Thursday, December 31, 2009

// // 7 comments

That Close?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I had the honor of sitting down for several hours with a chassidic rebbe today to discuss the path to the Geulah, breeches in the foundations of holiness of Am Yisroel, and learning the Zohar. He said something that was rather stunning...

Below is my memory of the rebbe speaking, paraphrased for brevity and according to my best understanding. Though written in the first person, condensing several hours into a few paragraphs means these are not exact quotes.

Years ago I was a bit of a rabble rouser. When I saw foundational aspects of yiddishkeit that were not in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch (such as systemic problems with shechita and sofrus), I raised these issues to the rebbe's, rosh yeshiva's and rabbaim. When I saw this often was not effective, and those with significant vested interest (meaning business and money) in the current methods pushed back hard to maintain the status quo, I got smart about bringing these issues to public attention directly, indirectly, as well as tricking communal institutions into creating solutions to the problem to hold up as examples (why are you doing it the wrong way when this organization has the right way available?)

I had the merit to raise some issues and get them in front of the (previous) Satmar Rebbe, who when he understood the halachic impact very strongly supported the issues and gave me brachot for success. I also had the merit to raise some issues to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On these issues the Rebbe directly had his organizations take steps to fix these breeches in halacha and kedushat Yisroel.

These types of issues often took years to turn around, and one particular issue took 15 years. In one of my last communications with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, his response to my suggestions about repairing such a breech I just didn't understand. The Rebbe said, "There's no time. We must repair it by infusing kedushah." I simply had no clue what the Rebbe meant.

Now I do. We are so close to the Geulah that there is no time to work through long solutions to breeches in the foundations of Torah and Yiddishkeit. We must protect Am Yisroel and ourselves from the chevlei Moshiach (the birthpangs of Moshiach) by directly infusing the most potent kedusah immediately.
Read More

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

// // 5 comments

On Being Black with a Liver

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I've been occasionally discriminated against in the US. Nothing major mind you... The boss who always referred to "you people", the flight where a nearby couple went on about "he thinks he's special" for my kosher meal request, the elderly neighbors who repeatedly reported us to the Department of Children's Services for "having so many children running around they must be uncared for". Nothing major or really worth complaining about, and besides - African Americans were still underrepresented in corporate hallways and concerned by the authorities response to them just walking the street at night (and for good reason).

No, to get a little taste of African American style discrimination I had to come to Israel. In Israel, the ultra-orthodox are referred to as "blacks" (as the men mostly dress in black coats). There's a natural assumption of lower job skills and capabilities, certainly of professional experience. Many a Tel Aviv professional has never interacted with a blacky before. There are many neighborhoods where (the ultra-orthodox) blacks are not welcome to live, and schools they are not welcome to attend. Senior positions in regular political parties are not open to them.

Yesterday Israel was noted for creating a new Organ Donation policy. As a country with a low rate of organ donation, they "established a special committee, including ethicists, philosophers, religious representatives and transplant surgeons to review the problem." Well and good, and the idea they came up with a bit unusual but also sounds like a reasonable motivator, "Israel is to become the first country to give donor card carriers a legal right to priority treatment if they should require an organ transplant. Under the planned point-based system, people who have signed a donor card will be given priority for a transplant. Their spouses and other close relatives will also qualify."

But when they interviewed the leader of this committee, he stated "we have a subset of the population that doesn't believe in brain death and therefore doesn't contribute organs, but is willing to accept organs if in need. This policy will make sure they don't get priority."

In other words, the primary reason for the new policy is not the 7 in 10 secular Israeli's who don't agree to organ donation, but rather the 2 in 10 religious Israeli Jews who don't agree with doctor defined brain death as the end-of-life allowing for a still breathing person to be harvested for organs. (1 in 10 Israelis sign up for organ donation, including some but not many orthodox Jews.)

Now I'm not arguing against organ donation, or for it. There are ultra-orthodox rabbis who permit it, and those who prohibit it. The sanctity of the human body as a vessel for a divine soul is a part of Judaism with a strong tradition, as is a quick burial without body mutilation (no embalming or putting on display). (I know that most orthodox Jews in the US are surprised to hear that there is religious allowances for organ donation in Israel at all!)

I'm simply surprised at being the specific target of a national organ donation policy based on my religious belief. I don't have to wonder, yes the man is out to get me.
Read More
// // 2 comments

City of Gold


Photo by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Jerusalem is called the City of Gold because it is so precious. Its dearness is due to its being the home of the Temple Mount. When you stand in the light of holiness, you too become holy.

[i] The buildings facing the Kotel
Read More

Monday, December 28, 2009

// // Leave a Comment

Music for a New Week

A nice Avraham Fried clip from a Melava Malka for a tzedaka in New Jersey this past week...

Read More

Sunday, December 27, 2009

// // 7 comments

I Broke The Law, Follow Up

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Comments: (from five commentators)

- “There is no divine protection for those soldiers who said those blessings late. What they did was like trying to use a stolen lulav [palm branch] for a mitzvah. It is invalid for the fulfillment of the mitzvah. You cannot fulfill a mitzvah through committing a transgression.

- “I can’t approve of this. Not only are those blessing all in vain, you accomplished nothing. There was no blessing and no mitzvah. You can’t play games with the code of Jewish Law.”

- “This sort of thing [late blessings] is a hallmark of deviant movements, not Torah.”

- “There is a time and place for everything.’

- To say that a mitzvah provides protection is utter nonsense, bordering on heresy.”


Answer:

I took your very serious charges to heart. After all, you quoted the Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law. Can anyone argue against the “facts?” Certainly, the Jewish law is precise, clear, and to the point. You have read it, and you have made your legal decisions known.

But you know what? You made two big mistakes. Number one, you looked at the Jewish world from a very narrow, strict eye. Number two, you forgot that the cold halacha (Jewish law) has a heart.

As usual, in such matters, not wanting to rely on my own opinion, I took your objections to the Kotel.

First, I asked a rabbi in his 80s who retired many years ago from being the leader of a community in Chicago. I asked him what my punishment would be for breaking the law in this case.

“Punishment? Putting tefillin of 30 soldiers? Hum….You are going to get it only from the One Above,” he smiled lovingly, and with admiration, as he spoke.

“Okay.” I thought, “Maybe, since he is so loving, he did not want to be frank with me. I’ll ask someone else.”

I asked another man who puts tefillin on people at the Tel Aviv Airport.

He said, “I put tefillin on people all night long.”

I asked him how he could do that. He told me that there, pasted on the wall where he stands, is a response from the Rosh HaYeshiva Moshe Feinstein, OBM. He wrote, “If a man will not put on tefillin that day except for at this time, then he is allowed to put them on, with a blessing, at any time of the night.”

Well, that certainly sounded right to me, but still, the guy I asked is a Chabadnik, and we all know that Chabadniks will do anything they can do to get someone to do a mitzvah. So, I went to the top of the line. I asked a Rav who, besides teaching gemora for more than 30 years, has authored more than 60 books on the Kabalah, 55 of them on the Zohar. He is a renown source of Torah knowledge. However, he is so strict that I always brace myself when I ask him a question.

