by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Over a decade ago, a Jewish investment banker's career blew out. A few bad decisions, bad trades and his high 6 figure income, his Porche and high living lifestyle was gone in a day. He knew he was Jewish, but his Judaism was limited to a basic family seder and Rosh Hashana services.
His name is Shlomo ben Naftali, and he plays the guitar to relax. Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l fans may note the name is the same as Reb Shlomo's, but it's not the same person.
Looking for a little meaning in life, he wandered into the New York Jewish scene, and found himself one Shabbos morning in the Carlebach Shul in Manhattan. They welcomed him warmly and even called him up for Hagba (the lifting of the Torah after reading). On hearing his name, Shlomo ben Naftali, they all ooohed and aaaahed. At the time he didn't know why, and didn't even know what they were calling him up for. This was after Shlomo Carlebach's passing - he never had the opportunity to meet him.
A short time later he found himself headed to yeshiva in Israel. After learning for a number of years, which also included learning Shlomo Carlebach's music as an informal aside, he found himself teaching at the Diaspora Yeshiva. He had a small apartment with a balcony in the Kever Dovid HaMelech courtyard, 2 floors up.
One day he had a particularly hard day teaching in yeshiva. He didn’t feel he was getting through to the students nor that the material was speaking to him. Frustrated, he marched home after the day, had a bit to eat and drink and made his way to his little balcony with his guitar to relax as the sun set over Jerusalem.
He began strumming his guitar and a Shlomo Carlebach song came to mind. He played quietly to himself for a bit when suddenly a voice shouted out from above “SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me, I CAN’T HEAR YOU”. Wow, he thought, who is that? Who did he promise to sing for? Ok, so he played and sang louder. Again came a shout, “SHLOMO, I can just about hear you but my kallah can’t. SING LOUDER!” He started getting a little annoyed, ‘boy this guy is demanding’ he thought. So, a bit angry actually, he played and sang at the top of his lungs thinking ‘maybe this will make the guy go away’. As the song finished the voice shouted out “THANK YOU SHLOMO!!!”
He chalked it up to another strange Jerusalem occurrence and went inside.
About 10 years later he was in the Old City for Shabbos and visited a rabbi and rebbitzen that had become renowned for their Shabbos hospitality, commonly having over 50 people at their Shabbos table (still true today). As they sang Shabbos zemiros (songs) at the Shabbos table, the rabbi said “let’s sing my favorite song” and started the Shlomo Carlebach tune that our Shlomo from the story sang many years before. After he finished, our Shlomo said “Let me tell you a story about that song. About 10 years ago I was teaching at the Diaspora yeshiva, came home one night upset and played it on my balcony. Suddenly a voice shouted out from above “SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me, I CAN’T HEAR YOU…”.
The rabbi turned to him and said, “That was ME calling out! You see, some years before I went to Shlomo Carlebach and asked for a bracha (a blessing) to find my kallah (to find my marital partner in this world). Shlomo Carlebach gave me a blessing and promised he would sing at my engagement. A few years later I met Shlomo Carlebach again, in the last few months of his life as his health was deteriorating. I reminded him of his promise and he repeated, ‘don’t worry, I will sing at your engagement’. A few months later he passed away and I cried both for our loss and thought to myself ‘I guess he won’t be fulfilling his promise’.”
The rabbi continued, “I occasionally was drawn to the roof of Kever Dovid HaMelech, where I would beseech Hashem to help me find my kallah. I promised if I did I would open my home to every Shabbos guest I could find. After meeting my wife, I took her up to the roof of Kever Dovid HaMelech and told her of my promise, asking if she would accept such a life with me. She readily agreed and I immediately asked her to marry me. She didn’t hesitate a moment, answering yes. At that second I thought of Shlomo Carlebach and his promise to sing at my engagement and shouted out ‘SHLOMO, you promised to sing for me…’.
…And indeed, Shlomo ben Naftali did sing a Shlomo Carlebach tune for him and his kallah at that very moment.
A canary in a coal mine is an expression meaning an early warning. Canaries are extremely sensitive to methane gas, which is odorless and can build up in mines and kill the miners through explosions or lack of oxygen. The canary would pass out and stop chirping before the gas was dangerous to the miners.
MSNBC - Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested 14 missiles on Tuesday, the second day of war games intended a show of strength to the Islamic Republic's enemies in Israel and Washington. The surface-to-surface missiles, with a maximum range of 1,250 miles, were fired simultaneously at a single target, the official Irianian News Agency reported. The missiles put Israel, U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf and parts of southeastern and eastern Europe within Iran's reach.
The head of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division emphasized Iran's preparedness to strike Israeli and U.S. interests in the event of any attack on Iran. “The range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime," Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the semi-official Fars news agency.
The Jews may be the canary in the coal mine, the early warning of the threat as Iran has armed Hizbollah and orchestrated attacks against Israel. The canary is the early warning, not to be ignored.
THIS WARNING is direct and straight, far beyond the little birdie. Anyone listening?
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Smack! A young Jewish guy rushed up to me at the Kotel and gave me a friendly, but firm, smack on my arm. He was smiling a huge smile and pointing to his ear. Then I remembered who he was. A couple of days ago, I put tefillin on him and made fun of the three earrings he had in one of his ears.
When I took his picture I asked, “When you get married, who’s going to wear the pants in the family?”
He laughed and said, “I am!”
“Then who’s going to wear the earrings?” I asked.
“But what about yours?” I asked loudly.
When I do this, the boys almost always get a little embarrassed, (that’s when I take their picture) and they say something like he did, “Well… uh… then, we both will.”
I laughed and said, “Uh–uh, it doesn’t work that way. Either you wear the pants and she wears the earrings, or she wears the pants and you wear the earrings. Which is it? Get on the right side of the bed, buddy!”
By then they are usually laughing pretty hard, but still totally uncomfortable with the idea of giving up their “beautiful” earrings. After all, they think that they look really cool, and that girls like them more if they have earrings.
