Friday, December 30, 2011

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Silvester

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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Israel is an amazing mix of world cultures.  Jews arrived, survived, fled to and immigrated to Israel from over 60 nations around the world.  This means I could enjoy a Shabbos with gefilte fish for the appetizer (a dish from Eastern European Jewish culture), marak taymanee for the soup (Yemminite soup, a spicy chicken soup), and chicken enchiladas for the entrée (a Mexican dish) and have met every Shabbos custom while enjoying traditions of Jewish communities from multiple countries.

Passing through malls recently in Israel I noticed some stores with “Silvester Sale!” signs.  So I had to find out, what is Silvester?  (In the U.S., Silvester is best known as a cartoon character cat who spends his life unsuccessfully chasing a little yellow “tweety bird”.  Somehow I don’t think that’s what everyone is referring to.)

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A bit of quick research found that “Silvester (also spelled szilveszter, sylvester or sylwester) is used in some countries as a name for New Year's Eve.”  Ok, I figured that out already (the sale signs have dates on them).   But why?

More research, “the origin of the name is Saint Sylvester's Day in the Roman Catholic Church, named after Pope Sylvester I, who died on 31 December 335 (CE).”  According to legend, he was a slayer of dragons and resurrector of dragon victims.  Per history, he was responsible for firmly entrenching Xianity into the Roman Empire and builder of great church buildings on the top of gravesites of martyrs.  (Apparently many of the oldest church buildings are actually built on top of cemeteries???)

Silvester’s legend explains his success in creating the start of the Holy Roman Empire (making Rome Xian) as a disputation between Silvester and his students and between the Jews.  The legend says…

“When Helen, the mother of (Roman Emperor) Constantine, dwelling in Bethany, heard say that the emperor was become xian, she sent to him a letter, in which she praised much her son of this that he had renounced the false idols, but she blamed him much that he had renounced the law of the Jews, and worshipped a man crucified. Then Constantine remanded to his mother that she should assemble the greatest masters of the Jews, and he should assemble the greatest masters of the xian, to the end that they might dispute and know which was the truest law.”

Naturally, according to the legend, Silvester won the disputation even to the extend of convincing the Jews to convert as well.  He then went on (the next day) to slay a dragon that was killing 300 men a day and turn the whole city of Rome away from the worship of idols and to the worship of xianity.

While records of this disputation no longer exist, we know from plenty of later ones the standard pattern was to set the Jews up and then torture them to death if they won, or offer the conversion or death if they lost (with a partial judge doing the judging).  So we know the value of the words of the legend.

The name Silvester for New Years was carried to Israel by Polish, German, Hungarian and Italian immigrants and survivors from the Holocaust. 

So while some blogs have investigated halachically whether one can wish another Happy New Year’s or even take part in a New Year’s event (concluding that nowadays the holiday has been stripped of any historical religious association – though New Years style partying is inappropriate), in Israel wishing someone a Happy Silvester or, for a store owner, having a Silvester sale, is not permitted.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

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How Old Are You?

true stories from the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     This nice looking grey-haired man stood by the side watching me interact with the men who walked by the tefillin stand. He seemed to have enjoyed the conversations, especially when I convinced someone to put on tefillin.

     I could see him shaking his head in agreement whenever I told a young tourist that he had to marry a Jewish girl. After a while, the two young men in the picture came over and asked me if I could help the older man to put on tefillin. They told me that he was their father, and that he had never once in his life put on tefillin.

     I walked over and started speaking with him. He was warm, friendly and insistent on not putting on tefillin. He was an Israeli who, besides Hebrew, spoke fluent Yiddish, and English. He seemed to have spent time on an anti-religious kibbutz.

     He acted like he had to resist me, but still, I was able to have him, albeit reluctantly, bless his sons. Then, when it seemed like my logic was beginning to win, he pulled out his “heaviest” card. “Respect for your elders!”

     “How old are you?” he asked.

     “Older than you are!” I shot back.

     “No, you’re not!” he insisted.

     “Yes, I am,” I argued. “How old are you?” I asked.

     “67!” he bragged, expecting to win the argument hands down.

    “Well, young man, you better have some respect for your elders,” I told him.

    “Why? How old are you?” he asked.

    “Seven years older than you are,” I said.

    “No, you’re not! Let me see your I.D. card,” he demanded.

     I showed him the card and, with my index finger waving at him repeated, “You have to respect your elders. Come, put on tefillin.”

     “Oh, alright,” he said smiling, as I gently pulled his arm and slid the tefillin on. His sons were shocked…. So was I. But you never know what is going to move them.

     He had a wonderful time. He was not too keen on reading the entire Shema, but he smiled a lot, and wanted to have some pictures for the family to see. He walked away with a big smile, and two very happy sons.

    We see this a lot… the soul of the Jew really wants to do the mitzvah, but the animal in him is just not used to it, or it has been taught to refuse such things. Usually, he doesn’t understand what a mitzvah is. Or, he is afraid that doing a mitzvah means that he is agreeing to become completely religious…and he is not about to do that! Most often, those who refuse just need a loving little nudge in the right direction to bring them in.

     Like any other trade, the more you do it, the more you learn, and the better at it you become. Remember, when you teach someone to do a mitzvah the right way, you will bring at least three smiles into the world, his, yours, and the One you are working for.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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You Get It!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

We had some great comments and feedback on events in Beit Shemesh.  I’d like to point a few out, and a few other articles that highlight thoughts on what’s going on.

First Rav Slifkin at Rationalist Judaism, someone I’ve met and attended his lecture (and my daughter has babysat for him!).  He writes a deep analysis of why other ultra-orthodox rabbis aren’t standing up to counter the zealot-thugs.  His conclusion, they deplore the violence but aren’t completely against the goals of a “holy neighborhood”.

Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish has a completely different take.  He traces back the money trail of those who promoted a minor local disturbance into an international news event.  At the end of the trail he finds George Soros, who is consistently financing projects to fracture Israeli society.