He said, “As long as you are not telling them to make the blessing, then it is all right.”

As to the comment about how claiming that a mitzvah will guard your life is “almost heresy.” look, for instance, at the Book of Proverbs: “He that keeps the commandments keeps his own soul.”[i]

My dear commentors, look carefully into how quick and stern your judgment was. Have a heart. These guys were not sleeping all day, playing around and willfully pushing off the mitzvah. They were carrying rifles with ammunition. They were guarding our lives with their lives. Couldn’t you have looked somewhere within your learning for a good reason to let them say a blessing?

The Sages always looked for leniencies to allow a Jew to be rewarded, and not, G-d forbid, condemned.[ii]

[i] Proverbs 19:16
[ii] A Jewish court that would condemn a Jew to death once in 70 years was called a “bloody court.”
Read More
// // 2 comments

Question on Internet Halacha for Shabbos


by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I was over at Hirhurim and noted an interesting Internet Halacha question in a comment thread (that was unrelated to the article)...

It's Friday and I have question: My Rav has told me not to link to Israeli news sites on Friday when it's Shabbos in Israel because they are updated on Shabbos and I will be deriving benefit from Chilul Shabbos.

Given my Rabbi's concern, does a Frum website have the responsibiliy of not providing links to those websites on Friday or at least warning the Oilam about it?


Internet halacha is a topic we discuss occasionally here, as on our team we have Internet technology experts and rabbis, which allows us to dig into aspects others might miss. Remember, we're just discussing theory, before you make any halachic decision (changing how you do things) consult with YOUR rabbi.

So lets discuss this question.

First, are Israeli news web sites updated on Shabbos? The answer is: some are and some aren't. So this discussion only applies to those that are.

The second question would have to be: are the sites that are being updated on Shabbos having the work done by Jewish employees? This is actually a good question, as Israeli labor law specifies that one may not have Jewish workers working on Shabbos unless the job cannot be done by others. Many companies do use non-Jewish workers (whether Arab or Russian non-Jewish immigrants) to cover Shabbos jobs - such as monitoring at utilities (power company, water company, etc). The answer is: we don't know. Some seem to post only newswire material on Shabbos, the type of job that you'd expect special weekend workers to do. Others seem to be posting more significant material - though no their regular contributors.

The third question has to be: if you link to an article (assuming in a blog post or maybe in emails you send people) are you receiving benefit from someone else's chillul Shabbos? In the case of a blog post, linking to an article usually is NOT to the benefit of the blog, as it takes traffic from the blog and sends it elsewhere. Linking is done to provide an acknowledgement and benefit to the source of the material, a return courtesy for the fair use of a snippet of their content. So the blogger doesn't benefit from the LINK, he benefits from the article content which he clips. (Some might argue it provides the blog post with authority, but few blogs act to be authoritative rather than opinionated.) So the straight answer to the question is, no benefit in links means not benefiting from chillul Shabbos, so linking is ok.

Ah, the follow up question is what about reading the Israeli news site that is updated on Shabbos while it's Friday in the US? If the majority of news workers and/or web workers working on the news sites in Israel are Jews on Shabbos, then indeed by reading the site you're receiving benefit from someone else's chillul Shabbos, and this is prohibited.

If the majority of news and web workers on Shabbos at Israeli news web sites are special non-Jewish workers for Shabbos, then it would be permissible.
Read More

Saturday, December 26, 2009

// // Leave a Comment

Bored on the US Holiday Weekend?

Read More

Friday, December 25, 2009

// // Leave a Comment

Your Emunah Web Page for Shabbos!

Of course, you can't turn on your computer and read some good Emunah (faith) and Torah web sites or blogs on Shabbos - that's absolutely forbidden. So to solve this lack, we've created Your Emunah Web Page for Shabbos!

Please take a look at our new Emunah newsletter. We're targeting this at our local community, and every community that could use a little Emunah boost on Shabbos.



Now if you like it, please consider supporting it! It takes approximately $150 per week to create it and print copies for local distribution. Of course, with more donations we can print more and distribute it wider.

Read More

Thursday, December 24, 2009

// // 19 comments

I Broke The Law!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

It was a few minutes after sundown when a platoon of soldiers swamped the tefillin stand at the Kotel. They wanted to put on tefillin, and of course, we wanted to help them. But, we had a problem: You are not supposed to put on tefillin after dark. And, if for some reason you do put them on at night, you certainly do not say the blessing. Putting on tefillin is a daytime mitzvah, and when you do not do a mitzvah in its proper time, you do not say the blessing. As it turned out, the soldiers were putting on tefillin at night, and they were saying the blessing!

There must have been 30 of them, and even though we were working as quickly as we could, it was well past the time for this mitzvah.

A rabbi walked by and scornfully reminded me that by helping them to put on tefillin and say the blessing after dark, I was transgressing halacha (Jewish law).

“I know,” I said, “but the mitzvah guards their life. What can I do?”

He nodded his head in reluctant agreement. Would anyone withhold this protection from them?!

Why do some of us, like these soldiers, push aside anything in their way in order to do a mitzvah, while others of us do not even want to roll out of bed to do one?
Read More

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

// // 4 comments

Israel Pics: Local Shuk

Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The "shuk" is an open air farmers market, though often containing more than just farm goods. While the most famous Israeli shuk is Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem, most towns have a local shuk (some only on certain days of the week)...

Eggplants and Peppers are looking big, bright and fresh...
Shuk

Tomatoes and cucumbers are stables in Israel, but are not in season at the moment. The out of season crop is not as nice. (Unlike the US, Israel does not import out of season vegetables, most are coming from hothouses.)
Shuk

A young couple is out shopping for Shabbos at the shuk. Looks like the peppers have their attention.
Shuk

Yehuda the Shuk Guy is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, with an honest uncomplicated faith in Hashem. He brings fresh quality produce from his nearby Moshav (group farming community). Short a little money to cover the bill, he trusts you to come back "another time". Good or bad weather, he knows Hashem is the source of his parnosa (income), and every transaction comes with a smile and blessing.
Shuk

Ahh, the olive guy. If you like olives, he's got a mix you'll love. Spicy, sweet, tangy, yum.
Shuk

When it comes to Shabbos treats, there is no place like the shuk! The candy man has a selection to bring a smile to every child, and parnosa to the local dentist.
Shuk

And so we finish our shopping and carry our bags of tasty veggies home.
Read More

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

// // 2 comments

Judaism and The Internet

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

There is no doubt the Internet is an incredible tool of information. Further, it's become an absolute requirement for normal business (even personal family business) in the U.S. and in many other countries.

The Internet is also an incredible tool to reach people. Jewish organizations such as Chabad.Org, Torah.Org, Aish.com have provided incredible opportunity for Jews around the world to reach out and learn about their heritage, Torah and Hashem. And of course it's also given an avenue for people such as myself and our team of bloggers to make our individual contributions.