I try to explain the real problem to them:
“The Torah talks about a Jew who steals something. When he gets caught, the court makes him pay for what he stole. If he cannot pay, he is sold as a slave to another Jew. He has to work for that Jew for six years and then, in the seventh year, he goes free.”[i]
“He goes free that is, unless he says that he wants to be a slave. If he says this, his master puts a hole in his ear and he becomes a slave forever.”[ii]
“You’re a free Jewish guy.” I told him. “You’re not anyone’s slave. You put those holes in your ear because you thought it was cool or something. It may be an “in thing” in some parts of the teenage world, but according to the Torah, it’s a sign of a slave.”
“You put them in your ear to make some kind of statement about yourself. If you want to stand out, let your kindness or your good deeds make you stand out, not a bunch of earrings in your ear. You’re not a slave. Throw them away.”
As you see… sometimes it works.
[i] Exodus 21:5
[ii] This “forever” actually means until the Jubilee Year. Leviticus 25:13
…will be blessed.
A brief video by U.S. Presidential Candidate Michelle Bachman talking about Israel.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A friend and fellow blogger, a secular-ish Jew who made aliyah a few years ago, is starting a campaign “to convince the Israeli public to reject the two state solution in favor of annexing Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in whole or in part as we may determine in the future.”
I personally strongly support Israel not ceding another inch of land, both for practical reasons and religious reasons:
1. Hasn’t brought any peace so far, only the opposite.
2. A “tiny” Israel will be unsafe and may lose some key resources needed to be a viable country.
3. Because the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, was given by G-d to the Jewish people.
4. Jewish religious law clearly says it’s not permitted.
I asked my friend “I'd also like to ask about the religious perspective. In particular it's my opinion to NOT be bashful about what the Torah says about Israel. Either the Land of Israel is ours (the Jewish people’s) because G-d said so in His Torah…or it’s not.”
My friend replied, “Religious people don't have to be convinced. So I focus on secular reasons.”
But if we’re learning ANYTHING from the current vilification of Israel and the Jewish people in today’s world it’s ‘there are no secular reasons that will be accepted’.
This is a battle of narratives and faith. Logic and quotes of international law are not going to win the argument…because it can’t be argued. Either you stand firm in the righteousness of the Torah’s position, or you can’t stand at all.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
You said that we should love all Jews, especially if there is no real reason to love them. Well, my wife’s uncle has an abrasive, rude streak, and has really hurt my wife’s feelings on many occasions. How are you supposed to love someone like this?
Even though a particular Jew might be obnoxious, and I admit that some of us are, there are a few things that you can do so you will not tread on the mitzvah, “Not to hate your brother in your heart.”[i]
The most important thing, perhaps, is to try to shift your dislike from the obnoxious person, to his obnoxious behavior. So instead of saying, “I hate that guy,” you can say, “I hate the way that guy acts.” It also helps to remember that he probably went through a lousy life in order to end up where he is, and thank G-d, I had it so easy.
Remember, when you hate someone, that hatred never leaves your heart. It stays in there, ferments, and makes you feel really terrible. It doesn’t reach the one you hate, not at all. It only hurts you!
And of course the one who loves feels love in his heart. He lives a loving life. So for your own sake, it makes a lot of sense to love whatever you can.
[i] Leviticus 19:17
by Reb Akiva, Have Camera, Will Click @ Mystical Paths
Tel Aviv is the Jewish metropolis. It’s a Mediterranean business capital, a vacation destination, a beachside town, a new city being less than 100 years old (while nearby Jaffa has stones of antiquity, Tel Aviv was built from scratch on sand dunes and scrub land.)
Business brought me through Tel Aviv last week, here’s a few pictures…
Tree lined vistas and medium sized apartment/condo blocks make up most of residential Tel Aviv.
The hotel district along the beachfront isn’t particularly anything special from the outside, though very nice on the inside.
The Tel Aviv beach is stunning. An open public beach is not a place for a religious Jew to hang out (not exactly what you’d call modest), but Tel Aviv has set aside a beach area on the northern side of the beach as a religious beach – separate days/hours for men and women. (That’s right, secular Tel Aviv has a religious beach.)
Tel Aviv is not renowned for it’s religiousness or Jewishness, actually quite the opposite. But even so it’s still a city with many a (orthodox) synagogue and much Jewishness. Here, on the beach, is the Aish HaTorah’s Tel Aviv center. It goes under cover so as not to scare away the violently secular, “Aish – Wisdom for Life”…
Trying to prove their environmental greenness, the city of Tel Aviv has installed a bike rental system in key areas. If you want to pedal your way around Tel Aviv on the spur of the moment in the Mediterranean heat, now you can!
The last item has no picture. The Azrielli towers are the largest buildings in Israel and Tel Aviv. A mall and 3 business towers. As I entered them I saw a new sign, “Azrielli Synagogue, This Way”. The heart of the secular business district in Israel now has it’s own synagogue.
Blogger and reporter Michael J. Totten gives incredibly detailed views from all sides of the conflicts in the Middle East. He’s spent significant time in Lebanon and can often be found reporting from there as well as Israel, Iraq, etc.
A brief excerpt from an interview of Michael that speaks depths of sanity most others in the media profession miss…
Chris Dyszyński : There’s an ongoing debate about the ways in which radical Islamist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas are portrayed in the media. For example, there’s controversy over terms such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’, and from one side complaints that the ideological extremism of these groups is never spelled-out, and from the other that the legitimacy of their territory-based grievances aren’t given due prominence. A noticeable curio is the tendency to ‘balance out’ the rather more unsavory aspects of these organizations – for example, by emphasizing their social charity work – as if they were just Islamic equivalents of the Salvation Army, albeit with more literal weapons. What’s your take on this?
Micahael Totten: First of all, Hamas and Hezbollah don’t have territory-based grievances. They explicitly say, in no uncertain terms, that they wish to erase an entire nation (Israel and the Jewish people) from the face of the earth. No other country gets discussed in this manner. I don’t believe that if the Irish Republican Army vowed to conquer London and massacre the English that even the most radical of British leftists would find the IRA remotely acceptable or describe its program as “territory-based.”
