Thursday, April 30, 2009

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Gematria

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Gematria is the study of the significance of the numerical values of Hebrew letters or concepts. In Hebrew, every letter is also a number. This means that every word or concept will have a numerical value. When we see that two words, groups of words, concepts with even radically different meanings have the same gematria, we are prompted to look for their underlying relationship. There must be such a relationship, or else they would not have the same numerical value.

Interesting gematriot are almost endless. To give a few interesting examples:

The Torah commands us to give ten percent of “your harvests” to the Levi. The gematria of the letters in the word “Your harvests” equals 460. Ten percent of the word “your harvests” is 46, which is the gematria of Levi. So we see the law is embedded in the words themselves.

We are told that to commit a teaching to memory we are to repeat it 101 times. “Remember” (זכר) equals 227, and “forget” (שכח) equals 328. The difference between remember and forget is 101.

When Yaakov had his famous dream of the angels going up and down the ladder, he exclaimed, “There is G-d in this place!” G-d is everywhere, so Yaakov had to be saying something more. “There is G-d in this place” equals 541, which is the gematria of “the commandments.” G-d is found in His commandments. G-d promised to give the place where Yaakov had that dream to Yaakov’s children forever. “There is G-d in this place” also equals “Israel.”

When we must cut our tzitzis for whatever reason, we are told not to cut them with a metal tool. It is recommended to cut them by biting them with your teeth. The reason for not using a metal tool is that metal is shaped into tools of war, which shortens life. And we should not cut our tzitzis, which symbolize the Torah, which comes to give life, with tools that come to take it away. But why cut them with our teeth? There are 32 single strands of tzitzis on our garment, and a normal adult has 32 teeth.

When you first see numerical values pointing out such wondrous relationships between apparently different ideas, it is truly amazing. Each time you see one it picks you up higher. You come to ask, how is it possible for even the Holy One to make all of the concepts in the Torah fit the reality of the world? But then you realize that G-d did not make the Torah to fit the world. He made the world to fit the Torah. The Torah was created first, and the world was created from the letters of the Torah.[ii] So it is only natural that the world fits the Torah.

All that we see with our eyes is the physical manifestation. We see the physical table, but not the spiritual table that makes the physical table possible. The physical table’s underlying, unseen realty is that its physicality is being manifested thorough the letters of the Torah.

Just as the chemical makeup of the entire physical creation runs throughout all matter, and similar chemicals will be found even in objects that appear totally different, so does gematria reflect spiritual relationships between concepts that otherwise would seem totally different.

After a while we are no longer amazed at all, not even at the strangest of relationships. We come to see it is just the way the world is being made.

[i] See “Spice of Torah Gematria” Judaica Press - G.Locks
[ii] “He looked into the Torah and made the world.” Zohar
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geula, Geulah, GEULAH

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Turmoil in the world is increasing. Suddenly we are struck with the possibility of a pandemic, in the midst of an economic meltdown while world politics are in flux, the Middle East is a mess and a mad leader is going after nuclear weapons with the stated intention of slaughtering the Jews. In the countries where the majority of the Jewish people live, Muslim anti-semitic hate is on the rise.

Must be signs of geulah!!!!

One cannot know the Creator's plan regarding Moshiach, for 'the heart has not revealed (this matter) to the mouth.' (Midrash Tehillim 9, Kohelet Rabbah 12:10) The way in which he will come is hidden from ALL living beings. The Ran explains that just as the time of his coming is unknown, so too the manner of his coming is unknown, whether through manifest miracles or miracles hidden behind the guise of nature. (Derashot HaRan 11) Rabbi Teichtal, hk"m

Be wise and take precautions against this time of turmoil. And it's ALWAYS a good time for teshuva and Eretz Yisroel. There may be many signs that lead us to hope and believe it's very close, but ultimately the geulah remains hidden.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Worldwide Mexican Swine Flu Case Map

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Independence and Fooling Ourselves

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The modern use of the Hebrew word atzmayi, meaning independence or self reliant, is also used today as Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. The only way to be truly independent is to have Emunah, and Bitachon in Hakodosh Barachu, and in His Torah and His Tzaddik Emet!

61 years ago we were gathered after the Holocaust. The secular zionist bolshevik erev rav created a state for the 'new Jew', one devoid of Torah and Hashem with emunah in his rifle and plow. For the State of the New Jew, G-d and Torah were part of the problem of the world hating us, one they set out to solve.

Those pioneers truly had emunah, emunah in their own righteousness. The tzaddikim saw this and opposed it, the creation of a secular state with ideals of emunah in the strength of our hands and turning our back on G-d. They built walls, literal and cultural, around their enclaves to prevent the secular onslaught they knew would come. And come it did.

Initially it was direct state action, stripping schools of teaching Torah, forcing immigrant children into secular education, literally kidnapping children from their parents. A generation later, as their emunah failed to transmit (for broken sick emunah may be strong but does not transmit) it changed to materialism and goyish music, TV, sex and drugs and a devotion to out-Western Western culture.

While their type of emunah has failed and the 'new Jew' turned out to love a nice sports car and big screen TV, while the purpose has failed the goals have not been withdrawn. Torah and Hashem are still in the cross hairs. We see this with the third “Independence Day” since the sinful destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the Northern Shamron. We don't need to wonder as we hear they are about finished giving away the kever (tomb) of King David and other completely Jewish holy sites to the Pope...in advance of the total giving of Jerusalem to the Ishmaelites. It appears more obvious every day that this is a recurring theme in our history. Now with the Holy city Jerusalem it's right out of the prophets.

What does it mean to be independent?

Politically, economically, physically, spiritually. We can look at the first golus (exile), the Egyptian. We went because of famine, we stayed because it was comfortable, and became slaves. This indicates dependency, not independence. And we have been trying to return to this status, as slaves, ever since. "So you want to go back to Eygpt, where it is so safe and secure"?!

Wake up! We are so helplessly dependent on this world, we are so addicted to this system of things. Otherwise, we would cry out like we did in Egypt. ENOUGH!!!

We do not seem to be ready or able to admit that two thousand years of frustration, annihilation and failure has caused us to become ill - 'Choleh Nefesh' - spiritually sick. We suffer from neuroses, the cause of which is we are separated from our source, Hashem. The root of all our souls, we are what the shrinks like to call co-dependent on the junk of this world. And as we resist reconnection to Hashem, because we would have to separate from the things we are comfortable with. We yet again prove that we are not ready to be unplugged from this matrix of this world.

Our forefathers set the example of the correct course of action. With strong Emunah and Bitacon 'faith and trust' we shall cry out to our Father in Heaven, as we did in Egypt and at the sea and many other times throughout our history and He has been and always will be faithful and just to us! And He will from this as well!

We need to realize that we are all dependent on Hashem or we would not exist for one moment. It is only those who can see and understand this that are truly independent in this world.

So prove it now!!! Call out to Hashem and ask for the redemption now! And do not forget to thank Him for all that you have!
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Israeli Independence Day

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israeli Independence Day is an odd time for an American Jew in Israel...

. Very patriotic, flags everywhere. Music, celebrations, events throughout the country. We're not used to this in-the-face appreciation of State. Of course, we're also not used to neighbor States that want to kill us, and try now and again.

. STRANGE religious positions associated with this secular state holiday. Those positions are...

--- Ultra-secular, where the State celebration is a replacement religious event to hang in front of those segments of the population who aren't secular.

--- National-religious, where the State celebration has relgio-messianic overtones as the first major step of the geulah, and an invested kedushah (holiness) from Hashem in re-settling the Land and re-engaging as a people as an active Nation (State) of G-d. For this segment, the day is a religious celebration on par with Purim and Chanukah, with special prayers in synogogue including Hallel (the prayers of great praise).

--- Average Charedi (ultra-orthodox), where the State of Israel would be just another secular government to be lived within, if it weren't for periodic government anti-religious actions which require communal opposition. The average charedi tries to straddle the strange line of not pissing off the ultra-secular by ignoring certain unavoidable holiday traditions, but not investing the day in any special or (G-d forbid) religious meaning - particularly given past Gedolim's statements that this secular zionist path is not a positive one for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

--- Extreme Charedi, where the State of Israel is a negative thing, one who's influences and actions are always suspect and frequently understood to be antithetical to the Jewish religious way of life. The extreme charedi is tearing flags of buses passing through his neighborhood, and may be attending an anti-State protest on Independence Day.

