Thursday, July 30, 2009

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Rectifying the Sin of the Spies



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Remains of the City of David

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The Menorah!



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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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Take It Away!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Dear Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the World),

I do not appreciate your holiday Tisha B'Av (the 9th of the hebrew month of Av). With respectful apologies, I must point out that it has turned into a basically meaningless occasion.

Memories of the Divine Presence are long faded away. Not even written descriptions of being with the Presence remain. Memories and tradition of the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) have passed into far distant history with nothing but a few brief barely understood written descriptions remaining. No pictures or drawings, no real concept of what was.

On Tisha B'Av we read Kinnos, a book of lamentations. Those written for the Holy Temple stopped being written over 900 years ago as memories, traditions, and even writings of that time faded away. While on Tisha B'Av we will read of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beis HaMikdash, at best we will be filling our minds with the horrors not of then - to which we can't relate - but to the Holocaust for people, and maybe to 9/11 for the destruction of a building and city.

Ribono Shel Olam, dear Father in Heaven, it's been too long. We cannot truly yearn for what has passed from living memory and even from history. I have ascended Har HaBayit (the Temple mount, to the areas permissible by some authorities) to look for even a single stone of the Temple to mourn over... none are to be found.

I'm sorry dear Father, we just no longer can relate. For a parking lot to be opened on Shabbos in Jerusalem, for this we can fight tooth and nail for the mitzvah and to preserve the sanctity of Jerusalem. For an inch of the land to be given over, for this we can fight till they crack skulls to move us.

But for the Beis HaMikdash? We simply can't connect anymore.

Dear Father, it is forbidden to substitute one mitzvah for another. We cannot fast on Rosh Hashana, nor read the megillah on Yom Kippur. We do not eat matzah on Sukkot, nor fast on Purim...

Since we can no longer observe Tisha B'Av the way the mitzvah requires, we cannot truly mourn the Temple of which we no longer understand, picture, can find a single stone of, or relate to, please dear Father since we can't observe Your mitzvah properly TAKE IT AWAY!!!
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Evil

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

There is so much evil in the world. Everywhere we look, it seems that there is something bad happening. Every day we see physical evil around us. There are wars, famines, plagues, murders, theft, and on and on. There is also a tremendous about of emotional evil in the world, such as hatred, depression, and other mental illnesses that claim so many millions of people. There is even spiritual evil, and many kinds of that too. For instance, there is idolatry, and unclean powers, and there are demons and black magic. Where does all this evil come from? Since G-d is the only Creator, and He is in charge of all that happens, then it would seem that G-d Himself was bringing all this evil into the world. But why?

All evil can be traced back to the first man in the Garden of Eden. Before Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he saw no evil. Nor did he see good. All that he saw was simply G-d’s handiwork. No matter what he encountered, he would simply say, “Ah, this is what G-d is doing,” and he would go about his business tending G-d’s garden paradise.

But from the moment he ate of that fruit he saw things differently. He was expelled from the garden. From then on there were good things and there were bad things. Greed and jealousy came into the world. People began to hate and lust. Even murder came. All of the other woes that we experience today are descendants of that first woe. The spiritual evils are simply outgrowths of that initial sin. Because Adam ate of that fruit, today we see things as good and bad.

Why do we need to know this? We need to know that the Garden of Eden is not just a historical garden located somewhere near present-day Iraq. It is an ongoing alternative to today’s Adam’s expulsion. Adam was not only the first man. Adam is all of us today.

When commenting on G-d placing Adam in the Garden, the Zohar states, “Just as did G-d place man in the Garden then, so does G-d do now to any man … when he repents of his sins and occupies himself with the Torah … and G-d places him in His garden which is the Shechina (G-d’s Revealed Presence)”.[i]

The mystical paradise called the Garden of Eden is not merely an historical, specific location. It is everywhere. This paradise can be entered by turning away from judging everything we see as either good or evil, and instead, simply seeing the entire creation to be God’s magnificent handiwork.

In fact, reentering the Garden is the very purpose of life in this world. “Man is created solely to delight in G-d and enjoy the radiance of the Shechina.”[ii] This is the primary delight in Gan Eden.

But, if we return to judging what we see, we will again be cast out of the Garden. We will find ourselves back in a world filled with good and evil, and we will again be forced to make our way by the sweat of our brow.[iii]

This does not mean that we are to call evil “good” or good “evil.” We must distinguish between them. We are told to do good and not to do evil. We must try to overcome the evil in the world and work to turn it to good. But when evil comes, even while we are fighting it with all our might, we must remember that it is G-d Who is sending it, or allowing it for some good reason. This too is His handiwork.

[i] Zohar, Genesis 27a
[ii] Ramchal, Mesillas Yesharim Chap 1
[iii] Genesis 3:19
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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Tisha B'Av Sins

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The first recorded negative event that began the Tisha B'Av cycle was the sin of the spies. They returned and said of Eretz Yisroel "it is a land that consumes it's people", and all the people cried. We've been crying on this day every since.

There are many perushim on these words, reviewed by generations of our holiest scholars. Yet, perhaps a simple thought is worth considering as well.

We frequently refer to this world as a dog eat dog world. In the desert, each one of the Jewish people was provided with what he needed. There was no competition for resources. Yet in this world we frequently bump up against other people. They're in our way to where we're going, whether that's a place, competition for a job, or just going for the bigger slice of pie.

Indeed, a land may be a very tough land where the inhabitants struggle just to survive. Except during famine, that was never the Land of Israel (until the Jewish people were expelled, the land raped for generations, and the full power of the klalot (curses) fell upon the land). The spies themselves brought back evidence that the land was fruitful and plentiful!

There is rarely a land that consumes it's people, it's people that consume each other. When a society is based on pushing the other guy out of the way, trampling each other to get the bigger portion, ignoring the cries from underfoot, when there's a society that consume each other then it's a land that consumes it's people.

Rabbi Yitzchok Groner, a"h, said "Yiddishkeit is one person helping another." The rectification of the words of the spies and the cries of the people is...helping each other. After all, if we really have faith in Hashem that we'll get what we need and what we deserve, then not grabbing is not a sacrifice. And helping is being a partner in creation.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

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Perushim on Gog

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

A review of some of the commentary on Gog from the navi'im...

There is very curious language used here.

- Radak writes that Gog is from the children of Yefet and from this land. Further it writes that he is 'caful hamelek', doubled as king - perhaps his second time in office or dual office? Gog is not his name but a title for he is a king - ruler - president of a nation. He is in effect a prince that rules (strongly influences) all the nations.

Meshudat Dovid writes that he seems to be involved in a brit shalom (a peace treaty), unclear whether making one, breaking one or has broken one?

Persia (Iran) and Cush (Ethiopia/Sudan) and Put (Libya) join him voluntarily to help. They seem to be only involved in defending Gog or themselves and they seem to do this from their own lands.

The role of Gomer (the Anglo / Frank / EU alliance) is there to see the job gets finished.

Beth Togarma (Germany) only comes in at the end. Radak & Mehari Kra says she comes only for evil.

And all her cohorts, (Radak) all those of the bnei yafet that dwell north of Germany to the ends of the north. The Mehari Kra say those from the north that they come with bows and arrows (missiles).

We do not write this to generate fear, but to watch the simonim (signs) and to know that every day is important. We don't know what will be tomorrow, but today we have the opportunity to do teshuva and serve Hashem. Let's make the best of it! Big events may be coming, G-d willing with the complete Geulah. Make every day count.
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Clean & Unclean Mystical Powers - Part 2

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

(Part 1 here.)