Of course, the Internet is also full of terrible material as well. Hate content, kefirah, pornography, etc.

For the most part, with the exception of specific organizations such as Chabad and Aish, the orthodox leadership has treated the Internet purely as a danger and has strongly advised the orthodox community to avoid it. However, this past week I found myself in a private business meeting in a very ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem with very ultra-orthodox participants. I presented some material on my laptop. During the meeting one of the participants said he needed to look up a fact, pulled out a laptop (more up to date than mine) and turned and asked another participant for the password for his wireless network/Internet connection! I was stunned. (That in an extremely ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem, in a personal home with a group of ultra-orthodox people - they had a high speed Internet connection and accessing it was public and perfectly normal.)

The ultra-orthodox leadership needs to step up and provide some directions and standards to what has clearly fully penetrated the society. Along those lines I saw the following from a national religious leadership rav this past week...

(Rav Aviner - edited to shorten) Everybody knows that the Internet is a great source of woe... True, it has good things in it, information and service sites, and we have our various Torah sites, and it could have been a wonderful tool... It leads to people wasting enormous amounts of time... Youth (only youth???) regularly enter pornographic sites...

...There is a partial solution through the various filtering programs: In Israel there are Rimon, Etrog, Iconito, Moreshet and Netiv. All of them are good... A filter program is an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT according to Halachah. Such indeed is the ruling that has been handed down: If someone has to go somewhere and he has two possible routes, one involving a river where women role up their sleeves to do their washing, and a more modest route, he is obligated to take the more modest route (Bava Batra 57b).

...Rav Wosner ruled that the laws of “Yichud” [seclusion with a female behind closed doors] apply here. ...The evil impulse can attack a person from within or from without, as Ha-Rav ...Kook explained (regarding the Talmudic debate over whether the evil impulse is more a fly, which comes from without, or like a wheat kernel, resembling a heart split in two (Ein Aya). Rambam likewise writes: “It is a person’s nature to imitate his friends and acquaintances and to develop behavior and attributes like theirs. Therefore, a person must befriend righteous people and always frequent the wise, so as to learn from their deeds, and he should distance himself from the wicked who walk in darkness, so as not to learn from their deeds. As King Shlomo said, ‘He that walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be broken’” (Rambam, Hilchot Deot 6:1)...

There is another fine solution in America which can be used here as well, and it has approbations from the rabbis of America and of Israel... It is called "webchaver", and it transmits a weekly report on all the sites visited by the user, placing at the top, in bold, all the problematic sites entered, that reaches the friend chosen by the user. That friend can be the person’s wife who uses the same computer, but with a different email address. It costs four dollars a month.


Kol HaKovod to Rav Aviner for setting some good standards for what people clearly are going to do anyway.

Some utilities to consider:

Web Chaver
Internet Rimon (Israel)
Read More
// // 2 comments

"Emunah" Faith

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

"We have to tremble with fear when considering Hashem's greatness. The whole world is filled with his Glory!"

Rebbe Nachman (of Breslov) repeated this to us many times. He wanted to instill in us a feeling for Hashem's greatness and a feeling for how much faith we ought to have in Him. (Tzaddik #414) Do not forget to say Kidush Lavana as this is winter and the sooner the better. If the night are clear, the first night is gimel as the Rebbe taught us not to wait as we could miss the opprotunity if we wait.
Read More

Monday, December 21, 2009

// // 4 comments

The Comment System - Feedback Please

In the past, Mystical Paths used Haloscan comments. Haloscan had been a popular commenting system and at the time was much better at filtering out spam comments than Blogger's system. However, it started acting weird and we subsequently returned to Blogger comments - which had improved somewhat but are still more difficult to use and have less features than other systems.

Being Haloscan is being put to death this week, many bloggers are being forced to change and a few are having serious discussions on comment systems.

So here's my question to you dear reader, do you have any preference of commenting system, or is Blogger's basic system adequate for those of you who enjoy commenting? Alternative commenting options seem to be: Disqus, Echo, and Intense Debate.

Your comments on commenting are requested. :-)
Read More

Sunday, December 20, 2009

// // 4 comments

Wait! Don’t Go!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

This morning, I was running out to do the shopping. I had a 200 shekel note in my pocket and no small change. As I opened the front door to leave, I noticed a one-shekel coin on the kitchen table. I thought to take it, but then I said, “I have the 200 shekels in my pocket, what do I need to take that shekel for?” But then I thought, “Maybe I will run into someone who needs tzdeka (charity) and I won’t have change to give them.” So, I put the coin in my pocket and left.

I finished shopping and was about to leave the store, but I had to talk to the manager about ordering something. He was standing a few yards away. As I was calling over to him, a nice, little old lady came up to me. She stood very close to me and was standing right between me and the man I was trying to talk to. She smiled a little and motioned with her hand for tzdeka. My immediate reaction was discomfort, since she was almost touching my chest with her face, and she was interrupting my conversation with the manager, too. I quickly nodded, “No,” and she walked away.

I finished with the manager, and when I turned to leave I saw her walking out of the store. Then, I remembered why I took that single shekel with me.

“Yikes! Wait! Don’t leave!” I called out, as I ran after her.

I gave her the shekel and thought, “What would have happened if she left without that coin? How bad I would have felt when I realized what I did?”

Sometimes we are running so fast that we do not see an answer right in front of us. That was her shekel I had in my pocket, but I was so busy worrying about my problems that I almost forgot about hers.

“You Have To Ask!”

Later, in the afternoon, I was on my way to the Kotel. There was a young woman sitting on the stone side wall of the square. I saw her there before when she shyly held out her hand for tzdeka. She was definitely not a regular at this. I had given her a coin when I last walked by before. A young couple with two small kids was walking by without paying any attention to her. I told the woman that she had to let people know that she needed tzdeka. She wouldn’t even put out her hand!

I was a little frustrated with her, and I told the couple that she needed tzdeka, but was too embarrassed to even ask!

“Oh, thanks for telling me,” the young man said as he reached into his inside jacket pocket for some coins to give her.

“You have to ask,” I told her again. “You can’t just sit there and expect people to know that you need money. You need a tzdeka box or something so that they will know.” I spoke insistently. She smiled shyly, but I could tell that she was not going to do anything to help her situation. She was not at all comfortable sitting there asking people for money.

I walked on and stopped in the book store to find her a small charity box. I told one of the store owners about the woman and what I thought she needed. He said, “I understand,” and he helped me to find a little box that said “Tzdeka” in bold letters. As we walked to the cash register, he spoke briefly with his partner who then shook his head, “Yes.”

He rang up the purchase. I went to pay, but I noticed that he was charging me 13 shekels instead of the 19 shekels that was on the price tag. He smiled and said, “We want to share in this, too.”

What a wonderful world this is, that people are so quick to forgo their own deserved profit to help someone they do not even know.

“Where’s The Candy?”

