Thursday, July 29, 2010

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Israel Views: Tel Aviv High View

photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

At the end of the Bnei Brak industrial park are two high rise buildings.  I had a business meeting at the top of one, which gave me an opportunity to break out the camera and get some great high views of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan…

Looking north-west we see the Ramat Gan park and water park, soccer stadium to the right, a large mall to the right of that.  Further in the distance on the right is Kiryat Atidim (the “Future Park” business complex).  In the distance in the middle is Ramat Gan residential towers.

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Looking north-east, we see more of the Ramat Gan park, an outdoor concert area, and Tel Aviv in the distance.

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Looking directly east (literally hanging the camera out a window – in Israel the skyscrapers have windows that open!) we can get a glimse of the sea in the distance.  It was a dusty/hazy day, so the distance view isn’t great.

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This last view is through a window (hence some reflection) and shows residential apartment/condo buildings of Bnei Brak with Tel Aviv a few miles in the distance.

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As you can see, the Ramat Gan side of things is much greener and pretty.  And (not surprisingly) more expensive.  It was built as a suburb, whereas Bnei Brak was built as a city neighborhood (even though they all back up against each other into the Tel Aviv Metroplex).

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Thanks Obama (Not)

Commentary by Reb Akiva

When US presidents act presidential, we (generally) appreciate the leadership and accept some level of inconvenience when impacted.  (Those who live in New York City find themselves impacted several times a year as the city sets “security freeze zones” as the president moves through the city to the UN or other important meetings – often delaying people going to or from work, businesses accepting deliveries, etc.)  Visits to the United Nations, meeting with foreign leaders, a political visit with local politicians, it’s par for the course.

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But when a US president acts royal and inconveniences the public for the (direct and obvious) sake of his political polling status, well then even the average support will turn against him and his disregard for the little people.

Yesterday my teenage daughter was trapped in an airport in Florida.  Her flight and all flights to Newark, New Jersey (one of the busiest airports in the United States) were cancelled yesterday afternoon.  Why???

Because President Obama had to fly in to New York during prime time busy flying hours…to attend a television talk show.  (Oh, he also visited a sub shop in Edison, New Jersey…to visit with the common man.)

Frankly if the Big O was spending some time traveling around visiting the common man (and maybe ask why some stores on the street with the sub shop had their doors shuttered) I’d applaud him.  But when a hundred flights are cancelled because he’s got to make a prime time talk show…. my daughter’s response is “I hate this guy.”

Some consideration for the little guy is in order.

(Cost to my daughter – 1 day of vacation lost, 4 hours waiting in line in the airport, lots of frustration.  Cost to the airline - $220 for a hotel room plus meal vouchers till they could get her on a replacement flight 24 hours later.  Multiply by 100 flights with an average of 150 people…cost to the little people, 15,000 vacation days or work days lost, cost to the airlines $3,300,000.)

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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Since You Asked

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Regarding the previous article “They Seem to be Senseless,” which discussed some rabbinical rules, a number of you wrote back about how wrong it is to group women and dogs and pigs! One man was offended enough to say that my writings were “sick.” And my statement about the non-Jew not walking between two Jews was “extremely racist and offensive,” and the letters became louder and louder!

    When the Rabbis warn about not letting a woman, a dog, or a pig walk between you and your friend, they are not saying that a woman is a dog, or a pig, G-d forbid. What is being grouped is that all three of these have a strong impact on man, albeit for entirely different reasons. Whereas a woman’s very strong impact on a man is through desire, a pig’s strong impact is through disgust, and a dog’s impact might be due to fear. Yes, they are all related in that they all evoke strong reactions, but obviously, they evoke strong responses for entirely different reasons.

      As to my saying that the Rabbis warn against letting a non-Jew walk between you and your friend, know that there are different levels of rabbinical laws. First, of course, are the laws actually written in the Torah. Then, there are the Rabbis’ fences, which were erected to protect us from breaking the Torah laws.

    So, for instance, the Torah forbids writing on Shabbos, but then the Rabbis jumped in and erected a rabbinical fence forbidding even the handling of pencils and pens on Shabbos. The Torah allows handling pencils and pens on Shabbos; it only forbids writing. But the Rabbis knew that if you handle a pencil or pen you will probably come to write, so they forbid even handling them on Shabbos.

     The rabbis went further and also gave us “warnings” and “good advice” edicts. One such warning was mentioned in the previous article, relating to not allowing a woman, a pig, or a dog to walk between you and your friend, since they could cause you some type of damage. A warning does not carry the weight of a rabbinical fence (gezera), but still, it is a rabbinical rule.

     Then, there is the Rabbis’ “good advice.” For instance, they caution that Jews should be careful when walking on the way with a non-Jew. They say that we should keep him to our right side and not allow him access to our left side. This rule comes because the non-Jews of that time and place were dangerous, and they could very well attack the Jew. Therefore, we were warned, keep him on your right side, away from your heart, so your right arm could defend you, and so he could not stab you in the heart.

     I can hear you screaming now. But, this is the reality that we have faced, and it is the reality that some of us face even today. And this is what the Gemora talks about.[i]

     Then, there are the mystical warnings, such as are found in the Zohar. The Zohar warns not to walk between two non-Jews, nor to let them walk between you and your friend. The Zohar is not merely warning us about the physical damage that can come from walking between non-Jews; it is addressing the spiritual damage, too.

     Here, where I live, this warning is not only a spiritual caution. It is also a valid, physical warning. In my neighborhood, no normal Jew would be comfortable allowing an Arab to walk between him and his friend, nor would he want to walk between two Arabs who were walking together.

     I live in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, my apartment is the last apartment on my side of the street before the Arab housing begins. I step out of my apartment each morning at 1:30 (a.m.), and I am very careful about whom I walk between.

    Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is, ask before you scream. The Rabbis probably had a good reason to say what they did.


[i] Chulin 91a

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Monday, July 26, 2010

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Chakra Kabbalah

Chakra Nodes Illistration

by Reb Gutman Locks and Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

“New Age” practices, bits and pieces of Eastern spiritual systems watered down for Western consumption, have been extremely popular in recent times.  Those looking for a dose of spirituality, without a serious commitment, can pick up a bit of this or that mystical spiritual system to fill voids of meaning in their lives.

The Jewish community is no exception. Many non-religious Jews fill their soul’s yearning for Hashem with a headlong dive into Eastern systems.  Unfortunately even many religious Jews get interested and involved in some of this foreign spirituality.  In other cases Jews who grew up outside religious Jewish circles who become religious Jews sometimes bring their foreign experiences with them, trying to extract the benefits of foreign spiritual systems and present them in a kosher Jewish context.

The question is, are they compatible?  Are Chakra’s an expression of Kabbalah life force paths?  Is Chi the “life force of the blood” from the Gemora?  Are the various expressions of Eastern spirituality reflections of Kabbalah and/or Torah wisdom?  Natural phenomena to be taken advantage of?  Or wisdom of the nations to be utilized?

It’s our position that people should stop mixing idolatries into Judaism.  Further, influential people should stop mixing in and using Hindu terms.  Relative to Hinduism there is no doubt that according to Judaism’s standards it’s idolatry.  And while it has a health system, and exercise system, and a spiritual energy system, all of these are tightly bound with it’s underlying idolatry oriented spiritual principles.  Getting involved in the least parts have a high potential to draw one into greater involvement.

But do we know what we’re talking about?  Are the spiritual aspects really that dangerous, and therefore the simple wisdom and value aspects really that hard to extract?  To answer that we went to two kabbalists and raised the question.  Here’s their answers:

Rabbi Bar Tzadok of KosherTorah.com: “I've been following your posts on MYSTICAL PATHS regarding the idolatry of Yoga and anything related to it coming out of the India traditions.  I am in full agreement with you and I give you my permission to us me as a reference if there would ever be the need to do so.  I am very familiar with these practices and can explain in detail the difference between chakras and sefirot and how using one system (the sheva malachim of edom) short-circuits the kadosh [holy] system of the sefirot (olam hatikun).”

Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsberg at Inner.Org: (from his responsa, answering the question “Are Kabbalah and Buddhism in some sense related? How should one relate to Chakras?”)

Our Sages teach us, "Believe wisdom from a non-Jewish source; do not believe Torah from a non-Jewish source." The wisdom which Jews are to believe, as referred to in this passage is the holy sparks of truth within the wisdom of the non-Jews. The Torah which Jews are not to believe is a way of life expounded by the non-Jewish source.

In every method of a non-Jewish source there are holy sparks which the Jew must clarify. This is done by identifying the true source for this wisdom in the Torah. However, it is forbidden to relate to this non-Jewish method as an all-encompassing method or way of life, and to give it a name. One must only clarify the holy sparks within it, and remember that the only true method, or way of life, is Torah.

Taking symbols, sounds, images, etc. from foreign sources is strictly forbidden. They come from impure sources, and thereby have an impure effect on the soul. Any symbols, images etc. should purely and exclusively derive from the Torah. This includes the sounds of the Hebrew letters, the sounds of words, and the basic verses in the Torah such as "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad" (Deuteronomy 6:4), and also includes the forms of the letters.

Chakras are not clarified and not 100% true, being derived from foreign Eastern sources. In Kabbalah we have 15 contact points down the middle line of the body. These are true energy centers.

(from another answer of R. Ginsberg)

The very usage of the name "yoga, tai chi, etc." whether prefaced with the word "Jewish" or not, does not allow for true clarification. In fact, the juxtaposition of the two terms "Jewish yoga" is shatneiz, an improper mixture.

(end of R. Ginsberg’s answer)

This summarizes our thoughts very well!  The mixing of Eastern spiritual practices with Judaism is shatnez, and improper mixture that is absolutely prohibited and cannot be made kosher.

There are some rabbis and Jewish outreach centers that use just the terminology to draw in those who have become involved in such things (or may have a casual interest in such things).  Even this is of great concern as it effectively puts a kosher stamp on things that are not.

Finally, there are a number of experts who say they have kashered (made kosher) the mixture.  We would remind people that in the 60’s the Lubavitcher Rebbe engaged a number of experts, including sending some special chassidim to temples throughout Indonesia and India, to find a “neutral” version of such practices that could be used for Jews heavily involved in them (to wean them off).  This search, led by spiritual experts with the direct involvement and oversight of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was unsuccessful. 

At best, mixing Eastern spiritual terms into Judaism confuses people and may make them think such things are kosher.  At worst it mixes prohibited spiritual practices into Judaism.

Such things are a MISTAKE and an infiltration of the Yetzer Hara (the wily evil inclination) into the holy community.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

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They Seem To Be Senseless

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A lot of the Torah’s laws do not seem to make sense. At least we can see how they make any sense. Sure, we do them anyway, but it would be nice to understand why we are doing them.

The laws forbidding perversions in weights and measures are quite logical. Obviously, it is wrong to cheat. But some of the Torah’s laws are so illogical, that they defy man’s ability to understand them. In fact, the Sages tell us that this type of law (called a chok) has no logical reason.

For instance, the laws of “forbidden mixtures;” obviously, there cannot be a logical reason for forbidding a Jew to wear a garment made of wool and linen, right? And what about the rabbinic warnings, such as a man not walking between two women or not letting a dog or pig walk between you and your Jewish friend? Are these rules just to keep us aware, or is there a physical or spiritual reality to them?

There are four basic types of forbidden mixtures: a mixture of different types of seeds (when planting plants), a mixture of orchards (fruit trees), a mixture of species (when breeding animals), and a mixture of linen and wool (in our garments). The Torah warns us that such mixtures sap the strength from the individual species.

What could these laws possibly be teaching us today?

Here the Torah is using a common Talmudic principle called kal v’chomer (all the more so).

When we look, we see that each of these forbidden mixtures not only deals with the species that it mentions, but it also points back to us:
--The seeds of a garden are like a man’s own seed.
--The fruit of a tree is its offspring. A man is likened to a tree of the field and, fittingly, our children are called our fruit.
--Our animals are not merely our physical animals but also represent our spiritual animals, our animal inclinations.
--And our garments are our deeds.

Now apply the “all the more so” principle: If I am not to mix my vegetable seeds because this will drain the strength of each plant, and I am not to mix my fruit trees because this will weaken the fruit of my trees, and I am not to crossbreed my animals because this will produce weakened livestock, and I am not to mix my garments, then surely all the more so, I am not to mix my actual offspring—my children, who are my family, my deeds.

Jews are commanded to marry only Jews and raise Jewish families in order to maintain a healthy, vibrant Jewish people in the world. Without doubt, this is the greatest test facing the Jewish nation today, as the vast majority of Jews around the world intermarry. If a Jew is careful not to mix the threads of his garments, he certainly will be careful not to mix his family.

As to the warning regarding walking between two women: if you do not believe that there is a spiritual world right here and now, if your entire universe is made of stone, then this answer will not satisfy you. But, if you somehow see that the physical is actually the spiritual manifesting Itself as the physical, then you will take these words to heart.

“Yesh nefesh l’koldevar” Everything has a soul. Souls radiate their nature. Even a rock radiates its spiritual nature. Men not only radiate their human nature, they also radiate their personal, masculine nature. Women not only radiate their human nature, they also radiate their individual, feminine nature.

A number of upsetting things can happen to a man who is surrounded by feminine, spiritual input. He may find himself troubled by sexual dreams. He may find his masculinity challenged from within. The teachers of Kabbalah say that he is bringing a “little damage” to himself.

Obviously, if this warning is being read by a man who goes out of his way to be surrounded by women, he is going to scoff at it. But if the same Sages who warned us not to eat unsupervised milk (as explained in a recent article) also warned us not to walk between two women, then it makes sense to listen to them.

We are warned not to look an evil person in the face. A person’s face expresses his inner feelings. We absorb what we see, and even some things that we do not see. Be careful. Choose your company well. You are going to be affected by them, and you will even become somewhat like them.
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Subtle Understanding

Israeli attitudes are changing. Obama and Turkey have succeeded in making the "New Middle East" mirage' of the die hard "peace at any price" crowd start to fade away.

(Fast subtitles, Israeli satire.)
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Friday, July 23, 2010

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Gaza Children Bombarded with Orange Bombs

t1larg.gazabball.gi (not AP) 7,200 Gaza arab children were bombarded today by Orange Cluster Munitions from Israel.  Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, said the UN will immediately investigate this war crime and find Israel guilty even though the munitions say “made in Egypt” and carry tunnel dust from their underground delivery to Gaza.

Reporters just happened to be well positioned to record this horrific event, as they had been attending a UN sponsored mass hop scotch competition.  Winners of the competition were scheduled to receive 10 minutes of air conditioning while assisting at the cash register at the new Gaza Refugee Relief Center and Sales Outlet at the Gaza Mall.

When the IDF spokesperson was questioned about this genocidal event, they responded “What are you talking about? This was a mass basketball dribbling competition, not a mass casualty event!”  The spokespersons response clearly demonstrated they were in on it.

The Guinness World Records commission is focusing on determining the extend of Israel’s guilt.

From this attack 3 children received horrifically minor bruising from the impact of the munitions.  Reporters state “fortunately all of the shoddy Israeli manufactured bombs failed to explode, rather they kept bouncing around a while”.  On the spot Arab reporters were having a hard time reading the Hebrew markings on the bombs. The public is asked to help decipher these military symbols:

wilsonWe now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.  Please stop by tomorrow for our regular fair and balanced “Israeli atrocity of the day” report – 10:00 AM GMT on the BBC World Service.