The first half of this article sited a number of examples of mysterious powers found within the various religious practices in the world today. These powers raise a number of questions. For instance, why does G-d allow these powers to exist, and with these mystical powers openly demonstrated in so many religions, how is one to choose the proper path to follow?

That we can even ask these questions shows us the very reason why G-d has allowed these unclean powers to exist. He wants us to have free will. This is an essential principle in creation. The spiritual reward is commensurate with the spiritual effort. If there would be no free will, we would be like angels merely doing what we were programmed to do. If there were no mystical signs in those other religions, who would chase after those extremely foolish beliefs that surround those wonders?

They teach such things as, “Bow down to the Sun and Moon,” “There are millions of gods today, and this idol is one of them,” “The father of this person was not a man. It was a ghost.”

Without those magical signs and fantastic promises that these followers claim, not even the most foolish person would ever believe in those religions. So G-d allows such magic to exist to let each of us choose our own spiritual path.

If all of the obvious goodness came only from following the Torah, no one would ever stray to those foolish religions.

This explains why G-d allows such powers to exist, but how are we to know which path to follow? How do we know that normative Judaism, which is often taught to be so strict and so detail-oriented with very little of these types of mystical experiences, is what we should be following? And when there is an apparent miracle in someone’s life, how do we know that it was a genuine wonder and not just coincidence, or something from the “other side” (the unclean powers) like these other religions demonstrate?

One question to ask is what happens to the one who is credited for having done the miracle? If the credit for the wonder is attributed to the “wonder-worker,” even as a “humble servant,” then there is something wrong there. If the “miracle” strengthens the ego of the “wonder-worker,” and the wonder shows how special he is, then certainly something is wrong there.

When there is no question except that the wonder came from and is attributed to G-d, then it may very well have been a true wonder. If after the experience the attention is focused on the Infinite One and not on the person who “brought” it or on the one who received it, then it may have been a truly holy experience. Did the experience strengthen your awe of the One Infinite Being, or did it increase your appreciation of a wonder-worker, or of a spirit?

Given all this, still, there also have been known to be righteous, Jewish wonder-workers. In our generation alone there were three of the greatest wonder-workers who ever existed in the history of the Jewish people. The Baba Sali, Rav Kaduri and the Lubavitcher Rebbe were all instrumental in bringing about amazing wonders. These wonders certainly brought a lot of attention to them, especially from their followers. So still we have to ask, how are we to identify the miraculous intercession from G-d and mere magic?

There are also wonders brought about from the improper use of the Kabbalah. This is called “Practical Kabbalah.” But there is a strong prohibition against using these arts. How do we know if the wonder came about from G-d’s miraculous intersession or the work of a crafty student of the Kabbalah?

In fact, many of the sages have warned us not to follow any of these signs at all. Not the miracles and certainly not the voices, even if they actually come from Heaven.[i] “The Torah was not given to the Heavens,” they say. “It was given to us here on earth.” According to this strong opinion, a voice from Heaven or a wonder cannot decide anything for us today. So how are we to guide our lives?

The average person is not experienced enough to be able to discern a clean power from an unclean power. To understand the true underlying nature of the experience we must look and see what comes from and surrounds the wonders. See where the wonders lead. Would following the teachings of the one who “brought” the wonder lead to your having a normal Jewish life, a Jewish family and Jewish descendants?

G-d’s miracles come to help us and to strengthen our belief in Him and in His Torah. They will never take us away from this. He gave us His Torah thousands of years ago, and those of us who have kept it over the years have continued on as Jews. Those who have left it have disappeared from the Jewish people within one or two generations.

Following other spiritual beliefs will not lead to this essential goal. Even if those other religions were spiritually moral paths, which they are not, following them would mean that your children or grandchildren will intermarry and their children will be removed from the roles of the Jewish people. After all, if you believe like they do, and act like they do, there is no reason not to marry like they do.

[i] Gemora Baba Metsia chap 8
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Reb Akiva on Arutz 7 - What Direction?

Tamar Yonah invited me to be interviewed on The Tamar Yonah Show on Arutz 7 - Israel National Radio.

You can listen to to the show here. English, I'm in the first segment.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

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A Tzadik Says: Hang On!

The following was heard directly from a known tzadik. This was in a private conversation, not a public pronouncement, and is edited and annotated for readability... (No, we're not identifying who.)

Last year we (the gedolim & tzaddikim) really thought Moshiach was here. (There was a young man who was recognized as having the right credentials who was imbued with a spirit of understanding far beyond his years.) Many gedolim and tzaddikim went and attended his words.

To our great misfortune, he was found to be false. Those who became close were in real danger at this trick of the Other Side. (Fortunately Shamayim protected the general public and this person was not 'revealed'.)

We are still recovering from this spiritual test and there are more to come. We believe those who are not awake will receive a false messiah this year and many will fall prey to this. We must be careful to protect ourselves from this. We may find ourselves standing alone.

All we can do is pray and try to connect people with Hashem.

We see the world is turning against the Jew once again. They want to expel Hashem and destroy those who hold on to Torah and truth. But the even greater danger is from within. Those of our own people will be the ones to hand us over to be tried.

We must focus on connecting with Hashem, to just hang on (so to speak). It is not a time of logical arguments and political processes. Rather, it's a time to keep your head down and not be distracted from the Torah of truth.

The klipah exists close to the kedushah, for such is required to provide free will. Even our holy organizations (yeshivot, charities) have within them influence and negative forces from the Other Side. Some of this is unavoidable as there are among our people those not connected to the emes, but we must guard against it growing strong. This is Hashem's way and understanding is not ours.

We must not look at what some people have fallen into and condemn the place. We must use the tools of Torah and the holy teachings of our Rebbe's and Gaonim, for ourselves and especially for all the klal.

Those who are striving should know, the truth is a lonely place.
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Rebuke or Warmth?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Judaism has gone through fire and brimestone phases. Rebuke due to our terrible aveyrot (sins) and being distant from Hashem is part of our tradition and an active part of the past.

The problem with threats and punishment, as any parent knows (especially those with large families), is they lose their effectiveness. Either because the child challenges you (so do it), or because you apply the punishment - at which point the threat to repeat may be problematic (especially if the punishment is severe).

The Jewish people have been through generations of hard times. The Holocaust, the massacres, poverty and pogroms of the generations before. The rebuilding of Israel on Jewish blood, war every generation in Israel with generation after generation of existential threats (threat to very existence).

So if I shout at you DO TESHUVA or else, well, been there done that. Frankly the miracle is that the Jewish people are still here AND are still connected to Hashem. That Torah is NOT a memory, and synagogues still exist. That Jews are stepping out of the inner city and small towns, out of mountain villages and seaside cities, and returning to Torah and the path to Hashem.

The time of the smack down has passed. No one is paying attention to the hysterical rebukes. Even worse, not only is that approached ignored, it's counter productive - people turn off from it.

It certainly doesn't work outside the Jewish religious community, and it's not working anymore within the religious community (particularly with the young people). This is a lesson from the Baal Shem Tov returned to our time. Fire and brimstone leading to terror and depression are not successful long term strategies for motivating a positive relationship with Hashem.

Chassidus arose to take people OUT of the depressive path to one of serving Hashem with JOY. To loving our fellow, appreciating ourselves for the gifts of life and creation from Hashem, and focusing this live on the positive.

In a time of chaotic world events and information overload, when madmen declare their intention to destroy Israel and even former safe havens seem to be turning (slowly but not imperceptibly) against being a comfortable place as Jews, it's easy to fall into depression. It's also easy to stand up and scream TESHUVA, REPENTENCE, it's all because we're not perfect!

Indeed, we're not perfect. But given what the Jewish people have been through, we're doing pretty darn good!