On both accounts I’ll note the amazing fact that when 20 (seemingly) religious Jews misbehave in a large town in Israel, it becomes a number one world headline! 

Many of our reader comments were incredible and approached the issue exactly as I had been thinking about it….

shimonmatisyahu said “The rabbis who should be protesting against these zealots should refer to the Gemara in Gittin that is customarily learned on Tisha B'Av about the zealots who burned 22 years worth of food that was saved for the Jewish community in order to get the Jews to fight the Romans. Not only did this not work at the end for shortly afterwards, the Beis HaMikdosh was destroyed along with murder and exile of Jews…”  Exactly.  Even worse, these modern zealots use the same name as the zealots of that time, and these events are occurring right before the fast of the 10th of Tevet – our reminder of the siege of Jerusalem!

Anonymous said “don’t these rabbis know the whole Torah is don’t do to your neighbor as you’d want your neighbor to do you???” 

Yishai said “Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving all creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.”

Tzemer Upishtim said “The way we can fight this craziness is NOT by protesting. We have to learn the laws of Bein Adam L'Chavero (the Torah laws between man and his fellow).”

Yishai said “Pirkei Avot, 1:6 Judge every person favorably * This includes the national religious and even the chilonim!”

There is so much Torah about peace, unity, and the mitzvot of Bein Odom L’chavero (between man and his fellow), and so little about zealotry with absolutely NONE about attacking your fellow (unless he’s trying to physically kill you).  There is no Torah in what’s going on and no possible Jewish justification. 

This is thuggery in the name of Torah, a straight out chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name). 

This doesn’t mean there are no negative actions happening on the other side.  There are people looking to take advantage of the situation, trying to start a fight with the ultra-orthodox and people who will jump into the situation for their own personal benefit.  And some of the organizations now involved are receiving foreign funding to damage Israel and the Jews.

But it doesn’t matter.  There is no justification for terrorizing elementary school girls.

Two comments were upsetting, and I’ll reply to them here:

Anonymous said on Bad Charedi, Bad! ... This is a ridiculous post written by someone who clearly doesn't come from Beit Shemesh. Who are you pointing your fingers at? How can you talk about the Rabbai'im in such a way? And this woman who went to the non religious press, this is the way a shomrei shabbos behaves?

The animals spitting at children are NOTHING to do with the Charedi community here and nor are the immodestly dressed mizrachi women who feels its appropriate to go to the non religious press. Both are as bad as each other and have nothing to do with the Charedim in Beit Shemesh.

It’s rather ironic someone commenting as “anonymous” criticizes a signed post asking “who are you?”  Further, when the post includes a video of the author directly confronting the charedi-dressed yiddish-accented zealot-thugs calling the 8 year old school girls inappropriate names in Beit Shemesh while guarding the girls walking home, it’s as if Anonymous didn’t even glance at it. 

“How can you talk about Rabbai’im in such a way?” – Where there are no men, be a man (Pirke Avos).

This woman’s child has been terrorized for 3 months.  The police didn’t deal with it.  The mayor didn’t deal with it.  The rabbaim she approached either didn’t deal with it or couldn’t deal with it.  Would you let your child continue to be terrorized or do ANYTHING you could to make it stop (like going to the press)?  I know my answer.

Commenter Abbi said on Live from Beit Shemesh, “This post (Rabbi Slifkin’s) explains your attitude to a T: ‘At every level in charedi society, there is a certain degree of intolerance towards non-charedim, which is never protested by those to their left in charedi society.’  This protest was the beginning of a tikkun. You are part of the problem, even if you pretend you're not.

Abbi, you’re obviously looking to pick a fight.  As with the previous comment, I wonder if you even read the articles as we took direct actions to stand against the zealot-thugs actions against the school and the girls.  If you want to completely alienate the charedi community and define every Jew who wears a black hat and long coat as a problem, then you’ll be helping the zealots who go around telling everyone in the charedi community that that’s the case. 

Israel is going to be more religious, more ultra orthodox whether anyone likes it or not.  That’s a fact of demographics that can no longer be avoided (and previous governments took actions to starve the community, reducing child and poverty payments).  The government has done everything it can to stop that, keep the charedim segregated and limited in economic capacity (yes, there are 2 sides to the story and I’m telling the other one.) 

Now the government and society should be working to moderate, make some accommodations, and integrate them into the operational aspects of society.  (No, you’re not going to get them to integrate into Israeli culture – trying to force that is part of the isolation response of today.)

I attended the protests to defend the girls as a charedi standing against charedi zealot-thugs with my dati-leumi (modern orthodox) brethren.  And I attended yesterday’s anti-violence protest as a charedi who is willing to stand up and say this is not ok, and confront it when necessary.

I don’t pretend.  “Where there’s no men, be a man” is part of my Torah.  So is “v’ahavta l’rayecha ka’mocha” – love your fellow.  What’s part of yours?

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How’s Your Memory?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A friend asked, “How’s your memory?”

    “I forget,” I answered.

     I know it sounds funny, but it can be frustrating when you walk into a room for something… stop, and ask, “What did I come into this room for?” No big deal, you just go back out and do something else until you remember what you went in there for.

     But my memory is not so bad. Well, at least it doesn’t seem so bad when I compare it to my friend’s memory. He’s at the stage of sitting at the kitchen table desperately looking around…looking under plates, and asking, “Did I eat that cookie?”

     Also, when you live in Jerusalem, and stay with your daily schedule it’s a lot easier, because if things get bad enough, you can always ask someone what time it is, and then you can figure out where you were going.

     But like most other “older folk,” I do have my “senior moments.” They usually happen when I go to the store. Obviously, I make out a list of the six things that I need—I’m not forgetful enough to think that I will remember them all. But, what always happens is… I forget to take the list!

     One time, I was standing in the store searching my pockets for the list. Then, I realized that I had forgotten it, and there was an American-looking man there going over his list. I went over to him and said, “Excuse me. But, could I borrow your shopping list? I left mine at home.” He looked at me like I was nuts, but he actually handed me his list. I thanked him and gave it back.

