Thursday, March 31, 2011

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It’s About to Change

by Dov bar Leib of End of Days @ Mystical Paths

(With events in Japan) we are in Ateret HaYesod now. (From the world wide impact of the event) there is no question anymore.  The way the planet is run just changed for the first time since the (biblical) Flood.

The economics of Ateret HaYesod are a lot different than the economics of the world as it was run until last year.  The actual change over to Atereth HaYesod is occurring in 12 or 13 parts associated with the months of the Hebrew calendar. By the end of 5771 the changeover should be complete. It is marked by a change in economic characteristics.

Now that the world has entered Atereth HaYesod of the 6th Millennium, the world has just drastically changed spiritually as much as it did after the Great Flood. If one wants to prosper, the rules have just changed for the rest of time.

Only those who serve G-d lishma (purely for the sake of serving G-d with no ulterior motives) will prosper. There is no longer a world where someone can serve G-d to make money at the 32 2/3 level of purity.

Secondly a person who cannot judge another man without taking into account his extenuating circumstances will also not prosper anymore.

All of Esau's tricks and assumptions about how the world runs will no longer exist as of the end of the year 5771.

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The Legend

by Rabbi Ariel bar Tzadok of KosherTorah.com,
reprinted with permission

images"Once upon a time," these are the words used to introduce a fairy tale, or to tell a story. Yet, some fairy tails are not fiction and some stories are more real than others. Some stories relate facts from the past. These stories are called history. Other stories might embellish the past, but they do so to relate pertinent morals that are alive and eternal. These stories are called legends.

History speaks to the intellect and can serve as a valuable rational tool to help us make proper choices today based upon the mistakes made in the past. Legends speak to the heart and serve to mold our inner character and inspire us to greater achievements. Legends too help us make proper choices today, but not based upon past mistakes, but rather on the inner awareness of knowing what is right, good and proper.

Our Torah, TaNaKh, Gemara, Zohar and the rest of Judaic literature, written over centuries, all contain the legends of Israel. Many of the stories within this great wealth of literature are literal history, and many others are not. The factual historicity of Torah is absolutely irrelevant. The Torah was not given to us to relate historical affairs. The Torah is not an historical document. Our Sages have always been quite clear about this. While the Torah does contain an element that speaks to the mind, the true essence of Torah, as expressed by our Sages throughout Jewish history, speaks instead to the heart. Torah is legend, not history, Torah is relevance, not a mere rendition of past facts.

In recent centuries, however, the minds and outlook of many a Sage has changed from the old ways. Instead of sharing legend, many a leader has arisen who are academics and philosophers, masters of intellect and rational, who at the same time, have lost the inner meaning of the legend and thus have lost much of the very essence of Torah.

These esteemed Sages have grown accustomed to educate the public using intellectually stimulating lessons calling upon numerous quotes from various holy sources to validate the strength of their arguments. While this approach may be well and good in establishing the legal precedents for the establishments of Torah Law, this is not the way to address moral issues of character. The way of the intellect builds laws, it does not create legends. The way of the intellect convinces the mind, but has not the ability to reach the heart.

The Truth of Torah is at the center of every true Jewish soul. The truth is not something you have to be convinced of, nor is it something you should have to be shown. Your intellect should not have to be convinced of the truth of a thing using some appealing words in a sermon. On the contrary, your heart should recognize truth regardless of whatever words are used or not used to describe it.

Often the message of truth gets lost in the very words being used to describe it. In my opinion, it is all too often the case that the many words and sermons used to teach about truth have themselves become the very hindrance to recognizing the truth.

Truth resides in the heart. This is because the Torah resides in the heart. Do you really need me to quote a pasuk to convince you that this is true, or do you already know deep within you the truth of this, with or without the words of a pasuk to convince you? Do not take my word for it! How about taking your own word for it, the Word of HaShem that is speaking within you right now.

Silence your chaotic mind and indeed, you will hear the inner voice, often heard just as a whisper speaking within you. When you finally do hear it, that inner whisper will become so loud within your conscience that you too will no longer need an outside voice to steer your course through life.

You will know what do and how to do it for HaShem will be your guide. Your own inner awareness will guide you to a regular source to learn Torah, for you will know within yourself the value of living according to Torah Law and how essential this is for you to learn how to do this. No one should need convince you of how important this is, you already should know this. You need only learn the mechanics of what to do, not be impressed with intellectual arguments why to do it!

This is the difference between the one who has fulfilled the pasuk to place Torah upon one's heart and one who has not. But you do not need for me to reference this pasuk to you to convince you of this, because you already knew this with or without the pasuk. Mentioning the pasuk only proves that which you already know.

Life in the real world follows a natural course. Even that which we call supernatural or spiritual is itself just the source and cause of the natural. Therefore, knowledge and awareness of the natural way of things grants us insights into their spiritual sources and counterparts. This enlightenment is what brings us closer to experiencing the Presence of G-d.

One learns natural law through the process of observance. Throughout Torah, our prophets and Sages spent great lengths of time out in nature so that they could accumulate experience of the natural world and with the power of the Torah engrained within their hearts come to recognize the Hidden Hand of G-d in all natural acts.

This is how sacred holy men such as Nahum Ish Gamzu were able to look upon any occurrence and recognize the good, within it. His consciousness was able to recognize the Hidden Hand of G-d and then by his positive attitude he was able to make the proper choices of behavior to unleash the hidden Light and reveal the Hand of G-d out in the open.

Rightly did our Sages say that the lives of our forefathers serve as role models for their children. The stories of the past are far more than mere historical events. They are archetypes, legends, role models and examples that we are to follow. The experiences of the past are the same as the present and the future.

Therefore, the stories of the past are not just lessons about what happened then. They are living stories about now, about you and me. This is what makes Torah legendary. Torah's stories are our stories. They are eternally relevant and true. These legends have never been meant to be understood as having only historical meanings, irrelevant to us today and thus worthy of our ignoring them. No, Torah legends lives forever, more than this; it is Life itself!

We do not need extensive commentaries to tell our minds how to interpret these events. Rather, we need to be more like children and embrace the awe and wonder of a story, with simplicity and faith. After all, the entire Torah is summed up as the righteous living by faith. This is legend!

Our present society is unfortunately fundamentally sick. For centuries now, western civilization and the Jewish communities within it have become infected with a disease of rationalism. While there is nothing wrong and everything right in being rational, nonetheless, rationality is not the end-all of human consciousness. This is a sound and known psychological fact taught by our Torah since Sinai and even echoed in the words of modern psychiatrists.

Carl Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology and associate of non less than Sigmund Freud himself wrote (CW 13, 7), ""The intellect does indeed do harm to the soul, when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of the spirit. It is in no way fitted to do this, for spirit is something higher than intellect, since it embraces the latter, and includes feelings, as well. It is a guiding principle of life that strives towards super-human shining heights."

Western society has taught its citizens to be half-brained, to be rational and to dismiss anything other as irrational, and thus as not real, bad and wrong. As such, religion, which is founded upon faith and legend, has been delegated to the trash heap of history. The proud western rationalist proclaims himself a secularist, emancipated from the myths and fairy tales of primitive and stupid religion. Yes indeed, this is what secularism teaches and this is exactly how many secularists feel, believe and publicly proclaim.

What is amusing about this is that secularism and rationalism are themselves faiths and stories based upon as much an irrational foundation as are simplistic interpretations of religious stories. Rationalism and secularism proclaim their correctness and seek converts to their causes with the self same vigor and conviction of all the proselyting religions throughout history. But enough about current events and the ways of the world.

We cannot change the world, nor should we try. It is the job of Heaven to change the world, so let us stay focused on what we have to do and let Heaven do G-d's work. Our job is to change ourselves and by doing so serving as role models to assist others in achieving higher consciousness to enable them to also better their lives. While we do not change the world, we do indeed change our little portion of it. This is why we are here. This is what we are destined to do.

