by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Meah Shearim is a 150 year old isolationist ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. It’s the first neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City after the revival of Israel had begun. It’s name stands for “100 Gates”, and literally each home added that extended the neighborhood had (and still has) thick outer walls, huge iron shutters and bars behind it on the windows…and a large iron gate. At night every home closed it’s shutters and gates and the neighborhood became a secure warren from the not-so-occasional marauding Arab bandits.
Today the neighborhood is home to a number of major chassidic courts and chassidic yeshivot and thousands of the most isolationist ultra-orthodox families in the world.
That doesn’t mean the neighborhood isn’t also dotted with cell phone stores, furniture shops, Judaica stores, and a number of major Jewish charities are headquartered there.
Every Succot the chassidic courts throw a massive neighborhood wide holy party in honor of Simchas Beis HaShoevah – the water drawing festival held when the Beis HaMikdash (the holy temple) existed about which it’s written “if one didn’t see the happiness of the water drawing festival one has never seen happiness in his life”. The party is open to all Jews (who are willing to come dressed modestly.)
Each chassidic court brings in a live chassidic band and has gender segregated dancing from 8:00 PM – 4:00 AM all week long. Besides the music and dancing, free food and drink is served as well.
It’s a sight to behold with tens of thousands of chassidim dance together with tens of thousands of guests.
However, since the neighborhood is a bastion of ultra-orthodox Judaism, the mixed gender crowding became a problem as the narrow streets thronged with tens of thousands of guests. Being concerned about men pushing through groups of women and women pushing through groups of men, the neighborhood decided to segregate the (blocked off) streets. One side for men, one side for women…with an actual canvas fence down the middle to keep shoving ending up with men and women falling into each other.
It was a reasonable solution to allow the public to join their neighborhood celebration while maintaining neighborhood standards. The fence installation and removal was paid for by the neighborhood and agreed by the police. The police don’t provide security for the neighborhood during this event…the neighborhood provides their own security service.
This year during early discussions someone suggested that due to the growing size of the crowds versus the capacity of the streets, and that the majority of the events are attended by men and only smaller events are operating for the women…that the main entries to the neighborhood be open for men only and a separate path be for women. This suggestion was publicized but ultimately rejected by the organizing committee who set up the same pattern as last year, equal but segregated street paths.
Now, hearing this online a group in Tel Aviv immediately filed a LAWSUIT with the SUPREME COURT of ISRAEL for violation of equal public access and a demand to have a protest march through the neighborhood (in the midst of a 100,000 person festival). The City of Jerusalem defended arguing that the pattern frankly works given the small streets into the neighborhood, that a protest march would be inciting a riot.
The Supreme Court ruled that the protestors were right, ordered the street partitions removed (since they couldn’t order the stopping of full street segregation because it wasn’t happening!) and that the police must allow a march.
Today the partitions were removed (the festival ended at midnight last night) and the police escorted 50 (fifty whole protestors who have never been to Meah Shearim before) from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station through Geulah but NOT to Meah Shearim. All of Jerusalem and Geulah were shut down on a busy pre-holiday (before Simchas Torah) so 50 secular Israeli protestors could make a point.
with Reb Akiva and Rabbi Nati…
sarcasm by Reb Akiva
As the settlement freeze is set to expire in Israel I was shocked to read that Jewish building is the main problem in the Middle East. The main reason peace has not been achieved during the 9 month long building freeze wasn’t the Palestinian need to assassinate 4 Jewish civilians, including pregnant women. It wasn’t 17 attempting bombings and attempted terrorist attacks. It wasn’t 192 missiles, rockets or mortars lobbed into Jewish kindergartens, apartment buildings, schools, streets, and greenhouses (killing thailandi migrant workers).
No, the main reason peace wasn’t achieved was the Jews refusal to extend the building freeze while continuing to receive (low intensity) warfare in return.
The news reports tonight tell us the Palestinians fear for their lives from the vicious Jewish settlers. The vicious Jewish settlers who have to send their children to school in heavily armored bullet proof buses to survive the not so infrequent attempts to kill them. The vicious settles who all must equip their cars with heavy plastic windows to repel the bricks and cinderblocks thrown at them “now and again”. The vicious Jewish settlers who must carry weapons for survive yet if they fire even under attack without PROVING they called out to halt, ran way, fired in the air, ran away again, and then fired only to wound even if being assaulted by a knife and brick wielding crowd will GO TO JAIL.
But peace is at hand we’re told. If only the Jews will stop building in ALL OF JERUSALEM for “a while, maybe a few years, or decades…or like forever” then they’ll be given the chance to negotiate to give away Israel and evacuate without being attacked.
That’s the peace at hand. With the full backing and demand of the European Union and the Obama administration.
Good to know peace is at hand and only a few pesky Jews are in the way.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
It’s easy in the modern day and age to be Jewish but forget about living Jewish. To celebrate the national holidays of your home country, usually the December non-Jewish holiday season for most of us. Jewishness might be restricted to the occasional visit to synagogue (maybe Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, or for a wedding or a funeral).
Even scientific understanding comes and goes. The world was flat, then it was round, we were the center of the universe, then off to the side, then it was all relative with no center. First science said the universe was forever. Then it had a start and an end…and even a likely creator. For a while it had a big bang, then a quantum flux. Now it seems universes (now plural) don’t start so much as develop from the collisions of other universes in an 11 dimensional multiverse.
Human physical knowledge is growing while human morality, usually paid for heavily in blood, is slipping once again.
And through all this, generation after generation of science knowing better (until the next generation proves it wrong), of today’s fashion and trends showing how the “old” ones were so “old fashioned”, of today’s culture surpassing or replacing the fading culture of the past, through all this the Torah, the Jew, Judaism and Jewish culture are still here.