     But like I said, here in Jerusalem, it’s a lot easier because of the more obvious Heavenly help that we receive. Like a few days ago, I had to go to the store to get matches. I did not have enough for all the days of Chanukah lightings. I made up my list, putting matches on top and I included the other five things that I needed. I remembered to take money (which I usually do) and went to the store. I got two or three of the things that I needed, but I forgot what the other three were, so I reached into my pocket for the list and… you guessed it…I had forgotten the list!

      I did pretty good though, and I thought that I had gotten everything on the list, so I checked out. After paying, the checkout lady looked at me intensely, something she had never done before, and said in a seemingly harsh voice, “Happy Chanukah!”

    “Wow, that’s weird,” I thought. “Why did she say that so gruffly?”

     I took my change and started to leave… then it hit me: “Chanukah! Matches! I need a box of matches!” I smiled.

     “Thank G-d for all the assistance that You give me.”

     I went home and checked the list. I brought home five out of the six things. Not bad, huh?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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Live from Beit Shemesh

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I attended tonight’s “Protest against The Religious or Anti-Women Agenda or …”, well I’m not actually sure what the protest was against, and as far as I can tell the protest didn’t know either.

There were 2 groups with a massive presence: The security forces, who took the possibility of riots very seriously, and the press.  There must have been one reporter and cameraman for every 20 protestors, representing Israeli TV, foreign TV, newspapers, photojournalism, etc.  You could barely see the stage for the number of cameras set up.

The security forces prepared 2 rings of security around the protest area, blocking any possible interaction between the anti-religious protestors and the ultra-orthodox neighborhood.

(Photo – Outer Security Ring with regular police and border police.)

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While the security forces were doing their thing, the buses bringing protestors were dropping them off 2 blocks or so in the charedi neighborhoods.  This led to the odd vision of a busload of protestors with signs and attitude marching through groups of charedim standing by bus stops or along the street.  There certainly was potential for the odd scuffle or two, but I didn’t see any happen.

(Photo – Walk down to the main protest area.)

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The protest area was at the kikar (the traffic circle) in front of the Modern Jewish Religious Girls School which was the primary point of conflict.  Beit Shemesh has several large parks and an outdoor ampitheatre which would be great for a protest, but the organizers wanted to be “in the hood”, which has no green spaces to allow a protest gathering.

(Photos – Primary protest area & crowd.)

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The protest crowd was an interesting and perhaps unnatural mix.  About 49% dati leumi (modern orthodox Jewish), maybe 25% chiloni (non-observant Jewish Israeli), 25% anti-religious violently secular, and about 1% semi-ultra-orthodox or sephardi ultra-orthodox but not wearing hats or black coats.

And there was exactly 1 guy dressed charedi in the crowd, with a black hat, long black coat and long beard…me.

The signs were a strange mix of unrelated ideas.  “Take back Beit Shemesh”, “Bibi, I want an inexpensive apartment!”, “One Country, One Land, One People”, “Women are from the Kadimi (political party)”.  Some signs were homemade, some where professional.

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The speeches were similarly unrelated.  Stop the charedim, women’s rights, leftist political agendas, protect the girls. 

So what was the attitude?  The adults seemed happy to be there and that there was attention, and I had conversations with a few that confirmed this.  The older people seemed to glare a lot, angry that Beit Shemesh has changed.

There were two types of young people there.  Groups of dati leumi (modern orthodox) youth who were looking to assert themselves, to be pushy, to glare at me and be mildly threatening (after all I was dressed like “the enemy”), to stand up for their community.

The other type was chiloni and/or anti-religious.  They came looking for a fight, and if the attitude of the crowd had been negative or angry or the police presence less, they would have found one.  As it was the best they could find was cursing the charedim in the distance.  (In my case the only bad words I received during the night was from one such group, who informed me “hebrew pejorative for ultra-orthodox are pejorative for women who provide services for a fee”.)

Thank G-d, the protest basically was a bust.  The security forces did an excellent job.  Attendance was low (estimated at 500-3,000 maximum) and some sudden very cold temperatures meant many left after a short time, keeping numbers low even as more arrived.  There was no coherent theme. 

And the zealots, who had called for “defenders” throughout Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, seemed to have nobody arrive. 

Again, as buses of arriving protestors mingled on the streets of the charedi neighborhood…nothing happened beyond a little bit of glaring at each other.  Not because of police presence, because there wasn’t any in those areas.  Because, thank G-d, brothers really don’t want to fight and most people are indeed decent.

as of 8:00pm, live from Beit Shemesh, this is Reb Akiva reporting.

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Beit Shemesh Gone Wild

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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Reasonableness has passed.  The politicians and activists are going to make their point, regardless of the result!  Organized by Facebook, web forums and blogs, 10,000 angry anti-religious will descend upon Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet at 6:00 PM today.  The buses have been chartered from as far away as Haifa (2 1/2 hours), the religious will pay!

The zealot thug gang ultra-orthodox dressing Jews will respond, they won’t take it lying down.  Their leaders have set their response, the announcement trucks are already traveling through the neighborhoods of all ultra-orthodox areas of Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.  “Come and defend the Torah, the holy neighborhood and holy people!” they blare.  The neighborhood rabbis say “it’s not us, but the anti-religious are inciting!” (with the zealot thugs standing quietly and threateningly outside their window.)

The city officials who tolerated this while it was a small but seriously traumatizing matter for elementary school girls are now calling all parties to meet with them, or at least get photos with them.  They’re shocked they are being rebuffed.

The leader of the effort to protect the girls, Rabbi Dov Lipman, who’s the rabbi of the modern orthodox neighborhood in question and the rabbi of the school in question, has been refused access to speak at the secular anti-religious “rally” to be held at 6:00pm.  The Israeli newspapers write, “A group of Haredi residents of Beit Shemesh led by Rabbi Dov Lipman has asked to take part in the rally. Lipman has requested permission to address the crowd.” Haredi??? Dov Lipman is the rabbi of the family, girl, neighborhood and school involved!!!!!

