Monday, May 31, 2010

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Video: IDF Soldiers Attacked and Almost Killed on Ship Boarding

While the world is busy condemning Israel for stopping ships intentionally running a blockade and entering a war zone - peaceful ships who were only offering passive resistance, see this...

(Remember, Jews are not allowed to defend themselves.)

"A blood libel in real time." - Benjamin Kerstein
"Self-defense has been all but criminalized in progressive countries like Britain, and Israel's right to exist, let alone defend itself, is recognized almost nowhere in the Middle East." - Michael Totten
"Palestinian press releases (lengthy) arrived within minutes of the event, obviously prepared in advance." - Powerline





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In It's Time

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

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Now You Cry?

image001 by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Within a few hours, two people came up to me with the same story. Actually, they were entirely different cases, totally different details, but the story is the same.

     I put tefillin on a man from England. I did not think that he was Jewish. I had to ask him twice. After finishing with the tefillin, he said that he had an urgent mission. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a small note.

     “This is from my father,” he said. “My father is very religious. He goes to synagogue every day. He wants very badly to put this note in the Kotel. He wants G-d to help him with this. This is very important to him.”

    “So, go put it between the stones.” I told him.

    He wanted me to understand how important the note was. “My father has a great problem. It’s his daughter…He hasn’t spoken to her in over a year….”

  “What’s the problem?” I asked. “Is she with a non-Jewish guy?”

  “A Muslim,” he answered, meaning that it was even worse. “This is so important to my father.” He insisted again. “My father is so upset. Please put the note in the Wall.”

   I asked if his father raised his daughter with her knowing that she had to marry only a Jew.”

  “He ignored her, mostly,” he answered. Then he quickly added, “But this is so important to him.”

     I told him to go put the note between the stones, tell G-d the problem, and pray that He will help. But I added, “The time to take care of these problems is before they happen, not after they are living together.”

     The second case was that of a friend of mine who lives here in the Old City. His brother just passed away, and his wife and children are about to bury him in a non-Jewish cemetery! His mother is fighting this with all her might, and my friend and his wife just flew back to the States to try to make sure that he receives a Jewish burial. There is going to be a Judge’s decision on the matter.

    What’s the story? The man was married to a non-Jewish woman, and had non-Jewish children with her. Well, unless there is a huge miracle, and please G-d there will be, surely, the judge is going to side with his non-Jewish family.

     The question we have to ask is, why does the family wait until it is too late before they get excited enough to try to heal these situations?

    I am sharing these stories with you so that you will take the proper steps before it is too late. First off, for yourself, decide that you want to have a Jewish family. Surely, you also want your children to have Jewish families, after all, their children are your family, too. Do you love your brothers, sisters, and other close relatives? Then you have to help them, too. And, even beyond your family, you should also try to influence your friends and acquaintances.  Remember, the time to try to help is not after it happens.

     Teach your children that it is important to you to keep your family Jewish, and that can only happen if they marry Jews. You cannot spring this information on them after they start dating non-Jews.

     It is a lot easier to keep the glass from breaking, than to pick up those sharp, broken pieces after it falls.



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Saturday, May 29, 2010

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And the Aaron Went - Emunah Commentary & Appeal

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

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Scientists Create Life

image003by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

     According to the news reports, scientists working in a laboratory have created artificial life. They call it “synthetic” because, “the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer starting with information in a computer.”

   The report goes on to predict that this discovery will pose philosophical and scientific questions about the creation of life.

    If, indeed, the report is accurate, does this contradict the Torah’s description of Creation?

    There are two types of creations. There is the initial Creation, as reported in the Torah, and there is the ongoing creation that we participate in. What is the difference? The original Creation was created as “something from nothing” (yesh meayin), and the subsequent creations have been created as “something from something” (yesh meyesh).

     Before G-d brought about the Creation, there was absolutely no preexisting matter from which He created it. That creation was an entirely new Creation made into matter that did not previously exist. The Torah says that G-d made the Creation from His words.[i]

     Subsequent creations have always been made from the matter that G-d originally created. So, for instance, a baby is created from its mother’s egg and father’s sperm. A tree is created from a seed and the nourishment that it receives from the surrounding world. All things that are created now are made out of matter that already exists.

     But, what about this new scientific discovery? Are they creating life “something from nothing,” as only G-d can create? No, not at all. Those chemicals that they put together to make the “synthetic” life form also had life within them. G-d is everywhere. “Even in completely inanimate matter…there is a soul and spiritual life-force….” (Yesh ‘chaiut le’koldevar) [ii]

     This is not to take away from the cleverness and seriousness of the scientists’ work. But the world had best be very careful with this one and guard the ability to make new organisms. Creating living robots has been a long-time dream of many of the world’s would-be rulers.

    But to say that this discovery contradicts the Torah’s teachings is simply not true.

[i] Genesis 1:3
[ii] Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah Chap.1 From the Ari
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We Are In Control…Right? right?

bp_oil
“How can President Obama go on and on waiting and blaming BP?”
We’re in control.  If it’s dark we turn on a light.  If we’re hungry we go to the store.  If we’re sick we take a few pills and get better.
We know how things work.  We understand bacteria and disease.  Electricity and power.  We select species and adjust them to our food needs.
We’re advanced. If we’re “surprised”, like in a building collapse, we investigate and find the “engineering reason” that it happened. We understand why the stars and galaxies move the way they do, and why the molecules and atoms do as well.
Sick? The doctor will test your blood and scan your body, find the problem – medicate it or shoot a beam at it or implant a seed in it and all will be well!
We understand. That’s the point of it all…science education today that comes with a science philosophy.  We understand it all, and if something happens that we don’t expect it’s only because we haven’t quite yet got all the details under control. But we understand it all.
That’s why if the doctor makes a mistake he’s a failure – because he knows therefore if there’s no cure he must have blown it.  That’s why if a building collapses it’s the engineer’s fault – he knows therefore he must have blown it.
We know it all.  Well, maybe not each of us personally but certainly humanity collectively.  Ok, maybe not collectively, the scientists, they know.  Well, maybe each one just knows one area, but put it all together and we know.  Or someone does.
…And there’s no room left for the unknowable.
We used to learn where there’s ego there’s no room for G-d. On a personal basis this is an important lesson. 
But now we’ve create a societal ego.  We KNOW, and since we (think) we know and understand (or someone does) there’s no room for G-d in our lives.  Not because we think so much of ourselves, but because we think so much of our (collective) knowledge.
We see this in the current Gulf of Mexico BP deep water oil well disaster.  No one can understand why BP hasn’t just instantly solved the problem.  And because they haven’t, they can’t understand why the President of the United States – the “authorities” – haven’t stepped in, taken over and solved it all on the spot.  (What the news, read people’s comments, you see this theme repeated again and again.)
This is the avoda zarah described in Parshat Ha’azinu in the end (times)…”they angered me with no-god”.  They believe only in themselves.
…and we wonder why we feel lost, why something is missing.  We “know” too much to cry out to G-d.  We can’t be “simple” even if we try.  For we know better.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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Corporate Commute

photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Ramat Gan, Israel.  Traffic, thy name is Tel Aviv.

