Monday, February 28, 2011

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Right, Left, Right…Or is it the Other Way Around?


by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     When you put on your shoes, or take them off, which one do you start with, and what difference does it make? It can drive you nuts when you have to stop and think which side goes first. Why would the rabbis set up such a seemingly meaningless rule?

    In the Torah, and even the English speaking secular world, “right” can mean a particular side, or it can mean, “correct,” depending upon the context. The English word “left” can either refer to a side, or it can refer to the discarded, the forsaken.

    The right side of a person is generally stronger than the left. The vast majority of people are right-handed, some 92 percent. So we can see where “right” gets its meaning.

    But what does any of this have to do with me taking off my shoes?

    The Torah is trying to instill a wonderful, ongoing, general principle:[i] When you move toward the positive, start with your stronger side, your right side. When you move away from the positive, move away reluctantly, with a weaker step first, your left side first.

    Release the good in you first. Untie your right shoe first. Discard your weaker aspects first. Take off your left shoe first. Move toward the good with a strong step. When beginning to daven (pray) move forward with your right foot first. When moving away from the positive, move away reluctantly. When finished davening, step back with your left foot first. Bind your left side first, tie your left shoe first.

     Giving charity? Give with your right hand. Taking off your socks? Take the left one off first.

    Does any of this change your spiritual life? Like all things in the Torah, when you stop and think about what you are doing, when you recall what the teaching is, then even seemingly meaningless things are frequent reminders of how to live your life. Be reminded: Move toward the good with strength. Leave the good reluctantly. Give with strength. Release the good first. Bind the weaker first.

    Like all things in the Torah, the order of putting on and taking off shoes is just a hint to the ordering of the soul.

[i] Left-handed people must check the law for each of these.


Is Prenatal Yoga Kosher?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We’ve written over 30 articles here at Mystical Paths on yoga and programs describing themselves as kosher yoga – and why it’s almost impossible for any yoga program to be “kosher”.

Here we get a new twist on our standard question.  A reader wrote…


woman_doing_yoga2I very much appreciate your repeated posts about yoga on Mystical Paths. However, I am saddened to say that basically every Orthodox Jew I've spoken to about it here in (major Orthodox Jewish area) has outright refused everything you’ve been posting despite my remarks to the contrary! Much more work needs to be done.

Now, a personal question. B'H k’h (hush hush) I am expecting and have been looking for an exercise program to help my back, which is already hurting and sore early on in the pregnancy. So far I have searched multiple directories and spoken to multiple people, and no one seems to know about any prenatal exercise ANYTHING in (major Orthodox Jewish area) besides the infamous (female religious teacher’s) YOGA classes, which come highly recommended by very frum (Orthodox Jewish religious) friends of mine. I spoke to her tonight, and she says she does use basic yoga postures (she mentioned the cat and some others I didn’t catch), that yoga is good for the entire body (digestive system, thyroid, etc.) and that breathing and mind-focus are part of the classes, but “of course everything is Torah-based.” She insists that she has consulted with many Rabbonim here in (major Orthodox Jewish area) and elsewhere over her 35 years of teaching yoga, she is Chassidish, and everyone who comes to the classes are “Heimishe women.” She exclaimed: “You have nothing to worry about!!!”

I would never think twice except for your articles, and I AM worried. Do you happen to have done any research about her classes, and please forgive me, if they really are divorced enough from real yoga to be “kosher”?

Otherwise, I have put some feelers out for very expensive private pilates classes, but this is all I have found so far as any alternative that is comfortable for me, and my doctor is worried I might be in the hands of someone without the proper prenatal experience to know what is safe and not.

Can it possibly be that the only alternative for a pregnant Orthodox woman needing specific strengthening exercises in (major Orthodox Jewish area) is YOGA? Do you know of any other leads? I'm truly desperate.

Thank you again for your time both for my question, and working to clarify this important issue! Like I said, if not for these articles, I wouldn’t have even thought twice.


Mazel Tov!  Hashem should bless you with an easy pregnancy and easy delivery of a healthy child!

I haven't researched many yoga programs in different areas, only a few specific ones that readers have focused us upon.  I tried to get some information about the one you mentioned and wasn't able to find anything useful.

However, I want to respond to a few things you wrote to add some perspective...

In kashrut we have the halachic concept of bitul b'shishim, nullified in a 60 to 1 volume.  Meaning if a kashrus problem is found or a mistake made, if the volume is small versus the primary then it's still kosher.  Example, if a person accidentally dripped 1 drop of milk into their pot of chicken's kosher.

Similarly we have a concept of bidi'eved, after the fact.  Some things are not permitted if they were done that way intentionally, but if they're found after the fact and were unplanned they're still allowed.  This applies to kashrus (if you intended to drip that drop of milk it doesn't matter it's less than 1/60th, but after the fact by accident it's ok) and other matters (such as a kohein who marries a divorcee, it's not permitted and the rav can't perform such a marriage - but if it's discovered after the fact the marriage remains in force).

Now we live in a time of hiddurim, additional stringencies added to most mitzvot (particularly kashrus).  Even though we have bitul b'shishim and bidi'eved, few nowadays would eat a chicken that's kosher bidi'eved (meaning a kashrus problem was found but it's ok after the fact) or put up mezuzot that are kosher bidi'eved.  Instead we have chickens that are kosher, mehadrin, mehadrin min hamehadrin, and have a long series of extra stringencies applied.  Similarly our mezuzot are carefully written, checked by a scribe afterwards, then checked by a computer afterwards and re-reviewed (from the computer report) by a scribe again - and the least questionable things fixed (none of which is required k'halacha, all are extra stringencies we've incorporated into religious practice to make sure we're doing it exactly right).

After all that preliminary if I came to your home and said to you "eat this chicken, it's from a chassidish guy that's been selling chickens for 35 years, and everyone who buys from him is heimish", would you eat it?  Or would you ask to verify the hashgacha?

Bitul b'shishim, nullified by 60 times it's amount, does NOT apply on Passover to chametz.  If you were walking in an orthodox section of town and found a store over Passover selling big fluffy looking cakes (the type you don't normally see on Passover) and the store had lots of frum women in it, would you just walk in and buy?  Or would you looked for a teudat kashrut (a kosher certification) kosher for passover?  Or would you avoid it completely because it just doesn't look right, and when things don't look right they often aren't right?  (Like if you found someone selling kosher l'mehadrin chickens for $1.00 per pound when it's regularly $5.00 per pound, would you say what a great deal or would you say 'this is too unusual and there must be some problem'?)

The arguments you presented were "lots of heimish women do it" and "the person selling it says rabbonim have said it's fine".  If it was kosher food, in which (some) mistakes are permitted after the fact and small errors can be nullified, you wouldn't consider it for a second!  You wouldn't buy because "someone says it's kosher", you'd demand proof!

There is no bitul b'shishim or bidi'eved for avodah zarah. 

I feel for your discomfort and am certain the teacher has developed a program that works (otherwise she wouldn't come so recommended).  There is nothing wrong with good exercises nor with stretching exercises.  And it may be that yoga modeled breathing patterns provide positive benefits for labor.  But it does not sound like the teacher has actual haskamot (letters of rabbinic approval), otherwise she would have offered to show you (as opposed to saying "don't worry").