Photo – Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, Israel, speaking at a rally against violence and intimidation 2 months ago in Beit Shemesh, on the Modern Orthodox – Charedi neighborhood seam line, 2 blocks from the modern religious girls school in question.

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Rabbi Lipman has worked tirelessly to calm the conflict and try to find a balance between the neighborhoods and groups.  He’s stood again and again and said “this is not an anti-ultra-orthodox thing, this is people acting inappropriately that need to be dealt with”. 

But the newspapers don’t want people who try to make peace and resolve conflict.  Neither do today’s rally organizers.  Push aside those directly involved, this is about MAKING YOUR POINT.

I’m afraid.  Unless the authorities prepare very strongly, people are going to get hurt today (G-d forbid).  Jews are going to be fighting Jews. 

My dear charedi brethren, there is no Torah source or position that allows you to attack your fellow Jew.  You are falling prey to ego and the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination).  THIS IS HOW THE YETZER BRINGS THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY DOWN!  This is not honest kannanus (zealotry), this is a perversion!

My dear chiloni (non-observant) brethren, please do not bring your battles for attention and political leverage to this situation.  Yes, “they” started it.  But it’s the city officialdom and police who failed to deal with it.  Be honest, are you really coming to defend an 8 year old religious girl or to drive your own agenda?  Your agenda is not worth the blood of your brothers.

Dear authorities, stand up and forcefully deal with this situation before it gets out of hand!  And that moment is upon you! 

Anyone considering attending, DO NOT DO SO!

And the press, yes YOU are responsible for stirring this up to this level!  Please refrain from being even more of the problem.

RIBONO SHEL OLAM, Master of the Universe, please do not let this happen this way!  Please do not let brothers clash and injure one another.  Let it be resolved peacefully and fade away!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

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Bad Charedi, Bad!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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Commentor “Dovid from Modiin” wrote:

Maybe the zealots are to blame for Mattityahu’s change of hashkafa.  Maybe the Charadim Rabbanim and their handlers are also to blame for Mattityahu’s change of hashkafa.

I think most readers and contributors here would agree that what the zealots are doing by the girls school in Beit Shemesh is completely wrong.

It is also wrong that the Charadi Rabbanim don't actively protest the zealots corrupt torah life style. I know there has been a handful who have in the past mentioned that it was wrong, but that is not enough. They need to speak louder, they need to make tapes, video and actively condemn and protest the zealots. They need to send 10,000 men to the zealots own community and protest against them so it is loud and clear for the entire Jewish community to hear. They need to stop worrying making arguments against other charadim and show the other Jews and the world that the zealots have crossed a line and gone to far.

(Video – Reb Akiva confronts the zealots of Beit Shemesh, hebrew, 8 min.)

In this case you are either for or against and if you don’t speak up you are against the school girls and for the zealots. It is as if all the Charadi Rabbanim have called that girl names and spit on her.

I don't think anyone is perfect and we should work on following real Mitzvot and not make up new chumrot that have no torah basis or past customs, especially when they effect other people who may not want to follow those made up chumrot. The Charadim Rabbanim need to fight against crazy made up chumrot that have no Torah source and put a stop to it.

This situation is a mess.  I’ve directly confronted the zealots and participated in community protests against the zealots actions, doing both in my own “full charedi garb”.  And I didn’t do so alone, but rather arrived (all independently) with many other charedim from Ramat Beit Shemesh.  There are people standing up.

The people doing this are thugs and as a group acting as a gang.  That they dress as ultra-orthodox Jews is irrelevant.  As I’ve said before, the yezter hara, the evil inclination, doesn’t come to the ultra-orthodox and say “eat treif (not kosher)”.  He comes and screams “defend the Torah!  defend your rav or Rebbe!”.  There is absolutely no Torah, halacha or Jewish basis for what they are doing!

P1040938Not only am I verbally against it, I’ve personally gone and stood to defend the school girls being verbally and otherwise assaulted.

That said, have no doubt that the news is throwing gasoline on the fire.  This has been 10-20 very problematic ultra-orthodox dressing thugs taking actions that should be responded to by the authorities. 

The Israeli news and leftists anti-religious Israeli politicians are using this situation to promote their own agendas.  For example, this has become a “women’s equal rights issue”???  Yet a year ago there was a similar protest against a new boys school 2 buildings down from the girls school.  (It faded away after a few months and some charedi-thug vandalism, which also wasn’t handled seriously by the authorities.)

Whether people make up chumrot (extra stringencies in their Torah observance) or not is not yours or my business.  We can have a long and Torah based discussion of whether chumrot are appropriate or not.

The mistake being made here is taking these people taking their personal chumrot and trying to enforce them as a public standard.  If they, as a group, choose to do that in the isolation of their synagogue and don’t welcome anyone in their synagogue who doesn’t keep their (extra) standards, again that’s their business. 

When they try to physically enforce their personal standards in public, then they are violating Torah law and secular law.  When violating Torah law in such a fashion they should be isolated and certainly not supported!  When violating secular law the secular authorities have to take appropriate action or they will empower the thugs to increase in such actions. 

Like any gang when they see they can get their way, they exercise it more to carve out their turf.  And that’s exactly what’s happened.

I should note I’ve been advised, multiple times, not to write such things.  The thugs may come and get me, they don’t like people taking positions against them.  And this is exactly part of the problem, they’re acting like a gang threatening (and taking actual actions) against those who stand against them.  Your average rabbi is not prepared to deal with a gang.

But the News is stirring up a riot!