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Better option, train!  (Mercaz station.)

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The Ramat Gan business district includes Israel’s stock exchange, diamond exchange, and a variety of corporate offices.

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??? !!!  New York has a full 20 story building facade advertisement for relocating your diamond business to…Manhattan!

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Manhattan, the place for Israelis to go for a night out!

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For the rest of us, the glamour mall is the back drop for the ride home.

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Rebbe Obligation?

from RaisinSoul...


It is an obligation to visit one's Rebbi on the Holiday (Sukah 27:b)
RAV YONASAN EIBESHITZ (Ya'aros Devash 1:12 and elsewhere) explains that during the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash (when Elisha lived), everyone would go to greet the presence of the Shechinah in Yerushalayim. They would visit the Rebbi only on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, when there was no requirement to go to Yerushalayim. After the Churban, the practice was instituted to visit the Rebbi in place of going to Yerushalayim, because a Talmid Chacham reflects the presence of the Shechinah.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

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Gevald Are We Far Away

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Gevald are we far away...

There was a time when we believed.  We're nostalgic for that time.  We yearn for it but can't quite accept it in the past wholeheartedly anymore.  And today?  Today belief is simply crazy.  Gevald are we far way.

When the prophets, and there were thousands of prophets (only the major prophecies of the distant future were recorded for that future), no one doubted they were connected with heaven.  (And if you did they proved it.)  But we're really not so sure anymore.

When the Kohein Gadol could pronounce the name of Hashem and ascend (in soul) to heaven and ascertain the will of Hashem (Yom Kippur - the Avodah), we believed and fell on our faces as we heard the name of Hashem.  Today it's a good story on a fast day, but ascents to heaven?

When the four ascended to "the garden", of which only one returned in peace (Yom Kippur - the Avodah), we knew the holy ones of Israel could reach beyond.  We don't know anymore.

When the gedolim of the generations learned with Eliyahu HaNavi or acted with Ruach HaKodesh, we had no doubts. Now these are warm stories that give us longing for something lost.

When the Baal Shem Tov ascended (in soul) to Moshiach's palace to ask "when?", we cried that the answer wasn't "today, mamash!".  Today we SCOFF that someone might communicate beyond this earthly realm.

When we learn from the Gemora, from historical stories, from chassidic stories, from non-chassidic stories, that our ancestors - distant and more recent - would pray and CRY OUT to Hashem, we sigh and say "yes, that's how a Jew acts"...

But if we hear a Jew crying out to Hashem, in shul, on the street, even in the field, WE THINK HE'S CRAZY.  Who in their right mind actually requests their needs - right here right now, in this day and age - to G-d???

If we see someone walking down the street talking without a companion, we check his ear for a bluetooth wireless headset.  If found, he's normal.  If he's talking without one, we change sides of the street because SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG.

Gevald.  A Jew talking to G-d nowadays MUST BE CRAZY.  It's not normal.  Avoid.  Turn away.  Watch out, strangeness to be avoided.

Oy.

We can learn Torah and never say "G-d, help me understand".  We can do a mitzvah and never (really) direct it to G-d.  We can be a Jew, non-religious or even religious, and never actually be involved with G-d!

We've gotten very far away.  So far that even to see or hear someone interacting with G-d makes us uncomfortable.  Stories, ok.  History, alright.  Right now in front of us, weird.

We are so far away we can't even relate to being close anymore.

Gevald.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

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Economic Double-Speak

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

[ Worldly Commentary / Opinion ]

Wall Street Journal, "US Banks Post Profit but Woes Persist".  As someone who pays attention to macroeconomic details, I'm often asked 'how is it that companies and banks are posting profits, the stock market is up (until last week), yet so many people are unemployed, losing their homes, and having great trouble getting by?'

The answer is one of economic double-speak.  Large corporations have staff economists and/or economic consultants.  When they see economic trends that will affect their business, they adjust their operations to (try) to meet or handle the new conditions.

Let's take a simple example.  The top 3 largest US life insurance companies are posting good profits.  And therefore, reacting on the basis of profits, the stocks are up (or holding their own).  Yet, sales are down over 50% from 3 years ago!  What's going on?

The straightforward answer is, they saw the beginning of the financial crisis and changed how they operate.  They laid off employees, in some cases up to 25% of US staff.  They cut back on R&D (research and development - future business improvements, investments in technology, etc).  They sped up offshoring efforts.  They increased workloads on the remaining staff.  And they made conscious choices to reduce quality in some areas such as customer service.

The result?  They had one year of losses as they took all the charges associated with layoffs (severance pay, unemployment expenses, etc) and of shutting down or pausing R&D efforts and future expansion plans.  Then all those "savings" kicked in and now, amazingly in the middle of a severe recession, they're profitable!

Stock goes up, shareholders are happy, executives get bonuses.

The negative impact on the employees laid off, the businesses and vendors impacted by the halted plans, the jobs shipped offshore never to return, are not a major consideration.  The wise competitor uses such a period to leapfrog the competition, but this is a risky move that only a few cash rich companies are willing to make.

Of course some business's core functions were too heavily impacted to be able to make such adjustments.  The auto industry, home construction, mortgage business, these types of businesses had to make more radical changes and hope business conditions will improve before they run out of resources to continue operating.

We don't expect businesses to consider the employee as a major consideration.  Businesses exist to survive and profit.

But you should recognize that when businesses are saying they're profitable, but are half the company they were to do it, it's a pyrrhic victory.  Their actual capabilities and value are much less than they were previously.

So when the government is shouting "things are better" but really means we're not losing jobs AS FAST as we were, and when companies are saying "we're profitable" but they've shut down half their operations, there's a lot of stinky brown material being covered over.
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Other Paths, or Going Without Lunch


by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

QUESTION:

(News Report) An 83-year-old Indian ‘holy man,’ who says he has spent seven decades without food or water, has astounded a team of military doctors who studied him during a two-week observation period. Apparently, he does not eat, drink, or go to the toilet.

After a period of observation by the military in a local hospital, the 'holy man' has since returned to his village, where he will resume his routine of yoga and meditation. He says that he was blessed by a goddess at a young age, which gave him special powers.”

