Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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It’s ALL in the Attitude

A Jewish blogger (with whom I usually disagree) noted there were two big Jewish conferences this week…

I have to admit, having watched video segments from both the Chabad and (other organization) meetings, it was like watching a wedding versus a funeral. One was upbeat, positive and rejoicing in what Hashem has done for Judaism and will continue doing and the other was a nonstop cry of "Gevalt yidden" and how we've all gone off the derech and need to do major league tshuvah.

Maybe next year, the (other organization) will simply cancel their convention and attend as guests of Chabad.

Chabad isn't about making people feel bad and isn't about knocking people down.

A commentor there added “I think another way of putting it, is that Chabad… is making you proud to be a Jew, while (the other organization) is kind of making you shudder to be a Jew.”

It’s all in the attitude.  Would you leave your brother behind?  Would you abandon your son or daughter?  Or would you do EVERYTHING you can, even leaving your home and traveling to the other side of the world, to help them?

It’s called Ahavas Yisroel, love of your fellow, and recognizing that everyone has a chelek elokus, the Jewish people are all related and at the soul level…we’re all literally part of the One.

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Can I Take a Minute To Complain?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

     Apparently, Albert Einstein did not have a computer. This thing drives me nuts! I love what I can do with it, but I scream at its absolute refusal to cooperate. It is entirely inflexible, dead set in its contradictory and mostly confusing ways.

     For example, it often happens that the instructions come up on the screen and say something like, “Press the green icon to move on.” Well, there is no green icon! Now, what do I do? First I scream (I won’t tell you what), and then I call Simcha, my geek. Thank G-d for my computer geek. Without his help, I would not be able to send you these articles.

     So Simcha comes, and everything is OK, right? Not quite. I love the guy, but he only speaks “geek.” He comes in, sits in front of the screen, and begins to explain to me what, and why, he is pressing this button instead of that button, and everything he says is total “geek” to me. I can’t stand it; it really drives me nuts! Not just that it makes me feel like an idiot, because I don’t care about that, but it’s like someone is sincerely trying to communicate something important to me in Chinese.

     I try to stay calm, but I start climbing the wall, “Ok…OK….  Simcha…Simcha…” He won’t stop with the flow of technical terms. “Just fix the thing. I don’t understand a word that you are saying.”

     Don’t get me wrong, he is a very nice guy. His name means “joy”! But it seems that he can’t fix the thing without telling me what he is doing. For instance, “I am cleaning out your old main drive disc that I replaced last week when the alternative channel had an overload from some suspicious file that you downloaded instead of deleting.”

     “Okay Simcha, just fix it so I can use it, okay?”

     “Remember, you have an old system here that we are working with.”

     “Simcha, it’s less than three years old.”

     “That’s right. So you may have to get a new one, real soon.... Alright, it should work now, and if that ever happens again I have left a green icon on your email folder file, so all you have to do is type in that code name and remember the password, then when it comes up double-click with the right side of your mouse on the upper part of the icon….” 

     “Simcha, is it alright if I just call you and have you come over again?” 

      “Sure, call whenever you need me.”

      My Chassidic friends say that all this is coming back to me because of the many times that I yell at people. I know that I yell a lot, and maybe I should call my next book “Me and My Big Mouth,” but what’s that got to do with this extreme technical frustration?

     My more modern friends say that I have so much trouble with the computer because I was born in the wrong generation. Not much I can do about that. Either way, I wish they would come up with a self-fixing computer that all you have to do is buy it and it works. Until then, I guess I’ll have to call Simcha.

Reb Akiva adds – I tell people good software has to pass the grandmother test…if your grandmother can use it, it’s designed for use by normal people.  If it takes a techie to load it, configure it or maintain it, the problem is the designer’s, not yours. 

Software is generally getting better this way, and perhaps the big success of the iPhone and iPad (and Apple in general) is exactly that, anyone can pick up their devices and programs and use them immediately and intuitively.  While indeed it’s not a problem for my children, to whom even technical computer use is as natural as using a telephone is to me, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The amazing thing is that people like Reb Gutman and Reb Nati, non-techies with no background, are able to use computers, digital cameras and video gear and put out all the fantastic material they do.  It could be a lot easier, but they put in a lot of effort to share Torah and positive thoughts to klal yisroel and the world.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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The VaYishlach Effect

by Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths and End of Days

The only way is down: the financial crisis could see us all plummeting to earth - We’ve run off a cliff, legs still spinning. . . are we ready for the drop?

[ Ongoing Geulah speculation, where we try to align current world events with specific hints from the parsha, the navi’im, midrashim, as well as prophetic hints in the Gemora and kabbalistic sources, as well as bringing associated statements from gedolim, tzaddikim and mekubalim. ]

A short discussion of why Esau or Esav falls off a cliff in Parshat VaYishlach is in order.

It says in Genesis 33 the following: And he (Esav) said, "Travel on and let us go. I will proceed alongside you." But he (Ya'akov) said to him (Esav), "My lord knows that the children are tender, and the nursing flocks and cattle are upon me. If they will be driven hard for a single day, then all the flocks will die. Let my lord (Esav) go ahead of his servant. I will make my way at a my slow pace according to the gait of the drove before me and the gait of the children, until I come to my lord at Se'ir.

Yet, Ya'akov never accompanied Esav to Mt. Se'ir (the mountain of the male goat). As it says: So Esav started back that day on his way toward Se'ir. But Ya'akov journeyed to Sukkoth...

So was Ya'akov lying to Esav? Of course not. Whatever was not fulfilled at that time will be fulfilled at the End of Days when Ya'akov accompanies Esav to Mt. Se'ir.

