Monday, April 30, 2012

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I Found Him Like This

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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Actually, he was sitting on the floor meditating, using an Eastern technique, and I had him move to a chair.

And I Left Him Like This

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  Amazing what a little Jewish information can do to change your life!

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

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Laughter Yoga

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Someone asked if “Laughter Yoga” is alright.

Gutman’s response: 

Like all forms of yoga, the techniques and postures are not the problem, but the association with yoga is a problem. “Yoga” is a treif (not kosher) word. It is a branch of religions that promote idolatry. But touching your toes or laughing is fine.

     For instance, when you look up “laughter yoga,” their internet sites say that; “Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter with Pranayama (yogic) breathing.”

     (Gutman continues) “Pranayama” is an intense breathing practice within Hinduism which, when followed, will certainly lead to the acceptance of many gods. This is ingrained within these teachings, but they teach it in such a way that they make those “many little gods” seem okay! You cannot take yoga out of Hinduism. It is like trying to take the rosary out of catholicism.

     Bottom line: if you can laugh, and such, without any association or reference to yoga, then go have a good time.

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Are These People Crazy?

YNet:  Iran's Navy has the ability to deploy its vessels three miles off the US east coast, a high-ranking Iranian Navy commander was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
"Our naval forces are so powerful that we have a presence in all the waters of the world and, if needed, we can move to within three miles of New York," Revolutionary Guards Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi was quoted as saying during a speech to students at the University of Yazd earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Iran was capable of crippling or disabling US aircraft carriers, Fars said.

"First, sinking an aircraft carrier is not a complicated task," Hajizadeh said. "Second, an aircraft carrier is equipped with so many advanced, delicate, and sensitive devices … that it could be incapacitated by even the smallest explosion."

Earlier, Fox News reported that the US military has deployed several F-22 fighter jets to an allied base less than 200 miles (320 km) from Iran [in the UAE.]

According to the report, the US Air Force strongly denied ordering the deployment s a show of force against Iran, or that it is in some way related to a potential strike on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. It claimed the measure is part of routine activity and "security cooperation with regional partners."

Trash talking Israel is one thing, given the distance and Israel feeling constrained by the US and the world.  But THREATENING New York City?  Are these people crazy?

(h/t Elder of Ziyon)

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“Can I Take Your Picture?”

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     A non-Jewish travel writer from America asked me if he could take my picture at the Kotel (Western Wall). My standard answer is, “Okay, but if it breaks the camera you don’t get your money back!” They always laugh, and take the picture. This time, I took a picture of him taking my picture.

     It is times like this that you have to use your head. Here is a gentile whom, almost certainly, I will never see again in my entire life. How can I get the most out of our 5 minute meeting? What is my objective? What do I want? Well, obviously, I want to move him along on his spiritual journey. But here is an even greater opportunity. If I say the right thing, something that he finds really interesting, he will quote me, and then my brief talk with him could reach many thousands of his readers! That is great leverage. But how can I get a Travel Writer to write about the spiritual laws that the world is obligated to obey? This is not the type of thing that his readers buy his books for.

     Here is how I did it: “You know, wherever you travel, all over the world, each place will have some specialty… something that they are very good at. For instance, some places are really good at making wooden flutes. Others are renowned for their ethnic cooking. You should tell your readers to search out the things that they can best learn from each place that they are visiting.”

     I went on, “The specialty of this place, Jerusalem, is G-d. That’s what we know best.” I had his interest perked. He was a nice guy, and now that I said what I said, he was even more interested in listening to me.

     I asked, “Is G-d in the heart of the Devil?” He looked at me as if I was asking a foolish question. But then he answered, “I’m not a christian, so I don’t know about religion, but isn’t G-d everywhere?”

   “You are a smart man,” I said to him. He looked at me as if I was joking. “No, really. The vast majority of people in the world do not know this.” Just then, another non-Jewish man, this one from Greece, walked up to us wanting to hear our conversation.

     I asked the second man, “Is G-d in the heart of the Devil?”

     He too looked at me as if I was asking a trick question. He smiled a little, and then he shook his head, and said, “Of course not!”

     I looked back at the Travel Writer and said, “See? This is what almost all the world believes. And this is the specialty of Jerusalem…to teach that G-d is Infinite…everywhere at all times.”

     He beamed as if he had just discovered gold. I could see him thinking how he was going to write this conversion in his chapter on Jerusalem. He thanked me warmly, and told me that he was going to send me the pictures that he took. When he sent them he wrote, “Our discussion was undoubtedly one of the best experiences I had while in Israel.”

     I got a lot more than a few nice pictures from him. I got the attention of thousands of his readers all over the world.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

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Of all Weeks of the Year!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     The online news[i] this week stated that “Schechter Conservative (Masorti) Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem announces acceptance of openly homosexual male and female students for ordination.” They are to become rabbis, i.e. teachers of Torah. The school states, “This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold Halacha (Jewish law) in a pluralist and changing world.”

     Halacha??

     Is it ironic, Divine Providence, or both? The very week that this announcement was published, the weekly Torah portion states, “You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. It is an abomination.” [ii] “A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination;…”[iii]

     Without recounting all of the obvious reasons why the Torah condemns this abnormal behavior, just the fact that the homosexual life expectancy is 20 years shorter than a normal life style’s expectancy is enough reason not to call these people rabbis, and surely do not call it halacha!


[i] Jerusalem Post April 23, 2012
[ii] Acharei, Leviticus 18:22
[iii] Leviticus 20:13

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Living on Sunlight

(NY Daily News)  Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports that a woman starved to death after embarking on a spiritual diet that required her to stop eating or drinking and live off sunlight alone.