Doesn’t this newspaper article prove that there are other proper paths to G-d?

Answer:

Let’s assume that the story is true, that this man has really lived the past 70 years without eating and drinking. After all, I certainly saw amazing mystical feats when I was living in India. For instance, there was one guru who “materialized diamonds,” another who filled a crowded room with palpable bliss by just walking into it, and there were some who could tell you your thoughts, so this hermit’s story just might be true. So, doesn’t this wonder prove that his spiritual path is correct?

This story is a perfect example of the Torah’s statement; “I put before you life and death… choose life...” [i] G-d gives man free will. This is a hard and fast principle that He does not want to change. He insists on giving us free will because He wants to reward us according to our efforts. He does not want to simply give us gifts.

If all of the obvious spiritual and physical benefits came only from living a life of Torah, no one would have free will. Who would ever choose to do otherwise? So, G-d has put spiritual alternatives in the world in order to give us choices. India’s spirituality offers one of those choices.

Just like Balaam represented an alternative to the Torah, [ii] and just like Pharaoh’s magicians offered a different way to manipulate spiritual power, [iii] and just like the sons of Avraham took unclean powers with them when they went to the land of the East, so too, this hermit demonstrates such an unclean power today. How do we know? He says so himself. And not only do his words prove that his ‘gift’ is unclean, but his life proves it even more.

He said that a “goddess” blessed him with the power. Are there goddesses in the world? And what has he done with his wonderful spiritual gift? He has spent his entire life as a hermit. He lives alone, does yoga exercises, and meditates. What a wasted life!

G-d places us in His world with the instructions to tend His wonderful garden. [v] He wants us to improve His creation, to elevate His world, not to forsake it. A successful spiritual life is one of giving, one of helping those around you, not one spent sitting in a hut and watching your breath for your entire life.


[i] Deuteronomy 30:19
[ii]Numbers 22:5
[iii] Exodus 7:11
[iv] Genesis 25:6 - Rashi
[v] Genesis 2:16
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Friday, May 21, 2010

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What Are We Waiting For?

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

We are waiting for a sign. And this is it! Pure and simple, nothing more nothing less. It is written in the Nach (biblical prophets) "If you will but return to me I will return to you!" We must return!

We thought we are waiting for a sign, but He is waiting for "the sign"!  And this is it: "our return", our Teshuvah! We can bring in the Geulah without suffering, but it is up to us.

Hashem is WAITING FOR US!!! We are the ones extending this! We must show Him the sign, not wait for Him to show us!

It is written in Kol HaTor (by Rabbi Moskolav z"l, the chief student of the Gra zt"l) that all the signs are past and it is now up to us! That was over 200 years ago.

Rebbe Nachman told his followers that the Redemption need not come by suffering if we but do Teshuvah out of love instead of fear. This is what is meant by Iruta D'tatah! We WILL do Teshuvah, unfortunately if not voluntarily then we will be forced to by suffering.  We are a stubborn people, but let's not be stubborn over this!

If we could but remember Him, He would remember us! Chaval, we can not wake up.  We hit the snooze button again! Please Hashem, please help us to remember. Please help us to call out to you. Please Borei HaOlam, please!!! "ABBA ten lanu rachamim."

If we were but to cry out and ask, each of us, for Him to help us... All of this is on us. This galus is unlike the previous ones in this that it has no expiration date. Galus Mitzraym 400 years, galus Baval 70 years. We could have ended this the day after the Chorban Mikdash (destruction of the Temple), but we are spiritually asleep. We need to wake up, each one of us! We have to decide which are we: Dor Midbar or Dor Geula (generation in the desert or generation of redemption). It's up to us.

We didn't make it the first time, so we have come back in this generation to fix the problem. In truth it really is up to each one of us. Ask yourself, saying "hey self, are you ready to continue in the mess that we are in or are we gonna jump up and say maspik (enough)??? Enough, we're ready, we're waiting, we're returning to You now!!

And He says:

"OH daughter of Zion how long are you gonna sit in the dust, rise up and shake of the chains for I have unlocked them. Put off your sack cloth and wash yourselves and get ready for the feast, put on your wedding gowns for I long to reunite with you!! Please I am waiting here for you!!!"

It doesn't have to take earth shattering events. We can end this, this year and sit in Yerushalayim and shout "this year in Jerusalem". Just trust in Him, He's doing it all for us, and in reality we have no other choice but to believe and come and perform His will.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

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Modern Musings

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We used to dream under the stars and contemplate life as the clouds passed by. We wondered about tomorrow and prayed to G-d that it be well. The days were long, the work was hard, but the mind was free.

Now we school in ordered rows in air conditioned rooms. We travel to work in air conditioned cars with music or talk blaring. We notice the weather only to turn on the car lights or the windshield wipers, a brief interruption only.

We arrive at work and settle in our little cube-space. We look down at our work, starting at a glowing screen under glowing white lights in a noisy climate controlled room. The phone rings, the computer beeps, the A/C hums, the people talk.

Did a cloud pass? Did the stars shine bright? We do not know. For the body is free of the worries of the past, but the mind is shackled.



And G-d? The soft still voice cannot be heard over the din.
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It's Close to You - A Misnaged Speaks

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How to Get Help Quick

image003 (4)

Sometimes finding a solution is a lot easier than you think.

    If you ever have a problem and, no matter what you try, you cannot seem to find its solution, do this simple thing and help will begin to come right away. Whether the problem is physical, mental, financial or imagined, it does not matter. Just do the following: Pick yourself up, go out of your house, and look for someone to help. It does not matter how you help the person, as long as you are somehow actively involved with helping others. When you do this simple thing, your own solution will come much sooner.

    Why does this solution always help? Number one, when you have a problem and you sit at home alone doing nothing, you will spend your time worrying about the problem. Dwelling on a problem only makes it seem worse than it is. The more time you spend thinking about the problem, the more likely you will exaggerate it far beyond its actual reach. Worrying never solved anything. When you go out into the world, you have to take your attention off of your problems, at least enough to move around. This in itself is a big help.

    Number two, when you go out and look for others in need, you will soon see that there are many, many people out there who are worse off than you. Realizing this helps to put your problem into its proper perspective. Then, as you get involved with actually helping others, and you see their suffering relieved, you will feel good that you were instrumental in helping to relieve a fellow human being’s pain. Feeling good is a natural result of helping others. This gives you a tremendous boost.

