Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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The Warmest Thing I Do

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     It is a custom for fathers to bless their children the evening of the holidays with the blessing that G-d commanded the kohanim (priests) to give. The blessing is: “G-d bless you and guard you. G-d make His countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. G-d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.”[i]

     One of the things that I enjoy doing at the Kotel is helping fathers bless their sons. Since the religious fathers already know to bless their children, I aim for the nonreligious ones. I have the father put his right hand on his son’s head and say the blessing out loud. After the blessing, I ask the father what he wants G-d to give his son. When he finishes his list of blessings, I ask, “Tell me. Is he a good boy?” They always smile and say something like, “the best!” or “Gold!” Often this little “ceremony” brings tears to the fathers’ eyes. I love it. It is an opportunity for the fathers to express their love for their sons. They love to do it, and their sons love it, too.

     Yesterday, one father reached into his pocket to give me some change. Apparently, he thought that I was doing it for a donation. I pushed his arm away and said, “I don’t want your money.” He smiled. Then, I quickly added, “I want your son!” He kissed the tips of his fingers, and blew the kiss to me.

     Look at this video. You’ll like it…


[i] Numbers 6:24

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Monday, January 30, 2012

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Iran’s 4th Attempt on a Chabad House!

Reprinted from CrownHeights.info…

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In what appears to be a frightening trend, authorities in Argentina captured an Iranian-Hezbollah terror cell which was, according to Debkafile, planning an attack on a Chabad center there. If confirmed, this is the third time this month that an Iranian linked attack on a Chabad House was foiled. The other two plots were against Chabad Houses in Thailand and Azerbaijan.

From Debkafile:

Argentina has captured a three-man Iranian-Hizballah cell and is hunting for the rest of the network, according to exclusive DEBKAfile sources. Its counter-terror police were a step ahead of attacks plotted against several of the 10 Habad centers in the country, part of a worldwide joint terrorist offensive against Israeli and Jewish targets. Two strikes were thwarted earlier this month in Thailand and Azerbaijan.

The three-man cell was captured in the Argentine resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche, 1,680 kilometers from Buenos Aires, a favorite starting-point for Israeli backpackers touring Patagonia and the Andes. The town is situated on the banks of Lake Naheil Huapi, a major tourist attraction of the Rio Negro district which is famous for its beauty.

Argentina's anti-terrorist Federal Special Operations Group, known as T4, waylaid the three terrorists on tips from US and Israeli intelligence. In their possession were incriminating documents and maps.

Chabad hospitality centers and Jewish institutions in the country were then shut down and given extra security guards, as was the Israeli embassy in the capital.
In 1992, the embassy was attacked by Iranian terrorists killing 29 people and injuring 242. DEBKAfile's intelligence and counter-terror sources reveal that one of the things the investigation seeks to discover this time is whether the captured Iranian-Hizballah cell was given a safe house, guidance and aid by family members of World War II Nazi criminals who won sanctuary in Argentina.. At the time of the Israeli embassy bombing twenty years ago, the Iranian and Hizballah terrorists were suspected of working hand in glove with local pro-Nazi elements. Argentina, Germany and Israel never confirmed this.

However, San Carlos de Bariloche is known as a post-1945 Nazi haven. Two books by British writers published in 2011 even claimed that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun had managed to escape from Berlin and reach safety in this region. This rumor was always denied.

The terror alert Buenos Aires declared this week was also communicated to Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Mexico, in case additional Iranian-Hizballah teams were heading for Israeli and Jewish targets there too.

The plot Argentina foiled after Thailand and Azerbaijan indicates that Iranian intelligence and Hizballah's special security arm are in the midst of a worldwide terror offensive against Israel and Jews. Habad centers were picked out because their doors are always open to travelers, easily identifiable and accessible. They are often packed with large numbers of Jewish and Israeli visitors. The attackers are therefore assured of a big splash in the international media – if they pull off an attack.

In November 2008, Lashkar e-Taiba, the Pakistani arm of al Qaeda, seized Habad House in Mumbai and murdered eight Israelis and American Jews before blowing the building up. The rabbi's small child was the only survivor, rescued from the captured building by his Indian nanny.

In Bangkok, a member of the Iranian-Hizballah terrorist team, on his way with at least two confederates to blow up the Habad center after holding its occupants hostage and killing them, was captured two weeks ago, thwarting the attack. Then, on Jan. 19, Azerbaijani authorities nailed an Iranian intelligence-Hizballah cell in Baku in time to save the local Habad community center in the city.
Joint Iranian-Hizballah terrorist tentacles have already reached into three continents for an all-out drive to reach their prey – so far without success, owing to the cooperation among counter-terror agencies which remain on sustained high alert.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

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A Sufi Asked

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Sufis belong to an unusual branch of Islam that stresses acceptance instead of war. They enjoy the mystical aspects of their religion, and are best known for their “whirling dervish” practice. They are often ostracized by the “mainstream” Muslim world. An Arabic speaking Sufi liked my music video Bringing Shabbat into the Week and wrote;

     “Your Jewish harp is great. Sort of off topic but can you by chance make a clip where you can advise on how to bring peace among the Muslim and the Jewish community?”

Gutman’s advice;

     The world should support the local Arabs by providing them with decent lives in other countries. This would improve their lot tremendously, and would cost the world no more than they are spending on them now. Then there will be peace between us. Even the Koran calls this land the homeland of the children of Israel.

     “Peace” (Shalom) is one of G-d’s names. Let all the world live in peace.

Be well

From the koran: 

Suras 5:20-21 "O my people [Children of Israel], enter the holy land that GOD has decreed for you, and do not rebel, lest you become losers."

Suras 17:104 “And we said to the Children of Israel afterwards, "Go live into this land. When the final prophecy comes to pass, we will summon you all in one group."

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Over and Over Again…

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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Learning Talmud at the Kotel before davening (prayer) 3:30 a.m. 

     For thousands of years, this scene has repeated itself. The “older” more learned boy gives over the page to the younger boy, who has to struggle to understand its meaning. For many of you, this might be an unusual picture, but for those who are familiar with the yeshiva (religious school) world, it is the way things have always been.

     And what does that page say? It says, I created you to be a special people. Do not be fooled by pizza and basketball. Although they can be very nice, they are not the purpose of life. Follow My Torah, and you will understand why I put you in the world, and your grandchildren will understand, too.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

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Not Just Stupid, Totally Not The Jewish Way

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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By now practically everybody has heard of the incredibly stupid op ed piece in the Atlanta Jewish Times that, in talking about the approaches Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should consider in defending itself and preserving it’s existence, said…

“(option) three, give the go ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice preisdent to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes it’s helping the Jewish state obliterate it’s enemies.  Yes, you read ‘three’ correctly.  Order a hit on the president to preserve Israel’s existence.”