Second, I’ve never understood why some people think it’s such a big deal that Hamas and Hezbollah engage in charity work. They’re still terrorists. They’re still fascist movements that place the murder of Jews at the core of their ideologies. Pol Pot may not have built hospitals, but Hitler did. Both Hitler and Pol Pot built schools. So what?
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
When we do a mitzvah, any mitzvah, we are representing, obeying, serving, pleasing, magnifying the will of, and increasing the manifest glory of the Holy King. This King is the actual Creator of all Existence. Now, how do you think we ought to do this mitzvah?
How should we stand (or sit)? What expression should be on our face? What should be our attitude, dress, feeling, attention, intention, mindset be? Who should we be aware of?
If only we would pay attention to these things when we do a mitzvah, our faces would shine with the Brilliant Light that is referred to in the Sefer Ha Bahir.[i] We would discover spiritual joy, humility, and awareness of G-d’s Eternal Presence. We would experience momentary fulfillment of our purpose in having been created, and our lives would take on new meaning.
So why don’t we?
Well, “I’ve done them so many times already… and nothing ever really happens.” “You know they are just customs, right?” “Isn’t it enough that I am doing them? Do you have to insist on more?” and on and on….
Life is a journey that goes to where you lead it. You can concentrate on having a great lunch, or on having a spiritual awakening. Both are available.
How about, for one week, try spending as much time working to reveal your true spiritual nature as you do preparing lunch. Try to remember Who It is you are really working for. Guess what will happen?
[i] The Bahir is one of the oldest and most important of all Kabbalistic texts.
Worth a listen on political correctness gone criminal.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
In 1927 a group of Jews from Yemen purchased a mountain top area between Jerusalem and Hebron in the Land of Israel. Far away from any local Arab villages or areas of influence, they hoped to build a life in the Holy Land as they built a village and new homes in a desolate area.
The 1929 riots that started with the slaughter of the Jews of Hebron spread as the Arabs figured it was open season on the Jews (and their property and women were free for the taking). The Yemenite Jews ran for their lives and escaped, but their land and property were stolen and homes destroyed.
In 1932 a German Jew provided funding for a return to the area and Jewish pioneers returned, rebuilding the village and starting to plant the area. The Arab revolt (against the British) made the Jews and their village again a target (if you can’t kill a British soldier, a Jew will do in a pinch), and in 1937 the village was again abandoned as their lives were at constant risk.
In 1943 the Jewish National Fund (those little blue charity boxes found in the homes of Jews in America and England) funded another return of Jewish pioneers. This time the area flourished (and the Jews were a little better armed), and the village became an “area”, Gush Etzion, as two other Jewish villages were started nearby (giving access to different farming areas).
In 1947, the combined villages were attacked by Arab irregulars and then the Jordanian legion. They held out from November until May of 1948, when a large combined attack overwhelmed the Jewish defenders. The Arab attackers then slaughtered the captured Jewish soldiers and the Jewish civilians of the villages, the men, women and children. 250 Jews died that day. (Some of the women and children had been evacuated some weeks before.)
The Arabs then proceeded to level the villages, even cutting down every planted tree.
All they left was one lonely oak tree. (Perhaps to hang the bodies, who knows?)
This lone tree could be seen from Jerusalem, the last remnant of Gush Etzion.
After 1967, Israel recaptured the Gush Etzion area. Some survivors and children of evacuees returned and began rebuilding the villages. Oh, and they didn’t slaughter or expel the few Arab families that had moved into the area. They let them remain on the blood soaked land and fields they’d appropriated, figuring there was plenty of room for everyone.
Today Gush Etzion is home to towns that almost qualify as small cities. They are renowned for their grapes and wines, beer and cherries.
Every year right before summer they have a cherry festival. Gush is home to organic cherries which are grown (as you can see in the picture) by covering the whole orchard with huge bug nets, removing the need for pesticides. They also use drip irrigation, requiring less than 1/2 the water of a traditional orchard.
The festival draws tens of thousands from Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, and surrounding areas. It includes the option to pick your own cherries (with a variety of types).
Besides a chance to enjoy the orchard and some pick your cherries (and blackberries and raspberries), it also included music, various booths selling various treats, clothes, art and so forth.
While wandering the booths I saw a young man wearing a Palestinian Keffiyah around his neck and back. Now what do you think happened to this young man, in the middle of an Israeli settlement surrounded by “violent settlers” who’s grandparents had literally been slaughtered by the Arabs of the symbol he was wearing?
What happened to him? Nothing. After all, Jews aren’t barbarians who go around slaughtering people – regardless of the news propaganda.
Everything is rebuilt, new, and created by them, including the forests. Every tree they planted, every stone they moved, every pipe they laid and every orchard they created.
Gush Etzion is “over the green line” and “beyond the 1948 borders”. And President Obama expects them to “give it back”??? They bought it, they died for it, and they returned to it again and again.
They are more connected to their land than President Obama is to the United States of America.
The Torah says G-d gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Their grandfathers took it seriously and so do they.
A cotton candy guy seriously into his job. Look at those arms!
The Festival area, a family weekend delight.
No different than a simple town festival anywhere else…except the ground is soaked in the blood of their grandfathers.
true stories from the Western Wall by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Someone came up to me and told me that the young man who I had just helped to put on tefillin was sitting there crying, and that I should go talk to him. I nodded, okay, not really planning on talking to him, since it is very common for tourists to get emotional when they put on tefillin at the Kotel. I assumed that he was having some kind of spiritual awareness.
I was wrong. When I took this picture of him, I could tell that they were a different kind of tears.
I spoke to him, and as usual, I told him that the most important thing for him was to marry a Jewish girl so that he would have Jewish children.
He said, “There’s one on the way.” He motioned toward the Kotel plaza and said, “She’s standing over there.”
“Is she Jewish?” I asked.
He shook his head, “No.” More tears.
“That’s a real problem,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “I tried to convert her at home, but they make it too difficult there, so we came here to try.”
