by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Hamas terrorist murdering scum Mahmoud al-Mabhouh has been assassinated. Word is this was done by the (Israeli) Mossad. (Of course, if the guy slipped and fell in the bathroom cutting himself with his razor, this would also be blamed on the Mossad.)
For those not aware of it, here is the response of our religious Jewish community in Israel...
- We did (not) drive through the streets honking our horns.
- We did (not) hand out candies to our children celebrating death.
- We did (not) hold a rabbinical sermon on the pleasure of the death of the enemy.
- We did (not) shoot our guns in the air (and accidentally kill someone).
- We did (not) wave flags celebrating the assassinating organization.
- We did (not) have a parade of armed community members prancing about.
- We did (not) hear calls for more of the same.
- We did (not) praise the value of martyrdom to our children.
Oh well, maybe next time.
(Photo: Palestinian children receiving sweets in celebration of a successful terrorist attack and death of innocents in Israel.)
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
(Thoughts on Parshat BeShalach...)
“And it happened that when Pharaoh sent out the people…” He, ‘Hashem’ brought them from the simple path to the roundabout way - “the difficult path”. This is an aspect of the burdens that we all carry and the different yissurim that we encounter. A person must take a few paths before coming to the Land of Israel.
The pasuk says “He led them in a different path,” in order to bring the ingathering of the exiles, “the sparks”. The Ari writes,(Pri Eitz Chaim sha’ar פ''ג ,ק''ש) in the kavonot for the pasuk from the Shemonei Esrei,… “Any place that even a single Jew was exiled to, even the farthest most distant place in the world…it was as is the whole nation was sent there”. Through this one Jew all the sparks in this place are redeemed and raised up.
This is the secret of why Am Israel is spread out even to the lowest and farthest places from holiness. Not only are Jews found today in the most remote places of the world (the mountains of South America, the islands of the South Pacific, the frozen plains of Alaska), they’re found in the most tumadic places (the ashrams of India, the alleyways of Thailand). Reb Noson of Breslev says “We see with our own eyes that the majority of these Jews are not even Benonim, almost all of them are not tzaddikim. They are very far from Hashem (…though even the worst, evil, wicked of all the Jews are full of mitzvot like pomegranate). How can it be that these Jews dafka are the ones that have to lift up these sparks?
In truth this is very deep. The main part of the golus is in being far from Eretz Israel and the Holy Temple, which is the epitome of the kedusha.
The main purpose for the exile is to redeem and lift up all those “people” that went astray. And when we speak of the exiles we are no longer speaking of the people but the most distant sparks that were sent into the deepest and darkest of the klipot.
We were sinning when were in Israel, so Hashem sent us out to fix ourselves. Reb Noson asks "how can this help, to send us from a place of holiness to a place of kilpah, it makes no sense. We were sinning so you send us away, how can there be any hope? Because if we sinned in a place of holiness then how can we fix ourselves in a place of kilpah. If the Yetzer HaRah overcame us in our place of our strength in the very source of holiness, where even the air is holy, how is it we will be able to overcome it in a place where even the air is tamei? It makes absolutely no sense. How is it that we could not serve Hashem in the holy land and now here wants us to do it from outside! How are we to overcome this from there, where there is no hope for us?”
(Shir HaShirim 6:5) “Turn your pleading eyes from Me lest I be tempted to bestow upon you holiness more than you can bear” Rashi says that “Hashem showed great, great love in the Beis HaMikdash. Hashem showed us so much love that we rebelled against Him”. When we are in the holiest place then the slightest pagam (defect) is very damaging. And this is how the Baal Hadavar got us to sin in Eretz Yisrael. Little by little while we were so close to Hashem, we were to close we could not see our growing defects to fix them.
After being scattered amongst the nations, living and serving in the tamei atmosphere of these lands, we can see ourselves and overcome our errors. We can feel the separation from Hashem. We can wake up and to start to return. "I’ll take away your heart of stone ‘your unfeeling heart ‘and give you a heart of flesh ‘and a feeling heart’" Specifically because of being outside of Israel in the depth of tumah, as soon as a person does the slightest good act or mitzvah, it is so so precious to Hashem.
A Jew who is far far away from Hashem on the streets of Brooklyn raises his whiskey bottle on Friday night and says "L’chaim Hashem" and gets drunk. He has performed a big elevation of sparks, from a depth other Jews can't reach, and Hashem shows him the biggest mercy.
Even though this person is far away and in the impurity, he took a smallest step towards Hashem, and from that little avoda that person did to come close to Hashem, and Hashem has mercy on him. So there is hope! This the answer for anyone who has fallen away. No matter how far they have fallen “I have done the worst and I feel that there is no hope for me”, no matter what the pagam, “What will be with me in the end?”, if one takes one little step back towards Hashem, Hashem has mercy and opens to path to teshuva.
And this is the entire secret of the golus of Israel, as well as the secret of our own personal failings. This is the main service of the golus. There are sparks that only the person distant from Hashem can raise up. To the great depths that a person has fallen he is then able to recover the sparks that fell from the earliest times. A number of holiest of sparks fell into the depths of the kelipah and most distant places (from holiness and physically). Certainly there is no one to enter and go into these places except chas v'shalom a person who has sinned. When this person takes a little step towards Hashem, these sparks immediately attach themselves to him and hitch a ride up. They are elevated to a new level and if this person has enough merit, he will carry them to the land of Israel to be gathered up by Hashem.
Whether an Israeli backpacker in South America, an IDF doctor in Haiti, or an assimilated Jew in New Mexico, one little step towards Hashem – even just saying “I’m a Jew!” can elevate the sparks and bring them towards Israel – and open the door to Rachamim and Teshuva…and Geulah.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
“For I am G-d, your healer” – Parshat BeShalach
Reb Avraham the Doctor wasn’t really a doctor, but a G-d fearing, long bearded small town medic with no formal training. At a Chassidic farbrengen at which Reb Avraham was present, Rebbe Shmuel of Lubavitch remarked (commenting on the quality of medical care at his time), “I don’t think much of doctors. Concerning the vast majority of illnesses they know nothing at all. As for the little they do know, the medicines they dispense to heal one disease usually harms another of the body’s organs.”
“But you, Reb Avraham, I hold very highly. When someone comes to you for a cure, you know good and well that you have not the slightest idea of what’s going on. But you have to give him something, so you sit there with your hand in your bushy beard pondering what to give him. Believe me, this helps more than any medicine.
The beard corresponds to the Divine attribute of Arich, and Arich is the abbreviation of the pasuk “For I am G-d, your healer”. And that certainly helps!
...from Once Upon a Chossid
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by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
“I am going to prison in Melbourne to visit 3 Jews. Beside tefillin, prayer, etc… how should I direct the conversation…to teshuvah (repentance), the weekly Torah portion, or what?”
The most severe prison can be escaped without leaving the cell. A person can be overpowered and forced into a tiny cell, but when he learns the spiritual reality, he sees that they have imprisoned only his body, not him. As horrible as prison may be, a person can still sit in a tiny jail and think of the loveliest things in the world. He will then be living in those lovely places.
The prisoners should learn to pray softly, and to converse with G-d. They should acquire Jewish meditation skills so they can free their minds from the room they are locked in. In order to help them, you should learn some meditation techniques (see Taming The Raging Mind [i]) and teach them to free themselves from the real prison that is holding them down, i.e. thinking that they are their bodies.
They should look and see if there are any ways at all for them to perform even the slightest deeds of kindness. Maybe they can teach a Jew how to do a mitzvah, help someone learn to read, teach a class in their special fields, cheer up a depressed person….
The body can be likened to a prison for the soul, or it can be seen to be what it actually is, an opportunity. The same can be said for jail.
You are doing wonderful things with your life. I am very happy for you. Your family is being blessed by your deeds.
[i] Available from www.thereisone.com
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
My son dropped his tefillin today, dented a corner. (Tefillin, Jewish Prayer boxes...not dangerous.) As this is the third time this has happened in the past year, a friend told him it's a segulah to prevent this happening again to give tzedakah (in the value of a meal), which he did this morning in yeshiva.
While we do believe in segulot here at Mystical Paths, the proliferation of "segulah cures" at the expense of straightforward (or dare we say common sense) solutions is troubling. We fully feel that Judaism should have some mysticism, and chassidus & kabbalah provide that.
But as a solution to dropping tefillin? I asked my son, "what do you start to do at the end of davening (prayer time)? Do you get distracted and start chatting with friends? Or get concerned about the time and rush to get to class? Examine your actions and see if there's a change to your pattern you can make to reduce the chance of this from happening." A forgetful person could pray for this attribute to go away, or they could organize a tray or table where they put their commonly forgotten things (and put them there every time they take them out). A person who's bad with tracking their financial situation could pray for math skills, or could carry a notebook (or PDA or iPhone) and enter every transaction - noting the result and knowing where they stand.
