Friday, April 29, 2011

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Chubs?

Spotted in Jerusalem…

If you weren’t such a teddy bear, you’d make it…

duba

An advertisement for a weight loss center in Jerusalem.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

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Opportunities and the Future

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Over Passover I met an interesting young man by the name of Chaim.  Chaim is a young chassidic man in his early 20’s from a major Jewish and chassidic community in the U.S.  His father is a well known rav (rabbi) and community leader.

He arrived in our chassidic synagogue sporting a big untrimmed chassidic style beard, springy payos (sidelocks), and a Tavor assault rifle.

Chaim joined us for the last day of Passover as he’s in Israel having enlisted as a Jewish foreigner into the Israel Defense Forces.  And he didn’t just enlist, he demanded a tough combat brigade and is trying out for special forces next month.

Now one might think this young man is just weird, a strange anomaly of the “ultra-orthodox” community.  Or he might be a family outcast or one of the “off the derek” (leaving the orthodox path) boys.  But a conversation with Chaim quickly disabuses one of these notions.

Chaim prays with the best of them and learns (Torah).  He’s become an unofficial religious leader in his unit.  He’s also his squad’s best shot.

Chaim is here in Israel in the IDF because, in his words, “There are no opportunities for young men where I come from (a major North American city).  I love the Jewish people and I want to do something for them.  And we’re now coming under threat from all sides.  I’m not a Zionist, I would go to help the Jewish people even if they were in Uganda.  In the IDF I can help defend my brothers and sisters and do something worthwhile.”

Chaim says he’s not unusual in his unit.  Over 150 of the last draft for his unit was foreigners, young Jews from the U.S., Canada, Australia, etc, who have come to volunteer for the IDF.  He said his commanders literally don’t know what to make of these Anglos, young idealistic Jews leaving the “golden” lands of the West for the Promised Land and the Jewish people, that may be making up to 10% of this top IDF combat unit.

Are they all religious like Chaim?  He says on Shabbat the base synagogue (capacity 60) is full, plus standing soldiers, plus all the windows are opened and the small building itself is surrounded – maybe 300 men singing together to the Shabbos Queen.

Chaim is NOT in a religious combat unit.  The Netzach Yehuda – Nachal Charedi unit is seeing this story in an even greater way.  Not only is the unit full, it may be 20% non-Israel Jewish men enlisting.  And many of these Anglos are extending their service, signing up for officer training and the like.

It is very possible a new form of Western aliyah has begun.  Young idealistic religious Jews are looking at a lack of local opportunities (due to world economic conditions) and turning towards Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel).  The future of the Jewish people with aliyah from the West may be quietly changing right before our eyes.

READ IT!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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What’s the Purpose of It All?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (2)     Regarding the article that discussed how, in fact, G-d is all that there is (How About the “Other Things?”), a reader asked, “Then, what is the purpose of it all?”

     Of course this is not a new question. If everything is going to one day cease, as some Jewish sources believe, or even if some form of creation goes on forever, since it is all G-d anyway, what good is it? Who is fooling who? Why did G-d need this creation anyway? Does G-d have “needs” that He needed to do all this? On and on, there just does not seem to be a logical answer.

     Some schools of Jewish thought say that He created (and creates) the universe in order to make a dwelling place for Himself in a lower world. Others say that He created it for joy. Some say, “Don’t ask!” In truth, even after hearing all of the answers, we can still ask the same question again. Why? Why does He do all this?

     We are told that G-d wants us to emulate Him. For instance, He tells us to be holy because He is holy. Therefore, I can only believe that somehow G-d is creating the creation for somewhat the same reason that I would create it. I realize that this is a huge chutzpah (arrogance), but it is how I feel. So here is my take on why G-d does it.

     G-d did not need a place in a lower world, nor was He particularly unhappy the way He was, so He had to make a world to create joy. It seems to me that He does all this because He is extremely loving and He is extremely generous. These qualities are just the way He is. Now, what is He going to do with all that love and that huge amount of generosity, if there is no one at all to give it to?

     When I see small children walking down the street, I smile and say, “This is why You are doing it.” What a magnificent thing! A tiny child has a full soul and all kinds of opinions. He or she has desires and goals. They all know love, and have definite ideas of how things should be. Applause! Applause! Author! Author!

     G-d makes man lust after woman, just so He can have these little jewels to watch run around. He makes women want to have children, and He even makes women want a man to want her. All this wanting is just so these little babies will come into being. It seems to me that the real reason G-d wants a world at all is.. He loves little kids. What else could it be?

     So, even if creation does end some day, as many believe, G-d created it just for the gorgeous joy of it’s being here while it is here, and for the many smiles He sees along the way.

     And what about all of the hell that creation can also bring? Well, if we are going to have free will, as G-d insists, then there have to be different kinds of options for us to choose. Both are here, heaven and hell, the Garden and the Jungle. We get to live the life we choose.

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Oy, Missionaries

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I received the following email today…

I would like to ask you a very important question about Judaism and Christianity.

I was raised as a Reform Jew. After graduating from Harvard College, I moved to Israel and became involved in the Chozer Beteshuvah movement and ended up living as an ultra-Orthodox Jew for 18 years.

In the year 2000, I met South African missionaries working in Israel who led me to accept Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMoshiach, as my Lord and Savior.

Since that time I have engaged in much dialogue with Jewish people. For example, I know Rabbi Moshe Shulman, who is a leading anti-missionary activist, as well as Tuvia Singer. I am well aware of their disdain for the Christian Faith….”

Oy oy oy.  I’m not going to bother with his “important question”, as it’s not a question but an argument for worshiping a dead man god.  Instead I’m going to note that a solid Torah identity requires 3 legs of a stool.

Torah – One must learn Torah.  This includes the written Torah, the oral Torah (Mishneh and Gemora), as well as Navi’im and Ketuvim (the biblical prophets and later writings).  A solid foundation in the words of the Living G-d are critical, with clear understanding of the language and traditional commentaries.

Halacha and Mitzvot – One must observe the commandments of G-d and understand the parameters of what that observance is.  Unfortunately today we have added many chumrot (extra stringencies), and often people do not learn and understand the difference between the religious law, the added customs of the generations and the added stringencies.  Added stringencies are to protect from religious accidents and to help a community focus properly, but in some situations are overbearing on some people.  They are NOT required yet people often think they are AND that they’re part of basic observance (and therefore may feel very guilty when accidentally violating a stringency or not being able to handle a stringency…yet it’s an add-on and there should be no such guilt or bad feeling of not accepting or handling it).

Kabbalah – Chassidus – Mussar – Pure halachic Judaism lacks “theology”.  Why?  What’s with the soul?  Afterlife?  Man’s relationship with G-d?  The affect of mitzvot bein adom l’makom (what do performing commandments between man and G-d do)?  Why should we live a particular way or act a particular way?  From different perspectives and approaches Kabbalah and Chassidus and Mussar answer these questions.  They add the theology, the secrets and the mystical portion of Torah.  The explanations of why and how things relate to G-d.  One can be a perfectly observant Jew (even for 18 years or for a lifetime) without learning Kabbalah / Chassidus / Mussar, but if one is challenged on the why and the relationship with G-d (and happens to be in a bad situation at the time) and has no answers…G-d forbid one can be drawn to the other side.

It’s worth noting that missionizing is illegal in Israel, however the law is almost never enforced.  Instead those in Ramat Gan are protesting the opening of a Chabad house!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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You Never Know

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (10)

    Jews are an amazing people. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, you never really know what is spiritually going on in a Jew’s life.