I said, “It’s hard here, too. It’s not an easy thing to become a Jewish person. Look, here’s what you should do. I can see that you are a spiritual person, or this would not even be bothering you. But she can’t convert and keep a kosher house if you are not keeping kosher. It’s impossible. Do this... you have to develop your spiritual life. Start putting on tefillin every day and praying just like you just did while you were sitting here. Makekiddush every Friday night…. Really come to love the Torah’s way of life.
Either she is going to say, ‘What you are doing now is so wonderful… I want to be a part of it,’ and you will know that she can become a righteous convert. Or, she is going to say, ‘This is weird. You never did anything like this before. Why are you doing this now?’ and you will know that she is not for you.”
He seemed to understand and finally even smiled a little. He was hurting pretty bad. His life had collapsed in on him. He was just playing around, having fun…. Now, all of a sudden, he is being forced into a lifelong relationship that he really doesn’t want.
Why am I telling you this story? Is this just lashon harah (evil gossip)? No. It is a sincere warning to all of you parents and close relatives of young Jews. Do not wait until it is too late to teach your Jewish loved ones thereal facts of life. Do not wait until they start dating to explain this most important lesson to them. Jews can have as many non-Jewish dear friends as we want, but when it comes to intimate relationships, listen to what the Torah says, “You shall not intermarry with them…not your sons and not your daughters… or they will turn your child away from Me.”[i]
[i] Deuteronomy 7:3
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A chat alert rang out on Facebook. This was unusual for me, I’m rarely live on Facebook and then rarely for more than a few minutes.
M.B. from Los Angeles wanted to chat. He explained he’s very excited about Torah, it changed his life around. He made a little blog, wants to share Torah with all Jews and be involved with kiruv (outreach to non-religious Jews). And he wants to live in Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land.
That’s nice (and it is nice). Fortunately our times are filled with many Jews who have found their way to their holy heritage, so finding someone like M.B. isn’t so unusual…
Then he explained, “I’m an Autistic Baal Teshuva. Torah saved my life.”
I told him I’m impressed and inspired. He said he’s just a normal guy. I say someone who’s blogging, making Torah videos, wants to do outreach, is trying to move to the Land of Israel, who turned his life around because of Torah…who’s autistic, that’s inspiring!
Torah can be a powerful life changing tool…if you let it.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Yehudah was three years old today. His parents brought him by so I could cut a strand of his hair. It is a tradition not to cut a boy’s hair until his third birthday. This custom stems from at least the time of the Arizal, and it is likened to the first three years that we do not harvest the fruit of a tree.[i] Then, on the fourth year, we bring the fruit to Jerusalem to be eaten there in dedication to Hashem. Man is likened to a tree of the field.[ii] So, just as the fourth year fruit is set aside for a holy purpose, on his third birthday (the beginning of his fourth year), the boy begins his more serious study of Torah, beginning with learning the aleph bet and wearing tzitzis (fringes).
His father had him read a few letters of the aleph bet to show me that he was doing his homework, and then he asked me to give the boy a blessing. I explained that on a person’s birthday, Hashem gives him or her the ability to give blessings. Since this special ability comes directly from Hashem Himself, it is assured that Hashem will listen to the birthday boy’s request.
I asked Yehudah to give me a blessing. He did not understand, so his father told him to give me a blessing. The boy asked his father how to do this. His father asked me, “What do you want?”
I said, “Tell Hashem to let Gutman make Him happy.”
With his very tiny voice, the little boy said, “Hashem, let Gutman make You happy.”
Now, how do you think I felt? What a wonderful feeling to be truly blessed! Thank G-d, really.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
The Gemara tells us that whenever something happens to us, good or bad, we should try to see what behavior of ours brought it about. It says that the results must somehow fit their causes in order for us to be able to learn from it.[i]
We see today a depth of hatred that has never been seen before. When the natzis, y’msh (may their names be erased) hated us, they just wanted to destroy us. The arab murderer does not just want to kill a Jew. He wants to dip his hands in our blood. This is not even animal behavior, it is demented.
If you really want to do something to defend a Jew from their knives, this is what you can do. Sub-animal hatred can only be reversed with above-human love.
Open your heart to a Jew, like an angel would. At first, pick an easy Jew to love, someone you know and already really like. Feel love for him, or better yet, do something nice for him. Even just call him up and wish him well.
Then, see if you can spread that love to more Jews, and maybe you can do something for them, too. Spend time each day just loving Jews. For instance, you can think of some of the contributions that Jews have made to the world. Did you know that even though only one out of 510 people in the world are Jewish, one out of four Noble Prize winners are Jews! Wow, what a great people. When you look around you will be amazed by our impact on the world. Make sure that you give to Jewish charities. Try to figure some way to help Jews in your neighborhood.
Anything that you do anywhere to increase your love for a Jew, especially if it makes no sense for you to love him, will protect other innocent Jews from an arab’s senseless hatred.
Oh, and it will make you feel better, too.
[i] Gemara Berachos 5a
A young religious Jew from Brooklyn, NY who has come to Israel to volunteer for the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Golani Brigade (somewhat equivalent to the U.S. Marines) is interviewed during their “run the length of the country” event.
“I’m a Jew, this is my land and I’m here to defend it.”
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Having moved us into a new office and hired a bigger team to fill it, my employer insisted on a team building exercise. Being located in Jerusalem, he selected a group tour of the Old City.
We met at the Jaffa gate and proceeded into the narrow confines of the shuk (market streets) in the Xian quarter (as it’s called). Looping around a bit we came to the courtyard of the main Xian shrine in the Old City, the church of the holy sepulcher.
As a Jew I’m certainly not going to enter a church, especially not a main site of another religion. Neither did I intend to wait around in the courtyard in front of this religious site of another religion. I let my co-workers know that I would not await them here while they went inside and proceeded out the far exit of the courtyard to meet them after their (secular Israeli) tour guide took them through the site.
