Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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Be Quiet–A Jewish Meditation Technique

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

The thoughts are not the thinker. You are the thinker, and your thoughts are what you are thinking about. If you think about aggressive things, you will feel aggressive. If you think about calm things, you will feel calm.

Here is the link to a meditation experience that will bring you a quiet mind. When the mind is quiet, the thinker becomes quiet. When you experience quiet you can see beyond the normal daily static.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

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Wiki Leaked: Ongoing US Support for PLO

(For those who haven’t heard, the web site Wikileaks has a dump of almost 250,000 internal US diplomatic cables, often containing frank diplomatic assessments of foreign leaders and the results of foreign diplomatic meetings.)

It would be nice to solely blame Obama for the current US – Israel diplomatic situation.  But the exposed leaks from Wikileak begin to paint a picture of an Official US Diplomatic Policy to isolate and weaken Israel going back into the Bush administration (and maybe earlier).  The main change in the Obama administration seems to be putting it up front on the table instead of sneaking it around behind the back.

The US diplomatic corp has it’s own interest and maintaining positive relations with Israel clearly isn’t one of them.

LEAK…

Confidential Diplomatic Cable from the US Consulate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2007-01-28 08:08

SUBJECT: UNDER SECRETARY BURNS' JANUARY 23 (2007) MEETING WITH UAE VICE 
PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER AND DUBAI RULER MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL
MAKTOUM


9.(C) Israel/Palestinians: United States Undersecretary of State Burns stressed that the US believes progress between Israel and the Palestinians toward peace is central to regional stability, and supports the creation of a Palestinian state. This would be "the best thing," Prime Minister Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum replied; a peace deal would make radical groups like HAMAS "everyone's enemy". Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should be supported, particularly since HAMAS is funded by Iran. Prime Minister Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum noted UAE assistance was again flowing to the Palestinians, although it had been suspended for a time because of corruption concerns. United States Undersecretary of State Burns said the US is careful to ensure its assistance is going to the Palestinian people, rather than the HAMAS government, and is confident in the assistance mechanisms now in place.



To summarize (nothing particularly damning), the US believes that Middle East stability is completely based on the Palestinian situation (not Iran, not Al Qaeda, not the Taliban or insurgents in Yemen or Kurdish uprisings against Iran and Turkey, nor inter-ethnic strife in Lebanon, or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but the Palestinians) and the US is certain that Hamas isn’t getting any of the hundreds of millions of dollars the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority and directly as US Aid projects yearly.  (Hahaha choke gag gasp cry.)

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

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Hindu’s Take Back Yoga

A reader wrote to Reb Gutman Locks…

An article today in the New York Times reinforces what you have always said about yoga.  If they won’t listen to you, maybe they'll believe it from the New York Times.

Headline: Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

New York Times: November 27, 2010

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions…

Organizers of the Take Back Yoga effort point out that the philosophy of yoga was first described in Hinduism’s seminal texts and remains at the core of Hindu teaching…

For many practitioners, including Debbie Desmond, 27, a yoga instructor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talk of branding and ownership is bewildering.  “Nobody owns yoga,” she said, sitting cross-legged in her studio, Namaste Yoga, and tilting her head as if the notion sketched an impossible yoga position she had never seen. “Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, a method of becoming. …” [Paths comment, a way of life – a method of becoming isn’t religion???]

The effort to “take back” yoga began quietly enough, with a scholarly essay posted in January on the Web site of the Hindu American Foundation, a Minneapolis-based group that promotes human rights for Hindu minorities worldwide. The essay lamented a perceived snub in modern yoga culture, saying that yoga magazines and studios had assiduously decoupled the practice “from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity.”

Dr. Shukla put a sharper point on his case a few months later in a column on the On Faith blog of The Washington Post. Hinduism, he wrote, had become a victim of “overt intellectual property theft,” made possible by generations of Hindu yoga teachers who had “offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.”

…Loriliai Biernacki, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, said the debate had raised important issues about a spectrum of Hindu concepts permeating American culture, including meditation, belief in karma and reincarnation, and even cremation.

“All these ideas are Hindu in origin, and they are spreading,” she said. “But they are doing it in a way that leaves behind the proper name, the box that classifies them as ‘Hinduism.’ ”

Exactly.  Yoga is an aspect of Hinduism and many of the concepts taught as part of yoga are Hindu approaches to life, spirituality, G-d, the universe and man’s place in it.  That’s the danger of yoga, infusing foreign spiritual concepts into your life.  A stretching exercise is just an exercise, but yoga is Hindu.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

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Fighting the Other Side

A commentor wrote (edited for privacy and brevity)…

…I know that G-d's will for man is truly for his benefit. I am a firm believer that there are powers that exist in this world that thrive off of man’s iniquities. Most people live their lives in complete ignorance of the consequences that happen in other realms due to every positive and negative action that they do. The only books that I have found that even come close to explaining some of the true experiences that I have had are written about the sitra- achra and evil influence of the yetzer harah in Jewish mysticism.

(Being in a very negative place with much negative history) I firmly believe that these powers in my life were fully confident that they had won and I was not supposed to make it out of my negative circumstances because they had me firmly gripped. I feel now that they are not going to let their mistake go and that I am in grave danger. I wake instantly at nights sometimes with the physical feeling of energy running through my body and the feeling of dread. I can’t explain it but when this happens I…know that my life and soul are in danger and that the more I try to improve and change the stronger these forces will fight and that they have me.

I am doing my best to live the appropriate life through honest repentance, teshuva and tzedakah. I have completely changed my ways but I know that the more I fight the more traps are set and the other side is as real as your next door neighbor.

This may sound like a paranoid delusion but I can swear by the real occurrences that have happened in my life that it is very real. …I ask if you have any advice for me.

I replied as follows…

Yes, such things can be real...but they can also be mental health problems.  I’ve asked Reb Gutman Locks to reply with some positive spiritually strengthening steps to see if it is spiritual, and those will help repair the breech.

Reb Gutman Locks followed up…

You are one” lucky” fellow. We learn that wrestling with the evil inclination is just like wrestling with a human opponent, the more you fight, and the more it looks like you are going to win—the stronger the opponent fights back. This is why your experience is becoming so difficult. It is a sign that you are coming close to realizing your righteous dreams.

When man goes through life, if he sins, he digs a hole. Then he stands in that hole. If he sins again, and it is easier to sin the second time than the first, then, the hole becomes deeper. Obviously, it gets even easier to sin the second time, so he blows it again, and the hole he is standing in becomes even deeper. And guess where he is standing? Right in the middle of that  pit. Sometimes the hole gets so deep that the poor guy can’t even see daylight.

Then, by some miracle, some grace, instead of rolling around in the pit, the guy thinks to turn. He turns up and starts to climb out of the pit. Once he makes up his mind to turn, and he really works hard to do it---his life turns around, and so does the pit. His world turns up-side-down. The pit becomes a mountain. He is now standing on a tall mountain. Your pit was so low that now you are about to stand on a huge mountain peak. Whew!

After you catch your breath from enjoying the view, you are going to want to help others turn their pits into mountains. And this is why G-d let you go into that pit and this is why He is helping you to climb out.

I too am standing on a very high mountain that started out as a very low pit.

Be well.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

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Kevorim of Tzfat and Meron

The hills of Tzfat and Meron are covered in holy kevorim (tombs) of generations of tzaddikim of Israel.  Our friend Reb Dovid of DAF Studios Israel (top quality photography for all types of events and simchas – 054 971 7859) took a trip up north and shares some of his pictures with us…

Near Havakuk HaNavi (Habbakkuk the biblical prophet), down the side of the mountain after a twist and a turn are a few small ancient blue domed buildings (blue domes are a sign of a holy kever around Tzfat)…

A peak inside shows it’s covering the entrance to a burial cave…

It’s the burial place of Rabbaynu Bachaya and his students…

A short distance away we find another such building…

This one is from the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov...