A video of local celebrations, including live music.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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Swine Flu and Stupid Media Assumptions

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A big news item of the day is not the Swine Flu - which really is a big deal - but that Israeli Health Minister Rabbi Yakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism has instructed Israeli government officials to refer to the Swine Flu as the Mexican Flu.

While no explanation was given in the brief instruction, the news media immediately jumped all over it as being BECAUSE THE MAN IS A RELIGIOUS JEW. You know, don't eat pig therefore can't call a disease Swine Flu - which is absolutely ridiculous.

Dear Main Stream Media, while I don't speak for the Israeli Health Minister I do happen to live in Israel. Let me provide that 20 seconds of cultural background you couldn't be bothered to gather...

In Hebrew, Chicken Pox isn't the Chicken Pox, and Shapat Chazir (Pig Flu) has a linguistic problem that Shapat Mexicani does not. Shapat Chazir would refer to a disease of pigs, not FROM pigs. Could it be the Israeli Minister of Health wanted to make sure the public actually understood? Naaa, must be Judaism.

In Israel, there are few (unfortunately not none) pig farmers, and few people in contact with pigs. Even fewer eating them. So people might very well hear Pig Flu and just blow it off - who cares about Pig Flu, we're not dealing with pigs here! So again, the name adjustment helps get the health message across to the full spectrum of the Israeli public. Or it could be the minister things the word Swine is evil because he's Jewish, with a beard and everything.

Now the one thing the media has absolutely not provided is any real WHAT CAN YOU DO JUST IN CASE information. Here is what I've heard, and I consider it good advice...

In Mexico, where the virus first appeared, more than 2,000 are now under observation. All schools, universities, museums and theaters have been closed, and church services were also canceled. Medical face masks have been distributed on the streets of Mexico City to try to contain the spread of the disease.

In the US, 41 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in five states. The first cases appeared in California and Texas. They were quickly followed by Kansas, Ohio, and New York. The latest suspected case appeared today in Michigan.

Around the world, other possible cases have been identified in Canada (6), Spain (20, 1 confirmed), Columbia (9 under observation), Britain (3 under observation), New Zealand (10 confirmed), France (2 under observation), Spain (1 confirmed and 19 under observation), and Israel (2 under observation).

Per the CDC, the spread of this influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads, from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

- People may become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

- Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air.

- Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

Some viruses and bacteria can live for two or more hours on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.

A person carrying the virus may be able to infect others 24 hours before symptoms develop, and up to seven or more days after becoming ill. That means that the virus can be transmitted to someone else even before a person knows he is sick, as well as while he is sick.

At the onset of the outbreak in Texas, a family was quarantined after their son contracted the virus. Health officials arrived at their home, drew blood from the whole family, then quarantined them all indefinitely, according to CNN-affiliate KABB.

As the scope of this virus becomes more severe and the number of people who are infected continues to grow, it is highly likely that quarantine may be used to help contain the virus' spread. We therefore highly recommend that our readers prepare for the possibility that they may have to stay at home for an extended period of time. This means not being able to go to work, or to the supermarket for food. We advise our readers to be prepared for this possibility by laying in a supply of food, water, and essential medications that can suffice for two to three weeks.


Mystical Paths agrees that's wise advice.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

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Mars in August, Like to Zohar!!! Or not.


by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

By email from a friend, alerting me to the amazing approach of Mars in August of 2009, which aligns with a blood moon statement of the Zohar during Elul...

27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for. Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

This comes right from the Zohar that tells us the Geulah will begin with the appearance of the blood moon in Elul!!!


Man that sounds good! Except...it's not true. It's actually from 2003, when Mars did make it's closest approach in 60,000 secular years and appeared 6 times larger than usual for a few nights - which made it still 10 times smaller than the moon.

It gets almost as close about every 17 years.

While I would love for every geulah rumor to be true, it pays to check and not get overly hyped. The geulah hype cycle is damaging to emunah. There's a reason the gedolim of the past have told us to beware calculating the keitz (end of golus).
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Growth After Death

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

If there is something that you would like to accomplish in this world, you better do it now, because none of us know just how much longer we are going to be here. We know that life goes on after this lifetime, but exactly where and what will be there is pretty much a mystery.

We do know that our bodies stay here and return to the ground from where all matter comes, and it will be our souls that go on. But souls without a body cannot do anything. So how can there possibly be growth after death?

Reciting the praises of the “Woman of valor,” we learn that “her lamp does not go out at night.”[i] The simple meaning of this is that she is busy even at night. But there is a deeper meaning here, too. The darkest night of all is the darkness of death. But even in death her light does not go out! She is still busy even then. How is this possible?

While she was here, she set things into motion that benefited the world. Now, even after she is gone, some of those things are still going on. Her children are busy doing kindness for many people. Each time someone is helped by her children, not only is the poor person helped, but the child who helped the poor person is helped, and so are the parents who put that child in the world helped by that child’s kindness. The woman also set up a wedding dress charity. This charity lends out beautiful wedding dresses to poor brides absolutely free. These brides are so happy, and their new husbands love their brides even more when they see them in these beautiful dresses. With each happy wedding, the soul of the woman of valor who set up the charity goes up a little more.

Your students, the books you wrote, the people whom you helped to recover, the free library that you endowed, anything that you did that still benefits the world after you are gone will also benefit you, even after you are gone.

We can keep on growing even after we leave this wonderful world of opportunity.

[i] Ashis Chail
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

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Ethics of the Fathers

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

During the summer months it is customary to recite Pirkey Avot, The Ethics of Our Fathers (Orach Chaim 292:2). There are six chapters, one chapter per Shabbos afternoon, which all study from Passover until Shavous, and many continue to study until Rosh Hashanna. This practice begins during the Days of Omer.

Pirkey Avot contains moral teachings from our Tanaim and conceptually is the receiving of rebuke from true Tzaddikim. Through these lessons a person can achieve great understanding and wisdom on how to serve Hashem properly. Such service brings the kindness of Hashem to be revealed and allows the glory of His Kingship to be elevated.

Introducing Pirkey Avot, we recite the Mishnah, "All Jews have a portion in the world to come", (Sanhedrin 90a). This is to teach us that the rebuke of a great Tzaddik is not intended to turn people away or to distance them from serving Hashem; but rather to bring people closer to Him. The Tzaddikim are always seeking the good points that exist in every single Jew. They are the Tzaddikim, yet they call all Jews Tzaddikim. By elevating the Jewish people, they are able to guarantee them a portion in the world to come (Likutey Halakhot, Nezikin 4).
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Friday, April 24, 2009

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Yearning

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

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Reaching Out

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

You can list a lot of good reasons why not try to bring your fellow Jew to do a mitzvah. For instance, you could say, “He might get upset at me when I ask, and you know how I hate to be rejected.” “I’m not used to doing this kind of thing.” “It’s not my thing. I’d be embarrassed to even try.” “I’ve never done it before.” “I don’t know how to do it.” “Let the Lubavatchers take care of that kind of stuff.” “I’m busy. I have to go to work,” and on and on….

This is a picture of Zachary and one of his customers. Zachary is a veterinarian pharmacist whose pharmacy is located in Hollywood, Florida. One day he read a book* that was full of warm stories describing what happens when you reach out to help your fellow Jew to do a mitzvah.

He said, “Why not?” and he tried to help with a good heart. Now, Zack has a bunch of his own warm stories to share. How wonderful is his portion! Besides filling your prescriptions, his pharmacy offers tefillin year round, and you can be spiritually awakened by the Shofar in the month leading up to Rosh HaShanah.

The customer in the picture walked into Zack’s pharmacy thinking to just buy some pills for his dog. He got the pills he went in for, and he got a lot more than just pills for his dog, too. Thanks to Zack’s kindness he also got food for his soul!

Having to go to work is not an excuse for not helping. In fact, if you take your spiritual concern with you when you go, you will turn even the most mundane workplace into a holy place.

If you saw a Jew’s donkey fall to the ground you would surely help him pick it up. If you would help him pick up his physical donkey, which is only a temporary possession of his, how much more so should you try to help him pick up his spiritual donkey? After all, his true spiritual nature is forever.

*P.S. The book he read was "Coming Back To Earth."
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Walking on Our Own

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

When looking forward to a particular event or special occasion, it's only natural that we mark our calendars and count the days. It's the same thing when we anticipate receiving the Torah on Shavuot, we count the days. We look forward to it's coming. Actually, this is the main intent of the Omer counting.