But for us to be a part of it rather than the passing one of the moment, we must make a point to LIVE it. Not because WE must guarantee that it survive and continue, though it is true that every culture depends on it’s people believing it worth holding on to and investing in to survive [and this explains the decline of American culture as the last 2 generations were taught that every culture was equivalent – that there was no advantages to American culture and a number of disadvantages to be regretted – and the results are coming out in today’s leadership], no rather we must live it to guarantee that WE survive and continue.
Not we collectively. I am not crying out that the Jewish people are desperately in need of your commitment or involvement. Thank G-d the trends for the orthodox religious Jewish communities are solidly upwards. While that ongoing growth is causing many growing pains and the communities will have to rebalance some priorities to continue to grow well and survive well, they are not “at risk”.
We individually. My Jewishness and YOUR Jewishness is dependent upon the choice to live a little Jewish living. Celebrating the Jewish holidays (the period we’re in the midst of right now) as if they are the most important or only holidays of concern. [Note to non-religious Jews…Chanukah is a pleasant little festival but it’s not a signficant holiday, trying to replace Xmas with Chanukah is a joke. The Jewish holidays are Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot, Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, and Passover. The big Jewish festival is Purim, and Chanukah is a minor festival that’s given prominence in Western countries only as an offset to Xmas.]
The choice to be involved in Jewish things, celebrate the Jewish holidays, live a little Jewish living, is the choice of every Jew. The Jewish people are not in danger from people not celebrating the holidays. But the Jews that don’t ARE in danger. Their Jewishness, that of their families and children…that’s what’s at risk.
A little Jewish living goes a long way. This week, have a seat in a succah. Make a l’chayim to HaKodesh Baruch Hu. And this Wednesday night is Jewish party time…when we dance with the Torah’s till we can’t dance any more. Then we add some lubrication and dance some more! (Thursday night only for some outside of Israel – depending on the particular synagogue custom.)
If there’s a time to try a little Jewish living, it’s definitely Simchas Torah!
Note we’re pretty light on blogging through Tishrei…we’ve been busy with the holy days, holidays, our famlies, our teshuva and succahs, and our local communities. G-d willing the pace will pick up again next week.
Moadim L’Simcha from Eretz Yisroel!
Reb Gutman Locks has taken his book There is One and created an audio-book edition available for free! Here's the first track, from the Old City, Jerusalem, Eretz Yisroel...
If you enjoyed it, the whole book can be listened to from this site or downloaded, here.
by Reb Gutman Locks
Which is the greater sin: to drink water on Yom Kippur or to not be happy on Succot?
It is mid-afternoon on a hot Yom Kippur. You are waiting for the noon services to finally begin, and you are very thirsty. Someone walks up to you and offers you a glass of ice-cold water. What do you say? You would probably say, “Are you nuts? Drink on Yom Kippur? No way!” Even if he offered you $100 to drink it, still you would not do so.
But you know, there is a time when you are allowed to drink on Yom Kippur. That is when you are sick, or if you drink just a tiny bit. But still, you are not sick and you are going to fulfill this most important mitzvah. So you do not drink.
But how do we even know that it is forbidden to drink on Yom Kippur? The Torah only tells us to “afflict” ourselves on this day. Perhaps afflict means to hit ourselves with straps, or to lie down on cactus plants? No. The sages explain that “to afflict ourselves” means that on this day we should abstain from eating, drinking, bathing, and so on.
We learn that it is forbidden to drink on Yom Kippur from the rabbis and not directly from the Torah. Still, we would never even dream of drinking on Yom Kippur.
And how do we know not to be sad during the seven days of Succot? The Torah itself says, “And you shall rejoice for (these) seven days.” And there is never an excuse when you are allowed to be sad on Succot, not even the tiniest bit.
Clearly, we see that as important as it is not to drink on Yom Kippur, it is even more important not to be sad on Succot!
Have a happy holiday—it’s the mitzvah.
[i] “From The Old City”
Nice video for Succot / Simchat Torah…
by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths
We have developed a distraction orientated life style to help us disengage and disconnect, allowing our egocentric minds to explain away all the happenings around us and thus misinterpret the messages we constantly receive. Our lives have become one big distraction upon another until we are lost in the madness.
We now believe that we are like a god, so we have become gods to ourselves. We convince ourselves that our financial and military and political savvy will win out, believing we do not need Hashem. So He sends us reminders that we are not in control…each at his or her own level. Even on a global scale we have been spoken to but cannot understand.
In recent history we have witnessed the destruction of our cities and seen the total helplessness of man against the forces of nature. Political and military strength cannot seem to solve today’s problems. The experts are at a loss and simply say this is how it is but then turn back to the strength of man (it’s global warming or pollution or weather control!)
But there are those who have fought and struggled against the system and have become conscious and have gone on to revive others. We are now experiencing the promised final reawakening and renewal with the power of living the blessing drawing others to it. It’s written in our Jewish spiritual DNA! No matter how far you have buried it, it’s there and you sense it.
Fixing it requires an overhaul of our lifestyle and a refocusing of our priorities. It’s not something you can be told - you must have woken up to it or you would not be here reading this.
We received a precious gift, the Torah from Sinai. There is in the transmission the techniques and truths to repair, reestablish and maintain the connection with the source of the blessings, Hashem. Prayer is the primary key to crossing over from the curse to the blessing.
Hitbodedut helps to repair this: By praying we not only refocus our attentions but we liberate them from the pollution, reestablishing the proper flow of spiritual bounty into our lives AND causing an influx to the whole of the creation.
Prayer causes one to believe in Hashem which itself causes a blessing to be released to the world. And as more people pray the more of this blessing is released into the creation. So the act of prayer itself is a repair even before we consider the content of the prayer.
You should be aware that Hashem is sending into the world all the reasons we need to pray about. Every single event is a complete conversation from the Creator. Every word, sound, sight, touch, and sensation is meant to cause us to want to connect to the wisdom in it, thus to Hashem.
The distraction lies in us becoming connected to the outcome. By jumping in and believing it’s our strength that controls the circumstances and outcome we lose sight that the result is Hashem’s planed outcome. Thus we push Hashem off His throne and sit down, making ourselves into gods and thinking that we know better when we really have no clue.
