassidic home, and education was strictly limited to Torah subjects - no science, no math, no history. His first language is Yiddish, he taught himself English and Hebrew. His father is a "big" rav, his mother very smart. And Moshe? He's the failure of the family. For him, Gemora (the Talmud) is a closed book. Whether due to a learning disability, or just a current teaching methodology that just doesn't work for some students - he never progressed.

Of course, not doing your homework, not paying attention, not keeping your eye on the page and finger on the word, will get you sent to the principle. Where you're told you're unsuccessful. You're a failure. You're an embarrassment to your father. The message sinks in, the negative behavior becomes self perpetuating.

So he was thrown out of one school, and another, and another. He took solace in alcohol and rock and roll. Hashem and His Torah became his enemy, the stick used to beat him over and over again.

For all the external wrappings, Moshe is a sweet guy. He played with my children, helped my little girl fix up her ponytail. He helped in Shabbos preparations in the kitchen, making some serious dishes. He was friendly, nice and respectful.

Moshe's love is history, his dream is simply to be a history teacher. But he's been on a rough road. He talks of spending some time homeless - for none of his family or community will take him in. He's spent Shabbos on the beach with just a challah. He appreciates a Shabbos invitation like few of us (B"H) every will.

Moshe is in a program where he's working towards his GED (a high school equivalence degree) and even learning for semicha (rabbinical ordination). When he completes this year of study, he's considering entering Nachal Charedi - the Israeli ultra-orthodox army unit, and even applying for commando training. Perhaps simply as a way to channel so many years of pain and rejection.

Moshe joined us on a family trip to Hevron over Chol HaMoed, where I was surprised to see him davening (praying) in the Yitzchok hall with great intensity. It's the only time I saw him attentive to positive mitzvot while he was with us, but what an intensity it was.

Clearly he has much to say that our society could benefit from. But the doors are closed, we are not listening.

The bad boys are growing in number. A unique phenomena of our time where they don't leave religious society. Rather, they sit on the sidelines and stare at us in pain. (Generally they don't violate the negative mitzvot, they disengage from the positive mitzvot and bring in disturbing cultural activities.)

May Hashem grant us, as a society, the wisdom to make the adjustments to the factory education system back to "chanoch l'naar al pi daro", educate a child according to his way, and save our young people (and their families) enormous pain.
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Financial: It Begins

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I tag these articles financial for those who are uninterested, just skip it.

Hoshanah Rabba, this Monday, is the sealing of the heavenly books. The verdict has already been delivered, but on Monday it's sealed, and the agents of the judge are dispatched to execute this year's sentence - for good (may it be Hashem's will!!!) or, G-d forbid and protect us, otherwise.

L'havdil, major corporations of the US and the West have rendered their judgment and begun to execute their sentence. Courtesy of some friends and contacts, here it is...

- Our cutbacks of 10% of the staff will be effective as of November 1. No need to worry (about the company), these layoffs will assure the company remains strong during this economic downturn. We have set aside a large reserve for severance packages, those who leave on good terms will receive (some months) of pay corresponding to their time of service with the company.

- To further strengthen the company, we will be completely offshoring and outsourcing some departments, effective immediately. We're certain you'll be happy to know that while some services will be somewhat degraded, the company will be financially stronger for it. While these jobs will be gone forever, we're certain you'll agree this is a good thing for the company.

- All corporate purchases, hiring, raises and bonuses are completely suspended.

Human Impact: 3,000 employees, 5,000 employees, 750 employees, 500 employees.

Financial Impact: Watch the stock market jump on this news. Corporate layoffs make stock prices go UP, as the viability of the company improves though the unemployment impact tanks the economy as a whole.

Economic Impact: Watch the American holiday season, where many businesses earn 30-50% of their years revenue, go into the toilet. Either because people have lost their jobs, or are terrified that they will.

This is the big splash, the rolling impact. Watch out. (This is not every company, some companies actually see an increase. Example: Wal-Mart has an increase in shoppers as people turn to money saving stores.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

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Update from Mercaz HaRav

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

For most of us, the Mercaz HaRav terror attack, with the slaughter of innocent yeshiva students, has begun to fade. But there are still two students who where seriously injured struggling to return to normal life.

Those students, thank G-d, have been progressing steadily and we previously reported moved from the hospital to rehab. The family of one requests your tefilot (prayers) as he returns to surgery on October 30th (2008) in continuing to attempt to recover as much normal function as possible.

