Tuesday, May 31, 2011

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Darius

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (4)     Yesterday, I put tefillin on Darius, who is here on a business trip. He was born in Lithuania, but moved to America some 10 years ago. He had no idea what tefillin were, never saw them before in his entire life, but he really enjoyed the experience. He closed his eyes and pictured all of the things that he wanted to bring into the world. Darius isn’t married and when I told him that he had to marry only a Jewish woman, he said that this is what he wanted.

     I told him to go to an orthodox congregation in his hometown to find the kind of woman that he is looking for. He said that he does just that… he looks in the Orthodox Church.

     I screamed, “What are you doing in a church? You’re a Jew!”

     He tried to repair what he said, “I meant, a messianic congregation… Jews for yashke.”

     “Ooooy,” I groaned. I tried to explain to him why he was going to the wrong place. “That religion is total idolatry.”

     He tried to defend it, “But yashke is the son of god.”

     “So are you,” I said. “We are all the children of G-d. G-d is the Father of all creation.”

     He seemed to have understood, but then when he went to the Kotel to pray, I looked over, and to my great amazement, the guy went down on one knee and made the sign of a cross on his chest!

     I ran over and told him to get up! “Jew’s don’t kneel like that, especially not at the Kotel.” He even had a rosary, with a small statue of yashke on a cross attached to the string of beads in his hand.

     I brushed his chest as if I was brushing away the sign of a cross that he made and said, “You are a Jew. Don’t worship a man. That man is not infinite. G-d is infinite. Only worship the infinite G-d.”

     He said, “Our mother raised us as Catholics.”

     His Israeli host came running up, and he pulled him away from me as if he was rescuing him, saying, “Don’t push!”

     I managed to write down my website address and the name of the video “Answers to a Pastor,” and gave them to him.

     He was a really nice guy. His mother is a Jew, but she had raised them as Catholics because of her fearful conversion during the holocaust. Will he ever change? Maybe, and only maybe. Maybe, if our conversation, which he seemed to enjoy despite his beliefs, motivates him to see that video. Please G-d, it will lead him to ask questions. Then maybe he will go to his local kosher rabbi as I told him.

     He gave me his business card. I will write to him. Maybe I can get him.

     Oh, to those of you who often remind me, “You are not allowed to push!”     Well, maybe you’re right; maybe it’s not good to push…. But it’s great to pull!

 

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Monday, May 30, 2011

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With Whom You Dance

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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You never know with whom you dance.

I sat with a co-worker, a religious Jew from Bnei Brak whom I haven’t seen in a few weeks.  I mentioned I was in Meron for Lag B’Omer and asked him if he’d been there.

He looked at me kind of sideways and said “We’re litvish, Meron is too much dancing, it’s for chassidim.”

I pulled up the video I made and pointed out the large number of yeshiva bochrim (young litvish Torah students) there, who were dancing vigorously.

The video starts with this beautiful elder chassidic man that I danced by with my son.  He struck me because of the intensity of his dancing, he was dancing almost as vigorously has the young men with great kavanah (with intense concentration).

2011-05-21 Meron Lag Bomer - Akiva 070My co-worker looked at the video and said “ah, a great video of the Amshinover Rebbe”!!!  Just a chossid in the crowd at Rashbi…the Amshinover Rebbe. (One person wrote this is incorrect, that it is Reb Mordichai Steiner from Monsey.)

He said to me “well, when I was a bocher (young Torah student) I did such things also.”  But he explained that too much simcha is not part of his path of avodah (too much happiness – which could be frivolous and a loss of time for Torah – is not part of the litvish path of Torah and Hashem.)

Truly I couldn’t relate.  Simcha (joy) in the service of Hashem seems to me the way forward for the future.  Tempered with gevurah (strictness and discipline), yes. But this is not a time for gevurah, it’s a time for simcha!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

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Is a Guru Health Retreat Kosher?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

2011-05-08 pic for blog 001A reader asked:

A friend has been to see many top specialists to help him with various physical aches and pains. They have done the best they can in treating him. Yet he is still in a lot of pain to the degree that he now contemplates seeing a Hindu Guru who runs a health farm.

What worries me though is my belief that his meditations may be connected to Avodah Zara, [idolatry] chas v'shalom. [G-d forbid]. I am worried sick. Are my fears founded?

Gutman’s reply:

      Your fears are well-founded. If this is, as you say, a Hindu guru (which means a Hindu religious spiritual teacher and leader), then most certainly his spiritual beliefs will be taught there even if the main purpose of the farm is health. Imagine going to an x-ian alternative health program. Besides healthy eating, what would you expect them to teach?

     Even if the guru could heal your friend (which I really doubt), the spiritual trouble that your friend would receive would be much worse than the physical pain that was relieved.

     Sometimes meditation can indeed help relieve physical pain, but again, do not learn meditation from a guru. There are Jewish meditation teachers, and there are entirely mechanic, non-spiritual systems available as well.

     Also simple exercises, such as swimming, can make a huge difference in a person’s physical life.

     Tell your friend to search for entirely physical, non-spiritual, alternative health systems. There are literally dozens of them out there, and although the mainstream medical establishment says that they are worthless, they have been known to help a lot of people. This is especially true when the mainstream system does not work. Tell him not to be naïve and pay a lot of money without investigating both the system and the practitioner.

    Do not give up. There is something out there for your friend.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

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Commune with Your Heart Upon Your Bed

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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“Commune with your heart upon your bed and be still.” - Psalms 4:4

When surrounded with noisy, agitating sounds, we feel agitated. When the room is filled with relaxing sounds, we become relaxed.

Listen to this music. Play it softly in the background. Let it play over, and over again. Soon, you will feel calm, introspective.

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Has the Final Redemption Begun?

by Dov bar Leib @ Mystical Paths and End of Days,
slight editing & annotation by Reb Akiva

We knew things have been forever changing this year. The signs have been everywhere. Massive flooding in Australia a few short weeks after their Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told us in Israel that we would have to divide Jerusalem. The massive flood covered the Rudd's gigantic home state of Queensland. This was probably just a warning and not a final punishment.

Eleven short days after the Foreign Minister of Japan met with the Foreign Minister of Iran to inform him that Japan would supply Iran with nuclear fuel rods for its nuclear reactor in Bushehr, a massive earthquake/tsunami strikes the coast of Sendai, Japan. This triggers nuclear meltdowns (or near meltdowns) at four of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima reactor facility south of Sendai. Keep in mind that it took G-d just 11 days to send this fierce retribution.  (A key to the time is seeing direct retribution and it’s swiftness.)

Here we go again, but this time the judgments are coming frequent and fast. It is getting hard to keep up. A judgment happens and I say, let me write about this one. But before I sit down to compose a post, another one happens, and one has to write about that one too. Before you know it, the avalanche of judgments keeps coming at a pace that the mind cannot focus. Each one needs to be researched and discussed. So let us discuss just two.

I wrote an email to a friend, and this is what I sent him:

- Stay away from any city named after a Methodist Minister. Joplin was a Methodist minister that founded the city of Joplin, MO in 1873.