(The real story here…7,200 desperately poor Gaza arab children hold a world record basketball dribbling competition.)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

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Sky Scraping

by Reb Akiva

I pass through Ramat Gan occasionally for work, and I continue to be impressed by the cluster of sky scrapers in the area.  Israeli’s honestly have a lot of fun with architecture.  Sometimes it even works.

In Ramat Gan there’s one cluster of about 8 business buildings on one side of the street, and a cluster of another 4 or 5 across the street (with 3 being residential)…

The two on the right are residential, and there’s an olympic sized swimming pool on top of that 4 story parking garage!  (Can only be seen from above.)

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And these are some of the buildings in the primary cluster…

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This is the ABGD building (Hebrew version of ABCD…why ABCD? No idea.).

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And this is the Harel Insurance building…

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Don’t let the angle of my pictures fool you, these buildings are BIG!

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The other side of the complex has a theatre (plays, not movies) and a row of cafe’s under that overhang.

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And stores, famous Israeli stores…

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or not.

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Are We Still in Exile?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

    The statistics are amazing; almost the majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel. Israel has again become the world’s center of Torah learning. More Jews are learning Torah than ever before. Israel has a strong army. The economy here is firm, and growing. On and on, we see wonderful signs that cause some of us think, Maybe we should stop mourning on the 9th of Av. Maybe we should actually go up and take over the Temple Mount. We see that the signs of the Redemption are all around us.”

    Some well-known rabbis do go up onto the Temple Mount, and they are encouraging others to follow them. What should you and I do?

    There are even some “Chassidim” who claim that their rebbe was the Messiah, and they not only do not fast on the 10th of Teves, (a fast day) but they openly celebrate a huge feast, and publicly make “Kiddush” (sanctification of the day) on a cup of wine!

    Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So why don’t we do it?

    In the Passover Hagadah (order of the night), we fervently conclude saying, “Next year in Jerusalem!” But we are in Jerusalem now, aren’t we? At least half a million of us live in this Holy City, and thousands more come for Passover, yet, we also say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Why?

    We say it because we are not merely referring to the physical Jerusalem. Even more importantly, we are referring to the spiritual Jerusalem. Of course, the physical is essential. Without the physical there would be no spiritual here. But still, it is not merely the wonderful physical Jerusalem that we seek.

    Yes, today there are a few well-meaning rabbis who do claim that we should go up onto the Temple Mount, and they openly publicize their rather frequent trips there. But, why is it that almost every single “Orthodox” leader, from all streams of “Orthodox” Judaism, says, “Do not go up there”?

     A number of years ago, a very well known Chabad rabbi who is renowned for his knowledge of Kabbalah, went up onto the Temple Mount. He began regular visits to the Mount, in order to say a mystical order of prayers that would certainly bring the final Redemption. Reb Moshe Weber, obm (who started the tefillin stand at the Kotel right after the Six Day War and maintained it until his passing a few years ago), wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe asking if that rabbi was correct. The Rebbe answered, “Under no circumstances should any Jew go up onto the Temple Mount now. It is a serious error to go there.”[i]

    Now, who am I to believe? The few rabbis who say, “We have to retake the Mount. We must show our presences there”? Or, should I listen to the Rebbe, and virtually every other leader, who say “Do not go up”?

    These physical signs of Redemption are wonderful. May they multiply over and over again every single day. We should be encouraged by them, and we should increase our joyful service of Hashem, thanking Him for what He is doing. Seeing the good that He is doing should encourage us to work even harder. We should not let up, but instead we should hurry to gather in all Jews and righteous gentiles to the knowledge of the One G-d. Now is the time that we have free will, and now is the time that we can increase our spiritual portion.

    But we should not say that this is IT, until the actual Revelation of G-d’s Presence fills the entire world. Then, the earthly deeds that we were merited to accomplish will bring down the Heavenly Temple onto its proper place, to the Temple Mount…. The righteous will come back to life, and the entire world will know peace. Stay tuned. You can almost taste it in the air.   


[i] R’ Ido Weber is in possession of this letter.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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Ouch

“Some 40 percent of all Americans have been directly touched by the recession in terms of lost jobs, pay cuts or reduced hours.” – CNBC

The empty consumer culture is being forced to change.  Not that you’d know it from celebrity news and advertisements for useless stuff.  (Example – Old Spice is wondering how it is that it has the #1 viral commercial yet sales for “Male Body Wash” have fallen by 7%.  Maybe because it costs $5 while a bar of “deodorant fresh smelling” soap (name brand) is $0.72?)

“This new consumer no longer laughs at Depression-era grannies who reuse wrapping paper and gift boxes, and stash Sweet 'n Low and condiment packets in the cupboard. They are too busy re-washing their plastic baggies to use in the lunches they bring to work.”

Is that a bad thing to not waste things that can be reused? To not load up on excess packaging and excess products of questionable value (at best)?  (Chest deodorant?)  Oh and we might save the environment, and our bank balances, along the way?

Refocusing on what’s important has become the driver of the day.  And that’s not a bad thing.  Values, people, faith, nature.  Things money never could buy.

Shhhh, don’t let the politicians or the CEO’s know I said that.

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Brutal Zionist Oppression

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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Hang In There!

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Photo - The last half an hour of the fast at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, Eretz Yisroel.

Hang in there. The fast is almost over.  May it be true for the golus as well!

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

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Seventy-Two Years Ago

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

     Last week at the Kotel, I asked an elderly man to put on tefillin. He strongly refused.

    I asked him, “When was the last time you put on tefillin?”

    He smiled and proudly said, “Seventy-two years ago!” pushing aside any possibility of him putting them on again. He held out his arm to show me the fading numbers tattooed there. “1938,” he said. “It was the day of Kristallnacht. Do you know what Kristallnachtis?”

   “Of course I do,” I told him.

   “Two hundred and sixty seven synagogues were burned down in one night. They burned down our synagogue, too. My tefillin were burnt up, and I have never put them on again.” He said, telling me in no uncertain terms why he was not going to put them on.

     “I have a friend who was in the camps, too,” I quickly said, “and he not only puts on tefillin today, but he even put them on others inside the camp!” I was trying to show him that he did not have to reject tefillin because of what those evil people did. “Do you want hear how he got the tefillin into the camp?”

   “Yeah,” he said, strongly, “How did he get them in there?”

    “His name is Laibel. Whenever he comes to Israel, he prays with our sunrise minyan. He also has numbers tattooed on his arm. “When we first met, he asked me, ‘What do you do around here?’

“Wanting to say something exciting, I said, ‘I put tefillin on people here at the Kotel.’

“‘Oh yeah?’ he said, ‘Well, I put tefillin on people in the death camp.’

“I stared at him; there was nothing I could say. I was dumbfounded. I asked him, ‘How did you get the tefillin in there?’

“He looked me in the eye and said that they came to the ghetto and grabbed 137 young boys. He told me that only five of them got out of there alive, only five.

“He was thirteen-and-a half years old. When they grabbed him, he was wearing the high boots that his father had bought for him. He showed me with his hand that the boots came up almost to his knees. When he saw them coming, he stuffed his tefillin in the top of one boot and his prayer book in the other.

“They pushed the boys into a cattle car and drove them to the death camp. It was not far from the ghetto. When the train stopped, they slid open the side of the cattle car and immediately began pushing them toward the open door of the oven. The boys were frightened and crying out. They asked Laibel, ‘What should we do?’ He told them, ‘I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to stand in rows five across and we’re going to march right into that oven singing “ani ma’amin . . . “(I believe in G-d). And they did just that. They stood in rows five across and started singing and marching right into the oven.