The author made a horrible mistake, has been interrogated by the United States Secret Service (presidential protection force) and has lost his job.  He’s also publically apologize for doing so.

But the question remains, what did he do wrong?  (Besides indirectly threatening the president of the United States and recommending assassination as a policy, as if that wasn’t enough wrong.)

The direct errors are obvious and not the focus of my interest.  (Such as, he’s put American Jews at risk of being considered a threat to the U.S. president as well as handing a heavy serving of red meat to all those who suspect American Jews of dual loyalties.)

What about the religious error?

Am Yisroel should NEVER rely on another country for self defense and survival.  Of course, politics and national relationships will continue to be a part of this world (at least until the times of Moshiach).  But the Jewish people rely on Our Father in Heaven, not on the president of the United States.

That is the truly fatal flaw in the author’s reasoning.

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George Soros behind Social Chaos in Israel?

So says Daniel Greenfield, and I strongly suspect he’s right.  Unfortunately even upscale Israelis are generally unaware of such social manipulation going on.

Soros Manufactured Chaos in Israel - In the warm summer of 2011, a twenty-something Israeli named Daphne Leef set up a Facebook protest page agitating against the high cost of housing in Tel Aviv. She pitched a tent and helped touch off a social protest movement that received national and international attention.
While the protests were billed as grassroots, there was nothing grassroots about them. The protests had been organized and funded by the New Israel Fund. Daphne Leef worked as a video editor for the New Israel Fund.

In the winter of that same year, as the protests had died down, a woman named Tanya Rosenblit boarded a bus which runs through religiously hyper-conservative neighborhoods and staged an incident with the passengers. Rosenblit was dubbed an Israeli Rosa Parks and her stunt helped generate waves of articles about major social problems in Israel.

Rosenblit was associated with One Voice, an organization funded by the New Israel Fund, whose board included Alon Liel, the husband of New Israel Fund director Rachel Liel. Hardly had the NIF gotten through manufacturing one phony social protest movement than it was hard at work on another.

See the entire piece at Front Page Magazine in Soros Manufactured Chaos in Israel.

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Cow Corrections

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Reb Shevach and I had originally intended to make a video showing the injured cow parts he brought back from kosher slaughter, with some explanation from him and assistance by me.  Unfortunately our schedules only aligned for a brief moment, allowing me to take the pictures I shared and gain some knowledge to share with you.

But without his expertise with me, it seems I made some errors in what I shared.  A reader, Rabbi Mandel, sent me these corrections…

Cow Corrections -

- The beis hakosos is NOT the rumen, but the reticulum.  The cow would die if the first stomach the food arrived in were the reticulum.

Reb Akiva – This was my error in receiving the information from Reb Shevach and translating it to cow anatomy.  I assumed the nails and damage I was shown had to be in the first stomach (cows have 4), the rumen.  I’m astounded to learn these make it to the 2nd stomach, the reticulum!

- In point of fact, in South America there are bloating problems with the rumen (the keres), which is where the trocar [the stomach puncture tools I shared from Reb Shevach] is involved, but that has nothing to do with the problems of foreign objects in the beis hakosos.

Reb Akiva – The puncture tools have nothing to do with foreign objects, but do result in a status of not-kosher for the cow.  Therefore (I’m told) kosher ritual slaughterers are advised nowadays to check for signs of the use of these tools in areas where it’s become common practice.

Thanks to Rabbi Mandel for the corrections! 

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Friday, January 27, 2012

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From Eretz HaKodesh, Good Shabbos

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

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Cow Followup – Cowconomics

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Commentor Josh asked, “I think a good follow up post would be to describe why some cuts of meat are available in some places and not in others (filet mignon, sirloin, etc...) Are Israeli schohets better than American? Another question is taste. Why do Israeli glatt steaks and hamburgers taste differently than overseas glatt.”

And commentor Neshama asked, “Now what we need (and should demand) is what are the different criteria that make up each of the hecksherim in Israel. What level of kashrus do they hold by, both in meat and chickens.”

Not too many orthodox Jewish consumers are familiar with the economics of the slaughtering and kosher meat production business.  Here’s some factors from my own research and from Reb Shevach…

Kosher beef production outside the U.S. is mostly occurring in Poland, supplying most of Europe, and Uruguay (South America), supplying Israel.  Both are countries plentiful in cattle combined with very low labor rates for supporting meat-packing workers, as well as having no interfering humanitarian slaughter laws requiring pre-stunning of the animal before slaughter (which is not permitted by Jewish religious law – which considers kosher slaughter fully humanitarian due to instant death upon cutting both jugular arteries and veins in one cut).

[ Interestingly kosher slaughter for Israel moved from Argentina to Uruguay 5 years ago, when Argentina first passed a ban on export beef and later a small quota, in an effort to reduce in-country food prices.  This was under the assumption that ranchers would sell their cattle to the higher paying export market over the lower paying local market, if they had that option.  The result of the export ban was the loss of tens of thousands of jobs associated with beef processing for export, and ranchers going bankrupt with the local market unable to cover their large ranch operation costs.  After they finished slaughtering off their herds the first year, prices jumped significantly and availability fell as the remaining ranchers raised local prices to export levels to cover their costs and felt less competition. ]

There are different breeds of cattle that do well in different environments.  There are also different feed regimes: grain fed, corn fed and grass fed.  All are factors in different taste and fattiness of the meat, along with the actual animal size.  The U.S. has been breeding cows for size, larger and larger, and usually provides corn feed (which is not a natural food for cows).  South American cattle are smaller and usually grass fed. 

Israel has no grasslands (except in the Golan), meaning local cows must be sustained on grown hay, corn or grain.  Because of this higher feed cost, the vast majority of Israeli cows are dairy cows.  There’s an additional factor that makes kosher cow slaughter less viable in Israel.

Large (kosher) animals have a few parts that are not permitted to be eaten.  These are the chelev, forbidden fats and associated veins that are only used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (which is currently destroyed), and the gid hanasheh or sciatic nerve.  (The process of removing this is known as nikkur or treibbering.)

Here’s the thing.  Treibbering is a complex skill requiring a specialist.  Ashkenazim have generally held that this skill is a somewhat lost art, especially after World War II.  Or from another perspective, it’s just too tricky to get right and therefore best avoided if circumstances allow you to discard that part of the animal.  (Sephardim do not hold this perspective and to perform nikkur.)

