Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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4 Dead Jews for Peace

angry commentary by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Breaking News (YNet) – 4 Jewish civilians brutally slaughtered driving home near Kiryat Arba, including pregnant women.  Kill shots used to finish them off.

This is how the Palestinians start peace negotiations…

- The Prime Minister declares he’s not really authorized or has the authority to speak for his people.  But he better get what he wants if Israel wants peace.

- Another minister declares Israel better give everything or they’re return to war.

- Another faction commits a war crime by killing 4 Jewish Israeli civilians, including pregnant women.  (This evening a family was brutally slaughtered, including after action kill shots, on their way home near Kiryat Arba.  While not yet mentioned, the weapons used were most likely transferred to the Palistinian Authority for public policing purposes by the United States of America – and the training in their use provided by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. {Not a conspiracy theory, publically available information.})

Once again Jews are literally spilling their blood for an enemy who has NEVER demonstrated a desire for peace or taken ANY positive steps of their own towards it.

I speak now as an Israeli Jewish citizen to the Prime Minister (of Israel) – Mr. Netanyahu, show them there is a price for failing to control their violence (if that’s what happened, judging them for the best and assuming it wasn’t an intentional government planned action).  Walk away from the talks for the 30 day mourning period.  THERE MUST BE SOME RESPONSE FOR 7 ORPHANS!  And walking away is the LEAST of the options.

Measures for peace taken by Israel within the past year (under strong diplomatic pressure from the U.S.A.)…

  • Since the beginning of 2010, 60 roadblocks have been removed. 16 checkpoints remain in the West Bank, all of them regularly open.
  • Road number 443 has opened for Palestinian traffic.
  • 50% increase since 2009 of permits issued to enter Israel.
  • In the first half of 2010, there has been a 15% increase for Palestinian patients receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. 82,058 of these permits were issued; 14,675 of which were issued for children.
  • 11% increase of the number of trade permits issued for entry to Israel. In the first half of 2010, 22,910 trade permits were issued, compared to 20,503 trade permits issued during the same period last year. 500 additional permits were issued to merchants to enter Israel.
  • 78% increase in vehicle imports to the West Bank in the first half of 2010 compared to the first half of 2009.
  • 2.7% increase in the al-Quds stock market index for the first half of 2010, while unemployment decreased by 3% in the first quarter of 2010
  • 3,000 housing units were built for a new city in the Ramallah district.
  • 6 Palestinian Security Forces battalions and 150 civil defense personnel have been coordinated for special training in Jordan.
  • There have been regular joint meetings between heads of the Palestinian Security Forces and the IDF Central Command. In addition, there have been joint Israeli and Palestinian police and firefighters’ meetings.

The result?  Peace?  Not exactly.  Death…

- Four Israelis were murdered in a terrorist drive-by-shooting attack on route 60 near Qiryat Arba, east of Hebron, tonight, August 31st, 2010. Two men and two women, one of whom was pregnant, from the nearby community of Bet Hagay, were the victims of this deadly attack.

- Two months ago, on June 6th, 2010,  an Israeli police officer was murdered by Palestinian gunmen in a similar attack near Al Fawwar, south of Hebron, on the same route 60.

- On February 2nd, 2010, an IDF Non-Commisioned Officer (NCO), Sergeant 1st class Ihab Hattib was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while stopped in his vehicle at a traffic light in the Tapuah junction, south of Nablus.

Yay for peace! (Not.)

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Peace Talks and Natural Disasters?

earl Do peace talks and world attempts to chop up and destroy Israel and carve out the Jewish heart of Jerusalem always occur during hurricane season and other times ripe for natural disasters?

Or do natural disasters always occur during peace talks and world attempts to chop up and destroy Israel and carve out the Jewish heart of Jerusalem?

Just wondering.

Others asking the same…

Rabbi Brody
Shirat Devorah

A quick google found this correlation list printed in some xian outreach book…

Below is a sampling of "record-size" natural events which coincided when the United States pressured Israel to give up its land for peace, as documented in (an xian outreach book).

Nine Major "Acts Of God" That Coincided With The Timing of US Pressure On Israel To Give Up Land

October 30, 1991: President George Bush (the 1st) opens the Madrid Conference with an initiative for a Middle East peace plan involving Israel’s land.

On the same day, an extremely rare storm forms off the coast of Nova Scotia. (It was eventually tagged "The Perfect Storm," and a book and movie were made about it.)

Record-setting 100-foot waves form at sea and pound the New England Coast, even causing heavy damage to President Bush’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

August 23, 1992: The Madrid Conference moves to Washington D.C. and the peace talks resume, lasting four days. On that same day, Hurricane Andrew — the worst natural disaster ever to hit America — produces an estimated $30 billion in damage and leaves 180,000 homeless in Florida.

January 16, 1994: President Clinton meets with Syria’s President Hafez el-Assad in Geneva. They talk about a peace agreement with Israel that includes giving up the Golan Heights.

Less than 24 hours later, a powerful 6.9 earthquake rocks Southern California.  This quake, centered in Northridge, is the second most destructive natural disaster to hit the United States, behind Hurricane Andrew.

March 1 to April 1997: The combination of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat touring America and Clinton rebuking Israel for not giving away her land for peace coincide with some of the worst tornadoes and flooding in US history.

On the very day Arafat lands in America, powerful tornadoes devastate huge sections of the nation, ripping across Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Arafat’s American tour also coincides with the storms in the Dakotas, which result in the worst flooding of this century, in addition to weeks of major storms throughout the Midwest.

Arafat finishes his tour and leaves the US and the storms stop.

January 21, 1998: Israeli PM Netanyahu meets with President Clinton at the White House and is coldly received.  Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refuse to have lunch with him.

Shortly afterwards that day, the Monica Lewinsky scandal breaks into the mass media and begins to occupy a major portion of Clinton’s time.


September 27-28, 1998: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright works on the final details of an agreement in which Israel will give up 13 percent of the West Bank of Israel.

The same day Hurricane Georges slams into the Gulf Coast with 110 mph winds and gusts up to 175. The hurricane hits the coast and stalls.

On September 28, Clinton meets with Arafat and Netanyahu at the White House to finalize the land deal. Later, Arafat addresses the United Nations about declaring an independent Palestinian state by May 1999, while Hurricane Georges pounds the Gulf Coast causing $1 billion in damage.

At the exact time Arafat departs the US the storm begins to dissipate.

October 15-22, 1998: On October 15, 1998, Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the Wye River Plantation in Maryland to continue the talks which ended on September 28.  The talks are scheduled to last five days with the focus on Israel giving up 13 percent of the West Bank of Israel. The talks are extended and conclude on October 23.

On October 17, awesome rains and tornadoes hit southern Texas. The San Antonio area is deluged with 20 inches of rain in one day.

The rains and floods in Texas continue until October 22 and then subside.

The floods ravage 25 percent of Texas and leave over one billion dollars in damage. On October 21, Clinton declares this section of Texas a major disaster area.

May 3, 1999: This is the same day in Israel that Yasser Arafat is scheduled to declare a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital. The declaration is postponed to December 1999 at the request of President Clinton, whose letter to Arafat encourages him for his "aspirations for his own land." He also writes that the Palestinians have a right to "determine their own future on their own land," and that they deserve to "live free, today, tomorrow and forever."

That same day, starting at 4:47 pm CDT, the most powerful tornado storm system ever to hit the United States sweeps across Oklahoma and Kansas. The winds are clocked at 316 mph - the fastest wind speed ever recorded.