    A friend of mine, who is a Chabad shiliach (emissary) in Germany, sent me this story. The man in the middle is a Russian Jew named Leonid, who left Russia and now lives in Germany. All of his family were members of the communist party, and as such, they never gave their children any Jewish education. For Leonid’s entire life, until this day, he remembers absolutely nothing Jewish ever happening in his home. After all, the communist party was renowned for being against religion.

     His father passed away 23 years ago, and two years ago his mother also passed away. He went to the local Chabad shul (synagogue) to say kaddish(the mourner’s prayer) for her. Leonid liked what he saw there, and he continued on. In the two years since his mother’s death, he has grown in Torah observance.

      A month ago, my friend felt that it was time to speak to him about a bris (Jewish circumcision). This is a major problem with Russians who were raised under the influence of communism. Also, it is not such a small matter for an adult male to undergo this procedure, but for whatever reason, Leonid agreed. The rabbi checked to be 100 percent certain that Leonid was Jewish, and they made an appointment with a mohel (circumciser) in Antwerp.

     They arrived for the bris and the mohel took Leonid upstairs for the bris, while my friend and his friends said Tehillim (Book of Psalms). After ten minutes, the mohel returned to them and said that he never had such a case as this. Leonid had already been circumcised! Not that he was born circumcised as sometimes, although very rarely, can happen, but that he had a kosher circumcision by a proper mohel. Leonid had no idea about it. All his life his parents never told him. He did not even know what a bris was. He thought that the mohel was going to cut something off of him. The mohelcalled a second mohel to verify what he thought. The second mohel said that this was a one in a million story.

     After all of these years, Leonid learned of the mesirus nefesh (self sacrifice) of his parents. If the bris had been discovered, his parents would have lost their positions in the party, their jobs, their home, everything… and they would have had to look for new work in a hostile environment. But still, they somehow found a way in communist Russia in 1955, while living as communists, to have a secret bris, a bris so secret that even their son did not know about it until today.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

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Vision or Decline?

As the U.S. appears to be falling into a great decline, there are some glimmers of hope…

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

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The Night of Our Redemption!

by Rabbi Nati at Mystical Paths

Remember my friends! Tonight is the time of the real redemption. Tonight is the night that The Sea Reeds split and we were all truly saved!

Hashem did what was good and continues to do what is good.

Everything is with amazing Divine Providence. And know this is the essential force behind all miracles and redemptions, especially the first Redemption, the Exodus from Egypt, which took place and will take place tonight (the 7th night of Passover).

And it is all through His salvation and amazing Divine providence.

For in truth all that happens to us everyday is by no means a trivial matter, and every person has to remember this every single day.

It is necessary to remember this, and remember it well every day!

'For Hashem heard, Hashem saw, Hashem REMEMBERED!'

Thanks to the living G-D that He provided us with the complete remedy before the illness arrived.

This is a remez (a hint) to those who are awake and can see and hear. Because we know about such amazing light of lights, the likes of whom has never before existed! And do not forget the kindness that Hashem has done for us in this regard.

It is the answer, and the comfort, and the cure for everything that confronts each of us every single day. Be careful to guard and watch over your souls' carefully! That you not forget what you you have seen with your mind's eye and what your ears have heard from the day that you became aware of all this until today, to remember! "That all comes from and is Hashem!!!!

It is good to thank Hashem who has helped us this far! It is very fitting to be greatly joyful on this night (the 7th night of Passover) and at midnight to sing 'Az Y'shir Moshe'... out loud and with kavanah! To dance, and long for the final redemption until davining at Neitz Hachamah (prayers at dawn). This night has the greatest spiritual potential!!!

The night of our leaving Egypt behind and Freedom!

Fortify yourselves determinedly to fill yourselves with joy, especially on this Yom Tov! "For even slave girls and commoners saw what the prophets could not!"

Accustom yourselves to being free men!

And know we have someone who is preforming on our behalf all tikunim and rectifications we need at all times. It is incumbent upon us to joyfully praise the Master and Creator of All. For we have been able to know about the one who is engaging in the rectification of our souls for all eternity. *Hashem Himself and no other* For He alone is the Tzaddik HaEmes! And He alone can save us!

May it be His will to send you and me a complete Salvation! So that we may be worthy of truly attaining the joy of Yom Tov. And making a completely new start, from this point on in drawing close to Hashem.

Now and forever! AMEIN!

Gut Yom Tov from Beit Shemesh, Eretz HaKodesh (the Holy Land), Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel).

Reb Nati
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G-d as a Light Bulb

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

bulbA friend and reader asked me to check out two Zohar (kabbalah book) web sites that he was getting into.  (Combined) Zohar and (Frequent) Zohar [actual names avoided] are both sites that present bits of the Holy Zohar…for daily review?

First a side note.  Mystical Paths started 7 years ago specifically because of my reaction to Madonna and the kabbalah phenomenon of the time.  As I posted in great detail in the past, every one of the organizations teaching and selling kabbalah to the public as an instant life fixing scheme was not only misusing spiritual practices – they were literally creating cult like organizations.

A brief examination of the (Combined) Zohar site found a nice well organized site that’s presenting tidbits of Zohar in the original aramaic for “review”.  But it’s not for study or learning.  It’s for “scanning”.

Scanning is a key term from the kabbalah cult.  Their idea is like this.  “The Zohar is holy technology, and by simply seeing [staring at] specific bits you can use it to manipulate the spiritual force of the universe” (for your personal benefit). 

The particular tidbit I saw included a preliminary “read or scan” paragraph that was actually a yichudim (a kabbalistic unity prayer) from the Ari z”l.  The purpose of such a prayer is to use meditation on specific combinations of names of Hashem to open channels of divine blessing for a specific purpose.  A simple form of this is used by Breslev chassidim before many mitzvot (“l’shem yichud kudsha barichu…”) and is included by Chabad chassidim in daily shacharis (morning prayer) before the Baruch Sha’amar tefila.

So we have a holy kabbalistic prayer upon which one is to meditate upon the specific forms of names of Hashem to more easily widen the connection to Hashem…and the instruction is to “glance at it”.  No mention (in English) to focus on Hashem…just “scan”.

And the goal is “bring the light”.  It’s never connect with Hashem, it’s always “bring the light”.  “bring the light of the Zohar to shine all over the world. Be one soul with all the souls that seek and wish the light of the creator to shine over the entire world.”  Glance at bits of Zohar and “bring the light”.

The second site is similar but a bit more extensive.  It brings pages of the Zohar complete with a Hebrew and English translation.  This site was a little harder to tease out as a problem but the same signs are there.  The first hint was a request for healing at the top of the site.  At Jewish sites we request people pray to G-d to bring a healing to the sick person.  This site requests “Please take a moment to meditate and send healing energy to …”.

And in the about the site says “This passage can be scanned or read in sixty seconds or less, just enough time to light the candle of the Zohar in your soul.”  Again we have it, not learned or understood or used to connect to G-d.  Scanned or quickly read to “light the candle of the Zohar in your soul.”

The key to understanding the kabbalah cults is this quote from the site, “the Zohar is a divine tool”.  The Zohar is removed from it’s connection to G-d, to Torah, to the Jewish people, to the Holy Land and is just considered a “divine tool”.  A magical technology to plug into the “light of creation”.

Kabbalah and the Zohar are the 3rd leg of a stool for stepping up and completing the connection to Hashem.  The first leg is Torah.  The second leg is halacha (Jewish law) and mitzvot (practical actions commanded by G-d).  The 3rd leg, the mystical, can ONLY be utilized when the first two legs are in place.