It could very well be that we are causing great damage to the whole of the world, but no we know better. Even though we know absolutely nothing at all we understand even less. For we cannot see the end, let alone one of the myriads of transactions taking place just to read this lesson.
commentary by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
For some time it’s been apparent that the (mainstream) US news media has moved from a semblance of objectivity to blatant bias. As reporters and editors are writing into their articles that they “don’t understand why people have turned on the Obama administration”, it’s unclear if this bias is intentional support for the administration or an actual worldview that really doesn’t understand why so many American’s don’t want to “keep the change” that has left them out of work with increased health care insurance costs after they lost their home.
What grows more concerning is the blatant politicization of government operations. While it’s expected the administration will focus the bureaucracy towards it’s goals and programs, situations such as the justice department dropping of the Black Panther Voter Intimidation case show a disturbing trend not seen in the United States since the Nixon years.
Today we find the same happening in statistics. Just in time for the November election we’re informed by the National Bureau of Economic Research that “the Great Recession ended in June 2009”. “
The NBER acknowledged the risk of a double-dip recession, but said "the committee decided that any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007.
The NBER said it did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, it decided that June was when the economy hit bottom, and that it has been slowly but steadily growing since then.
The question this august institution apparently ignored is what is growth? If the economy “isn’t getting any worse” but is getting better at a pace below which new young people enter the job market…then it’s getting worse! Meaning, if the U.S. needs 500,000 open jobs every year to absorb young people entering the job market plus immigrants plus citizens, but it’s only creating 100,000 jobs a year…then 400,000 ADDITIONAL people are unemployed every year! And that’s getting worse!
Technical explanation: If the country had zero population growth for 3 generations then as each older person left the work force they’d open up one job for a young person just entering the work force. [Not the same job, people would be promoted into the more senior positions opening the junior ones for the new workers.] But with a small percentage population growth plus immigration, more new workers enter the workforce every year than older people leaving the workforce. Therefore to stay at a steady level of unemployment a certain number of NEW jobs must be created every year.
So if GROWTH is below the minimum level needed to absorb new workers, then the unemployment rate grows and the government must support more out of work people. And growth has stayed below that minimum level.
But it gets worse! The millions of people who lost their jobs due to the recession, and the millions who are officially under-employed (days cut from their schedule, working a cash register in a grocery store instead of being an office manager) are similarly also stuck. Because job growth has to PASS the minimum level to create new positions to allow the unemployed and under-employed to return.
And worst of all, in current conditions the experienced unemployed and under-employed are competing for any decent position, including new junior ones that would normally go to fresh-out-of-college graduates. Leaving the graduates delivering pizzas instead of starting their careers.
As Israel’s economy is growing, the equation for aliyah is shifting fast.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
The Holiday of Succos is this week. This holiday has two unique commandments: We are to dwell in a sukkah (a hut), and we are to take the “four species” (the citron [esrog], date palm branch, myrtle, and willow branches).
We take the four species, and our custom is to shake, or wave them in all directions. What should we think about when we do this most unusual mitzvah? The Rabbis tell us one possible meaning: These four species of plants represent Jews in four stages of service to Hashem, and we are bringing them together from all directions. Nice idea, but is this what we are supposed to be thinking about when we do this mitzvah?
Judging from the very serious looks that I see on the faces of many religious Jews when they perform this mitzvah, I assume that their intention is to serve G-d. And when they serve G-d, they concentrate their minds on the intense seriousness of the moment.
But what does G-d say that we should do when we take these four species? The Torah clearly tells us that we should take these four and “…you shall rejoice before Hashem.…”[i] If you take them and shake them without joy, you did not do the mitzvah as it is commanded. You have to be happy.
We are commanded by the Creator of the Universe to rejoice at this time. Is there any better reason then this to be happy?
[i] Leviticus 23:40
by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
We are thrilled with our readership and our comment interaction here at Mystical Paths. And further surprised at the impact of blogs in general and the impact that Mystical Paths has on our readers lives.
Along the way we’ve made some mistakes. While we’d love to throw out excuses, the net still is we’ve taken some actions on occasion that have hurt others.
…for your comments I deleted, forgive us.
…for your email list information I shared without permission, forgive us.
…for any inaccuracies in Torah inaccuracy quoted or meanings misrepresented, forgive us.
…for excerpts and material posted and not attributed, forgive us.
For all these and more, forgive us and accept our request for atonement.
Yet we face the question…if we do not stand up and try to make a difference, who will? And if we do we know we won’t do so perfectly. So we choose to do our part, ask forgiveness for our mistakes, and trust in our readers and in Shamayim that we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons – and (G-d willing) having a positive impact.
May all Klal Yisroel be written and sealed for a good and sweet year. And may we greet each other in Jerusalem THIS YEAR by the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) in the presence of the Shechina and Moshiach Tzidkaynu!
Gmara V’chasiva Tova
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Have you ever heard a rabbi say, “You have to accept upon yourself the yoke of Torah”? Apparently, this rabbi agrees with those who say that a Torah life is very hard. The truth is that life without the Torah is the life that is too hard, and when you bring the Torah into your life, it makes life much, much easier.
The yoke attaches the plow to the animal. Comparing the Torah to a yoke is a metaphor showing us that we should use the Torah to pull the plow of life.
Even before the yoke was invented the animal had to pull the plow. People had to eat. But, without the yoke, the animal was attached to the plow with only a harness. It had to pull that heavy plow with its head and neck muscles. What a tremendous burden that was!
Then, some wise farmer came up with the idea to put a yoke around the animal’s shoulders. This allows the animal to pull the plow with its big shoulder muscles instead of its small neck muscles. What a wonderful thing the yoke is. The animal loves its yoke. The yoke saves the animal from so much pain and suffering.