World events are turning chaotic and downright frightening. But as it says in Yalkut Shimoni (Yishayahu Remez 499), and quoted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, "do not fear, for all that I've done I've done for you." Events are being lined up for the Geulah, and it's all for our good.

Lets do our part, and have a little faith in our Father in Heaven to give us a little credit and make it happen in a way we all recognize as revealed good.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

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Breaking News Jerusalem has been Attacked with Nuclear Bomb


by Reb Nati at
Mystical Paths

This Hashem forbid could be the headline soon if we do not wake up. No but she has been hit with a spiritual nuke as the whole world now stands against her. It is becoming perfectly clear to me that we no longer need a Navi. That there is no need to interpret what is going on as we are there, and have been there before. And it is totally appropriate that at this time we start the book of D'varim as we need to be reminded of where we've come from.

In my review of all the materials that are written in our Holy books. by our Holy Sages about what transpired during the 3 weeks and the especially the nines days.

It has become quite clear that at this very time in our history that there is no political nor military solution to this problem! As was then so it is today the same. At that time Hashem wanted us to return to Him, And even now, He's waiting for us to turn to Him today. But we just keep looking the wrong way. So tell me something? Please.
Why worry about or listen to the voice of our enemies, When the voice of our Father in Heaven has loving called us repeatedly for 2000 years. Only 'The unbelivers' would rather hear this susan or that obama or any other voice, besides that of Hashem What's with you people? I know that, even if Akiva leaves this up you'll chide me! From what distant place do you come from that you do not understand what is about to happen? What it it going to take? What you think that your stance or your money is going to save you? Or that your knowledge or understanding of the American way will help you? It is only your rebellion that has brought you to this place in the first place! REPENT turn now to Hashem and return to His land! Now is the last time! You may not make it if you wait and there is no one to blame but yourselves for your selfishness has brought all this on us! Self hatred and an Evil eye on our neighbors is the cause of all our anguish and suffering. Please wake up it's the only thing you refuse to try! Maybe just maybe it will work what do you have to lose?

Why continue to view these things? Please brothers sisters, please wake up there was only one solution then! And there is only one option now Immediate and complete Repentance!

Why is it? No one wants to hear this message? Why is it, everyone wants to try to figure out where and why we are in this? Hello! Hashem has told us, and is telling us, to return and rely only on Him! What is it going to take to wake you up? A mushroom cloud over Jerusalem and the rounding up of Jews to be slaughtered in the streets of the USA. What? We have forgotten what they have done to us in the past? Come on! Think remember you know it is true it is written on your heart. We were there together in the desert we all received it and we all suffered it. It's there in the collective memory. I'm desperately trying to nudge you in to remembering, please wake up.
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Obama & The Jewish World

Press Release by Anne Bayefsky
anne@hudsonny.org
(917) 488-1558

This article originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

President Barack Obama last Monday met for the first time with leaders of selected Jewish organizations and leaks from the meeting now make one thing very clear. The only free country in the Middle East no longer has a friend in the leader of the free world. Obama is the most hostile sitting American President in the history of the state of Israel.

This was the very first meeting with Jewish community’s leaders. Earlier requests for an audience with major Jewish organizations had reportedly been ignored. Six months after taking office the President finally got around to issuing an invitation – to stop the bleeding. Increasing numbers of Jews – even among the overwhelming number who voted for Obama – have been voicing serious concern about his real agenda.

The meeting, however, did not showcase the President’s trademark engagement and dialogue routine. Instead, he decided to cherry pick his Jewish audience to include pro-Obama newcomers with little support in the mainstream Jewish world, such as J Street, while blackballing the Zionist Organization of America. The oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, with a Washington office second in size only to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was not a voice Obama wanted to hear. This leaves the President willing to engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but not ZOA President Mort Klein.

The growing alarm in the Jewish community was also something the White House was bent on covering up. They refused to put the meeting on the President’s public schedule until it was outed. The White House demanded strict confidentiality and issued a terse couple of lines that it occurred when it was all over.

But there is no papering over the distressing reality that emerged. The President told his listeners that he preferred putting daylight between the United States and Israel. His reported justification: “there was no light between the U.S. and Israeli positions for the last eight years, and no progress was made.”

Evidently, unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, 21 settlements and 9,000 residents counts for nothing. The Palestinian terrorist leadership and street have refused to accept a Jewish state for the past eight years (and the previous fifty-three) because the United States did not add sufficiently to Israel’s isolation. Palestinians are more likely to end terrorism, incitement to violence and rampant antisemitism if the United States applies more pressure on their victims.

Even if Obama doesn’t get it, Mahmoud Abbas does. He is now refusing to negotiate anything with the new Israeli government until President Obama’s settlement conditions are met.

During the meeting the President repeatedly described his new policy in terms of one of Yasser Arafat’s favorite mantras, “even-handedness.” That’s diplotalk for a moral equivalence between an Arab war against Jewish self-determination launched from the day of Israel’s birth – decades before any “occupation” – and the conditions of third-generation Palestinian “refugees” kept in limbo pending Israel’s destruction. But Obama’s even-handedness was no slip of the tongue. In his Cairo speech, the President equated the Holocaust to Palestinian “dislocation.”

The President promoted his strategy of putting hard public “pressure” on Israel as a means to build more credibility with Arab states. He must have meant the kind of credibility that comes from his policy of leaving an “open door” to Iran after its discredited election.

Obama then claimed that the widespread perception of an anti-Israel agenda was all the media’s fault because the media is only interested in a “man-bites-dog” story. When an administration sends a U.S. ambassador back to Syria though it is still listed as a key state sponsor of terrorism , hosts terrorist kingpins pursuing Israel’s annihilation, and was caught trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, the story is far-fetched story alright – but true.

The president joked that Al-Jazeera often airs pictures of him wearing a yarmulke at the Western Wall. Except the photo-op during the election campaign had been intended to fool a Jewish audience that is no longer amused.

Reports also quote the President as claiming Israel has yet to “engage in serious self-reflection.” Considering Israel is a democratic country forced to send its children into the armed forces for two to three years and its men into reserve duty for another twenty-five, that isn’t the audacity of hope. It’s just plain audacity.

There is no doubt that the pressure on Israel from the Obama administration is going to get a lot worse, as the President told the group “there is a narrow window of opportunity for advancing the peace process.” Everyone understood the threat. The narrow window is Obama’s self-defined political ambitions bearing no relationship to the realities of the Middle East – or the welfare of either Israel or the United States.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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Powerful Movie Free for the 9 Days

One of the most powerful documentary/movies about Gush Katif is online free for the 9 days. A full length movie of the expulsion of Jews, of hope and destruction.

Hebrew with English subtitles. View it below, or in a larger window at WeJew.com.

Over 1 hour long, this free 9 days viewing will only be up during the 9 days. Take advantage of it now.



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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

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Hit on The Planet Zedek

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

The Planet Jupiter has been hit by massive object! News headlines right out the ages of old from one of the oldest holy books.

The sefer 'Seder Olam Raba' states that in the time leading up to the redemption there will be a time of judgment. One sign of this time is the planet Zedek being struck. We all thought this happened when the comet Shoemaker-Levi #9 impacted Zedek (aka Jupiter) 18 times in the 90's, which was barely visible from Earth.

Today's impact was highly visible from Earth, spotted by an amateur astronomer with a 14" telescope in his back yard. As we are entering a time of Tzimzum, 'of constriction', maybe we are witnessing the evidence as foretold by our sages of old, blessed be their names.