Otherwise the connection created is false and any and all “light” accessed is immediately redirected to the Klipah, to the Other Side. 

My friend, who was volunteering to help them out, asked me what to say to them in kind departure.  This is what I recommended…

“As a Jew, I worship and have a connection with the Holy One, Blessed Be He as a Father, a Master, a King, God, and Creator. I see no reason to limit my relationship with the Master of the Universe to that of a light bulb and electrical socket."

Love and Light,  [kabbalah cult sign off]
Reb Akiva

P.S.  What if you’re a non-Jew?  Non-Jews may also learn (some) Torah and also have the 7 commandments of Noah.  A non-Jew may build a kosher connection to Hashem, and a place in the world to come is open to everyone.

READ IT!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Being Together

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

In Israel I live in a mixed Jewish religious neighborhood.  Mixed doesn’t mean religious and non-religious, it means Sephardi Jews, Mizrachi Jews, Chassidic Jews, Litvish Jews…Jews of every stripe of traditional observance.

How do they handle this?  At the corner of the block there are 6 synagogues.  Go down the next street and there’s another 4, each a different ‘flavor’.

People are friendly and cordial, but still they don’t generally interact.

On Chol HaMoed, the intermediate holiday days of Passover and Succot, everyone heads out with their family to visit sites all over Israel.  Holy sites, hiking sites, shopping sites, museums, shows and events of various types.  And when time for Mincha (the afternoon prayer) comes, they find themselves in mixed groups for the afternoon prayer.

Chassidim with big shtreimels are standing next to Sephardim, who are next to Mizrachi with knit kippahs, and a Na Nach, and a guy with a pony tail and kippah, long payos and trimmed payos, beards and clean shaven, and a few guys who pull kippahs out of their pockets just to join for the moment.

We stand together, praying to Hashem together, enjoying the Holy Land together during the holy holiday.

Perhaps the closest taste we get of the time of the Beis HaMikdash and aliyat haregel (traveling to Jerusalem together for the holiday).

Moadim b’Simcha, together.

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The Land (Photos)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel is amazing.  The next curve or turn or hill and there are amazing views.

The hills outside of Modi’in on a stormy day…P1030579

(Relatively) new highway Route 6 (Israel’s first toll road – yay) has opened up Israel’s interior to quick travel.  The northern end terminates at Yokneam, which is the eastern side of the Galil – Israel’s northern interior heartland.

Outside of Beit Lechem HaGalil.  The nearby towns, Jewish, Bedouin and Arab, are built on the hills and the valleys are farmed. 

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With good rains this year, late spring rains, the wheat is strong and tall…

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Horses in Israel?  About 100 years ago in Israel horses were the major way of covering your land and defending your area.  Today a few are still around…

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And wildflowers!  Spring rains bring an explosion of wildflowers!

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Moadim L’Simcha from Eretz HaKodesh!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

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Passover Campaign Report

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your shaliach, your messenger of charity, for this Passover.  All donations have been received and were either already distributed or are being distributed (a remaining few) today (a few in Jerusalem).

We received a wide range of donations from all over the world.  It’s very heartening to see that people care and are willing to stop and help their needy brothers and sisters in Israel for the holiday.  Some donations were small – and greatly appreciated!  In a few cases people gave multiple times, indicating they kept the needy in mind and when they had a bit they could give, they did.  Some donations were large and we must say WOW, you stopped us in our tracks with the knowledge that people are willing to help so much!

And what of the needy?

First let me say people try.  Nobody wants to need charity.  Oh it may be easy to sit in better circumstances and say “they made some poor decisions” or “they didn’t deal with their circumstances as they should have.”  But the truth is all of us make some poor decisions and sometimes don’t deal well with our circumstances.  If we’re fortunate we have enough resources to survive our poor decisions or family to pull us through our circumstances.  But not everyone does and not everyone has.

…The mother and daughter were going to spend Passover in the dark, they made a choice between rent and electric and rent won.  Because of your help their Passover will be in the light.

…The father’s a Torah scholar and a teacher, and is now out of a job.  He’s struggling to make something tutoring but is falling behind on all his family’s bills.  With your help he’ll have a full seder table this year.

…The father’s a rabbi but stays home taking care of a special needs son.  The mother tries but job cutbacks have cut into their basic expenses to the point where day to day bread is a challenge.  Their empty refrigerator is full for this Passover.

…and a real challenge.  My annoying neighbor from downstairs.  We’re not friends, we don’t get along.  But our building manager came by for the monthly building fee and mentioned they haven’t been paying their building fee, or their rent.  If you can’t pay you’re rent, what are you doing for a seder?  They got an anonymous envelope and a knock on the door (as we ran away).

…and more.

YOU made a difference.  May Hashem bless every donor abundantly and bring the full blessings of Passover to every seder table.  In the merit of charity, in the merit of helping your fellow who you don’t even know on the other side of the world, in the merit of ahavas chinam (love with no reason), for the holiday of redemption may we all merit the complete and final redemption this year!

…thank you.  A kosher and happy Passover.

[ Forgive me.  It’s not a glossy campaign report and we don’t have PR staff to phase everything in perfect glowing terms to pull your heart strings for the next campaign.  We’re just two Jews doing what we can.  Wait, it’s not true!  With your partnership we’re not just two Jews doing what we can, we’re many many more! ]

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

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How About the “Other Things?”

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Regarding the video, Answers to a Pastor, a viewer wrote:

     Please explain your "G-d is All" statement. I thought this is incorrect; only that G-d is One. The "All" part leans towards [includes] other things.

Gutman’s response:

     This is without doubt the most mystical teaching in the entire Torah. And it is both the simplest to understand, once you “get it,” and the most difficult to understand, until you do “get it.” This subject also draws tremendous disagreement among students of Torah.

     There are two lines in the Torah that address this very issue: “You have been shown in order to know that Hashem, He is G-d. There is nothing else beside Him,” (ain od milvado) [ii] and “Know this day and take unto your heart that Hashem is G-d; in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is nothing else.” (ain od) [iii]

     Referring to G-d, both lines state that there is “nothing else,” but the first quote adds, “beside Him.” Why did the Torah have to add the words “beside Him?” The second quote simply states that there is “nothing else,” without adding “beside Him.” If there is nothing else, why bother adding the words “beside Him”?

     The first quote addresses the multiple perspective, i.e. the perspective that also recognizes the many distinctions within creation. At this perspective we see that there are “others,” i.e. this object is other than that object. But still, the Torah insists that even from this perspective, which includes “others,” there is nothing other than Him.

     The second quote addresses the higher perspective, which includes and transcends the multiple perspective. It simply states that there is nothing else, period!

     How can this be? How can there be nothing other then G-d? I am here. You are here. G-d is Infinite. We are not infinite. We break. G-d does not break. We were born, and we will die. G-d was not born and surely G-d does not die. So how can G-d be all?

     To try to understand this principle look at the concept of the clal (general principle) and the prat (details within the general principle). The general principle is all, which includes each of the many details. Although all of the details are included within the general principle, the details are not the general principle, because each detail is no more than one individual detail.

     Picture sunlight bouncing off of a body of water; although there are hundreds of reflections, there is only one light. “Reflection” refers to its shape, and “light” refers to its essence, its being. Even though the reflection is made out of the light, the reflection cannot claim to be the light, because the light includes all of the reflections. The individual reflection is only a single reflection.

     Back to the lines in the Torah. The line that states that there is “no other beside Him” addresses the many individual reflections. It teaches that even though the reflections are individual and many, and even though they are “other” than each other, they are not “other” than the light. The second line, that there “is nothing else.” addresses the higher perspective, the perspective of light. The perspective of light includes the perspective of reflections, because the reflections are made out of the light.