- Stay away from small towns with a majority Methodist population. Denning, Arkansas's only church was a United Methodist Church.

Both were destroyed by F-5 tornadoes, the worst kind. Those who chase tornadoes call F-5 tornadoes "The Finger of G-d". Here is the latest from the United Methodist Church: here and here. The first link is from The Blaze, Glenn Beck's outfit and is from the last ten days.

Devorah of Shirat Devorah added in a comment…

- Stay away from church towers.  Feb 22, earthquake in Hist Church, New Zealand where the church tower fell.  May 11, earthquake Spain where the church tower fell.

- Stay away from towns with negative biblical names.  April 26, east Texas town of Edom has 100 homes destroyed.

G-d is working very fast now. Notice that part of the United Methodist Church's attack against Israel is to influence Obama to forever alter American foreign policy. The key point in all this is that they seek to divide Jerusalem by demonizing Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech indicates that he is going to play a profound role in the Geulah (redemption) process after all.  I am not ready to pronounce his Mashiach ben Yosef just yet because he has to make many personal and public changes to fit that role. But the fact that this has all occurred around Lag B'Omer is profoundly significant, for it is from Lag B'Omer or the 33rd level of purity onwards that Moshiach ben Yosef begins to lead the world.

So pray tell, what did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do on Lag B'Omer morning? He and his wife Sarah took a 90 minute walk through the Washington DC National Mall. He exhilarated her according to Arutz-7 with his knowledge about the monuments and all the inscriptions on them all designed, built, and inscribed by 33rd degree FreeMasons on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.

Is P.M. Netanyahu a FreeMason? We hope not, because Moshiach ben Yosef  has to get us all beyond the idea that the purpose of serving G-d is to make money or as the US Constitution says "To Promote the Common Welfare".

This is a dangerous time for Netanyahu. If he cannot lead us beyond the 33rd level G-d will find someone else who can.  The ideas of the Golden Calf are so entrenched in modern society that perhaps the only way that the world will grow beyond the 33rd level is if the US dollar were to collapse. Is that about to happen?  Those who monitor financial matters clearly say that currency stability and possible collapse is indeed in front of us for both the dollar and the euro.

Either Netanyahu will lead us to the next level, or G-d will find someone else with a Yud Key Vav in his name to lead us all to the next level. But Netanyahu, let us commend you on your speech. That walk with Sarah on Lag B'Omer seems to have turned you into a leader. You know that even though you received standing ovations from both houses of Congress, most of the world will hate you for talking about a united Jerusalem.  Examples include the United Methodist Church and perhaps U.S. Vice President Joe Biden who seemed to forget to clap when you mentioned it. (Or maybe he was just asleep, with VP Joe we can never know.) This would be a good time to start building in Ramat Shlomo (neighborhood of Jerusalem that started the settlement flap with Biden) while VP Joe is snoring away.

We all know that you knew going into that speech that the “Palestinians” would be preparing their rejection statement while you were inviting them to talk about peace and more peace and how about some more peace talks while we are all talking about talking about peace. Be forewarned, the Israeli media organs are already preparing their attack strategy against you. They are scared to death of what is coming in September with that little United Nations vote for a Palestinian State. If they are scared, that is a good sign that everything will be all right.

Also be sure that the Israeli establishment is equally terrified. Israel's Attorney General's office is already preparing the trumped up charge that they are going to indict you with if you even demonstrate that you might take us all above and beyond America's thumb to the 34th level of purity. Are you prepared? In your years as Israel's UN Ambassador you used to receive advice from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and in recent years you sought out advice from Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. So from whom are you seeking out advice now? Anyone? No one?

Of all times in your life this is the time to find a Rav. May I suggest Rav Shalom Arush, shlita?  He seems to know a thing or two about what is going on right now. Someone such as him can help you retrieve yourself from the 33rd degree FreeMason danger zone.

Edom has not really been surpassed yet. So he is going to fight tooth and nail to stop you if that is your intention. The 34th level of purity and above is rarefied air. No nation in world history except Israel under David, Shlomo, and Yehudah under Hezekiah has ever succeeded in going above and beyond the 33rd level. And even at that time, the rest of the world lagged behind.

So here's your opportunity, your last one at that, to continue to be a man and not a mouse. At the end of your speech you kept saying G-d bless America. May G-d bless you with multiple-fold strength because you are going to need it. But not to worry if you mess up at this juncture in history and fail.

No one, and I repeat no one, can stop the redemptive process that began on Lag B'Omer.

Some may ask, “what’s different about this year?”  After all, the geulah blogs and myself (Dov bar Leib) have been writing about geulah hints and signs for some years already.

The answer is simple.  On the cosmic calendar, 5765 was the First Year of Sukkot. The blessings on Sukkot such as a sweet smelling etrog depend on how much teshuvah we have done. Some people behaved really badly that year. They evacuated 10,000 Jews from their homes for not a single good reason whatsoever. 5771 is the Last year of Sukkot, the Year of Hoshana Rabba. G-d sends out all the judgments that he signed and sealed on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

It is all top down. He is not waiting for our repentances out of love. He will force it upon us to repent out of sheer terror. Not to worry. If you have been decent in the area of human decency, He will be Infinitely compassionate. Only the indecent have a problem, such as those who supported in any fashion the unilateral evacuations from Gaza and the Northern Shomron.

5772 is a very special year of Divine goodness, the Year of Shmini Atzereth.


UPDATE: I am adding this so the message of this post is not misconstrued: The general judgement on a city can usually not be understood in the same way as a judgement on the individuals. The individuals who suffered and died did so in accordance to several different reasons that the Ramchal discusses in Derech HaShem. Therefore there is no real way of knowing why one individual suffers a calamity while another does not. The Ramchal points to suffering as a natural condition which brings an individual closer to G-d even if he did not necessarily sin in this incarnation of his soul. Of course, we wish the best for all the victims that died and their families, but if mentioning the root cause of the general reason for the calamity brings about reflection and efforts to change the names of cities named after famous Methodist preachers, then hundreds of lives can be saved. In short, this blog is not condemning any individual who died as someone that deserved to die in Joplin, MO or from any of the other tornadoes that have swept the Midwest of the USA. But we are obligated to see the important meaning behind tragedies in terms of what G-d expects of all of us especially in this Year of Hoshana Rabba.

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The Brightest Day In My Life

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Pictured above are two brothers who had never seen each other before this day. The one on the left is 73 years old, and the one on the right is 69. The older brother was born in Romania right before the holocaust, and the younger brother was born in Russia.

     When the war began, their father was separated from his wife and his young son. He never saw them again. The father managed to escape to Russia. It was known that no people, with the exception of the Germans, were so involved in the massacre of Jews as the Romanians.

     “There were instances when the Germans actually had to step in to restrain and slow down the pace of the Romanian murderers, because they were moving too fast for the German bureaucracy.”[i]

     The father assumed that his wife and son had been killed.

