Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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You Dare Ask???

HERE YOU ARE ASKING FOR MONEY!!!!????

AND YOU HAVE THIS PIECE UP????

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

YOU EXPECT TO GET DONATIONS AND FOR HASHEM TO SMILE ON YOU WHEN
YOU RUN A SINAT CHINAM ARTICLE???

I WISH YOU THE BEST OF HEALTH, PARNSASSA HEALING AND ALL GOOD THINGS... BUT HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ANY OF IT WHEN YOU PUBLISH SINAT CHINAM??

-- sorry, this campaign has ended, donation link removed --

Yes, I dare ask.  People are in need!  They’re hurting!  They’re desperate!  For them it’s the end of the world!  They’re mamash in Gehinom while in this world!

I will ask!  I will beg!  I will put on a funny hat and dance a silly dance!  Whatever it takes to relieve the suffering of my neighbor, my friend, my brother, the poor down the street, the woman who’s husband walked out on her, the widow, the family with the special needs children… if I can make them smile and relieve their troubles for just 1 day.

I DON’T PERSONALLY HAVE THE MONEY TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS.  But I do have a blog, and a charity, and a Paypal account.  So I give my time, my effort, doing the part I can do, to help.

I ask even if you’re angry with me.  Help the poor and fulfill the mitzvah of charity for the poor for Purim (Matanot L’evyonim).

Our rabbinical supervisor is Rabbi Chaim Farro, and we’re operating via Reb Nati’s registered legal Israeli charity Yesh Ma L’asot.  100% charity, 100% kosher, DIRECT to the needy with no overhead.  (The only expenses are credit card fees, ~3.5%, and currency conversion, ~1%.)

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Yoga is what????

Newflash:

(heavily censored for propriety)

New York Times… (original link at the end)

The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of impropriety with female students…

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by (inappropriate relations) scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as an (inappropriate relations) cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual (human relations). One text advised devotees to revere the (oh just completely censored) and enjoy vigorous (no way)…

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including (human relations) — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in debauchery (ya think???) under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old (inappropriate focus) for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the flames (of specific human desires). Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and (very censored) more intense.

Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of (censored) arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of (married couples in marital activity). More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote…

(censored censored censored, and definitely censored)

…perhaps — if yoga students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

The uncensored link is here – significant direct discussion of adult topics in a news reporting fashion.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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“What Am I Doing Here?”

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

mall

     I received a wedding invitation from a highly respected rabbi who was marrying off a son. I rarely, if ever, go to weddings. I should go, but they are always so late at night, and the music is so loud, that I am totally uncomfortable.

     I told a mutual friend about the wedding, and he talked me into going. He said that he would pick me and bring me back. We made up to meet at Jaffe Gate right after maariv (evening prayers). I ran to meet him, but after waiting 20 minutes he didn’t show up, so I went home. I called him and he said that he would pick me up at the Rova bus stop. I really did not want to go, but I gave in.

     What a strange feeling to be driving around at night. Since I get up so early in the morning, I never go out at night, not once in many years. On the way, my friend talked about his work. He is the director of a program for special needs young people. He has received 12 applications, but since he could not find proper guides/teachers for that many students, he could only accept 10 of them.

     I asked if the guides needed experience. He said that he would train them, and he gave me a list of his requirements. I told him that I knew a perfect guy for the job, but I did not know his name, or where to find him. I had met him when he substituted for one of the Kotel tefillin workers.

     We got to the hotel parking lot and the scene became stranger, even surrealistic. The underground parking was all concrete, big pipes, low ceiling, walls that needed painting, looked like another world. It certainly did not look like Jerusalem. As we walked to the elevator, there standing in front of us were three totally made up, gorgeous young Jewish women dressed in white gowns. They looked like they were dropped into the garage from a fairy princess book that spilled over.

     Then we had to enter the very tiny elevator with the 3 fairy princesses, and as I squeezed in next to the gorgeous fairly princesses, I said, “What am I doing here?”

     The elevator took us to a busy shopping mall…dozens of stores selling things that I would never buy once in my life…lots of people with packages going from store to store, or sitting in one of the open restaurants laughing…a scene that is probably very common to most of you, but to me, I was totally out of place. I said to my friend, “What am I doing here!”

     Just before we went up the stairs to enter the wedding hall, I looked up and guess what? Walking right by, with a big smile on his face, was the guy I thought would be a perfect guide for the special needs students. I grabbed him by the arm and yelled, “This is him!”

     How in the world did G-d work it out that I should be standing right there at that second to find the guy? I said, “This is a miracle!”

     My friend gave him his business card, and we went into the wedding Hall. We said mazal tov to the rabbi and his son. We saw that even though we were over 30 minutes late, still things were not going to start for quite a while so we quietly left.

     The ride home was long with traffic jammed. We were stuck behind a bus that refused to budge…total frustration! I yelled out, “What am I doing here?” And then I remembered that I had to go to the mall at that exact time in order to see the fellow I wanted to introduce to my friend, so he could get a job, and my friend could accept two more students.

     Obviously, the moral to the story is…everywhere we are, we are there for a good reason. It’s not always obvious, so we have to look around to figure it out.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

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Help Me Be Happy

Purim is coming…

I lost my job and can’t pay my rent!  The medication I have to buy means I can’t afford shoes for my children!  My son is special needs and I can’t afford the special education, psychological help, special tutoring, and legal help (since he gets himself in trouble)!  My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and we can’t afford to send her to the assistance program.  With all of these and more troubles, we literally can’t afford a full meal every day, not even on Shabbos!

Donate Now, Donate Today, Give a Moment of Simcha (Happiness) For Purim

DIRECT DONATIONS LINK – CLICK HERE

I’m watching my neighbors suffer and I can’t take it any more! Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe, what can I do???

Matanot L’Evyonim, gifts (charity) to the poor for Purim, is MORE than just a mitzvah.  It’s the difference in making this one day of happiness either heaven or hell for the poor and needy.

Here at Mystical Paths we raise money every year, via YOU, to fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot L’Evyonim, help for the poor on Purim, in Eretz Yisroel – in Israel.  We do it with no overhead, no advertising expense, no administration costs.  100% of every dollar, shekel, rand, euro, pound, or ruble goes directly to those in need.

Donate Now, Donate Today, Give a Moment of Simcha (Happiness) For Purim

DIRECT DONATIONS LINK – CLICK HERE

As in past years our rabbinical supervisor is Rabbi Chaim Farro, and we’re operating via Reb Nati’s registered legal Israeli charity Yesh Ma L’asot.  100% charity, 100% kosher, DIRECT to the needy with no overhead.  (The only expenses are credit card fees, ~3.5%, and currency conversion, ~1%.)

We haven’t made a new video for this year yet, but here’s the one from last year…

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The Crown of Torah

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image005

Mazal Tov! When a Jewish boy turns five years-old, he begins his study of the Torah. Torah knowledge is called a “crown.” To celebrate, there is usually a festive meal, and for this class of some 25 brand-new first graders, there was also a trip to the Kotel with their Torah crowns on their heads... a big day in the life of a Jewish boy.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

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Ignoring Genocide by Chasing Israel

by Simon Deng at the Durban III conference.