August 29, 2005:  In April 2005 Bush and Israeli PM Sharon met in Crawford, Texas where Bush praised Sharon for his "strong visionary leadership" in initiating the Gaza withdrawal, known as the disengagement plan.  "I strongly support his courageous initiative to disengage from Gaza and part of the West Bank," he said, referring to the withdrawal of more than 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza and four isolated West Bank settlements.  US political pressure (on one hand) and financial support (on the other) were key to pushing Israel to this major move.

Exactly one week after Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon completed the forcible eviction of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip hurricane Katrina struck the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with a destructive and catastrophic force.

80% of the entire city of New Orleans was left under water. Many weather experts called this the worse hurricane and natural disaster that has ever hit the the country, and it ranks as #1 by cost and number of people impacted.

5 years after both events, an equal percentage of the impacted people in both countries remain homeless in temporary government housing situations.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

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Scary Diplomatic “Duh”

jews_ear_juice[1] (YNetNews) The Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai recently was surprised to discover on the shelves of a local supermarket chain a canned beverage called "The Jew's Ear Juice."

The drink is made of a black mushroom which does resemble a wrinkled ear.

Israel's Consul-General in Shanghai Jackie Eldan stressed that this was not a case of anti-Semitism, as Judaism is considered in China a synonym of success.

According to Eldan, the juice's manufacturer must have thought that linking it to the Jewish ear would be profitable.

(Mystical Paths noted this stuff almost 6 months ago, here.)

jews-ear-fungus Why do we pay these guys?  A quick google would have shown hundreds of references to Jew’s Ear and several explanations of the name.  Those explanations happen to be exactly the opposite of Israel's Consul-General in Shanghai Jackie Eldan’s answer, they carry an anti-semitic overtone that’s become embedded in a scientific classification.

The Chinese manufacturer was just describing his product.  The Israeli diplomat was just making it up.  And the Israeli news site was just parroting the diplomat.

Sheez.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

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Early Morning Slichot

by Reb Gutman Locks @ mystical paths

image003 (3) It’s tough for some of us to stay awake so early in the morning.

Early in the morning, during the month of Elul (the current month), we say slichot prayers (prayers for forgiveness). The Sephardim say them for the entire month, while the Chassidim and Ashkenazim say them from a week or two before Rosh Hashanah.

We say them up until Yom Kippur. These prayers prepare us for Rosh Hashanah when we come before the King to have our yearly spiritual and physical portions set aside.

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News: Obama to Visit Israel and Palestine

theone It begins.

President Obama will make his first visit as president to Israel and the West Bank to persuade both sides to agree to concessions for the sake of peace.

Because that’s worked out so well for Israel in the past. [ Every Israeli past concession has resulted a brief time later in the death of hundreds of it’s citizens and mini-wars. ]

The US president's peace plan calls for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to hold a series of regular meetings over the coming year.

Which Palestinian Authority would that be?  The one in Ramallah which has exceeded it’s legal mandate to operate (legally required elections having been “postponed” and since cancelled – turning the elected government into a dictatorship) or the legally and properly elected (by US sponsored elections) Hamas government in Gaza that’s engaged in acts of war weekly against Israel (last attack 3 days ago, mortars fired into civilian areas)?

Mr Obama will oversee the relaunch of direct talks between the two sides next week in Washington.

So the presidents need for a photo op and “peace progress” report before the US November election should mess up the Israeli governments Rosh Hashana plans and put the lives of Israeli’s and Jews at risk.

Although Washington is pushing for a comprehensive peace deal within 12 months, implementation will be spread out over a 10-year period, according to a report in Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli newspaper.

That makes me feel much better, because past implementations of deals have gone so well.  Oslo, Wye, Sharm-el-Sheik, give give give and receive war and pain.  Maybe “concessions for peace” don’t work with the Arabs?  Maybe US domestic political concerns should stop killing Jews in Israel?  Maybe someone should analyze results of the past to try different things in the future?  Maybe the Israeli government should gain the strength to say no.

Washington wants the intensive talks to cover core issues, including borders, refugees and the future status of Jerusalem, according to the leaked White House protocols of a conference call held this week between senior administration officials and American Jewish leaders.

With all due respect to “American Jewish leaders”, their lives aren’t on the line nor are they particularly in touch with the facts on the ground in Israel.  Further as keeps being reported, American Jewish commitment to Israel has slid to near none as secular liberal concerns overtake Jewish concerns in the highly assimilated Jewish American (order switch intentional) social circles.

If the sides fail to reach an agreement on a particular issue, US officials will intervene and offer a compromise, the report said.

Because the US has done so well with suggestions in the past!  Success rate: 0%.  And those were the almost reasonable suggestions of the past.  The current “US officials” have yet to demonstrate their understanding of the word “reasonable” or “possible” as opposed to “our world vision which reality should automatically conform to”.

At the same time, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, will meet regularly, the paper reported, citing the leaked report.  Such a strategy should appeal to Mr Netanyahu, who has proposed face-to-face talks with Mr Abbas every fortnight.  "Real negotiations in the Middle East are only direct, quiet and continuous talks between the leaders on the fundamental issues. This is why I offered to hold the talks in this format", he said on Thursday.

Mr. Netanyahu’s getting better at this.  And for a change keeping the Foreign Ministry from undercutting him. 

Washington will introduce its own bridging proposals if the sides reach a deadlock in the talks.

Because they’re so skilled at International Diplomacy and Middle East Diplomacy.  Incompetents playing with other people’s lives.

American pressure will also be exerted on friendly Arab states to make moves towards normalization of relations with Israel.

Yeah, let’s see progress on that.  THAT, while really not meaningful, would demonstrate actual diplomatic ability in the region.

Hashem Yismor (G-d should protect us!)

SIGN OF THE GEULAH – When a top world leader brings other leaders to Jerusalem to divide her, then Jerusalem because a “cup of poison” for the nations and we’re living the last steps of the biblical prophecies of Moshiach and the Geulah.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

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Moshiach Chai

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A commentor wrote, “mashiach is racked with suffering with the shechinah at the entrance to rome ! read zohar and ramchal , some of us suffer with him and one of us actually is him !”

I was speaking recently with an elderly chossid at a wedding on Har Tziyon in Jerusalem who said to me “Moshiach is alive right now!”  I challenged him a bit… “well, we’ve heard many such statements from gedolim and mekubalim in the last 5 years or so.  We’re sitting here by the Old City of Jerusalem and you’re telling me Moshiach is alive in our generation, so where is he?”

“Ahh” he said, “in every generation there’s a potential Moshiach.  Every generation has a (spiritual) descendant of Moshe rabaynu.  For Moshiach to come at any time, there must be a Moshiach at every time!  We simply have to be worthy of Moshiach in our time and then he’s fully invested as Moshiach of all time.”

I just smiled.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

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The Worst Possible Sin

by Reb Gutman Locks @ the mystique’

     What is the worst thing that a Jew could possibly do? What sin is so bad that if a Jew does it (G-d forbid), G-d actually curses that Jew? If the Jew turns from his sin, G-d will take the curse away. But, if that Jew is obstinate, and continues in his horrible sin, then G-d adds another curse to the first one. Again, if the Jew only turns from his sin, the curses will be taken away, but if he is still stubborn and insists on continuing in his wicked way, then G-d will add another curse, and then another, and another. The curses get so bad that this Jew actually eats his own children! The sinner brings upon himself 98 of these horrible curses.