Please daven for Naftali ben Gila Rachel for a successful surgery and full recovery.

Thank you.

(Confirmation: This notice was received directly from the family. Please check any such notices for DATE and SOURCE, as often they float around forwarded from friendly person to friendly person for years.)

Friday, October 17, 2008


And Mystical Paths Endorses...

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A commentor wrote: "the main thing i want to say is this: i don't appreciate people hoping for a comrade obama victory, G-d forbid. some say this will be great for aliyah, which i understand; but as a person who tries to have rachmones, i know that mccain/palin would be best for usa, israel and the world.

i don't know how much you know in israel, but obama is evil, with evil associations. he is a real dastardly slickster. i want to make aliyah and don't appreciate people in israel desiring such a bad man to be in charge of america because they think it will hasten geulah. i cannot stand those kinds of statements!!!!

it is sickening, quite frankly, and lacks any sort of concern for the real lives of people in both usa and israel. one should always daven for the best to happen, not for the 'worst' as some kind of hastening of a greater good. yids that do that actually turn off alot of people from becoming more observant.

think about that!

Just to clarify, to date Mystical Paths has endorsed no one in the US presidential election. Here's what Mystical Paths has to say on this election:

1. Most entertaining US election ever! (I'm certain some will take that the wrong way.)

2. The picking of Governor Palin as a running mate seriously excited my teenage daughters and changed their outlook on possibilities, something that Senator Clinton's candidacy did not do.

3. Orthodox Jewish tradition provides different motivations to lean towards the Democrats and the Republicans. On moral issues, the Republicans get the nod. On social justice issues, the Democrats get the nod. On tax issues and Jewish schooling issues, the Republicans get the nod. On equality and anti-discrimination issues, the Democrats get the nod. BOTH parties have some issues that fit the religious Jewish mindset well, and some that are antithetical.

4. Congressional Republicans have been a domestic disaster for 6 years, abandoning party principles for full access to the national checkbook. Congressional Democrats have proven they can keep up with the Republicans in their 2 years of control.

5. The bad international political decisions of the Democrats from 10 years ago are STILL hurting the US, with US troops still in the Balkans and a pissed off Russia out to cause trouble 10 years later. The Democrat goody-too-shoo world approach is a failure with serious repercussions, which included the build up of Islamic terrorism to the level of attacking the US directly.

6. The 7 years of Republican international war politics of blow them to *ell over there then rebuild it real nice (at our expense) and they'll like us has it's advantages (it's better over there than over here) but has also been a massive failure. First, it's more costly (in dollars and lives) than the American people are willing to sustain. Second, rebuilding from scratch is a nightmare. Third, the US military hasn't been structured for this, and it ties up a majority of US force projection capability.

7. On Israel, the Democrats have forced Israel into untenable goody-too-shoo peace processes requiring Israel to invite mass murderers into the house, and fully train and equip them in pursuing their goals. This has cost Israel hundreds of lives in terror attacks. The Republicans have been more straightforward, Israel must sacrifice parts of itself to make the Arabs happy, resulting in the southern part of Israel being under constant bombardment and the northern border bristling with enemy rockets.

There are stark choices of bad national and international management facing you in this election. BUT NEITHER CANDIDATE HAS PRESENTED ANY * NEW * OR ANY * GOOD * OPTIONS OR POLICIES.

With no good choices on the table, Mystical Paths abstains.
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Simchas Beit HaShoeva in Meah Shearim

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A brief clip, life from Thursday night, of Simchas Beit HaShoeva in Meah Shearim. Unedited, just a minute of celebration.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Oh, Please Let Us Stand Only With Hashem!!!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Big news from the States is a long time Jew hating politician, exactly like the advisers to kings of old who were so jealous of the success of others - especially if they were Jews - who would scheme and plot against their Jewish foes, that this politician has let it be known that with the rise of the Great Obama "an Obama administration would crush 'the Zionists clout'".

Many Jewish people tremble when they hear such words. How can a lone sheep survive surrounded by 70 wolves without a big strong friend like the United States of America?

And so Israel for the last few decades has pandered to American interests. America pays just enough, helps just enough, to keep poor little Israel leaning on her. Then with the leverage and the threat of pulling away, she beats little Israel into doing what's in America's interest and Israel's detriment. Stop a won defensive war, give back the gains, empower the enemy, invite the terrorists in, release unrepentant barbaric mass murderers, finance those trying daily to destroy you.

