Monday, November 30, 2009

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From Heaven or Earth?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A commentor asked,

-- What part of the 3rd Temple will be rebuilt by HaShem Himself?

There are different opinions from the chachamim (sages). According to one approach, the 3rd Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) will descend from heaven to earth. Other approaches say we must build the foundation, heaven provides the rest. And another approach says we build it and while we see great niisim (miracles), the physical aspects of the world remain unchanged.

-- Is the 3rd Temple to be rebuilt prior to correcting the sins that caused the destruction of the previous ones?

The Jewish people have undergone over 1,800 years of serious hard times, including torture, death, enslavement, slaughter, discrimination, being barred from participation in society, being shunned, starved, having their children stolen away, being taxed literally to death, having their property confiscated, being expelled from nations (with 50% dying in the process), and finally lead to the gas chambers and ovens. If the Jewish people haven't completed any correction, they've already paid the hard way.

-- Will rebuilding the Temple really help people to build their Inner Temple?

The presense of the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) literally and physically exposes G-d to the world. It pulls away some of the veil that hides the presence of Hashem. It also provides a direct path for people to connect to Hashem and atone for aveyrot (sins).

-- I guess what I'm asking is - Why put the cart before the horse, if you will? I mean no disrespect by this analogy. Is having a 3rd Temple likely to bring the apikorsim and the chilonim and the Jewish converts to Islam and Xianity back to Judaism or will it move them to further distance themselves from Judaism?

You seem to be hoping for a utopia in this world. But this is the world of choice. Free will (to turn towards or away from Hashem) exists. The Yezter Hara (the evil inclination) is fully empowered to influence in the wrong direction. We can be better, but this world will never be perfect.

In the time of the Geulah, the "knowledge of G-d will cover the Earth like the water fills the oceans". When the presence of G-d is apparent and the Yezter Hara is nullified, then all will stand and move the right way. Until then, we each face our personal struggle.

For now we must do the best we can, fill our lives with Torah and mitzvot, and help each other as much as we can. And pray that it will be even better tomorrow.
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This Nissan is the Geulah per the Vilna Gaon?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A number of us (like minded Jewish bloggers) were surprised today by an article in (the rabidly secular Israeli newspaper) Haaretz declaring,

"If the 18th-century rabbinic authority the Vilna Gaon was right, on March 16, 2010, construction will begin on the third Temple. His projection states that the auspicious day will coincide with the third completion of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter.

The great day is at hand: On March 15, the reconstructed Hurva Synagogue, considered the most important house of prayer in Jerusalem will be rededicated. It was last destroyed in the War of Independence...

The Hurva, whose name means "ruin," was initially built by disciples of Rabbi Judah Hahasid in the early 18th century. It was destroyed shortly thereafter by Muslims demanding the return of loans given to build the synagogue. After it was rebuilt in the mid-19th century, it became the most important synagogue in the country, but it was blown up in 1948 by the Jordan Legion a few days before the fall of the Jewish Quarter in the War of Independence.

In 2001, after years of debate, the government decided to restore the building.


We've heard a bit of such rumors in the past, but don't know the source on which the Haaretz article is based. It's not Kol HaToar. We'll check around a bit, if anyone has any suggestions on the source, let us know.

(Others writing about it, Life in Israel and Israel Matzav.)
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Sins of Purim to Repeat on Chanukah?

JoeSettler writes the following at The Muqata... (While I don't normally copy content in total, his point is strong and worth sharing.)

The Original Sin of Purim was the participation of the Jews at Achashveirosh’s party. I write this as Chanukah approaches, because we will soon seen history repeat itself at the Obama’s Chanukah bash.

400 or so of the Obama’s closest Jewish friends, leaders of the Jewish community and Jewish organizations will be falling over themselves to get a 2 second photo shoot with the Obama.

Leaders of all the 2 and 3 letter organizations (and even the 4 or 5) will convince themselves that in their 2 seconds of kowtowing, they will have the President’s ear where, if they are brave enough, they will express their displeasure with the Obama’s policies against Israel.

Unfortunately Jewish Leaders you are fooling yourselves. The Obama will not hear what you have to say, the Obama will not care what you have to say, the Obama will only note that you showed up and kowtowed to Him.

Dear Jewish Leaders, there is only one thing that scares the Obama – his falling polls, the public dissatisfaction with Him and His policies.

Your going to the Mishte HaMelech will not send him that message. Your whispering sweet nothings in His ear will not convince Him to hear you.

There is only on one message that the Obama will hear.

Silence.

Your non-participation.

If the leaders of the Jewish community, as one, RSVP their non-participation in Obama’s oil and wine party, only then will the Obama get the message. Only then will the media report your message, and only then do you have a chance to redeem yourselves before you repeat the sins of our ancestors.

Jewish leaders – this Chanukah - Ban the Bam.

It is the only way you have a chance of saving Israel and yourselves.

Otherwise salvation and deliverance will come from somewhere else, and you and your organizations will be lost.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

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Freeze Politics: Cutting Nose to Spite Face

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has acceded to US President Obama's request (demand) that Israel freeze settlement building "for peace", at least temporarily (by announcing a 10 month moratorium). We will not debate whether this is a smart move, putting the Palestinians and the US on the spot of actually having to take actions for their part, or stupid in giving in on a point never given before while strangling the people who act as the main buffer for Israel.

We will point out the following unintended side effect...

Palestinian Authority statistics from 2007 state that 13% of "Palestinian" men in the West Bank work in construction in the settlements and Israel (including Jerusalem and other supposed "occupied" areas).

In the name of peace, the U.S. just forced Israel to place 13% of "Palestinian" men, the main or sole wage earner for their families, on the unemployment line. Oh wait, there is no unemployment line in the West Bank. No unemployment insurance, government benefits, social security, dole, etc.

13% of the "Palestinian" workers of the West Bank were just set up to starve in the name of peace. Given an unemployment rate of 18% in the West Bank "Palestinian" areas, we're going to take that up to 31% for peace.

Happy Peace Process neighbor.

(Sources: Statistics - PA data here, News Report - here.)
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Friday, November 27, 2009

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“I Want to Thank You”

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

An American man walked up to me at the tefillin stand and said, “I want to tell you a story. A few years ago, I was very sick. I was really depressed. I was going to kill myself. Then the rabbi’s son gave me a copy of your book, There Is One.[i] I put it on my desk, and every day I read one of the short sections. I don’t know exactly which number it was, but when I got up to section 63 or 64 my depression went away. I want to thank you. You saved my life.” He hugged me and kissed me.

As soon as I got home I opened the book to see which section could have done such a thing. Then I saw it. It is called, “What is the purpose of life.” Surely, it would be a lot better to read the pieces that come before this one, too, but maybe even reading this section by itself will help someone you know.

~

CONSIDER: Why are we here? To argue, if we are here, is fruitless. There are those who claim that this life is but a dream without meaning, and at any moment we might awaken only to find that our life experiences have been for naught. But, existence proves its purpose by merely being. The fact is, something is going on, how else could we even be discussing it? Existence is apparent. Whether it is a dream or not does not detract from its reality. Dreams also exist. In fact, the Torah says that this life is but a dream when we compare it to the redeemed life awaiting us upon the arrival of the Moshiach.[ii]

Now we see life through distracted and clouded minds. Everything is interpreted according to our present needs and past experiences. We cling to things today that, in the age of the redemption, will be tinsel and trash. Today, such things as prestige and fame are thought to be reason enough to justify lifetimes of building or destroying. Wars have been fought for less. However, when the final peace comes to this world, every man will know G-d.[iii] Will one who knows the Eternal Truth be concerned with prestige or fame? These will be seen to be what they actually are, obstacles to peace.