In America today: 27% of the non-religious, white, teenage girls, and 50% of the non-religious, black, teenage girls, have one, two, or three different types of venereal diseases.
Fifty percent of the babies born to non-religious girls are born out of wedlock - i.e. mommy is not married, no father at home.
Sixty-five percent of the non-religious marriages end in divorce.
According to one popular talk show host, in 85% of the non-religious marriages, one of the partners, every once in a while, sleeps with someone other than their spouse.
That life, the non-religious life that they live, is the life that is “Too Hard,” not the Torah life.
If you will keep Shabbos (which, in fact, is a pleasure), and your wife will cover her hair (to be modest), if you put on tefillin (to pray), and if the home is kosher (so even your eating is holy), if the kids get a Jewish education (so the Jewish people and values continue), then none of these statistics will apply to you and your family.
Now tell me, which is the life that is too hard?
I have tried both, and I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it is much easier to be a religious Jew than a “free”, do whatever you want, secular Jew. It is hard, depressing, and empty to live the “American dream”, no matter which country you dream it in. In fact, that dream turns out to be a needless nightmare.
There are always going to be problems in life, no matter what you do. If you focus on the problems, you are going to be miserable. There are also always beautiful things going on in life, and if you focus on them, you will be happy. It’s your call.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
On 9/11 in the year 2010 militant Islam won. Great Britain won the world in the past through colonization and exploitation, building a physical empire. The United States won the world after World War II by economic influence, military intimidation, and cultural export.
But conquering the world is hard. It takes time, a major advantage, good timing and a good bit of luck. The British entered a backward world with a technological edge, a well developed administrative capability, and top naval abilities to project themselves. The United States came out of World War II intact and was able to step in to the power vacuum left by the nations of Europe that were sitting in ruins.
The Islamic nations, though harboring a desire to project Islam into a world force simply had no ability to do so. Backward nations with limited resources and no investment in their citizens simply had nothing to offer and no means of influence.
This changed as the energy economy grew. Oil and gas, the sole resource a small group of Islamic nations have had in abundance, remained the least expensive most dense form of energy delivery throughout the world. As the energy requirements of the Western nations grew through the late 20th century, their cash flowed in greater and greater quantities to the Islamic oil basin.
Finally the Islamic nations had a resource for influence…money, vast quantities of it. Though it took almost 2 generations, they invested in influence peddling, lobbying, politicians, cultural centers, Islamic studies departments…gradually growing their influence in education and politics. They did it the old fashioned way…they bought it.
Enhancing this was their export of their surplus populations AND providing the cultural infrastructure on their arrival in the Western nations to avoid integration into their host Western countries.
As the Western nations developed a liberal multi-cultural approach, the Islamic nations found the chink in their armor. No longer willing to judge the cultures of their citizens in any way, the Western societies could no longer confront the radical departure and lack of integration of the muslim immigrants.
When radical Islam began warring against the West from the early-90’s, increasing with 9-11-2001, and following with regular attacks after that…the multi-cultural Western nations couldn’t stand up and say it’s Islam. As the bought and paid for politicians confronted the issues they were receiving calls from lobbyists reminding them that their next re-election campaign depended upon the resources of the oil sheiks and that Islam better not be part of the “problem”.
This led to an increasing of the politicians decreasing their citizens personal liberties to defend against Islamic terrorism while simultaneously increasing the volume of statements that Islam had nothing to do with the situation. The politicians then had to engage their governmental resources to enforce this impossible double-think. Over the 9 years from 9-11-2001, this became government policy increasingly actively enforced.
This came to a head on 9-11 of the year 2010 when a Christian preacher of a small congregation announced hosting of an official “burn the Koran” day. The press, operating with government influence if not control, when on the attack. The local police denied a “required” bonfire permit and threatened to arrest them if they actually burned a book on their private church grounds. The FBI “interviewed” the preacher for threatening to burn a book on private property. Other unspoken threats may have been applied (IRS audit, ATF review of the preacher, all his family members and all the congregants gun ownership status, etc) may have come into play.
And muslims throughout the world rioted, occasionally killing each other and/or local security forces, burning down a few churches and Christian schools, on the word that a Christian preacher in the United States might burn their holy book on his personal property under the laws of protected speech in the United States of America.
And the American government did everything it could up to and exceeding the laws of the land to stop it. American embassies throughout the world rushed to put out statements that such an action is terrible and would be stopped (not defending American culture that allows such protests and free speech that allows it’s citizens to express themselves – unlike the lands in which the embassies were posted). American troops went on high alert to defend against revenge attacks (for an event that didn’t take place).
And the Islamics made their point. No one better dare mess with their religion. They better not slow it down wherever it wants to build, comment on what they do, or even threaten any action that may be the slightest bit insulting. For if they do…they’ll get mad, protest and kill each other!
And AMERICA trembles in fear! Fear of the Islamic street. Fear because…well there is no because. The because is politicians that may not receive contributions, lobbyists that may not receive lobbying fees, studies departments at universities that may not receive their endowments.
But it’s enough. Money talks, as they say. And we now live in the time of the influence of Islam.
That’s ok, the rise of Yishmael is predicted…and his subsequent fall. Steps on the path to Geulah.
by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths
This year in Uman was a very unique blend of old and new. There was everything from push carts to an internet cafe and pubs.
Being there one would have to find perspective. “Where there is garbage there you will find the flies. But where there is honey you’ll find lots of flies.” So this year 5771, 200 years of Uman Rosh Hashanah, was kaleidoscope of distractions.
But for those that know what there is to be gained from focusing on the truth found a gold mine. Those fortunate enough to be focus came in contact with a higher reality, to connect with the Tzaddik and to come away with the vessels to hold the light and spiritual bounty of the New Year.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A commentor wrote, “So, if HaShem demands emunah, then why does HaKodesh Baruch Hu leave one literally stuck in an anti-emunah environment?
Can you plant a rose bush in the ground at the South Pole and expect it to survive and grow? And who has the money to build and maintain a hot house garden at the South Pole? Last time I checked there weren't any "grants" being given to individuals desirous of constructing a green house in the Antarctic.