Please Mr. Jackson, please let America stop helping Israel so much! Let Israel's leaders actually have to start worrying about existential threats and stop assuming big brother will cover her *ss.

Let her leaders worry, and then turn to Hashem. Let us stand with The One who matters, not with a nation who smiles and shakes our hand while cutting our legs out from under us (and is eying our heart closely with that knife in hand).

Let our leaders, and all of us, stand only with Hashem.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Waking Up Together

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Coming Back to Life?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Moadim l'Simcha! A Gut Chol HaMoed!

Modern science and modern medicine does a wonderful job of explaining many of the processes in operation within the world. Yet, once you've entered the "we can explain everything" mindset, it's hard to stop.

Some years ago, my little girl developed a bald spot on the top of her head. We saw the doctor who did a close examination and diagnosed alopecia - aka 'unexplained hair loss'. Now that we had a name for it, we felt fine. Our daughter simply had a case of alopecia. But of course the name in this case is MEANINGLESS, for it simply says "hair loss for which we have no clue".

Such diagnoses are not hard to come by, another famous example affecting far too many people is irritable bowel syndrome - aka 'you have diarrhea that doesn't go away and we can't find a cause'. It would seem unlikely having this name gives people with it a feeling of relief.

Yet today I came across what has to be the most interesting of all such "we have no idea but it sounds better this way" diagnoses...

The Lazarus Phenomenon - Spontaneous Return of Circulation, aka you died and came back to life (and we don't know why)! The article I read notes that "since 1982 there have been 25 documented cases of {coming back to life} survival after failed resuscitation."

There you have it folks, there's nothing special about coming back to life anymore. It's just "spontaneous return of circulation". Science has named it, hiding what it is, so you don't have to fear that there might be something more going on than they know about.

Rest easy, they've got it under control.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


A Succot Reminder!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

An Important Holiday Reminder

Succot is called the time of our rejoicing. Besides the numerous details of the holiday the most important requirement is to be happy. If on Yom Kippur afternoon someone offered you a glass of cold water, even if you were very thirsty you would certainly turn it down. Not to drink on Yom Kippur is learned from the rabbis. It is not expressly written in the Torah. But joy on Succot is explicitly written in the Torah. We must do all that we can to be happy and to avoid sorrow at all costs.

When taking the luluv the Torah commands, “You shall take for yourselves on the first day (the Four Species) and you shall rejoice before Hashem …”[i] If we are to be strict with the smaller details of the holiday, which we certainly are, then how much more so must we be strict with the primary commandment.

How are we to be happy even if we do not feel like it? Imagine on your wedding night your bride says to you, “Sweetheart, I want you to give me a kiss.” You do not say, “I will kiss you because I am obligated,” or “So I will get a reward,” or “Because it is the right thing to do.” You do it because you love her and to kiss your beloved is an extremely delightful thing to do.

How much more delightful is it to fulfill the desires of Hashem Who loves us more than a bride could possibly love her groom? How sweet it is to be able to kiss our Beloved by rejoicing in a Succot and by bringing His luluv to our heart.

May Hashem bless you with the fullest, loving and most joyful holiday ever.

[i] Leviticus 23:40

“What a Shame”

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The Kotel was very crowded the morning before Yom Kippu. It was the last day that we say the long pre-Yom Kippur prayers. Jews come from all over the country to ask for forgiveness and acceptance, and to prepare for the most awe-filled day of the year. Some come for the first time in their lives. Most people who come so early in the morning are Torah-observant but many are not.

The minyans (quorums) were mixed as there was not enough space to separate each group as there usually is. An Israeli young man, maybe in his mid-twenties, was putting on a pair of tefillin. Surely it was the first time he had ever tried. He was wearing a hooded sweat shirt. He put the tefillin for the head on first which is not the proper order. Not only that but he put it on while it was still in its protective case. And to top it off, he put it on over his hood so the tefillin and its straps were not even touching his head as they must.

One of the fine Jerusalemite men in my minyan looked at him and then turned to me and said, “Oy. What a shame that a Jew who lives in Israel and at his age does not know how to put on tefillin. My soul aches for him.”