“The guards became so confused that they did not know what to do. They screamed, ‘You can’t do that! No one has ever done such a thing before. Stop it! Stop it at once! Here! Go over there to the showers instead.’

“They pushed them over to the showers. They made them take off all of their clothing and throw them into a pile in the middle of the floor. They made them empty out their shoes and the tefillin and prayer book fell out onto the pile.

“After the shower, when they were dressed in the camp clothes and were being pushed back past the pile of their clothes, he saw his tefillin and prayer book lying there. He wanted so badly to run over and pick them up, but there were terrifying guards standing right there so he couldn’t. He said to the boys, ‘Okay, I did something for you, so now you do something for me.’

“‘Whatever you want,’ they said. ‘You saved our lives.’

“He said, ‘When I give the signal, make a big fight with each other and start screaming out loud. Okay . . . Now!’ He whipped his arm in the air as if he was back at the camp giving them the signal. The boys started to fight and scream. The guards ran over and tried to pull them apart, but they wouldn’t stop fighting. In the confusion, he ran over and grabbed his tefillin and prayer book and hid them under his arms.

“He was in the barracks and he wanted to put on the tefillin. He was able to put the arm piece on without anyone seeing by pulling his sleeve over it, but how could he put on the head piece? There were evil guards all over the place. He opened the window and stuck his head outside so he could put on the head piece. A guard came by and screamed at him, ‘Who said you could open that window?’ He told him that he was sick and was throwing up, and if he made him close the window he would throw up inside, too. The guard left him there. And he looked me in the eye and said, ‘And I put tefillin on other men like that there, too.’ I started to cry and I kissed him on his yarmulke.

“The next day there was a soldier at the Kotel who wouldn’t put on tefillin. No matter what I said, he simply refused. Then I told him Laibel’s story, and he quickly said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’

    “And you can do it, too” I said, as I gently slid the tefillin I was holding on his arm. He said the blessing and started to cry. We said the Shema, and he prayed for his family. He began to smile even while the tears were streaming down his face. A crowd gathered around all congratulating him on his overcoming all those years of rejection.

    You do not always succeed, but you always have to try.

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Really want Moshiach, or Not?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

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The Holocaust was unimaginably horrible.  The Jewish people barely survived, the Torah world was destroyed.  Every single major yeshiva in the world was destroyed, almost every rabbi and student slaughtered.  Almost every chassidic group was murdered down to the last chossid, and the rebbe.

Yet from the ashes, literally a few of yeshiva teachers that stepped up to be rosh yeshivas to rebuild, and a few rebbes that survived (or children of rebbes or nephew’s of rebbes) to recreate their chassidus, the Torah world rebuilt.  The majority were planted in the United States at the time the United States grew to be a world power and economic powerhouse.  The golden medina.

The Jews prospered, the United States prospered, and as discrimination decreased the Jews stepped up to greater and greater levels in American society.  It became a golden age for Jewry.  And Torah Jewry probably would not have survived and regrown if the soil had not been so fertile.

As it reached it’s peak, one man stood up and said “now is the time to cry out for Moshiach”.  Now, when we’re prosperous and successful, now is exactly the moment to realize that as nice as the physical circumstances are we cannot be complete without the Divine Presence and without the Beis HaMikdash. 

He stressed we must learn the halachos of the redemption.  We must speak of ending the “horrible exile” and returning to Hashem.  We must speak of Moshiach, yearn for Moshiach and understand that our current large home with two kosher sinks and a Passover kitchen in the basement is MEANINGLESS without the redemption!

…and people laughed and made fun.  They said “why now?” and “who are you, if the gedolim of the previous generations didn’t emphasize this, who are you to do so?”  And his chassidim overreacted and said “oh, you mean YOU are Moshiach!”

And the moment to bring the redemption b’kovod in the nicest and most pleasant way for this generation WAS LOST.

We are almost 20 years since then.  We WILL cry out for Moshiach and the redemption, the question is how.  We could have cried out from our luxury saying “Hashem, we are honored to perform Torah and mitzvot, to support more Torah learning and yeshivot than have ever existed, but it’s all MEANINGLESS without the Divine Presence, without Moshiach tzidkaynu, without the geulah shalayma”, but we didn’t.

So almost a generation later we find the luxury has been taken away, poverty in our communities is becoming a serious percentage.  Our schools are struggling to stay open, chesed organizations are failing.  Many are unemployed, and the supports and donors of the past are sometimes to be found among them.

In America, if the populace is not turning against us the (federal) government surely is.  In Europe, the Muslim immigrants are directly threatening Jewish communities and local or national authorities are too intimidated to do anything about it.

We see the world turning unjustly on Israel, holding her to standards which would allow no country to survive.  We see existential threats from Iran and Hezbollah, with other countries happy to offer to help.

Inside Israel we see a portion of secular society, the media and the judiciary, targeting religious Judaism.

Today we have threats and concerns throughout the world as Jews.  Economic pressure, political pressure, threats of attacks, war and even worse.  Things aren’t terrible (Baruch Hashem), but we’re getting not so subtle not so gentle reminders from all directions that golus (exile) sucks.

Everything Hashem does is for the best, and we’re being given another opportunity right now to recognize every day that something is lacking.  The Divine Presence has no home, the mitzvah of building the Beis HaMikdash is ignored every day (though we may not be able to work on actually building the physical structure, there’s a lot of preparation we could be doing).

Here’s a chance with the current circumstances to say “our lives, Jewish life, cannot be complete without the redemption” and to cry out to Hashem, ‘WE WANT MOSHIACH NOW!’  And if the Jewish people are crying out together, we surely will be answered.  Let’s not wait, G-d forbid, for additional motivation.

(Illustrative Moshiach Flag photo, from Mt. Kilamanjaro, via TheCoolJew)

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Friday, July 16, 2010

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The Menorah Funeral - Photos

News reports from July 14th informed us of a significant tragedy for a Jewish family…

Four Israelis, including a grandfather and three teenage grandchildren visiting from Israel, were killed in Michigan Tuesday when their small Beechcraft plane crashed. The only survivor is a 13-year-old grandson who apparently fell out of the aircraft and is listed in critical condition with severe burns.

The pilot lost control, apparently due to a technical failure, and the light aircraft dived on to an Interstate highway, hitting the median, overturning and bursting into flames.

The grandfather, a resident of Skokie, Illinois, near Chicago, was identified as Moshe Menorah.  The dead grandchildren were identified as Sara and Rickie, age 17, and Racheli, age 15.

Today, Erev Shabbat, the grandchildren were buried in the American Jewish cemetery outside Beit Shemesh, and the grandfather was buried in Har Nof.  A visiting bocher knew the family and attended with my son.  Here are the pictures they took of the funeral…

The crowed at the chapel at the Eitz ChaChaim cemetary outside of Beit Shemesh, Israel. Different synagogues and Jewish organizations in the US reserve sections for their members resting places in Israel here.

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Escorting the bodies to the graves…

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The father and brother, may Hashem comfort the mourners of tziyon and Yerushalayim.

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The interment…

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On to Har Nof for the grandfather…

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Hespedim…

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The father spoke…

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May the family be comforted among the mourners of tziyon and Yerushalayim, and may the Jewish people know from no more tragedies.

The father is sitting shiva in Beit Shemesh.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

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The Nine Days and the Fast

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

    Whenever something happens to the Jewish people, look to see what our reaction to it is. This will tell us why Hashem sent it to us in the first place. For instance, if (G-d forbid) there is an attack, see how we all come together. We do not ask, “What shul do you daven in?” We do not judge the other Jew’s ancestry. We simple accept all Jews as being one with us, and we come together to protect ourselves.

    So, we see that G-d sent that problem to bring us together. Obviously, it follows that if we will come together on our own, G-d will not have to send the problem to bring us together.