I went on to the tefillin stand at the Kotel and started to help to put tefillin on the tourists. I reached over to get a pair of tefillin and thought, “It’s Chanukah. Where’s the candy?” Not that I am big on eating candy, but sometimes on the holidays there is something to hand out to the kids.

I took a pair of tefillin over to a side cart where I like to work, and my first “customer” was a proud father with his not-yet-religious thirteen-year-old son. The father told me that this was going to be the first time that his son put on tefillin. He then reached into his pack and handed me a big box of cookies and candy to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah.

Not only do you have to be careful what you say around here, you have to be careful what you think, too!
Read More
// // 2 comments

Going to War against the Shomron

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israel is going to war...against the Jewish towns and villages of the Shomron and Judea (the West Bank). News reports say...

(YNetNews) "Security forces prepare to demolish settlement structures built in violation of the cabinet's decision on a 10 month building moratorium. The Border Guard, Shin Bet, Judea and Samaria District Police, the Air Force and a special police unit are expected to take part in the operation."

Lets parse that statement:

- The 'freeze' has been in place for 2 weeks. Since no structure can be built in 2 weeks, they certainly can't be demolishing new structures.

- The 'cabinet' decided on the freeze. This is not a law, not a regulation. It was not voted upon, it has no legislative input. It's an arbitrary decision of the moment enforced against a subset of the local population. Anywhere else in the world that would be called discriminatory and apartheid.

- The Border Guard and District Police are authorized policing forces, and are the right people to enforce laws and regulations (though as noted in the point above, this isn't a law or even a regulation!)

The Shin Bet is the internal security service, what are they doing there? Spying on and preventing internal political dissent is clearly anti-democratic, and using the Shin Bet in this capacity is a corruption of their mission.

And the Air Force??? What are they going to do, bomb the Jewish towns? More realistically, tasking military forces against internal dissension is a way to tear apart the structure of society. Senior commanders and our politicians need to take a careful look at the demographics of those in military service and realize the societal risks they are taking.

Respectfully, Mr. Prime Minister, have you lost your mind?

More details at: The Muqata, and Arutz 7 (auto-translated).
Read More
// // 1 comment

Israel Pics: Tel Aviv Architecture

Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Israeli architecture is GREAT! (From the outside.) They frequently try new and different things. Modern, traditional, mixes between the two. For those who enjoy cool looking buildings, Israel is a great place to be. Now, realistically the designs often result in some uncomfortable internal angles and weird space use problems - but hey, the buildings look great!

The Bank HaPoalim ("Worker's Bank") towers in Tel Aviv. 4 connected towers, off angle sides and complete complex.
Tel Aviv

A brief distance away is this interested rounded blue tower. Haven't been there, not sure who's in it.
Tel Aviv

The Clal Insurance building, offset stepping stone multi-part tower with weird decorative green bands.
Tel Aviv

Around the corner of the same building we find this really odd decorative...rings?
Tel Aviv

Traffic in Israel has become rather bad, and in Tel Aviv it's horrible. Switching to a motorcycle might be an alternative, but in Israel a motorcycle is classified as a luxury item and taxed at 200% - meaning a motorcycle is MORE EXPENSIVE THAN A CAR. However, "scooters" (European style) are not, and have become a primary mode of transportation for many a Tel Aviv office worker. Every building has huge clusters of scooters parked around the bottom... (this is a relatively small group)
Tel Aviv

So ends our tour today of downtown Tel Aviv.
Read More

Friday, December 18, 2009

// // 4 comments

Are We Allowed to Teach Mysticism? - Redux

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The study of the mystical Torah must be grounded in the physical Torah. Not only are we are allowed to teach these subjects, but we are obligated to teach them.

Of course there are many opinions. The most well-known learned opinion, (which is an opinion, as no one knows for sure what the End Days will bring), is that there will be stages in the Redemption. In the early stages, there will still be a type of free will, which will not be in the later stages. This makes simple sense as the hope is for the ultimate revelation, and while standing there before the Revealed Presence of Hashem, who would even conceive of sin?

This means that, at some time, there will not be free will. We will be like angels basking in His glory. But, not everyone will see the same degree of this glory. It will all depend upon the work that one has done up until that time.

As for someone receiving the reward for the entire Torah by simply doing one mitzvah, we have a number of well-known stories of evil people who turned their lives around at the end of their days; and they received the entire reward. But obviously, we can not live with that hope for ourselves. For this reason, there are 613 mitzvahs and not just one. G-d, in His great kindness, has given us all of His Torah. Only a completely ignorant, or simple, person would reject even a drop of it.

Now to address what I sense in the tone of some emails and comments. It seems that some people somehow find the Torah to be an awesome responsibility, a fearful task, maybe even threatening! If this is a correct feeling, and you find yourself harboring such feelings, I strongly suggest you that find a different rabbi. Find someone who can show you the uplifting joy in every single commandment. Find someone who can show you the joy in making a blessing, and in putting on tefillin, because this is what G-d wants for us. In fact, this is why He has given us His Torah.

He has placed us in His garden, and He wants us to be happy. Your concern should be for the Jews who have not yet found that joy. And you can only help them find it if you find it for yourself, first.

Have a wonderful Chanukah, and may the light of your chanukia (menorah) fill your entire year.
Read More

Thursday, December 17, 2009

// // 7 comments

Still More on Visiting Har HaBayit

Our friend Rabbi Lazer Brody of Lazer Beams wrote today,

"who froze the building in Judea and Samaria? The US Government? The European Union? The Israeli government? Wrong! Hashem froze the building; The Building Freeze is surely a harsh judgment, but within the cloud is a silver lining. Hashem is obviously not letting us build our homes, because we're not doing enough to build His home, the Beit Hamikdash. How do we do that? We strengthen our emuna and return to Hashem - it's that simple."

And a commentor on the video of Rabbi Brand promoting visiting Har HaBayit wrote,

"regarding this video: it is misleading. okay, so they got a frum rav to go up, so what? the guy picks a leaf off a tree. what is that supposed to be? it makes us look bad. as reb gutman stated and quoted in the first piece, the majority opinion is to not go up. i don't see why posting this video is helping anything, except creating tension and maybe confusion. those who advocate going up are not only creating halachic issues but also creating more tension with our enemies, inciting them to more violence. this we need? i think there should be a video that counters this video to show the emes!!!"

...So lets put these two thoughts together. Dear commentor, if you strengthen your emuna and return to Hashem, then a video that counters and shows the emes (according to you) will...appear?

Our esteemed colleague Rabbi Brody could sit in his home in Israel and pray and have emunah that people will do teshuva and return to Hashem. He could pray and have emunah that people will learn the holy thoughts of his teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlita, directly from the Torah. Or he could AND DOES go out and teach Torah, give classes, and travel around the world to share the path to Hashem. He could AND DOES work hard to translate Rabbi Arush's teachings from Hebrew to English, so people can access them directly and easily.