     In order to be infinite, G-d must be all. If we are not included in the infinite then the infinite is not all. G-d is one, G-d is all, and G-d is beyond the all, too.

    How can there be anything beyond the All? Think of the “Light without end” (orh ain sof). Since this light has no end, you might want to think that it is absolutely All. But now consider the “One Who Emanates the Light without end” (M’orh ain sof). The Creator of the light without end is not simply an endless light. Although He creates, surrounds, and fills all, still, He is not limited by the all. He is all, and He is beyond the all, too.


[i] www.thereisone.com

[ii] Deuteronomy 4:35

[iii] Deuteronomy 4:39

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Got Sheep? (Not Me!)

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

LambBlog Life in Israel reports the following quote from the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel…

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, when asked about the possibility of us bringing the korban this year, “Shtuyot! Who are we to bring the korban pesach?”

Life in Israel responded noting he’d never heard of levels of greatness required to bring the korbon pesach, and the Torah requires it upon every Jew if possible.

And then one of his commentors added this…

Maybe he views it in the same frame as for example a tefillat nedava. Let's start doing properly the things that are definitely necessary to be done before we go looking for new things to do.

New things? NEW THINGS???? Korbon Pesach (the Passover sacrifice) is a NEW thing???  We're going to chumra (add extra stringencies) our Pesach (Passover) up to our necks...and we're calling Korbon Pesach a NEW thing?

Both the comment and the Chief Rabbi’s (reported) quote show a VERY VERY troubling trend.  Clear mitzvot from the Torah (that are clearly explained and instructed in the Gemora) are IGNORED or just considered impossible without any thought.

Yet we’ll focus on every stringency, minchag, communal custom, as if it’s Torah m’Sinai (as if it’s the literal written word of G-d).

I am NOT a karite (a Torah literalist who ignores the words of our rabbis and the Gemora).  But I do not understand how we can ignore a mitzvah d’orisa?

You tell me.  WHY are WE not bringing a korbon pesach this year?

Rabbi Nati was passing through the Yaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem yesterday.  There was a police blockade with dogs inspecting cars.  What were they looking for?  LAMBS or KIDS (baby goats)!  Why?  Because some Jews living in the Old City were attempting to bring some lambs or baby goats home to prepare for the Passover sacrifice.

Rabbi Nati watched as the police were confiscating (in two different cases) lambs from men trying to bring them home before Passover.

THOSE JEWS can stand before Shamayim and say “because of external factors I was unable to bring the Korbon Pesach”.

Those Jews can say “if the path was blocked by the Hand of Heaven (via the arm of the State), then it is the will of Heaven that I not be able to bring the Passover sacrifice”.

If we tried and were blocked (by the State or by religious threats or security threats or lack of money or lack of access)...  If we prepared but were unable to get all the needed items, appropriate trained people, or there was a real blocking halachic issue (there isn’t)…

If so….but if not, what is our excuse?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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What’s the Most Important Thing?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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Although the holiday of Passover is, by far, the most memorable and beloved holiday of the entire Jewish calendar, it also brings the greatest number of details, requirements and restrictions. Observing each of these elements is crucial during this week of preparation and especially for the Seder itself. To list them all would (and does) fill an entire book.

     There are the Torah commandments and there are the rabbinical commandments. There are also the customs that, surprisingly, vary tremendously between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There are the unique customs that have developed around the diaspora. For example, Indian Jews eat different foods on Passover than Temanni Jews, and some Jews will dip their matzah in their soup, while others would be aghast at such a move! Some will eat beans, and some would never do such a thing. There are strict requirements as to the minimum amounts of matzah, bitter herb and wine that must be consumed, and only within a specific period of time. And perhaps most important of all are the amazingly strict requirements not to have any leavening or related products in our possession for the entire week. Confusing this even more is that some authorities say certain foods are leavened while others swear that they are not.

     On and on, the list of requirements that ensure a successful Seder can certainly seem overwhelming. It is no wonder that the favorite question a sharp student will ask his rebbe right before the Seder is, “What is the most important thing that I must watch out for?”

   Last Pesach, right before leaving the Kotel to rush home for the Seder, a rabbi friend of mine asked me that very question. To his great surprise, I immediately answered, “Make sure that the children have a good time.” He looked at me as if I might be joking; his face was all twisted up. He wanted to know some great Kabbalah about the four cups of wine, or maybe how to lean to the side when drinking them. Or maybe I could give him some great Chassidic teaching on how to do teshuva (repentance) while trying to gulp down that impossibly hot horseradish. AAGHHHH! But, no, I simply said, “Make sure that the children have a good time.”

    The next afternoon, he came up to me, smiling. He’s a smart guy and he took my words to heart. He said, “It was the best Seder ever. The kids were great. Everyone was laughing. We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But tell me, how can you really say that keeping the kids happy was the most important thing to watch out for? After all, this is a very serious holiday.”

   I explained, “There is only one reason we have the Seder at all: to remember the Exodus from Egypt. And there is only one reason why we must remember the Exodus from Egypt: so we will remain Jews. If we forget our past, there will be no reason to go on as a people. There is only one way for us to remain Jews, and that is to raise Jewish families. Without the children coming back next year, there won’t be any Jewish families. It’s for the kids’ sake that we go through all this each year and, God willing, we will get to do it for them again next year, too. And if they have a good enough time, then surely someday we will even get to do it for their kids.”

  Have a happy Pesach. It’s essential.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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Special Protection?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Do the Jewish people merit special protection in the Holy Land?  (And we will NOT debate whether the Jewish people are worthy of such protection, whether they are perfectly righteous or rather subject to errors and their inclinations.)

The holy seforim say yes, the holy sages say yes.  But do the people say yes?

Israelis are renowned for getting things done, whatever it takes.  From American eyes, how they do this without accidentally killing themselves is a wonder.  Or is it?   (seen this morning in Jerusalem)

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The amazing thing about terror attacks in Israel isn’t (G-d forbid) the number hurt or killed, but the number of attempted attacks that are constantly thwarted.  Yes, societal vilganecy and police skills are required.  But still, that many tries failing?  It’s almost…supernatural. 

(This morning in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem – the bomb squad blows up a suspicious package at a bus stop.)

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No, the Torah does not allow one to endanger one’s life.  But as a recent argument on Emes ve’Emunah showed, American’s who have become used to a nanny State can’t relate to Israeli Jews who have become used to living in the Hand of Hashem.

(As identified by Mystical Paths readers, the Angel’s Trumpet tree and flowers…highly toxic and dangerous to even touch and banned from cultivation in many cities around the Western world!  Growing in front of an apartment building across from a school in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem.)

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It takes some getting used to and is almost impossible to relate to outside of Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel).  No, we shouldn’t do stupid or dangerous things, nor rely on miracles to get by.  But when that factor keeps coming into play…it does make a difference in how you operate.

…And how you believe.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

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Which Should I Learn?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

A reader asked:

     I am having more and more of a difficult time in my learning of niglah (the written, revealed Torah, the five books of Moshe), and I want to learn nistar (the hidden mystical Torah).  I also feel that I have not learned enough niglah to really learn nistar.  Can one be successful in learning nistar and minimizing niglah?  If so, where should I start?

Gutman’s answer:

     The written Torah is like your body, and the hidden, mystical Torah is like your soul. The body cannot live without the soul, and a soul without a body cannot accomplish anything at all. We need both in order to fulfill our mission on earth.