This was shared by us via email.  We followed up and found a video of the talk.  Well worth a read or listen.

Like you, I came to this conference, The Perils of Global Intolerance to protest this third Durban conference which is an effort based on a set of lies, and organized by nations who are themselves are guilty of the worst kinds of oppression.

Durban III will not help the victims of racism. It will only isolate and target the Jewish state. It is a tool of the enemies of Israel. The UN has lost its way. Its obsession with the Jewish obvious: . For over 50 years, 82% of the UN General Assembly emergency meetings have been about condemning one state - Israel. Hitler could not have been made happier.

Given all the good Israel does in the world, given its democracy and its striving to follow the highest standards of human rights, even in the face of the most brutal, the most fanatic enemies, the Durban Conference is an outrage. All decent people know that.

But friends, I come here today to make a different case. I come with what you might at first think is a radical proposition: I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN's anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those people.

By exaggerating Palestinian suffering, and by blaming the Jews for it, the UN has muffled the cries of those who suffer on a far larger scale.

For over fifty years the indigenous black African population of Sudan -- Christians and Muslims alike --- have been the victims of the brutal, racist Arab Muslim regimes in Khartoum.

In South Sudan, my homeland, Sudan, about four million innocent men, women and children were slaughtered from 1955 to 2005. Seven million were ethnically cleansed, and they became the largest refugee group since World War II.

Everybody at the United Nations is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency to provide for them; this agency, UNWRA, treats them with a special privilege.

Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN even resisted using the word "slavery" to describe the enslavement of tens of thousands of my people. Why? Because slavery is a crime against humanity, apparently no one committing it wanted to end up before an international court. When Khartoum insisted that the term "abducted people" be substituted for the word "slaves," the UN, caved to Arab pressure and agreed. Try that in America. Try calling Frederick Douglas an "abducted person." It is outrageous.

The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the root causes of Sudan's conflicts. Take Darfur, for example. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur? It is not a "tribal conflict." It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism, as it has typically been practiced in Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded the North of Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam In the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And they also do not want to be Arabized. They like their own African languages and dress and customs. They resist Arabization. The Arab response is genocide. But nobody tells the truth about Darfur.

In the Nuba Mountains, another region of Sudan, genocide is taking place as I speak. The regime is targeting the black Africans -- Muslims and Christians. This happened to the Nuba people before. In the 1990's hundreds of thousands were murdered; a large number of women were raped; children were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. Nobody at the UN told the truth about the Nuba Mountains.

Do you see a massive amount of outrage and reports and protests about this coming out of the UN or Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International? Do you hear them condemn Arab anti-black racism?

Look at the pages of the New York Times, or the record of the UN condemnations, What you will find is "Israeli crimes" and Palestinian suffering. My people have been driven off the front pages by the exaggerations of Palestinian suffering. Why? Because what Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin that we are all supposed to address.

The truth is that the West commits a real sin when it abandons us: the actual victims of non-Westerns. Our suffering has become almost taboo.

Let me return to the topic of slavery: while there are issues that divide public opinion, we can all agree that for one man to own another is a sin, and it should be stopped. The Americans tore themselves apart over the issue of slavery.

Chattel slavery, a centuries-long practice in Sudan, was revived as a tool of war in the early '90s. The Islamist regime in Khartoum declared jihad, or holy war, and thereby legitimized taking slaves as war booty. Arab militias were sent to destroy Southern villages and were encouraged to take African women and children as slaves. We believe that up to 200,000 were kidnapped, brought to the North and sold into slavery.

I am a living proof of this crime against humanity.

I do not like talking about my experience as a slave, but I do it because it is important for the world to know that slavery exists even today.

I was only nine years old when I was made a slave. An Arab neighbor named Abdullahi tricked me into following him to a boat destined to Northern Sudan where he gave me as a gift to his family. For three and a half years I was their slave going through something that no child should ever go through: brutal beatings and humiliations; working around the clock; sleeping on the ground with animals; eating the family's left-overs. During those three years I was unable to say the word "no." All I could say was "yes," "yes," "yes."

The United Nations knew about the brutal enslavement of South Sudanese by the Arabs from the early days of the conflict. Human Right Watch issued extensive reports about the issue. These reports gathered dust on UN shelves. It took UNICEF – under pressure from the Jewish –led American Anti-Slavery Group -- sixteen years to acknowledge what was happening.

As soon as the Sudanese government and the Arab League pressured UNICEF, the UN agency backtracked, and proceeded to criticize the Non-Governmental Organizations that worked to liberate Sudanese slaves. In 1998, Dr. Gaspar Biro, the courageous UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan who reported on slavery, resigned in protest of the UN's actions.

My friends, today, tens of thousands of black South Sudanese still serve their masters in the North and the UN is silent about that. It would offend the OIC and the Arab League. So much for "human rights for everybody".

As a former slave and a victim of the worst sort of racism, allow me to explain why I think calling Israel a racist state is absolutely absurd and immoral.

I have been to Israel five times visiting the Sudanese refugees. Let me tell you how they ended up there. These are Sudanese who fled Arab racism, hoping to find shelter in Egypt. They were wrong. In 2005, the refugees camped outside the offices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Cairo looking for mercy. Instead, the United Nations closed its doors and left the helpless women and children at the mercy of the ruthless Egyptian security forces who brutally slaughtered at least 26 of them.

After this event the Sudanese realized that Arab racism is the same, whether it is in Khartoum or in Cairo. So they continued looking for a shelter and they found it in Israel. Dodging the bullets of the Egyptian border patrols and walking for punishingly long distances, the refugees' only hope was to reach Israel's side of the fence, where they knew they would be safe.

The fact that even Darfuris, who are Muslims, chose Israel above all the other Arab-Muslim states of the area, speaks volumes.. Israel is racist? Israel is against the Muslim world? Ask the thousands of black Muslim Darfuris who found shelter inside the Jewish state.

When I asked the refugees about the treatment they receive in Israel, their response is absolutely the opposite of what the United Nations alleges. They were welcomed and treated like human beings. Compared to the situation in Egypt, they described their lives in Israel as "heaven." No-one called them "abid" – an Arabic word for slaves often used in Sudan, Egypt and other Arab nations.

Is Israel a racist state? To my people, the people who know racism – the answer is absolutely not. It is a state of people of the colors of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colors, even black. I met with beautiful black Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Israel is a state that has taken my own black people in, rescued them, and helped them.

So, yes … my claim may be a radical claim: I claim that the victims who suffer most from the UN's anti-Israel policy are not just the Israelis but all those people who have to be ignored in order for the UN to tell its big lie against Israel: all those victims of non Western abuse, especially all those victims of Arab and Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab and Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred.

So far, the Israelis have only been cursed by the UN. But look at the situation of the Copts, the Christians in Iraq, and Nigeria, and Iran, the Hindus and Bahais and Sikhs who suffer from Islamic oppression. We all suffer. We are ignored, we are abandoned so that the big lie against the Jews can go forward.

