Friday, February 27, 2009

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Scary Concepts

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The first time I ran into kabbalah was in my early twenties. An enthusiastic friend said he had a rav (rabbi) giving a private shiur (lesson) late that evening, and would I like to join him? I said sure, always interested in learning a new bit of Torah. Oh, by the way, it's a kabbalah lesson. Cool I thought.

We arrived, it was maybe 10:00 at night. The rav was a middle aged man sitting hunched over a sefer on the dining room table. He had a small desk lamp next to the sefer providing focused light - all the other lights in the room were off. That was the setting for my first kabbalah lesson - gloomy room, hunched over rav, single focused light, late at night.

The lesson he started teaching discussed a particular avera (sin - violation of a negative commandment), the damage it causes to one's soul and the negative forces released into the world by the misappropriated G-dly energy. Negative forces, aka angels of destruction.

...He went on at some length, describing how those now released negative forces injure others and bring bad events onto communities.


Judaism is not a fire and brimstone religion. Yes, we are commanded to love and FEAR Hashem, but since the time of the Baal Shem Tov the path of fear as a primary motivator (as opposed to love) has been in severe decline. And since the Holocaust, having met angles of destruction in human form, spiritual angels of destruction may not be the motivator they once where.

In the whole sefer Tanya, the Alter Rebbe speaks of spiritual punishments only in a few sentences. Similarly, in Likutei Mohoran from Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, the rebbe speaks of corrections for sins - not (much) about punishments for them.

Yet the works of kabbalah do. They speak of damage to the soul, punishments in this world and beyond this world. They speak of negative forces. It's often not a pretty picture.

We're not used to that kind of talk anymore. When we heard "the rabbis" give community injunction about simple matters such as talking in synagogue, we scoff. When they give a stronger injunction such as inappropriate dress, we're insulted. When they add in just a hint of the words of kabbalah - "such actions bring negative events upon the community", we gag. Yet they are often being deadly serious - not just an injunction to improve community behavior but to avoid literally releasing negative spiritual forces into and upon the community.

We'll come back to this topic. R. Nati and I are discussing how to give a few glimpses from the bits we know. But, it's the month of Adar, and when Adar arrives we increase in joy. Now is the time to speak of happy things, and pray that our enemies evil plans should be turned around upon their own heads.

(Photo: Hunter's Moon from NightSkyInfo.Com)
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

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A Bit of Purim Halacha in Israel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

My daughter asked an interesting sha'alah (religious question)...

I want to give mishloach manot (the gifts of Purim, a religious obligation to give on Purim day) to a friend in Jerusalem. We don't live in Jerusalem and celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar - but Jerusalem celebrates on the 15th of Adar. Do I fulfill my obligation by giving her on the 14th?

This is a halachic (Jewish religious law question) which can only arise nowadays in Israel. The halacha of Purim is that walled cities - cities that were walled at the time of Yohoshua bin Nun (Joshua) - celebrate a day later than unwalled cities. Unwalled celebrate on the 14th, and walled on the 15th, Jerusalem on the 15th, most other cities in Israel on the 14th (there's a few other places that celebrate on the 15th as well).

Nowadays, you can live in Mevetzeret Tziyon and be 10 minutes from friends in Jerusalem (by car), so it's a practical question.

I asked this sha'alah of the halacha rav at Rabbi Nati's yeshiva. His answer was:

A person who lives outside of Jerusalem cannot fulfill their obligations of Mishloach Manot by giving to someone in Jerusalem on Purm - the 14th of Adar. (And of course, if they gave on the 15th of Adar - Shushan Purim when it is celebrated in Jerusalem, the time of fulfilling the obligation has passed for them.)
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Talking Kabbalah

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

When we talk about kabbalah directly, or highly spiritual events, people get uncomfortable. We start to get comments and emails where people directly question aspects of Judaism because of kabbalistic exposure. There is a good reason kabbalah has traditionally not been learned until the student is 40, and well grounded in traditional Jewish topics (Torah, Mishnah, Halacha, etc.)

The mysticism we've traditionally discussed has been kabbalistic concepts as presented through chassidus. Chassidus does an excellent job in both making kabbalistic concepts more easily graspable, and fitting them better into a systemic spiritual context expanding Jewish belief to greater depths. But some concepts and ideas aren't there, and some warrant direct discussion.

But then we come back to point 1. We try to be very careful and sensitive - but it's kabbalah. Sometimes it's neither.

However, on the other side, there are plenty of people spewing a variety of stuff being labeled kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Often it's neither, and if it has some truth it's truth mixed with many foreign concepts - treif.

What do you think? Should we be posting the occasional straight-up kabbalah article, or avoiding it?
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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Uncomfortable Beliefs

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Judaism has some core beliefs. (I guess this is true of every major religion.) You can't avoid them and you can't ignore them, they're a part of what makes Judaism Judaism.

Example: G-d is one. Judaism does not allow for multiple divine powers or competing gods, nor G-d divided into some sort of multiple limited entities. G-d is one.

Similarly, just as the Jewish people are designated a holy nation, the land of Israel is designated a holy land, and a permanent relationship between the two was created. (Hence all Jews pray facing Jerusalem, and pray for rain during the Israeli rainy season.)

Sometimes some of these beliefs make people uncomfortable. That's ok, often ways of Judaism have found ways to mess with modernity or 'progress'. Other times, a choice is faced, Judaism or not. Around the world this can be tricky , but within Israel it is sometimes striking when someone - literally while standing on the ruins of Judaism past - would deny the very ground they are standing upon...

(Speaking about a newly elected member of the Israeli Knesset, Haaretz Newspaper says...) Ben-Ari, with his racist, Kahanist and pro-transfer ideology, will stain any government and damage Israel's reputation around the world. The message that will be conveyed by including the National Union is that transfer has received a seal of approval in Israel. Kahane was not right, definitely not, but he has won. There is no other way to look at it.

Ben-Ari, the representative of Baruch Marzel and Rabbi Dov Wolpe, members of the Eretz Israel Shelanu (Our Land of Israel) faction in the National Union, already expressed himself on Arutz Sheva radio shortly before the elections that, "if breaking a law means opposing the expulsion of Jews, I'm a lawbreaker."

Together with his designated assistant, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has had 46 indictments served against him and was in fact acquitted in most of the cases, they are a pair of extreme right provocateurs who do not belong in the government. Anyone who espouses transfer of the Arabs, the construction of the Temple and redemption must not be a member of the government here, not even a junior member.


Got that, ANYONE who hopes for the geulah must not be a member of the government, per the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. I shouldn't be at this point, but I'm just stunned.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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Everyone Can Help With Tefillin

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

There have been a lot of Africans visiting the Kotel lately. We are used to seeing many different types of visitors come, but the Africans stand out much more than the rest. They come in large groups and can be rather, well … enthusiastic, to put it mildly.

It is not so uncommon to be davening Mincha (afternoon prayers) and to be in the middle of the silent prayers when it is so important to concentrate on those important concepts, when all of a sudden you hear some very unusual singing. Well, it is not really singing. It is more like chanting. No, it is not really chanting either. It is something like African Grunge, beboping, rapping with deep gospel “booms” and “huums” and “oooodidoesuhhhs”. You look up (remember now, this is in the middle of your silent prayers) and you see some 30 black Africans mumbling, swaying, jumping a little from foot to foot, and smiling wide while intensely hugging the Kotel.

The ones from Kenya are the most vibrant. Besides their “music,” most of them are dressed in matching, oversize, brightly-colored pajamas. They look like camouflage sleepwear designed by Peter Max in the 1960’s while he was tripping on mushrooms. They are friendly people and seem to be good hearted, but one or two of them might be wearing a picture painted on his white dress of what he thinks yashke looked like, hanging there sad, suffering, and begging for your mercy. Yuck! Right in the middle of davening, too! A few are wearing scarves around their necks that say “god bless you,” and one is wearing a long white gown with a dozen crosses painted on it!

After Mincha two men from Nigeria, who were not so colorfully dressed, came over to the tefillin stand. They wanted to know what the “black boxes” are.

I told them that tefillin come from a Biblical commandment given to the Jewish men. “G-d told us to bind His words upon our arm and to place them upon our head. These words are written in the boxes. Binding his words to our arms means that we should do what G-d told us to do … on our heads, means to think about what G-d told us to think about.”

One of them asked, “Can a non-Jew do this?”

I told him that that only Jewish men can actually put them on, but that he could share in the mitzvah by encouraging Jews to put them on.

“I will do that,” he said.

I asked if there were any Jewish men in Nigeria.

He said that there were not.

“That can’t be,” I said. “There are Jews everywhere. You look around and you will find one. And if you tell him to put on tefillin he will listen to you. It will be such a surprise that an African in the middle of Africa tells him to do it that he will take your words to heart.”

Again he said, “I will do that.”

The other man, whose name is Elisha, immediately turned to the Jew standing on his right. Now this Jew was a bearded man with a long black coat. Elisha looked at him and told him, “You should put on tefillin.”

The man told him that he had already put them on today. Elisha immediately turned to the man standing on his other side. He too had a beard and was dressed in black. Elisha told him, “You should put on tefillin.”