Some of them are REALLY small inside, this is one of those…

As you can see, these kevorim are regularly visited and cared for.  The actual kevorim are over 1,200 years old (some older) and in almost every case the buildings themselves are as well…at least the walls.  Other parts (roofs, stairs) have been repaired or replaced.

May the merits of the holy tzaddikim stand for all Klal Yisroel.

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Yud Tes Kislev

20061209-Alter-RebbeJudaism has periodic explosions of Torah.  In the vernacular you could call these revelations.

Somewhat like the navi’im (biblical prophets) of old, someone comes along who’s tapped into a high level connection (or the higher levels tap into someone as a channel – who knows how it works) and there’s a great download of holiness and Torah…in a big bundled almost unhandlable outflow.  Like a personal flash of brilliance in a new idea, this load of holiness is the bright glowing more-direct-than-usual influence of G-d on the world…but not yet easily consumable.

Then, consistently, a short time later along comes a special soul who grabs on to the load of holiness and harnesses it to the standard frameworks of Torah.  They codify it, organize it, systematize it, and align it with the existing bodies of Torah knowledge.

The last such explosion of Torah was from the Baal Shem Tov and what today we call Chassidus.  The Maggid of Mezerich organized it, and the first Lubavitcher Rebbe – the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, codified, systematized, and aligned it.  The results of this effort are two monumental works of Chassidic thought…the Tanya and Likkueti Torah/Torah Ohr.

For doing this holy work the Alter Rebbe was attacked, imprisoned, and sentenced to death.  On Yud Tes Kislev he was vindicated, released, and his codification fully released to be taught to all.  Or to put it another way, Chassidic thought was attacked and then freed.

On Yud Tes Kislev Chabad chassidim celebrate the release of the Alter Rebbe from his death sentence and prison, and the release of the codification of chassidus into the Jewish world.

And we say to the Alter Rebbe, L’chaim!  While we learn your Torah – the Torah of Chassidus, we await the final revelation, that of Moshiach tzidkaynu.  May it be mamash today.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

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What, are you nuts?

image005by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     This has to be one of the strangest cases that I have ever had the privilege to straighten out.

     A group of non-Jewish Americans walked into the Kotel area yesterday. Judging by their appearance, they had to be evangelical x-ians. I was surprised to see two or three Jewish faces among them. It is pretty rare, but sadly, sometimes we do see a confused Jew drawn into that religion. So I assumed that these Jews were also trapped in that idolatry. I was wrong.

     I pointed to one of the Jews and said, “You’re Jewish. You certainly have a Jewish face.”

     “Of course I’m Jewish, through and through!” he happily confirmed.

     “Come, put on tefillin.” He did not know what I was talking about. “We’re going to take your Jewish blood pressure,” I joked. I took his arm and started to put tefillin on him.

     One of the other Jewish-looking men leaned over and said, “He was baptized this morning!”

     “What!” I yelled, “Are you nuts? You’re not a x-ian. You’re a Jew!”

     It turned out that the entire group was on a tour that was organized in their hometown somewhere in Florida. Except for the three Jews, they were all x-ians. That morning they had gone on a tour to the Jordan River, and the evangelicals had all baptized each other. As usual, they love to spread their particular brand of confusion, so they tried to lure the three Jews traveling with them into being baptized, too. X-ians believe that it is a huge victory to convert a Jew to their beliefs.

     They had a sales pitch: After all, this was the actual Jordan River; the very river where yashka (Yiddish slang for the x-ian deity) himself was baptized 2,000 years ago. (At least that’s how the story goes.) When they tried to coax the Jews into joining them, two of the Jews had enough brains to refuse, but this nice old guy was up for the adventure. Wading out into the river with your clothes on was certainly something that he could tell his friends about when he got home, so the friendly old Jew agreed to join them, and he let them baptize him!

image006

     “Listen to me,” I insisted, as I continued to put the tefillin on him. “You are a Jew. Baptism is not for Jews. It is what goyim (non-Jews) do when they accept that false religion. You didn’t accept anything. You are not a x-ian, you’re a Jew.”

    I wanted him to be able to defend himself when they later tried to convince him that he actually became a x-ian, G-d forbid!

     I told him that Jews are a people and not a religion. “But if you want a religion, then we have our own. We do not need theirs.” I told him that their religion contradicts our beliefs. “They worship their god, which has three parts, a trinity. Jews worship the one G-d Who is everywhere. G-d does not have parts.” I told him that the baptism he went through did not mean anything, that he did not accept any of their religious foolishness, and that he was not going to follow that religion.

     It turned out that he is 81 years old, and this was the first time in his life that he had ever put on tefillin! I told him that it was his bar mitzvah!

    (Actually, bar mitzvah means that a Jewish boy has come to the age [13] when the Torah says that he is old enough to begin to be responsible for his own spiritual life. One of the first things that he can then do is put on tefillin.)

     I made sure that he had pictures of himself wearing tefillin to remind him that he is a Jew. “X-ians have baptisms. Jews have tefillin and bar mitzvahs.”

     He was very happy, and he has absolutely no intention of joining any x-ian religion. And they are not going to be able to fool him into thinking that he became a x-ian.

     Thank G-d that he met us, or who knows where he would have ended up.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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The Beautiful Shore

Business took me to a conference at a Hotel/Conference center on Hertzaliya beach.  The view was stunning…

P1020672

We attended our conference sessions and then networked on the hotel patio.  As we stood enjoying the beautiful view, the sailboats, a cool sea breeze and fantastic clear skies, several other people commented to me “it’s beautiful but I’d give it up for some rain, are you saying tefilot (prayers) for rain?”

Israel is in the midst of the rainy season…and not a cloud is in sight nor a rain drop falling.  Instead, cool breezes, sunny days, chilly nights.  It’s incredibly pleasant but silently terrible.  Everyone in Israel realizes a water DISASTER is in the making (G-d forbid).

P1020691

I turned to those who asked me about tefilot (prayers) for rain and said, “you are Jews too, your prayers are as valuable as mine.  Who knows the measure of prayer?  A long beard or a big black kippah (yalmulka) is no guarantee my prayers will be more listened to than yours!  Add your tefilot to mine and we’ll have double the prayers.”  And one fellow added “and say them together and they’re times ten.”

P1020680

Photo – Israeli navy patrol boat passes among sailboats just offshore by Hertzaliya, Israel.

Today we believe we control it all.  Economy, health, various aspects of life, environment…and in Israel in the strength of arms, war and peace, we’ve got an handle on it.  Israelis generally believe that war and peace is just a matter of negotiation and/or the right weapons systems.

But rain…rain EVERYONE acknowledges is still the purview of G-d.  And with the gentle reminder of BEAUTIFUL WEATHER  but no rain, many Israelis are suddenly mentioning Hashem and tefilot.

P1020686

The curse of beautiful weather is a great kindness from Hashem.  Eretz Yisroel gets a chance to turn to Hashem without the fear of a war or a natural disaster, or major economic problems.  Just for the need of a little water.

P1020676

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Easav-ness

by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

“Then Yaakov sent angels ahead of him to Esav his brother to the land of Seir, the field of Edom”.

This encounter was on ... the eternal days of atonement “for days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of the great war between Yaakov and Esav.”

The holy Zohar tells us that the angel of Esav comes every year to accuse Yaakov in this eternal court case on Rosh Hashanah. He accuses of not being brotherly. And Yaakov is an aspect of all of Am Yisrael.  Esav provokes the ‘Midat of Din’ against us.  For on the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Yisrael involved in the great war against Amalek and it is only by the strength of the Tzaddik Ha Emes who is an aspect Moshe Rabbenu that we can win this war.

Because, the main aspect of T’Shuvah is in overcoming the ‘mida of Esav’ which is arrogance.  And the main T’Shuvah is emulating the mida of humility which is an aspect of Moshe our teacher.