By realizing that every day counts, by taking the very most we can out it, by making sure that every single minute matters, we can receive the Torah. The Children of Israel first came close to Hashem on Pesach (Passover) after the Redemption from Egypt. To remove them from Miztrayim (Egypt) Hashem instantly pulled them from 49th level of impurity into which they had fallen. But then they had to enter the 49 levels of kedushah on their own, step by step.

This can be compared to a child first learning to walk. As soon as he shows signs of realizing there is something better than crawling on all fours, we enforce and encourage his desire to develop. We hold his hand for the first step. But then we let go so that he learns to walk by himself. It is no different in coming closer to Hashem. We start off with a great desire to repent. It is almost as if we are being called by a voice we cannot locate, or guided by invisible hand. Later, the light of this guiding force disappears and we must continue our quest for Hashem under our own inspiration.

The reason this happens is not always understood by most people, though it is essential that it should be. The truth is that by seemingly pushing a person away from Hashem, one one is actually drawing him closer to Him. Think about it. Didn't the Egyptians let the Children of Israel leave? Didn't they allow them to go into the wilderness to serve Hashem? The Jews must have understood that they were getting closer to Him. But then they saw the Egyptians running after them, the Jews were left wondering if the Almighty was really with them. Were they really getting closer?

It was then that they were told to turn their eyes to Hashem and prayg to Him for help. Even when we feel distant rather than close, we must always bear in mind that Hashem is very close to us and He is really trying to bring us closer. Indeed, Hashem's kindness is such that it will even bring closer those who are very, very distant from Him.

However, from the counting of Sefiras HaOmer we learn that the process cannot be hurried. When we look forward to something, we want it to happen immediately. Most of the time, especially if the thing we look forward to is something meaningful, it just can't happen right away. The issue cannot be forced at all. We find ourselves with no choice but to wait.

The same is true in achieving closeness to Hashem and receiving His Torah. We must wait to achieve it; wait to receive it. Just as the Jews in the wilderness had to wait until Shavuot. And though on Pesach they received a tremendous light and wanted to serve Hashem properly, they still could not reach their goal until the 50th day. It is the same for us. However, if we persist in our desire to achieve this level, eventually we will acquire this great light of Shavuot (Likutey Halakhot, Shiluach HaKen5)

Keep going, G-d willing we'll get there together.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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Joy over Adverse Circumstances

A chassidic story shared by Yaakov L that he writes he heard from Rabbi Eyal Rav-Noy...

The holy brothers Reb Zushya and his brother Reb Elimelech were traveling, as they did, bringing joy, hope and hassidus to people in Russia about 200 years ago. Unfortunately, as happened with Jews at that time, they got thrown in jail.

While in jail, Elimelech looked around the squalid jail cell and said "Dear brother, I am truly saddened to be in this jail". "Why?" asked his brother the holy Reb Zusha.

Because I want to study Torah, but there's this bucket (for the bathroom) there in the corner and we can't study next to it (anywhere in the cell).

Zushya said, "But you are fulfilling a mitzvah by honoring that commandment! So we have what to be happy about, nu?"

So they started singing a song, soon the other prisoners started singing along. They started dancing in a circle, they got a hora going. Even the Russian guards were singing and clapping. Even the prisoners in other nearby cells were dancing and singing.

Suddenly the warden walked in. "What's going on?!" he hollered.

The guards said all the singing and dancing had something to do with that bucket over there. So the warden grabbed the bucket and threw it outside.

Reb Zushya said to his brother: "Now we can learn Torah!"
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Counting to be Pure

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

Sefiras HaOmer is synonymous with purification. When we are truly ready to purify ourselves, we discover that it isn't a speedy process. Only through gradual progression will we attain our goal. And to be fully purified, we must wait until after the sefirah, after we've counted again and again. In the meantime, we have to count one day at a time; slowly building up purity until we are able to overcome all the undesirable and impure aspects of our lives.

On the 16th day of Nissan, the Omer Sacrifice 'a Barley offering' was brought. Using barley, which serves as feed for animals, would seem to indicate the low nature of this offering. But, because animals lack the power of speech, this makes barley a most appropriate choice. This is because the Omer is brought to rectify and endow the power of speech, elevating from the lower level of the animal to the more purified level of man. And this is its connection to the sefirah.

During the Sefirah we try to rectify ourselves. Quintessentially, Teshuvah is our accepting that everything which happens is from Hashem. When one is embarrassed before Hashem, he can be likened to an animal without the power of speech. As a result of the embarrassment he feels for having gone against Hashem's will and transgressed, he cannot lift up his head or raise his voice. Thus, a major step in repentance and returning to Hashem is remaining silent as we hear and feel ourselves being embarrassed. Teshuvah means that we longer rush to counter the insult with rationalizations, excuses, or just plain arrogance. By truly accepting that everything is from Hashem, then even when we know that the person ridiculing or chastising us is no better that we are, we say nothing. We understand that he is no more than Hashem's messenger, and we remain silent and embarrassed before the One who sent him.

This is the significance of the elevation, Tenuphah, of the Omer. TeNUPhaH can be read TeNU-Peh 'give mouth'. This implies that a person who counts the Sefirat Ha'Omer, thereby rectifying his speech, raises himself from the level of animal to that of man. He becomes a complete person. Man is called a 'Ma'daber' one who speaks; as animals are called b'hehmot.

Seven weeks later on Shavuot, the sacrifice which was brought consisted of wheat. Unlike the lowliness of barely, wheat is a "human" gain. Yet, wheat also carries an aspect of being silent, for there are, in fact two levels of silence. The first level, the animal level, is someone who is so embarrassed by his sins that he can't speak. He finds himself speechless because he recognizes his guilt. But then he repents. He acquires speech, as in, "take with you words and return to Hashem"(Hoshea 14:3). And through his returning and coming closer to Hashem, he can achieve the second level of silence: The gate of wisdom(Avot 3:17). This higher silence corresponds to the divine Emanation, Sephirah, of Keter; itself an aspect of Shavuot.

On Shavuot, after 49 days of counting 'after 49 gates of repentence and Tehillim reciting' the higher level of silence is finally attained. Even so, it must be remembered that all this begins with PeSaCh' with Peh SaCH, a talking mouth. For the only path to these upper levels is through Tefillah, the pure speech of calling out to Hashem (Likutey Halakhot, Simanei Behemah v'Chayah T'horah 4).

Keep counting, you can do it! Blessings, Reb Nati.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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Remembering Nazi Prisoner #92740

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Few survivors of the Holocaust remain with us. Their lives and experiences tell a story not only of man made atrocity and silence in the face of unspeakable evil and willful ignorance of events for personal or national agendas, but also a story of families for the next generation. While the horror is past, like the numbered tattoo's on their arms it left an indelible mark on the Jewish people. Today, we live with the scars of the survivors, and the strengths of the survivors. Certain fears have rightfully become a part of our family and national psyche, and certain strengths to overcome the greatest of obstacles.

In loving memory of Nazi Prisoner #92740, a life in a post...


Nazi Prisoner #92740 was a Jew born in Lithuania. He grew up with two brothers and a sister. He attended the Ponevetz yeshiva until it was shut down by the war, at which point he somehow returned home. One brother had left a few years earlier for South Africa (avoiding the holocaust).

He was trapped with his family in the Kovno ghetto and avoided early deportation (to work camps for able bodied men) by living in a kitchen cabinet. His remaining brother was not so lucky, and he never saw him again. His mother and sister kept him fed (barely), while he sewed and cooked and hid. As the ghetto was gradually being liquidated, his sister escaped with a small group into the woods and joined the Jewish partisan's, fighting back against the Nazi's. He didn't see her again for 40 years (she survived but was trapped behind the Iron Curtain after the war, emigrating to Israel in the late 70's, but that's another story).

He was eventually deported from the Kovno ghetto to work camps, and then to the infamous concentration camp Dachau. How he survived almost a year in Dachau we don't know. We do know that he traded 2 weeks of food rations for tefillin, and while working in the kitchen somehow hid some children in the large 'coffee' pots, keeping them alive.

He was liberated by the 92nd Signal Battalion of the United States Army on April 29, 1945, having entered Dachau from the labor camps on August 22, 1944.