The Zurich newspaper reported Wednesday that the unnamed Swiss woman in her fifties decided to follow the radical fast in 2010 after viewing an Austrian documentary about an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.

Tages-Anzeiger says there have been similar cases of self-starvation in Germany, Britain and Australia.

The Jewish way is to turn EVERY act into spirituality.  Eat and drink…the proper things at the proper time with a blessing and you’ve turned your eating and drinking into a spiritual act.

Your Jewish spiritual diet includes food and drink, and is still spiritual!  We bring heaven down to earth.  No need to die from fasting (G-d forbid) to achieve spirituality.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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Being an Independent Jew

by Reb Akiva’s DAUGHTER @ Mystical Paths

Tonight starts Independence day here in Israel and I'd like to share some thoughts about this day.

I have a a friend who hates (maybe I shouldn't use that word, better to should say strongly dislikes) Eretz Yisroel – the Land of Israel. She comes to visit Israel from time to time - for no more than 10 days.

Every time she comes I go visit her, and every time she has some new complaint about life or conditions in Israel. Then she marvels at how "wonderful" things are in America.

I usually stay quite while she rants trying to understand what's so horrible about living in the Holy Land, G-d’s gift to the Jewish people.  For Passover she visited for her traditional 10 days. I visited her on Shabbos and after the usual greetings I asked about her trip.

She replied “horrible”. I asked why and she said “I really don't like Israel.”

That statement sent me on a mental roller-coaster.  As a frum Jew (a religiously observant Jew) she davens (prayers) every day (3 times a day for men).  In those prayers we ask repeatedly to be returned to our land, and that golus (the exile of the Jewish people from the Holy Land) should end.  We wait for Moshaich every day, and G-d willing when he comes (may it be today) every jew who isn’t living here in Israel will be returning.

So in reality what was she hating or rather with her dislike she is denying the thought that this (Israel) is our home, this is our land.

Being Independence Day here in the State of Israel I think over and over her statements about life, and then think to myself how many generations of Jews wished, dreamed and prayed that they could live here.  And how many gave up their lives so we could have this land back. After the story of גדליה following the churban (the destruction of the 2nd Beis HaMikdash – the Holy Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the fall of Israel to the Romans), the remaining and surviving Jews were exiled from the Land and it became desolate.  And here today, a little less than 2,000 years later there are (bli ayin hara) over 6,000,000 Jews living here today!

I'm not saying living in the Holy Land is easy.  Ask any Anglo (Israeli slang for English speaking Jews from the US, Australia, South Africa, England and Canada) who's made aliyah (moved to) Israel.  There are things we miss and some Israeli things that make you want to just bang your head against the wall. And the Israeli system for many things isn't the greatest (as my father says, “the fact that this country runs every day is a direct and obvious miracle from G-d”).

But we have the obligation to be here to live here (if we can), even if it isn't comfortable.  This is our home and our gift from G-d.  Are we going to just disregard it?

For once I truly understand what Golus (the idea of exile) is. It's that lack, that unwillingness to see, to understand and look for the beauty, to treat our gift as if it isn't important. To believe life among the nations is better than with our own brothers and sisters. (I do wonder why my friend even bothers to visit.)

At the end of the day there's one thing I do know. I'd give my life for this land because it belongs to me and my nation - to my brethren.  I can't just disregard when the dreams and yearnings of generations ride on me.  I can’t just disregard while soldiers put their lives on the line, defending men, women and children who are being targeted merely for being JEWS.  (Let no Jew be so foolish as to think otherwise, that there’s some kind of land dispute going on.  This is a direct attack on the Jews and the Jewish people, as can be seen by the history of such attacks before there was an Israel, and current statements of Hamas and Iran directly threatening Jews around the world.)

After over 2,000 years I can live in my home, in my land, G-d’s promised land, among my people.  That’s what Israeli Independence Day is all about, and what EVERY day is about as a Jew making their life in the Holy Land.

One final note, a thought I learned from my father. Are we some kind of spoiled babies that we expect everything to drop from Heaven into our laps?

Orthodox religious Jewish communities around the world are renowned for the care, the charity, the community, the organizations they create to cover every need in the communities.  They build synagogues and ritual baths, religious schools, groups for visiting the sick, raising charity for those in need, providing food and assistance to new mothers, medical centers, kosher supervision agencies, organizations that raise money to help poor couples get married and start their life, and in our times community ambulance services and even community security patrols, plus so much more. 

Those orthodox religious Jewish communities have an incredibly high number of people who step up when they see a problem and make things happen to solve it.  And an even higher number of people who are willing to get involved and make a difference.

We can sit back and complain that Israel isn’t (fill in the blank) enough.  Or we can step up and change it.

I for one choose live in the land our great great grandfathers dreamed about, our great grandfathers prayed about, and MY grandfather would have begged to live in while surviving Dachau during the Holocaust. 

I’m able to do so, in the relatively comfortable conditions of a modern Western democracy with a modern stable economy (THANK G-D), because generations of Jews sacrificed and worked to return, recover and rebuild OUR land.

For us it’s no longer a dream, but a reality and a responsibility.  Time to stand up and do our part.

From the Holy Land, G-d’s gift to the Jews but our responsibility to do something with it,
Happy State of Israel Independence Day.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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The Shpole Zeida Society

Many may think that stories of the tzaddikim of times past are exactly that, stories. 

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The Shpola Zeida was named by the Baal Shem Tov.  He was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezerich, the disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.  One year he was in a major life threatening accident and was saved by Hashem.  In response he held a Seudat Hodaya (a thanksgiving meal occasion) on the Shabbos after the event, a Melave Malke Seudat Hodaya.  As he entered his later years, he instructed his children to continue the Melave Malka Seuda every year on the yaretzheit.