Our commentor can think there should be a video that 'counters and shows the emes', or he can make one (or encourage someone else to, or pay someone else to, or find one and share it).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe could have sat in 770 with his chassidim and prayed and had emunah that Jews dispersed throughout the world would reconnect with Hashem, learn of Torah and figure out how to do mitzvot. Or he could AND DID send his chassidim to virtually every community in the world with Jews to teach them Torah, teach them how to do mitzvot and live as Jews.

This is still the physical world. Thought, speech, and deed. I can meditate on the light of Chanukah, and there's value in that. I can speak of the miracles of Chanukah, and there's value in that. But until we light the lights, there is no light of Chanukah (no matter how much I meditate upon it or speak about it.)
Read More

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

// // 2 comments

More on Visiting Har HaBayit

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

[ This article was written in the Old City of Jerusalem. Standing over the 1948 Armistice Line, the Jewish Quarter and the city with Jewish residence continuously since the times of King David and the Holy Western Wall is considered Occupied Palestine by the European Union. Consuming this intellectual product may violate import laws of several EU States as "a Jewish product from Occupied Palestine". ]

The Lubavitcher Rebbe did not "pasken" (make halachic rulings), nor have a publicly announced position on ascending Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount). However, many years ago Rabbi Yitzchack Ginsburg and Rabbi Moshe Schloss (two Chabad rabbis) were going up onto Har HaBayit.

Reb Moshe Weber, obm, wrote the Rebbe and asked if it was alright. The Rebbe wrote back that under no circumstances should anyone go up onto Har Habayit. (A contact for a copy of the letter is available.) Reb Edo told me that Reb Moshe told him it was one of the most severe sins to go up.

Akiva adds: Clearly halachic opinions regarding ascending Har HaBayit differ greatly (with the majority prohibiting it). One is strongly advised to consult one's rabbi, rosh yeshiva, Rebbe, or halachic authority prior to deciding to ascend.
Read More
// // 5 comments

Visiting Har HaBayit

Rabbi Yitzchok Brand has created a video to encourage ultra-orthodox visits to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount). This is most unusual as the vast majority of the black-hat ultra-orthodox rabbis prohibit it.

(Hebrew, 7 minutes)

(From the Charedim Hebrew web site)

Rabbi Brand calls ultra-orthodox rabbinic prohibitions from going up on Har HaBayit to be HYPOCRITICAL. More at Life in Israel.
Read More
// // Leave a Comment

In Compliance

[ Official Declarations ]

In compliance with European Union import regulations, we would like to state that parts of this blog may be manufactured using products from Judea and Samaria.

In compliance with Israeli Government Judea and Samaria Freeze Regulations, we would like to state that any expansion of blog capacity is only temporary.

Happy Chanukah :-)
Read More

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

// // 4 comments

A Chanukah Story for the 5th Night

[Photo by Flickr user Goldberg]

In honor of the festive occasion of Hanukah, a constant reminder that a little light dispels a lot of darkness, I humbly offer my favorite Hanukah story:

Adapted from the Hebrew weekly, Shav'uon Kfar Chabad, a wondrous account sent in by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Greenvald from 15 years ago...

Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, may his merit guard over us, Jews all around me -- of every stripe and persuasion -- can't seem to stop talking about the Rebbe. At the synagogue I pray at, at work. It amazes me to see how every Jew seems to have a story about a personal encounter or experience with the Rebbe.

I say it's a mitzvah to tell these stories so that our children and children's children will hear about the Sanctification of G-d's name by means of a tzaddik who walked amongst us and was a faithful shepherd for all the children of the generation. It's widely known that Hasidim place great importance on tales of the righteous, as it is written, "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O ye Servants of the Lord" (Psalms). In order to comply with this precept myself, I offer a wondrous account about the Rebbe and my father. Until now this was known only in our family circles. I now find it incumbent upon me, after the Rebbe's passing, to tell the story publicly.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.

My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said, "In another few days, it will be Hanukkah. Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said, "The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.

After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed.

My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim, who he had never met because the uncle immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe, my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.

My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust. Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son-in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash, as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately. His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details.

After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.

After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.

Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.

But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe.

Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.

I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth.

Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.

Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself. The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'"

The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'" And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."

Since then, about 10 years passed.

In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane. On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say. Only after I asked several times, he told me. "A few minutes after I left the house in Toronto, the neighbor -- one of the dignitaries of our congregation -- came to see me, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes. He said he would tell me a story that he would not otherwise tell to anybody willingly, but that maybe I could help.

It turned out that the daughter of this community leader wavered very much in her ritual observance. In the beginning, the parents didn't really know about it, because she hid it from them. But two weeks earlier, the great catastrophe became known to them: she eloped with a Gentile to London. Since then, the atmosphere at home was one of crying and mourning, the 9th of Av.

All the efforts of relatives in London came to naught. Therefore, he asked my father, since he was travelling to London, maybe he would look into the matter, and G-d would be merciful. Maybe he could find the daughter and prevent her from descending into the depths of iniquity? My father was a close friend of this neighbor, and was affected greatly by the story. I also took it to heart and thought about what I could do in London.

The nuptials were held at a good and auspicious hour. On the first night of the Seven Benedictions, my father turned to the bride's father and told him the story about the neighbor's daughter. Perhaps he had some advice, who, where? Maybe he could look into the matter and do something? The bride's father, as soon as he heard the story, said to my father that he had no understanding of such matters, but did have a friend who was a Lubavitcher Hasid, who the Lubavitcher Rebbe had always charged with all types of errands. The man's name was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Glick, and if there's somebody who can help, it is this man, who had already managed to save from the streets of Europe many confused souls.

That night, the bride's father telephoned Rabbi Glick, told him the story and explained how pressing the matter was. Rabbi Glick asked for the telephone number of the girl's parents in Toronto -- perhaps they knew some details that would help, like addresses, telephone numbers. Perhaps they would give him some clue where to start searching. Rabbi Glick promised to do what he could.

I don't know where Rabbi Glick searched, where he went, nor with whom he consulted. But one night, about 10 days later -- my father and my mother decided to stay in London until after Hanukkah -- Rabbi Glick called the bride's father and told him to come immediately. "I have a very good surprise," he said.

The bride's father and my father hurried to Rabbi Glick's house. As they entered, they saw a girl sitting, crying. At the entrance of the salon, a Hanukkah candelabrum was lit. Suddenly, as my father looked at the menorah, he saw five candles lit, and he almost fainted and fell to the ground. He remembered the strange sentence the Rebbe had told him some 50 years earlier, then 30 years earlier and then 10.

"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies the power of the Hanukkah menorah, and the mission of every Jew is to illuminate even" the darkest place -- Warsaw or London, New York or London, or Toronto or London . . ."

"What will that zealous one do when his daughter wavers ...with the Holy One, Blessed be He, every Jew is an only child ... With the Previous Rebbe, every Jew is 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'" There's no need to mention that the girl completely repented and became on observant Jew. There's also no need to mention that the zealous one shut his mouth and ceased speaking against Lubavitch.