UPDATES:

#1 – Rav Nati was assaulted in the neighborhood in question today!  He was waiting to meet a friend and pulled out his netbook (mini-laptop) inside his car, which does not have a cell-internet-connection, to jot down some Torah thoughts.  He was harassed, which reached the point of 2 (supposedly) ultra-orthodox thugs attempting to pull him out of his car and hurt him.  (This did not end well for the thugs, Rav Nati is a trained self defense professional. but did degenerate into rock throwing against Rav Nati – who is a charedi rabbi and dresses as such!)

#2 – To give an idea of the area in question, I prepared this map of Beit Shemesh, neighborhoods Ramat Bet, Kiryat Charedit and Sheinfeld which abut each other…

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“Eliminate Israel” – Ron Paul

(Whitney Martin/The Battalion) Senator Ron Paul adresses a group of students about his political views Tuesday evening in Rudder Tower.  In his speech, Ron Paul speaks about the proper role of the constitution within the government.

Althouse: Ron Paul is not an anti-Semite, but he is "most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general."

"He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs."
Writes Eric Dondero, who was a senior aide to Ron Paul, 1997-2003, campaign coordinator in 1995/96, the national organizer of Draft Ron Paul for President (1991/92), and a personal assistant to Ron Paul 1987/88.  Dondero also writes that Ron Paul is not a racist, that in 12 years of working for the man, he "never heard a racist word expressed towards Blacks or Jews come out of his mouth."

ron_paul_2I, for one, wish that Ron Paul did not exist at all.  I believe he’s more trouble than he is worth, costing the US taxpayer and the Republican party more than he is worth.  I also believe that people who support calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state are state enemies and advocating a position that would cost millions of lives.  They are effectively advocating genocide and the destruction of a nation, whether they directly phrase it that way or not.

No American politician has any obligation to like Israel, support any type of foreign aide for Israel, or support a friendly nation to nation relationship with Israel.  If the U.S. Congressman from Texas Ron Paul wishes to advocate stopping US foreign aide to Israel, stopping any military or political relationship, or even advocating that the U.S. freeze relations with Israel, then he is expressing a political position.  One with which I may disagree, but a political position nonetheless. 

But to recommend the “abolishment” of a nation-state?  As they say in Texas, them’s fighting words.  Since we’ve never heard Congressman Paul advocate the abolishment of the Soviet Union or Russia, or Cuba, or even Afghanistan, Al Quieda, or North Korea, all clear enemies of the United States, we can safely understand that indeed U.S. Congressman from Texas Ron Paul is indeed a sophisticated Anti-Semite who has a politicians knack for cloaking his meaning.

He may be the only presidential candidate with small government or libertarian principles, but on world politics he’s extremely isolationist and now exposed as an anti-semite.  Unfortunate.

UPDATE: A commentor says Ron Paul directly says otherwise and shares this video of him giving his position on Israel (below).  I happen to agree with what’s said by Congressman Paul in these 2 minutes.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

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Path’s on Google Currents for Android & iPad

Mystical Paths is now available in magazine format on Google Currents, for the iPad, Android tablets, iPhone or Android phones, or any devices on which Google Currents works.

CaptureGoogle Currents for iPhone / iPad here or for Android here.  Then search for Mystical Paths or Jewish or Judaism or click this link in your device browser.

Once you get it, here’s how it looks…

 

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Thanks to Elder of Ziyon for the idea.

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Pure to the Lord – Tohar L’Hashem

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Capture

An amazing find was announced today by the City of David archeological excavation team in Jerusalem.

For those unfamiliar, the City of David project is performing careful excavations of the ancient city of Jerusalem, which sat not where the current city is but on the next hill over in what’s today an Arab neighborhood of Silwan and the City of David archeological park.  If you exit the Dung Gate from the Old City and walk straight, that’s Silwan / City of David.

Here’s the find in the words of the archeological team (translated from Hebrew with some editing and explanation added by Reb Akiva)…

A first of its kind find of an item of activity that took place in the Holy Jewish Temple of antiquity was recently discovered in archaeological excavations in the city of David in Jerusalem. 

The item in question is a tiny stamp(er).  It has written upon it, in an Aramiac abbreviated form “Tahor l’Hashem – Pure to G-d”, which is the designation for items that were being brought to the Temple for a sacrifice and for sacrificial items that had their ritual performed and had to be consumed within Jerusalem (depending on the sacrifice either by the Kohein, his family, or the giver of the sacrifice).

It’s believed the stamp was used in a Temple food storage locker during the Second Temple period.

The dimensions of the object discovered is the size of a button - its diameter is about two inches. It’s made of clay and stamped Aramaic inscription consisting of two rows.

שני צדי המטבע (צילום: רשות העתיקות)

The directors of the excavation which revealed the find, archaeologists Eli Shukron of the Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, explained that "this is the first time such an object has been found. It is direct archaeological evidence of activity on the Temple Mount and the Temple during the Second Temple period."

Everyone knows the details of Chanukah include the story of the Maccabis finding a single cruse of oil marked with the seal of the kohanim, stating it was pure, dedicated to the Temple and not desecrated.  This may very well have been the very stamp of Chanukah! 

Here’s a video of the press conference (Hebrew, 15 minutes, you’ve got to come to the Mystical Paths web site to view it.)

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Who Is Going to Take Over?

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003

     I was talking to one of the Chasidic young men pictured here about the mystical teachings in the Torah. No one had ever introduced him to this way of thinking. I explained to him how the simplest blessings teach us some of the deepest possible lessons in life, and how we have to take these lessons to heart.

     He was really moved. He said that, in those few minutes that we spoke, I showed him more than all of his rabbis. Of course he was exaggerating, but I am telling you this so you will see how moved he was.

     As we spoke, the second Chassidic young man came over, and two teenage American brothers returned to have me take off their tefillin. As I took off the tefillin, I asked the brothers what they were going to major in, in college. One said “architecture,” and the other said “medicine.” I told them that they were making wonderful choices, and that they should pursue those careers.

     After the brothers left, the second Chasidic youth asked me if I was really interested in what those teens were going to study. “What difference does it make to you what they study? Do you really care?”

    “Of course I care.” I said. “What they study will determine what kind of lives they will live.”