Similarly in chassidus we talk about making a keyli, a vessel for blessings. We must do our part, and then (or during) turn to Hashem and ask that He do His part.
But to neither do our part, nor even turn to Hashem to do His part...just to go for the spiritual shortcut (a segulah). That's not the way.
Rebbe Mendel of Riminov said that saying Parshas HaMon on Tuesday of Parshas B'Shalach is a Segulah for Parnossa (wealth, income). That's today, and here it is...
Parshat HaMon - w/Artscroll Linear Translation
Parshat HaMon - Hebrew w/Onkolos
One place says this should be 3 times, twice in Hebrew and once with translation.
Two explanations of why are here and here.
A wish of great parnossa to everyone!
(Courtesy of Artscroll and Tefillos.Com.)
Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
It's cold, it's rainy...THANK G-D! Israel is a semi-arid land of seasonal rainfall. That means, unlike most of our readers in the US, Europe and South Africa where rains are a regular thing (and extended rain is just annoying) - rain in Israel is life itself. If it doesn't rain in the 3-4 month rain window, there simply is no rain any other time. No rain, no water...drought, brush fires, crops lost. In the past this was immediately life threatening with insufficient drinking water, not enough to give livestock, and no crops meant starvation.
Irrigation, wells and a national water system meant enough drinking water and minimal irrigation for crops, so the country doesn't completely fall apart with the loss of a single rainy season. But Israel has had a decade of low rainfall, and the last two years have qualified as full fledged drought years. Well levels have fallen, and the Kinerret water levels have fallen the lowest since the founding of the State, the fields have been very dry and the water company has been forced to cut allocations to farmers and industry.
This year's rainy season started heavy early, then went an extended time without much, and got heavy again in the past week. I haven't seen the official statistics, but so far it's looking good.
So in Israel, when it's wet, rainy and cold for an extended period of time...Thank G-d!
Storm clouds over the Cantalever Bridge, Jerusalem. The cloud level was very low, I tried to get a picture of the top of the bridge in the cloud but missed it.
It continued to rain off and on as each cloud bank passed through. This view is down the mountain, Har HaMenuchos in the distance.
The light played in and out between the clouds, lighting up some areas while leaving others in shade. This is Ramot, zoomed in across the valley.
Givat Shaul (thanks Anon), near the entrance to Jerusalem.
And finally, outside Jerusalem a bit of a rainbow briefly makes an appearance in the Judean hills. A rainbow, though beautiful, is not considered a good sign in Judaism. There is some debate over whether it must be a full rainbow or for an extended period of time to be "negative".
Happy Rainy Days! And I caught a cold from it on Shabbos. B"H, cough cough.
Given recent incidents with a plane being diverted due to the fear that tefillin might be a dangerous object, we're now offering Tefillin Are Not Dangerous shirts and buttons for the Jewish traveler. Be safe, let the public know that those scary black boxes aren't dangerous...
Online Tefillin Safety Shirt/Button Store
Online Tefillin Safety Shirt/Button Store
Yes, this is for real. Protect yourself from plane diversion and FBI interrogation today!
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
I was on the street this week and overheard a conversation about kashrus. Two men were saying that they were concerned about the hechsher’s used by their neighbors as their children are playing in the homes of others. “We’re Ashkenazi and they are Sefardi. We eat this and they eat that.” As the conversation continued I overheard them speak of the shows their kids were watching (on the Internet, no TV G-d forbid). It made my head spin as they were more concerned that the kids might eat glatt kosher Sephardi food which is certainly kosher, but they were totally unconcerned about the online tumadic culture being programmed into the precious neshoma’s of their children.
The body processes only the physical, the lowest container of thought, speech and deed. As the issue was only chumra al chumra, not (G-d forbid) treif or issur, there was no real reason for concern. But the pure little minds of these children were being besieged by a onslaught of true treif - garbage from Hollywood. Innocence cannot be reclaimed, not even by teshuvah. (We may repair damage, but never reclaim innocence.)
The minds and neshomas of our children must be as important (or even more so!) as the kashrus of the body.
G-d forbid that our children should eat treif! But we should be just as concerned about the projected treif that enters through their eyes and ears. As parents have the same responsibility to provide kosher activities as we do for their food consumption. Any damage from accidently eating kosher albeit not your chumrah is temporary but there is a lifetime of damage from images of lewd or violent behavior. We cannot ignore this responsibility. Just like a starving child will grab any food that comes his way, a bored child will become involved in negative activities and is easily drawn to the negative “entertainment” of the nations.
Please take this warning with love. We need to prepare our children for a better world, not infuse them with the lowest of this world. Let us strive to provide pure untainted souls that are able to meet the Moshiach. We are for the most part tainted from our experience in this galut, but we need not infuse it to the next generation.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Rabban Gamliel said...where there are no men, be a man. (Pirke Avos)
Today is Yud Shvat, the yaretzheit of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yizchok Schneerson (the Friederker Rebbe or the Rebbe HaRayatz). It is also the date when, 1 year later, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ("the Rebbe"), accepted leadership of Chabad.
I could go on about the incredible self sacrifice of the 6th Rebbe, as he was literally tortured by the NKVD (KGB) in Russia for having the nerve to arrange for Torah classes for children throughout Russia. And I could go on about the Rebbe, the wonders and miracles and incredible sacrifices made to strengthen world Jewry. But there's plenty of others who will do so or have done so at length.
What I will focus upon is the intense focus of the Rebbe on saving Judaism. While a small group of tzaddikim stepped forward after World War II and the Holocaust to rebuild Judaism, all of that group focused upon rebuilding from the inside out. Build walls, protect what we have, strengthen in and bring it back to it's highest levels.
Only the Rebbe focused on ALL of Klal Yisroel, and the WHOLE Jewish people. He stood up, took a small group of isolated chassidim and focused them exclusively of Ahavas Yisroel - love of their brother. He sent out the brighest and best, and refocused the chassidus on developing the organizations to support them, their work, and to develop the next generation prepared to take it farther.
No one else stood up for the Jewish people. Today, a Chabad house can be found practically everywhere in the world that a Jew can be found. It's staffed by an energetic chassidic couple who's there to teach, kosher, help, and create all the facets required for a Jewish Torah filled life.
Where there was no one else, the Rebbe took his chassidus and his chassidim and threw lifesavers out to a drowning Jewish nation. Outside of the dozen or so metropolitan areas that are the religious Jewish enclaves of the 21st century, there is (more or less) only Chabad for Torah Judaism. He pushed his chassidim to give up a life focused on daily learning, protected from the world by the intellectual walls of the shtetl, and to go out and do what was necessary (within a strict Torah Jewish context) to reach out to their brethren.
The Rebbe no longer stands in front of us physically and leads us. But he set the pattern and taught such lessons of mesiras nefesh - self sacrifice, such that 16 years later Chabad has tripled in size and continues to teach, strengthen, and create what's necessary for a Jew practically wherever he may be in the world to reach his Father in Heaven, and to take on all the Torah and mitzvot necessary for life as a Jew.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to stand before this incredible tzadik and man miss his physical presence dearly. But indeed, as taught in the Tanya, his influence has been greater since he left the limitations of a physical body.
Photo 1 - The 6th Rebbe with the (later to be) 7th Rebbe.
Photo 2 - Ohel Lubavitch, the holy resting place of the 6th and 7th Rebbe's of Chabad. Courtesy of Letters of Thought.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Illustrative photo - not the people discussed in the article.
A couple of days ago, I walked up to a tall, blond, heavy-set man who was walking into the Kotel area. He had two young children with him; one seemed to be around 5 years old and the other, maybe seven. The kids were very blond, and did not look the least bit Jewish. The man did not look Jewish either, but since he spoke fluent Hebrew, I approached him like a Jew.
“Are these your sons?” I asked.
He quickly let me know that he believes in “Yohoshua the messiah.” (Yohoshua is “yashka’s aka Jaysus's” Hebrew name) They like to use the Hebrew name when they speak to religious Jews. They know that his name is offensive to us, and they want him to be accepted. We are told to not even let the names of idols pass over our lips.[i]
I quickly pointed out that since G-d is everywhere and yashka is not everywhere, that they should not worship him.
The younger of the two children looked up at me and loudly said, “yashka is god!”
The man angrily yelled at me, “Shut up!” and took his two children by their hands, and rushed off to the Kotel.
I watched them walk away and felt sad for the little boy. He doesn’t know what he is talking about; he is only five years old. But this lie has already been firmly implanted in him. Such a shame!
Even small children can learn some of G-d’s deepest mysteries, mainly, that He is everywhere at all times, and that He is entirely available to anyone who chooses to look. A child can grow up talking to G-d when he walks down the street, or wherever he finds himself. G-d can become his personal companion, his guide, and he can be one of G-d’s best friends all of his life.
