Dear Reb Akiva, Reb Nati and Readers of Mystical Paths,
This letter is long over due but as the saying goes, "Better late than never." I was one of your recipients of tzedakah (charity) for the Passover holiday. You can not begin to understand how much it helped! Here I was worried over being able to purchase the basic necessities for the holiday, and then children were asking for new shoes (theirs were torn and worn out.) Then came an illness that required medicine that was expensive.
My thoughts were constantly over which has priority: medicine or shoes or food for the holiday? I davened (prayed) to Hashem to help, but was very worried over the conflicting needs. Then Hashem sent you as a Shaliach (messenger). I have no idea how you heard about me and my plight but you truly came at the right time. Your readers gave openly and with simcha (joy) for the holiday. I was able to fulfill all three obligations (of Passover) and cover our urgent needs with peace of mind.
I come before you again now requesting help. With Elul (the Jewish month right now) the school year is beginning and that means purchasing books (in Israel the parents buy paperback school books each year), school supplies, uniforms and shoes. Baruch Hashem (thank G-d) there are organizations that help with school supplies and books.
Yet, the High Holidays are around the corner. It's not just Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, but Succot and Simchat Torah. Before the debts from the school needs have even had their first payment, meals and other holiday necessities are at hand.
I am not only asking for myself but for the other individuals that you and your readers have helped this past year. We say in the prayers on Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom KIppur (the Day of Atonement) "...Teshuvah (repentance) Tefilah (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity) ma'averin et roah ha'gezerah (erase the evil decree)."
So please ask your readers to donate and we the recipients will bentch (bless) you and them and their families to be inscribed for a year filled with Bracha (blessing) and Parnassah (livlihood), and truly most important Beriut (health).
Dear friends and readers. Your tzedakah (charity) will go to help many families facing dilemas of what to forgo for the holiday. Those in need always face challenging times, but looking in the faces of hungry children during the holidays who simply can't be provided the merest taste of a "sweet" new year is just too much. If you are blessed to be able to help the needy in Israel this year, please join us in doing so.
As always, we do not take a single dollar, shekel, pound, euro, or rubble. Overhead costs are purely those of credit card processing and check cashing (around 4%). There are many worthy organizations helping for the holidays, and we encourage you to help them out (see our sidebar for our recommendations). But we would appreciate if you would help us help those we see directly in need who we simply can't pass by.
(Of course, if you'd like to tip the Bloggers for the holidays - we'll happily accept and enhance our holiday with your help.)
Wishing you a Bircat Ketivah V'Hatimah Tovah (to be blessed with by being written and sealed for a good year) with many blessings from Hashem, and hopefully this year with the ultimate blessing of Moshiach tzidkaynu and the Geulah.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Imagine that the Temple is standing, and you and your family are getting ready to come up to Jerusalem for one of the holidays.
We were commanded to come to the Temple to celebrate the holidays of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot, and Succot. In order to celebrate these holidays properly, certain items had to be prepared. For instance, we needed the all-important sacrifices that were to be offered, as well as matzah and extra wine for Pesach, the luluv and esrog (four species) to be waved on Succot, and any special tithe monies that could only be spent in Jerusalem. Obviously, before we left to Jerusalem, we would be extremely careful to have each and every item on our list.
All of these objects were essential in order to fulfill the commandments, but beside the physical items, was there anything spiritual that we had to do? Was there a spiritual experience at the Temple that we had to prepare for, too?
The Torah tells us to come to the Temple, “to appear before Hashem.”[i] This means that “just as they came to appear before Hashem, so did they come to see the splendor of His holiness.”[ii] (To be seen and to see) How did Jews prepare for this? Even more importantly, how can we prepare to possibly have such an experience today?
It seems easy to prepare for the “appearing” (to be seen) element of this commandment. We get a haircut. We put on new clothes. We go to the mikvah (emersion). Maybe we even smile more? In other words, we try to look as nice as possible.
But surely, G-d is going to look at more than just our exterior garments. “Appearing before Hashem” (being seen) must mean that He is going to look at our deeds, too.
Before we go up to the Temple, we better take a closer look at what we have been doing with ours lives. Getting a haircut is easy, but it is not so easy to make sure that we have not passed over the opportunity to do a mitzvah? Even the mitzvahs that we did, did we do them properly?
Then, there is the “to see” element of our visit to the Temple. How can we prepare “to see” to the greatest extent possible? How can we increase our capacity to see, so that we will be able to see more of His glorious Revelation, and not be pushed back by Its awesome brightness? In other words, how do we come before the King?
Learn from when Israel (Yaakov) sent his sons to the ruler of Egypt, and also when he sent messengers to his threatening brother, Esau. To ensure positive meetings, he sent gifts.[iii] We should do this, too.
But there is a major problem giving a gift to G-d.[iv] Everything already belongs to Him! The heavens and the earth are His. So, what can we possibly give to Him?
Ah, I know. We will do a mitzvah, and we will give that mitzvah to G-d. But, wait a minute, G-d commanded us to do the mitzvahs. So, when we do a mitzvah that is not a gift at all. It is simply obedience.
I know. We will give some charity. The money in our pockets is ours, and G-d loves charity. We will give some of our money to a poor person, and that will be our gift to G-d. But wait a minute. G-d gave us the blessing to earn the money. So, the money also comes from Him.
What can we give to G-d? We do not want to return something that He has given to us. We want to give Him something that is entirely ours.
Ah, I know! It says that there is only one thing in the entire world that does not belong to G-d. “Everything is in the hand of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.”[v]
That’s it! I am going to bring upon myself the fear of Heaven, and that is going to be my gift to G-d. But, I already have the fear of Heaven. I learned that way back when I started following the Torah. I want to give Him something new. I can’t give Him something that I already gave Him.
You know what? Look in the entire world. Pick up every stone. Look around every corner, and there is only one thing anywhere in all of creation that G-d does not have, and that we can give to Him.
Find a Jew who does not yet know the love and awe of G-d, a Jew who does not yet know the joy of keeping the Torah and mitzvahs, and lovingly bring him to these things. This will be our wonderful gift to G-d. There is nothing else in the entire creation that is not already His.
This is how we should prepare to come before G-d. There is no better way.
Today, we do not have the Temple to go up “to be seen and to see.” But we do have the month of Elul, which is right now. In Elul we prepare to come before the King. And we do have Rosh Hashanah when we actually do come before Him.
[i] Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 31:11
[ii] Chagigah 1:1 Kahati
[iii] Genesis 43:11, 32:6
[iv] See “How Can I Give Anything To G-d” above.