     A few years later, the father remarried and had the younger son. The father died sometime after the war, and after many years of wandering, the younger son was able to immigrate to Canada with the help of an aunt. Meanwhile, the father’s first wife died, and also after many years of wandering, the older son managed to emigrate to Israel.

     In Canada, the aunt told the younger son that his father had had another son who most likely was killed in the holocaust. This fascinated the boy, and throughout his life he wondered if, in fact, the brother he had never seen could possibly be alive. He searched, and searched and after many years, with the help of the internet, he was able to trace down his older brother.

     On this day, the younger brother came to Israel to meet his 73 year-old brother whom he had never seen. The Israeli brother suggested that they come to the Kotel to thank G-d that they are both alive and have met. They put on tefillin, stood in front of the Kotel, held hands, and thanked G-d for saving them alive and bringing them together. When I took this picture, the younger brother said, “This is the brightest day in my life.” 

     They went through terrible years of difficult exile. And what did they learn? They learned that instead of weeping over the 70 years that they lost, they are better off rejoicing over the few years that they have left. 


[i] The Destruction of the European Jews, pg. 759

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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It’s My Nose

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (1)      Reb Yitzchak is a survivor. Early one morning, well before sunrise, I noticed that his shel rosh (tefillin head piece) had slipped to the side. I reached up to straighten it for him. He laughed, as he usually does, and said, “It’s not my tefillin that’s crooked, it’s my nose!”

     I looked at his nose and saw what he meant. It’s odd… but I have known him for many years, and I had never noticed that his nose was crooked.

     “What happened?” I asked.

     He said, “A nazi smashed me in the face with a club when I was a little boy.”

     I winced and thought, “This guy went through all that, yet he smiles all the time.”

     I guess you can either be bitter that such a thing happened to you, as a lot of guys are, or you can be happy that it’s over. I thought back to a couple of miserable things that I went through. I shook my head, smiled a little, and thought, “Thank G-d, they’re over.”

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Monday, May 23, 2011

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Summary & HD Video – Lag B’Omer at Kever Rashbi – Meron 2011

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

How can we even begin to describe Lag B’Omer in Meron at Kever Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?  Words fail, but we’ll try.

Meron is a sleepy mountain village with a holy site, the burial place of the holy tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.  On an average day the village of a few thousand may get a couple of hundred visitors to the holy site up the narrow mountain roads.

On Lag B’Omer it becomes the site of the largest Jewish festival in the world.  What started over 400 years ago as a small celebration by the mekubalim – the kabbalists of Tzfat (Safed) celebrating the author (or source material author) of the holy Zohar – the book of Jewish mysticism, what started then has turned into a festival where over 500,000 travel from all over Israel and all over the world to celebrate and daven.

The holiness of the day and the miracles attributed to the merit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai abound.  For many the celebration is a way of life as a tent city springs up behind the kever as many come a full month in advance and live at the holy site. 

As Lag B’Omer comes closer, the numbers swell and as it arrives tens of thousands arrive to stay in the village, in nearby tent cities, and in all nearby towns and villages.  On the day itself buses travel from every city and town in Israel bringing those who wish to visit for the auspicious day. And not only by bus, plane loads of Jews from around the world arrive as well!

What brings them all?  The joy of Torah through the secrets of the Torah.  Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) represents the mystical path of the Torah, the deep essence, the theology, the actual connection between the soul of a Jew and our Father in Heaven.

And the secrets of that connection…they’re worth celebrating!

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A Majority

by Dov bar Leib @ Mystical Paths

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, rav of Efrat (a large town in Yehuda, Israel, part of what many refer to as the West Bank), which is south of Jerusalem, appeared on Glenn Beck’s show on Friday.

Talking about current political events and President Obama’s stance regarding Israel, Glenn inquired, "Do you feel alone?"  Rav Riskin without hesitation told him, "No, those who have faith know that we have a majority of One standing behind us."

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

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Lag B’Omer at the Kotel - 2011

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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Pics – Lag B’Omer Night, Live from Meron @ Kever Rashbi 2011

Some pictures from Meron on Lag B’Omer, through the night.

The Boyaner Rebbe (with his gabbai?) by the main bonfire in Meron (which he lit moments before).

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Two younger chassidim manning an olive oil station, preparing another bonfire.  The bonfires in Meron are cotton that’s heavily soaked in olive oil.

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In the midst of the music and dancing, one chassidic family is celebrating an upshernish, a first haircut at 3 years old.  Here the elderly grandfather is being honored by the first cut of hair of his grandson.  Afterwards the father placed his shtreimel (round fur hat) on the child’s head and danced away with him.

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The main amphitheatre behind the kever is for the largest groups.  The first and largest of the night is Tzanz chassidim, who completely fill 3 large bleachers with men, one with women, and the large floor area is completely filled with dancers of all (Jewish) stripes.

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The bonfires are large but controlled.  Leaping flames but confined by the physical – like the Jewish heart.  The main rear bonfire in Meron for Lag B’Omer at Kever Rashbi – 2011.

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Video - Live in Meron - Lag B'Omer - Kever Rashbi - Dancing Bonfire #2 Tzanz - 2011 by Reb Akiva

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Video - Live Lag B'Omer Kever Rashbi - Bonfire #1 with Boyaner Rebbe

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Video - Into Kever Rashbi on Lag B'Omer in Meron - 2011

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

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Pics – Live in Meron by Kever Rashbi on Lag B’Omer

B’Chasdei Hashem, we’re (Reb Akiva & Rabbi Nati) in Meron for Lag B’Omer.  It’s almost midnight but it’s just getting started (as it’s after Shabbat), the bonfires have not yet been lit (to avoid any possibility of people or authorities having to set up on Shabbos).

We’re posting some live clips (via Qik – medium quality cellphone video) and pictures when we can get online.  CHECK BACK FREQUENTLY at http://mpaths.com for live updates.

Here’s a few early pictures…

In front of Kever Rashbi, the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, zt”l, on Lag B’Omer in Meron, Israel - 2011

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Video - Meron Lag B'Omer - Hospitality Area - Rashbi

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Video - Entering Meron on Lag B'Omer - Kever Rashbi

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Friday, May 20, 2011

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Holy Safed – Erev Lag B’Omer 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Holy Ari’zl in Tzfat (Safed).  The kever area now boasts a permanent sun cover (a useful addition) and some ‘na nach’ graffiti (a disgusting addition – who thinks they’re going to get their message across by defacing a kever???).  Those who sent kvitalach (prayer requests), this was their first stop.

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While standing by the kever, it was just possible on this hazy day to see Meron in the distance.

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Before using the mikveh Ari, I spotted this new display on the wall.  “Prayer Before Dipping in the Mikvah”, that I’d never seen before (neither the particular prayer nor on the wall of the mikveh Ari).

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Tzfat is an interesting place, one of amazing things hiding in every corner.  This is the “House of (Torah) Study – Center of Miracles”.  Actually it says below it’s dedicated in the name of Rabbi Nissim-Miracles Shavavo, which is not an uncommon sephardi name.  But being Tzfat, it wouldn’t be unexpected to run into a Beis Medresh “House of Miracles”.