I trust that the metaphor is clear enough.”
The Zohar HaKodesh writes that this is the worst of all possible worlds…in which there is still hope.
It is HARD. It is CHALLENGING. It takes time, effort, self sacrifice to overcome the animal part of our natures and focus on the G-dly. Even more time, effort and self sacrifice to use that G-dly focus to invest it into the physical world around us.
It is POSSIBLE but it is NOT EASY.
Self sacrifice? Yes, sometimes we are told to act in ways that contradict our ‘natural’ inclinations. Fast – but we want to eat. Eat only certain proper foods – but we want what’s cheap and tasty. Pray – but we want to get on with our day. Give charity – give away the hard earned payment for my labor??? Be kind to another – who’s got the time, get out of my way!
Give up my home to move close to a synagogue so I can walk on Shabbat? Are you crazy? Give up my non-Jewish girlfriend? But she’s hot! Spend my time learning Torah instead of watching TV? That’s not entertaining!
Yes, some situations aren’t so simple. We appear to be stuck, encounter barriers we can’t naturally overcome. That’s when we must PRAY, when we must have EMUNAH (faith), when we must DO OUR PART and have BITACHON (trust) that Hashem will do His and open the path for us.
We must STRIVE and strive again, push and work at it and push farther. Make some small steps, incremental improvements, baby steps, and gradually push through and achieve! And occasionally JUMP OFF THE CLIFF and trust in Hashem.
…if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it. If it was free it would have little value.
Push…you never know what you can achieve!
From the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likkutei Sichos volume 34, page 336 – Kislev 29, 5739…
It surprises me that I have yet to receive any news regarding any actions taken concerning the “healings” of yoga, the gurus, and all that is related thereto, [particularly] after you notified me some time ago that you spoke about this matter or conveyed it to Profession (name ommitted). Surely you are aware that this scourge (plague, bad thing) is spreading: the event in Safed, the letter of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, and more.
From the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Sichos Kodesh 5739 volume 3, page 314.
Though essentially positive, meditation can also be used in a destructive manner. These are those who have connected meditation to actually bowing down to an idol, or to a man, or worshipping it or him, offering incense before them, and so on.
These cults have spread throughout the United States and throughout Eretz Yisroel as well. Some of these cults have been called by a refined name, “transcendental meditation,” thereby implying that it is something above our limited intellect.
However, they have also incorporated into their practices the offering of incense and other actions that clearly come under the heading of idolatry.
Since we are living in the darkness of Exile, many Jewish youth have fallen into this snare… Since the idolatry aspects are not publicized, there are those have not raised their voices in protest.
Moreover, they are unsure if such a protest would be met with success, and since no one has asked for their opinion they think to themselves, “Why protest and enmesh oneself in a questionable situation?”
However, while those who should be protesting remain silent, Jewish youth are becoming involved in idolatry, a sin so severe that the Torah declares that one should sacrifice his life rather than worship idols. Moreover, this scourge is spreading, ensnaring youth and adults alike.
Additionally, since “One sin leads to another”, even those who are not yet involved in the more severe and more clearly idolatrous forms of this group will eventually be drawn into this aspect of idolatry in their search of a “holier” and more “sacred” guru-deity.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Emunah means “faith, trust, to be firm …” these are all gorgeous qualities. So, obviously, there is nothing wrong with emunah. But there is something even better than emunah. You need emunah when things are in doubt. And when there is doubt, then, certainly, emuhah is wonderful. But are things always in such doubt that this should be our continual headspace?
There are two distinct schools of Chassidic thought. One school says, “The most important thing is that you should not be afraid.” The other school of thought says, “The most important thing is to know that G-d created all, and He is all.”
If you live in a time and place (G-d forbid) where you are afraid, then surely the first school should be your guide. But, if you are fortunate enough, as most of us are, to live in a place where we are free to come and go, then the second school should be your guiding principle.
If you are in doubt, frightened, hanging on the edge of the boat by your teeth, then emunah has to be your constant companion. If you are really sure, positive that G-d created all, and that He is all, then this knowledge will be your constant companion.
Either way, no matter what your situation is, to be optimistic makes life easier, more pleasant, and even improves our performance. Take an objective look at all of the wonders you are enjoying--your health, your family, the food on the table….
We are living in the time of the beginning of the Redemption. This is not a statement of faith. We can see it happening all around us. Jews are coming home to the Land of Israel by the thousands. More Jews are learning Torah today than ever in the history of our people. Our life spans are longer. Our health is greater. We can almost taste the moment when G-d will hasten to bring an end to all sorrow. Look for the good. It really is here.
Thank G-d. Thank G-d. Thank G-d.
…as reported by Chabad’s CrownHeights.info! (??)
Uman Uman Rosh Hashana, Uman Uman Rosh Hashana, ay ya ya ya ya ya.
by Reb Gutman Locks
Wishing you a wonderful, healthy New Year; May it be a year filled with both spiritual and physical prosperity, a year when you live up to your greatest expectations, make lots of people happy, see your family grow, have all of your needs met, a year when you please G-d so much that He looks down from the Highest Heaven and says, “Bless you, bless you. I am so happy that I created you.”
May You Be written and sealed for a good and sweet year.
by Reb Gutman Locks
We must not miss the most important aspect of today’s Jewish spiritual reality.
Looking back we see we’ve moved away from the higher spiritual levels of our ancestors. But that is only looking back, not forward. Each generation that has come further and further away from the moment of creation goes lower and lower, and we are as far away as you can imagine. Still, each generation, especially ours, also gets closer and closer to Redemption.
This is true right up until the actual Redemption has come. And, since we are so very, very close to that wonderful moment, we are actually higher than any generation that has come before us.
We are lower physically, which means that the physical has a greater pull on us, but the spiritual is actually easier to attain now than ever before.