This placed me in almost as uncomfortable a place as the courtyard. All the stores leading to the courtyard were amassed with images and symbols of that religion, all staring me in the face. I edged a little farther down the street, placing me in front of another shuk area and next to a store selling scarves. As I didn’t know where the tour was headed next I didn’t want to move further (that being the first intersection), but I was only slightly less uncomfortable and out of place (further reinforced by the somewhat frequent passing of priests of that religion in ancient robes and costumes of that religion).
After standing there for about 10 minutes a voice called me from a nearby store. An older man, an Arab storekeeper, was offering me an open chair in front of his store. After a moment’s hesitation I accepted.
He started with some small talk. Where was I from, where did I live, how long have I been in Israel. He then asked what I thought of this, pointing to a group of Xian tourists walking by and a church at the nearby intersection. I responded that I was happy for them to come and visit “their holy sites” and help the Israeli economy by doing so.
He looked me in the face and said “the Torah says this is YOUR land, not theirs.”
He asked why I was waiting there, I explained about the tour and that Jews shouldn’t enter such a place. As we continued chatting a secular co-worker of mine who was late at arriving saw me and asked where the group was. I pointed him towards the entrance to the courtyard and told him they must be inside.
My host looked me in the face again and said “why didn’t you tell him that Jews shouldn’t enter such a place?” I mumbled something about secular Jews versus religious Jews and he just said “is he (your co-worker) a Jew?”
As we continued waiting and chatting, our conversation switching from Hebrew to English as it became more complicated (and beyond my conversational Hebrew abilities) a group of Xian tourists walked by on the way to the holy site. My host yelled out “Shfoch haMashcha al haGoyim – Pour out Your wrath upon the Nations!” and spit on the ground (a quote from the Passover Hagaddah and Psalms 79), to which I was shocked.
My tour group came down the street and I asked my host his name. He responded “the name of your great great great grandfather.” I paused for a moment confused thinking ‘he knows my family?’ Then I realized the answer is yes, he does. His name is Abraham (or Ibrahim in his language).
As I departed he said “tell everyone I’m a good Arab.”
Ibrahim was a good host and taught me 3 lessons that day…
1. Do NOT be bashful about what the Torah says about Israel. Either the Land of Israel is ours (the Jewish people’s) because G-d said so in His Torah…or it’s not.
2. Do NOT be bashful about being a religious Jew and sharing the obligations of being a Jew with those Jews who don’t know or don’t understand. (Respectfully and lovingly.)
3. Do NOT be ashamed of the words of the Torah or Tanach (the prophets, psalms, and so forth). These are holy words from G-d or inspired by G-d, and political correctness does not override them.
As we continued our tour some of my secular Israeli Jewish co-workers asked my why I wouldn’t enter the church. THEY DIDN’T EVEN KNOW!!!
When our tour came to the Kotel (Western Wall), I put my arms around my (male) co-workers and invited them over to the tefillin stand to put on tefillin. This time I wouldn’t be bashful. To my equal surprise, half of them took me up on it!
Now the popular video Answers to a Pastor is also available with Russian Subtitles. Be sure to send the link to your Russian speaking contacts. It could help to free a Jew from a non-Jewish path.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
…Gutman Brings It Down to Earth
Buddhist religious teachings sound so wonderful… until you try them on. Last week, a Buddhist monk came to the Kotel. I asked him, “What is the main principle of Buddhism?”
He smiled warmly and said, “Have respect for all human beings, and for their ideas.”
I quickly answered, “Do not have respect for murderers!”
He smiled again, unmoved by my statement. He said, “We must have compassion on all beings.”
I said, “It is more compassionate to kill a murderer than to let him go free and kill again.”[i]
If you live on a mountaintop, it is easy to love all ideas. When you live in the world, your ideas have to fit reality. One of the main differences between Eastern spiritual philosophy and the Torah is that they are told, “To be spiritually successful, you must withdraw from the world, detach, let go.”
We are told to go out into the world and elevate it. Make it a better place. [ii]
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I received a friend request on Facebook from a very Jewish sounding organization. [A nice religious sounding Jewish word] Broadcasting with a nice Moshiach/Geulah oriented image [the gates of mercy in the Old City of Jerusalem opening for Moshiach].
I’ve taken to doing a bit more profile viewing than in the past before accepting an unknown “friend”, not sure if I did that here or not. I then received this message:
“Shalom Aleichem [hebrew religious greeting]... nice to meet you! Todah [thank you in hebrew]! thx for adding me as your friend. Lehit ra'ot [see you later in hebrew].”
Good so far. Nice for people to be friendly. But it came with this…
“[A nice religious sounding Jewish word] Broadcasting – Global Evangelism Ministry …. to teach Torah through the spoken and written word of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus).”
GRRRRRR that upset me! Acting Jewish and religious Jewish as a mask to make contact for Christianity! More than a little riled up, I sent back a rather harsh response…
“Sorry, my bad and a nice cover up on your part. I don't worship dead man gods, nor have any interest in those teaching idol worship. Thanks anyway.”
He sent back…
“Sorry don't understand how you say this... but it sounds as you don't believe in Heshem so sorry for you... Be Blessed! stay cool man and walk in love of the Father.”
G-d is One and there is only one G-d. G-d does not have a father, mother, brother, sister, wife, concubine or pet dog. (Sorry, no Holy Woof Woof.)
In Torah Judaism we may refer to G-d, the One G-d, by different names. Each name refers to a different aspect of our relationship with and interaction with the One Infinite G-d. Just as I may be referred to as Akiva by a friend, Reb Akiva by a blog reader, rabbi by someone asking Torah questions, Mr. Paths at my workplace, or Tatti (Daddy) by my children yet still be one person, our references to names and aspects of the Infinite One G-d all refer to only One.
On the mystical side the most confusing may be references to the Shechina, the Divine Presence. This is yet another reference to an aspect of G-d’s interaction with this physical world and an expression of particular attributes as well as a bit of direct Divine attention operating in the physical world. SOMEHOW in the Xian world this concept, poorly reflected through the fun house mirror, was translated as “the holy ghost” or the holy spirit.
