Sunday, November 30, 2008

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You Fund It

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Commentor Daniel asked...

What do you mean by the line: "And they've convinced you, the world, to finance it. To train it. To help it. To pay for their propaganda."

I don't understand what you're saying here? How does the free world finance, train, and pay for terrorist scum's propaganda? I would like to understand your message. Thank you.


Ok Daniel, here goes...

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds programs that help people living in the West Bank and Gaza lead healthier and more productive lives. Since 1993, Palestinians have received more than $2.2 billion in U.S. economic assistance via USAID projects - more than from any other donor country. (Source - USAID)

If you watch the video above, it all looks very nice. Here are a poor needy people that the generous people of the United States of America are providing a wide range of help for. Training, facilities, funding. And at $2 billion, that's about $1,000 for every man, woman, and child arab in the West Bank and Gaza. America is most generous.

There are 3 problems with this however:

1. Assistance is not tied to any performance or goals. Meaning, democracy fails and murderers are voted into power, that's ok the paycheck still comes through.

2. Much of the assistance is self directed. For example, textbooks are paid for by USAID and developed locally, which include chapters on the terrible Jews who are out to get them in every way and how they must fight eternally to reclaim every inch of Palestine.

3. Arab society is an honor society. By giving to them freely with no expectations in return, you have emasculated them. They hate you for it. They are grateful, and they hate themselves for the weakness of being grateful and needy. Since you are the cause, they hate you.

Look at Gaza. They have it back, they have full control of "their" land. Yet they keep firing rockets into Israel. Why? Because they didn't win, they were given it. If they had fought off the Israelis, then they would have restored their honor. Instead, the Israelis walked away - and they can't stand it! Hamas could have settled down and governed, instead they must continue to fight for their honor! Nothing matters more - not their families, not their children, not their "country" or government.

The US gives and gives, and gets only hatred back. The US looks from their culture and says, it's caused by poverty and no opportunity, hopelessness. And they set about fixing that problem. And things get only worse!

US Funding: Other (Cash Transfer, UNRWA, Program Support) - $294,994,331.00

4 out of 5 terrorists in the last 5 years have been "Palestinian Policemen". Trained by the CIA, armed and outfitted by the US Military, and on the PA Authority government payroll PAID BY THE US AND THE EU (Cash Transfer above).

The US and the EU are funding Palestinian hatred, paying for the publication of their books and videos (that are distributed to the rest of the Islamic world, fanning the hatred far and wide), paying for their TV productions and diplomatic corps to spread the word. (Note the game of "no support for Hamas" - the US only gives money to the PA, which then deposits a portion of the money in Hamas's account for "government operations" in Gaza.)

The hatred is directly funded by "USAID, in collaboration with the US State Department" (direct quote from the USAID web site). The EU is not far behind, and way ahead in direct payments for "discretionary" use.

Statistical studies have shown that "Palestinian" terrorist incidents are directly related to aid funding, with a 1 year lag. Meaning, when funding goes up, terrorism and Jewish deaths go up 1 year later. When funding goes down, terrorism and Jewish deaths go down 1 year later.

There's generosity, stupidity, and complicity. Which do you think is at play?
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Build Ten More!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Late Shabbos afternoon at the Kotel a young Chabadnik walked up to me. He looked sad. We had received the news about the deaths in the Chabad House in India and were all feeling the loss. It turned out that the rabbi who was murdered in India was this young Chabadnik’s brother-in-law.

“I’ll tell you what the Rebbe would say.” I blurted out.

“Tell me. What would the Rebbe say?” he said, looking for hope.

“’Build ten more!’ That’s what he’d say.”

He nodded his head. He knew that I was right.

In this war against these maniacs there is only one thing that we can do. Surrender is not an alternative. They demand that we adopt their religion or be killed. We must fight back with every weapon we have.

Jewish outreach centers that encourage Jews to put on tefillin and keep Shabbos are our most valuable frontline outposts. Anyone who is in a position to built or contribute in any way to the building of one of these outposts would be spitting in the faces of these terrorists who are trying to destroy us.

If you cannot afford to support one of these outposts then the very least you can do is to make your own home an outpost. Do not let your sorrow prevent you from fighting back. This is exactly what they want. Pick up your weapons; your love for your fellow Jew, your tefillin and your Shabbos candles and go out on patrol duty every day.

When they see that their murdering schemes merely strengthen our resolve they might even rethink their evil ways.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

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Tears, and Anger

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The details of the horrific attack too difficult to hear. Everyone's analysis irrelevant. We cry for the slaughter of the holy tzaddikim Chabad shluchim HaRav HaChossid Gavriel Holtzberg and HaRabbanit (Rebbitzen) HaChassidista Rivka Holtzberg, hy"m, along with HaRav Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum (son of the Volover Rebbe, shlita of Boro Park and son-in-law of the the Toldos Avraham Yitzhak Rebbe of Meah Shearim), Reb Ben Tzion Korman, and Yocheved Or-Paz.

One of 11 sites targeted in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) by murderous homicidal suicidal creatures was the Chabad House. Make no mistake about it, this was not an accidental targeting. There are hundreds if not thousands of "foreign" locations in Mumbai, there are American chains and companies of all kinds. But one of 11 sites targeted was the Chabad House, a Jewish synagogue, learning center and hospitality house. This is the only site where ALL hostages were murdered. It's the only non-Indian site targeted. In a city of multiple-millions, these terrorists targeted JEWS.

The Holtzberg's, hy"m, had created an island of kedusah (holiness) for Jewish travelers. A synagogue to pray, Torah to learn, and kosher meals served in the tens to hundreds every day. No kosher food meant before going Rabbi Holtzberg had to learn to be a shochet (a kosher slaughterer) before going. Being the only rabbi in the area meant he also had to learn the special areas that senior rabbi's normally deal with (such as the laws of family purity). His holy rebbitzen had to learn from our foremothers how to kasher (kosher) chickens, and prepare a quantity of food fit for a catering service every day.

Joining them on this day was Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum and Ben Tzion Korman, there to provide kosher food supervision to Indian manufacturers serving kosher consumers in the US. They traveled to this distant land for the kosher needs of the US Jewish community.

Innocent Jews were slaughtered. No threat to anyone. Holy people, cut down for their holiness.

The terrorists killed over 183 people, some indiscriminately, some targeted. Innocent Indian people were gunned down in cold blood. No demands, no threats, just plain murder. Peaceful people rewarded with death.

An evil is brewing in the world. The sons of Yishmael are sowing terror and chaos, and are set on bringing down civilization. All civilization. All peaceful people. And especially, all holiness.

And they've convinced you, the world, to finance it. To train it. To help it. To pay for their propaganda.

As usual, the Jews are first. But if you don't take action, we won't be the last.

--To the honorable Indian people: Our blood has now been spilled together. One of yours risked her life to save the rabbi's son, and your soldiers risked their lives to try to save our people. We mourn with you, and for you. Let us stand together against the darkness.
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May Hashem Avenge Their Blood

More thoughts later. (Video embedded.)

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Friday, November 28, 2008

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Latest Updates from Chabad House Attack

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

After 37 hours since the attacks began in India, with the Chabad House being one of the attack sites, here's the latest updates...

-> Commandos were dropped onto the roof of the building and began attacking.

-> 3 explosions were heard from inside the building!

-> Security forces report the top 2 floors (of 5) have been cleared. (The Jewish area is floors 1-3.)

-> Significant gunfire has been heard both inside and outside!

-> It's unclear why, but a pair of tzitzit (a Jewish ritual garment) was seen being waved out a window.

-> News reports confirm the rabbi and his wife remain inside along with at least 2 other Jewish people. Their status is unknown.

People are urged to say Psalms for the Chabad rabbi Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and his wife Rivka bas Yehudis, and anyone affected by the attack.

Updates as they become available.


Final Update - As Shabbos arrives here in Israel, our blogging on this ends. We pray the rabbi and his wife, Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, will be safe and well along with all others at the Chabad House and indeed all the good people of India. May motzie Shabbat find us with only good news, and may the perpetrators of such evil be brought to full and complete justice. There is an evil brewing in the world that has struck country after country - yet, most refuse to acknowledge this.

Update 4 - The police commissioner states on live TV that the battle at the Chabad House is still in progress, the news states "1 more floor to go". Shabbos has begun in India. No news whatsoever on the hostages. The police have stated no demands were received from the terrorists. One set of grandparents has arrived, and the 2 year old son of the rabbi is with his grandparents. "Five dead bodies have been found, Security Director General has said. Security has said one floor is still to be secured. Terrorists have moved to the third floor. Commandos are searching the top floors." Rachamim! Hashem have mercy!

