Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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K’siva V’Chasima Tovah

K’siva V’Chasima Tovah

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May You Be Written and Sealed for a Good and Sweet Year.  G-d willing, I will keep my eyes open for a good picture to send to you this year.  From the Old City, Jerusalem and the Kotel (Western Wall) – Reb Gutman Locks

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שנה טובה ומתוקה ברכת בריאות ושלום לך ולכל משפחה ולכל ישראל

To all of our Mystical Paths family and readers, may Hashem grant a good and sweet year filled with blessings, health, and peace and prosperity to you, your families and all of Klal Yisroel! And may Hashem grant all of us the ultimate blessing in the coming year, the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu and the complete Geulah (redemption) – Reb Akiva

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From Uman and the kever of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, may Hashem grant us all the power to turn away from the Yezer Hara and connect ourselves to our Father in Heaven this year!  A Shana Tova uMetuka, a good and sweet year to everyone!  Many blessings! – Reb Nati

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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High Powered Meeting…With a Cleaning Lady

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I was running a little late, important meeting with a business executive this morning a distance from my home.  I rushed to get ready but a few things intervened.  I looked at the clock, grabbed my things and ran for the door.  Coffee was left behind on the table untouched.

As I sped out of the driveway, I turned on the GPS and prayed.  It’s right before the (Jewish) holidays and this is Israel, hopefully some people are on vacation and the traffic will be light.  The GPS confirmed my prayer (it gets traffic feedback) but still put me there 2 minutes late (there being the parking lot, not the office I needed to be in).

I sped through traffic watching for police, going a bit faster than permitted.  There was one, I slowed down nervously - I couldn’t afford the time for a ticket (or the cost)…  The GPS said I was making up time, now I’d only be 1 minute late (to the parking lot).

I arrived at the lot, it was full forcing me to go down 5 levels for parking (another minute!)  I rushed to the elevator, ran to the building, rushed to the floor… huff huff huff.  I arrived at the secretary’s desk 6 minutes late, but this executive often runs 5 minutes late on meetings so I figured it would be ok (self justification is great for such moments).

The secretary gave me a bit of a surprised look, “Akiva”.  “Yes” I responded, expecting a word on my delayed arrived for wasting minutes of the executives time.

“Akiva, didn’t you get the meeting cancellation?  We’ll have to reschedule for after the holidays.”  No, I didn’t, I hadn’t checked my email in the morning rush and given the travel time to get there.  Ok, gam zu l’tova I thought (this too is for the best, and besides now I wasn’t late – self justification still working for me).

I went to use the facilities and stopped at their break area for a cup of caffeinated hot beverage.  I was thinking ‘ok, Baruch Hashem (thank G-d) it didn’t turn out negatively (my delayed arrival), but why did I travel half way across the country for no reason.’

As I prepared my beverage the cleaning lady walked in to the break area.  She was a Russian Jewish immigrant to Israel, and this office is located in a generally less religious oriented area of Israel.  She looked at me and asked, in broken Hebrew with a Russian accent “can you tell me, for what is this holiday Rosh Hashana?  it is something doing with new year, yes?”

I answered in my broken Hebrew with an American accent “yes, the Torah tells us this is when the world was created.  So this is the start of a new year of the universe.”

She said “thank you, I thought that was it but didn’t know someone to ask”.

I then added “It is also yom haDin”.  She said “what is din?”

I tried another word, “mishpat.  It is when Hashem looks at us and gives a blessing for the new year, for good or G-d forbid otherwise, depending on how we have been”.

“Ahhhh”, she said, “I understand.  It is time of considering what we have done and to be better for the new year.”

“Exactly” I responded.  She finished our conversation with “I’ll have to think on that”.

…As I walked back to my car I thought “Thank you Hashem, this is why I travelled half way across the country in a rush today.  So I could make it to an important meeting with a Russian Jewish cleaning lady in a business office break room in a less religious city in Israel to get the right message for Rosh Hashana.

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Just a Slip of the Tongue

They’re not out to get me, they’re just stumbling over their words… (excerpted from PowerLine)

Speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus over the weekend, he defended his proposal to raise taxes on the already over-taxed. For a moment, however, he became horribly confused:

“If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.”

Hmm, special Jew taxes, where have I heard of such a thing before?

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Ktiva V'chatima Tova 5772-2012

from Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Have a wonderful, healthy, successful, and peaceful New Year.

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“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.” Psalm 91:4

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Monday, September 26, 2011

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A Tzadik and Uman

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Excerpted by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender zt”l (1897-1989)

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender, a Breslev tzadik and leader of the last generation, came to Uman in 1915 as a refugee from the World War I from Poland. He became the student of Rav Avraham Chazzan, zt”l. He remained in Uman for 20 years living and teaching Breslover Chassidut, and was chosen to be the Chazzan for Rosh Hashanah prayers at the Kibutz.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s personal study schedule was incredible, he followed the seder of Rebbe Nachman which was to cover as much of the major Jewish works as possible. (Mishna, Gemora, Midrash, Zohar and Halacha) and to finish them each year. He was very diligent in following the advice of the Rebbe Nachman regarding saying Tikun Chatzot (midnight lamentations) and Hisbodedus (personal prayer in the field).  For nearly 75 years he never missed getting up in the middle of the night to recite the chatzot. Yet when he was asked once about what was most precious to him he responded, “I spent 30 yeas in Russia and I still believe in Hashem!”

In 1935 he and Rabbi Eliyahi Chaim Rosen were arrested for requesting assistance for the starving Jews of the Ukraine . There was a famine at that time and their crime was to contact an American Jewish relief organization, as this was seen as subversive activities. They were miraculously granted a reprieve as the judicial representative was secretly Jewish, and they were released to Uman (the burial place of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev).

To stay away from the authoriites Rabbi Bender fled and ran from place to place. At the outbreak of World War II he fled to Siberia and was able in 1949 to emigrate to Israel. Until his passing in 1989 he was the recognized leader of the Breslover community in Jerusalem.

Bender risked his life to return to Uman again for the Rosh Hashana pilgrimage of 1938. By this time the Soviet authorities had clamped down on religious observance by closing down the Breslover synagogue in Uman and converting it into a metalworking factory, and keeping close surveillance on illegal prayer gatherings. Bender and another twenty six Hasidim from outside Uman risked their lives to spend Rosh Hashana in that city.

To avoid being recognized in the Breslover minyan (now being held in a private apartment), Bender went to the house of a friend shortly before the holiday began and asked for permission to pray in the man's basement.

At 7:00 on the morning before Rosh Hashana, he slipped out to Rebbe Nachman's gravesite for a few minutes to recite Tikkun HaKlali (the "General Remedy" prayers from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, which is customarily recited at the gravesite). He was spotted by another Jewish man known to be a government informer.  Rabbi Bender pleaded with the man not to report him, but as he walked back to his friend's house he noticed the informer following him. Since he was familiar with the back roads of Uman, he managed to shake him off his trail.

The informer went straight to the police who mounted a citywide search for Rabbi Bender on Rosh Hashana itself. Though they entered the house in which he was hiding and searched all the rooms, including the darkened basement, they overlooked the one room in which he hid.

As soon as the holiday was over, several Hasidim helped Rabbi Bender escape the city by bandaging his entire head, leaving only his eyes uncovered, and accompanying him on a night train to Kiev.  Rabbi Bender’s rebbizten (wife) was on the same train. She debarked at a small village called Khrystynivka (Charsinvaka), located two stations away from Uman, purchased two tickets for Kiev, and reboarded the train. Bender met his wife in the Kiev station and disposed of the tickets he had bought in Uman.