Or, as we see here, a child can be taught the greatest spiritual lie of all, that a man is god.
[i] Exodus 23:13 , Psalms 16:4
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
(Adapted from Likutey Halachot)
''כחצת הלילה אני יוצה''
Hashem spoke to Moshe, "Come to Pararoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I can put these signs of mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them- that you may know that I am Hashem."
The first plague of Parshat Bo from this past Shabbat introduces a new element. Hashem informs Moshe that He intends to make a mockery out of Egypt; flattening the pride of and fully crushing the ego of Pharaoh and his ministers, so that not only Egypt but also the Jews would know that “I Am Hashem”. The inclusion of the Jews in that category implies that even believing people are often imperfect in their emunah.
That Pharaoh had resisted the evidence of the divine origin of the plagues is not a surprise. But even though the Jews were people of faith, their faith was not shalem (perfect) [we see this imperfection in emunah in Hashem in our time as well]. It was not until the Krias Yam Suf - the splitting of the Reed Sea that the Torah says Bnei Yisroel had emunah in Hashem and in Moshe His servant.
"So that you may relate", this is the aspect of Emunah, the belief to such a degree that we would continue to tell of these events "to our sons and son's sons" forever. Emunah increases as we speak of the deeds of our Father in Heaven. It’s increased in all of those who hear us, and in ourselves as well.
Emunah is gift we can give to each other that can't be refused. When I speak to others and tell that Hashem is great, He really becomes great in our heart and in our minds. This is what we call 'Hoda'ah', thanking and praising Hashem. We elevate all of creation as a result.
Hazal teach us that the words we speak create. If we speak with emunah then we repair and draw the world closer to Hashem, but if we kvech or explain away every detail as natural, then we distance and damage the world. Each individual Jew really is the most powerful individual in creation as they (we) can literally change the whole world for the good or the bad just with speech. This power, the voice of Yaakov, must be exercised to repair all the damage, for every letter is a building block of creation. (Perek 14:4)
Moshe said, "So said Hashem 'At about midnight I shall go out in the midst of Egypt.’” This statement is ambiguous, there’s a famous Gemora that discusses this. There they ask the question "What, Moshe didn't know when chatzot was?” Rabbi Natan of Breslev brings in Likutey Halachot that this is not speaking of the middle of the night of geulat mitzrayim, it's speaking of the final geulah! And this is covered or closed, even Moshe didn't know exactly when it would come.
"KaChatzot Halailah ani yozeh" This is a sod. Moshe didn't know the exact point of chatzot, which is why it says “KaChaztot”, about midnight. Yet, Dovid HaMelech knew exactly when it was (is), for it says that he would get up at exactly chatztot and sing praises to Hashem.
Chazal hinted in Gemora Brachot, v'chuleh Moshe knew that the ikar was the final redemption. The question was not merely bringing the Jewish people out of mitzrayim, but bringing them to the complete and final geulah. As the Midrashim and the Zohar teaches, when Hashem sent Moshe to take out the Jews, Moshe refused the mission unless Hashem would reassure him that He would carry on until the end. Moshe said (so to speak) 'I won't do it unless you also tell me the time of the final redemption'. Hashem responded (so to speak) that the time of the final redemption is very very concealed matter. Yet He would give Moshe a hint, and promise to be with the Jewish people until the very end. Moshe understood “about” the final geulah, “KaChatzot”.
Who would bring the final geulah? We learn it will come in the zuchut (merit) of Dovid HaMelech and all the tzaddikim that followed who get up for chaztot to mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMidash (the Holy Temple) and cry out to Hashem. Even the tzaddikim in Gan Eden mourn over the chorban beis hamikdash, and our rabbis specifically say the geulah will come in the merit of “all those who mourn for Yerushalayim”.
While the time of the final redemption is very very concealed matter, Dovid HaMelech, who was an aspect of Moshiach, was able to say “chatzot li’alah”, I will get up. Only Moshiach tzidkaynu knows exactly when chatzot is, and knows precisely when to “get up”. Tikun Chatzot gives us a remez, a hint and understanding of the end.
We cannot use our intellect to calculate and predict the final redemption, we can only rely on Emunah as Moshe our teacher had to trust the word of Hashem in this matter. The holy Torah contains material for us to understand and also that which we must trust without understanding. In this way Hashem is teaching and leading us to this very day. Until that great day it is very important to say Tikun Chatzot, as it is in this merit that the final redemption will accrue and will come at ‘about chatzot.’
Certainly with all the negative events in the world we should ALL make a little more effort to help bring the Geulah Shalayma, the final and complete redemption before it's time.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Years ago I merited to be in 770 when the Rebbe raised the issue of Mi Yehudi, the "who is a Jew" issue that was affecting Israeli politics at the time. (The question at the time being whether the Israeli law of return, that allows easy and quick citizenship for immigrating Jews, should define a Jew according to traditional halachic-Jewish law criteria [a Jew is anyone born of a Jewish mother] or according to Nazi Nuremberg law criteria [anyone with a Jewish grandparent on either side qualifies]. The Israeli law having been crafted as a direct response to the Holocaust, but thereby allowing in many economic refugees from Russia and other East European countries.) Rarely was the Rebbe one to shout and pound the table about an issue, and the Rebbe's approach to most issues was one of ahava (love). But in this case the Rebbe was literally shouting and pounding.
Judaism, the Jewish people, Hebrews, Jewishness is a bit of a unique thing. It's a religion, an ethnicity, a race, a culture, a nation, a country, and a land. It can be hard to define exactly what Judaism is, and often we find ourselves defining what it is not.
In the past week I've found myself in a few odd arguments on this topic. First with the Women of the Wall. They don't necessarily want to directly violate any Jewish religious law, but they do choose to violate Jewish religious standards and customs by choosing to pray at a holy site the way they want to (which basically involves women praying, loudly, according to the practices of the men [tallis, tefillin, reading the Torah, chazzening loudly]). They battle for the right to do Judaism their way.
The second was with Xian Messianics posing a "completed Jews". This is significantly more insidious in Israel than in the US, as the average Israeli has some familiarity with the trappings of Judaism, therefore the Xian Messianics dig much deeping into Jewish activity before presenting themselves. The Mystical Paths team was surprised to find a blog and site (link NOT provided) that posts quite a bit about our good friend Rabbi Lazer Brody and his (and Reb Nati's) teacher, the Breslev tzadik of Meah Shearim Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlita, showing how their approach to Jewish inreach and interaction with Noachides follows the same patterns of faith taught in the scriptures of Xianity. It further describes how their activities equate to missionary activity (and therefore how can Xian missionary activity be inappropriate in Israel if Emunah Outreach activity is ok?) Further they point out that Rabbi's Brody and Arush following the teachings of a deceased rabbi (Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, zt"l) is the same as Xianity following the scriptures of Yoshke. This site is working hard to define their activities the same as a Jewish organization's activities, to show that what they're doing is kosher.
The third was with a few trying to define all of Chabad by a few extremists who have completely lost it. While Chabad has it's minority but overly loud Meshihists (who hold the Rebbe, though having left this physical world, remains the primary candidate for Moshiach), it has a very small group of ultra-meshihists and elokists, who either believe that the geulah is here and we have to live it right now (meaning fast days are cancelled, pig has become kosher, and other things the Gemora mentions will be in the time of Moshiach) - a misinterpretation of some things the Rebbe said, or believe that the Rebbe has become elevated to the status of divine being - a nasty misinterpretation of chassidut/kabbalah brought down to pshat (two levels that don't mix). Both these small and narrow groups have clearly left the world of Judaism into something completely new, and deserve to be treated as such (meaning completely avoided like a plague).
The fourth was brief, with some Masorti people (conservative Judaism) who also don't understand why Israel resists the redefining of Judaism to their standards (which according to Jewish law aren't kosher, though they retain some trappings of such).
All of these encounters begged a central question. What is authentic Judaism? Two weeks ago Rabbi Grylak addressed this in an interesting way in Mishpacha magazine. He noted that Judaism started with a tribal system, 12 paths to serving G-d, yet all centered around the same primary...belief in Hashem (one single and exclusive divine being with which we interact directly), divine origin of the Torah, oral tradition of our sages, and a clear unbroken mesorah (chain of transmission), these are the foundations and minimal requirements of authentic Judaism.
Within that foundation today we have many streams that have diverged, taken on different traditions as they've passed through various countries, different emphasis's as different challenges have faced different communities, new insights into the Torah (such as chassidus and mussar). We live in an incredibly interesting time from a religious perspective as in Israel all of these traditions and paths live literally side by side.
