by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A chassidic Rebbe passed away and his son became the rebbe after him. As soon as he became Rebbe, he changed his style of dress and his way of davenen (praying). The elder chassidim, the oldest of his father’s followers, came to him and said “You’ve strayed from your father’s path! As soon as you became Rebbe you started changing everything!”
The new Rebbe replied, “You are completely wrong my dear chassidim. When my father became rebbe, he changed how he dressed and his way of prayer. When I became rebbe, I did exactly as my father did!”
My daughter received an official letter in the mail. “Dear (Reb Akiva’s Daughter), you are ordered to report to the enlistment office for the Israel Defense Forces on (such and such a date).”
My wife and I looked at the letter and put it aside to mention to our daughter. Arrangements needed to be made, brief and simple. Jewish religious girls don’t do the army, ultra-orthodox girls – never. Arrangements are a simple procedure and are part of Israel’s national religious understanding. Any Jewish religious girl who wants an army exemption appears at a official government rabbinate office, declares her religiousness to the officiating rabbi and gets an exemption.
We mentioned it to our daughter, tried to schedule a time. She blew us off, ignoring it. We were a bit disturbed, it can be annoying and bothersome to deal with at the last minute and it’s annoying to deal with teenagers who don’t take things seriously.
Came the date and she said “I’m going to go see what’s up, this is just testing to see what you can do.” (The army calls future draftees in a few times starting at age 17 for testing, then gives them an official draft date after their 18th birthday.)
She came back and proceeded to ignore our repeated talks to arrange an appointment with the rabbinate for the exemption. We thought she was being lazy and irresponsible. Little did we know…
About 2 months before her draft date I had a serious talk with her. “Listen, if you don’t deal with the exemption now you’re going to end up going in.” She responded, “I intend to go in.” After I scrapped my jaw up off the floor I went into very serious talk mode “The army does not have a religiously oriented service program for girls. It is a very secular environment where you’re going to be exposed to all types of people and situations. It’s an inappropriate for a young Jewish lady.”
She just looked at me and said “it’s what I’m going to do.” ‘How are you going to deal with kosher food?’ “I’ll manage.” ‘How are you going to deal with Shabbos and ….’ “I will not compromise my standards, but I’m joining the IDF.”
With a stunned and bemused expression I did what Israeli parents do. I took her to the sporting goods store and outfitted her with appropriate supplies (extra olive drab t-shirts, socks, a tough watch, a huge backpack, shower kit, and more). They looked at me (long bearded white shirted ultra-orthodox guy), they looked at her (long skirted pony-tailed charedi girl), gave us a really weird once over (what are they doing here shopping for army stuff???) but walked us through it very courteously (clearly we didn’t know what we were doing, but outfitting young people who are army bound is a major seasonal business for them).
Came draft day. We arrived with hundreds of other parents handing their children over to the military – though we stood out in the less religious crowd. Like all parents we waited till her name was called, said a brief goodbye, and worried. Worried that our child was going off to the military, worried she might be involved in war, and worried about the environment she was entering and it’s impact upon her.
She was assigned to the air force, sent to a basic training base for female soldiers only. On arrival as they outfit the new recruits - they handed her pants. She refused pants and demanded a skirt per her religious standards. They handed her an army standard short skirt. She refused and told them what she needed…they put her on a jeep to an army tailoring center where they custom made her a series of floor length army skirts on the spot.
At the end of her basic training we were invited, as is traditional among Israeli parents, to her ‘graduation’. 500 young ladies marching with M-16’s and Tanach’s (Jewish bibles) beginning their full army (air force) service. She marched and paraded with everyone else, 499 female soldiers in pants and one in a floor length skirt.
After the graduation as the families got a chance to spend some time with their daughters we were approached by several others who came to tell us “what a wonderful thing we were doing” by our daughter (and us) being there.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. My daughter had joined, by her specific choice, those putting their lives on the line to defend Israel and the millions of Jews who live here. But culturally this was not a nice religious environment, also a situation that my daughter had specifically placed herself into.
She faced challenges. During basic training she wasn’t sure of the kosher level of the food (the army maintains all it’s kitchens as kosher, but whether they take it seriously or hold the types of standards we would at home or in our community is in question). So she ate only vegetables during training. She also wasn’t used to being in a group of girls spending most of their time discussing boys and partying. But as any group they were interested in each other and she found herself talking about Torah, Judaism, Shabbos and Jewish religious life to a group of young women who had never been in contact with their heritage.
The army gives specific time for praying and synagogue services, and while these are oriented towards men in Judaism the army doesn’t discriminate, so she took them as a welcome daily respite. She was also fortunate that her service did not require (for her particular role) any violation of Shabbos. (Though violation isn’t the right term, for if a Jewish army needs to take Shabbos violating actions to defend lives on Shabbos it’s not a violation.)
Having a child in the army changes your perceptions and your status in Israel, though this change is distinctly different in different communities. Among general Israel you move from immigrant to real Israeli when you or your child enters the IDF. You’ve joined the ranks of those who have put their blood on the line to defend our common lives and community. On a few occasions when my daughter visited me in the office, looks of my co-workers completely changed as did our family relationship with some not-very-religious neighbors. (“You, you??? have a daughter in the army?” ‘Ah, air force actually.’)
Among the ultra-orthodox community it’s a different matter. Chabad has people doing army service, it’s not that unusual to see Chabad young men in Israeli military uniform (but not young women). Breslev has a high number of people who have become religious that did their military service before becoming so. But in the rest of the ultra-orthodox community having a daughter in the military…that’s a head turner that garners you a look of “so what went wrong there?”
For a time this left me of two minds. Was I proud of my daughter or not? I did not want her to go in the army, what kind of environment is that for a young lady? But defending Jewish lives by choice is a very serious mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice).
Yom Kippur morning the Alter Rebbe, the first Chabad Rebbe, disappeared from synagogue. The Rebbe normally davened (lead services for) Musaf, as services reached that point and the Rebbe wasn’t there chassidim were sent out to find him. Where was the Rebbe? Was there a crisis with the judgments in Shamayim (in the Heavenly court)? Had the Rebbe secreted himself away to try to open the Heavenly gates for the community’s prayers?
Eventually the Rebbe was found in a broken down hovel of a home at the far end of town. He was dressed in his holiday finery but was chopping wood and building up a fire in the home – activities prohibited on the awesome holy day of Yom Kippur. The Rebbe explained “there is a sick young widow here with a young child and no family. If someone doesn’t come and help her on the holiday she or her child could literally die. And with everyone in synagogue for the holy day I knew that none of her neighbors would think to come by. So I did.”
Later in her service my daughter explained to me, “Someone has to defend the Jewish people. I choose that someone will include me. It is a mitzvah to pray to Hashem to protect the Jewish people, but it’s also a mitzvah and a requirement to stand up and do so. I will stand for Israel and the Jewish people.”
My children are funny (though I assume not so unusual)…they won’t listen to me, logical arguments seem wasted. But if we’re very lucky we see them following our lead (hopefully for the good). I brought my family to Israel, and while it has many advantages it does have sacrifices, because I believe that’s the place for a Jew to be (if possible and given he’s not working for the Jewish people elsewhere). I try to make a difference, online and offline. I try to follow the dictum of Pirke Avos “where there’s no men, be a man”.
Those messages I never discussed with my daughter, but those are the ones I suddenly found her doing.
She wanted to do something fancy and dramatic, she passed a radar monitoring test. But she was assigned to base catering (on a base that also has a glatt kosher kitchen), feeding 5,000 hungry soldiers every day. Not dramatic but an army travels on it’s stomach (and nice training for a future family :-).
She was nicknamed “The Rebbitzen” and many girls came to her to discuss problems asking for a religious perspective, girls who would never go to speak with a rabbi. This led to frequent calls home for advice, “what does the Torah or Talmud say about this? Or what should I advise someone about that?” She also became friendly with her base rabbi and a lecturing rebbitzen, a pool of advisors is necessary when you’re being asked tough life questions.
She completed her service recently. As she left her commander said to her “you made a kiddush Hashem”. Coming from a secular IDF military officer, that’s high praise indeed.
She doesn’t fit the mold, but who says I do? She stood up for what she believed in and made a difference while she was there.
Yes air force daughter, I’m proud of you.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I’ve written on a number of occasions about the societal conflicts in Israel between the very-religious sector and the adamantly secular sector. One of the points I’ve made is this was structured into the founding of the State of Israel by the secular officials forming the first governments who decided to box the Torah followers into a corner and wait for them to fade away (with some help and coercion from the government itself).
While we are now a few generations from those times and that approach, echoes of it appear in government actions and statements on occasion today AND memories of that institutional pressure reverberate throughout the Jewish religious communities in Israel of today.