Before I conclude let me tell you a story that reflects a special connection that the people of South Sudan feel toward Israel. In 2005, I visited one of the refugee camps in South Sudan. I met a twelve year old girl who told me about her dream. In a dream she wanted to go to school to become a doctor, and then, she wanted to visit Israel. I was shocked and numb. How could this refugee girl who spent most of her life in the North know about Israel? When I asked why she wanted to visit Israel, she said: "This is our people." I was never able to find an answer to my question.

On July 9 of 2011 South Sudan became an independent state. We achieved freedom despite the opposition from the Arab world and despite the United Nations, whose General Secretary, Bi Ki Moon, lobbied for the unity of Sudan. For the South Sudanese, that would mean continuation of oppression, brutalization, demonization, Islamization, Arabization and enslavement.

In a similar manner, the Arabs continue denying Jews their right for sovereignty in their homeland; and the Durban III conference continues denying Israel's legitimacy.

As a friend of Israel, I salute the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, who had the courage to state publicly that South Sudan embassy in Israel will be built--- not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

I also want to assure you that my own new nation, and all of its people, will oppose racist forums like the Durban III. We will oppose it by simply telling the truth.

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When you Meet Another

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Friday, February 24, 2012

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Are Biblical Warrior Arts Kosher?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

karate

A religious young man asked:

I just wanted to ask your opinion, I found this on online, I don’t know if you ever heard of him, but he claims to have the techniques of the time of the avos (Hebrew Fathers). Do you have any idea if it comes from somewhere else, or it is true, if there are any problems with his teaching... “Biblical Warrior Arts”

Gutman’s response:

Surely you have better things to do with your time.

     Without commenting on this man or his system, know that when you spend your time involved in martial arts, you gain a militant headspace, and you walk around all day long looking for trouble to strike. You will have to watch out for yourself!

     When you spend your time remembering G-d, you gain a spiritual headspace, and you walk around all day long looking for Jews to help…and G-d watches out for you!

     Which way would you rather spend your day?

Reb Akiva adds:

Speaking purely as a system, martial arts are generally ok.  They rarely involve any form of spirituality. (Some do involve methods of “focus”, generally in a non-spiritual fashion, though sometimes at the highest levels they suddenly switch to calling on entities for power.)

BUT…people often become obsessed with them.  They delve into the surrounding culture and seek out moral principles related to them.  They work to get into the martial head space and stay there. 

Every Jew should learn the skills to defend themselves.  But turning it into life’s focus is the path of Easav.

Tora DoJo offers a Jewish themed karate system in the U.S. and Israel, and Krav Maga is the Israeli designed mixed martial art with a focus on facing an armed opponent and now taught world wide.

The “biblical warrior art” you’re referring to is called Abir and is taught in Jerusalem, Israel.  In specific answer to the question asked, “Do you have any idea if it comes from somewhere else, or it is true, if there are any problems with his teaching”, our blog commentors speak very well of the founder and as I said above, there’s generally no problem with martial arts and we have heard only good things about Abir.

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Words

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

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A Bit of Web Privacy

Helpful hints from Reb Akiva.

** Google is going to track you completely starting March 1st.  If you want to delete all history they have on you from the past, you can do so here: How to remove your Google search history.

After March 1st if you want to avoid being tracked, here’s how:

a. Load 2 browser programs on your PC, for example Firefox and Chrome.

b. Use Chrome to login to your Gmail or other Google Docs.  DO NOT use it for anything else.  No web searches, no Youtube viewing, nothing you don’t want tracked.

c. Use the other browser, such as Firefox, for web searches, Youtube viewing, etc.  DO NOT login to anything Google in this browser.

This works because different browser programs do not share information.

** Stop being tracked from site to site.  While you may not realize it, things such as the Facebook Like button, Retweet button, and Google Analytics are tracking you from site to site.  Do Not Track Plus is a free browser plugin that stops this tracking. Not only does it block companies from tracking your web browsing, it really speeds up your page load times.  I recommend it and am using it myself.

** Cut down site adsAd block plus reduces the site ads being thrown at you and is free for Firefox and Chrome.  Recommended.

** Maximize your browsing safety from attacks.  No Script stops sites from running small programs inside your browser.  The problem with this is these programs can try to attack your computer or other open tabs.  This tool completely stops that.  HOWEVER, in doing so it makes some sites not work properly.  Only available for Firefox.  After having my Gmail account hacked and stolen, this is one of the measures I use to protect myself from future attacks.  Meaning I log into Google accounts only in Firefox, and only use Firefox for Google accounts, and I have Firefox running this tool.  I do my other browsing in Chrome, and never log into Google there.  You may not want to do this unless you have some level of expertise.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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Why High Tax Rates Fail

economic commentary by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Telegraph UK: The Treasury received £10.35 billion in income tax payments from those paying by self-assessment last month, a drop of £509 million compared with January 2011.

It is the first year following the introduction of the 50% rate which had been expected to boost tax revenues from self-assessment by more than £1 billion.

A Treasury source said the relatively poor revenues from self-assessment returns was partly down to highly-paid individuals arranging their affairs to avoid paying the 50% rate.

While there are plenty who believe you can simply tax people as much as you want, economic research and actual experience repeatedly shows that when tax rates exceed a certain level, money received by taxing actually FALLS.  So while a government may get more money when increasing taxes from 20% to 30%, when that same tax goes higher than 40% the actual money received becomes less.  And the higher it goes, the less it becomes.

Why?  It’s never worth cheating on your taxes when they’re 10%, but when they’re 50% it’s another story.  Cheating also means working the system per every rule.  I’m not going to hire an expensive accountant to save me 1% when I’m being taxed 10%.  But I’m certainly going to hire that accountant and tax lawyer to save me 10% when I’m being taxed 50%.

Also, if the government is going to take half my money, why bother?  Say I’m a corporate vice president.  If I work 60 hours a week I may be up for a bonus of $500,000 at the end of the year.  If I’m taxed at 25%, that’s the price I pay for the wonderful opportunity.  If I’m taxed at 50%…I may as well work the regular 40 hours a week and go for the smaller bonus (which will be taxed at a lower rate).

Not to be forgotten is the black market or grey market.  As with tax cheating, it’s not worth it at low rates.  But at high rates I’m willing to do some deals under the table, since the profit (50%) is major.

And lastly, in a global marketplace the costs of shifting some or all of my business to lower tax areas becomes worthwhile when the rates exceed the cost of the move.

The result of all of these combined is a FALL in taxes revenue when rates go too high.  For England it appears 50% is too high.

This is one reason why President Reagan’s administration was able to lower tax rates from 70% to 31% for the highest earners in the US in the 1980’s and get a major INCREASE in tax revenue. 

Got that?  Lower taxes, increase tax revenue.  Counter intuitive but true.