     For many years, the study of mysticism has been pushed to the background for fear of students becoming so involved with it that they end up neglecting the physical Torah. A Jew can survive in this world as a Jew with only the physical Torah, although he might become burdened by his Torah, but a Jew cannot survive as a Jew with only the mystical Torah. He will intermarry, or not bother to marry at all.

Chassidus came about to provide the Jews with a safe form of mysticism. The study of chassidus is mystical, but it does not take you away from the physical, written Torah. Whereas Kabbalah tends to speak of what G-d is doing in Heaven, Chassidus tends to speak about what G-d is doing on earth.

     Do not neglect your studies of the written Torah, but add some study of Kabbalah or Chassidus to your schedule. If you learn these properly, they will make your study of the written Torah more current, more real to you. You will find the written Torah more important in your life, and you will become a happier person.

     Which Kabbalah or Chassidus should you should study will depend on your individual taste. For Kabbalah, you can look to the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato), whose writings make the Ari’s teachings more accessible, or to Aryeh Kaplan’s Meditation and the Kabbalah. For Chassidus, try either the Tanya or Rebbe Nachman’s writings. Your soul will tell you which you will want to study. Continue on that path, and if you become unhappy, try a different one.

     There certainly is a place for you in both the written Torah and the mystical Torah, because the entire Torah is your inheritance. You were born a Jew, so the Torah is yours.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

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What’s That Tree?

Israel has Jewish immigrants from 63 countries around the world.  Israel may be more of a melting pot than the United States.

Along the way those immigrants brought their traditions, recipes and SEEDS.  Israel grows fruits, vegetables and flowers from all over the world.

And trees.  Down the street from where I live I saw trees with huge hanging brown seed pods, weird like nothing I’d ever seen.  Turned out to be South African Sausage trees.

On a trip to Jerusalem I encountered the following.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  Anyone know what it is or where it’s from?  (Huge down hanging yellow flowers?)

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Does He Not Even Know a Jew?

Should I be insulted or feel complemented?  [ And no, it appears that President Obama does NOT even know a Jew. ]

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We Interrupt our Passover Charity Campaign…

…for a terror victim – victim of a WAR CRIME – charity campaign.

Daniel Viflic, a 16 year old boy in high school, was critically injured when the school bus he was riding was DELIBERATELY TARGETED and struck with a Kornet Russian laser guided anti-tank missile (with a range of 5 1/2km – 3.5 miles).

Daniel is in (very) critical condition, which has included major shrapnel injuries to his head and vital organs.  His family asks all of us to daven for his survival and recuperation (Raphael Daniel Arieh ben Tamar).

His family runs a small family restaurant and catering business, which naturally is shut down as they deal with this horrific tragedy.  Besides needing the top medical assistance for Daniel, they also need some community support to cover their normal expenses (and before Passover is their peak business season) while they focus on their son’s survival.

Lema'an Achai, a Jewish charity in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, is coordinating all efforts to help the family together with One Family (who specialize in assisting Terror Victims) and "Paamonim" (who specialize in financial and small business structuring).

* How You Can Help *

In order to float the business and the family until after Passover, $10,000 is immediately needed.  This is a definite and immediate need. Depending on Daniel's progress, there will likely be other financial impact also.

A special Emergency Fund has therefore been established for the Viflics, by Lema'an Achai, and donations are tax deductible in Israel, the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

You can donation directly at this link, which includes credit card and check options.

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Meet Max

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (8)     Max is one of the regular volunteers at the Kotel tefillin stand. He is here from America learning for the year at the Mir yeshiva. He likes to come to the Kotel during his afternoon breaks to put tefillin on tourists.

     After a while, we started to notice that Max was changing. Almost every time he helped someone to put on tefillin, he began to smile. His smiles got bigger and bigger, until they grew into unusual behavior. For instance, on Purim night, he was seen going into the most serious Litvak yeshivas, (Torah academies that teach Jewish law and European customs), and talking the boys into smiling when they put on their tefillin! This is definitely not a normal thing for a Litvak to do. Litvaks are not noted for smiling when they do a mitzvah.

     Then, a day after Purim, he happened to be around when a balagan (a big mess) broke out. A 10 year-old boy from Haifa took a bus to Jerusalem to spend the day with his sister. He arrived at her apartment only to find that she was not home. He panicked and called the police, telling them that he was lost. A Yassam cop (the toughest we have) was the first to show up. He drove up to the scene on his motorcycle and found the boy in the middle of a group of charedi guys who were trying to calm him down. The cop announced that he was going to take the boy to the police station and the charedimobjected very loudly. A police car drove up, and things started to look like they were going to get heavy… the boy was crying loudly, the crowd was screaming at the cops, and the cops were determined not to listen to the crowd... .

     Then Max got a bright idea. He ran into the makolet (small grocery store) that was right there and bought two bags of chips and a can of Coke. He quickly ran back to the argument and handed the bags of chips and the coke to the little boy. The boy took them, but he was too upset to even smile. But the tough cop smiled. He looked at Max and smiled a big smile, and then he actually gave Max a huge, warm hug. It changed the entire atmosphere of the scene. The cops were able to put the boy in the police car to drive him to the station to wait for his sister, and the crowd peacefully walked away. And Max--what did he say? “If it wasn’t after dark, I could have gotten that cop to put on tefillin.”

     Watch out! Once you start helping people, you have no idea where it’s going to end up.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

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F- Yoga

by Reb Akiva & Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Canadian wants to wear F- button

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 6 (UPI) -- A Canadian civil liberties group has challenged a Vancouver transit agency policy on behalf of a woman kept off a train for wearing a button with the "f- word."

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says censoring buttons is going too far, the Vancouver Sun reported. Jean Wharf, 21, whose button said "F--k Yoga," agrees.

A writer wrote, “Did you see this regarding Yoga at Frum Toronto?”  What do you think?

Ask the Rabbi - Practicing Yoga

Q. Is one is allowed to practice yoga if all of the Hindu aspects and associations are removed?

A. Rabbinical authorities of our times have addressed the permissibility of the practice of yoga. In essence, yoga involves a blend of physical and a meditative exercises. If done in a Halachik correct fashion there is no reason why it would not be permitted, as the Lubavitcher Rebeh Zt"l pointed out on Tamuz 5739.

In practice however, that may be difficult to achieve. You require the proper instructor or teaching method, one that will not engage in religious mantras, meditative ideas or names of postures that identify with an avoido-zoro or their believes, even if one does not personally believe in them.(Bemaareh Habazak 2,56). It can not be done in a mixed group as there are issues of Tznius (modesty) too.

Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit"a

With all due respect to Rabbi Bartfeld and Horav Shlomo Miller, shlita, there is an error in the above and a major downplaying of a problem.

1. The Lubavitcher Rebbe DID NOT permit the practice of yoga!  As we have posted here in the past, he said IF a neutral form of Transcendental Meditation could be found THEN it could be administered AS A MEDICAL TREATMENT to those in need of such or those involved in Transcendental Meditation who needed a way out.  He further said it was inappropriate for healthy normal Jews.

2. “In practice that may be difficult to achieve.”  Or IMPOSSIBLE to achieve.  It was NOT achieved with Transcendental Meditation.

3. A yoga teacher, even if this person has become a religiously committed mitzvah observant Jew, is NOT qualified to verify that the practices they wish to teach have had all aspects of idol worship, religious mantras, meditative ideas and names of postures removed.  To do so would require a Jewish law decider (a posek), a Jewish law expert in avodah zarah (idol worship practices), and a yogi (a yoga expert) in combination to verify this. 

