Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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A Mench Who Might Save America

Astounding...

My Philanthropic Pledge

By Warren Buffett- June 16, 2010

FORTUNE -- In 2006, I made a commitment to gradually give all of my Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic foundations. I couldn't be happier with that decision.

Now, Bill and Melinda Gates and I are asking hundreds of rich Americans to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to charity. So I think it is fitting that I reiterate my intentions and explain the thinking that lies behind them.

First, my pledge: More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.

Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.

Moreover, this pledge does not leave me contributing the most precious asset, which is time. Many people, including -- I'm proud to say -- my three children, give extensively of their own time and talents to help others. Gifts of this kind often prove far more valuable than money. A struggling child, befriended and nurtured by a caring mentor, receives a gift whose value far exceeds what can be bestowed by a check. My sister, Doris, extends significant person-to-person help daily. I've done little of this.

What I can do, however, is to take a pile of Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates -- "claim checks" that when converted to cash can command far-ranging resources -- and commit them to benefit others who, through the luck of the draw, have received the short straws in life. To date about 20% of my shares have been distributed (including shares given by my late wife, Susan Buffett). I will continue to annually distribute about 4% of the shares I retain. At the latest, the proceeds from all of my Berkshire shares will be expended for philanthropic purposes by 10 years after my estate is settled. Nothing will go to endowments; I want the money spent on current needs.

This pledge will leave my lifestyle untouched and that of my children as well. They have already received significant sums for their personal use and will receive more in the future. They live comfortable and productive lives. And I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life.

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.)

My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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Are You Fasting Today?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

144 Why are you fasting today?  “The 17th of Tammuz is a fast day commemorating (lamenting) the breach of the walls of Jerusalem leading to the destruction of the 2nd Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) 3 weeks later.”

Jerusalem has been rebuilt!  It’s inhabited by more Jewish people (probably by a factor of 10) than it’s ever been inhabited by in history.  It’s under a Jewish government (efficient, no, halachic, no, kind, no, but run by Jewish people, yes.)

Are you mourning the deaths of the population and many tragedies leading to deaths on this date?  Yet, the Holocaust overshadows all those both in numbers and in impact to Judaism (with the destruction of every major world yeshiva).  And you don’t fast for that.

Are you lamenting the start of the loss of the Beis HaMikdash? Lamenting with meaning leads to doing something about it!  What have you done about it?  Have you worked towards rebuilding it?  Have you donated materials?  Helped work out an architectural plan?  Helped compile the actual materials like Dovid HaMelech did for later building?  (Assuming we can’t actually begin building now.)  HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING???

You’ve prayed, you’ve said tehillim, you’ve said selichos, you’ve mourned, you’ve asked Hashem to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash and (3 times a day) to rebuild Jerusalem.

That prayer has helped!  It laid the spiritual groundwork to lay the physical groundwork that allowed Jerusalem to be rebuild!  But the rebuilding took bricks and mortar, men and machines, streets being paved and pipes being laid.

But what about the Beis HaMikdash???  What have you DONE towards the Beis HaMikdash?

Oh, you hold that Hashem will drop the Beis HaMikdash whole from Shamayim (from Heaven) without us having to build it.  Ok, that’s well and good.  But what other mitzvah of the Torah do you just pray over without DOING anything?  If you pray for tefillin but don’t put them on…no mitzvah.  If you pray for matzah on Passover but don’t eat any…no mitzvah.

Every single mitzvah of the Torah requires you to DO something.

What are you DOING about the 17th of Tammuz?  If you are DOING nothing, why are you fasting?

Just wondering.

(Photo – Forest fire in the Jerusalem forest going up into Mevezeret Tzion from yesterday.)

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Connecting

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

The foundation of all of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev's teachings is to know and to understand that everything that happens to us, both spiritually and materially, including what we ourselves do, whether deliberately or unwittingly, willful or under compulsion, all comes about through the decree of Hashem.

He knows full and well that this the only way to bring you to the ultimate good. The thing to do if you can not understand this is to cry out to Hashem about all the wrong you have done. “For the sins of man cloud his perception of Hashem’s workings in the world.” Pour out your heart and plead with him for your very life, for if you can not see to understand His workings then you are very close to a very real danger, the danger of thinking that you are in control.
Ask Him to help you get closer to His, the ultimate holy goal of recognizing His hand in your every affair. Hashem’s way of dealing with us in this respect is one of the most amazing wonders “ His understanding of us and our needs is prefect. When you start to see with understanding all that He does for us is good, even the seemingly bad, then you will be full of joy and awe as you stand and watch His leading and fulfilling of all your daily needs.

You will then look forward to this experience everyday. This is how we develop our relationship with Hashem, To thank Him and Praise Him for all he has and is and will be doing in our lives.

Then we will be full of joy and thanksgiving and will merit the full redemption.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

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Climbing Back Up

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

This week on the street of life, I continued the process which was started many weeks and months before. As I continued to climb out of the pit, I became aware of how it all transpired. I came to the realization why: I did not guard my eyes as I should have.

No, I did not look at what was forbidden, but what I did, was remove my eyes from looking to my source, the Eternal source of my soul where all strength and blessings come from. You see I’m guilty.

I innocently started to do what I was supposed to do, let’s say my mission in life, and as I started I was distracted into letting my seder go, and Blam… Bang…Boom I lost a morning of S.I.M.C.HA “Shulchan Aruch Mikva Chatzot and Hisbodedut”... and prayer ‘on time’ and learning.
I started to get down on myself for failing such a little thing, but I caught myself and said, ”I’ll just get up tomorrow and start again". Ok, not so bad. But that night I did not get to sleep on time and the next day I missed again, and this happened for the next two months until I was totally burnt out and dysfunctional.

The walls of my fortress collapsed, ‘My seder of life giving blessing’ was lost, it was like forgetting where you left your wallet. You walk in circles and cannot think. So now after literally running away and giving up, I’m standing up again as there is no quitting on Hashem. We are all signed up for life, what we used to call a ‘Lifer’ in the Marine Corps.

So you’ll just have to come back to see how I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I’m here on a mission to clear a path through the jungle of this world.

This Mission is the most important mission I have ever been sent to accomplish. As I make my way through the twists and turns that lurk in front of me, I pray that you will journey with me as I overcome the obstacles, and turn my weaknesses into strengths.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

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Does The Jewish Educational System Need To Be Changed?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

    This series of articles started with an article posted on Mystical Paths written mostly by teens who left Torah and mitzvahs. The article was called “Why Judaism Sucks.” Next came more articles including, “I Am Committed,” wherein I highlighted how the spiritual side of Judaism is not being taught in religious schools or Torah-observant communities, which I feel is the primary cause for the vast majority of Jews not choosing a Torah lifestyle. I sited two main issues: Torah and mitzvahs are taught as an obligation, and not as a wonderful life of joy and holiness, and two, that there is almost no spirituality taught in the school system. Today, everyone is taught that everything is physical and talk of Hashem is almost forbidden.

    The articles have received strong criticism from people within the system, who claim that the articles foster loshan harah (evil speech) and are damaging to the yeshiva system. In fact, they say that the articles should be taken down from the Web site.

    The following is part of a letter from Monsey, New York. The writer is totally within the system, and recognizes what must be changed. See what it says. He is totally within the system, and he recognizes what must be changed. See what he says.

------

Gutman-

What you wrote in "I Am Committed" and in this follow up e-mail is bang on the money. These correspondents of yours are in denial, big time.