[v] Gemora Berachos 33b
People walk around sad because they don't know what to do with their future. You have this minute right now. What are you going to do with it?
The difference between sadness and joy is very simple. Sadness always tells you: 'Oy vey! What are you doing to do in ten minutes? What will you do ten years from now?'
If you are really filled with joy for one minute, then you will know what to do the next minute also. What is G-d giving you? He is giving you this minute. He hasn't given tomorrow. Of course I don't know what to do tomorrow, because I didn't receive it yet.
Sadness is very much concerned with what I don't have, and I really don't have tomorrow yet. The truth is, I am always standing before nothingness, because I am nonexistent yet for the next minute. I'm not there yet. Time isn't there. The world isn't there!
The world is here...right now!
-- Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
I was going to procrastinate, but I put it off.
Sometimes the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) comes upon us. We all have weaknesses, we're not tzaddikim. So the evil inclination comes upon us and says (so to speak), 'do this aveira (sin), fulfill this desire'.
This is a time where one may become a holy procrastinator. Rarely do you find the word procrastinator used in a positive way. But here...
Respond to your Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) and say, 'fine, you're right, that desire is important and I will give in to it. But not right now, just a little later. I'm too busy right now, or too lazy right now to get to it. In just a little while, ok.' And later when the foolish desire returns (foolish for all aveirot [sins] are described as coming from a ruach shtuss - a foolish spirit), 'yeah yeah, I know I need to get to that, don't worry I'll give you your due, in just a bit...'.
And if one puts it off through Mincha time? Then you've gotten through the day! The day ends, and you haven't committed that sin!
What about tomorrow? Don't worry about tomorrow, deal with today. After all, we've all put stuff off for a day. Dealing with a day is within reach. Tomorrow's another day, and we'll deal with that day when it comes and with Hashem's help.
Have a good day!
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Can yoga postures be kosher? Some say that Qigong is usually kosher, and some rabbis are trying to come up with Jewish versions of energy healing.
In your autobiographical book Coming Back to Earth you describe, in your pre-teshuvah days as the silent guru, radiating energy from your body to such an extent that strangers could feel a pleasant spiritual feeling coming from you. Is it beneficial to try to reach a similar stage through kosher means?
Regarding yoga and idolatry: There are no physical postures, breathing techniques, movements, and such that are owned by the idolatries. This is true only if they are completely stripped of their associations to the false spirituality.
The problem with yoga postures is that they are called “yoga”, or worse. For instance, one common yoga exercise is called, “Salutation to the Sun.” This used to be called “Worship of the Sun”, but has been changed to make it more acceptable in the West.[i] Obviously, it is wrong to bow down to the sun. “Yoga” is a branch of Hinduism, and therefore it must be completely avoided. This is not only true for Jews, but gentiles should not do such practices either.
Books on yoga are frequently dedicated to strange gods and should not be in your possession. The older teachers of yoga are all deeply associated with idolatry, and this idolatry seeps into their teachings. It is almost impossible to separate the solely physical aspects of yoga from their roots. This is why even the word yoga should be removed from your practices.
But bending, stretching, deep breathing and such, are healthy and are fine, as long as they are not at all associated with false spiritual beliefs.
The same is true for other similar practices generally rooted in the East. Qigong, Tai Chi, even Karate, and such, are not merely physical exercises. They are all rooted in the false spiritual teachings found in the lands where they were developed.
“Energy healings” are extremely dangerous. They lead both the “healer” and the “healed” to severe spiritual and mental problems. The lie embedded in these type practices is that they take you away from the one “energy” that is the Universal, and have you focus on and develop a ray of “energy.” This “ray of energy” becomes palpable, heavy, and ends up entrapping. When you begin to develop such a “power” you believe that you have the power. Later, you see that the power has you!
The power that develops from exposure to spiritually unclean people, places, practices, and such, can never be elevated. It is here only to give us a choice between the truth and magic. Moshe’s staff became a snake by the word of Hashem. The magicians could somewhat duplicate his act by using unclean techniques. Both methods are available. The word of Hashem leads to the Revelation of His Presence. Magic leads to corruption and enslavement.
When one comes near a spiritually unclean person there may very well be a strong feeling emanating from him. It might even feel elevating to those who experience it. It can be extremely palpable.
When one comes close to a righteous person there is a feeling of great respect, admiration, and humility.
All things radiate their nature.
[i] Its origins lie in a worship of Surya, the Hindu solar deity.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
The Shechina is God’s revealed Presence. His Presence is everywhere at all times, but obviously, the revelation of His Presence is not always seen. He hides His Presence from us in order to give us free will. If His Presence were not hidden, no one would sin. Who would sin while standing before the Judge?
When G-d commanded the Jewish People to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), He said that it was for Him to “dwell among”[i] us. The Hebrew roots of the words Mishkan and Shechina are the same. The primary function of the Mishkan and the latter Temples was the revelation of His glorious Presence. The service in the Temple was His way of allowing us to do something that would lead to that revelation. Although the Temple is not presently standing, still, even today, on very rare occasions, G-d does allow His Presence to be revealed.
When, with His most gracious blessing, the revelation of His Presence does occur, what does one see? Does everyone who is blessed to see this revelation, experience the same thing?
Everyone sees the same thing, but only according to their individual capacity. A person who has worked hard to learn Torah and do mitzvahs, and who has developed his spiritual awareness, has a greater capacity than someone who has not worked in these areas. They both will see the Presence of G-d, but at completely different degrees or magnitudes. This is true today, just as it was in the Mishkan and Temples, and it will be this way in the World to Come. Not everyone who went to the Temple in Jerusalem had the same spiritual experience. Each received according to his personal level.
Think of two people standing in two different rooms looking at the sun, or a bright night sky, through holes drilled in the ceilings. In one ceiling the hole is quite large, while in the other ceiling the hole is much smaller. The person looking through the smaller hole is still seeing the sun or stars, but at a much less intense, or narrower spectrum than the one who is looking through the larger hole.
A person who has not worked to accomplish the spiritual goal will view the vision as if he is looking through dusty eyeglasses, while the one who has worked hard will see it with his clear, bare eyes.
When this greatest of all blessings comes, there is tremendous glory. His Presence is glorious, but the glory is not His Presence. The glory radiates as if it is a spiritually elevating light, but neither His Presence nor His glory are lights. With an earthly king there are trumpets sounded to announce his arrival. Hashem has no need for such aids. His glory announces His Presence.