He spent 6 years in the Displaced Persons camp Feldafing, run by the U.S. provisional governing authority in Germany. During that time he assisted the numerous Jewish orphans and was instrumental in starting both the camp girls and boys schools. He also provided religious services and eventually became a camp staff member, a paid rabbinical post. (Prisoner #92740 was a young ordained rabbi from Ponevetz, as well as a trained schochet [ritual slaughterer]).

Having no home or family to return to, he worked to contact his brother in South Africa or family (an uncle) that had emigrated to the U.S. before the war. He was eventually successful in contacting his uncle in the U.S. and in obtaining sponsership both via his uncle and the Vaad Hatzala to come to the U.S.

He came to the U.S. and started life anew, such as he could. He eventually married, and had the honor of having 2 great rabbonim at his wedding. Rabbi Naftali Carlbach (the father of Reb Shlomo Carlbach) wrote the tenoyim (engagement contract).

Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman, zt"l, the Rav of the Ponevetz, the great rebuilder of the yeshiva in Israel, had only 4 students who survived the holocaust from the yeshiva in Lithuania. Prisoner #92740 was one of those 4 students. The Rav honored him by performing his marriage ceremony.

While Prisoner #92740 did his best to rebuild his life and live as normal as possible, his daughter speaks of his lifetime terrible fear of dogs, always sleeping in a tiny balled up position, and terrible fear of loud noises.

He worked in the U.S. as a Rabbi, shochet (ritual slaughterer), mashgiach (kosher supervisor) and cantor, and was known as a Torah scholar. As a cantor, he was in special demand for the high holy days, where his prayer's had a depth of feeling that we cannot comprehend.

His parents were murdered, as was one of his brothers. He didn't know the status of his sister for 40 years, after which she and her family emigrated from the USSR to Israel and contacted him. They were briefly reunited in the late 70's. He eventually made contact with his other brother in South Africa, but his brother past away before he could afford to visit.

He was buried at his request in the holy land, Israel, with a simple marker.

His Torah and Mesorah (tradition) live on, a link in the chain forged in the fires of hell, through his daughter and grandchildren, and through his oldest grandson (born after he past away) who carries his name.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

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Dreaming of Peace Above

by ANONYMOUS at Mystical Paths

During Hallel on Chol HaMoed Pesach (Passover), I was standing near my Rebbe davening (praying) in Jerusalem. We were singing at the top of our lungs and dancing...

Suddenly we weren't standing there. Instead, all of us standing in this bright light. There was a great light coming from the bimah (the Torah lectern), and all of us were in white. Then I saw a yud and a heh on one side and a vav and a heh (the 4 letters of Hashem's holy name) on the other side. They moved together, the yud and the heh came together and the vav and the heh came together then these two groups started to come closer.

Then a voice said "if you would but worship Me like this every day, in simcha (joy) and achdut (unity)."

Then I felt like I had a belt pulled tight around my stomach and was back in our shul (synagogue). I wanted to tell the Rebbe, but was afraid that it was just me or that he would think that I was crazy, so I was silent. At the end of Hallel the Rebbe turned to me and said, "nu, what do you have to say about that vision?"

I almost fell down. I just stood there and shook. Others continued dancing, and afterwards they came to me and said "Where were you? You were shining brightly with the Rebbe, and for a bit it seemed like you weren't there." I starting shaking again as I tried to share the brief message I received from above.
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And Don't Forget The Music

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I ran into a friend of mine on my way to the Kotel. I had not seen him for some time. He told me that he has started a Jewish web site that has tremendous potential. He said that it has received as many as 50,000 viewers a day!

He said that things have been different for him since he was at Gush Katif during the expulsion (2005). “I used to play the guitar and sing, and I would have a lot of Shabbos guests. But now, after I saw what Jews did to Jews there in the Gush, I don’t feel like doing those things anymore.”

I asked him what one thing had to do with the other. “What does your having seen that cruel expulsion have to do with not having Shabbos guests?”

He answered, “That I am a part of those people who threw those Jewish families out … who blew up those Jewish homes… I don’t feel like I used to.”

“You are making a big mistake.” I told him. “When our principles are attacked, even if it is by our own people, we have to fight back. How can I fight back? I don’t have a gun. I don’t have a tank. True, but I have tefillin. And I can go out and round up thousands of Jews and have them put on tefillin and this will help bring us together. Why do you think G-d sends us all these troubles? Only to bring us together, and if we come together before He sends the troubles, He won’t have to send them.”

“Be smart,” I said. “I don’t think the answer is to punch Achmad (the Arab) in the face. That’s not going to make him move to Los Angeles. He will just go and punch some poor Jew in the face, and he will get his friends to do the same, too. But if I buy him a ticket to LA, he will be glad to go.”

“But what can I do?” he asked.

I patted him on the chest and said, “You have the perfect tool to fight back with. Your new web site is designed just to bring Jews together. Go, work hard. Make it a big success. Not only will you fight off our enemies, but you will make a decent living, too.”

He smiled. He saw that he was letting what he hated win over him. When you wallow in hatred, that hatred never gets to the person you hate. It stays right there in your chest. When you cry because someone hurt you a long time ago, you are letting him hurt you again today. The only way our values are going to win is if we pick ourselves up and go spread them around.

And don’t forget the Shabbos guests and music, too.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Every Day Counts

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

Reb Nosson of Breslev teaches that the daily obstacles we encounter are in direct proportion to the spiritual levels and wisdom we seek to achieve. We should therefore not feel discouraged when we see our improvement in serving Hashem suddenly countered by difficulties. As long as we maintain our Mochin de'Gadlut (expanded consciousness), the forces opposing our advancement cannot affect us. For it is only when we descend to Mochin de'Katnut (contracted consciousness), to depression and despair, that we find it very difficult to stand up against these obstacles.

Taking heart and strengthening ourselves each day is the one protection we have. Even when there are difficulties or obstacles, we have to realize that today is also part of the alloted time on earth. It, too, is a day during which we can and must accomplish whatever possible in coming closer to Hashem. If we cannot pray or study Torah properly, then we should say tehillim (psalms) or perform other miztvot - doing whatever we can. For "Hashem wants the Jews to be rewarded; and therefore He gave them the Torah to study and many mitzot to perform."

In other words, we must never fool ourselves into thinking that since the day started wrong, today is a wasted day, G-d forbid! We must never allow ourselves to say that there is no point in trying to serve and to know Hashem or returning to Him on this day; that we are better off waiting until tomorrow. Rather, we must realize that every day is important and that every moment counts! And this is the lesson of Sefirat Ha'Omer, the 49 days of counting. It teaches us to make the best and the most of what we have, since every day does count! (Likutey Halakhot, Pikadon 4)

Have a great day, from Reb Nati in the Holy City.
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Politics and Free Will

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

'The heart of kings is in the hand of Hashem.' Living in a time where the people wield some influence over the course of politics - or at least live within systems where this seems so - a question between bechira (free choice) and hashgacha pratit (divine providence) arises. Through the ability to vote, or protest, or even run for elected office, we appear to be able to influence the course of events.

Yet, we also know with perfect faith that Hashem directs the world. 'The heart of kings is in the hand of Hashem.' A classic example is in parshat Va'eira (7:3), "I will harden Pharaoh's heart...". What happened to free will? Pharaoh couldn't let the Jewish people go, nor could any protesters (right up to the first born of Egypt who in desperation staged a coupe that failed) make an impact.

An answer is provided by the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Toras Menachem Parshat Vaeira), "It was decreed by G-d that Pharaoh would enslave the Jewish people. However, Pharaoh himself did not enslave the Jewish people in order to carry out G-d's will, but to satisfy his own evil desires. Therefore, he was punished. Similarly, Rashi explains G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart before the plagues as a punishment for his earlier wicked behavior. However, G-d told Moshe that 'Pharaoh's heart is heavy' of it's own accord, since he had a natural inclination to oppress the Jewish people." The Nachalas Yaakov adds, "Only during the last 5 plagues did G-d harden Pharaoh's heart directly. During the first 5, He arranged circumstances that would influence Pharaoh not to let the Jewish people go."

The world will go the way G-d has planned. That does not relieve us of the responsibility for doing our part in a positive way, nor remove punishment for steps that drive it in a negative way.

As the face of world politics is changing drastically in front of our eyes, this is something we must remember.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

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Counting Up

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

The AriZal, Rabbi Yiztchak Luria, zt"l, explains that on the night of Pesach it was vital that the Jews be on a level of Mochin de'Gadlut, expanded consciousness. This is because they were lacking in holiness and steeped in impurities, and otherwise never have been able to leave Egypt.