Now even if you have an expert menaker (trieberer), it’s still time consuming and therefore expensive.  And the Ashkenazi kashrus agencies prefer to not certify it.

So what do you do with 40% of a cow that you can’t eat because of forbidden fats and nerves?  If you’re outside of Israel, you sell it to the non-Jews at discount wholesale meat prices.  They get meat at a discount price, you get to cover the cost of that part of the cow.

Similarly, what do you do with a cow declared treif (not kosher)?  Same thing, you sell it to the non-Jews at cost.  They’re happily receiving a fresh side of beef at a discount, you’re not taking a loss on the non-kosher cow.

Because of this cost operation basis, Ashkenazim basically don’t slaughter beef in Israel (because they would have to throw the back half away).  Since Sephardim perform nikkur, they don’t have to throw the back half away and do slaughter beef in Israel.  That’s why you can get fresh “Machpud” or “Beit Yosef” supervised beef in Israel but not fresh “Eidat Charedit”, “Rubin” or “Landau” (the first two are top Sephardi ultra-orthodox Israeli kosher supervision agencies, the second three are top Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox Israeli kosher supervision agencies.)

The same point applies to cuts of meat available.  No back half of the cow (Ashkenazi) means a whole set of cuts of meat unavailable.

Regarding the criterium, as Reb Shevach has worked for many different agencies he’s told me all the Ashkenazim are holding almost identical customs and all are following the same religious laws.  There are differences between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi customs and interpretations of some laws, but all the ultra-orthodox agencies are keeping the strictest religious law standards according to the Code of Jewish Law.

The differences come in the intensity of the supervision, the experience of the ritual slaughterers and supervisors (shochtim and mashgicim), how strictly they rule when questionable issues arise, and the production rate of the environment.

For example, is the ritual slaughterer expected to slaughter 250 cows a day or 500 cows a day?  Are the shochtim that are checking the animals after slaughter checking 100 a day or 250 a day?  Is there implied pressure from the business owner to not declare a cow treif?

A recent example:  Reb Shevach was slaughtering in Eastern Europe for a major agency.  200 old cows were brought in and only 18 were kosher after slaughter (the older the cow the more likely to have internal damage, particularly in Eastern Europe that tends to have much higher rates of sharp object ingestion.)

Another kosher slaughtering agency was working at another location 20 miles away.  They received cows from the same source, meaning approximately the same age and condition of cow.  Out of their 200 cows, they had 80 kosher after slaughter.

Either they were tremendously lucky, had tremendous siyata d’shamaya (help from Heaven), were doing less thorough examinations, were less skilled at examination, or felt pressured to ignore all but the most serious findings (or all the above).

How the kosher supervising agency acts regularly in these situations IS it’s criteria.  (While there are no public statements to this effect, known an agency and/or factory’s glatt-chalak, glatt-kosher and kosher statistical percentages over time would let us know.)

How can you tell which kosher supervising agencies and/or which brands (factories) are operating which way?  Unfortunately, there is no direct way without talking to an insider. 

Indirectly, if there’s persistent rumors of problems with a brand or supervising agency, there probably is a real concern. 

Kosher buyer beware.  Consult a knowledgeable informed rabbi on these issues if you have a concern.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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Why is my Cow Treif?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Reb Shevach is a shochet mumche, an expert Jewish ritual slaughterer.  He is flown out from Israel around the world to participate in the kosher slaughter of large animals (usually cows but sometimes sheep).  He’s a leading expert and is used by the top and strictest kosher supervising agencies in the world.

If you’ve eaten glatt kosher beef in Israel, Eastern Europe, France, Belgium, or the USA, chances are Reb Shevach’s been involved.

On his last journey back to Israel, he brought me some examples of why a cow turns out treif (not kosher).  First a little background is necessary…

Kosher slaughter involves 4 main criteria.  The animal must be of a kosher species (having split hooves and chewing it’s cud – meaning cow, sheep, goat, buffalo yes, pig, horse, camel, rabbit no), it must be slaughtered in a kosher way (a single very sharp knife pull that cuts the esophagus, trachea, and both jugular arteries and veins), and it must be healthy – not an ill or dying animal, and certain parts of the animal may not be eaten (certain fats and a particular nerve are forbidden and must either be removed or that area of the animal discarded).

images (1)The 3rd criteria, a healthy animal, is where Reb Shevach comes in.  The Gemora defines a number of specific injuries that commonly kill an animal, and the sages added an additional one.

Cows have 4 stomachs.  The first stomach, the rumen, is known in the Gemora as the beis hakoses.  Cows, it turns out, are indiscriminate eaters.  As they eat their grass, they’ll pick up rocks or nails or other sharp objects.  If they eat such an object and it pierces the rumen (the beis hakoses) – meaning the cow has a HOLE IN IT’S STOMACH, the cow is treif – not kosher.  If, however, it merely does damage inside the stomach, simply getting stuck there, the cow may be kosher – depending on the amount of damage.

One intentional procedure causes the same affect.  Some farmers are giving their cows feed combinations that may cause bloat, and cows apparently aren’t good at burping and can explode.  A solution to this is a rumen injector or trocar puncture tool.  These are tools that punch anywhere from small to fist sized holes into one of the cow’s stomachs – a procedure that automatically renders the cow not kosher.

The 2nd major area that is checked nowadays is the lungs.  If the lungs have adhesions to the chest cavity – meaning the cow has minor LUNG TUMORS, the cow is kosher.  If the cow has MAJOR LUNG TUMORS that pierce the lung tissue, the cow is treif (not kosher).

And one of the worst cases, if the cow has eaten a sharp object that pierces the stomach through the diaphragm into the lungs, this cow is complete treif (not kosher).

To give a little perspective, Reb Shevach shares some statistics… on average

- 9% of cows slaughtered are “glatt / chalak”, kosher according to the highest standards with NO tumors or injuries of any kind.

- the next 18% of cows slaughter are “glatt / mehadrin”, kosher according to the highest standards but some minor tumors or injuries that are judged non-life threatening are found.

- the next 20% of cows slaughtered are “kosher”, major lung tumors are found but the digestive system has no life threatening injuries.

- approximately 50% of cows slaughtered are not kosher, meaning stomach injuries are found or stomach procedures have been performed (causing the same impact).

Let’s take a look at some examples (WARNING, GRAPHIC PICTURES OF COW ORGANS BELOW – do not view if you are overly squeamish).

These two pictures shows the beis hakoses – the rumen, pierced by a large staple or piece of barbed wire (two different cows).  These cows were NOT KOSHER.

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This is how the outside of the stomach should look, smooth and muscular.