"And these words that I command you this day shall be upon your hearts" (Dev. 6:6). There, I have given you a quote. Do not run now to seek all the numerous commentaries to it. Simply allow it to sink into your head until it reaches your heart. Start to use your heart, the place where Torah is supposed to be. Stop thinking so much about how to do this, and just start doing it. Certainly, you will make mistakes, we all do, this is part of being human. But, as the old saying goes, "practice makes perfect."

Know the Torah, embrace the legend. Facts of the past do not matter. What is history or metaphor does not matter. What matters is the lesson, embrace the lesson and you will know the Torah. Know the Torah and you will glimpse the Face of its Master, the Creator, HaShem.

What more than this is there to do? So while the world burns around us, pay it no mind. Instead, pay attention to this. Save you, it will. Teach this to others, by example, not by rote. Save them, it will. What more than this is there to do? Ask HaShem, I am sure He will lead to you to understand and know the right direction.

Life is a long road and only HaShem knows the way. This is another psychological truth learned from religion. Jung (CW 7-72) himself said it eloquently, "Direction in life is not a simple straight line, fate confronts us like an intricate labyrinth, all too rich in possibilities and yet of these possibilities only one is the right way."

Let us conclude with the legendary words of the Sage Hillel, who once upon a time said, Zil Gamar, now, go do it!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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Which is Real?

compiled thoughts of Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

Get involved politically!

Use wise financial planning!!

Defend ourselves with our military might!!!

Do we really think politics, military might or financial savvy can cure a spiritual illness?  At best these only work on the symptoms.  We have to cure the disease!

Only Hashem runs the world and He sets up who He wishes and takes down who He pleases! All the news… the president did (fill in the blank), the Prime Minister is (fill in the blank), the disaster is (fill in the blank), it’s all just a show to distract us from the real, from Him!

There are solutions…

- Take an emunah moment!  Pause and think of Hashem in your day, or enhance your day with some emunah building material.  In a time of constant in-your-face attacks on emunah we must intentionally build emunah.  ‘A few minutes a day keeps the Yeitzer away.’

- Do not despair!  There is always hope and there is always something we can do.  Despair is the worst danger of all, for it paralyzes one into doing NOTHING.

- Prayer is the answer to the hard questions we face!  Turn to Hashem and ask the hard questions, pray for understanding.  Our Father can open the gates of wisdom for His children, or at least settle the neshomah (soul).

A quick remedy for the spiritual and physical challenges of RIGHT NOW…

Read tehillim (psalms) every day.  Just 5 a day and you will finish the Sefer of Moshiach each month.  Complete this by learning one pasuk from Mishlei (Proverbs) each day.  This bring understanding to the mind and calmness to the soul.

This should begin on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the month of redemption.  On the first of Nissan read psalms 1-5 and Proverbs 1, the next day 6-11 & 2, etc. 

Peace by itself is not enough, a small dose of understanding of Torah wisdom is a key to having peace.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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The Eastern Path of Presence

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (5)     A Jewish man, who has been following the Eastern path of seeking for many years, wrote the following essay. His brother, who is a religious Jew, asked me to comment on it.

The path of presence

When you are out taking a quiet, reflective walk in nature, if you pay attention, it is hard to miss the sense of joy, peace, love, and wonder which emanates from all around.  It is as if the trees themselves are peace, the clouds are loving or the wind is numinous.  If you are more sensitive, and feel energy in your body, you will notice a kind of glow or richness or light inside and out, which cannot only be categorized as an emotion or sensation, although those faculties play a part in the experience. 

This is an accidental experience of what the wisdom traditions call qualities of Presence, a more fundamental expression of who we are.  If you are a spiritual seeker, it means your love for Presence is felt to such a degree that it becomes the most important dimension of experience to be in contact with and the entire spiritual path is about refining our relationship with this sense of presence in a rigorously disciplined and intentional, as opposed to accidental, manner until our contact with this Presence becomes stabilized and embodied.

Our usual sense of experience during the day is dry and stressful because, say the wisdom teachings, we are out of touch with this more fundamental dimension of Presence of who we are.  And it isn't enough to simply have occasional glimpses of it to transform long standing habits of forgetfulness and dissociation.  Which is why they offer specific spiritual methodologies to reestablish a lived contact with where our true joy comes from.  It is not that we do these practices to feel joyful, but that being in touch with what is more true and fundamental about ourselves, rather than what is socially conditioned, brings joy, wonder, hope and release. 

When we acknowledge the tree without the filter and perceive it as it is, we see wonder and a mystery.  Perceiving ourselves in a similar unfiltered way, we can finally acknowledge who we really are.

Gutman’s comments on his “path of presence”:

     The above essay is another classic example of one of the main “Eastern” mistakes, and certainly one of the main differences between their “path” and the Torah’s teachings.

     The most mystical writings in Torah explain that the very purpose of man’s creation is to reveal G-d’s Presence in this world. We are told that we are to try to bask in the radiance of His Presence in this lifetime. When this most cherished revelation happens, the seeker sees that G-d is ever-present, but always hiding. He hides so that we will have free will. For this precious second, He stops hiding, and the seeker fulfils his purpose in being. He sees that, indeed, G-d is real and present. It is, without doubt, the most rewarding and the most treasured experience in life.

     Your brother’s essay might seem to be sensitive and enlightened, but it is not. He merely reflects the Eastern spiritual philosophy. He seeks according to their teachings, so he is discovering what they told him that he will find. He is not seeking G-d, so he is not finding the Torah’s goal.

     The Eastern seekers seek “self-realization.” The experience is also called “G-d realization.” When they reach their “cherished” experience, their triumphant statement is, “I am god.” They then become gurus(teachers) of that path.

     What did your brother find that he adores so? Was he actually seeking G-d’s presence?

    In his words:  “…wisdom traditions call qualities of Presence, a more fundamental expression of whowe are.   Perceiving ourselves--being in touch with what is more true and fundamental about ourselves,--finally acknowledge who we really are.

     He is seeking to experience himself, and he finds this vision of the self. The Jewish spiritual goal is to seek to reveal G-d’s presence, and when blessed, He shows us that He is here.

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A Hint with a Warning

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Interesting news of the day comes from CBN news who says, “The Iranian government has produced a propaganda film that argues the conditions foretold by prophecy are now being fulfilled, so that the emergence of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi (the Shia Islamic messiah), is at hand.”

More info and the video below, but first a question.  Who is the source, CBN news?  Mentally my mind automatically transposed this to CBS news, a major American broadcasting company – and the video runs a professional quality in a 60 Minutes (U.S. news program) like format.  But CBN is the Christian Broadcasting Network started by Rev. Pat Roberson and the broadcasters of the long running Xian promoting show The 700 Club.  So while the information presented below appears to be accurate and threatening (to the world), it’s worth noting that an Islamic threatening religious revival is exactly the kind of thing CBN would want to report and use to motivate their target audience.

(

CBN {an Xian link})  The propaganda footage has reportedly been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.

It's called The Coming is Near and it describes current events in the Middle East as a prelude to the arrival of the mythical tweflth Imam or Mahdi -- the messiah figure who Islamic scriptures say will lead the armies of Islam to victory over all non-Muslims in the last days.

"This video has been produced by a group called the Conductors of the Coming, in connection with the Basiji -- the Iranian paramilitary force, and in collaboration with the Iranian president's office," said Reza Kahlil, a former member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards who shared the video with CBN News.

Kahlili, author of the book, A Time to Betray, worked as a double agent for the CIA inside the Iranian regime.

"Just a few weeks ago, Ahmadenijad's office screened this movie with much excitement for the clerics," Kahlili told CBN News. "The target audience is Muslims in the Middle East and around the world."

From a spiritual perspective this does provide a hint and a warning.  When the koach (when the spiritual strength or power) of Moshiach begins to enter the world, it begins to head to it’s true destination.  The side of the klippah (the other spiritual side) will reflect this, for free will requires there be a choice.

The reflection will be distorted and twisted, yet clear enough to be identified as the same (topic).

The warning is this… “before it’s time” if we do not merit it, if we are not a proper vessel for the kedushah and koach, the reflection is able to suckle from the kedushah and draw some of the koach to the other side – giving the reflection some distorted reality and power of it’s own while the koach is dispersed due to our lack.