Update 3 - Hashem Yerachim, G-d have Mercy! Massive explosion shakes Mumbai Chabad Jewish center, blows out windows in neighboring buildings.

Update 2 - A Jewish hostage was sent out to get food for the terrorists, ordered to return or the remaining hostages would be killed early in the morning. Now, heavy gunfire being heard, a pair of adult tzitzit (religious shirt/garment) is seen hanging from a 3rd floor window and it appears the commandos are pushing forward towards the lower floors - the Jewish section of the building.

Update 1 - News reports state 4 dead inside the building where Chabad is based, and at least 1 commando was seen coming out with injuries.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

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Terrorists Attack on Chabad House!



Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, left, is the co-director
of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, India. His
whereabouts are unknown following one of
the worst terrorist attacks in India's history.

Rabbi & Mrs. Holtzberg and son,
presumed hostages of terrorists.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

News reports arrived from India yesterday about a horrific sophisticated multiple-location terrorist attack. One of the sites attack was the Chabad House of Mumbai, India.

Terrorists attacked multiple locations in Mumbai, India, late Wednesday night, including the Chabad-Lubavitch center run by Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. By 3:00 a.m. local time, police reports indicated at least 101 people were killed when gunmen affiliated with an unknown Islamic terrorist group entered a series of hotels, a central train station and other popular tourist sites and began firing.

One of the attack sites has been confirmed as the Mumbai Chabad House. Terrorists took the house and remain there. Police said the men fired indiscriminately from the building throughout the night and into Thursday morning. Stray bullets killed a couple in their home and a 16-year-old boy who stepped outside, police said.

The Chabad house rabbi, Rabbi Gabriel, his wife Rivka and their two small children (one of whom later escaped) were in the Chabad House and haven't been heard from since.. Indian television reported that six Israelis are being held hostage, and at least 3 people were killed in the attack.

The Shliach's son, Moshe, is now safe in a local hospital and is in good condition. Moshe was taken out of the Chabad House by a maid together with the Chabad House cook, according to a reliable source on the ground. (It's unclear if they were released by the terrorists or escaped.)

Police commandos are trying to retake the Chabad House and have managed to injure or kill one of the terrorist inside. It is unknown if there are hostages or their condition at the Chabad House.


People are urged to say Psalms for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, and anyone affected by the attack.

Updates as they become available.

- Further updates in a new post -

Update 12 - Conflicting reports on hostages at the Chabad House. One source states all released, another that 4 hostages remain and assumably are the Rabbi, his wife, and two Jewish guests.

Update 11 - Some reports now coming that all at the Chabad House have been rescued. Confirmation awaited.

Update 10 - Indian news reports 7 people evacuated from the Chabad House. No word on who, whether the terrorists have been removed, or whether the Rabbi and his wife are safe. More info - 3 terrorists are estimated to remain inside, 2 of the evacuated are reported to be "foreigners". At this point it's 27 hours after this incident began.

Update 9 - Overall injury count increased to "over 300", with 125 dead. "7 foreigners injured, 6 foreigners killed."

Update 8 - An official news blackout has been applied to the Chabad House situation. Apparently the authorities figured out that showing the commandos preparing outside the building on live TV was giving the terrorists a bit of an unfair advantage. There will be no further updates until the news blackout breaks. Massive fires are now raging at the two hotels that were attacked, and multiple explosions have been heard.

Update 7 - 22 hours after the attacks started, there still has been no word or response at the Chabad House. No demands from the terrorists, and the security forces are "still preparing for assault". Attacks on both hotels have resulted in significant building fires.

Update 6 - Indian news reports anti-terror commandos are preparing to storm the Chabad House. Similar teams have already stormed and cleared the hospital terror site, and are currently trying to clear the hotel terror site (a huge site which is now partially on fire).

Update 5 - Informed sources report that two mashgichim, apparently from America, are missing in India, with one reportedly a son-in-law of the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe shlita, who is also the son of the Velve Rebbe Shlita. This report is unconfirmed.

Update 4 - (From live Indian news) It's a standoff for the last 4-5 hours or so in front of the Chabad House, no gunfire during that time. The building houses 3 floors of Jewish & Israeli families, and 2 floors of Indian families. The reporter estimates 10-12 families in the building, with the only ones having gotten out are the 3 people reported above. Police estimate 6 terrorists inside.

Update 3 - 101 killed, 287 injured - many severely. The attacks included many major bombs, several of which were found and defused. A major military explosive was used.

Update 2 - Exchange of fire intensified at the Chabad House, Window panes on third and fifth floor shattered. One terrorist holed up was killed, says police. Six more terrorists suspected to be inside the building. Photo from the site --> of Indian security forces.

Update 1 - The maid (alternately reported as nanny) said that the rabbi and his wife were alive but unconscious.

*** Order of updates rearranged, newest is now first on the list. ***
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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Change

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The US President-elect has promised us change. While he meant a change in government political policy, it may be that with less than one dollar left all we have is ... (pocket) change.

We don't like change. When we're children, everything is new and life is all change. But when we reach adulthood, patterns are set. We expect the sun to rise every morning - no need to look out the window to see if it's there. We expect gravity to always pull down - no need to drop a few things to make sure (though as a child the higher the drop the better to try!) The streetlights will work at night, the traffic lights during the day. The banks are reliable, the paycheck doesn't bounce.

What happens when change comes, big change, unexpected surprising change? We...

1. Bury our heads in the ground and pretend nothing has changed.

2. Go about our business and hope it goes away before it affects us.

3. Kind of glance over there and say, oooh what is that, and turn away real quick.

4. Flail around in the new situation wildly trying to stabilize.

5. Go crazy and take a vacation in the back half of our skull.

6. See it coming, grab our surfboard and ride the wave (as best we can).

The Midrash says 4/5'ths didn't come out of Egypt. And the Gemora says only 3,000 came back with Ezra to rebuild Eretz Yisroel and lead up to the building of the 2nd Beis HaMikdash. Among the many reasons was just change, too big to handle.

With change, most are doing 1-3. (BTW, I think the President-elect is stuck in #3, but that's yet to be seen.) A few with #4.

Personally I'm contemplating the relaxation possibilities of the anterior cerebrum. Hope to see me there.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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Web Rumors

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Over the years of this blog (yes years, we just celebrated our 4th Blogiversary before Succot) we've posted a number of Geulah and Moshiach rumors. In the last six months we've consciously slowed down in selecting those we share and in sharing them at all (or sometimes sitting on them for a bit either to research them or to see if they shake out on their own).

Geulah Perspectives published a story with a gadol providing a hint of geulah events to come this Chanukah in 2 tshuvot (answers) given to people asking halachic or life questions. It was an interesting story and read as having a good connection to the sources. We among many others directed people to take a look at it.

When the blogger found himself being stunned by the volume of hits and emails on his story going around and then having his story start coming back to him off the street with changes, he decided to dig deeper to verify the exact story and exact wording (the original did have a few apparent inconsistencies).

He reports on what he found here.

Suffice it to say the story has changed from confirmed to unconfirmed / misunderstood / misinterpreted. Unfortunately, even in cases where such hints are being given the details are often lost or misunderstood as the information passes through a few people before making it online.

Moral of the story: Even though it's potentially good news (great news - geulah!) some wisdom of Lashon Hara (the laws of listening to negative gossip about others) should be applied.
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The Government of Israel Will Stand on the Side of the Arabs

Interview of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Recorded in the Kfar Chabad Magazine issue 684. From 2005?

“The Rebbe always amazed me on subjects that I never anticipated would happen. For example with his descriptions of military defence: of how to defend the Suez Canal and Sinai. At that time I was battling by the Bar-Lev line because I saw the danger in the coming days. And in the framework of the battle I also publicised the letters which the Rebbe sent to me regarding the line. In these letters the Rebbe analysed the dangers from a defence point of view of setting up such a line, and he anticipated the catastrophes which would befall us in its wake. It is to my pain that all the vision of which the Rebbe wrote there came true in the fullest sense!”

“At a different meeting I spoke to the Rebbe regarding settling the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron. The Rebbe said to me words that sounded at that time so far from reality. He said that very serious things would take place at these places in the future. And added that in his opinion, the day will come when the Government of Israel will oppose Jewish People from settling there, and will stand on the right hand side of the Arabs in the strife between them and Jewish People.”