We are in for a time of Constriction as never before. The last great birth pain, great contraction, was the Holocaust which brought about the physical redemption and we received the land of Israel. Geula Hagoof.

Now it appears we are beginning the passage through the darkest period in our history, the war of GoG. It looks like we are about to unfortunately pass another two contractions and receive the Geula HaNefesh and Geula HaRuach, the final redemption.

Hashem has sweetened all this by giving us this galut and causing us to fall away. This was to make the sentence lighter but we do not have to revel in it or to wallow in it. We must do teshuva and return.

There are many proofs of our time stamp, where we are holding on the cosmic clock. However, it not the time of proof. Sooner or later we must let go of our egos and justification of our laziness. We need to act now! This requires some believe and trust as we are running out of time.

We have in our power to by pass all this and receive the geula early 'acheshena' by doing complete and rapid TSHUVAH. The clock is ticking down and there are no time outs remaining.

It's up to us to arouse our fellow to do t'shuva b'ahava - to return to Hashem out of love. We must cause a spontaneous rapid and complete arousal from the below. I'Rutah hatata! It is our only hope to receive the geula before its time 'B'Etah' and with mercy. For mercy only goes with before its time. Woe unto us if we blow this off!

Hashem has warned us! In writing and with witnesses, and He wants and longs to show us His complete mercy. But our deeds are forcing him to give us a potch (a smack). Wake up! Please do not try process this, your ego is in the way. Just do tshuvah now!

Lets make it simple. Hashem is waiting for you and me to come to Him and renew the brit that we made with Him at Har Sinai before the conquest of the land. But we are standing here not catching the fact that we have to do it! No one is coming for us if we do not step forward to meet Him and hasten the process!

It's up to each of us to lose our egos. What, you like the Gehinom that we have made here for ourselves in this world? Personally, I'm ready for a change.

May we merit it before it's time, mamash today.
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Longest Solar Eclipse - Tomorrow

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century begins at dawn near the west coast of India and crosses southern China before heading out into the Pacific Ocean. Red lines denote regions where a partial eclipse is visible. Blue lines indicate mideclipse in Universal Time. Click here for a larger version.

CREDIT Fred Espenak, SkyandTelescope.com
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Gog & Company? Oy!

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

As Obama (Gog candidate) jet sets around the world has anyone noticed the leaders he's meeting?

Photo from a BBC article, with the biblical names of the nations leaders shown together.

This group has one thing in common, they are all on the list in Yechezkel 38. (Leaders shown are from France, the USA, United Nations, Libya.) I just though this is curious.

Yechezkel 38 1-7 excerpts ...Gog of the land of Magog 'The Prince'....I will lead you astray and I will place hooks in your jaws and bring you.... a vast assembly... Persia (Iran), Cush (Afghanistan/Pakistan) and Put (Libya) will be with them,

Libya has been off the radar for some time now and is suddenly back in the gang palling around with POTUS?

...Gomer and all her cohorts (France/ European community), Beth Togarmah in the north (Germany and Scandinavia) and the many peoples (the United Nations)...

be a guardian for them and bring them... in the end of years"

We have seen a Gog candidate has been in Russia (Meshech and Tubal), and according to Pravda (Russian news) he met with senior Iranian officials (!!!), so the list is almost complete.

'The storm' is brewing and the 'clouds' of anti Jewish/Torah hate are spreading and the 'wicked design' is taking shape all right out of the Navi and under our noses in a very rapid time frame.

Oy!


As we Jews in Israel lay with our hands tied behind our backs and with our heads on the chopping block. Right out of the Midrashim and Targum.' 'They', these very same men, are planing the removal of our head 'Jerusalem' while we are just tearing at each other locked in a spiral of hatred and strife.

Oy!

Hashem have mercy on us! But know if we can not come to peace with ourselves we will fall into their hands, Hashem Rachem!

Oy!

'Hear us and help us on the day we call' only applies when we have 'Achdut', oneness of heart and purpose. All sides need to nullify the ego, be bitul (nullified) to the 'Torah of Truth' and save ourselves and our children much suffering.

Oy!

We need to pray, really pray, for and end to the strife in Holy city of Jerusalem! Please spend no less then 15 minutes in personal prayer for the safety and peace of the holy people and their city of Hashem.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

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A Jewish Soul Refuses!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This past Shabbos at Chabad Shaliach from Switzerland was at our synagogue and told this story...

While visiting Israel, I arrived in Beit Shemesh by train. A visibly secular Israeli taxi driver picked me up. As we were driving to my destination, like many an Israeli taxi driver who starts chatting, he told me this personal story:

"You see in front of you a struggling non-religious taxi driver. But a few years ago I was a senior police officer with a nice career and a pension. Here's what happened.

You may not know this, but in the hills between old Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh, there is an old xian monastery [Akiva adds: Beit Jimal, built Salesian monks in 1881]. One day they called the police to come and discuss some issues. I was sent.

I arrived at the monastery, the first time I'd ever been to the place. As I came to the entrance, I noticed they had a very odd main door - it was only 1/2 height! (Meaning you had to bend down to enter.) As I opened the door I saw a series of statues - non-Jewish religious icons - IDOLS, to which the shape of the door forced you to bow down to, to enter.

Now I had a serious dilemma. I'm not a religious Jew, but I do know that Jews don't bow down to idols! But at the same time I'm a police officer and these people called for an issue, and I have a duty. So I thought for a few moments and came up with a solution - I walked in bowed down BACKWARDS, rear-end first towards the idols!

The monks who were waiting for me on the other side were quite upset. A week later letters of protest arrived to my police commander, the police chief, the minister of security, even to the Prime Minister for my "insult" to their religion. I lost my job and my pension.

So today I'm a struggling taxi driver. But do you know what, even knowing what happened I'd do the same if faced with it again today.
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Opinion: Jerusalem Riots

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We are in the midst of the 3 weeks, traditional times of trouble for the Jewish people. Amazingly, during this traditional time of trouble we find a series of internal troubles this year. Riots in Jerusalem, and Beit Shemesh, and Bnei Brak. Split in the Modern Orthodox community. Even a split in my own shul!

One of the great strengths of the Jewish people is achdut, unity. We appear to be under spiritual attack during these 3 weeks, an attack aimed directly at our primary strength.

As they say in the US, it's a long hot summer. Tempers flare and issues that divide us suddenly grow from annoying but ignorable to disturbing and requiring response. We must resist this negative urge, for it is clearly a trick of the yetzer hara (the evil inclination).

All of us, every single one, have a duty to help dowse the flames of hatred that have arisen during this hot season. We must talk calmly to our fellow and engage our sechal, our intellect, to control our emotions. We must stop and think kindly of our fellow, giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, kav s'chut. And we must make this point to everyone we speak to... our own children, people we meet on the street, at work and at shul.

The hotheads, the zealots of impure motives, will destroy our strength otherwise. And even saying "G-d help us" then won't help, for our individual voices are not heard when we're fighting with each other.

Yes, Hashem ya'a'zor - G-d should help, but bein odom l'chavero, between people, we must also.

Slideshow from Meah Shearim, Riot Damage.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

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Clean & Unclean Mystical Powers - Part 1

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A friend of mine recently returned from visiting his father in Russia. Although his father is a Jew, he has become a “devout” x-ian over the years. His father took my friend to visit his spiritual mentor, wanting to show him why he adopted that religion. The mentor has a reputation for being a “Master of Icons.” He took my friend into his kitchen. The walls were covered with various types of x-ian icons and imagines that are offensive to a Torah-observant Jew. As soon as my friend walked into the room, he felt a very strong physical power come over him. This was not merely an urge. It was a palpable energy that was trying to force him to bow down to those icons! He had to fight hard not to give into the power. He yelled and ran out of the house to escape its pull. What was this power?