    And finally, when you help others, Hashem looks down from Heaven and says, “Hey, there’s my friend going around helping other people. I like that. You know what? Since he is such a big help to My people, I am going to help him.” Then your problem begins to unravel right away. Try it. You will see for yourself that it really works.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

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Live from Charedi Jerusalem, Riots?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I spend the evening in an ultra-orthodox section of Jerusalem.  Upon entering the neighborhood I saw one large green trash dumpster that had been overturned in one lane of the street...


Other than that, everything was perfectly normal.  I asked the people I was visiting what the dumpster was about, they said there were some protesters about the grave situation in Ashkelon.  Here's what they explained to me (with my interpretation and explanation added):

The Jewish religion gives great respect to the body, during life and after death. A burial place is to be respected and protected. Further, at the spiritual level, one of the five levels of the soul remains connected to the burial site (which is why it's a special location to make a connection with the deceased person). And, a burial site also is a source of a certain form of spiritual impurity - such that a kohein (the Jewish priestly caste) can not pass over such a site.

Given all these things, Jewish tradition strongly protects grave sites perpetually.

During World War II, the Nazi's (y"m) intentionally destroyed a large number of historical Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe.  Following World War II, the communist countries further had little respect for cemeteries, should a road or other building project need the space.  The struggle to protect Jewish cemeteries has been long and not particularly successful.  And in many cases we're not talking long historical graves, we're talking even ones from just before the war (people's parents or grandparents).  It's been painful.

In Ashkelon, an ancient grave site was found as they expanded the emergency service wing of the local hospital. The ultra-orthodox would like respect and sensitivity shown to the grave site, and the expansion to be redesigned to avoid the graves.  The government neither wants to spend the significant extra money required nor spend the significant extra time that would be required, particularly in an area that falls under Hamas rocket fire and needs a missile hardened emergency services center as soon as possible.

Who's right?  In this case even Jewish religion allows that the living have priority over the dead, and given the need for the emergency center and need for a hardened facility religious law would side with moving the graves quickly and building as soon as possible.

BUT the religious argue that this nuance will be lost on those looking in from the outside. And therefore making this practical religious decision here will lead to hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and holy grave sites in Europe to be put at risk.  After all, if it's ok to move a cemetery in Israel for public works, why not pave over the cemetery of the Maharal of Prague or the Vilna Gaon if the nearby street needs widening?

That's the argument. Practically, I didn't see much going on. I think the news is hyping it up.
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Ewwwwww



Really, what sounds more appetizing than juice from a Jew’s ear, especially “Quality Jew’s ear selected from Changbai Mountain?”  Wood ear is a fungus that’s pretty common in Chinese dishes and comes with a strange Xian missionary story of being called Judas ear in Chinese, which gets a literal English translation of Jew's ear.  Which is fortunate, because the thought of my fellow Jews in China having body parts harvested for a soft drink is pretty disturbing.

This site has a bit more information (tasty flavor details!), and a picture of the fungus.  It would seem it's not kosher but to be all fruit/vegetable and fungus based, so we probably could go certify a run of Jew's ear for worldwide consumption!

Yum, just in time for Shavuos!
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How Does the Non-Jew Fit Into the Spiritual Picture?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

    Someone asked a number of very technical spiritual questions. For instance, he wanted to know about the differences between being made in the “Image of G-d,” the “Good Inclination,” and the “Holy Soul” that is added to a Jew’s natural soul.

    He also asked regarding the spiritual reality of a non-Jew, and his or her relationship to G-d.

   His final question was, “Muslims teach that non-Muslims are to be treated as subhuman (Dhimmi).  Does the Torah also say this about non-Jews?”

    Rather than going into all of the extremely fine, and sometimes confusing, details regarding the spiritual layout of the upper worlds, let me answer his questions this way:

    The Torah teaches that the entire world is one body. In a individual’s body, we have a heart and we have kidneys. We have teeth and toes. Each organ has been created exactly as it is for a very good reason, and each organ best fulfills its purpose by becoming the very best possible heart, kidney, toe or tooth that it can become. Are kidneys inferior to hearts? No heart could live without them. Each organ is precious to the body, and even more precious to the Creator.

   But can a tooth ever hope to see the spiritual heights of a heart? Is it destined to be merely a food grinder its whole life? From Devorah the Prophetess, we learn that spiritual heights can attained by anyone. “I call Heaven and Earth to be as witness that any individual… man or woman, Jew or gentile, free man or slave can have Ruach Hadodesh (Divine Inspiration) bestowed upon him; it all depends on one’s deeds.” [i]

    The reward is commensurate with the effort… the greater the sacrifice, the greater the Revelation.

    Eliezer was Avraham’s non-Jewish servant. Although he was a lowly slave, his deeds were pure enough to earn him a spiritual place that only 9 people in the history of the world have ever achieved. He is said to have been taken into Heaven alive, and not to have died.

    You, whoever you are, do not focus on where you are coming from. This is not so important. What is important is where you are going. And your deeds are the only things that are going to take you there.


[i] Tanna De Bei Eliyahu 9, Amora R. Anan.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

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Photo Friday: Air Force Visit

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

For Israeli Independence Day, the IDF opens a variety of military bases to visits by the public.  While they rely upon chariots and horses and we rely upon the name of Hashem, still the chariots and horses are pretty impressive to stop by and see.

(Note I specifically asked the IDF officers if it was permissible to post photos taken at the event. They said “sure”.)

To limit access to only what should be seen, the Air Force selected a distant runway and brought everyone to it through a small security gate.  The runway served as parking lot and exhibition area.

Here a C-130 transport plane sits.  It is simply huge.

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The F-16i, “i” for special Israeli edition, is the mainstay of the Israeli air force.070

The F-15 is bigger, useful for carrying a large load of bombs.

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The Sikorsky CH-53 is the IDF’s heavy lift helicopter. It’s big enough to load multiple jeep’s into.

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The Apache Longbow is the IDF’s heavy attack helicopter.

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Shesh Shesh Taysha, Unit 669 is famous in Israel as the search and rescue unit. When hikers fall off mountains, 669 flies in and saves the day. When flash floods wash away a car, 669 pulls them out.

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A Patriot anti-missile missile battery.

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All in all an impressive display of military hardware. Yet, we end this with a more disturbing picture…part of the equipment display of the chemical warfare response team.  Israel is a nation surrounded by wolves who dream of her destruction…just for the sake of destruction!  Only Hashem saves us from their hand.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

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Making Shalom with Halacha

An interesting video commentary on using halacha to bring shalom between us (rather than, as it sometimes is and through chumrot, the opposite).

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They Love You Not



Direct video link.

Dateline: United States of America. Republic of California. The enlightened center of education the University of California in San Diego.

