Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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When You Help Your Fellow Jew…

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


Dear Reb Gutman,

    My friend suffered pretty badly at the hand of the Communists before finally getting out of Russia. I feel that growing up in the US in the 70's-80's was also a form a suffering…a suffering that could be defined as a desert, devoid of spirituality and meaning.

     Today I am frum [Torah observant] and my wife and I primarily define our Chassidus through Chabad. My 70's-80's experience and my non-ending never fulfilled search for spirituality included a stint in Israel with a movement which bases much of its teaching on yashka (xianity) as the prime example of enlightenment, but also included buddha, and American Indian philosophy.

    My friend told me that I must read the book by the guru of Central Park, Coming Back to Earth. So I went home and got it on my Kindle. Though much more extreme, your story and mine are not dissimilar. Yet, you sound happy - still on fire. You describe at the end of the book what got you to understand that place of happiness.

     But, I still am left with wondering. You came to understand why you "needed" your "wasted time". I lived in Madison, New Jersey (USA) for four years of college and every time the Yeshiva boys asked me if I was Jewish my answer was “no” and I kept on walking. I lived in Israel for 9 years and I was in synagogue 3 times. One of those times was Masorti! (Conservative)

     My wife and I came to teshuva (Torah observance) when I was about 42, and I am now 51. I have a phenomenal, deeply spiritual wife with whom I have grown only stronger in Yiddishkeit (Judaism) and two teenage daughters who were educated only in a Torah environment for the last 9 years.

     But, in me, I still feel deeply that there is spirituality, but I feel a sense of loss and lack of meaning almost all of the time. Sometimes especially when davening!![praying]

     I had intended to return to Israel after coming back to the States. We never did. My wife (rightly) could not leave her parents here and move to Israel. That too has left emptiness in me.

     Hashem has clearly led you every step of the way to be the light that you are to all of the Yidden [Jews] you touch every day.

     I know He led me, too. But I can't find the joy in where He has led me. I am a semi successful chiropractor in America living in a well-to-do frum [religious] community in the suburbs. I know that Hashem led me to these as well as gave me the amazing gift of my wife and daughters.

     I would truly appreciate a small dialogue with you. Perhaps you might give me a Guru kick in the butt to see the light within the circumstances of my life. I'd like to succeed as I have seen you have succeeded in finding the meaning of your life. I'd love your guidance. My beard is getting very gray. I'm also moving up in the line of those who may have to come back to clean up the mess I made this time.


(Gutman responds)  Shalom Zachary,

     Really, and sadly, your story is quite typical… not so much of where you have been, but more so, where you are. Most briefly, the answer almost always (and I assume for you too) is to go help others. This is the quickest way to get most of what you are seeking. There is still more than even this, but this will bring you joy, purpose, fulfillment, appreciation, and a dozen or more other such benefits, almost immediately.

     I have not yet met you, so I know nothing about you, but let me ask, how many times have you put on tefillin? Most likely almost 3000 times, and if you count your Rabbeinu Tam tefillin it will be twice that many times! Wow, that’s great.

     But (and forgive me if I am wrong) how many times have you put them on someone else?  Odd, but I cannot hear your answer. Let me know. Is it as many times as you have put them on yourself? Have you helped others to put on tefillin ten times more times than you have put them on your own arm? I do not think so, or you would not be having the problems that you have.

     Do you only concern yourself with aligning your patients’ physical bones, or are you also concerned with their spiritual bones? One of my friends, from Florida, whose name is also Zachary, is an Animal Pharmacist, and he loves to blow the shofar (ram’s horn) during the month of Elul for his customers when they come into his pharmacy. He really enjoys helping them.

     As I said, I might be wrong, but it sounds like paying attention to more than physical bone alignment, but also concerning yourself with others’ spiritual growth will solve most of your problem….

     Sorry, if I misjudged you. Let me know.

Be well, Gutman


Geulah B’Rachamim – To Music!?

A very interesting video.  The speaker is Rabbi Pinchas Winston, one of the top geulah research rabbis.