Elisha is a smart man. A non-Jew can get wonderful “credit” in Heaven by encouraging Jews to do mitzvahs, and he will be bringing a tremendous blessing to himself in this world, too.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

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Baruch Dayan Emet

Blessed is the True Judge. Mystical Paths notes the passing of HaRav Avraham Chaim Kahanaman, the head of the Ponovitz Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, at the age of 96 this evening.

He took over as head of the Ponovits Yeshiva in 1969, after the founder and his father, HaRav Yosef Kahanaman, zt"l.

We had the privilege to know Rav Kahanaman, and were impressed with his incredible simplicity and personal frugalness in his complete focus on Torah.

While many have been declared gedolay Torah and Rosh Yeshiva's at Ponovits, the Kahanaman family are the ones who, from the time of HaRav Yosef, have been completely dedicated to building and growing the yeshiva, and keeping the lights on. Funding and operating such an organization (the 3rd largest yeshiva in the world) is no simple matter, nor one often appreciated.

May his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren be comforted among the mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim.

Funeral arrangements are pending, but will surely be on Tuesday.
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Meltdown

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Is it over yet? Is the recession done yet? Has the stimulus stimulated yet?

As the NY Times writes "As the country takes a bullet train to bankruptcy, the last Democratic president urged the current one to “embody” that old American spunk", US President Obama has promised to cut the US deficit in half by 2013 while simultaneously borrowing the US economy out of recession.

Simultaneously the banks, into which has been invested $750 billion dollars, are currently worth less than the value of their paper deposit slips.

In world politics, the US applauded the democratic process in Venezuela for voting on a constitutional change allowing a dictator, and applauded China for buying US treasury bonds while continuing to ship products made by slave labor to the US. In England, with more police surveillance cameras per mile than any country in the world, the police run from Muslims protesting Jews not allowing themselves to be killed and promote "suicide bomber understanding" courses in public schools. Germany has come up with an engineering plan to save the world (starting with Europe) by regulating every investment - with a democratic government clerk being required to approve each and every investment a person may make, thereby giving them a feeling of safety in the freely controlled investment of their money.

Meanwhile at the UN, with millions being killed in Sudan, Jews being slaughter in Yemen, the complete meltdown of the nation of Zimbabwe (where a loaf of bread can be had for only ZD$ 10,000,000,000) along with a cholera epidemic (sewage in your drinking water anyone?), the main trouble of the world to be discussed in Durban is the horrible Israeli treatment of Arabs (who just won 11 seats in the Knesset). Not to be outdone, the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) which has declared multiple times over the last 5 years that Iran has no nuclear materials, no military intentions (while it's leader specifically announces planned genocide), and is completely clean and not the least bit radioactive, put a little P.S. at the end of their report noting enough enriched plutonium found for at least 1 nuclear warhead. However, the fact they just used an ICBM (that's an intercontinental ballistic missile) to put a satellite in orbit shouldn't actually worry anyone.

However, the IMPORTANT news is it's Oscar night in the US, and Michelle Obama has been spotted in a new outfit! For those with a job, the president has arranged a massive tax cut of $13 per month for you (unless you make more than $100,000, in which case you get to pay $130 per month). This way you'll be able to run right out and by the new small cars from GM that the government will be mandating they manufacture - because they KNOW you want one.

You who have a job and, gasp, the nerve to actually be making money (such as Walmart, McDonalds, bankruptcy attorneys, tailors and cobblers) better start thanking Hashem for it, because the tide has turned. If you're not willing to turn your business over to the US government (or take government money if THEY say you must), then you're obviously an unpatriotic ape. (Don't dare draw a cartoon of that, or it will be interpreted to be an insult to the president's ethnicity.)

Those over 50 may remember the following terms. Those under 50 would be wise to Google them...

Stagflation
Misery Index
Price Controls
Industry Controls
Quantitative Easing

The good news is faith in wallets and little green pieces of paper (or blue, or orange, or purple, depending on your country) is quickly fading. Faith in HaKodesh Baruch Hu and Torah still hasn't gone out of style and awaits the return of her children. While unfortunately the terms above are coming into style, the terms below should remain a focus...

Hashem
Moshiach
Geulah

...and remember, by government instruction, have a nice day!
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

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A Snowstorm and The Heavenly Beis Din

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Last year motzie Shabbos parshat Mishpatim (Saturday night) there was a serious snowstorm here in Israel. I was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night to a very dark coldness. It was snowing and the electricity was out, but it wasn't that kind of darkness or that kind of cold. I normally go to bed early and it is not uncommon for me to awaken in the wee hours, and I generally use this time to pray and to speak with Hashem.

This night was different. I woke and washed my hands and felt there was a presence in my room. Straight away I heard, "It's time!" What? "It's time prepare yourself!" What? "I have come to take you, it's time!"

The voice was very real and I began to tremble.

Everyone was asleep except for myself and our little dog, who was sitting next to my bed nervously looking in the direction of the darkness in the corner of the room. The voice said again, "Prepare yourself, go and kiss your children and ask them to forgive you, it's time." So I got up, dressed and let the dog out, came back up stairs and started to cry and shake as the reality of this hit me.

On Shabbos I lost my temper. It was bad, really bad, though I can't even remember why now. But I remember it was a real blow out.

I walked to my son's room, the first I came to. There I cried and asked them to forgive me. I cried and hugged them, they stirred but didn't wake. Next into the little ones room, my babies. The same, I cried and thought of how I'd been a bad father, an angry, yelling, raving fool. I almost collapsed on the floor - I was by now really shaking. I kissed them both. Now I went into my eldest's room - she was now a beautiful young woman, I probably caused her the most pain. My tears dripped on her she rolled over I begged her to forgive me. I kissed her on the cheek and turned and went out. Now my room, I stood in the darkness and shuddered when when I saw him in the corner waiting for me to finish. I stepped up next to my wife's bed and fell apart I cried and cried and pleaded for her most of all to forgive me, how much she has had to endure, oy!

I returned to my bed and was told to "Say the Shema (the primary prayer of Jewish faith) let's go!"

"No, just wait a minute, I do not want to go. I have children that need me. My poor wife, what is she going to do?" I began to argue for my life! I was pressed to say shema. I argued "What? I have no good at all? There is no chance for me to repair what I damaged?"

"No! Say shema!" I was really crying now, my whole body shook! I knew I was going to leave this world any second now, I could feel it. "But wait, I have no schut (merit) at all? I did not do teshuvah? Didn't give up everything I was doing in my life to become Torah observant? I left the life I had and gave up all to serve Hashem! I moved to Israel to be close to Hashem! Have not earned any merit at all? Like Avraham avinu I left my homeland to come here to serve Hashem. My only thought was to serve G-d. Ok, I have no merit. What about our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Dovid the Baal Shem Tov...ah Rebbe Nachman! Rebbe, you said if I came to your grave and gave tzedakah (charity) and said the Tikun (tikun klali) that you would traverse heaven and earth and even come to gehenom to help me. You promised!"

I noticed the clock glowing in the darkness, 2:44 AM (battery backup). I heard a voice as I saw the clock "He is the talmid of Rav Shalom Arush ben Yamnah from Jerusalem."

I pleaded for one more Shabbos so I could really keep it, and if one more Shabbos then maybe one Purim so I could have a real Purim in Jerusalem with my Rav. And if Purim then please, please let me have Pesach (Passover), and I want to count the Omer and make it through all the way without messing it up. Please give me Shavuos with the yeshiva, and give me one more Rosh Hashanna in Uman with the Rebbe! Please please let me sit in my Rav's Sukkah. Please give me Sholesh Regolim (the 3 pilgrim festivals) in Jerusalem.

By now, it had hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sobbing and soaked from crying. My whole body hurt from crying! I was yelling and pleading yet no one woke up - only me in the darkness and my little dog sitting looking at me like 'what's this guy's problem?' but with understanding eyes like what's wrong? She didn't budge the whole time, just sat there and looked at me and glanced for time to time at the darkness in the corner.

4:18 AM. By this time I was exhausted and decided to just trust in Hashem - if it's my time then what shall be will be.

"Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem Echodddddddd......"

When I woke up in the morning I was very surprised to find myself in my room. Everyone was still asleep, no one was going any where because of the snow.

I arose, washed my hands. It was 7 AM. I prayed, I mean prayed and thanked Hashem that I was still here. I looked out the windows it was still snowing, not like last night when there was lighting and thunder and the wind howling. Now peaceful heavy snow falling. The sun broke through here and there, it was wonderful.

A cup of coffee, yum it tasted great. Everything
was new, I mean good!

I even kissed the dog and hugged her, she was the only one to witness all this. She look relieved to see me. I never liked having the dog in the house, there's real issues of spiritual purity with pets, but living in the West Bank and on the edge of the village, she was our alarm if Hashem forbid Arabs came up the hill, she would give me the time I needed to prepare to defend my family, so I gave in to her living with us. But now I felt a special bond as we had this shared experience.