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This is a stomach that has been pierced, is infected and scarred.  Reb Shevach felt this scaring against the diaphragm when checking the lungs.  While some argue that checking the lungs is an extra stringency (it is), these STOMACH problems are found by checking the base of the lung cavity.

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What caused that result?  Let’s look… in this case we don’t see a nail or sharp object embedded, but we do see the result – a hole and wound.

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Now here’s a cow in serious trouble.  She’s got a 10 penny nail and a quarter inch bolt in her stomach!  NOT KOSHER.

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What happens to the poor cow?  Swelling, infection, internal scaring…and not-kosher status.

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Sometimes while the swelling and impact is obvious, the actually hole or object can be hard to find.  If it’s not found, the cow can be declared kosher.  But an expert like Reb Shevach knows that if the swelling is there, the damage will be found if one looks carefully…

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Here’s another example.  Reb Shevach had declared this cow not kosher for another hole, but when showing this to me he found one even he missed before.  The first picture is the reason the cow was declared treif, the second picture is the hole even he missed the first time around…

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Our last 4 pictures are book pictures.  They show the rumen injector, a treatment for farmers to use when low quality or high corn content feed creates dangerous cow bloating.  The solution, punch a hole in your cow’s stomach.  It may work, but it means the cow is NOT KOSHER, and is something the shochet must check for.

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Now you know why your kosher steak is more expensive… 50% of cows aren’t kosher, and 70% or more are not glatt kosher.

So while we don’t “eat kosher” or “glatt kosher” because we’re avoiding eating tumor ridden cows, think of it as a nice bonus.

A few extra statistical tidbits from Reb Shevach, who examines the organs of hundreds of cattle per week…

U.S. corn fed cattle are much larger and have a much higher rate of lung tumors than other locations.

Eastern European cattle (which are providing most of the kosher meat to Western Europe) have the highest percentage of foreign objects in the stomach, rendering them completely not kosher at a much higher rate than elsewhere.

South American cattle are older and smaller (and grass grazed) but have less problems than anywhere else, with less lung tumors and rarely foreign objects in the stomach.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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I’m Going to Talk to My Reform Rabbi About This

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Lowell (pictured here) is from Kentucky. After I helped him to put on tefillin, he said that he was going to discuss tefillin with his Reform rabbi. A few weeks later I received this letter…

      I am Lowell’s Reform Rabbi in Lexington, Kentucky (USA).

      Let me first thank you for being so welcoming and engaging to Lowell. Second, let me thank you for the wonderful videos of you sharing Sukkoth, debating x-ian messiah, and engaging people in so many thought provoking ways. Third, as to tefillin; there certainly are many ways to observe our tradition. Some are fixed habits in all of us, some are expressions of need in the moments when we are most fragile inside.

     For me, it is in these latter moments that wrap and withdraw, almost into the tallit [prayer shawl] and tefillin. Powerful stuff, indeed. On a regular basis, though, it is, for me, just another act - and Maimonides admonishes us to never let ritual become rote. Thus - with both sides of this Jewish coin (tradition), it is good that we have each other.

Kol tuv, [All the best]

Marc

Gutman’s Answer

Shalom Marc,

     Thank you for taking the time to write, and for your kind words.

     With all due respect, I think that you are making a terrible mistake. We should never let any mitzvah fall to the level of being a ritual, to being “just another act.” When we stop and think what a mitzvah is, and why Hashem has given them to us, we begin to experience what they have always been intended to accomplish.

     Let me explain. Tefillin (and all mitzvahs) are not mere rituals, G-d forbid. They are spiritual exercises specifically designed to accomplish a certain purpose. When we do an exercise we develop a particular muscle, or skill. A spiritual exercise also develops a certain muscle. It develops our spiritual muscle.

     G-d commanded each of us to be holy. He said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy...” [i] If I would ever dream of attaining such a lofty level, and would dare say that I am holy, well, I would be embarrassed to even think of such arrogance. But, no, this is not arrogance, it is a G-d given commandment!

     Actually, G-d wants us to emulate Him. He wants us to know Him so we can accomplish His purpose in having created us. In order to know something we have to somehow receive it, at least get some of it into our heads. This is also true about knowing G-d. So G-d, in His infinite wisdom and kindness, gave us these commandments so we would be able to move in the direction of holiness. It seems that the old saying “It takes one to know one” fits here.

     Many Jewish sources tell us that the very purpose of man being placed in the world is to reveal G-d’s Presence. This means that we have to actually experience a truth that we all already know, but is presently being hidden. G-d fills and surrounds everything. Since G-d is infinite, He has to be right here now, too. He is here, but He has chosen to hide Himself in order to give us freewill. If He would not hide, and would be seen by all, no one would even think to transgress His will. We would be like angels, very holy, but without freewill. As I said, in order to experience a revelation of holiness, we too have to somehow become holy. We do this through His mitzvahs.

     The blessing we say when we put on tefillin is, “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to wear tefillin. Wow! Really wow! When we do what G-d tells us to do, we actually become holy. That’s not a ritual… not at all. It’s a privilege… an opportunity to experience holiness.

     When we put on tefillin, and stop to remember what is happening, we begin to approach the degree of holiness that G-d wants us to reach. And all this is only from His kindness because He wants us to have the immense joy of actually seeing Him. This is neither a ritual, nor is it a burden. The mitzvahs actually take away a burden.

     There are so many other unique things about tefillin that add to the experience, such as, they are a sign that we are His people, they are an act that only Jews do and never have the non Jews ever tried to copy (unlike almost all of the other mitzvahs,) that in the cave where they found the 2000 year-old Dead Sea scrolls they also found pairs of tefillin, but even though all these and much more add to the uniqueness of the experience of putting on tefillin, the fact that they make us holy stands out the most. After all G-d did say, Marc, “be holy.”

   With warm regards,

Gutman


[i] Leviticus 19:2

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Monday, January 23, 2012

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A Quick Visit to Kfar Chabad

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I make a quick stop by Kfar Chabad, the villiage of Chabad Lubavitch chassidim near Lod in Israel.  I was looking for some new full size siddurim (prayer books), as I noticed the print in my old pocket size siddur was getting fuzzy.  I’m not sure if this is because the ink on the tiny print is smearing with age (unlikely) or my eyes are being affected by some minor normal age related farsightedness (likely, but my ego prefers to think it’s an ink problem).

While there I snapped a couple of quick pictures…

770 Kfar Chabad is a replica of Chabad World Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY.  While it’s a faithful replica, it’s unfortunately not really used.  The downstairs has the Chabad publications distribution center (wholesale prices!), but the rest of the building is only lightly used.  However, the style certainly makes it stand out in Israel.