    “What do you care how they live?” he asked.

     “What do I care?” I yelled at him. “I am responsible for those boys!”

     “What are you talking about? You just met them. You’re not their father!” he shot back at me.

     “What are you saying?” I asked. “Aren’t the elders of the generation responsible for the younger people?” I stared at him, truly amazed that he could ask such a question. “What is going to happen when I am gone? If you think like this, who is going to take over and watch out for all these Jewish kids--who don’t even know enough to put on tefillin?”

     “Not me,” he said.

     “I will! I will!” the other Chasidic young man said with a big smile. “I’ll take over and watch out for them.”  

     Now it was my turn to smile. I looked lovingly at the youth who had understood what I was saying. How important it is that this lesson be learned!

     This young man saw that, not only are all Jews obligated to help each other, and not only are the more fortunate obligated to help the less fortunate, but even a simple, old Jew should feel like he or she is an elder of the generation--who has been given the special blessing of longer life so he can help share his experiences with the younger generation. If the ones with the greatest experience do not watch out for the kids, who will?

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Reflecting the Light, or Not

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

light_fixture

This past week there was big and somewhat sad news in the Jewish religious social world.  A major new generation Jewish religious pop singer cut off his beard and payos (Jewish side locks), declaring he’s “no longer a (Jewish religious style) singer, he’s just a singer”.

And there was big social news in Israel, in Beit Shemesh, as a wacked group of crazed zealots who dresses as ultra-orthodox Jews (and represents themselves as such) returned to their battle against a neighborhood Jewish religious-but-not ultra-orthodox school by attacking 7 year old school girls right in front of TV reporters.

We Jews have a problem, or rather a responsibility.  We’re told by G-d to be a nation of priests, a holy nation.  We are literally the representatives of G-d and His Torah in this world.  That is not, G-d forbid, to brag in some way, exactly the opposite!  We carry an awesome responsibility.

We are the agents of G-d who brought a model of civilization and morals to the world.  “Human rights” is originally a Jewish concept, one that DID NOT EXIST prior to the Jewish people (though the latest generation has taken it too far, out of balance – but that’s another discussion).

We are the chosen people, chosen to be held up as the example of how to be.  If we’re not being our best, then we’re not only disgracing G-d and His Torah publically, we’re literally turning back civilization, good morals and G-d’s plan.

Every parent with young children knows when (G-d help us) he’s lost his temper or done something inappropriate in front of one of the children he’ll get the surprise of his life as the child repeats it back minutes or hours later.  A curse word or kicking of a chair, where’d that come from?  Oh, me.

The Jewish singer who cut his beard and payos insists he’s still religious.  I can’t judge what’s in his heart, that’s between him and Hashem.  But he represented himself as an ultra-orthodox man who could reach across boundaries and touch Jews less religious, marginally religious or not religious.  He gave them pride in being Jewish as he mixed ultra-orthodox Jewish concepts and appearance with a form of music they could relate to.

He put himself out there in the role, a shining example reaching a new generation.  And now he’s effectively said “whoops, sorry, doesn’t work”.  While he may be as Torah observant as he was the day before (and there is no requirement to have a long uncut beard or long payos, both are extra-stringencies, so he’s not violating any Torah law by removing them), that’s not the way it will be interpreted.  He’s violated the role he placed himself into, which was a contemporary modern model of the holy role of a representative of G-d and His Torah in a very very public way.

He’s been a wandering soul who hasn’t stuck too long in any path he’s been in.  But now he has young children (with long payos) so hopefully he’ll learn that such swings affect others when you’re a parent….and when you’ve leveraged your image into a “star”.

Similarly our local zealots don’t realize that to the outside world they are the representatives of G-d and His Torah.  When they are chasing little girls because they disagree with the length or color of their clothing which are fully within religious boundaries but not within the zealots personal restrictions – actions which absolutely are not permitted under any definition of Judaism, Torah, chassidism, charedism that I understand or recognize – they are representing their actions as Torah!  There is no excuse for what they are doing, it’s criminal and should be dealt with as such.

And worse, they’ve represented G-d and His Torah via their personal problems.  Hashem Yishmor.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

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A Chanukah Meditation

by Reb Aharon, author of Eye to the Infinite @ Mystical Paths

menorahChanukoh means rededication, or renewal.

But renewal is the Eternal quality of the Infinitely Merciful G-d Who constantly renews - the world, you, me, everything … from nothing. The most we can do is to rededicate and thus touch on the essence of renewal.

The closer we draw near to G-d, the more we become part of the G-dly process of renewal, the more we become part of that Essence that is constant rebirth, of self and soul. I remember how I used to go the Sholosh Seudos [1] of a certain Tsaddik of Blessed Memory. I always felt afterwards as if I’d been cleansed and renewed – like having been through a ‘spiritual wash-machine’.

The Kabbalists termed this level ‘loiven ho’elyon’. Each one of us can access this elevated level through learning Torah, or, through annulling oneself to a true Tsaddik, or through performing a Mitsvoh with a full heart.

The lighting of the Menorah is a particularly effective time to access this renewal and cleaning, this rebirth. When we thank G-d and acknowledge His constant Providence and interaction with us, we become filled with love for Him, our consciousness expands and the soul reveals itself.

Here is a meditation on the lights of the Menorah to enter that state.

The Zohar says that a person is symbolised by an oil-wick flame [2]

Look at the lights of your Menorah.

Notice the wick, the oil and the light surrounding the wick,

These represent facets of your spiritual self,

The seforim advise us to see ourselves as a neshomo [soul] of light amongst other neshomos,

So realise yourself now, as you gaze at the lights, to be completely soul, amongst other souls,

The black wick at the centre represents your essence [3]

It draws sustenance from the oil - the good deeds you do, the Torah you learn, the awareness you have of G-d.

The flame is the light of G-d

It surrounds you, is opposite you, with you. Realise G-d to with us constantly.

The wick is constantly giving of itself to the fire, becoming one with the light.