But the informer had followed on the same train, following Mrs. Bender, and spotted Reb Levi Yitzchok without his disguise in the station calling over a policeman. Though Rabbi Bender was arrested and interrogated, he insisted he had not traveled from Uman but from Khrystynivka.

The police believed him and released him. Bender spent the remaining war years in Siberia and the post-war years in Poland. He became rabbi of the displaced-persons camp at Bad Reichenhal, Germany.

This is the kind of leadership that inspire the Breslev mashpi’im of today such as Rav Berland, shlita and Rav Arush, shlita, and many others who are infused with this very spirit and continue to lead today in the path of Breslover Chassidut.

If we stand in the field in personal prayer, we can still hear the echos of the giants of yesterday.

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The Student Outdid the Teacher

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Yitzy is an American yeshiva student who is learning here in Jerusalem for the year. One day, a few months ago, he was watching us put tefillin on visitors at the Kotel. With a “little” bit of encouragement, he got into the habit of helping out whenever he comes to daven mincha (afternoon prayers).

     Yitzy wasn’t a natural at this at first. He was very shy, and he invented any excuse he could to just stand behind me and tell me who I should go ask to put on tefillin. He has a natural love for his fellow Jew, but he was embarrassed to actually go ask anyone to come put on tefillin. With a little training--and a lot of shoving--he finally overcame his shyness, and now he is excited to help.

     Yesterday, a man walked by and Yitzy asked me if he was Jewish. After a while you can usually tell if a guy is Jewish or not by the way he looks or acts. This is surely not a certain thing, and it is getting harder and harder now that so many tourists from all over the world are coming to Jerusalem. For instance, most Italians look Jewish, and then there are many new immigrants from Russia who look like Russians, but their mothers are Jews. (So they are Jews). For some reason I wasn’t sure if the guy walking by was Jewish, and I didn’t ask.

     Well, Yitzy would have none of that! He jumped in and asked the guy where he was from. He said, “Israel,” with a Hebrew accent. Not everyone from Israel today is Jewish. Yitzy asked him to come put on tefillin. He refused and kept walking away.

     With a loving tug, Yitzy pulled his arm a little and said, “It’s a good thing to do right now… before Rosh Hashanah.” The guy resisted, and Yitzy tugged a little more, and the guy gave up and let Yitzy help him.

     Now how do you think I felt? After all, this young guy I brought in to help, out did me! I’ll tell you how I felt. I felt wonderful. It made my day. I felt a hundred times better than I would have felt if I had helped that guy myself.

    When you help someone to do a mitzvah, it’s a wonderful thing. When you help someone to help others to do mitzvahs, it’s a zillion times better.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

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Get Ready for the King!

by Rabbi Nati @ Mystical Paths

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We have been given an incredible gift from Hashem the month of Elul.

Our loving Father tells us we’re going to stand in judgment on Rosh Hashanah, but you know what, He’s going to give you a month to prepare. Better yet He says "I'm going to make myself (the Judge) more accessible during this time, I'm going to circulate around and see your deeds first hand and allow you easy access to Me so that you can plead your case.

Wow! What a great Father we all have!

But do we use our time wisely? Do we spend our time getting ready? We have a huge court case looming over us! Will we live will we die? Hashem forbid! Will we be sick? Hashem forbid! How much Parnosa (income) will we have? Everything is dependent on this on day!

Only we know if we have used it wisely or not.

We have told, or better yet we have had our holy sages recommend how to spend this month, but do we do it? Are we going to go into the most important day of our lives unprepared? OY! Gevalt!

Are we in for a shock? When the day comes and we have to stand in front of the King of kings and be accountable? Or did we reflect on the last years events and feel remorse over not quite reaching our potential.

It's OK if you have not until reading this - you still have time! You can start right now! Just change the channel and tune-in to the spiritual.  Walk away from all the urgent narishike (worldly stuff) that seeks to distract us from the true goal. The goal of Connecting to our Source, to the only One who can help us! He's in the field, He is here, circulating waiting to hear us, waiting to meet us. He has left His lofty throne room to be here with us to better our chances to win His favor. What are you waiting for?  Run - grab the opportunity and leave everything else behind.  Run and plead your case so when we get to court His heart softens towards us.

Forgive each other and start anew. These are the most important issues right now.

Break our arrogance and return to our Father - He is waiting for us, He was told us so.

Is this world and its shtuss (stuff) more important than our eternal souls? Is the shopping, the cooking, the football game or politics more important than this?

Wake up! Run from this world of lies and refocus on the world of truth! Or is it you say to yourself, "I have time, there is next year". WHO SAYS? It is arrogance that caused us to sin. And it is arrogance that keeps us from repenting! It is heresy to say or even think we have another day than this one day, we have now. Do not delude yourselves, your money, status, family ties will not mean a thing in the court room of Rosh Hashanah!

Please! The judgments against us are many and strict, we must humble ourselves and return to the Truth, Return to the way Our fathers walked, return to Hashem and call out to Him and plead for our existence. Our very souls are on the line and none of us knows how the verdict will go.

But we can make a difference right now! We can turn away from the insanity of the heresy we live in and cease the rebellion we are involved in. We can cancel out the strict judgments laid against us.

There three things, three base causes or midot that we have to overcome and destroy, if we are to turn around the world to Hashem.

They are Arrogance, Rebellion, and Heresy. These are the root causes of all other evil in the world today and yes you and I are the very cause. The forces of evil are fed as it were by our bad character traits. These three base character traits of the other side are the ones we have to cancel out and overcome if we want to see the redemption.

Each one brings on the next if not brought into check.

Arrogance (G'IVaH)-We are told by Chazal that this is the base reason we lost the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem). And it is our own Ego-centric Heresy induced insane Arrogance that keeps it from being built today! Man’s own self importance is the manifestation of this and this has led to our insane rebellion against Hashem and His tzaddikim. Our prolonged exposure to this Galus mentality has caused Emunah Deficiency Syndrome, which has led to the manifestation of an all out rebellion, i.e. us against Torah, our children against us, the uprisings in various nations, and the general lawlessness of the world today are all symptoms of this.

Rebellion (PeRe ODoM)- Because of our Emunah deficient lifestyle we have rebelled against the very source of our existence, the Torah, causing a great loss of Shefa (spiritual bounty) in the world. A spiritually induced anemia. It's Pandemic! We are spiritually dying from this, but you would never know it because of the great job we do at anesthetizing ourselves with the Hersey of this world (hold on a moment, I have to try for high score on Fruit Ninja on my iPhone). We have deluded ourselves into believing we are in control and all is going on as it has. I call it "Hospice Mentality." This is Heresy in its purest from.

Heresy (K'FiRaH)- Because of our refusal to face the pain of our truth of situation we delude ourselves with entertainment to lessen the effects of the spiritual disease we all suffer from.  (pause please, a update on Bloomberg is coming in on my iPad.  Ah, copper is down.  Ok, where were we?)

We call it modern-day life, we are in a constant state of business and motion and preoccupation, thus we are unable to reflect on our actions. (Please wait a second, some important tweets are coming in on my Netbook…)Then worse yet we use all types of distraction to kill time as to forget about it. (One moment please, some friend status updates came in on Facebook.) No time for self-introspection, this is Heresy induced dementia/insanity. Which in most cases is spiritually fatal.