The Jews of Egypt were therefore given Awareness, and not in the gradual progressive manner in which expanded consciousness is normally acquired. Their levels of consciousness came to them in an inverted manner: Mochin de'gadlut prior to Mochin de'katnut, the level of constricted consciousness. However, the the very next day, the day after the Exodus, they were back to "normal", receiving the Katnut and having to progressively achieve the Gadlut.

It is possible for us to receive Mochin, this consciousness or wisdom, every single day. A person begins his day attempting to serve Hashem and, as the day wears on, he himself progresses; reaching ever greater understanding in serving Hashem. Every single day we must try to draw this wisdom upon us. It is the wisdom to recognize and understand Hashem, come close to Him and devote ourselves to serving Him. Just as no two days of our lives are exactly the same, the chochmah of the day is never the same. The chochmah of today is never the same as it was yesterday or tomorrow. Each new day provides us with a different set of concepts and experiences which make up that day's chochmah; the wisdom we are to use in order to know and come closer to Him today!

The essence of the day is light, spiritual light (so to speak). Each day, we have to try to attain this light. How? By extracting the good that is inherent in today, in every single day. The day, however, starts with night. It begins with darkness, the barriers that prevent us from reaching our goal. We have to always strengthen ourselves and make every possible attempt to break through the obstructions and obstacles surrounding us on that day. Only by discovering the good in every single day and utilizing the knowledge that Hashem is in control of everything that happens, THAT HE IS KING, only then can we recognize and draw closer to HIM.

During the Sefiras HaOmer, as we count, we should grow and realize that this is an evolution from the matrix of this world to the truth of the next.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

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Video: Growing Anti-Semitism and Moshiach

PART 1



PART 2

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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Politics: The Obama Mess

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This is a political treatise, a bit of a departure from our standard Jewish religious fare.

In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the "Warren Harding Mistake". In essence, because President Warren Harding seemed so presidential, he was given a pass on issues and investigation as a presidential candidate. He was easily elected on the basis of his appearance, voice and intonation. In other words, he looked like a president and spoke like a president, a handsome and classy one at that. Because of these unconscious factors, people didn't actually delve into _what_ he said. He looked, sounded and acted presidential, his opponent did not. He won, and won by a massive landslide.

Harding is considered, by scholars of such things, to have been the worst president in US history. His leadership skills were weak, his policies empty.

Barak Obama came on the scene at a time that the majority of the American people were disgruntled with the current president. While he pushed strong policies - many of them overly partisan and not thoroughly thought out or reactions to a violently changing world - Bush was consistently derided as stupid. He was ridiculed as such by the press for 8 years straight.

Enter Obama, the intellectual. He spoke eloquently and promised a new path. The electorate was not pleased with the current path and had been dealing with a president that was ineloquent at best. He looked presidential, tall and confident. He was also young and vibrant, with a president who was tired and an opponent who was old. His opponent did not look very presidential in comparison, and was not particularly eloquent either.

Obama won, not quite by a landslide but by a significant margin.

Few seriously examined his expressed policies, and those who did found them vapid and wanting. As the rumblings of the financial crisis arose, his pre-election policy was essentially "we'll fix that". His major drive was "we'll change things". Conservative pundits noticed that the policy depth was not much more than 3 words long, but the general press was taken in by the same 'he's the most presidential and therefore most trustworthy' UNCONSCIOUS factors that 88 years earlier.

Hence he was elected without a serious examination of his policies and politics, a junior senator EARLY in his first term who had previously been a local politician. If such a selection occurred during a quiet prosperous period for the United States, perhaps the impact would have been unpleasant and annoying. As instead it's happening during a period of the United States at war on multiple fronts, world political realignment, and the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, the lack of experience, empty policies, weak leadership and strong partisan positions may very well cause the United States massive damage - perhaps even to the point of permanently losing it's world leadership position.

Actually, there is little doubt that that will be one of the early impacts. As Caroline Glick described so well in her article "Surviving in a Post American World", the Obama administration has implemented a direct policy of alienating national friends & allies, and encouraging national enemies. While they may be hoping by doing so to create a new relationship with those enemies, so far such steps have emboldened those enemies and weakened allies. One can naturally assume that all US allies are currently evaluating steps to take to reduce or eliminate reliance on the US in favor of new multi-point global relationships.

Such a relationship change is not recoverable. While a few short years ago there was a discussion of how the US could solidify it's position as a world power, the new "Rome" so to speak, nowadays the question is whether the US will continue to be taken seriously as a power at all. While Rome's hegemony lasted over 500 years, the United State's lasted 64.

The latest news, and a real surpriser at that, is of the Department of Homeland Security releasing an emergency reporting alerting police forces nationwide of the threat of domestic terrorism from "Right Wing Radicals", including such dangerous groups as Veterans returning from Iraq, Pro-2nd Amendment Gun Groups, .... Note what's not included, Islamic terrorism foreign or domestic, threats from radical states such as North Korea, groups such as Al Queda or the Taliban. By the way, if you actually read the report you'll find it's 100% fear mongering, and even says repeatedly "there is no threat today, but there could be, so crack down early".

For our Jewish readers (we assume the majority as it's a Jewish blog), the government article notes, "Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate
conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites." These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into right wing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs." So my dear Jewish friends, YOU are the cause of white supremacist growth in the US!

"Many right wing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use." FYI dear Homeland Security, many CITIZENS are concerned about these issues. That used to be called free speech and political voice, now it's called "reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers".

Net net, we have a new US presidential administration alienating and weakening national allies, cozying up to national enemies - so far completely rebuffed by said enemies, completely fumbling the financial crisis and probably destroying Wall Street and the US financial engine in the process, trying to start a class war against the rich - who suddenly include anyone making above an average income, and coming out against those disagree as possible extremists to be watched and guarded against.

While the Bush administration made many mistakes, primarily in overreaching both in political programs and the war, the Obama administration seems to be headed for top of the worst president in US history list even before they've finished their first year. And Malcolm Gladwell may have to retitle the "Warren Harding Mistake" as the "Barak Obama Mistake".

And may G-d help us all from the world chaos this administration's actions are invoking.

Part of what spawned the idea for this treatise was some emails I received about Tea Parties - tax and government protests - scheduled for New Jersey. My advice for the organizers is: make sure you have some constitutional lawyers on your team and lined up in advance. DO NOT be shocked at unusually strong government response. The new administration clearly is going to take steps to prevent this from building.

(Photo courtesy of "Betsy Ross" from the Newark, NJ Tea Party)
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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The 7th Day of Passover

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev taught: "Even if a person should fall to the lowest level, he must never assume that he is beyond hope."

Our forefathers found themselves in similar circumstances on the shores of Red Sea. Before them, the sea; behind them, the Egyptians; wild animals and wilderness on either side. In the worst possible situation they did not give up hope. They cried out to Hashem and were heard. Similarly, no matter how far one is from Hashem, there is still hope. Atik is the highest, most lofty spiritual level in existence (Etz Chaim, Sha'ar Atik).

It is from there that assistance comes to a person, even if he is to be found in the lowest levels. Thus, the miracle of splitting of the Red Sea can be summed up this way: even though all seems lost, there is still hope for a redemption (Likutey Moharan I, 21).

Reb Nosson teaches a further concept tied in with the splitting of the Red Sea is the breaking of haughtiness. Pharaoh said "Who is Hashem that I should listen to Him!" During this entire episode, Moshe Rabaynu tried to convince Pharaoh that Hashem rules the world and that He could destroy Pharaoh completely. However, the Egyptian ruler had declared himself a deity. Thus Pharaoh, like most people in a position of power, is characterized by arrogance and haughtiness.

The splitting of the Red sea demonstrated how this arrogance could be completely broken. Moshe turned the sea bed into dry land. Earth is associated with the concept of modesty. Great rushing water, with it's powerful waves 'sure of it's strength and unchallenged power' is everything that a person views as the epitome of greatness. Yet, within a short period of time, Hashem destroyed the water's arrogance by changing it into dry earth. Thus the song that Moshe and the Jews sang when the Red Sea split was one of praise to Hashem, for He is great and rules over all those who are arrogance and haughty (Likutey Halakhot, Orlah 4).