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Kfar Chabad sits on a slight hill overlooking Tel Aviv.  While it started as a rural village, a number of townhouse projects have been added.  This picture combines a view of the townhouses and Tel Aviv in the distance (to the left, Yehud is to the right, I think).

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Kfar Chabad has an interesting mix of greenery, orchards (esrogim and orange), yeshivas and suburban style neighborhoods.  With the good rains Israel has been having, the greenery was really popping.

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It was a beautiful day for a visit to a sleepy chassidic village.

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Prayer in Aisle 3

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

2012-01-20 Osher Od 006Religious Jews have 3 prayer services per day.  It is strongly preferable for these services to be performed with a prayer quorum, at least 10 men.  (This is known as avodah Hashem, divine service by the Jew.)

For the morning service, everyone will run to synagogue.  Being synagogues are usually close by in religious Jewish communities, this is just a run down the street.  Similarly for the evening service, which is held after nightfall.

But the afternoon service, held anytime between noon and sundown…people tend to be at work or in the store.  (For those learning in yeshiva, they clearly don’t have a problem rounding up a prayer quorum.)

The solution to this is the afternoon prayer group.  In most areas where there is a concentration of religious Jewish workers, the workers arrange a location to meet every afternoon for a 15 minute afternoon prayer service. 

Recently in Israel I’ve been noticing taking this to an extreme.  Some large businesses, malls, or stores have build in-store synagogues!  So if, while checking out some furniture at Ikea or the pears in the grocery store, the moment of afternoon prayer arrives or a sudden urge to say some Psalms hits…a synagogue is at your convenience. 

Pictured above and below is an in-store synagogue at a warehouse grocery store.  One factor of this type of synagogue is it being placed in unused and inconvenient space for the business, leading to a somewhat oddly shaped synagogue space.  But that’s cool, the employees and customers get an additional service or convenience for shopping or working there, and the business can provide it out of space that otherwise would be unused.

A win-win spiritual win.

So the next time you’re in a store in a Jewish area and you hear “prayer on aisle 3” or “mincha (afternoon service) in the store synagogue”, now you know.

(Photos – in-store synagogue at a warehouse grocery store chain in Israel.)

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Who Do You Think You Are?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Each of us was sent into this world with a particular job. One of the best ways to find your job is, is to look at your name. When parents give their newborn infant a name, they usually name him or her after a loved one who recently passed away, or after someone they truly respect, or perhaps for a dream. Most parents do not realize that Hashem quietly whispers a thought to them, to guide them so that they will choose the name that is best-suited for that child. This is actually a form of prophecy.

     To find the Heavenly hope for you, look at your name and who you are named after. Learn about the relative, but also look at the source of that name. Quite often (with Jewish names at least) a Biblical personality first had that name. Look at the characteristic traits that person was known for, and then try to find those same traits within yourself, albeit watered-down.

     Another way to find out more about your earthly task is to try to see which Biblical personalities you identify with. Often, you will find one or two lives recorded in the Bible that resonate more with you than all of the others.

     When you start work on a new job, the boss has to give you the proper tools for that job. So obviously, the tools we were born with will help show us what we were sent to do. For instance, if you are very short, it is highly unlikely that you were sent into this world to be a basketball player. What are you good at? What talents did you bring with you when you came into this world?

     Once you recognize your skills, try to apply them and align them with your overall spiritual purpose. If your mother is Jewish, your deeds in your last lifetime merited a Jewish life this time around. Be sure to use your individual talents in a way that not only elevates the world, but that is compatible with a Torah life.

     So, who do you identify with? There is Abraham, with his emphasis on kindness; Yitzchok, who personified self sacrifice; Yaakov’s, who struggles and  overcomes as Israel… Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Dovid, Eliyahu, who?

     Shall I tell you who I feel that my life reflects? In the Temple days, only a High Priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies. He could enter only once a year, and only on the most holy day of the entire year.

     But when something inside the Holy of Holies needed repair, a craftsman had to be brought to fix it. They tried to find a holy kohen (priest) who could do it, but if one could not be found, they had to use even a simple Jew.

     Now the problem was: Obviously, this Jew was not allowed to just walk in and look at the Holy of Holies, so they lowered him into that holy place in a box that prevented him from seeing the glorious view, from a hole in the roof. They lowered him to the spot that needed repair, and he fixed the problem from the one open side of the box. Then, he was quickly hauled back up and out of that holy place.

     Somehow I got into this holy place where I live, and I got to do this holy work of helping other Jews to do mitzvahs. I must have done something to merit this position, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what! It seems to be just a gift lowered down from Heaven.

     Remember, as always, my stories are not intended to make you marvel at the people I write about, but for you to marvel at the opportunity that you have to make your life a holy story, too. It all depends on your deeds.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

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Full Rainbow over Beit Shemesh

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel has had a wonderful cold rainy winter.  Wonderful cold rainy?  Yes, in a place with seasonal only rains, those rains were life and death for the people.  While it’s not literally life and death today, it is major economic and environmental impact.  A cold rainy winter means good water supply, a flourishing land, and a good situation for the farmers in spring.

This past Thursday afternoon was alternating sunny and rainy, which gets…rainbows!  Jewish tradition from the Torah itself associates the rainbow with Noach and the flood, and therefore considers a rainbow a negative sign (with an associated blessing on sighting of G-d who remembers His covenant not to destroy the world again).

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I explained to my children that the rainbow as immediately caused by the prism effect of the sun hitting the rain, spitting the white light into the colors of the rainbow.

I also explained the setting up of these circumstances over Beit Shemesh seemed appropriate per Jewish tradition that a rainbow is a sign of Hashem’s anger and Him invoking His covenant not to act on it, given the Jew against Jew actions happening in Beit Shemesh.  Hopefully both the Jewish traditionalists and the anti-religious saw this sign, noted it’s understood Jewish meaning, and can use it as a Heavenly sign to move in a positive direction and what our Father in Heaven thinks of the current path.

Full rainbow over Beit Shemesh, January 19, 2012, panorama view.

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Goodbye Kodak

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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(Photo – Kodak research and development center, Kiryat Aryeh High Tech Industrial Park, Petach Tikvah, Israel)

The 120 year old photography company Kodak declared bankruptcy on Friday.  The photographic film and film developing business disappeared in the last 10 years with the arrival of digital photography.  Kodak failed to make the transition, being beaten by their new competitors from both the electronics world and camera world.

We live in a time of astounding change.  What many don’t realize is the basis of the change.  Most science fiction and futuristic views predicted and assumed changes in ENERGY.  Mankind and science would learn to harness massive forces of energy all the way down for personal use.  Flying cars and jet packs would be the norm.  Fast expansion out into our solar system and beyond coming at the same time.