When we do the Mitsvos, we reach out to G-d, we rededicate ourselves to G-d, we touch that sublime nothingness of self as we touch the Eternal.

The lights you look at are lights of holiness, they are pure Mitsvoh. As such you can be transported to a purely spiritual G-dly Place by allowing yourself to connect with the Shechinoh that is part and parcel of the Mitsvoh.

In lighting the Menorah, our custom is to light a new light each night, and then go backwards, till we light the first light we lit on the very first night. This is how to build in our spiritual service of G-d: always adding but always going back strengthening the old foundations, making sure the foundations are firm and then building further.

A freilichen Chanukoh.


[1] The third meal of Shabbos, after the Shabbos Minchoh prayer.

[2] I heard from the great Lelover Rebbe of Blessed Memory [Rabbi Avrohom Shlomo Beiderman of Jerusalem] in the name of his holy father [Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Beiderman zt”l] that as the wick draws sustenance from the oil, so does the soul in Gan Eden draw delight from a light that is lit for it in this world.

[3] The colour black is the lowest vibration. This represents the receiving end of the spiritual ladder. But it is also the door to the higher levels (see Eye to The Infinite).

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

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My Favorite Chanukah Story

[Photo by Flickr user Goldberg]

For the past 15 years I've been sharing this, my favorite Chanukah story. In honor of the festive occasion of Hanukah, a constant reminder that a little light dispels a lot of darkness, I humbly offer my favorite Hanukah story:

Adapted from the Hebrew weekly, Shav'uon Kfar Chabad, a wondrous account sent in by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Greenvald from 16 years ago...

Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, may his merit guard over us, Jews all around me -- of every stripe and persuasion -- can't seem to stop talking about the Rebbe. At the synagogue I pray at, at work. It amazes me to see how every Jew seems to have a story about a personal encounter or experience with the Rebbe.

I say it's a mitzvah to tell these stories so that our children and children's children will hear about the Sanctification of G-d's name by means of a tzaddik who walked amongst us and was a faithful shepherd for all the children of the generation. It's widely known that Hasidim place great importance on tales of the righteous, as it is written, "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O ye Servants of the Lord" (Psalms). In order to comply with this precept myself, I offer a wondrous account about the Rebbe and my father. Until now this was known only in our family circles. I now find it incumbent upon me, after the Rebbe's passing, to tell the story publicly.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.

My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said, "In another few days, it will be Hanukkah. Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said, "The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.

After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed.

My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim, who he had never met because the uncle immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe, my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.

My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust. Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son-in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash, as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately. His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details.

After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.

After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.

Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.

But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe.

Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.

I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth.

Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.

Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself. The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'"

The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'" And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."

Since then, about 10 years passed.

In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane. On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say. Only after I asked several times, he told me. "A few minutes after I left the house in Toronto, the neighbor -- one of the dignitaries of our congregation -- came to see me, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes. He said he would tell me a story that he would not otherwise tell to anybody willingly, but that maybe I could help.

It turned out that the daughter of this community leader wavered very much in her ritual observance. In the beginning, the parents didn't really know about it, because she hid it from them. But two weeks earlier, the great catastrophe became known to them: she eloped with a Gentile to London. Since then, the atmosphere at home was one of crying and mourning, the 9th of Av.

All the efforts of relatives in London came to naught. Therefore, he asked my father, since he was travelling to London, maybe he would look into the matter, and G-d would be merciful. Maybe he could find the daughter and prevent her from descending into the depths of iniquity? My father was a close friend of this neighbor, and was affected greatly by the story. I also took it to heart and thought about what I could do in London.

The nuptials were held at a good and auspicious hour. On the first night of the Seven Benedictions, my father turned to the bride's father and told him the story about the neighbor's daughter. Perhaps he had some advice, who, where? Maybe he could look into the matter and do something? The bride's father, as soon as he heard the story, said to my father that he had no understanding of such matters, but did have a friend who was a Lubavitcher Hasid, who the Lubavitcher Rebbe had always charged with all types of errands. The man's name was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Glick, and if there's somebody who can help, it is this man, who had already managed to save from the streets of Europe many confused souls.

That night, the bride's father telephoned Rabbi Glick, told him the story and explained how pressing the matter was. Rabbi Glick asked for the telephone number of the girl's parents in Toronto -- perhaps they knew some details that would help, like addresses, telephone numbers. Perhaps they would give him some clue where to start searching. Rabbi Glick promised to do what he could.

I don't know where Rabbi Glick searched, where he went, nor with whom he consulted. But one night, about 10 days later -- my father and my mother decided to stay in London until after Hanukkah -- Rabbi Glick called the bride's father and told him to come immediately. "I have a very good surprise," he said.

The bride's father and my father hurried to Rabbi Glick's house. As they entered, they saw a girl sitting, crying. At the entrance of the salon, a Hanukkah candelabrum was lit. Suddenly, as my father looked at the menorah, he saw five candles lit, and he almost fainted and fell to the ground. He remembered the strange sentence the Rebbe had told him some 50 years earlier, then 30 years earlier and then 10.

"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies the power of the Hanukkah menorah, and the mission of every Jew is to illuminate even" the darkest place -- Warsaw or London, New York or London, or Toronto or London . . ."

"What will that zealous one do when his daughter wavers ...with the Holy One, Blessed be He, every Jew is an only child ... With the Previous Rebbe, every Jew is 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'" There's no need to mention that the girl completely repented and became on observant Jew. There's also no need to mention that the zealous one shut his mouth and ceased speaking against Lubavitch.