Direct video link.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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The Positive Project–No Bullying

It’s always exciting to see our young people standing up to make a positive difference.  DRS Yeshiva High School students have started an anti-bullying initiative and The Positive Project.

Kol HaKavod to them, may they continue to grow in making a positive difference in the world!

Here’s their video – direct link here.


Monday, May 28, 2012


The Old City - From the Kotel

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Before Morning Prayers



After Morning Prayers



At Evening Prayers



The Brightest Moon


Yet More Asifa Musings

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

A friend responded to the video from Rabbi Manis Friedman discussing the Asifa approach to the internet.  He said…

“I disagree the Rabbi Friedman video answer to (anti-Internet) Asifah.  He has a point maybe but he's oversimplifying things.”

My response:

I agree Rabbi Friedman (the speaker is Rabbi Manis Friedman, rosh yeshiva of the Beis Chana institutions – and by the way is Avraham Fried's older brother) has simplified things.  But he's trying to make a point on approach.

The Asifa approach is that the tool is evil.  As an evil tool it must be avoided.  Since modern life has embraced this tool as a two way communication method and commerce method, to the extent that it’s becoming indispensible, we can’t completely banish it from our religious communities.  But we can apply maximum controls, banish it from the home, and shun any who utilize it beyond the minimum.

Rabbi Friedman says it’s not this tool (or any tool)!  It’s our inclinations and intentions.  It’s not a tool we must guard against, it’s our yetzer hara!  And if we think we’re going to avoid sin by avoiding a tool rather than learning to control inclinations and focus our intentions, we’re fooling ourselves.


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Administrivia & Shabbos

(posted the day after Shavuos from Israel)

I read an interesting article on TorahMusings recently about Social Media, Blogging and Shabbat.  The questions raised were how to handle various web or social media robots that pick up postings and spread them across other sides (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email, and/or other web sites) – a process that happens with some delay, and may make it appear that the posting activity happened on Shabbat.

It’s an interesting topic that requires true halachic experts together with internet experts, to be able to formulate a clear religious understanding.  But I did want to clarify some points about Mystical Paths in case there’s any questions (and to prevent Maris Ayin)…

1. Mystical Paths operates Shomer Shabbat.  All authors are Shomer Shabbat and Torah observant orthodox Jews (though we may occasionally excerpt an article from somewhere else where this is not true).  No blogging activity occurs on Shabbat.

2. Mystical Paths is edited and published from Israel.  This means we’re operating on an Israeli time schedule (Shabbos times) and keep one day of yom tov (a one day Jewish holy day schedule, as is the norm according to Jewish law for those living in the Land of Israel).

3. Mystical Paths uses a variety internet services to distribute it’s content via various channels.  This includes auto-posting to Facebook, Twitter, Odigo (for the hearing impaired), Google Currents (for iPhone and iPad), email, and a number of aggregator services and sites.

4. We never post on Shabbos or on Jewish holy days (when work is prohibited, those are Passover, Shavuos, Sukkos, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but not including Purim and Chanukah).  However, the internet services and aggregators may pick up our articles automatically on whatever schedule they choose to operate – so an article we post on Friday morning might be automatically picked up and posted elsewhere on Shabbos or emailed or sent to your iPhone or Facebook account on Shabbos. 

5. This is further complicated by world wide time zones.  An article published Friday morning Israel time may appear to be published on Shabbos Australia time.  And an article published on the day after yom tov in Israel is coming out on the second day of yom tov outside of Israel.  Articles on the blog site include the date posted (at the top) to show otherwise.  We’ll check if we can add the time to make this completely clear.

Thanks for reading Mystical Paths.


Friday, May 25, 2012

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The Power of Niggun & Shavuos

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

niggunNiggun – tune – has been used since time immemorial to arouse the soul and induce alternative or altered states of consciousness. ויהי כמנגן המנגן ותהי עליו רוח ד' [And it was, when the tune-player played a tune, and the spirit of G-d came on him (the prophet Elijah)[1]].