It’s also shown in communist and socialist situations where the government effectively pushes taxes over 70% and/or actually confiscates resources that people basically give up. Nobody is willing to work hard and generate major economic activity just to watch it all be taken away.  This is what happened in the past in Russia, and what’s happening today in Venezuela.

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Higgs

The theoretical Higgs Boson is a theory (a calculated idea) for a basic sub-atomic particle that imparts mass or weight to the other sub-atomic particles that we call “matter”.

It’s been nicknamed the God Particle, as if it exists it will be the thing that literally makes the difference between matter and energy.  Or to put it another way, (if it exists) it’s the thing that makes us not beings of light. 

Many deep possibilities there.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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Purim and the Cyrus Cylinder

A 2,600 year old clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder tells the HISTORY of Purim and the Persians.

Interesting that this TED video comes out right before Rosh Chodesh Adar and with increasing tension between Iran/Persia and Israel (noting that the talk and filming was in July 2011).

Video direct link – here.  Youtube embedded video below.

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A Quick Interview With a Norwegian Newspaper

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001

     In a country with only 2 million households, a newspaper that sells 727,000 papers a day has a huge influence. You can assume that such a newspaper reflects the attitudes of its readers, or it would not be so popular. This daily newspaper from Oslo, called Aftenposten, is such a newspaper.

     And what are the well-known attitudes of the Norwegian population? Until the fall of the Soviet empire, the majority of Norwegians were communists, and now the majority---and especially their elite are renowned as anti-Semites and blindly pro-Muslim.

 

     I saw the reporter “interviewing” one of the young American volunteers at image004the tefillin stand. I have had quite a bit of experience with such interviews, and I know full well that the interviewer is going to twist the information he hears, in order to go away with “proof” that his opinions are correct. This is almost guaranteed. I walked over feeling that I could probably do a better job than the clean-cut, naive, young yeshiva student.

     It turned out that the Norwegian reporter was based in Amman, Jordan, and he had two loaded questions prepared:

     “What about the ultraorthodox community that beats up and spits on little girls?” he asked.

    “That wasn’t the community that spit on that little girl. It was a handful of radical young men. And did anyone lay a hand on her?” I answered.

     I went on, “Tell me, are all Norwegians murderers? I mean this Norwegian man who murdered some 70 young people a few months ago… I assume that he had the support of the entire community, right?”

     I was referring to the recent insane bombing in Norway, when a single man murdered scores of mostly young people.

    “Oh, certainly not! That man is insane. He thought that he was helping Norway by doing this.” The reporter went on and on, trying to explain to me that the man acted on his own, with absolutely no support from the community. Then he added, “The insane man thought that he was helping in the fight against European Islamicfication, which is clearly not happening.”

    “It’s not?” I asked. “That’s not what I have been reading in the papers. But the same way that we cannot blame all Norwegians for those murders, so too, you cannot blame all of the Charadi community for spitting on that girl. It was just the act of a few crazy, young men.”

   “I interviewed the girl’s mother, and she said the same thing,” he said.

   “Then why are you still asking?”

    He quickly changed the subject, “What about you religious men who refuse to go to work, and only sit and study all day?”

    “What! I refuse to go to work? I get up every morning at 1:00 AM! What time do you get up?”

     “You get up so early just to go pray, not to go to work,” he charged.

     “I sit in front of a computer screen almost all day long. What do you mean that I don’t work?” I said.

     “Well the others… the vast majority of you who refuse to go to work. What about them?”

     I answered him, “We Jews consider ourselves to be one body, and each of us is a limb, or organ of that one body. When a portion of us sits and learns all day, it strengthens the entire body.”

     The reporter saw that he wasn’t getting the story that he wanted, so he took a picture of me and moved on. I wonder how he will twist the story so that it agrees with what he came to the Kotel to prove.

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Chossid or Zionist?

Reader Y followed up with this question…

I know that my neshama is rooted with the Baal Shem Tov (we even share a birthday), even though I have never planted a flag with any one of the derechs that came from his teachings. Maybe that's why I feel this way?

How did you become Lubavitch? And how in the world did you end up being a Lubavitcher that is so connected to Eretz Yisrael?

One of the things that always kept my wife and I away from committing to Chabad was their detachment to the Land. While we are fully aware of the Rebbe's commitment to Shlemus Haaretz (not giving away any of the Land of Israel), the idea of actually wanting to live here seems anathema to most Lubavitchers outside of Israel. They would often look at us as if we had two heads when we said that we were moving here. Rabbi Ginsburgh, shlita seems to be a bridge between these two worlds, but we are fully aware that he is far from mainstream.

Are you a BT? Did you ever experience this kind of torn feeling between Breslev, Chabad, etc...that people like myself experience? I'm sure it was very easy to get swept up with Chabad when the Rebbe was physically here, but a trip to Crown Heights these days can have the opposite affect.

I'm sure this is all part of the Redemption process, but it can be discouraging at moments such as when people ask us with perplexed faces, "wait a minute...so "what" are you guys?"

Reb Akiva responds…

Chabad continues to be focused on outreach via shlichus, going out and creating Chabad centers and programs around the world.  That goal follows the pattern put in place by the Rebbe, to return Jews to mitzvah observant Judaism.

In Israel the Rebbe established Kfar Chabad and a Chabad community in Tzfat.  In addition Chabad has a long history in Hebron and Jerusalem.  Regardless, aliyah is not one of the goals, though probably about 25% of Chabad houses are run by Israeli Chabadniks, especially those in India and Asian countries (though not in China).

I make my home in Chabad chassidus, and the Rebbe is my rebbe.  But buying in to the chassidus doesn't mean I have to buy into the organization.

Being we're talking chassidus, you have to focus on the pnimius, the inner or the core, and recognize the chitzonius, the exterior, the outside, the wrappings, for what they are. 

We live in a generation with a lot of wrappings and organizations that present or represent image over substance and goals for the organizations (rather than an emes) goal.

But the Torah is still there, the chassidus is still there and the teachings of the tzaddikim are still there.  Connect direct and avoid the organizations that are operating for their own benefit or their own goals.

As far as Breslev, I've learned some Likkutei Mohoran and find some items of definite benefit in Breslev.  I've also learned a bit of the teachings of Rav Shalom Arush, shlita.  There's items of value to enhance my avodat Hashem there, and those paths are right for some and certainly for my good friend Rabbi Nati, but they're not the full path for me.

My cholent is my own.  The base is Chabad, and I wear a kapatah and represent myself as a Chabad chossid (though I don't call myself that in my own name, but rather because a tzadik specifically referred to me that way).  But I spice my cholent with bits and flavors from where I find benefit.  And my cholent follows no organizational recipe.  Rather the opposite, I find myself challenging the organizations, calling them on their inconsistencies and self interest, regularly.

Learn chassidus, target the goals of the Rebbe or whichever tzadik connects with your neshama.  An associated culture can help bind you to a path and give you an identity, if you need it or want it or like it - but it's not required to make your connection.  And an organization can give you a place to fit in, if you're willing to play by their rules - which may or may not be 100% straight.