We are overwhelmed by it, everything in the media glorifies superficiality, it is meant to prevent you from connecting to our source.  We are then led away by the thoughts of others instead of the mind of Hashem. This leads to slavery to the system and to the self, you cannot serve two masters for you will come to be unfaithful to one. And the nature of man is to want to be 'Pere' unbridled, so we choose to rebel against our true master Hashem.

This leads to willful blindness; the Ramcal explains "One who lives his life without reflection on whether his path is good or bad is like a blind man".

A major symptom of this final stage in the evolution of the disease, is Dyslexia Ruchani, or Spiritual Dyslexia, seeing everything backwards "The truth becoming lie and the lie becoming the truth" good appearing bad and bad good. This is the Unholy-wood world we live in today where we only seek to be distracted. No longer are we connected to our source because we are all connected to the internet, cell phones, blackberries, Facebook etc. We no longer have a peacefully moment to reflect on our spiritual standing. Look at all the money we spend on it, proving how important it has become to tune out and turn off from our source. OY!

Elul is the exact opposite of this. Elul is a golden opportunity for disconnection from the world. We have to take this time and use it wisely. Have you ever thought of where the minhag to take a vacation in August-September came from? The tzaddikim of the past used to leave their homes and head out to the fields and to the graves of the tzaddikim from before them and spends these days in total seclusion, praying and and connecting to Hashem. They realized how important it was to form a Bracha (blessing) for the New Year, they knew that their lives literally depended on it so much so that they ran away and and returned to Hashem.

Blessings from the holy resting place of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, zt”l, from Uman with a clear perspective for the New Year.  Wishing you and your family k'tivah v'chatima tovah and may we merit to see the geula shleima this year.

Reb Nati

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Netanyahu invokes The Rebbe and Yishayahu

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

The farce at the United Nations continues.  The Palestinians have stood up and declared their demand for a state in all of occupied Israel (that comes from a quote by their leader on all parts occupied in the last 63 years…which just happens to be the independence age of the State of Israel).

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with a forceful reply, stating how situations like right now with the Security Council being led by a Lebanese government controlled by terrorist organization Hezbollah makes the U.N. a theatre of the absurd.  He also quoted the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and biblical navi Yishayahu (Isaiah).  If you’ve got 45 minutes, well worth listening to.

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How to Reverse the West's Decline

by British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Excerpted from Standpoint Magazine

** Don’t forget our Charity for the Jewish Holidays campaign, donate today! **

Feature-SacksPioneer of sociology: In his philosophy of history, Ibn Khaldun recognized the value of "Asabiyah" (social cohesion)

It is not clear that the West has successfully met the challenge of 9/11. Worse: it is not clear that the West yet fully understands what the challenge is.

To understand 2001 we have to go back to 1989, the year of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an historic moment that few had expected. What did it mean? It was then that two stories were born, with one of which we are familiar, the other of which we seem hardly to know or understand at all.

The first narrative was that the West had won. Communism had imploded. In the end, it failed to deliver the goods. People wanted freedom. They sought affluence. The Soviet Union had delivered neither. Politically it was repressive. Economically it was inefficient. For freedom you need liberal democracy. For affluence you need the market economy. 1989 marked the victory of both. From here on democratic capitalism would spread slowly but surely across the world. To adapt Francis Fukuyama's phrase of the time, it was the beginning of the end of history.

The other narrative was quite different but has the advantage of so far being proved correct. Unlike Fukuyama's, it was based not on Hegel but on the 14th-century Islamic thinker Ibn Khaldun. We don't know much about Ibn Khaldun in the West but we should. He was one of the truly great thinkers of the Middle Ages. He has every claim to be called the world's first sociologist. Not for another 300 years would the West produce a figure of comparable originality: Giambattista Vico. Both produced compelling accounts of the rise and fall of civilizations. Both knew what most people most of the time forget: that the greatest civilizations eventually fall.

The reason they do so is not necessarily the rise of a stronger power. It is their own internal decay.

READ THE WHOLE THING!

(Thanks to Aharon from New Jersey for the link.)

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Our Gorgeous Future

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Don’t forget our Charity for the Jewish Holidays campaign, donate today!

 

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The Rova Square (Jewish Quarter) – Old City, Jerusalem, Israel

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Help us Help the Poor help the Poorer

Ok, let's explain this fast and short. We're running a tzedakah (charity) campaign. We help the needy for the holidays (Rosh Hashana is next week). We're just a few chassidim helping directly with no overhead, no offices, no salaries, 100% charity.

But what needy we've met! THEY insist, while being in very serious need, on taking some of the charity we bring to give to others in even more need!

If you'd like to help us help the poor and needy help the poorer and needier, you can donate below. We can't offer you 10 holy men praying for you at (insert holy site here). We can't offer you the guarantees of (insert well known holy rabbi's name here) for blessings.

All we offer is an opportunity for 100% charity. No expenses to advertising, phones, office staff, offices, etc. Yes it's legal (a registered Israeli charity), yes we've we have additional rabbinical supervision (being given for free).

Beyond that all we have is YOU, our blog readers and our Father in Heaven, to turn to for help. Please give charity for the poor for the Jewish holidays. And if you find us worthy as your direct agents, do it through us...

Donations will be accepted by Paypal, Credit Card, Check or Bank Transfer… Click here or the button below to donate by credit card or Paypal.

Or By Mail -

Write Check To – Yesh Ma L’asot

Mail To -
Reb Akiva’s Mystical Paths Campaign
PO Box 70029
Ramat Beit Shemesh, 99620
Israel

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New Free Audio Book/Podcast by Reb Locks

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From The Old City, a practical Torah commentary by Reb Gutman Locks, is now available as a weekly audio Podcast. You can subscribe by clicking here or by searching the iTunes store.

     The first piece, Rosh Hashanah, will be followed by Yom Kippur, and Sukkos. Then the rest of the Torah portions will be available at the beginning of each week throughout the year.

     If you enjoy them, share them!

 

 

And remember…

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Genit’sa Na Evreyka!   (If you’re Jewish, Marry a Jewish girl!  In Russian!)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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Missing the Point – It’s Jerusalem!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

To freak out or not to freak out, that is the question.

We’ve done so many rounds of ‘what if’, ‘the tzadik’s predictions’, ‘geulah pronouncements’.  It’s not the point.  This is NOT about a tzadik’s predictions.  It’s not about someone’s geulah pronouncements or speculation about how some deeds of some actor on the world stage might possibly could be maybe tied into some obscure prediction from the Gemora or Zohar.

This has nothing to do with Palestinian claims to some territory in Eastern Israel (or claiming all of Israel – which is their real claim and goal, also besides the point).

How did I miss this until just now?

It has EVERYTHING to do with JERUSALEM.  It has to come down to the heart, and this is a stab right at the heart.  The heart of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

The world voting for a Palestinian State “with East Jerusalem as it’s capital” is the world voting to DIVIDE JERUSALEM.  (This is not speculation or trying to extend a meaning – watch the text of the UN resolution when it’s released, it will directly state “with East Jerusalem as it’s capital”.)  And a vote by the United Nations to divide Jerusalem is an explicit invocation of biblical prophecy.  (The quotes of the world coming to divide Jerusalem are too numerous to mention here {takes time to gather them all up}, but the prophesied results of such are well known.)