The Shpole Zeida Society is a group of the descendants of the zeida, who have been continuing the Malave Malka for 219 years.  This year it was held this past motzie Shabbat.  The Zeida further instructed they should  not hire waiters, they should serve each other. 

One of the attendees has been working on the family geneology and has found many carry a family name of Zeide, Geisen or Geizinsky (as the Zeida was from the town of Geisen).

Here’s to the family of the tzadik and Rebbe, the Shpole Zeida, who continue in the righteous ways of their great-great-great-great grandfather after 219 years!

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Be Optimistic—It’s Good for your Heart

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that the most optimistic people had half the risk of a heart attack compared to the least optimistic. Those with a strong sense of well-being also tended to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and were more likely to exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, and avoid smoking.

     “Optimism” means to look on the more favorable side of things, and to expect the most favorable outcome. It includes believing that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world, and that goodness pervades reality.

     So, for your own wellbeing, say nice things about the people and things that are happening around you. Try it for one day and see what happens to your blood pressure.

;~)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

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The Land of Israel

reposted with permission, by Devash from Tomer Devorah,
some minor edits and reordering by Reb Akiva

e-iThe Yalkut Shimoni, Midrash Shmuel and Rashi on Hoshea 3:5 says the following: “The Children of Israel were exiled because they despised three things: the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of David and the Beit Hamikdash.

Rabbi Shimon ben Menassiya stated: The people of Israel will not be shown a good sign until they return and seek out these three things. As it says (Hoshea 3:5) “Afterwards the children of Israel will return and seek out the Lord” – this refers to the Kingdom of Heaven; “and David their king” – according to its simple meaning; “and they will tremble for the Lord and his goodness” - this refers to the Beit Hamikdash, as it says (in Devarim 3:25) “This good mountain”.

The Yalkut also states “The people of Israel were exiled only because they despised Eretz Yisrael,” as it is written, “And they despised the desirable land” (Tehillim 106:24). Rav Techtiel mentions (in Eim HaBanim Semecha) that the 3 things which we must seek out can only be attained in Eretz Yisrael. It is for this reason that our holy sages instituted that we should daven (pray) 3 times a day in the Shemona Esrei and “seek out” these three things.

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(Tomer Devorah wrote…) A few days ago, I read something that has been bothering me - a lot. I've thought and thought about it before deciding to blog about it, so don't think I'm speaking in anger - not at all. I'm addressing this issue out of love for my fellow Jews no matter where they are. And believe me when I say that I can empathize with you and your situation wherever you are.

I feel for the Jews in chu"l (outside the Land of Israel). I've been there. I understand the fear, the doubt, the confusion, the conflict of thoughts and emotions when it comes to deciding whether to make aliyah (to move to Israel) or not. I can also identify with the Jews who made that choice and now feel some regret, some angst about whether they chose correctly or not.

But, while I feel I can honestly say I understand, I can't in good conscience sit by and condone by my silence what amounts to slander against Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) and against the Borei HaOlam (the Creator of the World). It's okay to admit our weaknesses and to seek encouragement to overcome them, but it's not okay to rationalize and justify them by condemning others.

I read an exchange recently, and unfortunately, I have to say it's not the first time, where someone justified his unwillingness to consider making aliyah to Eretz Yisrael because of a whole list of "sins" (occurring in Israel) - which he enumerates - terrible things to be sure. And it's true that all the horrors of Western society have found their way into our Holy Land. But, it's the height of hypocrisy to say, "I won't lower myself to live among sinners in Eretz Yisrael, but I have no problem living among the exact same sins in the impure lands of dispersion."

What's more, by refusing to come and add to the numbers of Torah-observant Jews, thereby increasing their power to amend the laws, (influence the culture) and to eliminate these sins from the Holy Land, they are partly responsible for what is going wrong. And it gets worse! All the Torah and mitzvot in chu"l is actually giving power and sustenance to the evil forces which rule over those impure lands who then use it to turn and around and subjugate the faithful Jews of Eretz Yisrael!

This might be hard to hear, but it's the truth and if it applies to you, you need to not take offense, but take it to heart and do something about it if it's in your power to do so.
Furthermore, to say that the situation in Eretz Yisrael is simply not to your liking is a slap in Hashem's face. The situation may not be to our liking or to His, but it's what it is because HE has allowed it to be so, for His own reasons, most likely to maintain free will. I mean, if things were perfect in Eretz Yisrael, who wouldn't want to make aliyah?  Including the goyim!? Where would be the challenge or the reward in making aliyah then? Things are actually getting so good here that it's getting harder and harder to keep from being completely overrun by goyim from all over the world!  (There has become a practical problem of economic migrants invading Israel across the Israeli-Egyptian border.  They are not “on their way to Europe”, they are targeting arriving IN ISRAEL.) 

The kedushah that the Land imparts is absolute and not dependent on anything.
(Rambam: Hilchot Melachim, Chapter 5, halacha 12) - “A person should dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city whose population is mostly non-Jewish, and not live in “chutz la’aretz”, even in a city which is mostly Jewish.”

For those who prefer to remain in chu"l and only come home to Eretz Yisrael when Mashiach personally brings them out, I should also point out that were it not for your brothers and sisters who sacrificed what you are unwilling or afraid to sacrifice to build Eretz Yisrael up into what it has become today, there would be no Eretz Yisrael for you to come to with Mashiach. It's a chutspah to expect only to reap the rewards of the work others have done without any intention to assist in that work.

It never ceases to amaze me that goyim come from Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, and every country in Africa and even while living in Israel illegally(!) they manage to survive and thrive and have children - and at the same time there are Torah and mitzvah-observant children of Hashem who actually belong here, - whom He yearns to see here - who doubt His ability or willingness to provide for them all that they could possibly need here.