Whether this is an awakened life, or a dream life (or any other type of existence) is not the question. Whatever we choose to call existence, we find ourselves wrapped up in it. And now we are asking,” why?”

Although “why” questions can always lead to additional “why” questions, answering the primordial “why,” (why God creates the universe) should satisfy all of our other “whys.”

God creates the universe, with its almost infinite variety, to create joy. Joy is the goal and joy is the means. Life, although it begins with pain,[iv] is to give joy. Death, although painful for those left behind, is for joy. Health is for joy, and even its opposite is for joy. The right and the left, the up and the down, the hard and the soft, all of the choices are here so that we will choose the best alternative--for a joyous result. This is the reason, and this can be the moment. By choosing the path that brings a lasting joy, we see G-d's holy plan while we are right here on earth. Joy

[i] There Is One, 1989, available from thereisone.com
[ii] Psalms 126
[iii] Jeremiah 31:33
[iv] Genesis 3:16
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

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Nightime Stroll in Tel Aviv

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Tel Aviv is a generally well lit city. The buildings are bright, the stores are bright, giving the city an interesting night time glow. Join me for an evenings in a stroll down HaShalom Street...

The Phoenix Insurance building in Givatayim is a pretty piece of architecture. An oval shaped tan skyscraper with dark-brown cut out notches give it a unique shape. Spotlights give it a night time glow...
HaShalom Street - Tel Aviv

Stop at the Red Stop Shop, Stop! Because it's red.
HaShalom Street - Tel Aviv

Even an average office building (though some nice cut outs) becomes something special with some great lighting...
HaShalom Street - Tel Aviv

We're better than red, we're Yellow! Large Yellow mini-marts now in all Paz gas stations...
HaShalom Street - Tel Aviv

The most famous site on HaShalom street is the Azrieli Towers. ~50 stories each, one in the shape of a circle, one a triangle, and one a square with an enclosed mall in the space between the towers. Opposite them at ~35 stories is the Africa-Israel building...
HaShalom Street - Tel Aviv

And with that we come to the end of our stroll and head out of town.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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Thanksgiving

by Reb Gutman Locks & Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Reb Gutman: Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday, but it certainly has Jewish themes. Taking a day off from work, getting together with family and friends, and sitting down to a huge, delicious meal in order to thank G-d for all of the blessings that He has given us….Sure sounds Jewish to me.

Have a wonderful, wonderful, happy Thanksgiving.

Reb Akiva: Being thankful for what one has is right out of Pirke Avos (Mishneh) from thousands of years ago. "Who is rich, he who is happy with what he has." If one enjoys the day focused upon the blessings in one's life, then this American tradition is very positive to one's life.

For others Thanksgiving is about kef - indulgence in pure pleasure. A huge meal of rich foods where one stuffs to the limit. A day of more football games than anyone can watch (though with new split-screen HD TV's one can put up multiple games and try one's best). A wonderful meal with family and friends is nice, stuffing and over indulging is not. Stay focused on the positive possibilities!

And for others Thanksgiving is the start of the U.S. consumer feeding frenzy of the (non-Jewish) holiday season. Whether the stores with the hope of making most of their profits in a short time, or the consumers hoping for either the great deal or the special purchase, it's all about shopping.

Unfortunately in the physical sense, many a household will be spending this U.S. holiday season focused on getting by instead of enjoying the deal of the moment or the prized purchase (prized for a week or so). While the pain of those struggling is very very real, the focus on 'what's important' is the blessing hidden in the situation.

This Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it) make sure to focus on thanks. Thank G-d for all the blessings you have, and think of how you can reach out and help those many who are in much more difficult situations this year.
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Well That's Wacky

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Knowing I tend to be over informed about technical matters, a friend asked me about spending time near a wireless hub. I did a little research (to confirm what I thought I already knew) and determined that wifi is very low powered and works at non-penetrating frequencies, and therefore isn't considered dangerous (though there are a few people extremely sensitive, basically allergic, to electronic transmissions who can be bothered).

This compares with a cell phone, for example, which we place up next to our skull and millimeters from our brain, that does operate at a penetrating frequency and at 20 times the power of a wifi transmitter. Much more concern there. (Use a bluetooth earpiece, very low power very short range transmitter.)

As with all such newfangled devices, we learn more about the real concerns or impact of them (versus their benefits) over time.

The new one for me today is CFL's, Compact Florescent Lights. You know, the "new" light bulbs that are little twisted versions of the big overhead lights in most offices. Everyone has been replacing their regular light bulbs with these over the last 5 years because:

a. They use 1/5th the power of a regular light bulb.
b. They last 3 times longer than a regular light bulb (not the 10 times longer advertised).
c. Because of a + b, they're advertised as "greener" than regular light bulbs.
d. In some States and Countries, regular light bulbs have been outlawed (due to c).

Last year came the health warning that CFLs contain a not-insignificant amount of mercury, a dangerous chemical. Because of this, if you break a CFL you need to: open the doors and windows, clean the area while wearing a respirator (some of the mercury vaporizes), clean the area with gloves and dispose of the gloves and cleaning material afterwards, and dispose of the breakage as toxic waste. (Really.)

Today comes the warning that CFLs are emitting UVA and UVB radiation and can cause skin cancer! The UK Health Ministry, and now republished by the Israeli Health Ministry, instruct that you should NEVER come closer that 30cm (1 foot) to a lit CFL bulb, and should spend no more than 1 hour per day near CFL bulbs. Got that? Your light bulbs can give you skin cancer. Oh, and by the way, this has been known for a decade (10 years!) (Source)

Sheez. LaBriut (to your good health).
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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Opposition in Strength

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

It is written "when a man wishes to draw closer to Hashem he is sent opposition to strengthen his resolve to serve".

When a man resolves to do a holy task, such as taking on a higher level of Torah and mitzvot, going to a holy Tzaddik, or moving to Eretz Yisroel, he is sent minneus (difficulties). We see an example of this in the story of Avraham as he went to offer Yitzchak, he was sent trials. (as discussed in Likutey Moharan 74)

The reward is coming, but getting through the difficulties is part of the task.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

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The Evil Town of Gilo

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We are loathe to discuss politics though living in the midst of the epicenter of world political arguments. But sometimes as we hear world political statements and vomit into our own mouths, we feel compelled to speak out...

Facts on Gilo conveniently ignored (or in ignorance ignored) by world politicians and the press:

- Gilo is the South West corner of Jerusalem, NOT "East Jerusalem". Look at the map!

- Gilo is a neighborhood of Jerusalem built on an empty hill 30 years ago. Go to the Malcha mall, past the Soccer stadium, make the 2nd right at the light and you're in Gilo.

- No homes (or gnomes) were displaced in the building of Gilo. An Arab neighborhood abuts Gilo to the North-East, they seem to be making a nice living providing services to the Gilo residents.

- No country claims this land.

How can a neighborhood of Jerusalem in the South-West be in "Occupied East Jerusalem"??? I know I know, forget reality, this is politics (there's that taste in my mouth again).