“In it’s time” the straw men exist to give free will up until the last moment, and then disappear as straw in a fireplace.  But until that last moment, in it’s time, they will be empowered to do their job in providing that choice.

In the first scenario we must pray, do teshuvah and increase in Torah and mitzvot – especially those of helping our fellow, to strengthen and complete the vessel.  In the second scenario we must strengthen our emunah and increase our support of each other to hang on through the appearance of dark times and direct challenges to Hashem, His Torah and His people.

May Hashem grant us light and goodness in an obvious earthly way and remove these worries with the coming of Moshiach TODAY!

(h/t Powerline and Shirat Devorah)

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Another Nut!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001 (2)     It was Purim night. I was sitting alone, drinking a very nice bottle of wine, and doing some research on the Internet for a possible new video. Then some idiot rang the downstairs buzzer…. ZZZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  ZZZAAAAAAAAAAA! ZZZZAAAAAAA!

     The guy really bugged me. I said, “^*%&*& him! I’m not going to answer.”

     He kept ringing. Over and over again, and longer each time. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to answer--no matter what. I can’t think of ever having done this before, but the fine wine and the interesting research just made me obstinate enough to say, “Let him come back tomorrow.”

     The ringing stopped. “Ha! The nut is gone.” But a half-minute later the front doorbell rang. The idiot figured out that the downstairs gate wasn’t locked, and he came upstairs.

     I opened the door partway and yelled at him, “What, are you out of your mind? Why were you ringing the buzzer like that?” I imitated the buzzer, “ZZZAAAARRAA!”

    He said, “I’m sorry.”

    Oh, man, that threw me totally off. If the guy said that he was sorry, then he couldn’t be that bad after all.

   “What’s the problem?” I asked.

    “I’m sorry,” he said, again, (I’m starting to like the guy by now. If he said that he was sorry twice, then there is something good inside.) “…but I heard that you can… that you know how to get rid of….” and he pointed to his head. He didn’t even want to say the word.

     I could see right away that I had to help the guy. If he was so bad off that he couldn’t even say the word “demon,” then it was serious.

     I opened the door the rest of the way and pulled him in by his shirt. I sat him down in the chair by the door and asked, “Were you ever involved in idolatry?”

     He said, “I studied Buddhism for a while.”

     “Ah, that’s where it’s coming from. What do you have… voices? Powers? Or what?”

     “There are voices. Sometimes I hear someone talking to me….” and he pointed, looking a little scared, to the upper left side of his head.

     “Okay, here’s what you do. Anytime the voice comes to you, ignore it. If you can’t ignore it, then simply have a good thought.”

      “What’s a good thought?”

      “Say ‘G-d I love you.’ Every time a voice comes to you, it means that you are supposed to talk to G-d. G-d wants us to be happy. He wants us to do mitzvahs. That’s why He gave them to us. Put on a yarmulke (head covering), look above your head to see Who is there, and be happy.”

     “Okay.”

     “Every day that you are here in Jerusalem, go to the Kotel. Put on tefillin. Look over your head, talk to G-d, and be happy.”

     I warned him, “Don’t expect them to go away in a week. It took me five years to get rid of them. My hands were bleeding from them. But if you do what I say, they will go away, and you will live a happy life. Wear a yarmulke. Put on tefillin. Talk to G-d, and be happy. I like you. You’re nuts, but I think that you are a good guy.”

     He asked, “When should I come back?”

     I said, “If you want a le’chaim (alcoholic drink), come back tomorrow (Purim). If you want a meal, come back on Shabbos. If you want me to show you how to put on tefillin, come to the Kotel late afternoon. If you want to talk, come middays. I like you. I think that you are a good person. Go get a yarmulke and come back whenever you have any questions. But ring the buzzer like a normal person!”

    “Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I understand.”

     I think I have a new friend.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

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PANIC! Or not.

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

How bad have things gotten in England for the Jews???  Commentor Rivki points out…

Please check your facts and stop scaremongering.  The thefts were purely thefts and have been going on for a while.  The riots were against tax cuts [actually against reductions in free government services].  And every once in a while someone will get punched for being a Jew...surprise surprise.

Rivki makes a very good point.  It’s easy to pinpoint an event or two and say “it’s terrible, it’s turning on the Jews, ahhhhhh”.  But that’s without examining the context.

A little research showed in 2007 there were ~600 anti-semitic attacks against Jews in England, or about two per day.  The study noted that the yearly number had tripled in the past 10 years, that’s a disturbing trend.

But it also means a synagogue getting stolen from or a girl being punched is just part of the normal (daily) events of England.

This is a similar danger regarding possible geulah events.  Ongoing natural disasters are a part of our world, including major natural disasters every year.  If a typhoon hits Burma, which gets hit almost every year (and some years multiple times) and affects hundreds of thousands of people…we’ll barely notice because typhoons swamp Burma almost every year.

If that same typhoon doesn’t hit Burma this year but hits Queensland, Australia and swamps the city, we’ll be shouting about natural disasters destroying civilization.  (Both because Australia is rarely hit and since it is rarely hit there will be more people and buildings near the shore to be easily damaged – increasing the impact.)

As Rivki pointed out with my mistaken hyping of events in England, it’s not just the events, it’s the context. 

Josh at Parsha Blog pointed this out with even a bit more detail today, noting there are an average of three level 6 [city damaging] per week on Earth and an average of one level 7 [city leveling] per week.  It’s just they don’t often align with major cities, and even less often with cities that aren’t prepared for them (such as happened in Haiti).  When those alignments do happen, which seem to be about every 20 years or so, the results are mass casualties (dependent on the strength of the earthquake versus the strength of local earthquake preparation.)

This does not mean these natural events aren’t aligned by Hashem, G-d forbid.  But it does mean that the happening of such an event or two or three (per week) is not out of the norm and as populations have increased in earthquake prone areas so have casualties.

Capture

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Update From England - Jews Targeted

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I previously posted about the 500,000 person march in London protesting budget cuts and reduction in public (free) services, that degenerated into riots and serious destruction (with limited if any police response).

I wrote a bit of political sarcasm noting that England is an occupying power of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and opening wondering at the difference between these protestors and rebels in Libya – and why isn’t the U.N. declaring a no-fly zone over England and arming the British anti-regime protestors?

Commentor Josh brought us back to some reality in the comments, noting…

An unconfirmed post in the Hadrei Haderim site last night claims that 20 synagogues were vandalized this Shabbat in Stamform Hill, London. Can anyone verify?

I was able to verify some anti-Jewish activity with a contact in England, who reports the following…

1. “Sort of.  I received a note last night from MK [Manchester Kosher - an email network affiliated with Edgware Kosher of London] that there had been several burglaries of shuls and Jewish institutions with large items of silver stolen [e.g. Torah breastplates, pointers, silver trays, candelabras].”

2. “Further news.  A girl [of about 12] was punched/smacked/hit [reports differ] outside Tesco this afternoon, while the yobbos shouted at her 'Jew'”.  (I had to look up ‘yobbos’, it being a bit of British slang that I had never heard before. Wikipedia says it’s “Yobbo or yob is a slang term for an uncouth or thuggish working-class person.”)

While it doesn’t sound like mass targeting of the Jewish community, it does seem that some gratuitous anti-semitism does come to the fore as the “yobbos” and those on the dole (British slang for those living only on government handouts and services) are faced with reductions in their gravy train (American slang for free food service).

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STOP IT!

image003 (4)

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     There is a major problem in the world today, and it reaches the religious world, too--big time. It destroys more lives than all of the world’s terrorists and car accidents combined, yet it is totally legal in both the secular world, and for the most part, in the religious world, too. SMOKING!

     A recent study of 80,000 women found that women who grew up in houses where someone smoked, even though they themselves did not smoke, had 30% more breast cancer than women who grew up in smoke-free houses.

     How can anyone in the world, especially in the Jewish world, allow such a thing? This is outright damaging another person. It is forbidden to damage ourselves, let alone someone else.

     This year, an estimated 180,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States, and 90% of them will die within three years--and 96% of these cancer victims are cigarette smokers.