If you knew how much you hurt Hashem when you disparage the treasure of His Holy Land and the gift He made of it to you, you would be so ashamed and full of regret. Any true Jewish neshamah would.

A commentor on that blog wrote in response,

“We learned form history when false Moshiach shabatai tzvi convinced many people to leave their homes and at the end the felt totally broken, because they (believed) it (was) the right time and thing to do. No more pushing, no more damaging souls please... Eretz Israel is the best place for Jews but we have to be ready for that. Please understand.”

…Discuss…

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Weird Moment at the Kotel – 2:30am

via Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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A Jew prays at the Kotel (Western Wall) while a Black African kneels beside him.

Reb Akiva adds, people come from all over the world to visit Jerusalem and the Western Wall. When they are not Jewish they sometimes come in costumes and with religious symbols of their religions and attempt to pray or worship in their way at our holy site.  Most of the time, as in the picture above, this is due to ignorance and an honest desire to honor G-d.

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Does It Make Sense to Do It Again?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Geulah predictions (predictions of the coming of Moshiach).  We’ve had years of posts focusing on world events and predictive statements from gedolim, mekubalim (kabbalists), tzaddikim (the saintly).  Being that Moshiach and the Geulah (the redemption times) aren’t here, everyone one of those predictions was inaccurate.

There’s a new prediction floating around.  It’s a good one, meaning from a reputable source.  (A good one clearly can’t mean accuracy, as so far accuracy from every source is ZERO.)

Is there any value, any positive, in getting people excited about a prediction of the ketz (the end of golus)?  Does it add something if the Geulah comes or intensify peoples actions in the positive that may hasten that day or make a prediction more likely (more mitzvot in the merit of the coming Geulah)?  Or does it just set people up for a big let down if, G-d forbid, it’s not accurate?

“The Zohar says that only Torah and mitzvot will bring the complete redemption. We have to squeeze through the narrow opening is left open to the path of Judaism and and open the way for as many as possible, both to hasten and merit the redemption and for the benefit of all Klal Yisroel and the world.”

The Gemora says that everyone will be surprised by the (suddenness of the) Geulah.  G-d willing, we’ll all be surprised TODAY.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

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Who Saved That Old Man’s Life?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Dr. Leon is a retired medical doctor. He owned and operated several Urgent Care Units in Miami. Now, he spends most of the year here in Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, and the rest of the year he spends in Florida.

     Last Shabbos he was enjoying his afternoon meal with his wife and 8 guests when two women knocked loudly on the door. One was a friend of the family, and the other was a visitor from America. The visitor pleaded with Dr. Leon to please come see her baby. The baby had a fever, and her ear was draining some strange liquid.

     Dr. Leon is retired. He does not have a medical practice anymore, and he has never once practiced medicine in Israel. He was relaxing with his friends on Shabbos afternoon, drinking wine, and having a good time. So what did he tell her? Not what you might think. Leon excused himself from his guests and followed the ladies as they hurried to their apartment. It was a 20 minute rushed-walk from Leon’s apartment.

     Then, just as they arrived at the front door, a frantic woman burst out of the apartment next door yelling, “My husband! My husband! He’s choking! Help! Help!”

     Leon ran into the apartment to find a 70 year-old man lying on the floor gagging, grabbing at his throat. His face was totally blue! Leon quickly did an emergency procedure on the old man’s chest, and a huge piece of half-chewed chicken came flying out of his mouth.

     The man relaxed some, and his wife yelled, “Look, his color is coming back to his face.”

    When he was better, Leon went next door to look at the baby. He told the mother that the baby seemed to be recuperating, and that she should wait until after Shabbos and then have an ear doctor come with the proper equipment to examine the baby’s ear. They thanked him for coming, and Leon walked back to his Shabbos table.

     Now, let’s be honest, who gets the credit for saving that old man’s life? Well, surely the woman friend of Leon’s family should get the credit because if she did not know that Leon was a doctor, and how to bring him, Leon would not have been there to help.

     But the woman with the sick baby could say that she is the one who saved the old man’s life, because if she had not have insisted on going to get Leon he would not have been there to save the man’s life.

     But wait a minute. Even if both of those women had done what they did, if the wife of the choking man had not run out the door franticly screaming, Leon would not have known to go in to help him, so surely she is the one who should get the credit for saving her husband’s life, right?

     Hey folks! Aren’t we forgetting the main character in the entire episode, Dr. Leon? After all he is the one who actually saved the old man’s life, right?

     So, all of these characters could stake their claims for the credit in having saved that old Jewish man’s life. But, really, who should get the credit? Who urged the mother to all of a sudden insist on having a doctor come? Who arranged it so Leon’s family friend would be standing there when the mother insisted on having a doctor come? Who pushed the frantic wife out the door screaming when her husband turned blue? Who gave Leon the strength and will to stand up from his relaxing glass of wine that Shabbos afternoon? And all these at the exact times needed to save the old man’s life!

     You guessed it. Hashem. G-d did it. And really, G-d does everything. But we rarely see His hidden hand…not at all. This is not only because He is hiding so well, but because we usually only see ourselves to be the one who is doing everything “we” do. The nature of reality is indeed more mystical than we realize.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

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Do All You Can

(via L’ma’an Yishme’u)

It began like every other sicha (talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), elaborating on the uniqueness of the day and the lessons we may take from it. Suddenly the Rebbe's tone rose. The Rebbe began to speak with pain:

"How is it that the chassidim find it an option to remain in golus. After all the work the Rebbe has done, everyone is still apathetic. Ad mosai is said out of ritual, without any true feeling. We are still in galus - and more importantly - the personal galus in avodas Hashem. Perhaps ten persistent people, with guidance, will actually bring the geulah."