This week David Horowitz encountered a Muslim Student Union supporter during his appearance. In the question and answer session, Horowitz had this enlightening exchange with her:

Horowitz: Okay. Will you condemn Hamas, here and now?

MSA member: I'm sorry, what?

Horowitz: Will you condemn Hamas?

MSA member: Would I condemn Hamas?

Horowitz: As a terrorist organization. Genocidal organization.

MSA member: Are you asking me to put myself on a cross?

Horowitz: So you won't. I have actually had this experience many times. You didn't actually read the pamphlet, because the pamphlet is chapter and verse. The main connection is that the MSA is part of the Muslim Brotherhood Network as revealed...

MSA member: I don't think you understood what I meant by that. I meant if I say something, I am sure that I will be arrested, for reasons of homeland security. So if you could please just answer my question.

Horowitz: If you condemn Hamas, Homeland Security will arrest you?

MSA member: If I support Hamas, because your question forces me to condemn Hamas. If I support Hamas, I look really bad.

Horowitz: If you don't condemn Hamas, obviously you support it. Case closed. I have had this experience at UC Santa Barbara, where there were 50 members of the Muslim Students Association sitting right in the rows there. And throughout my hour talk I kept asking them, will you condemn Hizbollah and Hamas. And none of them would. And then when the question period came, the president of the Muslim Students Association was the first person to ask a question. And I said, 'Before you start, will you condemn Hizbollah?' And he said, 'Well, that question is too complicated for a yes or no answer.' So I said, 'Okay, I'll put it to you this way. I am a Jew. The head of Hizbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn't have to hunt us down globally. For or Against it?

MSA member: For it.

Horowitz: Thank you. Thank you for coming and showing everyone what's here...

via Hot Air and PowerLine.
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The Prayer for your Children

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The holy Sh'lah left Europe in the 17th century and made his home in Eretz Yisrael, becoming chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He is renowned for many things, but one special is a tefilah, a special prayer, he composed for parents to say for the benefit of their children.

The most auspicious time - the time Heaven is most open to this prayer - is said to be erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, meaning today - Thursday, May 13, 2010. The Sh'lah wrote, "for that is the month when G-d gave us the Torah, and when the Jewish people began to be called His Children. On that day, fathers and mothers should give charity to the poor and repent. They should even fast, if they are able to."

Religious schools throughout Israel hand out this prayer to all students to bring home to their parents this week.

Below is the prayer, in Hebrew and English...



English Translation

You have been the Eternal, our G-d, before You created the world, and You are the Eternal, our G-d, since you created the world, and You are G-d forever. You created Your world so that Your Divinity should become revealed thorugh Your holy Torah, as our Sages expounded on the first word therein, and for Israel, for they are Your people and Your inheritance whom You have chosen from among all nations. You have given them Your holy Torah and drawn them toward Your great Name. These two commandments are, "Be fruitful and Multiply" and "You shall teach them to your children." Their purpose is that You did not create the world to be empty, but to be inhabited, and that it is for Your glory that You created, fashioned, and perfected it, so that we, our offspring, and all the descendants of your people Israel will know Your Name and study Your Torah.

Thus I entreat You, O Eternal, supreme King of kings. My eyes are fixed on You until You favor me, and hear my prayer, and provide me with sons and daughters who will also be fruitful and multiply, they and their descendants unto all generations, in order that they and we might all engage in the study of Your holy Torah, to learn and to teach, to observe and to do, and to fulfill with love all the words of Your Torah's teaching. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah and attach our heart to Your commandments to love and revere Your Name.

Our Father, compassionate Father, grant us all a long and blessed life. Who is like You, compassionate Father, Who in compassion remembers His creatures for life! Remember us for eternal life, as our Forefather Avraham prayed, "If only Yishmael would live before You," which the Sages interpreted as "…live in reverence of You."

For this I have come to appeal and plead before You, that my offspring and their descendants be proper, and that You find no imperfection or disrepute in me or them forever. May they be people of peace, truth, goodness and integrity in the eyes of G-d and man. Help them to become practiced in Torah, accomplished in Scriptures, Mishnah, Talmud, Kabbalah, mitzvos, kindness, and good attributes, and to serve you with an inner love and reverence, not merely outwardly. Provide every one of them with their needs with honor, and give them health, honor and strength, good bearing and appearance, grace and loving-kindness. May love and brotherhood reign among them. Provide them with suitable marriage partners of scholarly and righteous parentage who will also be blessed with all that I have asked for my own descendants, since they will share the same fate.

You, the Eternal, know everything that is concealed, and to You all my heart's secrets are revealed. For all my intention concerning the above is for the sake of Your great and holy Name and Torah. Therefore, answer me, O Eternal, answer me in the merit of our holy Forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov. For the sake of the fathers save the children, so the branches will be like the roots. For the sake of Your servant, David, who is the fourth part of Your Chariot, who sings with Divine inspiration.

A song of ascents. Fortunate is everyone who fears the Eternal, who walks in His ways. When you eat of the toil of your hands, you are fortunate, and good will be yours. Your wife is like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your home; your children are like olive shoots around your table. Look! So is blessed the man who fears the Eternal. May the Eternal bless you from Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you see your children's children, peace upon Israel.

Please, O Eternal, Who listens to prayer: May the following verse be fulfilled in me: "'As for Me,' says the Eternal, "this My covenant shall remain their very being; My spirit, which rests upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth nor from the mouths of your children, nor from the mouths of your children's children," said the Eternal, "from now to all Eternity." May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing before You, Eternal, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Graphic and translation courtesy of ShemaYisroel.co.il
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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Yom Yerushalayim 1967 and Now

The day Israel, fighting for her life, recaptured Jerusalem...the Jewish people world wide rejoiced. Many a refusenik in the Soviet Union (Russian Empire) says it was reports of Israel's survival and capture of Jerusalem that empowered them to go on.

Will you stand up and protest when they begin talking of dividing Jerusalem again today? (Picture, Kotel today, 3:30 AM, Yom Yerushalayim.)

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Letter to my Chiloni Friend

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Op-Ed - In the past two weeks there's been a large series of articles on the ultra-orthodox Jewish population in Israel that devotes a majority of time to studying Torah rather than working. This is my Op-Ed response.

Dear Mr. Lapid (Israeli Pundit) and the statistical trackers of Israel:

I note your recent concern with Israel's economic future, a concern we both share. You are concerned because you note that the percentage of Israel's students who are orthodox has reached 50%, and you see a (near term) future for Israel that diverges significantly from the one you live today. Since you focus primarily on the economic aspects, let me do so as well.