When the family got up it was wow, lets play in the snow! My wife was still angry over my explosion so I left to a friend up on the hill to see the snow. The day passed and the next, there are no snow plows in Israel (where it snows maybe once in 5 years). We stayed home for two days waiting for the weather to turn and the roads to clear.

Tuesday morning I drove the children to school in Jerusalem, and myself to yeshiva. On the way we were almost killed as a Arab semi-trailer fuel truck lost control right in front of us going into a curve. In a story I shared previously here on Mystical Paths, we watched the truck spin out, hit several other vehicles in front of us, literally fly over us with 2 or 3 inches to spare and hit more cars behind us.

It was like a movie slow motion effect, stuck in the middle of this high speed disaster, my son yelled "look out!" as a tire from one of the vehicles hit flew just skimming over our heads missing the roof of the car right in front of my head and the tail end of the truck just missed the door 3 inches from my face... but this was a side story...

As I entered the yeshiva, timidly after all these events, I walked to the downstairs beis medrash to daven passing by the Rav's office - the door was open. The way the office is set up you can't see the Rav at his desk, it's out of sight. As I passed I heard "Nathanael". I literally back stepped to the door and stuck my head in the door and said "yes Rav, you called me?" "Come in and shut the door."

He asked me, "Do you understand what happened to you on Motzei Shabbos?" I dropped my Tallis and Tephilin bag and started to shake with my mouth hanging open. (I'm shaking now as I write this and crying with the memory). I said "Rav, I need to teshuvah" He said to sit down, so I sat. He said that he had been awakened at 2:44 AM on Motzei Shabbos and called to a Beit Din. He said it took a little while for him to realize for whom, but that he had worked to get my sentence commuted. He then told me that he has been praying for me and that my din meis, my death sentence, he and Rebbaynu (Rebbe Nachman of Breslev) had gotten it reduced to life. They reduced my sentence to lifetime community service. That meant I now had to clean up the mess I made.

This is when I said "Yesh ma la'asot", there is something to do! I'm trying. I now try to see only the good and judge all on the side of schut (merit). The Gemora tells us of a story (Rosh Hashanna, 17a), Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua became ill, Rav Pappa went to see him and to inquire about him, He saw that he was on the brink of death and said to the people there "supply him with provisions for his journey", ie. bring him shrouds. Later he recovered and there is a discussion about what Rav Pappa saw. "The Holy One Blessed is He said to the heavenly court since 'since he does not stand on his principal, he is tolerant of others who wronged him, do not take a strict stand against him". He who pardons transgression and overlooks sin, who's transgression does He pardon? "One who overlooks sins committed against himself."

It has been a year now since this took place, I'm not feeling so well. But I'm looking at everything much differently than last year. I fell asleep here and there this year and wasted some time but I did not fall back into my coma. I'm trying, and I have not forgotten that time is short, maybe very short. But what matters most is what we do with it! Together we can help the whole world become a better place. Think positively, do not judge others actions or deeds - they are not our business. Only what we do to others is of our concern. Look and find the good in yourself and in others, and in each and every thing of every day. Thank Hashem for everything, for even the seemingly bad is full of good.
Our job is to find it, expose it and raise up the good out of the seemingly bad of this life. Then you'll start to live! Each of us can be an example of truth and goodness to someone else. Stop being selfish with your time for it's not yours anyway. Stop stealing from our Father in Heaven!,
as every thing is His.

And by our not thanking Him for all, we are stealing from His goodness so there is less for others. Please, please dear brothers and sisters stop right now and think. None of us knows whether we have another minute let alone and hour or day. So stop in your tracks right now! Make a firm commitment to change a little each day. Just a little more good can bring the redemption! Who knows if the next positive thought you have may be the one. We do not know, I may not be here to see it, but you might! So help yourself and help another, pray for yourself and pray for others!

And if you would, pray for me!

- Nathanael Levi Ben Chana Sharah for Refuah Shelaymah (a complete recovery) -

Shalom Reb Nati
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Friday, February 20, 2009

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Parshas Mishpatim ''The Catch 22''


by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Shemot 21-22

"And these are the Ordinances That you shall place before them"


These laws were given close to the giving of the ten commandments and the laws of the altar to give us insight into Judaism, it is not just a religion it applies to all areas of life and to be holy one must conduct himself from within the frame work of Halachah no less in our business dealing than in the areas of purity or matters of ritual.
This the civil law, the Tort, these were to set up zedek justice, equality, fairness. these are the laws regarding the Jewish bondsman, the sale of a daughter, murder and manslaughter, killing of a slave, penalty for bodily injury, negligent death, whether by your animal or a pit laws of property damage, and responsibility of a borrower, seduction, sensitivity to the helpless and abandoned, theft of livestock, self-defense, payment for theft or damages by livestock and the laws of custodians,... and now to the point which I wanted to get to, The commandment to extend free loans.

Why?
Perek 22 Pasuk v24; ... אם כסף תלוה את עמי "When you lend money to my people, to the poor person who is with you, לא תהיה לו כנשה, do not act toward him as a creditor, do not lay interest on him." I want to explore the likutey Halachot that Reb Nosson connected to the this parsha. it is found in Choshen Mispat chalaha haloah Hashem [otiot; א, (A) ב (B) l'phei ozter Hayirah mamon and parnusha פה, #85]. on the verse, אם כסף תלוה את עמי- 'there are days of good and days of bad these are the aspect of; "ביום טובה היה בטוב וביום רעה ראה" On the good days go with the good and on the bad days look. Ok it is pashut, on the good days, but what this, on the bad days... look? what does it mean to Look?
Thus one has to, see and to look very deeply and very well to find the good inside the bad days, thus a person will find the good even inside the bad days. Why? "because the whole world is full of his glory", כי מלא כל הארץ כבודו, Even in the the tongues or the languages of the nations. Because enclosed and cloaked in them are the letters of the Torah. And they are the aspect of 'Good days' It is only because they are so cloaked, covered with the bad days or they are so many more of them, and it makes it hard to find them or to see them. For nothing even the evil can exist for it is sustained only by the good that is cloaked inside of it.

However, the one who merits, he who has so destroyed his Yeitzer HaRah, or one who has attached himself completely to a Tzaddik who has completely subdued His Yeitzer HaRah. which by the way is the easier of the two, then that person can and will be able to find all of the letters of the Torah that have been cloaked in the languages of the nations. ie.'the bad days'. From this aspect of 'that person is able to find and extract all the good in these bad days', and if a person can do this, 'to mamash' to find the good from amidst the bad days he will never have a problem with or be lacking in parnusha. why? Because he by his being attached to the Tzaddik or by subduing his Yeitzer HaRah, has brought down for himself Bracha and Shefa Tovah.

And he is about to receive spiritual bounty dafka though the letters of Torah which he was able to discover and uncover though his finding of the good in the bad. Because the letters of Torah are the building blocks of everything. And as such the Torah is source of all Bracha and all Shefa! That means when a person is able to attach himself to the letters of Torah,
when he has found the good in the worst he therefore has attached himself to the source of all blessing and bounty!

Now when a person has not merited to this because the bad days have become so strong or numerous that they completely hide and cover over the good days he cannot find any letters of the Torah, which are really hidden in all of his day to day actions, and his business dealings. And now the Bracha and shefa can only come down, through a Tzimtzum gadol, a very very great and powerful constrictions and difficulties, thus this person will be forced to take loans to live. Because when he is not seeing the good in even the worst of days, and only seeing bad he then is 'not' connecting to the source, ie. 'the Otiot ha Torah' for they are source of all Blessing and Shefa.

For the whole idea of taking loans is from the concept or aspect of that there are 'good and bad days'!
He says to himself "I'll barrow on the bad days 'today', and hope to pay it back when the good days come." the whole reason a majority of people take loans is because they have a lack or Hashem forbid no parnusha. 'Ain Lo Attah' he dos not have right now but he hopes to have in the future. So instead of praying and T'shuvah where he would reconnect with the Torah, he instead wants to short cut Hashem and barrow his way out of this situation. He just puts himself in a worse situation, then by complaining, and focusing on the negative, its a catch 22, because by focusing on and speaking about the negative we increase the covering and we distance and detach ourselves further from the Bracha and Shefa. its a vicious cycle because if he does not see the good on these days he brings more bad on himself Hashem forbid! He must stop and find the good before its covered to deeply. that why we should all live by the klal "Ain shum y'ush b'olam klal" there is no such thing as despair in the world at all!!!

But instead we live by this klal 'the lie'... how is it usually said? This is the "normal" way we all say it "I'm going through rough times".
Because he feels he is having bad days he goes to his friend and barrows for now and hopes that his friend will wait til the good days return. the only reason a person barrows is that he feels he is in a period or having bad days thus he cuts himself off from the blessing and shefa. Once a person comes into the situation where he takes loans it's very hard for him to come out from this. and the majority of people can not pay them back on time. It is like the Rabbis o.b.m. teach that "the giver of the loan says to himself "ha la vie, I hope he'll pay me back on time" the gemorra asks ha la vie? why doesn't he say v'die, surely! he should pay me back on time" But because the giver knows that after he the borrower does not have Emunah sh'leima, and he cannot see, 'that even in the bad days there is really good', he asks himself how will he ever reach the good days? How if he never sees the good, how will he ever have the money to pay me back the loan?