Here the Rebbe turned to the chassidim and pleaded: "I have done all I can, now you do all you can to bring moshiach now!"

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Friday, April 20, 2012

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Iran–No Fear

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I Want My Nanny State!

(Person X) is still recovering from a face transplant and wants to sue the state of Connecticut over the chimpanzee attack that nearly killed her three years ago.  On February 16, 2009, a 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis was freely roaming the grounds of the Stamford home of his owner and Person X’s friend when Person X visited.

The (large) chimpanzee attacked Person X causing her to lose (most of her face and almost die).  The attorney who represents Person X said he believes that the near-fatal mauling could have been avoided.  He said the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection ignored its own regulations regarding private ownership of potentially dangerous animals.

“They knew it was an accident waiting to happen. They knew the animal had no permit, and in spite of all this, the (government) took no action, under the they must either issue a permit or the statute says it shall seize and dispose of the animal. It chose to do neither.”

So we’ve reached the point where we expect the State to do everything for us.  Following the same theory, if I’m in New York City at someone’s house and they start smoking – if I every develop cancer in my lifetime I can sue New York City for not effectively enforcing their “no indoor smoking ban”.  Not that I should leave their house when the smoking starts (or not visit my friend that has a free roaming 400 pound wild animal in their yard).

I have NO responsibility, Nanny State shall do it all and bear the responsibility for not properly managing my decisions.

You know, I’m a little overweight.  I think I’ll contact my lawyer, I’m sure it’s the government’s fault.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

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What Happened?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     This tourist is from America. He strongly refused to put on tefillin. He had put them on once before, and he did not see any sense to do it again. I insisted, and for some reason, he gave in.

     After he read the Shema, I had him pray for his family and for his personal needs. He stood there praying for well over 10 minutes. I wondered what was going on in his head. We see this a lot. First a tourist does not want to put them on, and then he does not want to take them off.

     When I took the picture I asked him, “What happened? You did not want to put on tefillin, and then once you had them on, you didn’t want to take them off. What changed?”

    He said, “They made me feel good about myself.”

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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Why is Caring Hard?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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A friend asked, “Why is it hard to care for others?”

     The main reason it is so hard be concerned with others is that we are usually so wrapped up with our own problems that we do not pay attention to theirs. It’s like giving charity…if our needs are not yet taken care of, very few of us would be concerned with other people’s needs. But, if we are lacking something, we know how it feels, so this should make us even more sensitive to them.

     The ironic thing is, that almost always, giving to others brings the solution to our own problems! When we give charity, it brings blessings for a good livelihood. When we pray for others to find what they need, Hashem gives us what we need. So, if for no other reason than to open the door to our own blessings, we should concern ourselves with each other’s needs.

     But if you would ask a great person why he (or she) gave that poor man a dollar, he would not say, “To get ten back from Hashem.” He wouldn’t even say, “It’s a mitzvah,” although it certainly is. Most likely he would say, “Because the poor guy needed it.”

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POW Palestinians

Newsflash via YNet: (Palestinian Authority President-for-life-not-a-dictator) Abbas seeks (Geneva convention) Prisoner of War recognition for Palestinian prisoners (unstated but assumablely those located in Israeli prisons).

Palestinian President(for-life-but-he’s-not-a-dictator) Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians will approach states that are signatories to the fourth Geneva Convention in order to demand that the convention's rules apply to the West Bank.

He added that in the spirit of the convention he will also demand that Palestinian prisoners be recognized as prisoners of war and receive all the rights that the convention offers.

Excellent!  Mystical Paths is all for this move and recommends Israel immediately accept the PA President-for-life-but-he’s-not-a-dictator’s request…

That way, per the Geneva convention, EVERY Pali-Arab who’s attack targeted CIVILIANS, and that would be almost ALL OF THEM, can immediately be charged with WAR CRIMES and CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY and imprisoned for life or executed.

The 3rd Geneva Convention (1929) is the Protection of Prisoners of War.  But the 4th Geneva Convention (1949) is the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

(Oh, I know in general this is not a good idea.  No one is going to actually monitor or accuse the Palestinians, any such monitoring or accusations would be focused exclusively on Israel.  But Lawfare can and should be applied both ways.  Israel has enough lawyers that a lawfare team can and should be built and be doing to the Palestinians what they keep trying to do to Israel.)

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Monday, April 16, 2012

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The Path to Divine Blessing

An ad in a recent edition of an ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper. Speaks for itself.  Only 6 payments of 25 (not sure what, dollars or shekels) and you’re in.

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I thought the path was Torah, Teshuva (Repentence), Tzedakah (Charity), Tefilah (Prayer), Emunah (Faith), and Mitzvot (the commandments) and Maasim Tovim (Good Deeds). 

Who knew.

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The End (Well…not really)

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

image003      A few years ago, I began this series of articles called, “The Spiritual Perspective.” They began with a brief forward explaining the purpose of the series. I also wrote the conclusion knowing full well where I intended to bring the readers. The problem is that the series has turned out to be ongoing, and the conclusion that I was saving for the end will never be read. So I am sending out the conclusion now. I do plan on continuing the articles (G-d willing) as the stories come into my life. First, to remind you, here is the foreword.

Foreword - The Problem

     According to most opinions, there is a Jewish crisis going on today. Apparently, a huge percentage of nonreligious Jews are flocking to other religions, while very few are coming to their own. It seems that the crisis is not only in the Torah-ignorant community, but has hit the religious community as well. Today, young Jews are leaving Torah lives at an astonishing rate. Of course this means rampant intermarriage and the loss of those future Jewish families. This is a catastrophe. What to do? Like all things in Jewish life, there are various opinions on the subject.