While I’ve talked about that situation, I was unaware of how much this was a basic founding principle until yesterday…
(Tablet – Raw Deal by Stuart Schoffman) In his book The Imaginary Voyage: With Theodor Herzl in Israel, first published (in French) in 1998, the cosmopolitan Nobel laureate (and currently the symbolic president of the State of Israel) Shimon Peres takes the Viennese visionary on a tour of the modern Jewish state. Along the way, Peres quotes a passage from Der Judenstaat, Herzl’s Zionist blueprint of 1896:
“Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom. We shall therefore prevent any theocratic tendencies from coming to the fore on the part of our priesthood. We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples in the same way as we shall keep our professional army within the confines of their barracks.”
Flowery language stating clearing the founding intention to keep Judaism OUT OF society and confined within the 4 walls of the synagogue. Not to be part of life but just an occasional building visit – which is the antithesis of Judaism.
Schoffman continues… In his new Nextbook Press book, Ben-Gurion: A Political Life, …Peres describes the deal that Ben-Gurion made with ultra-Orthodox rabbi-politicians at the time of Israel’s founding: kashrut in all public institutions, Shabbat as the day of rest, rabbinic control of marriage and divorce, and the exemption of full-time yeshiva students, who at the time numbered only in the hundreds, from army service. This would all seem a violation of Herzl’s vision, but Peres defends Ben-Gurion’s consensus-building move as wise and pragmatic, “because the number of people in Israel who defined themselves as people of faith was large.” …
The author presses Peres, who as a young man was Ben-Gurion’s emissary to the ultra-Orthodox on the conscription issue, on whether they had perhaps miscalculated the staying power of Orthodoxy in Israel. “He (Ben Gurion) wasn’t thinking about what was going to happen later,” says Peres of his mentor. “Anyway, to be completely frank, in negotiating with the venerable rabbis, I felt like I was sitting with my grandfather.” In The Imaginary Voyage, Peres puts it even more frankly: “Whenever I had to make a decision touching upon the relationship between religion and state,” he tells Herzl, “I asked myself whether grandfather would agree with what I’d done.”
After the Holocaust, out of guilt and nostalgia, along with a sense of moral obligation, Ben-Gurion and his secular comrades understandably felt a need to indulge the surviving practitioners of the separatist Judaism that kept Diaspora Jews afloat for centuries. Besides, they probably figured that ultra-Orthodoxy, in a sovereign, modern state, would soon wither away.
Nothing more need be said. The State of Israel assumed Torah Judaism would “wither away”, and as it seemed to be gaining strength the State took some actions to help it along (with withering). They weren’t successful (Baruch Hashem) and Israeli society AND Torah society are dealing with the impact of that poorly considered approach today.
(BTW, the author of the source article continues with a diatribe against Torah Judaism and Israel for not being open to U.S. style conservative or reform Judaism – seriously missing the point of what he himself opened with.)
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A sheliach is a messenger. The Torah discusses this subject quite thoroughly. For instance, it explains that if the messenger does what the sender tells him to do, then the sender is liable for any damages that the messenger does. But if the messenger changes from the instructions, and does not do as the sender instructed him, then the messenger himself is liable. We are taught that when the messenger does what the sender tells him to do, the messenger is called “the hand of the sender.”
What does all this have to do with us? You do not have to be the rabbi in a Chabad House situated far away somewhere in the wide world to be a sheliach. In fact, as valuable as it is to have a Rebbe as your sender, you really do not even need a Rebbe to send you. You do not need donors, nor secretaries, nor even those wonderful newsletters that these messengers send out. All you need is the will to help others, and the sensitivity to listen to G-d.
Each of us was sent into this world with a particular mission. So actually, we are all already messengers…messengers of G-d. All we have to do is listen to what He says. For instance, “You shall be holy because I am holy,” and that each of us is “obligated for each other,” and that “you shall love the stranger who is in your midst,” and “you shall teach these words of Mine diligently,” and “I have appointed you to be a light unto the nations.” In fact, there are many times when He has told us to care for one another.
What does it mean to return a lost item? If you would be careful to return a neighbor’s lost wallet, or his straying donkey, shouldn’t you be even more careful to return his lost, or straying, soul? Would you help him pick up his fallen donkey? I truly believe that you would. But would you help him to pick up his fallen soul? Sadly, it seems not.
So we see that time and time again that G-d is trying to get us to be His messenger. Do you want the best job in the world? Do you want to work for the best Boss ever? Who pays the most? And Who makes you happy while you work? I can’t even list all of the employment benefits that you will get when you open your own local “Holy franchise messenger service” office.
Let’s see. You can begin by seeing how many sad people you can encourage, how many pessimistic people you can teach to be optimistic, how many people you can befriend. Then there are the Torah classes once or twice a week that you will have in your home… and Shabbos dinners… and your weekly tefillin route… and on and on.
Remember, when the messenger does what the Sender sends him to do, the messenger becomes “the hand of his Sender.” Can you think of anything better to do?
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
** This Saturday snow fell in New York and New Jersey. This is newsworthy as it’s the earliest snowfall in perhaps 100 years in those areas.
Residents are advised to…stay warm and perhaps prepare for increased heating costs.
** This Saturday rockets fell in Southern Israel. This is not newsworthy. No rockets fell for several months as Hamas negotiated the release of their terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit, proving they can completely control the international war crime firing of rockets at Israel civilians when they want.
Yet the main stream media and world political authorities treat the falling of rockets on Israeli civilians as the falling of snow on the residents of New York, a natural occurrence that just sometimes happens that mankind cannot control or influence.
Residents are advised to run for their lives upon hearing an alarm and to sleep in bomb shelters.
Note an apartment building and a school have been hit. That’s a war crime. We await the statement of the U.N. secretary general deploring it and requesting a Security Council investigation.
(Ok, you can stop laughing now.)
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Occasionally, and recently more than occasionally, chumrot (extra religious stringencies) and minchagim (religious communal customs) get out of hand.
Before World War II and further back, Jewish religious communities were relatively isolated. Oh there were the traveling merchants, and Torah students or scholars or maggadim, and charity collectors who all moved between communities across towns, cities and countries. But these were not large numbers and they didn’t affect different communities customs or Torah approach much. This is one of the reasons why the chassidic movement was so revolutionary and frightening at the time, it brought rather major changes directly into communities.
Post World War II the religious Jewish world was completely geographically restructured. The survivors and the unaffected ended up together in New York and Tel Aviv, later in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. All the communities, yeshivot, chassidic groups were living side by side – a street away or a neighborhood away at most.
In the normal community situation before World War II, a community might add a series of appropriate restrictions for local conditions and a few extra stringencies also appropriate for elevating those seeking extra piety in the local community. Post World War II, those looking for ‘extra protection’ and/or ‘extra piety’ became able to shop across every community to always find extra’s to add.
In our time as many Jewish ultra-orthodox religious communities are struggling with the pace of change and impact of the outside world, grabbing for yet another ‘extra’ is seen as a possible way to find a counter-agent for the worldly impact. Unfortunately this results in some extremes that aren’t appropriate for the general religious public being perpetrated and pushed upon them.
One of these that annoys me is the chumra (extra stringency) of not publishing a woman’s picture in any publication of any sort at any time for any reason. This may have started as a response to inappropriate advertising making inroads with classy (not sexy) pictures in store windows and publications in religious neighborhoods. Somehow it turned into a blanket ban where even major news stories involving the female of the species must avoid showing them.
This past week a tzadekes left this world. Rebbitzen Kanviesky, wife of the litvish posek hador Rabbi Chaim Kanviesky of Bnei Brak left us. Mishpacha Magazine wrote an extensive article on her.
Bnei Brak is not a place I frequent, nor are the litvish poskim my gedolim. Regardless, the passing of a tzadik or tzadekes is a matter of note, and it has become a custom of our generation to display photos of the gedolim and tzadikim – so we should see the visage of those crowned with Torah and strive for a bit of that Torah merit ourselves.
Yet with the passing of this holy woman, I could find no image to have any idea who they were talking about. Someone described as the Bubbe of Klal Yisroel, who’s brachot came true, who was raised in the home of a gadol hador and married a gadol hador, this is an image which should be avoided because??? (Because of an extra stringency for a particular community that was worried about a particular problem which definitely would NOT apply to this special woman.)
I find this disturbing. I find it worrisome that I can find no holy role models to SHOW my daughters. I find problems being addressed with generalities that are hurting more than they are helping. I find every extra of every community being extended across all communities in a competition for ‘holiness’ that doesn’t work and isn’t appropriate (nor was ever intended to operate this way).
We definitely NEED Moshiach now, because someone's got to start straightening up this mess.
What’s going on in Syria? An undercover reporter brings back some real news. (Why do we care? What’s happening on the borders of Israel impacts Israel.)
Notice the world reaction. Compare this to what you hear about Israel if one “Palestinian” doesn’t get a whole chicken for dinner (referring to a recent news report about Palestinian prisoners protesting for whole chickens.)
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Malcolm is 85 years old. He is from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He thought that he had put on tefillin one other time in his life, but he wasn’t sure. I gave him a chair and sat him right in front of the Kotel. I told him to thank G-d for all the good that He has given him.