What is it in a niggun that arouses? How does a tune manage to pluck the strings of the heart, elate the soul, transport one to other-world consciousness?

I believe it is because tune is the inner language, the primal tongue of the inner consciousness. When a child first detects the various sounds that surround him, it is first and foremost the rhythm, the taamim, the tone of expression that it picks up; it is this that will then form the basis of all his subsequent learning processes.

Rhythm is in the beat of the heart, the contractions of the lungs, the pulsating energy that dictates light and colour; the entire universe is governed by rhythm.

The holy Arizal writes that there are four main stages in revelation: the highest is ‘taamim’, the lowest is ‘oisyos’ – letters. Tune, or ‘taamim’ [notes] are the highest level of expression, even higher than thought. Lehavdil, the novelist, Viginia Woolf, recognized that ‘rhythm goes far deeper than words’ and actually dictates what words are used and in which order. Rhythm and beat, notes and tunes, are the deeper expressions of human consciousness.

On Shovuos, we read the Asseres HaDibros with the Taam Elyon, which changes the normal setting of the verses into ten recognisable ‘dibros’ – sayings. When we say the tikkun leil shovuos, the Arizal recommends that it is said with the correct cantellation.

At Maamad Har Sinai, one of the main things that are reiterated throughout the event of Revelation, was the Qol HaShofor. The Sound of the Shofar is the fiftieth gate, the stage beyond the counting seven times seven [seven has to do with the various different notes]. This sound started before Bnei Yisroel had assembled at the foot of the mountain, it sounded throughout Matan Torah and continued for some time afterwards [במשוך היובל המה יעלו בהר]. This is the culmination of the Sefiroh, the תספרו חמשים יום. It is the inner Voice that transcends numbers or spatial reality, it is the level of בשנת היובל הזאת תשובו איש אל אחוזתו.

After counting seven times seven, we stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Now, we are at that point of realising that G-d is all: He is One and there is nothing else. But reaching that point, we cannot count. We cannot speak. But we can hear the Qol Shofar, the transcendent inner vibration that pulls us close and purifies.

A good Yom Tov.

[1] Kings II 3.15


Thursday, May 24, 2012

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G-d Said, “Be Holy”

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     When we do a mitzvah properly, trying to understand why Hashem wants us to do that mitzvah, and we try to see what changes when we do it, spiritual joy comes into our life. Hashem did not give us the mitzvahs to burden us. He gave them to us to remove a burden. Either we serve G-d, or we serve our senses.

(Direct Video Link.)

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Yesod and Shmira

by Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths

The first day of the 6 Day War was also yesod she b’yesod.  The Six Day War was all about Yesod. 

It was in the merit of his Brit Milah that was kind of forced upon him by Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld by threatening to embarrass his father in front of the Kibbutz at Deganiah, that (Israeli general) Moshe Dayan took Yerushalayim on Day 3 of the 6 Day War.

Rav Kook and Rav Sonnenfeld were traveling throughout the Galil going to all the Socialist and outright Marxist Kibbutzim performing Brit Milah on the residents of the kibbutzim. They arrived at Deganiah, and the two sages immediately learned that there was a rach hanimol that needed a brit on the eighth day.  They approached the father, and the father refused to give his son a brit.  "My son is a new Jew.  He has evolved beyond such a barbaric custom," said the father. 

Apparently the two sages discovered a piece of embarrassing information about the father and threatened to expose him before the entire kibbutz.  So his father relented and gave his son a Brit.  And that son was General Moshe Dayan. 

In the merit of Brit Milah, Ya'akov inherits Yerushalayim from Yishmael at the End of Days, specifically the mitzvah of periah on one of the layers of skin which is pulled back but not removed.  It reflects a control of a certain amount of wild behavior for which Yishmael is known. 

The Hebrew word for wild is paruah.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Is Your Kedusha Stronger than a Computer?

Now THIS is how to approach the dangers of the Internet!

Direct video link.

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Peak Oil, No. Peak Baby, Yes.