His Presence has no form, no matter, but the soul instantly recognizes its Creator. There is not the slightest doubt as to the reality of what is happening when He, in His great kindness, reveals His Omnipresence to you. You experience the only holiness that ever exists. All that is holy on earth and in the heavens merely points to His holiness.
There are no words to describe the blessing of the revelation of His glory. Seeing His Presence is the fulfillment of life’s purpose. It is the very goal of creation.[ii] When this blessing comes, you see that G-d is actually here. That is the reality of it all. There is nothing else there to see, no music, no fireworks, no angels. G-d reveals that He is here. This is the vision.
There are tremendous spiritual blessings that come with this most precious vision. For instance, there is glory, awe, and love. But these words are merely an attempt to describe your reaction to the experience. They do not attempt to describe His Presence Itself. The Presence is just what it is called. He reveals that He is real, and that He is here.
The revelation ceases almost at once. It passes all too soon, but had it lasted, your soul would surely have returned to its Source. For a few moments after the revelation closes, you bask in the still-fresh glow. Perhaps the most overwhelming emotion at this time is a tremendous appreciation for His kindness at having let you experience this instant. Soon though, the entire experience fades into memory. Then the memory itself fades, and you once again long to be able to cleave to His Presence. As, King Dovid cried out, you again ask, “Oh L-rd, how long will you hide Your face from me?”[iii]
[i] Exodus 25:8
[ii] Ramchal, Mesillas Yesharim Chap 1
[iii] Psalms 13:2
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
This Shabbos I attended a family simcha in Jerusalem in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood. What I didn't expect to also be attending was Shabbos riots. Not the ones by Meah Shearim, these are right by the Old City!
Right next to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Mamilla shopping center and residential complex has been developed. It's very upscale, with mostly semi-high fashion American brand stores. The restaurants, all with large patio areas, are all local upscale Israeli chains - glatt kosher for Jerusalem.
Underneath the whole thing is a large underground parking area, one portion of which also has special capacity for buses. It's one of only two parking lots of any size anywhere near the Old City (and the other lot has a capacity of about 30 buses and 40 cars - near the Diaspora Yeshiva, Mt. Zion.)
Here's the basis of the conflict: the new Mayor of Jerusalem has opened the Mamilla parking lot - operated by the municipality - on Shabbos. The majority of visitors are non-Jewish tourists from around the world arriving by tour bus, mainly non-Jewish tour operators - including some Arab bus tour operators, but some are drivers from Tel Aviv or other non-religious Israeli areas. All are coming to enjoy various parts of the Old City that operate on Shabbos, including the churches, the Arab shuk (open market), and even coming to the Kotel.
The buses are driving by religious Jewish neighborhoods and drawing heavy tourist traffic into Jerusalem on Shabbos. It's also the Jewish Municipality of Jerusalem operating a business on Shabbos (even if the workers are non-Jews). It is, essentially, the City of Jerusalem ignoring the sanctity of Shabbos.
Now this battle is different from other's you've been hearing about. There's about 500-1000 ultra-orthodox Jews - of a wide strip and mix, trying to prevent buses from entering the parking garage. There's about 100 Arab counter-protesters, demanding that the lot be open and accessible (as this is bringing business into their neighborhood on Saturday). And there's about 300 riot police, including regular Israeli police, Israeli border police, Yassam storm troopers, 2 German riot horses, and a water cannon.
The time for the face off is in the afternoon, after everyone is back from synagogue and done with their afternoon meal. It runs through mincha time (right before sunset), when it basically disperses.
This week a few ultra-orthodox got beat up, and one policemen who went after the crowd violently but did so alone, resulting in him getting bodily thrown over a police car by the crowd.
I spoke with one border policeman after it had pretty much broken up. He said most of the security forces don't want to be there, but they've been ordered in by the government so they're doing their job. They think its a stupid move on the mayors part to push this (and by extension the Minister of Security who's either ordering in the security forces or supporting their commanders in doing so).
The crowd isn't backing down and is prepared to continue this week after week until the government gives in. The sanctity of Shabbos is not for debate.
Similarly the government isn't going to let a crowd, or by extension the people, tell them what to do.
The good news is the security forces are not coming with guns (perhaps concerned in the heat of the moment they'd be tempted to use them), and the crowd is limiting their actions due to Shabbos. It's a hot tense standoff.
Time will tell if wiser heads will prevail and reach a compromise.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
I used to do yoga. It was mostly Hatha yoga, (physical exercises) but also, I did intense mental work that stressed self-improvement. I had a guru, and I followed those practices many hours a day. I felt very spiritual. I have since tried to find my spirituality in Judaism, but no matter how hard I try, I do not feel the least bit spiritual. All of the studying is only intellectual. There is no spiritual elevation at all. I am thinking of moving from my current yeshiva to one that stresses singing and brotherly love. How do I find the feelings of spirituality in Judaism like I did in yoga?
Those feelings that you experienced from practicing yoga are not the spiritual feelings that we seek. When someone smokes drugs, he also gets a feeling, a very strong feeling. To bring about that feeling was the only reason he smoked the drug in the first place. When someone fasts he has a mental experience that he might call a “high” or “clarity.” Spending a lot of time meditating also brings a strong out-of-the ordinary mindset. There are many ways to get unusual feelings, but these feelings are not the genuine spiritual experience that we seek.
Yoga practices stress the self. They lead you away from the usual, daily physical and mental contact with the world. The most “successful” yogis live alone in ashrams (camps), closeted away from any interruptions to their spiritual practices. This type of isolation insulates them from the day-to-day interactions that would interrupt their concentration on themselves. When the mind is not pulled into the normal, daily activities, it can dwell in a seemingly more peaceful state. In this quiet state of mind, they can search and experience their own “inner-space.” This moves them toward what they consider to be the goal of life to be, to attain a completely still state of mind.
Although this might sound like the ideal state of mind and the fulfillment of life’s purpose, the Torah teaches that the opposite of this is true. The Torah insists that the more spiritual we become, the more we are to be involved with the world. We are told not to leave the world. We were sent into this world to improve ourselves and to make the world a better place. Adam, the first man, was placed in the Garden and was told “to work and guard” the Garden, not to leave it.[i] You cannot tend the Garden by sitting alone in an enclosed camp thinking about yourself.
As to the spiritual teachings in the Torah; the sages have purposely buried those teachings deep inside those holy books that you are studying. They did this for a very good reason. They did not want their young students running off to sit in caves contemplating the lofty, holy experiences that can be tapped into in spiritual solitude. This is why it used to be (and many still insist) that only very learned students, at least forty years old and married, were allowed to even look at such teachings.