I don't know of pregnant exercise options in (your major Jewish orthodox area).  I did a quick google and found a few links but can't speak for the quality or appropriateness.

As for your question "can it possibly be", the yetzer hara (evil inclination) doesn't come to the frum community and say "eat treif".  It has to come in sideways, otherwise we'd recognize it and reject it straight out.

We’ve repeatedly shown that yoga has a foundation in and basic beliefs of Hinduism.  The original yoga positions are Hindu worship positions and are maintained in most programs (though the Hindu names may be removed).  The breathing patterns are intended to bring a Hindu oriented meditative states.  And the meditative focuses are Hindu oriented meditations. 

So even when such programs are called “kosher” and the teachers say that the Hindu aspects have been removed, they usually still include positions that are associated with idol worship and are designed to move bodily energy to achieve Hindu spiritual-religious goals, breathing patterns intended to facilitate those energy movements and bring ones mind in tune with those Hindu body spiritual-religious goals, and though the meditations may be completely stripped of Hindu terms or meaning, the types of meditations (even if replaced with Jewish or Hebrew terminology or words from the Torah) are again aligned to bring together the body – energy – mind focus to achieve Hindu spiritual goals through Hindu style energy alignment.

And Hindu goals and approaches are simply not compatible with Jewish Torah goals and approaches and are clearly defined as avodah zarah by Judaism.

It’s worth noting that every Hindu priest (called a guru) learns yoga as an integral part of his (or her) religious training. 

We can’t speak for every yoga program that calls itself kosher, nor is there anything specifically wrong with stretching exercises or patterned breathing.  But the specific combined techniques known as yoga are designed and practiced with specific spiritual-religious goals in mind – ones that are foreign to and incompatible with Judaism. 

( Note in the picture attached to this article, the woman’s hand and finger positions are specifically in a Hindu religious spiritual energy control position.  It’s very likely she doesn’t know this and her teacher may not even know this as most American and Western yoga programs have been stripped of the intent.  But this position has a specific “feeling effect”, energy affect, and avodah zarah religious meaning and is absolutely prohibited for a religious Jew. )


Sunday, February 27, 2011

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What Is The Difference?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


image003 (18)     What is the difference between the thought and the thinker? When you think about this, you will experience your thoughts. They appear in your head, as if in front of your seat of awareness. Did I lose you already? Are you able to follow?

     Look at it this way. Obviously, you are not your thoughts. You are the one who is thinking those thoughts. The thoughts, as subtle as they are, are much more “concrete” than the thinker. So, start with the thoughts. Try to watch a thought. See it, or feel it, or do whatever you do with your thoughts. Try to locate it in your head. Can you do that?

     Now that you can identify the thought, try to see where the thinker of that thought is located. Any luck? Do it a few times. Identify the thought, and then try to look for the thinker. Of course, one of the problems is that the tool that you use to locate the thinker is just another thought, but that’s okay. Keep trying to recognize the difference between the thought and the thinker.

     If you were able to follow that explanation, then the next one will be easy.

     What is the difference between you and your body? Obviously, the body is the physical structure that you walk around in. It has many exact physically-defined characteristics. But are you your body? Or, is the body merely a physical vehicle that you have been given in order to accomplish a certain spiritual task?

    Think about these ideas. These are not meaningless mental exercises. The vast majority of human beings never once consider their spiritual nature. They end up living their entire lives entirely in the physical realm. This is how an animal lives. An animal thinks that the purpose of life is entirely physical. Its goals are all physical. When life is believed to be solely physical, then success is measured by what you have taken.

     The more time you spend searching for your spiritual being, the sooner you will realize your true nature. Then, you will set about trying to accomplish your spiritual goal.


Friday, February 25, 2011

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Prophecies of Arab Downfall

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

How can we understand the prophecies from the distant past?  They are written in a style we no longer speak (even if we understand the Hebrew) using expressions we no longer grasp.  They refer to places from distant history that we barely recognize, sometimes indirectly by founder names or tribal names making it even harder to identify.

Yet our mesorah and our holy sages of distant generations carefully preserved these prophecies for the future.  Some where fulfilled with the fall of the first Beis HaMikdash (holy Jewish temple in Jerusalem), others with the rebuilding of the second Beis HaMikdash, and still others with it’s ultimate fall.

But others waited from those distant times (over 2,300 years ago) until a future of the return of Israel and the ultimate coming of Moshiach.

Do some of them apply RIGHT NOW?

(This analysis is a bit off the cuff and written while I’ve been ill.  It’s not complete or thorough, but I’m putting it out as it’s timely.)

Yishayahu 19…

1 - The harsh prophecy of Egypt…
2 - I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they shall war one man against his brother, and a man against his friend, a city against a city and a province against a province…
17 - And the land of Judah shall be to Egypt for a dread; anyone who mentions it to him, he will dread, because of the plan of the Lord of Hosts, which He is planting against him.

There are more details and they are not all fulfilled, but Egyptians are fighting Egyptians, protests continue after the leader was deposed.  And both sides raise the specter of Israel as the secret source of their troubles.

Yishayahu 21…

1 – A prophecy about Babylon.  The enemy comes like a desert storm…
9 - “Babylon (Iraq) has fallen, yea, it has fallen, and all its graven idols he has dashed to the earth."…
11 - The harsh prophecy of Dumah (Saudia Arabia): To me one calls from Seir (Jordan)…
13 - The harsh prophecy concerning Arabia…"In another year, like the days of a hireling, all the glory of Kedar shall terminate. And the rest of the number of the bows of the heroes of the children of Kedar shall decrease, for the Lord, the God of Israel has spoken."

Iraq has fallen in the near past, Jordan heard the call and took early actions of stability, Saudi Arabia is under pressure and is now trying to buy off their citizens.  That should hold them for a year.

Yishayahu 23

1 - The harsh prophecy concerning Tyre (Lebanon): Wail, ye ships of Tarshish, for it has been pillaged from within, from coming; from the land of the Kittim he appeared to them…
13- Behold the land of the Chaldees, a people that has ceased to exist; Assyria (Syria) made it a home for wild beasts and raised siege towers against it, destroyed its palaces, made it for a ruin.
14 - Wail, O ships of Tarshish for your stronghold has been spoiled.

Lebanon, to be destroyed from within by Hezbollah and pillaged by Syria for 70 years.  How long has it been going on already?  Time for another round.

Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and others unidentifiable by name (the nobles of Zoan, the land of Tema, Kedar, Elam, Kir).

But it ends with…

Yishayahu 24

14 – They (the Jewish people) will lift up their voices, singing of G-d’s majesty and rejoicing from the west… the name of G-d, the Lord of Israel, in the isles of the sea.

The west, the U.S., and the Isles of the Sea, Great Britain.  The Jewish people return from the west and the isles of the sea.

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Yerusha - Inheritance

by Rabbi Nati…

I received the following request, and it’s certainly a worthy one…

Rabbi Nati,

I've created a new website called for Jewish women and men past normal child-bearing age, who believe they may never have children, either biologically or by adoption. I started the site as a way to bring these Jews together, both online and in the real world, to explore the meaning and experience of being childless Jewish adults.