When my father returned to Canada, he made every effort to obtain an audience with the Rebbe. He felt a need, a spiritual duty after what had happened, to see the Rebbe. But in those years, it had become very difficult to obtain a private audience. But the following month of Tishrei, the year 5740 (ca. 1980), my father succeeded seeing the Rebbe on the night that a group of holiday visitors had a group audience. My father said that from all the emotions that were coursing through him, he could not utter anything during the audience. When he tried to tell the story, he would break into tears. The Rebbe heard just a few sentences, turned to my father and said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

Every time my father would tell this story, he would say that the real wonder was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even more than his vision of events to come from 50 years beforehand, was his heavenly humility of, that he said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

The chain of wonders has not stopped. On 14 Kislev 5748 (ca. 1989), exactly when the Seven Benedictions for my firstborn child ended, on the day which represented the passage of 60 years from the Rebbe's wedding in Warsaw, my father passed away -- all just as the Rebbe had blessed my father, that he should rejoice at the wedding of his grandchild.

We should be happy that this man, Holy to G-d dwelt amongst us. Since it is known that "The righteous are greater in their death than in their lives," certainly the Rebbe will cause a flow of blessings, salvation and comfort from On High, to each and all, until we merit to the promise of the verse, "And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion," in accord with the holy will of the Rebbe, soon and in our time. Amen.

-- Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald

The copy that I received 14 years ago was originally provided by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, a"h (who has passed away), the original founder of Chabad Online (www.chabad.org). At the time I received this, an online web site was a new thing (for those who know 'net history, it originally came with a Gopher address), and a Jewish web site was a wondrous thing. It came with the stipulation that the site be advertised, which I have done here, and donation info provided. To donate to Chabad Online, click here.

It also came with the stipulation that this acknowledgment be included, though I don't know if the contact information is outdated or still accurate:

Translation provided courtesy of:

FRIENDS OF LUBAVITCH OF FLORIDA, (Est. 1960)

Rabbi Abraham Korf
Lubavitch Regional Director-Florida
e-mail: rabbi@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us
voice: (305) 673-5664; fax: (305) 673-0269
Read More
// // 3 comments

Menorah's For Sale

Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A walk up the street at the edge of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, finds menorahs (or chanukiyot in Hebrew) for sale...

Menorah's For Sale

Clearance, 40% off, get the last while they last...
Menorah's For Sale

Every shape and size...
Menorah's For Sale

Office menorah?
Menorah's For Sale

Putting your menorah outside on your doorpost (literally) is the custom in Jerusalem and many other cities in Israel, for which you need a menorah in a box...
Menorah's For Sale

And if you've got your own menorah, just buy the box...
Menorah's For Sale

Coca-Cola and Orange Cellphones are advertising for the holiday...
Menorah's For Sale

Traditional silver menorahs are a favorite, for those who can afford it...
Menorah's For Sale

Happy Chanukah from the Holy City.
Read More

Monday, December 14, 2009

// // 2 comments

Chabad, the Canary in the Coal Mine

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

"Canary in the coal mine" - Coal miners in the United Kingdom and the United States brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases including methane and carbon monoxide. The birds, being more sensitive, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape.

Chabad is spread worldwide, in many places offering a focused Jewish presence in a community that previously "just had some Jews". As such, they could act as a convenient target for anti-semitic feelings. However, until LAST YEAR attacks against Chabad were virtually unheard of! However, last year's attack on the Mumbai Chabad House (murdering the rabbi, rebbitzen, and their guests) seems to have opened the door. And this Chanukah is offering a prime outlet...

- Connecticut: Menorah lighting interrupted by Nazi protesters. (That's in the USA!)

- Massachusetts: Car menorah (and car) smashed.

- Vienna: Rabbi's finger bitten off by Muslim attacker at Menorah lighting.

- Moldova: Priest, church and congregation tears down Holocaust memorial menorah, plants a cross in it's place and marches against the Jews.

Read More
// // 1 comment

Shocka: Iran's Plans Exposed To The Light

Confidential intelligence documents ... show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb as of 2007. The documents, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion...

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. “This is a very strong indicator of weapons work.”...

Responding to The Times’ findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said: “Israel is increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear programme and the real intentions that may lie behind it.”


(Source - Times Online)

Commentary -

Strong indicator??? "You holding a gun is a strong indicator you may be armed." Gaaaaa.

Real intentions behind it??? Quotes from
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran (Yimach Sh'mo):

- "Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine." (October 26, 2005, Iran Government News-IRIB) Approximately the time the work on those nuclear triggers started!

- "You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene." (Reuters-June 2, 2008)

- "...the Zionist regime has reached a total dead end. Thanks to Allahlalala, your wish will soon be realized, and this germ of corruption will be wiped off." (Iranian News Channel - June 2008)

Anyone who turns a blind eye is expressing willful ignorance.

Yet I do not fear. They rise up against us in every generation, and in every generation HaKodesh Baruch Hu saves us from their hand. However, we must focus on Teshuva, Tefilah, and Tzedaka...Torah and Mitzvot, and to turn to our Father in Heaven.

"Do not fear sudden terror, nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes. Contrive a scheme, but it will be foiled, conspire a plot, but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us..." (End of Regular Prayers, Nusach Ari - from Proverbs 3:25 and Yishayahu 8:10)
Read More

Sunday, December 13, 2009

// // 4 comments

Chabad Rabbi has Finger Bitten Off by Muslim at Menorah Lighting

A Muslim man attacked a Chabad rabbi Saturday night as he was conducting the annual ceremony to light the public Chanukah menorah in Stefenfaltz Square in the city of Vienna, Austria.

The attacker hurled himself at Rabbi Dov Gruzman and began punching him. As the rabbi tried to hold off his attacker, the Muslim suddenly bit his victim, severing part of his finger in the process.


The whole thing here.
Read More
// // 1 comment

The One Light of Chanukah

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

From ThereIsOne... (flash animation)

Read More

Saturday, December 12, 2009

// // 1 comment

A Holocaust Chanukah Story

Told by Rabbi Yossi Chazan during a Yud Tes Kislev farbrengen...

Read More

Thursday, December 10, 2009

// // 2 comments

Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I was briefly in Kfar Chabad today. Kfar Chabad is a rural village of Chabad chassidim that's a few miles down the road from Lod, up the road from Tel Aviv, and practically next to Ben Gurion airport...

The replica of Chabad world headquarters, 770, has a huge menorah sculpture on the roof.
Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

Car menorahs are being installed, and shipped around Israel. A few sets are still available at the nationwide large-menorah shipping center inside, which includes barrel drums of olive oil and oil-torch heads for large public menorahs.
Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

Menorahs like this, some electric some oil based (interchangeable light styles available inside), go up around the country at all major intersections and town entrances. Most sponsored by the local Chabad house.
Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

770 Kfar Chabad. Brooklyn architecture a bit out of place in an Israeli village (but definitely NOT the strangest architecture situation in Israel).
Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

The towers of Tel Aviv in the distance, behind the rooftops of the more suburban side of Kfar Chabad.
Kfar Chabad gets ready for Chanukah

Israel is a study in contrasts. City centers 15 minutes outside farming villages such as Kfar Chabad is a good example.