“This talk took place about twenty six years ago. The words of the Rebbe at that time were so absolutely unreasonable and outside the realm of reality. And yet, behold, we see what distant vision he had! We see what is taking place before our very eyes!”
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Monday, November 24, 2008

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Financial Links of Note

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

- Citibank was actually broke. It's $90 BILLION in assets was actually a single piece of paper allowing Citi to take tax deductions on profits over the next 3 years. No billions in profits, no actual value. There's a dangerous shell game being played, things are much worse than they appear.

- Where'd all the bailout money go??? "The money that’s been pledged (by the US Government, over $7 TTTTRILLION dollars) is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages."

Whoa. Friends, with this kind of information you don't need mekubalim (kabbalists) telling you about financial armageddon. It's right in front of us.
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How Many Times?

How_many_times
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

How many times have you put tefillin on a guy who was wearing a skirt? Really. I know this sounds totally strange, but almost anything can happen at the Kotel.

A couple of days ago I saw a guy walking up to the Kotel wearing a skirt. Once in a while you see those big, brown, friendly guys from Fiji come in wearing something that looks like skirts, but they are really table cloths – well, they look like table cloths. But those big guys from Fiji don't seem so weird wearing table cloths. But this guy wasn't from Fiji.

To tell you the truth, it looked like he had made a big mistake when he got dressed in the morning. He was about my size, had really white skin, was just about red-headed and had light, almost blue eyes. He did not look Jewish, not at all.

I mentally checked to see if it was the “alternative-sexual-appreciation” parade day here, but it wasn't. So what was this guy doing walking into the holiest place in the world where we can go, wearing a skirt?

I didn’t talk to him when he came in, but when he was on his way out I walked over.

"How are you?”

He was very friendly. He flashed a broad smile.

“Goot.” He replied with an unusual accent.

“How come you're wearing a skirt?" I asked.

"Ot's noot a skurt!" He insisted, showing a bit of indignation.

"It sure looks like a skirt" I said, defending my question. "Where are you from?"

"Aye's frum Scootlaund. Un oot's n kilt."

"Oh, I didn't know.” I apologized. “You're not Jewish, are you?"

"Aye um. Un my mutter un papa ur Juwish tooo."

This was a double first. He had never put on tefillin before, not in his entire life, and never before in my entire life had I ever put tefillin on a guy who was wearing a skirt.

So what's the moral of the story?

"Don't judge a guy by his skirt?" No, not really.

"You don't have to look Jewish to have a Jewish mom?" No. That's an old lesson.

"You have a lot of fun helping Jews put on tefillin at the Kotel?" Hey, I like that one. But you have to take the lesson further.

“At least three guys have a lot of fun when you put tefillin on them at the Kotel. You, the guy you are helping to put the tefillin on, and the person he is praying for."

Next time you are walking by and you see a platoon of soldiers lining up to put on tefillin don’t just stand there smiling. Jump in and lend a hand. You'll see what I mean.
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The End of The Chassidic Movement

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The Baal Shem Tov taught, "The true 'am haaretz' (people of the land, usually a derogatory insult meaning an ignorant Jewish simpleton) is not really meant to be derogatory. Rather, the Jewish masses are compared to soil, and while everyone treads upon the Jew, G-d put in this very soil the power to bring forth all kinds of plants and fruits...also in the soil are found gold, silver, diamonds. So too are the Jewish folk."

In the 1600's, the Jewish world suffered terribly, both spiritually and materially. Spiritually because the majority were ordinary uneducated people, looked down upon and spurned by the educated minority. And materially because they or their parents had fled the Cossack pogroms of 1648-1649. Masses of Jews were slaughtered, communities destroyed, and whole towns of Jewish people fled and became refugees.

The Baal Shem Tov began his work in 1710, over 60 years later and the situation of the Jewish people had not improved!
- from The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs by Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson.

The chassidic movement came and taught the immense value of every Jewish soul, and that even the most simple prayers wholeheartedly given are of tremendous value. They advised the people to acquire certain skills and to move out to areas where they could farm or engage in viable commerce. For with no bread, there is no Torah and little hope. THEN they created programs of education to teach everyone basic Jewish religious skills, and those with the ability far more.

Depths and secrets of the Torah were shared and taught to enhance everyones connection with Hashem. The chassidic movement flourished, and brought healing and growth to the Jewish people. Of course there were those who opposed this new approach, yet in opposing they also were forced to examine themselves. They gradually made some adjustments, becoming less elitist and more open to all those with a thirst for Torah.

Similarly, the chassidic movement was forced to examine the negative claims of their opposition, and gradually tempered their excesses in striving to reach Hashem with a more traditional Torah learning focus.

Today, the Breslov yeshiva of my co-blogger spends the majority of their learning day on Gemora and Halacha, and the Litvish beis midrash down the street is giving a daily shiur in Tanya.

But today, the elitism of the past has returned. Oh, it's somewhat egalitarian elitism, anyone that can learn full time is part of the club (though almost all those who are the top of the club strangely are related to the previous leaders). But, you're either a LEARNER or an earner. Learners are respected, earners are, well, tolerated (if an earner is particularly successful and gives generously, he'll get some momentary respect).

We're in trouble. We're losing 5% of our youth "going off the derech" - leaving observant Jewish practice but NOT leaving the religious Jewish communities. 15% of our children (in every yeshiva) are being highly drugged to be able to focus like a top Torah scholar at age 8, and 10, and 12. Chassidic or not chassidic doesn't matter much - the pattern is the same and we're trying to force 100% to reach a goal that only 20% have the abilities for.

The chassidic movement has come full circle. It solved a problem, but has now come to accept the original problem as the proper way of operating and along with the Litvish streams pushed everyone back to the elitist system of the past.

It's time to return to the original goals of the Baal Shem Tov.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

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We Will Have Been Like Dreamers...


Jewish Art by Michael Yosef Robinson
at YosefDreams.Com
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Moshiach will come, Geulah will arrive and "we will have been like dreamers". We will look outside one day and the world will have just...changed.

Yet we are creatures of habit. The things that become regular in our lives become fixtures in our minds. Like the sun coming up in the morning, we learn to ignore them and expect them. We don't look for the cars on the street, they'll always there so we don't have to check and think about where they are there today. Like the New Yorker who sleeps out of the city keeps waking up for _lack_ of city noise, for it's always there and his brain just filters it out. When it's not, it keeps sending a signal...somethings different, pay attention.

For some generations, Cold War was always there. The whole world could blow up in an instant - world death toe to toe for generations. And in an instant, it was gone. It took 10 years for people all over the world to recognize the change and begin to act differently.

For 40 years, the Soviet Union controlled all the countries around it. In an instant it was gone. But it took 15 years for those countries to notice there was no massive threat on their border and start to take their own paths. (Just in time for some part of that threat to re-form.)

In an instant, 50 years of consumer culture has collapsed. In an instant, it's gone. The easy money stock market of 25 years, where bad investment advice was ONLY making 5% (instead of 15%, 20%, or 30%), is gone. Easy credit, history.

Most are still dreaming. Has the market hit bottom? Should I reinvest yet? Can I ride it out? Will the company rehire me soon? The government will fix the loan mess soon, I'll be able to ride out my unmanageable mortgage.

Let me share some information you probably haven't heard. This is a very important message for my friends and readers from the Torah world.

The institutions of the Torah world, yeshivot, kollels, seminaries, charitable organizations, survive soley on donations. They (the vast vast majority) never put away any donation money, never invested any, never build an endowment. Every dollar (shekel, euro, etc) was used for it's charitable or Torah purpose. For like the market, donations held their own or went up for 25 years (with a few brief difficult years here and there). Donors from all segments of Jewish society were wonderfully generous, and as some portions of orthodox Jewish society grew into business and wealth they were correspondingly generous with the blessings of Hashem.

Many of these wonderfully generous people are in serious financial trouble. Many? Perhaps most. They are simply unable to give what they gave last year - if at all!

Donations at some well known institutions are down 30-65%.

Kollels have reduced their stipends and are releasing students (and teachers!) Yeshivas are struggling terribly to not have to drop students - they are cutting back on food, repairs, even lighting and heat. Food pantries have double the number of people showing up for help and 25% less to give out!

In the midst of this, our gedolim remain as dreamers. People should cut back to be able to continue to learn Torah. People should maintain their distance from modern society and avoid any education that may allow them to earn an increased salary.