But when things diverge from the mesorah (such as Women of the Wall), try to mix foreign beliefs together with Judaism (Messianics trying to bring Xian concepts into Jewish practice), take Judaism to a "new age" or "new connect" (geulah-is-now meshihists or elokists - some Na Nachers fit this as well), or just redefine foundations of Judaism to whatever the man defined convenience of the moment is (such as Masorti), well - that's not Judaism.
There is a difficulty in such a discussion. Many on the inside will get hung up on external trappings...culture and ethnicity and shout that divergence on those matters is "not Judaism". The type of hat, or coat, color of shirt or type of music, even type of food, that those are required for "authenticity". This type of dogmatic cultural compliance demand pushes many away, and alienates those trying to connect. But that's a discussion for another time.
For now, Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad. Hashem is One, and we must stand together as one as well.
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by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
As you may have noticed, we're supporting Friendship Circle in the $1,000,000 Chase Community Giveaway. If you're on Facebook and haven't already, please go here and vote.
Chase (Bank, Financial Institution) has created a $1,000,000 community giveaway program in the US. Great idea, gets them good exposure and meets goals to be part of the communities in which they do business. Businesses do such things for both altruistic, business exposure, and sometimes mandated rules or laws on community involvement.
So lets take a look at the top 10 charities going for the $1,000,000...
#1 Invisible Children - Rescue child soldiers in Uganda and Congo.
#2 Twloha - Create an online depression crisis network.
#3 Isha Foundation - Community healthcare and development in rural India.
#4 Friendship Circle - Train teenagers to assist special needs children.
#5 Bridge to Turkiye - Build a girls dormitory (for schooling) in rural Turkey.
#6 Gwendolyn Strong Foundation - Find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
#7 National Autism Association - Find solutions for autism.
#8 Feel Your (chest) - Creative education about breast cancer self examination.
#9 Darious Goes West - Education about Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
#10 Action Without Borders - Teaching people around the world to take action.
America is a generous place. Still, I was surprised to see #1 and #3 being support for events across the world, and 4 out of the top 10 being purely world support. As a number of readers have written they're out of work and in serious difficulty, I have thought local priorities would be higher up the list?
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
The Baal Shem Tov taught that we should not even touch something unless we have a good reason for touching it. This means that there must be good reasons for everything that we do, including the seemingly endless and varied customs that have formed throughout the centuries.
So then; why do some households simply cover their challah (Shabbos bread) with a single cloth, but others completely wrap them in the cloth? And, at some tables the challah are covered with two cloths, one under them and one over them. What are we to learn from this?
First, why do we cover the bread at all? Bread is the staple of a meal. On Shabbos, we sanctify the day on wine before we eat the bread. We cover the bread so that they will not be in sight when we drink the wine. We do not want it to seem that the wine is the main course, and that it pushes away bread.
The two loaves of bread remind us of the man (manna) that we ate in the wilderness when we came out of Egyptian slavery. Bread is also a metaphor for livelihood. The manna was a miraculous food that we found on the ground each day. Six mornings a week, we would walk out of the camp and there, lying on the ground before us, was this wondrous, sweet-tasting food. All we had to do was gather it up. We were to take as much as we needed for each day. If anyone took too much, thinking to save it up for a rainy day, the extra portion would rot. However, since we were not to go out of the camp on Shabbos, not even to gather food, the amount that we gathered on Friday miraculously doubled, so we had enough for Shabbos, too. The two loaves remind us of this double portion.
It is essential to see what the Torah is teaching us today. The lesson of going out and miraculously finding our livelihood lying on the ground in front of us is an analogy for our daily task of earning a living. When we follow G-d’s ways, we find that all of our needs are met just by going out and picking them up.
The double portion on Friday shows us that we do not have to work on Shabbos in order to feed our family. We can work and gather our food on the weekdays, and if we will rest on Shabbos, G-d will provide us with our needs for Shabbos, too.
But what are the reasons for the various customs of how we cover the challah? The manna arrived with the dew. Actually, it was wrapped in dew. This is why some are particular to cover the challah both above and below.
There are many more customs that we follow regarding challah. For instance:
- Some are careful to set the two loaves with one on top of the other. Others place them side by side.
- Some are sure to eat the bottom loaf first at the night meal, and the top loaf first at the day meal.
- Those who hold them side by side always eat the one that is in their right hand first.
- Some are very careful, at night, to bring the bottom loaf closer to them before they make the blessing.
- Ashkenazim always cut the challah with a knife.
- Sephardim never use a knife. They are particular to tear the bread.
- We do not throw bread, nor do we put it into someone’s hand.
- Moroccans will toss the bread when they pass it.
- Some make a slight mark on the loaf that they are going to eat before they make the blessing.
- Some, before they cut a piece to eat, cut off a very small piece and put it to the side. During the week the women of the household are very happy to eat that small piece. On Shabbos no one will eat it. It is not even given to the birds after Shabbos.
- Everyone dips the bread in salt, but some are strict to dip it three times. Why?
Here are more than twelve customs regarding just the way that we eat bread. Why are we so particular about these seemingly tiny details?
Following our traditions without asking, “why” is like gulping food. When you gulp your food, not only do you not enjoy it, but even more importantly, you are more likely to throw it up. But when you ask and understand the reasons for the customs, it is as if you are chewing your food well. When you do this, you digest your food so it becomes part of your very being.
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Yesterday, a tour guide came to the tefillin stand at the Kotel with a group of about ten non-Jews. They were all deeply involved in x-ianity. He asked me to speak to them while he put on tefillin.
I asked them, “Where is G-d?”
One of them, a tall, middle-aged man from North Carolina quickly answered, “Everywhere!”
I patted him firmly on his chest and said, “Good for you! You are absolutely right.”
The others watched, but were very leery of me (with good reason, too, by the way).
I got all of them to agree that since G-d Infinite, He must be everywhere, and this Infinite G-d is the only G-d that they were to worship.
Then, I reminded them that their own book says that the man whom they worship is not everywhere. Of course, they argued, and it went back and forth, but they could not deny that their book clearly says that their “savior” was not in his grave for more than three days! It says that he was “taken up to Heaven,” and that he was not in his grave. This is a fundamental belief in x-ianity.
They kept quoting the lines in the Bible that they say proved that they were right, and I kept telling them what those lines actually say. It started to get a little heavy, and they were feeling challenged, so most of them walked away. A few stayed including the man who knew that G-d is everywhere, two other men, and a young boy.
The tall man asked, “How do I know that I am doing good?”
I told him that if he does what the Bible says, he will be a righteous person (tzadik) with a wonderful share in this world, and a share in the World to Come. I explained that the commandments that G-d gives to all people, the Seven Commandments of Noah, are all easy to understand, except for the first one, which is hard for a lot of people.
The first one is “No idolatry.” I explained that an idol is any limited thing that is worshiped. I patted him on his chest, again, and I said that he understood that commandment, that G-d is everywhere, infinite, and unlimited, so the rest of the commandments were simple for him.
“If you will go around and teach just this one principle, that G-d is everywhere at all times, you will earn yourself a wonderful life both in this world and in the World to Come” I told him. He truly understood, and he shook my hand warmly. The young boy seemed to understand, too. They all thanked me and shook my hand. I gave each of them a card with the Seven Commandments of Noah, and a Web site address where they could look for more information.
I watched him walk away and felt such joy for him that I could not stop from laughing out loud. He has a life ahead of him that will be filled with the service of G-d. He is going to spread the truth instead of the religion that teaches, “G-d is only in Heaven, and not in Hell.”[i] A new, North Carolina preacher! But this one is going to preach the truth.
[i] Psalms 139:8
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Each of us is on a long journey. Every moment of this journey provides us with a precious opportunity to discover what we have been placed here to do.
There are three things that we must accomplish if we are to be successful.
First of all, we must gain more than a material perspective. We must also find the spiritual perspective. For instance, we must ask, “What is the difference between me and my body?” If I think that I am merely a body, then I am simply another animal on the planet.
Material existence provides us with a wonderful opportunity, indeed it is the Garden of Eden, but the physical world is only a tool that we have been given in order to accomplish our spiritual task.
Someone with an entirely materialistic perspective will ultimately become depressed. In the end he will realize that no matter how much he has, he will always want more. This will be true even when he does not need any more. Then, as he approaches the end of his life, and he sees that he cannot take a single physical possession with him, he will cry out, “I have wasted my entire life!”
Second, we must contribute to the world and make it a better place. We have not been sent here only to take. We must also give. We must do something to improve the world. And, in exchange for our contribution, the world is to provide us with a comfortable livelihood. It does not matter what we choose to improve, as long as we strive to leave the world a better place than we found.
Third, we must find a proper wife, or husband. We must make a family. We have not been given our gender distinctions merely for lust. Just as we are to be successful in the spiritual perspective, and in our contributions to the world, so too must we be successful in bringing children into the world and raising them in a healthy family. We must train our children to live by the values that we have worked so hard to learn.