Reb Dov bar Leib and I have been chatting about long hashkafic explanations of how and why we can be where we are, how we can be entering geulah and messianic events without the public appearance of Moshiach (whether he be Ben Yosef or Ben Dovid, or one then the other).  Yet, an explanation to understand how we got here, and to some extent why, is irrelevant.  And aligning world events with all the supporting pasukim is irrelevant.

Because we are (possibly) days away from explicitly invoking biblical prophecy.

Will it actually happen? I have no idea.  G-d has repeatedly been merciful and clearly delayed or slowed down the events of the geulah again and again.  Opportunity to prepare, spiritually and physically, have been afforded again and again. (So don’t ask me what’s my excuse – I don’t have one!)

What’s that mean?  I have no idea beyond the actual words of the navi’im (biblical prophets), who’s words of prophecy in the past all came true.  But if things start winding up at the end of this week, grab your Tanach (Torah with Prophets), Gemora and Zohar, because we’re in for a wild ride.  (As is the whole world – and wild is the nice way of putting it.)

Has the world been warned?  Does it know what it’s about to do?  The Western Nations are founded on or with large majorities of Christianity, which uses the Torah as a foundational work.  It’s literally in every bible and in every language of every Western nation (Europe, the U.S., Canada, etc), every Catholic oriented nation (Mexico, the nations of Central America and South America), and much of Africa.  The Arab nations, Muslim nations and even Persia use the Koran, which for many of them is built right into their legal system and in most partially memorized as part of the education.  The Koran itself ALSO recognizes that the Land of Israel is given to the Jews.

It may be the peoples of the Eastern nations, India, China, and the Asian nations don’t know.  Their considerations are realpolitik and only narrow national interest.  They may have an excuse.

The rest of the world? Biblical prophecy is in your hand, and because of your actions (possibly) about to be at hand.  Don’t say you don’t know because it’s right in that bible on your shelf.

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Survive Outside of the Land of Israel - Practical Advice

by Dov Bar-Leib at Mystical Paths

If we are about the enter the times of biblical prophecy, no one is destined to die in Chu"l (outside the land of Israel). The main test of this generation is with all your possessions. The World War I test was with all your heart and the World War II test was with all your life. Since the test of World War II was with all your life, it will not be the test of World War III.

There is a survival method for surviving outside of Israel during the transition time of Gog and Magog stage one, Mashiach ben Yosef, and Gog and Magog stage two. When Mashiach ben David finally comes after at least four years of this process, he will gather what we hope will be a rather significant remnant of the exiles. Ken yirbu.

When we reach certain stages of biblical prophecy, some breakdown of Western society is inevitable. (Given today's news of the downgrading of Euro debt in Italy, a real financial collapse is no longer just the taught of doom and gloomers, but headline discussion in the Wall Street Journal.) Along with spiritual preparation (that's a separate article which is in large part covered here), some physical preparation is appropriate in this increasingly very uncertain times.

1. While virtually no Jews are preparing for the economic collapse of the West in any way, shape, or form, about 25-30% of American gentiles are. You need to find a group of righteous gentiles who are preparing with non-perishable food storage either in a small town or a country location. (Note that you must be able to know who is a righteous gentile and who is not.) This is only for Jews who are not quickly making Aliyah for whatever good reasons they may have.

2. Having a weapon to protect yourself and your family and the group to which you attach yourself is only wise to protect people, food and supplies.

3. Jews will need to leave all large or medium sized cities, for when the economy collapses, Jews will likely be blamed (see yesterday's "Day of Rage" protests on Wall Street, New York, where signs blaming Jewish Bankers were readily found).

4. I doubt that the government will round anyone up. This is not a b'chol Nafsh'cha test in this generation. It is b'chol Me'odecha. So if you could not take all of your possessions and live with the bitter fruits of the Hand of G-d in the Land of Israel for whatever your valid reason might be, G-d has provided means of survival outside the Land.

Yet I would advise that you start making friends with righteous gentiles immediately and not wait for the collapse to occur so when the time comes you will already be prepared.

Righteous people are to be found among all the nations of the world, and certainly in America and the Western Nations. The righteous will need to stand together to survive.

While last week this was extreme talk, this week as the Palestinians prepare their United Nations move the Euro and therefore European economy is teetering on the edge (News headline - Euro crash will cause US Depression) and the President of Turkey is threatening war against Cyprus, Greece, and Israel (simultaneously) while Greece and Israel have 'activated' a mutual defense treaty (News headline - Turkey's president likely to start World War III). Without taking into account ANY religious considerations, at this moment the world is on edge.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

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A Week of Warning

by Reb Dov bar Leib and Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Iron-dome-1Various warnings are coming to the Jewish people this week.  Physical threats against Israel and Cyprus by the opportunistic hater of Turkey, Erdogan.  Spiritual warnings by Rav Shalom Arush, shlita.  Physical warnings by Jewish groups around the U.S. worried about being targeted by Arabs during the Palestinian UN move.  And political warnings against Israel and Jews living in the Shomron (West Bank) because of the Palestinian UN move.

Let’s starting with this, that a friend received from the U.S…

Over the past few years more and more Arabs have moved into my very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Chicago.  There use to be a family on the other side of my block that blasted their (Islamic) calls to prayer until it stopped suddenly, most likely the Alderman was asked to quiet them down.  Since then I haven't heard any 'calls to prayer' for at least 3-4 years.

Well, today, September 18th, 2 days before the Palestinians are planning on declaring themselves a State to the UN......I'm hearing the calls to prayer with the volume UP for the first time in years.  Our community here was warned by our local rabbinical council to be cautious between now and the beginning of Rosh Hashanah when the U.N. votes on this issue. 

Reb Dov bar Leib responds with these thoughts to the current situation…

West Jerusalem is the safest place to be in the world at this time, for even if the international troops come you have a promise from G-d through (the biblical prophet) Zecharia that the Western half of the City will remain unmolested.

Every Torah observant Jew knows that Sukkot and Shmini Atzereth are the festivals of the Final Redemption, for although that redemption may commence on Pesach, it will reach a climax during Sukkot.  The first day of Sukkot in some time in the near future (G-d willing) may become the grandest day in human history - even greater than the day we left Egypt.

On that day for the last 2500 years every synagogue in the world reads Zecharia 14 as the Haftarah.  It does not matter if the synagogue is Ashkenazi or Sepharadi, inside the Land of Israel or outside Israel, and it does not matter whether or not there is a Shabbat Chol HaMoed either.  (For instance Ezekiel 38 and 39 is only read if there is a Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot as there is this year, but come rain or shine Zecharia 14 is read every year.)

So the religious Jewish community knows that when the world is coming to divide Jerusalem and to expel Jews from half of the Holy City that they should be scrambling to leave the (seeming) security of Galut.  The galut ends at that point and the nations of the world are punished.

There is no invisible wall protecting West Rogers Park from the rest of Chicago or Boro Park from the rest of Brooklyn.  When the punishment is exacted on the world, Jews living amongst the condemned nations will not be protected.  Example:  (Approximately) Ten Jews died during the F-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri , Rachmana Etzlan (G-d should have mercy).  The tornado did not change its path to avoid the Jews that were in its way. 

When the haftarot, the holy words of the biblical prophets, are read in Shul every Jew should be reading along and listening.  For it appears the days of their implementation may be very close.