    These Nine Days and the long fast come to give us pause. They force us to look back at the horrible things that have happened to us over the years, especially during these days, and we mourn. But instead of stressing mourning this week, if we want, we could concentrate on bringing Jews together. And if we are really successful, we will not need the Nine Days, and certainly not the fast, anymore. Go try it. At the very least, you will end up with more friends.

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The Great Sell Out

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

The Persians are known to be shrewd business men.  This is a hostile takeover.

It is ever increasingly hard not to notice the hype in the news. But we must read between the lines. There is a sellout of the Jews to the world and it is happening right under our noses. The world wants Jerusalem and the Israeli government wants a nuke free Iran, as they are afraid of Iran instead of fearing Hashem. This is known as fallen fear, when we are afraid of anything besides Hashem.

Our lack of trust is causing us to edge ever so closely to a catastrophe. There is a heretical belief that we can solve this mess with politics and arms and military and money. But I tell you, there is no financial or military or political solution to this very spiritual problem.

If we were to but stop and wait a minute for our heads to clear and think about it from the viewpoint of truth then we would as Jews come to the proper conclusion.  That is, it is all our fault and only we can fix it by listening to the words of the Torah and the tzaddikim - who have and are telling us to do t’shuvah and return to the ways of Hashem.

If we convince ourselves that the news and the politicians are telling the truth, then we are saying Hashem is a liar!  Yet it is so hard to understand this from the real perspective.  Reflect upon it from the words of our sages and we will see the reality sneaking up on us at a rapid pace.

Let’s be totally honest. I mean, we are family, right?  I’m not being dooms day,  I’m being real.  What has any of the natural solutions done for us? Nothing! Has any one of the false messiahs helped us at all? Are we free of trouble?  Has any one of these self imposed holy agendas benefitted anyone but the ultra rich or power elites that think they run the world?

How long are you going to listen and watch the lies before you scream enough! Do not your ears ring and your head spin because of the lies? We need to free ourselves from the tyranny of the media and start to return to the truth! We were entrusted with the most precious document ever, the Torah of Truth. And in it is all the olds of the past as well as the news of the future. Where else do we need to look? Our Father in Heaven told us a long time ago how it was going to be.  Do we think we can change it with lame lies and twisted thinking?

The generation of the tower of Bavel did the same “we are going to outsmart Hashem and make a war on Him”.

It says in psalms: why do you oh nations gather and roar, they are coming together to wage war on Hashem. They want nothing less than to destroy every last trace of him in this world - meaning us and our way of life clinging to Hashem for everything.  They are fueled by the lust for what is not theirs “the birth right and the blessing of our father Yaakov!

And we feed them all. With our arrogance “I did it! With the strength of me right arm!” And our demand for ‘no rules - only freedom’, “who is Hashem to tell me what to do?” And worse yet our heretical ideology that we can conceive a solutions to the living hell we have made of Hashem’s gift to us.

We must detoxify our minds and spirits by shutting off the council of the snake, the news media “ there is a hint here, media and Persia”. For if we are polluted by the council of the snake we have been intellectually impregnated by him. For he is the essence of the lie and it is then impossible to have a relationship with Hashem as the two cannot be together.

Ah, perhaps you react that I’m being a simpleton, a primitive.  Yet it’s when we’re ensnared by the media that we’ve gone back to the ways of the earlier generations – saying to themselves that there is no G-d, that by our intellect and might can we rule the world, nay the universe!

“For it is not by the might of man or by the strength of the horse but by the spirit of the living G-d!”

What? Is it so hard to just repent and realize that only by letting Hashem repair this can we make itl. It will be only by His righteous right arm that we are saved from total destruction in the coming future.

Alert! We are in need of emergency repentance and prayer!  You retort, ‘who are you to tell us anything?’

It will only be by the truth EMES that we will be saved. And Emes is Emunah, Emunah is zedek justice. So only by emunah can we exercise justice and thus come to the truth. Only by keeping that which they wish to eradicate can we achieve this. For in truth it is only by these Mishpatim that we are to place in front of them. (Shemos 21:1) We are to place the laws of Hashem in front of them and rule them by these righteous laws. Yet we are not and that is why we are in trouble with our neighbors’ to this very day.

Know that the essential reason for the exile is nothing more than a lack of Emunah, faith. And faith is prayer, for without prayer there is no faith. There is no need for faith in the natural, only in the supernatural is there a need for there to be faith. If you can grasp it with your intellect then there is no need for faith because you have understanding of it. And the need for Emunah is only where you cannot grasp it at all, it is above natural order of things.

We see that prayer is the only way to change nature, prayer corresponds to miracles - the supernatural. For prayer transcends nature.  The natural course dictates a certain thing, but prayer changes natures course. And for this, one needs faith for one must believe in the Creator or Originator.  For only He can change what He has created at will. No human can save us, no strategy can win, and no plan can conquer.

Now the essence of prayer and faith is the land of Israel (psalms 37:3) “Dwell in the land and cultivate Emunah.” For the land of Israel is the gate to heaven and thus the most conducive to prayer. And here we live by faith and not by natural means, so what makes you think that there is a natural man made solution besides repentance and prayer?

All of our suffering is because of a lack of prayer, Hitbodedut for when we do not pray we descend into the exile of being dealt with like the nations in a physical manner. The final redemption depends of faith which is our prayers and we can only come to prayer by way of the truth.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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Major Warning!!!!!!!

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

For those that follow the Geulah (redemption) oriented Jewish blogs and those that run similar email lists, there’s been an increasing bit of chatter regarding impending (doom / war / holocaust / Gog u’Magog).  Here’s a smattering:

- “Rav Eliezer Berland Shlit"a, one of the elder Breslov rabbis, told his students to travel to Uman and pray for Am Yisrael until the 22nd of Av (the night of August 1st, 2010), which is when war with Iran is supposed to break out.”

- “The Milkman (a kabbalist) said that all signs are pointing toward war, and we must pray for Am Yisrael to avoid it.”

- “The well-known tzaddik Rav Dov Kook shlit'a of Tiberias said recently: "No one takes Iran seriously and we need to daven so their will not be another holocaust, G-d forbid."”

- “It is said in this past week’s broadcast shiur that Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, Breslover Tzaddik, said we must all strengthen our emunah and do teshuva immediately to prevent tragedy.” (not an exact quote)

These are but a few of the quotes from gedolim or mekubalim currently floating around.  Some of them are harsher and scarier.

So what do we do?  Build an underground N.B.C. bunker and stock it?  Run and hide?  (Though the Yalkut Shimoni tells us when these things start to happen we will cry out “where can we run, where can we hide?”)  Freak out for tomorrow we die?

The answer to all the above is no.  The Geulah hype cycle can bite you and destroy your day to day life, and even your emunah and yiddishkeit, if you’re not careful.  There is no navi in this generation, no one knows what will be tomorrow.  Yes, there may be tzaddikim with ruach hakodesh who can give hints and try to lead us to correction.  But it’s not the same thing as a prophecy of what’s going to happen tomorrow.

If you want to help with the spiritual situation right now and possibly help head off negative events that may happen, here’s an action plan:

#1 Invoke Their Merit!  During the time of the 9 days the Accuser gains a louder voice.  We must be sure to speak of each other’s merits, of the Jewish people’s merits, of our friend’s merits, and even of our Jewish enemy’s merits!  We must silence the accuser by speaking ONLY of a Jew’s merits during this time!  (And most of the time BTW.)

#2 More Mitzvot, Specifically Those that Help Others!  During the 9 days we must show our ahavas yisroel by increasing in those mitzvot that help our fellow.  A bit more charity, doing a favor for someone, helping out someone needy, helping at a charity organization.  Every mitzvah of ahavas yisroel helps drown out the accuser.