Even if we accomplish two of these tasks, if we do not accomplish the third, we will be failures. We must succeed in all of them.
Today, we are but midgets when compared to the giants who have come before us. But a midget can see further than a giant when the midget stands on the giant’s shoulders. By learning and doing what the scholars and Sages have taught, we stand upon their shoulders. We can see even farther than they saw. This is the role of education.
Our journey continues even beyond this world. When we go on a journey, we pack our bags. But on this journey, only our deeds come with us.
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
Likutey Mohoran #195 “In my distress, You relieved me” (Tehillim 4:2) - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov gave this short lesson to encourage people to always look for Hashem’s good and kindness in every situation…
“In my distress itself, Hashem provides us with relief. For if a person considers Hashem’s kindnesses, he will see that even while Hashem causes him distress, also with in the distress itself Hashem provides him with relief and increases His kindness for him. This is the explanation of the pasuk, i.e. that even in the midst of the distress itself, you provided me with relief from within it. Not only do we look to Hashem to speedily save us from all distresses and provide us with great good, but also even within the distress itself we look too Him to provide us with relief.”
Sometimes life seems to be little more than an endless stream of problems to solve and hardships to overcome. Whether our difficulties are personal, communal or national, there seems to be no escaping them. Occasionally, their sheer number or weight causes a person to fall from faith.
What the Rebbe is saying is ‘Look at the bright side, it could always be worse!’ We have to believe this and understand it how it could be by looking at the good inside the distress. By doing this, it will become clear that no matter what the situation, within the distress itself there is a real measure of relief, we have but to search for it and it will be found.
Check yourself - where are you holding? When asked how things are a person should reply that they are going well, thanking Hashem for his situation even if things are actually very difficult. If he does this, then Hashem says, “This is good? I’ll show what good really is!”
Reb Noson writes ‘the main way out of all difficulties is through prayer. One’s prayers should be a “double edged sword praising and thanking Hashem for the good of the past in addition to pleading regarding the future. When misfortune falls on a person, it is not enough that he prays to be saved, he must also thank Hashem for all the good he has received in the past’. (Likutey Tefilot I,133). “Although we suffer, Hashem has always favored us with loving kindness. We have merited seeing much good granted us by Hashem, even in the midst of our terrible distress” (Alim LeTerufah)`
(Parts from English Likutey Moharan by The Breslov Research Institute)
Photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Eretz Yisroel, the Holy Land offers many wonderful and stunning views. It's my privilege to be able to share a few with you now and again...
Among the birds, an ultra-light cruises over Beit Shemesh.
Living in the heights, classy residential towers sprout in Tel Aviv.
The Bourse tower is the premier skyscraper of Ramat Gan.
Storm clouds roll in over southern Tel Aviv. Israel needs the rain badly, but heavy rain on southern Israel leads to flooding.
A rainy night at the train station, Beit Shemesh.
Lots of wet at the Beit Shemesh transportation hub & shopping complex.
A lonely night at the Kotel (Western Wall), Jerusalem. Photo by Reb Gutman Locks.
Reb Gutman responded to this title, Please change the title on the picture of the Kotel in the rain. Whoever was there felt great joy with the rain. It is never lonely at the Kotel! It is always alive, aware, filled with expectation. Loneliness is for those who are not to be found.
CNN Video: Only the Israeli field hospital in Haiti is functional! All other medical situations, including US, are completely inadequate.
CNN video player not working in all browsers. View by this link if not working.
My daughter was involved in Friendship Circle, and to this day she has a comfort and way of interacting with special needs children and adults that's downright unbelievable. It's hard to say who gets more benefit from this organization, the families who get some desparately needed relief and help in dealing with the unique challenges associated with special needs kids, or the teens who help out.
Seems Friendship Circle of Detroit is in a challenge for a $1,000,000 charity grant. Learn how you can help them get it by clicking the graphic or here.
This is RIDICULOUS, they only need 15,000 votes to get to the TOP. Help them do this, NOW NOW NOW!!! It's fast, easy, simple, and will help CHANGE THE WORLD.
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by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
A Non-Jewish man came up to me at the Kotel and asked, “Why do they sway like that?” He was referring to the Jewish men who were praying by the Kotel.
Actually, not everyone agrees that it is proper to pray with such movements. Here at the Kotel, it seems that, maybe half of the men do sway, and half do not. In Yiddish, the swaying is called “shuckling.”
Although, there are no real rules about it, generally, there are two distinct movements when you shuckle. First, you lean forward a few inches, and then you stand back up straight. Then, you lean forward again, and then back up straight. It can be with just your head, or with your entire upper body. When the prayer is gentle, the movements are gentle. When the prayer becomes intense, the movements also become intense. They can be quite slow and soothing, or at times, they can become fast and strong.
There is also the side-to-side swinging movement. Without moving your feet, you turn either just your head, or your entire upper body. First to the right, and then you swing it back to the left. Then you do it again. Frequently, when the turning gets going, men will hold their arms, somewhat bent, raised out in front of them, with their hands held palms upward.
There are different explanations for the moving.
Shuckling can be understood from a simple, physical perspective. When someone is straining to do something, he leans into his work. It is as if he is hoeing in the garden. When he bends forward it is as if he is taking a swing with his hoe. Then, when he stands up, he is raising his hoe, getting in position to take another swing with it. Prayer is like digging in the garden… again, and again.
Then, when he reaches a point where he feels that he has accomplished at least some of his work, he rests from that intense part of the job. Now, he sways, turning side-to-side. He is spreading what he hoed to the sides.
On a deeper level, the Torah is likened to water. When you want to water the garden you have to bring the water up to the surface. So, first you pump up the water (the forward and backward movements). And when you have gathered enough to the surface, you water the garden by sprinkling the water side-to-side (the side to side swaying).
The movements can also be understood from a more spiritual perspective. The soul can be likened to the flaming light of a candle, and prayer can be likened to wind. The word for “wind” in Hebrew (ruah) is also the word for breath, mind, and spirit. When the prayer-wind blows, the soul-flame flows (shuckles).
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Sultan Knish highlighted this wonderful tidbit of Haitian culture...
(Source - here.)
It has been suggested on a few Jewish blogs that Haiti's disasters, of which it seems to suffer every few years (Hurricanes, Mud Slides, Revolutions, and now an Earthquake), are a result of their unique religion of voodoo (or vodou) which has a belief in higher gods and lower accessible spiritual entities, which are directly worshiped and interacted with. "At a traditional worship ceremony, altars are set up and offerings brought, songs are sung to individual spirits. The spirits come to visit the ceremony, taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them." The religion includes it's own priests, communion with and interaction with the dead, "hoodoo" or folk magic, witches and sorcerers. It also includes possession and spiritual control of others, "the creation of zombies".
The reaction to suggestions that a societal involvement in the worship of spirits and what (according to Judaism, Xianity, and Western Culture) would be considered dark practices could have a worldly impact has been strong and severe. As a compassate people (the sefirah of Chesed), we don't like the idea of judgement and severity (the sefirah of Gevurah). And truly, even if a person receives judgements min haShamayim (from Heaven) that doesn't reduce our responsibilty to our fellow to help in this world. For such judgements are the realm of Heaven, our responsibility is rachamim. (And as such there are 2 Israeli teams helping in Haiti, ZAKA rescue and recovery, and the IDF sent a full field hospital and a search and rescue unit.
Regardless, the thought that such activities have a negative impact is not just a Jewish thought. Sultan notes an accidentally recorded quote by the Haitian consul to Brazil, "The consul said the earthquake may have been caused by "voodoo". "De tanto mexer com macumba...não sei o que é aquilo. O africano em si tem maldição", comentou momentos antes da entrevista. "From both mess with voodoo ... do not know what that is. The African itself is a curse".
It's worth noting that the size of the initial Israel effort was 1/3 the size of the U.S. effort - a country with 300 times the resources. One wonders if Burn a Jew Day will continue in Haiti after the recovery.
On a side thought, we have this great explanation of the tragedy by US African American actor Danny Glover, "The earthquake in Haiti is a result of global warming. Glover told GRITtv that it could have happened to any of the Caribbean island nations: 'They are all in peril because of global warming.' Then, he lamented the failure of the climate summit in Copenhagen. As a result of that failure, he says, 'this is what happened.'" It's unclear if Mr. Glover believes this is Mother Nature's karma on the rampage, or that a small temperature change in to the air and water causes a big change in volcanic and tectonic plate activity. Both or either indicate the moving of science and politics to the realm of religion.
IDF Search & Rescue in Haiti...
We received the following story via a rav in Israel and translated it from Hebrew. It came with the following lead-in...
This story came without any means of conformation and was told by the Satmar Rebbe. As is said about stories and Midrashim, anyone who believes every such story and detail is a fool, anyone who doesn't believe is a heretic...