This doesn’t mean don’t be part of a community, shul or yeshiva.  All are important and critical to function well as a religious Jew.  But be careful about taking the whole package.  Go in with open eyes, see where there’s truth, chesed, and being straight AND where there’s not.  Take the Torah and the emes, avoid the klippos.

We don't live in a time of clarity.  Connect direct, avoid the baggage of our time that doesn't provide you direct value.

Reader Y replied

You are echoing what I have been telling myself lately....that we need to stay away from "image" as much as possible and focus on the pnimius (the inner), especially when looking at chassidus. However, don't you think it's almost impossible to separate one from the other?

A Jew can't be an island unto himself (or so they tell me). Like it or not, the Rebbe did set guidelines for his Chassidim. If I totally accept Chabad over Breslev, I would basically have to leave any minhagim that remain from my Moroccan heritage.

It was such a relief when I went to Uman and saw that I could pray to the tunes with which I was raised and still be a "chassid". This is symbolic of the hashkafic insularity vs relative openness.  This becomes especially apparent once you have kids...where do you send them to school, what hechsherim do you or don't you eat, do you raise them valuing living in the Land of Israel or going on shlichut, etc...

I'm sure you are aware of the much-publicized roller coaster of Matisyahu? In my personal conversations with him and many other people with similar inclinations, we all face the same issues. 

Reb Akiva responds

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not recommending you make up your own minchagim (customs) or religious mix.  But you certainly can eat Chamim instead of Cholunt on Shabbos, and have Marak Teymani instead of Chicken Soup on Friday night and still be 100% Chabad or 100% Breslev.

I knew a Persian Jew, Rav and Mekubal who became a Chabad chossid and mashpia of the previous generation – who ran a Chabad yeshiva and was the rav of a sephardi synagogue!  Of course, Rav Shalom Arush, shlita, a leading Breslev tzadik and chossid of our generation is a Morrocan Jew!  So apparently family minchagim are NOT an impediment to becoming a chossid of Chabad or Breslev!

Will your children be confused?  The binder is the chassidus, derech haTorah and avodas Hashem.  A true chossid follows the goals, path and derech of his Rebbe or Tzadik.  Wearing the same clothes or eating the same style of food as his Rebbe is pure chitzoniyus! 

That’s not what the Rebbe wanted (he said so directly).  And I can tell you from seeing it directly, that’s not what Rav Arush wants either!  It’s all about the spiritual goals.  The rest is shtuss.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

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To Beard or Not To Beard

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Reader Y wrote,

Me and my family recently made aliyah to Israel from NY. Things are going ok, baruch hashem.

We live in Kiryat (removed for privacy), I don't think the place is "right" for us but it's great for now.

I thought you may be able to give me some advice.  I work in (up and coming internet field) and every time I have a meeting I inevitably trim my beard pretty short. Now I don't think I have it in me (yet?) to let my beard grow totally but it feels so inauthentic to trim because I think that I won't get a project as someone that looks "too" religious.

It hurts my neshama and I noticed that I subconsciously started to avoid meetings so that I don't need to trim.  How did you overcome the challenge of not trimming your beard when you work with the outside world?

In NY, having a beard is "cool". But I have been warned by people in Internet work in Israel that people here are totally turned off by a beard and assume that you know nothing about the industry.

Reb Akiva responds…

Mazel Tov on your aliyah! 

First I assume you know you're on firm halachic ground with a trimmed beard.  While a long beard and/or an uncut beard is a midos chassidus and a wonderful custom kept by many, there is absolutely no limitation on cutting your beard to any length or style you feel comfortable with. 

Of course in most religious communities a bigger beard is socially a 'higher level', and among many Jewish religious groups an uncut beard is normal.

Now you face an interesting problem (that I face as well).  The values of religious society and secular society are in pretty strong conflict in Israel.  In some ways Orthodox Jews are the “African Americans” of Israel - a natural negative bias is somewhat automatic on the part of many in the Tel Aviv and central region areas.  (This is less true in the Jerusalem area.)

How can you overcome it?  My advice is to emphasis your American-ness, especially your American experience and the mentioning of recognizable American firms you've worked for (whether you've done projects for them, had them as clients or worked as an employee).  Part of that is emphasizing the SIZE of the companies you've worked for.  Keep in mind a company of 1,000 employees in Israel is a HUGE top company in the country!  (The biggest high-tech companies in Israel are 2,000 and 1,500 employees respectively, the average mid sized information technology projects company is 100-300 people.)

Israelis value and are impressed by American management styles, orderliness and planning, managing of growth, and comfort level with size and (what's to the Israeli) big projects. 

So, to somewhat try to relate it to your specialty, while Internet work focused at an Israeli audience would feel success at impacting 10's of thousands, consider it great success to impact 100,000's of thousands, and couldn't imagine doing something that impacted 1 million, an American approach might not even consider things to be getting started until it's impacted 100,000.  The American approach would also possibly be more focused on measuring and tracking, having performance indicators in the relationship and monitoring, and produce regular graphs and reports on a campaign.  The Israeli approach would be more ad hoc, change frequently to meet wavering customer expectations, and be less polished.

While the Israelis may do a double-take when you enter as a bearded religious Jew, they'll quickly hear an impressive organized American ready for large impact and focus on that. 

Naturally I have to add to have emunah, daven to Hashem and the brachos will flow, which is definitely true in Israel.  We all literally survive here by nissim (miracles), obvious and in our faces, regularly.  Don't be afraid to ask our Father in Heaven for help with your concerns, and I'm certain you will actually see a result (and here in Israel be able to recognize it for what it is).

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Is “Hebrew Kirtan” Kosher?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

On our last yoga article, a commentor asked about “Hebrew Kirtan”.  Here’s what a brief bit of research found.  You tell us -- does anyone think this is kosher???

From the founder’s web site and Wikipedia…

Rabbi Andrew Hahn (Reb Drew) combines a variety of tools to introduce Jewish wisdom to an increasingly global, religious village. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) and received rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform). He has also studied at the feet of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement.

Dubbed “a Shlomo Carlebach for the twenty-first century,” he weaves traditional Jewish liturgy and musical modes into the increasingly popular call-and-response chant technology from India, known as kirtan.

Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of (Indian traditional) instruments.

The practice of kirtan was popularized as a means to worship and glorify the Hindu god “k” with single mindedness in the Hindu devotional revival of the Moghul era.  It was expanded in the 12th century as a worship method for the Hindu god “vit…”.  In the 16th century it was revived as sankirtan in worship of “k”.

It is a major practice in Vaisnava devotionalism, Sikhism, the Sant traditions, and some forms of Buddhism, as well as other religious groups.

Rabbi Hahn travels extensively bringing Hebrew Kirtan, Jewish meditation and Torah learning to Jewish institutions and yoga studios around the world. Kirtan Rabbi’s music is characterized by great energy, passion and melodic flow.

You tell us… kosher, or not?

