Sunday, October 31, 2010

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Who’s DOING?


It’s Not Absurd, It’s a Threat

During the week of Parshat Chaya Sarah, when we read in the Torah of Avraham Avinu’s purchase of the Marat HaMachpelah, the cave of the patriarchs, for the burial of his wife our holy matriach Sarah…

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.  One of UNESCO’s missions is to declare World Cultural Sites for long term preservation of world culture.

On the 21’st of October and released to the public a few days ago, the 185th session of UNESCO’s Executive Board adopted five decisions concerning UNESCO’s work in the occupied Palestinian and Arab Territories.

1. The Palestinian sites of al-Haram  al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law, the UNESCO Conventions and the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.

Because a 3,000 year old Jewish site and a 2,000 year old Jewish site are now part of a 1,400 year old religion and a people that didn’t exist 60 years ago.

As Elder of Ziyon shows, the name Bilal bin Rabah was completely invented 10 years ago!

UNESCO is now out supporting Islamic debunking of Judaism.  If it wasn’t deadly serious I’d say what a joke.  But it is serious and is being used to rile up people to kill the Jews.  This is deadly business with deadly results.  The UN is now fostering culture war.

2. The Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Board voted 31 to 5 (17 abstentions) to reaffirm the necessity of Israel’s cooperation in order to arrange access to the Mughrabi Ascent site for Jordanian and Waqf experts and that no measures should be taken which will affect the authenticity and integrity of the site, in accordance with the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the Hague Convention for the protection of Cultural property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The Mughrabi Gate, completely within the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, is rapidly collapsing into the Women’s Section of the Kotel Plaza.  The gate itself and part of the wall in it’s area currently considered to be at high risk of complete collapse over this winter in Israel.  Since the Arabs won’t allow it to be touched, claiming that touching a mound of dirt that’s on the other side of the wall from their mosque sites can put their large stone mosque structures at risk, the end will most likely be the loss of the site to nature.

But they’d rather lose a “world cultural site” than let the Jews move a small pile of dirt.

3. Jerusalem’s cultural heritage:  The Board voted 34 to 1 (19 abstentions) to “reaffirm the religious significance of the Old City of Jerusalem for Muslims, Christians and Jews. The decision expresses “deep concern over the ongoing Israeli excavations and archaeological works on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, which contradicts UNESCO decisions and conventions and United Nations and Security Council resolutions”. It invites the Director-General to appoint experts to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on all aspects covering the architectural, educational, cultural and demographical situation there. It also invites the Israelis to facilitate the work of the experts in conformity with Israel’s adherence to UNESCO decisions and conventions.

There is NO Israeli excavations or archaeological works on the Al Aqsa mosque compound.  Any such works are on the other side of the walls of Har Habayit.  This is pure propaganda to anger the muslims.  And it’s working.

This is more than propaganda.  This is direct de-legitimization of Judaism and Israel.  Last week it was the Catholic Church, this week it’s the UN Cultural Organization.  See any pattern here?

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Here Is Another One

image005 (2)by Reb Gutman Locks @ The Mystical Paths Credit Bureau

Yechiel is learning here in Jerusalem for the year. Soon after he arrived, for some reason, he started making it a habit to come to the tefillin stand every afternoon to help put tefillin on the visitors. He was at the Kotel for minchah(afternoon prayers) and saw the other guys doing it, and without any particular burning desire he just gravitated to it.

He has become an almost daily, active volunteer. He says that it is the best part of his day. It not only helps the people he helps, but it makes him happy, too. It is fulfilling. He feels that he is doing something important.

It is amazing that this outreach thing has not caught on more. Not only does it help the person you are reaching out to, it is the very solution for your own spiritual elevation. This is surely enough reason to do it, but not only that, it even makes you happier, too. You actually look forward to doing it.

image006 (2)So the question has to be, why aren’t you doing it? The excuses usually go like this; it’s not for me, it’s just not the way I am, I mean it’s embarrassing to go ask someone to do a mitzvah, I hate to be rejected, I help in other ways, I am so busy, … and on and on. But you know what? You can very easily start your own little mitzvah route. Even if you only help one or two people a day, you will begin to change the world. Look around. You’ll see. There is someone out there waiting for you. Tefillin, a charity box, Shabbos candle kit…. something that will help that Jew on his spiritual journey home.  Send me the stories. I’d love to share in your joy.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

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Let Go!

image005 (1)by Reb Gutman Locks @ The Mystical Paths Restaurant and Laundromat


    What am I to do with worry and tension? It gets so bad, I can’t function!


    Without a certain amount of tension, we could not move. Tension, like all things, comes for a good reason. That is, if it is coming to guide us to move in the direction that we want to go.

     When tension comes, look to see what problems are causing it. Are there things that you are supposed to be doing in order to accomplish what you want? Then obviously, that tension should be put to good use. Direct or funnel it so it so it moves where you want to go.

     However, what usually happens is that we are tense about things that we cannot do anything about…Iran, the economy, China taking over the world, the plane is late, and on and on. Tension over these kinds of things needlessly adds to our burdens.

image006 (1)     Even tension over things that we can do something about, but cannot take care of it at that moment, should not be a source of added tension. For instance, if someone is bothering you at the office and it is really disturbing you, and now you are walking down the street complaining about it to yourself… you are actually adding to the disturbance. At that moment, that person is doing nothing to you, but because you are hashing it over and over, you are bringing that disturbance with you even when you are away from it!

     What to do? It’s simple. Just let go. How can you let go of these extremely important issues that keep coming up over and over again? Here is what you do:

     Make a fist. Squeeze it tightly until it starts to hurt. Now open your hand. Just relax it. The same way that you relaxed your hand, so can you relax your mind. Try it. Every time those disturbing thoughts return, let go of them just as you let go of your fist. If they persist, they persist because you are holding onto them. If you do not want to hold on to them, then let them go.


A Call to the Righteous

Guest Post by Rabbi Ariel bar Tzadok of
reprinted with permission

As goes America so will go Israel, be it for good or evil.  I am not referring to the people or the land, but rather to the government.... the secular socialist state is destined to be toppled.  Once the U.S. is not the big boy on the block any more looking over Israel's shoulder, then the enemies will gather to attack, then we'll start to see some prophecies fulfilled.... but the present state, in all its "glory" is destined to go.  I am a patriot, at one time for the state, but now for the people... all of G-d's people, whoever and where ever they be.

The forces of evil in this world have always been subtle and deceptive. Nothing at all has changed! Evil seeks to divide and conquer. And that is exactly what evil is doing!

G-d fearing, sincerely religious people of moral integrity, who believe in what's right and who can tell the difference between right and wrong are under massive attack. It is not their bodies being assaulted (at least not yet), but rather their minds.

People's beliefs are manipulated and intentionally confused. The lines between right and wrong are more and more becoming blurred. Right and wrong are switching places and the majority does not see it or even seem to care.

Like sheep being led to the slaughter the vast majority of people do not even see that they are biting the hand that feeds them and slitting their own throats. Like mindless fools drugged and zombie-like, so many today repeat manta-like sayings without even paying attention to what they mean and examining where they really come from.

No one bothers to make the effort to think for themselves any more. The modern media thinks for us and tells us what to believe and what is right and wrong. Those who control the media control the thoughts of all those who cling to the media as people once clung to the Bible and faith. Indeed, the modern media has become the "new Torah' or the "new Gospel." What TV and the movies presents, that is what we are supposed to emulate, follow and obey. "Down with the old and in with the new." This is the "mantra." Yet, the old they seek to destroy is the Way of G-d, the new they seek to impose is G-d-less secularism, atheism and governmental control of everything "from cradle to grave."

To accomplish this most malevolent of goals, people are taught to focus all their attentions upon pleasing oneself and to getting more for oneself. Helping one's neighbor and reaching out at the personal and communal level is forgotten. "Let the government handle it," we are taught. Thus we "vote" to give government more and more powers, while the individual rights, endowed in us by our Creator are striped away, until there will be nothing left. And all the while all the masses do is eat and drink and seek to satisfy themselves. Lethargy, laziness (of mind and body), gluttony and obesity are psychological states, long before they become physical ones.

People have forgotten about how to live for G-d and thus they have become blind to the movement of the Hand of G-d. They have reduced G-d to being a subject of doctrines that one either believes in or rejects. Thus many good and moral people of differing faiths (or religions) reject one another all because their cannot agree on the fundamentals of doctrine. This is the evil deception that seeks to divide and conquer the righteous.

We can all agree on the fundamentals of faith, morals, and the meanings of right and wrong. Yet, in doctrine, in the domain of our thoughts and theology, this is where we differ. From here comes the divisions that divide the righteous. Yes, evil knows well how to manipulate the rotten forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge Good and Evil still churning in our proverbial bellies.