But today, Jews like you would not be drawn into a Torah life if you had to satisfy all those requirements before experiencing any spirituality here. It is well known that a Jew who has lived in the secular world, especially if he experienced the idolatries and magic of the “other side,” must be shown a great amount of spiritual “light” in order to encourage him to come to the Torah. He must experience a much greater feeling of this spiritual light than a person who was born and raised in a Torah environment. This spirituality is what you seek. It is available, but it is not easy to attain.
Today, the vast majority of yeshivas stress full-time learning of the Talmud. The best students at these yeshivas can talk to you about their spiritual experiences, the “amazing rushes” that they get when they solve a difficult piece of Talmud. Although these are wonderful, uplifting, valuable and holy experiences, they are really high intellectual experiences that they call spiritual.
When you go to a yeshiva that stresses brotherly love, they will tell you of the “amazing spiritual experiences” that they have when they dance and sing about G-d and lovingly hug their brothers. But these are actually emotional experiences. They are wonderful, healthy and uplifting, but they are not the spiritual experience that you seek.
You should learn the good that both of these paths offer, but it takes much more to attain the greater goal that you seek.
The spiritual goal, indeed the very goal of life, is to reveal G-d’s Presence in this lower world. This is the experience that you seek, even without knowing what it is. But the goal does not come easily. In fact, there are many great men today who say that this revelation has not been possible for the past three generations!
What to do?
Continue your studies, as they fill your life with Torah thoughts and practices. They also develop your analytical mind. And most importantly, they lead to a healthy life-style, with a wife and children.
Continue your singing and brotherly love, as these will open your heart and bring warmth into your service.
It is imperative to learn how to have great joy when doing a mitzvah. You must see how doing even the “tiniest” mitzvah is a G-d given privilege. With every mitzvah, we, His lowly creation, are elevated to the level of serving Him in the way that He asks to be served. We become His faithful, personal servants. We are fulfilling His holy will. The experience that you seek comes when you are serving Hashem with joy. Study the mitzvahs, search not only their physical characteristics, but also search their spiritual aspects.
Spend time each day searching for the spiritual perspective in whatever you are engaged. Try to see how learning Torah and performing mitzvahs are not merely rituals, but that they actually change your spiritual life.
Look to see how your very being is a spiritual entity temporarily housed in a physical body. Spend time each day searching within for your actual being. Try to distinguish between you and your body. See, and take to heart, how the spiritual essence actually fills and surrounds the entire physical creation.
Perhaps most importantly, spend time each day looking for opportunities to help your fellow Jews to come to Torah and mitzvahs. This is most pleasing to Hashem.
These practices bring us to the spiritual life that we seek. Our lives become filled with the blessings that G-d wants for us. These practices do not force open the door and sweep us through it as we want. But, He opens that door for those who do these things. These actions stand us right in front of that hidden door. Then, when it does open, we will be standing right there basking in His glorious Radiance.
[i] Genesis 2:15
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
In the moments before Moshiach, orthodox Jews will be despised. The ultra-orthodox community already gets painted with Poor, Dirty, Backward, Ignorant, Narrow Minded, Parasites. But it's about to get worse.
Jewish religious communities operate according to old rules. Some from the Torah, some condensed halacha (Jewish religious law) from generations, and some cultural baggage of 'the old countries'. A famous example being the Jewish diamond dealers sealing a deal with a handshake and the statement 'mazal u'bracha' (luck and blessing) - a completely binding agreement.
The Jewish religious community is relatively insular and accepts most changes slowly. 'A stiff necked people' indeed. This has served the community well in the past, preventing the infusion of passing fads, failing philosophies, and other cultural-religious incursions. (It has it's negatives as well, but that's another discussion.)
The Jewish religious community tends to be extremely honest. Both from the force of Torah obligations, Jewish religious law, and the cultural needs of a tight community, Torah Judaism operates at a high level of honesty.
Brief example - a few weeks ago I was parked outside an establishment for my Shabbos preparations. While I was inside, apparently someone backed into my car and scraped my rear fender. I found a note on my windshield "Sorry I accidentally bumped your car. If there is damage, please contact me so I can pay for it." I had my car bumped and scraped a number of times in the US tri-state area and never saw such a note.
All of that said, the Jewish religious community as a whole has NOT adjusted to post-9/11 monetary and financial conditions. Business relationships sealed with a handshake don't comply with Know Your Customer laws. Transactions handled in cash don't comply with Monetary Tracking Requirements. Handling 3rd party checks for a friend, a chesed (kindness), now qualifies as money laundering. Giving a needy friend a loan may appear as a bribe or supporting negative activities, and his repayment may appear to violate Gift Tax.
Post 9/11, the Bush administration put in a series of laws to control and track money and business activity. Enron made it worse, and the financial system almost-collapse worse again. Previously this focus was placed on the Muslim community, searching for terror funding from the US to overseas.
These laws and the microscope are now being turned on the Jewish community. A few high profile cases may have brought the initial attention, adding in a touch of antisemitism and a tone against Israel set by the administration (making charities with Israel involvement or providing support in Israel more attractive targets). Regardless of how it started, investigative attention is now being seriously focused on Jewish organizations, charities, and rabbi's in the US - and particularly in the tri-state area.
This is not speculation.
The model of operating within the community is NOT compliant with the current financial and investigative environment. Dear friends in the community, get your act together according to current US and state law down to every last detail. Hire a good accountant and maybe a good lawyer, and plan on taking some Anti-Money Laundering training and Anti-Corruption training (right away). It's critical to understand what, in the current legal environment, is considered inappropriate regardless of historical community practices and the honesty and chesed (kindness) thereof.
Because you're being targeted. This is not speculation.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
This instrument was designed and hand-crafted by Gutman
King Dovid played his music on a ten stringed-instrument. When the Moshiach comes, at first he will play on an eight-stringed instrument, then later, and in the World to Come, the music will be played on a ten-stringed instrument. What are we to learn from this?
King Dovid lived in a world filled with tremendous good and extreme evil. He had to contend with the best of G-d’s love, and the worst of man’s behavior. As far as behavior goes, this is the full spectrum of the world’s palette.
When the Moshiach comes he will bring a world of joy, song and peace. The entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d’s most glorious presence. The lowest aspects of life will be removed. His music will be played on the higher, most lovely strings.
The World to Come will bring the ultimate fulfillment of the entire creation. This will be an entirely spiritual world.[i] In that world the laws of nature will no longer prevail. What will be there is unknowable to mankind. This most mystical and holy world will bring not only the higher, most lovely strings, but the lowest of the lowest strings as well.