Shortly my dear friends, chas v'chaliah (G-d forbid), shortly you're going to start hearing of desperate emergency fund raisers. Then of holy committed Torah centers and charitable institutions serving the poor _closing down_.

We must awaken, plan for ourselves and plan for our brothers, RIGHT NOW. We are not immune, the tsunami is already coming. A sea change has occurred, and we must make sure our dream doesn't become a nightmare.

The bloggers of Mystical Paths are already planning what we can do to help, both personally and giving you an opportunity to leverage your donations - finding wholesale sources of goods we can distribute to those who increasingly will find themselves in need in Eretz Yisroel - the holy land of Israel. We hope you'll be blessed to be in a position to help us, at least a little.
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

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Religious News

by Reb Gutman Locks & Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Reb Gutman: Another good reason to daven with a minyan.

Reb Akiva: There's been several of these studies in the last few years that show benefits of prayer, and in this case organized religious services. Science is beginning to say there's more to religion that just the general scientific assumption of superstitious belief (which is in essence a belief that the scientific method is the ultimate truth of life, the universe, and everything, in other words a religion of science.)



Religious services reduce death risk
NEW YORK, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent, researchers said.

Researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 post-menopausal women participating in the Women's Health Initiative, a national, long-term study aimed at addressing women's health issues.

Eliezer Schnall and Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller of Yeshiva College of Yeshiva University said study participants, ages 50 to 79 nationwide answered questions about baseline health conditions and religiosity. They were tracked for an average of 7.7 years.

The researchers adjusted for participation within communal organizations and group activities that promote social life and enjoyable routines -- behaviors known to lead to overall wellness. However, even after controlling for such behavior and other health-related factors, the improvements in morbidity and mortality rates in those attending religious services exceeded expectations.

The study, published in the journal Psychology and Health, found those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20 percent mortality risk reduction compared with those not attending services at all.

"Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption," Schnall said in a statement. "There is something here that we don't quite understand."
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Friday, November 21, 2008

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Just saying...

Sorry, nothing on our minds today. Here's a few potentials to chat about...

- Denmark working on outlawing male circumcision. Tattoos and piercings ok, circumcision (before age 15) not ok. Yeah that makes sense and isn't anti-religious. (h/t Lazer Beams)

- Multiple court challenges against Obama's birthplace (and therefore presidential eligibility). (h/t Dreaming of Moshiach)

- Financial crisis worses, “There seems to be no bottom. We have no tools that tell us where to go now.” (Bloomberg financial news)

- International Atomic Energy Agency finally admits Iran has enough material for a nuke. (NY Times, Bloomberg News)

Shabbat Shalom! (Really.) We must do everything we can, yet in the end know we have no one on wish to rely except our Father in Heaven.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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The Practicality of Gaza Starvation

Ashdod Israel south
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

As I visited Ashdod (southern Israeli port city) last night, I heard the UN Commissioner for Human Rights condemning Israel on the news for the "blockade" of Gaza. As we once again hear and read about the Gaza Blockade and the Poor Starving Palestinians, here's a few key points to keep in mind:

1. Ashdod, 3rd city up from Gaza is now in Hamas missile range and has started practicing "we're being bombed" drills in local schools. "Shalom children, this morning we're going to practice running for our lives from the sandbox to the bomb shelter within the 30 second radar warning time - ready, set, RUN!!!! Ahhh, sorry little Shlomie, you tripped along the way, you're dead."

2. Israel DOES NOT surround the Gaza Strip. See that other country on the southern border. Yeah, that's the once, starts with an E - Egypt. Israel can't blockade Gaza unless Egypt already has. Go ask them why.

3. Hamas killed the fuel terminal workers, then complained about no fuel. They attacked and killed workers at the truck transfer point 5 times, then complained about no supplies. Now they were caught digging a kidnapping tunnel towards the border post and are firing missiles in response to getting caught. Parent murderers don't get to claim to be orphans.

4. The Israeli left, the peaceniks, the liberals, are fully in control of Israeli politics. They are begging to give and do and help the Palestinians, to declare peace. Good peace, bad peace, cold peace, a few murdered Jews here and there, they would happily take any almost kind of not really peace. When even they can't accept what's going on and feel forced to take (the most peaceful minimal) defensive measures, you know it's a situation out of control.

5. The world rewards Hamas for whatever they do. If they attack and supplies can't be safely delivered, it's Israel's fault. If UNWRA workers can't give out free medical care because terrorists are holed up in their clinic, it's Israel's fault. If a hospital is damaged by terrorists launching missiles from the roof (!!!!), it's Israel's fault. The UN and the EU and even the US feed the Palestinians, provide free medical care, free education, free public works projects. The world sustains 70% of the Palestinian economy, giving them the highest life expectancy in the Arab world, the best health care, and public works exceeding 60% of the Arab world.

6. If Israel doesn't service the Palestinians, it's a human rights violation. If they don't take their seriously ill into Israeli hospitals (for free, and with attending family), it's a human rights violation. If they fire at those Palestinians shooting missiles into Israeli civilian cities, it's a human rights violation (for the Palestinians fire from inside populated areas, firing back might injure someone). Hamas has kidnapped Jews and murdered innocent civilians in their homes, at school, at work, at the market - that's NOT (???) a human rights violation or war crime, Israel defending against it in any way IS. (???)

Dear UN High Commissioner, if you truly believe the free unoccupied Arabs of Gaza are blockaded and oppressed (how can you be oppressed with no oppressor there???) YOU go work the border terminal for a month. You couldn't pay me to do it, not for 10 times my salary. Too dangerous. YOU take them into YOUR home and YOUR country at YOUR expense. And next time a burglar breaks into your home, don't forget to invite him to stay for dinner.

Photos: First photo the southern entrance to Ashdod at night, which includes a municipal laser over the main road. Unfortunately it's only decorative and not some sort of missile defense system. Rumors of it having been placed there in honor of Rabbi Brody of the Lazer Beams blog (who lives in Ashdod) are purely speculative.

Second graphic a Gaza area map courtesy of Wikipedia.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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Getting Worse

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A reader wrote, "My husband and I have lost our business of over 20 years. All we have left is our faith in Hashem."

In the days of our forefathers we prayed every day knowing it was life or death serious. If the rains didn't come, we starved or lacked drink. If the locusts came our food was eaten. If the crops were infected with blight or various infestations, our plates went empty.

Generations later when we were forbidden to own land, we depended on the good weather to keep the roads clear to our inns and stores. We depended on luck to avoid bandits on the roads. Prayer was heard on every set of lips.

There were times when we rightly feared for our CHILDREN. Precious souls were lost in childbirth. Others to sickness, hunger, cold, plague, vermin. Even worse, some were taken, stolen for lust, the need of a child, free labor, or pure religious persecution. We prayed hard for our children.

After the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II, the West has been blessed with incredible prosperity. The question was not was there jobs, but would I find a really good one? Not would I have a home, but would my home have a fireplace or deck or pool? We did not pray for work or a home, we maybe prayed for a raise or a new car.

Or maybe we didn't. We had to be reminded to say THANK YOU HASHEM. Thank you for the education, the clothes, the home, the good meals, the car, the job, the beautiful well equipped synagogue. Thank you for the good so good that I can barely relate to other times.

But other times are now here. Layoffs are accelerating, and the first round bailout has FAILED (partially due to greed and mismanagement.)

The market is primed for the next fall.


It's a good time to say THANK YOU HASHEM FOR WHAT I HAVE and pray, really truly pray, that we are blessed enough to still have it tomorrow!
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Monday, November 17, 2008

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Kosher and More

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

How important is it to follow the many rules of kosher eating? After all, aren’t they mostly just customs? For instance, the rules about milk that was produced without some minimal Jewish supervision claim that such milk covers over the spiritual heart of a Jew. Can we believe such a thing today in this modern world? Sounds like superstition; that if the cow’s milk you drink didn’t have Jewish supervision when it was produced, it will affect your ability to attain spiritual heights!

Yisroel’s father wrote the following:

“Yisroel was born with a light in his eyes. He looked like a spiritual being the minute he came into the world. And his actions were extraordinary. He demanded success from himself even at the age of six months when he would pull himself up in his playpen by grasping the railing and forcing himself up. He spoke early and walked early and had a vocabulary of over 200 words around 18 months of age. By the time he was two years old, he was reciting verses of Tehilim baal peh (Psalms from memory).

Then, just before his third birthday, there was a party for children held at a friend's house and they served pizza and milk and cookies. The hostess asked everyone if they were strict about chalav Yisroel (milk produced with Jewish supervision), but my wife was out of the room when the questioning came, so she was missed, and the hostess served Yisroel a glass of regular kosher (but not chalav Yisroel milk).