Our knowledge as human beings is blemished ever since we ate of that forbidden fruit. Therefore, G-d does not judge man by his doctrines. G-d does not ask one what is in his head, rather G-d asks what is in one's heart. All that we have left that can be pure, right and good is our hearts. We recognize righteousness with our hearts. We recognize each other through our hearts. We must stand together with united heart. Those of proper heart follow proper actions. This is what is pleasing in the eyes of G-d.

Long ago, in the days of Noah, right after the flood, G-d began to maneuver world events to begin the redemption of the world. This did not begin with the creation of a Jewish state in the ancient homeland of Israel, it began long before it. The redemption process began centuries before Mt Sinai, where G-d revealed His Laws and His Ways. G-d chose Israel to be His messengers, to serve as a nation of priests and a light and beacon to all nations how to walk the righteous path. Yet, Israel did not serve G-d alone, for there were many righteous of the nations, who although they may not have known it, still served the Creator in truth, each within the context of their own cultures and religions. These righteous of the nations intuitively knew G-d's moral code and lived by it. As it was then, so it remains today.

Israel was and is destined to return and to stay in the ancient Holy Land, as prophecy has so often declared. But G-d's way of bringing this about is through a most mysterious path. G-d ordained that by "placing Esau's head in Isaac's lap," His plan for the world would be fulfilled. This is a reference to an ancient Torah legend that metaphorically says how in the "End of Days" (these days) the "best of Esau would return to father Issac and take their place at the side of their brother Jacob." For this is the "king of Edom" who reigns before there is a "King in Israel."

Long ago, the ancient Sages foresaw with Divine inspiration that in the "End of Days" before the coming of Mashiah, G-d would allow three "evil kings" to seek dominion over all of humanity. For centuries the identities of these "kings" were debated, until they manifested in the 20th century and their identities were revealed. It became evident that as with all ancient prophecy the term "king" was a metaphor and actually spoke of types of governments rather than actual individuals. The three evil kings predicted long ago are clearly known today as Fascism, Socialism and Communism. Each of these three forms of government seek to rob the individual of their inalienable human rights endowed upon us by our Creator. Each of these evil kings seek to rob the soul and to enslave it to themselves, "from cradle to grave" and even beyond.

Step one these three "evil kings" take is to deny the Creator, but they do this in a most subtle and devious way. Rater than deny G-d outright they instead deny G-d's Law, G-d's authority and G-d's word. These faces of evil declare that they proclaim a higher morality, a higher good, a social justice that is equal and right for everyone. Yet, the wise quickly come to see that which is equal for everyone is only their level of slavery. For when everyone becomes the same, then no one remains an individual. No one is special any longer, everyone becomes mediocre. This is the descent into slavery. And the new masters proclaim, "all are equal, but some are more equal than others." This is the "mantra" of tyrants.

The descent into slavery begins with a lie and is maintained with a lie. The lie is that the old system based upon the Bible and morality is inherently unequal, unfair and thus by definition evil and needs to be replaced. In the name of their new battle-cry for what they claim is "social justice," these deceivers seek to take control of everything and be in charge of everything, so that they can make sure that there will be their version of equality for all. Yet, all this insures is that everyone will be equally enslaved. And again, when all will be equal, we will find some will be more equal than others.

In the beginning it was G-d who ordained for man to strive and to work and thus be able to benefit from the fruits of his labors. It violates the Ten Commandments law "thou shall not steal" to think that one group of people have the right to take away the fruits of the labors of one to provide benefits for others who did not earn them. When government claims an authority and uses it to take from the rich to give to whomever it likes, this is institutionalized theft. This is evil, and the common denominator of the three evil kings who even now continue to seek dominion over all peoples everywhere.

The way of the evil kings is to continue feeding the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil to the masses. Feed the masses massive amounts of false and confusing information, which we otherwise know as propaganda and eventually the truth will become forgotten and all that will remain true is the big lie.

Adolph Hitler, the National Socialist (Nazi), said it well when he said, tell the big lie long enough and it becomes the truth. For so long the great lie has been told against the authority of the Bible, traditional American values and Israeli sovereignty over its ancient homeland, that the two nations, America and Israel have become endangered species. Both are under attack even by citizens of their respective countries. More and more the unthinking masses, just like slaves, listen to their faith-less masters and blindly believe and follow whatever it is they see on television. There is no freedom in this. This is the pit, the proverbial 50th level of uncleanliness, the dregs of slavery.

So many run around today seeking rights and liberty for this or that cause and they are willing to kill, maim and destroy in order to achieve their goals. For these brainwashed masses, it does not matter how those opposed to their beliefs must suffer, be humiliated and eventually be totally removed, even by violent methods. For the brainwashed, all that matters is the fight, the irrational twisted cause they are taught to embrace and to hate for. Yes, those who proclaim that they seek the rights of others really are not doing so. Instead, they are seeking to take away the rights of those who they view as holding different opinions than theirs. By nature, blind slaves hate seeing free men, and if they have the opportunity to enslave the free, they do so, all because their foolish insanity blinds them and leads them astray from G-d and His Law.

As long as governments can control so many aspects of the lives of their peoples, then this is the same dire situation that was faced by Israel, when they were slaves in ancient Egypt. A government big enough to give you everything, is big enough to take away from you everything! As it was in ancient Egypt, so is it happening again today. We have returned to Egypt and we do not even see it!

Unless people rise up and not only proclaim their freedom, but fight for it, maintain it and safeguard it, then they will lose it forever, and worse, they might not know what happened to them until it is way too late for them to do anything about it. This might have already happened, but we are still obligated by natural law and every definition of what is right and moral to fight it.

Everything that is good and right is under terrible assault. Everyone today who holds by what is good and right are under assault. They are condemned as being politically incorrect and socially shunned. Eventually they will be condemned as "thought criminals," people whose only crime is what they believe. Although our thoughts today cannot land us up in jail (at least not for the most part), just you wait! The creeping forces of evil will soon criminalize you for even believing in things that we know to be right and good. For the crimes of your beliefs you will be hunted down, prosecuted, and if you are lucky sent to a concentration style camp for "reeducation" purposes. This is the way it was in communist countries and will also soon be the way in all western socialists states. Evil moves slowly, but it moves methodically.

We will be fed all kinds of lies about national security and the needs to make peace. These arguments sound good and can be manipulated to deceive even the most sincere. Israel is being dismantled from within with such deception. The United States has long been under attack from radical (communist/socialist) types from within, that seek to tear the country apart from the insides. We see that the forces of evil are so actively alive in the media and on the college campuses, creating so much confusion and destruction. When America eventually falls because the good people here can no longer stand against the evil ones here who are destroying them, Israel will be toppled overnight.

The fate of the two nations are integrally intertwined. As much as evil individuals in America seek to turn against Israel, know, this is because they have first turned against their own country, the United States. These so-called "progressives" embrace ungodly agendas and are defiantly proud of it! They are enemies of freedom, in whatever forms it takes, be it a free America, a free Israel or a free individual human being.

G-d is watching over us. G-d will bless the good people of all walks of life everywhere, But we must finally realize who our true friends are and who are our true enemies. United we stand, divided we fall.

People of G-d, believers in the Holy Word, we have to unite and stand together against a deceptive evil foe that seeks to divide us and conquer. Our redemption is near, but we still have a way to go before we get there. It is our destiny to stand together and we can no longer tolerate prejudice, lies and fear to keep us apart. As Moses cried out at the foot of Sinai upon witnessing the Golden Calf, "who is for the L-rd, let him come to me."


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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It’s Easy To Be a Zealot

zealotA commentor wrote (in response to the article on the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the anti-Torah writer for the Algermeiner Journal newpaper)…

“This post raises several thoughts in me. What is most striking is the fact that this was a most anti-Torah yid.

So I ask a question, if the Rebbe could so unconditionally love this Jew, why do we not even love our closest. What of those parents who have children off the derech and send them out because of the shame!!! I really don't get it.

The religious communities across the board have taught us to judge unfavorably, it disturbs me greatly as I have also been a part of this. But if I invite home persons with certain behavior within the community, I am considered wrong.

So in summary does one shun these people or not?!”

It’s easy to be a zealot.  “Shun the evil doers and they’ll go away!”  Build the walls higher and they won’t penetrate!  Don’t think or analyze, plan or prepare.  Just be zealous, act on how you feel!

The Torah describes one and only one act of kosher zealotry in the Torah.  But it describes numerous acts of unkosher zealotry, each ending poorly (and not only for those directly involved).  We derive tens of mitzvos bein odom l’chavero (commandments between man and man) from the Torah but NONE of zealotry.  Rather we have a grandfather clause for zealotry, “if someone did an act because they were overcome with zealotry for Hashem, and indeed the motive is pure that it’s FOR HASHEM, then we can excuse (excuse, not recommend!) his normally illegal act.

Ahavas Yisroel is a clear mitzvah from the Torah.  Every source that describes this mitzvah calls it HARD.  Why?  Loving my family is easy (most of the time).  Loving the guys in shul is ok.  Ah, but loving my neighbor who keeps parking in my way and who’s kids stay up too late at night…that’s hard.  And the sephardi guy in the building next door who likes to sing Torah all night long on Shabbos…annoying.  And the French Jew across the way, the smell of their cooking, ugh.  And that teenager who’s not dressing to standard, grrr.