Yet, there are a few problems with this. Mt. Se'ir today is a wasteland in Southwestern Jordan. The crumbling ruin of Petra (ancient Botzrah) can still be found by hearty backpackers who trek their way to the ancient ruin built into Mt. Se'ir. This is doubtful the Se'ir that the Torah is referring to when it says that Ya'akov will accompany Esav to it at the End of Days. Instead our sages of the ages (Chazal) have given us keen insight.

1. This entire encounter between Esav and Ya'akov occurred on Yom Kippur including the previous night's wrestling match with Esav's angel. So when Ya'akov went on to Sukkot, he was literally going on to the next holiday on the Jewish calendar, Sukkot (Feast of Booths). Apparently although Esav's spiritual descendants were invited to the Temple during Sukkot, Esav himself could never appreciate the concept that there was an idea of teshuvah b'simcha.

Esav could understand G-d as a King (repentance out of fear) and G-d as a Father (repentance out of love). Yet, he could not understand G-d as a friend (repentance out of joy) where the penitent receives no earthly reward for his repentance except the joy of doing the right thing. Perhaps this is why Xtianity understands G-d as a father, but what a friend they have in Yoshke. For the Xtian repentance at this level is not understood unless they have an intermediary.

This also explains (the story of future days in the Gemora of) why the nations of the world kick the Sukkah when G-d prevents them because of bad (hot) weather from keeping the mitzvah of Sukkah. The only reward for the mitzvah of Sukkah in this world is the joy of sitting in the Sukkah. So when a Jew has to leave the sukkah under similar circumstances, he understands that the entirety of the reward except for the joy is in the World to Come.

So for this reason when Esav goes to Mt. Se'ir, Ya'akov goes on to Sukkot. Since Ya'akov alone understands the greatness of the reward for the mitzvah of sukkah.

mount-vesuvius-12. At the End of Days it is not Har Se'ir itself that is judged. It is Esav aka Edom who is judged and the mountain named after him, Mt. Esav (which translates to VESUV in Latin, which ‘happens’ to align with the VESUVius in southern Italy). And the two men Esav and Ya'akov are like two male goats. Ya'akov dressed up as one in order to receive his blessing from Yitzchak.

As we know from the Yom Kippur service, there are also two goats. One goes to Azezel, and one goes to HaShem. The one that goes to Azezel was thrown over a cliff in the Eastern wilderness at the time of the Temples. In modern parlance, Esav's very civilization is about to be thrown over a cliff. And the mountain being judged is Vesuvius, for in the following paragraphs we can see how Vesuvius was used by HaShem to judge the nation which destroyed the 2nd Temple. So when Ya'akov accompanies Esav as a Se'ir (a male goat) to the proverbial Italian cliff at the End of Days, Esav himself will destroy himself along its rocky outcroppings.

3. The final question is how do we know that this final judgment is financial in origin? It comes from the following: When Esav was approaching he was approaching with an army of 400 Centurions (400 principal men in the language of the Torah). That is an army of 40,000 foot soldiers. He was obviously coming to fight a war.

Where do we see this number 400 earlier? When Avraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah next to the City of Chevron from Efron the Hittite, he pays the exhorbitant sum of 400 silver shekels. And it says there "VaYakam Sdei Efron..." And Ephron's field was confirmed (was transferred)... to Avraham as a purchase in view of the children of Heth (the Hittites who witnessed the sale and the fact that Avraham weighed out 400 silver shekels to Efron in clear view).

The Acronym formed by the three words VaYakam Sdei Efron is Esav, referring to a future time where Esav would dispute ownership of the Cave of the Patriarchs with Ya'akov's children. Yet, there is something deeper here. The numerical value of the expression for Evil Eye (Ayin Ra, עין רע in Hebrew) is a gematriah of 400. Since Esau's kingdom is the last kingdom before the Messianic kingdom, the Ayin Ra is referring to the last currency of Esav's kingdom, the currency of Amalek.

From the Talmud in Megillah we are given a clear hint when does Amalek rise in Edom. It rises when a united Germany signs a treaty with Rome, and then Amalek goes forth to destroy the world. In World War II this was an actual treaty not between Berlin and Italy, but a Concordat between Hitler, yemach shmo, and the Roman Catholic Church since the Talmud tells us that there are not just 300 princes in Germany that are united internally, but there are also 365 principal Saints to the Roman Catholic Church.

Italy even during the Middle Ages never had more than 14 states on the Italian Peninsula while Germany was a kingdom of 300 fiefdoms. Plus, Mussolini may have been a brutal dictator but he was not an Anti-Semite. From 1922 when he took over until 1938 he did not pass one piece of Anti-Semitic legislation. Only after he saw the Anshluss of Austria, did he get the message that he better play ball with Eichmann and company's Anti-Semitic program which he never fully enforced as long as he was fully in power until 1943.

So the 365 princes in the Gemorrah must be referring to the principal saints of the Roman Church who have a rather long history of Anti-Semitism, a history that Hitler himself carefully learned from.

So this unity has happened again. But this time it is with Italy and Rome and Germany and about 15 other countries. It is called the EU, the European Union.

The Hebrew letter tav which is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the key to understanding the currency of this outfit. Tav also has the Gematriah of 400 like the word Ayin Ra. And the word Tav means "Mark" in Hebrew. Now we know that the principal currency of Germany is the DeutschMark and is the bedrock of the EU's market basket currency known as the Euro.

This is where things get interesting. If we look at the word Euro as an acronym it should be spelled Ayin vav Resh Vav, not Aleph Vav Resh Vav as it is spelled in modern Hebrew. Now why might that be? The answer lies with etymology, the study of world origins. Dr. Isaac Mozeson years ago noticed something peculiar about the names of the Old World continents. They all end in "ah" or just "a". In Hebrew this denotes direction. So if we can safely assume that all of the nations of the world come from the Tower of Bavel and that before the tower we were all speaking one language, Hebrew, the secret of the names of the continents can be unlocked.