A long time ago, I visited a world-famous guru in India.[i] The guru asked a visitor, “Do you like diamonds?” When the visitor said yes, the guru waived his hand and a diamond appeared in his hand! It was not there before he waived his hand. He often does this with precious items, religious symbols, or seemingly anything that he wants to “materialize.” Ashes come out of pictures of this guru when his devotees sing their religious songs in front of them, even many miles away from the guru. What is this power?

A x-ian gently laid his hand upon a stranger who was visiting the church for the first time. The stranger was not even a x-ian. The visitor collapsed, unable to stand. They call this being “slain in the spirit.” Another man in a wheelchair was touched by a “healer.” He jumped out of his wheelchair, walked, and called out, “I haven’t walked in weeks!” What is this power?

Two x-ian proselytizers stopped at a young religious Jew’s house. The Jew wrote about the experience:

“I have no desire to believe in what he's trying to sell me. What kept me curious and not sending him off was the experience he and his follower spoke of...’when the spirit comes over me, it feels so good’ he said. I was curious about this feeling of spirit coming into their body, not about believing anything. I wonder if it's possible to experience what they're talking about without believing what they're talking about... but just to be careful of dangerous spiritual influences. I imagine I should avoid both.”

What is this experience that they are talking about “when the spirit comes over” them? Can you have such an experience without endangering your spiritual path, or your very soul? Should this man be careful about dabbling in such spiritual curiosity? If these are genuine experiences, and not merely sleight-of-hand or group hysteria, why does G-d place such dangerous things before us?

We are told that physical poisons can be rendered harmless by diluting them with water. The dangerous effects of some poisons can be nullified by mixing them with a little more than an equal amount of water. For these poisons, when the majority of the mixture is water, they are rendered harmless. Other, stronger types of poison must have 60 times more water then poison in order to nullify them. Then, there are some poisons that are so strong that it takes 1000 times more water than poison to nullify their harmful effect.

But with idolatry, we are warned that no amount of goodness mixed with the idolatry will nullify its evil effect. This means that even if the idolatry also has 1000 good teachings, (such as “do not steal”), if there is even the slightest bit of idolatry there, the 1000 good teachings or deeds do not nullify the evil effect of that religion or philosophy. It must be completely rejected. So the curious Jew was very wise to say that he should avoid both the belief in that idolatry and investigating the spiritual experiences that come from it.

Early one Shabbos morning, a non-Jewish man approached me at the Kotel with a look of reverence. He spoke serenely, a bit other-worldly. He wanted to know who were the voices talking to him from the “Wall.” “They are saying that bad things are going to happen here,” he said. Are we to believe that G-d was talking to this tourist? Was this a true, wondrous Bas Kol (Voice from Heaven) experience, or was this just another tourist experiencing Jerusalem Syndrome?

Jerusalem Syndrome is a malady that sometimes hospitalizes visitors in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a unique city. Its history and many holy sites are enough to overwhelm visitors’ imaginations. Jerusalem also has a palpable holiness permeating its atmosphere that adds to this feeling. For some reason, some people have difficulty understanding these influences. When they experience this confusion some of them imagine themselves to be a Biblical personality or perhaps a new prophet.

Why does G-d cause this to happen? How are we to distinguish a true prophet from someone who is suffering from this not-so-uncommon psychosis?

The Torah warns us, “If a [false] prophet does a wonder … .”[ii] Can a false prophet do a wonder? Apparently he can, or the Torah would not warn us about this.

Is there really an unclean power in the East that allows that guru to seemingly materialize those objects? The Torah tells us that Abraham gave gifts to the sons he fathered with Keturah, and then he sent them to the East.[iii] Rashi tells us that these gifts were “names of unclean powers.”

When Moshe threw down his staff before Pharaoh, it turned into a snake. This was intended to be a sign that Hashem had sent him. So we see that miraculous deeds and wonders can be used as signs. But then Pharaoh’s magicians threw down their staffs and they too became snakes. So which sign is the one to follow? Moshe’s “snake” ate the magicians’ snakes. So then are we to go with the one who does the greatest wonders?

There are many examples of such mysterious experiences happening within the various religious practices in the world today. With these mystical powers openly demonstrated in so many religions, how is one to choose the proper path to follow? Are these wonders proof that their teachings are correct? Are they the signs and wonders that G-d sends to guide His people to the proper spiritual goal? Surely the people in these religions believe that they are. These are obviously “supernatural” powers, so are these proofs that the spiritual teachings of the ones doing them are proper and should be followed?

(To be continued)

[i] See Coming Back To Earth.
[ii] Deuteronomy 13:2
[iii] Genesis 25:6
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

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Tel Aviv Blathers about Riots

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Well known Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman nee journalist comments on France 24 about the Jerusalem Riots with the following insulting condescending statement...

“Any attempt to intervene in their affairs, they see as an attack on their society”

The people behind these riots are extreme Ultra-Orthodox Jews, so they're really a very small minority. These people live in another world. Their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe. They speak Yiddish, not Hebrew. They live in Jerusalem for religious reasons but they don't believe in Israel - it's a secular state. They don't accept the law. Any attempt from the civil police to intervene in their affairs - like this one - they see as an attack on their society.

Communication between the Ultra-Orthodox and the police/ rest of the community is not good. We simply do not interact with them. They live in an isolated area. They don't go to secular schools or universities, they don't work. They refuse to serve in the army. We don't even speak the same language. We're like foreigners to them.

They suffer a high level of poverty. It's very normal to have 12 - 15 children per family and the husband is a full time scholar, studying in the Yeshiva [Talmudic educational institute] from 8am until 6pm. The wife has a baby per year after they're married at 18 and works full time at the Yeshiva doing administrative work. They live off state funding at what works out at around €800 per month. They have a strong faith that ‘God will provide'. It's a lifestyle that the vast majority of Israeli people just cannot understand.

It will die down - it always does. The mayor will threaten not to collect their rubbish or something, and they'll forget about it. The Ultra-Orthodox go through a period of rioting every few months. Something always sets them off - a gay event, a cinema opening on Fridays..."


I replied:

Disenfranchised Minority Expresses Frustration

Ms. Goldman comments on a "very small minority", which is the traditional Tel Aviv view of the ultra-orthodox. However, their birthrate plus outreach drawing in others (to their religious ideals) has resulted in over 55% of grade school children in Jerusalem being from this "small minority".

Secular Israeli society's traditional approach to limiting opportunities and history of attempted cultural assimilation has resulted in this massively growing societal segment feeling completely disenfranchised from the system. None of the police facing off against them in these riots is wearing a yalmulkah, sidelocks or religious beard. Nor are the officials in the medical offices, social welfare offices, or city offices.

As such, when this community has a complaint or perceives a major bias, they have no one they trust with whom to speak on the other side. And when the system is taking even what may appear to be a valid action (to protect a seemingly abused child, for example - which is one of the issues in the current riots), those arriving from "the system" to take the action appear to be foreigners and are completely unaware of the sensitivities of the community which they are about to enter.

Because Tel Aviv believes these people to be backward (per Ms. Goldman's statement of "their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe"), they consider trampling the considerations of these backward peasants to be perfectly acceptable.

Unfortunately those 'backward peasants' are organizing instant coordinated community responses by cell phone and are growing sufficiently large as a segment of society that their concerns are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

Oh, and Ms. Goldman, the vast majority do work, you'd be surprised at the number serving in the army, very few women anatomically are capable of having "a child per year" (even starting at 18 the average family size is 8 over a 27 year period of potential fertility) and state funding was reduced to NIS 2,000 over 8 years ago (that's ~$500 per month or ~Euro 363 per month). No family of 10 people is living off of that.