Conclusion

     The ultimate goal of the spiritual search is to reveal G-d’s Presence. This is possible right here in this lower world. This revelation is called the Shechina. G-d, being unlimited, must be everywhere at all times. One of His names is the Place (HaMakom). Even the physical place permeates all locations and levels of the entire creation at all times. How much more so must the spiritual Place permeate all? But still, although He is all, the physicality is not His revealed glory. By design, His glorious Presence is being hidden by His physical creation. How do we uncover this glory?

     We are told that the Shechina is only revealed in joy.[i] This means that for this wondrous experience to happen, we must serve G-d with joy. It will never come in sorrow. The Gemora explains that the joy spoken of here is the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah.[ii] Why has G-d arranged it so this highest spiritual revelation comes only from the joy of doing a mitzvah, and not from any of the other wonderful joys that His creation has to offer? Doing mitzvahs requires a physical Torah life, and not just a spiritual Torah life. The spiritual Torah leads us to the highest vision possible. The physical Torah leads us to a practical Jewish life with a vibrant Jewish family at its center. And when done properly, it will also lead to the most cherished revelation possible.

     When we understand the spiritual aspects of the mitzvah, it helps us to do the mitzvahs better. The spiritual result of the mitzvah reveals what is actually happening when the mitzvah is done. This strengthens and encourages us. It also helps us to experience the great joy that is inherent in serving G-d.

     This is why we search spiritually. Not that we are going to force open the gates of Heaven by doing a mitzvah. If just doing mitzvahs opened that gate, millions of Jews would be talking about this experience. Not even doing the mitzvahs while concentrating on their spirituality will force that gate to open. That gate is an entirely spiritual gate and it opens only from the top down.

     But finding the spiritual truth of the mitzvah helps us to do the mitzvahs properly. This reminds us of our true purpose for being here on Earth. Fulfilling our purpose in life brings us to the great joy of serving Him as His Torah instructs. In this joy we will be able to receive the much greater joy of seeing His Presence.[iii]

     There is a well known story of a rebbe who, as a mere four-year-old child, cried that G-d appeared to Avraham but He had not appeared to him.[iv] From this story we see that even small children can have the revelation of G-d be their heart’s desire. We also see from this that we must make striving to reveal G-d’s Presence part our standard education. And this education should even be for children, and not reserved only for those who are qualified to learn the deepest mystical subjects.

     Where do we find a source to justify this search? “ … There you shall seek out His Presence …”[v] Moshe was telling us to seek His Presence where our sacrifices were offered. This was wherever the Mishkan or Temple stood. That was where we were to offer our sacrifices, and that was the place where we were to seek out His Presence. Today, while we do not have a Temple, our sacrifices are offered in our hearts, and in our spiritual service to the world. It is within these that we are to search for Him. 

     When the physical Torah is taught along with its spiritual perspective, the children will not need to look elsewhere for satisfaction. Spiritual awareness gives life purpose. We become motivated and glad that we are here. Life becomes an opportunity instead of a burden. It is well known that a solely physically motivated life leads to senseless greed. It is also well known that a spiritually motivated life leads to giving. And giving is its own reward.

     He reveals His Presence to us when we please Him. Besides thinking spiritually, what can we do to hasten this most cherished experience? What pleases Him the most is when we serve Him with joy, thank Him for the good that He has given us, help others to learn His ways, and live together in peace.

    May this happen to all of us today.


[i] Gemara Shabbos 30b

[ii] Gemara Berachos 31a

[iii] Gemara Shabbos 30a

[iv] Sichat HaShevuah, Darchei Ha Chassidut

[v] Deuteronomy 12:5

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

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Live from Flytilla

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

One of my children was returning from Passover away with a friend in England.  Little did she know she was also flying back to Israel in the midst of Flytilla.  What’s a “Flytilla”?  It’s a plan for people who wish to protest for Palestine (and for the destruction of Israel) to fly en masse into Israel and (something – protest at the airport or at checkpoints into the West Bank or Gaza or something).

As we entered Israel’s international airport, Ben Gurion airport, the normal security checkpoint had a supplemntary staff of Mishmeret HaGivul, Israeli Border Police.  As each vehicle arrived they were checking against a list, occasionally taking select vehicles aside for additional review.  Clearly a first line of defense was simply preventing any supporting activists from entering the airport grounds.

We thought our child would be returning via terminal 1 (not many flights come via the old terminal 1 anymore), so we cruised by the arrives there.  As we did we saw a mass of police and Israeli Prison Service vehicles.  At the time we didn’t know why.

We subsequently found out our child had been routed to terminal 3 (the new terminal) arrivals, so we headed over.

As we came to the arrivals hall we saw groups of high level police officers clustered throughout the area and rows of television cameras lining the 2nd level, with reporters, photojournalists, and radio reporters clustered around (photos below, though I wasn’t expecting all this so I only had my cell phone with me – low camera quality).

Trying to find out the delay in our child coming out, we called her and this is what she said…

“We arrived but were routed out of the plane to a bus.  The bus went to Terminal 1 (old terminal) border control, where everyone was given roses, a bottle of water and briefly interviewed to determine their purpose for arrival.  About 60 activists on my flight from England were identified and taken away.  (They were easily identifiable by style of dress and all arriving with 1 backpack.)  After the process completed, we were placed on another bus and taken to the Terminal 3 (new terminal) baggage area and customs control. 

In the baggage area and customs control there were about 100 Mishmeret HaGivul border policemen.  It took an unusual amount of time for our luggage to arrive (perhaps they were separating out any activist luggage).  Finally we collected our bags, passed through customs and entered the arrival hall – where we were faced with 50 reporters and groups of Israeli police.”

As far as I can tell, Flytilla was a fly-dud.  And, as the Prime Minster of Israel said…want to protest something real, try a Flytilla into Syria where THOUSANDS are being SLAUGHTERED.  Unfortunately nobody really cares about Arabs killing Arabs. 