The sages teach us that it is only Esav who can destroy us. i.e. his mida - that of arrogance, it is the most destructive of all forces and is the root to all sins.  Moshe was the complete opposite of Esav. Esav ha Rasha and Moshe ha tzaddik. HaShem says that “He and the arrogant can not exist in the same world”, thus HaShem leaves. Oy!

Prayer is an aspect of T’Shuvah as it takes a breaking of one’s will to be able to pray. And it is only through prayer and the breaking of one’s will that we are able to draw closer to HaShem.

There exists in the world today a insanity which is produced by arrogance. For it is impossible to be arrogant and not be insane. The arrogant one say’s I, will do it! It leaves out any possibility of Hashem doing it.  It is as if we are saying HaShem move over I’m sitting down on Your Throne and running my world leave me alone. OY! Gevalt!!

And this very act is Heresy… Idol worship at it’s best “I AM NOW G’D, What a terrible situation to find ourselves in, separated from our source from our blessing, our life force. OY!!!  It is most unfortunate that the majority of the world today suffers from this heresy induced insanity.

Most today live in a Heresy induced dream world of thinking we are in control sole rules of ‘our’ worlds. What a lie, it is none other than the serpent himself who puts this vain thought into.

BUT THERE IS HOPE!

There is a cure for H.I.I. - Heresy Induced Insanity which is a symptom of E.D.S. - Emunah Deficiency Syndrome. It is humbling ourselves and opening up our mouths and crying out to HaShem. This is exactly what our souls need to over come EDS and avoid HII. Only by prayer can we draw close to HaShem which in Turn defeats Esav and his evil middot.

On the very day that we over come our Arrogance we will have the Geula and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash. When we can be Yisrael!

What are we waiting for?

Hashem said “Return to me and I will return to you”. What do we have to lose except for our Esaviness?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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They’re Thinking of Us

Us too!  (via Damn You Auto Correct)

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Monday, November 22, 2010

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Oy, Chabad and Moshiach

There was little question that discussing positions on Chabad and Moshiach was opening a can of worms (in previous article Stay Away from Chabad???).  People feel STRONGLY about it and don’t hesitate to say so.  Here’s a few of the more notable responses and my thoughts.  Note I am just explaining a response or position, NOT agreeing with it.  I made my positions clear at the end of the original article.

(Anonymous wrote) Dear Akiva:

Sadly, you are wrong. Virtually every Chabad Shaliach DOES have these crazy views. This is the worst of all: That the Rebbe is still alive. That is a psychologically dangerous thing to believe and promote.

Also a problem is that the leading Chabad institutions all push some form of this. Machon Chana is a good example. Now they tone it down, but…

It may seem like separating hairs, but believing the statement from the Tanya that tzadikim have more influence after their release from this physical world than during their presence and combining this with multiple statements from the Torah and Naviim of people who didn’t die (Yosef HaTzadik, Eliyahu HaNavi, etc) isn’t wandering far off from Torah.  However, I understand why this makes people uncomfortable.


The
HaEmesh v’HaEmunah blog picked up the article, excerpted it and said, Position 2 is which is acceptable to Lubavitch even though admittedly not preferred – is not an acceptable position to the rest of Orthodoxy. It is in fact identical to the early Christian view about a Messiah who died and will have a 2nd coming. The only difference today is the later Christian deification of their Messiah.

I notice you omit on position #2 my noting of one of the SOURCES of the opinion, which is Gemora Sandhedrin 98b .  "If Moshiach is from among the living... If Moshiach is from among the dead..."    

You said, "It is in fact identical to the early Christian view"  So either the Gemora is Christian, or the Christian position is taken from the Gemora!  Or they both originate from Jewish thought at that time.  [Note I'm not espousing the position, just arguing it's Jewish connection.]

We have further discussions of Moshiach from among the dead by Abarbanel and Rav Chizkiyah Medini.  Is the Abarbanel a non-kosher Christian oriented source?   And here's the hardest question, because a Jewish idea has been taken and embraced by another religion, do we then avoid that idea?  [ Actually I think the answer here is that is exactly what's happened and even explains why Moshiach as a general idea has also been only a minor point in Judaism in general, especially since the times of Shabtai Tzvi, and particularly in the last 100 years until the Rebbe started pushing on it. ] 

"If he is one of the living, then an example would be Rabbeinu HaKadosh [i.e., R. Yehudah HaNasi]; if he is someone from among the dead, then he is someone like Daniel." Abarbanel, in his authoritative classic entitled Yeshuos Meshicho,[218] clearly raises the possibility that Mashiach may be among those resurrected. He cites a passage from Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta: "Nine people entered the Garden of Eden alive ...Mashiach." He explains that according to this view, a righteous individual deemed to be the Mashiach will live, then die on account of the sins of his generation, but will eventually be resurrected. In his encyclopedic work entitled Sdei Chemed, R. Chizkiyah Medini states that if Israel is exceedingly meritorious, Mashiach will be resurrected from the dead in a miraculous manner.”

It's interesting to note that the sources that do discuss Moshiach from among the dead were all living in Muslim countries (or Spain when it was Muslim controlled.)

Emes v’Emunah responded, This point has been debated ad infinitum by many intelligent and knowledgable people on both sides of the issue… No one denies what the Gemarah in Sanhedrin says. But until the Rebbe died anyone who would use that Gemarah to justify thye idea of a messiah rising from the dead in a 2nd coming would have been excoriated as an Apikores.

I believe that before the Rebbe died Lubavitch would have been at the head of the line on this issue yelling the loudest. The reasons are obvious. That same argument justifies the claim Christians make about Jesus.  The counter claim now by Chabad apologists is that Jesus was deified and the Rebbe was not. Well Jesus was not deified at first. But someone later on did and it caught on…

The parallels are too striking to simply dismiss. So even if it is technically not heresy - to say the Rebbe will be resurrected to become the Messiah, is a dangerous position to tolerate... and ought to be rejected with the same force as do every other Orthodox movement does.  Never in the history of the Jewish people since the Churban Bayis Sheni has this ever been promoted as our view of Moshaich. There is no reason to start now other than to tolerate it among one's own. And that's not a good enough reason to do it now.

In general I agree, except the statement of the Gemorah was made (or codified) somewhere from 100-400 years after the start of Xianity, and added to that is the statements of the Acharonim I quote above.  I don’t think this minority opinion is quite so easy to dismiss though I understand the reasons for doing so and the hashkafic dangers it entails.

[ I’m not agreeing with it or justifying it, rather trying to understand why it’s so easy to dismiss while other parts of the same orthodox world are arguing for the literal understanding of every other part of the Gemorah right down to disqualified scientific and medical statements. ]


Anonymous Lubavitcher (Expert) wrote,
I too am a Lubavitcher, one who has investigated the issue of Mishichism quite thoroughly. I have read the literature on the subject, including the Rebbe’s own talks and writings and also the various articles written by such figures as Rabbi Yoel Kahn and other leading figures and thinkers who very much set the tone amongst main stream Lubavitchers.

There is another “position”, long held by Rabbi Yoel Kahn and a growing segment of “mainstream” Lubavitchers, specifically those who have actually studied the matter and looked into the validity of the various positions. That position is as follows:

The Rebbe never was “Chezkas Moshiach”, as he never fulfilled the criteria set out my the Rambam [despite the ‘psak din’ to the contrary, which by taking the Rambam’s words out of their literal context actually goes against the Rebbe’s own view]. When we speak of the Rebbe as Moshiach we are not referring to a halachik status but a spiritual status, which has more to do with the Rebbe’s soul than his body. According to Chassidus and Kabbalah the leader of each generation’s soul is connected to the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu and Moshiach. As the medresh says “he is the first redeemer and he is the last redeemer.”