On the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin, the West, the US, and now today Germany, would demand that Jerusalem be re-de-unified. That walls be placed throughout the city, that snipers from the Jordanian past and from the recent past (firing at Gilo from the suburbs of Bethlehem as the next hilltop over) be ignored, that neighborhoods directly connecting major parts of the city be leveled and returned to the bare rock of the past.

Dear Peace Now and Jews of the world...you thought it was about peace, you thought Gush Katif was a valid risk for 'peace', you thought there was a compromise. Please recognize today that these are all fallacies. Every inch and centimeter has only brought the knife closer to the heart...Jerusalem.
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I Do Not Change

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

We often hear that G-d does not change. The statement, “I do not change” fits Him well. After all, He is above all change. But can we make the same statement about ourselves? Obviously not. After all, I am an adult today, and at one time I was a small child. My hair is gray today, but once upon a time it was dark. My height and weight have changed as have my ideas, skills and opinions. Seemingly everything about me has changed tremendously. So, certainly, I cannot make this statement about myself. We see that nothing about G-d changes and everything about us does change.

But wait a minute. When you stop and think about it, am I not the same person who was once, a long time ago, a bar mitzvah boy? Do I not say that I was born on such and such a day? So, actually, I am the very same person who was born way back then, only I am much older today. I am the same person who did all of those things that I did in the past. The fact is, I am the same person who is named on my birth certificate. It is still me.

So we see that, really, the only things that change are our deeds and our garments, but, in essence, we are still the very same people we have always been. I am still my parents’ child, even though I am much older, and I am still my children’s father, even though they are now fully grown.

G-d’s deeds (His creation) are somewhat like His garment. The Torah even says, “You have worn majesty and splendor, wearing light as a garment“.[i] So, as our thoughts, speech and deeds are garments to our soul, you could metaphorically say that G-d’s thoughts, speech and deeds are His garments. And just like our garments change, yet we are still the same people, so do G-d’s “garments” change, yet He, Himself, does not change.

Here we see that there are aspects of the unchanging G-d that are indeed changing all the time (His creation). And we see that we who are changing all the time are actually unchanging!

When we look at our deeds and garments, we can get dizzy by their rapid changes. But when we look at our self, our being, we see something standing quite still. As can a man sitting on a train going sixty miles an hour sit perfectly still, so can the soul stand still even while the body is raging along its hectic way.

The comparison between man and his deeds and G-d and His deeds is not a fair comparison. This comparison has been presented only as an exercise designed to help you seek within. The Torah explains that unlike man, whose thoughts, speech and deeds are not the man himself, G-d’s thoughts, speech and deeds are actually aspects of G-d, Himself.

[i] Psalms 104:1-2
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Rabbi Shabtai Teicher, a"h

We note with sadness the passing of Rabbi Shabtai Teicher, a"h, who left this world within the past hour (the leviya will be at 10:30 PM this evening, Jerusalem time, from Shamgar) at the age of 63.

Rabbi Teicher came from the 60's hippie movement to Jerusalem, entering the Diaspora Yeshiva. There he learned, became a rav, became a student of kabbalah and later a teacher of some of the most esoteric secrets of kabbalah. To those students fortunate enough to find their way to him, he opened the secrets of Eitz Chaim, Zohar, Leshem, among others.

He wrote a brief introduction when he wrote a few articles on our blog in 2006, "I was born in Brooklyn in the first wave of baby boomers. I graduated Hunter College CUNY after an unscheduled stop in Haight-Ashberry in the sixties. I departed from the U.S. in 1970 for the Promised Land. Still searching.

I attended first Ba'al Teshuvah Yeshivah in Jerusalem. I taught for many years and directed the ba'al teshuvah program in Mt. Zion Yeshiva. I learned kabbalah from one of the great masters in Jerusalem, and also learned Jewish philosophy from one of the great masters in Jerusalem as well."


Rabbi Teicher was a descendant of the 5th Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shalom Dovber.

To this world he leaves his wife, 9 children, 10+ grandchildren, many students and unpublished manuscripts on the depths of the Zohar.

May the family be comforted among the mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim.

Update: His children are sitting shiva at 12 Ksovski apt. 6 , Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem (near Machon Meir opposite Gan Ha Sus).
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

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You are Something?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The ultimate intent of the creation of existence (or "yesh" - somethingness) from nothingness (or "ayin" - naught) is for the yesh (the somethingness that believes in it's independent existence) to nullify (batel) to the ayin...

"Every Jew has a portion in the World to Come"

Each individual must draw the revelation of (Hashem - Ein Ode Milvado - there is Nothing besides Him) into his portion (of the world, or rather, of the somethingness that is his that believes in it's independent existence) to bring about the bitul (nullification) of the yesh (the belief in it's somethingness that leads to the possibility of separation from Hashem through the (false) belief in it's own somethingness).

This is brought about by meditating on the greatness of Hashem's infinity.

(Likkutei Torah, Maamar Ner Chanukah Section 1, translation by Rabbi Touger.)


You know you're something. Whether you feel like a big something or a small something, a happy something or even (G-d forbid) a depressed something. We commonly hear "there's something more". We strive to reach beyond the physical and catch a glimpse of "something more".

But Chassidus teaches us this is exactly the wrong approach. We must strive to catch a glimpse of "less something". The less we focus on "us", the more the chance to reach towards the One.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

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Uman on Chanukah

Some Breslev chassidim take advantage of Chanukah to travel to Uman, to the kever of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, zt"l. In particular, Breslev chassidista's often arrange group trips this time of year.

The Breslev Tzadik of Meah Shearim, HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita was asked if, given reports of flu (or possibly some other) epidemic impacting the Ukraine right now, is it safe to travel to Uman?

His answer, (not an exact quote) 'the Jewish visitors to Uman will not be impacted.'
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

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Every Morning


by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I walk away from the Kotel with the same two thoughts. When I get to the top of the steps that lead into the Old City, I look back and marvel, “How holy is this place.” Then I look up, over the Kotel and wonder, “How long will it be that we have to daven (pray) down here?”

Here we are, as close as we can come (for now) to the holiest place in the world. There is both great appreciation and great yearning. We see the holiness of the Kotel, and we are very thankful. But we also look up at the vast holiness of the Temple Mount and thirst for more.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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All The Troubles

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

All of what one hears and sees as one travels through different places, all the troubles that come one's way...a thousand pages would not be enough. And yet through all of this, all that we go through, we still "desire to fear Your Name".

Deep in our hearts we are all crying out very, very bitterly over how far we are from our ultimate purpose. 'But all of us like birds are all trapped', 'and like those overcome by a flood'. With all the urges and negative character traits, how can we hang on? With the preoccupation of earning a livelihood (which is getting harder and harder to do), how can we survive (spiritually)???

The lust for money, power, and honor, (not to mention the other lust), it becomes stronger all the time. Or even worse yet, most of us have become terribly discouraged with ourselves and have given up completely, crying out "there is no hope" and "there is no one to help". The discouraged feel as if it is no longer possible to think properly about "HATACHLIT" 'the true purpose of this life'. And for a number of reasons it is impossible for them to raise themselves up.

Great controversy surrounds us. The world has become convoluted and twisted. It is all because of this Galut, this exile, that they are unable to receive the sweet nectar, the lovely, pure words of awesome truth that give life to all and inspire all the fallen souls. "Sound the Shofar of Faith" (Likutey Moharan II,5).