But Jews defending themselves, that’s something to get worked up about!

Here’s some pictures…

Senior Level Police Officers clustered throughout the arrivals entry area…

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More reporters were present than flytilla activists, at least 10 different television cameras set up around the balcony…

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Inside the customs area I can see about 15 border police, just inside the door…

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There were almost as many reporters there as policemen.  Say hello to radio and audio journalists…

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Every Jew has a Spark

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

On the night of the holiday the 7th day of Passover I saw a strange sight that piqued my interest.  A Jewish teenager from our neighborhood dressed in a t-shirt and jeans (with no yarmulke) was carefully placing a candle next to a garbage dumpster.  I asked him what he was doing…

“I’m setting up a candle so we can smoke on Yom Tov (on the holiday).  [It’s permitted on a Jewish holiday, but not on the Shabbos, to light a fire from an existing fire – therefore those who smoke can, though it’s not considered a good thing to do – smoke on the holiday by using an existing fire such as a candle to light their cigarrete.]  If you walk around town you’ll see such candles set up around various dumpsters and in corners in the parks.  What, you think we don’t keep the Yom Tov like you do?”

He’s right, I didn’t think that the bare headed Jewish teenagers shlumping around the neighborhood on Yom Tov in jeans and t-shirts would be keeping the Jewish religious restrictions of the Yom Tov.

I’m thrilled to be shown that every Jew has a spark, a connection to HaKodesh Baruch Hu.  And while that bare headed jeans and t-shirt wearing Jewish teenager may be rebelling and rejecting current Jewish religious culture, that doesn’t mean he’s rejecting Hashem or His Torah.  He may just need a different (but equally kosher) path to demonstrate it.

Every Jew is filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate is filled with seeds!

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Why Did Avraham Do It?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     Avraham doesn’t know it, but G-d had a lot to do with shaping his life.

     Avraham was born in America to non-Jewish parents. When he was a young boy, he saw a film on the Holocaust. He said that it touched something deep inside, in his “sub-consciousness.”

     When he grew up, Avraham joined the U.S. military and served for 20 years. While in the military his interest in Judaism grew and in 1982 he began to search in earnest. He wanted to come to the root of religion and spiritual life. He read about Avraham in the Bible, and one day he decided to be like Avraham. He went to a river and took a drop of blood from his organ with a needle, as if he was circumcising himself, because Avraham Aveinu (our father) circumcised himself.

     By 1989, although certainly not a Jew, Avraham began putting on tefillin every day, and praying from a prayer book. He went to a reform temple, but he did not find what he was looking for, so he went to a conservative synagogue. After just three months of study, the conservative religious court allowed Avraham to “convert.” Avraham thought that he had become a Jew.

     A few years later, Avraham met an Orthodox rabbi who explained to him what it means to be a true convert. Avraham studied with the rabbi for a number of years, and when the rabbi thought that he was ready for his conversion, Avraham came to Israel to have the beis din (religious court) convert him to Judaism.

But, even though he was putting on tefillin every day, saying the prayers, and keeping all of the holidays, the court would not allow his conversion! Year after year he tried… but they kept putting obstacles in his way.

    Then finally, a few years ago, the Orthodox Beis Din here in Israel agreed, and Avraham went to the mikvah (emersion in a pool of water) and became a true ger tzedek (a righteous convert).

     Becoming a ger (convert) has been Avraham’s greatest drive throughout most of his adult life. Even though he was not Jewish, he put on tefillin every day -- for 20 years! Why did he do this? What drove him to continue on, when almost anyone else would have become discouraged and given up?

     It is said that a ger tzedek was a Jew in his last lifetime, but because of his (or her) deeds, he fell away and had to be born as a non-Jew, but with a strong desire to return to his people.

     Not only did Avraham have such a strong drive, but when he was born, his parents chose a most proper English name for him. It was so important that he become a ger, that Hashem must have sent an angel to whisper in his parents’ ear that his English name should be “Gary”!

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

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Overriding Congress to Fund Gaza

Weekly Standard:  Secretary of State Clinton is allowing U.S. funds to flow to the West Bank and Gaza despite a hold by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, a rare display of executive-branch authority (over riding congressional oversight)…

A State Department official saidthe decision to move forward with the $147 million package of the fiscal year 2011 economic support funds for the Palestinian people, despite (congressional oversight) hold. Administrations generally do not disburse funding over the objections of lawmakers on relevant committees.  (And it is legally questionable to do so.)

image"[The funds deliver] critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future. Without funding, our programs risk cancellation," the official, who was not authorized to speak about the issue, said in an e-mail. "Such an occurrence would undermine the progress that has been made in recent years in building Palestinian institutions and improving stability, security, and economic prospects, which benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Hold a moment, I’ve got to dodge a U.S. funded Palestinian peace rocket…  Ah, ok now, much more stable.  EVERY SINGLE TIME funding is increased to the Palestinians, attacks increase.  That’s a demonstrable graphable  result.

Nice of the Obama administration to (maybe illegally) override Congress and provide such funding, irregardless of the result. 

Are they out to get us (in every generation Hashem saves us from their hand) or are they inable to graps facts that don’t fit their preconceived narrative of peaceful Palestinian peoplehood?

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United Nations Truce Supervision Organization???

In Arnona, Jerusalem, just past the Jerusalem Promenade, we passed a strange building.  It caught my attention as it had a highly protected entrance, serpentine road to prevent a direct attack by a car bomb, and a tank trap!  What is it, and what’s it doing in the midst of a residential Jerusalem neighborhood???

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United Nations what??? Truce Supervision Organization?  What the heck is that?  And what’s it doing there?