Odd. I looked at the man with the tefillin in its case on his hood and my soul smiled. Okay, so he wasn’t doing it the way it is supposed to be done. But he was trying. He was in the right place at the right time trying to do what our ancestors have done for thousands of years. That he did not know how to do it and was doing it anyway is even more to his merit. I thought, “How wonderful it is that Jews are coming home.”

Is there a lesson here for us to learn? If there is I would say that it is addressed to you who are reading this and do know how to put on tefillin. We have a wonderful opportunity today. Now we can help a Jew who does not yet know how to put on tefillin. The redemption is happening. We see signs all around us. Soon all Jewish men will know how to put on tefillin without your help. You had better hurry if you want to be part of bringing someone home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Faith and Financial Disaster

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shavua Tov, Shana Tova, and Chag Samayach! (A good week, a good year, and for the upcoming Succot holiday, happy holiday!)

This past week was Parshat Haazinu, Moshe's song and not just a prophecy but a future historical outline of Jewish history. Starting with pasuk 15, we are told how Israel will turn away from G-d, each time in it's way. One time becomes fat and rebels, one abandons G-d, one provokes G-d with alien practices, one with vile deeds (baseless hatred). One sacrifices to demons (spirits), one to new gods. They ignored G-d. In many of these past times, Hashem in His kindness sent his prophets, the navi'im, to warn and beg the people to turn away from these practices, but it (usually) didn't help. Hashem gave the people generations, and when the practices were completely entrenched Hashem took action.

In all these cases, Hashem's response was the same. He "hid His face", he let the flock be consumed by the wolves.

But then the situation changes. For the first time, a "generation", a shorter period of time is specifically mentioned. It "reverses itself". Then, rather than the past of turning to alien practices or foreign gods, it turns to no god, and makes shtuss a way of life.

What's Hashem's response? He sends a non-nation to harass them, a vile nation. They'll be attacked with missiles. And, "outside (of Israel?)" the Jewish people will be butchered (the Holocaust), "inside" there will be terror.

What is the shtuss, the "havelim" that are the way of life? What is the non-god in which they put their faith? Momon - money, wealth, vanity, pretentiousness, status, stuff, keeping up with the Jones's.

We have seen the time of a generation reversing itself. The boys, girls, infants, and elders have been butchered, and only a few of the able bodied survived. We have seen the time of terror.

Now, "where is their god, the power in which they trusted?" Momon has fallen, in the blink of an eye the financial system of generations has crumbled. The experts are debating whether it's 1987 or 1929. Can the system be saved and recover in ONLY a few years, or will in crumble and take DECADES?

In either case, we have entered a new time. Do you have emunah about your parnosa, or do you trust in your skills? Do you trust your mutual fund manager, or HaKodesh Baruch Hu? ... in the past, all knew parnosa was from Hashem. If if didn't rain, people would turn their faces to their Father in Heaven and pray, they would examine their deeds and do teshuva, they would take on communal fasts and increase good deeds. (Mishnah Taanit, 13 fasts would be declared for rain!) This past year, Israel had a serious drought, did you hear of any prayers for rain?

We've spent a long time getting divorced from knowing we are in Hashem's Hand on a daily basis. We're being reminded very quickly.

May Hashem take care of all our needs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


May You Be Sealed For a Good Year!

If you only knew its power and effects in the loftiest of heights, you would spend every possible moment saying Tehilim. Know that the Tehilim shatter all barriers and rise even higher, without interference, prostrating themselves before the Master of all, and bring about kindness and mercies. -- The Tzemach Tzedek, the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe (thanks to Joshua for reminding me of this quote)

Mystical Paths wishes all of our readers a good and sweet year, may Hashem accept our teshuva and seal all of Klal Yisroel in the book of life, peace, parnosa, happiness, and open the book of geulah!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

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Fear and Joy - How can it be?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

On Yom Kippur we come before G-d with great fear. After all He is the judge of the entire universe and on this day we are being judged for everything we did. Nothing is hidden from Him.

But there is lower level fear and there is higher level fear. Lower level fear is when we are afraid that someone or something is going to hurt us. When we stop and think about what we really deserve for what we did, this will bring lower level fear. Higher level fear is not like this at all. Higher level fear is awe. When we think deeply into the nature of G-d we are so taken by His greatness that we are almost in shock.

These are the first two steps we take on Yom Kippur; lower level fear when we think of the possible punishments that we deserve and then awe when we think of the greatness of G-d.