Because the truth is! good days and bad days are in every single day! to the extent that a person is able to overcome the Yeitzer Harah and strengthen the good over the bad.

It is only by a person overcoming his Yeitzer Harah and or by attaching to the Tzaddik, that he can see! "That the whole world is full of his glory" and that the whole world is full of good! by this he will be able to look very well. This is the only way for him to bring about the good days. once a person can do this and focus on the good, When he has come to do this he will certainly be able receive his parnusha each and everyday and we will never have to come into debt or to take loans.

But the person who, was forced to fall into debt and take loans, because he has damaged his Emunah, and it is only because he could not find or see the good in the bad days, because it also works in the reverse Hashem forbid, that if person chooses to see only the bad he will bring on more and more bad days. And it will become very very difficult to come out of the debt/loan cycle. The reason is because he can now only focus on the bad so that the bad gets stronger and stronger everyday.
The truth is, it is because a person is not making the effort to find the good in the bad days. as explained above, 'to see that" the whole world is full of his glory"!!!

Therefore in truth a person has to be very very careful not to fall into debt, specificality a person who has already sinned and he has caused damage and has not overpowered his Yeitzer Harah and has let the the evil overpower the good, and now! This person he wants to return to Hashem in T'shuvah. And what is the main part of T'shuvah? It is precisely in finding the good that is concealed in the bad. He has to believe in himself, and that there is for sure a measure of good left inside himself. And that there is still hope for him to return to Hashem. Like it says, "you requested, 'from there', Hashem your G-d, 'mi sham dika' from there! what does it mean from there? from all the places where you were pushed amongst the Goyim, not just where he lived, but where one has fallen, and from and mainly from the mindset of the Goyim! which comes about through sin that damages the Emunah.

Therefore someone who wants to be a Baal T'shuvah he needs to be very very careful not to fall into debt because when he falls into debt he cannot possibly see the good! It becomes very hard, but it is possible if he will work hard. "l'veh rasha... any time the rasha is doing evil, 'he is escorting the evil' ie."me-'laveh' hamalka" to escort the queen, the"lo'veh to lend so "lo'veh rasha" can also mean 'he barrows evil' The main source of evil comes from your allowing the aspect of the bad days to overpower the aspect good days. this is how we come to this level of debt and of borrowing. Therefore the pasuk warns if you loan a person money do not run after him! If the poor person cannot pay we have to have Rachim and chessed on him to take him out of being a baal choev.

In short we have to help him see the good!


May it be that the K'dosh one bless us, that we see and can focus on the good, and attach ourselves to the 'otiot ha torah', the source of all blessing and bounty and to be able see the letters of Torah in every thing, and all the chessed that Hashem does for us each and everyday, even in these the darkest of days in this world for if we can see the light in the darkness, for the light sustains the darkness there is no darkness with out light may it be that we can enable the overpowering of the the bad, so we can attach ourselves to the light and to the source of all speedily in the these days at our time Amen!

Gut Shabbos Reb Nati

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

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Why Here?

by Reb Gutman Locs at Mystical Paths

The Kotel is not the holiest place in the world. The Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) is. The Temple Mount is on the other side of the Kotel, to the east of it. The lower rows of the Kotel stones are a remnant of the western retaining wall of Herod’s Temple. Herod completely reconstructed the Second Temple around 2,000 years ago. It was destroyed eighty years later. The Second Temple was originally built by Jews who returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon centuries before Herod’s time. The First Temple was built by King Sholomo on this mount and this is the very place where the Third and final Temple will stand, may it be today.

The first question has to be, since G-d is everywhere, why come here to pray? Not only do we come to the Kotel to pray, but wherever we are in the world, we face here when we pray. G-d is equally everywhere. So why direct our prayers to G-d only at this place?

Yes, G-d is equally everywhere, but it is here that He allows His Presence to be more easily found. Avraham called this place, “The mount where Hashem will reveal Himself.”[i] Why does G-d do this? He is directing us to His Torah, His Service and His Mitzvoth. The Temple represents our prayers, our spiritual avodah (service). We are all searching, searching for those essential blessing in our lives, and G-d is telling us that when we follow His ways we will be blessed.

So why then are we praying at the Kotel? Let us go up to the Temple Mount where it is most holy. There are two reasons generally given as to why we do not go there, just yet. As with all Torah subjects there are various opinions about this, too. Whereas the vast majority of Torah authorities alive today instruct us not to go up to the Temple Mount, there are a handful of rabbis who say that we definitely should go up, and these Jews do go up today!

The first reason given for not going up is due to the spiritual uncleanliness of our bodies. Those who go up say that this uncleanliness can be cleansed by going to the mikvah (ritual immersion) and waiting until sunset.

The main reason given for not going up is that we are not sure of the locations of the various holy areas of the Temple. This means that if we go up we risk walking where only spiritually pure priests are allowed to go. We might very well trespass on the area of the Temple that is Most Holy and reserved only for the High Priest! Some say that even if we know the location of the holy areas, and even if we only go up to the safe areas now, we could become careless and end up going into the holy areas, too. Others argue that since the destruction of the Temple there is no holiness at all on the Mount, so we can go wherever we want!

Those who go up say that they know the locations of all the holy places. And when they go up they stay to the edges where they feel comfortable that no forbidden areas lie. The majority remind us that there are at least four “authoritative” maps of the Temple Mount and that we do not know which, if any, is actually correct.

There is another reason, and in my mind a much more important reason not to go up now. When the Kotel was first returned to Jewish hands in 1967, there was such wonderful awe surrounding this place. When we approached the Kotel, we did so with great reverence. Then, as the years went on, this level of awe and reverence decreased and decreased until the Kotel has, for most people, become just another place to visit. Without going into the gruesome details, the vast majority of Jews, and certainly non-Jews have absolutely no change in their attitude or behavior when they visit the Kotel today from when they are on any other tour in Israel.

When the Redemption finally comes, there will be a worldwide increase in spiritual awareness accompanying it. If we go up onto the Temple Mount today, without waiting for this increase in G-d’s revealed Presence, we will take today’s very troublesome attitude with us. This should not be allowed to happen.

What should we do? When we see virtually all of the leaders of the generation doing something, or, as in this case, not doing something, then to follow the handful who go against them is not worth the possible loss. If they are correct and our treading on the Mount now is a desecration … who would want to bring such a thing upon ourselves? If the tiny minority is correct and we do not go up, they say that we will have lost a spiritual opportunity … the opportunity to experience more holiness now. If the vast majority is correct, and we go up, we stand to lose a lot more than an opportunity.

Obviously, G-d wants us in Israel now. It is clear that we are being brought Home from all corners of the world. Should we just go up on the Temple Mount now and start building the Final Temple, or should we wait for the Moshiach to guide us in it construction?

My feeling is that we should exert every effort possible right now to do whatever we can do spiritually to build the Temple. This means that we should increase our spiritual efforts with ourselves and with all those around us. If G-d is waiting for us to cooperate before He brings the Redemption, then there is no better way to cooperate than to increase our joy in serving Him and our efforts to help bring others to His lovely ways.

[i] Genesis 22:14
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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Of Stories and Inspiration

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I love a good story, especially chassidic ones or stories of tzaddikim. Yet I find they come in two types... One is the miraculous story, the other is the see the dedication to helping others story.

In the first I find some inspiration in seeing that Hashem is indeed directly caring for His people in this world by providing tzaddikim in each generation. This is strengthening, but doesn't help ME find direction.

In the second, I begin to learn the difference between a living Gehenom (hell) and a living Gan Eden (heaven). When people are supporting and helping each other, when community cares for every member as if they are their own blood, the troubles of the world that affect each of us are smoothed over - and each has an opportunity to act like Hashem - to GIVE. And when people don't help each other, leaving each to suffer the ravages of seemingly random events of life - then daily life becomes hell.

When I read stories of rebbes and tzaddikim and the Rebbe and others who dedicated their lives to HELPING, I see those who would make this world Gan Eden. Then I know I'm looking at malachim (angels) right here in this world - and know that even I can make a difference, help someone else, and change this world, maybe for just a moment, for someone else from hell to heaven.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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Why Ask Me?

A fabulous Rebbe story...

A chassid of the Sadigora Rebbe joined the line to receive a dollar from the Rebbe one Sunday.

He had been given an attractive offer to purchase a bakery, but was not sure what to do. He had difficulty contacting his own Rebbe and the owner of the bakery was pressing for an answer. When the chassid asked the Rebbe about the proposition, the Rebbe replied: "Why ask me? Ask a Rabbi from Cleveland."

The Sadigora chassid was bewildered at this strange reply, and left "770" puzzled and unsure of the course of action he should take. As it happened, he met an elderly couple on the way to his car and offered to give them a lift. In the course of conversation, the man introduced himself as a Rabbi from Cleveland.

The chassid immediately asked their advice regarding the purchase of the bakery. If this unusual turn of events seemed incredible, the chassid was further shocked to learn that the couple was related to the owners of the bakery.