In the World to Come we will see that those things that we experienced as evil in this world were actually sent for the good. Since those evil things were sent to fulfill a needed and holy purpose, even though we could not see it at the time, they too are holy. This elevates these “lower” things from being evil to being holy. In the spiritual world all of the world’s perspectives will be understood and fulfilled. When it is known why those lower things came, they too can be present in that spiritual world, and not simply eliminated as they were in the golden age of the Moshiach. This is why the lower two stings will be returned.
Since the time Adam when he ate of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this knowledge has been filling the world. It is in each of us today. It is only with great effort that we can rise above judging the evil we see and return to seeing all creation as Adam saw it before he ate that fruit. Since at that stage he had not yet tasted of the concept of good or evil, everything he experienced was seen to be simply the way G-d wanted things to be. It was all just G-d’s beautiful handiwork
Knowing that in the end we will understand the purpose of evil makes it somewhat easier to deal with it today. So, for instance, instead of cursing the evil, pray that it will either turn to the good, or simply disappear.
Here's a sample of Reb Gutman's music from the lyre...
[i] Gemora Sanhedrin 91b
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
I've been out of the US for over a year and a half. I missed the excitement of the Obama campaign and election. But have I? It seems from over here that it hasn't ended...
(Foxnews) A 20-year-old, college history major of Palestinian descent who supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich's presidential candidacy is the anonymous artist who turned a Time magazine cover photo of Barack Obama into the nefarious Joker of the Batman series, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Just a question for those in the old country (I love saying that): Since when does someone's descent or support of other candidates in previous elections get discussed in American news? I think you'd have to go all the way back to the Nixon years to find the US administration obviously targeting 'enemies' by classifying them in narrow enemy target classes.
What in the world is going on over there???????????
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Last week sucked, thank G-d. Really sucked...
My oldest daughter had her wisdom teeth out. Besides the fact the dentist quoted NIS 1,400, and it turned out to be 1,400 PER TOOTH (4 wisdom teeth out), my poor daughter was in screaming pain afterwards for almost a full week.
Next day, after oldest daughter had been moaning through the whole night, younger daughter woke up with severe strep throat. Two kids moaning through the night.
Middle of the night I woke up with a high fever, tossing and turning and sweating heavily in feverish pain. Thought I had the swine flu! Nope, only strep throat (never had it like that before). 3 family members down and counting.
Next day littlest child tried to help mop the floor. Wife turned the corner into the kitchen - now semi-flooded - slipped and fell, breaking her arm. I'm highly feverish trying to drive poor injured in serious pain wife around to the doctor, x-ray, orthopedist, pharmacy (oldest lost her pain meds), AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
(Then later my boss called needing some urgent information for a massive contract that just came up.)
And yet through this all we said thank G-d. Thank you Hashem. No, I don't understand the Divine plan of why my children had to suffer, why I had to suffer, why my wife had to suffer, and why we all had to do it at the same time.
Thank you G-d for a screaming agony of a week? What are we, crazy? Absolutely friggin' crocked? Hittin' the sauce a little heavy or still on those pain meds?
Things will happen in life. Challenges will always arise. Painful events, unexpected events, expensive events. You may think those perfect looking people across the way have a smooth easy life. If so, you've been watching too much TV. Every life has challenges.
The question is...how will you deal with them?
For me, I thank G-d this past week was only...painful (and expensive). That there was nothing...permanent. That we were together to support each other. And that when it was over we could all say...thank G-d.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
These questions come from a weekly class of nine-year-old Jewish boys in Australia.
What is the origin of the Hebrew language? Did Adam speak Hebrew with Chava (Eve)? At what point was the Hebrew alphabet created?
Your questions are actually very deep questions. The Torah records a number of conversations in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Chava spoke, the Serpent spoke, and G-d spoke to all three of them. So obviously, there had to be a common language.
The source and history of this language goes back even earlier than the Garden of Eden. Before G-d first created the universe, there was nothing physical existing for Him to make the creation out of. This means that not only is the entire creation made out of nothing, but also that G-d continually creates the creation, or else it would revert back to what it was before it first began, i.e. nothing! The underlying substance that He created (and creates) it out of is the same underlying substance that it is being made of today.
What is this most basic building material that G-d uses to make His creation? Look at the beginning of the Torah and see. Genesis 1:3 tells us that when G-d created the universe, He did so with words. He said, “Let there be … .” and with these words the creation came into being. So we see that the universe is actually being made out of words, and words are made out of letters.
This also means that when we look at an object, we only see its physical exterior. Just like a physical microscope can show us that all matter is actually made of molecules, atoms, and so on, so too, a “spiritual microscope” could show us that all matter is actually being made out of the letters of G-d’s words.
But it is even more amazing that the history of language goes back still further. The Zohar tells us that before G-d created the universe He created the Torah. Then, when He chose to create the universe, He looked into the Torah, and created the physical creation through the Torah.
As we all know, the Torah is written in Hebrew. This is the source of the Hebrew language. Even today, the letters of the Torah are the underlying, fundamental building blocks of all creation.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
“How are we (the Jewish people) the “Chosen People,” and how can I communicate this to the non-Jews in my school in a way that is not offensive to them? I don’t want it to sound like I am saying that we are better than they are.”
Before G-d gave us the Torah, He first offered it to all of the nations of the world. They all refused, as they still do today.
What have the Jewish people been chosen for? We have been chosen for two things: Number one, we are to be a nation of priests. This means that each of us has the privilege and responsibility to perform the precepts of the Torah.
The Torah speaks of the priestly family and the tribe that were chosen to be the Temple workers. In the literal sense, these were from a certain tribe of the Jewish people. However, mystically, the Torah is also speaking to every Jew in every age. You and I must do whatever we can to act as both the High Priest and as the Temple worker in our own individual lives. The Torah always addresses both the literal and the mystical perspectives.
The second thing that we are privileged and responsible to do is to be “a light onto the nations.”[i] It is incumbent upon us to teach the non-Jews that there is one G-d, and only one G-d. This was the mission of Avraham our father, and it is because of G-d’s love for Avraham that we, his descendants, have been so blessed by G-d.
The entire world is a single body. A body has a heart, and it has kidneys. The kidneys cannot be made into hearts, and the heart cannot be made into kidneys, or the body will die. We need each of the body’s organs to properly perform its own unique function in order for the body to succeed. I cannot become a literal kohen (priest) because my father was not from that tribe. It is not only impossible, but to do so would be undesirable. I was born into the tribe of my father for a good reason, and it is from this position that I must succeed. I must try to become the best possible me, not the best possible “you.”