We have two fast days given to us as gifts from our zealots.  The fall of the walls of Jerusalem, asaray b’teves is blamed (by our gedolim!) on the zealots.  And tzom gedaliyah is a direct action of the zealots.

The kosher zealot is crying about what he’s doing.  He’s NOT filled with righteous indignation and anger at a situation, that’s the Yetzer Hara turning kovod l’Torah into negative traits.  He’s filled with pain and just acts,  l’shem shamayim. 

Today’s zealots are just thugs.  Even if they started for the right reasons and in the right way, those who gather around them are there for the exercise of power.  They intimidate, threaten and prowl, which is exactly what you’re describing.

You’re intimidated from performing an act of Ahavas Yisroel (loving your fellow) in reaching out to your fellow Jew and you wonder if the action is ok?  You’re stopped from performing a mitzvas asay and you wonder if the source is kosher???



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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Yosef From Hungary

image003 (11)

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths –

Yosef is 72 years old. He is from Hungary. He survived the holocaust by hiding in a Catholic nunnery. He was five-years old. His mother was clever enough to acquire false papers showing he and his mother to be Catholics, and not Jews. There was a special head nun there who risked her life to shelter Jews. G-d bless her memory. Yosef tells a scary story of nazis raiding the nunnery, and of the famous Raul Wallenberg coming to save them from expulsion and certain death.

     Today was his first day ever in Israel, and the first time he ever put on tefillin. It is a big day in his life. He stood by the Kotel and thanked G-d for all of the good that He has done for him.

    I sent Yosef this picture and asked him what he would like to say to the world. After all he has gone through, I wondered what would be on his mind. This is what he wrote:

   “Thanks that you helped me praying for my beloved ones, for my three children and three grandchildren. It was really a gift for me. God bless you.”

    What is Yosef’s message for the world? He said that it is a gift to pray for your loved ones.


Yes, They Are Out To Get Us

Xianity is under attack, and the Catholic Church is particular.  Throughout Western Europe there’s been steep decline in church attendance and involvement.  This is true in the U.S. as well.

Throughout the Middle East and Muslim countries, the Xian minority has become Islam’s whipping boy for “the other”, particularly without any local Jews to persecute anymore.  Persecution, limited economic opportunities, physical attacks on churches and xians, the literal stealing of daughters all have become normal.  It’s no surprise Xian communities and populations from such places are fleeing to Europe, the US, Canada, and basically anywhere they can go (and those in Palestinian controlled areas are no exception.)

Xianity’s only area of growth and strength today is in South America.

Yet in the midst of these statistics, bombings of churches and attacks on xians, a world meeting of Catholic Church leaders has declared that the number one concern and reason why Xianity is in trouble is…Israel.

Their most impressive statement goes a step farther by declaring (words of Greek-Melchite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros) “We Christians cannot speak about the promised land for the Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people. All men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.  The concept of the promised land cannot be used as a base for the justification of the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of Palestinians. The justification of Israel's occupation of the land of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures."

For those who are not familiar with this theological position, let me explain it in brief.  It’s called Replacement Theology or Supersessionism.  It says:

There were a bunch of people chosen by God.  They were given a big bunch of commandments and prophets and so forth but didn’t achieve perfection.  So God dumped their butts and brought in our man-god who lived-died-lived-disappeared who said forget all those commandments and words of those prophets, just believe in me, make statues of my mother, and give money to the Church and priest and I’ll put the good word in for you with myself.  As for the Jews, feel free to persecute them, torture them, steal from them, expel them, steal their children, because they’re sticking by the words G-d gave them (which included “don’t stray after other gods”) instead of what I’m saying.  We, the Church, have replaced and superseded the Jews.

Now this rather nasty view has been out of favor for 2 generations or so.  Not because they don’t believe it anymore, but because such straightforward persecution of other people has gone out of favor with most of the Church being from the Western world.  I mean they can’t whip up a good Crusade or Inquisition anymore without some major public outcry.

But as we see, at the most senior levels the Catholic Church is out to get us (the Jews).  They may not be so blatant about it or nasty about it anymore, but surprise, it’s right back out in front.

This is a bit compounded by the Xian minorities in Muslim lands being forced to go along with the majority position (everything Jewish and Israel is bad) or face the wrath of the Religion of Peace (Islam).


Monday, October 25, 2010

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POTD: Strange and Scary

#1 - When I travel from Israel this is NOT the experience I’m thinking of…


She’s waiting for you…her and her red floppy leather glove.

Spotted near Bnei Brak of all places.  (It says, “Flying to Europe, the most savings… Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Berlin”).

#2 Yum, giant plastic chassidim whetting your appetite…



The sign says, “THE JEWISH RESTAURANT – Authentic Jewish Food !”

Guy #1 has on his plate…a chicken, french fries, olives, cucumber and tomato salad, and okra.  Guy #2 has a fish, machine extruded gefilte fish ovals with a carrot slice, beet-colored horseradish, a slice of lemon and some unidentifiable small red balls (no crude comments please!)

Yeah!  Waiters in shtreimels serving in a restaurant serving traditional European foods such as french fries, olives, cucumber and tomato salad, okra, lemon, and U.S. designed machine produced gefilte fish ovals.  Authentic?  Not.

Giant scary weird statues of chassidim, ahhhhh!

#3 What the…


“The Deer Bakery” ???  In little letters, “Dad’s Bakery, open 24 hours”.

So if you’re hankering for some pie at 3:00 AM with a slice of deer and a coke, stop on by.


Facing Down a Big Guy

(In Israel.) I was returning from a client visit, traveling up Highway 1 towards Jerusalem at a nice speed – light traffic in the middle of the day.  I saw smoke a good distance ahead and wondered if there was a brush fire near the road.

Suddenly the traffic started slowing and I groaned a bit…another traffic jam.  Strangely, we came to a complete stop.  And Israeli drivers being who they are, the shoulders also filled up as cars tried to squeeze around a situation that couldn’t be avoided.

I was behind a large green Egged bus and there was a truck next to it, so I couldn’t get a view of what the hold up was.  I exited my car and walked over to the shoulder…  A good distance up ahead I could see flames…a car was on fire.  Police and fire services were there, no ambulances so it didn’t appear anyone was seriously injured (thank G-d). 

As I walked back towards my car the truck driver hopped down.  He was a huge guy, as wide as he was tall.  Bald, clean shaven and darkly tanned wearing a t-shirt with ripped off sleeves and a slit neck, and shorts.  This was a guy I wouldn’t want to run into at night!

He hopped out of his truck and started at me for a second…me an ultra-orthodox guy in a white shirt, long black pants and long beard on a hot day.  He stares at me another moment…I’m becoming uncomfortable.  The last thing I need is a confrontation while stuck in traffic with a huge tough guy who doesn’t like ultra-religious Jews.

He looks at me again, glances at his arm and suddenly shouts at me “Mincha Gedola!” and takes a yalmukah out of his pocket and plops it on his bald head.  I’m stunned for a moment, not really sure what he said.  He shouts at me again, “Nu, Mincha Gedola!”

(Mincha is the term for the afternoon Jewish prayer.  There are 3 Jewish prayer quorums per day…Shacharis is the morning one, Mincha is the afternoon one, and Maariv is the evening one.  So shouting Mincha or Maariv in a group of Jews to gather 10 or more together for a prayer quorum isn’t unusual in orthodox Jewish public situations.)

But he shouted “Mincha Gedola”.  Mincha Gedola is the BEST time to pray the afternoon prayer, the exact time window when it’s first permitted.  Few orthodox Jews pay enough attention to the calendar and prayer times to know when Mincha Gedola is, and most Mincha prayer quorums are around 1pm, 1:30, or 4pm and the like.  Because the time moves slightly with the day and seasons, keeping track of Mincha Gedola and praying at that time isn’t done except by those who are especially pious.

As I realized what he said I stood there stunned.  This huge rough bald yamulka-less (until he pulled one out) looking truck driving was trying to gather together a minyan in the middle of the highway since we were stuck there right at the perfect moment (on the road to Jerusalem no less) for Mincha Gedola.

How cool is that!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

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What Do You Do For A Living?

image007by Reb Gutman Locks @

A while back, a guy asked me, “What do you do for a living?” I answered, “I have a pushcart, and I polish diamonds at the Kotel.”

    He looked at me as if I was nuts. He said, “Polishing diamonds is a good trade… but at the Kotel?”

     Okay, here’s what I meant: There are a few wooden carts at the Kotel that the workers use to gather up the scattered prayer books when they return them to the bookshelves. When I go to the Kotel in the afternoon to help with tefillin I use one of the carts for my tefillin stand. This way, I do not have to stand by the often-crowded tefillin booth, and I can talk to my “customers” without yelling.

image008So, for example, here are a couple of yesterday’s “customers”. They live in Germany (Why? I do not know.) They spoke English with a thick German accent, and they were traveling with a group of German tourists, but they are Jews. The father lucked out and married a Jewish girl, so his son is a Jew.