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by Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths

Years ago I used to drive around Meshulachim who were collecting money for worthy causes.  I must have had hundreds of holy people sit in my car as we drove around.  The longest stretches were between University City and Chesterfield in the evening or during the daytime from University City to downtown St. Louis. 

There were two that I would say were more then just Tzaddikim.  They were Ish Eloki (G-dly men), you know the type whose food does not even attract flies.  They were really holy men.  One of them was Rav Moshe Aharon Stern, zt"l.  The 2nd was a young Rebbe from Skulier. 

We were talking about the keitz and various things about the End of Days.  And we were talking about how we (the Jewish people) were rescued from Egypt below the level of Chessed she b'chessed.  And how the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed at Gevurah she'b'gevurah at the end of 9 Centuries after Matan Torah. 

And how Paras was Tiffereth she'b'tiffereth and the yeshua related to the Tifereth of Mordechai is Emeth over the Tifereth of Haman being sheker.  The best translation for the word tifereth that I have ever seen is charisma (beauty of splendor). 

And how Yawan is defeated at Netzach she b'netzach, the 25th level of purity by those pure in hod, the Kohanim.  And then how Edom is defeated at hod she b'hod, the 33rd level of purity by the one pure in Yesod, Yosef. 

And then we started talking about the 41 levels of purity in the midbar and how entering Eretz Yisrael was at the 42nd level (Malkhut she b'yesod) often called Atereth HaYesod. 

Then the Skulier Rebbe commented, "You know though that Yehoshua bin Nun was crowned at Arvot Mo'av, the 41st place in the midbar in honor of his ancestor Yosef who was a melekh in Chutz laAretz.  Yesod she b'yesod is one of the secrets of the Final Redemption."  He smiled.  I said to him that there was tremendous debauchery at Arvot Moav.  He said, "All the more so since Yosef was Shomer HaBrit."  I just took a mental note. 

We had this discussion before there were states and nations rushing over themselves to grant marriage contracts to mishkav zachar.  How much more does this ma'aleh of Yosef mean today.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The Tzadik is a Tzadik, But Not Mine

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

[ The title is from a chassidic story, where a chossid of a Rebbe is sent as a messenger to another chassidic Rebbe.  The chossid delivered his message and stayed for a while, learning from the other Rebbe.  After a time the other Rebbe asked him to stay and become his chossid, switching to his chassidus.  The chossid replied, ‘the Rebbe is a Rebbe, but not mine, this chossid is a chossid, but not thine’. ]

HaRav Shteinman, one of the gedolim of our generation in his late 90’s, visited Ramat Beit Shemesh (Alef) this week, to advocate for a full Torah (no secular studies) education institution in town (which is now having to complete with a new 75% Torah, 25% secular studies institution).

Much is being made about some strong statements he made, which Life in Israel translated here.  I will not comment on those statements except to say we’re seeing transition and cultural upheaval in front of us when a 90 year old gadol has to be dragged around to support the older way.

But there is a spiritual statement that Rav Shteinman made that is worth my discussion here…

“…how much one must do for the everlasting (the torah)! A person does not need to live just 100 years.. he can live for eternity! The life of a person is not here in this world... in order to live everlasting life a person has to work his entire life to create the everlasting life, and what is the everlasting life? torah and mitzvos, and nothing else. From learning math and from geography one does not achieve everlasting life, only from torah and chessed.

…to be a talmid chacham bitachon is irrelevant. One cannot just have bitachon and become a talmid chacham. If he does not learn torah, he will not be a talmid chacham. One who does not learn torah, will not do the mitzvos…  Also chessed must be done, but torah is the main thing.”

On Rosh Hashanah we pray that Hashem judge us as His children.  (For what father will not have compassion on his children?)  And then, after that, we pray that if Hashem will not judge us as His children, THEN (and only then) we pray that He will judge us has His servants.

The rav is of course correct.  Learning Torah, doing mitzvot and chessed literally build one’s place in the World to Come.  Yet the question is WHETHER our goal is to build our place in the World to Come OR to build a relationship with our Father in Heaven. 