David Miller (a pseudonym) was a young ultra-Orthodox businessman who from time to time had to fly around the U.S. on business. As an experienced traveler, he traveled with only an overnight bag that could be carried-on, and a large briefcase.
Of course, he always made sure to bring his tefillin, which he kept in a blue velvet bag embroidered with the gold letters D.M. David was careful not to miss a prayer quorum whenever possible, and never to miss the time for saying Shema with tefillin.
That day David's had an important trip for a major business transaction - a 6 hour flight across the country, United flight 175. He anxiously waited by the gate to board the early morning flight. The signal came, and David was armed with his briefcase, suitecase, and reviewing the papers for the deal after having just finished donning his tefillin. David stood to head to the gate, documents in his left hand, suitcase and briefcase in his right with his tefillin under his arm.
As he entered the boarding ramp, his cell phone rang. He stopped and stood to the side, seeing his wife's name on the phone..."Yes Rivkah?" Trying to balance the phone to his ear with his cases was impossible, he put them down.
Everyone had passed, while still talking he grabbed his suitcase and quickly headed to the plane. He was the last to enter and they closed the door behind him.
"Fasten your seat belts" was announced. As David settled into his seat and put away his cases, David suddenly noticed his tefillin bag was not resting on his knees. Where were they??? He thought and suddenly realized he'd put them down as he answered the phone and failed to pick them up!
The tefillin were just a few steps on the other side of the plane door!
Very distraught David rushed to the front of the plane and asked the stewardess to open the door. "Please ask the pilot to wait a minute. My tefillin are on the boarding ramp, just a few steps up the tunnel!"
The stewardess replied politely "I'm sorry sir, we have a precise timetable. The door is closed."
David did not give up, he raised his voice "I wish to talk to the pilot. It's just not fair, I need 30 seconds only. A Jew can't be without tefillin!"
The passengers joined in, "What's the big deal, give him 30 seconds to get his thing."
The pilot came out. "I'm sorry sir, you're not in charge here. With all due respect, we have to stay on schedule. Our airline has rules. Everyone runs to a precise schedule, all the airports depend on everyone operating by schedule."
David did not give up. The argument became louder, just to the edge of respectful. It lasted many minutes. "I have to go back, I don't care if I can stay on the plane", cried David, "what do I have to do???".
Finally, being badgered by David and by the supporting passengers the pilot gave in. "I'll have the Jetway brought back. The stewardess Ann will open the door for you. You'll have literally 30 seconds before we close the door and go."
David sprinted out the door down the Jetway. He reached the end, saw his tefillin and grabbed them. He turned and ran back to the plane...the door was closed and the Jetway already starting to pull back. He'd missed the flight, missed his business deal.
David slumped away very disappointed. His flight missed, his transaction probably lost...
United flight 175 never reached its original destination. Flight 175 was the hijacked plane that hit Tower II of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
According to the carefully laid plans and evil genius of Bin Laden, two planes were
strike the Twin Towers simultaneously. Experts say that in such a situation, the disaster would have been many times worse. Imagine the scale!
David's debate with the pilot lasted 18 minutes. 18 minutes of stubbornness for a mitzvah. 18 minutes exactly.
In those 18 minutes thousands, tens of thousands, of people evacuated from Tower II because of the strike on Tower I and the extra time given before the strike on Tower II.
Here is a story of Divine Providence. A young Jew stands by his mitzvah of tefillin, even at an embarrassing moment and even at the risk of losing a large sum of money. Myriads of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, were given their lives by the commitment to the mitzvah of tefillin of David Miller.
The main thing is to do the will of G-d, without concern for personal desire.
As stated at the beginning, this story is not confirmed.
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
(Ideas brought from Likutey Halachot)
וידבר אלקים וכו', אני י' וכו'-
‘And Hashem spoke to Moshe and said to him, “I am Hashem”. Rashi says this is a continuation of the previous concept, on what Moshe said, “Why have you harmed this people?” and “And He spoke, the middah of judgment, to Moshe saying to him “I am Hashem.”
All the difficult questions about Hashem are derived from the concealment of the G-d’s truth. ‘For it is impossible to comprehend or grasp G-d’s truth at all’, even His ways are beyond our comprehension. This is an aspect of Tzaddik V’Tov Lo - Tzaddik V’Rah Lo, and Rasha V’ Tov Lo - Rasha V’Rah Lo’. Why do bad things happen to the righteous and good things happen to the wicked, and there is absolutely no difference in these two. Why did Hashem create this world in such a way that we could have misperceptions of the truth? This is for the appearance of free choice.
This is what it means when it says, “ודבר אלקים”. This is an aspect of judgment, and “ויאמר אליו אני ה'” is the aspect of mercy. Because Hashem is G-d and everything is One, because the trait of mercy and the trait of judgment are in absolute truth one and the same. Yet it is impossible to grasp and comprehend this because the essence of G-d’s truth, His ways and His traits are impossible to perceive. This is the meaning of the pasuk, “I appeared to your forefathers as Kel Shakai but through my name Hashem I did not make myself known to them.” The main revelation of G-d’s truth was through the Avot; Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov. But it was impossible to reveal the truth all at once. The truth needs discovered in this world via free choice, this is the sole reason for the creation. This is how it has to be in every generation until the coming of the Moshiach, each generation needs to work to reveal it, so as to reveal the truth in fullness.
Because really “Hashem is One and His Name is One.”
This is the absolute truth, in aspect of He alone is One, He alone is Good, He alone is Holy. But from our worldly perspective as receivers there appears to be great differences in the perceptions of His divine truth, each according to his effort in service to Hashem. This is the explanation of the verse ”נודע בשערים בעלה” and her husband is known in the gates. Hashem will be known by all, each at their own level and measure and each one according to the ability of his heart’s ability to perceive.
It’s explained in the Holy Zohar (in a number of places) each one’s perception is different according to his effort to draw close to Hashem. There are those who are on the level of hands and feet, and perceive Hashem through the aspect of ”by his hands and feet” and there are those who perceive him though the aspect of “the garments of the king”, etc. Each one according to his perception will receive a secret of Hashem’s name. There are seven names which it is forbidden to erase. And they have between them myriads of levels. And shem Ha-Va-Yeh Blessed be He, is above them all. Because this is the essence of Hashem Himself.
It is important to understand that this name and the other names only apply to after briyat olam, the creation of the world. For there is no known name that can describe the true essence of Hashem. The entire purpose of the creation was to reveal these names to the righteous (as explained in the writings of the Mekubalim.)
This explains why there are so many differences between Tzaddikim, they each perceive a different aspect of the essence of Hashem. Yet there is in all the differences an aspect of achdus, for they all also perceive Hashem as One. We need to take their example and come together though we all focus on different aspects of avodas Hashem. For merit of achdus is required to bring the Geulah Shelaymah!
Here's edition 4 of our Newsletter, on time!
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by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Who determines the rules of civilization? Who tames the human jungle? What's moral, reasonable, civilized?
The Nazis, y"s (their name should be blotted out) were fully civilized and the epitome of modern society at their time. Efficient, literate, scientific. The fact they defined a portion of the population as non-human animals to be exterminated was handled in a fully civilized and modern fashion. Their leadership determined the morals of their society and turned the society to implement the standard.
In Roman times, mass slavery was the norm. In more modern times, say 18th century America, slavery was "only" a labor subclass of those born in the wrong place with the wrong skin color. Until 80 years ago or so, the "divine" right of royalty was a given, and the rights of the non-royalty grudgingly suffered.
In a number of Arab countries in our time, the right to choose your marriage partner for a woman doesn't exist, nor does an age limit. Being married at 9 to whomever your father or brother designates is...normal. Accepted. Civilized.
No arbitrary moral standards. Whatever we decide is "reasonable", reasonable according to our current needs, desires, societal directions, leadership and/or their hidden (or announced) goals, history, whatever, is just fine.
Who defines the standards?
From Sultan Knish...The award for the strangest Israeli Supreme Court case goes to an Israeli named Shlomo Avni, who petitioned the high court for the right to be eaten by wild animals after his death, saying he was only repaying a debt to nature as a lifetime consumer in the food chain. In their 772-word decision, three Supreme Court judges wished the 80-year-old plaintiff a long life and unanimously rejected Avni’s petition. The justices quoted Jeremiah 9:21 and the prophet’s warning of dreadful times when “carcasses of men fall as dung upon the open field.” Avni said he’d take his case to the international court at The Hague.
Why not allow people to be disposed of after their passing however they want???
Our group of women wanted to pray at the Kotel with a shofar and a guitar, in an egalitarian minyan with the women wearing tallasim. As long as women’s prayer and egalitarian prayer is not taken seriously enough in Israel to warrant use of holy ritual objects like tallit, tefillin, shofar, and a Torah scroll... (paraphrased from a larger article)
'We want to pray however we want. Why not allow us to come to the holiest Jewish site and do what we want???'