     What is this worst of all possible sin? This week’s Torah portion, Ki Savo, lists those awful curses, and it explains that the curses came, “… because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant.”[i]

      The Torah says that everything was abundant for him. Things were alright. He was even serving G-d,[ii] but he was not serving G-d with joy. Don’t do this one!

G-d gave us His Torah to relieve our burdens, not to increase them. He loves us and wants us to be happy every day of our lives.

     Today, there are thousands upon thousands of “religious” Jews falling into this horrible, and needless, trap. Their mistake is that they are serving G-d for the wrong reasons. They serve Him only because they are commanded to obey Him, only because they have to! They serve Him because Him because it is the tradition. They do the mitzvahs because they believe that they will receive a reward in the Next World if they do them. And yes, all of these reasons are true. We are commanded to serve G-d, and yes we will receive a reward in the Next World. But, these are not to be our reasons for serving G-d.

     They serve G-d because they are obligated to serve G-d, not because they love Him, and not because they love His Torah. Don’t do this one!

     If you are not happy when you do a mitzvah, you are not doing it right. You have learned only the lowest level of physicality, and you have not even begun to see the glorious spiritual reality that is within each mitzvah. But, just as the physical Torah requires effort to learn, so does the spiritual Torah require effort to learn. Spiritual awareness and the joy it brings does not come automatically when you do a mitzvah. You have to search for it.

     For instance, look to see what G-d wants from the mitzvah you are doing. Why does He command us in this specific way? How does that mitzvah change the world? Imagine what happens to a servant when he fulfills the King’s wishes. How does a father feel when the child does what the father asks, and even more so, if the child has to struggle to do what the Father wants? When you answer these types of questions, you begin to experience the joy that comes from serving G-d the way He wants to be served.


[i] Deuteronomy 28:47
[ii] Some say that he did not serve at all.

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I Believe in Obama…

…blares the title of a YNetNews headline.  “The US president can secure a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.”

begin carter sadat For those who haven’t heard, the U.S.A. has called the Israelis and Palestinians to a peace conference.  In the past such conferences were called when a deal had been worked out and a few details remained that the U.S. would pressure the participants through.  It would end with an historic signing agreement with bright political lights shining upon the now peaceful participants.

Today the USA calls together participants, one of whom has refused for years to speak to the other.  One represents half their people at best, none at worst as they rule in contradiction to their own laws for elections and changing governments, with the other half of their people pronouncing dire threats daily and attacking daily (last attack – mortars, 16 hour ago).

But don’t worry, the U.S.A. has everyone’s best interests at heart.  And a burning desire for peace.  With such purity, how can it go other than well?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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You Never Know What’s Inside

by Reb Akiva @@ Paths Mystical

This morning found me on a busy street in a Jerusalem business  district.  The traffic was busy and the sidewalks crowded.

pallet-truck I squeezed around a delivery truck parked up on the curb.  A large man, about 30 years old wearing a very exposing A-shirt, deeply tanned, bald, was unloading large boxes from the back of the truck onto a large pallet hand truck.  Something you’d only use if the boxes were too heavy for a regular dolly.  What caught my eye though was his arms, huge and covered in very large multi-colored tattoos.  Tattoos aren’t as unusual in Israel as they should be (it’s prohibited in Judaism to tattoo any part of the body), but large very public tattoo displays such as these were – multi-colored going from the shoulder down to the elbow – is not often seen.  Even less so in Jerusalem, with it’s higher concentration of religious Jews.

The boxes were stacked 2 or 3 across and 2 high.  Right as I was walking past the pallet hand truck he was placing the last box on the stack.  And with the last box some of the lower boxes collapsed a bit and most of the boxes teetered and fell off the hand truck.

As it finished I looked at the man and gave him a bit of a smile and chuckle, my unspoken statement being “oy, sometimes stuff happens”.

He then turned to me and said, “Don’t give power to the Soton!  A bad thing happens to a Jew and you smile?  Don’t give the Soton the pleasure and the success!”

And I was reminded, never judge a Jew by the way he looks.  You never know what goodness is hiding inside, and every Jew is filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate is with seeds.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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The Association for Prosperity

I recently started getting some spam from The Association for Prosperity and Security in the Middle East.  Now honestly my Hebrew isn’t to the point that I’m going to spend time trying to read through Hebrew sales slang in a spam email.  But as I scrolled to the bottom of the email I noticed some “fine print” in English…

© 2010 The Association for Prosperity and Security in the Middle East. All rights reserved. The Way to Happiness and the "Road & Sun" design are trademarks  owned by L. Ron Hubbard Library in the USA and in other countries and is used with permission.

L. Ron Hubbard.  Science fiction writer and founder of the “church” of Scientology. 

The ad?  For a happiness work up…aka Scientology:

"Throughout history around the world, the human race has come to cherish and respect certain values.  They are called virtue. They were attributed to the wise, holy to the gods. These are what differentiated between a man and a barbarian - culture, between chaos and a fair society.

As mankind has grown we must learn there is no need for approval from heaven or a tedious search through the thick volumes of philosophers to find out what "good."

This can be discovered - by the man himself."

That’s the religion of Scientology, which is then mixed with pseudo-psychiatric techniques for “clearing” the mind of past emotional impacts.

And goodness oozes out naturally from the human condition.

Now available in Hebrew for the Israeli public.  Watch out, this peace and prosperity is for the founders checking accounts, not the followers.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

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What Am I Supposed To Do?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ mystical paths

     The article “What Is Your Name” has led a number of readers to ask for help in discovering their individual purposes in life. Can there be anything more important than discovering and fulfilling your life’s mission? As the article stated, the name that you were given at birth indicates what the Heavenly-ordained hope is for you.

    Beside your name, there are other places to look for hints. Look at the portion of the Torah that was read on the day, or week, that you were born. Read it carefully a few times, and you will start to see hints about yourself there. After all, nothing is by chance, and this is your Torah portion.

    Add up the gematria (Hebrew numerical equivalents) of your name and add in your mother’s name. Then add your name to your father’s name. Now look in the gematria book[i] for all of the words in the Torah that share your gematria. For some reason, these words share the same numerical value as your name.

      Study the people in the Bible who first had your name, and see what their outstanding character traits were.

     All of the above will help you to discover the job that you have been sent to do, but even more importantly, look at the tools that you have been given. Imagine showing up for a new job and the boss says that he wants you to cut down a tree. He then gives you a pencil to use to cut it down. You would have to tell him that he gave you the wrong tool.

    “Ah, you are right,” he says. Then he says, “Instead of cutting down a tree, I want you to write a book,” and he takes back the pencil and hands you an axe.

    Again, you would have to say, “You gave me the wrong tool.”

     So it is with us. G-d gave us the exact tools that we need in order to do the job that He sent us here to do. We say that G-d sent us, but in truth, our own prior deeds in our previous lifetime set up the waves of creation that caused us to come into this world as we are.[ii]

     Look at the things that you are very good at, the things that you find yourself doing more than others around you, or possibly the things that most people like to do but you alone do not. Your uniqueness shows you the tools that you came into the world to use.

     Now take your specific skills, coordinate them with your overall mission, and apply them happily in your life. Your overall mission is determined by your obvious birthright. Are you a Jew? A Kohen? A Levi? Were you born into a family that enjoys special privileges? Look objectively at the things that you have inherited, and set about using all that you have trying to make the world a better place. Then, when the time comes, you will return to the One Who sent you with a smile on your face.