Keep communicating this message. G-d willing, the truth will resonate with enough people that the system will eventually change. And, boy does it ever need changing. It's got a flat tire alright.

Chasdei H-shem I have three children (all in their early 20's) who have gone through the "system". My two sons are learning in Lakewood.

The spiritual void within the system is endemic. The possibility of enhancing one's innate awareness of G-d is left out of the curriculum. Morahs andRebbeim are nervous and uncomfortable talking about G-d or spirituality, so whatever "inspiration" they offer the kids is flat and lifeless.

My sons tell me that kids as young as 5th graders are dropping out of Lakewood schools now. [Emphasis from Gutman] The oppressive conformity, restrictive classroom environment, and absence of any meaningful reason to stay frum are resulting in many lost kids in frum society.

The bottom line is that they don't get it, and they are afraid of getting it too. Spiritual teachings feel threatening, and seem disloyal to them (which is why you got the negative reaction you did).

They insist on not talking about G-d, and they do not live inspired. They are content with orthopraxy. [a religion that places emphasis on ethical and liturgical conduct as opposed to spirituality.] Clearly you are not living up to this social requirement.

I love your books, your e-mails and your videos and have grown and received so much inspiration from them. Please stick with it.

Brocha v'hatzlocha,

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Fire!

photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Searing hot dry dusty days came to Israel in late spring with hot winds blowing in from the surrounding deserts (while the eskimos may have multiple names for the consistency of snow, Israel has 3 names for the types of incoming desert winds…the ‘avak’, the ‘sharaf’, and the ‘chamsin’).  “Moreed HaTal”, the ‘dew fall’ stopped (which provides a moisture to the low lying plants) and the land became crispy dry.  Yes, Baruch Hashem there had been a decent raining season, but now the land is a tinderbox.

A cigarette thrown out a car window, a child with a pack of matches, the failure of an electrical device…brush fires have come to the land.

054

That’s an eruv poll, there goes the eruv.

057

Fortunately most home construction in Israel is concrete block with clay-tile roofs.  Even if this comes right up to the homes there’s limited concern of damage.  That said, as I moved in somewhat close for the pictures I found myself running away with the fire roaring across the brush.

053

The fire service has enlisted the help of crop dusters, who fly over dropping fire retardant chemicals to try to control the fire.

077

Unfortunately the fire conditions are prevalent across the area and we’re starting to see large blackened areas all around.  However, with winter rains it will, G-d willing, all green up again.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

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Looking for a Perfect World

diamond_facetsby Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths 

Anonymous Commentor - “you cannot be for the torah if you engage in lashon hora...speaking so negatively of the enitre yeshiva system. have you been in every yeshiva? … i told akiva at the start, but he doesn't read these or disagrees: do you see what the initial piece has wrought?!”

There are those who see the holy Jewish communities and declare that in their purity and holiness it is a perfect world (or at least a very good very G-dly one).  Any challenge to the perfection is an insult to holiness, an attack on the community, and by extension an attack on the Torah and G-d Himself!

This is understandable. After being under attack basically for the past 2,300 years as a people, and after the Holocaust left the Torah world almost completely destroyed, it’s natural for us to build societal defense mechanisms against challenges.

But since the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel the Torah world has been incredibly blessed and grown tremendously.  The community has doubled, doubled again, and again, and again, and again.  Both from birthrates and returnees, the religious community has flourished.  Today’s big yeshivot are literally 20 times larger than the largest yeshivot of pre-war Europe.  The number of yeshivot may be 30 times as many.

Correspondingly, the number of rabbis, not to mention the learning level of the nashim hakedoshim (the holy women), is awesome.  While the total Jewish population may only now be equalling pre-war Europe, the percentage of religiously educated Jews is at an all time high in history.

So, in my humble opinion, it’s ok to take a deep breath, take a look around us and say that our communities have some failings that could use improvement.  This is not anti-Torah, it literally is the Torah way.  The Shulchan Aruch has sections on how to give rebuke.  LONG sections on business laws and inter-personal relationship laws.  Religious courts for disputes, religious laws for dealing with disputes, and the possibility of investing religious authority with those who can resolve problems.

Religious Jewish communities are filled with incredible amounts of chesed (people helping other people and setting up groups, committees, and organizations to do so), charitable acts and giving, helping the poor, etc.  Practically every family, if not literally every family, has some involvement in chesed activities of one sort or another!

But there are failings, cracks, and breeches.  People overcome by their evil inclination who fall to financial challenges, power and influence challenges, and/or animalistic challenges (just to name a few).  There are schools that are doing a poor job or worse.  Even people in authority that no one would call good.  This is nothing new, such incidents are discussed directly in the Gemora!  (All of the categories I mentioned!)

There was a time when such things could be swept under the carpet.  For the good of the community, it was best to ignore them or do our best to quietly deal with them.

But we have a unique challenge in this time.  There’s an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and while all is recorded in a book it’s also often recorded on a cell phone and put up on Youtube for everyone to see.  When a person is hurt, they’re not obligated by the sanction of the community to keep quiet about it anymore (or not willing to take it when the ‘good of the community’ doesn’t seem to include them).  Now they can shout it from the rooftops by email, cell phone, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc, and be heard by a wide audience.

Just a few generations ago, every neshama (soul) was exceedingly valuable as it wasn’t clear if we’d survive, nay even thrive.  Today classrooms and shuls are bursting, and loosing a few people here and there is suddenly ok.  Now as we’ve upgraded our kashrus, Shabbos observance, learning with Daf Yomi, etc, now we can be equally as picky about our friends, our neighbors, our children’s classmates…we can be picky about our ahavas yisroel.

Here at Mystical Paths we believe in Torah, Hashem, the mesorah, and respect the leaders of the generation.  However, we don’t consider them infallible nor do we consider people (all of which have an evil inclination) doing bad things that hurt other people worth ignoring.  We see no problems in CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, trying to be BETTER EVERY DAY and make tomorrow one step closer to the best we can achieve in this world.

In this generation, sweeping things under the carpet causes more harm than good.  Because someone is sitting under that carpet with a digital camera, MP3 recorder, and a Facebook account.

We will not “maintain the purity of the holy community” by pretending the failings aren’t happening, ignoring them when they occur, or (G-d forbid) BLAMING THE VICTIMS.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

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Hang On!

hang on

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths and Yesh Ma L’asot

We are all trying to just hang on.  We need each other to remind ourselves "each other, when we see each other letting go,  to hang on!!!”

And know this, it will only be by thanksgiving and praise that are we going to make it!

We can make it!  Just pretend we are shipwrecked in a foreign land. They do not understand us and we them. Only by separating ourselves from the mundane and raising ourselves up out of the mud of this golus are we going to see the geulah (redemption).

Just like Egypt, Hashem is about to show His hand.  The makkot are being given and they are ignoring them, the heart of pharoah is strengthened but we must circumcise our hearts.

Be ever so sensitive to the leading of the spirit for this conversation is getting loud and we must read between the lines and search within for the right course of action.  Following the Tzaddik is the only way, as we are going in for the long haul. Get really for the biggest mental trial.

My brothers and sisters, only by throwing out our sekhel and having complete trust in the Tzaddik can we hold on and make it through. 

We must guard the gates, the gates to our soul!  Our eyes from the impure, the news which has become negative propaganda, the culture which has immersed itself in filth.  Our ears from the negative, the lies that are told, the patterns that appeal only to our animal.