It is imperative to remember all the loving kindness and miracles that Hashem has done for us and continues to do for us, literally every day! You must realize how much, in such a time, a person must strengthen himself (in emunah and connection to Hashem) every minute! As our master, teacher and Rebbe, of blessed memory, cried out in a deep, strong voice, "GEVALT!"..."AIN SHUM YEUSH BOLAM KLAL"!

Please do not give up on yourselves! There is no such thing as despair in this world at all! The main thing is to strengthen ourselves - to be joyful in all! Know that Hashem can and will help you, and know He is truly the only one who can.

We need but to reach out to Hashem, to cry out and pray! As Dovid HaMelech taught us (Psalm 20): "Some rely upon chariots and some upon horses, but we rely upon and invoke (call out) in the name Hashem our G-d...Save us Hashem, may the King answer us on the day we call."
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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Sound the Shofar of Faith

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Remember well, every single day, what is being done with us in This World. For we have come to This World at this time; in the seventieth year of the seventh century of the sixth millennium. Very soon (Hashem willing) the Geula will unfold. We are in the year 5770, there are only the 20 years until the beginning of techiyas hameysim (resurrection of the dead) according to the latest date of 210 years before the end. We are close, so very very close (please G-d)!

It has been now nearly 200 years since a very unique individual, a very special soul and teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev (of blessed memory) came into This World. Those of us who follow his path are still called by his name (Breslev chassidim). We were once the most wretched and scorned among the Holy people of Israel, the chassidim that even the chassidim beat up upon. Now we find the path of Rebbe Nachman lighting the way, the torch bearers in this generation, may we be worthy.

Remember this and take it to heart! Strengthen yourselves and be brave! It is no insignificant matter! We are obligated to thank and praise Hashem's great and awesome Name, that He has saved us from the great heresy and delusion that now abounds in the world today. [Just look at the news (really, don't), it will make you dizzy!] It is only by His chen (loving kindness) that we have been saved from the confusion at a time such as this!

What can we give back to Hashem for all the good He has shown us?

Just knowing is a blessing. That He shows us kindness is a blessing. And knowing that we know and recognize this, this should encourage us! I am only able to write with Hashem's constant help and with tears. (If you only knew.)

I hear that suffering has increased for our people (as it is written). I understand (all too well) the many troubles afflicting so many souls. My heart is filled with tears as I pray before the Kadosh One, Blessed Be He, to relieve all our suffering, individually and collectively. Hours of toiling in avodas Hashem don't seem much to contribute, but what (else) can I do? What can we do? Know 'for this is to cleanse us'. Therefore we must accept this with boundless joy as well.

Oy, truly a heartfelt oy.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

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A Quick Visit to the Marat HaMachpela

Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths, all rights reserved.

Before parshat Chaya Sarah (this past Shabbos), I had the opportunity to visit the Marat HaMachpela - the cave of the patriarchs and matriarchs - in Hebron. Things being relatively calm at the moment, I drove to Kiryat Arba and from there directly to the Ma'ara in Hebron...

The upper road was closed off, the lower parking lot was opened...
Marat HaMachpela

Of course, we can't actually see the cave as King Herod built a huge building over the area, which still stands today. Here, at the corner where Jews were limited to when it was under Arab control, a family was celebrating a bar mitzvah (with a minyan and Torah reading on Thursday) in the adjacent courtyard area. Who knew you can arrange a catered tour-led bar mitzvah at the Marat HaMachpela in Hebron?
Marat HaMachpela

At the end of the courtyard is a thorough security check and the entrance stairway. At another time in the past, Jews were limited to "the third step" of the stone stairway entrance. On an interesting side note, the sign to the right says "these scanners are approved by the Shabbos Institute for operation on Shabbos."
Marat HaMachpela

The inside is a side room (a kollel), two large hallways, an inner courtyard, and separate chambers that are closed off by huge iron bar gates and iron bared windows representing those buried there, who are Avraham avinu (Abraham), Sorah imaynu (Sarah), Yaakov avinu (Jacob), Leah imaynu, and the head of Easav. This photo is the 2nd hallway, with a window to the chamber of Avraham on the right. Jews aren't allowed access to these chambers (ever).
Marat HaMachpela

This is the inside of the Yaakov (Jacob) chamber through a window, with the iron bared gate opposite. You can see the walls surrounded with Arab-Islamic writing. The top of this kever and the inside of this chamber is also covered with pigeon dung. Fortunately the actually cave and resting place is far below the chamber.
Marat HaMachpela

The Yitzchok (Isaac) and Rivka (Rebbecca) chamber and large hall are not accessible to Jews except for a few days a year. The rest of the year a huge locked iron door with a pretty cover is as close as you can come. The Israeli government tries to manage the conflict over this holy site by giving the Arab-Muslims 1/2 of the building for regular use, and the Jews the other half. For certain special holidays, the whole building is given for a few days to one side or the other.
Marat HaMachpela

And thus ends our visit. The Gutnick center and courtyard in the foreground, the city of our forefathers, Hebron, with an Arab population surrounding in the background.
125

A follow up on the pigeon dung note about in the Yaakov chamber. It appears a small window at the top of the chamber was either left open or broke. The Jews can't access the chamber to fix it, as this would either offend Muslim religious sensibilities or (more likely) offend Arab authority/honor. But the Arabs can't get to the chamber (to either see the problem or fix it) as it's in the Jewish section, and the Arabs accessing it would offend Jewish authority. In the midst of the stalemate, the pigeons have fully taken up residence.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

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Who is a Jew?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The British Supreme Court said while it was legal that Jewish schools give preference to Jewish children's applications, admissions must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined."

Perhaps, in England, the courts are empowered to determine a school’s admissions’ standards, but they certainly are not empowered to determine who is a Jew.

However, according to the standard definition of religion, they are correct. Indeed, religions are based entirely upon belief. Whatever the person believes in, that is his religion. But Jews are not members of a religion. So, what makes a person a Jew?

The first Jews were not even called Jews. They were called “Hebrews.” The name “Jew” is not found until many centuries later, in the Book of Esther.

Abraham and Sarah were the first Hebrews. They had a son named Yitzchak. Abraham also had a son with Sarah’s Egyptian slave, Hagar. His name was Yishmael. Both boys believed in the One G-d. Both boys had the same father, and both boys were raised in the same house.

But, only Yitzchak is a Jew. Yishmael is an Arab. So we see that neither faiths, nor fathers, has anything to do with determining who is a Jew.

“Who is a Jew” can be determined only by the Torah, not by courts, no matter how kind or wise. According to the British Supreme Court, the two happy men pictured at the Kotel wearing tefillin would not be allowed into a Jewish school. After all, they have absolutely no faith in Judaism, none whatsoever. In fact, they are ordained, entrusted, Bishops in the x-ian church!

However, according to the Torah, since their mothers are Jews, they are Jews. And not only are they allowed to receive a Jewish education … we are obligated to teach them.

(Photo: Two 'bishops' with Jewish mother's, and therefore Jewish, putting on tefillin at the Kotel.)
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

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Rumors of Geulah

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The following is unsourced - the author is not directly identified and the origin of the email is unconfirmed. However, the content is such that it sounds as possibly an accurate message. Shirat Devorah was the first to receive it in Hebrew, and it was translated by Yeranen Yaakov. I've adjusted the literal translation to good English phrasing.