     The Torah forbids a person to climb on a shaky ladder. No one in the world would question the logic of this rule. Yet, getting on a weak ladder is a lot safer than smoking a cigarette. Doctors used to believe that it took a lot of exposure to smoke before the damage would begin. Now they have found that the damage begins from the very first exposure to tobacco smoke.

     When a smoker goes home and kisses his children, the cancer-causing poisons are on his lips…. They reek from his clothing, his hair. This is what he is giving to his family members. Not only is he shortening his life, he is shortening theirs, too!

     I have seen many people quit for a month or two, or even longer, and then go back to that evil habit. After five days, the addicting chemical poisons have entirely left the body. From then on, the only draw to smoke is psychological. Why cut ten years off of your life, the best years too, by giving in to this addiction? G-d made Adam (man) and He put him in charge of the adamah (earth and plants). Smokers’ addictions make the plant in charge of the man.

     The statistics are horrible regarding the many different types of diseases that are caused by smoking, yet the vast majority of rabbis are reluctant to forbid it. Why don’t they openly forbid this horrible evil? It seems that they are concerned that the addiction to smoking is so strong, that even if they do forbid it, the addicted people will not give it up. And, once the door to rebellion is opened, Jews will rebel against other rulings, too. So, instead of coming out and forcefully and forbidding it, they say, “G-d will help the fools.”

      A few years ago a very well-respected, learned rabbi stopped me on the street. He said, “I want to tell you a story. Thirteen years ago, you spoke to me very harshly.”

     I thought, “Uh, oh! I blew it again… me and my big mouth!”

     He went on, “You yelled at me for smoking. For some reason it got into my head. I listened. I quit smoking. One year later, I was taken to the hospital for open-heart surgery. The doctor told me that this happened to me because I smoked. I haven’t smoked since you yelled at me. I want to thank you for saving my life.” 

     My opinion on the matter: You have to be a shoteh (fool) to inhale that stuff, and a rasha (evil person) to exhale it.

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Hard Questions – Part 2

In part 1 a reader asked some of the hardest questions.  How can we understand recent tragedies as “good” (as everything G-d does is good)?  How do we explain it to those for whom emunah isn’t enough?  (The full original question here.)

Let’s be straight, while the world generally operates “ok”, we regularly see “bad things happening to good people” and “good things happening to bad people”.  We see things that seem, to our worldly eyes, unfair and unjust.  Things both on a personal level, a family level, and on a national level.

Such things are simply incomprehensible from a worldly perspective and expectation of justice and fairness.  ‘IT’S JUST NOT FAIR’ as our young children sometimes scream out.

How can we understand it?  How can we have emunah (faith) that everything G-d does is for the good while our fleshy eyes see otherwise and our bodies scream IT’S NOT FAIR?

The Baal Shem Tov provided an explanation (based on the teachings of the Ari HaKodesh) of multiple lives and justice carried out between lives.  Failings and necessary soul corrections of one life may be corrected or applied in subsequent lives.  It’s a theological answer that we may be able to accept intellectually but doesn’t satisfy the desire to believe in, to feel the good.

From the Mishnah and included as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy we have the story of the ten martyrs, the greatest rabbis of the generations who were ultimately tortured to death by the Romans and are told that the melachim, literally the angels, called out in bitter grief “is this the Torah and this it’s reward? O You who enwraps Yourself with light as a garment, the foe blasphemes Your great and awesome Name, scorns and desecrates the words of your Torah!”  A voice reverberated from Heaven “If I hear another word I will turn the world to water, I will revert heaven and earth to chaos and desolation.  It is My decree, submit to it you who rejoice in the Torah which preceded creation by two thousand years.”

How do we understand this as good?  Or a family slaughtered in their beds?  Or young people blown up at a bus stop?

How do we reconcile emunah and a belief that all G-d does is for the good with such events?

The answers are beyond human vision and comprehension.  We refer to G-d with a variety of names, and each name reveals a different aspect of our relationship with G-d.  “Our Father”, “Our King”, “Our Creator”, “Lord”, “Our Master”, “The Infinite”, “Master of the World”, etc.  Our Father does what is good for His children.  Our King makes rulings that must be followed and dispenses justice when they are not.  Our Creator is beyond our comprehension except to say that we know He is there.  The Infinite is even beyond that, for no human mind can even conceive of infinity.

Sometimes we merit to see the Hand of G-d in this world, both on a personal and national level.  But many times we do not.  We do not understand why things happened nor can we predict the results of the events.  We may not realize when we’re being directed by our Kind Father or when we’re being dealt with under an aspect of Divine Justice (though we should try to examine our deeds and consult with our wise rabbis to try to get some glimmer), or truly understand our interaction with these facets of the Master of the Universe (though Chassidus and Kabbalah strive to give us a glimpse).

We simply have emunah that it is right, true, and good in a way we cannot understand.  That is the definition of emunah.

And that includes knowing sometimes it is G-d’s Will.

May it be G-d’s will that we see it all as good in an earthly straight forward way, with the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu, mamash today!

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Next the UK?

uk

Yesterday over 500,000 protestors marched against the government of the England, demanding regime change.

The government refused to respond to the will of the people and unleashed armed forces (pictured above) against the people.  Many were injured and many arrested, yet to be heard from.

Further, the regime of the England is a known aggressor regime that has violently and frequently attacked and conquered surrounding nations and peoples, including the oppressed peoples of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Not only have these nations been conquered but even speaking their native languages and practicing their native cultures have all been made illegal.

For these egregious human rights violations and practices of national encroachment and ethnic suppression, we declare the regime of England an outlaw regime and immediately demand the United Nations Security Council pass a resolution allowing international intervention to protect the civilian population of England as well as freeing the bound nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A coalition of willing international partners including Russia, Belarus, Serbia, and Turkmenistan, and China are ready to immediately implement a no-fly zone over England, preventing the quick deployment of aggressive security forces by the regime against the opposition.  While we do not expect the intervention to include forces on the ground, an international authorization would clearly include the right to arm the rebels.

We are currently working with various UN ambassadors to line up the votes for our proposal.  Being it took about 2 weeks to line up the vote for Libya, we’re hopeful this can be in place quickly.

If anyone has any thoughts on our proposal and can explain how it differs from the UN resolutions and world actions on Libya and on Iraq, we’d appreciate your input.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

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Hard Questions – Part 1

A reader sent some of the hardest questions of all…

Reb Akiva,
Don't get me wrong I have emunah that Hashem runs the world and there is a plan for everything. But when horrible tragedies such as the recent bombing in Yerushalayim & the brutal murder of the Fogel family come to mind, I find it would seem almost cruel to explain how these tragedies jive with the beautiful passuk of טוב ה' לַכּל. וְרַחֲמָיו עַל כָּל מַעֲשיו. I believe everything is part of Hashem's plan and hope iy"H these tragedies are just build-up to the ultimate Geula, but does having emunah mean we explain what happened as "טוב" and say these too are acts of Hashem's mercy? How does one explain to Tamar Fogel or for that matter anyone who does not have a good grasp in this area, that this was good? Or just that simply there is a reason behind them, that we cannot begin to understand the way Hashem works and iy"H at 120 we will be able to see these tragedies as merciful & good in the bigger scheme of the world? I can accept that this was Hashem's will and that I don't understand His ways, but for people to whom that is not enough how can one possibly explain?

Thank you so much. Iy"H we should only hear good news and merit to see Mashiach B'meheyra B'yameinu!

I’m receiving this question while being in Israel as things are heating up and getting up close and personal.  I was in Jerusalem when the recent bomb attack occurred and Rabbi Nati was rounding the corner heading to the bus stop that was attacked (receiving some temporary ear damage from the blast).  Several of my children were possibly in transit passing that station (they weren’t nearby) and a seminary in my neighborhood had a student seriously injured.

My older daughter called me up freaking out today as she was in range (but not impacted) by a Grad rocket strike.

While logically and emunah wise I know it’s safer in Israel that outside, facing these situations up close and personal is a new experience, one that I’m still adjusting to.

So we’re going to answer this in two parts.  Part one I’ve asked Reb Gutman Locks to prepare an answer, and part two will be another answer prepared by me.