When my father returned to Canada, he made every effort to obtain an audience with the Rebbe. He felt a need, a spiritual duty after what had happened, to see the Rebbe. But in those years, it had become very difficult to obtain a private audience. But the following month of Tishrei, the year 5740 (ca. 1980), my father succeeded seeing the Rebbe on the night that a group of holiday visitors had a group audience. My father said that from all the emotions that were coursing through him, he could not utter anything during the audience. When he tried to tell the story, he would break into tears. The Rebbe heard just a few sentences, turned to my father and said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

Every time my father would tell this story, he would say that the real wonder was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even more than his vision of events to come from 50 years beforehand, was his heavenly humility of, that he said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

The chain of wonders has not stopped. On 14 Kislev 5748 (ca. 1989), exactly when the Seven Benedictions for my firstborn child ended, on the day which represented the passage of 60 years from the Rebbe's wedding in Warsaw, my father passed away -- all just as the Rebbe had blessed my father, that he should rejoice at the wedding of his grandchild.

We should be happy that this man, Holy to G-d dwelt amongst us. Since it is known that "The righteous are greater in their death than in their lives," certainly the Rebbe will cause a flow of blessings, salvation and comfort from On High, to each and all, until we merit to the promise of the verse, "And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion," in accord with the holy will of the Rebbe, soon and in our time. Amen.

-- Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald

The copy that I received 15 years ago was originally provided by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, a"h (who has passed away), the original founder of Chabad Online (www.chabad.org). At the time I received this, an online web site was a new thing (for those who know 'net history, it originally came with a Gopher address), and a Jewish web site was a wondrous thing. It came with the stipulation that the site be advertised, which I have done here, and donation info provided. To donate to Chabad Online, click here.

It also came with the stipulation that this acknowledgment be included, though I don't know if the contact information is outdated or still accurate:

Translation provided courtesy of:

FRIENDS OF LUBAVITCH OF FLORIDA, (Est. 1960)

Rabbi Abraham Korf
Lubavitch Regional Director-Florida
e-mail: rabbi@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us
voice: (305) 673-5664; fax: (305) 673-0269
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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How Many Lights Tonight? (updated)

The One Light of Chanukah


by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

How many lights are there on the fifth night of Chanukah? Did you say “five?” If so, sorry, you are mistaken. Try again. Did you say, “Six”? (adding in the shamash. (the candle that serves to light the other candles). If so, sorry, you are mistaken, again.

To find out the correct answer to this very important question, watch the animation below…

From ThereIsOne... (flash animation)

 

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New Jerusalem Residents

The Har Hotzvim Jerusalem Technology Park has just completed construction of their new hi-tech office tower.  As with many buildings in Israel, the tower includes a “sunny side sun screen”, keeping office users from roasting in the  summer sun…

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While they built the building and sun screen for the new working residents that will soon arrive, they probably didn’t consider that they were making a perfect environment for certain other residents…

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It seems the tower sun screen is the perfect spot for the local raptors.  While the tower doesn’t yet have any human occupants, the raptors think it’s a lovely addition.

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Happy Chanukah

From all of us at Mystical Paths, Chanukah Samayach – Happy Chanukah, or as they say in Hebrew “Happy Holiday of Lights”.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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“I Got a Phone!”

at the Western Wall with Reb Guman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Shmuli (leading guy of the Kotel tefillin stand) called me over. He was talking to a young tourist from America, and he was not sure if he was Jewish.

     “Is your mother Jewish?” I asked him.

     “Yeah, my mother and my father are both Jewish,” he answered.

     I wondered why Shmuli had a problem. Almost always, if a guy says that his mother is Jewish, we trust him. But since there was a doubt, I asked him, “How do you know that they are Jewish.”

     “They follow the Jewish religion,” he answered,

     (Well, that’s good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are Jewish. There are a lot of “homemade” converts out there who say that they are Jewish. But, I had the feeling to go ahead anyway.)

     I slipped the tefillin strap on his arm, and Shmuli whispered to me in Hebrew, so the tourist wouldn’t understand, “What about his grandmother?”

     “What about your mother’s mother, is she Jewish?” I asked.

     “I don’t know,” he answered. “I never knew her very well.”

     “Uh Oh…” I thought, as I slipped the tefillin off his arm.

     “How long are you going to be in Israel?” I asked him, thinking to have him call home to find out if he is Jewish or not. Then, if it turned out that he is Jewish, he could come back and put on tefillin.

     “Until 8 o’clock. I’m on a boat tour in Israel for 48 hours.”

     “Do you have a phone?” I asked. “You can call your mother and ask her.”

     “No, I don’t have a phone,” he apologized. He was really a nice young guy, and I didn’t want to lose him.

     Just then, one of the Chassidic boys who had just started coming to the tefillin stand to help out a little, said, “I have a phone!” And he quickly pulled out his cell phone.

     “Wow!” I thought. “How nice of the boy to let someone he doesn’t even know use his cell phone to call America. Surely, he is on a tight budget like all of the students here, but he didn’t hesitate to speak up. Ahavas Israel (the mitzvah to love your fellow Jew) without even knowing if the guy was a Jew!

     “What’s the number?” he asked him. He gave him the number, and he called his mother. He handed him the phone, and we all stood around waiting for the answer, not knowing what to expect.

     The conversation went something like this, “Hi Mom. Yeah, things are great…. I’m in Israel, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Yeah, everything is fine. Mom, was your mom Jewish. What? Yeah, okay, yeah. Thanks for everything. I love you.” And he looked at us and said, “She said ‘yes, her mother’s Jewish.’”

     “Hurray!” We all cheered. What a relief. I put tefillin on him, and of course he had no idea what we were doing. I explained it to him, had him read the Shema in English and pray for all the good things that he wanted. We took some pictures, and I had him promise to marry only a Jewish girl.

     “Yeah, my girlfriend’s Jewish,” he said.

     “Alright! Marry her and make a big Jewish family,” I told him.

     He smiled. He looked very happy, but he had to run to keep up with his tour.

     As he was leaving, one of the religious guys standing there asked, “What about all the other mitzvahs, like going to shul (synagogue) on Holidays, and everything else?”

     I told him, “As long as he marries a Jewish girl, all that can come. The main thing is that there will be a Jewish family, and then he can come home whenever he wants. Don’t worry; we will all be looking out for him.

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