What is so much more difficult is to even want to attain the spiritual. The physical is so, so evident, and the spiritual is so, so hidden. But, if you really want, and you really try, not only can you reach the lower level of fear of G-d, but you can also experience the cherished higher level of fear; the actual AWE of G-d.
All it takes is, really, really wanting it, and really, really trying. Try, you’ll see for yourself.
Shirat Devorah wrote, “So, Moshiach was supposed to arrive this year - 5770 - and once again we are disappointed. But wait.... don't despair yet.”
Was supposed to arrive this year?
Sanhedrin 97 –
- (Beriata, R. Noson) We cannot know for sure when Moshiach will come.
- When Rabbi Zeira would see people speculating when Moshiach will come, he would say “please do not delay him!”
- (Rav) All the keitzim (Moshiach calculations) have passed. Now Moshiach depends on Teshuva (repentence and return to Hashem) and Mitzvot.
- Rabbi Yochanon said, Moshiach will come in a generation where the Chochomim (sages) are decreasing and everyone else is despairing…
- (Beriata) Ben Dovid (Moshiach will not come…until Talmidim (Torah students) decrease, people lack money, until they DESPAIR of redemption.
Maybe we should despair just yet! RIBONO SHEL OLAM, Master of the Universe, we’ve done what we could do. We, the Jewish people survived centuries of tremendous poverty and intense persecution. We, the Jewish people, survived the Holocaust and our grandfathers rebuilt from the ashes – not abandoning You while stepping through the ashes of their families. We survived the generation that said man knows it all and the Jewish people are done for. We survived a generation of affluence, using it to build more yeshivot, kollels, chesed institutions, mikvaot, and to reach out to our lost brethren around the world.
Ribono Shel Olam, Creator of the Universe, you have created us as human beings – not malachim (angles). While we strive to improve, we will never reach perfection. While we strive to add on to the good works of our forefathers and the previous generation, You send us changing conditions. While we strive to increase our Torah and increase our prayer to You, You have made conditions that we must work and earn money both to care for our families, take care of our communities, operate a government for safety and infrastructure, and pay the expenses of the batei midrashim (houses of Torah learning) and batei knessiot (houses of prayer).
Avinu Malkaynu, Our Father Our King, we are doing our part the best we can as humans who are not angels. And we will continue to try to do even better in the new year 5771. We have many failings, but we strive to improve.
Shall we despair of the geulah? Is that what is desired?
We received this anonymous comment from a reader…
I feel rather pessimistic every Elul. The current operating mode of Jewish religious schools is very painful to me and my children, and I despair for their future as frum yidden given the actions of the schools. (Unfortunately this is not limited to any individual school or stream but has become systemic.)
And there is no worse impact to my own yiddishkeit than watching those who are responsible for teaching my children and the next generation emes (truth) seriously injure, turn off, abuse, and fail to educate their students while abusing and acting power crazed upon the parents.
As this process restarts every Elul, with the schools in maximum abuse mode for the month prior to the start of school and the first month of school - and 5 of my 8 children not fitting the perfect average (too dumb, somewhat auditory in learning, too smart, too sensitive, too quick), every year I and a few of my children go through gehinom (hell) on earth built and operated by frum yidden in the name of chinuch.
It ruins my attitude until Succot.
Is this parent too harsh? Or a misguided parent who doesn’t operate well in the context of the environment?
YNet has an article decrying “The Synagogue Industry”. The article notes that during the Jewish High Holidays, synagogues have a tendency to charge for stuff.
What stuff? “Honors”, such as opening the Aaron Kodesh (the ark of the Torah’s), getting an aliyah (being called to the Torah), taking the Torah’s out and putting them back.
And, to top it off, they charge for seats! It’s a pay to pray scheme!
Frankly, I know all of this seems a bit crass. Those who want to gripe about religion even call it disgusting. But here’s the important facts…
Unfortunately, things cost in this world. A synagogue building costs money, a lot of it. The electricity keeping the lights on in the synagogue costs money. So does the gas for the heater (and/or electric for the air conditioner). Water, sewer, sometimes even building taxes.
A Sefer Torah costs money – much money. Not only to buy but regular upkeep (they have to be checked and repaired, especially after the first 10 years or so). Siddurim (prayer books) cost, and multiplied by the 100-1,000 needed it’s not a small amount. Further, they’re good for about 3 years before they’re worn out so they constantly have to be bought. Same for chumashim and machzorim.
Most synagogue rabbi’s expect a salary. For some it may be their only way of making a living, others it may be a little extra to help them get by. But in either case the rabbi does need to eat. In many synagogues the baal kore’ (the Torah reader) is a paid position. For the high holidays, a good chazzan (prayer leader with a good voice and experience leading the high holiday prayers) gets a good fee.
Seating and synagogue furniture costs as well. We use average quality plastic chairs where I go and it seems one gets broken about every other week. An aaron kodesh (Torah ark) and bimah (Torah reading table) last a good bit longer but need occasional upkeep as well.
Oh, and the synagogue needs cleaning, often provided by a cleaning service.
Those are just the basics.
Being that it costs a bit to operate a synagogue, there’s a few routes to cover the expenses. One is to charge for membership. Most synagogues do this, but the membership fees usually don’t fully cover the operating expenses. Another is to auction off “honors” – the high holidays with their maximum attendance being the best time to do so.
Bake sales and bingo are passe’. And synagogue gift shops don’t seem to be a big money maker.
So there it is…money is necessary even to keep the prayers going.
Give generously this holiday season…your synagogue really needs it.
A reader asked me to share the following…
There is an incredible website created solely for the purpose of Tehilim, and the refuah of cholim all over the world, the World Wide Tehilim Chabura. (A group Psalm reciting site, where different people pick 1 or more psalms to say – to complete the whole book in someone’s name.)
On the site there is a World Wide Tehilim Chabura for Gilad Shalit, Gilad ben Aviva. Unfortunately because the site is not well known at this point and the chabura has many many open prakim left to be said. I was wondering if it would be possible to … spread the word.