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But it’s almost Shabbos, time for posting and investigating is over.  Good Shabbos…and happy (almost) Lag B’Omer. 

If the world ends tonight (or tomorrow), it was good writing and sharing together.  And if Moshiach comes between now and Lag B’Omer…see you here (G-d willing)!

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Video - Kever Ari on Erev Lag B'Omer 2011

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North to Meron, Hello Safed – Lag B’Omer 2011

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths


As I headed to my car with travel bags, my neighbor exited his apartment with travel bags.  We looked at each other and smiled, “Going to Meron?” he asked.  “Yes” I answered.  He’s traveling to Teveria (Tiberius) for Shabbos and then heading to Meron after Shabbat ends.  We’re doing the same thing, but in Safed.

The new route 6 North-South Israel toll-highway has been extended farther north, cutting 45 minutes off the trip.  At the rest stop, buses and cars were loaded with chassidim and charedi Jews headed north for Shabbos and Lag B’Omer.  And frequent hitchhikers were spotted with signs for towns north.

As we arrived in Safed – Israel’s mystical northern city of kabbalists and artists, the biggest problem was finding parking.  The city is at capacity as people come for Lag B’Omer.

It promises to be an awesome Shabbos (G-d willing) and awesome Lag B’Omer.

As for world events or predictions for May 21st, it’s just a distant echo here as everyone tunes into a true reality…connecting with G-d via the deepest paths.

(G-d willing, updates and pictures to follow frequently.  Check back regularly for Mystical Path’s live 2011 Lag B’Omer coverage from Safed and Meron, Israel.)

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Wood for Lag B’Omer

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Did you ever wonder how all that wood was gathered for the Lag B’Omer bonfires?

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(Jerusalem’s Old City Jewish Quarter)

Young girls gather wood for their Lag B’Omer bonfire, and the boys prepare for theirs.

From at least Passover on, the children keep their eyes open for any discarded wood for the bonfires.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

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Tikkunim of Lag B’Omer

by Reb Aharon @ Mystical Paths

Most people are familiar with the kabalistic Tiqqun (spiritual repair) for each day of the Omer (listed in Chabad, Chassidic and Sephardic siddurim-prayer books) and that the middoh to be meditated upon for the day of Lag Bo'Omer is Hod ShebeHod.

However, few people know that there is another, equally valid and complementary set of tiqqunim that starts from the last middoh, i.e. Malchus ShebeMalchus, and works it way upwards, till the 49th day of counting the Omer, the day of Chessed ShebeChessed.
According to this latter system, Lag Bo'Omer works out as the day of Tiferes ShebeTiferes.

LagBomer2010 241 - adjustedSo on Lag B’Omer we have Hod ShebeHod and/or Tiferes ShebeTiferes.

Both Hod and Tiferes can be translated as glory, but whereas Hod is a type of passive glory, the glory of a king by the fact that he is king, Tiferes is a more active glory, it is the glory of pride, the beauty, the point of focus of the king.

When I choose to daven to G-d, when I choose to rely wholeheartedly on the Creator of the world Who chose B'nei Yisroel, when I give myself over to Him, I am making Him my Tiferes; He becomes my reson d'etre. When I choose to thank Him, to subjugate myself to Him, that is an expression of the middoh of Hod.

G-d's Glory, as it were, is bound with His people. This is His attribute of Hod, the 'passive' Glory. But when His people do His Will, they become His Pride, His focus, His Beauty, His Tiferes.

And the Tsaddiq, he is Tiferes ShebeTiferes, the Pride of His Pride.

This is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the symbol of his יום הילולא, may his merit guard and guide us, Omein.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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Why Isn't Lag B'Omer So Special Outside of Israel?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Some years ago my daughter asked, "Why is Lag B'Omer here in America nothing so special (except for us, we make a bonfire Lag B'Omer night)? So fine, you can get a haircut, buy a dress, whatever (community picnic, baseball game in yeshiva for my brothers). And yes, many Chabad houses make a Lag B'Omer parade (which is a pretty big deal in Crown Heights, headquaters of Chabad.) But in Eretz Yisroel (Israel), hundreds of thousands celebrate in Meron by the kever (tomb) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and everyone (even the secular) make a bonfire. There's massive achdus (unity), everyone joins a bonfire, and Meron is celebrating 24 hours!"

My dear daughter, when we say that Eretz Yisroel, the land of Israel, is Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land, what do think that means?

It can't mean that there are more synagogues, if you go to Boro Park in New York City, or Williamsburg, or Crown Heights, Monsey, Lakewood NJ, Passaic NJ, there's just as many. There's just as many kosher stores, the food has the same level of kosher stringencies. There's just as many Torah lessons going on, and as many children in yeshivas.

If you travel to Meron on Lag B'Omer, or to the holy gravesites in Tzfat (Safed), or the kever of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes in Teveria (Tiberious), or aveninu Shimon ben Yaakov Aveniu, or any of the holy gravesites of the tzaddikim, prophets, forefathers and foremothers if Israel and the Jewish people, you'll find a great concentration of chassidim, litvishim, mizrachi, a cross section of religious Jews and even a reasonable quantity of less religious observant and even secular Jews.

If you go to those same Jewish groups in America and discuss kivrei tzaddikim, holy gravesites of our holy ancestors, they'll look at you sideways like you're weird or even possibly in to some kind of avodah zarah (idol worship) - with the exception of chassidim and the gravesite of their rebbe.

The answer is related to the tzimtzumim, the contractions and filters that separate this world from the Ein Sof HaKodesh and the Or Ein Sof, the Blessed Infinite One and His Infinite Light and allow us to perceive ourselves as independent beings, meaning the creation of free will.

There's a little less filtering in Eretz HaKodesh, in the Holy Land, a little more spiritual light, a little more closeness to Hashem, leaks through. You can't see it, but you can see people reacting to it. Spirituality is just a little more spiritual, discussions of G-d and His Torah are a little more real, a little more alive. The neshama, the soul, gets a little more excited.

Kevrai tzaddikim, the holy sites, are a level higher, a little further diminishment of the filter (they are places 'closer to G-d', so to speak). The neshamot (souls) are drawn to a greater closeness of G-d and reach a higher level of excitement, of spiritual vitality, when there. (This is true of kevrai tzaddikim outside of Israel as well, but in Israel you get the effect of the Land plus the holy site.)

You can't see the spiritual, but you can see it's impact...if you're looking.

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As Lag B'Omer Approaches - Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

by Reb Nati at Mystical Paths

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, zt"l alone was given permission to reveal the great mysteries contained in the hidden teachings and to distribute free gifts (Zohar III:124b).

Prior to the great Tanna Rabbi Akiva's passing, this great teacher of the Jewish people summoned his two beloved disciples, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Meir baal HaNess. They asked Rabbi Akiva which of them would be replacing him. Rabbi Akiva said, "Rabbi Meir shall take over the position as head of the Yeshiva." Then turning to Rabbi Shimon he said, "It is sufficient that your Creator and I know the level your greatness" (Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 2).