[i] Spice of Torah Gematria Judaica Press, 1985 Gutman Locks
[ii] Mishna Berura Yom Kippur, Mincha Ber Hataiv

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

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Review: The Israel Museum

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Mystical Paths Paths

This past Thursday I grabbed the children and headed to The Israel Museum, which also includes The Shrine of the Book.  I’d never visited before and on the posted advice of (I don’t remember if it was Life in Israel or The Muqata) it seemed it would be a decent experience for the kids and the adult.  Further since Jerusalem was roasting (it was about 105 degrees) I was looking for an indoor air conditioned activity.

On arrival I was very pleased to find that children are free during August!  Nice.

Right as you come in they have a series of entryways from ancient synagogues.  This one was quite striking because of it’s inscription…

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The inscription reads, “490 years after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, this synagogue was built during the office of Chanina son of Elazar and Luliana son of Yuden”.  That puts this synagogue as being built in 590 CE, and makes it one of many proofs of continuous Jewish habitation of the Land of Israel.

On entry we headed to the kids art area, where they have a number of art activities for children.  However, since these were outdoors and I was looking to avoid the heat, we went on.

We entered the archeology wing.  Here they have a wide variety of ancient artifacts found throughout Israel, including oil lamps, menorahs, synagogue floor mosiacs, Roman idols, and more.  I was able to snap a picture or two before the guard ran over and let me know (in no uncertain terms) INDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY IS PROHIBITED…

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Synagogue floor from 400 BCE – noted for having a full biblical passage in the mosiac.  Unfortunately I didn’t capture the plaque explaining it before being shut down on photography.

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A full size menorah, somewhat modeled on the pattern from the Beis HaMikdash with Jerusalem lions supporting it, found somewhat intact and reconstructed from over 2,000 years ago.

The section also includes finds from the Greek time in Israel (idols of their gods and weapons of the time), finds from the Roman time in Israel (weapons and armor of the Roman army and idols to their gods), finds from the Xians from 1,400 years ago and newer, and Islamic finds from 1,000 years ago and newer.

It’s a very impressive collection well presented.  I do find it disturbing that they don’t allow photography nor are highly publicizing the materials they have.  While I assume this is for business reasons (the only way to see it is to come, pay and visit, and that money is needed to preserve and operate), in this time of the world challenging the Jewish connection to Israel a clear historical timeline of artifacts proving otherwise would be valuable evidence to shove in their faces.

The archeology section moves into a presentation of not quite as old Jewish artifacts, such as menorahs and synagogue implements of the last 1,000 years or so from around the world.  It was ok but not that interesting to us.  (Sorry, I couldn’t sneak any pictures.)

From there we moved to the modern collection.

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The very modern collection was stunning, not in a positive way.  When we entered the modern collection entrance, the first thing encountered is a 60 foot african statue, a very thin naked male with 8 foot exposed genitalia.  This is followed by a 7 foot tower of eyeballs that looks like something from Sdom.  We hurried through and I wish the door had warning signs.

The modern collection seemed to be focused on a number of installations, the majority which were video with a little supporting physical structure to present it.  It didn’t make a good impression or bad impression, just a waste of space.  As an example, there was one that was literally just a raised wood floor with planks not properly placed.  Just meaningless.

One of my children looked at an inflated childrens pool with a series of dinner bowels and drinking glasses floating in the water, in which was placed some pumps to create a swirling action and said “neat”.  “Dinner in Motion” – get it?  Neither did I.

Then there was a number of dimly lit rooms, somewhat arranged as normal home, all walls and ceilings covered in large plastic brown butterflies.

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They had several rooms which seemed to be futuristic office furniture from the 1920’s through today mounted on the walls (including urinals).  Didn’t do anything for me (maybe I’m art disabled?)

The section ended with a few works by Andy Warhol, including a can of Budweiser and Schlitz beer.  Not worth the view.

We past through that area to the more classic collection.  Starting with a surrealistic collection which included several paintings by famous artists including Dali, but the collection was second rate works.

Next up was French Impressionists.  This collection was more impressive with some top rate artists and works.  But what captured the children’s attention was off to the side…the museum had imported several rooms from French and Victorian England palaces.  The room, the furniture, the art – a full experience of walking into such a gilded location.  It was very impressive.

Similarly a little further along the museum has done the same thing with a series of historical synagogues.  A 16th century one from India, an 18th century one from Germany, etc.  Not sure how many they had, we got through three and were informed the museum was closing.

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The Shrine of the Book is a small semi-underground building (partially water cooled) that displays a few fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The building is very dimly lit and kept to a cold temperature, to preserve what’s on display in the best condition possible.

Frankly, this display was very disappointing.  The major item on display is a poor reproduction, and the few actual fragments on display are almost impossible to actually see (due to the lighting and how the items are placed).  Further down they had a display of the Allepo Codex, but only photographs – none of the actual material.  The displays were informative but very limited and mostly reproductions.

Next to it is a scale model reproduction of ancient Jerusalem during the time of the 2nd Beis HaMikdash.  This was attention getting…

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Overall I’d say worth the trip but not somewhere I’d take children under 14.  Not just because of the modern art display but also due to general interest.  While the children’s art area looked very nice, if you’re coming for art activities you’re not going to see the collection.  And it’s a bit pricey just for art activities (though not in August with free entry for children).

The archeology section is great, and the collection of Jewish artifacts from all times is impressive.  The more modern art, from the 17th century through the mid-20th century, is a weak collection.  Hey, for Israel it’s decent but is no comparison to any major museum in other parts of the world.

The very modern works and installations…give me a break.

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Da Bomb

A number of end of days biblical prophecies get pretty ugly.  A few of them sound downright nuclear.  How might things get there?  The video below (about 3 minutes in) explains it:

Yes, this is political comedy/satire – but it’s point is straight up.

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Yay, Obama Today!

As a blogger outside the US I get a chance to see some American propaganda that isn’t visible or directed to those inside the United States.  Today’s propaganda comes to you from America.Gov, courtesy of Google ads embedded into the RSS feed of blog Powerline.

America.Gov is the online equivalent to the Voice of America radio broadcasts worldwide.  A US friendly propaganda machine aimed worldwide modeled after but never quite achieving parity with the BBC.

Note I’m not faulting the concept.  America wants to push it’s message and culture out to the world, a friendly propaganda site is a nice way to do so.

No, what strikes me is the change in the focus of the site since the rise of the Obama administration.  Here’s the ad that got my click…

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The government funded and written Obama Today blog at America.Gov gives us a daily article on how Obama is saving the US and the world.  Here’s a few brief examples…

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Now frankly anyone can push any propaganda they want (and can afford to).  And for the United States of America to be pushing it’s propaganda is normal and expected (though I think perhaps MTV has more impact). 

But when did US propaganda switch to solely pushing the cult of personality of President Obama?

Stop by and get your dose of Obamaganda today!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

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The Ultra-Orthodox Unit

The Jerusalem Post has a nice article on the Netzach Yehuda (Nachal Charedi) IDF Army battalion for ultra-orthodox soldiers.

While the article speaks for itself, this line is key “While it had a slow beginning, today the IDF has to limit the number of soldiers accepted into the unit to 150 each draft, otherwise it would grow out of control.”

Got that?  All the charedi ultra-orthodox young men that WANT to enter the IDF (in conditions compatible with their religious lifestyle but providing full soldiering ability to the country) can’t because…well…because then there’d be lots and lots of ultra-orthodox young men in the IDF.

And that might change the character of the army, affect the people around them, bring an influx of men permitted to work and able to enter professions into the ultra-orthodox community (along with an influx of money) shifting power and influence to that community, and put people in the army that believe in Israel, Hashem, and His Torah who might hesitate on complete political manipulations of the army.