When a non-Jew keeps the seven commandments that G-d gave to him, the Seven Mitzvahs of Noah, he becomes a righteous person, with a wonderful share in this world, and a share in the World to Come. This is a wondrous portion. The non-Jew can only find this path if you and I do our job properly. And if the non-Jew does not do what he is supposed to do, G-d is not only going to ask him why he acted as he did, He is going to ask us, “Why didn’t you help him?”
[i] Isaiah 42:6, 49:6
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
It was reported, "Harav Eliezer Berland Shlita told his Chassidim not to purchase flight tickets to Uman this year till further notice. He also said some hair-raising warnings about hostilities that could erupt in the world before Rosh Hashana."
Further details said the Rav said this because during the difficult events that are coming before this Rosh Hashana (or during the month of Tishrei, unclear), it would not be good for Breslev chassidim to be away from their families in Jerusalem (or Israel, unclear).
Even further, HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita (the Breslev tzadik of Meah Shearim) is said (2nd hand information) to have said during an Israeli TV interview that negative events are coming very soon to Jerusalem, specifically caused by the current government giving in to international pressures, and because of this tough times are very close before us.
However, in the past week Rav Berland passed out during a shiur. (2nd hand information.) Upon awakening he said, in the name of a number of tzaddikim and rebbe's of the past (include Rebbe Nachman? unclear) involved in the heavenly situation, that a tikkun (spiritual repair) had been completed and it was therefore now safe to travel to Uman for this Rosh Hashana.
Since then his chassidim have indeed bought tickets, and space to travel to Uman is filling and prices are rising.
What does all this mean? We have no idea.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
I recently replied to a question on Serandez asking basically "what's wrong with the current economic recovery steps taken". First a supporting video, then my reply below...
And my explanation of why Cash for Clunkers is a net negative...
If an economic program is done correctly, the money generates a multiplier effect. If it's done adequately, just the effect of the money one time. If poorly, then the money doesn't even provide it's value.
Good Example: I buy a new car. Dealer takes my deposit and orders and ad campaign. Ad company pays local graphic designer for the ad and printing company to print them. A bunch of worker types are hired to go put the ad up on all the billboards in town. When the day is done, everyone with money in their pocket goes out for a beer at the local bar. Bar owner's business picks up, he orders more beer...etc. My order generated car jobs, ad jobs, and paid workmen. They spent the increased income at bars and restaurants, which caused those facilities to hire more and order more. The money goes round and you get as much as 5x the original economic impact.
Adequate Example: I buy a new car. Dealer knows times are tough so he puts all the money in the bank. Further, because he's worried about sales, he doesn't order a replacement car for the lot - decreasing his inventory. When he goes home at the end of the day, he doesn't buy a beer because he's worried about staying in business, he's saving everything. The money passes through once - it doesn't even generate additional car manufacturing jobs.
Bad Example: Everyone is offered $5,000 for their middle-age low gas mileage cars. They run fast to buy a new car. Dealer puts money in the bank, because times are tough he's not advertising or ordering replacement cars for his inventory. Because people were coming in with low gas mileage cars, they buy a Toyota Prius (high end), Honda Civic (middle end) or Hyundai Elantra (low end). The cars are made out of the US, so the car jobs - if any - help Korea and Japan and not the US. The cars traded in are taken and destroyed, so the used car inventory falls and used car prices go up. Now Mary on Welfare who gets a job offer for a 3 month road paving job (from stimulus money) can't afford to buy a $2,000 car to get there as that car is now $3,500.
In the last scenario, the dealer gets his profit, but the manufacturer profit and jobs go overseas. Used car prices go up further depressing opportunities for unemployed. The money only has a 25% local impact!
This is an important video series to view if you live in the US. While Attorney Braffman makes some very strong points about how the community approach to the legal system must change, it's also true that practices don't change overnight - and the community is now being targeted. More on that in my next post...
Ultra-Orthodox Legal Forum - Atty. Ben Braffman part 1 - July 28 2009
A reader asked us to share this...
Classes on Jewish Mysticism in the Five Towns
There will be two exciting shiurim (Torah classes) taking place, G-d willing, in the Five Towns area this week:
(1) The first will be held on Sunday August 9 at 8:00 PM at the Sephardic Shul located at 539 Oakland Avenue, Cedarhurst, N.Y. 11516 (on the corner of Peninsula Blvd. & Oakland Ave.);
(2) The second will be held at congregation Aish Kodesh located at 894 Woodmere Place Woodmere, NY 11598 [(516) 374-8596]. The shiur will take place on August 12, 2009 at approximately 8:30 PM (immediately following evening services).
The shiur will be given by the noted teacher, lecturer and spiritual guide Rabbi Nasan Maimon.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
In this post I speak for and represent myself. Not R. Nati, not all religious Jews, only myself.
We received the following email, titled "A Disappointed Reader"...
I am writing to express my disappointment at the complete failure of the haredi media and haredi bloggers to condemn the shooting attack at the community center in Tel Aviv last Friday. Today we just found out that a Nahal haredi soldier was responsible for several calls threatening activists. In the call he threatened to throw a grenade at participants of the rally in memory of the victims (zichronam l'vracha). And he went as far as to desecrate Shabbat, mind you! He was so blinded by hatred that he made the phone calls on Shabbat. Hashem Rachem aleinu!
I think the haredi community as a whole should take a more active role in decrying ANY form of hatred.
It deeply saddened me and frustrated me not to read ONE single word on this issue as opposed to the several vocal calls for solidarity that I've read here and on other well-known haredi blogs when other tragedies befell the Jewish people.
Thank you kindly for your attention.
In Israel, this is a DANGEROUS topic to write about. Since the Rabin assassination, Israeli security forces have been on the lookout for forms of "incitement" that THEY judge may lead to violence or influence any single person in the country in a way that may lead them to express themselves physically towards others.
Because the same-gender community is a hot button issue, and certainly given recent events, anything I may write that is not 100% positive will be construed as a negative and lead to consequences.
However, since the reader expressed his disappointment, I want to give a guarded response...
A - As far as I have heard, no one from the religious community had anything to do with this. Further, very very few among the charedi community have weapons or army experience / training. The charedi community pretty much never goes around blowing people away.
B - Hate the sin, not the sinner. The ancient Sanhedrin (great Jewish religious court that hasn't existed for 1,200 years) had the religious authority to apply the death penalty for specific serious sins from the Torah. We, however, DO NOT have the authority to apply ANY penalties to ANYONE, certainly never ever to kill.