#3 Learn Torah focused on The Redemption and the Belief in the Redemption.  During the 9 days we must show Hashem we believe and we’re ready, and this is how we do it.

What not to do:

A – Speak ill of another Jew, Jewish group, Jewish organization, Jewish neighborhood, etc.  We’ve all got faults, don’t make the Accuser’s case for him.  Rather, judge with a good eye and try to understand the circumstances behind their very human failings.

B – Be terrified.  “All that I’ve done I’ve done for you.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yishayahu Remez 499)  Even seemingly negative events are leading to the redemption.

C – Stop our lives, jobs, shuls, charity organizations, etc.  If every round of geulah hype was true, we’d all have sold everything and be just sitting around waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  And thereby losing TODAY as an opportunity to do more mitzvot, to learn more Torah, to help each other.  Make a difference today and it WILL be a better tomorrow.

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Join Me on the Judean Hills

photos by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A few friends recommended a back way to Jerusalem to avoid morning traffic.  The route they recommended turned out to be a winding mountain road through the Judean Hills, via the Soreq Nature Preserve (noting hiking trails for “fit hikers only”).

It’s possibly the most beautiful road I’ve driven in Israel…

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The road meanders up and around the mountaintops, and down through the valleys.  It’s literally a mountain-edge road, no shoulder and a guardrail protecting you from a long nasty drop into a forested mountainside.

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In the far distance is Jerusalem…

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That’s Har Nof on the left and Ein Kerem on the right.  The road continues to Ein Kerem.

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The southern train line to Jerusalem (the only train line to Jerusalem right now, the northern line is 2-3 years from completion) is cut through the valley.  It runs from Tel Aviv to Lod to Ramla to Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem Malcha mall.  (The northern line will go from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport to Modiin to Mevetzeret Tziyon to Jerusalem.)

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The majority of the area is a nature preserve, but as the sign says, for ‘fit hikers only’ and bring along 5 liters of water.  Thanks, I’ll stick with the drive.

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Just beautiful.  Reminded me of driving to Bear Mountain in upstate New York.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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Pay Up Dirty Jew, Or Else

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by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

This should be a joke or an urban myth.  But it’s another sign of where things are headed, and a warning to plan accordingly.

Daniel Pipes presents us with a letter that was sent to the heads of 16 major Jewish organizations in the U.S. by Minister Louis Farrakhan and the US Nation of Islam.  It says…

These scholars…have given to us an undeniable record of Jewish anti-Black behavior, starting with the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, the labor movement of the North and South, the unions and the misuse of our people that continues to this very moment…

Armed with this knowledge from the pens of Jewish scholars, Rabbis, and historians, we could now charge
you with the most vehement anti-Black behavior in the annals of our history in America and the world. We
could charge you with being the most deceitful so-called friend, while your history with us shows you have been our worst enemy.

Your present reality is sitting on top of the world in power, with riches and influence, while the masses of my people here in America, in the Caribbean, Central
and South America and elsewhere in the world are in the worst condition of any member of the human family.

You are in a position to help me in the civilizing work that … was given to do by Allah (God)… With
this historical research in your bands, you may either gather your forces for an all-out struggle against me, the Nation of Islam, and the truth that I and we speak and write, or as an intelligent and civilized people, we can sit down and carve out a way forward that can obliterate the stain of the past and render us, Jews and Blacks-before Allah (God) and the world- in a new, honorable, and mutually respectful relationship.

This is an offer asking you and the gentiles whom you influence to help me in the repair of my people from
the damage that has been done by your ancestors to mine. This is a wonderful way of the present generation of Jews to escape the Judgment of Allah (God) by aiding in the repair of His people. However, should you choose to make our struggle to civilize our people more difficult, then I respectfully warn you, in the Name of Allah (God) …that the more you fight and oppose me rather than help me to lift my people from their degraded state, Allah (God) … will bring you and your people to disgrace and ruin and destroy your power and influence here and throughout the world.

I pray that you will make the wise and best choice.

Just in case this is a bit long and you are unsure, he’s saying the Jews are responsible for black slavery in the US, Caribbean, and South America.  But he’s willing to let bygones be bygones, as long as you’re willing to give over all the ill gotten wealth (that would be all of it) who’s accumulation was on his people’s backs.  Oh, don’t forget to give over the power too.

But this is 21st Century America.  He could be serious???

Notice how this made headline news and I’m telling an old story (3 weeks old) here, right.  You know about this, right?

(Source – Daniel PipesDocument original here.)

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Economic Doom 2 – Doomsayers

commentary by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

When I wrote Economic Doom, I’d been paying attention to the general news.  As everyone knows, according to the general news everything is hunky dory, a-ok, and peachy keen if not quite up to wonderful just yet.  The recovery is steaming along nicely, though it’s incredible positive impact hasn’t reached quite everybody just yet.  But not to worry, it will get to you soon.

Unfortunately it wasn’t very hard to refute that.  However, since then I’ve looked a bit more for the articles in the margins, for others who are paying attention, ignoring the government propaganda, and sharing what they know and see happening.  Here’s a few tidbits:

Credit Scores Sink To New Lows
EILEEN AJ CONNELLY, AP Personal Finance Writer - The credit scores of millions more Americans are sinking to new lows.  Figures provided by FICO Inc. show that 25.5 percent of consumers — nearly 43.4 million people — now have a credit score of 599 or below, marking them as poor risks for lenders. It's unlikely they will be able to get credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards banks now use.

Once the damage is done, it could be years before this group can restore their scores, even if they had strong credit histories in the past… "The pendulum has swung too far," he said. "We absolutely swung way too far in the liberal lending, but did we have to swing so far back the other way?"

So to reiterate the key points, 26% of American’s can’t by a car or house, or make any major purchases (since they can’t get a credit card).  And even if they get a wonderful new job today, “it takes years to restore credit”.

Dow Repeats Great Depression Pattern:
CNBC – The Dow Jones Industrial Average repeating a pattern that appeared just before markets fell during the Great Depression, Daryl Guppy, CEO at Guppytraders.com, told CNBC Monday.  …there was a head and shoulders pattern that developed before the Depression in 1929, then with the recovery in 1930 we had another head and shoulders pattern that preceded a fall in the market, and in the current Dow situation we see an exact repeat of that environment,” Guppy said.

As my cousin tells me, buy on rumor sell on fact.  Meaning, stocks are priced according to possible future trends, and when they become real the stock doesn’t move or even falls because the possibility is already priced into the stock.  Stocks were getting priced on the government propaganda of a steady recovery.  The facts are coming into play.

Business Power Neglect:
Larry Kudlow – …A brief look at the recent jobs report for June tells this story. After spending more than $1 trillion through so-called government stimulus, we are at best experiencing a grinding and anemic jobs recovery. Private payrolls are growing slowly. The workweek is again shrinking. And average hourly earnings have declined. The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent, but that’s because 650,000 people left the labor force.

Most troubling, the household survey, which captures small owner-operated business employment, dropped 300,000 following a decline last month. In other words, this leading indicator is moving in the wrong direction.

So what about all this stimulus spending? Well, it hasn’t worked. When you look at the recent GDP reports, you find that the government contribution to economic growth has been about zero. This is because transfer payments don’t contribute to the output of goods and services. We’ve had three recovery quarters where inflation-adjusted GDP growth averaged a sub-par 3.5 percent. But the federal contribution has been only two-tenths of 1 percent, while the state and local government contribution has been a small drag of three-tenths of 1 percent.

As Kudlow goes on to explain, businesses create jobs and productivity, not government.  Yet the current administration is tightening government controls over business.  The rest of the analysis is obvious.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

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These Comments Are Hard To Believe!