Some ten minutes later he came back to me and said, “I have never felt like that before in my life. I am a happy person, but I never experienced joy like that, ever. It was so real.”
When the chazzan (prayer leader) repeats the main prayers that we say silently, we say “amen” to all the blessings that he says. But when he comes to the prayer, “We thank you…” (modim anachnu) we do not merely say “amen.” We say an entire blessing, even longer than his. Why is this?
The original purpose of having a chazzan repeat these prayers was so that if anyone in the congregation did not know how to pray, they could hear the chazzan's repetition and fulfill their obligation that way. The practice of having a chazzan stretches back to Talmudic times. It was an age where not everyone had the text of the prayers in front of them and not everyone was expert enough to know all of the words by heart. Because of this, a person was placed before the congregation who would recite the prayers out loud, and the people would fulfill their obligations of prayer by listening to him and saying “Amen.”
So we see that we can appoint someone to praise G-d for us, and to pray for us, and this works fine. But when it comes to saying, “thank You” it is not enough to have an agent say the words for us. When it comes to saying ‘thank you’, to really experience the benefit of saying it, we have to say it ourselves.
Reb Gutman Locks’s spiritual journey, Coming Back to Earth – The Central Park Guru becomes An Old City Jew, is now available on Amazon.com as an e-book for only $2.99!
How does a man go from corporate life to Hindu guru, to cult leader, to Christian spiritual leader and finally to an ultra-orthodox Jew in Jerusalem? This true story takes you through an amazing adventure, an amazing life time of spiritual searching and leadership until the author finds his way home - to his own people and his own religion.
Laugh together with our own Reb Gutman Locks as he searches for spiritual truth and discovers the truth of various spiritual paths along the way.
(Soon to be available on the Barnes & Noble Nook, iPad and other e-book platforms, G-d willing.)
As one reviewer wrote…
Ever wonder what happened to the "Silent Guru" of Central Park? Back in 1972-73, he sat on a bench on the corner of 86th Street and Central Park West, every day, rain or shine, meditating in total silence. It is said that he radiated an aura of peace and tranquility. Certainly he attracted quite a following. People of all walks of life came to sit in his presence. He was written up by the New York Times and other publications. He was occasionally mentioned in New Age books on meditation and spirituality. But who was he? And where is he now?
His name is Gil Locks, and he is now a Hasidic Jew who lives in Jerusalem. He spends a lot of his time at the Western Wall, encouraging fellow Jews to put on tefillin (phylacteries) and get in touch with their own Jewish roots. But he doesn't cram the Torah down their throats like some rabbis do. Rather, he listens compassionately to their questions and spiritual struggles, because he, too, has been there. This book is his autobiography -- a very honest, often amusing account of how he traveled to India, lived on ashrams, meditated with various gurus, returned to the USA, traveled around the country in an old bus with "Yea God" painted on it, was guided to sit in Central Park, later tried and rejected the "Jesus trip"... and eventually found authentic spirituality in Hasidic/kabbalistic Judaism.
Parts of the book are hysterically funny. When, on the beach in Hawaii, he suddenly decides to become an observant Jew, he jumps in head first -- but has no local rabbi to guide him as to how things should be done. When he reads in the Bible that Jews should tie "tassels" on the corners of their garments, he takes that quite literally -- and ties a yarn tassel on every single corner of every garment he owns -- one on each point of his shirt collars, two on each shirt sleeve where the cuffs button, etc. "I looked like I was wearing a couch cover," he reminisces on page 159. Then he reads that one should tithe one's money and "bind it to your hand" (meaning don't spend it) and take it to Jerusalem for the widows, orphans, and poor. He misinterprets this verse, too. He literally ties the money to his hand with a piece of yarn, then gets on a plane and heads for Jerusalem.
Arriving in Israel, he goes to the Western Wall. There he soon finds out that his silly-looking yarn tassels are not kosher at all (the real tassels, called tzitzit, are only tied on special four-cornered garments!) He then prays at the Wall for God to send him a holy person to show him the right way. Immediately a young man walks up to him and asks if he wants to put on tefillin. Within 45 minutes Gil Locks goes from looking like a beach bum to looking like a yeshiva student. That was 1977.
Like everything else he did in his life, Gil threw himself completely into the yeshiva world. But he also maintained the spirituality which sent him on his quest in the first place. This is the story of a genuinely God-intoxicated man. One gets the impression that, even as an Orthodox Jew today, he is still something of a local "character." The book is filled with amazing stories and anecdotes that will make you laugh, cry, shake your head in wonderment. Whether you are Jewish or not, whether you are a "religious Jew" or not, this book will speak to your heart and soul. Ten stars!
We strongly recommend it.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Unfortunately, though I live not too far from Jerusalem, I rarely am able to make my way to the Kotel (Western Wall). I went on Friday, Isru Chag (the day after Simchas Torah), for Shacharis (the morning prayer) for a family simcha being held there.
The Kotel was busy, filled with Jews of all types and from all over, multiple simchas were going on, the weather was great…and the tefilot (the prayers), well, it’s the Kotel!
Jewish men praying the morning prayer in tallis (prayer shawl) and tefillin at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Jewish men in tallis and tefillin praying in front of the stones of the Western Wall, the last vestige of the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem from 1,800 years ago.
Most have completed their morning prayer service prayers and the Western Wall plaza starts to clear out. Family events are held along the separating line between the men’s and women’s sections, so the whole family can participate.
What a merit, what a joyous occasion, to be able to pray in in Israel, in Jerusalem, in the Old City, and at the Western Wall!
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Mr. Saboe continues his unique approach from his previous work, immersing you in a different and unique world view. He builds a image of our ancient world based on the narrative from the Torah (or Bible), Jewish Midrashim, other ancient stories and sources, and blending it together with history, archeology, and ancient oddities that have been discovered.
The result could perhaps be called a biblical science fiction narrative. Or maybe, just maybe, the reality Mr. Saboe creates for us was real, which is his point in creating it from biblical narrative + midrashim (Jewish biblical legend-stories) + history, archeology, and so forth.
The story begins, so to speak, with Parshat Berashis – Genesis from the bible, 4:17 with the birth of (according to the Torah Lemech, with some pronunciations Lamech), the brief noting of the accounts of the people of the time (building of cities and so forth), and with Genesis chapter 6, the addition of the “nefilim” (6:4). This very strange passage says, “The Nefilim (commonly translated as giants) were on the earth in those days and later. And the Bnei Elokim (the ‘sons of G-d’) came to the daughters of man and fathered with them. They were the mightiest ones who ever existed, men of renown.”
Now Rashi has an exceptional comment on these pasukim, “They were called that because they fell and caused the world to fall”, which Targum Yonatan says they were so called because they were fallen angles. (Others interpret this differently.)
This gives our author the jumping off point for his story. A regular group striving to build up civilization (as mentioned in Genesis), some outside groups separated along with some conflict between the two and our main character (Lamech) who accidentally finds himself moving between the two. And in the midst of normal societal growing pains, a group of super-beings with insidious plans to change the course of human development, both physically and spiritually.
Mr. Saboe’s writing style drops you right into the middle of the action and his alternative world view. It takes a while, a couple of chapters or so, to gain your mental footing and catch up with the author. This is not a biblical world of shepherds in the hills with occasional conflict and interaction with G-d, this is a dynamic developing civilization with it’s own types of technology (all from hints in Midrashim, the Zohar and other ancient stories), political and belief systems. It’s a world described in the Torah (bible) but rarely fully considered.
With all of that background, the story is primarily an action story. People are on the run, political intrigues are in progress, insidious plots are developing and the primary characters are trying to do something about it.
It’s an exciting story in a thoroughly thought out fantastical-biblical world view which I completely enjoyed. The author shares with us some of his sources and assumptions at the very end of the story.
I enjoyed it and recommend it, with one significant reservation. This is a Jewish blog with an orthodox Jewish approach. The author has a strong non-Jewish religious view which he strongly injects into the story. I found it rather jarring to find such an interesting story and world view woven from Jewish midrashim (among other sources) with this latter day thread that didn’t, from my perspective, fit. Jewish readers should be aware of this going in. (People shouldn’t interpret this to mean the author is writing anything anti-Jewish, he’s not. He’s simply including his religious perspective as a thread throughout the story.)
(Disclosure: The author sent me an e-copy of the book free for review.)
true stories from the Kotel by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Why did this Jew from America tell me that standing at the Kotel crying was the highlight of his entire two-week trip to Israel?
I told him to close his eyes, picture his loved ones, and thank G-d for all of the good that He has given him. He closed his eyes, mumbled something softly, and then burst out crying.
There are two kinds of crying at the Kotel. There is crying from sadness, as when you are in pain, and there is crying from spiritual awakening, which is really crying from joy.
For the first time in many years, if not in his entire life, this Jew felt like he was standing before G-d and being overwhelmed by His greatness. “Thank you… thank you… thank you.”
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
How does the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination, approach a chossid or righteous individual or Torah scholar on Simchas Torah???