Reb Gutman Locks responds…

Shalom,

      You are right, and we can never fully understand the ways of Hashem, especially not in these kinds of tragedies. But there are three things that we need to remember at times like these.

1)    There is no way that we can comfort the mourners. These were not elderly Jews who had lived their full years in goodness who passed away. They were cruelly ripped from us in their youth, or prime of life. But, we are told, to not even try to comfort the mourners while their dead are lying before them. Our words will only make their pain grow. We can only share in their sorrow.

2)    Some thirty years ago, I was in the North when some arab terrorist stuck. We were on a trip, and the knitted-kipa (yarmulke) tour-guide told us something that I have never been able to accept, but it seems that he may have been right. He said, “When Hashem wants a korban (sacrifice) he takes only the purest souls.” I have always chaffed at this one, but I see no other way to explain these insanely cruel murders.

3)    Third, and in my opinion the most important thing to remember is, when we are attacked, we must fight back even harder. As we saw yesterday with the senseless bomb blast, in this war we are all on the front line. No one is exempt from this danger, and no one is exempt from having to help. Each of us must do our share to destroy this enemy. Okay, so not all of us have tanks or guns, but we all have G-d’s commandments.

    Every time we do a mitzvah we strengthen the entire Jewish people. The Jewish people have always been judged as a single people. Our troubles and our blessings come to all of us. So when we do even one mitzvah, or help even a single Jew, we strengthen the entire body. This is even more true when we help to bring another Jew to a mitzvah.

    When we are struck, we must turn our sorrow and pain into action. Do not let these murdering animals win. If we sit and whimper, they have won. If their insane evil pushes us to fight back even harder, then they have lost. Look to see who you can help. Do not be lazy in this war, or evil will (G-d forbid) win. See how many Jews you can help, how many homeless Jews you can hand a food pack, how many girls you can teach to light Shabbos candles. Look around, you will be happily surprised with all of the opportunities you will have to help. Encourage others to help, too. G-d wants us to win, but He doesn’t want to give us victory without our effort.

Be well,
Gutman

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Thank You Grandma

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (3)     I talked this young American tourist into putting on tefillin yesterday. He is a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology, almost ready for his degree… a normal, nice, intelligent, Jewish guy. But he had never put on tefillin before. He is far from knowing anything at all about his (our) spiritual inheritance. He really knows almost nothing about our traditions and history.

     When I took his picture, I used my regular talk to get him to smile. I said, “Now you have to make a promise and keep it, or your camera is going to blow up! No matter what happens, you have to marry only a Jewish girl!”

     They almost always smile when I say this, and that’s when I snap the picture. If that doesn’t work I add, “Do you know why you have to marry only a Jewish girl? So your mother doesn’t break both your legs!” That one almost always gets them.

     But with this guy, who is so far away. I didn’t know what to expect. When I told him that he had to marry a Jewish girl, I was happily surprised to hear his answer. He laughed loudly, looked up at the sky and said, “Thank you, Grandma!” Still laughing, he said to me, “You are a channel for my grandmother’s voice. She is speaking through you!”

     Okay, so what do we see here? He is so, so far away from knowing anything about his spiritual life that he probably doesn’t even know the first thing about keeping Shabbos. His family never showed him these things. But his grandma, G-d bless her soul, told him over and over again, “You have to marry a Jewish girl.” This much he has heard before. And I think that, because of his love and respect for his grandmother, he will probably be careful to marry only a Jewish girl.

     It is sad that he did not also hear it from his mother and his father. It is a valuable treasure that he had heard it so many times from his mother’s mother. And your grandchildren… are they hearing it? How about your friends’ grandchildren? If their grandma doesn’t know enough to tell it to her children’s children, can you jump in and give them this wonderful gift?

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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Attack in Jerusalem

A few moments ago my daughter called me to see if everything is ok.  I’m in Jerusalem today and a few moments ago there was a terrorist attack, a bombing of a bus near the city center.

Thank G-d, I’m no where near the situation.  But this is the 4th event in 3 days.  Heavy mortar fire on the towns around Gaza.  Large size rocket fire on the city of Ashdod.  Large size rocket fire on the city of Be’er Sheva.

And now a bombing in Jerusalem.

Today the Palestinians are trying very very hard to start a(nother) war.

Will the world call them on it?

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A Hint, a War, a Rocket

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Nafochu, the world is turning upside down.  Dizzying speed doesn’t even describe it anymore.  Every day is becoming a day of surprise, terror, fright, and just maybe, hope.

It is time to focus upon what (many) say at the end of daily tefilah, “Do not fear sudden terror nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.  Contrive a scheme but it will be foiled, conspire a plot but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us…”

A World War started a few days ago.  Everybody noticed but then glanced away, as it’s not affecting their daily lives.  In the unheard of record time of days the Western Powers passed a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing war against Libya.  And hours later those Western Powers began bombing Libya with a follow up a few days later with massive missile strikes and ongoing bombing runs.

With Iraq and Kuwait, the process took months and major convincing of world powers and preparation of the populations of the involved nations.  With Iraq and the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the process took years and major pressure on various world powers and major preparation of the populations of the involved nations.

With Libya…about a week from starting to talk about it to starting bombing.  As far as convincing nations or preparing the involved populations…till today nobody can describe the why they’re involved, what the goals are or even who’s in charge!  ( And every national leader began their attack WITHOUT consultation with or confirmation of their parliament or congress. )

What in the world is going on here???

Frank Gaffney, Jr. at the Center for Security Policy defines a possible answer…

There are many reasons to be worried about the bridge-leap the Obama Administration has just undertaken in its war with Muammar Gaddafi….

Particularly concerning is the prospect that what we might call the Gaddafi Precedent will be used in the not-to-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel.

Here's how such a seemingly impossible scenario might eventuate:

It begins with the Palestinian Authority seeking a UN Security Council resolution that would recognize its unilateral declaration of statehood.  Three top female officials in the Obama administration reprise roles they played in the Council's recent action on Libya: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, a vehement critic of Israel, urges that the United States support (or at least not veto) the Palestinians' gambit.  She is supported by the senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, Samantha Power, who in the past argued for landing a "mammoth force" of American troops to protect the Palestinians from Israel.  Ditto Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose unalloyed sympathy for the Palestinian cause dates back at least to her days as First Lady.

This resolution enjoys the support of the other four veto-wielding Security Council members - Russia, China, Britain and France - as well as the all of the other non-permanent members except India, which joins the United States in abstaining.  As a result, it is adopted with overwhelming support from what is known as the "international community."

With a stroke of the UN's collective pen, substantial numbers of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli citizens find themselves on the wrong side of internationally recognized borders.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) insists on its longstanding position:  The sovereign territory of Palestine must be rid of all Jews.

The Israeli government refuses to evacuate the oft-condemned "settlements" now on Palestinian land, or to remove the IDF personnel, checkpoints and facilities rightly seen as vital to protecting their inhabitants and, for that matter, the Jewish State itself.

Hamas and Fatah bury the hatchet (temporarily), forging a united front and promising democratic elections in the new Palestine.  There, as in Gaza (and probably elsewhere in the wake of the so-called "Arab awakening"), the winner will likely be the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Palestinian franchise is Hamas).

The unified Palestinian proto-government then seeks international help to "liberate" their land.  As with the Gaddafi Precedent, the first to act is the Arab League.  Its members unanimously endorse the use of force to protect the "Palestinian people" and end the occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis.

Turkey (which is still a NATO ally, despite its ever-more-aggressive embrace of Islamism) is joined by Britain and France - two European nations increasingly hostile to Israel - in applauding this initiative in the interest of promoting "peace."  They call on the UN Security Council to authorize such steps as might be necessary to enforce the Arab League's bidding.

Once again, Team Obama's leading ladies - Madames Clinton, Power and Rice - align to support the "will of the international community."  They exemplify, and are prepared to enforce, the President's willingness to subordinate U.S. sovereignty to the dictates of transnationalism and his personal hostility towards Israel.  The concerns of Mr. Obama's political advisors about alienating Jewish voters on the eve of the 2012 election are trumped by presidential sympathy for the Palestinian right to a homeland.