"Since you asked," said the Rabbi's wife, "I'll tell you. The owner of the bakery is a decent fellow, but his business faltered because the workers are not trustworthy."

The Sadigora chassid had his answer. The contract of sale had included a clause requiring the purchaser to continue to employ the present staff. Needless to say, he did not purchase the bakery.
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Monday, February 16, 2009

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Belief?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Belief?

A gray-haired, non-Jewish man was standing by the entrance to the Kotel. I walked over to speak with him. He was friendly enough. I asked him what he did for a living. He said that he is a priest.

“Oh boy,” I thought, “these are among the worst in the world for idolatry.”

The prohibition against worshiping an idol rests upon everyone, not just the Jewish people. One of the central roles a Jew must take is to be a “light onto the nations.”[i] Practically translated, this means that we are charged with teaching the non-Jews the “Seven Commandments of Noah.” The very first of these commandments is the prohibition against idolatry. Although this commandment is stated as a negative commandment, “Thou shall not...” it really is a most positive commandment in that it directs us away from the foolishness of idols and toward the reality of the one G-d.

I thought to explain this to the priest. Not that I imagined a priest would simply turn his collar back around, although that could happen, but I thought maybe I could give him an idea that he would take with him, something to challenge his beliefs. I was wrong.

I started with my usual explanation that only G-d is everywhere, so we must not worship a limited being. He agreed.

“But your messiah is limited,” I said.

“No. He is everywhere,” he said.

I quoted from his bible. “When they went to the grave where he (yashke) was buried he was not there.”

“That’s right,” he said. “He was glorified.”

“Then he was not there.”

“That’s right. He was not there,” he said.

“Then he isn’t everywhere.”

“No. He is everywhere,” he insisted.

“Wait a minute. You just said that he was not in the grave, that he was taken up. If so, if he really was not in that grave like you say, then he is not everywhere. So don’t worship him.”

“He is everywhere,” he said, as he backed up and walked away.

We need belief to carry us over until we find knowledge. But our beliefs cannot be totally foolish and contradict reality. When our beliefs do contradict our actual experiences we have to challenge them to see that they are true. Belief is a wonderful tool, but it has to make sense, too. Far more people in the world believe in foolishness than in truth.

[i] Isaiah 42:6
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

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Oh Why Do They Hate Us So?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

...Our leaders say they don't want to fight but are forced to do so. They are willing to give up the Land of Israel, a gift and inheritance from HaKodesh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He) for peace.

...Western leaders say it's a matter of poverty and restriction. All will be made better if Israel gives them a country and money and an economy and and and makes all wonderful and good for them. The man (Israel) is keeping them down, so what response do you expect?

But what do THEY say? Hashem is kind, when WE refuse to hear the truth, refuse to read the words of the Torah, refuse to value the GIFT of the Land of Israel, Hashem will remind us...
At an Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) conference at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York, co-sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), among others, Wagdi Ghuniem told the audience in Arabic:

“The Jews distort words from their meanings. . . . They killed the prophets and worshipped idols. . . . Allah says he who equips a warrior of Jihad is like the one who makes Jihad himself.”

Ghoneim then reminded the audience of the Jews’ “infidelity,” “stealth,” and “deceit,” and told the audience that the Israeli/Palestine conflict was fundamentally not a dispute over land, but over belief:

“Suppose the Jews said ‘Palestine you [Muslims] can take it.’ Would it then be ok? What would we tell them? No! . . . The problem is belief, it is not a problem of land.”


I had a bit of a heated discussion with a visitor this Shabbos. A (not so) young man from the US, son of a community rabbi, who is learning in Israel was complaining about Israel. The people are difficult to deal with, the culture is unpleasant, every store experience is a battle, customer service is unknown, the learning is not what he has expected, doing some outreach in Tel Aviv was an ugly experience. He Doesn't Like Israel.

I granted that some of his points may be valid, those some are just cultural difference that you learn and adapt to. However, I told him these were probably the same excuses used by the people of Bavel (Babylon) to avoid returning with Ezra HaSofer (Ezra the Scribe). Does he ignore the mitzvah of yishuv haaretz (settling the land) and the intimate connection between Torah, Mitzvot, and the Land of Israel? Would he not come to Israel during the geulah because aspects are uncomfortable to him???

He responded with a classic cop-out, "when Moshiach comes, it will all be fine, I'll come then."

I asked him if he ever heard a rebbe or rosh yeshiva insulting Eretz Yisroel? I wondered if he davens (prays) towards Israel and Jerusalem, if he says Shema that promised the rains IN ISRAEL in their time, if he says birkat hamazon which mentions Israel.

He said he was leaving, he couldn't stand Israelis and it was good for him in his home (US) state.

I appreciate, oh so very much, the difficulties to living in Israel and the cultural adjustments that have to be made. I understand the arguments that yishuv haaretz is or is not a mitzvah incumbent upon us right now. But those who intend to build a permanent edifice outside of Israel and spit upon the concept of the Land of Israel are doomed to have that edifice fall.

...And our enemies, which have suddenly out-of-nowhere woken up and started attacking us world-wide, will make sure of it.

Photo from Israel the Beautiful Blog, "Machtesh Katan - Small Crater in the Negev"
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Must Reads for Sunday

The Survival of Moshe - "About 10 minutes into the drive, a car started passing them. As it pulled alongside, they heard four loud shots. The window on Moshe's side shattered. "I'm hit," Moshe shouted. "I can't see a thing." He stepped hard on the brakes and they swerved to the side...."

I'm Turning Into a Jew - "You do not need me to add that mine is a minority point of view among liberals, and that British Jews are living through a very dangerous period. They are the only ethnic minority whose slaughter official society will excuse. If a mass murderer bombed a mosque or black Pentecostal church, no respectable person would say that the “root cause” of the crime was an understandable repulsion at the deeds of al-Qaeda or a legitimate opposition to mass immigration. Rightly, they would blame the criminal for the crime. If a synagogue is attacked, I guarantee that within minutes the airwaves will be filled with insinuating voices insisting that the “root cause” of the crime was a rational anger at the behavior of Israel or the Jewish diaspora."
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

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Geulah Speculation

At Yeranen Yaakov, Geulah After Olmert or ... Netanyahu?

Read it.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

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Rabid

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

It's been 75 years since the world went mad, and the madness has started again. In the name of religious freedom, those who value the concept would allow a religion in the midst of it's 2nd fanatical age to rampage within their countries and directly target another peaceful religion.

While those few remaining from the last madness still walk around with numbers of death tattooed to their arms, the 70 wolves would gladly sacrifice the little lamb to the rabid pack off to the side to avoid a confrontation.

It started as an excuse, with those who never liked the little lamb collaborating. Boycotts and insults followed. Business deals broken, academic arrangements severed. It was all so prim and proper.

But the hunger of the rabid pack was awakened. Seeing their hunger not only accepted but encouraged, their rabid nature came to the fore. Insults moved to threats, threats to beatings and vandalism. In the last madness, this took years. This time...months.

Next the beatings of the lamb in France, threats to the lamb's businesses in England, vandalism of the lamb's houses of worship in Chicago and South America will move to (G-d forbid) broken bones, and then worse.

Those among the little lamb who remember and learn their books know "in every generation they rise up against us." But many have forgotten. For those outside the pasture, it's been 75 years since the last madness - the elderly grandmother remembers or maybe the great grandmother remember, if they're still around. For those in the pasture, it's been 35 years since the wolves threatened to overrun - dad who fought a battle of existence is nearing retirement. The others sing of peace or worry about prosperity. They can't imagine being under threat, while the rabid wolves are already circling.

The little lamb must return to the Shepherd for safety. But the rabid pack will draw blood, if not from the meat of the lamb then by turning on the other packs. Not only the lamb has forgotten, but so has the world. The rabid pack NEVER goes quietly, inviting it to nest in your living room will end painfully.

The madness has come again.

From the Shepherd's green pasture,
Shabbat Shalom
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

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Parsahas Yisro

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths


We are told this week that, 'the Benei Israel arrived at Har Sinai in the third month after the Exodus from Egypt, 'on this day' they arrived... and encamped in the wilderness, opposite the mountain'.

They had attained the level fit for revelation of the Torah
.

'Moshe ascended to kEL, and Hashem called to him from the mountain, saying, "So shall you say to house of Yaakov and relate to the children of Israel.'

Moshe is being given instructions on how to relate what Hashem is saying to the Nation he is to speak gently to the women and firmly to the men. (Mechilta) in this manner he was to relate the commandments in a manner which suited the compassionate nature of the women and to the men in a firm manner to reach the them in a manner which suited the nature of the men.

'You have seen what I did to Egypt', this is to the women, 'and that I have born you on the wings of eagles', is to the men, 'and brought you to Me'. These two statements were directed at two aspects of Emunah, the female and the male aspects. I have seperated/removed you from the heresy of Mitzrayim, And have drawn you to Myself. in essence Hashem is telling us that He has removed the concealment from our hearts and our eyes. "Revelation"

'And now, if you will hearken well to me and observe My Covenant', this is to the men, This a warning about Tikun Habrit, Sexual purity 'THE EVIL URGE', Our YeiTZeR HaRah. "You shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all the peoples, for Mine is the entire world. you will to Me a kingdom of ministers and a Holy nation."