Yoga is not kosher.  We have examined a few yoga classes given in religious Jewish institutions and yoga programs identifying themselves as “kosher”.  In all cases we have quickly found obvious and significant problems with such programs.

Our advise is straight forward.  Yoga is not kosher and is extremely difficult to make kosher.  One who wishes a stretch based exercise program should consider alternatives such as Pilates.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

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I Hate Asking But...

I hate asking for tzedakah (charity).  And dealing with the needy, it’s just uncomfortable.  On one hand I don’t want to do anything to embarrass someone.  On the other hand I want to do more for each one, but know I can only work with what I have.  And on another side, who am I to try to make a difference?

Meet the Needy for Passover
But, where there are no men, be a man (Pirke Avos).  Where there are people in need and I have the capability to help, to stand up here and say via the blog PLEASE HELP, if not me, who?  And if not now, when? (Pirke Avos)

There are people in need for Passover.  People who aren’t getting by, who aren’t getting help, who need a hand to have a Passover. Here at Mystical Paths we run yearly (Jewish) holiday charity campaigns to help the needy for the Jewish holidays.  We do it with no overhead, no organization, no secretaries or advertising or crazy promises of segulot in your name.  (Charity is it’s own segulah!)

Just two Jews, two chassidim in the Holy Land doing a bit of straight charity.  [Two Jews who have a registered Israeli charity and rabbinic supervision.]

Fulfill the mitzvah of helping the needy for Passover today.  EVERY amount makes a difference and is worthy!  It all adds up to something substantial!

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

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WAR CRIMES and Dead Jews, Who Cares?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A few short hours ago, a school bus with Jewish school children returning home from their day of education was HIT by a ($#*##) ANTI-TANK MISSILE from Gaza.

They were not near a military facility, they were not near any military units.  A clearly marked school bus was driving on a civilian road in a civilian area and was hit by an f#$(@ ANTI-TANK MISSILE!

This is the classic and exact definition of a WAR CRIME.  That is, the direct targeting of civilians with no potential military value in the firing.  And this incident is particularly heinous has children were targeted and hit. A SCHOOL BUS.  AN ANTI-TANK MISSILE!!!!!

While the “world” debates whether Goldstone was right or wrong to blame Israel for targeting enemy fighters setting up rocket launchers next to a school they ignore the blatant targeting of Jewish children and a school bus by the Arabs of Gaza.  WITH AN ANTI-TANK MISSILE!

I realize I am just screaming in the wind.   But the hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.

While Jewish children are fighting for their lives this evening, the UN Secretary General is silent, as is the U.S. State Department, the E.U. office of foreign affairs, the prosecutors (who are out for Israeli politicians and generals) in England and Belgium and Spain and Norway.

Blatant, obvious, straightforward war crimes are ignored.  Valid defense against those attacking Jewish CHILDREN is called a crime.

Dear “World”, your blatant hypocrisy is DISGUSTING.

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Test Paths for Android

If you have an Android based phone (such as the Samsung Galaxy), have we got an app for you!

Mystical Paths is now available as a FREE-to-try Android phone app!

Please try it out and let us know if it’s a-ok!  If we get some feedback that it’s works fine and is a good app, we’ll add it to the Android marketplace.

Download Mystical Paths Reader for Android here.  (Free trial version 1.0.2)

Let us know if you’ve tried it, if it worked ok, and what you think in comments below…

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

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Where The Heck’s The Cab?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Someone at the Tefillin stand asked me to try to talk an American tourist into putting on tefillin. He told me that his name was Aaron, and that he is 84 years old and hasn’t put on tefillin since a year after his bar mitzvah. Aaron walked very slowly with some difficulty. When someone asks for help like this it always means that they tried and that the visitor wouldn’t listen. Once someone refuses, it usually makes it even more difficult for the next guy to get him, because they usually dig in, and do not want to change.

     I waited until he was on his way out of the Kotel area before I approached him.

   “Aaron, come put on tefillin. You’ll have a good time. You can do it all in English. Come I’ll help you.” I told him.

    “No. No. I have to go. My wife is waiting for me.”

    “Your wife wants you to put on tefillin.” I told him. “Come, it will take only one minute.”

    “No! My wife is waiting.” He said, as he slowly walked by.

     “I’ll go ask her.” I told him. I saw his wife standing about 25 yards away waiting for him. It was cold out and she did not have a coat. As I walked toward her I yelled out, “Aaron is going to put on tefillin, and then he will be right with you.”

    “No! No! She yelled. We have to leave. I’m cold.”

     There was nothing I could do. If she was cold, he had to go. But as he got close to where she was standing his legs gave way and he had to sit down. He couldn’t walk. We asked one of the managers if they could bring a taxi in so he could make it back to the Hotel. There was no way that he could walk all the way to the taxi stand.

     He agreed and walked toward the entrance to bring one in. There are almost always cabs standing there, and if not, they come by every minute. But for some reason the manager couldn’t find a cab.

     “Where the heck’s the cab, already?” everyone wanted to know.

     “Hey, I know why the cab’s not coming.” I ran back to the tefillin stand and grabbed a pair of tefillin. “While you are sitting here, you might as well put on tefillin.” I rolled his sleeve up and put the tefillin on him. His wife smiled broadly. She really liked it. After he read the shema I told him to pray for his family.

     He said, “There is no family. “No parents. No children. Just us.” And he pointed to his wife.

     I said, “Okay, then we will be your children. Pray for all of the Jewish people.”

      He sat there with a big smile on his face praying for his new found family. Both he and his wife enjoyed the idea very much. Finally, the cab slowly drove up, and I took off the tefillin.

     You know, sometimes it’s really good when the taxi is late.

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Is Zumba Kosher?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Given our ongoing posts about yoga (it’s not kosher), a reader and fellow blogger asked…

zumba_manForget yoga!  The latest thing for orthodox Jewish women is Zumba.  You may not have heard of it, but it's everywhere in Australia and the US.  Rebetzins, school teachers, mothers, daughters.... all going to Zumba nights.  Facebook Rebetzins are asking friends to come and join them for a Zumba night.

Please check, is Zumba kosher?

Zumba is a high intensity dance program being used as an exercise program.  It uses Latin style high beat high speed salsa music to getting and keeping one moving and keeping it physically exciting.  The dance moves are simple Latin salsa style which focus on frequent body movements, gyrations and “sexy” body moves.

Zumba is practiced mostly by women, over 90% of Zumba participants are women.

So is Zumba kosher?

Zumba does not involve any meditations, breathing exercises, focusing or thought patterns.  At it’s movement rate there certainly wouldn’t be time for it.

Zumba does not involve any religious symbols or symbolism.  No powers of any sort are being addressed.

As anyone who’s been to a chassidic Jewish wedding knows, vigorous dance sessions certainly can make great aerobic exercise.  There is no inherent problem with dancing or vigorous dancing.

However, certain music beats in combination with certain tones do lead to strong physical-oriented body responses.  Clubs don’t play strong beat music just because people like it, people like it because it brings certain bodily responses.  Latin salsa music is exactly in this space, which is one of the things that makes Zumba enjoyable (it’s exercise with a ‘zing’ feeling).

So Zumba as is would not be appropriate for a religious Jewish crowd.

Can it be kashered (made kosher)?

Yes and it should be pretty easy.  There is plenty of fast beat Jewish music (particularly modern Jewish wedding music and chassidic music) which can be substituted for the salsa music, and plenty of fast paced dance steps that can be used instead of gyration oriented dancing (and there are some Zumba routines, or parts of them, that are not problematic and can be used).

And because it’s dance routines, exercise sessions would need to be gender segregated (which was indicated in the original question). 