When the Jews left Egypt and came close to Hashem, they received great wealth. This is because wealth is rooted in the same source of holiness as the soul. However, there is one bad trait through which it is possible for a person to lose all his wealth. This trait is ANGER. When the opposing forces see that a person is about to receive wealth and blessings, they try to bring him to anger. CHeMaH, anger, creates a breach in his CHoMah, his protective wall, which is also his wealth (Likutey Moharan I,68).

It is forbidden to eat Chametz on Pesach, for chametz is the concept of anger. Chametz rises. Like arrogance and anger, it's blown up. Likewise, we must avoid exaggeration in our lifestyles. The way we live should not be arrogant and blown up. When the Red Sea split, the waters stood like a wall (chomah) for the Jews. Afterwards, the Jews were able to withstand any anger (chemah) and were permitted to have Chametz. This is why, after the Seventh Day of Pesach in Israel, the eighth day outside of Israel, Chametz is permitted (Likutey Halakhot, Harsha'ah 4).

Chag Samayach! Reb Nati
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Sefirat HaOmer - 49 Gates

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Rebbe Nachman taught: The 49 days of Sefirat Ha'Omer correspond to the 49 gates of teshuvah, as I mentioned in a previous post. These 49 Gates, in turn, correspond to the 49 letters which make up the names of the 12 tribes of Am Israel. Thus, each tribe has individual gates for each of it's members, so that everyone can return to Hashem through his own gate. And then there is the 50TH Gate, the highest gate: SHAVUOT. This gate is, as it were, the TESHVUAH, "The Return", of Hashem.

The way for a person to to come to his individual gate is through the Tehillim. Thus, during the 49 days of Sefirah, as well as on all other days of repentance i.e. (The month of Elul, Rosh Hashannah) we should recite Psalms. This will be us to our gate of repentance. And by achieving this we will merit purity and coming back to Hashem.

That these day are a most amenable time for reciting Psalms and repenting can be learned from the begining of the book of Shemos. The verse reads, "these are the names of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt; each man and his wife, they came." In Hebrew, the last letters of these words make up the words Tehillim and Teshuvah. The verses which follow then list the names of the Tribes (their 49 letters). They correspond to the 49 days of Sefirah, corresponding to the 49 Gates of Teshuvah (Likutey Moharan II, 73).
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Monday, April 13, 2009

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Sefirat HaOmer - Bitul and Emunah, Part 4

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The 49 days of of the Omer period correspond to the 49 gates of repentance. These in turn correspond to the 49 letters in the hebrew names of of the 12 tribes. It is though these letters and gates that we must make our return to G-D Almighty. The festival of Shavuot is the 50th gate.

This is the gateway of Hashem's "repentance",when Hashem Himself returns, as it were. That is to say, He returns to us in love. It is possible to reach all these gates and open them by reciting the psalms. If one is exceptionally careful to concentrate when reciting Psalms one can reach all 49 gates.

During the 49 days of counting the Omer we have to cleanse ourselves of impurity and return to Hashem. Then Hashem will return to us on Shavuot (Likutey Moharan II, 73). Thus we should immerse ourselves every day of the Omer in repentance. When we immerse in the Mikvah on Shavuot (predawn after learning all night) we are connected with the highest levels of Hashem's loving kindness and abundant mercy, and we can attain awesome levels of perception of Hashem. The illumination which radiates on Shavuot is supremely extreme. And this wisdom is itself an expression of Hashem's loving kindness and mercy.

Love is bound up with wisdom and perception, as is explained elsewhere. It is a wonderful thing to experience the holiness of Shavuot, and in particular the Mikvah of Shavuot - THE MIKVAH OF THE 50TH GATE - which becomes the wellspring of Holiness and purity for Israel (Likutey Moharan I, 56:7).

Now is a very good time to start to get up and recite Tikun Chatztot, as the time just changed nd we have only to say Tikun Leah (we don't say Tikun Rachael during this period) so it is much shorter. Let's make fresh commitment to rise and say this important prayer...

Rules of the tikun abbreviated: "Tikun rachel is only said on days when tachanun is recited. Tikun Leah is recited even on days when tachanun is not recited- Shabbos, Yom Tov including Chol HaMoed, Rosh codesh, the entire month of Nissan, Pesach Sheni, Lag B'Omer, from rosh chodesh Sivan until 7 days after Shavuot, 15 Av, from erev Yom Kippur until the end of the month of Tishri, Chanukah, Tu b'Shevat, Purim and Shushan Purim. Tisha b'Av only Tikun Rachel is said. Neither should be said after dawn (Ben Ish Chai, 9)

Together we can do it, if we just try we can live a life that is connected and fulfilling. Know for sure that you have nothing to lose but a little sleep, and much, maybe a special blessing, to gain.
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Sefirat HaOmer - Bitul and Emunah, Part 3

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Trusting in a Tzaddik in being bitul to the Tzaddik, a path to increase your emunah in Hashem.

Many make mistakes with counting sefiras haomer, myself included. With the mistake comes depression in the failure and giving up on counting altogether. However, it's very important to continue to count even without a bracha. We must do teshuva and continue, if we stop after a mistake then we've lost. We have to overcome this and avoid our own concern and depression. This is the importance of bitul!

From Rebbe Nachman of Breslev's Likutey Eztot (Advice), Pesach:

The days of the month of Nissian are days of repentance like those of Tishrei. Nissan embodies the concept of Tikun HaBrit, guarding the Holy covenant. When you are joyous you can draw the spirit of Nissan, it's joy and holiness, into the whole year. Thus you can make amends for the abuse of Covenant and you will avoid impure experiences... (Likutey Mohsaran II, 5:10).

The Haggadah which we recite on Pesach is a tikkun for the Covenant. The reason why it is recited aloud is because the voice arouses Da'at, the knowledge of Hashem. By reciting the Haggadah aloud we can experience a revelation of pure Da'at. Da'at itself the essence of redemption, because the exile in Egypt came about through the abuse of the holy Covenant, which brought about a distortion of Da'at. The wine of the four cups which we drink on the first night(s) of of Pesach is also a tikun for da'at and for the Holy covenant. (Likutey Moharan I, 20:10). During Pesach when you pray you should cry out loud.


Through the joy we have on Purim, clapping of hands and dancing, we are able to fulfill the mitzvah of counting the omer properly. Then we are able to receive the Torah on Shavout, both the revealed and hidden Torah. Each day of the Omer period is associated with a different aspect of the sefirot. Remez (hint) - On each day everything which everyone in the world is talking about is purely an expression of the particular aspect with which that day is associated. A person with understanding can hear and recognize this if he pays attention to what people are saying.
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Sefirat HaOmer - Bitul and Emunah, Part 2

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Know that it is impossible to come to bitul and closeness to Hashem without emunah. But know that without bitul it is impossible to come to emunah. In this lies the question where to start.

It's hard to subdue the ego and the yeitzer harah to become bitiual. So we must first have emunah. As our emunah increases then we have to become more bitul. The more bitul we become the more emunah is increased. The more emunah we have the more we have to be bitul. We repeat this pattern til we reach Ein Sof and finish our tikun. Hopefully in this life, in this goof. We just have to 'tishtof l'daat shelcha me akol demionot', you have to wash your knowledge of all it fantasies, all of its preconceived ideas.

Wake up to the fact that you are just a guest in this world, you are just passing through! A guest doesn't worry about food or for that matter anything, he just receives from his host and is thankful for what he receives. And if you a guest of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, The Holy Blessed One - Blessed be His Name for ever, what are you in need of?

One thing only...A THANKFUL HEART!!! Just be thankful and receive from His hand all that you need. Receiving is bitul, and emunah is asking and trusting that you'll receive. You can't have one without the other! You have to have emunah to receive the next level, and be bitul to the last level. It's the way (and secret) of ascending.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

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Sefirat HaOmer - Bitul and Emunah, Part 1

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

In this time of Sefiras HaOmer (the mitzvah of counting of the Omer from Passover until Shavuos) we have to start with emunah and reach the point of bitual. Each one of us has to count Sefiras HaOmer. Unlike other mitzvot we can't be included (like being included in Hamotzi or asking someone to be a shliach for us). We ourselves have to count and be included. As an individual we ourselves must elevate our level each day that we count to rectify the defects that we have caused with our lack of faith.

Lack of emunah is the shoresh (root) of all sins. Mikvah is essential to the repair process, to take a mikvah everyday during sefiras haomer as we pass through these gates and obtain new levels of bitul. Hopefully we reach total nullification and reception of the Torah of truth on vav Sivan. "We will do" and then "we will hear" ???. Remez!! (hint hint) Total commitment to emunah and thus achieving total bitul.
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Photos: Aviv in Israel

With Passover comes spring, a sleepy Chol HaMoed day in a Jewish town in Israel...