As a childless Jew myself, I know that some childless Jews feel ashamed because they haven't "stepped up to the plate." I want Yerusha to be a resource for these Jews, a place where they can go beyond dwelling on their childlessness and discover the inheritance ("yerusha" in Hebrew) they could leave to the Jewish people.

The website features a section on relevant Jewish teachings, a list of role models who left something to the Jewish people despite their childlessness, possible steps to take in exploring what it means to be childless, and a forum where people can share their own stories.

I hope that visitors to the site will be encouraged to start local groups, or that an umbrella group may want to take on Yerusha as its project.

If you think it's appropriate, could you mention on the Mystical Paths blog?


Yes we can.  Good Shabbos and may everyone be abundantly blessed by Hashem.

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Green and Flowerly

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel is a semi-arid country with seasonal rains.  This means it doesn’t rain most of the year while being hot and dry, and all the rain for the year arrives in 3 months during winter.

The local plants are adapted to this pattern.  When the rains start there is a burst of rapid plant growth, with green and flowers popping up everywhere.

Hanot - 1,500 year old ruins and terracing in the Judean hills bursts with green.

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Rakefet – a pink-ish wildflower of Israel. 

2011-02-23 004

A poppy among the thorns.  Israeli children are taught never to pick wildflowers – preserving their lifecycle to seed and grow every year.  This year with good rains near the end of the season, the poppies are popping everywhere.

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Poppy in the sunlight. 

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Israel, beauty to be found if you look for it.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When a Woman Puts On Tefillin

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (17)(Photo – 19th Century Yemminite Jewish Man)

When a woman puts on tefillin, or wears a yalmulka (a man’s head covering) or tzitzit (a man’s fringed garment), her spiritual life becomes confused.

     I am not addressing the aggressive Jewish women who wear these objects just to show men that they cannot be told what to do.

     Here, I am addressing the sincere, but confused, Jewish woman who looks over at the men’s side of the synagogue, and sees men davening (praying) with tallises (prayer shawls) and tefillin, and thinks, “That looks so uplifting. I would like to increase my spiritual awareness, too.” So, she secretly takes her father’s or her brother’s tefillin and quietly wraps them on her arm. What happens to her?

     When a woman tries to fulfill herself with a man’s spiritual role, if she is “successful” she will pull herself away from the particular role that she was created to fulfill.

     Jewish men have certain needs that Jewish women do not have. For instance, a male can very easily become extremely excited just through his imagination. A woman requires more physicality. This is not merely a physical or an emotional characteristic since the physical and emotional reflect the spiritual.

     Women want to be wanted. This is a strong part of their makeup. Men do not particularly want to be wanted. Men WANT!

     Men are more competitive and aggressive by nature, so learning Gemora (Talmud) engages these characteristics. Competition and aggression are not primary needs for a woman.

     Given these differences, among many others, each gender has been given spiritual solutions to satisfy his or her needs.

     Tefillin do elevate the soul. So how does a woman receive this essential spiritual elevation? She receives it from her husband, and from her sons, when they put on their tefillin.

     A Jewish marriage is not two equal partners coming together to form a balanced partnership. A Jewish marriage is two halves coming together to form a single one. Each contributes his or her share, according to their nature and abilities so the whole will excel.

     It would not be unusual for a woman who excels in learning Gemora, and loves to put on tefillin, to want to forgo the bother of having children, because children would take her away from the spiritual things that she loves to do. Where would this leave the Jewish people? Not to mention those souls who are waiting to come into life through that Jewish woman.


Computer Repair and Information Sharing

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

(A little off topic from our regular articles.)

As her bat mitzvah arrived, my daughter requested a laptop as a present. Being technology oriented, it seemed a nice option and I acquired an average home oriented HP laptop for her.  Though treated well, two years later it suffered a series of failures rendering it irreparable.

l305dBeing a teenager who’s life now depended on electronic social contact with her friends she saved some money to purchase a replacement, which she did while in the U.S. visiting family (computer equipment being about 35% cheaper there).  The question we researched before she left was what brand has a reasonable reputation for quality and reliability for their lower end laptops?   She found some nice deals on Toshiba laptops and their reputation was good (as opposed to HP which had many complaints about odd failures and manufacturing defects) and purchased a Toshiba Satellite L305D.

She was very happy with her new laptop and treated it even more carefully given the failure of the previous one.  And then it happened.  “Ta, my laptop crashed with a blue screen.”  It restarted, I ran some diagnostics and checked the system log – seemed ok.  But I’ve had some problems with laptop fans and heat sinks clogging (Israel is dusty) so I installed a temperature sensor program to auto-shutdown the laptop if it gets to hot.

The laptop ran hot and shutdown.  I set it to run the fan all the time and planned to clean it.  Then it shutdown again and wouldn’t reboot, disk failure.

Hard drives do fail, they are moving parts and have about a 5 year life span.  For one to die in 1.5 years is unusual but does happen, but running a laptop hot will definitely cause an early death for the hard drive.

So how do you clean a laptop’s fan and heat sink?  A few companies have panels on the bottom of the laptop that come off over the fan, giving access for cleaning.  Unfortunately Toshiba is not one of them.  Which means……ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…complete laptop disassembly.

I’ve work on computers now and then.  Box computers are relatively easy to work with, a few screws and connect a wire or two and parts come in and out.  But working on laptops is like taking apart and putting back together a watch…little tiny pieces squeezed together with tiny screws and exact fits.  I’ve replaced a cracked laptop screen before, it’s not easy.

2011-01-31 Devorah fixes computer 001This became a father – daughter project.  Help from a hardware website provided some much needed step by step instructions.  Take off bottom panels and screws, pop out top cover panel, remove screws, pop out keyboard, remove more screws, take off top cover…..ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. can’t access the fan from the top (almost but not quite).  Remove 12 connecting wires and more screws and remove motherboard.   OH MY GOSH, 40 screws, 30 wires, 10 panels and it’s out!  (How in the world are we going to get this thing back together???)

We cleaned the heat sink and the fan.  Strange, it’s not really clogged.  Slowly and carefully put it back together (where do those 2 long silver screws go?  Not sure, we’ll leave them aside.)  Put in a new hard disk.  Reinstall Windows.  Download the temperature program…IT’S STILL OVERHEATING!!!

Shutdown, take it apart, make sure the air path is clear.  It is.  Put it back together, it’s overheating.

Check fan speed, fan is running at normal speed.  That leaves the heat sink contact with the CPU.  Either it’s loose or needs more heat transfer grease… it’s not loose.  Off to the computer store for some heat grease.

We carefully remove the heat transfer sink from the CPU.  The heat grease from the manufacturer has solidified and is peeling off!  This is a manufacturing defect, poor quality heat grease (a $3 manufacturing cost that they probably only spent $2 on) that couldn’t stand up to the temperatures of a laptop CPU (they run hotter than desktops).