You point out the skills necessary to do well in today's hi-tech economy, and note that some portion of these skills are not being taught in the charedi education system. But let's be honest my friend, serious education funding and focus doesn't exist in Israel. The secular education system may be teaching the skills, but the students need to learn them while dodging fights, abusing teachers, and dealing with woefully inadequate facilities.

Secular students that succeed in Israel do so in spite of the system, not because of it. Israel's per student education funding is some of the lowest in the Western world. Creating a top notch education system simply has not been a priority in Israel.

Now when you look at the religious education system, which you so disdain, I'll note that the national religious system (schools designated dati leumi, charedi leumi, or torani) receive only 2/3 of the funding secular schools receive. And schools in the ultra-orthodox system (schools designated chinuch atzmi - outside the direct governance of the Minstry of Education) receive 45% of the per student funding.

So while I hear your pain that your taxes are funding schools which the government wields very limited influence upon, let's note that the funding provided is completely insufficient. Further, let's also note that Israel funds it's education at about 1/8th the rate of funding (in a straight dollar for dollar cost) in the U.S.

I think it's clear, it's NOT the wonderful Israeli education system that has brought success to Israel. As the recent book The Start-Up Nation pointed out, factors such as the army (and associated training therein) and the massive Russian immigration (which brought a million highly educated scientists looking for opportunities) are what revamped this nation. Naturally being a charedi I'll throw in the brachot (blessings) from Hashem that aligned the right factors.

But let's agree on something. Math, science, and language education is necessary for reasonable survival in the modern world. And I would like my children to receive it, and will support your efforts to make it happen. But it's not going to happen when charedi children are learning in hallways such as my son did last year (for inadequate space), are trying to learn computers from a book (without the computer) such as my daughter did this year, or are discussing chemical reactions instead of mixing them (as my younger daughter did this year).

Further, the Israeli government has a strong historical record of attempting to de-jewdify the orthodox community through every avenue. Math, science, and language is certainly acceptable, as long as the materials and methods being used aren't presenting material with ideology and cultural approach. Much of the historical resistance to the involvement of the Ministry of Education is exactly due to this.

If so, then we're agreed. I'll teach my children math, science and language, and you'll fund education equally for all children and limit core curriculum requirements to these subjects, and present them in such a way that they focus only upon the subjects.

While we're on the subject of education I'd like to add a point. My charedi daughter, who by the way is in the IDF, was at recent Independence Day events on her base. While the commanders spoke of Zionism and the commitment it brings to Israel, her unit mates had NO IDEA what the commanders were talking about. Similarly we had a friend come from the US to volunteer to "help the IDF" for two weeks. While this is clearly not something Israel really needs anymore, it's a nice way for Jews around the world to connect to Israel (in a secular way). Our friend, part of a group from Reform and Conservative synagogues in the US, left the program together with almost all the other participants after a few days due to the soldiers griping about their limited partying opportunities on Shabbat as Israel limits retail business on Shabbat - and how it's disgusting that Israel makes itself Jewish.

My dear secular friend, if you don't make a point of including some JEWISH education in your child's education, then your child will indeed find themselves without any commitment to Israel. For if Israel is just another Western nation, a rather small one with enemies around her, then why try to stay and build a better future here? The zionism of the past holds no strength for the future generations. For that, you must open the Torah, at least a little, for your children.

P.S. It's good to be talking to each other. While these shouting of statistics is creating some 'secular backlash', it's time that secular Israel begin to open paths to success for the charedi community rather than working to suppress it. As the demographics show, the choice is only how you work to mold the change, not whether it's going to happen. Programs such as Nachal Charedi in the army and Kachol v'Lavan in the air force are a good start. Such positive channels meeting the religious community's needs while building the future opportunities Israel needs are exactly what must be done. Now it must be done farther, wider, and faster.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

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Where?

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

Where is the place of His Glory?

Exactly where you are right now.

And from this point you have to bring glory to the King, the king of Kings, HaKodesh Baruch Hu. It is important to understand this principle. It is fundamental in starting down the path to understand where we are.

We have to take stock of where we are now at this moment. And from here we will start our journey to find Emunah, faith. For it can only be found if you know where you are and then decide where it is you want to end up. Hashem is waiting for us to find Him.

But we have to search with our whole heart, then we will see Him in everything and every where. This is the first rule in spiritual navigation. Just look at Rav Shalom Arush,shlita (in the attached picture).  He knows where he is and where he is headed.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

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The Reward Of a Mitzvah is a Mitzva


by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The Mishnah says that “a mitzvah brings about a mitzvah” and that “the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.”[i] These statements seem to say that the mitzvah we just did will bring us to another mitzvah, and that this second mitzvah is the reward we receive for having done the first mitzvah.

But there are a number of places in the Talmud where we are told that the reward for doing a mitzvah only comes in the World to Come.[ii] Surely, we are not going to be doing mitzvahs in that entirely spiritual world. So which is it? Do we get the reward of receiving the opportunity to do another mitzvah, and if so, will it be in this world, or in the next?

We see in our own lives that doing a mitzvah brings us the opportunity to do another mitzvah. It happens all the time. But, those who say that the reward is entirely in the next world also seem to be right. Everything we do will come back to us.

Also, there is another Mishnah[iii] that says that some mitzvahs are rewarded partially in this world, while others are rewarded mostly in the World to Come.

As usual, there are so many opinions. Which one is correct? As usual, somehow, all of them are true. It is not hard to see that these three sources are somehow saying the same thing, or they at least, are not contradicting one another.

But there is yet another opinion that says that the "reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah" means that the actual doing of the mitzvah is its own reward? This seems to contradict those other opinions. How can we say that this explanation is also true?

The Hebrew for “brings about” could either mean “drags” or “draws.”

If we think of it as “drags," we assume that the Mishnah teaches us that doing a mitzvah drags another mitzvah to us, so we will have the opportunity to do the second mitzvah, too. Obviously, doing the second mitzvah will “drag” a third mitzvah, and this will go on, and on. This is the literal explanation of the Mishnahs.

But, when we think that the word means that a mitzvah “draws” a mitzvah, we can see a more spiritual explanation of what happens when we do a mitzvah. When we physically do a mitzvah we draw the spiritual aspects of that mitzvah down from the entirely spiritual world, and we bring these benefits out into the lower physical world.

So, for example, when we give a poor person a coin, the first definition teaches that the mitzvah of giving that coin will actually bring another poor person to us so we can give again. From the higher, more mystical perspective, when we give the physical coin into the hand of the poor person, the spiritual essence, or nature, of charity is drawn down from the higher world into the external, lower world. Our lower world now becomes infused with the more revealed, higher aspects of Creation.