C - An amazing facet of life in Israel is that as much as multiple ethnic communities sometimes don't get along and sometimes go out of their way to annoy each other - basically no one is going around seriously hurting or killing people.
In my opinion the charedi community is not discussing this because they don't go around with guns or shooting people, and the same gender community tends to be loud and provocative. Now they certainly shouldn't be shot or hurt for that, but they seem to be trying to rally people against the religious - when there is no evidence that I've heard about that it was an orthodox shooter - and use this horrible event to push a marginal agenda that the vast majority disagree with and as a highly public lifestyle conflicts with the sensibilities and religious feelings of a large percentage of society.
May the families of those murdered be comforted by Hashem, may those injured have a full recovery, and may the murderer(s?) be captured and punished.
Let us support those who were hurt and killed. Leave the agenda for later.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
“What is so special about tefillin? You seem to stress this mitzvah so much.”
There is so much to say about each of the mitzvahs, and in truth, no one mitzvah is more special than the next. All of them have been commanded to us by the same Holy Authority, so we fulfill each of them with the same love and awe.
When King Dovid was a shepherd-boy he found himself defending the lives and honor of the Jewish people.[i] He alone stepped forward to accept the challenge that Goliath, the evil, one-eyed giant, hurled at the Jewish soldiers. Indeed, the Jews were intimidated by this vicious giant. As Dovid was going out to fight the giant, King Saul tried to arm young Dovid with the King’s armor, but Dovid could not walk with that heavy armor. Instead, Dovid ran out to battle armed only with his shepherd’s sling.[ii]
Goliath laughed at the young boy, and he taunted Israel for sending a mere lad to fight for them, but Dovid wasted no time. He had taken five smooth stones from a brook, and now he put one of them into his sling. He ran toward the evil giant and hurled the stone at him. It found its target. The stone sunk into the fierce giant’s forehead, and he was knocked out. Dovid then ran over, picked up the giant’s own sword, and swiftly cut off his huge head! This encouraged the Jewish camp so much that they were able to run after the Philistines and slaughter them.
What does this story have to do with tefillin? Remember, the Torah is always speaking on many levels. Yes, this story happened literally at that time way back then, but this battle is still going on today.
In this story, the evil, one-eyed giant is our very own evil inclination. It rises up against us and taunts us whenever we try to do something good. It continually fights to have its evil way. Indeed, it is a frightening giant! What can we do? We seem so weak when confronted with those flaming lusts that he roars at us from within our heads.
Here is what we can do: Have you ever seen a shepherd’s sling? They are not like our slingshots today. Today, we pull back rubber strips and then release them so that they will hurl the stone forward. The shepherds’ slings in those days (and still today) were long thin leather straps tied to a leather pouch that holds the stone. Got the idea yet?
We pick up five smooth stones from the brook. These are the Five Books of Moshe. We put one of them in the pouch of our sling – If you think that you do not have a sling, take a closer look at the head piece of your tefillin in the morning. Now swing it over your head and smack that evil, one-eyed giant right above his forehead. That’s right. When we place the tefillin on our foreheads, we knock out that giant.
But tefillin only knock out that giant. To actually kill him, we must use his own sword. We do this by taking the very evil things that he wants us to do, and we do them in a holy way. Whatever our evil inclination wants, we can find a kosher way to satisfy that desire. Depending on the desire, we can make it kosher whether through holy marriage, wonderful kosher dining, or honest hard work.
[i] Shmuel 17:23
[ii] See There Is One, Section 73.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
(Maskil) On the one hand, the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Judaism ... has become increasingly divorced from mainstream Israeli society, while at the same time its massively subsidized demographic growth continues at the expense of the host population. The Haredi sector is distinguished by its lack of participation in the workforce, its refusal to perform military service, its separate, mind-numbingly backward educational networks, disproportionately small contribution to the tax base and excessive draws on the welfare system. This massive shift of the private burden onto the public system, coupled with an ideological emphasis on large family sizes will eventually transform Israel. Perhaps into a state based on Halacha... In the interim, Israeli society will be crippled internally and far less able to resist the external forces arrayed against her. It has in effect hijacked Israel’s domestic policy.
Most people superficially examine Israeli's social problems and fall into these standard secular canards. However, lets examine these a little more closely...
-- the Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Judaism ... has become increasingly divorced from mainstream Israeli society.
The ultra-orthodox have been under cultural attack by secular Israel since it's founding. It got so bad in the 50's that secular Israel literally implemented a formal program to strip Judaism by ripping new immigrant children from Yemen from their parents and forcing them into secular schools. Ultra-orthodox society has build walls and become intensely suspicious of secular society FOR GOOD REASON. Israeli secular society has had a goal of creating the "new Jew", strong with strength of his own arms and no ancient Jewish stuff holding him down - a goal antithetical to Judaism.
-- massively subsidized demographic growth continues at the expense of the host population.
Israel pays approximatey $300 per month for religious studies (after high school). Large families (5 or more children) get a stipend of around $500 per month. That's $900 per month to food, rent, utilities, clothes, etc, for a family of 7 or more. Guess what, no one is living on that. Whether as a society we support each other, those with resources support those with less, or lots of less apparent economic activity is going on (or all the above), $900 per month is NOT 'living off the host population'.
-- The Haredi sector is distinguished by its lack of participation in the workforce.
Strangely, one finds this is only an Israeli thing, not a Jewish religious thing. In the US, you find ultra-orthodox doctors, accountants, politicians, business owners, etc. Turns out Israeli society has created specific barriers that prevent the ultra-orthodox from achieving the credentials without compromising their religious standards. Such barriers DO NOT exist in the US.
-- its refusal to perform military service
The IDF _could_ have created religious units designed to accommodate the needs of the ultra-orthodox 60 years ago. They didn't create such units until 4 years ago. So far, the ultra-orthodox units are being wildly successful. However, after 4 generations of "avoid the army that will culturally destroy you" it will take time for the public to adjust to the new option.
-- its separate, mind-numbingly backward educational networks
Classically written by someone who's never visited an ultra-orthodox school. Practically, the Israeli secular school system is in bad shape, with graduation rates under 56%, high rates of drugs and violence. Ultra-orthodox graduation rates are MUCH higher, violence MUCH lower, drugs almost non-existent, and they are only funded at 60% the rate of the secular schools!!! Yet indeed, they refuse to include topics required for the Israeli graduate diploma (the bagrut), such as the history of zionism or classic greek literature. Because the diploma system _requires_ subjects which are arbitrary but unacceptable to the ultra-othodox community, they refuse it and therefore don't qualify for the state diploma (with the attendant problem of not qualifying for professional track careers!).