The nations headed toward the Rising fireball in the sky were headed "Aisha" or Asia. The nations headed toward the land that was set apart were headed "HaPerekah" or to Africa. (Ps and Fs are interchangeable using Grimm's Laws of linguistics.). The nations headed toward the setting sun or the evening were headed (ARaVaH where the first A is an ayin not an aleph) Since Vs and Fs and Ps are interchangeable using Grimm's Laws ARaVaH linuistically and etymologically becomes EuRoPaH or Europe.

So Europe should be spelled with an Ayin not an Aleph. (Let us be sure to tell the Hebrew language authorities here in Eretz Yisrael the next time we have the chance.) From this we see that the word EuRo is an acronym Ayin Resh. The words for which it is an acronym are Ayin Ra (the Evil Eye).

So this is what is about to be dismantled when Esav goes tumbling over a cliff. QED (Quickly and Easily Done).

The final connection: When Esav is approaching with that army of 400 Roman Centurions, who stares into his evil eye and defeats him? Why it is Yosef, of course. More about Mashiach ben Yosef later.

For now, following this speculation, buy silver, for Mashiach ben Yosef’s rise will be accompanied by an exponential increase in the price of silver. Whether it is bars, coins, or grains, just make sure that it is pure physical silver. You will find that the more silver you have, the more mitzvot you will be able to do in the Messianic Era with the silver. So have some on hand when the time arises by collecting it now.

In addition I offer the following information why when saviors ascend Mt. Tzion to judge Mt. Esav, it is Mt. VESUVius that will be judged, about 100 miles south of Rome, Italy. ius is a Latin suffix. Remove the suffix and ESAV's name is clearly written in the name of the volcano.

It is worth noting the most famous event in the history of volcanic eruptions was of course the eruption of VESUVius in the year 79ce, nine years after the destruction of the 2nd Temple. There are two facts worth considering.

A. The head of the triumvirate at the time that Rome took over from the Chashmonaim while the latter were involved in a Civil War was of course Pompeii who made deal with one of the Chashmonaic adversaries to help him to defeat his brother, but once Pompeii sent the Roman legions to "help out", the Romans never left. That was around the year 63 bce. Here is an Aish HaTorah link to describe the history of the Chashmonaic era. Yet, curiously it was the famous City of Pompeii that took the brunt of the volcanic eruption in 79 ce.

Since Pompeii dismantled the independent rule of the Sons of Aharon over Judea, it is fitting that the city that bore his name should be destroyed by the most infamous volcanic eruptions in history.

2. Why 79ce and not earlier? Well almost 2 full months prior to the eruption, guess who became Rome's emperor? Two months prior Titus replaced Vespasian as emperor. I guess HaShem had a special message for Titus, the new emperor who happened to be the general who destroyed the 2nd Temple.

And may saviors on Mt. Tzion judge Mt. Esav (VESUVius) very soon.

…Reb Akiva adds:  I heard the following on a Wall Street Journal video from last night, “To prevent financial Armageddon and the destruction of the Euro, Europe is down to a binary choice.  Either fiscal union, which puts Germany firmly in complete control of Europe, or financial Armageddon in Europe and a world wide synchronized depression.  Question, would you buy Italian Euro bonds at the whopping 7% interest?  Answer, I wouldn't buy those bonds." 

Dov wrote above, “From the Talmud in Megillah we are given a clear hint when does Amalek rise in Edom. It rises when a united Germany signs a treaty with Rome, and then Amalek goes forth to destroy the world.”  Match that with this quote, “German Prime Minister Angela Merkel on October 26: Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe that’s what I say: If the Euro fails Europe fails. We have an historical obligation: to protect by all means Europe unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.”

One interpretation I have heard from mekubalim is that to have mercy on the Jews regarding Gog u’Magog, the trials of Gog u’Magog were broken into 3 separate rounds.  Each starts with a consolidated Germany driven by what it perceives as being wronged and imposed upon from the outside.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

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Do You Want to Have a Better Life?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Researchers have found that if you smile more, you will have a better life. “Smiling can have a profound effect on your life, and the more intense the smiling is, the better.”

    An article in this week's edition of Psychology Today states that a number of studies have indicated that your facial features may reflect your chances of future happiness.

     The first study showed that the more the girls smiled as seniors in High School the greater were the odds that they would marry and be happy with their life.

     The second study showed how pictures of someone smiling at a young age predicted lower divorce rates later in life, better social relationships, and even a longer lifespan.

     The results showed that women tended to smile more and with more intensity than men, and that for both men and women, smile intensity was a good predictor of future life satisfaction.

     It is not entirely clear from the study if smiling itself causes all these positive effects, but studies have shown that even if people are forced to smile, they feel happier, and that smiling changes their emotional state.

     They say that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. So, take it easy. Smile. ;~)

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

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Not the Best Tel Aviv Views

photos by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We usually show cool views of Israel.  Today my work took my through a more rundown area of Tel Aviv, and every city has some areas that need work and are run down.  In all my time in Israel I’ve rarely passed through such areas, but they exist in every society and Israel is no exception.  I present not the best views of Tel Aviv…

…At some time in the distant past, this was a lovely modern Mediterranean style building.  Today it’s a mess, but if you look closely you can see echos of it’s past.  The sign says “for rent”, I’m thinking not much of a chance.