Regardless, whenever one wants to talk about the father, son, casper the friendly ghost, the mother, brother, sister, concubine or the holy woof woof, they are NOT talking about the One G-d of Judaism and are often veering into idol worship.
Don’t be fooled, there are cyber-missionaries dressed up in Hebrew terminology and religiously photoshopped graphics. But when they wish “the love of the holy woof woof”…it’s not kosher.
You can friend me on Facebook here.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
You need to make aliyah, blah blah blah. Heard enough from the Aliyah Police already? This is NOT one of those ‘go go, rah rah rah’ articles. NOT AT ALL.
In the last few years things have change. Changed massively.
- The United States of America…
. Massive unemployment, somewhere from 9.1% (official) to 28% (realistic).
. Loss of future opportunity. New graduate unemployment, 30% (official).
. Massive debt. Minimum 10 years to equalize, if handled aggressively.
. Massive regulation (EPA carbon regulation, health payments, and more) limiting business opportunities.
. Significant currency devaluation (the dollar has lost or intentionally been devauled losing over 25% in the past 3 years).
. National resources more and more “locked up” and “hands off” by regulation and environmental protection.
. Average levels of unemployment and falling (6.8% official).
. Increasing future opportunity. Increasing hi-tech, bio-tech, engineering, and much more). College, army, and vocational-hi-tech training paths available.
. Decreasing national debt levels, NOT raised due to financial crisis (it didn’t happen in Israel).
. Moderate (not increasing) regulation.
. Increasing currency value.
. MASSIVE find of petro-resources!!!
Somehow (min hashamayim – from the hand of heaven), Israel has not only weathered the Western economic crisis, but it’s actually grown and prospered. The offset to Western Europe and the United States means that for many, particularly young people, Israel is the land of opportunity while the U.S. and Western Europe are lands of stagnation.
And in the midst of this swing it’s suddenly announced that Israel has found a 100 year supply of natural gas and oil resources equivalent to Saudi Arabia!
…In Israel, the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
The United States Tax Authority, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) published a list today of over 275,000 registered charitable organizations in the United States that had their charitable status revoked as of today for failing to file a required annual financial document for 3 years in a row.
Our research shows at least 200 orthodox Jewish organizations are on the list, which also includes 18 Chabad Houses and numerous “Friends of” Jewish organizations that are legally permitted U.S. organizations that partner with or act as the U.S. arm of Jewish charities in Israel.
The “required annual financial document” does need the services of an accountant but does not require the charitable organization to pay any taxes or fees to the government.
The IRS says “it believes the majority of these organizations are defunct”, meaning they simply closed down.
We believe a particular economic way of life is coming to an end in the U.S., and a bunch of organizations need to wake up and smell the coffee.
A Chabad community site reports from Israel…
A group of Chabad Chassidim from Tzfas (Safed), Israel were arrested on Friday for carrying signs that read "The Lubavitcher Rebbe Warns: Giving Land - Submission To The Enemy," accused of 'incitement against the Prime Minister.'
Leading members of Israel's coalition government arrived in the Israeli city of Tzfas (Safed) this past Friday to spend the weekend in northern Israel.
Local Chabad Chassidim utilized the opportunity to peacefully protest the ceding of land to the Arabs, marching with banners stating "The Lubavitcher Rebbe Warns: Giving land - Submission To The Enemy."
After some three hours of protesting, a vehicle pulled up alongside them. Out stepped members of the security detail of the visiting politicians, who notified them that they are under arrest, and hauled them away to the local police station.
(Similar protestors who were beside them, protesting for government action to release Gilad Shalit, were left alone by the police. – see the picture)
At the station, they were interrogated by local police and members of the Israel Internal Security Police, the Shabak.
They were told by their interrogators that they were arrested for 'incitement against the Prime Minister.' Following the intervention of local community figures and members of the Knesset, they were released on bail late Friday afternoon, sparing them from spending Shabbos behind bars.
A court date was set for Sunday.
The secular Israeli government is VERY worried about a significant public movement, particularly by the religious public, on the Land of Israel and will take measures to suppress the possibility.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Do you know of any types of "energy medicine" that both WORK, and are completely free of both halachic [Torah law] and spiritual problems?
“Energy medicine” is generally placed in two categories; theorized energy, such as “spiritual” energy, and measurable energy, such as electromagnetism.
There is a general (Jewish) rule when dealing with so-called spiritual energy. When the energy is said to be coming from, or through, the healer to the patient, then this is to be completely avoided. This advice is not just directed to the patient; it is an even stronger warning to the so-called healer. This practice leads to an imagined field of energy that actually becomes palpable and can create havoc in a person’s life. It has been known to cause severe mental problems. As a small, but common example, after a healing session, an energy healer of this type might vigorously brush his arms to rid himself of the remaining energy that he still feels weighting them down!
If the energy is said to be the patient’s own energy, something that is coming from the patient himself, and the “healer” is merely “waking it up,” “unblocking it” or such, then, in my opinion, any benefits from this practice are usually psychological, but not spiritually dangerous. Physiological healings can also work, but their benefits usually last for a very short time, and the malady generally returns.
As for the energy healings that involve a proven energy, using such things as magnets or light, there is some evidence that these devices can help when used by professionals, but be warned, today there are literally thousands of devices on the market, and quite of few of them are dangerous (and many completely ineffective).
My advice is, if someone is sick, first go to the mainstream doctors and if they are unable to help or if you have some problem with their suggestions, then look to the alternative or complimentary forms of medicine.
I also strongly recommend preventive “medicine.” The Torah tells us to “greatly guard our souls.”[i] This basically means that we are to protect our lives by living a healthy life style. Guard your health. Do such obvious things as not only not smoking, but avoiding all exposure to cigarette smoke. Take advantage of a wise and proven healthy diet. Live a physically and mentally active life. Enjoy spiritual optimism. This alone can add years to your life. Have good friends and family. They will bring you joy, and joy gives strength to the mind and body. Make it a daily practice to look around to see whom you might be able to help. When you help others, G-d always helps you. These are all pleasant and easy things to do.