Accordingly, hard as it may be to believe given the United States' longstanding role as Israel's principal ally and protector, Mr. Obama acts, in accordance with the Gaddafi Precedent.  He warns Israel that it must immediately take steps to dismantle its unwanted presence inside the internationally recognized State of Palestine, lest it face the sort of U.S.-enabled "coalition" military measures now underway in Libya.  In this case, they would be aimed at neutralizing IDF forces on the West Bank - and beyond, if necessary - in order to fulfill the "will of the international community."

Now in the midst of this warning above we have a massive increase in attacks on Israel from the Arabs of Gaza.  Suddenly and for no particular reason we have a barrage of 50 mortars fired followed by MAJOR long range rocket attacks on the Israeli CITIES of Ashdod and (this morning) Be’er Sheva.

Again we have to ask ‘what’s going on?’  What interest does Hamas or anyone in Gaza have in almost FORCING Israel into another round of defensive war against Gaza right NOW?  Right when Egypt is unstable, Syria is in turmoil, Yemen is in turmoil, and Libya is being attacked by the West and fighting itself?

There are two possible answers.  One is Arabs in Gaza acting as agents of Iran trying to start up with Israel to refocus Arab protestors on their “true” enemy Israel.  The other is to try to draw Israel in to an attack at the very moment that a Western Coalition is literally in fighting range, to then scream GENOCIDE and call for help from that coalition.

And as we’ve already seen, a decision to act could be made in…days if not hours.

Yeranen Yaakov points out this fits the navi (biblical prophecies), “first comes Daniel 11:40 (which may have just been fulfilled) and then comesDaniel 11:41, where the King of the North (i.e. Gog) comes against the Land of Israel.”

The surprise is not that world events are aligning to biblical prophecy, but that such major shifts are happening in days if not hours.

Yet we end where we started, “Do not fear sudden terror nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.  Contrive a scheme but it will be foiled, conspire a plot but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us…”

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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Shushan Purim with Rav Arush, shlita

Rabbi Nati joined his rav, Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, for his Purim party in Jerusalem on Shushan Purim.  He’s shared a few photos of the event…

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Purim Rumors?

2011-03-20 Purim 5771 009

- Is it true Rabbi Nati was dancing on a table giving over a shiur of Breslev chassidus on Purim?

- Is it true Reb Akiva was spotted in Rabbi Nati’s clothes farbrenging with a shochet who personally provides most of the kosher meat of Europe on Purim until ad lo yada?

- Is it true Rabbi Nati gave the Belzer Rebbe a bear hug on Purim?

Who knows, who remembers, who has the missing camera with the pictures???

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Tilting at CNN Windmills

There’s something insidious about CNN reporting nowadays.  Al Jazeera is at least obvious about their strong bias.  CNN tries to hide it…

libya_false

The message here is obvious and straightforward…and a lie. It is “a muslim religious holy site destroyed by terrible violent people in war!”

For a moment I thought CNN was criticizing Obama and the war against Libya.  Silly me.

“Satellite images of a Libyan city, provided to CNN by an (anonymous secret hidden GOVERNMENT) intelligence source, appear to show evidence that pro-Gadhafi forces razed a mosque.”  Oh My G-d, the Libyan leader is not just a genocidal madman, he’s an anti-muslim genocidal madman (muslim).

“The two images of an area of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, were taken February 20 and March 20, according to the source, who provided them on condition of anonymity.”  But just happens to have access to intelligence satellite photographs and is willing to share.

“In the first picture, a mosque can clearly be seen just south of Zawiya's Martyrs' Square, but in the later picture, the mosque is gone.”  Oh My G-d, the mosque is GONE!  What happened?  Why did this evil man bulldoze a mosque?  A mosque, a holy religious site in a holy public square!

On a side note, you can learn a lot about a culture from what they name their public squares and streets.  Martyrs’ Square, that’s (not) where I aspire to hang out. 

“the mosque served as a … rallying point and command center for the resistance.”

I’m no fan of the Libyan madman.  He’s caused enough trouble for Israel and the world, as well as being a terrorizing dictator of his people.  But in war, if one side is using a mosque as a command center, the other side is within it’s rights according to international law to attack the facility.  If that results in it’s destruction, it’s the fault of those who used it in a war role.

“The mosque was badly damaged during fighting to retake the city, the CNN team reported.”

And it would seem the Libyan army then leveled it to either clear the battlefield for the future (a valid war reason), for safety reasons (a valid reason), or to make a point in the midst of an uprising (debatable according to international law).

The results are legitimate, CNN’s presentation is propaganda and a lie to inflame passions in support of the war against Qaddafi.  And this exact technique is frequently used against Israel and the Jews.

Again, I’m no fan of the Libyan nutcase, by why is CNN suddenly lying to support a war???  (Knee jerk reaction to support anything President Obama does?)

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Heaven or Hell?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

One of the well explained theologies of the Lubavitcher Rebbe was made into the concise title of a book “Bringing Heaven Down to Earth”.

We are not angels or godly beings, we cannot make the world heavenly?  Or can we?

Each and every one of us is beset with troubles in this world.  Oh, a different person’s circumstances may seem better.  They may have a nicer (physical) home or be in better monetary circumstances.  But EVERYONE has their troubles.

Money, health, children, fertility, delinquency, debts, work pressures, bad bosses, harassment…more than enough troubles and worries to go around.

When one is loaded with their troubles it seems like a mountain sitting on their head.  Be b’simcha?  HOW, with all this TROUBLE?

And yet, while they can’t see a way out or even get a glimpse of possible salvation, for others helping them out may not be a big deal.  Someone else has the right contacts, a job opportunity, knows the right doctor, or counselor, or can give a bit of money or a loan that makes all the difference.

From our Mystical Paths Purim Campaign I received this note just about an hour ago…

Reb Akiva,

I just want to say thank you and please extend it to Rabbi Nati for the donation yesterday.  My wife said that she literally felt Geulah, and the both of you looked as if you were living Geulah when she saw you at the door.  Thank you so much.

Those thanks go to you!  Yesterday we, the readers and the bloggers, made a difference.  For some we brought heaven down to earth.

A final thank you for your help this Purim, for the privilege of being able to help others.

And if you missed joining the Purim campaign, don’t worry our Pesach Moas Chitim – Kimcha d’Pischa campaign will start next week (G-d willing) – to help the provide for the needy for Passover.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

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15 Years to Techiyas HaMesim?

Rabbi Pinchas Winston is a top geulah researcher.  In this shiur he explains how according to the Vilna Gaon in Kol HaTor, the resurrection of the dead must occur in 15 years!

Very interesting!  (h/t Shirat Devorah)

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Is G-d Really Loving?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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A Reader Wrote:

     If you show me that G-d is truly benevolent, I'll love you forever.

Gutman’s Answer:

     If you would ask me, “Why did G-d create the world?” I would say, “To have someone to love.” But that’s just my way of looking at things. Some down-and-out people would say that He did it just to have someone to “beat on.” This argument has been going on since Adam (the first man) was thrown out of the Garden.

     But the Zohar tells us that, just like did G-d put man (Adam) in the Garden then, so does He put man in the Garden now, when he busies himself withteshuva (repentance), Torah, and mitzvahs.[i] The Zohar is telling us that this is a world of unimaginable beauty, of awesome ongoing wonders, of opportunities to grow and to give. The deeper you look at creation, the more amazed you become.

     But what about the horrible things that we see going on in the world? Yes, they are happening. You see, we have a major problem here. G-d wants us to have free will, and then, after we exercise our free will, He gives back to us according to our actions. It’s like a huge, free restaurant. You can order anything you want, but you have to eat whatever you order.

     At first, He created a world like you would really love... only goodness… no sins… just angels. Angels do not have free will, so they do exactly what they were programmed to do. And G-d sat back and watched His magnificent, well-behaved angels go through their steps, always exactly as G-d wanted, always holy, and in tune with G-d’s perfect will. But you know what happened? G-d looked at that world and said, “You’re nice, I like you, but you’re boring.” So G-d created a world with man, and man is unique among all of the creation. Man has free will. He can do good, or he can do bad.