So with a little modification, Zumba can be kosher.  Nor does this have the type of spiritual problems that would require a review by a rav or halachic expert.

So, before you Jew-Zumba make sure you’re not attending something that is just a gender segregated Latin style Zumba.  But if the Rebbitzen says she’s got a Jewish Zumba with a Jewish beat and Jewish dance steps, enjoy your Zumba in good health and for good health!

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

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Over and Above

According to halacha (Jewish religious law), everyone has an obligation to give extra charity to the needy for Passover.  Not ma’aser money, but over an above.

Why?  Why over and above?

Mystical Paths Passover Campaign–Endorsed by Rabbi Lazer Brody, shlita
To merit redemption, to merit being passed over and taken out of Egypt, we must go over and above.  Over and above our regular chesed (kindness) and tzedakah (charity and righteousness).

By reaching beyond our normal abilities we are reaching UP and BREAKING THE BARRIERS.  By doing so we reach toward Hashem who is reaching down and breaking the barriers from above that separate us.

We at Mystical Paths remind everyone to fulfill the mitzvah of Maos Chitim – Kimcha D’Pischa and do our part in reaching towards the geulah (redemption) in chodesh hageulah (in the month of redemption – Nissan) for chag hageulah (for the holiday of redemption – Passover).

And if you’d like to do it direct via two bloggers, two Jews, two chassidim doing what they can to help the needy in Israel, you can donate right here, right now to the Mystical Paths – Helping the Needy for Passover campaign.  No overhead, just 100% charity.  (Authorized by Israeli charity Yesh Ma L’asot, supervised by Rabbi Chaim HaKohein Farro.)

In the merit of tzedakah may we all merit the ultimate redemption this Pesach. NO, sooner, today!

You may donate by credit card or by check or bank transfer. Info below or email us at charity@mpaths.com

OR SEND A CHECK BY MAIL TO

Reb Akiva's Passover Campaign
Box 70029
Beit Shemesh, 99620
ISRAEL

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Leaders and the Yetzer Hara

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

It is always an aspect of kedusha, holiness, that the klipa, the other side, tries to hang on to it and draw off some life force to sustain itself.

In normal times this may mean our holy leaders, our holy organizations and our holy societies may be beset with minor negativities… leaders that might occasionally slip up a little bit, organizations that have a person or two with some inappropriate personal goals, societies with some aspects and people that are just drawn in the wrong direction and cause negative impact on the whole.

In extreme times such as we now seem to be (whether this is the geulah cycle or just a major national and world change cycle), the klipa takes advantage to expand it’s draw (off the kedushah) and it’s impact.

To our great regret we see this in our time.  Holy leaders who trip and fall and get involved in improper things.  False leaders where the good is a façade covering negative activities.  Holy tzaddikim who’s organizations become riddled with people out for money and power.  Holy organizations who’s good is eaten away and hollowed out.  And holy communities and the kahal affected more and more.

The Yetzer is doing all too good of a job weakening us from the inside.  Even our holiest leaders and organizations are met with skepticism and have been tarnished from the actions of others.

Know it’s all a trick of the other side!  The kedusha is under a full frontal assault, and the prize is the strength of the Jewish people.

Because of the Yetzer’s efforts we are forced to be more vigilant.  But we must NOT let the Yetzer win and become cynical about the whole system.  The Yetzer is trying to bring it all down, we have to push back with increased chesed (kindness and good deeds), increased tzedakah (charity and helping our fellow), and Torah (so we can clearly recognize the emes and push things in the right direction).

In this time, with our holy leaders weakened by the attack, we must all stand up and add our push for kedusha.  In this time EVERYONE makes a difference.  And we cannot rely solely on our holy ones.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

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Is the Zohar Authentic?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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      A highly-respected historian rabbi recently went on record (via a public video) “proving” that the Zohar is not authentic, or at least that the vast majority of it is not. He quoted a number of well known scholars from years ago who said such things as, “It was not written by Shimon bar Yohai as is believed,” and, “It is filled with mistakes, additions, [and] anonymous comments.” He quoted Reb Yaakov Emden from the 1700’s who said that not only is the Zohar “not authentic”, but that “everybody added to it, the printers, the copyist added to it,” and although “some of the ideas are Shimon ben Yohai’s, they are not as we have it.”

     He also quoted the famous Chatam Sofer who said, “If we could sift out what is not of, or from, Reb Shimon it would be a very thin book, only a few pages.” And the proof is that “there are people listed there who were born way after Reb Shimon Bar Yochai lived,” so obviously, the book is “not authentic.”

     Frankly, I wonder what his purpose was in having given this talk. He seemed to be belittling a holy book! But the real question is: is he correct? Are his sources and arguments valid? Was the book written by someone other than Reb Shimon? Are there additions, corrections, and comments by unknown copyists and printers? Is the Zohar authentic, or not?

     The lessons of the Zohar form the very background for virtually all Jewish mysticism. There are thousands upon thousands of lessons contained in this book. Each of its teachings is a treasure that can change your entire life, if you can really understand it, and if you take it to heart.

     For instance, the Zohar teaches that, just as G-d put Adam (the first man) in the Garden of Eden then, “So does G-d do now [put man in the Garden] when he repents of his sins and occupies himself with the Torah.”[i]The Zohar is showing us that the Torah is an ongoing explanation of our very lives. It is not merely a history book, nor a book of morality. Of course, the Torah is historically true, and of course it contains moral teachings, but the Torah’s greatest value to us is that it is actually talking about us in the world today. It teaches us how to live a proper spiritual life.

     Now, is this an authentic teaching? The greatest Torah scholars we have ever known--from all streams of Orthodox Judaism--certainly have said that it is legitimate. For instance, the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (aka the Ramak, who was the primary authority on Kabbalah before the Ari), and the Ari (the most famous of all Jewish mystics) all taught Kabbalah based on the Zohar.

     But what if it was not written by Reb Shimon? What if there have been additions throughout the ages, and even printers’ errors? You could certainly ask these very questions about every page of the Gemora (Talmud). And in fact, frequently the Talmud “changes its mind” and says, “Rabbi So and So could not have said it that way, he must have said it like this,” and it changes what the Talmud had previously said that the Rabbi had said. But, is anyone suggesting that the Talmud is not authentic? Sure, lots of Jews do not believe that theTalmud is authentic.

     Attacking the authenticity of sacred books is not a new thing. Not only has the entire Talmud been challenged, but there are Jews today who claim that the Torah itself, the Five Books of Moses, were not written by Moses! “Religious” Jews are saying such things as, “The story of the Exodus from Egypt [the Passover story] is not literally true. It never happened!”

     The Chazon Ish, one of the greatest rabbinic legal authority during the early years of the last century, was known to be a non-mystical, no-Kabbalah rabbi. He said, “Some of the most beautiful teachings of our Sages come from the Zohar.”

     It would be very difficult to understand the proper mystical teachings of the Torah without the Zohar’s explanations.

     The test of the authenticity of a holy book is not only who wrote it. It is whether it helps the Jewish People to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and even physically.


[i] Zohar, Genesis 27a

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

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Charity for Passover – If I Sit By…

If I sit by and do nothing, I am responsible.  We, the Jewish people, are a nation, a people, and a community.  When I can help I must help.  When I (G-d forbid) need help, I can ask for it and expect the community, the people, to help me.

Pesach, Passover, is a time of stress for the needy, the poor, those on the edge and those struggling to survive today.  The Torah gives us the mitzvah of tzedakah, which we translate equally as charity and righteousness.  And the sages have taught us the communal requirement of Maos Chitim and Kimcha D’Pischa, providing those in need with food and wine for the Passover holiday.