Doing these simple things will protect your precious health and greatly reduce your chances of having to seek out healers.
[i] Deuteronomy 4:15
A few hours ago the Arabs on Har Habayit (what the modern day creation of “Palestinians” calls Al Aqsa) decided to attempt mass murder against the Jews praying at the Western Wall. They did this by throwing brick sized stones down upon the Jews (from the equivalent of 10 stories above), a blatant attempt of murder and desecration of the most holy place of Judaism (that is currently readily accessible – the holiest place being the Temple Mount itself).
In response the enraged Jews declared jihad on the arabs, rushed en masse to Al Aqsa, slaughtered those attempting murder and perpetrating desecration and torn down their house of prayer brick by brick. Just kidding. Rather, the Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall ran for the lives while the Israeli police rushed up onto Har Habayit and dispersed the (attempted) murderers with tear gas and rubber bullets.
At the same time a West Bank Jewish village was invaded by 200 arabs and the synagogue burned down.
Expecting world condemnation or a response is clearly a waste of time. But why the Israeli government continues to offer them free access to the Temple Mount when they do this…that I don’t understand.
Video of the attack on the Western Wall.
It’s not unusual for religious society to pick up some techniques from modern society. In the past 5 years or so, charedi Judaism has picked up modern advertising techniques for tzedakah (charity). Conceptually this is a good thing, more charity more helping of people. On a practical basis though it’s led to some serious tzedakah competition, increasing amounts of advertising and like the maker of soap or laundry detergent, everything has to be NEW and IMPROVED and BETTER THAN THE COMPETITION…
Kupat Ha’ir (the City Charity) and Vaad HaRabonim (the Rabbi’s Council) are the current leading competitors.
- Each has a famous leading rabbi of the generation supporting them (or at least letting them use his picture and signature).
- Each has a few fantastic claims for supporters.
- Each is in your face with big expensive charity boxes in front of each supermarket (in religious Jewish communities in Israel), at major bus stations, and advertisements in every major orthodox religious Jewish publication (frequently).
Let’s see what they have to say…
The City Charity, “All that tithe to the City Charity (of Bnei Brak) merit to see visible miracles”, followed by the signatures of 2 leading rabbis of the generation.
Sounds excellent! I could use some visible miracles! Let’s see if the Council of Rabbis can complete with that…
“Tithe to the Council of Rabbis and see salvations!” They don’t have a signature on the front but a full letter from a leading rabbi of the generation on the side (confirming the salvations to be seen).
Hmm. Visible miracles or salvations? Which is right for me? If I give to the wrong one will I not merit either visible miracles or salvations? What if I give to someone locally needy?
Like any brand, these charity organizations are struggling to build up their brand and outdo their competition. Somehow for charity that feels unseemly, but those involved would say “whatever it takes to get another bit for charity is worth it.”
I’m not so sure. Pirke Avos tells us we shouldn’t turn Torah into a spade, perhaps we also shouldn’t turn charity into a promise of return but rather emphasize the need for tzedek (justice) in helping our needy brethren.
Kinderlach (Yiddish for “children”) is a boys choir that sings Jewish religious-oriented rock-style songs. They had a rather popular (in orthodox Jewish circles) album a few years ago with a song “Everybody want’s Moshiach”.
I was surprised to catch them performing locally at an independence day event and was impressed…
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Can you please explain to me how Elimelech’s sons married non-Jewish women? (Megilat Ruth)
You have asked a good question, but I will ask you an even better one. How could Eli the High Priest’s sons have done what they are accused of doing?[i] They were (apparently) taking the women who were coming to the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) to make offerings, and they were using them for their own animal purposes. Elimelech was a great man. He was the gadol hador, (the Torah leader of the generation) but Eli was greater. He was the High Priest and teacher of Shmuel the Prophet. Also, Eli and his sons were right there in the Mishkandoing what they were doing and not way out there in Moab as were Elimelech’s sons!
What’s the point? Being born into a great family gives a person a great advantage. It gives him or her, a wonderful opportunity to become a great person, and to accomplish wonderful things in this world. And then, after this lifetime is over, to go on to an even more wondrous share in the World to Come.
But being born into a great family also gives that child the opportunity to do more evil than a person born into lower circumstances.
Being born to a great person is no guarantee that that child will grow up and also become a great person. Although this child had all of these advantages, still, each of us makes our own decisions. Each of us chooses how we live, and each of us makes our own share in the World to Come.
[i] 1 Samuel 3:13
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Last week I put tefillin on a Jew from Holland. He was probably in his mid to late fifties, married with grown children, a successful business man. He was in Israel on a business trip. It was the first time in many, many years since he had put on tefillin.
I was surprised that he came over so easily. Actually, when I first asked, his Israeli, yarmulke wearing host suggested that he do it, so he agreed.
I asked him if his mother was Jewish. He said that he was a Kohen (from the Jewish priestly tribe). I said, “But is your mother Jewish.” He assured me that she was, and he again pointed out that not only was his mother Jewish, but his father was a Kohen. He seemed quite proud that he was a Kohen.
He began reading the prayers in English, but then we found a copy of the Shema in Dutch. After he read the prayers, I asked him if he was married. He smiled, and said that he was. Then I asked the big question, “Is your wife Jewish?”
He made a small apologetic smile, and shook his head, “No.”
“That’s a problem.” I said.
He had heard this before.
Okay, I had his attention. What was I to do? I could have scolded him harshly, and told him what a horrible thing he had done by marrying a non-Jewish woman, and bringing non-Jewish children into the world. This is a major sin for a Jew. And surely for a Kohen, it is even worse!
But what good would it do to push him even further down? How would this help him? He was not about to divorce his wife of so many years and discard his non-Jewish children.
I spoke softly, “To be a Kohen is a great honor.”
“I know” he said.
“But you have discarded this honor. You have not fulfilled your inheritance. A kohen is given the privilege to bring blessings into the world. You have to do something about this.” I could see that he was listening sincerely.