Science has been making continuous advances in energy.  But those advances are incremental.  Today’s power plants maybe 3 or 4 times more efficient and produce 10 times as much energy as 50 years ago, but that’s not really that big an increase and not the level to push mankind out to the stars.

No, the basis of the change is INFORMATION.  At the smallest levels our technologies are now able to capture information and share information.  The result of this basis is an efficiency of 10,000 times higher than 50 years ago, where today we carry more computing power and information around in our iphones than existed in the whole world a few generations ago.

Kodak failed to make that leap, and when that information impact hit their industry they were done for.  (Though as a huge company with many assets, even with no effective income they can spent the next 10 years selling themselves apart and continuing to survive for the sake of survival.)

There’s a few good lessons to pay attention to with Kodak.  Which are the right ones, that’s harder to grasp.

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This is Bnei Brak

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Bnei Brak is a city that is mostly ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel.  Located at a premier location bordering Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Petach Tikva, the location has tremendous potential value.

The city itself has medium-high density housing, with more yeshivot per square mile than any location in the world.  Unfortunately, as a city that is almost exclusively ultra-orthodox Jewish in Israel, the cultural segregations of Israel locked most of the community out of mainstream business (and the community responded by segregating themselves even further – a dual-sided perpetuated situation) makes the city the poorest city in Israel.

2012-01-19 Bnei Brak 001But recently that’s begun to change.  Not the segregation aspects, but rather the city itself has become aware of it’s location and the business value of it’s territory.  Business locations in Ramat Gan have become the most expensive in Israel, and Tel Aviv only slightly behind.  Petach Tikva’s industrial area, including high tech areas, are also literally across the highway from Bnei Brak.

Bnei Brak’s response?  To start to tear down their old run down industrial areas and redevelop them as high rise office towers across the street from Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv and Petach Tikva.  Mix in a few apartment towers for people who would normally be in Ramat Gan, and you have a high level business and edge resident tax base that can support the rest of the city.

New Bnei Brak apartment tower across from the Ramat Gan park, targeted at high income secular residents.

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New Bnei Brak shopping & office complex going up across the street from a Ramat Gan mall.

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Bnei Brak office tower and apartment tower.

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Two panoramas of the Bnei Brak north-west industrial area.  Click them to see the full view.  (Panoramas, now available at Mystical Paths!)

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Smart thinking on the part of the city of Bnei Brak.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Warm Shabbos Food and Drink

A commentor asked a question,

“maybe you can do a piece with more tips on how to stay warm during shabbos? how can you keep enough hot water ready for tea etc?”

For people inside the Jewish religious community, this may seem like a very basic question.  But for someone learning or striving to be a mitzvah observant Jew who’s not in a Jewish orthodox community, it’s a very serious and challenging question!  That’s for asking, and here we go…

It’s become a strong tradition that on Shabbat day one should have a hot primary food dish.  Further, it’s an Eastern European tradition to have a hot drink before going to synagogue, or even at synagogue (before the start of services) at some places.  I’m fairly certain that having a hot tea or hot coffee in some form during Shabbat is a tradition for sephardi Jews as well.

But arranging for a hot meal and a hot drink on Shabbat has many halachic (Jewish law) difficulties.  One cannot light a fire on Shabbos (meaning you can’t turn on the stove / burners), and one can’t cook on Shabbos (meaning even if you leave the fire on, you can’t put food or drink on it).  This even extends to using hot water from the faucet, doing so in the U.S. with always-on hot water heaters/tanks or instant hot water heaters or in Israel with solar heaters causes a Shabbos violation as new cold water is brought into contact with the pre-heated hot water, meaning the faucet is not an option.  So what is one to do?

hot_plate

For hot food one of the first and best choices is the Hot Plate.  For the Friday night meal one prepares ones dishes in advance and places them on the hot plate to stay hot from the start of Shabbos until the meal after Friday night synagogue services.

For Shabbos day, one places a stew-like food dish into a covered pot, pre/partially cooks it before Shabbos, and then places it on the hot plate to slow cook through Friday night and Shabbos day until the Shabbos day meal after synagogue services.

Two general Jewish law rules to know and remember: one cannot place food on the hot plate after Shabbos has started, nor can one return food which has been removed.  (There are specific exceptions and procedures for both of these points, but explaining those in detail is beyond the goals of this article.)

An electric crock pot or slow cooker pot is another good choice for slow cooking the Shabbos day hot dish (though one should make sure their electric pot DOES NOT automatically turn off after the food pot is removed).

urnFor hot water, the device of choice is an electric urn or electric pump pot.  The urn is filled and heated before Shabbos (a boil or heat setting) and then switched to a steady heat maintenance setting for Shabbos (meaning switched before Shabbos starts).

The urns tend to be large but not particularly energy efficient (they’re not insulated).  They are a good choice if you have a large family or many Shabbos guests.  These type of urns in very-large size are often found at weddings, conferences or even restaurants.

pump-popThe pump pots are well insulated and energy efficient but are smaller and present a possible Shabbos problem.  Some of them have an electric pump (you press a button to automatically get the water squirted out).  When selecting a pump pot, you must select one that also has a manual pump option.  Some of these pots are available with a “Shabbos mode”, which merely means the electric pump button won’t work if you accidently press it.

Pump pots are a good choice for individuals, couples or small families.  They’re also a good choice if you wish to keep a pot of hot water available at all times (due to their efficiency you can keep it turned on all the time), a particularly nice thing in cold climates.

27-samovarHistorically orthodox Jewish communities had other approaches to these problems, in line with the technology of the time.  Samovars for hot water which actually had a lower chamber or inner container for fireplace coals.  Large cast iron pots buried in the coals of the kitchen fireplace for a hot Shabbos day meal.  The Gemora discusses the community placing their Shabbos pots into the communal bakery oven, to cook their Shabbos meal and retrieve it after synagogue on Shabbos day.

(Photo - a wood coal based samovar from Russia.)

The above photos are from this U.S. store web site, which seems to offer a decent selection – though I have no idea if the prices are reasonable or not.  The samovar photo is from here, which has more and a discussion of Russian samovars.

These items are readily available in areas with a significant Jewish religious population, such as New York, Miami, or London, etc, as well as most electric item stores in Israel.

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But This…This is Real

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Alex (the person in the picture  without tefillin) is in Jerusalem to learn for two weeks with seven other college students from Upstate New York. They are on their Winter Break, and instead of going to the beach or skiing, their Chabad rabbi convinced them to come to Jerusalem for an intensive two week learning experience.