Each of us is special, we were hand picked by by Hashem for this time.  The time before the geulah (redemption) is the reincarnation of the generation of the midbar (desert travels after Har Sinai).  We broke it, now WE have to fix it!

By crying and complaining, by longing for material joys, many times the generation has had to try to repair it. The final opportunity to finish the job comes right before the geulah.

We must break the hold on us of the lies of the world.  Like the generation that went down to Egypt where the slavery was introduced gradually, over a generation we went from radio to TV to computers, TV everywhere, cell phones, internet, internet on cell phones, constant involvement with the electronic and ignoring the people.  Constant belief in what’s fed to us, yet disbelief in G-d!

They are blinding us and we’re paying them for the equipment and bandwidth used to do so!

Simplicity and truth are the tools of righteous, do WE even know what those words mean anymore?

Sharing a good word, a smile, a blessing and some bread, remind each other that we are here and in it together.  Be here for them and they’ll be there for you.  And thank Hashem!  This is the most important!

Limit your use of the computers and phones as you will temped to look and listen to the falsehood.  There is a real test coming and we will not be able to stand it if we look or listen to them! The false prophets of ABC, NBC, CNN, BBC, FOX, AP, Reuters….and all the other prophets that your father did not know.

ONLY TO THE TRUTH OF TORAH and only from the words of the tzaddikim.  All else will lead to failure.

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The Together Multiplier

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths and Yesh Ma L’asot

Shabbos afternoon, third meal at Yesh Ma L’asot. The table is laden with all kinds of fish, challa, dips and cakes. A feast suitable for Shlomo Hamelech (almost). Who sponsored this delectable repast?

Nobody. All it took was everybody bringing something small. One person brought a dip, one brought some herring, a third came with two challas. Presto! Everybody is feasting together.

This is a small illustration of the concept of community.

Every one of us is unique. We each have our own special blend of strength and weaknesses, life experiences and Torah knowledge, which combine to give each person a unique perception and revelation of HaShem in this world.

Every person comes to this world to reveal an aspect of truth that nobody has yet revealed and nobody else will reveal. It can take many years,

a lifetime, perhaps even several lifetimes, to bring out this “good point”. One who attains any measure of success in this quest certainly has accomplished a very great thing.

However we must recognize that this person has succeeded in revealing only one perspective of HaShem’s infinite greatness. HaShem’s Glory will only be fully revealed in the world when everybody’s aspects combine to form a more complete picture. When all the puzzle pieces are put together, a beautiful picture is revealed.

Let us now take a deeper look. Our current understanding is that the results of my private quest must combine with everyone else’s personal revelation, and thereby form a collective vision. One plus one is two, plus one is three, until 603,550. This is a very limited and two-dimensional understanding.

We must remember that no man’s journey of soul-searching and clarification is accomplished in a vacuum. The light that one seeks to reveal is constantly refracted through the lenses of one’s associates, and in fact reveals different aspects with each refraction. Though one’s first glimmer of awareness may be basic, by reflecting through other seekers the understanding becomes deeper and deeper.

In Likutey Moharan II:8 Rebbe Nachman speaks of the greatness of adding one soul to the holy assembly of Jews.

We find in the Sefer Yetzirah, “Two stones build two houses, three stones build six houses, four – twenty four houses, five – one hundred and twenty, six – seven hundred and twenty, and so on.”

Two stones: AB BA

Three stones: ABC ACB

BAC BCA

CAB CBA

And so on...

What we see here is that every soul that connects doesn’t add — it multiplies. Every “good point” that shines increases the light exponentially; both the points it connects to and it’s own revelation as well.

Example: Reuven has an idea, a good thought. He expresses it to Shimon. Shimon sends it back with his own spin on it. Shimon also relates it to Levi, who puts his stamp on it, and sends it back to Reuven.

Every new path, every new permutation reveals new insight in Reuven’s original idea. Instead of a simple jigsaw puzzle, we’re now looking at a multi-dimensional image.

In summary, what one person can accomplish by himself, while impressive, is almost nothing compared to what can be accomplished together with others.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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Loss of Emunah

by Rabbi Kinstein at Mystical Paths and Yesh Ma L’asot

This week I found myself being the one who needed the Emunah lessons. How quickly we can fall in to the constrictions of this world. I got angry over everything that was happening to me and all the commitments I had.

It is easy to judge this as a lack of emunah, but in reality is is just the entrance to a new level. This can happen to the best of us and many times we are unaware of it and we fall prey to the distraction instead of the truth. For each everything that we experience is a message, a conversation as it were with the Creator Blessed Be His Name.

The key here is to as fast as you can the moment that you or someone else become aware of it shake yourself free and start all over right now in that very moment. The fall into constriction is not the danger, the staying there is. If we could just see on a scale or meter, just how much time we have wasted in beating and berating ourselves and others over this we would faint. But if we understood that the time understood that the time understood that the time between ‘the constriction’ and recovery is the key here.  To properly do T’shuva we need to repeat this over and over again until we catch ourselves before we fall. Then we can begin to help each other to realize this and  then start to perform redemptions.

As each of us comes to this consciousness we are joined by those who we have revived and each one in turn revives more until the whole of the world is raised to this Hashem consciousness  “On this day He will be One and His Name One”

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Overloaded and Overwhelmed

overload

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Last night you were not a happy camper. Today you are overloaded. Are you ok? (IM’d a friend.)

Honestly friends, no. This golus thing is just ruining my life. What's with this no Shechina deal? Running around grubbing for money, no time for Torah and mitzvot, troubles with kids, hassles with work. It's like so physical and lowly.

This has to be a dream, things can't really be like this. Like the whole world suddenly hating us just for existing - it's all a bad movie I'm sure.

Friend: I have followed comments to the flotillas. Most Americans are still pro-Israel. It is just that Barack Hussein Obama was sent here to unite the world against Jerusalem whether Americans support it or not.

See what I mean! How are we supposed to live lives connected to Hashem while watching the world figure out which way to kill us? (Not whether, just which genocidal madman will be allowed to implement his plan.)  And at the same time worry about kids, schools, and enough money to buy challah for Shabbos?

Should I be davening (praying), buying a tent and survival gear for the desert (the navi on the remnant fleeing to the desert after Gog uMagog), or worrying about my job not paying enough and the various failings of the schools on my children’s educations and which schools to try to get them into for the fall?

It's so freaking schizophrenic!

Friend: The Chafetz Chaim was clear that from this tza'ar (suffering) we will be redeemed. I would forget about survival gear. Somehow we will be redeemed without it.

This is NOT the first time the Jewish people have felt geulah (redemption) may be close.

Friend: Schizophrenic or not G-d will gather the entire world against Jerusalem, yet we still need to worry about the mundane things.

Friend: It is a Perfect Storm. Hold on strong. We need you (and every Jew).  The BP Oil Spill came around at the same time that Bibi was buckling on East Jerusalem building. One has to be blind not to see it. It is a message from on High. Those who try to solve Jerusalem's problems to our detriment will be lacerated. Yes, I don't know whether we will keep our home next year (in the West Bank) when the PA unilaterally declares its state. It is just the beginning.  It won't be easy to thrive during b'itah when it kicks in. But better in Israel that outside of it.

I actually think the news as a function has changed from informative to entertainment to a waste of time, to now a strong means of propaganda (to the general populace) and a direct mental attack (on the righteous).  One cannot help but feel the world is coming down around their ears if they watch the news as it focuses on one disaster, war, suffering people, unemployment event, or societal collapse after another.

I wasn’t gorging on news, but even the trickle is enough to ruin any hope of simcha (happiness).