We clean off the old grease and apply the new grease.  Reassemble…reassemble…reassemble.  Turn on laptop…boot… blue screen of death, fatal error C000021a.  AHHHHHH.  Did we miss a wire, misplace a screw, not properly apply the grease or heat transfer sync?

We partially disassemble, check all the wires, remove them all, replace them all, reassemble.  Same failure.

Do it again.  Remove the hard drive and re-attach (maybe it was loose).  Remove the memory and reattach (maybe it was loose).  Reassemble.  Same failure!

Ok, maybe Windows was damaged.  Reinstall Windows, it’s running fine.  Load lots of updates and drivers…reboot.  SAME FAILURE!  AHHHHHHH.

My daughter is in tears.  This isn’t the story of a day, this is 2 weeks of constant effort.  We try, it looks like it will work and then fails.  We try again, same result.  And again, and again.

We’re about to throw it out.  What did we do wrong?

Finally I get the smart idea of googling the problem.  What do I find?

“Toshiba L305D, 2 manufacturing defects – overheating problems due to heat grease failures and won’t run Windows 7 64-bit without crashing (with a C000021a) due to a BIOS bug.  Update BIOS to install Windows 7 64-bit.”

I update the BIOS…it works! It works! HAHAHAHA, it works!

(Now what do I do with these 4 left-over screws?)

Lessons learned -

1. Google before you buy for hidden defects.

2. Google when the problem occurs for insight.  The wisdom of combined experience can (in technical areas like this) save many hours of pain.

3. Manufacturers (even supposed good ones) are getting really cheap and making small quality mistakes that are costing us big time later.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Three Ways of Righteousness

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001 (5)Those of you who read my book, Coming Back to Earth, might recall the time when the neighboring Arabs charged a group of Jews, wielding pool cues as clubs. I heard the noise from my window and ran outside to help. I ended up with my hand in a cast.

     Like all things, the cast gave me a unique opportunity to learn something. When I went to the Kotel, three outstanding men asked me the obvious question, “What happened?” When they heard my answer, each of them reacted in an entirely different way.

    Of course, what I am writing here is a generalization. I am not implying that it is an across the board, absolute description of these three kinds of Jews. But still, we can see how each path leads its followers.

     The first to ask was a rabbi who typified the Litvak, (Lithuanian), yeshivish (yeshiva) type lifestyle. This generally means anAshkenazi (European Jew) who spends most of his time involved in the intellectual, analytical aspects of learning, and living, Torah.

     It went like this; the Litvak rabbi saw me and asked, “What happened?”

     I answered, “Oh, the Arabs broke my thumb with a club.”

     He looked at me and most sincerely said, “May Hashem heal you completely.”

     I said, “Thank you.”

     Next, a Sephardi rabbi came up to me. Sephardim generally exemplify the emotional side of life, much more than the intellectual aspects.

     It went like this; He asked, “What happened?”

     I answered, “Oh, the Arabs broke my thumb with a club.”

     He looked at me, and with a genuine look of compassion, he put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me toward him. He was sincerely trying to comfort me. As he hugged me, he said, “Aw!”

     I looked at him with a big smile on my face.

     Next, a Chassidic rabbi came up. Chassidim usually dwell in the more mystical, reaching out to G-d aspects of Torah. It went like this; “What happened?”

     I answered, “Oh, the Arabs broke my thumb with a club.”

     A truly painful expression came over his face. He winced and cried out, “Ow! Oye! Hashem heal you.” He seemed to be in actual pain.

     I looked at him, and I remembered some of the other great Chassidim I have met.

     These three men were all righteous Jews. No one would dare say that one of them was more righteous than the next. None of them stopped and thought, “How should I react to Gutman’s answer?” They reacted automatically, as a product of their learning. Each reaction typified that particular derech Hashem (way of knowing G-d).

     We all study the same books, but each school of thought stresses a different perspective -- the intellectual-- the emotional-- and the Chassidic.


I Am Responsible for the Revolutions.

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths Blog and World Domination Headquarters

Years ago I visited a family member in Memphis, Tennessee (USA).  (For those who don’t know the U.S., Memphis is part of what is known as the “deep South”, and is known for Xian fundamentalism, country music and blues music, and in the past racial discrimination.)  Memphis has a large strong Jewish orthodox community with a very large and rather wealthy synagogue known as the Baron Hirsch Synagogue.

At the time of my visit the rabbi was Rabbi Raphael Grossman, an older well learned rabbi with a very strong personality and opinions.

Not to far from the synagogue was a Southern Baptist Theological College, a place for training future religious leaders of their type of Xianity.  As part of their training they would make a yearly visit to the Baron Hirsch Synagogue to view a Shabbos service.  This was not an arranged or coordinated thing, rather a group of minister students and their teacher would discretely arrive, put on some publically available yamulkas, and sit in the back of the large Shabbos sanctuary (with seating for around 500 they were not bothersome or particularly noticeable).

shul_top_picThe rabbi’s drasha (sermon) came along, he was standing on the raised dais looking out over the congregation.  As he looked to the back he saw the group of young men and their teacher and recognized who they were and where they were from.  He raised his arms wide in a cross position, looked to the back and said loudly “I admit it, I killed him!” and then went into a drasha on the halachot (religious laws from the Torah) of recognizing a false prophet and dealing with him (see Deuteronomy 13:1).

In line with Rabbi Grossman’s admission from the past I would like to make one today.  I admit it, I am responsible for the revolutions going on throughout the Arab world.  Me personally, a Jew living in Israel, Reb Akiva of the Mystical Paths blog.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m having a personal moment of megalomania, so let me tell you how I know that I am personally responsible…

This past week I, Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths, drove to a Jewish town in the West Bank and saw a doctor there.  AND bought a pizza.

There you have it.  As the United Nations pointed out yesterday and the United States ambassador CONFIRMED in her “after vote statement” on the Security Council vote – Jews being present in the West Bank are SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY responsible for all ills of all Arabs everywhere. 

Let me provide further proof…

During the Egyptian revolution the people were calling all workers and agents of the government and regime Jews.  And the government controlled media and government spokespeople were calling the people Jews.  I’m a Jew – there you have it.

Not enough for you?  Here’s more…

During the current Libyan revolution the government and state controlled media are calling the people and those trying to make revolution ‘zionist agents’.  And the people are reporting that jets and heavy attack equipment are marked with Israeli and Jewish symbols.  I choose to move to Israel as a Jew, making me a zionist – there you have it.

Clearly you’re starting to understand my pattern of influence.  Let me really spell it out for you…

Bahrain is the Middle East banking center.  They’ve been growing their percentage of world banking assets for the past decade and have become a serious business threat to traditional banking centers around the world.  Everyone knows the Jews control world banking and I have a bank account in a Jewish owned bank.  Now there’s revolution in Bahrain.  Who would benefit from revolution in Bahrain?  Banks outside of Bahrain of course, which the Jews control (of course), and as a Jew with money in a Jewish owned bank – there you have it.

So believe it.  When the United Nations and the United States both state clearly that Jews being in the Middle East (or Africa, or Asia, or Europe…or Planet Earth?) are the problem and 100% of the United Nations time and Security Council time are taken up by whether a Jew buys a pizza in the West Bank and not with revolutions and the slaughter of innocents in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, or Iran…now you know…they’re right.