On Simchas Torah every Jew is equal. At other times it makes a difference whether someone has a bigger head (more capability to learn) or better focus (more capability to pray with concentration), or even more money (to afford better quality materials for mitzvot and to give more tzedaka (charity)).
But on Simchas Torah the mitzvah is to rejoice with the Torah. We can do this by dancing with the Torah, singing with the Torah, joining together with the whole community to rejoice with the Torah. (Almost) every Jew has feet and can dance with the Torah. (Almost) every Jew has a voice and can sing with the Torah. And every Jew can rejoice with the Torah with some capability!
That’s the avodah of Simchas Torah, and it’s equally within the reach of every Jew, no special learning or capabilities required.
…on Simchas Torah during HaKafos (circling/dancing with the Torahs) I passed a chossid in our shul (synagogue) who was sitting and learning a ma’amar of the Rebbe while we were dancing with the Torahs. A wonderful thing for a chossid to do…but on Simchas Torah doing it during HaKafos is a trick of the Yezter Hara! (A mitzvah at the wrong time that takes away from the avodah – the proper task of a particular time, is an aveyra [a sin].)
..during a brief break from HaKafos to grab some more drinks from the kitchen, I found a bocher (a young unmarried man) sitting back there saying tehillim (psalms). A wonderful thing for a bocher to do…but on Simchas Torah during HaKafos? Again, the Yezter at his best turning a good thing into a bad one.
I may not know if my Torah learning is good or enough, or if my davening (praying) is appropriate or with concentration. But I know I can rejoice and dance with the Torah in great joy at Hashem and His gift of the Torah to us.
That’s the avodah (Divine Service) of Simchas Torah.
Well this is just too cool not to share. Quantum Levitation from Tel Aviv University. Transportation of the future? Maybe.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Regardless of what one may think of the decision, we are thrilled for Gilad Shalit and his family that he is home. But there’s an elephant in the room that’s being carefully ignored…
Israelis and Jews around the world are familiar with Gilad’s physical appearance. It’s called the Holocaust look and indicates starvation.
photos by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
This morning (Wednesday morning) was Hoshana Rabba, the last day of Sukkot and a mystical day of the sealing of the judgments of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
May Hashem sweeten all the severities and cancel all the negative judgments for Klal Yisroel, Am Yisroel and kol yehudim!
Here’s the view at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, at sunrise…
by Reb Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths and End of Days
(minor edits and a small edition at the end by Reb Akiva)
There really is no way of knowing how precisely HaShem is going to bring about the economic collapse of Western Civilization in 5772 (or if He is, though it’s an easy prediction given current news). It can either happen abruptly in 12 month segments, or it might be catastrophic and take place during the course of the 25 to 30 day period from today, Hoshana Rabbah, until the middle of Cheshvan. I am leaning toward the catastrophic collapse for two reasons.
1. There is much that should take place this year besides the economic collapse of Western Civilization to make the world a spiritually healthier place to live. So a quick collapse will allow time for these other things to happen.
2. Yosef (HaTzadik, the biblical patriarch) when he was thrown into a pit by his brothers was in a pit with snakes and scorpions, but he miraculously survived the dangers. The snake as was presented in my previous geulah post about Greece being the face of Rome corresponds to the Primordial snake of Rosh HaShana and therefore the month of Tishrei. The Scorpion is the Mazal for the month of Cheshvan. This seems to be an ancient hint that in the year that Mashiach ben Yosef shows up, the months of collapse are Tishrei and Cheshvan.
So here is a quick scenario for a catastrophic collapse which might possibly occur in this fashion:
Europe is now spinning out of control. Prime Minister Merkel of Germany and the German banks are rebelling against excusing more Greek and other EU nation debt losses. Things are looking quite probable for chaos when the European Union meets on Sunday, October 23rd. Their self-imposed deadline is Oct. 23rd which is strange because that is a Sunday. But that is their deadline. This should worsen in stages over the next four weeks.
1. This week because the last 3 days of Sukkot only Edom is judged and Hoshana Rabba which seals the judgment for the nations of the world. According to the Vilna Gaon, the 1st, 2nd, and 4th days of Sukkot are reserved for the children of Ketura (Hinduism and Buddhism) and the children of Yishmael (Islam). The 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of Sukkot are reserved for Edom.
So on the third day of Sukkot, the day of tiffereth (charisma), it was Shabbat, and there was large scale rioting in the streets of Rome. Italy of the G-8 economic powers is the nation most tied to Edom's version of tiffereth.
On the 5th day of Sukkot, this past Monday, German Prime Minister Merkel announced that there is no agreement in sight for unity within the EU to somehow raise over 2 trillion Euro to prevent the collapse of the Eurozone at the October 23rd meeting. Germany is most associated with Edom's version of hod (glory) since hod as discussed before is most associated with this worldly prosperity. As we see with modern day athletes, whoever gets the glory also gets the money.
Then there is Malkhut (kingship) the 7th sefirah associated with the United States and Canada who are a combination of France (chessed) and Great Britain (Din or Gevurah) in their makeups. Think of France being the right shoulder and Great Britain the left shoulder of an upside down triangle, and the US and Canada being the point. So who knows (or rather, Who knows) what will occur later today if anything associated with the US and Canada on Hoshana Rabbah or on Shmini Atzereth. It could be nothing specifically since the collapse will probably be triggered by nations in the Eurozone. If anything happens on Hoshana Rabba itself, it may revolve around coincident problems in France and Great Britain at the same time.
The 6th sefirah yesod (foundation) in Edom is most associated with Russia. Since Russia has no real clout in the EU, the 6th day of Sukkot passed without incident (though at the same time as the economic events of Europe and the U.S., we see strange political events in Russia with the ‘return of Putin’.)
2. (Stage 2) next week actually starting on Shmini Atzereth itself because after Hoshana Rabba, HaShem wants to start blessing Klal Yisrael on the judgment for the New Year. So all the good from the new judgement starts to flow on Shmini Atzereth. This Shabbat is Shabbat Bereishit when we bless the New Moon for Cheshvan. So the flow for Cheshvan actually begins this weekend before Cheshvan is actualized with the New Moon on the following Friday and Shabbat, October 28 and 29.
3. After Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan because Edom has run out of bracha from the Tal Min HaShamayim (Dew from Heaven) for the New Year and for all time, Western Civilization will simply run out of spiritual gas. The month of Tishrei 5772 is actually judged on the previous year's judgment. So the loss of bracha for Edom only becomes evident after Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. In short all the blessing on Edom for all of human history might simply come to an end at the end of this Tishrei.
At this point all Edom will have left is the shmanei ha'aretz (the oil of the earth) which they have as long as the US keeps troops in Iraq and at the pivotal port facility of Batzrah at the confluence of 2 or the 4 rivers that come out of the Garden of Eden. All the talk about the US actually leaving Iraq will necessarily have to come to an end when it becomes clear that the US will have no physical gas for its civilization if Persia gains hegemony over the Shiite areas of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This will become more obvious when Western Civilization runs out of the spiritual gas (the dew from the mouth of G-d) at the end of the month of Tishrei 5772.
4. In some cases the Din for the New month is held in abeyance until the tenth of each month when it is finally sealed. This is especially true for bainoni nations such as the United States who have tremendous merits for all the good that they have done in history as a force for good in the world along with all of negative things that they did when goodness came into conflict with making money. Under such circumstances where there has been a direct conflict between this worldly prosperity and the will of G-d, America has always chosen prosperity over goodness.
So it is a 2/3rds nation. 2/3 of the time when America could be good without sacrificing its prosperity, America chose to be good. Yet, the 1/3 of the time when there was a direct conflict between the two, America chose the evil path. This makes the US a bainoni nation (a nation where the scales of justice are weighted towards its goodness and its wickedness. This would seem to indicate that Europe will collapse first, and America might be dragged down a couple of weeks later.
Again this is a possible scenario for a quick collapse. I am not saying that this is precisely how it will occur, though with current world instability the wise will prepare.
Further, direct hints are being given to the Jewish people with the growing economic anti-system protests in the U.S. coalescing on a distinct and direct anti-Semitic message. Without the belief in Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Providence, the Hand of Hashem running the world behind the scenes in a non-obvious manner), we must scratch our heads and wonder how a protest movement has quickly spread across the U.S. without any viable message or position suddenly develops a single consistent one…“Jewish bankers bad”.
Those are the four stages. We are already seeing stage one.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
The Mugrabi Gate to the Temple Mount is located over the women’s side of the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem). In 2005 a heavy snow caused a landslide that made the earthen ramp leading to the gate unsafe, so the government constructed a temporary wooden pedestrian pathway.
For now, this is the only entrance to the Temple Mount that the arabs will (sometimes) let non-Muslims enter. When trouble is expected, our soldiers wait outside this gate in riot gear prepared to run onto the Mount to quell the riots.