There will be no Holocaust here in the Land of Israel.  In the short term here in Yesha (West Bank) there will be local problems.  But miracles will happen for decent people in Israel, such as when missiles do fly to cities in the coastal plain only homes of the indecent will be hit.  Personally I qualify this as the homes of Kadima, Labor, and Meretz voters being hit along with Eliyashiv and Gerrer supporters because they either drove or turned a blind eye to the Disengagement with their leaders caring less.  We saw this in Ashdod just a few weeks ago when the Iron Dome anti-short-range rocket defense system failed on 3 occasions to stop incoming rockets.  Two of them hit Gerer institutions, and it’s my belief this was a microcosm of what a much larger war will be like.

Reb Akiva responded to me, “It still comes back to...wise advise is needed, spiritual and physical.  Yet, if you were in a position to see the holocaust coming - yet knew this was a divine judgment and there was literally almost no way to survive, no way to avoid it and no where to run (which was the case for the Jews of Europe during the holocaust and in some interpretations is the case near the later stages of Gog u’Magog), would you bother to run around and tell anyone?  What’s the point?”

It’s my belief it is not a Shoah (a holocaust), for the decent will be protected from harm.  Teshuvah for a lack of human decency (or for a failure to keep the mitzvot of Bein Adom L’Havaro – the mitzvos of kindness between man and his fellow are still Divine commandments) will be forced upon those who cannot figure it out for themselves.  It will be from pachad (fear), but our G-d will no longer tolerate these inmates running the State of Israel.

So it will be very very good here in the Land of Israel.  By the end of about four months of this, it will be former Kadima voters who will burn down the offices of HaAretz, Ma'ariv, and the Last Idiot (Yediot Achronot) for lying to them all these years.  No one in Yesha (the West Bank) will need to lift a finger.

As far as Chu"l (outside the Land of Israel) is concerned, they have been forewarned and forewarned to leave and return to their home, the home of the Jewish people, the Land of Israel, but few are listening.  The last straw is to ignore this attempt by the nations of the world to divide Jerusalem. 

We can only warn them and plead for them to get out.  In America every Jew has it in his power to leave.  Unlike 1939 there are no closed borders to the Land of Israel.  Even more so, while the economy of the U.S and Western Europe is contracting and many are struggling, the economy of the State of Israel is growing and offering more job opportunities.  So people not coming this time is their fault.  Sorry to be so harsh.

We do not know the end or what will happen.  But Rav Shalom Arush, shlita has added an important thought for this moment as well.  Regardless of whether things are dangerous physically for Jews this week, it is the last week of Elul and before Rosh Hashana.  Do we fear worldly judgment or Hashem’s judgment???

Our activism is manifest in prayer and teshuva (returning to G-d). Despite the fact that earlier this week, I said that the harsh decree of imminent conflict has been delayed, that doesn't mean that we can put down our guard or our spiritual weapons. The delay is to enable more people  to have the opportunity to do teshuva and to save themselves and their families. But who knows how long the gates of teshuva will remain open.

Whether the warnings are physical or spiritual, or whether it’s just the last week before Rosh Hashana – it’s a good time for Torah, mitzvot, good deeds, charity, and especially kindness to our fellow!

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

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Be Thankful … Live Longer

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     Two Israeli doctors just proved that some of us have been right all along! Their studies involved the natural release of serotonin in the brain which makes people happier. [i]

     They have shown that a larger amount of serotonin is being released into the synapses in the brain when a person smiles or says “thank you.” And that laughter and humor are also proven to make people healthier. One of the studies with more than 800 male subjects with heart disease showed that the happier and more optimistic men had 20 percent more chances of staying alive longer than the pessimistic ones.

Besides; smiling, laughing, humor, and optimism, they discovered:

1. Hug a person at least 4 times a day. A warm touch with another person has positive physical effects on both the giver and receiver. (Hum, those huggy-kissy minyans {quorums} are right after all.)

2. Say, ‘Thank you’ even for the smallest things. It makes more synapse connections in your brain and improves your attention skills. (Thank G-d!).

3. Keep in close touch with your friends. Heart attack survivors are 40 percent less likely to suffer another when they have a close circle of friends. (Maybe this is why people who daven {pray} regularly with a minyan live longer?)

4. Eat cashew nuts, avocado, whole wheat, sweet potato and spinach. They increase the serotonin in your brain. (The veggies win again.)

5.  Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleeping balances the neurons in the brain back to their normal level. (When’s the last time you had this much sleep in one night?)

Gutman adds: Whenever you want to smile see, G-d Said, "Be Happy."


[i] Serotonin release is a natural biochemical reaction and is often used in anti-depression pills.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

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Mystical Paths Yom Tov CHARITY Campaign

Dear Friends,

Every year before the Jewish holidays, we turn to you to help us help the needy of our community in Israel for the holidays.

Who are we?  We’re just a couple of chassidim and Jewish bloggers in Israel doing our part to help the needy, direct and without organizational overhead.

For most of us, thank G-d, the holidays are a time of celebration.  Yes, judgment and repentance, but also joy in being together with G-d, together with our families and with our communities.  But for some, G-d should help them and so must we, the holidays are a time of suffering.  The expense of an extra meal is beyond their reach, or a holiday outfit or even a simple new pair of shoes is too much to bear.

So we ask you to help us help them.  Through the years YOU have helped us raise a good bit to help the truly needy and given us the privilege of being your shaliach, your messenger of goodness and kindness, to the needy in Israel (who the gedolim rule should be considered equal to the needy of your local community).

We do this purely l’shem hamitzvah tzedakah v’chesed, purely in the name of the mitzvah of charity and kindness.  We take no salary and operate with NO administrative costs.  No organization, no secretary or office, 100% of every donation goes to the needy (minus only credit card processing fees and bank transfer fees).

The Mystical Paths Yom Tov Charity campaign is rabbinically supervised by Rabbi Chaim HaKohein Farro of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel and operates via Rabbi Nati’s legally registered Israeli charity, Yesh Ma L’asot.

What’s a worthy amount to give to charity, worthy of Hashem’s blessings for the new year?  That’s up to you.  For us, EVERY donation is worthy, EVERY amount is precious and makes a difference!

Donate today (and tomorrow, and the next day…until the end of the holidays)!  Special bonus – names submitted with a donation will be sent to the kever of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, will be read at the kever of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev in Uman (if sent before Rosh Hashana), and placed into the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem.

If you’d like to help the Bloggers, hey, we could use some help also.  But we will only take a bit if YOU designate it.  On Paypal in the Message box, you can specify an amount to tip the bloggers to help us for Yom Tov also, and also a place to put your name and your mother’s name to be read at the holy resting place of the tzaddikim and at the Western Wall.

Donations will be accepted by Paypal, Credit Card, Check or Bank Transfer… Click here or the button below to donate by credit card or Paypal.

Or By Mail -

Write Check To – Yesh Ma L’asot

Mail To -
Reb Akiva’s Mystical Paths Campaign
PO Box 70029
Ramat Beit Shemesh, 99620
Israel

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Friday, September 16, 2011

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IDF Confrontation with Bar Mitzvah Boy in Jerusalem

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

What happens when a bar mitzvah boy with his celebration group run into a secular Israeli army unit, both on their way to the Kotel (Western Wall) in the Old City, Jerusalem?