Sunday, February 20, 2011


So, What Do You Say to Him?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (16)A non-Jewish man from Latin America came to the Kotel yesterday with his son. He told me that his wife was Jewish. I told the boy that since his mother was Jewish, he too was Jewish. And since he is a Jew, when he grew up, he had to marry only a Jewish girl. I explained how we are a people and not a religion, but he was so young that it did not seem to make an impression on him, especially since he loved his father, and his father was not Jewish.

     I asked his father what the boy’s Hebrew name was. He had forgotten it. I told the father to be sure that the boy received Jewish education. “He has a beautiful heritage, and you do not want him to lose it,” I told him.

     They walked away. A few minutes later they returned. He had asked his wife, and she told him that the boy’s Hebrew name was Zvi. I felt that I really didn’t get to the little boy, so I tried one last thing.

    I said, “Zvi, be smart like your father, marry a Jewish girl!” He smiled broadly. I think I got him that time. ;~)


Just a Few Quick Photos of the Holy Land

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I’m one of those kind of people that usually goes around with a camera handy.  This way if a site or scene strikes me as photo worthy, I’m ready with a reasonable ability to capture it.

For the past few weeks I’ve been home sick and only getting out for doctor visits and similar events, so when I’ve caught a sight all I’ve had available has been my cell phone.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality – though it’s still no comparison to a decent pocket camera.

Winter Moonrise and Sunset in Beitar Illit and Little Boy – West Bank (Yehuda), Israel


This one came out a bit blurry due to the fading light versus a cell phone lens size, but the bright color contrasts are cool.

Supermarket with Chassidic Shopper – Beitar Illit, West Bank (Yehuda), Israel


Between Lod and Tel Aviv and next to Ben Gurion Airport is Kfar Chabad (Chabad Village).  It’s a farming and chassidic enclave between two cities. 

Neighborhood Field Greens Up with Donkey – Kfar Chabad, Central Israel


This one’s a bit blurry and requires some explanation.  Beitar Illit is an ultra-orthodox town in the West Bank – Yehuda section of Israel.  We can assume normally the women of the family do the grocery shopping while the men are working or learning Torah, and this grocery store is a bit narrow and crowded.  So they’ve instituted a “Men’s Only Check out Line” to prevent men who need to shop from getting squeezed into a crowd of women.

Protect The Men at the Grocery Store – Rami Levi Supermarket Checkout Line, Beitar Illit, West Bank (Yehuda), Israel

The sign says, “Checkout 1 – Men Only, Please Observe This (Community) Regulation”.  Note the chassidic man (black hat, beard) in the line has his wife standing next to him, so much for that. 



Thursday, February 17, 2011


You Don’t Have To Be Able To Walk To Do It

by Reb Gutman Locks @ mystical paths

image003 (15)Boys from the American “Camp Simcha” came to the Kotel yesterday for their “Wish at the Wall” trip. All of the campers were wheelchair-bound, religious Jewish boys. They stopped in the plaza in front of the Kotel and sang some uplifting songs before they wheeled into the Kotel area itself. The counselors were all yeshiva students. To see the love and devotion that this camp gives to their campers, look at the video of their outing to Times Square a few months ago:

Camp Simcha Times Square

     Obviously, like all Jews, they were looking for something special to happen when they came to the Kotel. One of them was wheeled over to the tefillin booth just as someone was trying to talk a Jew from Argentina into putting on tefillin. The tourist was a little reluctant, so I jumped in and said, “Yeah, you can put them on, and he [pointing at the boy in the wheelchair] is going to help you.” The boy quickly wheeled away saying, “No way!”

     “Come on,” I yelled, “it will be a great experience.” He turned around and wheeled over to the tourist. It was the first time in his life that he helped another Jew to put on tefillin.

     After the tourist had tefillin on, a bunch of the boys and counselors gathered around. I asked one of the counselors, “How many times have you put on tefillin?” He was young, and had put them on for three years.

     “Wow!” I said, “That’s over one thousand times!” He felt really good. But then I asked, “And how many times have you put them on someone else?”

     “Never,” he said.

     I yelled, “Why are you so selfish?” and I smacked him on his shoulder.

     I then looked over at the boy in the wheelchair and loudly asked him, “How many times have you put tefillin on someone else?”

     “Once,” he said, with a smile on his face.

     “Hooray for you!” I yelled, as I patted him on his chest.

     Then I looked at the young counselor and said, “If he can help someone else to put on tefillin, so can you.”

     The boy in the wheelchair beamed. He was really proud of himself, and for a good reason, too. He didn’t have to help that other Jew. After all, he had an obvious excuse. But he didn’t rely on his excuse. He wheeled over and reached up to help someone.

     I yelled at him, “Okay, that’s it. From now on, every Friday, you’re out on the street looking for Jews to help.” He laughed.

     A few minutes later, the rabbi in charge of the trip came up to me. I told him about the boy helping someone and how it was a good experience for him. It will probably be the highlight of his trip. I told the rabbi that he should include a trip each week to help Jews put on tefillin as part of their regular schedule, maybe in a hospital. He liked the idea.

     Okay, back to our same old question. Why am I telling you this story? So you will feel good? Sure, I want you to feel good, but that’s because I want something from you. I want you to go out and make yourself feel good by helping another Jew to do a mitzvah. And while you are at it, use you head to see if you can figure out how to spread your reach to even more people.


Dear G-d…

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (14)

A Charedi boy writing a note to place between the Kotel stones.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Fighting Jewish Intimidation

A joint statement being put out by a number of bloggers against religious harassment within the Jewish community.  Personally I felt their statement wasn’t strong enough and have therefore adjusted it to my opinion.  Here is MY adjusted version of their statement…

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A little over a month ago, a number of rabbis signed onto a ban that forbade advertising on
or otherwise working with the Jewish orthodox-news-oriented website VosIzNeias apparently without personally investigating the issue or contacting the web site owners to provide testimony. This ban singled out that one website without addressing other websites or public forums like newspapers or magazines raising suspicions of personal interest. The singling out of a solitary website raises many questions, particularly when newspapers in the same community regularly publish arguably libelous stories and online discussion forums for the community are essentially unbounded by civility and yet the “problem” was not addressed by a ban, but a particular web site.

VosIzNeias publicly stated that it has already raised its standards and is willing to do even more with rabbinic guidance, provided the same guidelines are applied to its competitors.  Bans of this nature are generally brought into fruition by activists and this one is attributed to a specific activist who seems to have business and political interests in this ban. He ignored VosIzNeias’ request to meet with the rabbis in order to explore ways to satisfy their concerns thereby increasing concerns of personal interest and violating Torah standards of justice.

With this ban, the activist is threatening the commercial viability of the VosIzNeias business. 
We have now received reports of continued harassment by this activist, who is now threatening to publicly denounce people, companies and charitable organizations who continue to cooperate (meaning, continue to advertise and keep the web site in business) with the website. He has also reportedly threatened to remove the kosher certification of companies that fail to adhere to the ban (which indicates collusion). However, on being contacted the activist behind the ban denied all knowledge of this harassment and attributed it to someone acting without authorization. We are, therefore, making no formal accusation as to who is conducting this campaign of harassment.  Instead, we are pointing out that someone has taken convinced a number rabbi’s to sign on a ban without providing details and then used that as a club to intimidate and harass businesses and charities without permission from the rabbis.