A few Fridays ago the warning went out. As usual at such times, the American Consulate sent out warnings to all Americans in Israel not to go near the Old City, and especially not to go to the Kotel area. I have been at the Kotel more than once when thousands of deadly rocks came flying over the Wall (thrown down upon the Jews by arabs rioting on the Temple Mount above on the other side of the Western Wall).
It was one of those rare times when I was bringing in Shabbos early, and the minyan (prayer quorum) was singing the joyful tunes to welcome the Shabbos. We were the only minyan davening (praying) at that hour. The truth is, it is a very special moment, being the only ones singing, very few people there, joyful, quiet, I like it.
But when we finished singing “Shalom Alechem,” we noticed that the singing didn’t stop! We looked at each other, trying to figure out what in the world was going on. As I said, we were the only ones davening (praying)!
Then we figured it out; The heavily armed soldiers standing outside the gate--waiting to burst onto the Temple Mount - were singing the Shabbos songs along with us!
We have a Jewish army here, thank G-d. Now you see why, when we walk by our soldiers, we really mean it when we say, “G-d bless you….”
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Every year the city of Beit Shemesh holds a music festival in it’s open air public amphitheater. As the city has been taking on a more religious approach to operations (with the religious population becoming a majority in the last election and electing an ultra-orthodox mayor), there was some contention last year between the festival and the more extreme religious elements of the city council. (Note not really from the citzenry, as the amphitheater is far away from the ultra-orthodox sections of town, which to some extent operate as NIMBY’s – not in my back yard types, if it’s in or next to their neighborhood they care about it, if not, not.)
A few years ago someone with the city had a really bright idea. During Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of Succot and Passover, the city is somewhat burdened and pressured to provide some public entertainment activities for it’s poorer citizens – with associated budget costs. And it’s got this running internal conflict over whether it’s relatively successful music festival, a nice cultural event providing some good city exposure, should continue and whether it fits the image of the city.
(Video from last year.)
So they moved the music festival to be during Chol HaMoed Succot! Free entertainment for the citizenry, continuance of a popular and image oriented event, and it’s during a religious time where the secular oriented are not going to complain about it having religious themes, and the religious oriented are not going to complain about public entertainment. Frankly, a brilliant move!
The 18th of Tishrei (last night) is the yaretzheit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, zt”l. This date falls during Chol HaMoed Succot every year and is taken by Breslev chassidim as a day of increasing over the regular rejoicing of Chol HaMoed and Simchas Beis HaShoeva. In honor of this, the Beit Shemesh music festival had a Breslev Music night.
Rav Arush was warmly received, and the crowd (separate sides for men and women) thoroughly enjoyed the energetic Breselv music throughout the evening. The last performer, the well known Breslev singer Adi Ran, was unfortunately but very courteously interrupted by the police after multiple encores, as the hour was late and noise laws prevented the concert from continuing with surrounding residential neighborhoods within hearing range.
Last night the Breslevers, including a Breslev tzadik, rejoiced with the whole city of Beit Shemesh. How cool is that?
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
It’s Yom Simchasaynu, the time of our rejoicing. One of the unusual aspects of this time in Israel is that much of the country is on internal vacation for the week. This means you run into yeshiva bochrim and Tel Aviv businessmen hiking and visiting attractions with their families – together, in the same place at the same time.
One of the most interesting examples of this is in Meah Shearim. Meah Shearim is the most strongly cloistered ultra-orthodox Jewish community in the world. While it’s physically part of Jerusalem, crossing it’s boundary is literally crossing into another world. One of yeshivas and shuls, chassidic rebbes and their courts, charity organizations and individualized services (tailors, clothing makers.
This leads to massive crowds as people, mostly religious Jews of all variety but also numbers of all types just interested in checking it out or joining the fun, stream into a very cramped and narrow neighborhood. (How cramped and narrow? Many streets are walking-only alleyways. The biggest streets in the neighborhood are 1-way and have room for a compact car. When a bus comes down the street people have to duck into stores to make room for it to get by.)
Now this is, as mentioned, the ultimate ultra-orthodox community in the world. They’ve happily invited the world to join their celebration in honor of the Torah. But as crowds have grown and more varieties of people have been coming and partying (in all aspects of that word), things are getting a little out of control in the streets.
So to try to keep the situation under control and prevent inappropriate activities, they attempted to segregate the street into male and female walkways (with actual fences or tarps spread down the street. It’s been a bit of a mess, the areas are narrow and access to stores and stuff – as well as the different shul or yeshiva entrances, make it rather problematic.
They’ve adjusted the system over a few years to try to make it somewhat workable and meet their goal of preventing face to face gender mixing in the street – and it’s gotten a bit better. And hey, it’s their neighborhood and their party, so if that’s the way they want to run it – if I don’t like it I won’t go.
So naturally someone from Tel Aviv got upset at this. They wanted to walk through the narrow street in the ultra-orthodox community in the midst of a religious festival hand in hand. In response to not being able to do what they wanted to do…they filed a court case with the Israeli Supreme Court.
And the court ruled…no gender segregation on a public street.
Once again it’s come up and the court is yelling at the police to go do something (so this one Tel Aviv couple can stroll through the middle of an ultra-orthodox neighborhood during a religious festival hand-in-hand).
I wrote this response to the newspaper article and Tel Avians who insist on their rights…
Guess what, the court can't simply rule by fiat! They open their neighborhood for a festival – their private and privately funded celebration, where they are happy for EVERY Jew to join them in celebration of the Torah.
But it's their neighborhood and they have a few simple rules if you're going to join them. If you don't like the rules, fine, don't come.
If you think you're going to sit like a priestess on a pedestal and tell them how to run it...fine, they’ll just close the doors to the yeshiva's and synagogue's (where it's all held) and you can just go away.
NOTE – THEY gain NOTHING from you being there. THEY”RE giving away FREE FOOD, FREE DRINK, providing LIVE MUSIC. No donations are taken, no payment expected. They’re sharing their joy out of their kindness to their fellow Jew.
Would you force them to close their doors to you? (And then turn around and scream about their closed doors and separation from Israeli society?) Hashem Yerachem (G-d have mercy), apparently so.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
It was erev Yom Kippur, 6:30 a.m. I was out for my daily walk. I saw this beautiful Ethiopian girl walking toward me and she looked so sad. She must have been about 17 or 18. She did not appear religious from her outer appearance so I wasn't sure where I would go with it. I stopped her, she was so beautiful, and so sad, I couldn't stop.
I asked her, "Why are you so sad? Are you sad?"
She said, “Yes.”
I said to her, “Do you know Hashem loves you?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Do you know Hashem sent me to talk to you today?”
She answered with the innocence of a child – "B'emet?" (really)
I said, "What are the chances that a middle aged American woman who never met you in her life would stop to talk to you?" She just looked at me. Then I felt as if the words were being put into my mouth:
“You need to know that Hashem loves you. I want to bless you that you come to really know that. I want to bless you with a good year and that you will see that what makes you sad now is really a good thing for you.
“Then I told her the story about how ‘my son, Hillel lost his passport in Uman and it was missing for 3 days. The night before he had to leave the Ukraine, the place he was sleeping was broken into and his bag was stolen. He found all the items that were unsellable out in a nearby field strewn around. Later that day, he found his passport. If his passport would have been in the bag, it would surely have been taken and who knows if he'd have been able to get home for Yom Kippur? You see? He thought it was bad that he lost his passport, but it was really good!’
“I saw the light bulb go on in her head. She got it.
“Then I said it simply – ‘So you may feel sad now about something that is happening to you, but really it is good for you. The blessing is to have that good revealed to you. I wish you a year of happiness.’
“She was crying. It was beautiful to touch her heart. I hugged her and she cried and we laughed together, and then I told her in a teasing tone – ‘Good you're smiling. Now I want you to keep smiling for 5 minutes straight!’ She agreed and went on her way, wiping the tears that were still flowing down her face.
“It lifted me for the entire day. Thank you for being the good teacher that you are, Gutman.”
I (Gutman) wrote back to her, “And you made G-d smile, too.”
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
1:30 A.M. Sunday Morning 3rd Day of Chol Hamoed Succos at the Western Wall…
Succot is Yom Simchasaynu – the time of our rejoicing, as these gentlemen clearly know.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
While this is a terrible situation for the hostage and almost as painful for the family. Yet it also presents unique ethical + security challenges for Israel as a nation and the Jewish people.
[ Brief background – Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped during a Hamas attack on Israeli territory. He’s been held in captivity for 5 years, completely cut off from the world. ]
The ethical and security challenges are: Hamas has been demanding a large number of terrorist prisoners in trade for Gilad Shalit. Judaism includes a strong concept of pidyon shevuim, redeeming of captives. Yet that concept also recognizes the reality that redeeming of captives can and does lead to an increasing drive of enemies to take additional captives. Further complicating it is that these captives are all ones who have specifically attacked or attempted to attack Jewish and Israeli civilians (making them murderers, attempted murderers or accomplices to murder – and war criminals by international law).