Direct video link here.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Why Doesn’t G-d Answer?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Why is it that sometimes we pray over and over again, but what we pray for never comes? I know a Jewish man who has been praying with all his heart for a wife for more than 20 years, and she hasn’t come! It eats him up. His life is miserable because he feels so alone. It’s not just that he is not fulfilling the mitzvahs of marriage; even more importantly for him, he feels empty, unfulfilled. Now, how can you say that G-d answers prayers? What are you going to tell me, that He is answering, and is saying, “NO!?”

     We are told that visiting the sick removes one sixtieth of their illness, and that even if a knife is at your throat, do not stop praying for mercy. We are also told that when we pray for others, our prayers for ourselves are answered first. Well, if in these places, and in many more places we are told to pray, why don’t we see the things that we pray for happening?    

     Whether something is supposed to happen or not is not entirely determined by prayer. Prayer weighs in and helps to tip the scale, but there are many more factors involved. For instance, what does the person you are praying for deserve? What has he done with his life, and even in his previous life? Not everyone merits to have children. Not everyone has every blessing in their life. In fact, we often see people who have many blessings in many areas of their lives, but they are sorely missing something in another area. Maybe they are healthy and happily married, but have never been able to make a sufficient living. What if someone has all the physical benefits in life, but is totally unaware of G-d’s presence? He might even be happy which makes things worse for him, because he will not even be motivated to search!

     Often we pray so hard for something but do not see the results. Then other times, we merely mention our prayer and the thing pops right up in our face! You never know what is going to come from your prayers, but you know that you have to try. And, you know that you feel better when you do ask.

     An important lesson about prayer is that although it is up to us to ask, it is up to G-d to give.

     This means that we should pray with all our hearts, since it is entirely up to us to try. It also means that after praying, we have to stand back. If we do not detach from the results, they will eat us up. What is missing will consume our lives. We will become miserable, always focusing on yearnings. Let go… we can only call. He has to answer.

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Help, I Lost My Jews

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said when Moshiach comes it will be front page news.  We won’t have to wonder or guess, the same news outlets that exist to hype and get our attention will do the same with the ultimate holy news, Moshiach and the complete Geulah.

That said, what in the world is going on with this?  Two days in a row, “the Jews” are the major headline news in the U.S…

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I’m either feeling very important or very worried, or both at the same time.  Will the Democrats be able to blame an election loss on “the JOOOOOOS”?  Or an almost loss (if it’s close) on “the JOOOOOOOS”?  Or will U.S. minorities blame declining polls for ‘their guy’ on “the JOOOOOOOS”?

Or am I just paranoid?  Or are they really out to get me?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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Video: Truth in the Peace Process

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Headline: Revenge of the Jews

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Drudge Report is THE top US news headline website.  It’s not known to be anti-semitic, racist or liberal.  It is known to be sensationalist, which fits it’s profile as the top headline site.

Still, if an inner city democratic congress seat was lost to the republicans, we have never seen a headline like “the blacks turn their backs” or “the latinos leave the democrats”.  And we’ve certainly never seen a headline of “suburban white smackdown of the pres”.

The story is a major one.  In a U.S. congressional district with a 40% orthodox Jewish population (not too many of those in the United States, maybe 2 or 3), a district which as not had a non-Democrat representative in almost 100 years, an orthodox Jewish democrat candidate lost to a non-Jewish republican candidate.   

I’ll leave analysis of why the democrats lost to all the news organizations and their talking heads.  But Drudge’s headline which pits Jews against the President of the United States and the Democratic party is sensationalism reaching to provocation.  It highlights an increasingly troubling trend in U.S. social dialog regarding the Jewish people.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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How to Get a Jew to Say “Yes”?

moments at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     He wouldn’t put on tefillin.

     “I’ve done it before, and it didn’t do anything for me,” he insisted.

     “Everyone in your group [Birthright] is putting them on. Why pull yourself apart?” I asked.

    “I do not want to do it,” he insisted again.

    I tried at least 10 different things that have worked in the past, but he wouldn’t budge. In the end… I did not get him.

     Well, that may not be completely true. Even if we don’t “get him” this time, we probably softened him up for the next Jew who cares enough to try.

     Some years ago, a middle-aged man told me this story. He said, “Five years ago, I was walking on Fairfax Avenue in L.A. when a yeshiva student asked me to put on tefillin. I blew up. I started screaming at him, saying such things as, ‘You rotten Jew! You just embarrassed me in public. You lost your share in the World to Come! Ah!’”

     “I stormed away so angry…. Then, after 50 fifty steps or so, I stopped and asked myself, ‘How low have I come that I got angry at a Jew for asking me to do a mitzvah. You know, I turned at that moment. I went home and I put on my tefillin, and I have been putting them on every day since.”

    The young student who asked the middle-aged man to put on tefillin probably still feels bad for having made this man so angry. He may even have questioned whether he should continue to ask Jews to put on tefillin. But even though he doesn’t know it, his concern for a fellow Jew brought this Jew back to the Torah.

     Every time we try with a good heart, even if we do not seem to “get” them, you never know what good you may have done.

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Yes, They Are Out To Get Me at College

Guest Post by Chaim Clorfene

A remarkable new trend is taking place in some American universities, among them the University of California at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Irvine, and my alma mater, UCLA. A hate campaign is being leveled against Israel and Jewish students on various campuses. The hate campaign includes frequent angry demonstrations and harassment of Jewish students, mostly females, and professors’ intimidation of students who do not line up behind pro-Palestinian sentiments. A student who expresses support of Israel in these classrooms is almost certain to earn ridicule and a low grade in the course. As blatantly unethical and academically outrageous – and illegal – as this is, school administrators and boards of regents seem to condone this behavior, or at the very least, show that they do not care.

Upon studying videos of the demonstrations (such a video is found embedded in this article, and linked here), the reality of what is really going on here becomes clear. The demonstrations are led by off-campus professional agitators and a few transfer students from the Ahmadinejad School for the Criminally Insane. (One of the main speakers – and I am quite sure about this – escaped from a car wash, or possibly has ringworm, or both).

These bullies rapaciously brandish placards (made by Edward Scissorhands) that label Zionists as Nazis, while openly suggesting that Jews everywhere be annihilated. Duh! As for the anti-semitic college professors, in the tradition of their colleague Doctor Faustus, they have sold their souls to the Devil, and for small money I might add. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”

Taken as a whole, this pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist campus scene is a clear expression of the Pinchik Principle: Good guys do not wear ski masks unless they are skiing.

We are left with the obvious question, what should we do about it? Certainly, legal action should be taken against anyone who assaults a Jewish student and against the university that fosters such action. Any college, particularly one supported by public funds, should be punished for allowing its campus to be used as a forum for outside agitators screaming about matters that have no relevance to the school. Every Jewish philanthropist worth his kosher salt should stop giving money to these anti-semitic universities. Since Jews own all the banks and control 98% of the world’s wealth, this should bring these wicked institutions to their waterlogged knees.

To continue: Jewish students can exercise the option of going to other, more hospitable schools to avoid the stress of intimidation, which must certainly diminish the quality of their education. In fact, the smartest of the Jewish students (all Jews are smart, some are merely smarter than others) could earn their degrees online for just under seventeen million dollars from the Liverpool University of Manchester or the Bobby Kennedy College of Antarctica, while spending part of each day, for free, at a local yeshiva or women’s seminary where they might get a real education.

Also, Hadassah, a well known terrorist organization (Did you ever attend a meeting? The noise is terrifying.), could resurrect the Jewish Defense League Sisterhood and holler at the demonstrators.