Then, once we have repented of our sins and truly regret having done them, promising not to make those same mistakes again, G-d forgives us for everything we did against Him. When we understand G-d’s forgiveness the awe turns into joy. Who wouldn’t be happy when they are judged, found guilty, and then forgiven?

Have an awesome happy Yom Kippur.

A video of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's blessing, Birchas Hatmimim, which was regularly given to all yeshiva students before the Kol Nidre (evening) service. The following took place Erev Yom Kippur 5747/1986...

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Enter His Gates

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise, give thanks to Him, bless His Name ….”[i] These are not just instructions for how to behave when we enter His gates and courtyards. They are instructions for what to do in order to be able to enter His gates and courtyards. They are also descriptions of what happens to us when we enter.

When the Temple stood, we would come to Jerusalem for Pesach, Shavuot and Succot. We would come to be in the place where Hashem caused His Name to dwell. This means that we were to fulfill the mitzvahs of the day, and then, according to our merit, we would enjoy a certain degree of the radiance of His revealed Presence.

First, we would pass through the outer gates. Then we would come to the courtyards. This psalm tells us that in order to do this today, we begin by thanking G-d for all the good that He does for us. Thank Him again and again. Not just by saying the words, “Thank you,” but by bringing to mind all the good that G-d does for us. How many wonderful things can we list that G-d has given us? Our health, our family, our livelihood, the opportunity to find Him, and so on. When our minds are filled with genuine appreciation for G-d’s ongoing gifts, we are moving through the outer gates of His Temple.

Why are we to give thanks? Does G-d really need or want to hear us say, “Thank You”? We recall all of the good that He does for us and thank Him for these things in order to experience genuine appreciation. First, we merely say, “Thank You,” then when we think about how precious these gifts really are, we feel great appreciation. When we feel true appreciation, we are in a wonderful, but still early, stage in the elevation of our spiritual awareness.

Once we feel sincere appreciation, we can move higher by blessing His Name. How can we possibly bless G-d’s Name? G-d is the source of all blessings. He is the One Who blesses, so how can we bless Him? The word bless means to praise, adore, worship.

When we fill our minds with these wonderful thoughts, we move to the loftier place of blessings. When we bless and praise Him, we experience those blessings and praises. These holy thoughts do not simply go out to the Holy One. They reverberate in our minds and souls, and we actually feel them. Now we have moved into His inner courtyards.

Thanksgiving comes when we recall His deeds. Worshiping comes when we consider His nature.

Enter His outer gates with thanksgiving and His inner courtyard with praise. This is both the roadmap and the journey.

[i] Psalms 100:4

Monday, October 06, 2008


Geulah Hints and Speculation

by Reb Dov Bar Leib of End of Days and Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Dov: The US market dropped 777 points on Erev Rosh HaShanah. The Dow Jones Industrial Avg. dropped 777 points. The Shekhinah's signature is seven. It is official now. The Divine blessing has left America for the start of the New Year. The collapse that we are witnessing is for the best.

Akiva: Well, it's been a very low speed collapse. The good news is, so far, there's good advanced hints and time to react. The bad news is, no one believes it.

Dov: I just hope that the Jews get out without pograms. A reader of my blog thinks that pograms will occur, but that the situation will take up to two years to reach Depression levels triggering the pograms.

Akiva: I agree with the time frame. Which would make the key year 5770 (a number of obviously great significance to Lubavitch.) It also makes the US the country beat up in Ovadiah, not the source of Gog. The resurgent Russia together with her allies takes that role (which includes Iran). If Russia plays it's same game right now, it comes on a "peacekeeping" mission to protect the significant Russian minority in Israel.

Dov: NATO troops make up the remainder of the "peacekeeping" army. That is how the Turks and the Germans get involved. (Gomer and Togarmah) Unless Bush somehow stays on and elections are canceled. It is hard to see that right now of course.

Akiva: It would seem unlikley unless there's a complete economic collapse, multiple bank runs with major riots, a candidate is assassinated, a series of terror attacks that paralyze the country, or a plague (which we'd probably already be hearing early hints of).

Dov: Do the Russians have a leading figure named George or Gregory? Gog has to be someone named Gog.

Akiva: Neither the PM nor the President of Russia have G oriented names, nor any other major Russian figure that I know of.

Dov: How can a Vlad be Gog? Eliyahu HaNavi will need to answer that one. We will know more by Hoshana Rabah and even more by the first Tuesday in November.