Now look at the two pictures. In the first picture, I am telling the teenage son, “You better marry a Jewish girl!” I say it nicely, but also in a way that they know that I am serious. Well, they thought that was really funny. I mean, who is this old guy they never saw before telling the boy what to do with his most personal life? They were laughing, but you can see from the picture that I am serious.

image009 (1)In the second picture, I was telling the father, (a little stronger) “Go on, tell him! Tell him that he has to marry a Jewish girl.” He told his son in German. They were happily laughing, but they knew that what I was saying was true. They understand that it is extremely important to marry a Jew, and that it is for their own good.

(You can get away with a lot more when you have a very gray beard ;~)

Anyway, this is what I mean when I say that I make my living with a pushcart, polishing diamonds at the Kotel. Oh… so how do I get paid? Hah! Try it for a while and see for yourself. Have the welfare of the Jewish people be your goal, and the money will come in exactly as you need it, and often from an entirely unexpected “source.”


Saturday, October 23, 2010


What Set The Rebbe Apart

(Translated from Yiddish and compiled by Hirshel Tzig at The Circus Tent.  Reprinted with permission.)

There are all kinds of stories out there about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Some are nice, some are very nice and some are just, like "wow!" But even the "wow!" stories; how often does a story move you like never before? How often does it give you such a kitzel that it gives you no rest? How often does it tell you never to give up and never to lose hope? Here is one such story. You might say that there are two elements to this story, and that the point is not only what set the Rebbe apart, but also how a Jew must never lose hope.

(Photo – Mr. Natan Yellin-Mor (Friedman), columnist for the Algemeiner Journal)

Gershon Jacobson was the editor of the Yiddish-language "Algemeiner Journal" from its inception until his passing in 2005. There was a columnist in that newspaper by the name of Natan Yellin-Mor.(Friedman) Mr. Yellin-Mor was an extremely talented writer who write in both Yiddish and Hebrew, in the Algemeiner he wrote Yiddish, of course. He was a Yelid Grodno who was a member of Lechi during the Pre-State days, but switched ideological sides after the War of Independence, and even more so after the Six-Day War, when he became a sort of champion of Arab Rights. This was way before it became popular to look at Israel as occupiers. He would espouse his anti-Religious views in the Algemeiner every week, thanks to Gershon, who was a very liberal man when it came to publishing ideas and opinions. Reading his articles left you boiling mad, guaranteed. (I guess doing things for ratings is not a new concept, after all...)

In 5737  Natan Yellin-Mor came to see Gershon on the second day of Rosh Hashonoh. (Please don't ask me if he drove or walked, or if he wore a yarmulke.) Gershon took the opportunity to explain to his guest about was what about to happen later that day at 770, when the Rebbe would wash before Shkiah (evening), farbreng (have a chassidic gathering), speak divrei torah (give words of Torah), bentsh (say grace after meals), daven Maariv (pray the evening prayer), make Havdoloh (the separation from Shabbos and Yom Tov ceremony) and distribute Kos Shel Brocheh (wine from the glass used for Havdoloh – wine from the cup of blessing by the tzadik). Gershon told him to accompany him to kos shel bracha and take the opportunity to meet the Rebbe.  Natan thought that idea was preposterous; "Gershon, he said, the Rebbe knows what my opinions are, and his opinions are the complete opposite of mine, he'll throw me out of his shul if I come and see him!" "Nonsense, said Gershon, the Rebbe is a Gentleman and would never do that to you. Of course he has very specific opinions, but he speaks gently and will be very happy to meet you. You'll be happy you met him." The two arrive at kos shel bracha; Gershon gets wine and then introduces Natan Yellin-Mor , telling the Rebbe "dos iz Natan Yellin-Mor." (this is Natan Yellin-Mor).

Yellin-Mor though that this was it, the Rebbe would throw him out shul, but to his surprise the Rebbe raised both his hands and exclaimed (I'm paraphrasing here) "Mr. Natan Yellin-Mor, far mir iz a greyser koved az ihr zent gekummen af ah bazuch tzu mir in shul. Ihr zent a gevaldig'e shrayber, ven ich bakum di tzeitung mitvoch ovent iz di ershte zach lein ich ayer artikel. Ich bet mechilleh fun der redakter, noch far zayn artikel. Ich bentsh aych az ihr zolt oysnutzen ayere talenten tzu lange gezunte yohren." (It’s a great honor for me that you came to me in shul.  I see you’re a great writer, you’re the first article I read in the newspaper when the newspaper comes out on Sunday.  And I give you a bracha that you should have long and healthy years.)

NYM almost fainted right then and there. He stood there, unable to get a word out, until he stammered, "Ihr leint meine artiklen!?" Ich farshtey nit, ihr zent maskim mit vos ich shrayb?! (You read my article??  I don’t understand, you agree with what I write????) The Rebbe smiled and said, "If I would read only what I agree with I'd have very little to read... I read lots of things, including your articles." NYM was confused; "If you don't agree with what I write why do you bless me to continue writing,?!" he asked. "One day you'll yet write the truth," the Rebbe said, "for now continue writing. Every person gets talent from G-d that he needs to utilize to its fullest, and I'd like to see you utilize that talent in the future even more than you had done until now."

Yellin-Mor was dumbfounded. He said goodbye to the Rebbe and the Rebbe responded in kind. Then he hears them calling him back. The Rebbe wants to see him again, they say. Gershon Jacobson was perplexed. Confused. Embarrassed, perhaps. Here he brings this "anti" reporter, ah Yelid Grodno who attacks Torah and Yiddishkeit every week, and the Rebbe only bentshes him, as if none of this happened. When Yellin-Mor comes back the Rebbe asks him "Now I have a question for you: What happens in your personal life as far as Torah and Mitzvos are concerned?"

NYM: "Ah Yid tracht." (A Jew tries.)

Rebbe: If you'd be 17 years old then thinking would be a great thing, but you're not. You've passed your 70th birthday. It's time to stop thinking and take action. How much longer will you delay doing something?

Yellin-Mor, when remembering the story a while later, said that he was thinking to himself at the time; "What do I tell the Rebbe, that I despise his religion? That isn't very polite. Do I tell him that I keep Torah and Mitzvos? That'd be a lie, and I don't lie. So I told the Rebbe the following: It's like the story with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of of Berditshev.

Without batting an eyelash the Rebbe responded "That story was what he said about another Yid, you're saying it about yourself." Yellin-Mor quietly said goodbye and left. Upon arriving back to the Jacobson's home he told them how surprised he was that the Rebbe knew which story he was referring to. "There are countless stories of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of of Berditshev, but the Rebbe knew which one I meant. I was talking about the time that Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditshev saw a Yid smoking on Yom Kipper and asked him if he knew it was Yom Kipper today. The Yid answered affirmatively. "Maybe you don't realize that smoking is prohibited on Yom Kipper ?" Again, he said he knew. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditshev lifted up his holy eyes to heaven and exclaimed: "Ribono Shel Olam, look at your children, they won't lie on Yom Kippur, even if they smoke in public!" The Rebbe answered me that the story there is Rabbi Levi Yitzchok focusing on the merits of another Yid, the Yid didn't say it on himself (and therefore focus his on own faults)..." We had freedom of choice and we CAN make our own choices, but we also have the choice to change and begin to keep Torah and Mitzvos.

There was no doubt that the encounter had shaken Yellin-Mor to the core, but that was not evident in his writings. Yet.  Gershon knew what the Rebbe had accomplished when meeting with people, but even he began to think that maybe the Rebbe couldn't crack a nut like Natan.

In 5740 the phone rang in GJ's office. It was NYM on the line. Sadly he was calling from the hospital. They had found "yenne machleh" (cancer) and there was nothing they could do about it; he had only months to live. He called to "say goodbye and to thank Gershon for giving him the opportunity to publish his thoughts in his newspaper, despite it not being easy and us being on opposite sides of the spectrum." Natan wanted Gershon to come visit him at the Hospital, since he had something to give him. It was an envelope.

He asked Gershon that he open it only after NYM's death. Gershon was quite surprised about this strange request and asked him about it. "You're not getting all mystical on me, now are you? You don't even believe in life after death!" But Natan was adamant and Gershon promised not to open it until his passing. "It was a pleasure working with you," Natan said. And with that they departed company, never to see each other again.