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This building appears to be an apartment building, but it has an incredible Jewish zodiac clock in the middle.  Perhaps it was a hotel in the past, and the clock no longer functions.  It must have been beautiful…back then…

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Check out that clock in close up…

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There’s nothing special about this picture…except the dark-tan / brownish building is pocked with high caliber bullet holes, which means it has a history as part of Israel’s war of independence.  The heavy bars on the windows indicate it might have been a British police station 75 years ago. 

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…Some of the neighborhood is being fixed up.  The building the right says it’s a tile company from 1936, and next to it is a motorcycle and scooter store.  Scooters are a primary transportation method in Tel Aviv traffic.

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We’ll end with a bit of graffiti.  Much of the graffiti in the area was in English (I have no idea why).  This first picture I’m not sure if it is graffiti or maybe a bar hidden in the back.

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…These symbols were prominent in the neighborhood.  The building itself was rebuilt, that didn’t stop the graffiti.

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An interesting place to visit…briefly.

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Do It In Pencil

real stories from the Kotel by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Here is a lesson that we try to teach over and over again: If a Jew will not transgress what seems to be a minor commandment, he surely will not transgress a “major” one.

     Pictured here is a very nice Jewish guy from America. When I put tefillin on him, I saw his foolish tattoo. I didn’t say anything until he finished with the prayers, but as I was about to take off the tefillin, I told him my “joke” about a prayer that he should say every day.

     “Dear G-d, if I have to make any mistakes today, let me make them in pencil.”

     He understood, and he laughed. I asked him if he was married… did he have any children? He said yes, and that he did. I told him that his sons are going to see his tattoo, and then they will want one, too. He shrugged a little, as if to say that it was already done and there was nothing that he could do about it. I asked if his children were Jewish. He said that they were not. Ouch!

     The sad truth is that since his kids are not Jewish, they can get tattoos (if they are stupid enough), but what hurt was that this very nice Jewish guy has, at least up until now, thrown away his Jewish inheritance. What a treasure to lose!

     If someone would have cared enough, he would have been told that tattooing was not something that a Jew should ever do. Had this been taught to him from his early youth, he would never have married a non-Jewish girl. What a shame that someone did not tell him.

     Whenever a young Jew from outside Israel strongly refuses to put on tefillin, I ask him if he would marry a non-Jewish girl. Almost all of them say that they would! The Torah says that the mitzvahs guard our lives. This is one example of how.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

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Geulah Speculation for Toldos

by Dov bar Leib @ Mystical Paths

[ In our ongoing Geulah speculation, we try to align current world events with specific hints from the parsha, the navi’im, midrashim, as well as prophetic hints in the Gemora and kabbalistic sources, as well as bringing similar statements from gedolim, tzaddikim and mekubalim. ]

The Toldot effect seems to be under way.  The 6th Aliyah of Parshat Toldot according to two separate opinions either corresponds to either Friday or this coming Monday.

The 6th Aliyah is the Aliyah of Yitzchak's bracha on Ya'akov and Esau when Esau finally realizes that he lost both his Olam Haba and his Yemot HaMashiach.  He reacts with a 3,600 year rage against his brother Ya'akov whose end we are about to witness (G-d willing) with the rise and victories of Mashiach ben Yosef.

Italian (Roman) interest rates have now skyrocketed to unsustainable levels, holding as of Friday at 7.32%.  (Humorously the BBC is reporting this is because the bond investors just haven’t had enough time to understand the new EU replacement government for Italy’s new new austerity measures, while the bond investors moved on to abandon even the German bond auction on Friday!)

All the heads of Europe especially Merkozy (Germany’s PM Merkel and France’s PM Sarkozy) and their newly appointed Italian Central banker (Super Mario) are in a full panic, trying this way and that to change the entire system of the beast of which they are a part.  Yea, really.  Good luck guys and gal.  

Their situation is hopeless.  And very soon they will be screaming bloody murder and might come looking for a scapegoat.   I wonder who that might be?  (It would seem hard to blame this one on the Jews, but some how that’s never stopped Europe before.)

I am just waiting for the pretext to develop over the next few days to force us to run to Lavan's house (Lavan in Hebrew is white, so literally the Whitehouse meaning the USA) over the next few days.  Yet, things are not going too well with Uncle Lavan either with the news last week is that the Federal Debt has now surpassed the annual GDP and the US congressional budget super-committee failed in it’s task with now both the US Congress and US President washing their hands of all accountability.

The US ship of State is now pilot-less and headed for a cliff. 

By the end of Parshat VaYeitzei (a.k.a. Parshat Lavan), Lavan will have lost the right to shmad Ya'akov's children.  I am not sure if that specific event plays itself out this year, but it might.  The more important and final hammer blow event is when Esau flies off a cliff in the fourth Aliyah of Parshat VaYishlach (Wednesday, Dec. 7th or Shabbat, Dec 10th) according to the two opinions on how Shabbat influences the week. 

Keep in mind that any event on Shabbat or Sunday is not reflected in the markets until Monday.  This is speculation with no guarantee that it will happen, but the events happening today associated with the 6th Aliyah of Toldot seem to imply that what follows is very plausible.

I hope and pray that everyone is preparing.  When the day of crash and burn arrives, it will simply be too late to prepare.  So one must be pro-active to protect one's family.  The situation will be difficult all over when Crash and Burn Day finally arrives, but the preparations outside of Eretz Yisrael must be more extensive since bracha outside of Eretz Ysrael is Yesh M'Yesh. 

Inside the Land of Israel, the situation is Yesh m'ayin, and the prosperity collapse will be shortened by several months because of the rise or revelation of Moshiach ben Yosef.