Though Israel is described as densely populated, unlike some parts of the U.S. green vistas are always just a short distance away.


Everywhere you turn in the Holy Land, the old mixes with the new. The hills are covered with towns of 500, 1000, even 2,500 years ago near which Jewish towns of today blossom among the green-for-spring hills of Israel.


The land is very beautiful, if one stops the car long enough to see it! Moadim l'Simcha, a Good Chol HaMoed Passover to everyone!
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Friday, April 10, 2009

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What Makes a Good Seder?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I love chassidic stories, as well as good insights into the Passover seder and the details of yetziyas mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt). In the past I've used a variety of haggadahs, bringing chassidic stories, bringing insights, bringing deep explanations. I've had many a seder I thought was pretty good. Of course, I've also had sedarim (seders) that didn't work out so wonderful... bad choice of wine that left us feeling not so well, spending too much time focused on halachic aspects (going into exact measurements and times and so forth in great detail), children falling asleep early, major wine spillage, etc.

A few years ago I started focusing our seder more on the children. A bit of acting out parts of the seder, focusing on each child getting involved, made it much more involved for them. It was fun and I hoped more memorial.

This year was a surprise. The balance at the table was different, my youngest child isn't quite so young anymore, and I find my table filled with teenagers rather than young eager faces, including a guest from my son's yeshiva. I was outnumbered!

As we got into Maggid, my 15 year old daughter attacked... She challenged the language of the haggadah, she challenged why this point was important, why that was significant. She switched to Hebrew as she brought points from school and tore those apart. (Ahh, being attacked in two languages, help me!!!) I explained a point, and another, trying to catch my breath. She dug deeper, throwing paragraphs at me (in Hebrew). I had to start grabbing commentary in the haggadah.

While this was going on my 10 year old found the hidden afikoman (per Chabad minhag, we don't 'steal' it, I hide it and they 'find' it). Grrr, too soon.

We went back and forth, and finally she crossed her arms and said, "ok, I get it." I took a deep breath and after looking at the clock we sped ahead a bit to get to the mitzvot (matzah and marror).

To me this seemed like a bit of a failure. While we shared the haggadah going in, when we starting arguing the points our normal casual and playful pace and interaction was lost. We never got to any chassidic stories.

But this morning my older teen came over to me and said, "Wow, our guest said {and she seemed to agree} best seder ever!" And my 15 year old said, "This year was cool, the last couple years were boring."

I guess when you're a teen, challenging - and being taken seriously - is the best. And I have to recalibrate my seder thinking for my changing family.

A good seder fully involves each participant at their level and interest. That can be a difficult balancing act with different ages. But missing that needs and interests are changing as the children grow is a mistake, one that I've been making. Fortunately this year my 15 year old daughter rectified it.

Moadim l'Simcha, a gutten chol hamoed from Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land.
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

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Birkat HaChama LIVE

From Jerusalem Meah Shearim and from Efrat, two videos below...

In Jerusalem - Meah Shearim


In Efrat
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Thank You

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Shalom! It's right before the holiday of Passover and I personally wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have helped with our Passover Charity campaign and who Tipped the Bloggers! I was personally taken aback by the response to our call for help, as together we able to help many poor families. The feeling to be your shaliach (messenger for good) was overwhelming.

The response from the poor was kisses and hugs and many thanks, many tearful thanks! Through your efforts we were able to put matzah on 100 tables, and many others received just what they were lacking. Many a poor person was stunned to be handed enough for their Passover seder needs, and we were practically chased with praise as we just tried to quietly explain this was help from so many Jews around the world for them. Help came from literally all over the world!

The help that you sent to Reb Akiva and I well, I'm teary eyed as think that you love me this much, and literally made the difference in my family having a seder.

I thank you for the blessing. Chag Kasher v'Samayach, a Kosher and Happy Passover!!! פסח כשר ושמח

Look up as this is the season of the Redemption. Hashem is sure to see our efforts, hear our cries, and remember our people and take us out of this galut. May we greet each other in Jerusalem THIS YEAR!

(Photo: Birkat HaChama, the Blessing of the Sun {once every 28 years}, held this morning in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel.)
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The Light of the Geulah and Passover

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

It is written in Likutey Moharan #215, there are twenty-four redemptions paralleling each of the twenty-four courts. Rebbe Nachman speaks of the 24 pidyonim, see what is written about Moshe and how he wanted to bring all the gerim from the lowest level and from the farthest places close to Hashem.

His whole existence and mission in life and after his death was for this purpose. 'And he was nistalech on Shabbos at mincha time'. The time of the greatest will of wills, ratzon 'B'ravah Dravin'. And from there he made the Pidyon Hakollel - the 'all inclusive redemption', all of the twenty-four different types of pidyonim in all of the twenty-four courts, the highest of all redemptions.

Moshe stands between Shmad - apostasy and Ratzon - divine favor. 'Maale M'Shmad L'ratzon'. He midgates Shmad and transforms it into favor. Why is Moshe able to perform the greatest of all redemptions?

The gemartia of Moshe's name hints to his mission. Gezerah Sh'Mad, a time Sh'mad, apostasy is a time of deepest danger for Am Israel when Hashem forbid it has been declared that Am Israel is to be totally and completely destroyed. We must understand that we are able to be ohver all mitzvot except the big three - which we must die not to commit. But in the time of Sh'mad we have to die even if they tell us to tie our right shoe first. It is the of greatest level of complete destruction - the lowest level, the 50th level of tumah and denial of Hashem. One more inch and we are on our way out.

So Sh'mad is 344, and Ratzon is 346 and Moshe stands in the middle to stop the destruction, at 345. He is there to intercede on our behalf. Only the Tzaddik Emet can do this and only if he is willing to die if need be at the right time. This was Moshe. He knew this before hand and argued this before Hashem. But Hashem forced him to lead us anyway. Moshe's argument was correct and Hashem said you are right but... Moshe did not want to lead us unless it was to the final redemption. He saw that we would go through much pain and suffering in this long and final golus.

The concept geula Mitzrayim and all the geulas are an aspect of Pidyonot.

And all of this is an aspect of the Pesach, the issur (prohibition) of Chametz and the Mitzvah of eating Matzah. As it is written by the chachamim "ain bayne chametz l'matzah elah masihu", the smallest difference. And the only difference is the the aspect of the nikudah of kedusha - that being Moshe which stands in the middle.

Chametz is the lowest of the low and matzah is the highest. Now look for a moment at the words, what is difference? Chametz and the word for Matzah,... חמץ , מצה , ok it is the chet and the heh, ח ,ה yes it's just the little space in the left leg of the letter. It's a yud in the heh there is a upside down yud for shem Hashem. 'the nikudah kedusha'

It is brought down in all the seforim that the idea of Chametz B'Pesach is a total denial of Hashem - it's total Avodah Zorah and heresy. This is the aspect of Sh'maad, i.e. a total denial of Hashem. And this is the aspect of zuhamat and tumat Mitzrayim, the disgustingness and impurity of Eygpt. And they are the the shoresh, the root of all the the seventy avdeh kochavim. Israel was chosen from them, an Am Segula, a Worthy nation.

Hashem Himself is the aspect of Matzah. We are encompassed in Him, Blessed is His name. On Pesach we are forbidden to possess or come near to chametz, we can not even see it and it can not be found in our homes. But after the krias yam suf (the splitting of the sea), after we have experienced some geula and we are on the way from the tumah, after shivi'i shel pesach, we are able to eat it, we can already possess and see it. And then by the time of Shavuos, 'The Zeman Shel Matan Torah Tainu', the korban is only chametz. Two barley loafs, mamash Chametz. It is the only time in which we can bring leavened products in to Hashem, as it if forbidden to offer leavened or honey in the mikdash.

We have taken a journey from no chametz to only chametz! We went from galus where when we first left we could not handle even the sight of chametz, to where we could eat it, to the highest level of being able to bring it close to Hashem. There is mighty remezim here! Understand this well!

The concept of the geula from Mitzrayim and from all the Galuyot of Am Israel and of coming close to Hashem Yisbaruch is all an aspect of Pidyonim, redeeming ourselves and the sweetening of judgments against us.