Two months after they met at the Hospital Yellin-Mor passed on. Jacobson opened the envelope soon after and found an article, ready for publication, and a note thanking Gershon for allowing him the opportunity to publish his articles in the Algemeiner. He also asks that he publish the article enclosed therein under his name, which Gershon did. The style was very dramatic; Yellin-Mor was a master and knew how to make a very good point, no matter what the topic. The article started as follows:

"I'm no longer on this Earth, I am now in the shiva medurei gehennom" (the fires of hell). He then goes to describe the hellish fire that is gehenom, using a very vivid imagination, replete with a very colorful and scolding list of fires, one more colorful and frightening than the next. The reader is scared to death just from reading it. The cynic has totally lost it. He continues: "Rabbosai, I am definitely in a gehenom like the one described here. My whole life was one long fight against Hashem and his Torah. I never believed in the Afterlife, but if there is one then you know where I am now. The fires roar here. But suddenly a great light, the Or Shivas HaYomim, which corresponds to the Shiveh Medurei Gehenom, shines through the fires and reaches the lowly place where my soul finds itself. The great light smashes the mechitzeh shel barzel (the iron barrier) that separated me from our father in heaven and conquers the depths of my essence, the pintele yid, and attempts to redeem my soul from the abyss. I believe that this great light will yet get me out of here one day. You may ask what that great light is... the light is the soul of the Manhig Yisroel UKedoshoy (the holy leader of Israel), The Lubavitcher Rebbe, shlit"a."

"Allow me to share with you a story that happened with me." Here he goes on to tell the story of his מוצאי ר"ה encounter with the Rebbe. “If I have one zechus in my life it is that meeting with the manhig yisroel who had such faith, not just a faith in Hashem, but a faith in Hashem that was so strong that he believed in me as well. He believed in my Yahadus (Jewishness) and in my power to do Tshuveh (return/repentence). Because of his faith in me, a faith that I myself did not know I possessed. because of that faith, and despite the fact that I did not know I had it in me, I now believe that light will one day shlep me out of this blutteh and bring me to the eternal light that is getlichkeit (that lights up the darkness).

A vareme grus fun gehenom." (Warm Greetings from Hell.)

Those were Natan's final words.

(Hirshel Tzig, the translator of the story from The Circus Tent blog, adds these thoughts…)

I spent time on gathering and translating this story because I wanted to give you a small window into what we "see" in the (Lubavitcher) Rebbe, which many fail to understand, whether willingly or unwillingly. This story is a prime example of what we see. It's an example of the selflessness of the Rebbe and of his life's mission, no matter who the person was and no matter how nasty he was all his life to frum Jews, including Lubavitch.  We see the Rebbe saving neshomos, and literally shlepping them out of the She'ol Tachtis (the depths of hell).

There were two ways to approach this man - Natan Yellin-Mor (Friedman) and his ideas:

1) Ignore him or yell at him, which is what he expected to happen, presumably because that's what had happened to him in the past.

2) Realize that he's influential, and try and influence him so that we can influence others through him.

The former is short-sighted; and despite the fact that we THINK that we're standing up for Kvod Shomayim (the honor of heaven), most of the time we're just defending our own honor. He disagrees with us, and with our way of life, so we dislike him and run him out of town.

A wee bit of thought on the part of any man will make you come to the conclusion that the latter is the correct way to deal with it. You might even say that the approach here was a two-pronged one; influence him and revive a Jewish soul, a soul (and eyes) that saw Reb Shimon and many of the greatest Torah minds of that era, (remember, he was from Grodno...)  And try and bring many people back with him by realizing that he might share his new way of life with his readers, just as he would do when he loathed Torah and Yiddishkeit. The same way that people like Uri Zohar and Amnon Yitzhak and others are considered success stories; since they had a large following in their previous life and are influential ad haYom haZeh (until today).

Then there's how these stories help us stay close, even after 16 years. And like we all know, Hiskashrus and Dveykus in Tzaddikim is crucial. It helps keeps us on the "up and up." It makes us feel warm all over. It brings us close to Hashem. It teaches us and our kids about G-d's presence on this world, which is why we have Tzaddikim doing wonders in the first place - to help Yidden and to show them Hisgalus Elokus in some form on this world. And it  keeps us proud. Which is why Chassidim - and now non-Chassidim as well - tell Sippurei Tzaddikim whenever they congregate.


Friday, October 22, 2010

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Tikun L’Zivug


Spotted on a Highway 4 exit to Petach Tikva / Bnei Brak…

Tikun L’Zivig – Spiritual Repair/Trick for finding your Mate

At Amuka - The holy resting place of the Tanna Hakodosh HaRav Yonoson Ben Uziel, zt”l.

With The Great Scholar and Tzadik HaRav Rafel Maemo, shlita.

On Wednesday, October 27, 2010.

Call 04-845-4490 for information (or from the US 011 +972 4-845-4490).  [ We don’t know Rav Maemo, by person or reputation, so can’t give any recommendation pro or con against contacting him.  We’re just translating the sign. ]

What’s Amuka?

"Our rabbis have taught: Hillel Hazoken had eighty disciples, thirty of whom were worthy of the Divine Spirit resting upon them as [it did upon] Moshe Rabbenu, thirty of whom were worthy that the sun should stand still for them [as it did for] Yehoshua ben Nun [and the remaining] twenty were ordinary. The greatest of them was Yonoson ben Uziel. . ."

It was said of Yonoson ben Uziel that when he used to sit and occupy himself with the study of the Torah, every bird that flew above him was immediately burnt. (Succah 28a.)

Nine-hundred-year-old written records link the final resting place of the tanna hakodosh Yonoson ben Uziel to Amuka, a place hidden in a wooded valley between Tsefas and Chatzor, north of the Biriya forest in Eastern Upper Galilee. Amuka, meaning "deep," derives its name from the fact that the grave is at the bottom of a gorge that bisects the high surrounding hills.

Hatanna hakodosh Yonoson ben Uziel is best known for his Aramaic translation of the Nevi'im.In Megillah 3a we read, "The targum of the Torah was composed by Onkelos the Ger under the guidance of R. Elozor and R. Yehoshua. The targum of the Nevi'im was composed by Yonoson ben Uziel under the guidance of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, and Eretz Yisroel quaked over an area of four hundred parsa by 400 parsa. A bas kol came out and said, `Who is the one who revealed My secrets to mankind?' Yonoson ben Uziel arose and said, `It is I who have revealed Your secrets to mankind. You know that I did not do so for my own honor nor for the honor of my father's house, but I have done it for Your honor, in order that dissension not increase in Israel.' "

According to another gemora in Megillah 3a, the tanna had also planned to author a translation- commentary on the Kesuvim, but was prevented from doing so by Shomayim so that he would not reveal the secret of the final redemption.

In a book called, Tovah Ri'iyata from 5734 (1974), it is said in the name of Rav Chaim Lichtenstein (who was niftar in 5725) that, "Prayer at the tsiyun, of Yonoson Ben Uziel is a segulah for shidduchim." This is the earliest written mention of the place being a segulah for shidduchim.

Explanations have been offered to explain the segulah. Some say that since Rav Yonoson never married, he helps others find their true mates as a kaporoh, but there seems to be no reason to believe that he in fact remained single.  Some, probably as a joke, use a source in Rashi on Yevomos 17a: "All pisulim that don't find a wife go there." The next Rashi begins "Vehi amuka," referring to the next statement in the gemora.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

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Jews Assist in Killing 300,000 Black African Christians

So the news comes out.  Never one to miss a chance to bash Israel, Reuters and BBC News suspended their brains to report on a new United Nations report about weapon sales to Sudan.

The UN report, which China is trying to block as inflammatory, inaccurate, and relying on non-expert expert analysis, says…

From The Panel of Experts on Sudan - the group that monitors compliance with a 2005 arms embargo in place for Darfur (where the Islamic Sudanize government has been accused of empowering and equipping local Muslim and Arab militias such as the government-allied Janjaweed Islamic Jihadi militias to be genocidal against southern Sudan black african christians). 

The report says that 12 brands of bullet casings where found at sites of attacks on U.N./African Union peacekeepers in Darfur came from China. Four other types were manufactured in Sudan, and two varieties were from Israel. 

To knowingly sell Sudan ammunition for use in Darfur would be a violation of the sanctions.  The United Nations estimates up to 300,000 people died in the humanitarian crisis after Khartoum mobilized militias to quell the revolt.

Now most of the noise over this report deals with China and their response, which is to try to suppress the report.  And almost every news source that’s reporting it is ONLY concerned with China and their response to the report.

But not Reuters and the BBC.  They insist on continuing to point out that Israel’s involved ALSO.

Now think about that for a second.  That would require Israel to be selling mass quantities of ammunition to a nearby Muslim dictatorship for equipping their Jihadi militias to commit genocide.

You’d have to be pretty rabidly anti-semitic to buy that one.  Guess that explains Reuters and the BBC.

(Sources – Reuters, BBC Audio among others.)

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Jewish Counterculture

rebbe_walk Hey, we’re counter-cultural! 

I just read a scholarly article on the Jewish denominational movements in the US.  While the article was trying to point out that the borders and strictures of denominationalism are (in the author’s rather odd opinion, IMHO) preventing the flexibility needed for modern accomodation, she mentions that Jewish orthodoxy’s maintaining of strong religious standards is counter-cultural.