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From the Inside

image003 (2) by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

 Responding to comments on “I am Committed”.  (An article explaining how to include the spirituality of the mitzvahs will follow.)

When I wrote the article, “I Am Committed,” I did not think that I would receive the type of responses which I received. Although I received a number of positive responses, the loudest responses were extremely negative, which really surprised me.

    This article followed an article posted on Mystical Paths concerning the same subject, written mostly by teens who have left Judaism. The article was called, “Why Judaism Sucks,” and it contained a number of harsh (but true) charges against the religious system. However, there was, to my knowledge, not a single harsh response to that article. After all, who is going to yell at those kids?

     “I Am Committed” pointed out, from the inside (really, guys I am on the system’s side) what may very well be the exact reason why those kids (read the vast majority of Jews) want nothing to do with the yeshiva system. And instead of us getting together and addressing these problems, those responders, said, in essence, “Shut up! Burn the article! Do not talk about these things.” In other words, pretend that the problem does not exist, and let’s just keep on going the way we have been going.” But guys, you know what? You got a flat tire, and you are saying to keep on driving.

    I imagine half of the Jews who read these articles are somehow involved with the system, and half are somewhat interested in coming closer to a Torah life, and hopefully, the articles will help them. At least, this certainly is the intention. But, if we do not tell those within the system to improve what is obviously wrong, it will not change. And if we tell those who are thinking about coming into the system that they can choose any yeshiva (or shul) they want, and none of these problems will be there waiting for them, then they will join one yeshiva for one week, and run away from all of them forever.

    Dear fellow “religious” Jews, if we do not adjust the system, so that it will reveal at least some of the spirituality that is hidden within the Torah, if we do not teach the students how Torah and mitzvahs are truly loving and enjoyable, then we will not be able to help those many hundreds of thousands (actually millions) of Jews who are either entirely secular, or somehow loosely connected to Buddhism, Yogaism, or some “ism,” other than Judaism.

Here are a few of the negative comments:

    “This post serves no constructive person (sic?). It creates divisiveness and is bad for the image of yeshivas, Please take it down.”

    “I suggest you remove this piece. It only ferments evil gossip and negative press about ‘haredim.”

    “This was a mistake.”

   Here are a few of the positive comments that came to my home email. The first one is from a rabbi who started a yeshiva in America.

    “Touchy subject, but I love what you are doing about it. I totally agree with you here.”

    “Who will remind them?”

    “G-d bless you. I love you. This is really speaking to me right now.”

    “Tooooo true.”

You be the judge.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

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I Insulted Israel

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This past Shabbos my family was invited to our rav for Shabbos night. It was a lovely meal, good Torah and conversation. Also visiting was some guests from outside Israel.

They asked what was going on with the religious protests and the school in Immanuel. I explained, and to repeat in very very brief (certainly not doing it justice)... the town of Immanual has one religious girls school that operates under the Chinuch Atzmai system - which means they get 40% government school funding but get to set their own curriculum. Most ultra-orthodox schools in Israel are Chinuch Atzmai.

The school has a regular track, which non-religious and somewhat religious girls attend, and an ultra-orthodox track, where chassidic and sephardi girls who keep an ultra-orthodox lifestyle attend. Some time ago (a year or two) a sephardi father wanted to put his daughter into the ultra-orthodox track, but was rejected. He claimed the rejection was due to ethnic reasons (sephardim in Israel are sometimes discriminated against in schooling), the school claimed it was because his family didn't meet the religious requirements of the ultra-orthodox track.

He took the case to the Israeli Supreme Court (which is not like other countries where you go through layers of appeal courts, anyone can file a Supreme Court Case for any reason - it just takes the right money for the right attorneys to do so). The Court ruled it was discrimination, and ruled they had the right to order the school to do whatever they said because it receives that 40% public funding.

But here's where it gets weird. The Court ordered the ultra-orthodox track opened to any girl, regardless of ethnic background or religious observance. In other words, non-religious girls could enter the ultra-orthodox track just by asking to do so, not having to meet any standards of such a track. The Court didn't set up penalties, change school funding or anything like that. They just ordered the religious track to mix in the non-religious girls.

The school had no choice but to obey the court. But the parents in the ultra-orthodox track refused to allow their girls to continue to attend if the program mixed in the non-religious girls - so en masse they pulled out their girls. They tried to send their girls to an ultra-orthodox school in another town, but the Ministry of Education threatened to close down the other school if they accepted any of these girls!

So the parents said fine, we'll just keep our girls home for the last month of the year. The Court said doing so prevents what we were trying to do, and that's Contempt of Court. So you, the parents, (44 sets of parents include 11 sephardi parents) are in Contempt of Court and must go to jail! (Unless you let your girls go for the last two weeks of the school year.)

So the ultra-orthodox protested, about 1/2 the parents disappeared, and about 1/2 went to jail (leaving their children at home with no parents by order of the court).

Naturally this whole situation is nuts, it's somewhat a power play between secular officials and the ultra-orthodox community, and shows two sides of the wacked legal system in Israel - a Court that makes crazy rulings with no foundation that can be respected, and people that increasingly don't respect the Court rulings because they do things like this and because they don't feel represented on the Court (which is rather monolithic secular ashkenazi old power elites).

So at the end of this (brief, yeah right brief) explanation the visitors turned to me and said, "boy, I certainly wouldn't want to live here!"

And at that moment I knew I was chayav (responsible) for defaming Eretz Yisroel. Just like the spies, it wasn't that they hadn't seen what they saw, it was in how they explained it.

Let's be clear, there are more religious, ultra-religious, and Torah schools of so many various types in Israel. More combined in Israel that everywhere else in the world put together. Consistently the top schools for education and behavior in Israel are the religious schools. And while the government doesn't wholeheartedly or fully fund the religious schools, they do fund them and provide buildings for them nonetheless.

There is more Torah learning going on in Israel at this time then since the 2nd Beis HaMikdash. The biggest yeshivas of Europe had 500 talmidim, the biggest yeshivas of our time have 10,000 talmidim!

Yes, there's some secular - religious conflict in Israel. But there's far more that brings most of us together than pushes us apart. The most secular Israeli Jew celebrates Passover, eats matzah, fasts on Yom Kippur, and sits in a Succah, things even synagogue attending reform or conservative Jews may not do outside of Israel.

So dear Israel, I apologize. It's not perfect, but it is home! And we may have some sibling squabbles, but we're still family.
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What Does the Kabbalah Say About This?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A young, new student stopped me on the way to the Kotel. “Do you study Kabbalah?” he wanted to know.

“Why? What’s the question?” I asked.

“It’s not me, but a friend of mine. He has a question, and he needs to know what the Kabbalah says about it.”

He called over his friend and told him to ask me his question.

The friend looked concerned as he spoke. He pointed to the area under his nose, and moving his finger right to left and back again, he said,. “My teeth have suddenly started to hurt me here. What does the Kabbalah say about this?”

I looked at him with a very serious look and said, “The Kabbalah says that you should go to a dentist.”

They both laughed.

What is the point of this story?

A young lady friend of mine is a wonderful person. She is really special. Beside how hard she has always worked for the Jewish People, her father is a Rosh Hayeshiva (head of a religious school). She married a truly wonderful man a few years ago. Almost immediately, they were recruited up by a rabbi who was looking for a young couple to add life to his programs. Soon after marrying, they flew off to one of the Southern United States to bring Jews to the Torah.