The next day, Yisroel's gifts had left him. He completely lost interest in reciting Tehilim and became a normal child with no apparent spiritual gifts. He remained intelligent and self-motivated, of course, but the spiritual light had diminished. And so it remained till his bar mitzvah. He was a brilliant young student, but certainly no rebbe. Now, (15 years later) he is maturing as a creative thinker, a spiritual innovator.”

It has taken him a long time to regain the spiritual advantage he was born with.
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Of Interest

Rav Kanievsky's Psak : Prepare now? - Geulah Perspectives

US Depression of 2009: What Might It Be Like? - Boston Globe

Crackdown on Jewish Media - Preparation for Diplomacy Against Israel? - Sultan Knish
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

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Slowly Slowly

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

For some time, we seem to be closing in on the geulah. Words from the navi'im (biblical prophets) seem to be lining right up. And, even sources we would consider less direct prophetic instruction, such as Gemora Sanhedrin 96-97 and Yalkut Shimoni, are as well.

Yet, more slowly than one might expect. This is a blessing, as if we're looking for it we can take steps to get ready (both spiritually and physically).

The Rebbe said the time of our redemption has arrived, but we're still waiting. HaRav Kaduri said he met Moshiach, but we're still waiting. Gedolim and tzaddikim of our time say similar things, and still we're waiting.

The Gemora says, 'The son of David (Moshiach) doesn't come until we despair of his coming.'

It will (G-d willing) be soon. He'll come. Yet, like (l'havidil) the falling of the Berlin wall, we'll still be surprised that one day things just changed. Like the collapse of the Soviet Union, tomorrow the world will just be different.

Like the US economy, you can measure the pressure building. On the economy, two years ago some warned conditions were reaching their limit, and it had to crack. One year ago some were screaming to take urgent action. Few heard, most went about their business.

Al Qieda, Iran, Islamofacism, an expanding Europe, Palestinians that will take no deal of any kind when Jewish blood is in reach, a resurgent Russia, oil prices, world economic depression. Jerusalem on the table - one of the KEY signs. Signs and more signs.

Don't despair, we await his coming every day. Keep your eyes open.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

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Fire and Brimstone

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Approximately 280 years ago, fire and brimstone maggidim (preachers) used to travel among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. They would enter poor villages where Jewish families just scraped by. On Shabbos they would ascend the bima and describe in vivid detail the failings of the community...

They didn't give enough charity, leaving their neighbors to starve! They didn't properly support Torah scholars, leaving the Torah unlearned! They didn't learn enough, pray enough, do enough! They were unlearned, ignorant, devoid of Torah. They were unworthy to be called G-d's children and nation, they were a chilul Hashem, an embarrassment to HaKodesh Baruch Hu!

The people would bow their heads, accepting the accusations humbly. The maggid would then proceed to describe the levels of Gehenom (Jewish afterlife place of soul cleansing) and the horrible tortures that would be required to cleanse their souls of this horrible failings...

They would be immersed in lava with their skin and bones literally burning away in terrible agony, though it would never complete until the soul was cleansed. A continuous horrible burning of ultimate agony with no relief until Shabbat. Then for Shabbat they would get out and merely suffer having their skin regrow and a nightmare of itching till the end of Shabbat.

They went from town to town to teach their fellow Jew the dangers they faced. Each community bowed it's head humbly before the righteous learned preachers. They gave everything they could to the preacher to support Torah scholars, and the preacher left knowing he'd succeeded in his mission.

And the people, they went about depressed, knowing that they were inadequate and worthy of only punishment from their Father in Heaven.

Into this environment stepped the Baal Shem Tov and the holy brotherhood of chassidim. They taught that every neshama, every soul is precious to G-d. And every mitzvah (good deed) and every tefilah (prayer) is of unmeasurable value to HaKodesh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He). Chassidus grew as an antidote to communal Jewish religious depression.

Today it seems we have come full circle. Once again, all the calamities are being brought about because, as we are being taught by the modern preachers who are as often as not chassidic, not enough (INSERT COMMUNAL LACKING HERE - modesty, charity, good deeds, Torah learning, allowing influences from the modern world, etc).

Never mind there's more Torah educated Jews than ever in history. Never mind there's more yeshivas, kollels, and Torah classes than ever. Never mind that most of that has been supported by incredible amounts of charity by thankfully Jews with good income. Never mind the holy communities filled with tzedakah funds, help for sick, new mothers, the elderly, and those in need of all kinds of assistance. Never mind the hundreds of holy seforim (religious books) published every year, every home with a full set of chumash, gemora, and tens of seforim at a minimum (hundreds in many a home)

Without any ego, it's time to SPEAK OF OUR MERITS, OF THE MERITS OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. The holy communities that have been filled with every kind of chesed. The sounds of Torah echoing from so many homes, daf yomi lessons, Torah lessons, yeshivot, kollels, the outreach to those who haven't had the opportunity of Torah. It's time to speak of the survivors, those few with Torah who rebuild the Torah world and created the next generation after going through hell on earth. And those who struggled and who continue to - to bring Israel back from a wasteland to a land of blessing - both those who put their lives on the line for the physical, and those who fought to rebuild the spiritual and bring Torah back to the Land.

Yes, there are many improvements we can make to our communities. We have plenty of failings, some of them quite serious.

But let us focus on how we can get even better and be even better, not on how much we suck. Because times are starting to look pretty tough, and it's not the time to get depressed. We need to recognize our strengths, for we're going to need them.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

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Problems with Idolatry

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A reader sent in a question...

G-d bless you and yours. I am a Noahide from India. My two sons are also striving to follow my advice on being Noahides. My husband is an orthodox hindu [a religion with the literal practice of idolatry today) who encourages me in my path. As an ex-Xtian, G-d has blessed me to leave idolatry these last 15 odd years with the arrival of the internet.

Why do you think not all members of a family are called to leave idolatry together, would that not be better and easier? When a spouse is a very good person, in many ways better than the other half, yet what blocks them from leaving idolatry? Should not their good qualities itself bring blessings from Hashem in the form of bringing the person to His path?

I am praying for the Moshiach too. I can't imagine anyone else being able to solve our problems. and it seems to be getting worse. I am not asking for predictions, but based on the holy scriptures and the oral scriptures what will happen to this part of the world in Asia?


First, know what a great thing it is that you have done by learning and accepting the Seven Commandments of Noah. This is especially true in your case since you are surrounded by idolatry. Not only are you surrounded by idolatry, but where you live idolatry is the accepted belief. In some ways this puts you on the spiritual level of Avraham, the father the Jewish People. Avraham lived in a time and place where everyone worshiped idols. In fact, his father was an idol maker! If you lived in a country where everyone followed the Seven Commandments it would not be such a wonder that you too would follow them. But that you are doing this in your place is indeed wonderful.

As to why Hashem doesn't just sweep all good hearted people to the knowledge of the One G-d; there is a general principle in creation. G-d wants man to have free will. Angels do not have free will and they do not receive a reward for their service. Man, on the other hand does have free will and is rewarded according to his deeds.

Many people who worship idols are otherwise very fine people. They would never murder or steal or take another man's wife. In fact, it is only the prohibition against idolatry that causes them to stumble. But idolatry is a very serious mistake. It is the first of all the prohibitions.

One of the severe problems with idolatry is that no amount of good deeds can cover over this mistake. If a person steals something, but is also very charitable, the merit from his charity can help to cover over his sin in having stolen. But with idolatry this is not true. Whereas your husband will be rewarded for his good deeds in this world, they do not change in the least the results that will come because of the idolatry.

Idolatry is a very ancient practice. It certainly predates the giving of the Torah. The simple idolater believes that each idol is actually a different god! Of course this sounds foolish to us who know that G-d is Infinite and that that little idol is not infinite. But millions of Hindus today believe that there are hundreds of millions of gods! The more thinking of the idolaters believe that each idol merely represents one of the many aspects of the One G-d. Perhaps this is what your husband believes.

The essence of their mistake is thinking that they can attribute a form to G-d. Although it is certainly true that G-d has many Names, and each Name represents a different aspect, still, none of these Names or aspects has a form. The One Infinite Being fills and surrounds all. In fact, there is nothing other than the One Infinite Being.