Past Passover Appeal Video–Still Appealing!
Here at Mystical Paths we turn to you before the Jewish holidays and ask for your help to enable us to help the poor of Eretz Yisroel, the Holy Land of Israel, for each holiday.  Passover is the season of our redemption, yet a family that barely has bread and milk on their table during the year doesn’t feel free with a need for matzah and wine upon them for Passover.  And as spring comes and the children’s feet are poking through the holes of torn winter boots, they don’t feel festive with a need to provide 1 single pair of summer shoes for unprotected growing feet.

After our Purim campaign the calls started to arrive… “Will you remember us for Pesach?”  “Will you have something to help for Passover?”  “Please, please don’t forget us for Passover.”

Rabbi Nati & Reb Akiva… we are just two chassidim doing what we can.  Our personal ability is limited to a few dollars to give, this blog and your help.  Please make us your shaliach, your messenger of tzedakah, charity and righteousness, to help our neighbors in need (which include Torah scholars, rabbis, and holy men and women who have lost their jobs, widows, women abandoned by their husbands, those with health situations that prevent them from supporting themselves, those taking care of spouses or children with severe problems that limit their ability to work).

We do this with no overhead, no office expenses, no advertising expenses, keeping NOTHING for ourselves (G-d forbid we should take a “commission” on tzedakah!)  100% of every donation (minus credit card or check processing expense and money changing expense, about 5%) goes directly into the hands of those in need.

If you haven’t already elsewhere, please consider fulfilling your mitzvah of Maos Chitim / Kimcha D’Pischa here.  [ Certified by Rabbi Nati’s registered/authorized Israeli charity Yesh Ma L’asot and supervised by Rabbi Chaim HaKohein Farro of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. ]  Every single dollar, shekel, pound, euro, rubal, rand, kronor, peso, wan helps make a difference.  Every donation is worthy and together it all adds up!

In the merit of your tzedakah and everyone else’s, may Hashem bring us Moshiach Tzidkaynu, mamash today!

A brief extra note. Rabbi Nati received a call after the Purim campaign from another rav screaming at him "why didn't you take some for yourself, you're in need too!" We DO NOT take one penny (agorah, cent) from it's designated purpose! IF you want to help us personally, and it's not easy for either of us, we've added a "tip the bloggers" option during a credit card donation checkout. You can add a note designated a portion for us, IF YOU WISH. Absolutely no obligation!


You may donate by credit card or by check or bank transfer. Info below or email us at charity@mpaths.com

OR SEND A CHECK BY MAIL TO

Reb Akiva's Passover Campaign
Box 70029
Beit Shemesh, 99620
ISRAEL

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Mystical Mis-takes on Adam and Eve

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (6)     A frequent writer of political emails suddenly changed his style and sent out an article on the mystical teachings of the Garden of Eden. The next day, he boasted that he received those teachings from his Indian guru many years ago, a man with whom he studied for two years in India.

     Since the political writer is well known for his Jewish leanings, when he wrote this letter on mysticism many readers were sure to trust that his sources were proper, Jewish sources. They weren’t. He was quoting a man who is a leader in a religion that has at least 1000 times more gods than the number of letters in the Torah! He wrote that he plans to send out more of these teachings as he recalls them. Remember, this guru never once read the story of the Garden in Hebrew. He read a translation, at best. Yet, here he is being quoted as if he is a source to be respected.

     The letter is filled with the guru’s imagination, and leanings that stem from his idolatry. Here are but a few of his obvious mistakes. Indeed, it is mind stunning that the political writer would accept the guru’s teachings as true and worthy of “sharing” with his readers.

      The guru taught that, “Man was forbidden the experience of sex in the Garden.”

     The Torah says that G-d commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, and this command was given while they were still in the Garden.[i] Rashi (the Torah commentator) says that their first child, Cain, was conceived in the Garden.

     Why did the guru want to see the story his way? Because his religion teaches that the highest service is celibacy, and he assumes that if he follows his beliefs, he will enter the spiritual Garden. Whereas celibacy is the ideal spiritual service of the idolater, families are the required spiritual service of a Jew.

     The guru taught that G-d “materialized Adam and Eve’s bodies.” The Torah says that G-d “formed” Adam’s body from the earth, and that Eve’s body was taken from Adam’s body.[ii]

     Man’s body was not materialized from the air. It was formed from the dust of the ground, and when his time on earth is over, his body will return to the earth, not to the air.[iii] Eve was taken from Adam’s body to teach that a man and his wife are two halves of one that come together when they marry.

     The guru also taught that the serpent in the garden is the “coiled-up spinal energy that stimulates the sex nerves….”

     Why did he choose to see the serpent in this way? His religion teaches that there is a serpent power that travels up the spine, exciting different behaviors as it moves from the lower sexual areas to the higher emotional and intellectual areas. This serpent (or kundalini) power rushes up their spines taking them to the point where they experience “god-realization.” When this happens they proclaim, “I am god. I am immortal.”

     The serpent in the Torah is quoted, saying to Eve, “Eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of right and wrong, and you will see that you are like G-d.[iv] You will not die.”[v] The Indian religion teaches that the serpent is a positive, wonderful thing to experience. The Torah says it is a snake! It lies!

     So now the question is: Will this Jewish man who studied with that guru publicize these corrections? Will he write that should not look to teachers of other religions to learn about the literal teachings of the Torah, let alone its mystical teachings? Do you think that he will sincerely apologize to his long list of readers for misleading them? I would be happily surprised to see it happen.

I Was Right… I’m Sorry to Say

This is the Reply That He Sent to His Readers:

     It appears that Reb Gutman felt my article was somewhat akin to idolatry and has nothing to do with the Torah.

     With all due respect to Reb Gutman, I have lived the Torah more now than at any other time in my life, due to the Mahavatar Babaji Nagaraj (1,800 years of age) my knowledge as a Jew has been overtly advanced by my close friendship with Indian Avatars Babaji, Sri Yukteswar Guri and Parmahansa Yogananda .

     I have studied spirituality with Masters in the Himalayas, comparing, for them, the Jewish Torah perceptions with the Hindu ones. It has helped me with my melding into Torah and its story and interpretations.

     I appreciate Reb Gutman's position because everyone is entitled their opinion, but for your information, the significant number of deities in Hinduism reflects the number of manifestations which G-d has in our world.

Gutman’s Response:

     I did not say that your writings were “akin to idolatry.” I said that they are idolatry. Not only did you totally ignore the sources in the Torah that I quoted that contradict your teachings, but now, you have revealed the depth of your idolatry. Yours is the classic mistake of idolatry.

     You wrote that the “significant number of deities in Hinduism reflect the number of manifestations which G-d has in our world.”

     G-d has no “number of manifestations” in our world. No single form is His. G-d is ALL. There is nothing else. [vi] He is unlimited, infinite. All existence is but a word of His breath, and He and His breath are One. There is no other.[vii]

     Idolatry teaches that there are lots of manifestations of G-d, i.e. deities. The Torah teaches that G-d is All, and He is One.[viii] You pray to manifestations. We pray to G-d.

     Again, please do not spread your “limited manifestation of deities” concepts to others. You will be very sorry when you realize the truth and try to straighten out those whom you have sent in the wrong direction. You won’t be able to find them.


[i] Genesis 1:28

[ii] Genesis 2:7

[iii] Genesis 3:19

[iv] Genesis 3:5

[v] Genesis 3:4

[vi] Deuteronomy 4:35

[vii] Deuteronomy 4:39

[viii] Deuteronomy 6:4

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