I'm providing information from a good friend who is close to (HaRav HaGaon the Rishon L'Tziyon, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita), and who is reliable and completely trustworthy.

For the past year Rabbi Eliyahu has suffered harshly and extensively (he's been seriously ill and close to death on a number of occasions). His wife asked him, "Why has this happened to you?" He answered that he is accepting this suffering in place of the [suffering] of Am Yisrael (the Jewish people). She asked, "Why did you not ask me? (for this affects us both)" He answered, "You would not have agreed."

Recently she repeated her question, and he wrote as a reply, "These are Hevlei Mashiah. (the birth pangs of the coming of Moshiach)"

The rav continues to receive requests for blessings. Recently, some people requested a blessing from the rav for a 51-year-old whose doctors said that he doesn't have long to live. The rav wrote as a response, "They told me in Shamayim (heaven) that the Resurrection of the Dead is very near." The man died about 3 days later.

All this is only for the purpose of Hizzuk (spiritual strengthening), and so that we understand that we are Mamash (really really) in the final stages before the Geula.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

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“You Are Fear Mongering!”

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

One apparently angry (or perhaps frightened) reader wrote that my brief article that discusses what happens in the Next World was trying to instill fear in readers’ heads, in order to force them to comply with the Commandments.

Surely, the Baal Shem Tov was right when he wrote that whenever we judge something, we are really seeing what is inside ourselves.

The information in the article does not threaten. It provides us with a tool to help us make the most of our lives, both in this world and in the next. Knowing that everything we do will come back to us, and everything that we do not do will not come to us, is not a new idea at all. Nor is it a threatening one.

When we see something good come to us, we say, “Ah, I am going to do more of what brought that goodness to me.” When we see something unwelcome come to us, we say, “Oy, I am not going to do what I did that brought that unwelcome result to me.” Repercussions are wonderful signs that show us what we are doing, and where we are going.

Does anyone really believe that when we die, everything stops? That we do not go on? If so, then read, From The Old City,[i] where I wrote what happened when I died.

Certainly, we continue on after this lower world, and certainly the Torah teaches this. The Torah tells us about the resurrection of the dead, and about reincarnation, too. For instance, the Jewish Law book, the Mishnah Beruah, has an interesting teaching for Yom Kippur afternoon, which discusses what happens to a man who refuses to turn from his evil ways. It says that he will have to come back to this world again and again, until he repents. This is reincarnation. Reincarnation is also mentioned in the prayer that we say right before we retire: “I hereby forgive anyone who has sinned against me… in this incarnation or in any other.”

These teachings do not sow fear. They come as a blessing. They show that our future is in our hands. What happens to us depends on what we do. We are on a long and amazing journey. It is a wondrous opportunity, and it does not stop at the grave.

When you go on a journey, you plan ahead. You pack your bags. The unique thing about this journey is that not a single one of our physical possessions will fit into the bag that we will take with us when we go. Only our deeds are going to go with us. Both our good deeds and our not-so-good deeds are going to follow us into that world. To think otherwise is simply being naive.

Certainly, we see cause and effect throughout our lives. This is a major, constant teaching in the Torah. It is called mida kenegid mida (measure for measure). Is there any reason to entertain the belief that repercussions cease when we leave this world?

We are given free will while we are here. We are free to choose whatever behavior we want. But we are not free to choose the consequences that will come from that behavior. Of course, the Torah allows for repentance when we choose, and repentance from love turns all of our past into a positive act.

“Fear mongering!” Explaining the principle that consequences continue after this world removes fear from anyone who wants to direct his life. When we see that we have missed the mark, we can always turn. Always, that is, as long as we are still here.

If you want to remove “fear mongering,” then you had better scratch out the line from the book of Daniel that says, “… and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”[ii]

These words come as a kindness. They put a wonderful tool in our hands. Knowing that there are direct repercussions for our deeds allows us to direct our destiny. To think otherwise is to believe in a random future that we can do nothing about--other than duck, squeeze our eyes shut, and pray.

[i] Parsha Vayechi, available from thereisone.com
[ii] Daniel 12:2
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H1N1 in Israel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

To avoid hysteria and rumor, it's often very valuable to gather some factual data. Here's some factual data about H1N1 flu and Israel...

Every vaccine has side effects (that may affect up to 1% of recipients) and a negative reaction rate. That includes the flu shot.

I spoke to a local doctor who's part of the regional flu response team. Here's what he said the doctors from the Israeli Ministry of Health are informing the health teams about H1N1 in Israel:

1. The H1N1 is less severe than the hype or as has been reported around the world, even less than the seasonal flu. While the original Mexican cases appeared very severe with a high fatality rate, the virus as it's spreading is not acting that way.

2. H1N1 is proving more infectious than the seasonal flu. The Health Ministry is estimating that 25% of the population will get infected before it runs it's course.

3. The Ministry is only recommending vaccination for health workers and those with chronic or respiratory conditions (like asthma).

4. To receive the vaccine in Israel you need: doctor's approval, and to sign a page long "full disclosure" form from the Ministry of Health.

5. Israel has reported around 40 H1N1 deaths, and 1 death from the vaccine. They predict 25% of the population will get H1N1, and it will lead to 700 deaths.

The doctor I spoke to noted he had taken the H1N1 shot that day, but further noted that he anticipated coming into contact with many sick patients through the season - so for him it made sense.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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Mishnah Humor?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Though the Mishnah is relatively concise, we should never think the sages didn't get their point across...

Seder Nashim, Mishnah Nazir 1.5 -

(discussing those who take a nazirite vow, and how to clarify if it's a vow for a limited time - normally a month or a year, or a life long vow)

[One who vows] 'I am a nazir like a full house' or '[I am a nazir] like a basketful', they examine him.

...to see if he's nuts! What the heck does 'I vow to be a nazir like a full house or full basket' mean?

Ok, maybe you had to be there.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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The Neged Jew

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Neged - Opposing, opposite, standing against.

The Critic - The critic is a perpetual kvetch. No solutions, just nit picky complaints. However, he is fully observant (performs the mitzvot). You know the grumpy old guy in the back of the synagogue who always grumbles this event stinks, he could have done it better, but has never actually done anything to help.

Now the critic isn't always wrong. There are failings in Jewish society and balances that cry out to be corrected. There are failings in every synagogue. And the perfect rabbi or societal leader, well, not in this world.

So the critic's tendency can be used for good. He can point out a problem, rally people around it, and push to make things better...

But the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) usually keeps the critic firmly in the "just critical" stage.

The Karrite - The modern Karrite is a Jew who believes in the written Torah but not the oral Torah (the Mishnah, Gemora, Shulchan Aruch, etc). Often this may be due to bad experiences with rabbis and a rejection that rabbinical power or influence could possibly be kosher while not wishing to reject G-d. Other times this may be due to the seemingly simplistic or straightforward relationship with G-d demonstrated in the written Torah. In either case, he ignores the inherent contradictions of the written Torah and focuses upon the simple narrative. He tries to connect to G-d with his heart, but leaves behind his mind and the opportunity Judaism offers to elevate the physical world.

Now the karrite isn't always wrong. There are sometimes rabbinical excesses, and simple faith in G-d is a special thing. If he were able to infuse this into his mind and into mitzvot, he would truly reach a high level and be a shining light for those around him.

But the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) usually keeps the karrite from taking the next step.