The issue is not the ethics of giving criminals their freedom, but rather their return to murderous activities. And even if they don’t personally return to such activities, their return will be celebrated as a success – encouraging a younger generation to take up murderous activities (for the glory and honor).
At the same time Israel as a nation has a duty to it’s soldiers, to do what it can to safely return them from war. And the Jewish people have a duty to each other, to help them be redeemed when captured.
How does one balance these competing needs? For a rare change I can offer no opinion. The competing ethical, security, societal and even family challenges make this an issue of the utmost ethical complexity.
Fortunately for these types of situations we have Torah and Gedolim (the great ones of Torah). This is exactly the type of situation where we must turn towards what’s become known as Daas Torah – to trust in those who’s lives have been seeped in Torah and have generations of experience in judging and balancing completing ethical, social and family challenges – and to be advised by experts on the security, political and national impacts.
From what I’ve heard, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received strong backing for the Gilad Schalit deal Tuesday night from Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, shlita”. Being I haven’t heard anything contrary from other Gedolim, it would seem the Daas Torah on this issue is to redeem the captive even given the implications.
I am not one who holds Daas Torah to be heaven sent judgments that are infallible, and unfortunately multiple incidents of manipulation of elderly gedolim have come out over the past few years. Yet we would all be foolish to say that this is not an insanely difficult ethical issue with many different ramifications. And if that’s not the time to turn to our Gedolim, I don’t know what is.
May Hashem grant our political and religious leaders to make the best judgments that all turn out for the good…for the prisoner, for the family, for the State of Israel, and for the Jewish people.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A chidush in Torah is an innovation, or a new discovery. Although anything that we may discovery in Torah has always been there, to us it is brand new and was never seen before.
Mivtzoim is the outreach service such as Chabad Chassidim have made so famous, by going out onto the streets and putting tefillin on Jews who otherwise would never have done the mitzvah. Actually, the first person to stress mivtzoim was Avraham Aveinu (our father) 4,000 years ago. He was famous for setting up his tent at a crossroad, so he could feed travelers, in order to teach them about the One G-d.
Since mivtzoim has never been done to the degree that the Chabadniks do it today (G-d bless them), we might think that its chidush is how it can spiritually pick up so many Jews. After all, it really works, and hundreds of thousands of Jews are now regularly putting on tefillin, putting up mezuzahs, lighting Shabbos candles… because of this spiritual outreach!
But that mivtzoim elevates the Jews who are being reached is obvious. After all, those Chassidim would not be doing it if it did not work. But the real chidush of mivtzoim is not that it elevates the Jews who are being helped. The true chidush of mivtzoim is that it elevates the Jews who are doing it!
In my experience, there is no better way to lift yourself spiritually than to go out and try to help to help another Jew. This is not a promise for elevation in the World to Come, although it will surely do that, too. It is a promise that you will experience actual results as you do it. Try it a couple of times and see for yourself.
Remember, as with all new skills, it will take a little time and practice before it becomes easy, and even fun. But if you will try with a good heart to bring your fellow Jew to mitzvahs with love and joy, it is certain that at least three lights are going to shine brighter: the light of the Jew who you are helping, your light, and the Light that comes from the One you are working for.
A Sukos Meditation based on the teachings of the Ari HaKodosh and the Alter Rebbe.
On Rosh HaShonoh, the sounds from the Shofar are a window to G-d; through hearing the sounds of the Shofar, the sound of Teshuvah, our consciousness basks in G-d’s Presence. As breath is blown into the Shofar, so new Divine breath breathes into creation; that new breath is the sound of the Shofar, the sound of renewal.
On Yom Kippur, we become those sounds of the Shofar, we become part of that Divine breath. As it were, we stand within the Shofar, the place called Teshuvoh, the place of renewal, that rarefied place called ‘לפני ד' – ‘before G-d’. Each Tefilloh on Yom Kippur corresponds to one of the five sounds of the Shofar: tekioh = Maariv, shevorim = Shacharis, teruoh = Musaf, shevorim-teruoh = Minchoh, tekioh gedoloh = Neiloh. We become renewed. We thus renew our contract, our relationship, with G-d.
As we enter the Succah on Sukos, we are surrounded by those sounds. Those sounds of the Shofar, our Tefillohs, are the ‘schach’ and walls of the Sukah. [The gematrioh of סכך is one hundred, corresponding to the hundred sounds of the Shofar we hear on Rosh HaShonoh.]
As you sit in the Sukoh, imagine yourself surrounded by the ruchnios of all those Tefillos. Those קולות – the sounds of the Shofar and our Tefillos, combine to cascade all around you, in a kaleidoscope of indescribable beauty. You are sitting in Gan Eden, the world of souls, embraced by G-d.
Take a holy sefer, whatever it is, Mishnayis, Tehillim (Psalms); learn and daven together with G-d. Speak directly into G-d’s Ear. Walk with G-d in this Gan Eden. Look into the ‘schach’ and look beyond, into the light of the Shechinoh.
A freilichen Yom Tov.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
We truly live in incredible times. We are so blessed to be able to individually attend to the mitzvos of Hashem. In times in the not so distant past, the Arba Minim, the 4 species used for the mitzvot of Succot – the esrog (citron fruit), lulav (palm shoot), hadassim (myrtle branches), and aravos (willow branches) were basically not available outside of their temperate zone – meaning they grow in Israel and other Mediterranean countries.
So for Jews of Europe and other more distant places (and those of different climate), getting the 4 species was costly, time consuming and fraught with danger. Nowadays it’s just a little bit easier…
Estrog (citron fruit) selection, Geulah 4 Species Market, Jerusalem
Bright lights allow a close look at your options, which have to fulfill a long list of religious requirements…
The Esrog (citron fruit) is described as a Beautiful Tree Fruit. It is carefully examined for flaws, some of which lower the esthetic aspects, some of which can render it invalid for use in the mitzvah.
This year the lulavim (palm shoots) are as expensive as the esrogim (citrons), due to both Egypt and Gaza choosing to not export this product to Israel. That’s annoying for us but destroyed the livelihood of many farmers in Egypt and Gaza (of a product that no one else has a use for). It remains unfortunate they continue to hate the Jews more than they love their own people.
Most vendors are very scrupulous, as they have to be to make the nice profit that comes from this business. It’s for religious purposes and therefore each of the species has to meet very exacting requirements – some of which aren’t visible (such as, they can’t be stolen – can only come from a tree that is owned, in the public domain, or permission is given), and therefore only trusted sources are generally used. In other cased rabbinic supervision is provided.
UNFORTUNATELY in some cases problems are found. I spotted this at a major 4 species orchard center…
What you’re looking at is a group of temporary-resident farm workers in Israel trimming haddasim (myrtle branches) that aren’t long enough before branching off – thereby making them appear to be straight and long. This is considered “kosher bidi’eved”, kosher only as a last resort if no proper type is available (or affordable).
If one is not an expert and/or doesn’t closely examine one’s haddasim (myrtle branches), one would never know this had been done. Now the orchard wasn’t hiding this work, nor were they packaging these myrtle branches in the “high quality kosher supervised myrtle branches” packages. I’ll assume these are being targeted at children’s educational 4 species sets, or very poor not-very-religious neighborhoods, or even to be given out. But seeing this done was a surprise for me (and I called my rabbi to verify that indeed this is unusual and not considered appropriate for normal use conditions.)
So if you’re a Jew, make sure to get your arba minim (4 species) today, before Succot!
by Dov bar Leib of Mystical Paths and End of Days
These thoughts were keyed by the medium-sized earthquake with its epicenter in Virginia that had cracked the Washington Monument and had caused severe damage to the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Hearing this I sensed that something momentous was afoot.
There is this concept that at the End of Days when the Messianic Era commences, G-d is going to change the rules by which the spiritual world runs the physical world in such a way that there would never be an exile of Israel again. This would happen in the 6th Millennium associated with the kabbalistic sefirah called Yesod (Foundation). That would be the foundation for G-d's Kingship in the world.
The First Millennium was associated with Chessed (Lovingkindness). The Second Millennium was associated with Din (Strict Judgment) or Gevurah (Strength). The Third Millennium was associated with Tiffereth (Charisma). The Fourth Millennium was associated with Netzach (Victory or Eternity). The Fifth Millennium was associated with Hod (Glory). And the 6th Millennium which began in the year 5001 (1241 ce.) would be the most gut wrentching of all the millennia. We would spend most of the millennium squeezing out that which was pure from a very impure world. As we say during Hoshana Rabba with the 6th hakafah (circuit around the bimah): ground from accursedness, beast from aborting, granary from one species of locust, grain from scorched earth. etc.
In short of all the centuries in human history, the most difficult millennium would be the 6th one. Starting around 1240 with the burning of 24 cartloads of Talmuds in the streets of Paris by King Louis IXth (aka St. Louis and he is still one of the 365 principle saints of the Roman Catholic Church whose official day of the year is August 25th. And if you go to the American Catholic website, there is no mention of St. Louis's act of Xtian love when he burned all those Talmuds with rare Tosefot in the margins) and the destruction of Khazaria about the same time in the early 1240s, the 6th Millennium was like entering the pits of Hell for the chosen nation of G-d. Apparently if we could not offer up korbonot for the nations of the world on Sukkot, we became their korbonot. This gives the idea of the suffering servant in Sefer Yishaiyahu a whole new meaning.