While this makes sense, as modern society has become one of do your own thing regardless of historical or cultural boundaries, it puts chassidim (and Jewish orthodoxy in general) together with past counter-cultural movements such as the hippies and vegans.

Be hip, be cool, be strictly religiously Jewish.  Consider it your way of rebelling!

Suddenly my black hat, long black coat and grey beard are cool and rebellious.  Nice!

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From Kever Rochel

by Reb Akiva’s Wife @ Mystical Paths

The buses were packed with people preparing to visit the mother of Israel, Rochel Imaynu.  Every type of Jewish women packed together…a viznitzer chassidista, a kollel wife, a secular dressing Israeli Jew, many many others, and us two American Chabadnikot.  All preparing to visit Momma Rochel on this awesome day.

Some were saying tehillim (psalms), some were passing out sheets for those in need of brachot (blessings)…for healing, for a shidduch (marriage), for freedom from jail and persecution (Shalom Rubashkin and Jonathan Pollard were on the list).

As we drew closer the adrenaline began to run high.  Would it be a crush, a crowd control nightmare, a shoving match to the kever (tomb)?

On arrival people were rushing but crowd control was well in place and well designed.  Though there was A LOT of people and a lot of excitement, people were actually helping each other.  Helping a young mother keep her children nearby and together, passing sefer tehillims among each other, passing prayer sheets and requests around.

Make way, make room.  The ancient kever building is still there (surrounded by the new one), the women’s access is narrow and limited through the old main entrance.  But women were moving, making room, helping as someone disabled came in.  People were giving each other brachot (blessings) that their tefilot (prayers) should be answered.

As people were leaving the kever others were calling them over to join a tehillim group (if you pass out one psalm to 150 women coming by you finish the whole sefer tehillim in the merit of your prayer request in a few minutes) and no one said no.

People walked out with smiles of relief.  They shared their burdens with the Jewish people’s mother and prayed to their Father in Heaven, and surely Hashem will help.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My Hero!

image003 (10) by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

    I love this story. It made my day!

    Ezriel is here in Jerusalem learning for the year. He comes from a large family in New York. He is the youngest of 13 children. His father is a rabbi in a shul (synagogue) and learns all day. His mother, besides raising the family, supports the family by running a kindergarten that has 70 children.

     When he first told me that he is the youngest of 13, I said, “You must be really spoiled, having 12 older brothers and sisters.” He answered, “I used to have 12 extra people telling me what to do. Now that they are all married, I have 24.”

     He comes from a Chassidic tradition, but not one that teaches reaching out to bring Jews to Torah. For some reason, when he would come late afternoon to daven (pray), he would stand by the tefillin stand and watch me bring Jews over to put on tefillin. After a while I told him my standard teaching, trying to get him to become involved:

    I said, “If you saw a Jew whose donkey fell down, surely you would help him to pick it up. If you would help him to pick up his physical donkey, how much more so should you help him to pick up his spiritual donkey?”

     Slowly, he began to help. At first, he would only hand me the tefillin for me to put on the people I brought in. Little by little he did more and more, until he learned to go ask Jews if they had put on tefillin, and bring them over, and put tefillin on them.

     Right before the holiday he told me that he was upset. His father had asked him to go home for the holidays, and Ezriel wanted to stay in Jerusalem. I told him that G-d was sending him to New York to help a particular Jew, and that he had to keep his eye out for him so he would not miss him. I said that he was the only one who would help that Jew.

    He emailed me a couple of times, telling me that he had not been able to find the Jew that he was supposed to help. I told him to go out onto the street with his luluv (the four species for Succos) and walk around looking for him. He couldn’t find him.

     When he went to the airport to return, he looked around -- last chance -- but no luck. He got on the plane, happy to be returning to Jerusalem, but a little sad that he did not find the Jew that he was supposed to help. He did not look forward to telling me that he failed.

     The plane had a three-hour stopover in Germany (of all places). He was in the airport lounge and saw a couple of Chabad boys looking for people to help, but they couldn’t find anyone. Then a passenger told him that his tefillin were with his baggage and that he could not get to them. He asked Ezriel if he could he borrow his tefillin. Obviously, he was glad to lend them to him, but he thought, “Could this be the guy I went all the way to America to help?” It didn’t seem to be enough.

    The man finished with the tefillin and returned them. Before Ezriel put them away, he saw another Jew sitting there, and he asked him if he wanted to put them on. He said no; he was not interested.

    Ezriel said, “Look you have three hours to wait here in the airport. What else do you have to do?” The guy agreed, and Ezriel helped him to put them on. Boy, was he happy. Then, when this one was finished, he looked around and found three more Jews who agreed to put on tefillin. He was flying!

     He came up to me at the tefillin stand knowing that the last I heard from him was that he was going to the airport to return to Jerusalem, without having found the Jew he was sent to help. Then, he told me what happened. I burst into laughter. Boy, was I happy. He made my day, and a few more days, too.

     There is no better way to help the world than to bring someone to the love of G-d through a mitzvah.

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Visiting Kever Rochel

Today is the yaretzheit of Rochel Imaynu.  Those who sent prayer requests, they were delivered right after the start of the yaretzheit last night.  In the merit of Rochel Imaynu, may Hashem open the gates of Heaven to your tefilot!

While we didn’t make a video this year, here’s a video from our yaretzheit visit in the past.  For those who don’t know what they’re seeing…

Kever Rochel, the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel the wife of Jacob, is located a short distance inside Beit Lechem – Bethlehem (as the modern city has expanded outwards and engulfed the kever).  As terror attempts against the holy site began increasing a decade ago, the Israeli government rebuilt the kever building by surrounding the ancient building (the ancient building around the kever was at least 700 years old) with a minature fortress like structure that would protect the visitors and be easily defended.

As terror attempts continued, albeit with less chance of success, the Israeli government decided to prevent conflict by walling off an access road to the kever.  They took a small side road (not the main Bethlehem road that the kever faced) and built 75 foot concrete walls along the road, around the kever and around a side parking lot.  They topped the wall with fencing, barbed wire, cameras, lights, and guard posts.

Since building the fortress and wall the only conflicts have been with international reporters decrying the inconvenience to the Arab residents of the northern corner of Bethlehem on the other side of the wall.

The kever is now considered a safe site and can be visited by personal car (though not on the yaretzheit, where the crush of visitors is managed by bus).  It’s open and guarded daily until 11:00 PM.


Ehr Kumt

This is a rather long sermon from Rosh Hashana that’s been traveling around by email.  It’s from Rabbi Shalom Lewis, though it’s unclear if it was given at the Eitz Chaim shul in Atlanta or the Far Rockaway Torah Center in New York.  Regardless, it gives a poignant message worth reading…

First Day of Rosh Hashanah 2010
By Rabbi Shalom Lewis

Many years ago a Chassid used to travel from shtetl to shtetl selling holy books. On one occasion he came to a wealthy land owner and asked if he would like to purchase a book of Torah teachings. The banker agreed and not only purchased the book, but paid for it with a hundred ruble note.

He then began to chat with the Chassid and offered him a cigar, taking one also for himself. The Chassid noticed that the banker proceeded to rip a page from the holy book he had just bought and holding it to the open flame on the stove, used the page to light his cigar. The Chassid said not a word but simply drew out from his pocket the 100 ruble note he had just received from the banker, held it over the stove as well and used it to light his cigar.

This simple, little tale reflects a profound divergence of values. Our sympathy clearly and instinctively is not with the banker but with the pious Chassid. None of us would come to the defense of the banker. None of us would claim moral supremacy for the banker. None of us would justify his boorish deed. As the sages of the Talmud would say – “Pshita – It is so obvious.” Sadly though our planet is immersed in perversity where morality is not so manifest – where the book burner is a hero and the pious one, a villain.

I thought long and I thought hard on whether to deliver the sermon I am about to share. We all wish to bounce happily out of shul on the High Holidays, filled with warm fuzzies, ready to gobble up our brisket, our honey cakes and our kugel. We want to be shaken and stirred – but not too much. We want to be guilt schlepped – but not too much. We want to be provoked but not too much. We want to be transformed but not too much.

I get it, but as a rabbi I have a compelling obligation, a responsibility to articulate what is in my heart and what I passionately believe must be said and must be heard. And so, I am guided not by what is easy to say but by what is painful to express. I am guided not by the frivolous but by the serious. I am guided not by delicacy but by urgency.

We are at war. We are at war with an enemy as savage, as voracious, as heartless as the Nazis but one wouldn’t know it from our behavior. During WWII we didn’t refer to storm troopers as freedom fighters. We didn’t call the Gestapo, militants. We didn’t see the attacks on our Merchant Marine as acts by rogue sailors.

We did not justify the Nazis rise to power as our fault. We did not grovel before the Nazis, thumping our hearts and confessing to abusing and mistreating and humiliating the German people. We did not apologize for Dresden, nor for The Battle of the Bulge, nor for El Alamein, nor for D-Day.