To take this spiritual idea and put it into halachik terms is to misunderstand it entirely. Of course, ultimately the soul of Moshiach will be invested within the body of the Halachik Moshiach. But to suggest that someone carries the soul of Moshiach does not mean that they will certainly be the ultimate Moshiach.  Halacha cannot be established on the basis of Kabbalah or Chassidus.

To conclude: While the Rebbe is believed by all Lubavitchers to have carried the soul of Moshiach, that by no means established him with certainty as the ultimate Moshiach according to Halacha. On the other hand, the soul is eternal and the Rebbe’s soul will therefore always be associated with the soul of Moshiach. However, who will actually be the ultimate Moshiach, the physically manifest and final redeemer, can only be established based on the Halachic criteria of the Rambam, which as mentioned earlier the Rebbe never fulfilled.

Rav Yoel Kahn, shlita, is the acknowledged expert on Chassidus Chabad of our generation and if he says that’s the way to understand the situation in the context of chassidus Chabad, the words of the Rebbe, halacha and the holy Torah, then indeed that’s the appropriate understanding.

But, as much as I’ve spoken to a number of mashpi’im and rabbai’im of Chabad on this topic, this is the first time I’ve heard that detailed level of explanation and understanding.  It’s nuanced and sophisticated, and neither the nuance or sophistication is out among the common chassidim or the common leadership.  It would be helpful if it was.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

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Hooray For You!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

A couple weeks ago, I asked you who read these articles to send me your outreach success stories. Well, look at what one of you did:

    “My father-in-law, who will be 90 in a few months, put on tefillin for the first time last week. At first he said, ‘Ninety-year-olds do not do this.’ Then he said, ‘Why?’ I answered, ‘For the experience.’ He said, ‘Why not,’ and he liked it.”

I wrote to him:

    Tell your ninety-year-old father-in-law that one of the questions he is going to be asked at the gate that stands in front of the Heavenly Garden of Eden will be, “Did you put on tefillin?” A Jewish man’s soul that answers, “No,” will go in one direction, and one that answers, “Yes,” will go in another. Even if a Jew puts on tefillin only one time in his entire life, he will be able to answer that question, “Yes,” and that soul is saved from the lower tribulations.

    You, in your kindness, by going out of your way to help him to put on tefillin for the first time in his life, saved this special man from those lowest pits. This rightfully should make you feel wonderful. Your father-in-law, however, will not totally appreciate your kindness until he hears that angel ask, “Did you put on tefillin?”  At that moment, his soul is going to bless you.

    Now, not to pull you off that pinnacle that you so rightfully deserve, but there are two obvious questions that we have to ask: Number one, How come it took you so long? And, number two, who’s next?

   This wonderful mitzvah of yours should be both a source of great joy for you, and also a tremendous encouragement for you to go looking for the next person you can help.

(Illustrative photo, “Rabbi Yossi Eber of the Chabad Jewish Center of West Pasco, Florida helps a man put on tefillin.”)

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

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How Do I Slaughter The Animal?

image003 (2)by Reb Gutman Locks @ The Mystical Paths Butcher Shop

     “How do I shecht the behaimah?” (How do I slaughter the animal?) This is what a young, religious Jewish man asked me as I was rushing home from the Kotel last night. I had an appointment and could not stop, but he was insistent. He wanted me to answer his deep question right there on the spot.

     This question deals with a Chassidic concept about the “animal inclination,” The animal inclination is also called the “evil inclination.” He wanted to know how he could kill his evil inclination.

     Without stopping, I said, “You don’t kill it. You train it to do good.” I ran on, leaving him staring at me and thinking about what I said.

     Without the animal inclination, people would not move. The animal wants to eat, to go, to do things. That is its job; it is supposed to be active. The problem only comes when the animal is the one making the decisions. For instance, the animal wants lunch. Fine, he is entitled to eat. In fact, he has to eat, or he will not be in this world much longer. And we want the animal to be here, or else, we-- the spiritual beings that we really are-- will not be on the planet, either. But who is going to decide the menu? If we let the animal decide, we might end up eating 14 chocolate bars for lunch, or 12 pieces of pizza.

     Here is where the intellect comes in. The intellect takes charge and tells the animal that he can have one chocolate bar, or a couple of pieces of pizza, but not the whole pie. Now we have a well-behaved, trained animal.

     This does not mean that he will not go running crazy again if you let him. It means that the animal is being directed to the goal that is best for all. Even the animal feels better when he eats healthy food. This same process can be used for anything the animal wants. The truth is, we can find healthy and kosher ways to satisfy any of its desires.  

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Friday, November 19, 2010

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Visiting Havakuk the Prophet

Havakuk HaNavi – the biblical prophet Habbakkuk, is buried on the side of the road heading up the mountain to Tzfat and Meron.  Our friend Reb Dovid of DAF Studios Israel (top quality photography for all types of events and simchas) took a trip up north and shared these excellent pictures…

The kever (the holy tomb) of Havakuk is a small tomb hidden off the side of the road up the mountain, out of view.  The building is hundreds of years old.

havakuk1

The inside is a small room with basically just the kever.

havakuk2

The area around the kever is very pretty with a picnic area

havakuk3

The kever area has a large courtyard where some come for outdoor learning or even for some prayer and picnicking.

havakuk4

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

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Stay Away from Chabad???

A reader wrote, “I was reading a pamphlet that I got a wedding at 770 (Chabad world headquarters in New York) that I went to with my Chabad Rebbetzin.  They gave us pamphlets that said ‘the Rebbe Melach HaMoshiach’.  Last week there was an article in Mishpacha on the convention of Chabad Shluchim (the Chabad house emmesaries from around the world convene in New York once a year) where it mentions that the Moshiach group is small and won’t be there.

Then today I was reading (an old Mystical Paths article) which linked to a site that also had a statement on the bottom "STAY AWAY FROM CHABAD (because of the Rebbe is Moshiach business)”.

We love our Chabad house rabbi and rebbitzen and learn with them.  What are we to do?  Who will we go with?  Who will take in the Baal teshuvah. Who do we listen to?

>>> Confused in the USA.

Dear Confused,

When we link to a site we can’t necessary check out 100% of it’s content or vouch for it.  And we definitely don’t agree with that statement.  Here’s why...

There's a number of theological positions regarding the Rebbe and Moshiach (or as Moshiach).  These positions pile on to each other (as you'll see), the later positions relying on the earlier ones for foundational support.  I'll explain what they mean afterwards.

Chabad Position #1 - The Rebbe was "chezkat Moshiach", the generation's candidate Moshiach as described in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah Hilchos Melachim uMilchatonim 11.  Since his passing from this world he remains a strong influence, perhaps (as taught in Tanya from the Zohar) even a greater influence than when he was with us physically.  (The Tanya teaches that a tzadik's influence is greater after his physical departure, as he's no longer bound by physical limitations.)

A corollary of this position says the Rebbe was Moshiach ben Yosef, whom the mystical sources teach starts the geulah process but doesn't survive it and is followed later by Moshiach ben Dovid.

Chabad Position #2 - The Rebbe was "chezkat Moshiach", the generation's candidate Moshiach, and remains so even after his physical departure (as taught in the Gemora Sanhedrin that candidates for Moshiach may come from those who are not among the living). 

Everything the Rebbe said came true (public predictive statements), defining him as a true navi (biblical level prophet), therefore his statements on Moshiach and geulah must be treated as navua (biblical prophecy) - prophecies of a kosher prophet that have not yet been fulfilled.

Chabad Position #3 - The Rebbe was Moshiach tzidkaynu (our righteous redeemer) as confirmed by rulings of hundreds of rabbis and his demonstrations of navua (prophecy), as well as fulfilling most of Rambam's rulings on the actions Moshiach must fulfill (Mishneh Torah Hilchos Malachim uMilchatonim 11).