It was through this level of Pidyon that Hashem redeemed us from Mitzrayim. "and He redeemed us from the house of slavery" (Devarim 13). And now also He redeems us from all our sorrows and troubles by Pidyon. Like we say everyday, "He redeems us and He saves always by His Name". Now all our hope is that Hashem will redeem us from this long bitter Golus with a complete redemption. (T'hillim 130) "He will ultimately redeem Am Israel...and He will bring the Redemption to the sons of Israel for His name sake". Not because we are worthy but for the sake of His righteous and Kadosh name only.

The main thing is 'The Pidyon Eliyon HaKolel' hanal, for there are many Pidyonim. Rebbe Nachman brings down in L.M. 215 'that even if a person were to bring a Pidyon to one of the Beit Din's to sweeten the judgments, he still has a little problem as there are 23 others and he doesn't know in which of Beit Dins is bringing the dinim on him. There are 24 levels of Dinim, his only hope for complete redemption is Pidyon Hakolel.

This aspect can only come about through the 'Histalkut Moshe', the raising up efforts of the Tzaddik HaEmet, and only at the moment of great will. This is the aspect of Ratzon, the aspect of 'B'ravah D'ravin' at the time of Sehudat Shilishi on Shabbos, the time of the 'Will of Wills'. Through this Pidyon HaEliyon comes the M'tbatlin and N'mtakin, the complete nullification and sweetening of all the judgments.

But this concept of sweetening and this the Pidyon in Tachlit. The ultimate redemption can only be through and at the time of the coming of Moshiach, and he is Moshe as it says "come until the ancient of days". He will be wearing the garments white as snow....and from there he is the aspect of 'B'ravah Dravin' as it is written "for when that aspect will be revealed". It is for this very reason that the ultimate redemption can come about through the time of 'B'ravah Dravin', through the 'Histalkut Moshe Rebbenu'.

For this reason Moshe resisted his shlichut and argued with Hashem that he did not want to to redeem Israel unless it was to be the final and ultimate and complete redemption. "Who should take them out to the ultimate redemption so let's not start", Rashi explains this... Moshe also knew that he could not possibly effect the Pidyon necessary and take us out unless he died. Hashem forced him to go because He promised that He would redeem Am Israel and that we would receive the Holy Torah on Shevuot. And that holy light would come down with the revelation of the highest 'et Ratzon B'ravah Dravin' which comes down on Shevuot.
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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Birkat HaChama Link

On Wednesday morning, from around 6:00 AM until around 9:00 AM, depending on what part of the world you are in, we have a once in 28 year opportunity to make the blessing on the creation of the sun.

Artscroll has a nice brief halacha, bracha, and time chart up here. Check it out.
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Photos: Passover is Coming in Israel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shopping is busy in Jerusalem's Geulah neighborhood, with a huge sign pointing to a place offering to kasher your utensils (kosher your pots and pans) for Passover. They have pots the size of barrels and blow torches the size of flamethrowers to get the job done fast...


Round hand-made matzah is preferred by most in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. Here a store in Jerusalem's Geulah notes that such matzah are being sold, and are supervised by the ultra-orthodox religious court of Jerusalem.


In a Tel Aviv commuter train station, the concessions are ready for the holiday, only Kosher for Passover products are now in stock.



Chag Kasher v'Samayach - a happy and kosher Passover!
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Sunday, April 05, 2009

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Which are Important?

If you haven't already, please support our Help the Poor Campaign for Passover! Check it out here.

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The rebbe known as the Rav of Apta made exceptional preparations for Pesach (Passover). He invested tremendous physical and spiritual effort in the preparation of his matzot for the seder. Who are we to even speak of such levels of holiness as the Rav invested in his matzot?

As the Rav went to synagogue the morning of Erev Pesach (the day before Passover), his wife was preparing the items for the seder table. The specially prepared matzot were wrapped up in napkins and set on the counter in the kitchen. The Rav's wife headed off to the other room to direct preparing of the silver for the table when a poor man came to the kitchen door. His knock was answered by a servant, and he begged that that Rav should help him as he had no matzah for his seder. The servant knew that no beggar was turned away, so she looked around and saw a pack of matzot on the counter. She quickly grabbed the pack of matzah, gave them to the beggar and returned to her duties as directed by the Rav's wife.

A few hours later the Rav's wife went to get the matzot and bring them to the table. She looked couldn't find them! She looked all over, not sure where they could be...and eventually realized they were gone! She asked the servants and it was quickly determined what had happened. Regardless, the special matzot where gone with no chance of recovery. Without any other choice, the Rav's wife wrapped up a set of regular matzah and placed them on the table by the Rav's place.

On his return from synagogue and beginning of the seder, the Rav paused a moment and looked slightly confused as he grabbed the matzot, but then continued with the seder as normal.

After Pesach a husband and wife came before the Rav. The husband was completely upset and determined to divorce his wife! He complained to the Rav, "Rav, my wife refuses to keep the custom of not-gebrokt in food preparation on Pesach!" (The extra-stringent custom of not using any matzah as an ingredient, not allowing any matzah to become wet under the possibility that a particle of flour may not have been completely or properly baked - therefore creating chametz on Pesach, G-d forbid. This custom is common among chassidim.)

The Rav thought for a moment and then called for his wife. The Rav said to his wife, "Dear, please tell this couple what happened to my matzot this Passover." The Rav's wife turned white and began to shake. "Don't be concerned," said the Rav, "I'm not angry, but tell the story to help this couple." His wife said what happened...

The Rav then turned to the husband and said, "I ate regular matzah at the seder and didn't say a word, for shalom bayis. And you want to divorce your wife over a custom?"

There are many many customs for Passover. Traditions, family traditions of generations, traditions from communities generations ago. And there are many a new stringency that we happily apply to try to increase the holiness and correctness and height of our Pesach.

But we have a LAW to be HAPPY on the holiday. We have a LAW of shalom bayis, peace in the house between husband and wife. NO STRINGENCY is worth breaking a law. Nor is any custom.

Keep the happy in the kosher and happy Passover!
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The Most Important Thing for Passover

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Although Passover is, by far, the most memorable and beloved holiday of the entire Jewish calendar, it also brings the greatest number of details, requirements and restrictions. Observing each of these elements is crucial during this week of preparation and especially for the Seder itself. To list them all would (and does) fill an entire book.

There are the Torah commandments and there are the rabbinical commandments. There are also the customs that, surprisingly, vary tremendously between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There are the unique customs that have developed around the diaspora. For example, Indian Jews eat different foods on Passover than Temanni Jews, and some Jews will dip their matzah in their soup, while others would be aghast at such a move! Some will eat beans, and some would never do such a thing. There are strict requirements as to the minimum amounts of matzah, bitter herb and wine that must be consumed, and only within a specific period of time. And perhaps most important of all are the amazingly strict requirements not to have any leavening or related products in our possession for the entire week. Confusing this even more is that some authorities say certain foods are leavened while others swear that they are not.

On and on, the list of requirements that ensure a successful Seder can certainly seem overwhelming. It is no wonder that the favorite question a sharp student will ask his rebbe right before the Seder is, “What is the most important thing that I must watch out for?”

Last Pesach, right before leaving the Kotel to rush home for the Seder, a rabbi friend of mine asked me that very question. To his great surprise, I immediately answered, “Make sure that the children have a good time.” He looked at me as if I might be joking; his face was all twisted up. He wanted to know some great Kabbalah about the four cups of wine, or maybe how to lean to the side when drinking them. Or maybe I could give him some great Chassidic teaching on how to do teshuva (repentance) while trying to gulp down that impossibly hot horseradish. AAGHHHH! But, no, I simply said, “Make sure that the children have a good time.”

The next afternoon, he came up to me, smiling. He’s a smart guy and he took my words to heart. He said, “It was the best Seder ever. The kids were great. Everyone was laughing. We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But tell me, how can you really say that keeping the kids happy was the most important thing to watch out for? After all, this is a very serious holiday.”

I explained, “There is only one reason we have the Seder at all: to remember the Exodus from Egypt. And there is only one reason why we must remember the Exodus from Egypt: so we will remain Jews. If we forget our past, there will be no reason to go on as a people. There is only one way for us to remain Jews, and that is to raise Jewish families. Without the children coming back next year, there won’t be any Jewish families. It’s for the kids’ sake that we go through all this each year and, God willing, we will get to do it for them again next year, too. And if they have a good enough time, then surely someday we will even get to do it for their kids.”

Have a happy Pesach. It’s crucial.
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