The word is spread! May Gilad ben Aviv be safe and receive his freedom IMMEDIATELY!
May Hashem bless you and everyone at Mystical Paths… Gmar kasiva v'chasima tova!
Amein! And may you and all our readers be blessed with a GOOD and SWEET YEAR, a year overflowing with blessings including the ultimate blessing of the coming of Moshiach and the complete geulah!
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Now we are all preparing for the New Year. On the New Year we will stand before the King of the Universe, and our portions for the coming year will be set aside according to the judgment that we receive. How well we prepare during Elul may very well affect the judgment that we will receive. Will it be favorable, abundant? Will we find success this year in those areas where we need so much help? This makes Elul one of the most serious and important times in the entire year.
Without doubt, the highlight of Elul comes early in the morning, when we say the Selichot prayers. And the highlight of these prayers comes when we recite G-d’s 13 Attributes of Mercy, beginning with, "Hashem, Hashem ..."
Doubling G-d’s Name is a very unusual thing to do. If the man who was leading the communal prayers would repeat the central prayer, “Hear, O Israel, the L-ord our G-d, the L-ord is One,” thereby saying it twice, we must take him down from his position at once. The problem is that someone might think we are addressing two gods! But here, during these prayers, we all call out “Hashem, Hashem,” actually doubling His very Name!
Not only this, but when we call out, some people scream loudly, some actually cry and yearn with all their heart. What is going on here? What are we really doing? How are we to call out? What should our intentions be?
We can learn the answer to these questions from Hashem Himself. When Hashem tested Avraham, He told him to sacrifice his only beloved son, Yitzchak. Avraham picked up the knife and actually put it to his son’s throat, prepared to carry out G-d’s command. What an awesome moment in the history of the universe this was! It was then that Hashem called out to Avraham saying, “Avraham, Avraham. Do not lay your hand upon the lad….”[i]
Why did G-d double Avraham’s name? How did He call out to him? It is well known that Hashem doubled Avraham’s name because He loved him. He doubled his name as a sign of endearment. He was expressing just how beloved Avraham was to Him, especially at that moment when Avraham showed that he was willing to sacrifice whatever he had for G-d. Hashem called out to Avraham with all the love that a father could possibly have for a son.
It is with this depth of love that we are to call out to Hashem when we double His Name. “Hashem, Hashem, we love You, and thank you for all that You have done for us, and for all that You will bestow upon us throughout our lives. Thank You. Thank You.”
When we will call out like this, not only will our prayers be meaningful and pleasant to us, but they will actually cause our judgment and portion for the coming year to be one of love.
[i] Genesis 22:11
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I had some friends to visit in East Talpiot, a Jerusalem neighborhood on Friday. East Talpiot is on the south-east edge of the city. Being that Jerusalem is surrounded by land euphemistically called “the West Bank”, one can only get to East Talpiot from outside of Jerusalem by either travelling to Jerusalem and then completely through Jerusalem, a time consuming traffic ridden path, or by travelling through a West Bank bypass.
(Photo – East Talpiot residential towers.)
The best route to Talpiot is by Derech Hevron (the Hebron road), travelling past Beitar Illit, hang a left by Bethlehem’s outskirts and enter Jerusalem by Gilo. Wave at Kever Rochel as you pass near by and you’re at Talpiot…a traffic free route.
For the first time since I’ve been in Israel the past several years, I chose to travel to southern Jerusalem through the main route. Frankly, I didn’t want to take a chance of getting shot. While normally I won’t let the very small risk of an attack deter me from visiting parts of Israel (for example I drive right to the Marat HaMachpelah in Hebron – the Cave of the Patriarchs) and I’m not willing to concede Israel and by scared off by the Arabs over the occasional threat, when Hamas is out to make a point over my dead body and Israel has been pressured to remove all security checkpoints the situation has changed.
East Talpiot is a seam line neighborhood. The next hill in the distance is an Arab neighborhood, formerly an Arab village, that’s been incorporated into Jerusalem. The next hill after that (the tan one in the distance) is the West Bank.
This is the reality of Jerusalem. One hill is “Jewish”, a small valley equal to a few city blocks, and then it’s “Arab”. In the picture below you see the edge of the current neighborhood, a row of apartment buildings being built below the road, a small field and then the start of the Arab neighborhood. The valley itself (in the picture above) is scheduled to host a new public school building.
One of the particularly interesting buildings in the area is the United States Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. Most will note that the United States doesn’t have an embassy in Jerusalem! By order of Congress the facility was built, by order of the President the embassy doesn’t move here every year (so as not to be in Jerusalem).
I returned home the same way, the long way out of Jerusalem. NOW THAT THE PLO or ARAB or HAMAS or whatever terrorists suddenly seem highly equipped with automatic weapons and night vision, and trained in their use, the safety of doing so isn’t worth it.
AND WHERE did they get automatic weapons, night vision, and training?
The weapons were bought and paid for by the United States of America. The training provided by the United States of America… "I am a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and a first sergeant in Palestinian General Intelligence," Abu Nijmeh, now 36, told The Chronicle from his temporary home in Rome. "I personally received a course in antiterrorism and VIP protection. "I was not alone. Many Palestinian security people were trained by the Americans. We hope they will continue helping us." - February 14, 2005"
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
We do not deal with change well. It’s part of human nature to become comfortable (or at least used to) our surroundings, conditions, and daily events. Our minds don’t have an unlimited amount of attention that can be given to things, so our brains automatically filter out the known, the normal, the expected.
This is how a person will awaken to a sound in their home but live next to a busy street and sleep through ambulances and car noise. How a person can drive to work and if traffic conditions are normal not even remember how the drive went. The parts of life that are operating within their well known ways are gradually paid less and less attention. They are “the way things are”.
This familiarity with how things are and that understanding fading into the background extends to politics, economics, even war and peace. Our minds automatically judge events and news we encounter against “the way things are”. An unspoken and sometimes unrealized context is the sounding board.