So how can we exist if there is nothing other than Him? Think in terms of the Universal (general principle) and the Details (of that principle.) (The klal and the prat) The Details exist within the Universal, but the Details are not the Universal. Whereas the Universal is the Universal and It is also the Details. We cannot worship a Detail because that Detail is merely its own tiny Detail within the Infinite. When they worship an idol they are worshiping a mere detail in the creation and are ignoring the Universal One Who is all. Why be satisfied with a tiny bit of Heaven when you can address It all?

Specifically related to Hinduism, see in the book of Genesis[i] where the Torah lists the names of the children that Avraham fathered with Keturah. He gave them gifts (unclean powers[ii]) and he sent them to the land of the East.

One of these children is named Asshurim. Our sages tell us that this name means a camp.[iii] Still today the camp of the Hindu with a mystical power is called an Ashram.

One of the other sons is named Aveda. The Hindus say that their teachings come from the books of the Vedas.

Another son was named Sheva. Shiva is one of the main gods of Hinduism.

Abraham is called the Hebrew because he "crossed over the river." He crossed the Euphrates River. The Hindu tradition teaches that a light skinned people called Hindus crossed over the Indus River bringing their beliefs with them. The indigenous Indians accepted the Hindus' teachings but did not discard their own religion. They mixed the two together. This became Hinduism. One of the Sanskrit definitions of Hindu is "from the river."

Actually, the religion is not called Hinduism but Brahmanism which is named after Avraham.

So we see that there must have been good teachings mixed into the idolatry of the native Indians. These good teachings help hold the idolater to his idols.

Today in India there is a fundamentalist movement trying to deny that there ever was any ancient foreign input into Hinduism. Although this has been the accepted history taught there for thousands of years, they now claim that their traditions are home born and that there never was an influx of teachings from an ancient people who migrated to India some 4,000 years ago. However, these names in the Bible show that there was.

As to what will come of Asia; when the Moshiach comes the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d. All mankind will look to Jerusalem for their teachings and blessings. There will be peace throughout the entire world. The problem will be that once this happens free will will not be available since everyone will see that G-d is One and watching. This means that each person's portion will be determined by what he was able to accomplish while it is still so spiritually dark.

[i] Genesis 25:1
[ii] Rashi Genesis 25:6
[iii] Rashi quoting Onkelos Genesis 25:3
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

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An ADD World

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

There's practically no quiet in Israel. Much like New York City, the density of housing is high and with it the VOLUME. Cars go by, people on the street, planes jets and helicopters pass overhead. Parks are busy places, even the woods have roads crisscrossing them.

To listen for the "soft still voice", one needs quiet contemplation to listen past the physical.

Yet that quiet is so hard to find. I wonder, as the Voice is a bit louder here in Israel, is the noise covering it up intentionally louder as well?
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

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Discussion: Election Hashkafa

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Hashkafa - tracks of thinking in Jewish philosophy, usually refering to differences in sects or religious sub-group approaches to orthodox religious Jewish life.

Today is municipal election day in Israel. There's many an approach to creating voting blocs in Israel, but here's some worth discussing:

IMGA0092

Jews that Believe Do NOT Participate in Elections


IMGA0094

I'm Also a Jew Who Believes
the heretical zionists throw off the yoke of heaven

Don't Vote in the Zionist City Elections



Not to get the wrong idea, the signs above are from the "extremists" who refuse any participation in the government. Here's a more regular religious sign...

IMGA0095

There is NOT The Secular and The Religious,
There is The Jews
Return the Crown to the People

Vote Shas


Discuss.
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All The Rage

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

It's Geulah Fever ! ! !

An email "going around"... [my corrections or challenges in italics]

1. Bircat HaHamah - The Blessing on the Sun - Once every 28 years

Since creation, there was only two times that the year we say Birkat HaHamah fell out on the 1st Day of Passover. The first was the year Hashem redeemed Israel form Egypt. The second was the year of Purim, when Hashem saved the Jews from the evil Haman who wanted to kill and destroy all Jews.

This year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover (which will be the 3rd time in history). When it was told to HaRav Ovadia Yosef, shlita that this year Birkat HaHamah falls out on the 1st Day of Passover, he started crying like a baby [I didn't hear this or see this odd rumor about Rav Yosef anywhere else.].

2. Chofetz Chaim in a Dream to His Student

Recently the Chofetz Chaim came to one of his last living students [not one of, the last one] in a dream several times and said that Mashiach is born [ah, no, this was actually reported in Mishpacha magazine by a direct interview of the rav - the dream said Moshiach is close and everyone should know to prepare]. When this was told to Rabbi Elya Svei, shlita he said he knew about this for over ten years [he knew about a dream that didn't happen yet?].

3. Rabbi Elya Svei - Mashiach 2009, told to him from his Rebbe, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, hy"d

In 2004 at a funeral of a rebbe of Mirrer Yeshiva, Rabbi Elya Svei said that Mashiach is coming in 2009. He said its was told to him and calculated by his rebbe, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, hy"d who was the top student [a close talmid, not "the top"] of the Chofetz Chaim, zt"l. Incidentally Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, hy"d wrote books and spoke about that the timing of Maschiach is comparable to a pregnant lady in her 9th month, which at any moment can give birth [I don't know if this is the case, but I do know that this is a very standard analogy about Moshiach - hence the term the birth pangs of Moshiach.]. Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman was murdered in the Holocaust, over 70 years ago, so in his times if Mashiach was so close, how much more so in our times more than 70 years later. [Rabbi Wasserman, hy"d, was murdered in 1941. While I've been unable to find the age of Rabbi Svei, shlita, it is written that he is the rosh yeshiva in Philadelpha since 1955 and was a student of HaRav Aharon Kotler, zt"l. To have been a student of Rabbi Wasserman, hy"d, he'd have to be about 90 years old right now and must have been a pretty young rosh yeshiva.]

4. The Collapse of the Stock Market, Wall Street, Financial Markets, Housing Markets, Mortgage Markets, Insurance Markets, Real Estate Markets, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merill Lynch, Wachovia, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, Goldman Sachs and surely MORE to come. The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 8000 and dropped to a low of 7882

[The Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the expulsion from Spain, there have been national and international collapses before throughout recorded history. This is certainly a notable and once in a lifetime financial event, and is certain to change many things in the US and the world. That doesn't necessary make it a harbinger of the geulah.]

5. The Iran dictator (Yemach Shemo) declaring he wants to wipe Israel of the globe and definitely has Nuclear Weapons.

[Again, not the first to declare an intention to wipe out Israel or the Jewish People, nor the first with the means to do it. As we say on Pesach (Passover), "in every generation they rise up against us, and Hashem saves us from their hand." It's just we had a bit of a break after the Holocaust where they only rose up against Israel every generation.]

Since Hashem sent us a very good President George Bush, who is a true friend of Israel as well as shown that he want to eradicate terrorists, the Iranian Animal is petrified to start with Israel, but with this years election of a new President, who know what can happen.

[Umm, yeah, riiiiggghhhhtt.]

6. Barak Obama as President

He’s young and inexperienced as well as questionable loyalty and friendship to Israel. With all that’s going on with our economy and global markets, in addition to Obama’s liberal viewpoints it seams very dangerous to have him as a commander in chief.

[Not the first president or Western leader to provide questionable support to Israel. Again, what makes this a harbinger of the geulah?]

7. Iceland & Greenland Ice Packs

Iceland and Greenland is mostly comprised of ice. Scientist discovered that due to Global Warming, the shrinking of the Ozone Layer and the change in weather patterns, the ice packs in these two countries are starting to melt. They predict that in 5 to 10 years it will fully melt and the water (melted ice) would be added to the worlds oceans. This extra water, would increase sea level around the globe by 20 feet. Basically all homes, buildings etc, that are built on locations that are at sea level (which is a good portion society) will be under water. Hashem promised NEVER to bring a Mabul (flood) again. If this is set in motion to take place then Mashiach must come before this happens.

[According to the Rambam in Mishneh Torah, hilchos melachim umilchatonim, chapters 11-12, the time of Moshiach will not involve miraculous changes in the physical operation of the world. Rather, the spirit and intention of people will change. Meaning, if a natural process is in place that is without a doubt going to flood the world, Moshiach's arrival isn't going to change that. So if the world ice packs are melting, I strongly suggest moving to higher ground before everyone realizes it and higher ground gets too expensive or crowded.]

8. Brisker Rav

The Brisker Rav said during the Holocaust that within 70 years Mashiach will come. 2009 is the 70th year.