Rabbi Shimon said, "I have the power to correct the entire world; I can exempt the whole world from judgment." (Talmud Sukkah 45b).

Rabbi Shimon was leaving the cave where he and his son Rabbi Elazar had been in hiding from the Romans for thirteen years. They were talking about the righteousness which exists in the world when Rabbi Shimon said "It's enough that you and I are in the world." Another time he said, "I myself have sufficient merit for the entire world." (Talmud Shabbat 33b; Sukkah 45b)

These teachings only reveal a small degree of Rabbi Shimon's greatness and give only a partial glimpse of the true benefit he brought into the world. This being the case, we celebrate the passing of the True Tzaddik, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. This in itself is a great wonder, an obvious contradiction. How can we celebrate and enjoy Lag B'Omer, when it recalls the day when such great good and benefit was taken from the world? What kind of celebration is this? On the contrary, we should rend our garments, as for the destruction of the Temple; as our sages taught, "The passing of a Tzaddik is more severe than the Temple's destruction!"

To answer this, Reb Noson of Breslov quotes the verse, "the Tzaddik is lost; yet nobody bothers to note what has happened. People of kindness are taken away; yet no one understands. It because of the evil that approaches, the Tzaddik is lost (Isaiah 57:1)." Our Sages teach that the very great tzaddikim pass away prior to the onset of terrible evil in the world. For them, this is a blessing; so that they should not have to witness the great suffering which Heaven has decreed, so that their eyes should not have to see all the multitude of troubles that is about to befall the Jewish people (Talmud Sandhedrin 113b).

Reb Noson then goes on to explain that the powers of the "Tzaddikim are greater after their passing than when they were alive" (Talmud Berahot 18a). (This is also explained by the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch in Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh.) If we examine the Tzaddik's main purpose in life, we see that all his efforts are devoted to rectifying the Jews and bringing about goodness, both physical as well as spiritual. Through the Tzaddik comes blessings of abundance of wealth and livelihood, and abundance of Torah and repentance. However, as long as the Tzaddik's soul is housed in a body, he is restricted. This because the body, by definition, is a physical limitation. The Tzaddik is therefore prevented from rising to the greatest heights, and even the abundance which he does bring is governed by this restriction. His influence can only go so far until such a time that his soul is divested of its bodily enclosure.

This is why there is cause for celebration on Lag B'Omer. True, it is the day that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai left this world. But, Rabbi Shimon is in Shamayim; Rabbi Shimon is spiritual. If during his lifetime he had sufficient merit to keep the world in existence, how much more so now that he is no longer restricted by the physical? His powers can presently reach such incomprehensible heights and levels that the abundance and benefit he can now bring to the world far surpasses whatever had been possible when he was alive.

This is the explanation of the verse, "The Tzaddik is lost...because of the evil that approaches..." The Tzaddik's entire being is devoted to destroying and combating evil. However, his ability to do this is limited by his physical body. Therefore, Hashem removes this Tzaddik from the world prior to the evils coming. This is so that the Tzaddik's body will no longer restrict his efforts to help the Jews. In heaven, he is free to mitigate the harsh decree.

There is simply no din on Lag B'omer, so you can come to the tzion of the tzaddik and ask what you will and receive a free unmerited gift. Very simply you can receive great and awesome yeshuot (salvations) for children and health and livelihood. So do not get distracted by all the people and pushing and noise, just come and close your eyes to all this world and ask that the blessings of Hashem flow in the merit of the tzaddik. I personally guarantee you will see miracles in your life.

This is the true reason for the great celebration on Lag B'Omer. On the 33rd Day of the Omer many, many years ago, Rabbi Shimno bar Yochai's powers to bring help and salvation to all of Am Israel increased manifold. (Likutey Halahkot, Hekhsher Keilim 4)
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Spiritual Joy

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

chassidic_flying

      A chassid wrote, “I know that I am supposed to balance love and fear [awe] of G-d, but I can’t handle the strictness of the fear part. I am really bothered by strictness.”

     Reb Gutman, “Then go to spiritual joy, and bypass the entire subject.”

     The chassid responded; “Huh?”

     Reb Gutman: First, understand that strictness contains love, and that love has to have strictness. Unbridled love would be a disaster.

     As for strictness, rain is a good example of strictness. But how can rain be strictness? Rain is always a blessing. Without rain, we could not survive. Rain seems to be only love and kindness.

     All beneficial love contains strictness. The strictness of rain is that its water falls in individual drops. If this strictness would be removed, the rain would fall in a solid block, like a huge tsunami flood falling from the sky! This would destroy whatever it reached.  So, we see that this strictness is really measured love.

     But if this struggle with love and fear is too great for you, then take the easy way out. Go to spiritual joy. The spiritual goal that we seek can only come in spiritual joy.

     Imagine that you are a peasant farmer. You are not a complete beggar, thank G-d, but you are no way near being a landed gentleman, either. One day, you are working in the field and you look up, amazed. Coming toward you in the distance, you see a number of golden carriages being drawn by large teams of beautiful horses. As they come closer, you realize that it is the King’s carriage. You are astonished.

     The carriage stops, and the livery guards rush to open the door. They place a red carpet on the ground. Then the King Himself steps down, out of the carriage.

     You fall to the ground, afraid to even look up at the King. Then the King says, “Arise. Stand, I want you to do something for me.”

     You immediately obey the King’s order, and you rise.

     The King says, “I want you to become my servant. I want you to help me by gathering in my sheep, and by tending them. Know this: My sheep are very dear to me. I love each of them. But My flock has gone astray. They are lost, left wandering in the wilderness. Here are your new garments and the tools that you will need to do this job. Do not worry, I will reward you handsomely for your time and effort. Your reward will be beyond your imagination. And, if you do a good job, I will even invite you into My palace.”

     One of the King’s guards hands you the garments, the tools that you will need to accomplish the job, and a large amount of gold. Then the King climbs back into His carriage, and the carriage disappears into the horizon.

     Now be honest. How would you feel? List your ten most obvious feelings. What would be your initial feelings? What would you feel after all this sinks in? List them.

Here are some of mine:

Joy
Joy
Joy
Joy
Joy
Appreciation
Amazement
Shock
Responsibility
Enthusiasm
Joy
Joy
Joy
Love

       G-d said to us, “When you do a mitzvah the way it is supposed to be done, you will become holy. I will share My holiness with you. A mitzvah is both physical and spiritual. To properly do the mitzvah physically, you have to follow the physical details of the mitzvah. To properly do the mitzvah spiritually, you have to also think about Me, say My Name and think about what I am doing to you when you do the mitzvah. [This is inherent in the blessing, if only we pay attention to the words.]

If you remember all of those feelings that you listed, it will not be long before I will invite you into My palace.”