The Rationalist - The Rationalist de-mystifies yiddishkeit. Stories of angles and demons are seen only as metaphors, as are all stories outside the realm of physical possibility as understood by modern science (except when such events are specifically described as direct actions by G-d, true miracles.) The rationalist decomposes many Jewish rituals looking for influence of kabbalah or other non-rationalist thinking - to point out what doesn't make sense. But he doesn't change his davening (praying) or performance of mitzvot, just his understanding of what's behind it.

Now the rationalist isn't always wrong. One of the defense mechanisms of Judaism is a reluctance to change, and some customs and things that have become rituals were due to local cultural influence from many generations past, or physical understandings far out of date. The rationalist could help reconcile modern science and/or the modern world with Jewish tradition.

But the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) usually keeps the rationalist struggling internally and makes him argumentative with the traditionalists, resulting in activating the time honored defense mechanism of Judaism to push away change.

It's surprisingly easy to become a Neged Jew, and to get involved with one. They're ALWAYS passionate about their position, and their passion attracts attention and interest. Beware the passion being focused negatively, as it's often the case.
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Monday, November 09, 2009

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Tefillin Is (only) A Rabbinical Mitzvah!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

So went one of the comments to the article, “Spiritual or Physical.” Is this correct? Are the majority of the mitzvahs that we hold so dear today only additions to the Torah, invented by the rabbis?

This is not a new argument. In fact, we find an example of it in Torah itself, when Korach challenged Moshe and Aaron.[i] “Who are you Moshe to make up these rules, appointing yourself over us? G-d did not tell you to do this. This is of your own doing.” This was the gist of Korach’s complaint.

Throughout our history, we have seen many groups of Jews come and go, making this same accusation. Perhaps the most famous are the Sadducees and the Karites which both claim that only the written Torah is from G-d, and the rest is merely rabbinical additions, i.e. invented by men.”

Is there any basis for their claim? Are tefillin a rabbinical mitzvah just like Shabbos candles? Can you prove that their point is not valid?

If the Sages were unable to convince their dissenters, I doubt that I can say anything that will change a drop of their thinking, but I can give you a defense against them.

Actually, in one way, they are right. The Torah that we have in our hands today has been given to us by the Sages. None of us received it directly from G-d, not even from Moshe. In this sense, it is all “rabbinic.” True, the Sages did not invent it. But still, who could make the least bit of sense of the written Torah without our mesorah (tradition)? If it were not for the Sages, would we even know the difference between an aleph and a beis (A and B)? Not only do we owe our understanding of the Torah to them, but the Hebrew language has been handed down from generation to generation only because of their perseverance.

There are many places where we see that the written Torah had to have had an Oral Torah accompanying it right from the beginning. And what is the Oral Torah? The Talmud, which comprises the sayings and teachings handed down from Moshe to Joshua, to the Elders, to the Prophets, to the Men of the Great Assembly, to the Sages, to the rabbis, and on to us.

From where do we know that a man is not allowed to have intimate relations with his daughter? The Torah only tells us that he is not allowed to have such a relationship with his wife’s daughter and with his granddaughter, but his daughter is not mentioned. Ah, we can say, if he is not allowed to have such a relationship with his granddaughter, then certainly he is not allowed to have one with his own daughter. True. But now you are discussing the Oral Torah, not the written Torah.

In the book of Numbers,[ii] a man is locked up and killed because he was gathering sticks on Shabbos. Where does the written Torah say that we are not allowed to gather sticks on Shabbos? It doesn’t. We learn it from the Oral Torah.

The Torah tells us that punishment must be “an eye for an eye.”[iii] Would it enter your mind that a Jewish court would ever blind someone? G-d forbid! The Oral Torah explains that “an eye for an eye” means that the punishment must be monetarily equal to the crime.

“Bind the money to your hand”[iv] certainly seems to tell us that that we are to tie that money to our hand when we come to Jerusalem to distribute a certain tithe. No. The Oral Torah explains that “bind the money to your hand” means that you are not to spend the money on the way. It must be spent only in Jerusalem.

The written Torah says, “These are the decrees, judgments and Torahs which G-d gave….”[v] What does it mean by “Torahs” here? These are the Written and Oral Torahs.

When we look at the history of the Jewish people, we see many ups and downs, many opinions, many cults and groups. We even see wars among ourselves. Who was right? Whom did G-d bless? He has blessed the ones who have survived and produced a vibrant Jewish population today. Those who veer from the Written and Oral Torah have no real reason to guard the Shabbos, so they don’t. They have no real reason not to intermarry, so they do. They have no real reason to keep their families Jewish, so in one or two generations they are gone.

The truly sad thing about this reader’s comment is that he is treating the Sages’ teachings as if they are an unnecessary burden. These teachings, when done properly, not only do not increase our burdens, they actually lighten them.

[i] Numbers 16:3
[ii] Numbers 15:32
[iii] Exodus 21:24
[iv] Deuternomy 14:25
[v] Leviticus 26:46
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Music Review: Until When by Prodezra

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Jewish hip-hop, chassidic rap. Powerful fusion or desecration of holy tunes?

Until When by chassidic musician Prodezra is a fusion of chassidic tunes with modern hip-hop music. Note I said music, not hip-hop lyrics, bling or any other cultural baggage - just the music.

Prodezra specializes in "beats", the musical non-vocal layer of the hip-hop song. Those in the chassidic world would recognize the same non-vocal songs sung as niggunim, songs of the soul. And this is exactly what the artist tries to fuse.

He creates modern hip-hop style beats which are based on chassidic niggunim. The tracks are powerful, bouncing with energy. To varying degrees, they're also hip-hoppy drummy with loops, which in some cases makes for a great energetic treat - in other cases a sound that's just too different for my tastes. Most tracks are vocal / lyrics free. A few create a full chassidic rap Jewish hip hop experience.

Here's my thoughts and/or feelings as I listened to the album...

Track 1 - Excuse Me. A brief rap intro. Here and gone.
Track 2 - Koach. Powerful but very modern. My teenagers like it.
Track 3 - Until When. Great opening, nice depth. Wakes you up.
Track 4 - Change (w/Describe & Y-Love). Modern chassidic Jewish hip-hop song. Cool.
Track 5 - Tribute. Guitar classic rap tribute to righteous women. Eh.
Track 6 - Sound the Alarm. Loud! Brash! Noise! Not my thing.
Track 7 - Ein Ode Milvado. Electronic, piano, meditative. Calming & intriguing.
Track 8 - The Lamplighter. Rappy, shouty, piano, the far edge. Not for me.
Track 9 - One with Him. A rap to Hashem. Why not?
Track 10 - The South Niggun. A niggun fully rap'd out. Almost works, or not.
Track 11 - From Strength to Strength. Chassidic niggun, beat style. Nice!
Track 12 - Stood at Sinai. Chassidic niggun rap. It works.
Track 13 - Masa L'Geulah. Tinkle, melancholy, tears, draws out the soul. Love it.
Track 14 - Change Instrumental. Track 4's background by itself. Cool & strong.

So the verdict, powerful fusion or desecration of holy tunes? Judaism is alive, it grows and moves throughout the cultures of the ages - keeping it's core, it's heart and soul, Torah and commitment to Hashem. But it has also lifted the holy sparks of the societies it has passed through, elevating the best to Hashem.