The Torah (and Mishnah, and Navi'im, and later the Gemora) bring the foundations of civilization to an untamed world. And more importantly, an absolute standard to turn to. As we learn, there are chukim and mishpatim, laws and judgments. Laws we can understand and many a civilized society will derive on their own. (Do not murder, do not steal, etc.) But some are judgments, foundations that we are just told are necessary. We may be able to see over generations how such standards create a positive society. Or maybe not, maybe we don't have the level of vision to understand the positive or restraining affect of some judgments. And some are just "to make us a nation of holy people".
Regardless, the absolute standards of Torah provide us an immutable foundation from which to work. Otherwise, well, (the Mayans considered human sacrifice perfectly civilized, and Iran considers raping male prisoners who oppose the regime to not only be civilized but (lehavdil) a mitzvah!)
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar
by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
I was just on my way to the Kotel, when I passed a small group of yeshiva students. They were on a break, standing outside of the yeshiva. A few of them were smoking cigarettes. Arguably, cigarette smoking has contributed to more deaths than any other ailment in the history of the world. It is a senseless, horrible addiction.
I went up to one of the boys who was smoking and said, “Can you give me 10 good reasons why you should not smoke?”
“I can give you one,” he said.
“I can give you 10, right now,” I told him.
“Okay, what are they?” he asked.
I looked him in the eye and said, “Years of your life.”
His eyes widened. He understood what I meant, and he knew that I was right. “Thank you,” he said.
He was being sincere when he said thank you, but will he listen? I don’t know. But, certainly he heard.
G-d gives man free will. This is a basic, unshakable Torah principle. No matter how strong a chemical addiction might pull on you (and all the more so does this apply to just plain bad habits), you are free to choose what to do. No matter how many times someone cries out, “Oh, I wish I could quit!” he is smoking because he is choosing to smoke, not because he is being forced to smoke.
“Change” is simply a matter of choosing what you want to do with your life.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
A guest post'r on the intrepid DovBear wrote,
"...As Jews, we should all be thinking about this horrible tragedy affecting fellow human beings. Unfortunately, a look at my blogroll this morning revealed no posts on the Jblogosphere about the earthquake..."
Rachamim, mercy and care for others, compassion, is listed in the Talmud as a basic Jewish trait. So much so that it says one who doesn't show compassion should be examined to verify that he or she is really Jewish.
The situation in Haiti is a true tragedy. A tremendously horrible natural disaster compounded by a (even in good times) non-functional government, complete lack of building standards, and intense poverty. Countries in the region have dispatched help, and Israel has even sent their most-capable search-and-rescue teams as well as aide.
We wish the people of Haiti the best and empathize with their disaster, loss of life, and terrible situation.
That said, every world problem is not a Jewish problem. The nation of Haiti is surrounded by countries that can lend aide, and has many ex-patriots in the U.S. that can marshal resources to assist in rebuilding.
We don't understand why every major world problem should warrant an organized Jewish response. (Maybe in the time of Moshiach this will be appropriate.)
For those looking for a way to donate, the American Red Cross - International Relief Fund is directly helping Haiti. Click here to donate to them.
by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths
Here's edition 3 of our Shabbos Newsletter. Ok, it's not before Shabbos, we ran late - got it printed in time but not online, and we reused a few articles from last week. But other than that, it's great! (Really, trust me.)
Now if you like it, please consider supporting it! It takes approximately $$$ every week to create it and print copies and upload it. Of course, with more donations we can distribute it wider.
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
I received the following question from a reader...
Reply: You picked one quote from the Gemora out of hundreds. Here's some others...
"In all times, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where most of the residents are idol worshippers, rather then outside the land, even in a city where most of the residents are Jews, because one who lives in Israel is considered as if he has a G-d and one who lives outside the Land is compared to one who has no G‑d" - Ketubot 110b (also Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 5:12)
"Said the Almighty: A small group in the land of Israel is dearer to Me than a full Sanhedrin outside the Land." - Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 86
"Jews who dwell outside the Land of Israel are idol worshippers in purity." - Avoda Zara 8
Rabbi Abba explained that the ultimate sign of the coming of the Moshiach is found in the verse: "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit for My people" (Yechezkel 36:8). "When the land of Israel becomes fertile again and produces fruit in abundance, then salvation is surely near at hand." Rashi: "Indeed, there cannot be a clearer sign than this." - Sanhedrin 98a
And here's some commentary on this subject...
"One should dwell in Israel even in a city where the majority are idolaters rather than in the Diaspora in a city which is inhabited completely by Jews. This teaches us that living in Israel is equivalent to [the performance of] all the commandments of the Torah." - Tosefta in Avoda Zara (5:2)
The people of Israel were exiled because they despised three things: the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the House of David, and the Beit HaMikdash. Rabbi Shimon ben Menassiya said, "Israel will not be shown a good sign until they return and seek out these three things." - Yalkut Shimoni 2:106 ...after living among the gentiles for close to 2,000 years, we have mingled with the nations and learned their ways. Most of today's Jews have absolutely no concept of Judaism. We cannot expect them to return and seek out the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of the House of David, because they have no idea what these things are. Rather, what do they seek? Eretz Yisroel. - Eim Habanim Semeichah, HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, hk"m 3,14.
"In the Diaspora, whoever increases its settlement (by establishing a home, business, etc) adds to the destruction of the worship of G-d. But in the Land of Israel this same work is considered a mitzvah since it settles the land." - The Chatam Sofer, on the Sukkah 36a and Yoreh Deah p. 136
It seems to me, in our present peaceful existence outside the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem; this to me, is the greatest, deepest and most obvious and direct cause of all the awesome, frightening monstrous, unimaginable destruction that we have experienced in the Diaspora." - Rabbi Yaacov Emden, (The Ya'avetz) in Siddur Beit Yaacov, p. 13
"If a Jew will forget his origin and true identity and consider himself a full-fledged citizen of the country of his exile… if he thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem…then a raging storm will uproot him by his trunk… the tempest will arise and spread it's roaring waves, and swallow, and destroy and spread forth without pity." - Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen, The Ohr Somayach, in Meschech Chochma, p. 191-192
"During the ingathering of the exiles (to Israel), a short time before the future Final Redemption, 'the heavens and earth will shake' (Chagai 2:6); 'This is a hint of the upheaval and confusion throughout the world. And in this place (the Land of Israel) I will give peace, says the L-rd of Hosts." - Abarbanel, Mashmiya Yishuah, Mivaser 13.
"You shall dwell in safety in your land" In your own land, you may dwell in safety, outside your land, there is no safety for you." - The Yalkut on Vayikra 25:18.
"If the Redemption were to occur in good, peaceful times, when quiet prevailed among peoples many of our Jewish brethren would not want to leave the Exile; for what would they be lacking there? …therefore, these calamities come upon us in order to awaken us to return to our Holyland." - HaKadosh Rabbi Yissachar Teichtal, Em HaBanim Semecha (english p.67-68) (written in Hungary 1944 under Nazi rule).
"Anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisrael and does not, will have to account for his failure in the future world." - Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, HaIsh Al HaChoma vol. 2, p. 149.
"Wake up dear brothers, rise up and come to Zion while the gates are still open, and G-d forbid, do not remain with those who tarry, lest it be too late and you will cry out, but not be answered." - Rabbi Atiya zt'l, from his book, Lech Lecha.
Ramban, in his Mitzvot Aseh (LeDa'at HaRamban) quoted in the first volume of Rambam's Mishneh Torah, lists "Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael - settling in the Land of Israel" as one of the mitzvot aseh, the positive precepts of the Torah, whereas Rambam does not include it in his enumeration of mitzvot aseh. We can conclude that not only is it a positive Torah precept to live in Israel, as Ramban states, but also that living outside of Israel is considered a great spiritual danger. If so we are left with a serious dilemma. Now that there is a State of Israel, how do we explain our continued dwelling in America, and the other lands of the Diaspora? - Rabbi Yaakov Klass, a"h
Video: How did the Rambam come to be buried in Teveria, Eretz Yisroel?
The Ostrovtza Rebbe, Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtza zt"l, wrote the following on Parshat Shemos (quoted recently by Rabbi Aviner in Eretz Yisroel)... "An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds, and he even drew water for us and watered the sheep" (Shemot 2:19) Moshe Rabbenu looked like an Egyptian. He dressed like an Egyptian, had an Egyptian haircut, an Egyptian beard and an Egyptian accent. He looked like an Egyptian from head to toe. But our Rabbis expressed somewhat of a criticism of Moshe Rabbenu. They state (Devarim Rabbah 2:8): "One who identifies with his land will be buried in the Land, and he who does not identify with his land will not be buried there." Yosef identified with the Land when he said: "For indeed I was kidnapped from the Land of the Hebrews" (40:15), and he was therefore buried in Shechem. But Moshe Rabbenu did not acknowledge the Land. When Yitro's daughters say to their father: "An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds," Moshe heard himself being referred to as an Egyptian and kept quiet. Based on this, our Sages conclude that since Moshe did not identify with the Land, he did not merit being buried there...