The fact that secular Tel Aviv society believes it can trample this societal segments concerns may very well lead to a US style "long hot summer", perhaps finally opening the eyes of liberal Tel Aviv that their liberalism somehow always ends at the rights and concerns of the Jewish Religious Israeli, and that the doors of accommodation must not only be opened for a gay couple in Tel Aviv but also a religious family in Jerusalem.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

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Jerusalem Riots - Article & Photos #3

by Reb Akiva & Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Photos from Meah Shearim, riot area from this afternoon. Live riot cam (valid only July 16-17, 2009).

Channel 2 news lady attempts to interview residents, arriving dressed immodestly for the neighborhood. Nobody would talk to her except for 1 person pointing things out.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

Neighborhood is trashed, but businesses are open and operating normally.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

The young are influenced, and it's NOT a good thing.
Riots - Meah Shearim - Jerusalem - Israel
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Jerusalem Riots - Article & Photos #2

Photos by Reb Akiva & Live Reports by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Live reports from the Meah Shearim area, Jerusalem tonight on the riots from Reb Nati who lives in the neighborhood... Photos from a few hours earlier below.

-> Meah Shearim, neighborhood announcements by car loudspeaker to come confront the police. Simultaneous police announcements of a curfew going into effect.

-> My neighbor came up and told me that water and power are going to be cut. People are filling up pots of water and their bathtubs. Rumor or city plan to calm the area down?

-> Word is the Gerer Rebbe, shlita, told his chassidim to get out of it. They were supposed to non-violently protest but have been drawn in. Haven't seen the announcement make any difference.

-> Things quieted down for about a half hour. Then the Shabbos sirens started being used to call Selichos and mourning prayers, riling people up. Simultaneously police sirens heard throughout the neighborhoods.

-> LARGE explosion near Maale Dafne / Meah Shearim. Possibly from French Hill, mass police running that direction. Literally shook my apartment.

-> Riots increasing now. Loud speakers calling, horns honking - main road #1 is blocked. Many sirens. A major baalagan.

-> Loud boom was major car accident on #1. Major smoke from Meah Shearim / Beis Yisroel areas. Tremendous noise, sirens & loudspeakers from Bar Illan / Shmuel HaNavi area.

-> Bus loads and bus loads of police arriving. 4 helicopters overhead. Masses of people in the streets, kids / teens confronting riot police. The police are NOT being gentle, and the kids are not being smart.

Photos from a few hours ago...

Mishmeret HaGvul, Border Police, have streets blocked off to vehicle traffic in troublesome areas.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

Just a regular stroll down the street, oh and the burning barricade of garbage.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

Multiple such barricades on the same block, this one was more burned down.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

Children and police gathering in the afternoon for later.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

Yasamnik riot police preparing for later. This group chases by motorcycle!
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

A religious teen picks up a glass bottle, a yasam riot policeman confronts him.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel
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Jerusalem Riots - Article & Photos #1

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A major confrontation began about two weeks ago between the ultra-religious community of Jerusalem and the city with the opening of a municipal parking lot on Shabbos located right next to the community.

Riots heated up starting yesterday with a troubling case of a mother accused by the medical establishment of starving her child - but who she says has had major health problems since birth, been diagnosed INCORRECTLY with cancer and treated with chemotherapy, and was trying to extract from the medical system who has completely failed to help her child so far. Who's correct may be beside the point, but when the police violently hauled her out of her home in the middle of the day and seriously manhandled her in the street, the street exploded and riots started.

I haven't been in the area since all this started, but was there a few hours ago. Here's some pictures from riot torn Meah Shearim (and surrounding neighborhoods), Jerusalem, Israel from today...

Right outside the neighborhood, a water cannon sits ready for police to use.
Riots - Meah Shearim - Jerusalem - Israel

Traffic lights have been smashed, the streets are strewn with garbage.
Riots - Meah Shearim - Jerusalem - Israel

For children out of school for the summer, this is entertainment. For the police, not so much.
Riots - Meah Shearim - Jerusalem - Israel

Dumpsters are dumped if they haven't been burned (most are plastic).
Riots - Meah Shearim - Jerusalem - Israel

Apparently burning barriers closing the roads is the name of the game. The streets closer in are blocked, access is by foot only.
Meah Shearim Riots Israel

...more to come.
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Doing during The Three Weeks

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The Three Weeks began with last week’s fast (the 17th of Tamuz) and, unless the Moshiach comes, will continue through the 9th of Av. These are weeks of mourning for our Temple, since both the First and Second Temples were destroyed during these days.

Many joyful things are forbidden to us these weeks, such as music and weddings. Indeed, it is a time to carefully direct our joy.

But do not think that this means that we are to sit and cry for these three weeks. This would only add to the destruction. Instead, our mourning for the Temple should move us to actually begin to rebuild the Temple. We should start today by first gathering the materials we need, so they will be here, ready to use, the moment we finally get the go-ahead to assemble the pieces.

As usual, there is more than one opinion as to how the Temple is going to be built. Some say that we are to physically build it, while others say, “No, we do not build it. It will come from Heaven, made of fire.”

These seemingly entirely diverse opinions can easily be reconciled: We will do the physical work that is required, and then because of our efforts, G-d will bring the actual Temple. What is the work that we have to do? We have to gather the precious materials, the jewels, the special stones, and mortar. How do we find these rare materials? In truth, we have all of the required ingredients on hand right now. All we need to do is to pick them up.

How do we find these ingredients so we can gather them?

We go out onto the street and look for a Jew to help. Since we are trying to build a spiritual house, it will be best if we help that Jew in a spiritual way.

Can you imagine how much light will be gathered for the Temple if you succeed in teaching even one Jewish woman to light Shabbos candles? Why, that light will shine all the way from her home up to the place in Heaven, where the Temple is standing right now waiting for us.

Putting tefillin on a Jew who otherwise would not have done so, sends every word of his prayers to the One Who holds the key to the Temple.

Putting up a mezuzah guards the house where it is affixed. This is a direct remedy for our destroyed house. It helps to bring the House where His revealed Presence will dwell again.

Bringing someone home for a Shabbos meal shows G-d that we are together. One of the main things that the Temple did was to unite the Jewish people. It brought us together in joy for the holidays. Our coming together now in joy for spiritual reasons will encourage Him to send His joyful way of bringing us together.

During these three weeks, do not just sit and moan. Instead, stand up and find a way to do something about our loss. This is what will bring the Temple.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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Video Trial: Gesher Sar Meod #3 - Connecting Through Thanks

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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Senseless Hatred

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I hate you! Yes YOU!

Not because you suck, though you do. (Frankly, you've taken sucking to a whole new level, but that's besides the point.) No, I hate you because YOU ARE IN MY WAY.

I'm trying to do something for the community and you are screwing it up. I recognize that you're trying to do something for the community also. I'll even admit that you're doing a few things pretty well, things that need to be done that I couldn't do.

But it doesn't matter because when it comes to other things your way of doing them sucks, and mine will bring us to a better place.

Oh, and you've been disrespecting the rav. Of course I haven't, you have.

During the 3 weeks, a time when we recognize baseless hatred among the Jewish people and try to rectify it, I watched two community leaders argue basically like the above for 4 hours last night. I watched a community SPLIT, exactly what brought down the Beis HaMikdash.

What differs in the above than many normal arguments is the Yetzer Hara has done a superb job of repositioning itself. Neither person is protecting their OWN respect, rather both are fighting for the community and the rav. Fighting each other, destroying the community, bringing the rav to tears...for the sake of the community and the rav.