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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An Antidote to Anger: Insights on Tsitsis

by Reb Aharon @ Mystical Paths

[ We introduce a new author, Reb Aharon.  Reb Aharon is going to provide some deeper insights into select Torah topics, with a focus on a touch of the mystical side.  Please let us know what you think of his efforts. ]

tzitzitIn the Shulchon Oruch (Code of Jewish Law) it says [Be'er Heytev on Hilchos Tsitsis] that the word ציצת – Tsitsis (ritual fringe strings worn by religious Jews), stands for צדיק יפריד ציציותיו תמיד - Tsaddik Yafrid Tsitsiosov Tomid - that a righteous person always separates the strings of his Tsitsis. A puzzling statement to say the least.

There are a few things one might ascribe to a righteous person: a righteous person never gets angry, he always walks with G-d, etc, but separating his Tsitsis?  Somehow doesn't fit.. something's missing.. an explanation perhaps?

We know that the garment of the Tsitsis, the בגד, should be the same colour as the Tsitsis themselves [- this is the reason for the black stripes traditionally put on the otherwise white garment, corresponding to the colour of the Techeles (blue/indigo dye from 'chilazon' - aquatic creature) strings amongst the other pure white strings].

The Ari HaQodosh says that a segulah against getting angry is to look at the Tsitsis. A possible explanation for this on a level we can understand might be that the actual Tsitsis garment represents unity, the unity of all souls, which together make up one complete soul. In the garment per se, there is no separation. It is only at the corners that it separates into the four gedillim, [the four tightly wound parts of the fringes], these corresponding to the four Chayos of the Merkovoh, the four main archetypal souls.

(Thus the name of this garment is בגד, the first 3 letters of the Alef-Beis after the Alef. The Alef refers to G-d. The ב,ג,ד, directly following, refer to the enclothing of His Light in the Neshomoh.) And then afterwards they separate into the strings,  symbolizing all the different souls of B'nei Yisroel.

A person, if angered, should remember that we are all part of one big soul; the person who angered you is ultimately part of you, you are one  with that person, part of that big one soul. Look at the source. We are all one. This helps to dissipate and diffuse the anger.

So coming back to our original statement, צדיק יפריד ציציותיו תמיד - Tsaddik Yafrid Tsitsiosov Tomid, a righteous person separates his Tsitsis strings; he appreciates that each person is a holy entity; though the righteous person can truly see and appreciate that we are all one, he also sees that each and every person is a Tselem Elokim,  each a different and unique manifestation of the collective Neshomoh of Yisroel. And G-d wants that manifestation, the manifestation of His Unity through the myriad expressions of His Infinite Light.

The Midrash states that when Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) pleaded on behalf of B'nei Yisroel after the sin of the golden calf, G-d 'wrapped Himself in a Tallis, like a Shaliach Tsibbur [- congregation leader of prayers]' and said the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.  The Tallis symbolizes the collective Neshomoh of Bnei Yisroel.

Only when a child disobeys the father, is the father able to display that deep element of love that sees no transgression; it is through the misdemeanor that we see a fuller manifestation of the father's love for the child.

When B'nei Yisroel sinned, G-d was 'able' to show his greater Love, revealing His 13 Attributes. Thus, he 'wrapped Himself in a Tallis', enclothed Himself in the Soul of Bnei Yisroel, and pronounced His Thirteen Middos of Loving Mercy.

These 13 Middos are in G-d in Absolute Unity [Koznitser Maggid], an allusion to that can be seen in the gematriah of שלוש עשרה (the word thirteen) which [with its' letters] is the same as שמע ישרא' ד' אלקינו ד' אחד. (Hear O’ Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One.)  They then dissipate in their revelation to thirteen, much the same as the Tsitsis from the garment.

And so we find that the number of times of windings in each individual fringe is gematriah ד' אחד - G-d is One. The אחד - One is gematriah 13, an allusion to the Thirteen Middos.

The word אחד symbolizes the Tsitsis: the Alef [Unity] refers to the garment, the Ches [numerical value of eight] refers to the 8 Tsitsis on each corner, and the Daled [numerical value of four] to the four corners. and 1 x 8 x 4 = 32, the number of Tsitsis altogether, the number of times the Holy Name of Elokim is mentioned in Creation, the number that alludes to the manifestation of G-d's Unity through the many, G-d's Will.

Thus the Tsaddik will separate his Tsitsis, alluding to the complete revelation of G-d's Absolute Unity through His myriad creations.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

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Do Homeopathy and Torah fit together?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

homeopathy-pills-4A reader asked…

I wanted to ask you, if you know anything about Homeopathy and what our holy Torah has to say about it.

First a brief description for those who don’t know what homeopathy is. “Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient.  The basic principle of homeopathy, known as the "law of similars", is "let like be cured by like."  Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking on an elastic body, which homeopaths term succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process potentization. Dilution often continues until none of the original substance remains.  Apart from the symptoms, homeopaths examine aspects of the patient's physical and psychological state, then homeopathic reference books known as repertories are consulted, and a remedy is selected based on the totality of symptoms.” (Source)

The Torah permits the treatment of illness via medicines, and defines any substance believed to have curative properties permitted to be consumed for illness – whether or not the substance is prepared from or considered kosher.

Homeopathic preparations qualify as a substance believed to have curative properties (believed at least by homeopathic practitioners) and therefore may be consumed as any other medicine for an illness. 

Generally our holy sources do not judge medical treatments, and in the few cases where they do they even permit the consumption of substances that are believed to have curative properties by the patient even if most people (or experts) no longer believe the substance to have curative properties (and the substance is not kosher – if it’s kosher it can always be consumed as a food).

Modern medical science, backed by some significant direct testing, considers homeopathic treatments to be medically ineffective.  Further, the theory behind homeopathy makes no sense in the light of current scientific and medical understanding.  However, there are alternative medical treatments that do work (or partially work) yet their theory or understanding makes no sense according to modern science (example, acupuncture). 

So if a person believes a homeopathic treatment may work for them, they are permitted to use it as any other medicine is permitted to be used.

About 25 years ago a famous Chabad mashpia (a spiritual advisor), Rabbi Manis Friedman, shlita, became enamored with homeopathy and recorded a shiur comparing similarities between homeopathy and kabbalah.  This audio shiur, titled “The Holistic and the Kabbalistic” compared homeopathy’s dilution towards complete nullification with our relationship with the Creator of the Universe and His continued energizing of the universe (and how our souls should be, but are not, nullified by the G-dly presence).  This 2 hour shiur (broken into segments) is available online here for free. (it requires Real Player to play.)

So if you’d like to try homeopathy, the Torah permits it.  But engaging our chochmah (our intellect), modern science has done a pretty complete job of demonstrating that this particular alternative medicine is rarely (if ever) actually effective.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

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Israel – Don’t Get the Wrong Impression

2011-05-06 Granpa Fayga Akiva by Tel Nof 025

News reports indicate border clashes, protests, thousands marching and shouting.  Drudgereport SCREAMS “Middle East on FIRE!!!”.

Umm, yeah, I guess, somewhere.  It was a normal work day and a normal school day throughout Israel.  No exceptional security measures were noticeable.  Life was pretty normal.