     On the group’s last day here, I invited the students to my house, where I explained to them the difference between the body and the soul.

     I explained that everything in creation has a body and a soul. Even an inanimate object has life deep down inside. There is a soul in everything. Torah and mitzvahs also have a soul and a body. I pointed out the difference between sitting and learning the literal Torah, and finding the spirituality in the Torah. I told them that there were two things that they could do to most quickly find the spirituality of Torah: 1) be happy for the right reason when you do a mitzvah, and 2) help to bring another Jew to do a mitzvah.

     After the class we went to daven mincha (noon prayers) at the Kotel. After davening, a few of the boys stayed to help me put tefillin on the visitors. Alex had never put tefillin on anyone other than himself before, so this was like his “Bar Mitzvah” for “outreach.”

     I pushed him a little to get him going (he was shy at first). When he brought in his first “customer,” I showed him how to help him, but I was sure to let Alex do the actual wrapping.

     After his “bar mitzvah” customer left, Alex said to me, “I’ve been learning Torah for these past two weeks, and it has been really special, but it’s like that is just theory, but this… helping another Jew to put on tefillin… this is real. This is the application of learning. It’s really inspiring.” He had a new glow on his face.

     I told him that he can do it when he goes back to New York, too. Okay, so maybe it will be only once or twice a week, and a few guys altogether, but still, every single person you help is a life that you have moved closer to its spiritual goal. That’s quite a gift that you can give to someone.

     And you… I bet you know someone you love enough to help?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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SOPA – PIPA

Two laws are before the United States Congress that will make posting on the Internet much more risky.  They will allow any company that wishes to claim ANY content of your website is their intellectual property to be immediately knocked offline.

It’s especially targeted at websites that are operated outside the United States.

While we are a tiny website on the Internet, not only could we be targeted by such claims we HAVE been targeted by such claims.  Some of our videos have been claimed by others (for having bits of background music, which we use in short clips to be legal “fair use” – but that’s irrelevant under current law which allows others to claim and forces us to fight to return our rights), while others have grabbed our pictures and content (even magazines which have printed them), but we’re too little to have recourse.

The new proposed laws give so much power to the claimants that should they pass, that the big black box above is exactly how Mystical Paths may look in the future.

How could SOPA and PIPA hurt Mystical Paths?
SOPA and PIPA are a threat to our blog in many ways. For example, in its current form, SOPA would require us to actively monitor every site we link to, to ensure it doesn't host infringing content. Any link to an infringing site could put us in jeopardy of being forced offline.  For a small site like us, that’s impossible!
I live in the United States. What's the best way for me to help?
The most effective action you can take is to call your representatives and tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation. Type your zipcode in the locator box to find your representatives' contact information. Text-based communication is okay, but phone calls have the most impact.
I don't live in the United States. How can I help?
Contact your local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA will affect sites outside of the United States, and actions to sites inside the United States (like Wikipedia) will also affect non-American readers -- like you. Calling your own government will also let them know you don't want them to create their own bad anti-Internet legislation.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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Have a Warm…Ummm… Shabbos!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     If you live in a cold climate and have trouble heating the room for Shabbos meals or like me live in a stone building that’s great during the hot months but won’t retain heat during the (fewer) cold months, put a small electric heater under the dining room table. If it is really cold, use an extra large tablecloth that reaches everyone’s laps.

It will be toasty!

(Reb Akiva adds - - - Clearly one should be careful that this is a sealed heater with no open elements that can come in contact with the table cloth or people, nor a forced air heater that can become blocked by the table cloth or a napkin.

DO NOT take this advice and then complain about burning down your home without using some common sense.  Like, for example, using an open element heater and a plastic table cloth that lands on it after people leave…yeah, don’t do that!  Or a forced air heater that sucks up napkins and catches fire an hour later…that would be bad.  Or a kerosene or oil heater that actually burns something, putting that under your table would be idiotic. 

And don’t build a small fire under your table.  While it would be very nice and warm for a few minutes, the screaming a few minutes later might disturb your Shabbos meal. 

Basically if you don’t have common sense, read this article and smile but don’t actually do ANYTHING.  Mystical Paths will not be held responsible for following this advice.  If you aren’t sure of the safety of a particular heater for doing this, contact a licensed electrician in your area. 

WARNING – hot things can hurt or cause damage if touched, and very hot things can cause fire.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Actually, you might be safer just sitting home in the cold and dark – that way you can’t get hurt.

Stay safe.  And warm.  But safe first, warm can be risky.)

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What’s a Tape Deck?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

sony-cassette-radio

My adult daughter encountered a tape deck at work this week…

She was requested to activate the device, found the on switch and play button and off it went.

An hour later it stopped working, being busy with other matters it wasn’t important.

The next day she was on her own and needed to activate the music as part of the job.  She turned it on and pressed play…it wouldn’t go. She tried multiple times, it wouldn’t go!  What was wrong with this device?  Maybe it was just old and had broken.

The next day she remembered something from her childhood, having a tape player when she was a little girl.  There were all those other buttons, maybe one of them restarted it.  Wait wait…rewind!  That was it, she had to “rewind” the tape.

And then the tape runs out, and you have to change it to the other side.  What the heck is with this???

And, and, you can’t just tell it which song to play. 

How weird is that?

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Monday, January 16, 2012

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Religious Jews are the Worst Kind

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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I work on a project in Jerusalem with a wonderful Jewish Israeli fellow from the Tel Aviv area.  He’s a nice guy, an incredibly dedicated and capable worker, and finds much moral foundation from the bits of Torah he learned in elementary school.

He’s also a “chiloni”.  I thought I knew what this was, but his direct explanation REALLY says a lot…

A Chiloni Jew from Tel Aviv: 

I’ve been working since I was 14 years old to earn my living.  I learned to trust no one but my family.  Everywhere I go in business there were people with interests, snakes everywhere, no one I could trust.  I saw and still see in competitive business in Israel that all people see is money and numbers.

The truth is that I was educated by the people here in the center (Tel Aviv area) that charedi people (ultra-orthodox Jews) are the worse kind there are, and all they care about is themselves and money.

When I arrived to this project, I knew nothing about charedim and about religious Jews. Everything I knew was from the (Israeli) press and from the media. I had no connection with religious or charedim people before. The first time I encountered religious people is here in this project. Never in my life have I worked with charedim people before.

Before this project I was much sharper and thinking with my mind, no feelings were involved in my decisions, I worked like robot.  Since I arrived something has changed inside me and I became more emotionally engaged to this project and people.