The side effect of this is when things change in a big way, our judgments are way off as they’re made against a baseline that no longer applies.
The last decade has been a time of astounding change. If any one of them occurred, they’d be a course correction we’d all adjust too. That many of them have occurred have left people adrift, judging events against contexts that no longer exist…
- The United States became the worlds sole superpower, pushing around the world to an unprecedented extent but also opening the possibility of gradual benevolent world improvement and correction.
- The United States was attacked by a non-nation, by a movement, and has been embroiled in multiple expensive wars – in which it’s held it’s own but not made any decisive victories.
- The effectiveness of the non-national movement has caused the rise of soft-power but bloody non-national anti-Western anti-civilization movements around the world, with corresponding major attacks and cultural impacts.
- The Western nations suffered a major financial crash. That crash and the resulting government responses have destroyed the economic engines of the past 25 years, and governments have been completely ineffective in creating the conditions for new economic engines to arise.
- The combination of wars plus the financial crash essentially collapsed the United State’s position as a superpower, allowing the rise of multiple regional powers – some of benign self interest (such as China, India, and Brazil), and some looking for expansionism and regional hegemony (such as Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela).
What’s all of this mean to us, the common man?
-> The economic situation of the last 20 years has changed. Easy money, quick loans, fast investment return are gone. Building and growing businesses has become much harder. Slow salary growth, slower career opportunities, many hot career paths of the past offering no future and poor choices of the past offering a better future.
For the religious Jewish community, this means less money available for charity and more people in need of it. It means cutbacks in government programs. We must prepare more of our society to be able to earn a living in these conditions.
For how we educate our young people in the religious community it actually means an opportunity. Many college based careers don’t pay so well anymore and may not be a wise investment, as back office functions are outsourced overseas. Some types of skilled manual labor – equipment repair, wiring, and such requiring vocational training may pay as well as those formerly highly paid college careers yet offer easier entry with less secular educational background.
Many other changes and impacts come from these “macro” changes. We can’t bury our heads and pretend things haven’t changed, nor (if we accept the current change) believe things are going to return to how they were. NEITHER IS TRUE.
Times have changed and they’re not changing back. New changes face us, and yes some new opportunities are available to be found.
Not overcoming our tendency to focus on familiarity can have major negative impact.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
King Dovid played a ten-stringed musical instrument. The Moshiach will play on an eight-stringed instrument, and in the World to Come, the music will again be played on ten strings.
Twenty-five years ago, I first heard of the custom to listen to music on motzei Shabbos (Saturday night). Music, especially when combined with mysticism, can bring some of the holiness of Shabbos into the week. So, I decided to make a musical instrument just for this purpose.
I found plans for an eight-stringed lyre, which I carved from various types of wood (pictured above). It is very beautiful, but its tone is not so sweet. Then, I designed and crafted a beautiful instrument that has a very pleasing tone. This lyre has ten-strings (also pictured above).
I tuned it to sound like the waterfalls I heard in Hawaii. Many years later, I read in a book on the history of musical instruments that the exact tuning which I thought I had invented was used on a ten-stringed instrument shipped from China to Japan well over 1,000 years ago.
When I play, I try to visualize what will happen when the Moshiach comes. What will we see when G-d’s Presence is revealed? The whole world will know peace. There will be no more wars, the sick will be healed, and the blind will see. The righteous among the dead will come back to life. We will actually see our Forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. All of the holy Prophets will live again. The Third and Final Temple will come. It will be made of a brilliant light, and it will stand right here In Jerusalem. What will all of this look like? It could happen at any minute.
Sometimes I invite a few guests to sit with me when I play, and I encourage them to visualize these wonderful things. Now, I have a short video of me playing, so, if you like, you too can join me while I play.
As to why the number of strings change with the times: King Dovid lived in a time when there was much joy, and severe hardships. His scale of tones was from the highest to the lowest. When the Moshiach comes, there will only be good. His scale will be just the upper notes, the highest tones. In the World to Come, we will see that even the lowest notes were good, so the music there will be played on all ten strings.
Commentary by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Several commentors and other blogs have written about the current tragety of the brutal slaughter of 4 Jewish souls in the name of peace, writing about the sadness of event and crying out to Hashem.
The secular Israeli government takes a similar position. “We will not let these ‘opponents’ of peace stop the process”, while the blood of the innocent civilians slaughtered (a war crime) hasn’t even dried.
In both cases there’s a serious element of fatalism. The secular government says “we can’t do anything about it, אין מה לאשות”. The Americans or world say “well, these people just can’t help themselves, there’s nothing we can do about it”.
And the religious Jewish community says “we must cry out to Hashem”.
NOBODY SAYS lets do something. Let’s say NO to a peace process with people crying out for war and death of Jews daily. Let’s say NO to an incompetent US administration who’s advisors have directly said they’re out to get us.
This enemy has demonstrated very little interest in peace. They have not created the internal conditions or led their own people to the state of mind to be interested in peace. Instead, they keep their people riled up and ready for war and bloodshed at all times. They teach their children to be prepared to sacrifice their lives to kill the enemy.
Their enemy…pregnant Jewish women. Their enemy…Jewish children in kindergartens. Their enemy…me.
It’s time for it to be said loud and clear. We will NOT waste our time with false peace efforts. We will not try to make peace with an enemy that demonstrates no desire for it. We will not be led into peace efforts to burnish the election credentials of an American administration.
We will sacrifice NO MORE of our women and children on the altar of Moloch and peace. There must be no more “risks for peace” that only result in the deaths of innocent Jewish civilians.
These people do not desire peace. They do not talk peace. They do not teach peace.
As such, they must be CONTAINED. That is the MOST peaceful thing Israel can do.
Yes, we must cry out to Hashem. AND THEN we must do what we can do. We do our part and Hashem will do His. Our part is to stop the madness of false peace. Raise our voices and let them be heard.