Chanukah Samayach, Happy Chanukah from the Holy Land.
Read More
// // 2 comments

Are We Allowed to Teach Mysticism? - Part 2

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

So, we are back to our original question. Are we allowed to teach mysticism openly?

The Torah tells us clearly that there will be an End of Days,” which refers to the time when the Moshiach will come and the Third and final Temple will stand.[i] Then, the world will know peace. The entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d. When an individual knows G-d, he will not sin. Who would sin seeing the Holy One revealed? This means that, at some point, people will no longer have free will. Reward is given according to the effort extended. When there is no free will, we will be like angels; our spiritual position will be fixed. Whatever we were able to attain when we had free will determines our station. No more growth! Now is the only time to gain. Now is the only time to improve our spiritual lot.

Today, since we are so close to the Redemption, we must do whatever we can to allow each person in the entire world to attain the greatest merit they can possibly attain. This growth cannot be done without learning the spiritual aspects of the Torah. Now even some of the non-Chassidic yeshivas are beginning to teach basic Kabbalah to their students. They realize that, because of the state of this generation, they have to teach mysticism in order to keep their students. Even the non-Jew must understand the mystical depths of the Seven Commandments of Noah in order for him to really want to keep them.

But these mysteries must be taught within the structure of the physical Torah. Even the simplest Jew must learn the mystical depths of saying a blessing, laying tefillin, and all of the spirituality that the mitzvahs bring. But these depths have to be learned within the framework of the physical Torah. We must accomplish the spiritual while applying the physical. The soul of the subject cannot be properly taught without its body.

Each mitzvah is designed to benefit a certain aspect of the Jew. Imagine a Jew with a very good heart, who gave charity his whole life, but never put on tzitzit (the fringed garment). He just does not see the need for it. After all, he reasons, he already does spiritual acts by giving so much to charity. In the end of days, he will receive a tremendous reward for his good heart, but his spiritual garment and spiritual remembrance that should have been developed from wearing tzitzit will be missing. We must take advantage of each mitzvah in order to develop every aspect of our lives.

Studying the kabbalah brings spiritual light down into this lower world, but this light must have a strong physical vessel to contain it. Without the proper vessel, the spiritual light can become wild and actually be a source of great spiritual damage. The vessels that have been designed to hold this light are the physical mitzvahs that we have been given.

And what of the potential problem of beginning students running off to a cave or mounting a camel and wandering the streets, calling out “The time is now!” when they are taught mysticism? If they are taught the spiritual Torah within the physical Torah, that is, while they are doing the mitzvahs, they will be grounded. But even more importantly, when they are taught the spiritual beauty and joy of within the physicality of the mitzvahs, they will not want to forsake the physical Torah. This, in fact, is why we have been given the physical world. Not to forsake it, but to elevate it.

[i] See Appendix of Gemora Sanhedrin, Artscroll edition.
Read More

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

// // 3 comments

On Freezes and Jerusalem

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

My path took me to Jerusalem last night. Entering the holy city, I drove down the valley past Ramot and Ramat Shlomo, passed along the seam line, along Yemin Moshe, into Rechavia. I entered an office that still has steel shutters on the windows and doors to keep out the marauders.

When I completed my appointment, I traveled to Malcha Mall to grab a slice of pizza. As I benched (said birkat hamazon, blessings after a meal), I said "And rebuild Jerusalem the holy city speedily in our days. Blessed are You Lord, who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem. Amein."

I headed home going 2 lights to Gilo, and through Gilo to Derech Hevron, 60% of my time spent passing neighborhoods of Jerusalem - EMPTY hills of 30, 40, or 50 years ago, that the world calls "not Jewish Jerusalem".

Several people have asked me, "Can you comment on the "freeze", can you comment on the EU and Jerusalem, can you comment on (spiritually) what's going on?"

The Arabs have been attacking the Jews from the day the Jews started to return (and even before). They would work for the Jew by day, then steal, kidnap, and attack him by night. This never made sense and has always been a spiritual battle.

In 1948, the blessings of Hashem and the full dedication of Jews who had literally nowhere else to go survived a genocidal attack by ALL surrounding countries to push the Jews into the sea. And they began building a country, with blood, sweat, and all their efforts. They were attacked again and again, battered from their neighbors (shelled from one border, raided from others) and strangled by the world powers (who boycotted weapons sales and trading of various types). Yet the ultimate world power, HaKodesh Baruch Hu, continued to pour blessings and miracles and the country grew and prospered, almost in spite of itself (or in spite of the leadership).

In '67 and again in '72, the Arabs tried again to destroy Israel by force of arms. In '67 they lost with clear miracle after miracle leading Israel to victory. In '72, when Israel stood and declared her strength, she learned otherwise as the arms were crushed, the leaders made fools of, but still the country survived by miracle.

Israel grew strong and the Arabs despaired. The G-d of the Jews was making a fool of them, staining their honor. Nothing could be worse.

They lost at force oand now faced an enemy who appears dangerously strong. So, willing to pass their children through the fires of Moloch, they embarked on a path to demoralize the Jews and destabilize the country. To sap their faith and their strength through horror after inhuman unimaginable horror.

It almost succeeded. Secular Zionism fell to those flames and a spirit of despair invaded the land.

But the unseen hand of Hashem was at work. The massive Russian immigration brought to offset the ultra-orthodox birthrate infused the land with highly skilled people driving to benefit from those skills. A people from a land that wasn't Western who were ready to stand up and say "enough of that". Driven by new and unexpected internal political forces, Israel began to take forceful action in response to the horror of frequent terrorism, as well as changing their economy driven by a people who already knew the worst of socialism.

Arab workers were fired, attacks fell. They were walled off, attacks fell. Terrorist leaders were targeted and killed, attacks fell. The horrors faded as the new Russian Israelis brought their drive (and skills) for a decent life to the land.

And the Arabs despaired. Direct force appears to no longer be a viable option (which doesn't stop a few from trying again and again). Inhuman horrific terrorism is no longer successful (much). They cannot win by muscle, they cannot win by brain. What's left?

It's time to go for the heart. The Arabs do not care for Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount, what gained a new name in the last 10 years of Al Quds), they care to keep it from the Jews (historical proof available on request). They do not care for Israel, they care to keep it from the Jews.

Through political manipulation, PR and image generation (the best Saudi money can buy), they've convinced the world that Israel and Jerusalem is theirs. The holy books of the West say Israel, and especially Jerusalem, is ours - doesn't matter. History says Israel and Jerusalem is ours - doesn't matter. International law doesn't matter, declarations and annexations don't matter.

The story is told, the WORLD is coming to take Jerusalem from the Jews.