“The IDF is already weighing the establishment of a second battalion and some of the unit’s proponents have claimed that in a number of years there will be a haredi brigade.” … Can anyone give ANY decent reason why they wouldn’t create more battalions for these young men???

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Friday, August 20, 2010

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A House of Prayer For All People?

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ path of the mystical the

Once again, a group of Jewish women came to the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) wanting to put on their tefillin and read from their sefer Torah (Torah scroll), and once again, a group of religious men went nuts and started screaming, and once again, the police made the women go to an area away from the more northerly part of the Kotel where we daven (pray) to a more southerly part of the same wall that has been set aside for such gatherings.

     But is this fair? Isn’t G-d’s Temple supposed to be a “House of Prayer for all people?” Shouldn’t people be allowed to pray the way they want? After all, these women ask, “Why have the Orthodox been given exclusive rights to that part of the Kotel, while the other styles of Judaism (Reform and Conservative) have been pushed away to a less prominent area of the wall?”

     Of course, these people are not pushed away from the area where we daven, but are merely asked to behave in a manner that is compatible with traditional standards when they come to this area of the Kotel. Basically, this means that men wear head coverings, and women go to the women’s side of the dividing screen. Although it has never been a problem before, today, it also means that women do not put on tefillin, nor read from Torah scrolls, both of which are religious acts that have traditionally been performed by men only.

    What do you think?

    Oh, I can hear you screaming now. Some of you are screaming, “YES, OF COURSE, LET THEM DO WHAT THEY WANT!” And some of you are screaming even louder, “WHAT, ARE YOU CRAZY? THROW THEM OUT!”

     What’s wrong with letting everyone pray as they please?

    Obviously, there is (to my knowledge) no sane, organized synagogue, temple, church, or other house of worship that allows everyone to do as they please. The Kotel administration is amazingly tolerant (or ignorant) when it comes to allowing non-Jews to do what they want. It is terribly annoying (an understatement) to be putting all of your concentration on prayer, surrounded by hundreds of Jews doing the same, only to have a group of some 20 Russian, non-Jewish tourists walk in and start taking your picture.

    Then there are the x-ians who fall to their knees in front of the Kotel right in the middle of us, or the ones who start mumbling loudly, “ungabonga slickatome atstalak!!” with great feeling. Shabbos morning, right after sunrise, one these guys was just a few yards from the reading of the Torah, drowning it out!  It is called “talking in tongues,” and it resembles someone on acid yelling at aliens that only he can see. I walked over and yelled at him to be quiet. He got insulted and stormed away.

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So, should we allow everyone to do as they please at the Kotel? My opinion, let’s keep it the way our Torah-observant fathers and mothers prayed. At least until the Moshiach comes, which won’t be long. Then, he will decide which way is best.


A House of Prayer for All People - Isaiah 56:7

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

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You’re the 1,000,000th visitor

Mystical Paths is nearing it’s 6th year anniversary and has exceeded it’s 1,000,000th reader.  It’s listed as #67 on the Top 100 Religion Blogs of the world by Technorati.

During this same time we’ve had emails where people have told us we’ve truly impacted their lives, including a number of Jewish religious returnee’s and a number of Jews deciding to make aliyah to Israel.  Though your generosity, we’ve raised a bit of money for the poor in Israel before the holidays and for needy Torah students around the year. And making a difference in people’s lives truly makes it all worth while.

Mystical Paths is done as a labor of love (or maybe obsession?)  We limit the advertising to avoid any reading disturbance and to keep it kosher. As such we’re lucky if it ears a cup of coffee per month (literally, ok maybe a latte’). If you have an urge to advertise something, our Blogads prices are inexpensive and (if it’s on topic) effective.

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Thanks for stopping by and many blessings from the bloggers of Mystical Paths.

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Jewish School – Time to Fix It

by Reb Akiva @ mystical roads and byways

A few posts ago I wrote about Elul as the New Year for Schoolchildren and the gehinom of the parents.  So someone responded, “ok, so what are your suggestions about it.”  Here they are…

The last 60 years have been a time of growing prosperity…for the West, particularly the United States, and for the Jewish people who’ve lived there.  Jewish people in particular have benefited from economic prosperity combined with a strong education culture, professional culture, and economic culture…

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(This chart, by the Pew Foundation, shows income distribution by religion.  Jewish is the second highest in the US with 73% in the middle to high income range, and is together with Hindu being FAR above all other religions.  While Hindu immigrants to the US are traditionally upper status well educated English speakers, the Jewish immigrants of generations ago that came were uneducated refugees with no English.)

In this time of prosperity and recovery from the Holocaust, Jewish communities built religious institutions, hospitals, community centers, and schools in all areas with major Jewish population concentrations.  In recent times at the peak of the prosperity, the ultra-orthodox communities have been able to build schools at an even faster pace than the high growth rate (through high birth rate and influx of non-religious Jews choosing a religious lifestyle).

The prosperity has been high enough for the ultra-orthodox communities to move from basic (religious) needs to full service to offering every option.  Whereas 25 years ago a community would have 1 school, today there’s 4 schools to fit narrow differences in preference among the community (say a chassidic school, a litvish school, and a slightly more modern school).

Furthering the trend, increased religious education has become the accepted norm.  Every young lady goes to “out of town” (and often in Israel) seminary for 1 year after high school (and often extends it to 2 years).  Every young man leaves high school for mesifta, where they’ll learn for 2-5 years until they get married…at which point they’ll enter kollel for another 2-10 years.

Educational institutions to accommodate a Torah education from age 3 until 30 have popped up everywhere.

Between support from the religious communities as well as support from the less religious (Conservative and Reform) Jews, the prosperity lifted all boats.

But 3 trends have converged to change the situation. 

First, the older generation of less religious Jews is leaving or has left this world.  Those who remember their ultra-orthodox grandparents and therefore can relate to funding Torah institutions are going, going, gone. 

Second, the increased emphasis on deeper and longer in-depth Torah learning has resulted in less professional Jews coming out of the community.  Less doctors, lawyers, and accountants means less reasonably wealthy families to assist the institutions, and more poorer families needing communal assistance.

Third is the economic downturn.  Beyond the general societal impact, financial industry work is a traditional profession for the Jewish community (for lots of bad historical reasons, but it is the case).  As the financial industry is at the dead center of this economic storm, many a Jewish family has lost their livelihood and many others have lost their fortune.  Worsening it is the point that a number of the purveyors of risk were Jewish financiers.  That being the case not only individuals but many Jewish institutions invested their cash in high return leveraged areas, resulting in many institutions “losing it all” and others only losing a nice chunk of change (example, Yeshiva University’s loss of $110 million to Bernie Madoff).

The net result of these trends is that orthodox Jewish communities have become much poorer in the past two years.  And while “G-d will help” the odd trend of the community is NOT to help itself but to rely exclusively on G-d.  At the moment when the community desperately needs to be preparing the next generation to generate the prosperity needed for it’s growth rate and future, the leadership is grappling with the influx of modern trends by pushing away from the secular education and associated skills necessary to be highly successful.  “Better a poor Jew than one drawn away from Hashem and Torah” is a path that will lead to communal infrastructure collapse and many of those Jews turning to other paths to simply survive.

(This trend is accelerated in Israel where the orthodox community has the political clout and votes necessary to leverage the country into providing a sufficient level of socialist benefits to survive, but where their growth rate will make it impossible for the country to continue to provide those benefits without the orthodox massively increasing their contribution to the economy. 