Yetzer Hara - 1 Yetzer Tov - 0

Making peace in such a situation is ALMOST impossible. Almost - but we have a responsibility to try. And it is certainly impossible without trying. For peace, ahavas yisroel (love of our fellow), and to make our community a better place and (by extension) the world a better place - we must try.

We always must try to bring peace and unity, for such is the key to our survival.
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Photos: At the Kever of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l

Photos by R. Nati at Mystical Paths

The deepest of the deep, the holiest of the holy, chesed and ahava simple and straight...





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Monday, July 13, 2009

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New Video Trial: Gesher Sar Meod #2 - Crossing Over

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Two Ways

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

“Continue Your loving kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”[i]

In this Psalm, King Dovid explains the two main ways to serve G-d. There are those who have succeeded in “knowing” G-d, and there are those who have succeeded in acquiring an upright heart.

Those who have acquired an upright heart are called “righteous.” They live their lives according to all of the righteous standards that Hashem has set out in His Torah. They smile at His judgments, because they know that they have acted properly in all of their dealings. It is His righteousness that they have found, and they have accomplished this through their immense effort. King Dovid asks Hashem to continue His righteousness to these people.

Those who have come to “know” G-d, know Him only through His kindness, His favor, His love. It was Hashem Himself Who showed them this. These people live a Torah-filled life of kindness. They see joy in all of His words and doings. Doing a mitzvah brings them great joy. They have found His love. King Dovid asks Hashem to continue His wondrous kindness to these people.

Each of us takes the path that best suits our needs.

[i] Pslams 36:11
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

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Make a Rav, Buy a Friend

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Pirke Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) teaches "make for yourself a rav (rabbi), buy for yourself a friend". My daughter came to me confused, "make" a rav, "buy" a friend??? How does one "make" a rav, and come on...buy a friend?

One "makes" for _themselves_ a rav by accepting the authority of the rabbi. By realizing that one doesn't have all the answers, that there is someone else who with years of training in Torah has wisdom and direction that one should follow. By accepting, voluntarily, the authority of one greater than oneself. This is not something one asks, not something one can buy, it's something one 'makes' for oneself.

In today's world, no longer a time of kings and queens, a time in the Western world where every authority is questioned, this is harder than one might think. Yet, if we cannot accept even an authority, how can we accept The Authority?

Buy for yourself a friend sounds pretty cynical. However, it actually teaches the secret of friendship. Friends are people who do for each other. Whether it's as simple as a listening ear or helping each other in various ways, true friendship is bought with selfless acts to the other.
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Friday, July 10, 2009

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New Video Trial: Gesher Sar Meod

R. Nati is trying out some new video Torah lessons. Let us know what you think...


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Thursday, July 09, 2009

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The Source of Blessings

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Once in a while, someone comes up to me at the Kotel and asks for a blessing. Not that I am any different from anyone else, but people often associate a white beard with wisdom. (It should only be.) I always give them the same answer, “When you want a blessing, you do not have to find an old man to ask. Just walk up to a pushka (charity box), put a coin in it, and then ask G-d for whatever you need. Talk to Him just as you would talk to your father, because in truth, He is our Father and He wants to help us.”

Of course, I then ask G-d to bless them so they do not feel rejected, but the important thing is that they should learn where is the source of blessings.

Blessings are a spiritual matter. Spiritual matters do not work like physical matters. For instance, if you have a physical bank account and you want it to grow you know that you must not spend it. You have to add to it and leave it alone so it will increase.

But a spiritual bank account is not like that. In order to have your spiritual bank account grow, you must put something in it, and then you have to spend what you have in your account. Whenever you do a mitzvah (a good deed), you make a deposit into your spiritual bank account. Once you have something in your account, you should spend it by asking G-d, in the merit of that good deed, to send blessings to you and to your family and to all those around you who are in need.

Asking for blessings for all of these people is also a mitzvah, so instead of using up (emptying) your spiritual account by praying for others, you have just increased it even more.

This also works for your loved ones who have passed away. Do a good deed in their name, and ask G-d to give their soul an aliyah (spiritual lift). The benefit of that good deed will elevate their portion in the spiritual world.

This is why we say, “you lose what you keep, and keep what you give away.” This means that you really have no idea what is going to happen to your physical assets when you die, but all that you gave away (to good causes) will follow you into the next world.
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

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The Servant of the King

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Some Torah sources say that the sole purpose of man’s existence is to serve Hashem, our G-d. Okay, if this so, what are we to learn from this?

First, we have to consider what it means to be the servant of a king. Well, for one thing, the servant of a king has to be much more careful about how he serves than does the servant of a mere commoner. A king is much more particular than a poor master. So we have to be very precise in how we perform our assigned tasks.

Also, a king’s servant is far more important than a poor man’s servant. A poor man’s servant is looked down upon by everyone. But a king is so grand that to be his servant is really a privilege. Also, a king provides for his servants better than a poor man could possibly provide for his servant, or even for himself. How much more true is all this when the king we are serving happens to be the King of the Universe?

So, not only are we to be careful as to how we carry out the King’s commandments, but we must realize that we are privileged, even honored, to be appointed to His service. Feeling honored not only makes it pleasant to serve the King, it also makes our service better. A happy servant provides better service than one who serves begrudgingly.

Add to this that not only is He our King, but He is also our Father. Now we begin to understand why G-d wants us to serve Him in the first place. Why does a father want his child to follow his instructions? He wants the child to do these things for the child’s benefit, not for his own benefit. The father does not even need the child’s service in the first place.

To sum up, we are to serve G-d carefully because He is the King, and a King is very particular about how He wants His house to be kept. We are to serve G-d with our heads held high, because we are servants of the King and not servants of a mere common man. Knowing this gives us both joy and humility - joy in that we have been chosen for His service, and humility when we think of just what we are when compared to our Master.

Also, we are to serve G-d lovingly, because He has created us, which means that we are His children and He is our Father.

When we serve Him in all these ways we begin to receive the gift that He initially wanted to give us when He created His Torah. As on Mount Sinai, when we first became His servants,[i] and in His Temple where we served Him with all of the glorious details,[ii] when we serve Him properly, He will meet with us and show us His Glory.[iii]

[i] Exodus 20:15
[ii] 1 Kings 8:11
[iii] Exodus 25:22, 40:34
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Monday, July 06, 2009

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The Spiritual Ramifications of Marrying a Widow?

Spiritual concerns from the Zohar of marrying a window, an interesting piece over at Hirhirum by Rabbi Enkin.
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Prayers for The Bostoner Rebbe, shlita

by YOUR-NAME at Mystical Paths

Word has come to us that The Bostoner Rebbe, shlita is in the hospital intensive care unit in critical condition. Please daven for the refuah shleima of HaRav Levi Yitzchak ben Sora Sosha HaLevi, shlita.

Mystical Paths wishes a complete and speedy recovery to the Bostoner Rebbe, shlita!
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Your Prayers are Needed

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Dear Friends,

I'd appreciate if you could spare a moment for some prayers for a complete recovery of...

HaRav Shabtai ben Devorah Pearl
Reb Yosef Daniel ben Miriam

both finding themselves with very very serious conditions. May Hashem provide a complete healing to them and all the sick of the Jewish people and the followers of Hashem.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009

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The Standard of Emes

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

There's a lot of discussion in the J-Blogger community over a Cross Currents article deriding J-Bloggers for having the nerve to raise a stink over negative community affairs, thereby usurping the role of our gedolim (Torah leaders). Here's two responses I've written...