Yet, sometime in this millennium, at least 2/3rds of the way through it according to the Zohar, the fortune of the Jewish people would instantly change. That moment would be Atereth HaYesod (the tiara of Yesod). At this point the churbanot of Israel in its long exile would instantly stop. And those Jews who could somehow make it to the shores of the Land of Israel at this time would experience miracles (as long as they are decent in their own lives, for G-d abhors human indecency even for a tinok she'nishba which makes up about 80% of world Jewry today. How much the more so does he abhor lack of common decency amongst those who are versed in the Torah?).
Ladies and Gents, we have finally arrived to that time. 5772 is the year where the beginning of all judgments for the lack of common decency are written and sealed and sent during Tishrei of the year, is the year of the full establishment of Atereth HaYesod.
Ah, but where is Mashiach? In my analysis, because of our little act of horror that we committed in the First Year of Sukkot called the evacuation of Gush Katif, Netzarim, Northern Gaza, and four cities in the Northern Shomron - which put about a quarter of a million people into the direct fire of longer range and more accurate missiles from Gaza in addition to the horror inflicted on the 10,000 expelled Jews, we blew it in a very basic test of common decency. So our most pivotal Achishena moment within B'itah was tossed out the window with the garbage.
Surely G-d showed with Hurricane Katrina (His crown and the 11th named storm of the season to represent HaShem Elokim, G-d sitting on His throne of Judgment) that He was on the case, and that the matter of Gog W. Bush's involvement in the affair had not gone unnoticed. Yet, because of our indiscretion in the area of common decency, he became the Gog that could have been Gog and should have been Gog if not for our serious moral lapse. It is curious what happened to him next. Apparently after the expulsions Gog ben Gog started to receive a lot of mail from his Orthodox Jewish supporters and many of his fundamentalist Xtian supporters too. They told him that if continues along this path, he will be the Gog that will divide Jerusalem, and G-d's Wrath would really pour out on him far more than having to visit flood ravaged New Orleans where 600,000 fled from their flooded town trying to explain why FEMA did not show up in a serious way for several days.
Despite Gog being the proud Methodist Fundamentalist that he was, he apparently did not want to follow the dictates of his Church and go about the business of dividing Jerusalem to establish a state for the Non-nation. He was no spiritual fool. He saw what happened in New Orleans and put two plus two together and decided right then and there that he was not going to be the Gog of Ezekiel and Zecharia.
Back in 1995 another righteous gentile named Newt Gingrich after getting his Contract on or for America passed legislatively through Congress decided to take on a thorny issue in Foreign policy. He proposed and passed by 90% majorities in both houses of Congress the Jerusalem Embassy Act which effectively required by law that the the American Embassy in Tel Aviv be moved to Jerusalem within five years and that money was set aside to purchase land or an existing structure in Jerusalem which would house the new American Embassy. The Act also recognized Jerusalem as Israel's united and eternal capital.
For at least 40 years the Democrats controlled the House of Reps., and this act was neither proposed or considered. Yet, when a bunch of Republicans took over, many of them with less than a dozen Jews in their districts, this became a priority in the first year of the new Congress. Fascinating study in which party was the party of righteous gentiles at least in the 1990s.
Well little did they realize, they ran into a roadblock in the name of Alexander Hamilton, the only Jew amongst America's Founding Fathers. Yet, apparently Alexander (born in either 1755 or 1757) was born to one Rachel Levine, the wife of Michael Yochanan Levine. Apparently, the marriage was a horrible marriage and he left her without giving her a get or even a legal Anglican divorce since the courts on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean were run by the Anglican Church.
Into Rachel's abode came one James Hamilton, a live-in lover. They had two children out of wedlock, James Jr. and Alexander. James was a devout Anglican and tried to enroll Alexander in the Anglican school on the island, but the Church said no because according to their rules Alexander was a bastard and had no right to an Anglican education. Then Rachel has a bright idea. Let's enroll Alexander in the Jewish Cheder on the island since she had the proof that she was a Jew. Well lo and behold the Jewish elementary school on the island enrolled Alexander in the early 1760s.
There were no Reform Style Jewish Schools at the time, so the school was 100% Orthodox. He was a good talmid there for about five or six years when at the tender age of eleven his mother died and he left the school. Whether one is a mamzer (a bastard by Jewish law) or not when one's father is not Jewish does not matter in this area because a mamzer cannot be denied a Jewish education anyway. So it is pretty self-evident that the first Secretary of the US Treasury whose face is front and center on the $10 bill was born to a Jewish mother. (I would ignore the the Daughters of the American Revolution genealogical claims that Rachel was a French Huguenot. The last name that they claim for her was Lavien not Levine, but they fail to explain that she got that last name from her observant Jewish husband. Very peculiar that they would go to such lengths to deny Alexander's ancestry.)
So what is the point? Apparently at the Constitutional Convention in the late 1780s it was Alexander that proposed the imperial presidency. He actually thought that Presidents should be elected for a lifetime position. This did not go over well with James Madison and others so the lifetime position idea is in history's dust bin. Yet, apparently Alexander did get his way about one aspect of the American Presidency. While in domestic affairs the Constitution is filled with checks and balances between all three branches of government, in foreign affairs in the day to day running of foreign policy, the President is essentially a King for four or eight years. Surely when the moment requires it, the President is sometimes required to actually seek a Declaration of War when both houses of Congress actually get around to doing it. But even there such as the most recent action in Libya, the Congress forgets to even do that, even after 60 days when the War Powers Act says that they must declare war or demand that the President withdraw troops from wherever he unilaterally sent them. Also the Senate must ratify all Treaties signed by the President or his officers by the 2/3rds majority. But that is it folks. On every other aspect of American foreign policy, the US Congress has absolutely no say whatsoever. You can blame the Jew, Alexander Hamilton for that one.
Now I only mention this because when Gingrich and Company passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act by majorities that could not be vetoed, the Act supposedly became law within ten working days of passage. But Clinton ignored it citing Mr. Hamilton, probably in the Federalist Papers but I am not sure, that the Congress cannot tell him to do what he desires in foreign policy. So even thought the five year limit was within the end of his term, the Embassy remained in Tel Aviv. And same transpired during the first term of Gog W. Bush's Administration. So in our overarching view of history apparently it took a Jew to put something into the US Constitution with tremendous End of Days Consequences.
Only in late 2005 after the evacuations did Gog W. Bush realize that as the imperial President in foreign policy, he better do something to prove to G-d that he was not the Gog of Ezekiel. Remember that sum of money set aside by the Gingrich Congress for purchase of the Embassy building? Well, Gog W. had an idea. He took that money and purchased the former Diplomat Hotel in the growing Jewish East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Arnona, and made the preparations to move the American Consulate from Derech Shkhem one block into an Arab neigborhood of the Holy City to this spanking new and I must say beautiful Consulate building in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
This was of course intentional. He wanted to show G-d that he had no intention of dividing the City and exiling its Jewish inhabitants from its Eastern half even though from recent Methodist Church policy statements this is precisely what the Church recommended to Obama just before his May meeting with Netanyahu.
If you could just imagine what would have happened had his plan to destroy Jewish Gaza had failed either because the Israeli political party United Torah Judaism would not have enabled Sharon's government in December of 2004 on the tenth of Tevet or because Eliyahu HaNavi would have shown up to stop it in accordance to the words of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, ztl at the time. Either way there would have been no evacuation and Gog W. would have been seething with rage, something that seems to happen to American Presidents who think that they really are Kings of the earth in foreign policy and their designs are thwarted.
He would have ignored all warnings about not dividing Jerusalem and history would have shown him to fulfill the role of Gog after all.
According to the Cosmic Clock, 5765 was the First Year of Sukkot and was supposed to be a tremendous year of simcha, but for reasons discussed above all we could come up with was a rotten etrog. But alas, the Year of Hoshana Rabbah, 5771, is all top down. G-d is not seeking the approval of this generation's Torah sages by setting up another test of common decency. Judgment for all time at the end of that year is proceeding as planned. It is if this moment is built into the Creation itself.