For example, you can make “free health care” a benefit everyone is “entitled to”, but you can’t force doctors to provide it for free.  If the doctors don’t feel they’re getting paid enough for their work, they can choose not to work or enter another profession.  And if doctors aren’t getting paid enough to live and cover their education costs, then young people aren’t going to enter the field.  The result shortly after offering such a benefit is a “right” which no one receives.)

Back to the main topic, schools.  Times have changed.  The communal patterns of the past generation, just 3 years ago, are no longer valid.  The orthodox community can no longer afford the prosperous practices of that long past time.  And waiting out the downturn isn’t a solution, the current trends are set and the free flowing money time of the past generation is gone.

What to do?

1. The communities can no longer support multiple schools for each different sub-sect within the community.  Multiple small schools need to be merged together.

2. Small classroom sizes are great when you can afford it.  That time is past.  Classes must be merged together until each class reaches the point of covering it’s operating costs (not the magical tuition numbers nobody can really pay, but the real money brought in by the group of students).  In some cases this may mean merging two grades together.  There is no choice. 

3. Professional school administration is critical.  Instead of staffing the administration with family members (and inflating it to give a niece or nephew a job), the business skills of the community must be leveraged to make a professionally run organization.

4. Orthodox Jewish schools within a geographic region need to form themselves into a “school district”.  The point of a district is to combine certain administrative functions (such as purchasing) and get the discounts available with large purchases.  The fact the litvish school doesn’t say good things about the chassidic school in the next town (and vice versa) is a luxury we can no longer afford.  Now they have to work together for the communal good!

5. Larger institutions are able to accommodate different children’s needs.  Having a higher-level class, an average class and a remedial class is reasonable and possible if you’ve got 90 children in that grade – and therefore the parents don’t need to try to cover special tutoring or other such problems because the children don’t fit in the single average class.  Merge, grow, and accommodate.

6. Key communal orthodox Jewish institutions are absolute musts.  While we just had 60 years of democratic capitalistic communal growth, empowering our rabbinic leadership to determine the key institutions that need to be funded and leveraging a communal tax or dues is appropriate.  The mikveh, the school, the shul – we have to cover the basics and probably can do so if they’re a communal focus and operated reasonably well.

7. The current “Torah scholar or nothing” educational focus of the school system (and marriage market) turns a solid segment of our young people into losers.  A significant segment of our young people can become very successful businessmen and the foundation of financial support of the Torah institutions for the next generation.  Would we rather have them as “Torah scholar drop outs” or “big supporters of the yeshiva”?  To turn them into the successful supporters we as a community must validate that as an option.

8. Building higher walls around the community to prevent the penetration of secular society is a losing proposition.  Turns out 3G cell phone service and wifi connectivity penetrates everywhere.  If we cut ourselves off from the tools of the future we’re going to find ourselves at a significant economic disadvantage at a time when we can’t afford it.  Instead we need to co-opt them into a kosher use style.  Kosher certified web sites, Jewish religious internet service providers (ISP’s), orthodox app’s for the iPhone and other smart phones, and flooding the internet with the massive quantities of Torah content our communities produce can provide a positive environment for use of the most modern tools – and allow the minds of our community to find new and better uses that they can also sell to the world.  And proper use of such tools should be part of our education.

That’s my prescription for the survival of Torah education in a form reasonably similar to what exists today.  Our leaders must stand up and take action today for a better tomorrow.  G-d willing, they’ll do so.

A quick google on the topic found these.  We can act before the list grows!

- Jewish day school closes, Clearwater Florida.
- Jewish private school closes, Howell NJ.
- Jewish orthodox school system (8 schools) files for bankruptcy, Southern New Jersey.
- Beis Yaakov closes, Lakewood NJ.
- Hebrew High closes, Kansas City.
- Two Yeshiva’s to be evicted for over $1 million in owed rent, Toronto.
- Yeshiva Bais HaTorah closes, 350 students without school, Lakewood NJ.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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Questions On “What Is Your Name?”

by Reb Gutman Locks @ those on the path of the beyond

Questions:

     Ruth’s name seemed to have been Ruth before and after conversion, there was never a name-change....

    Can you explain why rabbis would add a vav to ones name?

    One must also wait for the correct timing to fulfill the meaning of ones name. If one acts in haste, disaster

    Are double Hebrew names counted as reflecting one's mission on earth, which includes a middle Hebrew name like for example Nachon-Zion ben (parent's name) or Sholmo Moshe ben (parent's name) Also, how much influence does a parent's own Hebrew name or even surname have on a child?

Answers:

     I would assume that Ruth’s actual conversion came before she married Naomi’s son, and that her famous statement, “Your people shall be my people….” was merely a confirmation of her conversion. To my knowledge, there is no obligation to change one’s name after conversion, but is customary to show that the convert is a new person.

    I am not aware of rabbis adding vavs to names. Are you referring to the initial spelling when the name was first given, or at a time when a person wants to change their current situation? It is common to add a name to a person name if they are very sick. Frequently, they will add the name Chaim (life) in front of their current name. The letter vav signifies “drawing down from the higher to the lower” or “fullness.” Perhaps it is a custom in some places for rabbis to add a vav to encourage spiritual growth?

    One should never wait to fulfill one’s purpose. You never know how much time you have left in this world, and even if you did know, still, you would want to live in the tremendous joy of one who is doing what he was created to do.

    Giving two names is very common, and both of those names show that person’s nature. Parents’ names also influence a person’s spiritual role. Your parents’ names show where you are coming from. Those names also reflect when you look into the gematria (Hebrew numerical equivalences) of your full name.

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American Political Approach

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I was and am a big fan of former American president Ronald Reagan. One thing he was known for was soaring rhetoric - creating a picture of a brighter future in the midst of challenging times. President Reagan was a big proponent of using government to create an environment where business could flourish and giving people the room and conditions to succeed.

Of course doing so also gives them the room to fail. The video below contrasts that with the current approach of the US administration and congress.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

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A Wedding and a Rebbe

I was fortunate to attend a very nice wedding last night and was able to capture some pictures of the Spinka Rebbe, shlita of Bnei Brak who attended as well…

The chupa was at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As many a kibbutz, Ramat Rachel has successfully transformed itself into a hotel – convention center – banquet hall(s) as it’s primary business (as opposed to chicken farming).

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Music was by Menachem Herman.  For those who also read Rabbi Lazer Brody, they’ll recognize the name.  I have to say seeing a Breslover chossid in a sirtuk (long black coat) with long payos and a greying long beard playing electric guitar was a study in contrasts.  Still, the music was excellent (and not so loud as to be deafening).

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The Spinka Rebbe, shlita of Bnei Brak received a bracha under the chupa and joined the dancing…

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A wonderful wedding, a beautiful chossan and kallah, a chuppah over the Judean hills in the suburbs of Jerusalem, a holy rebbe shlita.  A special time.

May we all be so blessed.

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Mored HaTal

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As seen in the hills of Jerusalem at midnight after a 100 degree day.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

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Fearing G-d, Not So Much

by Reb Akiva @ the path of the mystical blog

“Souls of a lowly nature and origin, coming from the lower levels of the ten sephirot of asiyah, cannot discover G-dliness by contemplation except with difficulty and forcefulness…” (Likutei Amarim 42)

As each generation has moved farther from Har Sinai, the levels of the soul have come from lower levels – lower and lower descending through the ranks of sephirot within levels of sephirot.  As we say during Sefiras HaOmer describing the sephirah of the day “Gevurah she’b’Chesed”, gevurah within the level of chesed, each of these graduations is further graduated – for example netzach of gevurah of chesed, for levels of the souls connection or root. (For more on this see Sha’ar HaGilgulim by the Ari.)  Different levels also relate to the different spiritual worlds.