(This is an understanding of an “in it’s time” speculative scenario.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly described a “before it’s time” scenario, and the Gra spoke of a “before it’s time in it’s time” scenario – which would fit the Cosmic Clock together with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s scenario in combination with the worldly events we’re seeing today.) 

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

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Not Always as you Hear

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I read this report on Life in Israel today.  What’s disturbing about it is not the topic under discussion but that two (supposedly) ultra-orthodox religious news outlets are reporting exactly OPPOSITE positions and directional words from a Torah leader.  We need to be aware that this is happening, and as it was reported Rav Kanviesky said, ‘if you didn’t hear it from me, don’t believe it (in my name)’…

Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, head of Shuvu Banim and a leading Breslev rav, spoke out on the issue of women wearing shawls and full body coverings (the burqa women). 

There are conflicting reports as to what he said. Initial reports claimed Rav Berland spoke in favor of the shawls, saying that all women should be wearing shawls and that they are adding holiness and purity. It is prohibited to look at the shape of a woman, even if she is wearing a thousand coverings. Women, Rav Berland supposedly said, should not go outside and walk around in the streets - it is assur to see a woman even if she goes with a thousand shawls and a thousand covers.

Then Bechadrei got an actual recording of his shiur in which he (supposedly) said this and found he said the opposite!  According to this report, Rav Berland said those who go in shawls are building a beis hamikdash of lies, just like Chonyo built a false beis hamikdash. When a woman works on her holiness she does not put on a shawl. The shawl is meaningless. A woman who does not daven shacharis mincha or maariv wants to be considered a tzaddika so she puts on a shawl. Then another woman who davens shacharis mincha and maariv every day and sits at the Kotel for 4 hours every day saying tehillim is no longer called a tzadika. There are some women who wear the shawls who can't even hold a siddur. She puts on a shawl and suddenly she is the leading tzadekkes of the generation???

The topic itself is a very very very controversial topic and not the point of this article.  The point that there are two completely conflicting reports with one of them completely twisting a Torah leader’s words for their own agenda or opinion.

Not good.

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Ladies, Be Healthy – Go To Synagogue

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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Israel National News reports:[i]

“Women who attend synagogue regularly are more optimistic than others, according to a Yeshiva University research report to be published this week in the Journal of Religion and Health.

The same conclusions apply to non-Jews who attend church.

A more optimistic view of life was expressed by 56 percent of those regularly attended prayer service.

A study in 2008 showed that religious people generally are healthier and less susceptible to stress than those who are not religious.”

"We know they're less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors."

Religious practice in general can encourage a "positive worldview, include calming rituals, and have other psychological and social benefits," according to the new research report.”

      Gutman suggests: Ladies, go pray. It’s cheaper than psychiatry, tastes better than pills, isn’t fattening, and the studies prove that it usually works.


[i] 11/13/11

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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The Kabbalah of Pizza for Children?

Ok, someone’s starting to lose it… (direct video link – English, 1 minute)

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Uman Expose’

A nice video of an Israeli TV host exploring the Uman experience.  (Hebrew, 8 minutes.)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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Make Me A Better Person

from the Kotel with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A small group of men from an “old-folks’ home” in Connecticut came to the Kotel last Thursday. A couple of them were in wheelchairs, and one had a push-stroller. Two of the men from the tefillin stand tried to help them with tefillin, but they all refused. Not a single one of them would put on tefillin!

     When they turned to leave, I tried. I went up to one nice looking old man and said, “Come, let me help you to put on tefillin. It’s a free service.”

     One of the guides quickly jumped in and said, “No!”

     I did not do a good job of hiding my feelings for what he said. “How can you take a Jew away from doing a mitzvah!”

     “He said that he didn’t want to!” the guide said.

     “He did not!” I said, and I turned to the old man and asked, “What’s your name?”

     He said, “Bill,” but then he quickly changed it, “Velvel.”

      “Velvel, have you ever put on tefillin?” I asked.

     He said that he had not. I told him how important it was, and that I would help him do it.

      “Can we take a picture?” he asked.

     “Sure, we can take a bunch of them, and you can show them to your grandchildren so they will know to do it, too.”

     I helped him slide his arm out of his jacket, and asked, “How old are you?”

     He answered, “Next month, the 31 of December, I will be 98.”

     “You are going to live to be 120 years old,” I told him.

     “Do you guarantee it?” he quickly asked.

     “Absolutely! (We do believe that our prayers will be answered, right?) And after 120, when you go to Heaven, there’s going to be a Bas Kol, a voice from above, and one of the things that this voice is going to say is, ‘I put you in the world as a Jewish man. Did you put on My tefillin while you were there?’ And now you are going to be able to say, ‘Yes, I did.’” He smiled. He had a very warm face.

     I helped him say the Shema, and then told him to thank G-d for all the good that He has given him. He asked if he could go to the Wall to do it. I went with him and heard him say a few names, and then he said, “Thank you for all the good that you have given me, and please make me a better person.”

     Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher) was the humblest person who ever lived. I think that Velvel might come in second.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

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Change Someone’s Life, Change the World!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A family member’s son is having his bar mitzvah.  In celebration I was invited to a small family gathering that also included several rabbonim. 

Thank G-d my family member’s son is a well accomplished young man for his age.  He does very well in yeshiva, both getting top grades and excelling at his Torah learning.  He’s involved in several extra-curricular activities, where again he excels.

This boy was named after an illustrious family member of a few generations past.  After a lifetime this family member was an accomplished Torah scholar, a very successful businessman, a big baal tzedakah (a big giver of charity) and a major positive force in his Jewish community.