Kicking it up to a higher level, rabbis could plant thousands of pigs on University of California campuses, thereby driving the anti-semites to Mexico (or Texas, a suburb of Mexico). Note: The Torah permits Jews to benefit from pigs, but not to eat pigs. Moslems are forbidden to have any direct or indirect contact with pigs whatsoever. This is why we see so few Moslem football players.

There are a great many things we could do to fight against these alleged anti-Zionists and their familiars. But what we really should do is … thank them. These anti-semitic scoundrels are unwittingly performing a great service to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel. The sad truth is that Jewish America has been incrementally turning away from Israel for at least a generation. Conservative and Reform movement rabbis have recently made it an official platform to distance themselves from Israel. American Jews are assimilating more and more every day. Many of them have forgotten that they are Jewish and have forgotten about Israel. So G-d is using these angry anti-Zionists to give a wake-up call to America’s Jews. They are reminding them that Israel is an essential aspect of their lives. In fact, they are Israel, the Children of Israel. They may be temporarily estranged from their roots, but they are Israel all the same.

It says in Genesis 2:7: And the Lord G-d formed man of dust from the earth and blew a soul of life into his nostrils, and he became a living being.” We are the dust of the earth, formed by the power of G-d. The dust of Israel is holy and the people Israel who are this dust are also holy, and neither will ever be mundane. Both have a destiny of Redemption and the responsibility of being a Light unto the Nations. The anti-Zionists are merely reminding them of this.

So, all you would-be troublemakers at the U of C, at Rutgers, at Brandeis University, and all other miscreant institutions of higher learning – G-d knows who you are and we know who you are. Keep up the good work and thank you.

May you be written and sealed for a good and sweet year.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

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Eye to the Infinite–Half Price Sale

Reb Aharon Rubin’s book on Jewish meditation, Eye to the Infinite, is on sale for 1/2 price from now until Rosh Hashana.  And his new Kindle e-book edition is 75% off (the paper full price).

Check it out at his site.  (Scroll to the bottom for ordering information.)

Kosher Jewish meditation, Mystical Paths approved Smile

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Tripped by a Mitzvah

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

It’s not for no reason the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination, is called wily.  While we normally expect the Yetzer is going to go after us by temptation, taking advantage of our natural and negative inclinations, the evil inclination knows we know it’s approach and sometimes comes via the opposite route.

Those following the intra-Jewish-religious conflict in Beit Shemesh, Israel can see this clearly.  (Giving them the benefit of the doubt) a group of (seemingly) ultra-orthodox Jews has taken a desire for religious and societal modesty and had it drive them to violence and intra-Jewish hatred, actions clearly prohibited by the Torah and Jewish law.

In my personal case I encountered such a fall for a mitzvah last week.  My synagogue needed to move to a new location and the arrangements weren’t completed until the last minute, Thursday afternoon.  As part of my synagogue’s administration, I took it upon myself to make the move happen and make sure the synagogue was ready in it’s new location for Shabbos services (starting Friday afternoon).

I arranged for some teenagers to move everything and threw myself into the job.  I expected it to be about 2 hours of work, it turned into about a 5 hour job running late into the night.  They moved, I arranged, setting everything up as it came in.  Even when the move was completed the job wasn’t done, a few synagogue items needed some minor adjustments and repairs (for example our Aharon Kodesh – the Torah ark, was on wheels, which were damaged during the move and had to either be replaced or removed and replaced with a wooden platform).

I worked hard happy with the mitzvah to help my synagogue and community.  But I ended up exhausted.  I only got a few hours of sleep that night before I was back to finish organizing and repairing the next morning.

By the time Shabbos arrived, the synagogue was beautiful and ready in it’s new location. I, however, was exhausted and grumpy.  I yelled at my family Friday afternoon, snapping at minor problems.  I was grumpy at the Shabbos table, not filled with joy in the holy Shabbos but simply wanting to get through it and pass out.

The Yetzer Hara had won.  It took my desire for a mitzvah and drove it and me into an averya (a sin).  I could have stopped and taken my time through Friday.  I could have (and should have) called in other community members for help. 

Instead, my family suffered for my mitzvah. 

Of course, it doesn’t work that way.  If someone else is suffering for my mitzvah, then it’s not a mitzvah.  The Yetzer Hara turned the strength of my mitzvah into the negative. 

There’s no win there, there’s no holiness there.  There’s dedication and piety being turned to the negative.  And that’s a danger every religious person should watch out for.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

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9-11 of Truth and the Decline of the U.S.A.

Reb Gutman Locks requested I write a bit about 9-11, saying “Maybe it would give information to the young Jewish college kids who are hearing that Israel and the CIA did it? They hear it from so many that they are beginning to wonder if it is true.”

The United States of America has a twisted historical relationship with peoples of Islam and Arab nations.  All the way back to the time of Thomas Jefferson (one of the founding fathers of the USA and an early president) over 200 years ago, the U.S. was dealing with (at war with) muslim slavers and pirates (the Barbary pirates) intercepting U.S. ships and enslaving their crews.

In more modern times, for about the past 50 years, the U.S. has been the target of many terrorist attacks from Arabs and Muslims.  Oh, it hasn’t been a one way street.  The U.S. has been intensely manipulative of the political circumstances of many Arab nations.  But unlike the colonial powers of the past, the U.S. has been out for business and resources and has paid for both.  With those payments the Arab rulers became rich (and if they didn’t build a functional economy or country with the money, that wasn’t the U.S.’s fault.)

Modern times have seen the propagation of the knowledge of men, individual men or small groups, to perform great acts of destruction.  While the U.S. bend their military minds to building expensive smart weapons that hit exactly what they’re targeted at, the Muslim radicals bend their minds to building cheap weapons with great damage potential – such as suicide bomb vests and truck bombs for taking out groups of civilians or buildings.

The United States honed their military to be able to destroy the military of almost any nation on the planet in days while minimizing the deaths and damage to civilians.  The Muslim radicals learned that presenting a military was a losing proposition.  Instead their cheap but effective destructive power would be part of the civilian population, exactly what the U.S. was working hard to avoid targeting.

As the Muslim radicals began attacking the U.S., each attack grew in strength while blending in with the surrounding civilians.  Civilian planes were hijacked and people killed by “civilians”.  A U.S. navy warship was rammed and bombed by a small civilian fishing boat, almost sinking it and killing many crew.  And the Twin Towers were bombed and almost destroyed by a few guys with a truck load of fertilizer bought for a mosque garden.

The U.S. found itself in a conflict that directly contradicted it’s military and social values.  It was at war with civilians, not a country.  And people of a particular religion, where targeting anyone for their religion was a value the U.S. had just spent 35 years stamping out. 

This came to a head on September 11, 2001 where 4 groups of 3 radical Muslims hijacked 4 civilian jumbo jets.  Each was turned into a flying bomb filled with tons of jet fuel, 3 of which were successfully rammed into major U.S. buildings, one into each of the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon.  The 4th, designated for the U.S. Capitol, failed when the hijacked passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers and the hijackers flew the plane into the ground.

The U.S. responded initially in traditional fashion.  It tracked the perpetrators back to the country where they received training and support…and leveled the government and military (such as it was) of that country (Afghanistan).  The U.S. then revamped it’s intelligence services to go after an “organization” instead of a country and launched a covert war, assassinating hundreds of Muslim radicals.