Excuse me please I'm sorry, I need to digress a moment I feel compelled to discuss something so here goes. it's all tired together you'll see.

We all wonder why we suffer so in this world. While there seems to be no good answer, but this I none the less know that no person escapes it. We all suffer! For while no two people are alike and our sufferings are different, it is still possible to make comparisons, and everyone is equal in this, that each of us as people must endure suffering very, very much each day.

We are taught by chazal that in the future, that each and everyone of us will receive an explaination for every thing that we under went and all that we went through in minut detail of everyday. If this is so then apparently each person must endure a great deal. We may ask why?
We may like it, but it is for our best.

But we have been fore warned, that it would not be easy.

Hashem was telling us from the beging that we would have to endure much in this life espeacally in This realm of the Animal, 'with our urges'. He also told us that if we could endure this, that there is a great prize waiting for us. You may say it's not worth it? We believe that Hashem is supervising everything and that everything is for the best. And certainly Hashem is behind everything, His thoughts are wonderous and His wisdom is very great.

A person can see Hashem's miracles in everything everyday, if he but looks for them. Aside from what we believe,
'that miracles occur every day'. "It is impossible for a person to understand anything, that is happening around him for Hashems ways are very deep". ASHREINU!!! How fortunate we are to have seen and heard all this! But we only see a small segment, if we could but see the whole then we would galdy volentree for the task at hand of the. 'Retification of the world'

We also see that we are not alone in this. 'We can still encourage ourselves in this very fact that in at least we feel the "Woes" The rabbis, OBM. said on the verse, And He formed... vaYITZeR (berakhot 61a), Woe to me from my maker YoTzRI and woe to me from my evil urge YiTZRI." It emerges that the essence of the Evil Urge is contained in the fact that a person is compelled to suffer this harassment and war everyday, this "Woe to me from my maker and woe to me from my Evil Urge!"(Reb Nosson, Alim l'rufah) The Yeitzer HaRah is the Urge to serve the other g-d, 'Self!'

Yisro Had been the master of Avoda Zarah, he was the priest of paraoh 'to the other side'. But he heard and then saw what Hashem had done for Israel, and converted and thus served Hashem.

We are told that to come close to Hashem, that we must do two things we must draw close. and we must and must seprate from the the other side. for it is impossible to serve both, it is one or the other.

We must form an attachment to KeDuSHa and seprate ourselves from the TuMaH as we can not hold on to both., they can not exisit in the same realm. It's simple it's white and black there is no grey. We are told that our suffering is when we try to hold on to both, the only suffering is when we are in the grey. You see when we draw close to the white 'KeDuSHa' then we receive DaaT, we receive Divine understanding, the concealment is removed, and thus there is no suffering. And Hashem forbid, when we draw close to the black 'HaTuMaH', the concealment itself is concealed so that we do not even know and thus we longer feel, therefore no suffering.

'This is the second Woe For there are people who longer feel even the slightest, and those hearts no longer grieve over all that happens to them.' The Rebbe, Rebbe Nachman said explicitly that a person ought to feel encouragement that at least he is feeling his pain, for this the second concealment has been lifted as it is written in Likutey Moharan (II, 48:1) Thank Hashem, for if we feel then we are aware that we are alive and should be grateful for this very fact!

It is impossible to explain all this in one writting each individual will understand it differently according to his own perceptions. Through Hashem enormous compassion, The Rebbe placed in us this teaching in which we need everyday no matter where you have fallen, "In other words, HASHEM"S GREATNESS IS UNFATHOMABLE AND PEOPLE KNOW NOTHING AT ALL". Thus there is hope for our final out come, even for the worst of people. The main thing is that a person never give up crying out and pleading to Hashem for everything (Tzaddik #565).

We need to but remember all this everyday!

I had not intended to write you about all this right now,
But your enormous desire and your heart's burning for the truth compelled me. May Hashem illuminate your eyes and the eyes of all those who desire truth, so that my words of truth enter their hearts. for these words are awesome and great, beyond all estimation!

May the Holy One Blessed Be He the cause of all causes, cause even our suffer to come to a end, by the removal of the concealment that covers our eyes at present. And may we merit the redeemer speedily in our days Amen! Your friend Reb Nati

Gut Shabbos
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Can You Win Them All?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Martin commented on “We Don’t Win Them All” : “What you said about the non-orthodox convert sounds spiteful. Some Orthodox establishments make it impossible for people to discover the way of Torah and so if a convert discovers Torah via a non-orthodox route then how can you imply that their faith has no value? Did you even ask if the pair were observant? Would it not have been better to ask a gentle question instead of choosing to disparage their faith? Afterall the man is not married to an idol worshipper!”

Martin and Anonymous suggest that we should just be more loving in these cases; that this is the solution.

There is not a more loving thing to do than to gently point out the facts to someone who is unknowingly making a grave mistake in his life. This allows him the opportunity to reevaluate his deeds, and, if he chooses, to take the appropriate action. It would be a grave sin to seemingly approve of, or minimize, someone’s tremendous error.

What is this error?

All religions in the world except Judaism are based on belief. A person can choose and change his religion at will, anytime he wants. A Buddhist can become a Muslim in just one minute by simply believing what Muslims believe. But Jews are not like this. We are not a religion. We are a people. We are not Jews because of our beliefs or behavior. We are Jews because our mothers are Jewish.

If a non-Jew wishes to become a Jew and they satisfy the requirements of the Reform tradition, only the Reform Jews will consider that person to be a Jew. If the non-Jew converts according to the Conservative movement’s tradition, both the Conservative and Reform Jews will consider that convert to be a Jew. If that non-Jew converts according to the “Orthodox” requirements, all Jews will say that that person is a Jew. This convert will have successfully joined the Jewish People.

When a convert to Islam decides to follow x-ianity and adopts those teachings instead, he or she is no longer a Muslim. He has become a x-ian. Jews are not like this. When an Orthodox convert to Judaism decides to follow a different religion, he will still be a Jewish person. This is so because he joined the Jewish People, not the Jewish religion. He will be a Jew who has decided to follow a different religion.

The guidelines for conversion are not up to each individual to decide for himself, but have been set and recorded in the Bible and in ancient teachings of the sages. When a new group of Jews come along and decide to change those requirements, the traditional Jews will not accept their converts as Jews. Their converts may be very good people. They may be following the practices of the Jewish religion, but they are not Jews. And since we want our children and grandchildren to be Jews, it is imperative that we and our children are very careful to marry only Jews.

To have indicated otherwise to that nice man I spoke to at the Kotel, who is married to and has children with a Reform convert, would have been a horrible sin on my part. To him it would seem that a religious, old man at the Kotel verified that his family is kosher, when almost certainly, it is not. Now, because I pointed this out to him, if it is important to him that his family be Jewish he can take the appropriate action. For me to have done otherwise would have been cruel.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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Israeli Election Analysis

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

All Israeli election estimates turned topsy-turvy, and naturally everyone wants to know WHAT HAPPENED? Here's the explanation...

The Israeli left-wing voter wants socialism, government services, strong movement towards a peace process, wants to get out of the Shomron (West Bank), women's rights, equal rights, environmental protection, and reductions in religious rights.

NONE of the left wing parties has delivered on ANY of these goals. The small left wing parties were just too narrowly focused and therefore unrealistic (having no real sizable constituency for their narrow issue), and Meretz and Labor were abandoned for their failures (especially consider they've been in power of the past years). These voters headed to the party nearest in their space...Kadima.

Kadima additionally made one smart move close to the election, they began emphasizing Tzipi Livni's gender - a FEMALE candidate. That clearly drew some female voters.

On the right wing, the voters want lower taxes, less government interference in business and daily life, strong moves towards security (realistic peace process ok, peace of death not ok), portions want a strong hold on the Shomron (West Bank), and maintenance of the status quo of religious rights.

The surprise here was not Yisrael Beytanu (Lieberman), but Likud. Netanyahu put significant effort into appealing towards the centrist and even left wing voter by contradicting right wing principles in his campaign positions. No settlement expansion and probably partial withdrawal with long term security, there went 2 seats to the settler-zionist-national-religious parties. Peace process will be continued, with security, and no strong position on security (there went 2 seats to Lieberman). Basically, as Likud shifted center a portion of it's traditional base jumped ship and moved to Lieberman as the strong security guy.

Kadima got it's votes almost accidentally, due to incompetence of it's left wing opponents. Likud, however, lost seats to Lieberman directly due to the positions it took, abandoning some of it's base. This was a major political error that may have actually been INTENTIONAL. Bibi may not have wanted an overly large Likud, as it would have included people he'd rather not have there (aka Feiglin and crew). If Kadima didn't make the unexpected gains, this might have put him in a good position to lead a national unity government with Kadima and Labor, and avoid small party negotiations. I suspect he was surprised by the result.