Are there holy sparks in hip-hop? Does the US inner city culture, with it's extreme excesses of various types also offer a tidbit to be extracted and elevated?

Maybe, just maybe, the answer is yes.

Until When by Prodezra is available here for disc, here for MP3.
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Sunday, November 08, 2009

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Anything to Avoid "That"

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Previously in Terror or Criminal, I wrote how US society is working hard to avoid recognition that when an Arab American stands up, shouts Allah hu Akbar, and shoots 30 people it might have something to do with his religion.

Power Line goes more in depth in how the media is twisting itself in circles trying to define a new Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (worth reading). Can you get Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome by hanging out with people with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

One wounded US veteran of Iraq
writes, you don't get PTSD from sitting on your (rear) around Walter Reed. Not only is it not possible to “catch” secondhand PTSD, but it is not that kind of a place. I would know, I was a patient there for nine months. The place is simply not that stressful or chaotic. When I was there my PTSD got better, not worse... To say that this guy got PTSD from being stationed at Walter Reed is an absolute (censored) farce. The people who are making this (fecal matter) up have never set foot on Walter Reed, let alone met a soldier with PTSD.

In order to actually have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you have to go through some sort of traumatic event(s) to have “post stress.” Can therapists be emotionally troubled by the things they hear from patients? Yes. But you cannot catch PTSD from someone. It's not the (expletive) swine flu.

I cannot tell you how angry I am right now as a former patient of Walter Reed. It is an absolute (expletive) slap in the face for people to use his time there as an excuse for what he has done. It is an absolute (expletive) slap in the face for all the wonderful people there who help soldiers every single day. Some of the most kind, caring, and noble people I have ever met in my entire life work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center day in and day out helping wounded Soldiers like me.

To fallaciously say this guy has PTSD from his time at Walter Reed as an excuse for opening fire on a group of innocent Soldiers is beyond reckless. It's an absolute slap in the face for every caregiver and every wounded warrior who ever set foot on Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Read the whole thing.
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Hints and Challenges


by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Photo: A Winter Erev-Shabbos Sunset in the Judean Hills, Israel)

Shabbos has passed and another Geulah hint / interpretation has passed. I am not devastated the specific sign has not arrived. I note the many many signs that have lined up and are clearly lining up. I feel we have a tremendous blessing from HaKodesh Baruch Hu that many are missing...Geulah is in progress, so many prophetic signs are lined up...

But it's all happening slowly. There is a chance to see, a bit of time to get a grip, to prepare, to take it seriously. It's not single events, it's the trends to watch.

The world is NOT what it was just 5 years ago. It's radically different. And yet, not through a series of shocks, just trends. Sands are shifting, times are changing. It's not an emergency today, but it can't be ignored either.

This is a blessing. There's time to take action, to prepare.

...We will have been like dreamers. I try to explain East vs. West, the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union versus the United States, the Cold War, to my children. They don't get it, it's old history that is hard to relate to. They've never felt the fear of nuclear war and the possibility a misunderstanding or poor political calculation could destroy the world...

...When the Geulah comes, we will have been like dreamers. We will turn around and suddenly wonder, how did we get here? How did these events suddenly lead us to this great day? The past will seem unreal, a dream, hard to relate to from the new reality...

May it be today,
Shavua Tov - A Good Week
From the Holy Land
Reb Akiva
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Friday, November 06, 2009

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Geulah Hope (or Hysteria) This Shabbat?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shirat Devorah has an article that ties together a number of relatively obscure Midrashim, lays them against current world politics, and includes this current prediction...


מדרש חלק ג ס"ה ספר אליהו
“After the last king of Iran goes up and speaks out against Edom for three years in succession... a man (will then come to power), who is the least among all the kings and is the son of a maid who washes clothes in a tub... He is very tall, has a long face with a wide forehead, thin, thin thighs.”

Stated on the same first page of this Midrash:

“After the last King of Iran has power for three years and 12 months” (elected in June 2005, Achmadenijad took office on August 6, 2005) “he will be held liable in it”...

On the bottom of the first page it continues:

“Then, on the twentieth of the month called Mar (bitter) Cheshvan, the entire world will shake through a seismic noise that will sound from the earth until the sky.”

This Hebrew date uniquely falls out on November 7th 2009, though a year is not mentioned, implied is after around 4 years +3 (months) that the last ruler of Iran has held power. So this time frame is August 6, 2005 – November 6, 2009.

In the past Mystical Paths has gone through many such Midrashim and armchair interpretations. We hope and pray that indeed we see clear signs of the geulah this Shabbat. However, such exact predictions bring hype and hysteria. There's a reason we've been told not to calculate the ketz (date of redemption).

If this Shabbat passes as normal, will we despair? Will our emunah (faith) be damaged? Will we give up hope?

Or will we continue to "await his (Moshiach's) coming every day"? Will we continue to strongly yearn for the day when the knowledge of G-d is spread across the Earth as the waters on the ocean?

I wonder greatly if that great day is near, but the hype cycle damages instead of helps.


Shabbat Shalom from the Judean Hills,
May it indeed be an ultimate Shabbos to remember,
Reb Akiva
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Terror or Criminal?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A friend wrote, "How come CNN reports that the muslim army murderer (Fort Hood slaughter in the US) was of Jordanian descent, and the other news services tell that his parents and family are Palestinians who live in Ramallah? They are not just biased, they cover up the truth to further their goals!

They don't get it. They don't get the danger. American culture has spent the last 60 years focusing on equality and making the country color blind, religion blind, ethnicity blind, as much as was possible within human cultural spheres in a mixed culture immigrant society. Not perfect by any means, but a pretty reasonable level of "equal opportunity".

Now they find themselves faced with a religio-ethnic based war, and they're culturally programmed to deny any such possibility.

When the previous presidential administration (Bush) moved firmly in that direction, they were culturally forced back and by the end of the administration had firmly moved away from religion/culture conflict to focusing on a narrow tribal group - terrorist society. The new administration (Obama) has backed away even from that and returned to the Clinton years 'criminal acts - not war' position.

While most societies have had no problem, historically or even currently, demonizing an ethnic or religion minority, the US has indeed (generally speaking) evolved beyond that. It's worth noting that historically the Jewish people have frequently been the target of such demonization, which has always been completely unfair.

So it's no surprise the US is struggling terribly in dealing with an religio-ethnic conflict. If such acts continue domestically, public opinion will surely evolve quickly beyond the carefully measured positions of the leadership.

For American Jews, the current equal opportunity society has been a great blessing in allowing us to reach our individual and collective potential (though also a curse in allowing easy assimilation due to easy acceptance). A swing in the other direction may be necessary for America's survival - but such swings have historically been to the detriment of the Jewish citizens.
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

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The Disagreement

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

(Photo: Yeshiva students.)

I am in frequent contact with a rabbi who opened a yeshiva in a small hamlet outside of New York City. He reads my articles and often sends me a one-word comment. However, on the subject of “outreach,” the responses became longer. The conversation went something like this:

I wrote: “David is an Atheist … But, Not a Very Good One.” In this story, I wrote of how I convinced an anti-religious boy to put on tefillin.

The Rabbi responded: “Great! Send us more stories like this one.”

I wrote back: “The way to get more stories like this one is to take your tefillin with you when you go to the store (i.e. look for someone to help).”

He wrote back: “I don’t go shopping.”

I answered: “Then, when you go to town.”