[Actually, I have quotes from major rabbonim going back over 200 years that the time of the geulah is close, even saying within this time, within this generation, etc. Unfortunately, there may be opportunties for klal yisroel to bring the geulah that are missed, G-d forbid.]

9. Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel said this past Yom Kippur (2008) was the last Yom Kippur. He’s been telling everyone to do teshuva before Mashiach comes.

[Hey, every day is a good day to do teshuva! And personally I'm no fan of fasting. But the last time a Yom Kippur was cancelled was by Shlomo HaMelech. Even if Moshiach comes today (may it be Hashem's will!) there is no indication geulah will be an instant process nor that in the time of the geulah the yom tovim will be cancelled. Further, we have a specific midrash that talks about the gentiles being given the opportunity to keep Succot in the time of the geulah. That would seem to hint that the yom tovim are still around - at least for some initial geuladika period.]

10. Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Chazon Ish (his Grandfather) and Rav Shach (one of his Rabbi’s) came to Rav Chaim Kanievsky in a dream and both told him to tell everyone to do teshuva in order to get ready for Mashiach, whom is coming very soon.

[This sounds like a retread of the first Chofetz Chaim dream story.]

It's time to do TESHUVA!!!!! The Chofetz Chaim said that people whom are not worthy won’t even realize that Mashiach is here and what's going on. We MUST ALL make Teshuva and come close to Hashem... We need Moshiach desperately.

Who can disagree with any of these sentiments??? And certainly, those of you who follow the Mystical Paths blog know we find many signs of the geulah in current modern day events.

BUT, this is not the first time people have said that, and that major rabbonim, gedolim, and rebbe's have seen and focused upon signs of the geulah. YES, do teshuva. YES, give tzedakah. YES, increase in mitzvot. YES, for those able and ready, come to Israel. BUT, don't get on the Moshiach roller coaster. Don't get so hyped that if Moshiach doesn't come tomorrow (G-d forbid!) or this year that you fall into depression and give up.

We're keeping our eyes open, we're hoping and praying and believing every day. Yes, there are signs, but there are ALWAYS signs. Maybe that means we always have the opportunity, and we're at fault for not grasping it.

If things move from hints to the big signs, hopefully we'll be blessed to recognize that and share what we find.

Don't give up hope in Moshiach today, but don't overdose on hype.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

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A Little Insecure?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We've been laying off the politics, it's clearly a huge waste of time. There were elections, people made their choice, voted, and now have to live with the results of that decision.

But, when it looks weird we just have to stand up and ask, what the heck is that?

Office of the President Elect ???? ? ? ? ? ? ????

Ok, he's been elected president and he has a team working on the transition to the new administration. That's perfectly normal. They're going to review everything to make a big splash - that's a bit hyper but in line with his campaign theme.

But Office of the President Elect? Ok, so I went and looked it up. Turns out it is an actual official government office (temporary though it may be). However, I don't think I've ever seen any transition team feel the need to print up big signs about it.

Someone's feeling a little insecure.

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, establishes the transition team as a Federal entity to provide for the orderly transfer of power between Administrations [3 USC 102 note]. In addition to providing that the transition team may hire its own staff, the Act provides for the detail of Federal employees to the transition team after the November election as follows: Any employee of any agency of any branch of the Government may be detailed to the office staff of either the President-elect or the Vice-President elect, The employee must be detailed on a reimbursable basis, and the detail must be with the consent of the lending agency head. (Source)
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Getting Weaker

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Every generation is weaker than the previous generation. From the time of the original creation, each generation has to work harder in order to recognize the spiritual perspective attained by the previous generation. Like a stone that has been thrown, from the moment it leaves the person’s hand, the forces of gravity pull on it and slow it down. The gravity pulls it to the ground.

We too are being pulled by the immense gravity of our physical surroundings. This tends to dull our spiritual awareness. Our senses naturally reach out, constantly looking for more and more ways to find satisfaction. As soon as we experience a particular physical joy, it becomes bland, and we move, on looking for new or greater stimulus. On and on we seem glued to our physical senses, while ignoring our spiritual senses.

Although we are weaker, we also have an advantage, actually, two advantages.

One, although we are like midgets when compared to the previous generations who were like giants, still, we can actually see further than they could. How is this possible? By standing on their shoulders. When we take to heart their accomplishments, and learn from their mistakes, we not only see from our limited point of view, but we also see from theirs. This gives us an advantage over those who went before us.

Two, each generation comes closer and closer to the final Redemption, when this horrible exile will at last come to an end. Knowing this should be a great source of joy and expectation. But, as with all things in this world, for this joy to be realized, we have to work on it.

For instance, places of worship and other holy places; if we enter them with merely a physical perspective, each time we go there they will seem more and more common to us. We will begin to act in these places the same way we act in other places, totally disregarding their uniqueness. Today, it is very common to see people in the most holy places speaking of secular matters, talking on cell-phones, smoking, joking, and so on.

But when we enter them with attentive spiritual awareness, each time we enter them they will become more and more valuable to us. We will even come to experience the awe that they are designed to bring.
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Sunday, November 09, 2008

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Tonight at Kever Rochel!

With thanks to Hashem, I was able to visit Kever Rochel with my family, the tomb of Rachel our mother, immediately after Shabbat on her yaretzheit which is tonight.

Take 6 minutes and join me on this holy journey.

Here's our live video from tonight, the yaretzheit of Rochel Imaynu. The holy site is absolutely jam packed with yidden coming to cry to Momma Rochel to awaken her voice before HaKodesh Baruch Hu for her children. May her cries be heard, bringing blessings to all who cry to Hashem and bringing the ultimate blessing with the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu, mamash NOW!



כה אמר יהוה קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תמרורים רחל מבכה על בניה מאנה להנחם על בניה כי איננו׃
HaShem said in Ramah there is a sound of crying, weeping and bitter sorrow; Rachel weeping for her children; she will not be comforted for their loss.

The video is rushed to share with you immediately on this special day. Please forgive any poor editing or weak video selections. Hashem blessed us to make it onto the 2nd bus going in. As we departed and took a moment at the melavah malka tent that was set up in the honor of Shabbat, we saw literally tens of buses streaming in and miles of cars backed up already. Clearly thousands of people were already there, merely 3 hours after Shabbat.

Israeli security forces (border police, army, and regular police were on site) are to be credited with maintaining reasonable order and access to a holy site that has become accessible only through a narrow chokepoint.
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Friday, November 07, 2008

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Condi's Coming Again...

It's her last chance to take a shot at Israel, she's coming back. One would think a resurgent Russia, who cursed the US and stated plans to deploy missiles right on the NATO border on Wednesday might get the attention of this Soviet Expert. But no, last shot at Israel takes priority. But don't worry that time is running out, she's going to work hard to make sure her plans get passed on to the next US Secretary of State.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

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Ogogma?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I heard this by phone from R. Nati as going around Meah Shearim, and also saw it on Yehudi Yerushalmi... (Josh from ParshaBlog is going to love this one.)

On the א of the first נשיא (orginally the word for Prince but in modern Hebrew is used for President), every 7 letters spell out the name Obama in Hebrew.

יחזקאל פרק לח

ויהי דבר-יהוה, אלי לאמר בן-אדם, שים פניך אל-גוג ארץ המגוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל; והנבא, עליו. ואמרת, כה אמר אדני יהוה: הנני אליך, גוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל. ושובבתיך, ונתתי חחים בלחייך; והוצאתי אותך ואת-כל-חילך סוסים ופרשים, לבשי מכלול כלם--קהל רב צנה ומגן, תפשי חרבות כלם.


It may be a little early to be declaring Obama the end of the world. He's certainly the end of a political era within the US, but as each era has ended on it's excesses going too far, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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Debunking

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The email read:

!!!! For Jews who voted for Obama - last night was the anniversary of KRISTALNACHT. !!!!

...The cell phone rang and it is was my friend, Rabbi (name redacted). He shared with me the election results and asked me...'DO YOU KNOW WHAT TONIGHT IS?" "No" I ANSWERED. He stated... "TONIGHT is the anniversary of KRISTALNACHT."


Unless I did this wrong, I have no idea what this person is talking about:

Kristalnacht was the night of the 9th of November, 1938.
Yesterday was the 4th of November, 2008.

That's not the same date on the secular calendar.

Kristalnacht was 16th of Cheshvan, 5699 = 1938 (starting at night)
Yesterday was the 6th of Cheshvan, 5769 = 2008

That's not the same date on the Hebrew calendar.

Kristalnacht was a Wednesday night.
Yesterday was Tuesday.