What did they want from Moshe Rabbenu? Yosef saying that he was from Eretz Yisrael made perfect sense: he was raised there. But Moshe was born and raised in Egypt! Was he expected to lie and say he was from Eretz Yisrael? Every Jew is obligated to see him or herself as from the Land of Israel. Even if he was born elsewhere – by historical error - he nonetheless belongs to the Land of Israel. A Jew should always say: I come from Eretz Yisrael! Rabbi Moshe from Kutzi, the author of the "Semag" and one of the Tosafot, would sign his name: "Moshe from the Exile of Jerusalem who is in France." It is true that I am in France, but I am from Jerusalem. When a Jew is asked: "Where are you from," he must therefore respond: I come from Eretz Yisrael.
I was once invited to a Brit Milah. When we sat down to eat, a man quickly ran into the hall and said: "When is the Brit Milah?" The participants told him: "It just ended. Mazel Tov!" He took a deep breath: "Oy vey, I missed it!" He sat down at the meal. I was sitting nearby and heard his conversation with the others.
- They asked him: "Where are you from?"
- He proudly said with a German accent: "From Frankfurt am Main!"
- I thought to myself: Poor guy, he came all the way from Frankfurt am Main to the Brit Milah and missed it by a few minutes… Everyone felt sorry for him.
- They asked: "What kind of work do you do?"
- He said: "I sell Sifrei Kodesh (holy books)."
- "In Frankfurt am Main?"
- "No, no. In Bayit Ve-Gan (a Jerusalem neighborhood)."
- "I live in Bayit Ve-Gan."
- "Didn't you just say that you are from Frankfurt am Main?"
- "Yes, yes. I live in Bayit Ve-Gan but I am from Frankfurt am Main!"...
He may live in Bayit Ve-Gan, but where is he really from? Frankfurt am Main! He breathes Frankfurt am Main, thinks about Frankfurt am Main and lives Frankfurt am Main.
Rav Aviner added, "This is how German Jews felt right before the Holocaust."
How did the Jewish people return to Israel? They did not come as a conquering army nor in force, rather they came in groups of tens and occasionally a few hundred, buying land and building homes and towns. Once in the Land, they defended themselves when attacked. This negates your first Gemora quote.
Do you daven towards Yerushalayim? Do you say Shemona Esrai for the rebuilding of Jerusalem? You do say Birkat Hamazon, for the rebuilding of Jerusalem? Do you pray for rain in the fall-winter and dew in the spring-summer, according to the seasons in Eretz Yisroel? Do you have a remembrance of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash on the walls of your home (Shulchan Aruch)? Is Eretz Yisroel foreign to you, or a part of your life? How can you say Shema and not yearn for The Land?
Chassidus teaches us we must make a keli (a vessel) for a bracha. We may daven, meditate, and even focus upon the mystical kavanot of eating matzah on Pesach. But until we grow the wheat, grind the flour, mix the dough, bake the matzah, make a bracha and eat the matzah, not a single bit of our davening, meditation, or even kavanot penetrate _this world_. Since our task is to make this world a dwelling place for Hashem, we have not done ANYTHING until we _do_ SOMETHING.
The navi said the yidden would return from Bavel. Yet wings of angles didn't carry them, Ezra HaSofer and Nechemya led them. Neither the Mishkan, the first Beis HaMikdash, nor the second Beis HaMikdash descended from heaven. Stones were quarried, precious minerals mined, walls and implements built. And THEN obvious nisiim and the presence of Hashem revealed.
The Ethiopian Jews had a prophecy from one of their chachamim (sages) of generations past that they would arrive in Eretz HaKodesh on the wings of silver eagles. They came in El Al 747's. For them that was a miracle and fulfillment of the prophecy - and would you disagree?
The gathering of the exiles is in progress. Most of the small Jewish communities are gone or have a few elders remaining. Israel has Jews from 63 countries living here.
The question is how will the process finish? Will the remaining communities get a yearning to come, will their financial circumstances and the feeling of their neighbors suddenly change that they become uncomfortable and come (see quote by "John from Franklin" in the middle of the article, live on TV throughout the US), will they be chased out with only what they can carry, or (G-d forbid) will they be among those lost?
The Holy Zohar has much to say on the matter. In essence though it says either those who come before the final gathering will receive 10-100 times the reward, and/or those who don't come will fall during the destruction of the nations of the world that attack Israel.
We're Jews, we don't RELY upon nisiim (miracles). We have a mitzvah to settle the Land and to build the Beis HaMikdash. We have to do our physical part in this physical world. If the physical world prevents us, then we can ONLY turn to HaKodesh Baruch Hu. But when the physical world ALLOWS us, what argument do we have for not doing so???
Ok, right now we can't build the physical building of the Beis HaMikdash. We certainly can prepare the materials (like Dovid HaMelech)! We certainly can settle the Land! We certainly can learn the halachos and practice the actions!
Is Eretz Yisroel important to us, or isn't it? Yiddishkeit is intimately tied throughout to Eretz Yisroel. Can we stand before our Father in Heaven and say "well, yeah, you created circumstances where we could settle, yeah, you created circumstances where economic conditions were decent, yeah, you created circumstances where Torah was flourishing, but we were waiting for You to move us." ???
Ok, you respond "the Rebbe knew the Zohar and also talked about it" and didn't encourage aliyah. That is certainly true. The Rebbe sent his chassidim out with mesiras nefesh - self sacrifice, to save the Jewish people spiritually. They gave up their isolated enclave to come in contact with all kinds of influences to help try to save the vast majority of the Jewish people. He pushed his chassidim out, to put aside their learning, to put aside their time with their rebbe, in some cases to put aside the conveniences of modern life and any availability of Jewish support (kosher meat, milk, wine, bread, etc) to try to save even one single Jew from being lost to the ways of the world. Who is to say the rewards for this tremendous sacrifice will not be even greater?
But for the Jewish people as a whole, there is no divorcing ourselves from the Holy Land. Certainly, and unfortunately not in positive ways, Jews the world over are beginning to understand that whatever happens in Israel affects the Jewish people everywhere.
You also ask, "but what should one do if one doesn't have a profession that translates well to Israel, or elderly sick parents one must care for, or children of the ages that make the transition very difficult? Some rabbaim and gedolim advise not to come." Plan. Prepare. If you can't come now, plan for when you can. Do your part, and at the same time DAVEN for Hashem to make it possible for you. A mitzvah in progress is counted as a mitzvah! (We have friends and former neighbors arriving on the 10th of this month, they worked on coming for 10 years. And this year their plans finished and here they come.)
What if you're out doing something for Klal Yisroel...a Chabad house, a yeshiva teacher, a tzedakah upon which people rely? Your mesiras nefesh is great and should reward you...as long as you remember that's what it is and don't forget the Land.
Those among Chabad and among the mekubalim (the kabbalists) may quote something from the path of the Baal Shem Tov and brought down in Chabad chassidus...
A chassid once asked the Tzemach Tzedek (3rd Lubavitch Rebbe) whether he should settle in the Holy Land so that he could devote his life there to Torah study and the service of G-d. The Tzemach Tzedek replied, "Make this place Eretz Yisrael."
The Tzemach Tzedek's response conveys more than a reply to the chassid's question about his personal future. For us, its meaning extends far beyond the question of whether one should live in Eretz Yisrael. Instead of being seen only in that limited context, it should also be understood as alluding to the path through which all the members of our people, whether in the diaspora or in Eretz Yisrael, can come to a true and complete appreciation of our Holy Land.
What is Eretz Yisrael? -- A place where G-dliness, holiness, and Yiddishkeit are openly revealed. In an ultimate sense, this will be realized in the Era of the Redemption when the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt and the observance of all the mitzvos associated with the holiness of the land will be restored. Furthermore, not only will we fulfill all of the mitzvos in that era, but we will appreciate the bond with G-dliness that will be established through this observance.
This is the meaning of the directive, "Make this place Eretz Yisrael." Every individual ought to draw G-dliness into his life and into his environment. Rather than seek to escape from worldly involvement and seclude oneself in spiritual expressions of holiness, we are asked to reveal holiness within the living reality of our contemporary experience, to give actual expression to the concept that there is nothing in this world which is apart from G-d.
One could see this as Chabad's ultimate objective...make the whole world Eretz Yisroel. There is certainly something to this. But in this day and age, when the physical Eretz Yisroel is within reach, we can do both. Connect with the Land physically, and make our place holy spiritually.