The Rabbi: “Since I started this yeshiva, I do not go to town.”

My answer: “Then train your students to take their tefillin with them when they go to town. You can change the world right from your desk.”

Rabbi: “Were you ever in this hamlet? There is not really a town to go to.”

My answer: “You seem to be avoiding my point. If we (you, me, and your students) are obligated to help a Jew to pick up his fallen physical donkey, then how much more so are we obligated to help him to pick up his fallen spiritual “donkey”?

”But it seems that this idea is not only not part of your life, (apparently, other than the students who make it to your yeshiva) but even more sadly, this thinking does not seem to be part of your curriculum, either.

“You can reach “town” every day of your life, and even after 120 (after you pass away), without leaving the study hall, by simply showing your students the importance of helping other Jews to come to love the mitzvahs.

“Be careful! There are thousands and thousands of Jews out there who think that they are following all of the rules of learning and mitzvahs, but they are keeping the Torah for the wrong reasons. They are following it because they are obligated, or for a reward. The result of this practice is rampant depression in our Jewish communities!! G-d help us.

“You must show the students the joy and true holiness in the mitzvahs and learning, or you are merely adding to the numbers of the depressed.

The Rabbi answered: “One is obligated to help a Jew to pick up a fallen donkey when they come across such a scene. They are not obligated to go out looking for such a scene, especially not a bocher (student).”

I wrote back: “My point was, and continues to be, that if you look to see who you can help, you will end up helping someone. If you have your eyes closed to others, then, to some degree, G-d has His eyes closed to you.

“If you are sitting on a plane, and after praying you take off your tefillin and pick up a magazine without the least concern to look for the Jew who might be sitting next to you, you will have transgressed a number of mitzvahs, including the one that states that we are responsible for one another.

“Throughout the Torah, we see that the Jewish people are judged as a single person, and yet you are saying not to go out of your way to help a fellow Jew. I am shocked that you try to avoid this teaching, not only in your own life, but even more importantly, in the basic teachings of your yeshiva.

“That you do not go to town is a lame excuse. Those students of yours should schedule at least one afternoon each week to go out, in pairs, and look for Jews to help, The great Rosh Hayeshiva (yeshiva head) Moshe Feinstein, O”BM (of blessed memory), taught that just as we are obligated to give ten percent of our income to charity, so too are we obligated to give ten percent of our time.

“If you cannot motivate yourself to reach out to others for their sake, then know that when you help others, G-d helps you.”

He answered: “You are mixing up several issues to continue your original point, which, in my humble opinion, you are wrong.”

My answer: Do not hide your eyes to your neighbor’s lost object.[i] All the more so, do not hide your eyes to his lost soul.

“Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to the Torah”[ii]

If the words of the Torah and sages do not convince you, then take a good look at this picture.


Even Little Students Can Reach Big People
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

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Newsflash: Wishing it so

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Newsflash: The government recently created a ministry of electricity to help conserve the use of power...

Newsflash: ...Cuts in water service for as much as 48 hours per week, after the government imposed rationing... while the President faulted the excesses of capitalism. "What will the rich fill their swimming pools with?" the President asked recently. "With the water that is denied inhabitants in the poor neighborhoods," he said, blaming the lack of sufficient water on "capitalism -- a lack of feeling, a lack of humanity..."

Newsflash: The new Health Choices Commissioner is deciding what essential benefits that all insurers will have to offer as first-dollar coverage. Private insurers will be instructed how to price their product for public benefit to all who apply, regardless of health status or medical history.

Newsflash: The nation's armed forces carried out a series of Defensive war games by practicing an amphibious landing on the neighboring nation, seizing it's oil and gas pipelines, and using tactical nuclear weapons on it's defending military.

Newsflash: President announces missile attack on neighboring nation was performed by neighboring nation's spies, intentionally launching an attack to justify a counter attack and to create aggression between the two countries.

Newsflash: The Environmental Protection Ministry, under the Copenhagen treaty of 2009, has instituted a citizen travel allowance. Air travel beyond 1 trip a year will be taxed at 200% (the first trip will continue be taxed at the existing 50% fuel and security taxes). The ministry emphasizes this has nothing to do with freedom of movement, but rather dealing with environmental consequences.

Quotes from 1984? Translations from Communist East German newspapers of the 70's? Nope, news headlines from this week!!!

#1 - News headline from Venezuela, where the nationalization of industry has begun widespread outages and infrastructure failures.

#2 - News headline from Venezuela, where the president "wishes it so" and doesn't understand why reality doesn't conform to his wishes, and why people don't freely build capacity for others.

#3 - A firm provision from the current Democrat health care reform bill before the US Congress, which apparently believes a business can deliver (and stay in business) at whatever price Congress defines, just because the government wishes it so.

#4 - News headline from today, classic doublespeak from Russia as it practiced a nuclear attack and takeover of Poland. They're not being threatening, they're just serving their national interests.

#5 - News headline from Lebanon, following a missile attack on Israel since claimed by Al Queida.

#6 - A currently proposed action by the British government to comply with world environmental treaties.

Indeed, the world is changing. And truth is becoming a rarity.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

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Yosef

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Yosef is the kind of person who likes to help. The other day at the Kotel, he saw a man in his fifties putting tefillin on an older man. He looked like he needed help, so Yosef went over and asked if he could lend a hand.

“No! We have a rabbi with us. He is taking care of everything,” the fifty-year-old answered. He probably thought that Yosef was trying to get money from them, so he pushed him away.

They were speaking with a Spanish accent, but it was mixed with Yiddish.

“Where are you from?” Yosef asked.

“Columbia,” he answered.

“But you are speaking Yiddish!”

“My father is from Europe. He immigrated to Columbia a long time ago.” He pointed to the old man whom he was helping with the tefillin.

“Wow. This is your father? He can give you a blessing,” Yosef told him.

“No, no! I am okay, please,” Again, he tried to push off Yosef.

Yosef turned to the father and said, “Would you give me a blessing?”

The father said, “I don’t know how.”

“It’s simple. Just put your hands on my head and repeat after me.”

Yosef took the old man’s hands and put them on his head. “Repeat after me,” he told him and slowly said the Hebrew prayer of the kohanim (priests).

This is the blessing that the Kohanim are commanded to give to the Jewish people. This is also the blessing that fathers give to their children on Shabbos and holidays.

The old man slowly repeated Yosef, word for word:

“G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe.


Hashem – bless you - and guard you. - Hashem – make His countenance – shine - upon you - and be gracious to you. - Hashem – turn – His countenance – toward you – and grant – you - peace.”

In the middle of the prayer, for some strange reason, Yosef started to cry. He had no idea why.

After the blessing, the old man looked at Yosef lovingly, and slowly rolled up his sleeve. Yosef saw the numbers tattooed on his forearm, and he cried even more.

The old man said, “I am a Kohen. This is the first time in my life that I have ever given that blessing to anyone.”

Each one of us is born exactly as we are for a specific reason. A Jewish man is born to the priestly tribe just to give this blessing to the Jewish people. This old man went through hell, and now is close to the end of his life. If Yosef had not felt in his heart to walk over and try to help his fellow Jew, this old man might very well have left the world without ever having fulfilled the reason he was born a Kohen.

G-d bless Yosef, and all of the “Yosefs” out there who care enough to walk over and ask, “Can I help you?”
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

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Israel - The Start Up Nation (Video Interview)












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