     Now, if this is too “romantic” an answer for you, look at the word “love” in Hebrew. It has a numerical value of 13. So does the word “One.” We can learn from this, when you love something you are somehow one with it. G-d is One, and He is All, and His Name equals love.

     If that is too far-fetched an answer for you, let’s try a logical answer. For every bad thing that happens in the world (and to you), there are hundreds, no, there are many thousands of good things happening. But those who cannot see G-d’s love, see the bad things and ignore the good things. Why do that? In my life I am so, so thankful to be alive, and every day gets better. But, I didn’t feel this way before I found out what we are supposed to be doing around here.

     A young man came by for Shabbos last week and asked, “Last time I was here, a year ago, you told me that the main things that you have to do are, ‘Be happy when you do a mitzvah,’ and ‘bring other Jews to do the same.’ Has anything changed?”

     “Nope” I answered. I was right, too. Do these things, and you will see that G-d is entirely loving--because you will be loving.

     The examples of G-d’s kindness are literally endless, but you have to look at things kindly to see them. For instance, the Torah forbids plowing with an ox and a donkey when they are yoked together.[ii] One of the reasons for this is that to harness them together would be unkind to the weaker animal. Well, if G-d has love and pity for His animals, how much more so does He have love and pity for His people?

     G-d said to us, “You shall be holy because I am holy.”[iii] An earthly king does not want to share his regal status with his subjects. He jealously reserves such things for himself so the kingdom will be in awe of him and respect him. G-d loves us so much that He says, “Come share in My holiness. Come be like Me.”

     If you look at the negative side of things, you will come to ask your kind of question. When you look at the positive side of things, you will answer it the way I did.

    Have a great day. Really, it’s a holy opportunity to experience love.


[i] Zohar 21a
[ii] Deuteronomy 22:10
[iii] Leviticus 11:44

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

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Mommy, Why Does CNN Hate Me?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

…because son, you’re a Jew in the Holy Land, in the Promised Land, in Israel, and a Jew in Israel is not a human, is not allowed to defend himself, and is responsible for his own murder if killed by terrorists or war crimes but commits a war crime if he defends himself or civilians from terrorists or war crimes…

cnn_pa_kill

[ Bad Jew, bad Jew, killing poor Palestinians! ]

Mommy, is it only CNN that hates me?

msnbc_militants

[ Gazan’s fire rockets and attack and die in the process. Ah, a bit of war in progress. ]

No son, the BBC hates you too.  Fortunately some other news outlets are more TRUTHFUL in their headlines…even Al Jazeera (though they hate you too, their honest about it).

CNN, you’d make Goebels proud!

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Purim Samayach!

We spent until a few moments ago distributing the Purim tzedakah to numerous needy in our community, completing the mitzvah as your shaliach (designated agent).  There is nothing like the smile that lights up a burdened face as a moment of relief and simcha washes over it.  We were excited to do our part, since you enabled us by doing your part, in making the day a true day of simcha for those less fortunate.

Here’s a bit of Purim simcha we filmed a couple years ago from our neighborhood. Purim Samayach, a Happy Purim!

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Purim Campaign Ends

A brief note on Purim morning.  We’d like to deeply and sincerely thank all those who donated to our Purim Campaign to help the poor in Israel for Purim and fulfill the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim, gifts to the poor for Purim.

Every donation was received and every amount makes a difference.  As always we are amazed at people’s kindness and generosity and received donations from all over the world.  While individually we each have our circumstances and limitations, together…well, just wow! 

In a short time we’re off to synagogue to daven shacharis (pray the morning prayer) and hear the megillah (the reading of the book of Esther).  When that ends our part  begins as we (discretely and in a respectful manner) visit the poor to distributed YOUR gifts to them on Purim day – fulfilling the mitzvah, relieving some of their burdens and given them a (further) reason to be b’simcha (happy) on Purim.

We’ve reviewed our methods with our supervising rabbi to be sure the mitzvah is fulfilled properly, redeemed checks, converted currency, and are ready to go.

May Hashem bless you that you are always and generously able to give.

Purim Samayach – Happy Purim!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

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Parshat Zachor

Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Gut Shabbos from Beit Shemesh in the Holy land.

It is a must to be in shul this Shabbos to hear the Torah reading this week, as we are obligated to remember to blot out the very remembrance of Amalek!

That is, the Amalek that dwells inside each of us! We must banish all trace of doubt from our lives. And how do we do this? We give thanksgiving to Hashem and through this hodya (praise) we come to true real simcha! And it is through this type/level of joy that we get Da'as, the knowledge that Hashem is in control of every event in creation! And thus we give no place for Amalek to dwell, banishing him from this world and uniting Hashem and the Shekeina!

May we all gather on this Purim the Holy chuppah of Hashem! Dance and sing it will set you free!

Gut Shabbos and chag shamayach! Have a kosher and happy Purim!
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Have a Happy Purim

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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It Is So Nice To Have A Good Friend Like You

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Drinking B'Kedushah - A Tefilah / Segulah

Below is the secret tefillah of drinking b'kedusah, drinking in a holy way, on Purim. All know that it's considered a mitzvah to drink until "ad lo yada", until one doesn't know the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman. Unfortunately without proper intention and focus this can both be dangerous (physically) and easily develop into an inappropriate drunken binder.

This tefilah is said to be handed down from the Baal Shem Tov and is given out by HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita to his talmidim to be recited before drinking on Purim. It specifically says it is to be said before every cup of drink...

(partial English translation after the prayer graphic)



Free translation...

(This introductory paragraph is a holy Breslev addition.)

I accept upon myself to drink this cup of wine (the preferred drink to use for Purim is specifically wine) on this Purim day in the name of all the true tzadikim of the generations, for all the true tzaddikim who reside in the holy dust (here) in the Holy Land, and to Mordechai and Esther, and especially to our holy Rebbe (Rebbe Nachman of Breslev), the tzadik is the foundation of the world and the fount of wisdom, our Rebbe Nachman son of Fayga from Bresle, his merit should protect us and all Israel, Amein.

(This paragraph is a kabbalistic intention from the Ari Zal.)

In the name of the union of the Holy Oe, blessed be He, with His Shechina, to united the Name yud-kay with vav-kay in a perfect union in the name of all Israel.

I am prepared to invite the will of Hashem to fulfill the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and to listen to the words of (our holy) sages, which have commanded us to drink wine on Purim. The Master of the Universe has revealed and shown that by drinking the wine there is the merited and not merited, and I know that by myself I am still not worthy. Therefore I request this mercy upon myself: Master of Mercy, may it be your will, G-d and G-d of my fathers, that by drinking this wine the following merits will come upon my intellect - that I will merit to constantly by connected to the (true) leaders of Israel, that I will merit (tikun hamochin) intellectual corrections, wisdom, that my arrogance will be removed, that I will be humble, to repair my sins and especially (tikun habris) sins relating to the bris milah.

And I should merit by drinking this wine to be elevated, to have a good memory and especially to remember the mitzvah of eliminating Amalek. And I should merit to rise to a place that is all good, and Hashem should protect me. And you should protect me that I shouldn't become an evil one without merits...

[anyone that wants to add to the translation in the comments is welcome to do so.]

A safe and happy Purim!
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Our Recent Tragedies

a guest post by Rabbi Tal Moshe Zwecker,

Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim

I do not often write about current events, usually because I feel to inadequate to be a commentator on the workings of the world. However something moved me to write about the past events of recent headlines and news and so here goes . . .

Macrocosm and Microcosm

Those are the two words which resonate within me. On a massive large macro scale we have Japan's tragedy an earthquake and a tsunami and the death and destruction of the lives of many people. On a micro smaller more intimate scale we have the tragedy in Itamar a family murdered in cold blood by inhuman beasts called Arab terrorists.

Many people seem to see some sort of connection, comparing and contrasting these events, how much or how little Press coverage they got etc. I myself do not know nor do I claim heaven forbid, to understand the ways of G-d.