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

     Although the article about the Israeli who was buying bread from the non-Kosher bakery drew a number of positive responses, there were two very negative responses.

   The first negative response claimed that there is nothing wrong with Arab bread, since they do not eat pig. He wrote that I am “brain-washed” into thinking that the laws of kosher eating are important.

    To answer his comment first: When the local Arabs have celebrations, they bring their large pans of meat dishes to the bakery to be baked. The pans are too large to fit into their ovens at home. Obviously, that meat is not kosher, and I doubt that any spiritually aware Jew would want to eat bread that shared an oven with nevelas (carrion).

    The other response was shocking. To quote a few of his choice statements:

    “I would eat an entire pig and a cheeseburger if that would foster harmony between myself and a non-Jew. Kosher be dammed... You are living life in the bubble of Judaism. This only creates walls between Jews and non-Jews... Recognize Kosher for what it is -- a symbolic tradition.”

    My response: Harmony does not come from surrender. In harmony, each note maintains its integrity; when all of the notes work together, there is beautiful music. Your eating pig will not bring peace. It will bring you to complete assimilation, and intermarriage. After all, non-Jews can be very nice people.

    The laws of keeping kosher are not symbolic. In fact, there are no merely symbolic laws in the Torah. Even if you cannot see the actual physical benefit, and, all the more so, the spiritual benefit, do not think that these benefits do not exist. As an example, the following is a true story that happened to a dear friend of mine. Here, we are talking about supervised milk. The rules that govern supervised milk are entirely rabbinic, so it might be very easy to minimize their importance.

    The following was written by my friend who is the father of the boy in the story.

  “Yisroel was born with a light in his eyes.  He looked like a spiritual being the minute he came into the world. And his actions were extraordinary. He demanded success from himself even at the age of six months when he would pull himself up in his playpen by grasping the railing and forcing himself up. He spoke early and walked early and had a vocabulary of over 200 words around 18 months of age.  By the time he was two years old, he was reciting verses of Tehilim baal peh (Psalms from memory).

     “Then, just before his third birthday, there was a party for children held at a friend's house and they served pizza and milk and cookies.  The hostess asked everyone if they were strict about chalav Yisroel (milk produced with Jewish supervision), but my wife was out of the room when the questioning came, so she was missed, and the hostess served Yisroel a glass of regular kosher but not chalav Yisroel (supervised) milk.

     “The next day, Yisroel's gifts had left him.  He completely lost interest in reciting Tehilim and became a normal child with no apparent spiritual gifts.  He remained intelligent and self-motivated, of course, but the spiritual light had diminished. And so it remained till his bar mitzvah. He was a brilliant young student, but certainly no rebbe. Now, (15 years later) he is maturing as a creative thinker, a spiritual innovator.”

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     So, is it important to follow the many rules of kosher eating? After all, aren’t they mostly just “symbolic traditions”? Jewish mysticism teaches that milk that was produced without minimal Jewish supervision covers over the spiritual heart of a Jew. This, they say, makes it much more difficult for that Jew to be spiritually aware. Can we believe such things today, in this modern world? Can unsupervised cow’s milk affect your ability to attain spiritual heights?

    There are no rituals in Judaism. There are no senseless acts divorced from results. Even the most unusual of laws (the chukim) bring practical benefits to the Jews who practice them, and great losses to those who do not.

    To the spiritually insensitive person this seems to be nonsense. To the person who strives to find spiritual answers, these rules are lifesavers thrown into a raging sea, to save him from drowning in a seemingly entirely physical creation.

    Without spiritual awareness, you and your world appear to be only physical. The spiritual seems to be superstition, sheer foolishness. You live an entirely physical life, with only physical goals. Sadly, you become just another, albeit superior, animal on the planet.

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Economic Doom

bad-economy analysis by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Excerpted) Most Americans are too busy or distracted to realize the world economy now sits on an unprecedented abyss…

What happened to America is that its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measure of the nation’s overall economic output, declined by –2.5% (real or inflation-adjusted GDP) in 2009…

As Seattle Times reporter John Talton says it: "The Federal government used its firepower to rescue the financial system… Now ‘austerity’ and the deficit are the big memes in the other Washington. It was politically impossible even to extend jobless benefits…. For decades the American job machine was the envy of the world. Now something is very wrong, and it defies easy talk-radio ideological name calling."

ventura062207 Putting true numbers to the economic crisis is difficult because the government issues more flattering numbers than what the real America experiences. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says unemployment is around 15 million, or 9.7% of the workforce, but in reality, government numbers only reflect the short time period when people have recently been laid off of work and are seeking jobs or applying for unemployment.  True unemployment is around 21.7% (near depression-era rate) according to Shadowstats.com. Furthermore, the M3 money supply reported for June 15, 2010 shows a negative 5.91% drop, the steepest decline in the M3 since the 1930s banking crisis. (The M3 is the broadest measure of money. It includes currency, checking and savings accounts, large time deposits, institutional money market mutual fund balances.)

The Federal government keeps saying America will grow itself out of its debt load and unemployment problems, so in the 1st Quarter of 2010 the bailed-out economy reportedly grew by a reported 2.7%, but as results of 2nd Quarter approach, doubts over continued growth are beginning to creep in…

(Read the whole thing.)

While the article (by Bill Sardi at LewRockwell.com) is equivocal (titled “Is the Bailout going to work?”) and the quote by the reporter is vague (“something is very wrong”), honestly it’s not that difficult in straight analysis to understand.  The key is the last paragraph that I excerpted, “The Federal Government keeps saying America will grow itself out of it’s debt load and unemployment problems”.

This is a classic Keynesian approach to economic downswings.  Deficit spend to nudge the cycle back up before it bottoms out and suffers the worst aspects, and the deficit will be made up as the economy recovers.  However, success at this method is dependent of a few important factors.  First, the conditions at the start of the downward cycle and the upward swing remain similar – meaning the economic engines of growth remain available to ‘switch back on’.  Second, the debt load of the government at the beginning of the down swing should be at it’s lowest level (since times have been good, previous debts should have been repaid and even some “rainy day savings” set aside) – so the deficit spending doesn’t draw too much money out of the economy.

The US has two serious serious problems relative to a Keynesian recovery:

Goldmine_cartoon A – The primary economic engines of the previous 15 years have been TERMINATED.  Easy financing, venture capital, hedge funding, (generally) light regulations and very limited free market controls, all these allowed an explosion of business opportunities and the means to take advantage of them. 

A simple example.  When I was a child I used to fly across country to visit my grandparents.  The price of a cross-country ticket was $700 (in the 1970’s), the available schedule was a few flights a day, the available airlines were three.  The United States had 5 airlines that covered the country, and entry into the business was impossible with the level of regulation.  No matter what ideas you may have had for more efficient, cheaper, or more customer oriented airline travel – there was no way to enter the market with under $1 billion of investment, an impossible amount to achieve. 

When the airline business was de-regulated (no longer controlled practically as a public utility), tens of airlines started, cost of travel fell massively, airline travel exploded as did the associated jobs in the industry.  The original reason for the regulation, safety, didn’t fall as the regulation refocused on only safety factors and not controlling the market.

A very similar story occurred with the Bell Telephone Company, which was subsequently de-regulated and split into regional companies.  The proliferation of telecommunication companies, options, technologies and jobs was explosive.

The current administration has returned to a massive re-regulation mode.  Food companies will be regulated due to the public health danger of fat.  Every company may be regulated due to carbon release and environmental impact.  Health care companies will be regulated and controlled to manage the product delivered to governmental standard.  Insurance companies will be regulated to provide their product at government mandated prices.  And every company will be regulated on what benefits (in health care to start) it can provide it’s employees, and what benefits (bonuses or stock options) it can’t provide it’s employees.