The Rabbonim who spoke focused on his using his talents to become a Gadol b’Torah, a Torah leader of the next generation.  A wonderful goal I thought, but what if he doesn’t reach it?  Does that mean he’s a failure?  Is the recommended goal for a bar mtizvah boy to become a Gadol b’Torah or simply a talmid chacham (as if that’s simple)?  Or even just a life focused on Torah (as if that’s a weaker choice fallback position)?

The family members who spoke focused on the name he carries, the illustrious ancestor who reached much success and accomplishment in his lifetime, and how he’s expected to do the same (due to the name).  This made me think, his ancestor was a special man, but this is just a boy of 13.  The successes of a lifetime are a heavy load to drop on young shoulders.  Of course he should be encouraged to set good goals, and certainly to strive.  But we know neither the goals of the ancestor nor his struggles to get there.  Perhaps he considered himself a failure (for he wasn’t a gadol b’torah)? 

I asked to speak and delivered this short message…
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There is a story about a Holocaust survivor (his name was Irving Bunim, sent to me by a reader) who knew the Satmar Rebbe before the Holocaust and came to visit the him in America. The Rebbe’s students saw a clean-shaven Jew speaking about all sorts of Torah subjects with the Rebbe and were surprised.

After he left, one of the students asked the Rebbe: who is this clean-shaven person who came to speak with the Rebbe?

The Satmar Rebbe responded: "When that Jew ascends to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask him: "Jew, where is your beard?" But when you ascend to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask you: "Beard, where is your Jew?"

We live in a time when many are operating by appearance and whether one has a long beard or not is the deciding factor in whether one is good Jew.  I do not know what a Jew will be asked when he gets to Heaven, but in this world good is helping another.

You may be blessed with extraordinary abilities, but helping another is how everyone can change the world.  Whether the mitzvah is tzedakah, a bit of charity, studying to help another student with a test or doing a good deed for another, you never know how your little moment of help may change their life!

Hashem brings opportunities by us all the time.  For us they may seem minor, unimportant or worth letting another grab.  Yet you never know how a little bit of goodness affects another.  That ‘little bit of charity money’ might allow the person to pay for the bus to get to a job interview, get a job and rebuild their life.  Your fellow student might come up to you 10 years later and say “you know, when you helped me study for that test, if I failed it I would have been thrown out of yeshiva – your help studying saved my life!” 

Don’t miss your opportunity to change the world every day.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

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The Exact Problem with “Kosher” Yoga

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Someone sent my recent article on yoga to a Jew who operates a “kosher” yoga center. Here is his reply:

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"On our teacher training we warn our students very strongly against kundalini yoga and a few other styles of yoga that we consider to be pure avoda zara [idolatry]. 

I’ve read Gutman Lock's books and know his take on it. In my opinion he is biased based on his personal experiences before he was religious and lived in India and was immersed in the avoda zara aspect of yoga etc... He cannot comprehend that there can be a pareve [non-spiritual] approach to it. 

In a letter, the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe talks about the obligation of people who are "experts" in the field of yoga and meditation to extract the pareve/healing parts from these systems.

Also, there is a lot of new research that is coming out that the vast majority of yoga as it is practiced today in the western world (not kundalini etc.. but more vinyasa/power/hatha) is based for the most part on Swedish and British gymnastics and was only developed at the turn of the century and not based on "ancient Hindu scriptures" and most hardcore religious yogis (like Locks used to be) like to believe.  There is no written evidence in any of the ancient yoga texts that the vast, vast majority of poses taught today were taught back then.  The original texts on the subject focus mainly on the meditation and there were only about 10 or so (maybe even less - can't remember exactly) poses back in the day."
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Gutman’s reply:

     This is an ongoing battle. We have some 30 articles pointing out the idolatry associated with yoga. The one from this week is an answer to a Jewish woman who objected to her young child being taught yoga in public school. The teacher told the little boy to imagine that he was a red doll while he was doing the exercises!

     Just look at this yoga teacher’s answer and see the exact problem in his own words! He wrote that his yoga was pure, and that it is like “vinyasa yoga”.

This is what the first site I went to had to say about this type of yoga;

     “The term vinyasa also refers to a specific series of movements that are frequently done between each pose in a series. This viṅyāsa 'flow' is a variant of Sūrya namaskāra, the Sun Salutation, and is used in other styles of yoga beside Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  The opening sequence begins with 10 Sun Salutations and then several standing postures.”

Gutman continues:

     Listen well; the “sun salutation” is an old exercise still practiced in India today, and it is called “Worshipping Surya.” They changed the name to “salutation” to hide this fact in the West (and make it more palatable).Surya” is the “chief solar deity” in Hinduism, and is called “the god who sustains the heavens and knows all who lives”.

    Is this what you want your children to be doing? And when those Jews move away from your Jewish friend’s center and want to continue yoga, what books are they going to buy? What teachers are they going to have? No one, not even a non-Jew, should worship a sun deity!

    The Rebbe’s letter clearly said, (yet these Jewish fans of yoga distort this over and over again): “…utterly devoid of any ritual implications.”

     “Salutation to the sun god” is not devoid of ritual implications. The word yoga itself is a ritual word that refers to Hinduism, not Judaism.

      Do you want your young children imagining that they are red dolls? And what will their teacher tell them to imagine themselves to be next?

Reb Akiva adds:

On our article on a Little Red Doll, one commentor added…

"The conclusion of an Indian historian regarding Hinduism and yoga, Hinduism whether ancient, medieval or modern, has no special claims on yoga. To pretend otherwise is not only churlish, but also simply untrue."

That may be the conclusion of one Indian historian.  But the Hindu American Foundation disagrees (it is part of Hinduism).  Here's what they say, and it’s WELL WORTH reading…

...there is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Both Yoga magazines and studios assiduously present Yoga as an ancient practice independent and disembodied from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity. With the intense focus on asana (the exercises and positions), magazines and studios have seemingly "gotten away" with this mischaracterization.

Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots. As the legendary Yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar aptly points out in his famous Light on Yoga, "Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power."

It is disappointing to know that many of the yogis regularly practicing Hanumanasana or Natarajasana continue to deny the Hindu roots of their Yoga practice.

...Yoga is inextricable from Hindu traditions, and a better awareness of this fact is reached only if one understands that “Yoga” and “Asana” are not interchangeable terms.

...the Western Yoga community fully acknowledges Yoga’s Indian roots, and even requires study of Hindu philosophy and scripture in most of its teacher certification programs, much of it openly disassociates Yoga’s Hindu roots.

While the Hindu American Foundation affirms that one does not have to profess faith in Hinduism in order to practice Yoga or asana, it firmly holds that Yoga is an essential part of Hindu philosophy and the two cannot be delinked, despite efforts to do so.

Shyam Ranganathan's analysis gets to the crux of the issue when he writes, “Though some modern atheistic minds and aspiring yogis may disagree, textually there is no getting around the fact that Patanjali uses words, that in the context of Hindu culture, have obvious theological implications”. Patanjali describes the goal of Yoga as chitta-vritti-nirodha or “the cessation of mental fluctuations”, a core concept also expounded in Hinduism’s Bhagavad Gita: “Thus always absorbing one’s self in yoga, the yogi, whose mind is subdued, achieves peace that culminates in the highest state of Nirvana, which rests in me [(names of Hindu gods removed)/Supreme Reality]”

Similarly, Swami Svatmarama’s opening line in the Pradipika is in honor of the Hindu God (name removed):“Reverence to (Hindu god name removed) the Lord of Yoga, who taught Parvati hatha wisdom as the first step to the pinnacle of raja yoga.”

In the same 2005 interview cited previously, Prashant Iyengar expounds upon Yoga with references to both Hindu epics and Hindu philosophy: “Mahabharat has so many aspects of yoga like yama (restraint), niyama (observance), sama (calmness)…Ramayana gives us so many beautiful aspects of bhakti yoga and karma yoga. Essential yoga starts with karma yoga…Without karma-consciousness, there will be no progress in yoga.”

We would be wise to let Hindu’s speak for themselves on the matter, as they have above.

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Welcome to the Negev

photos by Reb Akiva’s Daughter @ Mystical Paths

I’ve, B”H, had the opportunity to travel around a good part of Israel.  However, my travels have never taken me to southern Israel.

A younger daughter’s class took and overnight school trip to the Negev, Israel’s southern desert, just over a week ago.  She took along one of the family cameras and came back with incredible pictures…

When I think of deserts from the US, I think of scrub and desert plants.  Israel’s deserts are…much more deserted.  The road through…

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They hiked through the run off channels and up the desert ridges…

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These channels are dry 11 months a year.  When the brief rains come, they become a raging torrent…briefly.

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Desert ridges and valleys…

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The view from the top.  Worth the hike!

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There’s more to see (included Israel’s painted sands) in a future post.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

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Beard, Where is your Jew?

The following story was shared by Rav Aviner in response to a halachic query about using electric shavers…

There is a story about a Holocaust survivor who knew the Satmar Rebbe before the Holocaust and came to visit the him in America. The Rebbe’s students saw a clean-shaven Jew speaking about all sorts of Torah subjects with the Rebbe and were surprised.

After he left, one of the students asked the Rebbe: who is this clean-shaven person who came to speak with the Rebbe?

The Satmar Rebbe responded: "When that Jew ascends to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask him: "Jew, where is your beard?" But when you ascend to give a divine accounting, Hashem will ask you: "Beard, where is your Jew?"

(Picture is for illustrative purposes only. Unknown “bearded Jew” by Life Magazine.)

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Friday, November 18, 2011

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Tour Guides, Providing Direction?

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image(Picture - A tour guide (in the new “traditional” tour guide costume) talks to a customer.)

      I did it again! I got some American tourists really upset at me. A tour guide brought eight older American men to the Kotel. Only two of them were willing to put on tefillin. You know what a great time they can have when they put on tefillin at the Kotel, so it is really frustrating when they refuse, especially when they refuse almost with anger.

     Six of them wouldn’t listen no matter what I said, and the tour guide was of no help at all. Obviously, he has to be on “their side,” what with them paying him to show them around.

     They walked away and I yelled after them, “You didn’t come here to look at the stones. Come have a spiritual experience!” They kept walking, and even showed me that they were resentful that I was still trying to convince them. “You blew it, bozo!” I yelled out.

     That didn’t help at all. The tour guide came to Shmuli to complain that the tourists were made to feel uncomfortable. Okay, so maybe I do get a little excited, but if you really knew how important it is for these non-religious, American men to put on tefillin and pray at the Kotel, you would get excited, too. In less than two minutes they can have a spiritual experience that will change their lives, and their family’s lives, too!

    The tour guide had a complaint against me, well, I have one against him. He should have spoken to them about the spiritual reality of this place, not just the stones. For him to bring those Americans here and not explain to them that they really should put on tefillin, and instead, only show them the history of the Wall, is like taking them to a fancy restaurant to see the silverware. Obviously, you go to a restaurant because you are hungry, and want to taste the great food. Well, the “food” at the Kotel is a million times better.

    The tour guide fixed them up with a Friday night meal in the Old City, something to add color to their trip. It just so happened that they went to dinner at Shmuli’s father-in-law’s house. They were so surprised to see Shmuli’s smiling face come walking in the door. This smoothed over any leftover hard feelings. (I hope)

     Each time we try, we learn more about the “business.” Maybe, someday I will figure out how to get Jews like these, too.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

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Changes at Kever Rochel

photos by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

The Jewish holy sites of Israel are all ancient.  Whether you lasted visited them a year ago, a decade ago or longer, you don’t expect them to change.  But Israel is growing and as part of investing in tourism is investing in holy site improvements.