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Apologies

by Reb Akiva

My previous post (now deleted), “You Work?”, was intended to show the situation where some portion of the Jewish community in the US was voluntarily choosing to use government benefits and doing just as well as those who work, and work hard, to support their families.  The graphic included demonstrated this, showing that for a family of 4 if you make less than $60,000 per year, it’s BETTER to take the government programs and make $15,000 a year – with the family ending up with more in it’s pocket.

If we extend that to the Jewish community with larger families, the benefit level is even greater - plus those making so little also qualify for tuition discounts and charitable support from the community. 

But that was the past. As a commentor pointed out, today far too many in the Jewish religious community are struggling, working 2, 3 or even 4 jobs just to barely keep food on the table.  Charitable assistance is less available with more people in need and less able to give, and with less able to pay yeshivas are less able to give discounts to those even in great need (and a number of yeshivas have closed due to outstanding debts and unpaid salaries – even large mainstream yeshivas).

My article was insensitive and out of touch, and I apologize for it.  Today people are doing everything they can just to get by, and even with government assistance it’s often not enough.  People should be commended for trying so hard and supported when needed.  And we bear a collective responsibility to help each other.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

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Should Jews be concerned with Abortion Limits?

A reader, Sarah, wrote…

    The Jewish people are facing a critical situation with Iran. In such times would we be close minded to ANY suggestion on what we can do to ease the birthpangs of the geulah? I hope that someone will read this and actually give it thought. What is right and true take to your heart and what is wrong let it go, but think about it with an open searching mind. Maybe it will be of help, or maybe it will inspire other thoughts that will be of help. In any case that is my intention in writing this.

   Recently the House of the (U.S.) State of Virginia  passed a bill declaring that unborn humans from the moment of conception have equal legal human rights as born humans .

    Is this halachically acceptable? What  are the possible ramifications of this bill and other extreme pro-life positions being taken by the Republicans?

    Women in the USA can look to Central and South America to see what the future potentially holds.  Ipas is a women's advocacy group located in Nigeragua (sic). This is from their website:

In her fourth month of pregnancy, 18-year-old Jazmina sought emergency care at a public hospital in Managua, Nicaragua, on Oct. 31, 2006, just one week after the Nicaraguan legislature had voted to ban all abortions. Although she was feverish, bleeding and in severe pain, her doctors had no imaging technology to confirm a miscarriage — and intervening without such proof, even to save the patient’s life, could mean years of imprisonment. Thirty-six hours later, after undergoing two hospital transfers and, finally, ultrasound testing that revealed a detached placenta, Jazmina was taken to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section. But it was too late: Her uterus had already filled with blood, and she went into fatal septic shock. Several days after her simple hillside burial, Jazmina’s distraught husband reflected on the tragedy, saying: “Now I've lost not just our baby, but my whole family.”

It is all too easy to dismiss this as "feminist pro-choice propaganda". Furthermore it's all too easy to dismiss the case of one woman when comparing her to millions of unborn babies aborted every year.  But what is the halacha? To the best of my knowledge the halacha is that we don't force women to die in the throes of a life threatening pregnancy. But maybe I am mistaken.

   From Newsweek online:   

Hermain Cain said Oct. 30, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast, that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. That followed earlier remarks on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” which drew attacks from his rivals when he said abortion should be illegal, but it may be a family’s or mother’s decision what to do.

  ‘100 Percent Pro-Life’

    Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum similarly supports a no-exceptions approach, and has said he favors prosecuting doctors who perform abortions.

     When asked whether she supports exceptions during a June 13 Republican presidential primary debate, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann said she is “100 percent pro-life” and that “the very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases and yet they get all the attention.”

    Is it emet or sheker to say you are pro-life except for "the very tiniest of a fraction" of dead women?

   Perhaps Newsweek is a leftwing website and therefore easily dismissed but meanwhile the House of the State of Virginia just passed a bill declaring that zygotes have the same human rights as any other human. Maybe that is important. Maybe we should speak out, say something. Maybe this matters. Or maybe not. What is the halacha?  

   I realize there are many sincere and goodhearted people who consider themselves to be pro-life. But beware. Evil is like a tick that attaches itself to Good and then draws blood. If we ignore it it just gets bigger and bigger. It needs to be cut off. The pro-life movement is very good up until the point when it starts minimizing women's deaths .       

    The kabbalists refer to the Presence of Hashem on this earth as the Shekina, the Female.  If you want to manifest the Female on this earth pay attention to the female on this earth.

Pay attention to what is happening with women as if it matters, because it does.

Reb Akiva replies

The US Federal Government just "discovered" and mandated a Constitutional right to FREE contraceptive medical services for all female citizens of the United States of America.  The courts previously determined a right to reproductive control for every woman basically without limit right up until the moment of birth.  Regardless of any recently passed state law, clearly the national understanding since the 60's is that full control of the reproductive process remains in the hands of the individual woman - regardless of her age (as free contraceptives are being provided to 13 year old girls in public schools – without parental permission).

In halacha, a pregnancy that is risking the life of the mother is considered a rodef, one who pursues another to kill them.  As such, a pregnancy in such a condition may be terminated.  That said, nowadays when pregnancies get to the stage that they cause such problems is is often possible to deliver and permit the premature baby to survive.  Therefore a pregnancy that can be delivered (rather than aborted) to save the life of the mother may require that alternative (even though it would risk life or damage to the early delivered baby).  An expert rabbinical authority should be consulted in such situations.

Of course we face a strange dichotomy in US law nowadays where it's possible to abort up until birth yet premature babies as young as 22 weeks have survived.  While halacha does not consider an unborn fetus to be equal to a full human life, neither does it permit casual discarding of fetuses, termination of pregnancy due to inconvenience, and certainly not the termination of viable fetuses when there is no unusual risk to the health of the mother (issues regarding, G-d forbid, rape, incest, under-age pregnancy, etc, also require consultation with an expert rabbinic authority).

In the West, women's reproductive rights are not at risk.  It's the freest in the world and consistently held to maximize the woman’s advantage.  Even minor inconveniences and parental or male influence are regularly defeated by the courts, even when passed by State legislatures.

However, the results of this attitude and approach to society as a whole are very significant.  All cohabitive activity may take place without concern, without responsibility, without affect.  Indulge in whatever urges come your way and TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY. There's no negative consequences beyond a quick trip to the clinic or the taking of a morning-after pill.

The societal implications of complete reproductive control on a personal level without any moral or religious context are serious, yet there's a continual push to take it even further.

In the current U.S. and Western societal environment you can be absolutely certain that the Virginia law will be declared unconstitutional.  And yes, it does violate Jewish religious law.  But the pendulum is far on the other side right now.

Sarah replied…

This right here: "The societal implications of complete reproductive control on a personal level without any moral or religious context are serious, yet there's a continual push to take it even further."

     That's  a false dichotomy. A woman may have a degree of sovereignty over her own body AND allegiance to Hashem. But if the people who represent Hashem do not speak up about little unimportant things like rape, forced impregnation, forced childbirth, forced abortion and forced maternal death then no wonder so many people choose to "do their own thing".