Gmar Chatima Tova

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Fortress Rochel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A long photo essay.

It's been 10 years since I visited Kever Rochel, the holy tomb of our matriach Rochel Imaynu. As is well known from the pasuk in the Torah, Rochel was buried on the road in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem). This is an extremely well known holy site, with existing images of it going back over 1,000 years (paintings).

Last time I visited, it was literally drive down Derech Hevron from the Kotel (go down the Hevron Path from the Old City) for 10 minutes, park next to the kever and visit. When you were done, there were 2 Arab stores across the street to visit, one selling snacks and one selling your basic tourist trinkets.

This all changed after the Arab attack on Kever Yosef (the tomb of Joseph) in Shechem (Nablus), resulting in the deaths of the soldiers guarding it and a ransacking and destruction of the holy site in 1996.

While the government could and did abandon that holy site, thank G-d kever Rochel was more prominent and couldn't be abandoned. So instead they build a fortress! First they expanded the complex, turning the surrounding fence into inner fortress walls. Then they cut Kever Rochel out of Bet Lechem, surrounding the area with 50 foot high walls, including a road and parking lot up to the kever. Kever Rochel is now Fortress Rochel...

Just drive down Derech Hevron to the end - or rather where it's blocked - by Bet Lechem. No worries, you're on the Israeli side, the city is walled off after attacks in the past...

Kever Rochel

DON'T turn left to the city entrance. Don't worry if you do, the Israeli guard post won't let you in. The sign reads "Entrance Forbidden to Israelis", non-Jewish tourist buses are headed to the Bethlehem Xian sites.

Kever Rochel

DO drive straight until you get to the security wall. Then turn right for Kever Rochel. It was a straight drive in when we went, but sometimes they hold people at this point for a bit if the parking lot is at capacity.

Kever Rochel

As you can see, the special road is completely protected. Bethlehem on the left, an Israel farming field on the right, not that you can see that...

Kever Rochel

Left to the kever and the parking lot, right if you're a security patrol.

Kever Rochel

The parking lot is fully protected. No access through the 50 foot walls from Bet Lechem...

Kever Rochel

The inner fortress entrance...

Kever Rochel

The old Kever Rochel building is still there. They literally put up a new building around it. The design doesn't make much sense from a functional point, perhaps it does from a security standpoint. Enter and walk to the old building.

Kever Rochel

Here's the famous old entrance, inside the inner fortress.

Kever Rochel

The old building was very small. They did NOT expand it, they just opened up all the old arches. So not only is it no less of a squeeze than it was, now the courtyard is the inner fortress, so it's tight and stuffy. Entrance to the womens side...

Kever Rochel

and to the men's side, which goes under the old arch and around the "back"...

Kever Rochel

The men have a bit more functional space, as a large archway extends the space to the inner fortress back wall. While I have visited many kevorim (holy burial sites of our matriachs, patriarchs, and the holy ones of Israel), there's an intensity of prayer at Kever Rochel not found at others. Tears are shed, voices crack, people are very serious in their tefilot (prayers).

Kever Rochel

The women perhaps have less space as they used to have the "sides" of the kever marker itself and they no longer do. Regardless, the lack of space doesn't seem to reduce the intensity of prayer at the resting place of our holy matriarch. As our matriarch, the women's intensity is even greater than the men's (modest photo taken by my daughter).

Kever Rochel

One of the sights specific to the womens side is the parochet (an ark covering) made from the wedding gown of Nava Applebaum, hy"d. She and her father were murdered by an Arab terrorist in Jerusalem, al kiddush Hashem, as they met for a brief moment together on the eve of her wedding. Her father was the director of emergency medicine at Shaare Tzedek hospital, and had treated thousands of Arab patients in need of care. She was a young woman about to start her life, having just finished national service caring for children stricken with cancer. Today her wedding gown stands as a memorial to the righteous women of Israel together with Rochel Imaynu.


Ima Rochel still cries for her children, and we pray that in her holy merit and in the merit of her tears, Hashem should bless us all for a wonderfully good and sweet year, and inscribe all of Klal Yisroel in the book of life, parnosa, children, and all good things.

Kever Rochel

Afterwards, people walk comfortably back to their cars, protected by a fortress complete with watchtowers and armed guards.