When imbalances existed in Jewish society of the past, movements of tens or hundreds of years arose to gradually re-balance society after generations of suffering. The chassidic movement, women’s education, organized yeshiva education – Jewish societal problems solved in lifetimes or multiple lifetimes.

Now perhaps in an age of communication, where information travels between disparate communities in minutes, the klal (the communal whole) is no longer so content to sit and suffer while waiting for a gilgul (reincarnation) before improvement. Similarly, the rabbaim (rabbi's) of France can’t ban the Rambam while the rabbaim of Egypt have him leading their community – as people talk every day between the communities and move between them every few months (a reference to a situation of 800 years ago where the works of the Rambam were being studied in Egypt while being banned as inappropriate for the community in France).

The majority of j-bloggers have no problem with gedolim, though as Serandez wrote, excluding deliberately inflammatory and contrarian J-blogs, whose only objectives seem to be hits and attention. Personally I quality those as the snarky old men in the back of synagogue always complaining the event could have been better.

However, regarding those who surround our gedolim and operate the communal institutions to which their names are lent, sometimes it's different matter. Some shake ups need to occur. Some problems need to be addressed rather than let fester. Our gedolim are wise, some of the community infrastructure however is self serving and almost all of it extremely self protective and defensive.

We all know there's an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears (a reference to our omnipotent G-d) - and the way gedolim are scrutinized throughout their lives there is no question they are the epitome' of the goals of yiddishkeit and clearly aware of this moment by moment. They truly have no fear over the eyes of man. But in this modern age of information availability and instant communication, some of the communal infrastructure and gedolim hangers-on are suddenly being scrutinized also, and sometimes it's not so pretty.

Is that a service or a disservice? Well, in a day and age when we are fed with information and disinformation massively every day and are striving for the truth - finding the glaring opposite in the midst of the kahal (religious community) is a problem that must be dealt with. The option to sweep things under the rug is fading. Perhaps that's a sign of the coming of Olam HaEmet (world of truth) in the zman Moshiach (time of Moshiach).

Personally I recognize that organizations have to be somewhat businesslike to operate, and those operating such are not tzaddikim and gedolim - just people trying to get a job done. Some incredibly dedicated and selfless, some just doing a job. And yes, everyone has a yetzer hara (evil inclination). But damaging the klal (the whole), either as a whole or through persistently hurting others can't be ignored if Torah and Emet (truth) is to survive.

The wisdom and need for our gedolim remains. However, manipulators using their words for their own purposes, criminals hiding under the cover of piousness, and operators using the system for their own ends are not so deserving.
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Cute Only-In-Israel Video

Only in Israel...


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Saturday, July 04, 2009

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Crock of the Day

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The National Mideast tweets an article that claims, "Settlers slowly kill Bedouin way of life: Jewish expansion in the West Bank..."

What is destroying the Bedouin way of life is 3 things:

1. Darn it the abandoned Land was made to bloom and lots of people (Jewish and Arab) came to live there.

2. All those people who came to live there build - sheez - houses, villages, towns and cities, and worst of all, farms. That tends to get in the way of nomadic herdsmen.

3. The article itself states "education is also a factor". Meaning all those nasty people who came to live in the area had the nerve to offer education to the Bedouin children. Being now capable of doing something other than herd sheep or goats, most of them are choosing to do something else! Oh the nerve.

There's a few final points to make...

- Nomadic tribesmen with 10 children don't have 10 children survive without modern medicine, vaccines and so forth. A gift from your now unwanted neighbors. (Nomadic tribesmen don't build hospitals or medical centers.)

- Those nomadic tribesmen attacked and plundered the arriving Jews from the time they started arriving until after Israeli independence when the Jews could seriously fight back.

- Almost every wall and fence in Israel was built in response to Arab attacks. The walls you complain about now are a direct response to an unceasing homicide bombing campaign. Every roadblock and checkpoint is a block against weapons and attacks.

I do not cry for the Bedouin.
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Thursday, July 02, 2009

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The Land of Israel

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

What is so special about the Land Of Israel? According to the Rambam,[i] a slave who is living outside the Land can force his master to come live in the Land. He writes that this is true even today during this time of exile. The accepted halacha (applicable Torah law) rules that once you are in the Land, there are only four reasons that you are allowed to leave, even temporarily. These reasons are: 1) if you cannot find a proper Torah teacher, 2) if you cannot find a proper spouse, 3) to escape invaders, or 4) if you cannot earn a proper livelihood.[ii] It seems to me that we can add one more good reason for leaving: if leaving the Land will enable you to help Jews who otherwise would not be helped. If you are the only one who will help them, then this is also a valid reason for leaving. So again, we have to ask, what is so special about this Land?

G-d assigned various lands to various nations. These lands are their inheritance. This small, special land, the Land of Israel, He promised to give to the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. This is our inheritance forever. It is special to us just because it is ours. It is also special because it is a beautiful land, but there are many beautiful lands in the world. So besides being ours, what makes it so unique?

When you live in your own land you thrive both physically and spiritually. This is simply the natural result of being where you belong. But this Land is called the Land of the Prophets. This not only means that the prophets came from this land, which they did, it means that living in the Land actually made them into prophets. Taking just four steps in the Land increases our spiritual awareness. The sages say that whoever walks even four steps in the Land is guaranteed a share in the World to Come.[iii] And this spiritual benefit increases with every additional four steps you take. But, since this increase in awareness increases so subtly, most people are not aware of it. It is like sitting in a pond of water while the temperature increases a quarter of a degree. You would have to pay strict attention to be aware of it.

However, even if you do not notice anything startling while you are here, you will notice it when you leave. As soon as you walk out of the airport in that other land, you will ask yourself, “What’s missing here?” Unless you are sensitive, you will shrug off the feeling, thinking that it is due to the cultural change. Then you will run after your daily business, wondering if you really did feel anything different in the Holy Land.

When you touch a holy object in a significant way, some of that holiness spreads to you.[iv] How much more so is this true when you live in the Holy Land? Here you are not merely touching a holy object, you are living in it.

Soon, in just a few years, for the first time in 2,000 years, the majority of the Jewish people in the world will be living in the Land of Israel. This will not only be a unique physical milestone in the long history of the Jewish People, but it will also bring about a significant spiritual change. As the holiness of the Land spreads to more and more Jews, the level of spiritual awareness in the Land will increase. This increased holiness will be experienced more openly, and it will even overflow and go out into the rest of the world. As it is today, the spiritual awareness will be experienced most vividly in Jerusalem. But to a lesser degree, it will spread and touch the entire world.

What does this mean today? It means that there is a guaranteed way for each of us to increase our spiritual opportunity. Simply walk four steps in the Holy Land.

[i] Rambam Hilchos Avodim 8:9
[ii] Rambam Hilchos Melachim 5:9
[iii] Gemora Ketubos 111a
[iv] Leviticus 6:11
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

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Lite Summer Blogging

We're on a lite blogging schedule over the next couple of weeks because...

...Summer heat got us down.
...Kids home from school making us crazy.
...Having fight with Israeli ISP over account billing problem.
...May be moving.
...Side project taking extra time.
...Got the blahs.

G-d willing, we'll be back full force in a few weeks. Here's a few quick updates in the meantime...

* Rabbi Nati's tests did not find any major problems (Thank G-d), but a number of moderate issues that need serious attention to return him to good health. May he be blessed with long and healthy life.

* Top economists and financial specialists say US economy getting worse, with a number of very dangerous trends. All government and industry pundits declare life is wonderful, all is good and rosy and only good is coming.

* US continues heavy pressure on Israel while Hamas attacks and all neighbors threaten. My friends, does ANYONE read the biblical prophets?
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