Today was the fast of Esther, and as is our custom in the Ashkenazi rite we read during Mincha's afternoon service the words of the prophet where G-d Himself tells us "My thoughts are not your thoughts& My ways or not your ways."  As Jews we always must heed the Rambam's call where Maimonidies tells us that whenever a tragedy befalls us we must examine ourselves do introspection and repent for our misdeeds and shortcomings, we should not say such is the way of the world and that events are happenstance for the Rambam calls such an attitude sheer cruelty.

So what do we do and what do we think?

On a Macro scale, Japan, some are saying it all has to do with two Jewish boys who are innocent yet sitting behind bars in Chiba Prison.  Let us look again to Berachos 59a where many of us turned during the last tsunami, and we might just be shocked: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, recalls His children, who are suffering among the nations of the world, He drops two tears into the Great Sea, and the sound of them is heard from one end of the world to the other, and this is 'goha.'"

"goha" - meaning "trembling and crying out," and Rashi explains that the reference is to "trembling of the earth" (earthquakes).  Read that again with the emphasis on His children and two tears. Again there are two innocent Jewish boys suffering in Japan. Something to think about . . .

Maybe. . .but that is Hashem's cheshbon not ours. We cannot know why catastrophic events claim the lives of so many Japanese people. What should our cheshbon be?
Are we battling drugs? Purim is coming will we fight alcholism, smoking and substance abuse? Will we let Yeshiva bochurim OD Ch"V on Alcohol or Drive Drunk or do anything else that the yetzer hara has designated Purim for?

One man's greed for money through drugs landed these poor yidden in jail. Do we fight those things in our community do we cry out and shed tears like the Ribbono Shel Olam does?!

As for Itamar, how can we ever imagine the tragedy of such a family! As I listened to some of the hespedim said at the funeral all I could think was that this is a family, these were someone's children and grandchildren, a husband a wife a brother a sister and they are just gone! Murdered in cold blood by an Arab terrorists yimach shmam!

What can we do as a cheshbon?! They died for an ideal of settling eretz yisroel -yishuv ha'aretz. Sure I am not a settler, I am not even a religious zionist as they were. But the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel does exist. Maybe we take living here in the holy land for granted, Eretz Yisroel isn’t just a nice place to visit on Yom Tov, or a vacation spot, or a place to learn Torah in for a few years before or after getting married. It is our
home. . .

I have said enough, there is no more to say . . .
Good Shabbos and may we truly have a Purim Samayach,
Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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Poor? Yes there are, you can help!

(direct video link)

More people in need, less people able to help.  It’s a hard time and (G-d should help!) it’s getting harder around the world.  We can cry about it or we can make a point of pushing ourselves to do even more to help! 

We, Reb Akiva & Rabbi Nati, are committed to doing everything we can and more.  That means two chassidim creating a way for you to directly help the poor of the Land of Israel, the Holy Land.  And we’re doing it with NO OVERHEAD, no expenses (taken), and certainly (G-d forbid) no profit, no percentage, no salaries.  Only 100% tzedakah!  [Minus only credit card processing fees and money changing fees.]

Fulfill the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim, charity/gifts for the poor for Purim, the best way…in Israel with 100% of your charity dollar, rand, shekel, euro, pound, kronor, ruble, yuan, going to the needy for Purim.  EVERY amount is worthy, every bit helps add up for the poor!

Our effort is coordinated through Yesh Ma L’asot, Rabbi Nati’s authorized Israeli Jewish charity, and supervised by Rabbi Chaim Farro.

HELP NOW, PURIM IS ALMOST HERE!  Here’s how…

The time has passed to help and fulfill the mitzvah of matanot l'evyonim for Purim 2011, but charity is always a mitzvah!

Thank you.  And may Hashem bless you that your Purim table be filled with good food, good drink, and simcha!

Note that donations are tax deductible in Israel.  Amuta number upon request.

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Even Scholars must Be Happy

by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

jewish-simleyAs I was walking past a yeshiva I was accosted by a Torah scholar.  He was existing and seeing me in extremely distinctive Jewish chassidic clothing (modern Meah Shearim style – available only in Jerusalem) he ran over and almost jumped in front of me asking “Why is it that chassidim are happy all the time??? It doesn’t stay that anywhere in the Torah?”

I asked him if he had a Shulchan Aruch handy (a code of Jewish law), at which point he took me into the yeshiva and pointed at the shelf.  I pulled down a volume that contains a statement by the mechaber (the author of the Shulchan Aruch) that many Torah scholars miss as they delve into the depth and details of every Torah law.

It says (not an exact quote) ‘one who is not happy is disqualified from being a shochet (ritual slaughterer), a mohel (ritual circumciser), a dayan (Jewish religious court judge)… (and others)’.

As he read it his face fell as he realized he’d erred in taking a purely serious attitude approach to Torah and life. 

He paused a moment, put the volume back on the shelf, turned to me, took a deep breath and said “I guess I better learn how to be happy.”

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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Pour’em - Until What?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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    We are told to drink so much on Purim that we cannot tell the difference between “Bless Mordechai and curse Haman,” or the other way around! What does this mean? How is it possible to drink like that?

    First, for a well known fact: if you mix drinks – whiskey, wine and vodka or whatever - the chances are that you are going to become violently ill and miss the entire point of the party. (You will also earn the great disrespect, to put it mildly, of the one who has to clean up after you.) It is best to drink wine since wine was served at the original Purim party.[i] Whatever taste you prefer is fine, but stick to one type throughout the entire day.

    The spiritual task on Purim is not simply to be happy. We must try to experience the highest spiritual joy possible. This joy comes when Hashem’s Presence is unmasked. How can drinking on Purim do this? By breaking down the human system of logic that prevents this understand from dawning. We try to take a peek into the greatest mystery of all. This can happen only when there is joy, and this joy has to be the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah. We are not searching for mere physical joy, such as the joy that comes from eating and drinking. But on Purim, even the joy that comes from eating and drinking is a mitzvah!

    Once, there was a holy king. This king was not just an ordinary king. This king demonstrated his royalty by exuding a wondrous feeling of bliss. This feeling was so strong and so enjoyable that when his subjects would come into the palace for a feast, they would say, “This feeling emanating from the king is so wonderful, if only there could be more of it.” They reasoned that the only thing stopping the king's bliss from entirely filling the room was their own bodies, which took up so much space.

     They decided to shrink in order to leave more room for the king’s bliss. And it worked. As they shrunk, more and more bliss filled the room. They enjoyed the additional bliss so much that they shrunk again and again until finally, they completely disappeared.

    Unfortunately, this left the king with a problem. “I want to enjoy a feast with my subjects, but every time I invite them over,“ he complained, “they disappear on me. I want to eat and drink with my friends, but they evaporate right before my eyes. I don’t want to eat and drink all this food by myself.”

      “Wait a minute, I know what I can do,” he reasoned. “After all, I am the king, so I can do whatever I want. I’m going to apportion myself around the banquet table. I am going to take small portions of myself and form these individual portions into different people, and on each person I am going to put a distinct mask. Each portion is going to see itself solely as the person that its mask depicts. And this mask is going to be stuck on each portion so that none will be able to remove its mask for the entire party. Maybe some portions will be able to sneak a peek from time to time, but for the most part, the masks are going to be permanently affixed.”

    “What a party it will be! There will be eating and drinking and grand entertainment, with everyone ordering whatever he wants and eating whatever he orders. Then, at the appropriate time, when the feast is over, the strings holding on the masks will be loosened and each portion will be able to lift off its mask. Everyone will see it was really only me sitting there the entire time.”

    This is the hidden story of Purim. This is why we wear masks and costumes on Purim, hiding our true identity. The truth is, only the King will be at your Purim meal, but you will not know this because logic tells you that you and your friends are the only ones there.

    And this is why we drink so much on Purim. When the wine goes in, the mysteries come out. This year, when you are so very drunk, try to recall who is really filling your body. Try to take a peek under your mask.

    “Know this day and take it to your heart that the L-rd is G-d; in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is nothing else.” Ain od! (There is no other).[ii]


[i] Esther 1:7
[ii] Deuteronomy 4:39

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