Evil – ultimate, irreconcilable, evil threatened us and Roosevelt and Churchill had moral clarity and an exquisite understanding of what was at stake. It was not just the Sudetenland, not just Tubruk, not just Vienna, not just Casablanca. It was the entire planet. Read history and be shocked at how frighteningly close Hitler came to creating a Pax Germana on every continent.

Not all Germans were Nazis – most were decent, most were revolted by the Third Reich, most were good citizens hoisting a beer, earning a living and tucking in their children at night. But, too many looked away, too many cried out in lame defense – I didn’t know.” Too many were silent. Guilt absolutely falls upon those who committed the atrocities, but responsibility and guilt falls upon those who did nothing as well. Fault was not just with the goose steppers but with those who pulled the curtains shut, said and did nothing.

In WWII we won because we got it. We understood who the enemy was and we knew that the end had to be unconditional and absolute. We did not stumble around worrying about offending the Nazis. We did not measure every word so as not to upset our foe. We built planes and tanks and battleships and went to war to win….. to rid the world of malevolence.

We are at war… yet too many stubbornly and foolishly don’t put the pieces together and refuse to identify the evil doers. We are circumspect and disgracefully politically correct. Let me mince no words in saying that from Fort Hood to Bali, from Times Square to London, from Madrid to Mumbai, from 9/11 to Gaza, the murderers, the barbarians are radical Islamists.

To camouflage their identity is sedition. To excuse their deeds is contemptible. To mask their intentions is unconscionable.

A few years ago I visited Lithuania on a Jewish genealogical tour. It was a stunning journey and a very personal, spiritual pilgrimage. When we visited Kovno we davened Maariv at the only remaining shul in the city. Before the war there were thirty-seven shuls for 38,000 Jews. Now only one, a shrinking, gray congregation. We made a minyon for the handful of aged worshippers in the Choral Synagogue, a once majestic, jewel in Kovno.

After my return home I visited Cherry Hill for Shabbos. At the oneg an elderly family friend, Joe Magun, came over to me. “Shalom,” he said. “Your abba told me you just came back from Lithuania.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was quite a powerful experience.” “Did you visit the Choral Synagogue in Kovno? The one with the big arch in the courtyard?” “Yes, I did. In fact, we helped them make a minyon.” His eyes opened wide in joy at our shared memory. For a moment he gazed into the distance and then, he returned. “Shalom, I grew up only a few feet
away from the arch. The Choral Synagogue was where I davened as a child.”

He paused for a moment and once again was lost in the past. His smile faded. Pain filled his wrinkled face. “I remember one Shabbos in 1938 when Vladimir Jabotinsky came to the shul” (Jabotinsky was Menachim Begin’s mentor – he was a fiery orator, an unflinching Zionist radical, whose politics were to the far right.) Joe continued “When Jabotinsky came, he delivered the drash on Shabbos morning and I can still hear his words burning in my ears. He climbed up to the shtender, stared at us from the bima, glared at us with eyes full of fire and cried out. ‘EHR KUMT. YIDN FARLAWST AYER SHTETL – He’s coming. Jews abandon your city.’ ”

We thought we were safe in Lithuania from the Nazis, from Hitler. We had lived there, thrived for a thousand years but Jabotinsky was right -- his warning prophetic. We got out but most did not.”

We are not in Lithuania. It is not the 1930s. There is no Luftwaffe overhead. No U-boats off the coast of long Island. No Panzer divisions on our borders. But make no mistake; we are under attack – our values, our tolerance, our freedom, our virtue, our land.

Now before some folks roll their eyes and glance at their watches let me state emphatically, unmistakably – I have no pathology of hate, nor am I a manic Paul Revere, galloping through the countryside. I am not a pessimist, nor prone to panic attacks. I am a lover of humanity, all humanity. Whether they worship in a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a temple or don’t worship at all. I have no bone of bigotry in my body, but what I do have is hatred for those who hate, intolerance for those who are intolerant, and a guiltless, unstoppable obsession to see evil eradicated.

Today the enemy is radical Islam but it must be said sadly and reluctantly that there are unwitting, coconspirators who strengthen the hands of the evil doers. Let me state that the overwhelming number of Muslims are good Muslims, fine human beings who want nothing more than a Jeep Cherokee in their driveway, a flat screen TV on their wall and a good education for their children, but these good Muslims have an obligation to destiny, to decency that thus far for the most part they have avoided. The Kulturkampf is not only external but internal as well. The good Muslims must sponsor rallies in Times Square, in Trafalgar Square, in the UN Plaza, on the Champs Elysee, in Mecca condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent. Thus far, they have not. The good Muslims must place ads in the NY Times. They must buy time on network TV, on cable stations, in the Jerusalem Post, in Le Monde, in Al Watan, on Al Jazeera condemning terrorism, denouncing unequivocally the slaughter of the innocent – thus far, they have not. Their silence allows the vicious to tarnish Islam and define it.

Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil. I recall a conversation with my father shortly before he died that helped me understand how perilous and how broken is our world; that we are living on the narrow seam of civilization and moral oblivion. Knowing he had little time left he shared the following – “Shal. I am ready to leave this earth. Sure I’d like to live a little longer, see a few more sunrises, but truthfully, I’ve had it. I’m done. Finished. I hope the Good Lord takes me soon because I am unable to live in this world knowing what it has become.”

This startling admission of moral exhaustion from a man who witnessed and lived through the Depression, the Holocaust, WWII, Communist Triumphalism, McCarthyism, Strontium 90 and polio. – Yet his twilight observation was – “The worst is yet to come.” And he wanted out.

I share my father’s angst and fear that too many do not see the authentic, existential threat we face nor confront the source of our peril. We must wake up and smell the hookah.

“Lighten up, Lewis. Take a chill pill, some of you are quietly thinking. You’re sounding like Glen Beck. It’s not that bad. It’s not that real.” But I am here to tell you – “It is.” Ask the member of our shul whose sister was vaporized in the Twin Towers and identified finally by her charred teeth, if this is real or not. Ask the members of our shul who fled a bus in downtown Paris, fearing for their safety from a gang of Muslim thugs, if this is an exaggeration. Ask the member of our shul whose son tracks Arab terrorist infiltrators who target – pizza parlors, nursery schools, Pesach seders, city buses and play grounds, if this is dramatic, paranoid hyperbole.

Ask them, ask all of them – ask the American GI’s we sit next to on planes who are here for a brief respite while we fly off on our Delta vacation package. Ask them if it’s bad. Ask them if it’s real.

Did anyone imagine in the 1920’s what Europe would look like in the 1940’s. Did anyone presume to know in the coffee houses of Berlin or in the opera halls of Vienna that genocide would soon become the celebrated culture? Did anyone think that a goofy-looking painter named Shickelgruber would go from the beer halls of Munich and jail, to the Reichstag as Feuhrer in less than a decade? Did Jews pack their bags and leave Warsaw, Vilna, Athens, Paris, Bialystok, Minsk, knowing that soon their new address would be Treblinka, Sobibor, Dachau and Auschwitz?

The sages teach – “Aizehu chacham – haroeh et hanolad – Who is a wise person – he who sees into the future.” We dare not wallow in complacency, in a misguided tolerance and naïve sense of security.  We must be diligent students of history and not sit in ash cloth at the waters of Babylon weeping. We cannot be hypnotized by eloquent-sounding rhetoric that soothes our heart but endangers our soul. We cannot be lulled into inaction for fear of offending the offenders. Radical Islam is the scourge and this must be cried out from every mountain top. From sea to shining sea, we must stand tall, prideful of our stunning decency and moral resilience.

Immediately after 9/11 how many mosques were destroyed in America? None. After 9/11, how many Muslims were killed in America? None. After 9/11, how many anti-Muslim rallies were held in America? None. And yet, we apologize. We grovel. We beg forgiveness.

The mystifying litany of our foolishness continues. Should there be a shul in Hebron on the site where Baruch Goldstein gunned down twenty-seven Arabs at noonday prayers? Should there be a museum praising the U.S. Calvary on the site of Wounded Knee? Should there be a German cultural center in Auschwitz? Should a church be built in the Syrian town of Ma’arra where Crusaders slaughtered over 100,000 Muslims? Should there be a thirteen story mosque and Islamic Center only a few steps from Ground Zero???

Despite all the rhetoric, the essence of the matter can be distilled quite easily. The Muslim community has the absolute, constitutional right to build their building wherever they wish. I don’t buy the argument – “When we can build a church or a synagogue in Mecca they can build a mosque here.” America is greater than Saudi Arabia. And New York is greater than Mecca. Democracy and freedom must prevail.

Can they build? Certainly. May they build? Certainly. But should they build at that site? No -- but that decision must come from them, not from us. Sensitivity, compassion cannot be measured in feet or yards or in blocks. One either feels the pain of others and cares, or does not.

If those behind this project are good, peace-loving, sincere, tolerant Muslims, as they claim, then they should know better, rip up the zoning permits and build elsewhere.