The Rebbe wrote as part of his navua (prophecies) that Moshiach would go through a time of pain and subsequently a time of being hidden.  Therefore we must trust in Hashem and in the words of the Rebbe during this time of darkness and cannot define the Rebbe as having left this world.

Chabad Position #4 - The Rebbe is Moshiach tzidkaynu who is hidden from us at this time.  He gave us the paths to follow and the final mitzvah campaign/focus to teach about Moshiach and the Geulah and focus upon them.  Therefore we are obligated to continue in this area with maximum effort (and perhaps the only effort of mitzvah campaigns) to bring the Geulah to completion.  Since Moshiach ben Dovid does not die, the Rebbe is not dead.

Position #5 - The Rebbe is Moshiach tzidkaynu who is hidden from us at this time.  The Rebbe wrote in his prophecies that we have entered the time of the Geulah and "people must only see it and recognize it".  Therefore, recognizing that this is the time of the Geulah we will begin to live according to the words of all of those who have written of how it will be during the Geulah, such as changing Rabbinic fast days to feast days.  Geulah is here, open your eyes and see it and join us.

Position #6 - The Rebbe, Moshiach and Prophet, wrote about the levels of connection between the soul of Moshiach and Hashem, and how Moshiach's soul connects at higher levels than ever seen before in this world - bringing down a level of Hashem's light beyond what the world has experienced.  Therefore, the Rebbe Moshiach, who is here although hidden at the moment, is not just the agent of Hashem in this world but the arm of Hashem in this world.  And since Hashem is one, the arm of Hashem is...Hashem.  Therefore the Rebbe, Moshiach and Prophet, is Hashem.
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Now, most of Chabad holds position #1.  It's a completely kosher position by everyone's understandings and evaluation.  Further, the official Chabad organizations have been relatively forcefully purged of anyone not holding position #1 for the past 15 years (successfully).  The stronger Moshiach positions are not tolerated by the official organs of Chabad Lubavitch (Merkos L’Inyanei Chinuch, Agudas Chasedi Chabad, The Shluchim’s Office, Kehot Publications, etc.)

Some in Chabad hold position #2, more so in Israel.  This makes non-Chabad theological authorities a bit nervous and they'll challenge whether halacha holds at this time that Moshiach can come from among the non-living (it doesn’t).  But they'll also grudgingly admit that holding this position is kosher (if not preferred).

Positions #3 and #4...are held by what are called Meshichists (Moshiach guys, often identified by wearing yellow Moshiach flag pins), more so by native Israeli Chabad than US or worldwide Chabad.  In the US this is found almost solely in Crown Heights where it may be 25%, but that includes the Israreli Torah students studying there.  The positions are problematic but not directly non-kosher according to major poskim and gedolim that have reviewed them.  Meaning we wouldn't call the position mainstream Torah Judaism, but you can't define people who hold it as heretics.  #3 people are handling out flyers that refer to the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, and #4's flyers talk only about geulah and may add Rebbe Melech HaMoshaich Chai Vekayam (lives forever).

People of position #4 make people of position #1 nervous, as Chabad as an organization is also concerned about people going off the deep end and about their image.

Position #5 is a real halachic problem.  These people are stepping beyond contemporary orthodox Judaism (but they'll tell you the same could have been said about the Baal Shem Tov).  We have no authority to make a halachic decision changing what should or should not be observed and await a true Sanhedrin (a great court of Torah sages), which may come about in our time or be created after the arrival of Moshiach. (It is not dependent on Moshiach and there have been several attempts in history to create a Sanhedrin, including a recent one.)  People holding this position must be treated as non-observant Jews who have gone off the path.  But they are problematic because they otherwise appear as Torah observant Jews.

Personally I would include them in my minyan like any other Jew who’s not properly observant and is involved in improper things.  But I would not pray in their minyan and I certainly wouldn't talk to them about their position.

This is a small group of people and upon beginning such actions they are pushed away by the normative community (Chabad or otherwise).  Small but they get attention due to the shock value.  I’ve heard of a couple people like this in Crown Heights, and another small group (of 10 I think) in Australia.

Position #6 is absolutely treif and complete kefirah (being a heretic).  These people are starting a new religion and may appear as religious Jews and practicing some Jewish rituals but they aren't praying to the same understanding of G-d as orthodox Judaism.  A person who has personally stated that he holds such beliefs probably could not be included in a minyan.

NOW, Confused, where's all this leave you?  Well, almost no shluchim / Chabad houses in the US hold anything other than position #1, and if they did they were pushed out.  (There are a few exceptions.)  In Israel the same is true but it's often position #2.  No true major authorities have any serious problems with these positions (doesn't mean they like them, but that doesn't make them a halachic problem.)

Positions #3 and #4 are concentrated into Crown Heights and certain places in Israel (such as Tzfat) - which explains your encounter in Crown Heights.  This is unfortunate and bad PR but the community as a whole doesn't really want to go shoving people completely out that may turn them out of Judaism.

Positions #5 and #6 have to be stayed away from.  Fortunately they're few and their positions are clearly a problem and therefore easy to avoid.  And yes they may also be living in a major Chabad community but are literally stayed away from.

As for web sites and not-major-authorities that want to rail against Chabad and look at a few nut jobs in the later positions as representing Chabad, they're also writing what they're writing sitting in Williamsburg or Bnei Brak in their ultra-kosher community with ultra-kosher services.  The same type of people were known to write in the past that it's ASSUR (prohibited) to reach out to non-observant Jews because they might influence the kosher Jew in a negative way. 

Net net, Chabad's fine but it's got it’s share of nuts.  Part of reaching out to every Jew has brought in some troubled souls as well.  But are they not our brothers and responsibility also?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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No Jews Allowed!

image003 (1)by Reb Gutman Locks @ The Mystical Paths Sweat Lodge

     A Hindu priest was escorted into the Kotel area yesterday. His Israeli host was trying to protect him from me, but I pushed him aside.

    “I know your religion very well,” I told the priest. Obviously, he was both surprised and skeptical. I went on, “I even had one of the siddhis.” He quickly realized that I was not inventing something to impress him.

Siddhis are the spiritually unclean mystical powers that can come from certain idolatrous practices. Gurus wildly seek these powers, because anyone who gets one gains instant fame. Although these powers are often spoken of, it is very rare for someone to actually have one.

     “Which one did you have?” he asked.

     “Forty years ago, I was in India for two years, and I got one of those powers. For years, wherever I went, people would experience a mystical, spiritual feeling around me. This happened without me saying even a single word! They would ask, ‘What is this power that we feel coming from you?’”

     I quickly changed the subject. “Whenever a Jew comes to you, you must send him or her away, just as it says in your religious book.”

     He doubted what I was saying, so I explained, “In the Bhagavad Gita there is the story of a man who was born into the warrior caste. His name was Ajuna.” 

   “Ajuna, yes” he agreed.

     “He was told by kishka (who is the particular “god” of this priest’s sect) that he had to follow his owndharma (“natural universal principles”). Ajuna’s caste family was going to war against his adoptive family, andAjuna threw down his bow, refusing to fight. Kishka told him that he had to fight in that war, even against his adoptive family, because he was born into a certain caste/tribe, and if that tribe went to war, then he had to join them in that war. He had to follow the ways of that tribe. Kishka told him that this is why he was born into that particular tribe, and in order to find his spiritual salvation, he had to follow that particular path. This was his dharma.”

    The Hindu priest agreed that this was a teaching of his religion.

     I went on, “Jews are born into a specific tribe for a good reason, too, and we must follow the ways of our tribe in order to succeed spiritually. This is our dharma. As a Hindu priest, you have to send away any Jew who comes to you. You must tell them to come here to Jerusalem, and to follow the ways of the Torah.”