Along the way the U.S. also leveled the government of Iraq, because the ruler was rather belligerent and supportive of terrorism, was also somewhat threatening and also just to make a point (don’t mess with us).  While the physical war was won, the cost crippled the U.S. and the point (don’t mess with us) was lost on an enemy that could fade away and spread like a virus – infecting cells around the world with their ideas.

Whenever the battle was physical, the U.S. could not be stopped.  But the U.S. was also the boogeyman of the Arab world.  And now the boogeyman was seen getting hurt.

The U.S., and even more so Europe, was (and is) hobbled by their social and military culture.  The enemy is a segment of a religion.  And he is mixed within civilian society.  He can’t be attacked directly without a lot of “collateral damage” – something no longer acceptable to Western militaries and society.  And he can’t even be identified without violating a social more’, targeting someone due to their religion.

By September 11, 2011, ten years after the attack, most Arab societies were continuing to dance and celebrate when Americans are injured or killed in terrorist attacks – even while the stability of their country’s is maintained by U.S. foreign and military aide.  Though they can’t overcome the U.S. head to head, a thousand pinpricks is taking it’s toll and part in the decline of the United States of America.  And the politicians of the U.S.A., heavily influenced by contributions and lobbying from the wealthy Arab nations, continues to ignore this reality.

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He Rejoices With Mitzvahs

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     The Talmud [i] refers to Rav Bruna as “a great man who rejoices with (the performance of) mitzvahs.” We learn two very interesting things from this short description of this sage. First, that apparently, not all great men rejoice when doing mitzvahs, and second, that rejoicing when doing a mitzvah is an improvement over greatness. How wonderful is this spiritual joy that it elevates even a sage to a still higher level of greatness. 

     What is so unique about even a trouble-free mitzvah that rejoicing over it will make a person who is already great, greater? And how do we learn to rejoice when we do such things as put on tefillin, or listen to a shofar?

     When we do a mitzvah, G-d makes us holy! Before doing a mitzvah we say: Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Who makes us holy with His mitzvahs In the entire world, is there any better thing to become? What a treasure is even the simplest mitzvah! Remember this when you do a mitzvah. It will make you happy.


[i] Gemara Berachos 9b

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9-11

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Has it really been this long? Can it truly be that our teens, who were little children on that day, barely know about it?

The thoughts of this video are powerful and strong. But 9-11 was the start of a war, with the barbarians tearing down civilization. One group was beaten, but the hordes awakened and accommodated.

There is no longer a question of whether the future will be different. The prayer we have is that G-d grant it be good and peaceful with the coming of Moshiach tzidkaynu and the Geulah shalayma. The alternative is unpleasant to contemplate.

(Update - Switched to Youtube copy of video.)

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Friday, September 09, 2011

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Even In Jail

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A Jewish businessman made a bad mistake. He took something that wasn’t his. Oh, for sure, he claims that he had a right to do what he did, but the judge did not agree. In Jail! He has been granted some clemency now, and he is being moved to a halfway house. Soon, please G-d, he will be released.

I am so saddened that a Jew is in such a predicament, especially a religious Jew. In some ways, he has really embarrassed the Torah. Surely we feel sorry for him, but look at the mess he has put himself in; What can he do in jail? Three walls and a gate! Someone asked whether he should he even put on his tefillin and let the other prisoners see that a religious Jew has been locked up….

His wife wrote…

“I spoke to Barry tonight and just thought I would relay our conversation. I think you would be proud of him. It seems he is the unofficial Rabbi there. He has had the zechut [merit] of putting tefillin on a couple of Jews who have never done it before, and made the berachot [blessing] for the first time. He has also changed 2 peoples’ choice of food. They are now only receiving kosher food. I am very proud of him. He is up to 6 people in his circle. I thought of you and just wanted to share these thoughts.

“We are still waiting for a bed to open in the halfway house. He is number 3 on the list. Thank you for your prayers.”

     Barry’s acts of spiritual kindness while in jail are softening his spiritual and physical judgment. Knowing Barry as I do, he is not helping those other Jews for this reason. He is helping them because they need help.

     Finding a way to help is not the hard part. The hard part is caring enough to try. (Wherever you may be.)

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

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At a Social Battle in Beit Shemesh

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel’s political style and social style seems designed to bring internal groups into conflict.  Every election is 'if we win we get all the money and take it all away from the other side'.  Whether it's city or national, when you're not in the majority position the ONLY way to get government response to your issues is to come out in numbers and be a pain.  So in effect the government trains it's citizens to protest big time.  The ultra-orthodox take this a step farther as they’ve been a small minority that’s historically been somewhat persecuted by the governments of the past.  This has led them to take the feeling a bit farther and institutionalize a feeling of alienation, even though governments are no longer acting that way AND they’re no longer a non-influential minority.

In Beit Shemesh, a series of twin-home neighborhoods primarily occupied by American and English speaking Jewish modern-orthodox immigrants (locally called “anglos”) abuts a growing high density ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood known as Ramat Beit Shemesh B.  On the seam line between the two neighborhoods, the Ministry of Education built two elementary school buildings targeted at children from the anglo community (a boys and a girls).

The ultra-orthodox community presents two complaints about this.  First, their schools are significantly over capacity with children learning in hallways and trailers yet new spacious facilities are being given to a community segment without that overcrowding.  Second, and this is their loudly presented argument, it results in a group of girls who don’t keep to their community standards traipsing through (along the edge of actually) community.  [The fact that they moved into buildings facing another community with a  different standard is besides the point, they’re there and it causes them a problem.]

Now with a cultural proclivity to protest to have impact, and add some zealots with a ‘holy cause’, and you’ve got a hot situation.  The ultra-orthodox zealots of Ramat Beit Shemesh B have been actively and forcefully protesting the presence of the school – taking it to the point of harassing the elementary school age girls as they pass by on the way home.

In response the parents, some of their community members and various supporters have been lining up to guard the girls way home and block the actions of the zealots.  Unfortunately the police were not sufficiently responsive in the past (though that seems to have changed today).  I joined today’s protests to help defend school age Jewish girls from any type of abuse (verbal or G-d forbid worse) regardless of the reason as well as to SPEAK to the zealots to hear them out.  Below are pictures and video from the event.  The video is key as a young charedi zealot argues with me that I’m standing on the wrong side, while I calmly challenge his position and what’s he’s doing to the face of Torah.  (It’s hebrew and hard to hear, unfortunately.)

That such a thing is happening and zealots are taking advantage of a neighborhood conflict to turn it into a holy war among brothers is a disaster for the month of Elul and the Jewish people right before Rosh Hashana.

#1 Defenders line the street to protect the girls returning from school.
#2 Police inform the zealots they may protest from the side but not enter the sidewalk.

 

. The zealots chant kinos (lamentations) to show their distress in the situation.

. One parent is sufficiently upset he attempts to confront the zealots, which the police stop.

. A study in zealot religious fervor.  Chanting kinos (for Elul?).

. The zealot leader, who’s father is the rav of the group’s kollel (or so I was told by another) leading the chants.

 

. Conversation with a zealot.  This young zealot comes over to discuss with me why I’m standing on the wrong side.  Hebrew, 8 minutes, hard to hear clearly over the chanting.

. This time the police were well prepared and organized.  They brought along a team of Yassam Riot Police (pictured), who are intimidating and known for their violent response in such situations, in case trouble broke out.  Fortunately they did not need to engage.

. After the event, the defenders went to the girls school to pray the afternoon prayer together.  A sign on this school that the zealots are protesting says “Welcome in the Name of Hashem.”

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