As far as the pendulum being the other way yeah it's a big problem but that still doesn't make it right for us as Jews to say nothing when people declare fertilized eggs fully human. Why do you think pendulums shift? Because of extremism. People can speak out about BOTH left wing and right wing extremism. But we don't so it becomes choose your sides. 

Reb Akiva replies

What???  How did we move from a discussion of abortion limits to “rape, forced impregnation, forced childbirth, forced abortion and forced maternal death”???

That is a classic absolutist and propagandist response.  The Jewish position is neither – the life of the mother comes first but a fetus can’t be discarded due to inconvenience.  Special situations (such as rape) have special answers. 

Women are not dying in the U.S. or Israel due to lack of access to abortions.  But millions of pregnancies are casually occurring and being discarded due to ridiculously easy and inexpensive access. 

No consequences, no moral limitations, no societal limitations, no religious limitations…is not the right answer.

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Feldheim Troubles

feldheim

Feldheim is one of a very small group of Jewish religious book publishers, and one of an even smaller group that specializes in Jewish religious books in English.  Their books and catalog represent a significant portion of Jewish religious literature found in many Jewish homes throughout the US.

Life in Israel picked up on an article from Bcharedi (a hebrew site) stating that the Feldheim Publishing House has entered bankruptcy proceedings.

Sadly the company is (probably) being affected by both the economic downturn and a shift in technology to ebooks (with the Kindle and iPad proliferation).  Unfortunately this bodes poorly for Jewish religious literature and books and the Jewish community.

If the company is purchased, expect prices to rise with a decrease in competition.  If the company goes under, expect a massive loss of Jewish literature that could have been released en masse as ebooks right now!

Maybe a more nimble competitor will arise out of the ashes.  Let’s hope.

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Cute Construction

Spotted in Bnei Brak, Israel today…

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Who Thinks This is Kosher?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

The following advertisement appeared in a local ad flyer in my orthodox Jewish neighborhood…

yoga

“Yoga is an exercise that works on creating a flowing and focused conscious.”

Exactly the point we’ve been making here for years.  Do you want your consciousness focused and flowing in a Hindu religious style if you’re a Jew?

“Yoga is like a circle that begins with sitting quietly in concentration…”

Sitting quietly in concentration, meaning…meditation.  Would you prefer to meditate in a Jewish way or in a Hindu way, if you’re a Jew?

The exercise positions are based on the principles of inner consciousness…”

Got that??  The PHYSICAL BODY POSITIONS are based on spiritual principles!  Anyone think that yoga’s spiritual principles are Jewish ones or Hindu ones?

We have nothing against stretching your body, or even breathing exercises.  But, as this “certified yoga instructor with many years of experience” states directly in the ad, yoga is equally about spirituality!  Being this is targeted at an orthodox Jewish market, spirituality is replaced with “consciousness” – but the meaning and intent is clear.  Yoga is equally targeted at the physical and the soul.

As a Jew, Hindu spiritual practices are not appropriate or compatible.  And yoga includes and is based upon such practices.

If you want some “quiet and clarity” and you’re a Jew, some Breslev hisbodedut will give it to you.  Pilates will stretch your body.  And Chabad contemplation will deepen your connection.

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Do You Ever Get Tired of Seeing These?

from the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

I don't.

 

Australians

 

South Africans

 

 

Americans

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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This Morning

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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      Early this morning, one of the larger Chabad yeshivas (religious schools) from outside of Jerusalem, came to the Kotel. Their schedule was to first sit in small groups, mostly with a chavrousa (learning partner) and learn Chassidus, (mystical teachings that are rooted in the Baal Shem Tov’s thoughts), and then an hour or so later, they straggled off to the local mikvah (spiritual/physical immersion in a pool of water).

image006     Then, they gathered in a large circle and sang Chassidic nigunim (spiritual melodies) for almost an hour. By then it was time for morning prayers.

     Please understand that I am not a Chabadnik. I love Chabad, and I have always worked hand-in-hand with them on a daily basis, but I never became a Chabadnik. When I first returned to Torah observance 35 years ago, the Chabad Rebbe was the Baal Shem Tov for our generation. Everyone seemed to agree on this. And the Rebbe said: “To please me, you do not have to dress like I do. You have to use your energy like I use mine.” So I never dressed like a Chabadnik. I never adapted their customs, but I have always loved them, and especially their path.

     Why all this background? I want you to know that what I am about to say is not coming from someone enmeshed within the Chabad system who is merely repeating their “company slogan.”

     I watched them sitting there in a circle, singing their warm melodies, and I could not restrain my love and respect for what they are doing. What is so special about them? They learn the same Torah that all yeshivas teach, and there are plenty of yeshivas that teach Chassidus, too.

     The main difference between Chabad Chassidus and all of the other Chassidus that I have seen is that Chabad Chassidus not only teaches you to love your fellow Jew, it also teaches its chassidim to do something about this love. It is not enough for them to say to another Jew, “I love you.” They are taught to try to bring every Jew they meet closer to the Torah and the love of Hashem. No one, ever--in the history of the world--has done what the Rebbe has done. No one else even dreamed to fill the world with outreach centers and Chassidim who stand at the doors like Avraham Aveinu (our father) looking for a soul to help! Vietnam has a kosher mikvah! China has kosher food! Japan has davening (Jewish prayers). India… Brazil… Siberia… and who could even list the places they reach?

     But even more important than their outreach centers, their Chabad Houses spread all over the world, is that each one of these students will become a walking “Chabad House.” When he sits in the airport waiting for his connecting flight, he is going to have his tefillin ready, and he is going to look around and ask, “Where is he? Where is that Jew that I was sent here to help?”

     As I stood there feeling the warmth of their voices, I tried to imagine: If each one of these boys goes on to touch only one Jew a day each day, for the rest of his life, he will reach over 25,000 Jews. This means that this class of some 100 boys is going to change more than 2,500,000 Jewish lives! And this from just one class in only one yeshiva!

    G-d bless them, each and every one of them. And may G-d bless them to find that Jew they are looking for. (And you and I, too)

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How Do I Reach the Spiritual Peak of Tefillin?

by Reb Gutman @ Mystical Paths

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A Reader wrote:

     “A few years ago, you helped me put on tefillin at the Kotel and told me a beautiful prayer to say for my family, Jews around the world, and Israel.  This was a defining moment for me, and you will be glad to know that I have tried making the mitzvah of tefillin a daily occurrence, although I admit that some days I forget.

     “I am not quite sure what I am supposed to feel during the time I put on tefillin.  I try to ask Hashem to bless everyone I love, but there seems to be something missing from the experience for me.  Do you have any advice on how to reach the peak of the tefillin's spiritual potential? I still feel that there is more that I could be doing.”

Gutman’s Response:

     Whenever we do a mitzvah, we fulfill G-d’s will. To some degree, we assume the role of a “servant of Hashem.” And, if we do the mitzvahs with tremendous love, we may even begin to feel like an actual “beloved friend of G-d.” These roles, servant and beloved, are actual spiritual levels attained by only the most holy people. Avraham, Moshe, and Dovid were called by these names.