When we apply the first definition “drags,” we can understand the Talmud’s statement that the reward for a mitzvah is given only in the World to Come. It will be there that we will finally reap the full spiritual benefit from having performed all of those mitzvahs.

When we apply the second, more mystical definition of “drawing,” we begin to understand that the reward of a mitzvah is the spiritual benefit that comes to our world when we do the physical mitzvah. This elevates our lives both physically and spiritually. We begin to see the underlying spirituality that permeates all of creation. Indeed, the reward of the mitzvah comes with the mitzvah itself.

Which way of looking at it is correct? Obviously, all are true. But, if we do the mitzvahs with only its literal understanding, we will have to wait until the next world to realize the spiritual benefits of our good deeds.

[i] Pirke Avot 4:2
[ii] For instance, Gemora Kiddushin 39b
[iii] Mishnah Peah 1:1
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Where Are We At?

2008-03-06 008 by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

We live in a time of information overload and chaotic world events. The world of today is not what it was 4 years ago (stable financially), 10 years ago (one world power stability), or 25 years ago (two world power stable standoff).

The United States is in serious decline. The political question of which administration and which policies set up the current decline is irrelevant. The question everyone wants to know is, will it recover? The answer is a simple no. I could write a long analysis of why not, but to make it short and simple (on the physical level): the conditions that caused the problem have been overcompensated for destroying the prime engines of growth, the cost of recovery steps has been so high it will hobble any future moves, and the political and spending priorities now in place reduce the US’s worldwide influence.  The US is in a similar decline as it was in the late 70’s, in the latter parts of which news agencies started reporting the “misery index”. Will the US recover from an unusually bad down swing, or like the British Empire of the 19th century will it stabilize but at a much lower level than the past?

disasters_till_2008 World disasters are up. Or are they? Are more bad things happening, or does a 24 hour news hype cycle merely rush to find every bad thing happening and report it LOUDLY? Of course, if you hear about a volcano two weeks ago, major flooding last week, and a massive oil spill this week, it certainly seems things are getting worse. (The graph to the left, worldwide disaster statistics for the last 100 years says it IS getting worse.)

The economic gyrations are not limited to the US. This week we see the beginning of major instability in the EU. Turns out a number of EU states have been spending at a rate far beyond their tax base, and suddenly have run out of lenders to support it. Complicating it, the citizens have become used to a high but financially unsustainable level of government services, and are (violently) resisting reductions in services that countries can no longer afford to provide. (It’s like something out of an Ayn Rand novel.)

Once again (repeated from 2 years ago) we find the world economic system on the edge of the cliff.

In the midst of all of this, what’s the world’s major preoccupation? Israel! The US president, in ways big and small, is pressuring Israel and the Jewish people to divide Israel, give up Jerusalem, and do everything up to and including committing national suicide. The EU piles on periodically, with Britain threatening Israel for defending herself in ways that cause collateral damage, and then threatening her for defending herself in ways that don’t cause collateral damage. And Iran. Besides the nuclear drive and threats of genocide, we now find direct reports that Iran is arming Israel’s enemies with unconventional weaponry and preparing them to attack.

So I’m asked, where are we at? Is it time to run? To Israel? From Israel? Should I sell my house? Cash out my investments? Buy what? Gold? Where can I turn???

Is the war of Gog uMagog here? Is Moshiach here? Is the Geulah shelayma here?

Dear friends, we are not navi’im (prophets) – nor is ANYONE else. All we can do is watch trends, see how they line up to the words of the prophets of the past, and listen to the words of our gedolim and mekubalim – and see if there are hints in putting all together. And still be surprised when the hidden things jump into the open.

We _seem_ to be in a time where many world events are fulfilling biblical (and talmudic) prophecy. The world financial situation is not over and _seems_ about to take another big turn for the worse. The U.S. domestic situation is going to continue to grow worse, but each month puts more people’s homes, businesses, and retirement investments at greater and greater risk. The tolerance of Jews is declining while Muslim tolerance is increasing even while they perpetrate attacks!

It’s a good time to come to Israel, and still a time one can come b’kovod (in a respectful manner – with their assets if they remain). But the world is turning on Israel. We will be forced to stand with Jerusalem, Torah and Hashem or stand with the world while they would destroy us.

Will this happen with bloodshed, or just heavy handed diplomacy and tears (as Gush Katif)? Some say the former (G-d forbid), some the latter, and some that with just a hairs breath more effort we can turn it to a pleasant path.

Confusing. I haven’t done this well. Perhaps I’ll try to express this better tomorrow.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

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You Are The Judge

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

If you ever want an honest opinion of yourself, look closely at 10 of your acquaintances, or at some of your unusual experiences.

The Baal Shem Tov said that whatever we see in the people around us has to be in us, or we would not be able to see it in them.

Two of my friends went to the Lag B’Omer festival in Meron. If you have never witnessed that celebration you will not be able to fully appreciate this message. It is without doubt the most crowded, noisiest, most hustling, jostling, environment that you will ever be in. There are as many as 500,000 Jews all looking for something that cannot be seen. All of them are either trying to push their way into the holy tdzadik’s grave site, dancing away their worldly views, or trying to sell you a talisman guaranteed to protect you from everything from demons to poison ivy.

One of my friends who went this year is known to be a very loving, kind person. These are his main personality traits. The other friend, although a very nice person, is rather wrapped up in himself (to say it nicely).

The first friend came back from Meron raving about the ecstatic achdus (unity) of the crowd. “Jews of all stripes lovingly dancing together! Amazing love and fellowship!” he bubbled over with enthusiasm.

My other friend bemoaned the terrible ego-trip that all of those people demonstrated. “It was all about me! How I can push you so I can get into the grave site!”

Take a good look at the people you see in your daily life; you know, those nasty (or are they loving?) folk who happen to be drawn into your circle. Look carefully at each of them. Do not be sparing with your opinions. Judge them, and even write what you see in a diary. Then, study your evaluations one by one.