To the best of our understanding, this activity is illegal. One individual told us he reported that harassment to the police.  Harassing good people with threats is illegal, inexcusable and violates halacha and Torah law. We call on rabbis and people of good faith to denounce this behavior, and we encourage victims to respond to this activist as follows:

If he calls or e-mails you or your organization, thank him for bringing the ban to your attention and say that you will decide how to proceed after consulting with your rabbi or other advisor.  Alternatively tell him that his actions clearly show that the ban itself is a violation of halacha, bans in general are a violation of halacha as is his approach.

Because of rumors that there is harassment involved in this matter, you regret having to tell
him that if he contacts you or anyone else in your organization again, you will have to report him to the police.

We have a copy of an e-mail forwarded to us by people involved, which includes a pseudonym and phone number, and we have been told of intimidating phone calls. Note that at this time we are withholding this activist's identity. If he continues harassing people, we will have to be less discrete.

Rafi G./Life in Israel, Reb Akiva / Mystical Paths,  and other bloggers


Monday, February 14, 2011


Caring for your Brother

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Today was a tough day (B”H for all that comes).  I returned to work after a week and a half sick with the flu followed by pneumonia.  After a few hours I felt dizzy and difficulty breathing, symptoms returning.  Concerned I would not be able to safely drive, I called my wife who came in by bus to get me (and the car, we’re only a one car family in Israel) and drive me back to the doctor.

The doctor did his examination and concerned with a return of symptoms prescribed some stronger medication and sent me for a chest x-ray.

…while the parents are away the children will, well, you know.  We got a call from one of our little girl’s friends.  “Sarah (names changed for anonymity) fell down while roller blading (in her bigger sister’s way too large roller blades without protective gear) and may have broken her arm.”  What do we do?  I’m at a health clinic with pneumonia waiting for a critical chest x-ray.  It’s not literally life and death for me, but it’s pretty critically important to get this information back to the doctor and get the right treatment quickly.

I call a younger son who’s out playing and probably not too far away to run over to where she is (he bought himself a cell phone with money he earned, came in handy now).

Suddenly I get a call.  “Hello, is this Sarah’s father?  (Yes?)  Hi, I was passing by and I saw your daughter is hurt.  Can I call a taxi and send her somewhere?”  A literal neis (miracle)!  “Yes yes!  Can you send her to the medical care clinic? (where I am at the moment)???”  “Sure.”

15 minutes later a taxi pulled up with my daughter (and son with her, and 2 additional older children who were called into service to get to her and evaluate the situation), the taxi pre-paid (we didn’t ask for that).

For us this was a miracle.  A double health emergency that was able to be taken care of together instead of us going crazy trying to balance competing emergencies.

Now for some Jew who we don’t even know, his mitzvah of ahavas yisroel (caring for your fellow) was a literal life saver.  A few minutes of his time, a phone call and about $8 in taxi fare….a few minutes in caring for a fellow Jew who he doesn’t even know….changed our lives, reduced our pain, saved the day.

Thank you anonymous Jewish fellow, my brother who I don’t know.

This is the way to change the world from hell to livable, perhaps even with a whiff of gan eden, for each one of us.


Not Since My Wife Died!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (13)     I recently asked an American man to put on tefillin (at the Kotel tefillin stand). He said, “No way! I haven’t put on tefillin since my wife died, more than 10 years ago, and I am not going to do it now. I haven’t done anything Jewish since then, and I’m not going to start.” He walked off to the Kotel (Western Wall), without the slightest hint of a smile.

     A few minutes later he came back to me and put out his arm. He said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

     He had an especially good time with the tefillin. The picture above shows him praying for his family and the things that he wants to have happen. You can see that he is having a meaningful experience. When we finished, he thanked me profusely. He was really happy. He said that when he was at the Wall he started to think about his wife and decided to put them on. It took only one minute, and his life turned around.

     Some people come to the Kotel to look at the stones—and they end up seeing themselves.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


Did the Rav Kaduri say COME NOW?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We received an interesting question…

Did Rabbi Kaduri, zt”l, say we should come to Israel NOW?

Answer: Initially I answered this by email saying ‘It's become increasingly difficult to get exact quotes of what gedolim have said, or rather increasingly difficult to get such information without it being filtered by people with an agenda.  Rav Kaduri, zt”l, passed away just over 5 years ago so even if he said “come now” it’s 5 years later.’

I didn’t remember such a statement by Rav Kaduri, but a little googling did find one. In a shiur given on September 13, 2005, Rav Kaduri said,

kaduri“This declaration I find fitting to issue for all of the Jews of the world to hear. It is incumbent upon them to return to the Land of Israel due to terrible natural disasters which threaten the world.  In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bring about great disasters in the countries of the world to sweeten the judgments of the Land of Israel.  I am ordering the publication of this declaration as a warning, so that Jews in the countries of the world will be aware of the impending danger and will come to the Land of Israel for the building of the Temple and revelation of our righteous Mashiach.”

and another similar quote from around the same time…

“I hereby find that it is necessary to pass this call to the ears of world Jewry, that they should come to the Land of Israel for the reason of the great dangers awaiting the world from the side of nature.”


Random Pictorial Musings

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Kosher Inflation – proving that we’ve incorporated every possible extra custom so you can be assured that the product you are buying is more kosher than your neighbors…


Glatt Kosher – Glatt originally meant an extra step in checking the health of the lungs of a slaughtered large kosher animal (large meaning cow, sheep, etc).  In the last 20 years it’s come to mean any product that maintains the highest level of kosher standards and incorporates extra stringencies.

Mehadrin – Means a product that maintains the highest level of kosher standards and incorporates extra stringencies.

Glatt Mehadrin – Means it’s extra double special kosher kosher?  Kosher inflation!


Jerusalem is G-d’s holy city and the center of Judaism.  It’s also the capital of the State of Israel.  As such it’s subject to visits by foreign dignitaries and flag flying during state visits.  Traveling into Jerusalem on Friday presented this national flag that I’ve never seen before.  What country is it?

2011-02-10 002

Bet you don’t pass this on the highway too often…  (for anyone unclear, that’s a couple of tanks.)


What’s being advertised on the back of that Egged Israeli bus?  It’s the new Egged Time application plug-in for Google Chrome!  Google and Egged buses, a partnership made in… (????)


Israel, always interesting.


Friday, February 11, 2011


Even a Little Opening

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We received the following note worth sharing (edited for appearance and readability as an article)…

My friend and I are Baal Teshuva (Jews previously not religiously observant who became observant – sometimes referred to as “baal teshuva” meaning “masters of returning (to G-d)”).  We started very late in life and like some others including this previously written here at Mystical Paths by Rabbi Nati, we went through Gehinnon (hell) in getting back to Torah. 