Both of them are from very large families, so we were expecting good news (read: babies) right away. But our hopes were not fulfilled; month after month went by, and no good news.

Finally after two years, the prayer call went out. They went to the Rebbe’s Ohel (grave site) from which many miracles have been reported, but nothing happened. The months turned into long years. She wrote asking me to pray for them, and three times a day at the Kotel, I started asking G-d to send them this all important blessing. Many people were beseeching Heaven on their behalf, but still no good news. We began to wonder, “How severe of a test is this going to be?”

Then, after having apparently exhausted all spiritual means, she went to a fertility doctor. “Oh, I see by the lab reports that your cycle is out of line with the Jewish laws of permitted times. Here, take these pills and you will be in line with that schedule.”

One year later we all celebrated the birth of a brand new baby girl. Mazal tov! Mazal tov!

What is the obvious point to this story? When your teeth hurt, of course you should pray, but don’t forget to go to the dentist.
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Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, zt"l, on Before Moshiach

Guest post by Rav Mechael Siegelbaum at Mystical Paths

Rav Elchanan Bunim Wasserman, murdered by the Nazis on the 13 Tammuz 5701.

Eighty years ago, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, student of the Chafetz Chaim, saw the Holocaust happening before his eyes. In “Ikvasa d’Meshicha” (The Period Just Preceding the Moshiach) he writes:

Israel in exile (from Hashem) is likened to a lamb surrounded by seventy wolves. In this situation, all she can do is to try and make the wolves forget about her. There can be no good for the Jewish people except when the world nations are busy with other things and not concentrating on them. When the goyim start to talk about us and cannot stop talking about us, this is the greatest danger. This is what the angels ask in Shir haShirim (8:8), “What can we do for our sister- the children of Israel- on the day when they talk about her?” (p38)

One of the great challenges facing the generation of the Holocaust was whether or not to heed the call of the Maskilim- the enlightened secularists- who were promoting aliyah to Israel and the building of a Jewish homeland. 'How can this be the beginning of the redemption for which we have longed,' decried Rabbi Wasserman. 'Better to remain in exile with the Torah than to live in the land of Israel without Torah,' he exhorted.

Why does the Torah detail for us events in the lives of our forefathers? “The experiences of our forefathers are a sign to the children.” Parshat Vayishlich, which describes the meeting of Yaakov and Esav upon Yaakov’s return to Israel from Padan Aram, prophesizes, according to the Vilna Gaon, the “Ikvasa d’Meshicha.” The Torah states,”and he placed first the maidservants and their children.” From here the Vilna Gaon (in the book Even Shleima) deduces that in the days just before Moshiach at the head of the Jewish people will stand the “Erev Rav” (the mixed multidude). The Rambam writes in his “Letters to Yemen” that there exists a promise, “And also in you shall they forever believe” (Shmot 19:5, where Hashem promises Moshe that the Jewish people shall forever believe in him.) This means that the Jews will be forever bound to their belief in Torah. If you nevertheless see Jews who deny the Torah, you can be sure that “the feet of their fathers did not stand on Mount Sinai.” They do not descend from the children of Israel but rather from the Erev Rav. If today we see non-believers are the people’s leaders, it bears out the words of the Vilna Gaon that these are the descendents of the Erev Rav.

“After them Leah and her children.” This foretells that the great majority of kosher Jews will then be subjugated to the Erev Rav. For example, the leaders of Russia and another country (meaning Israel).

“And Rachel and her children after them.” These are the Torah scholars who are the lowest of all. Even this phenomenon have our eyes witnessed. Any place where there remains a refuge for Torah scholars, they are mocked and scorned. (pp21-22)
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

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I Am Committed

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A fairly new baal teshuva (returnee to Torah) came up to me at the Kotel. He is learning at one of the many yeshivas that stress the physicality of the Torah, and pretty much ignore its spirituality. Sadly, this is the general rule in today’s yeshiva world, and it is the main reason that so many young Jews look elsewhere for spirituality.

I asked him if he was having a good time…. Was life good for him?

“I am committed to having a good life.” He sounded as if he was repeating a sincere, and stern promise that he was convinced he had to make.

“’Committed?’” I asked. “People who are committed are usually committed into insane asylums!” My answer startled him. “If you are doing something loving and enjoyable, you do not have to make a formal commitment. You know that you are going to do it because you love doing it. Apparently, the Torah is being presented to you as if it is some kind of burden, or like a medicine that tastes bad at first but promises to make you feel better later.”

If you do a mitzvah the way it is intended to be done, the experience is enjoyable right from the beginning.

The next day, I was standing waiting for the mikvah (immersion in water) to open Friday afternoon and a young man, much more learned than the one I just mentioned, was also waiting there. “Where are you learning?” I asked him.

He told me that he was learning at a yeshiva a few blocks from my apartment. “Oh, the rabbi there is a wonderful person,” I said. “And the learning is very good, too. But if I could change one thing over there, I wish that they would not only stress the physicality of the mitzvahs, but would also bring in the spirituality.”

He was immediately defensive. “I did not even know that there was physicality to the mitzvahs?” he said.

“You know… black leather boxes, square, the letter shin on the sides, and black leather straps,” I prodded him.

“Why do you say that I do not learn the spirituality of mitzvahs?” He said almost angrily. “You do not even know me!”

“Okay.” Then let me ask you, what would happen if G-d announced that that stone over there would be holy? What would be different about it?”

“Why, there would be rules about it, laws that we have to follow. We would not be able to use it except as the Torah dictates.” he answered.

“But you are proving my point,” I went on. “You are only giving me the physicality of G-d making the stone holy. What about the spirituality? What would be different about it?”

He was getting hot. “It would be holy and we would love it, and admire it, and treat it with great respect.”

“Okay, if that is true, what is the blessing that you make on your tefillin in the morning?”

He recited the blessing, without Hashem’s Name, very quickly.

“Wait a minute. What do those words asher kididshanu (which He sanctified) mean?” I asked.

“Who has separated us.” He fired back at me, getting hotter all the time.

“Why is it that when G-d sanctified the stone it became holy, special, loving, but when he sanctified you, you became separate?”

Now he was angry, “You don’t even know me, and you are speaking evil gossip about my yeshiva.” He yelled and went on to say a few more choice words in his frustration.

What’s my point? Thirty percent of the Buddhists in America are Jews. Do you wonder why?
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Friday, June 18, 2010

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Who's Helping Those Who Don't Fit In?

The traditional yeshiva system doesn't work for everyone. Who's helping those who fall by the wayside of the ultra-orthodox Jewish world?

Yeshivat Nishmat Shlomo is a yeshiva that is focused on dealing with the challenged youth of the religious community. Check out the video below, and then please consider supporting their raffle (ad below the video) so they can keep their doors open! Unfortunately a special program requires a higher level of resources, and the average family can't afford it without help.



Buy a raffle ticket and help them out, and tell them Reb Akiva sent you.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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Jerusalem at Night

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I found myself with an extra hour in Jerusalem tonight, so naturally I headed towards the Old City to go to the Kotel (Western Wall).  Little did I know…

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A traffic nightmare awaited me.  (David Citadel hotel on the left.) All roads towards the Old City were blocked!  What was going on???

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Being one of those kind of drivers that tries to make his way around everything, I headed towards Talpiyot to get into the Old City by Har Zion.  Blocked also, I ended up in a backed up traffic loop back the way I came.  But as I passed near the Jaffa Gate, I see the whole area lit up with some kind of night light art installation.  Ahh, it’s a Light Festival!