Of course, man tracht, G-t lacht - men plan, G-d laughs.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Important Rain Notice

Israel relies on winter seasonal rains for 90% of it's water. The rainy season this year basically hasn't been...rainy. With about 1 month left, people are starting to wake up to what may be a severe drought in Israel. In that vain, this notice came out on our community mailing list...

B"H - We will have a prayer for Rain on Tuesday - the Day of (Israeli) Elections,
at 3:30 PM at the Kotel (Western Wall).

Let's join together in prayer to Hashem so that rain will fall in Israel. Please bring siddurim and tehillim (prayer books and psalm books).

Should it rain on Tuesday - the prayer for rain will be canceled.

(It's raining! Either the prayers were very successful, or canceled due to the rain.)
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Monday, February 09, 2009

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Most Entertaining Elections Ever

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israeli election day...

Shas tells me if I'm for G-d, vote for them.

United Torah Judaism tells me if I'm religious, there is no other choice.

National Union (settler/zionist land-of-Israel party) has sent an election monitor to the central Israeli Arab town.

Ra'am Tal (United Arab List) has sent an election monitor to Bet El (in the West Bank).

Ashkenazi Gedolim say you must vote United Torah Judaism or you're not religious. Sephardi Gedolim say you must vote Shas or you're not for G-d, and say that if you vote for Israel Our Home you are voting for THE DEVIL. Chabad Rabbonim say you should vote for National Union (zionist/settler/national religious), as they are closest to the Rebbe's words on the Land of Israel, and have the blessings of at least 1 charedi gadol. Israel Our Home says they want Israel's government religious institutions under the control of the national religious!

The Holocaust Survivors party says they want to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Party wants to increase pensions for holocaust survivors. The Greens Party wants to support the Ministry of Religion, and the Religious Balance Party supports environmental concerns as being required by the Torah.

The major right wing party wants to form a government with the major left wing party and is talking left wing, while the left wing peacenik party ran the last war in Gaza. And the centrist party seems to have lost on all issues and is only running on their candidate being a women, though she's consistently voted against all feminist and equal rights legislation over her whole political career!

All I can say is...most entertaining elections ever!

May Hashem grant the resulting leaders wisdom to bring Israel peace and safety, and closer to Torah and Hashem.
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Sunday, February 08, 2009

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Yeshua

A reader has requested tehillim be said for his father, in urgent need of a yeshua... Michael ben Faiga Rachel

Reb Gutman Locks said a k'pitil of tehillim at the Kosel and put his name on a note in the wall. R. Nati asked his yeshiva in Meah Shearim - Jerusalem to say a k'pitil for him as well - the whole yeshiva.
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We Don’t Win Them All

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I’m sorry to say that we don’t win them all. The other day, I begged a warm, American guy to put on tefillin.

He said, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow we are coming for a Bar Mitzvah, so I will put them on tomorrow.”

No matter how I pleaded he would not cooperate. He was with a friend, the father of the Bar Mitzvah boy. The father and the boy would not put on tefillin either. I had the father bless his son. It did not soften him up at all.

When I told him to tell his son to marry only a Jewish girl, he said, “Marry whoever you like!”

I yelled at him not to do that. The father just smiled and walked away.

What was going on? The first guy I failed with told me that he is married to a non-Orthodox convert. I told him to make sure that his children were Jewish. He became noticeably upset with me. “How could you say such a thing?” he asked. He was truly hurt. I was touching a very tender subject for him. He wanted nothing to do with “Orthodox” things, as they challenge the very Jewishness of his wife and children.

The father of the Bar Mitzvah boy was divorced from his Jewish wife (the mother of his son), remarried and divorced again, and was now living with his non-Jewish girlfriend. He is the one who told his 13-year-old son to marry whoever he pleased. They walked away untouched.

That day I was able to put tefillin on a lot of Jews. I talked to a lot of people. There were a number of beautiful successes. But who do you think about when you walk away? That Bar Mitzvah boy, his father and his friend. They stay with you way after the ones you were able to help are gone.
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Friday, February 06, 2009

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Ridiculous Halachic Answers

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Heshy at Frum Satire, together with a friend, posted a series of Ridiculous Halachic Questions. As I read through them, I thought that some aren't so ridiculous and people may actually believe some very odd things. (Ok, most of them are satirical and cynical, but hey, every good question deserves an answer.) So here they are, the questions with my answers. (In a change from our normal custom, I'm not translating each yeshivish {Jewish orthodox slanguage} term used, there's just too many.)


Crazy Halachic and Hashkafic Questions:

My parents daven at a modern orthodox shul with a treife mechitza, is it better for me to go and be kivud av and daven with a treife mechitza or is it better for me to stay at home and daven beyichidus?


-- First, don't be so certain the mechitza is treif. It may follow a number of leniencies and be kosher bide'eved. Consult a compentant orthodox rabbi.

Can I daven in front of a woman who is wearing crocs?


-- Depends on your gender. If you are female, yes. If you are Israeli, definately. If you are male, what are you doing looking behind you while davening???

Can I daven in front of a man who is not wearing a double head covering?


-- If you are female, you shouldn't be standing in front of men davening - don't be a show off. If you are male, consult a compentant orthodox psychotherapist as you're stuck in chumra mode.

My community has just instituted honor killings for women caught in despicable acts, is this halachically ok?

-- Given the halacha about getting up early to kill those who are going to kill you, you might want to make sure your door is locked tonight.

Is it better for bochrim to wear jeans or go on the internet?


-- Wear jeans.

Our table cloth is off-white, but the shadchun will only redd us shidduchim for our daughter if it is white, is it permissible to lie about this?

-- You may want to consider whether you want in-laws who are so shallow. Alternatively, spring for a new table cloth.

Does malchusay dina count for things like money tax fraud, since I am using the money to support shuls and yeshivas?

-- Yes. Heterim for this type of question only apply in situations where the government is sufficiently corrupt that one may not survive otherwise - and not survive doesn't mean can't afford a new SUV.

Is it loshon horah to tell on my rebbe who molested me?

-- It is a mitzvah to do so, as one who performs such acts is injuring others as well.

Are girls considered untznius if they don’t wear button down shirts?

-- Tznius standards are local community issues. Things considered ok in one community may be considered inappropriate in others. One should dress regal like a queen, not attention getting like a princess.

I grew up modern and went to NCSY until I was 10, I plan on learning in kollel after I get married. Is it really lying if I deny this part of my life? My parents have agreed to tell shadchunim that I was in learning mishnayis groups and attended siyuim mishnayus instead of NCSY conventions.

-- Be honest, but not stupid. When one sells something, one is obligated to make sure the buyer knows what he is getting, one is not obligated to go into great detail about flaws - especially if the purchaser may not even consider them such.

Why are red lips not painted another color to avoid attention?

-- Regular lip color is not glowing dripping shiny sparkly red which women are encouraged to buy and apply nowadays.

Can I play Wii with my wife while she is a needa since our cars may touch each other?


-- Physical touching is to be avoided, interaction is ok.

Where did ladies who wear bikins and snoods get their heterim from?


-- Women who are publicly bathing in a gender segregated area may expose their bodies yet still feel their hair is reserved only for their husband, or not to be exposed at all.

Is it assur for me to hook up with my mother in law for shalom bayis purposes, there is no prohibition against women together is there?


-- This is clearly assur d'orisa.

If there are only male clerks in a store, is it permissible for me to ask one for help?

-- Yes.

One of my brothers was adopted, can I talk to him?

-- Yes. But being alone with him for an extended period in a yichud situation can be a problem. Consult a competent orthodox rabbi.

If I am in an elevator with my mother is that yichud?

-- No. There is never an iyan of yichud with mommy.

If there is no counter for my slam the change onto while I am working as a cashier, what should I do?

-- Carefully drop it into the customer's hand.

I find that I need make up on shabbos – does being in the shidduch crisis allow me a heter to make myself look pretty on shabbos?


-- No, but one may purchase kosher-for-Shabbos makeup.

If I am stranded on a desert island with members of the opposite sex- must I kill them to avoid breaking yichud? How would I kill them without breaking the laws of negiah? Could I eat a member of the opposite sex if I had nothing else to eat?


-- No, no, and no, and you might want to stop by a competent orthodox psychotherapist sometime soon. Very soon. Really very soon.

Can a man eat turkey breast? If so may he touch it with his actual hand or does he need to use a utensil at all times?

-- Yes. And a woman may eat bull genitals if so inclined and from a kosher slaughtered, soaked and salted bull.

What materials are permissible to throw on shabbos if they are aimed at being mekarev apirkorsim? I am just asking because I heard rocks are assur now and we have mostly resorted to throwing fruit which may be considered baal tashchis?


-- One may not throw objects at ones fellow Jew with intention of injury. However, there are situations in Israel where politics and cultural conflicts leads to intentional Shabbos desecrations targeting religious communities. In such a case, one should follow the instrutions of the local rabbaim who may advice certain protest actions - such as road blocking - in response.

Is it permissible to hack into a potential shidduchs computer to see if she has anything to hide?

-- No.

Is it ok to order food in a restaurant where the male waiter actually looks me in the eye when he asks what I’d like to order?

-- Yes.

When a woman breaks halacha by sitting in the front of the bus, what is the best way to teach her a lesson - feathering and tarring, beating or stoning?