Believe it or not, I am a dues-paying, card carrying member of the ACLU, yet from start to finish, I find this sorry episode disturbing to say the least.  William Burroughs, the novelist and poet, in a wry moment wrote – “After one look at this planet, any visitor from outer space would say – “I want to see the manager.”

Let us understand that the radical Islamist assaults all over the globe are but skirmishes, fire fights, and vicious decoys. Christ and the anti-Christ. Gog U’Magog. The Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness; the bloody collision between civilization and depravity is on the border between Lebanon and Israel. It is on the Gaza Coast and in the Judean Hills of the West Bank. It is on the sandy beaches of Tel Aviv and on the cobblestoned mall of Ben Yehuda Street. It is in the underground schools of Sderot and on the bullet-proofed inner-city buses. It is in every school yard, hospital, nursery, classroom, park, theater – in every place of innocence and purity.

Israel is the laboratory – the test market. Every death, every explosion, every grisly encounter is not a random, bloody orgy. It is a calculated, strategic probe into the heart, guts and soul of the West.  In the Six Day War, Israel was the proxy of Western values and strategy while the Arab alliance was the proxy of Eastern, Soviet values and strategy. Today too, it is a confrontation of proxies, but the stakes are greater than East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel in her struggle represents the civilized world, while Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Queda, Iran, Islamic Jihad, represent the world of psychopathic, loathsome evil.

As Israel, imperfect as she is, resists the onslaught, many in the Western World have lost their way displaying not admiration, not sympathy, not understanding, for Israel’s galling plight, but downright hostility and contempt. Without moral clarity, we are doomed because Israel’s galling plight ultimately will be ours. Hanna Arendt in her classic Origins of Totalitarianism accurately portrays the first target of tyranny as the Jew. We are the trial balloon. The canary in the coal mine. If the Jew/Israel is permitted to bleed with nary a protest from “good guys” then tyranny snickers and pushes forward with its agenda.

Moral confusion is a deadly weakness and it has reached epic proportions in the West; from the Oval Office to the UN, from the BBC to Reuters to MSNBC, from the New York Times to Le Monde, from university campuses to British teachers unions, from the International Red Cross to Amnesty International, from Goldstone to Elvis Costello, from the Presbyterian Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There is a message sent and consequences when our president visits Turkey and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and not Israel.

There is a message sent and consequences when free speech on campus is only for those championing Palestinian rights.

There is a message sent and consequences when the media deliberately doctors and edits film clips to demonize Israel.

There is a message sent and consequences when the UN blasts Israel relentlessly, effectively ignoring Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, North Korea, China and other noxious states.

There is a message sent and consequences when liberal churches are motivated by Liberation Theology, not historical accuracy.

There is a message sent and consequences when murderers and terrorists are defended by the obscenely transparent “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

John Milton warned, “Hypocrisy is the only evil that walks invisible.”  A few days after the Gaza blockade incident in the spring, a congregant happened past my office, glanced in and asked in a friendly tone – “Rabbi. How’re y’ doing?”  I looked up, sort of smiled and replied – “I’ve had better days.”

“What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do to cheer you up?” he inquired.  “Thank you for the offer but I’m just bummed out today” and I showed him a newspaper article I was reading.  “Madrid gay pride parade bans Israeli group over Gaza Ship Raid.” I explained to my visitor – “The Israeli gay pride contingent from Tel Aviv was not allowed to participate in the Spanish gay pride parade because the mayor of Tel Aviv did not apologize for the raid by the Israeli military.”  The only country in the entire Middle East where gay rights exist, is Israel. The only country in the entire Middle East where there is a gay pride parade, is Israel. The only country in the Middle East that has gay neighborhoods and gay bars, is Israel.

Gays in the Gaza would be strung up, executed by Hamas if they came out and yet Israel is vilified and ostracized. Disinvited to the parade.

Looking for logic?
Looking for reason?
Looking for sanity?

Kafka on his darkest, gloomiest day could not keep up with this bizarre spectacle and we “useful idiots” pander and fawn over cutthroats, sinking deeper and deeper into moral decay, as the enemy laughs all the way to the West Bank and beyond.

It is exhausting and dispiriting. We live in an age that is redefining righteousness where those with moral clarity are an endangered, beleaguered species.

Isaiah warned us thousands of years ago – “Oye Lehem Sheh-Korim Layome, Laila v’Laila, yome – Woe to them who call the day, night and the night, day.” We live on a planet that is both Chelm and Sodom. It is a frightening and maddening place to be.

How do we convince the world and many of our own, that this is not just anti-Semitism, that this is not just anti-Zionism but a full throttled attack by unholy, radical Islamists on everything that is morally precious to us?  How do we convince the world and many of our own that conciliation is not an option, that compromise is not
a choice?

Everything we are. Everything we believe. Everything we treasure, is at risk.  The threat is so unbelievably clear and the enemy so unbelievably ruthless how anyone in their right mind  doesn’t get it is baffling. Let’s try an analogy. If someone contracted a life-threatening infection and we not only scolded them for using antibiotics but insisted that the bacteria had a right to infect their body and that perhaps, if we gave the invading infection an arm and a few toes, the bacteria would be satisfied and stop spreading.

Anyone buy that medical advice? Well, folks, that’s our approach to the radical Islamist bacteria. It is amoral, has no conscience and will spread unless it is eradicated. – There is no negotiating. Appeasement is death.

I was no great fan of George Bush – didn’t vote for him. (By the way, I’m still a registered Democrat.) I disagreed with many of his policies but one thing he had right. His moral clarity was flawless when it came to the War on Terror, the War on Radical Islamist Terror. There was no middle ground – either you were friend or foe. There was no place in Bush’s world for a Switzerland. He knew that this competition was not Toyota against G.M., not the Iphone against the Droid, not the Braves against the Phillies, but a deadly serious war, winner take all. Blink and you lose. Underestimate, and you get crushed.

I know that there are those sitting here today who have turned me off. But I also know that many turned off their rabbis seventy five years ago in Warsaw, Riga, Berlin, Amsterdam, Cracow, Vilna. I get no satisfaction from that knowledge, only a bitter sense that there is nothing new under the sun.

time_cover_0809 Enough rhetoric – how about a little “show and tell?” A few weeks ago on the cover of Time magazine was a horrific picture with a horrific story. The photo was of an eighteen year old Afghani woman, Bibi Aisha, who fled her abusive husband and his abusive family. Days later the Taliban found her and dragged her to a mountain clearing where she was found guilty of violating Sharia Law.

Her punishment was immediate. She was pinned to the ground by four men while her husband sliced off her ears, and then he cut off her nose.  That is the enemy.

If nothing else stirs us. If nothing else convinces us, let Bibi Aisha’s mutilated face be the face of Islamic radicalism. Let her face shake up even the most complacent and naïve among us. In the holy crusade against this ultimate evil, pictures of Bibi Aisha’s disfigurement should be displayed on billboards, along every highway from Route 66 to the Autobahn, to the Transarabian Highway. Her picture should be posted on every lobby wall from Tokyo to Stockholm to Rio. On every network, at every commercial break, Bibi Aisha’s face should appear with the caption – “Radical Islamic savages did this.” And underneath – “This ad was approved by Hamas, by Hezbollah, by Taliban, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, by Islamic Jihad, by Fatah al Islam, by Magar Nodal Hassan, by Richard Reid, by Ahmanijad, by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, by Osama bin Laden, by Edward Said, by The Muslim Brotherhood, by Al Queda, by CAIR.”

“The moral sentiment is the drop that balances the sea” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, my friends, the sea is woefully out of balance and we could easily drown in our moral myopia and worship of political correctness.  We peer up into the heavens sending probes to distant galaxies. We peer down into quarks discovering particles that would astonish Einstein. We create computers that rival the mind, technologies that surpass science fiction. What we imagine, with astounding rapidity, becomes real. If we dream it, it does, indeed, come. And yet, we are at a critical point in the history of this planet that could send us back into the cave, to a culture that would make the Neanderthal blush with shame.

Our parents and grandparents saw the swastika and recoiled, understood the threat and destroyed the Nazis.  We see the banner of Radical Islam and can do no less.

A rabbi was once asked by his students….  “Rebbi. Why are your sermons so stern?” Replied the rabbi, “If a house is on fire and we chose not to wake up our children, for fear of disturbing their sleep, would that be love?

Kinderlach, ‘di hoyz brent.’ Children our house is on fire and I must arouse you from your slumber.”

During WWII and the Holocaust was it business as usual for priests, ministers, rabbis? Did they deliver benign homilies and lovely sermons as Europe fell, as the Pacific fell, as North Africa fell, as the Mideast and South America tottered, as England bled? Did they ignore the demonic juggernaut and the foul breath of evil? They did not. There was clarity, courage, vision, determination, sacrifice, and we were victorious. Today it must be our finest hour as well. We dare not retreat into the banality of our routines, glance at headlines and presume that the good guys will prevail.

Democracies don’t always win.
Tyrannies don’t always lose.

My friends – the world is on fire and we must awake from our slumber. “EHR KUMT.”

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