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The Old City walls were festooned with multi-color light fixtures.  The Jaffa Gate entrance was filled with green light growths…

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And here’s a Light Man…

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All in all, it was quite a sight…

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Though on the way back to my car I noticed that Jerusalem has become a wonderful place of night lighting beauty, festival or not…

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Modern Enlightenment

Power Line quotes William Voegeli on the capabilities of government, expanding into the modern Religion of Enlightenment...

...the 21st century is posing a crisis for "the religion of Enlightenment," the 18th century faith that human reason, unleashed from all constraints and unburdened by ancient superstitions and doubts, would lead mankind to ever greater levels of health, prosperity, security and harmony. The Enlightenment religion won so many converts because it delivered so much of what it promised. We really do enjoy lives that are vastly more comfortable and congenial than humans throughout nearly the entirety of history experienced or even imagined.

Inevitably, the progress we grow accustomed to we eventually believe we are entitled to. We treat every oil spill, mine explosion or plane crash as an outrage, an inexcusable breach of the promise that technology, planning and robust, efficient government would make life perpetually safer and nicer. Such transgressions against the religion of Enlightenment elicit a fundamentalist reaction: Human reason hasn't failed us. Rather, we have failed it, and must redouble our commitment to better technology, smarter planning, and organizations that are shrewdly designed and expertly managed.

Unlike some religions, Enlightenment fundamentalism readily lends itself to hating the sin and hating the sinner. A personal-injury attorney in Russell Banks' novel The Sweet Hereafter voiced these hatreds perfectly. Arriving in a small town to find clients and file lawsuits after a school bus skidded into a river, the lawyer says, "I knew at once that it wasn't an 'accident' at all. There are no accidents. I don't even know what the word means, and I never trust anyone who says he does. I knew that somebody somewhere had made a decision to cut a corner."

I have often spoken of the Religion of Science, the modern belief that we know it all, and in so knowing and not having found a direct explanation that says "G-d" we therefore know that there is no god. So modern science education intimates, until one discusses quantum mechanics, entropy and biochemical evolution, and the start of the Big Bang. But modern science-lite education doesn't go there, and presents the student with the basic 'we know' approach - leaving out room for what we don't.

From the explanation above I begin to understand that this approach started farther back than I thought.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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Oh Rebbe!

rebbe2

by Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths

(Today is Gimmel Tammuz, the day of the histalkus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe 16 years ago.  Also the day when Yehoshua bin Nun stopped the sun in the battle of Jerico.)

Oh Rebbe, you told us you were leaving it up to us.  You told us you’d done all you can do (that the work of the tzaddikim in bringing the Geulah – the complete redemption) was done.  Now we had to do our part.  You spent 50 years showing boundless love for the Jewish people and for your fellow Jew.  Not only did you show us how, you set up the ultimate ahavas yisroel franchise operation and completely refocused Chabad on saving the Jewish people, collectively by saving them individually worldwide.

But we were so close.  We literally felt the light of Moshiach in the air.  We knew we were the last generation of the golus (exile) and the first of the geulah (redemption).  You brought us Torah infused with Or Moshiach.

We watched miraculous events, literally wonders and miracles, happen around the world under your watch.  Empires fell bloodlessly and masses of Jewish people were freed.  Missiles fell on Israel and almost no one died.  Wars fulfilling biblical prophecy occurred and amazingly small numbers of people were murdered. 

All the events of the geulah were lining up b’rachamim, with incredible divine mercy.  Every day looked better.  The question for the future was how high would we reach, and how much farther would our children be able to go.

Then darkness fell.  You set the path and told us we would have to walk it, but we didn’t understand.

Since you left us the world has gotten darker every year.  Wars, threats, national scale terrorism, madmen challenging the world.  The Jews are responsible for this, the Jews are responsible for that.  Economic disaster.  Eretz Yisroel under serious threat.  Even threat of nuclear genocide.

The future is frightening, we hope we and our children will survive.

Oh Rebbe, we’re lost without leadership and fear for tomorrow.  Even so, we will not give up and will not give in.  We will remain a source of light and truth to the world even while it will spit in our face and try to burn down our homes.  We will continue your path of kindness, mitzvot, and Torah throughout the world.  We will NOT turn in on ourselves but remain committed to sharing goodness outwards.

You’ve told us that’s the way.  And even while our enemies cackle with glee at how they begin to stand high, we stand firm with Hashem and your path, learning your Torah, sending our children to open and staff Chabad houses to help every Jew worldwide, reaching out to our fellow Jew to bring every possible mitzvah into this world.

But Rebbe, with our physical limitations we need some (more) blessings in this world to make it through and need a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  Please see what you can do!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

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Why Judaism Sucks

jewish_teensby Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Illustrative photo – not of the people involved in this article)

A percentage of our youth are disaffected. Orthodox Jewish youth.  A subset of the generation that is drawn to the excitement of the world or turned off by a dry education system or parental and communal restrictions.  Or so I say.  But as my own teens remind me regularly, what do I know?

So I’ve asked and challenged them, tell me “Why does Judaism suck?”  Yes, a provocative question designed to get their interest and get a deep answer from them.

They’ve taken up my challenge.  A worldwide group of disaffected Jewish teenagers, girls and boys from orthodox homes, have responded.  Here it is, here’s why, in their own words, the Judaism of today doesn’t work for them.  From Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel, Passaic New Jersey, Jerusalem Israel, Crown Heights New York, here’s why Judaism sucks….

(These are their own words. Very minor edits for grammar and spelling to keep the reading easy.)

A: It’s not that Judaism sucks, it’s that people these days really corrupted it and teach it totally the wrong way.  So I think that that’s one of the main problems.  It’s the people, not the religion. The school systems need to be changed, and the way that it’s taught.

B: Maybe like the adults and teachers are hypocrites. They don’t keep what  they teach.  They teach to fear God which isn’t good. They should teach that we should love God and not fear him. They also focus too much on like external stuff these days, like how high your socks are and are not teaching the more important stuff like morals
and how to act and behave. They should focus more on being a good person then how high your socks are.  For example adults and teachers say you shouldn’t speak lashan hara, then go and talk to all the parents and teachers about you! People should just be real and true.

C: They say when you are young (a child) everything can influence you and they are right.  Their influence is what screws with you, confuses you, makes everything complicated.

D: Judaism doesn't provide enough answers. How do you expect a young child to go about his life with no answers just curiosity?

E: I think it sucks because it’s a shallow minded religion. Things that it says don’t work for our generation. Kids don’t want to hear how they can’t do anything enjoyable.

F: I think Judaism itself is fine. The basis of the true religion is
great. But rabbis and sages have made up all these extra rules to add here to the original rules which, because they are man made, might be spoiling the purity of the religion.

G: I don't think the religion sucks, I think that it's not being taught properly. There are people out there distorting it and taking things a little bit too far. I don't think that the extra rules the rabbi's added on a while ago spoils the purity, I think its more all the extra rules being added on NOW.  And while “E” is right about kids not wanting to hear about it now, but often it’s because they don't get what it's really about and don’t understand why they can't do the things they want to do.

H: Know ANYBODY who teaches it well? Can’t say I know any one or any rabbi who does.

I: In short I find even when you do all the right things it still seems to be a dark world, and basically that’s why I think it’s all (feces).

J: Judaism is awesome, it’s just the people who represent it nowadays are stuck in a steel box and are doing it all wrong. But Judaism in and of itself is beautiful. If it was taught in the right way people would be a lot more into it.