     Will he listen to what I said? Had I told him to send the Jews away without giving him the reason that I did, I doubt that he would have sent anyone away. He thinks that his job is to gather souls, not to send them away. But since I was able to show him where his own religion teaches that he must send Jews away, I think that he definitely will tell them to seek their spiritual life in Torah, and not in Hinduism.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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Precognition–Things are Stranger Than They Seem

Modern science frequently gives the impression that “they know it all”.  This is taught to the level of being the religion of science, aka “we understand enough to know what’s possible or not, and G-d or other magic-ish stuff is simply not possible”.

And we believe it.  After all, cell phones work, televisions work, computers work, the lights turn on when we flip the switch…so clearly those scientists must know what they’re talking about.  Until they don’t.

Recently a scientist performed one of the strangest studies I’ve every heard of.  It went like this…

Memory tests always show that if a person studies a list of words and is tested an hour later on a long list that includes the words they studied, they will consistently do better on the test.

So this scientist said lets reverse the order to see if the FUTURE can affect the PRESENT (meaning people are “seeing” the future).

In his test he gave people a test of words.  Then an hour later he gave them a list of words to study that were included in the test.

His question – would the people being tested do better on the test for the words they would study IN THE FUTURE.

The answer – YES!

His study seems to show the ability of people to see or be affected by FUTURE events, which we would otherwise define as the ability to tell the future or REVERSE CAUSATION.

Now this doesn’t specifically define people as being psychic, it didn’t try to test claims of abilities to predict future events.  Rather, it tested people being affected by future events.  Which completely reverses the way we think the world works!

The scientist doing this has no idea why this would be, he just showed an effect.  Quantum mechanics has already somewhat demonstrated that the world is a whole lot stranger and has various not-understood effects than 20th century science believes.  And the belief that science “knows it all” has been a persistent mistake of science for the past 90 years.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

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An Angel Spoke To Me Today!

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

It was a really rushed day today. It is my laundry day – two loads of wash-and my day to wash the floors for Shabbos. I also had to go to the post office to mail out some books, go to a bris (circumcision), do the shopping for Shabbos, and teach two classes. I figured I would save some time and sayTehillim (Psalms) while I was waiting for the bris.

     I got half way through the Psalms that I am used to saying, and the bris started, so I put the sefer (book) down, thinking to finish when I returned to my apartment. As things usually go, I forgot, and ran through my day without finishing the Psalms.

     After helping with tefillin, --it was really busy-- I sat down to wait for maariv (evening prayers). There was an older, religious guy sitting close to me whom I have seen many times over the years, but we have never spoken, not one word.

    He looked over at me and said, “Do you read Psalms? Why don’t you read Psalms?”

    “I already said them today,” I told him. And then I remembered. I looked at him and said, “You are an angel sent from Hashem!” I quickly grabbed asefer Tehillim (book of Psalms) and finished the half that I had forgotten to say.

    It makes you feel so good when you see Hashem’s help in such a way.

    What is the real point of this story? G-d is always helping all of us to attain our holy goals. But if we do not pay attention, we will not even notice.

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Receiving Challenges

by Rabbi Nati @ The Mystical Paths Microbrewery

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

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On Deaf Ears

Guest Post by Reb Ari Waldman @ Mystical Paths

Yaakov Avinu worked faithfully for his father in law Lavan for twenty years.

At the end of this time Lavan and his sons are convinced that any wealth that Yaakov Avinu amassed really came from his robbing them! The pasuk says "And Yaakov heard the words of Lavan's sons who said that "Yaakov took all that was our fathers and from our father's possessions he became wealthy".

Afterwards it says "And Yaakov saw that Lavan's face wasn't the same as earlier days and Hashem said to Yaakov "go to your father's land and birthplace and I'll be with you".

The Chafetz Chaim (Al Hatorah) says that this tells us how to behave as a nation. When nations start slandering us and making us look like robbers like Lavan's sons did, we needn't react. We can hear our "shame" and not respond.

However, when their leaders show us their angry "faces", not like earlier days, we must seek refuge. As a nation, the best place of refuge is in the land of our fathers. Hashem instructed Yaakov Avinu to go there and that's what we must do!

Later, Yaakov is upset at Lavan for going through all of Yaakov's possessions and asks "How have I wronged you that you've chased after me and gone through all my possessions?" Lavan answers "The daughters are my daughters and the sons are my sons and everything you see is mine!" Lavan didn't answer Yaakov's question! But if you think about it his answer is astounding!!

"Yaakov my dear son in law you don't even (have a right to) exist as far as I'm concerned! Everything here is mine! Who are you anyway?!"All of Yaakov's words fell on deaf ears!!

Of course Yaakov knew the truth that all of Lavan's success was only because of Yaakov's gruelingly hard work! Even Yaakov's wealth was from a lot of hard work and Hashem evening out the score after Lavan cheated him over one hundred times!!

Hashem even told Yaakov so! But all that was lost on Lavan. He couldn't care less!! Yaakov was right telling Lavan "If it weren't for Hashem's assistance you would have sent me away penniless!

But Lavan thinks "What an ingrate! If anything, Yaakov should be grateful to me for providing him with employment after taking him in penniless!!" That's what it looks like in Lavan's eyes!!

What can we learn from this "dialog"?

The Chafetz Chaim says this is what the nations think of us in our exile! We work hard and with Hashem's help, bring benefit and livelihood to all the nations!

We may even make a living for ourselves if we're careful! But they, on the other hand, say "everything you see is mine"!

Whatever we say will fall on deaf ears!!

If you think about it The Chafetz Chaim was talking about Clal Yisrael in golus.

Now that we're in Eretz Yisrael you'd think it would be different!

But the nations still deny we have a right to exist and no matter what we say, it'll still fall on deaf ears!!

We must be grateful to the British, the gracious hosts that benevolently gave us this holy land!! They and the rest of the nations would love to see us disappear!! But we, like Yaakov received word from Hashem.

Parnassa and wealth didn't come from Lavan to Yaakov, it came from Hashem! Likewise, Eretz Yisrael is not a magnanimous gift from the nations for us to have a homeland after the war!

It's an eternal birthright given to us by Hashem! This is for us to know!

Don't even bother telling the nations.  It'll just fall on deaf ears!!

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Meet Two Gorgeous New Jews

image002by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Here are two more small signs that the Redemption is happening, and even speeding up a little. G-d wants Jewish babies. That’s part of the plan. And He wants, at least some of them, here in the Old City. How do I know?

image004Momma (don’t tell anyone) will be 50 on her upcoming birthday, and she has never had any children until these two lovely boys came into her life. As you see, Poppa is not a youngster either. But, G-d decided to bless these lovely people with two lovely responsibilities. And they are flying. Thank G-d.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

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Judgements

by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths Blog and Burger Bar

“Yaakov left from Beer Sheva to Charan.”  A person should know that when a Jew is ascending from one level to the next level that all of the klipot are going to spread out against him because he overcame his Yeitzer Horah on this level. He is attacked by ‘dimyonot’. These are an aspect of “Haron-Af” Divine wrath or Dinim. (Each level includes the seven middot or the seven revealed s’feriot .)

Yaakov is representation of all Jews. So when a Jew goes up from his level, all the klipot of this new level immediately come and surround him. And this is a aspect of divine judgment. Yaakov was on the holy level which is called Beer Sheva, the level in it’s completion with all seven sefiros.”Vyalech charana” and he encountered wrath. This is because he has to merit this new level so he has to begin to work on his new Yeitzer Horah,

These troubles are not Hashem forbid that he has fallen its just that he is a the beginning of the new level and he has to work all over again.

He should not assume he has fallen this is the dimyon to think he has failed he should pay no attention to it he has to stand strong and continues and not give up. He must be stubborn and stand on his post and not waiver.

Vayifgah b’Makom” Yaakov went to the place, to Hashem,”The Place of the world”. This is because he stood his ground and ignored the dimyon that wants to mislead him so he found Hashem as he strove to the next level.