This Tishrei of 5772 was meant to be a drop dead date that is no one could delay it again. One problem though is that the establishment of Atereth HaYesod in the world is without either of G-d’s anointed shepherds in charge at the time (unless Netanyahu stops being a coward and grows into the job. He shows promise when he speaks and quotes tzaddikim with whom he meets for consultation. He has the Yud Key Vav (yahu) in his name which is prerequisite for Moshiach ben Yosef even though in his case it is in his last name and not his first name. His name is Binyamin, the only one of Yakov's sons who was not kissed by Lavan. He was also the way that Yehudah redeemed himself from selling Yosef into slavery, at least it was his idea. Yehudah became the Areiv (guarantor) of Binyamin in Egypt by promising Yakov his father that if Binyamin is taken as a slave, he would become a slave in his stead and Binyamin would go free. So when Yakov blessed Yehudah, he said that when Shilo comes, Yehudah's kingdom would become a kingdom for Mankind. So our sages say that Shilo is Shai lo (gift to him), for just as Binyamin became a gift to Yosef in Egypt because Yehudah was doing a complete repentance for selling Yosef into slavery by becoming the guarantor of his full fledged brother. So at the End of Days would G-d (Yud Key Vav or Yahu) give (natan) Binyamin as a gift to him, Mashiach ben David. More on this Netanyahu phenomenon perhaps in a future article, except one thing of note. The Medrash Sefer Eliyahu says that the last imposed leader of the Erev Rav at the end of the Kingdom of Edom would be a man named TRMLO which is Olmert backwards. So who is this Netanyahu?)
So whether Netanyahu or someone else with the Yud Key Vav perhaps in their first name such as Yehonatan ...... (as in he will be released over Biden's dead body) or someone else whoever it may be will be Moshiach ben Yosef, Atereth HaYesod has arrived.
One of the main characteristics of Atereth HaYesod is the following: All attempts to serve G-d at the 33rd level of purity and no further (such as through FreeMasonry and through historically normative Xtianity) will be met with Divine contempt. The purpose for serving G-d can no longer be to just build prosperity in this World. The purpose for Serving G-d must be lishma (for it’s own sake), for only that will build the World to Come.
This was the warning that was sent upon America when both the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral were cracked in that earthquake on the 23rd of Av (August). The reason for America to be a nation under G-d was to create a prosperous society with a common moral foundation which could only lead to more prosperity in Olam HaZeh (in this world). The purpose for serving G-d for the last 235 years was to make money. This is why July 4th, 1776 was the 17th of Tamuz (a fast day on the Jewish calendar), because the original sin of the Jewish nation was the idea that utopia in the form of the Golden Calf was prosperity.
Yet, since we had a Chazakah on the Mon on Lag B'Omer (the 33rd day after the Exodus) for that was the third day that it fell, then serving G-d to make money would only take one to the 33rd level of purity and no further. This is not what G-d wants. He wants us to strive to the 49th level of purity and the 33rd level is only 2/3’rds of the way there. This is why the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill (a FreeMasonic symbol) is cut of precisely at the 2/3’rds mark.
Think of it this way. Bavel (Babylon) is gevurah she begevurah (strength that is in strength). This is the ninth level of purity. At the end of nine centuries after the giving of the Torah, Nebuchadnezzar (the King of Babylon) destroyed the First Holy Jewish Temple.
Paras/Madai (Persia) is Tiffereth she b'tiffereth. At this level Ya'akov competes with Esau's grandson, Amalek. Why? Because Ya'akov only has charisma (tifereth) when he speaks the Truth. Amalek has tifereth when he speaks lies. Since the Truth wipes away all lies, and lies destroy the Truth, Ya'akov and Amalek cannot coexist with each other. If one does not wipe the other out, the other will wipe out the one. This is why it was not enough to out Haman. His sons had to be wiped out too, and all of his animals too. This was Tifereth she'btifereth (the 17th level of purity) because the one who is pure in Netzach, the Gadol HaDor, the Torah scholar of the generation had the koach (the holy strengh) to wipe out the liar Haman.
Then there is Greece that was pure in Netzach for it produced philosophers who would have an almost eternal influence. Who in this generation does not remember Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle? Yes, were they pure. Are they really eternal? Of course not. Yes, we know of them still 2500 years later, but 2500 years is not eternity. Even they will have their end. So at the level of netzach she'be netzach (the 25th level of purity) they can be defeated by the one who is pure in Hod (Our High Priest, Aharon HaKohen). The descendants of Aharon were the Chashmonaim, and they defeated the Greeks on the level at which they depended to be pure (the 25th level of purity on the 25th of Kislev).
And now there is Edom at Hod she beHod (the 33rd level of purity), another in the long list to represent a human image of G-d's Glory to Mankind. In the 1860s it was Glory Glory Hallelujah the watchword of the Northern effort in America's Civil War. In the 1890s just 30 years later rather than giving Gold, Silver, and Copper to glorify G-d in a Temple meant for His Glory, the founders of the modern Olympics were putting gold, silver, and copper around the necks of the world's greatest athletes. So to these athletes goes the glory. Another faker this Edom is. In the end it is all about him, it has nothing to do with G-d.
This would help explain the medrash that when Esau realized that his blessing was only for this world and that he had no place as a nation in the world to Come, he started to cry. Now crying is the way that we do teshuvah out of love when the opportunity arises. So let us count the days. There are thirty days of teshuvah until the end of Elul when we repent out of fear and out of love separately from each other. During Elul it is one or the other but not both at the same time. In short there is no fusion between Chessed and Din until Rosh HaShana itself when we start to say Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father Our King) when we are doing teshuvah b'ahavah really for the first time, for until Rosh HaShana we do not refer to G-d as Our Father, but only as a king who comes into the field to meet with us.
At that level we can do teshuvah in our chessed (our lack of good deeds) and teshuvah in our Gevurah (our sins). But to see G-d as a fusion of chesed and Gevurah which is a Melech Emeth (King of Truth) who takes into account our extenuating circumstances when He judges us, we only see on Rosh HaShana which depending on how it is counted is either the 30th day of teshuvah or the 31st day of teshuvah.
Getting back to Esau, apparently he was able to cry two tears, and a third tear welled up in his eye, but it would not come out. It is said that if it had come out, then Esau's kingdom of Edom would last forever. Can you imagine a kingdom that serves G-d to make money lasting forever? So the first tear that he cried took him from the 30th level of purity to the 31st level of purity (the first day of Avinu Malkeinu). And the second tear that he cried took him from the 31st level of purity to the 32nd level of purity (the second day of Avinu Malkeinu). But thank G-d that third tear never came out, for if it had, his kingdom would be pure at the 33rd level of purity and he would have a chazakah on the Mon (money), and it would fall for him forever.
But alas at the 33rd level (as pointed out before) Esau is a faker. Even in FreeMasonry all the levels through the 32nd level require a certain amount of spiritual work which requires improvement on one's relationship with G-d. The 33rd level requires no work whatsoever, and to be honest with you, it is not clear if at that level the 33rd degree FreeMason is even serving G-d at all. Amongst America's founding fathers there were many FreeMasons. They are too numerous to mention by name. One could almost conclude that the United States was founded as one gigantic Masonic lodge.
Unlike the Edomite nations in Europe, America was not founded as a nation under Xianity and the Xian deity. It was founded as a nation under G-d. It did not see its collective actions as dirty rags before G-d whose citizens all needed the Xian deity for its collective sins. At a very deep level America rid itself of one of Edom's major flaws. It really did (not sure that it even understands this any longer) at one time look at its own deeds as G-d sees them where He only expects Man to make the right decisions based on his own extenuating circumstances. Yet, accountable Man is, for G-d knows what the best choice is available for every human being.
So our acts are not dirty rags, and no deed passes before him without the deepest understanding for how we failed in our potential. Read Abraham Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural address on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial, which by the way was not cracked in the recent earthquake, in order to understand how one great American understood this aspect of Divine Providence. Yet, in America the problem lies with Esau's 2nd fatal flaw, not the flaw at its inception, but the flaw of its purpose (its tachlit) as a nation. It more than any other nation in history has served G-d for the sole purpose of making money.
Just like Esau's third tear which failed to fall, America does not quite cut it at the 33rd level of purity. The greatest American FreeMason was its ultimate Founding Father (Gog Washington), for from Gog to Gog there is no Gog quite like Gog. He was such a believer in America as a nation that serves G-d to create national prosperity that at his 2nd inaugural swearing in ceremony, he dressed up if full Masonic regalia and placed his had on a Masonic Bible. More than any other founding father, he was the Grand Poobah of the American Masonic Temple. But alas the symbol that represents him seems to have developed a crack.
By my understanding, it is over America, it is over in 5772. And who replaces Edom the faker at the 33rd level? Mordechai HaYehudi (of the Purim story) defeated Haman at the level of tifereth’she’be’tiffereth, because Mordechai was the Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses), pure in Netzach, of his generation. Just like The Kohanim from Aharon, pure in Hod, could defeat Greece at the level of Netzach she'benetzach (the 25th level of purity), in the end it will he who is pure in Yesod in the Year of Atereth HaYesod (the scion of Yosef, anointed on high for this enormous task) who will defeat Edom at the level of hod she'behod (33rd level of purity).
But because Edom's scion, Amalek, has his hand on the Seat of Yud Key and divides the Divine Name so that it cannot reach perfection, this son of Yosef will need to bring the Yud Key together with the Vav in HaShem's Name.
Will the real son of Yosef with Yud Key Vav in his name please stand up?