I thought maybe the same day of the week? Nope.

Am I missing something here?

References: Wikipedia, HebCal
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

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Sheitels: Holy or Evil?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Recently some quotes from HaRav Ovadia Yosef have been published denouncing the wearing of sheitels (wigs for Jewish women as hair covering). "He called “today’s” sheitels “erva”, stating they are absolutely forbidden." (Dreaming)

Yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically instructed his chassidim ONLY to wear sheitels, such that the women should never walk out the door of their homes in a hair covering of a snood, kerchief, tichel, hat or turban. Further, they should not wear a half-sheitel (a fall or band that has a decorative bandanna over the front of the head), only a full sheitel, as a full sheitel ensures 100% of the hair is covered.

So which is it? Is the sheitel a form of nakeness that is absolutely forbidden, or is a tichel/snood/kerchief/hat/turban inappropriate and a sheitel the best form of hair covering?

Years ago I had a havrusa (a Torah learning partner) who was a Lubavitcher chossid of sephardi background. He used to run to hear the halacha shiurim of HaRav Yosef, and this same issue was raised back then. So I asked him, having the words of these two tzaddikim in direct conflict with each other, which is it?

He said, Rav Yosef is speaking and teaching to _his_ community. There is no tradition of sheitels in the sephardi community, and for them to begin to adopt practices of the ashkenazi community is inappropriate for their lifestyle and customs. For them, their sensibilities and community standards, a sheitel - per their rav - is inappropriate.

For Chabad as well as modern day orthodox women, the Rebbe determined and ruled that a sheitel is a preferred head covering, doing a better practical job than the alternatives while providing an appropriate modest yet respectful look for a holy Jewish woman.

Certainly their are sheitels today (and there were yesterday as well) that create a look that is inappropriate for a holy Jewish woman. Similarly, there are many other forms of head covering that allow significant slippage, hair to poke out in all directions, or make a woman look downright unpleasant - which is absolutely NOT the intention of halacha.

Some chassidim solve this problem by having their women shave their heads. That's a pretty extreme position that the klal (the general Jewish religious public) is not going to accept. Further, it takes significant cultural infusion to consider this not unpleasant within the marital relationship.

In the final analysis, these are often COMMUNAL rulings, focused upon matching halacha to ones community standards, local challenges, and cultural history. For example, neither the Mishnah, nor Gemora, nor Tur, Shulchan Aruch, or Mishneh Brurah define required STYLES of clothing for modesty or head coverings. Rather, we rely on the rabbis of the community and of the generation to define this appropriately for current modes of dress, climate, styles, etc.

HaRav Yosef is ruling for HIS community, not for the Klal. It is his place to do so. Similarly, the Rebbe set the standards for his community as well as selecting one that would work for the mitzvah of kisoy rosh (covering the head/hair) for Chabad to teach in Chabad houses worldwide.

Which is correct? Both are.

Update: Josh at ParshaBlog adds a halachic review of BOTH positions going back over 50 years.

Illustrative graphic from Sheitals.Com
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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Chatting the Election - Live Chat

We're chatting about the US election. Here's our live chat room and election monitoring widget below.


The LIVE CHAT is now closed. I'd like to thank those who joined the chat, you gave us some interesting thoughts and some nice blog feedback. We may try a live chat again.

For those living in a cave who didn't already hear the news:

OBAMA: 58,581,942 (President elect)
MCCAIN: 52,925,833

DEMS +12 HOUSE...
DEMS +5 SENATE...

Congratulations to the US Mainstream Media for running a great campaign. (Whether your vote and candidate was Obama or not, the Media job was a shanda.)
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Monday, November 03, 2008

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Watches of the Geulah Strike 12:00 !

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We have previously written about the Watches of the Geulah here, and they've been shown on Israeli TV as well as in Mishpacha magazine. In brief, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita (may he have a complete and speedy recovery!) received 2 watches (a silver and a gold pocket watch) from the Baba Sali, zt"l after his passing (where the Baba Sali, zt"l instructed his son the Baba Baruch, shlita, to pass them to HaRav Eliyahu, shlita in a series of dreams) that show how close we are to the geulah. These "non-functional" (they don't keep time) watches move every now and then a little closer to 12:00.

Years ago when the watches arrived, they were at 11:30. We reported in 2005 that the watches were at 11:45. Later that year, one of the watches was reported to move to 11:57.


R. Nati (a Mystical Paths co-blogger who has been offline for a while) stopped with a small group to hear words of Torah on the street in Meah Shearim TODAY. The speaker was HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu, shlita, chief rabbi of Tzfat (Safed) and son of HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita, who has been in the hospital for some time. Rav Shmuel stated that his father had instructed him to keep an eye on the Watches of the Geulah (while he's been hospitalized). (While the silver watch had moved to 12:00 some time ago, the gold watch had stopped as 11:58.) Rav Shmuel told this small group that his attention had been drawn to the watches as the gold one was vibrating (or buzzing). He opened the (gold) watch and found it had just struck 12:00 ! ! !

In his words from August 2005, printed in an interview in Mishpacha magazine "One day, the Baba Sali's son came to my father and presented him with a watch. He explained that his holy father had come to him in a dream and told him that he should look in a certain drawer in a certain desk, where he would find this watch. He was to give it to my father and tell him that when the watch reached twelve o'clock, then Mashiach would come. At that time, the watch hands showed twenty minutes to eleven. Since then, my father keeps a very close eye on the watch, and found that sometimes it goes and other times it just stops.

May this be a simon bracha (a sign of blessing), the ultimate simon bracha that indeed Moshiach is coming NOW!!!

Amein amein v'amein!

[ RUMOR WARNING - WE DID NOT RECORD THE WORDS OF THE RAV NOR CONFIRM WHAT HE SAID OR THAT HE WAS SPECIFICALLY TALKING ABOUT WHAT WE THINK HE WAS TALKING ABOUT. IT IS POSSIBLE WE MISUNDERSTOOD, MIXED UP DETAILS AS THIS WAS TRANSMITTED FROM THE LISTENER TO THIS ARTICLE AUTHOR, OR MADE MISTAKES AS THIS WAS WRITTEN BY THE ARTICLE AUTHOR. HARAV SHMUEL, SHLITA --IS NOT-- GOING AROUND ANNOUNCING THE GEULAH OR THAT MOSHIACH IS HERE (that we know of). ]

Credit: Photo is a screenshot from the 2005 Israeli TV (Mabat) interview, posted at Point of Pinchas in 2005.
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Holocaust Education Week

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Holocaust Education Week is November 2-9 this year.

Early Friday morning at the Kotel I was talking to an older man who lives here a few months of the year. He is a Survivor. He was one of 137 young boys who were snatched from the ghetto and sent to the death camp. He said that only five of them survived.

I told him that someone sent me some horrible photographs of the Camps. "I don't need any pictures." he said, "I got them in my head." He pointed to the side of his head.

I said, "There are many today who deny that it even happened."

"If anyone tells me that it didn't happen, I'll kick the sh-t out of him!" he said.

He gave me a book that he sponsored. It is the story of his village, how they were murdered by the Nazis. I made the mistake of looking at it on Shabbos afternoon. There is a picture of a young Jewish boy sitting there waiting for death to come. I cried. I still can't get his face out of my mind. The pictures of the bulldozer shoveling hundreds of skeletons with thin skin clinging to them were so shocking that they stunned the mind. Empty eyes staring into darkness. But the boy was still alive, just sitting there waiting, waiting for the end of his young, innocent life. Oh! The heart cries out, "G-d! Why? Why?

This week is Holocaust Memorial week. If we forget the past we are likely to repeat it, and evil will win again.
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

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Mistransigulations

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Some photos shared by a friend of some most, umm, interesting English translations on signs in Israel. These signs are from the Mehadrin Beach on Lake Kinneret in Teveria (Tiberious) near the kever of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, zt"l...

You definitely don't want to light up here...


Israel Signs
(Proper Translation: No Smoking, Violators will be Fined)

Umm, say what?


Israel Signs
(Proper Translation: Swimming is Forbidden)

A little tense problem, my dear?


Israel Signs
(Proper Translation: Keep the Beach Clean)

Still tense.

Israel Signs
(Proper Transation: The Lifeguard Station is Closed)

Like, ooooookkkkkkk.


Israel Signs
(Proper Translation: Parents, Supervise Your Children)

And, the best of the bunch - no friggin clue (words or icon)...


Israel Signs
(Proper Translation: Warning, Deep Drop Off Close To Shore)
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