We are taught by the tzaddikim and told by the mekubalim that we are at the lowest of levels in our time.  The 49th level does not necessarily mean the Jewish people have sunk to a low level of observance, but their natural connection above is on a much lower level.  At such a level worldly involvement becomes more natural and spiritual involvement much more challenging.  Physical achievements become easy, spiritual achievements take major effort.

Nevertheless, with forceful effort – when his thought greatly exerts itself with much vigor, toil and intense concentration, immersing in contemplation of the greatness of G-d for a considerable time, there will certainly come to him the ‘lower fear of G-d’.

The lower fear of G-d is recognition of the Creator with fear of punishment.  As the Creator of the world is clearly so immense and powerful, clearly His will must be followed or the consequences can be unpleasant.

The higher fear is awe, trembling at the greatness of G-d and unable to even consider going in a way that would contradict such greatness.

We live in a time where the higher level fear is unusual and very difficult to achieve.  We suffer for it’s lack.

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What Is Your Name?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ the path of the mystical

     When Jewish parents give names to their newborn children, Hashem sends them a hint of prophecy. The name that they will choose has already been allocated to that child in Heaven, and now the parents are coaxed into picking that same name. This means that each of us have Heavenly-ordained names that reflect our mission on Earth. Our names explain and define our potential, our individual uniqueness, our hope.

    Look carefully for the meaning of your Hebrew name to see if you are fulfilling your intended task. For instance, if your name is Avraham, your main defining characteristic is kindness. Even if you have not seen this to be true in your life up until now, you must ask yourself why were you given this name, and you must strive to develop this trait.

     Names have individual histories and meanings. Pay attention to the meaning of your name, or you may very well miss the point of your having been created you.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

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Oh Those Pesky Israeli’s, Stabbing People

News reports blare “Israeli held for serial stabbings”, “Israeli-American arrested as serial killer”, “Serial killer caught trying to escape to Israel”.

It’s a little hard to sort through the BLARING BS, but here’s what I can figure out in brief…

Elias Abu El Azam, an Israeli Arab from the town of Ramla, has been living and working in the U.S. legally (and possibly became a citizen).  He’s accused of stabbing 16-20 people and killing 5, most or all of them being African-American.

He was arrested in the airport heading to a flight to Israel.

Most of the crimes occurred in Flint, Michigan, an area with a heavy Muslim and Arab immigrant population.

His boss Abdullah Farrah said "He was friendly, He was a nice guy, very polite to all customers including African Americans".

Family members in Ramla said, “We are getting out information from all kinds of rumors about suspicions that do not sound like him. We know him to be a completely different person.”

Ramla is a mixed Arab-Jewish Israeli town just east of Lod in south-central Israel.  The majority of the town population would be considered working class poor.

So in today’s climate, if an Arab-Israeli were to be particularly successful, he’d be a Palestinian living in Israel who succeeded.  If he was being oppressed, he’d be an Arab minority being oppressed by Israel.  But if he stabs somebody, he’s an Israeli.

No bias there.

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The Best (Kosher) Thing I Ever Ate

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Dovbear started a meme based on a Food Channel show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and listed his favorite Brooklyn/Williamsburg restaurants (and one in Chicago).  Here’s my favorites, which are (generally) not in the city…

Kosher Ribs at the Masada Cafe – What an incredible meatfest!  This Manhattan restaurant doesn’t exist anymore and I’ve never had anything to match it since.  It was a little hole in the wall at the time, but wow what food.

Kosher Sushi at Kyoto – A full kosher Japanese restaurant in Monsey, New York, their sushi is some of the best around.  Closely matching it was Sushi-a-mechaya in Midtown Mahattan, long gone now but a great lunch stop in the past.

Tempura and Miso Soup in Deal – Another top quality kosher Japanese restaurant of the past, the Tempura and the Miso Soup was absolutely excellent in Deal, New Jersey.  Unfortunately the name escapes me.

Kosher Chinese at The Grand Bamboo – The best kosher Chinese I’ve ever had is at The Grand Bamboo in Monsey, NY.  The Chinese there is an absolute art.

Shwarma in Jerusalem – The top shwarma in the world is in Jerusalem, opposite Mir yeshiva.  This little hole in the wall offers “dark” and “light” or a mix of the two.  Mixed is best, with fried onions on a laffa.  Yum.  Unfortunately shwarma is becoming just a meat mix fried on the grill, the traditional dripping hunk of grilling meat hanging all day isn’t found so much anymore.  The difference is telling.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

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How About Japan?

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     We got another one yesterday. This time, it was a Japanese guy who walked into the Kotel with over one million gods and walked out with Only One.

     Why is it so important to teach non-Jews this concept? Although it is rarely discussed, one of the main privileges of being a Jew is that we are to be a “Light unto the Nations.” This was Avraham Aveinu’s main service.

     For many centuries, we were not in a position to openly teach non-Jews about the One G-d. We were always guests in foreign lands, hosted by idolaters who definitely frowned upon (to put it mildly) anyone preaching “strange” beliefs to their congregations. Due to our precarious position in those lands, we were quite content to be able to teach even our own people about G-d. But now, thank G-d, things are different, especially here in Israel, and even more so when they come to the Kotel.

     This concept that G-d is One, is the first of the Seven Laws of Noah, and it is the only one that a non-Jew might not be able to learn on his own. The others six laws are really logical. This too is logical, that is, once you understand it.

     The first of the seven laws is the prohibition against idolatry. The others are: the prohibitions against blasphemy, murder, thief, adultery, unjust courts, and the prohibition against eating meat that was taken from an animal while the animal was still living.

     When a non-Jew keeps these seven laws, he has a wonderful life in this world, and he has a share in the World to Come. He becomes a tzaddik (a righteous person), whom we are to love and respect.

    First, you have to help yourself. Then you have to help the destitute, then your family, your people, your town, and you keep on spreading out until you run out of time.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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Preparing and Torturing Ourselves

by Reb Akiva @ mystical paths

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It’s Rosh Chodesh Elul.  In Jerusalem posters are up announcing trips to Uman for Rosh Hashana for Breslev chassidim and the many who find Rebbe Nachman of Breslev’s Torah a positive impact in their lives.

In Elul the custom is to blow the shofar at shacharis (morning prayers in synagogue), to start to wean us away from the relaxation of summer and to thoughts of teshuva (return to Hashem) with the coming of Rosh Hashana – now only 1 month away.

Chassidus teaches us that the King is in the field…this month Hashem is more open to our tefilot and teshuva, having left the palace (so to say) and all the barriers, gates and protocol that must be fulfilled to get to the King (of kings) and is out and about – approachable directly as He’s nearby (so to speak).

Yet Elul portends another thing for ultra-orthodox Jews.  It’s the yearly ritual of back to school time.  School always starts before Rosh Hashana, and besides getting the little ones ready with supplies, backpacks, uniforms, books, etc, the parents suffer through the annual ritual of tuition flogging (by the tuition committee), embarrassment as their intimate deeds are examined (by the acceptance committee), gehenom (purgatory) as some of the children are not accepted or families can’t meet the tuition demands and don’t start the year as the parents go begging school door to school door and influential rabbis’ door to influential rabbi’s door, and hell as they place some of their children in institutions that are unable to provide them a decent education, that send the children home every day angrier and more troubled, and that aren’t dealing with problematic staff members that may do terrible things to (just a few) children.