“Do this,” I said, “Put a charity box in your house, and every day put some money in it. Then, when it’s full, give the money to some poor Jewish person, or to a Jewish charity. It must be for Jews because you neglected to help the Jews you were created to help. This is important for you. Use the time that you have left to try to correct your having ignored the great blessing that you were given.”
He seemed to have understood. He said that he would do what I told him.
What’s the point? It would have been so easy to push him even further down, but what good would that have been? Instead, I tried in some small way to help him to pick himself up… at least this much.
When he goes into the next world and is asked, “Why didn’t you fulfill your role, and be a blessing to the Jewish people?” He will be able to point to his Jewish charity and say, “Well… at least I did do this much.”
Excellent, from the 2nd Lebanon war.
I am sick of crap boycotts of Israeli goods. Boycott us because we want our children to live?
The latest is a county in Scotland that has decided to OFFICIALLY boycott Israeli goods for the crime of defending against rocket attacks and suicide terrorists.
Now it just so happens that the county in Scotland boycotting us is a primary producer of Scotch Whiskey – of which Jewish communities around the world are major consumers.
Scotch Whisky distilled in the anti-Israel region of West Dunbartonshire, Scotland which produce…
Loch Lomond Distillery Co. Ltd firstname.lastname@example.org
Distillers of Loch Lomond, Scots Earl, Distillery Select, Glen Scotia, Littlemill, Croftengea, Craigslodge, Inchmurrin, Glen Douglas, Inchfad
Chivas Brothers email@example.com
Distillers of Ballantine’s, Chivas, Royal Salute, Clan Campbell, Something Special, Passport, 100 Pipers, Imperial, Long John Aberlour, The Glenlivet, Glendronach, Strathisla, Longmorn, Scapa, Tormore, Jameson, Paddy, Powers, Walker Special Old, Wisers
Letter to the Fine Whiskey Distillers of West Dunbartonshire
To The Fine Whiskey Distillers of West Dunbartonshire;
I would like to preface this letter, in that I have enjoyed your fine whiskey products for many years, and believe they are truly world-class. Unfortunately, due to the actions of your esteemed West Dunbartonshire council members, I will not be able to enjoy your whiskey in the foreseeable future.
It has come to my attention that the West Dunbartonshire Council claims to have voted unanimously to boycott Israeli products. The West Dunbartonshire Council clearly states their point on their website, updated on the 30th of May, 2011.
The actual boycott resolution is as follows:
‘This Council deplores the loss of life in Palestine which now numbers well over 1,000. This Council also recognizes the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence. Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.’
I find it disturbing that the esteemed council found no reason to mention the reason for the IDF’s operation in Gaza. There was no mention of the intentional targeting of civilian infants, children, women and men by Gaza’s Hamas government, the thousands of rockets they launched at Israel’s civilian population, and the restraint that Israel employed over the previous years when attacked on a daily basis.
The IDF does not target civilians. The vast majority of Palestinians that Israel killed have been terrorists. Go check the facts. I have. Palestinians terrorists routinely use hospitals, mosques, and schools to launch their rocket attacks on Israel. Try defending your population from terrorists and see if you can guarantee zero collateral damage. Does your council not condemn the barbarism of the Arab terrorist because in the back of their minds they are concerned terrorists might hunt them down and terrorize THEIR families?
Why was there an IDF operation in Gaza in the first place? To oppress poor Palestinian Arabs? How would you deal with Gazas’ Arabs’ targeting Scotland’s babies, other children, and other civilians. Have you not seen the pictures of atrocities the Arabs have visited on innocent children, or does your council not care? We are not talking about isolated attacks on Israel, but about thousands of rockets they have launched at Israel’s civilian population.
The restraint of Israel under attack is astounding. Colonel Richard Kemp, previous Commander of British Armed Forces in Afghanistan said when presenting his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2009: “During its operation in Gaza, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” (source)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to the US Congress recently: "Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one half of 1% are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel! This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East; Israel is what is right about the Middle East!" (source)
Lastly, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas stated this past Saturday that the future state of Palestine will be “free of Jews.” (source)
The State of Israel offers equal freedom for all its citizens, Jew, Arab, and Christian alike, including full parliamentary and judiciary representation. The State of Israel is the unchallenged leader of democracy in the Middle East, and the West Dunbartonshire Council boycott unfortunately attempts to undermine the very success of Israel as a democracy.
Therefore, it saddens me to have to inform you that the global counter-boycott of Scottish whisky products, distilled in the West Durbanshire Council region, is beginning. I don’t know anyone who bears malice toward these fine distilleries. When, however, your local council representatives boycott my country, under the most unethical and immoral of pretext, you cannot expect your market to sit idly and pretend your are not perverting justice.
• The counter-boycott is on the purchase of Scottish Whisky, distilled in the West Durbanshire council region.
• The counter-boycott is not retroactive and applies only to purchases made from June 2011 onwards.
• The counter-boycott will not prevented global residents from purchasing whiskey products distilled outside of West Dunbartonshire.
• Attempts to depict this counter-boycott as racist are also entirely inaccurate. The counter-boycott is instigated in response to conduct and boycott initiated by the West Durbanshire Council and applies to no specific ethnic or religious group. This is in direct opposition to the West Durbanshire Council which refuses to condemn the actions of Palestinian terrorists targeting Israeli civilians and the anti-Semitic, racist declarations of the Palestinian Authority, which calls for a “Jew-free” apartheid, State of Palestine.
The counter-boycott is publicizing the list of West Durbanshire distilled whiskey by internet and distributing press releases to news agencies and others around the globe.
…The Mystical Paths blog supports this counter-boycott.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
There are tens of thousands of Israelis in India today. Granted, the vast majority of them are there only to “be free” or to “live it up.” But a large number of them are involved with gurus, earnestly searching for spiritual answers in the ashrams. What are they doing wrong?
Watch this video and learn Hinduism’s message to the Jewish people. Then, if you have some way to send the link to anyone it could help, you might be saving their lives.