Kever Rochel

Friday, October 03, 2008

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Financial: Alerts

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Just a few quick articles you should pay attention too:

- Bank Limits Fund Access by Colleges (10% withdrawal maximum)

- State may need $7-billion loan (California has a major cash flow - credit crunch problem, basically it needs a loan and can't get one!)
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A Note on Kever Rochel

- A Public Service Announcement from Mystical Paths

Kever Rochel in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) has been accessible only by bullet proof bus from Jerusalem. A 1 month trial was put in place allowing private cars to visit.

The month is over and it has been extended to a 3 month trial! People should be encouraged to drive there as they are tracking the number of cars to determine whether to continue this arrangement.

Schedule: Open ALL DAY, closed from 10:00 PM until 1:00 AM.

Visit our Mother Rochel, it's only 15 minutes from the Kotel! By bus, car, or taxi.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

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Buying the 4 Species from Children

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Many people start shopping for their four species, the arba minim, for the Succos holiday, before Yom Kippur. Please note this halachic issue.

Be Careful when buying the Four Species (Arba Minim). Do not buy them from children for use on the first day of the holiday.

Each year in many Jewish religious neighborhoods young boys are on the streets trying to earn a few coins by selling willow branches or myrtle branches for the holidays. Adults often enjoy buying from them as a kindness to the children (and a way to save a few dollars or shekels versus the local Judaica store or Sukkot shop). However there is a severe legal problem when you do this.

Whereas according to the strict Torah law a minor can neither acquire nor transfer ownership of an item, by a rabbinical enactment they do legally acquire items. This rabbinical concession was enacted to (for instance) allow parents to send their young children to the store and for the shop keepers to be able to finalize the sale when giving the item to the minor.

The problem comes about on the first day of the Holiday of Succos when the mitzvah of taking the Four Species is from the Torah and not a rabbinical enactment as it is on the rest of the holiday. In order to fulfill this commandment one must own the Four Species when he shakes them. If you bought any of them from a child, that child was not legally capable of transferring his rabbinical ownership to you. This means that you will not be able to fulfill the mitzvah on the first day with those items.

The problem also comes about when on the first day you “give” your Four Species” to a minor to allow him to shake them. He will not be able to legally return them to you. This means that you will not be able to “give” them to others on the first day to allow them to carry out the commandment.

The primary mitzvah of the holiday of Succos is to be happy. When taking the Four Species this should be your intention. The Torah commands, “You shall take for yourselves on the first day (the Four Species) and you shall rejoice before Hashem …”[i] If we are to be strict with the smaller details of the holiday, then how much more so must we be strict with the primary commandment.

May Hashem bless you with the happiest holiday ever.

[i] Leviticus 23:40

תרגום עברית

גוגל פרסמה מפתיע טוב אנגלית - עברית מתרגם. שמנו משולבים זה לתוך הבלוג, רק לחץ -תרגום עברית- על החלק העליון של הסרגל הצדדי

Google has released a surprisingly good English - Hebrew translator. We've integrated this into the blog, just click -תרגום עברית- on the top of the sidebar.

We've further added the full Google language translator further down the sidebar (see Search/Translate this blog, scroll down the sidebar), which offers many languages including Spanish, French, Russian, among others.

Now you can read Mystical Paths in your favorite language!
עכשיו אתה יכול לקרוא מיסטית נתיבים המועדפות השפה שלך
Maintenant, vous pouvez lire les Chemins mystiques dans votre langue favorite.
Ahora usted puede leer Senderos Místicos en su idioma preferido.
Теперь вы можете читать Мистические Пути в вашем любимом языке.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


And another...

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

(via Email) R' Itamar Shwartz, who's famous for his sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evne, recently went to the US for a speaking tour. At at least two locations, he gave a very strong and direct message, that Jews must move to the Holy Land NOW!!!

R' Shwartz is not any kind of "zionist", he's as charedi "yeshivish" as they come. He was invited to speak because of his sefarim, Bilvavi, and Da Et Atzmecha, which show how to find oneself and connect to Hashem in a true way. In one of the locations his message basically was, I very much want to speak to you about connecting to Hashem, but first we have to take care of the basics... First, come to E'Y, spend most of your time on Torah and not work, and (especially for women) dress with the same tznius as our foremothers. After you do these three things I'll be very happy to speak about the forth one.

The interesting thing is that literally the day afted he left (15 of Elul), the financial crash started.

You can listen to these drashas here. (the ones in Baltimore Shomrei Emunah, and Manhattan Ramat Orah Synagogue)
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