“On 29 May 1948 , the Security Council, in resolution 50 (1948) , called for a cessation of hostilities in Palestine and decided that the truce should be supervised by the UN Mediator, with the assistance of a group of military observers . The first group of military observers, which has become known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), arrived in the region in June 1948. In 1949, UNTSO military observers remained to supervise the Armistice Agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors, which were for many years the main basis of the uneasy truce in the whole area.”

Good news!  Like any good government agency, they’re STILL THERE long after their original mandate disappeared (and never having provided any real value anyway).  But never fear, they’re “monitoring” something, somewhere.  And apparently very afraid that some angry Jew is going to attack them (or more likely some angry Arab who might have accidentally been monitored and reported on – never on purpose).

In response the Jews built this right next to the UN facility…

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Damn those Jews, being tolerant instead of slaughtering their attackers.  Kind of limits the things to be observed.

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The Jerusalem Promenade

One of the best views in Jerusalem is to be found on the Promenade.  The Promenade is in southeast Jerusalem (in a section called Arnona), on the next hilltop south of the Old City.  It’s very busy during Chol HaMoed, with many enjoying the view and large city park.

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In panorama…

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The air was hazy, but that’s the Old City in the distance.

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Many families were enjoying Chol HaMoed out together…

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A bicycle built for the whole family!

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Before we left, we joined an impromptu mincha minyan, perhaps the only time Jews of every stripe in Israel get together to pray.

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Moadim L’Simcha from Mystical Paths

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

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Down By The Sea

We stopped by Ashkelon State Park to dip our toes in the sea for Chol HaMoed.  Ashkelon State Park is just 8 miles north of Gaza (in rocket range), but is a beautiful semi-private location that’s lightly used.

Israeli beaches are just beautiful.  Clean sand, pretty water.

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The last picture is flowering California iceplant, which is being used to beautify and stop some erosion by the edge of the beach.  Only in Israel do you find top plants from all over the world being cultivated.

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Give That Man a Halo

Notice anything interesting about many of the pictures taken of U.S. President Obama?

(First picture from a news article today, used to note Obama commenting on events in North Korea.)

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image  image

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(None of these are photoshopped.)

You are being manipulated.  Look for it.

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The Rova

by Reb Gutman @ Mystical Paths

The Rova (the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem) is packed! Tens of thousands of Jews are coming to the Old City for the Holiday.

It looks like the Redemption has started! (G-d willing!)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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The Smallest Gesture…

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at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

You never know what even the smallest kindness might bring.

     A family was in Israel for the daughter’s wedding. They came to the Kotel, and the father of the bride and his brother put on tefillin.

     Over to the side, someone started to put tefillin on the bride’s brother. He did not know that he was part of the family. He asked him if his mother was Jewish. He said that she was, and that he was the bride’s brother. He had him say the blessing and was putting the tefillin on him, but before he finished wrapping his hand, he asked him if his mother was born Jewish. The brother said that she was not… she was a convert.

     “Was it an orthodox conversion?” he asked.

     He said that it was not orthodox, but it was Conservative. Oh oh! He slipped the tefillin off his arm. The brother walked away, and I said something to the man about putting tefillin on someone who was not Jewish.

     He said, “The worse thing is that his sister just married an Israeli who thinks that she is Jewish, and their children will not be Jews! Oh man, what a mess!”

     Just then the father of the bride came over to me all excited.

     “There he is!” He yelled, pointing at me. “You’re the same man who was here a couple of years ago who helped me. You took a picture of me and sent it to me. Do you remember? I put it up on my FaceBook account. It was great.” He said, “Since you were so honest, and did what you said you would, and sent me that picture, I figured that I ought to do what you told me to do. After all, a guy with such a long grey beard is supposed to be very wise.”

    I said, “That’s right, I am supposed to be wise.”

    He ignored me, and went on, “You told me that I had to straighten out my wife’s conversion, and my kids, too. So I did what you told me. I went to an orthodox beit din (religious court) and we did what they said. I got all the papers and there was an orthodox conversion. And now, my daughter just married an Israeli! There was a ketuba (religious marriage contract) and everything was completely kosher.”

     He took my hand and warmly said, “Thank you for helping us like that. My parents are both holocaust survivors. They tried to sterilize my mother, but it didn’t work. She went on to have four sons! And now my daughter just married an Israeli, and is going to have lots of Jewish kids. We beat them!” he said with great joy.

     I walked over to meet the family. His mother was standing there looking a lot stronger than her 86 years. “Hooray for you!” I said, and she lifted up her arms like a prize fighter who just scored a complete knockout. They all happily thanked me for straightening out their Jewish life.

     If I had not sent him that picture I took, like I said I would, none of this would have happened.

     Learning how to help people is not the hard part. That comes with practice. But caring enough to try…for most people, that’s the hard part.

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Wildflowers of Spring

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Ever since I took a wildflower photography hike with an expert nature photographer in my first year in Israel, I’ve loved getting pictures of wildflowers in Israel.

My favorite spot is Tel Socho, which is the home of the author of the 3rd mishna of Pirke Avos, “Antichnos the man of Socho says…”.  His home town is still there (at least the foundations and retaining walls are), and it’s covered with (what’s today) wild grain and wildflowers.

Unfortunately on this photo trip I also took a fall and broke a camera (B”H not any bones).  Perhaps if readers appreciate the pictures on the blog, I can run a “replace the blog camera” campaign.

Here we go…

While spring flowers in Israel start with red poppies, a month later it’s bright yellow and white daises.

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The blue/purple turmursim are very special, even more so with the right backdrop…

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A few late poppies are still out…

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But the star of the hill this time of the year is the blue turmursim…

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Moadim l’Simcha from Mystical Paths.

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