In the 60's we were sent to college and exposed to every abomination (with the free love generation).

Today we both study with Chabad.  We recently attended an event in Crown Heights (Chabad world headquarters) and for us to be there with so many Lubavitchers who welcomed us with open arms, we reaped tears of joy.

My friend and I never knew who we were.  Just a few years ago she learned that she is a descendant of the Shpola Zeide and I learned that my mother was in the Ghetto with the daughter and disciple of the Rogatchover Gaon.  My mothers rav was Lubavitcher and I am descended from Kohanim and some very famous Rabbonim.

Yet our rich family heritage was hidden from us.  We were both raised like Cantonists (a generation of Jewish children stolen from their parents in Czarist Russia).  Please tell everyone, just show Hashem an opening the size of the eye of the needle and He will open for you enormous worlds. 


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Reincarnation: Which Way Did It Go?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001Some readers expressed strong beliefs that reincarnation, and by association, other ideas that are basic to Judaism, have come to us from India, the land of idolatry. This is a common and mistaken belief. In fact, a number of the basic tenets of the Indian religions have come from Jewish sources, but to my knowledge, nothing from there has ever seeped into Judaism.

     The primary religion of India is called Hinduism. According to a number of Web sites on the history of Hinduism:

    “It is generally believed that the basic tenets of Hinduism were brought to India by the light-skinned Aryans who settled along the banks of the Indus River about 2000 BCE.”

Some Web sites identify these Aryans as Persians, i.e. Middle Eastern people. The local peoples accepted the newcomers’ teachings, but they did not discard their primitive idolatries. This mixture survives to this day.

     Avraham Avinu (our father) sent the sons that he had with Keturah to the Land of the East,[i] around 2000 BCE, These sons’ names and their children’s names, are listed in the Torah.

     Here are a few key tenets of Hinduism:

       They are called Hindu, which means “from the river.”

        The sons of Avraham would have called themselves Hebrews, which means “from over the river.”

        One of the main wisdoms of their religion is called, the Vedas.

         One of the children sent there was named Aveda. (Beginning “A” s are commonly dropped.)

        “A camp” in Hinduism is called an Ashram.

        According to Rashi, one of the sons name means “a camp;” he is named “Asshurim”.

       One of the three main gods of Hinduism is called, “shiva.”

       One of Avraham’s children sent there was named, “Sheva.”

       The religion is called, Brahmanism.

       This comes from the name, Abraham.

     Avraham loved his children and taught them the truth about G-d. They took these teachings with them, and they spread them wherever they went. So, we do find a number of teachings in the Eastern religions that are very close to the teachings found in the Torah. But their books also include gross idolatries, so they must be kept away from.

    Here we see historical evidence for the Torah spreading to India, but we do not find any evidence of their idolatrous teachings spreading to us.

[i] Genesis 25:6


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

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CNN on Yoga

We continue our ongoing discussion about yoga being inappropriate for Jews due to it’s association with Hinduism, an idolatry based religion.  Reb Gutman points us to this recent CNN article on Yoga.

(CNN) …yoga is primarily a moral and spiritual philosophy, a fact she says has been lost as the popularity of physical yoga has boomed in the West. "There has been a conscious de-linking between Hinduism and yoga," in the United States and elsewhere, she says.

Yoga is mentioned in many of the ancient Indian texts that form the basis of the religion now known as Hinduism, which claims to be the world's oldest religion - and which is the third most-practiced faith on the planet.

One main source of yoga philosophy is the sage Patanjali, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. and whose Yoga Sutras describe a philosophy comprising 8 limbs, one of which is the physical poses, or asanas, which are commonly referred to as yoga in the West…

"Yoga is really a spiritual discipline," says Uma Mysorekar, the Hindu Temple Society of North America's president. "From its origin in Hinduism, yoga really originated from a Sanskrit word yuj, which means union."

That union is supposed to happen, she said, "between individual being or the soul with (Hindu spiritual entities).”…

"Although Hinduism and yoga grew out at the same time of the Indian subcontinent and there are references to yoga in the Upanishads and in the Bhagavad Gita, that doesn't mean that Hinduism has the exclusive hold on yoga," she said, referring to sacred Hindu texts. "Sort of like Jews don't have the exclusive hold on prayer."

Some churches attempt to "Christianize" yoga by adding Bible verses to the practice...  { And some Jews attempt to kosher yoga by stripping out the Hindu terms and adding Torah versus or tefilot from the siddur. } 

The Hindu American Foundation, meanwhile, says that while yoga is not just for Hindus, it can't be totally divorced from its religious roots.

Mystical Paths : Exactly!  And Hindu religious roots are not the place for any Jew to be.

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Jews and Israel viewed from China–Post 3 of 3

Last of the video series on Israel made by China Central Television in Chinese (with English subtitles).

What do the Chinese think of modern Israel and the Jews?  See it through Chinese cultural eyes.

Not each half hour episode, just the first 5 minutes.  Very interesting!  Chinese with English subtitles.  Parts 9-12.


A Rosh Yeshiva Drops a Hint

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

One of our readers from Manchester, England shared this geulah tidbit with us…

kuppermanHaRav Koppelman, shlita, is the Rosh Yeshiva of Lucerne, Switzerland and possibly the oldest rosh yeshiva in the world today at 104. 

Last week he visited the Jewish community in Manchester, England.  During a talk given there he said,

“I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet but we say we are living in Moshiach's times.  I cannot say the minute or the month but I can say that we are no longer talking of years.

Kein Yehi Ratzon!  So may it be His will!  May it be this year, this month, this day, this hour!


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

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Watch Iranium–Free, Here, Now

I watched the new documentary Iranium today. It’s powerful and factual without being alarmist but presenting an alarming situation.

Take an hour, watch Iranium for free here now (worldwide).  Or see it locally in various places around the U.S.

Make a point of seeing it.  (English, 50 minutes, clean content.)

You have to be at the Mystical Paths site to see it in the embedded player. 
Or click here to see it at the Iranium site.

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Jews and Israel viewed from China–Post 2 of 3

Yesterday we started sharing a video series from Israeli Embassy of Beijing made by China Central Television in Chinese (with English subtitles).  It may literally be the first bit of Israeli hasbara (PR work) that’s actually any good!

The video remain extremely interesting as different ages of Israel and the Jews are shown through Chinese cultural eyes. 

Unfortunately it’s just the first 5 minutes of each episode.  Very interesting!  Chinese with English subtitles.  Parts 5-9.


This One Is Not For You

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (12)I just saw something at the mikvah (immersion pool) that was really painful to see. There was a young man who looked totally religious when he was dressed, but when he went into the water I saw that he had at least two huge tattoos. The one on his abdomen was some 12 inches in diameter; it was similar to the photo attached to this article. The one on his arm was a solid ink design three inches thick. I winced when I saw him. There is no way that he is ever going to remove them from his body.

     I thought, “Should I write about this subject, or not?”  I know that tattooing is not a problem for those of you who read my writings. So I thought, “Maybe it would be best not to bring up the subject.”