K: Judaism is beautiful...one creator, angles, spirits, mysticism, heaven,.... But it’s based on ancient culture.

L: What the rabbi's added in the times of the Gemara isn't bad at all, it's just as pure as the rest of the Torah. But people are adding on their own stuff and taking it too far now, which is wrong.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

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Gog uMagog Already Passed?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

An Anonymous commentor wrote (good comment, why not leave a name?)...

The Rebbe and other tzaddikim have repeated that the war of Gog and Magog has already happened. The final war of Gog and Magog is a spiritual war against the Yetzer Hara. This was also mentioned by Rav Nachman of Breslev. So the final redemption will take place without any major world war.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe continually defined world events as fulfilling specific words of the navi'im (specific biblical prophecies). And not only the words of the navi'im, but also prophecies of the Gemora, and even Yalkut Shimoni. He was clearly defining geulah b'rachamim, the redemption brought in mercy and before it's time.

But, Hashem yerachem (G-d have mercy), the job wasn't finished. This shouldn't surprise us, the Rebbe himself told us he (and by association, all the tzaddikim) had done his part - now it is up to us. The avoda (the spiritual work) of the tzaddikim in bringing the geulah is finished - the tzaddikim won't bring the geulah - the klal will (the Jewish people, the average people, now must complete their part).

Now you say the Rebbe said Gog uMagog has already happened, and so did Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. Now I can't speak for what Rebbe Nachman of Breslev said 250 year ago before World War I, World War II, and the Holocaust (events which lead me to doubt he said Gog uMagog had already happened). But I do know that THIS PAST WEEK there was a group of Breslev tzaddikim by Rebbe Nachman's kever in Uman doing spiritual work to try to keep the path b'rachamim (the path of mercy) and before it's time. This would seem to be unnecessary if the position of Rebbe Nachman was Gog uMagog had passed.

As far as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I queried a Chabad Mashpia this past week before I wrote the previous article commented upon. My question was, "Please clarify for me, did the Rebbe say that the Geulah _can_ come without all the negative prophecies of the Nach (biblical prophets) or _will_ come without all the negative prophecies?" He answered, "The Rebbe said the Geulah _CAN_ come without all the negative prophecies." And I'll add the Rebbe clearly defined that SOME of the prophecies have already been fulfilled.

But not all of them.

I heard an amazing Chabad speaker on Shabbos. He noted that rachama litzlan (Hashem have mercy), since the Rebbe's histalkus we've seen only negative after negative against the Jewish people with the situation looking worse every year. Which may be the point. It was easy to hope for and believe in the geulah when the Rebbe was driving things in the right direction. It's hard to describe for those who weren't there at the time how much energy, how much kedushah was flowing around, how much effort was going into bringing more mitzvot, more Torah, more learning, learning about Moshiach, all focused on just finishing the job and bringing the Geulah.

But of course, as the Rebbe told us, he was giving the job over to us. We have no such leadership in this generation, no massive positive effort. Instead we have troubles befalling us, worries piling up upon us. But that's the point. WE have to do it, now, with our limited perception.

We davka have to do it, to maintain our emunah in the face of fears of this world, and our bitachon as the world turns to us and shouts "so, nu, where is your god?" Yalkut Shimoni describes a reverse Eliyahu hanavi and the priests of baal situation that will occur in our generation - where they will seemingly receive divine miracles and we won't. And they will turn to us, taunt us and invite us to worship their gods.

And in the midst of that we have to stand strong and stand with Hashem.

No, it doesn't have to be bloody. The Berlin wall fell without bloodshed. The Soviet Union dissolved without horror. BUT NOBODY SAID IT'S GOING TO BE EASY.

The tzaddikim can't finish this for us. They're working to DELAY it to give US the time to finish it b'rachamim (with mercy).

Time to get to work.
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A Raffle We Support

Yeshivat Nishmat Shlomo is a yeshiva we strongly support and recommend. This is a program focused on dealing with the troubled youth of the religious community, those who the mainstream education system simply no longer serves or holds an attraction for, and turns them into productive self respecting successful young men.

Buy a raffle ticket and help them out, and tell them Reb Akiva sent you.

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Why Such Emphasis On Beauty?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Question:

Why does the Torah emphasize the beauty of our Foremothers? Is this what is important? And if so, what hope is there for plain-looking women?

Answer:

It is true that the Torah tells us of the great beauty of at least three of our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah and Rachel. However, their beauty was not just “skin deep.” Their main characteristics were piety, modesty and a great desire to create the Jewish Nation. These qualities are their true beauty.

You are correct, they were also physically very beautiful. But look and see how our Fathers Avraham and Yitzchak did not even notice their physical beauty. Physical beauty was stressed only by our Father Yaakov.

Only when Avraham was traveling to Egypt did he notice Sarah’s great physical beauty and realize that he would be in danger because of it.[i]

Yitzchak’s attachment to Rivkah began when he heard how she was chosen by G-d to be his wife, not when he first saw her physical beauty, as her face was covered with a veil.[ii] Rivkah wanted Yitzchak to accept her because Hashem chose her to be his wife. G-d did so because of her spiritual beauty, not because of her great physical beauty.

But with Yaakov it was different. He initially loved Rachel because of her physical appearance. Rachel was Yaakov’s worldly wife, while Leah was his spiritual wife. Clearly, from the worldly perspective, physical beauty is important.

Each of the Fathers represents a different characteristic of the Jewish man. And yes, the worldly characteristic of physical beauty is also important. But as you see, spiritual beauty is stressed much more in the Torah.

What should the “plain-looking woman” do? When anyone moves toward fulfilling their spiritual goal, they begin to glow with spiritual beauty. In truth, their physical appearances also become beautiful. Each of us came into the world to accomplish an essential task. As we move toward our potential, we radiate holiness, and this holiness is very attractive, especially to the type of spiritual-sensitive person whom these women wish to attract.

[i] Genesis 12:11
[ii] Genesis 24:65
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

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Answers to a Pastor

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Being at the Kotel for 6 hours a day brings me many opportunities to engage a large number of people, both Jews and non-Jews. A while back I was interviewed for a large circulation, christian magazine; I think it was called “christianity Today.” As always, they twisted what I said. A couple of months later a christian pastor wrote to me, saying that he had read the interview and wanted to film an interview with me.

I researched the pastor on the Internet and found that he has a small film company that likes to make films trying to prove that his religious beliefs are correct. I agreed to the interview on the condition that he would not change anything I said. He agreed, and we set a date. He even offered to pay me! Everyone advised me not to do it. After all, we all knew what he was trying to do.

To protect myself, and much to his surprise, I showed up for the interview with my own cameraman. The conversation lasted some 25 minutes. Here are eight minutes that pretty much sum up the interview. It will be interesting to see how the pastor produces it so that it will show support for his beliefs.

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Shouldn't We All Be Israeli's Now?

This is a MUST read, for when the non-Jews stand up and say the Jews need to worry...

By Kyle-Anne Shiver at American Thinker

For the past three weeks, I've been on vacation, purposely avoiding news of any kind as I sought to refresh my soul. The very first thing I read upon resuming my vigil on the world's affairs was a report describing those despicable Israelis cold-bloodedly murdering a group of innocent peace activists bringing much-needed aid and comfort to the Israeli-victimized Gazans and a companion piece filled with the world's condemnation of Israel.