EXACTLY ... AS ... WRITTEN ... IN ... THE ... HOLY ... WORDS ... OF ... THE ... PROPHETS.

They will come, as we were told they would. The righteousness or legality of the situation is irrelevant. They have killed us in body, but we are still here. Yet the battle has always been over the SOUL of the Jewish people.

We cannot divide ourselves from Israel, and the heart of Israel is Jerusalem. And you're seeing the world come for it IN YOUR DAYS. It will be a cup of poison for the nations, as their copies of our holy prophets says. But they don't believe it.

Netanyahu is not a fool. He has started the process of the expulsion of 200,000 from the Shomron (West Bank), the "lungs" of Israel - against his political support, against his party, against the national consensus. If he is not a fool, and it's not his political direction...why?

There is only one possible answer. The existential threat of nuclear annihilation of Israel and the deaths of millions of his people is the ONLY leverage that could make him turn so. He is trading part of Israel and Jerusalem for the survival of Israel at all.

Watch for a US supported Israeli strike upon Iran very soon.


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem...the time of the biblical prophecies is right before us.
Read More
// // 7 comments

Are We Allowed to Teach Mysticism? - Part 1

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The Rambam wrote that we should not teach the most mystical subjects to more than one student at a time.[i] He gave the reason that the students may very well pay attention to each other and because of this they would misunderstand the teaching. Even more serious, they then might think that they did understand the teaching, which corrupt their spiritual path, and they might even go on to teach their mistake to others. Indeed, this is a great danger.

Other requirements for learning mysticism are that the students must be at least 40-years old, married, and very knowledgeable in the entire Torah. These requirements had to be fulfilled before a student could even begin these mystical studies.

Today, heads of most non-Chasidic yeshivas frown heavily on teaching almost any form of mysticism to their students. They have seen that those who study such subjects tend to go off on their own ways. Obviously, this is not what these rabbis want. Because of this fear, today, there is an almost complete ban on teaching young students the deep mysteries of kabbalah. This is true for all but the briefest mention, and then only when absolutely necessary. Obviously, the rabbis feel that these restrictions have been established for a very good reason.

So… are we allowed to teach the most mystical subjects freely? Perhaps we are not allowed to teach even simple mystical subjects in a secular language, as this surely opens these teaching to the unlearned.

Over the past 300 years, the most famous rabbis did teach mysticism.[ii] The Vilna Gaon, the Ari, and the Baal Shem Tov all taught mysticism. They taught that, not only are we allowed to teach this subject openly, but we are obligated to do so.

The Baal Shem Tov went even further. He taught that we should not restrict these teachings to those Jews who have already mastered the Talmud. We should seek out even unlearned Jews and let him know that G-d is not only in heavens, He is also right here on earth. We must explain to even the simplest Jew that G-d is everywhere at every moment, and that He is totally involved with even the slightest detail of our lives. He taught that we must teach even the simplest person that G-d is entirely accessible at all times.

He explained that in order for someone to repent of his sins and turn toward a Torah life, he must bring down much more spiritual “light” than a righteous person requires. A righteous person is entirely pure, so he is easily satisfied with his level of spiritually. But, the Jew who turns from evil is not so easily satisfied. He has tasted the strong pull of evil and now he needs something at least as strong to pull him toward the good.

Although all Jews need to understand these mysteries of Hashem, the Jew who turns from evil thirsts for this knowledge. The revealed Torah is likened to the main course of a meal, while the hidden Torah is likened to the wine and oil. Wine is associated with joy, and oil is associated with light. When the mysteries of the Torah are understood, there is joy and light.

When someone is born and raised in a Torah home, he can be satisfied with the nourishing main course of the meal. After all, that is where he received his sustenance. But, the one who has strayed needs to experience the joy and elevation of the wine and oil right from the beginning in order to bring him to the main course.

Even though these famous teachers taught kabbalah, still, the majority of rabbis today heavily restrict these teachings. Is it just the temptation to go your own way that they fear? Is this the only reason that these restrictions were placed upon teaching kabbalah in the first place?

When one studies these mystical subjects in-depth, it is very easy to want to “float off” and spend more and more time in “heaven.” One could very well say, “Oh, it would be so lovely to take a mystical text off to the woods, live in a simple hut, and give my entire life over to this subject.” Mysticism is so rich and so rewarding, that unless one has acquired a family and a certain level of the revealed, written Torah, he might very well forsake the everyday world and go off to live the life of a spiritual hermit. Even today, we see religious Jews who try to cut themselves off from the community. They walk with their eyes almost closed, facing the ground, never looking up nor to the side. They avoid talking to anyone, except when they are learning. Surely, if they did not have wives and a broad knowledge of Torah, they would be off in the woods somewhere, meditating on some delicious piece of kabbalah.

There is also a new, and proven danger in nullifying the requirements of who can learn mysticism. Today, as never before, some Jews have decided that the kabbalah can be entirely divorced from the revealed Torah. As we discussed above,[iii] everything in creation has a soul and a body. Even a stone has life within it. The Torah also has a body and a soul. The revealed, written Torah, with its commandments that we apply everyday, is the Torah’s body, and the hidden, mystical aspects of the Torah are its soul.

Today, there are Jews who believe that the soul of the Torah can be taught without its body! Not only this, but they believe that this soul can be taught to totally non-observant Jews (Jews who do not follow the Torah’s commandments) and even to non-Jews! They say that the mystical aspects of Torah are just a form of metaphysics that can be taught as an entirely secular subject.

Learning and enjoying the knowledge of the soul of the Torah without its body, removes one completely from the Torah’s plan for physical life. For instance, if you see that you can study the kabbalah with a non-Jew, then there is no reason why you cannot marry one. If you can learn the most mystical secrets of creation without the moral restrictions that the Torah commands, you can learn the kabbalah by day and visit the dregs of society by night. Since, according to this philosophy, the kabbalah is entirety spiritual and not at all physical, there would be no contradiction here. You would not feel the moral restrictions that a Torah-observant life imparts.

What results from this strange philosophy? As an example: If someone were to give charity physically, but lacking the good heart and surely the mystical understanding of giving charity, the poor person would still receive the coin, and the donor would receive the reward for what he gave. But, what if someone were to “give” the coin only mystically, fully understanding all of the wondrous mystical greatness that charity brings, but neglecting to physically give the coin? Neither he nor the poor person will have benefited. In fact, the “mystical giver” will have damaged his soul by enjoying the “giving” without having physically given a coin. He will be satisfied with the mystical depths he learned, and this will lead him to do the same thing next time. This principle is true for all of the kabbalah that is learned without its body. A soul without a body can accomplish nothing.

[i] Mishneh Torah, Mada 4:11
[ii] For instance the Gra in Even Shlaimah Chapter 12, The Ari, as per Chaim Vital in the foreword to Etz Chaim, and The Baal Shem Tov
[iii] See section, “The Physical Affects the Spiritual.”
Read More
Related Posts with Thumbnails