-- A quiet conversation is advised.

Can we bleach a girl on shabbos for dressing unztnius or is that breaking the melocha of coloring, cleaning and squeezing?


-- You should consult your local police department, making sure to mention all previous incidents in detail.

If I get into a cab and the driver is of the opposing gender- should i ask to leave a door open?

-- No. However, if it is night time in an area of lite or no traffic or without people on the street, there could be an actual inyan of yichud.

If someone who doesn’t know the laws of negiah touches me – is it better to call the vaad hatznius or scream for the police?

-- Depends on where they touched you.

Should I report my friends that do not keep shabbos to the bais din?


-- Write it down (after Shabbos) and save the report for the Sanhedrin after Moshiach comes. They are the only ones actually authorized to do something about it.

If I am going up a stairwell and meet a women coming down should I walk down and then go up when she leaves? Should I just keep going?


-- Just keep going, be sure not to hit your head on the roof.

Can I go on an escalator while someone of the opposite sex is on it?


-- Yes, unless the travel time exceeds 2 minutes and the escalator is in a private closed locked room.

Can I invite my non-religious relatives or non-Jewish co-workers to my wedding?


-- Yes, but this can create some complications particularly if one has separate seating. A short instruction sheet or booklet about the wedding, separate dancing and separate seating should be given out at the event.

If I have a medical emergency in Israel- but I don’t believe in the State of Israel- is it better to go untreated, then to G-d forbid go to a hospital that supports Israel?

-- Go for treatment, and before arriving in Israel be sure to check your Prozac dosage. You may need an increase.

Can I accept treatment from non-hatzolah paramedics?

-- Yes. The point of Hatzolah was to organize quicker treatment for the community. *Note in Israel, Hatzolah paramedics are free, while Magen Dovid Adom will cost you NIS 850 for the visit and/or ride to the hospital.

Can I go to a barbershop where both sexes are getting haircuts?

-- No.

Can I walk on the same side of the street as a woman if we are the only ones on the street and it is dark out?

-- Yes, except in Kiryas Yoel, New York, which has segregated sidewalks.

If I need to go to the mikvah on shabbos, is it better to blow dry my hair then to have someone realize where i have just come from as that may be untznius and lead to inappropriate thoughts?


-- Cover your hair when you go and on the return, then no one will know. If you run into someone you know who asks where you are going, just be nonchalant about it. Such things do really do happen, and not so infrequently as you might think.

Can I tell my husband it is mikvah night before I come home because he may start planning ahead and have impure thoughts?


-- He's male, he already is.

Is it inappropriate to look my mother in law in the face?

-- No.

May I speak to my date after I have decided that he isn’t for me?


-- Yes, but not much.

Can men wear red ties or is that too bright? Why do all the yeshivish guys I know wear pink and orange ties?

-- Bad taste?

If my date walks into oncoming traffic but she may not necessarily be killed, can I grab her to prevent her from doing it?

-- If you fail to do so, you are at serious fault.

Can a brother hug his sister? Can he speak to her?

-- Yes. There is no iyun of yichud between brother and sister. Of course, he may not want to depending on age.

Is wearing a red velvet yarmulke untznius?

-- Yes if you are a female. If you are male, it's only stupid looking.

Should I get breast reduction surgery because people can tell I have breasts no matter what I wear?

-- No, this would be absolutely forbidden. However, if you insist on wearing clothes that prevent any view of your chest (and there is no halachic requirement to do so), try a burka. Trust me, works for the ghosts, I mean ladies, in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet.

I work at empire and we were wondering if yeshivish people will buy more of our products if we took breast out of the name?


-- No, just add another 2 hashgachas. Seeing 5 hashgachas is enough to trust any product.

If my brothers friends are over should I leave the house?


-- If you are female, yes there could be an issue depending on the age of the young men and number of them. Go to your room and lock your door, or just throw them out of the house.

Can I wear a dark gray or navy wedding dress since that is more tznius, or is there some need to wear white?

-- You may wear any color wedding dress you like, however traditionally white is worn showing that one is particularly holy at the time of one's wedding. If you wish to show otherwise, feel free.

Can I make my husband wear a blindfold when we walk around since we live in Miami and there are many pritzusdicke girls?

-- This can be a real issue. Having actually seen someone who did this, I wouldn't advise it or at least buy him a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Alternatively and seriously, move to a less untzius area.

Is it tznius for a woman to say shabbosdick or yuntiffdick?


-- Cough, umm, yes.

Can I compliment my friends mother on her food or is that not tznius?

-- You can. However it would be inappropriate to complement her on her dress or shaitel. Further, mentioning to your friend that his mother is hot is ill advised.

Can I tell my wife that she looks beautiful when she is a needa?

-- No. You may not complement her appearance when she is needa. I wouldn't suggest criticizing it either, or she may stay that way.

If I don’t participate in synchronized swimming tryouts do I have to shave my head when I get married?

-- You do not have to shave your head when you get married. A few chassidic groups do have this chumra. If that thought horrifies you, don't marry one of them.

Can a male doctor deliver my baby or should I hold it in?

-- Yes he can. You should never "hold it in" whether a weekday, Shabbos, or Yom Tov, and regardless of who may be doing the delivery. I have known someone who intentionally delayed delivery that started on Shabbos until after Shabbat, this is ill advised as it's dangerous to the mother and baby, and therefore halachicly assur.

Are red cars tznius?

-- Depends on the type and brightness. One should not be overly extravagant and draw attention. Also, red cars get more tickets, many more.

Is my 3 year old son allowed to play with dolls of the opposite sex? Is he allowed to play at all or should he just be learning all day?

-- Not a big deal for a 3 year old. Yes playing is fine. However you are advised to run to a social worker for parental skills training right away.

Is it assur for my wife to leave the house when she is pregnant because nothing can hide the fact she is and then people will think about how she got pregnant?

-- Obviously asked by one who is not married. Yes she may. All the other married people already know what you are doing, and all the single ones remain clueless.

What is assur to lie about on a shidduch resume?

-- Lying is assur, however detailing every possible negative with a 5 page history is simply not wise. Providing minimal information glossing over some times of negatives is acceptable. Consult your LOCAL competent orthodox rabbi for local custom.

Can I publicly rebuke my off the derech brother so he will come back on?

-- No. The Shulchan Aruch forbids one from rebuking those who will not listen. Your brother didn't listen to you even when he was frum, so he definitely isn't going to now. Try something completely different, like being nice.

If my little sister dresses untzniusly but is frummer then I am in every way, are my shidduch chances ruined?

-- No, but asking such questions will ruin them.

How old do I have to be to be allowed to join online dating sites?

-- Old enough and ready to get married.

Is joining frumster assur because not everyone wears a black hat?

-- No, and don't you think the girls would look funny in a black hat?

My mother doesn’t cover her hair, can I tell my dates that she is the maid so they will not dump me?

-- No. Further, in-law relations can seriously impact your married life after the wedding. If your potential spouse-to-be can't deal with your family situation, you don't want to marry this person.

What is the best method to help apikorsim see the torahs true light?

-- For goodness sake, don't let them talk to YOU.

Can I whisper and point at a girl who is dressed immodestly to make her feel uncomfortable, so I don’t embarrass her in public?

-- You are clearly missing an understanding of the concept "embarrass". Call your mother and ask for an explanation.

I became frum recently; must I change my birth name to a Jewish name?


-- If you do not have a Hebrew name, you should work with your rabbi or rebbitzen to select one. If you do have one, you are under no obligation to change your U.S. legal name to your Hebrew name, and in the U.S. the procedure for doing so is expensive, time consuming, and complicated. However, if you live in England, the procedure is so simple that it's a nice thing to do.

Is it better to wear a light colored suit with a hat to davening or stay at home?

-- It's better to daven with a minyan as long as one is dressed modestly (male or female). Those who have a custom to wear a hat or suit while davening should realize that the chumra (additional stringency) never overrides the halacha (legal requirement), the custom for a hat does not override the halacha to pray with a quorum.

Is my davening counted if a chabadnick davens for the amud?

-- One who asks this question should worry about whether their davening is ever counted under any conditions. They are advised to consult their rav about a tikun for sinat chinam.

If I wear a srugi with a hat on is that counted due to the fact that srugis do not have two head coverings?


-- When one is already in chumra land, one shouldn't be nit picky.

If my wife insists on eating with me when we have guests is that grounds for a get?


-- In Ramallah, Gaza City, and maybe in Kiryas Yoel, yes. Everywhere else, having an exceptionally stupid husband may be.

Do I have to give my wife a get if she dresses immodestly?


-- This can be a real issue. One should consult a competent REASONABLE orthodox rabbi.

If I get custody of my sons can they live in the same house with me or is that yichud?


-- As mentioned above, there is never an inyan of yichud between mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters (or grandchildren) or brothers and sisters.

If a Jew mentions that he works with non-Jews may I rebuke him for assimilating?


-- One should wait until after one has collected their kollel check which was funded from the tzedakah that working Jew donated. After rebuking, one is required to hand over the kollel check to the person rebuked.
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