I don't know why.  Maybe it’s the people [the staff is about 40% religious and 10% charedi], maybe it’s the city of Jerusalem, maybe both.  Since I'm here, I’ve became more engaged.  I can feel something has changed inside me.. not sure what.

I don't really know yet how to behave with charedim people. It will take me time to learn and understand them.

I'm glad to see that there are different people than what I'm used to in this project.

Never in his life interacted with ultra-orthodox or even religious Jews.  We have truly failed our brothers, that a Jew could grow up in Israel and know nothing more than what the anti-religious media has fed him!

Oy oy oy!

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

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The Canada Forest of Jerusalem

After a cold rainy weekend, the start of the week began with bright sun, wet ground and a chill.

I drove to Jerusalem “the back way”, passing through the Judean hills and one of the most scenic drives in Israel.  That drive was enhanced by the sun glistening from the wet trees and a cold fog rising up from the ground.  Along the way I stopped at “The Canada Forest of Jerusalem, planted in 1960 by contributions of Canadian Jewry”…

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The pictures don’t do the view justice.  It’s rarely wet and sunny in Israel (make that it’s rarely wet in Israel), so it was truly something special.  The fog was almost spooky.

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Thank’s Canadian Jewry of 1960!  This little beautiful piece of Israel flourishes due to you.  And that’s pretty cool.  Yes, it’s “only” trees, but it shows how the Jewish people invest in BUILDING, building up the gift of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.

2012-01-15 Jerusalem Hills 023

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X-ians Complain

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     My video Answers to a Pastor is stirring up a lot of interest. It has been translated into several languages, and all combined, it has had more than 120,000 views. Along with the many positive responses of those who have enjoyed it, have also come complaints from the “believers,” who do not like to see their messiah/man-god shown to be a myth. Here are a few of the many comments, and my answers to them…

X-ian -  “Maybe this Rabbi should actually read Isaiah 49 & 53. Y-HVH [Hashem] tells us Himself who the Messiah is and yeshua [Yashka] fulfilled all that Y-HVH said he would.”

Gutman  - Isaiah wrote in chapter 41:8, "You, Israel are my servant... Jacob, you are my servant." In chapter 49:3, Isaiah says, “You are My servant, Israel….”

     There is no reason to imagine that the servant spoken of in Chap 53, or anywhere else, is a different servant than the one the Prophet already named, and it is not the one you are voting for. It is Israel, who is also call Jacob (i.e. The Jewish people). This is inventing scripture to fit your hopes / position.

X-ian – “Give me a break. In the video this Rabbi is speaking of yeshua messiah picking grain to eat because it is against their oral law. They call it the Oral Torah when it is nothing but the man made law added to Torah. The oral doctrine of Judaism is as much to blame as is the doctrine of christendom for the continuing divide between the children of Y-HVH. Both have added and both have taken away.

Gutman - The laws of Shabbat are not Rabbinic. The Rabbis explained these Torah laws, as have they explained all of the Torah’s commandments. Regarding your choice of messiah, the Torah tells us that the Messiah's father has to be from the tribe of Yehudah. Who is your "messiah's" father? According to you, it was a ghost! [They say that the “Holy Spirit” impregnated a virgin Jewish woman named Mary.]  Sorry, there are no ghosts allowed in the tribe of Yehudah, only men whose fathers are also from this tribe. The children of Israel are not divided on this one. Virtually all Jews agree that yashka (your choice for messiah) is responsible for killing Jews, not saving Jews.

X-ian -  “His name is yeshua (hebrew version of the commonly used name). What the hell is Yashka? And he didn't kill anyone. And don't act so pious. You live in Israel, but Gemara Ketubot 111a says Jews should not use force to establish a state before the Messiah comes. According to you, he hasn't come yet, so why was 1948 not in violation of the Talmud law I just quoted?”

Gutman - We are told, "Do not let the names of their gods come across your lips," so we give your false gods nicknames, like ‘yashka.’ We are not using force to establish a state, we are using force to defend ourselves. Why are you now accepting and quoting Talmud, but rejecting it when it says that yashka was not the Messiah? You are arguing and betting your life both in this world and in the next on a belief without having seen anything, and neither did the person who taught you those beliefs see anything. Messiah will be born from Yehuda, not from a ghost!

X-ian – “You call my Messiah a false God and you want to know why everybody hates you. If I said the same thing about your religion, you'd whine and whine forever about anti-Semitism. How hypocritical. Irgun and Lehi were committing massacres against civilians. This is clearly documented, even by Israeli scholars. That's not "self-defense.’"

Gutman - You are getting angry again. Your radical beliefs are affecting your logic. Everyone does not hate me, as you said; most people like me very much. I do not whine, I explain. You pick and choose your sources for history the same way you pick sources for your religious beliefs--just so they fit what you want to believe--and ignore the facts. Why do you believe in something that you did not see?

X-ian – “Then don't change the subject. Talmud says no force to establish a state, and the Israelis certainly used force to establish a state. The one you're living in. You can insult my religion because of what your Torah says. You can make a cute joke now to deflect, or you can answer the questions. Let's see what you choose.”

Gutman - Look at what you are doing. You are ignoring the subject to look for a fight. I said to you that the Torah says that the Messiah's father has to be from Yehudah and your "messiah's" father is a ghost, and you again ignore this and instead charge that the Jews are breaking the Talmud by defending ourselves from arabs so we can live in Israel! Your religion has caused the death of millions upon millions of Jews for 2,000 years. This fact is not from the Torah, it is from world history! Do not expect me to approve of your beliefs.

X-ian – “You're either ignorant to the history of Zionism or you just don't want to admit the truth. Regarding the truth about the founding of the state of Israel, I'll direct you to the ZIONIST Israeli historian, Benny Morris, who clearly proves that the Israelis were fighting largely a war of offense.

    “Your religion is steeped in anti-Gentile hatred, from Maimonidies' racism against blacks to insults against Jxsus and Mary in the Talmud. Do not expect me to approve of it.”

Gutman – As I said, you choose your historians like you choose your “bible,” as long as it agrees with you. Apparently, you hate Jews and our religion, so you accuse us of hating you. The Torah tells us that G-d loves all righteous people and He hates the evil ones. History tells us that nation after nation has attacked Jerusalem, and they even exiled us from our Land, yet we have come home again. Redemption is happening right now!

     From here on, his language got nastier and louder, and all pretense of reasoning was left behind.

     Do I think that my answers will change him? Highly unlikely. Then, why bother answering them at all? Often, others also hear these answers, and these truths give those others good reasons why they should not follow the ones who cannot be reached.           

     We have been given the task of being a “Light Unto the Nations” and this is an opportunity to try to fulfill that assignment.

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