We too will arrive at the Geula no matter what the klipot and the Dinim or judgments’ through at us. They do not want us to succeed in overcoming them. We must hit the place through the mida of Gevurah!

We must through Azus D’ Kedusha and grab hold of HASHEM ‘Ha Makom’ and not let go!

And what is this knowledge?

That the Dinim we just encountered are not because we fell but rather Hashem is bringing us to a new level.

He strikes us to cause us to stand up and take action. This is the only way we can grow spiritually and to move on in our Avodas Hashem.

We can not afford to fall into constricted consciousness.

At all cost as the pressure mounts we must make a stand and pray and hang on there seems to be no logical reason for us to continue. This is in fact the very reason to hold on this is the sure sign that we are so very close to the Geula now.

We can make it if we but stand and bear the suffering of this the darkest of time and hold on to the truth.

The Torah of Truth, the ‘Toras Emes’

Blessings,
Rabbi Nati

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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Be B’Simcha (farbrengen video)

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Torah, What’s Missing? (video)

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More on President Obama

Commentors on our previous article on (feeling strongly about Obama) added these strong thoughts…

Anonymous: The continuous bashing isn't a very mature response. And not very effective either. A waste of energy.

Dov bar Leib:  It is not a waste of energy to call someone who is evil evil. If we close our eyes to what he has already done, we will not be prepared for what he is going to do next.
Take a look at who his friends are. Look at who supported the Gaza flotilla. The group behind the Gaza flotilla that engaged in deadly clashes with Israeli commandoes on May 31st counts among its top activists Weather Underground terrorist founders William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn as well as Jodie Evans, the leader of the radical activist organization Code Pink.

Ayers and Dohrn were close associates for years with President Obama and fundraisers for his state senate campaigns, while Evans was a fundraiser and financial bundler for Obama’s presidential campaign.

His supporters also include Louis Farrakhan and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In short he has murderers and Jew-haters who are amongst his closest friends and supporters. Yet, Bill Ayers will never see the inside of a prison cell, and Bernadine Dohrn has served her measly seven months.

What matters more is that your President in America has no problem associating with people who murder innocents for their political causes. And he has no problem associating with Jew-haters. They are all one and the same to him, allies for his efforts to remove the oppression from the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. Yet, in the President's mind those who murder innocents for this cause are allies. In short he has a problem supporting Noachide Laws against murder in all circumstances where it is murder, and for establishing courts to put these murderers away forever. Halakhically he is an evil man.

He will yet do great harm to America internally and to Israel, the object of his obsessions. Yes, it is G-d's will, but we must call Obama what he is, EVIL. To be silent in the face of evil is to condemn yourself to its objectives.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

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Insult Obama?

The blog Emes ve-Emunah has noted that within the ultra-orthodox Jewish community it’s become normal to insult U.S. President Barak Obama.  He asks how can it be appropriate to insult the holder of a high office?  He says, “I can’t help but suspect that there is an element of racism here. I sense it… and if true it’s disgusting and a Chilul HaShem. Constantly bashing him in such vitriolic terms - even if it isn't becuase of racism borders on Chilul HaShem. And it ought to stop!”

Obama is free as president to create whatever prioritize and international directions he feels appropriate for his view of America.  That's his right and role as president.  And he's free to do so even if everyone disagrees with him...for 4 years at least. 

But, as a Jew in Israel I can say that his policies have directly empowered our enemies, caused direct damage to thousands of Jewish families throughout the Shomron, Yehuda, and greater Jerusalem areas.  Yeshivas have failed to be built, shuls have stopped being built, even building a sun cover over your patio is stopped...because of US foreign policy and pressure. 

Israel is politically weakened, the UN, the Arab League, and Hamas politically empowered due to the actions of the US administration.  And this directly translates into violent actions against Jews and Israelis.

Obama has dissed the Jewish community and empowered Muslim communities in America.  He's also empowered a lot of other "quiet" policies that seem aimed at hurting Jews and Israel in various ways.  Example - 400 IRS agents arrived in Israel to begin conducting mass audits of American Israeli tax returns.  One result of this is Bank Leumi in Israel is requiring all American Israeli customers to certify and prove they're filing their US taxes, and Bank HaPoalim (that's 2 of the 3 largest Israeli banks) is considering not accepting ANY American Israeli customers.  (as if they don't guarantee all their American customers aren't hiding any money they'll be restricted from doing financial transfers into and out of the US).  

Similarly such financial research missions were moved in America from focusing on terrorist supports and transfers to Pakistan and overseas terrorist organizations to Jewish charitable organizations that were educating poor Torah students in New York and in Israel.  While rabbis and rebbes shouldn’t be violating money transfer and money laundering laws, there’s a significant difference in moving money to a yeshiva in Brooklyn and Jerusalem versus moving the money to an Al Qaeda terrorist training base in Waziristan, Pakistan.

In the past two years we’ve seen a number of Jewish charity raising figures being led to prison, but suddenly the imans, sheiks, as well as Egyptian, Pakistani, and Palestinian banks don’t seem to be having any such problems.  Nor are they asking to certify their American-origin customers as the banks in Israel are.  (Granted the US also went after the banks in Switzerland, that was a straight matter of government fund raising.)

The President may be trying to rebalance what he's seen as an overly favorable relationship to an even handed relationship.  That's his right in is role as president.  And it's also his role to pressure any foreign power any way he wants.  It's not illegal or immoral.

But it's directly hurting many Jews and directly putting Jewish and Israeli lives at risk.  And when the president is directing government steps and policy changes that are directly hurting many Jews, it's no surprise that he would become a target of insults by the community. 

Hurting the Jews has never paid positive dividends for ANY country...always quite the opposite.  Further, hurting the Jews has ALWAYS hurt the economy of the acting country – an even more stupid thing to do given current US economic conditions.

The hearts of kings are in the hand of Hashem.  There is no question that these troubling times and the troubling actions of Obama are part of the Divine plan and will be for the best.  But while we give thanks and praise to Hashem, Obama doesn’t get our praise for volunteering to be the stick.

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Shepherding our Children, Or Not

One of the perennial odd stories that go around the Internet is a costume experience for a 5 year old boy in some part of the U.S.A.  Most young (non-Jewish) children dress up in costumes for the secularized celebration of Halloween at the end of the month of October.

This particular young boy decided he wanted a costume of his favorite cartoon character.  That character happens to be a slinky female semi-action character on the cartoon Scooby Doo.

So the big deal of this odd story was that this mother encouraged her son to go through with his desire and bought him the female-dress-costume of the character.

Why am I bothering with this shtuss?  The mother’s final statement of justification…

(The Mother: ) If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.

And all I hope for my kids, and yours…is that they are happy. If a set of purple sparkly tights and a velvety dress is what makes my baby happy one night, then so be it. If he wants to carry a purse, or marry a man, or paint fingernails with his best girlfriend, then O.K. My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person. I hope I am doing that.

And my little man worked that costume like no other. He rocked that wig, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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A generation of war led to a generation of tightly disciplined kids.  A generation of very tightly disciplined kids led to a counter-cultural rebellion of peace, love, and no discipline.

Now we’ve reached a generation of NO STANDARDS, where parents feel that merely defining what is NORMAL is WRONG.  But not to worry because we want him to be a GOOD PERSON, even if we can’t define what that is (because that would be defining normal, which is WRONG).

No discipline, you don’t have to work at it, no standards to keep things reasonable, moral, or headed in the right direction (just from past experience).  No absolutes for morality or what is right (or not).  Whatever we feel is “good” is good.  And if someone else doesn’t feel that way…well, what right do we have to impinge on their thinking?