I had a chance to visit Kever Rochel, the tomb of our biblical matriarch Rachel – wife of Jacob, briefly this evening with my wife.  As we’ve mentioned and shown in the past, the Kever Rochel of the previous generation has been turned into Fortress Rochel to deal with the political realities of our time.  Fortress Rochel is a reinforced concrete structure completely surrounding and encasing the old Kever Rochel building.  This did result in some cramping of the space around the kever itself.

The building had a long entry path and a number of doors that apparently led to unused spaces.  It seems the building is now being renovated to make use of all available space…

The old, or rather new entrance of Fortress Rochel, is now closed off…P1050532

Instead, you follow along the outside of the building to some archways in the wall, which have been opened with separate doorways for men and women.  I’m not sure if separate entrances will be the normal situation (it wasn’t in the recent past) or was merely set up for the high traffic of yaretzheit visitors last week.

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This is the famous original entrance, at least several hundred years old, now complete contained inside the Fortress Rochel building.P1050537

The interior has been spruced up and is looking nice…P1050540

The ladies side was rather tight previously.  The side has been opened a bit to the exterior wall of the Fortress, giving it an airier feel (or so I’m told).

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The real surprise is down the former long entry hallway…

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The former entry way is being turned into a very classy synagogue or beis medresh…

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The final result should be an overall nice improvement to the site.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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Religious Thugs Collecting in the U.S.A.

A number of reports have been published in the Jewish religious press about the activities of a group of zealots / ultra-orthodox chassidic-like charedi THUGS (called the Sikrikim). These people have assaulted little girls going to a school they don’t like (and are still doing) in Ramat Beit Shemesh, damaged stores that don’t agree with whatever stringency they wish to apply in Jerusalem, and police reports involve actual physical attacks.

They may dress the part of ultra-orthodox charedim and chassidic Jews and even attend an institute of advanced Torah studies (a kollel), but their actions directly and forcefully contravene the most basic foundational Torah concepts. 

via Rafi @ Life in Israel

imageTwo leaders of the Sikrikim (charedi zealots/thugs) left Israel for the United States today to collect money for their continued efforts in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh (Israel).

Their names are Avraham Hirschman and Shalom Baruch Rost/Rust.  (Pictured left is Avraham Hirschman according to Ynetnews.)

Assuming you do not support the activities of these sikrikim (thugs dressed as ultra-orthodox Jews performing extremist violent actions), do not give them money!

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(Pictured left is Shalom Baruch Rost according to B’charedi.)

They may say they are collecting for their kollel (yeshiva or advanced Torah institute), for hachnassat kallah (helping needy Jewish brides afford a wedding and to set up their new home), a major surgery someone needs or whatever.

Whatever they say they are collecting for, they are collecting to fund their future (extremist violent) activities.

(Pictured below is Shalom Baruch Rost being arrested in Jerusalem according to B’charedi.)

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The Gurus Say…

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image     Sometimes, what the Hindu gurus say sounds so true, so right on, but then when you stop and think about it, you see that what they are saying takes you away from your goals, even out of the world, instead of putting you in the world in a proper way (the Jewish path).

     Someone (he wears a beard and a kipa, oy!) posted three of his favorite gurus’ sayings on a Facebook page that reached my desk. If you do not know where these gurus are coming from, better yet, where they are going, their words seem to make a lot of sense. Often they will state a principle that the Torah agrees with, and this truth draws you into their line of thinking. But then they add totally outrageous, even dangerous teachings that absolutely contradict the purpose of Jewish (in fact, all) life. I took the time to post a brief comment by each of their statements.

Guru Shi sadhu om sense –“The Essence of Spiritual Practice

     “Pleasures are worthless.”

Gutman:

     Pleasures are G-d given treasures when they are used to elevate life. Everything that you desire can happen in a holy way, when you align your desires with the reason they were created. Everything in the world can be used for good.

Guru Ramana maharshi “Guru VBachaka Kovai”, 77

    “If you ask, ‘What is the benefit of sacrificing the innumerable sensual pleasures and retaining mere Consciousness?’ [we reply that] the fruit of Jnana Yoga [Hindu spiritual knowledge] is the eternal and unbroken experience of the Bliss of Self.”

Gutman:

     The gurus say that when you become spiritual you leave the physical world. The Torah says that when you become spiritual you go out into the world and elevate it. Sensual experiences were created to be used for holy purposes (when applied via mitzvot, the right G-d given time, place, type and conditions), not to be forsaken.

     Whereas they say that the fruit of their spiritual work is “the eternal and unbroken experience of the bliss of Self,” the fruit of Torah is the eternal and unbroken experience of the bliss of G-d.[i]

General Hindu saying:

“Namaste’ (My spirit bows to the spirit within you) I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells… which is of love, truth, light and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

Gutman:

     Why are you always looking toward Hinduism for you quotes? There are many more great ones in your own inheritance, the Torah. For instance, “Know this day and take it to your heart that Hashem is G-d, in the Heaven above and upon the earth below, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE.”[ii] G-d is one, and G-d is all—All is one at all times. Reach for this understanding, not theirs. See Hinduism’s Message to the Jewish People on YouTube.


[i] Gilui Shechina (Revelation of G-d’s Presence) which can happen briefly in this world, and will be the soul’s experience forever in the World to Come, depending upon the soul’s accomplishments in this world.

[ii] Deuteronomy 4:39

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