Note this is NOT a problem in such ultra-orthodox systems located in ANY OTHER Western country. The Israeli diploma is designed to include topics unacceptable to the ultra-religious, a barrier to entry into the system.
-- small contribution to the tax base and excessive draws on the welfare system.
As mentioned above, barriers to entry to good career paths prevent most of the ultra-orthodox from having high tax possibility careers. However, being the community continues to survive - and the Israeli welfare system is a joke (no one can live off it) - clearly they're either supporting themselves or bringing in donations from outside Israel to do so. That money doesn't disappear but rotates through the economy. It may not be income taxed, but it sure is sales taxed.
It's worth noting 6 years ago the secular system cut national child payments by 50%. Ultra-orthodox communities did not collapse. 4 years ago the secular system cut religious studies payments by 50%. The ultra-orthodox did not collapse. Methinks that's clear proof State support is much less significant that many ASSUME.
American society in the 60's took a difficult but ultimately society saving step. They declared the under-class equal, and creating ways of promoting the under-class into opportunities even though they weren't qualified according to the standards of the time. Affirmative Action broke the cycle of barriers, some intentional and some unintentional, that locked the under-class into their situation.
Rather than sneering at the ultra-orthodox, who serve as the primary Israeli underclass, people should accept them as equals and consider how to promote them into effective members of society. There is a REASON there are no ultra-orthodox policemen, government officials, or professionals. Serious barriers are in place to make sure they cannot enter the system. Yes, some are self imposed, but many are externally imposed.
And with the growth of this underclass, action to provide them a future must happen SOON.
News reports present the following...
HEADLINE: Rabbis Silenced By Authorities
The newspaper “Yediot Hamifratz” reports that the authorities have warned leading Rabbis against speaking against the government, even with regard to subjects such as the Disengagement and selling pork. Rabbis will only be allowed to publish “a theoretical halachic essay dealing with debates in the country’s courts, and only on condition that the actual article states that it is dealing with a purely theoretical viewpoint.”
The report also states that the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin, Rabbi Dovid Druckman, is known for being highly opinionated and for not hesitating to speak his mind in public, even if his beliefs differ from those of the Establishment. The Rabbis have been warned that anyone who goes against this “regulation” will be expected to pay a significant penalty, with everything that this entails.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Here is an important new prayer to learn. You should say this prayer at least once a day, and most importantly, teach it to your children.
First, a little background as to why this particular prayer is so important. Here are a couple of examples, but really, there are a lot more.
More and more frequently, I see young, male, Jewish tourists coming to the Kotel with as many as three earrings. Some of the older young men also sport huge, ugly tattoos. After putting tefillin on them, I take their pictures and try to include a picture of them answering the following question:
“When you get married, who is going to wear the pants in the family?”
“Well, surely,” each teenage boy strongly asserts himself, “I am!”
“Then who is going to wear the earrings?” I ask. They freeze, smile sheepishly, look away from me, and try to laugh it off. That’s when I snap the picture. I want them to have a picture of what they looked like when they realized just how foolish they look with those earrings. “Nu? Which side of the fence are you going to be on?” I ask, using the mechitza (modesty fence that separates the men and women) as a metaphor for clear-cut gender roles. They usually giggle and try to come up with some kind of compromise answer.
“We both are!” they sometimes suggest.
“Then you both are going to wear the pants, too!” I tell them. “Either she is going to wear the pants and you are going to wear the jewelry, or you are going to wear the pants and she is going to wear the jewelry. Which is it going to be?” They always laugh, but the message gets through.
I then explain to them why earrings are so very bad for a Jewish man. Actually, the earring is not the problem. The problem is the hole in the ear.
The Torah teaches that if a Jewish man steals something, the beis din (Jewish law court) forces him to pay back what he stole. If he does not have the money, the court sells him as a slave. He must serve his new master for up to six years. Then he goes free. He goes free, that is, unless he says that he likes being a slave, and that he wants to continue on as a slave. If he says this, then his master bores a hole in his ear, and this is a sign that he will remain a slave forever.[i] This “forever” actually means until the Jubilee year.
While an earring with a hole might seem to be a daring fashion statement to a young boy, the Torah says that it is a sign of slavery. (This is true only for males, as females cannot be enslaved past the age of puberty.)
Why was the ear chosen to be the sign of slavery? Because, spiritually, we were all at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given, and the ear that heard at Mount Sinai that we are to be slaves of Hashem, instead chose to become the slave of a man.[ii]
How does this apply today, when we do not have this type of slavery? Even after the young man tires of this foolish fad, he can throw away the earring, but he cannot throw away the hole. It is permanent whether he likes it or not, slavery!
Tattooing is also like this. The Torah specifically forbids tattooing.[iii] Some say that tattoos are forbidden because tattooing was a custom of the idolaters, and we are not to be like them. But, like the hole in the ear, the practical problem is, even when you tire of the tattoo, it does not go away.
Now this prayer will make more sense to you. It goes like this: “Dear G-d, as I go through life, if I have to make mistakes, please let me make them in pencil.”
[i] Exodus 21:5, Deuteronomy 15:17,
[ii] Kiddushin 22b
[iii] Leviticus 19:28
There's considerable debate from some difficult words of the Torah regarding Yaakov avinu (our forefather Jacob) and Yosef HaTzadik (and Joseph the biblical leader), when it says Yaakov didn't die, and Yosef continues to live.
In a similar vein, Tanya discusses how a tzadik's influence can be found more after he leaves the physical limitations of this world...
The following was shared with me by Yaakov Nathan of Yiddishkeit.org...
Bereishis 50:33--[Yaakov] passed away and was gathered to his people.
Rabbeinu Bachye: Yaakov Avinu didn't die. But behold this portion testifies that he died, and that the Egyptians embalmed him, and they cried over him for 70 days, and afterwards they buried him in the Maaras Hamachpela in the burial place of his fathers.
Yaakov Avinu didn't die, rather he remains existing in body and soul, this body is the second, ethereal body, in which the soul is enclothed in the form of a body, and it has substance but it is extremely ethereal. He is enclothed in it at certain times [...] and does missions for the Holy One and appears to one who desires it, because the first [body] which is coarse was embalmed and buried as the verse simply states. This is what the Sage states: "I only come to expound the verse", he contrasts him [Yaakov] to his progeny, just as his progeny are alive in body and in soul, so too he is alive in body and in soul, and this is the [second] body that I mentioned. [...] This is the matter of Rabbeinu Hakadosh in Kesuvos...
Rabbeinu Bachye--Yaakov Avinu Lo Mes