For these parents (and I’m having a hard time finding a family that can’t relate their experience with at least one of the things I wrote – if not multiple) Elul is not a season of turning to teshuva (repentance), it’s a season of JUDGEMENT and execution (of that judgment).  These parents never get to the point of fearing the Heavenly Court, they’re busy suffering from the results of the ultra-orthodox human pseudo-court of the schools.

For these parents Rosh Hashana holds no fear.  They are tzaddikim!  Tzaddikim because a system that represents some of the primary goals of Judaism (Torah education) tortures them and their children year after year…and they stay religious, maintain faith in Hashem, and try their best to maintain themselves and their family in a Torah true fashion.  They try to explain to their hurt children that it’s just a few negative or stressed out people, not the system and not (G-d forbid) Torah or Hashem.

These families pay for the privilege of their Torah education 4x (four times over).  First they pay the education fees, living a simpler lifestyle for the sake of their children’s education (a strong positive attribute that has helped Jews throughout generations.  Next they pay “extra” for resources to help their child that’s not quite “working out” in a class with an unskilled teacher and/or in a school that doesn’t know how to handle anything not 100% average.  Then they pay for counseling and outside help to try to offset the emotional damage and educational loss being incurred by their child.  Then they pay as all this pain comes back and impacts the rest of the family and needs to be handled….  They pay if they can.  If not, they just suffer.

Some Jews cry in Av, the month of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.  Some Jews cry in Tishrei, the month of our judgments by Hashem.  There is the new year for trees, for kings, for rain…Elul is the New School Year.  And at least 30% of Jewish ultra-orthodox parents cry in Elul, the month of judgment of the children.

Chodesh Tov, welcome to Elul.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

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Tricks of the Yetzer

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Everyone has a yezter hara, an evil inclination.  Sometimes ones inclination is a straightforward force, a surge of bodily desires – for food, for pleasures, etc.  But the Torah teaches us to control our desires, to channel them into the allowed, at the proper time, with appropriate blessings.  If (IF) we’re doing things the right way with the right intentions, we’re a little less susceptible to this attack.

Ahh, there are less direct desires the yetzer can engage.  A little bit of laziness, to share a juicy bit of gossip, to complain even when things are ok.  Normal human emotional desires with just a little nudge.  But the Shulchan Aruch teaches us ways to direct our energies to strengthen this area.  Less easy than the first, but again if we’re doing what we should (BIG IF), we’re a little less open to this attack.

Ahh, but the Yetzer Hara is also called a wily fox.  He brings one to protect the “kovod” (the respect) of his rav, rebbe, shul, yeshiva or chassidus.  This one will consider something said by others to be threatening and speak ill of those others, to protect the kovod!  Another is trying to do good, build something for charity or Torah, and will bend the rules, take loans that can’t be repaid, even crush people that get in the way…because it’s for Torah and good!  These are doing bad in the name of good and is why one must consult those of wisdom for direction in such areas.

Ahh, the yetzer has other tricks up it’s sleeve.  We put men and women on pedestals, seeing men (and women) of Torah and declaring them to be perfect.  Every rav with a good word must be A HOLY MAN, every rebbizten with a little leadership must be A HOLY WOMAN.  Then when the yezter gets them (for nobody is perfect)…we judge Torah for their failings!  We must understand, our rabbi’s are people too.  Hopefully with more Torah and wisdom, but still with stinky feet like everyone else.

There are some special men (and women), tzaddikim in every generation.  But even for them, those that surround them are just people too.  With a holy purpose but with a yezter hara just like the rest of us.

Occasionally our rabbis fall.  We shouldn’t let the Yetzer Hara drag us down because we believed they had no failings.  That’s our failing, not theirs.

Nor should we protect our holy men when they fall.  There’s teshuva, they are responsible to pick themselves up (and as an example to us) and fix it.  We should not pretend or fool ourselves into thinking their holiness prevents them from the possibility of doing any bad.  Everyone, except perhaps a few in every generation, has a yetzer hara and WILL do some level of aveyrot.

Personally I can forgive people for many things. But someone cloaking themselves in holiness and stating they are beyond such errors (and beyond the yetzer hara) or stating that their holy purpose overrides such concerns…this I cannot forgive.

Nor as a religious society should we accept such STUPIDITY.  We only harm ourselves and open the door wider for the Yetzer Hara by doing so.

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How Many “gods” Are There in India?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     Sometimes you see the fruits of your efforts so clearly, and it is so rewarding.

     A couple of days ago at the Kotel, I walked up to two business men from India. They seemed to be in their late thirties or early forties.

    “How many gods do you have in India?” I asked.

    They were not in the least bit taken aback by my question. One of them spoke with certainty, “Why, there are one million gods in India… no, even more,” he said, proudly.

     “You are a very intelligent business man,” I said, “so you will be able to understand this: What is the definite of ‘Infinite’?”

     “’Infinite’ is without limit, without end,” he responded.

     “So, if the infinite is without limits, it must be all, everything. Correct?” I asked.

     “Correct,” he agreed.  

     “Well, then how many infinites are there?” I asked.

     “There can be only one,” he assured me.

     “If there would be more than one infinite, neither one of them could be all. G-d is Infinite. Is that correct?” I went on.

    “Yes, G-d is Infinite,” he agreed.

    “So, then how many gods are there?” I asked.

     He stopped and thought for a moment, and then his face lit up. “Well, then there can only be one,” he said.

     “It’s like the fingers of your hand.” I said. “How many are these?” I gently grabbed his fingers.

     “Ten,” he answered.

     “But how many am I pulling?” I said, as I pulled his hands so much that he moved forward.

     “Ten,” he answered, again.

     “But, all this is one. Isn’t it?” I said, as I pointed to his hands, arms, and the rest of his body.

     His face lit up like sunshine coming out from behind a dark cloud. He really got it. He truly understood this most important concept. He went from being a simple idolater with “at least one million gods,” to a man who truly understood that G-d is One. He walked away with the greatest prize possible.

    And, what about me? Hooray for me, too.  :~)

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Keep Silent

by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

When one hears someone insulting them, they should keep silent, holding their peace.

This is the foundation to Teshuva, the return to Hashem. One has to know that all that occurs to him is all from Hashem. By retorting you only drive away your own holy soul by failing to believe that Hashem is in control over every aspect of creation. This person that complained about you is only a messenger from the Holy One. Everything is sent to you for your own good and to cleanse you from sin.

If now we respond with ego centered anger, we are in effect refusing to accept correction when we have to do just that. The only way to fix what we were sent here to fix is by Teshuva, and the main thing to remember is that it all comes from Hashem. Our tikun comes from returning everything to Hashem by knowing that everything comes from Him the time this is most apparent is when someone hurts us and we say nothing in return, knowing that everything is to scrub us clean and to make us pure. This comes only to teach us understanding. By this the fruit is revealed and the peel removed. The concealment is revealed leaving the inner G-dliness exposed for all to see. Our job is to understanding and know that this is the greatest of gifts from our Father in Heaven.

May we be blessed to stand silent in the face of being told to wait.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

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Toasty in the Holy Land

In the shade…

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In the sun…

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Who needs a sauna?  I can just sit out on my patio!

On a surface…

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Could I cook an egg on that surface?

Best friend…

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Unfortunate side effect…

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Good Shabbos!  (A/C in shul set on HIGH, bottles of water and cups by the front door.)

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