Indeed, today the religious Jews are the counter-cultural revolutionaries.  With their standards and right and wrong business, with G-d and Torah and disciplines for life.  With being GOOD actually defined, helping others, giving charity, loving your neighbor.  With actual restrictions teaching one to control oneself and defining certain activities, foods, even certain speech as NOT GOOD.

Take a look where society is headed and make a choice.  Me, I’m going counter-cultural, I’m taking a stand.  And that itself makes one counter in this time.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

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What Can We Do To Bring The Cherished Revelation?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ The Mystical Software Development Center

    Someone just wrote me this question about the Revelation. I answered, “The Revelation comes when seeing G-d’s Presence is truly our greatest priority, and we greatly exert ourselves to help another Jew.”

    He wrote back, “Is altruism so essential that it leads to knowing Hashem?”

Answer:

     The egotistical person is worshiping an idol--himself. We learn this at Pesach (Passover) when we stress that ego is like gas. When gas is added to dough, it causes the dough to rise and to take on a bloated shape. This is not simply a moral condemnation. It is a physical and spiritual fact that exaggerated ego is simply bloated gas. This gas prevents us from seeing the Overall One, because it has us looking at our inflated selves. When we are looking at ourselves, obviously, we cannot see Him.

     When one stresses his own self-importance, he is pushing away any possibility of the spiritual awareness of G-d. After all, if G-d is the “I AM,” then who is this man who is saying, “I Am”?

     When we go out of our way, and even push ourselves, to help others, (especially Jews, because we are Jews), and especially spiritually, (because it is the spiritual result that we are seeking), we are denying the importance of the ego. When the other person is in the limelight, we focus on him. And if we try to help him, with no motive for anything in return, we are denying the ego its central place in our desires, and we elevate the other person.

     When we do this, we begin to do G-d’s work in the lower world, and when we “help” G-d, G-d helps us. The spiritual door opens only from the inside. Our deeds place us in front of that door, but it unlocks from the Higher to the lower.[i]

    But, even with all this effort, if we do not seek His Presence with all our heart, He will reward our kindnesses in other ways. He will send us other blessings, instead.

     There is only one way that you can possibly test these words of mine. Go out of your way every day to at least to look for a Jew you can help. Prepare yourself; learn how you can elevate that Jew. You may find yourself carrying your tefillin with you, or a Shabbos candle kit. You might find yourself printing up cards with the Shema on them, to hand out to Jews you never saw before.

     See what changes this brings to your life. I bet that you will have many more guests for dinner Friday night. I also bet that you will smile a lot more, too.


[i] Gemara Tamid 30b

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

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The View from Here

When I wrote my last article Is This It? this is the view I was seeing…

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P1020404

That’s the Jerusalem Spindle Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem, the neighborhood of Ramot seen through the bridge, and at the top of the hill through the bridge is Kever Shmuel HaNavi (the tomb of the biblical prophet Samuel)…

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Friday, November 05, 2010

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Defend This!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly made a point of saying about returning parts of Eretz Israel as any peace deal that one should (also) consult some defense experts – meaning military generals (not wavering politicians).  Why?

As anyone can see from the short video below, the answers are obvious.

Video: Two minutes on the layout of the Land of Israel.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

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Are The Commandments a Burden?

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Ezriel Strikes Again

Three Jews in the Service of Hashem

by Reb Gutman Locks at http://mpaths.com

Do you remember, “My Hero” Ezriel? Well, he’s at it again. In fact, he is getting pretty good at it. As often happens with humble people, he doesn’t even realize that he is getting better. After sunrise this morning, we were walking away from the Kotel and he asked me for chizuk. This means that he wanted me to say something to strengthen his spiritual life.

     He told me that yesterday (Thursday) he was at the Kotel for mincha (afternoon prayers) and he stopped by the tefillin stand to help out for a little while. An Israeli walked by and Ezriel tried to help him. He refused. Ezriel said, “It doesn’t hurt at all. Com’on it’s good.” The Israeli rejected him outright. Israelis are notorious for acting stubborn even when they are not.

     But then, on his way out, the Israeli walked over to Ezriel and put his arm out motioning for him to help him with tefillin. It happens sometimes that a Jew will refuse to put on tefillin, but then after he goes to the Kotel and prays a little, he realizes that the very One Who he is asking for help is the very One Who told us to put on tefillin.

     But the Israeli didn’t really cooperate. He just held his arm out as if he was totally indifferent to the entire thing. Ezriel gave him the Shema to read and left him alone. A few minutes later, the indifferent Israeli came back to return the tefillin. There were tears running down his cheeks.

     I said to Ezriel, “Helping isn’t the hard part. It’s not hard to help someone. The hard part is wanting to help, and then actually doing something about it. The difficult thing is to see that the other person really needs help, and then opening your heart so you will want to help him.” I pointed back at the several hundred men who were still davening (praying) at the Kotel and said, “Ninety-five percent, no ninety-eight percent of all these Jews do not feel enough to reach out and actually help, but you do.”

    Needless to say, Ezriel was strengthened. By the way, do you know what the name Ezriel means? It means, “G-d’s help.”

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

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It’s the Jooos, DUCK!

  • The new Iraqi government reconfirmed the position of the former dictator Saddam Hussein that Israel is an enemy.
  • The Turkish government redefined their relationship with Israel from friendly to neutral to…an enemy and the number one threat to Turkey.
  • The (Catholic) Vatican Synod declared the Jews have no right to the holy land Israel and that the Jews are the main reason for the decrease of Xian populations throughout the Middle East.

…Islamic terrorists slaughtered a Catholic church full of worshippers in Iraq after failing in their negotiations for the “release of Muslim women held by the Xian Copts of Egypt”. 

…Islamic terrorists slaughtered a wide swath of Shite muslims with a series of coordinated bombings throughout Iraq.

…Unknown but presumably Islamic terrorists slaughtered over 22 people including 8 children in the Turkish capital with a suicide bombing in Turkey.

Seems to me every time anyone says “It’s the JOOOS”, it’s time to Duck and Cover!

Side Story -  The terrorists in Iraq demanding “the release of Muslim women held by the Xian Copts of Egypt”?  Now that’s too weird not to research a little more…

Two wives of Xian Copt priests [who knew Xian Copt priests could marry?] disappeared from their husbands and community for a few days.  After massive protests by the Copt community they were “returned” by Egyptian police to quell the public disturbances.

Later (much later) a video of one of them repeating the conversion phrase to Islam were released on the Internet (which may be authentic or may be people of similar appearance – the sides dispute this point).  Not that they might have been threatened or tortured or anything, of course not {though some articles note it’s not unknown for a Copt women to convert to Islam to escape a bad marriage that the Church won’t release}.  So the Copt community shipped them out of town to monasteries somewhere, and now the Islamists are demanding the return of the wives of the Copt priests who according to Islam are now Islamic.)  The wives have subsequently gone on the news saying it’s not them, it’s not so, and they were never interested in or converted to Israel.

But the Muslims of Egypt have it it figured out…it’s the JOOOS!!!!!

Al-Jezeerah TV Channel on September 15 - the Islamist and ex-secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Dr. Selim Al-Awah, accused the (Coptic) Pope of running "a State within the Egyptian State" and the church of having its own militia and of hiding weapons and ammunition obtained from Israel in monasteries and churches, preparing for a war "against the Muslims," to divide Egypt and establish a so-called Coptic State…

(Egyptian) Salafi Sheikh Wagdy Ghoneim openly attacked the (Coptic) Pope, alleging the presence of weapons in monasteries and the Copts for fighting against the application of Sharia law in Egypt, calling on them to leave if they do not like it. He also attacked the Copts in the diaspora for siding with the Jews in the flotilla incident and for believing that should anything happen, the United States will come to save the Copts. He said "I swear by God, you will not have time stay alive until America and the West arrive, this is for your own good, if you understand. Do you think the Muslims inside Egypt will say thank you and may Allah give you health? No, by God."

See, it’s the JOOOS!!!

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