Having followed Middle East events rather conscientiously for a number of years, I immediately suspected that there was a great deal more to this story. Having watched a Western press grow more and more willfully blind and downright anti-Semitic over three decades greatly increased my skepticism. Seeing my American president blink, blink, and blink again while blathering more inanity about irrelevancies, unable to discern right from wrong, brought me to the brink of gut-wrenching nausea.

What has happened to us? The West, I mean, and more specifically, America?

READ THE WHOLE THING! CLICK HERE.
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Geulah or War Rumblings

Iranian-Navy-ships Debka, and now other sources, note Iran stating they’re sending additional blockade running ships together with military ships to confront Israel.  I’ve been asked what I think.

First note that Debka always shouts the most worrisome headline points, picking the smallest statements of any foreign personnel to create the biggest loudest worry. They are headline grabbers, and I don’t (yet) see any mainstream outlets reporting similar (not even Al Jazeera).

That said, the scenario isn't ridiculous. The question is how impotent the other world powers will be. Most of the world powers want STABILITY. War is generally bad for business, and Middle Eastern war can have major economic impact if it disrupts oil shipments.  Even Russia, who wants to gain increasing influence, doesn't really want war (but doesn't mind tension to gain influence and sell war equipment).  So I would think they would use their influence to stop things getting to this point.  Nor do I think having Iran start a war on their border is in Egypt's interest.

On the spiritual side of things, the mekubalim have said a war scenario was put off "until the 3 weeks" of this year.  There's also a calculation debate whether it's brought down from the Gra in Kol HaTor whether the last possible date for geulah before it's time (rather than in it's time) falls on July 12 - the first of Av (at ~12:40pm) of this year or the 25th of Tammuz (at the end of Mincha gedola) next year (Rabbi Nati says it may be this year, Dov bar Leib calculates it to be next year).

It’s important to note the Lubavitcher Rebbe's view that such times don't have to develop into a negative physical scenario, and only our teshuva and (lack of sufficient) desire for the geulah is holding it back. Certainly we've seen amazing world events in the last 30 years such as the falling of the Berlin wall and crumbling of the Soviet Union, where tremendous world changes occurred in a bloodless fashion.

Of course we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But the Rebbe stressed that in any scenario Israel remains the place of Hashem’s attention and protection, even in apparently worrisome times it’s never appropriate to run from Israel, and it’s the safest place in the world to be a Jew.

If we are coming to the biblical prophecies of Gog u’Magog, the question may be not whether it’s safe to be in Israel but if it’s safe to not be in Israel.

May the Geulah come b’rachamim mamash today.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

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Video: Staying Connected

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

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It's a Scam

We received this urgent email from a member of our community before Shabbos...
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Subject: URGENT HELP!!!!!
To:

I'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent,but due to the situation of things right now, i'm stranded in London with my family right now, we came down here on vacation and was robbed, worst part is that wallet, cash credit cards and my cell phone was stolen at GUN POINT, it's such a crazy experience for me, i need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is we still have our passport but dont have enough money to get my flight ticket back home and some bills settled, please we need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as i'm back home, i promise.

Thank you
Moshe (last name redacted for privacy)
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When we ran into Moshe on Shabbos we asked him "how'd you get home so quick, B"H everything worked out ok!" 'What are you talking about?' he asked. Seems he did note that he couldn't log into his email account but didn't realize someone had actually taken control of it and sent this email to his whole contact list.

Beware such a note, it's likely a scam. Also note the "To:" address - none. That's another sign of a scam. What a time we live in.
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Thinking We Know It All (Video)

Rabbi Nati shares some insights...

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Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, zt"l

We note with sadness the passing of a leader of Israel, the Rishon L'Tziyon, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, zt"l.

News: Former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu passed away on Monday afternoon at Jerusalem’s Sha’arei Tzedek hospital, after a prolonged hospitalization. He was 81 years old. Eliyahu was born and raised in Jerusalem, and served as chief rabbi between the years 1983-1993.

Rav Mordechai, zt"l was said to have received the spiritual mantel for helping the geulah process b'rachamim from the Baba Sali, zt"l. While Rav Mordechai was entering his final days, a group of tzaddikim was meeting to pick up the responsibility.

Yet we are bereft of a great rav and spiritual leader.

May his family and talmidim be comforted among the mourners of tziyon and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).

(Picture - Rav Eliyahu with the Lubavitcher Rebbe)
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Sunday, June 06, 2010

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When The Enemy Approaches

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by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

When danger draws near, and the world is united against us, as we see it is today, do not despair. Despair weakens resolve.

    Instead, strengthen yourself and all of our people by taking action. Every one of us must join in the battle.  Wherever we are, we are all on the front line, and we all must do our best to protect the ones who are in the most danger.

    You and I do not have tanks or planes, but we do have our own powerful weapons. When we do a mitzvah, any mitzvah, we strengthen the entire Jewish people. Now is a time when we must increase our mitzvahs. For the next week, take action to shield our soldiers from danger. For instance, if you are accustomed to giving one dollar a day to charity, for the next week, give two dollars a day. If you are having one Shabbos guest Friday night, invite another. Increase your learning and kindness, even if it is only a small amount, and even if it is just until this dangerous time passes. Every good deed you do will help to shield a Jew who is in danger, and this is even more true when you make an effort to increase your good deeds.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

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JEWS, GO BACK TO POLAND!

Hodu L’Hashem Key Tov, Key L’Olam Hasdo – Thank you Hashem for Eretz Yisroel, Eretz HaKodesh and that after so many generations since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and (general) exile from our land, and after the Holocaust, that the Jewish people have the ability to live in the Holy Land and operate their own government there.

THANK YOU HASHEM.

That’s the response to be given on the parsha of the meraglim, when the spies spoke poorly of Israel.  At the same moment the world is speaking lies about Israel and crying out to slaughter the Jewish people…

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Friday, June 04, 2010

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We Are The World, We Are The Children (or not?)

Latma TV is Israel's political equivalent to the US's Saturday Night Live, but is often dealing with life, death, and war issues. Today they bring us We Con The World, the new charity fundraising song for Gaza.

(Religious warning - women singing)

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

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Emergency Tefilot to Rebbe Nachman

Rabbi Nati is in Uman by the kever of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, having traveled there with his rav and teacher, HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita.  This is an emergency tefilah (prayer) trip both for personal reasons and for Am Yisroel (the Jewish people).

Clearly this a time where our people need special prayers. While we may not be able to see what's going on in the spiritual realms, the animosity of the nations to Israel and the Jewish people is reaching unprecedented levels!


During his trip (which will complete on Sunday, June 6, 2010) he is accepting prayer requests to bring to the kever of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.  If you'd like him to carry your prayer request, please click the donate button below which will provide a form for donating and entering your request.

(Why do we ask for a donation for this?  First and foremost, to make a channel for a blessing requires a mitzvah.  The easiest and fastest mitzvah is the mitzvah of tzedakah - charity.  Your donations will be used exclusively and 100% to support the operation of Yesh Ma L'asot yeshiva, kollel, Torah learning, and Torah events.  Second, unfortunately this physical world requires money to operate and a practical service, the bringing of your request, is being provided (and hey, you tip a waiter, right?)  Not being an independently wealthy rabbi, Rabbi Nati's Yesh Ma L'asot Torah and Chesed organization can only continue to operate by YOUR support.  However, while the suggested minimum donation is $18, he will accept ANY amount you consider worthy to invest in your tefilah [prayer].)

Sorry, this opportunity has passed. You can continue to support Rabbi Kinstein's Emunah based Yeshiva and online Emunah Torah website at YeshMaLasot.org.

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