     As I walked home, a group of “Birthright” kids walked by. They were Americans in their twenties. Usually, I like to joke with them while I teach them an important lesson. I’ll ask where they are from, and when they answer, I point my finger at them and say, “You better marry a Jewish girl!” The group always laughs, and then I move on. This time as they went on, I looked back at them and saw that one of the boys had a huge Jewish star tattooed on the back of his upper arm. For me, this is a sure sign that I should address this issue.

     When I see a Jew with a tattoo, it’s not just that tattooing is forbidden in the Torah that bothers me. We all make mistakes. But the big difference is, I can cover up my mistakes, and maybe no one will ever know how foolish I was. But these poor guys, as hard as they try, as righteous a life that they live, they have branded themselves--most likely for the rest of their lives. This is what bothers me so much. Okay, some of the smaller tattoos that are not colored can be removed with laser surgery, but not the ones I saw today.

     When I put tefillin on someone and see a tattoo, I wait until we are finished, and then I say to him, “Let me teach you a special prayer.” He is usually attentive, since we just went through the tefillin experience together. I take his arm and squeeze it a little and say, “Everyday, at least once a day, say these words. ‘Dear G-d, as I go through life, if I have to make mistakes, let me make them in pencil.’”  Most of the times he will laugh and agree, as by then he has usually realized what a mistake he made. Obviously, my intention is not to put the guy down, but to prevent him from making the same mistake again.

     Recently, a young Israeli mother told this story: When she was young, she got a tattoo on her lower back. It was the “in thing” to do. As a young girl, she used to show it off proudly. Then she got married and had a baby girl. Some two or three years later, the little girl noticed her mother’s lower back and asked, “What is that Mommy?” She said that her face fell as she realized that her loving daughter would probably try to imitate her mother. She started laser surgery, hoping that it will eventually be removed.

     Why am I writing this to you? You are not about to go get a tattoo. No way! I know that. But I also know that you have children, and you have friends who have children. Some of you teach in school systems. Some of you reach far into the world. Please see if you can help save some of these kids from doing something that they will regret forever. Can you somehow get this information to them before they make this mistake?


Monday, February 07, 2011


Jews and Israel viewed from China–Post 1 of 3

IsraelMatzav (an excellent Israel-Jewish current events blog from Israel) shared this very interesting video series funded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the Israeli Embassy of Beijing and made by China Central Television in Chinese (with English subtitles).

The Chinese have great respect for civilization, culture, tradition, and success.  All of these lead to them having great respect for Israel and the Jews.  A humorous example of this is with the standard Protocols of the Elders of Zion…in China they read this and don’t hate the Jews, rather they say “damn, smart people, how can we do that?”

The video’s below are very interesting to me as they show Israel and the Jews through Chinese cultural eyes.  Much is made of chieftains, tribes, cultural, national heroes.  NO mention of G-d or religion is made in the videos.  It’s Jewish history without G-d!

Unfortunately we don’t get each half hour episode, just the first 5 minutes.  Still very interesting!  Chinese with English subtitles.  Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 below.

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It Makes Me Totally Uncomfortable

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001 (4)

A young woman wrote:

I was so moved by your book Coming Back to Earth that I made a hachlata (decision) to start doing mivtzoyim, (outreach), something that I HATE to do. I am not the kind of person who can just go up to someone I don't know and tell them to light Shabbos candles. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and I avoid it at all costs, hoping I'll find another shlichus (mission). Well, I realized after reading your book that it really doesn't matter if I'm comfortable or not. I have an obligation to help every Jew I can. Who cares if it's awkward for me to hand out candles to a stranger? It's something I am capable of doing, and I have to do it.

Gutman Answers:

     When you feel something is an obligation, you will be sure to do it, but you may not be too happy while you are doing it. When you see what you are doing is a privilege, you begin to open yourself up to the joy that should accompany that deed.

     Going out and telling Jewish girls to light Shabbos candles can very well be an uncomfortable experience, especially if the main reason that you light your own candles is because you feel that you are obligated to light them. But, if you have found the true spiritual joy that should come when you light Shabbos candles, then you will look forward to lighting them yourself, and you will enjoy teaching other girls to reach for that spiritual joy, too.

     A friend of mine decided that since lighting Shabbos candles is only a rabbinical mitzvah, saying the blessing, “G-d commanded us to light Shabbos candles,” was a lie! He even told his wife that she was not to say the blessing when she lighted her candles that week! I explained to him that G-d Himself told us to bring the light of Shabbos into the world. The rabbis just showed us how to begin to bring that holy light into the world by using candles. My friend told his wife to be sure to say the blessing.    

     Lighting Shabbos candles announces the most spiritual time of the week. It brings peace to the home, and it increases the light in the house. If you look at the two flames carefully, you will see that their light is one, much like a husband and wife, two halves making up the one life.

     If you have not yet found your husband, know that candle lighting time is the best time in the world to look for him. After you light your candles, draw the light to your closed eyes, finish the blessing and all of your prayers, and with your eyes still closed, say these words, “Hashem, please give my chosen (bridegroom) a good Shabbos, and let him come to me as soon as we are ready.”

     Stand there with your eyes closed, and feel the love that you have in your heart. After all, even though you do not yet know who he is, he is somewhere in the world, and he is yours. You will probably meet him really soon, and he is going to say, “I don’t know why, but a little while ago my Shabboses got so much better!”

     There is so much to see in this mitzvah. The time of lighting is an etz ratzion (spiritual time of favor). Simply, this means that G-d is listening to your prayers with “both ears.” The children gather to watch, and feel that special feeling of something important happening. The meal is prepared, the house is clean, and the guests are on their way. Can you imagine any nicer way to spend your evening?

    These are the types of things that you should be “handing out on the street,” not just a plastic bag with two candles in it.

    Like any other skill, outreach takes practice. Once you see that, in truth, you are doing it because you really love that girl--even though you never saw her before--your spiritual life will be well on its way.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

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Geulah Bowl Half Time

Half time advertisement for the Geulah Bowl…


Nevua or Just Chochmah?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Nevuah = prophecy.
Chochman = wisdom.

A well respected Chabad rabbi gave over the following story to his congregation this past Shabbos, which he said was published in Kfar Chabad Magazine in Hebrew.  Note this is 3rd hand information with no validation…

sadat-beginIn 1981, exactly 30 years ago, the Sinai peace accord with Egypt was up for consideration.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke strongly against it, though practically everyone else was strongly in support of it.  The Rebbe raised many valid understandable arguments, but of course ultimately he failed to influence the accord to his position and it was accepted by Israel, with Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt (along with it’s oil wells and evacuating the Jewish town of Yamit).

During this time (in 1981) a well respected yid came to the Rebbe and asked him, “why are you so opposed to the Camp David (Sinai) Accords?”  The Rebbe answered the question with a question, “What will happen if in 30 years time the present strongman of Egypt is overthrown by those who are opposed to the Peace Treaty.”

Today, as the strongman (Mukbarak) of Egypt falls, it’s exactly 30 years later.  And as various videos have shown, BOTH sides of the Egyptian revolution blame the Jews (or use them as a good scapegoat) and want to end the peace treaty.

Nevua (prophecy)?  Or Chochmah (wisdom and wise analysis)?

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