When you get a really good idea about all those jerks (or sweethearts) that G-d sends to you, see if you can find them inside yourself. After all, they are merely mirrors that G-d has sent to you so you can see if your makeup is on straight.
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Friday, May 07, 2010

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A Visit to B'e’er Sheva

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Never having been in southern Israel, this spring I decided we’d take a drive down to Be’er Sheva.  With the new North/South Highway 6 (unfortunately Israel’s first toll road), it’s a quick ride down the highway to Be’er Sheva.  Be’er Sheva is a biblical city, mentioned all the way back to the time of Avraham Avinu.  Be’er Sheva in Hebrew means 7 wells.  As this might hint, Be’er Sheva is a desert oasis.

be'er sheva 054

Traveling there is amazing. Rolling green hills change very suddenly to complete sparse desert. Not sandy, just hard packed dead (more or less) hills.  Note these pictures are taken in SPRING, and still there’s practically no ground vegetation.  But that’s around the city.  The city itself has had a lot of national investment, as the open land is considered good space to plan people and make the desert bloom – the zionist vision of the past.

be'er sheva 051

be'er sheva 006

Overall it’s a pretty city.  Yes, there’s older run down areas. But there’s also many new nice neighborhoods.  Further, we spotted a reasonably high concentration of synagogues and yeshiva’s, meaning Jewish religious observance in Be’er Sheva is very active.

be'er sheva 091

Yet, it is surrounded and part of a desert.  Tempatures in the 100’s (f) are normal in the summer, and during our visit it was 15 degrees (f) higher than it was just 1 hour north!  In this way Israel is just amazing, a 1 hour drive south and it’s desert, 1 hour in the north and it’s mountains, 1 hour west and it’s sea.

be'er sheva 070

Certainly in the past, the desert oasis of 7 wells was a life saver.  Today it’s a modern city in an inhospitable area. Yet many make it their home and bring the area to life.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

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Who Is Holy?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Early in the morning, a man came up to me at the Kotel and politely asked if we could talk for a minute. In truth, it was my usual time for learning which I do not like to interrupt, but he asked so nicely, and he said it would only be for a minute, so I agreed.

He wanted advice for his spiritual service. I summed up his appearance and felt that he needed to better understand what a mitzvah does to the person who is doing it.

I asked him what would happen to an object, or person, if G-d would come right now and announce that the object or person was holy.

He mildly said that it would become holy.

I wanted more. "What do you mean that it would become holy? What happened to it? How would we treat it differently if we knew that it was now holy?"

Again, he mildly stated that we would respect it and treat it with love and honor. But, he was not really getting the idea of what it means when G-d makes something holy.

I asked him what blessing he says when he does a mitzvah. He said the words in Hebrew. Typical blessings begin with the words, "Blessed are You Oh L-rd our G-d ….Who has sanctified us with His commandments and…." When he got to the words, "Who has sanctified us," I made him stop and explain what those words actually mean. Finally, I got him to realize, if only to a small extent, just what is happening when we fulfill G-d's wish, and do a mitzvah.

"Those words say that G-d is making us holy when we do a mitzvah," I told him. He began to understand a little. I told him that his homework assignment was to understand these words. He was to stop and think about the meaning of those words when he says the blessings, and he was to try to understand that G-d Almighty is actually making him holy when he does a mitzvah.

I then excused myself and went back to learning. I had been leaning the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) when he came up to me, and I still held my finger on the place where I had left off. I returned to that spot and started reading the next line aloud. "You shall be holy because I am holy"!

We both laughed out loud. "Look at that," I said. "This is an obvious sign that you need to better understand how you become holy when you do a mitzvah. Why else, of all the things that we could have spoken about, did we talk about holiness?"

I will ask him next time, if he took those words to heart. It was no accident that we discussed becoming holy when you do a mitzvah.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

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Moshiach's in Tel Aviv?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Apparently Moshiach is in Tel Aviv and we at Mystical Paths missed his arrival (G-d forbid that we'd actually miss it or not notice)...



Recently these signs have been plastered throughout Israel. They're all over Tel Aviv, and they're up and down the highways on road signs (both the front and back). They say simply "The Moshiach is in Tel Aviv". And not to worry, "Moshiach is in Tel Aviv and will lead Israel very soon." The picture is of the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab - Rebbe Shalom Dov Bear of Lubavitch, though the message and/or organization has nothing to do with Chabad Lubavitch - nor do we know why a message about Moshiach blazes a picture of a 150 year old Rebbe who's in the next world.



They come with the standard Gog u'Magog war warning, a statement that the US will lead an invasion into Israel - but not to flee Israel (and for Jews from outside Israel to speedily return to the Holy Land) as those outside will either suffer grave punishments and/or miss out on wonderful rewards.

And a really poorly designed web site (hebrew, link auto-translates), consisting of the classic harsh selections of pesukim about the coming of Moshiach and the war of Gog uMagog.

Given the medium budget for plastering thousands of these posters everywhere in central Israel, one would think they'd do better on the web site.

This whole thing is a classic fire and brimstone message - repent now because the end is near! Whether the end is near or not, whether Moshiach is waiting around in downtown Tel Aviv or not, this type of message has never worked and certainly isn't going to work now. While we happen to agree with the author that many of the sign of Moshiach do seem to be aligning with world events, frightening people into submission isn't a particularly effective method.

Even when the literal biblical prophets, who prophecized local events that came true to prove they were authentic voices for the words of G-d, even when they delivered the message of G-d to the people - when the message arrived without a believing leadership, it was ignored, not accepted, even ridiculed. It was true prophecy that came true, yet it wasn't heard.

This, which is conjecture, interpretation, and best guess, is not only a waste of effort but given the halacha of rebuke may even be forbidden (if you know a message of rebuke isn't going to be heard, you are prohibited from delivering it).

We hope and pray that the complete and final geulah is close, and may it come with rachamim (mercy). And if Moshiach is right now in Tel Aviv we look forward to his revelation. But hype and threats are (generally) counter productive. It pushes people away and/or burns them out.
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Monday, May 03, 2010

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Does the Angel Tap Everyone On The Lip?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Question:

What happens to gentile babies? Are we taught the 7 Noahide Laws before we are born?

Answer:

The teaching of the angel tapping babies on the lip is allegorical. This means that, although the lesson is certainly true, we do not take the image literally. It is not a literal description of what happens to the baby in the womb.

The literal teaching is that all human beings have within them the deep-seated, instinctive knowledge of right and wrong. People do not have to be told not to murder in order to know that it is wrong to take another person’s life. However, when a child comes into the world, a selfish, animal nature also comes with him. This animal nature clouds over his ability to reason; it is demanding and self serving. A completely selfish person, might very well murder someone in order to get what he wants![i]

Every person in the world is made in the image of G-d, and we are all given free will. We can act like the One in Whose image we have been created, or we can act like the animal inclination that comes into the world with us.

So, the answer to your question is, “Yes.” The gentile knows from the womb that it is wrong to break the laws of decency, but after he is born, and his personal animal nature screams at him, he forgets. He has to be taught again: Do not worship an idol. Do not debase G-d’s name. Do not murder, steal, or commit adultery. Live justly, and do not eat a live animal.

When the gentile remembers his higher nature, and he fulfills these basic laws, he lives a holy life in this world, and he has a share in the Next World, too.

[i] Gensis 4:1
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