In a few Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the local youth paraded before row after row of reporters with bricks in hand and covered faces…see, they’re protesting and ready to riot (more reporters than youths present).

In Gaza, moderate crowds of thousands protested before reporters at the Rafah (Gaza) / Egypt border.  (Got that, they’re protesting against Israel’s existence at the Egyptian CLOSED border.)  Keeping reporters busy is important as a major component of the local economy.

In Tel Aviv, an Israeli Arab truck driver decided to see how many Jews he could plow down with his truck.  This was serious with 1 killed and 17 injured.  Next month you’ll hear how Israeli trucking companies are discriminatory for refusing to hire Arab drivers but not why.

The real moves today were a battle technique perfected in Iran…the human wave attack.  You get a bunch of dupes hyped up on either propaganda, drugs or threats to their families.  You then aim hundreds or thousands of them at armed positions, hoping they’ll either overwhelm the position or play upon the humanity of the soldiers (the wave will often contain or be children).

Such attacks were attempted at the northern Gaza border crossing, a Ramallah check point near Jerusalem, the Lebanese / Israel border, and the Syria / Israel border in the Golan.  Human wave attacks were ineffective and bloody when Iran tried them against Iraq, and were equally ineffective and bloody today when tried against Israel.

Thank G-d, Israel stayed safe today (I am not discounting the terror truck attack in Tel Aviv).  And a lot of people were injured and died for Arab propaganda play, because that’s all it was.

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Is Iyengar Yoga Kosher?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We received the following question…

P1040028“Dear Reb Akiva,

The following poster showed up in our (religious Jewish) neighborhood advertising ‘Iyengar Yoga’ in English and Hebrew.  The classes are separate for men and women and in the religious community.  Is there any problem with Iyengar Yoga?”

Yoga comes in many different styles and approaches.  Each style or approach is founded by a guru, a Hindu spiritual leader. 

The following is directly taken from Iyengar Yoga’s founders website and should clear up whether it’s kosher straight away…

“Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar (Guruji) … has helped all to experience the wisdom of the yoga sutras (the yoga sutras is a Hindu scripture and foundational text of yoga).  He is the only person to teach the highest aspects of yoga - Atma Darshan (soul connection) through asanas (yoga body positions).”  The web site also includes a picture of a Hindu god idol on the top of the page.

So if you as a religious Jew want to learn Hindu scriptures and Hindu soul connection to a Hindu god idol – which Judaism considers literal avodah zarah (foreign deity worship – literally idol worship in English), then this is for you.

If not, stay away…FAR AWAY.

Three interesting notes.  First the sheet starts with B’Siyata D’Shamaya, “with the help/permission of Heaven” in Hebrew/Aramaic, a common expression in the religious world to mark a sheet with Jewish religious thought on it.  That’s lie number one.

Number two is the offering of separate mens and womens classes, conforming to religious society practice for classes of various types.

The last point is in the Hebrew around the seal.  While in English it just says “yoga studies center”, in Hebrew it says “center for learning health of the body and SOUL”.

As a Jew I’ll take my SOUL learnings from the Torah, not from a Hindu guru – thank you very much.

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He Told Them to Put a Cross On His Coffin

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

german_iron_cross_red

     Picture this scene if you will. It actually happened last week in Germany. Mr. Andreas Yaffe was on his death bed. He was born shortly before the holocaust began in Germany. In order to save her life, his mother baptized both Andreas and herself into the Catholic Church.

     As it turned out, his mother did not have to convert him, because she was able to send him on the Kindertransport to England. Kindertransport (Children's Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940. These children never saw their parents again. As cruel as it is to permanently separate a young child from his parents, it saved his life.

     He grew up in England in the church as a believing catholic. He went to church on Sundays and maintained all of the catholic beliefs and rituals. As an adult, he moved back to Germany and married a German, catholic woman. They have two children, a son and a daughter.

     Andreas’ son, Ludwig, married and had two children. A few years ago, he began to wonder about his father’s family name. His father told him that he had a Jewish mother and that they are descendants of a famous Rabbi called “The Levush.

     When Ludwig heard this, he began to study Judaism. He grew a beard and started to wear a head covering. His father became very upset, since he did not want to believe that he was a Jew.

     When a Chabad sheliach (messenger) met the father, he gave him some Jewish books and helped him to put on tefillin. Andreas agreed only because he did not want to be nasty to the rabbi, but whenever they spoke, he always insisted that he was catholic and that he believed in that god.

     About a year ago, the rabbi visited them again, and as he was leaving, the wife stood by the door. She told him very strongly that her husband was a catholic and that he did not want to “convert” and become a Jew. The rabbi told her that her husband did not have to convert to become a Jew because he already was one. At first, she was totally shocked. Can you imagine a German woman hearing that all those years she was married to a Jew! Then her shock turned to anger.

     Meanwhile, their son, Ludwig, began to convert to Judaism. He is bringing his wife and their children with him. The wife seems to be going along with his conversion plans.

     Last week, the father was in the hospital, and the doctors told the family that he would die any hour. Hearing this, his son tried his best to do what needed to be done in order to give his father a proper Jewish burial, but his mother fought desperately to prevent this. Obviously, she wanted to maintain her and her husband’s idolatrous beliefs. A priest was called to say the “last rites.”

     Ludwig tried to put tefillin on his father just before he died, but his mother would not allow it. She insisted on nothing Jewish. He did manage to get the head tefillin on his father’s head before his mother pushed him away. He also slipped a small pair of tzitzits (fringes) into his father’s coffin.

     Andreas died and was buried in a catholic cemetery, with a priest performing the burial. There is a cross on his coffin. Although his wife was sad that her husband had died, she was satisfied that she was able to prevent him from doing anything Jewish.

     Now the son is trying to bring his wife and children to Israel, to complete their conversion.

     So where do our emotions lie? Do we say that the man wanted to be buried as a catholic so we should not interfere? It is correct to say that since he completely rejected Judaism, we should have just left him alone and let him do what he wanted? Should we respect the rights of his wife? After all, like her, her husband was a catholic his entire life. She does not want anyone to even know that her husband was a Jew!

     Or, do we side with the son, who for some reason, realized what it means to be a Jew, and desperately tried to give his father the best that he deserved?

     If you believe, as I am sure quite of few of you do, that the rabbi and the son should have respected Andreas and his wife’s wishes and allowed them to do what they wanted, then there is not much left to the story.

     But, if you believe it is wrong that there is a cross on a Jew’s coffin, and that he should have had a decent Jewish burial instead… (Remember, Andreas was torn away from his Jewish roots by an unbelievably cruel despot, and that none of this was his fault) then the only question is: Do you know anyother Jews in a similar situation? If so, what can you do to help them before it is too late?

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But It’s All Natural

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003

     A friend of mine who lives in Israel was shopping for chile powder. There were two brands for sale; one was all-natural (which my friend prefers) and the other one had preservatives added (which my friend does not like to eat).

    The problem was that the all-natural one did not have a hechsher (kosher certification), and the one with the preservatives was marked with a proper hechsher. He had tried the one with the preservatives, and he did not like its taste, so what was he do?