     We are all children of G-d. He is the Father of all. But, sometimes children go astray, and they can be a source of terrible pain for a father. But a good servant or a beloved friend is always a source of great comfort, and even joy.

     When tourists come to the Kotel holding notes in their hands to place between the stones of the Kotel, but refusing to put on tefillin, I explain to them that writing notes is just a custom, but putting on tefillin is an actual commandment. Often, they are not convinced, so I say, “Look, a note is like the mail. The mail in Jerusalem takes seven days. Tefillin are like a cell phone. G-d answers His phone right away.” This line actually works a lot.

     The point is that when you do what G-d wants you to do, there is a lot better chance that He is going to do what you want Him to do.

     When you have your tefillin on, you are doing the absolute most that you can do to please G-d. You are trying with all of your might, and you are loving Him with all of your heart. It is really a special time.

     While you still have your tefillin on, after your prayers, speak to Hashem the way you would want your beloved to speak to you. Talk to Him lovingly, and let Him hear all of the things that are in your heart. Then, with your eyes closed, breathe in deeply and feel the air fill your lungs. Try to feel the life force that sustains you from within, your being. Then remember, it is G-d Who is breathing that breath into you,[i] and G-d is your life. He is the life of all.[ii]


[i] Genesis 2:7

[ii] “Blessed be the Life of all the worlds” Prayer after partaking of certain foods

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Monday, February 13, 2012

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Return to Socho

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

It’s still cold and rainy in Israel, but I ran out again with my daughter for a quick moment of wild flower photography.  (Wait, my son says that’s [not very manly].  So try this…I hiked the hills for some stunning nature photography.)

A few miles south of Beit Shemesh in Israel is Socho.  What’s Socho?  The 3rd Mishneh of Pirke Avos (the chapter Ethics of our Fathers) starts “Antichnos the man of Socho received (the oral tradition) from Shimon HaTzadik.  He said…”.

Today Socho is a hilltop ruin of Antichnos’s town of 3,000 years ago.  It’s also famous in Israel for it’s yearly wildflower display.  “Oddly” this particular hill isn’t covered with thorns, scrub bushes and scrub trees.  Instead it’s covered with wildflowers, wheat and oats, and a small number of fig trees.  And ruins.

Last week we took some late winter / early spring pictures.  Here it is just a week later.

Just one week later a full range of wild flowers are popping…

The wild poppies are always a brilliant red.2012-02-05 Flower Hill Akiva Haviva 009

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But red’s aren’t the only color that’s up now…

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This second pink flower is called a rakefet in Hebrew.

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And this is one of the flowers that’s a big draw to the hill.  It’s rare and only seen for a few weeks in spring.  (Sorry, I forgot the name.)

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It’s quickly becoming an explosion of color…

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A beautiful “nature photography hike” at Tel Socho.

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Ju-Bu

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image001

(Jewish Buddhist)

G-d bless Chabad!

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Israeli Patio for Rent or Washington DC Swap

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel Matzav picked up on a news item of not-so-minor note…

“Various foreign media have been renting rooftops in Tel Aviv with a view to covering an eventual Israeli war with Iran (link in Hebrew). According to the article, Reuters has already secured space, and Fox, NBC and CBS are all evaluating their readiness.”

If any media are interested in renting out my Israeli patio, please contact me.  My bank account could use the boost.

On the other hand, the Gemora clearly says the view will be much better OUTSIDE of Israel than in Israel.  As Yeranen Yaakov wrote

The gemara in Avoda Zara 2b says that Edom and Paras will be the last ones standing before Mashiah.  The gemara in Yoma 10a says that they will fight each other and one will win, and then, Mashiah can come.  The Yalkut Shimoni and Pesikta Rabbati have Paras threatening to destroy the world while the Arabs ask Edom for help.

And here’s the details from some old posts of ours at Mystical Paths…

[Prefix: The inheritors of "Rome" are the Western World, and the primary Western nation of the time. In our time, that means the USA. Similarly, references to Edom are directly tied to Rome.  “Paras” means Persia, which in Farsi (the language of Persia and Iran) is pronounced…”Iran”.]

Talmud Yoma 10a - "Rebbi states that Rome is destined to fall at the hands of Persia. Rav states that Persia is destined to fall at the hands of Rome. Question: Can the builders (Persia [Iran], who permitted the rebuilding of the Holy Temple) fall before the destroyers (Rome, who destroyed the Temple)? The sages answer: If the King (Hashem) so decrees."

Yaaros Dvash - Rabbi Yonasan Eibshetz, ztvk"l - "At certain moment the time will come when Moshiach should have already arrived but the redemption has not yet come. The Moshiach will ask how it could be that the time for redemption has arrived and he still undergoes sufferings? The response that he will receive is that he must wait for nine months. Why? In order to wait for the fall of Persia at the hands of Edom, and then the final redemption will come."

Sefer Midrash Eliyahu - The last king in Persia will go to Rome three years, one after the other, until he revolts against it 12 months, and three heroes of war are going against him from the sea, and they will be handed over to him. A very low king, son of a servant, Gigit, will go against him from the sea, and these will be his signs that Daniel [the biblical prophet] saw in him: his face long, between his eyes height(?) (eyebrows?), and he is very tall, and his feet are tall, and his legs are thin.

Kabbalist Rabbi Daniel Zer, shlita, June 2006 - "...I spoke in the past about Gog Umagog. When the Gulf War broke out, they said that this was Gog Umagog. I told them all: Understand, the Gemara says and the Midrash says and the Zohar says that there is one sign when Gog Umagog is close. Do you know what the sign is?

The Gemara says that the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash started with Paras (Persia, aka Iran), the destruction of the world will begin with Paras. The Zohar and Midrash say that Gog Umagog will begin with Paras. When it was the Gulf War, I told you: as long as Paras is not in the middle of it, this is not Gog Umagog."

Yalkut Shimoni Yishayahu Remez 499 - "Rabbi Yitzchak said: The year that Melech HaMoshiach will be revealed, all the kings (leaders) of the nations will be struggling against each other. The leader of Iran will contest with the leader of Arabia, and the leader of Arabia will go to Edom to get council from them. The leader of Persia will respond and destroy the entire world. All the nations of the world will be trembling and shaking and falling on their faces. They will be seized by pains like labor pains.

The Jewish people will be trembling and quaking and saying: "Where can we go? Where can we go?" And [Hashem] will say to them: My children, do not fear! Everything I did I did only for you! Why are you frightened? Don't be afraid--the days of your redemption have arrived!"

Daniel HaNavi, 11:40 : "At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through."

We have no one to turn to but our Father in Heaven.  At the end of daily tefilah (prayers) there’s a short pasuk (not all say this) that says “Do not fear sudden terror nor the destruction of the wicked when it comes.  Contrive a scheme but it will be foiled, conspire a plot but it will not materialize, for G-d is with us…”

Now is a good time to remember it.

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