Every regulation raises the cost of entry, reduces the flexibility with which a company can operate, stops agility in reacting to the market or competitors, and stifles innovation.  When those things combine, the ability to enter the market is closed or too expensive for start-up competitors.

money B – The US entered the current downturn with a heavy debt load.  Both the federal government as well as state and local governments got so used to the extended upswing that they upscaled government services and spending beyond the ability of the tax and economic base to handle it at the height of the upswing – and therefore continued to increase the debt load in the midst of the upswing.

When the downturn started, all levels of government were only getting by with low borrowing costs of the easy money time.

As the economy fell, tax rates crashed and the government (at all levels) had to massively increase borrowing to maintain existing service levels.  Even 2 years into the economic crisis, few governments at any level have truly scaled back to meet their current tax bases.  In some cases this is due to politicians unwilling to effectively take the necessary actions but get themselves thrown out of office for doing so (nobody likes to lose their benefits), in other cases due to ridiculous laws or regulations that basically ‘legally’ prevent governments from actually reducing benefits / pensions / or laying off employees.

Net net, add existing government borrowing on top of massive debt load increases due to the Keynesian spending for downturn recovery and you have the government (at all levels) absorbing all available investment dollars.  Why risk loaning to start-up businesses when loaning to the government provides “guaranteed” returns?

So the government admits it’s strategy is to “grow itself out of the downturn”, but the engines of growth – innovation, start-up businesses, business agility, have been squashed.  And the financial structures necessary to support business growth have also been squashed.

Of course, the alternative program is for the government to fund the operational economy, take over businesses, run sectors of the economy, and put all the people into jobs programs.  Besides the fact that doesn’t work out so well (check Venezuela or Cuba for how that goes), the government literally doesn’t have enough money left to do so!

Given the strong ideological commitment of the Obama administration to it’s current approach, I’d say the best the U.S. can hope for is stagnation at the current level until the end of this administration.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

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Why is America Suffering?

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Uriel asked: Is HaShem allowing Yishmael all it's Rewards, i.e. Mosque at Ground Zero, Terrorism, all before Mashiach’s arrival, so that it will have only punishment in the Olam Haba?

There's a clear explanation given of why the arabs were given control over Israel for some hundreds of years, and indeed it's in the merit of the momentary good deed of the bris of their leader. But that merit expired and their power over the land evaporated.

As far as a mosque by Ground Zero - Hashem may not hang a sign up in the sky saying "you have a choice - the right way or the wrong way and here's how the wrong way is going to turn on you" - but neither does He hide it.

The merits of the US as a nation have also expired - but not necessarily for the American people. Now they are faced with a choice - to stand up for the right or to be led down the unpleasant path.  In the US, more so than anywhere else, the people are responsible for their leadership.

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The Geulah Calculation

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths 
(with a bit of added elucidation by Reb Akiva)

The period of the “End Times” officially begins Monday.  Here’s how I come to this statement:

According to the holy Torah and our holy books, the chachamim (sages) say that each day of the week of creation (from the Torah book of Berashis, parshat Berashis) equates to 1,000 years.  Specifically 1,000 years according to the Hebrew calendar, as calculated by the chachamim from the creation of the world until today per the writings of the holy Torah.

Day of the Week Start Hebrew Year End Hebrew Year
Sunday Year 0, Creation Year 1000 Hebrew / 3240 BCE
Monday Year 1000 Year 2000 Hebrew / 2240 BCE
Tuesday Year 2000 Year 3000 Hebrew / 1240 BCE
Wednesday Year 3000 Year 4000 Hebrew / 240 CE
Thursday Year 4000 Year 5000 Hebrew / 1240 CE
Friday Year 5000 Year 6000 Hebrew / 2240 CE
Shabbos Year 6000 Year 7000 Hebrew / 3240 CE

The current Hebrew year is 5770, which of course is the year 2010 CE.  (Jews don’t use AD and BC, which stand for Xian abbreviations relating to their religions events – CE stands for Common Era and BCE for Before Common Era.)

The Torah mandates that the proper time to say Minchah of Erev Shabbat (the afternoon prayer said on Friday afternoon) is the 18th and a half hour of Yom Shishi – on Friday, the 6th day of the week. (Note that according to the Hebrew calendar, a day starts after nightfall of the day before – meaning Friday starts at nightfall on Thursday night, which is why all Jewish holy days start the night before, which is learned from the Torah itself in parshat Berashis where it says ‘and it was evening and it was morning, one day’.)  The 18th and a half hour is 12:30 PM Friday afternoon (calculating from nightfall of the night before to that 18th hour).

At the time of Mincha Gedola, the earliest time we can pray the afternoon prayer, the influence of the current day begins to wane and the influence of the new day begins to arrive.  On Friday, the time of Mincha Gedola is when we are already coming under the influence of Shabbat, and is therefore when we can formally begin our preparations for Shabbat and begin the connection with the spirituality of that sacred day.  (Such as bathing, going to mikveh, putting on our Shabbos clothes, etc.  Note that many religious Jews have a nice custom to close their businesses as of 12:30 PM on Friday.)

Now according to the cosmic calculations, where a day is 1,000 years, lets calculate exactly when Mincha Gedola of Erev Shabbos is:

Friday = 5000 CE – 6000 CE

Each hour is 1,000 years / 24 = 41.666666 years

The beginning of Friday is Thursday night 6:00 PM = 5000 CE

Friday at 1/2 of the day = 5500 CE

Friday at 3/4 of the day =
   6:00 AM + 6 hours = 5500 + ( (1000/24) * 6) = 5750 CE

Friday at 12:30 PM = 5750 CE + (41.666666/2) = 5770.833333 CE

5770 is the current Hebrew year.

Now lets convert that .833333 – The year has 12 months, Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shvat, Adar, Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Av, Elul

10 = 12 months

.833333 = x

10x = 12 * .833333 / 10

x = 0.99999, meaning the 10th month (after finalizing the 10th month)

Tishrei=1, Cheshvan=2, Kislev=3, Tevet=4, Shvat=5, Adar=6, Nissan=7, Iyar=8, Sivan=9, Tamuz=10, Av=11, Elul=12

In other words, it’s Rosh Chodesh Av of the year 5770 when the first moments of the cosmic Mincha Gedola begin.

Therefore the upcoming Rosh Chodesh Av is a very special time for receiving the kedusah (holiness) that emanates from these final moments before the Shabbat of the World, and the first emanations of the kedusah of that Shabbat in preparation for a new Era.

It will be the first moment since Creation that we are getting ready for the Shabbat of the entire Creation.  On this Rosh Chodesh Av (July 12, 2010 starting at nightfall on July 11th) it’s appropriate to  become more ready, more connected and more attached to the Creator of the world.

However, we know that for every positive force in the world there is a negative equivalent.  (That maintains the balance of hiding the face of Hashem and allowing for free will.)  As we are entering a time of increased holiness, there will be an increase in negatively to combat it. 

We see this in two areas, one the general proliferation of shtuss in the world, as our lives, days, homes, roads, and pockets are connected to pipelines of time wasters as best, filth at worst.  The term virtual reality has begun to apply to our daily lives as we disconnect not only from Hashem but even from other people! 

The second are where we see this is the turning of the world against the Jewish people.  While initially some may have imagined this was “only” against the Nation of Israel, clearly we’ve seen this continue to worsen until it’s literally become unsafe to walk as a Jew on various college campuses in the U.S. downtown in various cities and towns throughout Europe, and life threatening to enter a variety of countries of the world as a Jew.

With the coming of Sunday night, July 11th through Monday, July 12th, we will, G-d willing, begin to get the spiritual influences of the final era.  May we find it, and all the blessings promised by Hashem, only for the good!  And may we find ourselves blessed with the ultimate good, the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu and the geulah shalayma!

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