     He thought to himself, “It’s 100 percent natural. What could be wrong with it?”

    He was about to buy it, but he stopped and thought, “I’ll look it up on the Internet and see what’s in it.”

     He looked up that brand’s all-natural ingredients and among other strange things, he found the “natural” ingredient, beef stock!

     Do you realize what this means? That product’s beef stock was certainly taken from the carcass of an animal that was improperly slaughtered. Not only would it be a major transgression for a Jew to eat such a thing, but eating that type of food would have given my friend a setback in his spiritual search!

     G-d told us what we may eat for our spiritual health, not for our physical health. For a non-Jew to eat an unkosher product would pose absolutely no problem. But to the Jewish people, He said, “You shall be holy, because I am holy. These are the foods that you may eat…”[i]


[i] Leviticus 11:1

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

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Bloutage

Blogger had an outage starting Wednesday evening through Friday evening.  Sorting briefly through their very terse comments and having some expertise in the industry, the story goes something like this…

- Blogger prepared some major new features to offer to the public as part of their blogging service.  They apply software updates to their platform quarterly (or so), this one had some bigger changes than usual.

- Wednesday night they took Blogger into read-only mode (no new posts) and applied the software update.

- Within hours complaints of serious malfunctions began to come in.  This happens sometimes with complicated software updates that can be very hard to test under actual conditions, such as Blogger with hundreds of millions of users a day.

- So now the Blogger team had a real challenge.  Blogs continued to post updates (and comments and changes) in the “new” system, so if they restored the “old” system those would be lost.  Yet the new system wasn’t working right.

- The Blogger team put Blogger in “read-only” mode (no changes allowed to any blog) and tried to fix the problems in the “new” system.  They were unsuccessful, leaving them with no choice but to return to the “old” system.

- This they did, but it was the “old” system as of Wednesday, and it was Friday morning already.  So a day of blog activity just disappeared.  Now they had the problem of moving all new activity from the new system to the old system, a lot of programming done under pressure.

- They completed this, brought all the new activity to the old system and finally turned Blogger back on.

For most bloggers and Blogger based blogs this meant no new posts for 2 days, along with some posts disappearing for 2 days.  For a few blogs, their whole blogs disappeared for 2 days.

All of this stinks.  But software engineering is not perfect and such things do happen.  Even with some expertise in the area, I’m not sure there’s anything we (the users) can do to prepare for such failures.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

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Not by the Might of My Arm

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We do not believe, and plentiful lessons from the Torah and Tanach tell us, that success and survival is in the might of our arms.  BUT neither are we permitted to ignore defending ourselves (when circumstances allow).  The Torah and Tanach also give plentiful instances of the Jewish people going off to war, and the Shulchan Aruch (code of Jewish law) gives specific laws when we must even violate Shabbat to physically defend even property of the lowest value (straw).

Here are some of the strength of arms wielded by the Israeli Defense Forces.  May they also carry Hashem’s blessings, without which their strength is useless.

Apache Attack Helicopter

2011-05-10 Grandpa Eli Akiva Raizel Reuven - IDF Air Base Show 081

F-16 C/D Fighter Jet

2011-05-10 Grandpa Eli Akiva Raizel Reuven - IDF Air Base Show 042

Cobra Attack Helicopter

2011-05-10 Grandpa Eli Akiva Raizel Reuven - IDF Air Base Show 080

CH-53 Heavy Lift Jet-Assisted Helicopter

2011-05-10 Grandpa Eli Akiva Raizel Reuven - IDF Air Base Show 083

F-15 Fighter-Bomber Jet

2011-05-10 Grandpa Eli Akiva Raizel Reuven - IDF Air Base Show 089

We were asked by the air force personnel attending the planes not to take pictures of the F-15i and F-16i – specially Israeli modified versions of the standard US made jets (standard models in use by Israel pictured above).  While this seemed a bit silly in an open-to-the-public airshow with 15,000 people passing by with cameras and camera-phones all taking pictures, we respect their request (and any possible national security implications). [Though I just googled for pictures of it and came up with much better pictures than I took, including even the cockpit.]  However, if you don’t want people to see something and pictures taken, don’t put it out for the air show!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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Is It Hard To Be a Jew?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003 (5)Photo - A Sadhu (Hindu) serves his god.

Did you ever hear a “religious” Jew complain how hard it is to be a Jew? Reb Moshe Feinstein, the Rosh Hayeshiva, (of blessed memory), said of every Jew who said this, that his children left Torah observance.

     It is not hard to follow the Torah’s precepts. These rules come to take away a burden, not to add to our burdens. When you do a mitzvah the way it is commanded, it brings joy, not sorrow. In fact, spiritual joy is a sign that you did the mitzvah correctly.

     If you were standing on a very tall building, close to the edge of the roof, and there were no guard rails, what would you say? “Hey! What’s going on here? This is a dangerous situation! Where are the guard rails?” The obvious truth is that life’s normal days offer much more danger than an unguarded roof.

     Have you ever seen to what extremes some of the idolatrous religions will go in order to “find” their answer? And what do we have to do? Put on tefillin. Take a day off work each week. Marry a Jew. Is any of this really difficult?

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Monday, May 09, 2011

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The Day of Dry Bones

by Reb Dov bar Leib @ Mystical Paths – Edited by Reb Akiva

Today is Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day in Israel.  However, I (Dov bar Leib) celebrate it as Yom Atzamot, literally the Day of the Dry Bones (both words share almost identical spelling in Hebrew).  The Day of the Dry Bones is part of the first half of Yechezkel's (Ezekiel’s) vision (in the books of biblical prophecy, Yechezkel 37:1-14).

The four winds part (the next part of Yechezkel’s vision), which according to the Sfas Emeth will be on Tisha B'Av, has not yet occurred.

If you read the prophesy of the Dry Bones carefully, it is nothing less than the physical ingathering of the exiles (of the Jewish people) before the return of the spirit. It is very clear. It even says avdah tikvateinu before the bones come together, which is an exact line from HaTikvah (the national anthem of the State of Israel).

Purim is exactly 30 days before Pesach and Chanukah is exactly 60 days after Isru Chag of Sukkot. So the Sfas Emeth postulated that the Rabbinical festivals are lunar reflections of the Shalosh Regalim (the 3 biblical Jewish festivals when all men had to come to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, namely Passover, Shavuos, and Sukkot). At the End of Days Shavuot would have two Rabbinic festivals associated with it, one exactly 30 days prior and one exactly 60 days after isru chag of Shavuot.

The 30 days prior one is Yom Atzamoth (Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel Independence Day) while the one 60 days after will be on Tisha B'Av and will celebrate the spiritual rebirth of the four winds, which has not yet occurred.

Because only the first half of Yechezkel's vision has occurred so far, many Chareidim (Jewish ultra-orthodox) are confused by what they see (and stand against the seemingly physical fulfillment completely lacking a spiritual component).

May we merit the four winds and the geulah shalayma this year!

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