Will we be servants working for our (afterlife) payday?  Or children trying to make our Father proud?  Will we learn Torah because each minute gets us a little better seat in Heaven?  Or because by doing so we being to understand a little better, relate a little better, and connect a little more to our Father in Heaven?

And while we’re here, will we express that by doing chessed, mitzvot and helping our brothers?  Will we take steps to make this world a little more heavenly? 

I for one follow the path of the Chabad Rebbes.  My goal is to connect to our Father in Heaven, and bring a bit of heaven down here to earth. 

This gadol’s path does not even interest me.  May he have a long life to complete it.  But it’s my belief bringing more people to it will do NOTHING for this world, nor for Klal Yisroel. 


60 Days

by Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths  (minor edits by Reb Akiva)

The Erev Rav is brought to heel on the 17th of Tamuz since they caused the Sin of the Golden Calf and since the Erev Ze'ir is brought to heel on Tisha B'Av three weeks later because of their part in the Sin of the Spies.  We have two simultaneous 60 day periods which end on the day before the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av respectively. 

The Zohar specifically concentrates on the latter, but it must be remembered that the Erev Rav must be brought to heel before the Erev Ze'ir is because the greater Evening (Mincha Gedolah) comes before the lesser Evening (Mincha Ketanah).  So it has to be in that order.  Yet, if the sins are ultimately repaired in reverse order, then this implies that there will have to be a follow up event next year 5773 also on the 17th of Tamuz because the Sin of the Spies has to be repaired first before the original sin of the Golden Calf. 

How this is ultimately worked out is difficult to know for sure, but with this eclipse and the verse in the Zohar being played out exactly as stated in the Zohar in the year that it was stated to take place, we are definitely in for a very very big summer.  Baruch HaShem for that!!

Chazal knew that the sun was star. And they knew that all the stars were suns in their own right.  It is why the time between sunset and the appearance of the stars is called "bain haShmashot" which means between the suns.  So they knew that the stars were suns.

This year we see a solar eclipse that includes the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters) in the alignment.  What this seems to mean is that this is definitely the event in year 72 1/2 that the Zohar is referring to.  It is an astronomical event of the alignment of the moon in front of the sun which in turn is in front of the Seven Sisters.  Yet, it has practical significance.  The star on the east might be a reference to Persia which is to the east of Eretz Yisrael.  The 7 stars are a reference to the 7 economically powerful nations that are meeting at Camp David this weekend.  In the mid 90s, Russia was added for geopolitical reasons so that the Russians would be joiners instead of being isolated and therefore prone to cause trouble.  So here is the latest news from Camp David to confirm all this.  Remember what used to be called the G-7 is now the G-8. 

Notice that the 7 economic powers all have one thing in common: the color red on their flags meaning that those 7 nations (USA, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) all are linked by Edom with Japhetic (bnai Japheth) followers.   This event in some way represents a subsuming of the 7 Edomite economic powers + Russia (who is totally allied with Persia) to the interests of Persia in the world.

On a deeper level, there are two very important things going on.  Matan Torah was in the desert and was the highlight of the Redemption from Egypt.  On Shivah Asar b'Tamuz we were supposed to receive the Luchot HaBrit, and on Tisha B'Av that first year we were supposed to enter Eretz Yisrael.  But two things went dreadfully wrong. 

1. the Erev Rav forced Aharon to make the Golden Calf so that we could be like all the other nations of the world.  Klal Yisrael with the exception of about 3000 Bnai Yisrael, actually thought that G-d Himself would dwell between the horns of the calf, and by doing so would make Israel's utopian vision for Mankind to be prosperity since it is the adult calf that pulls the plow and makes us all prosperous.

This was a huge error but was not outright avodah zarah but delayed entering Eretz Yisrael to the following year 2449. 

The intent of the Erev Rav was to help us to "melt" into the other nations of the world by being like them.   The root of the last avodah zarah of the Jewish people is that we should worship a god called "World Public Opinion".  This avodah zarah was created on the 17th of Tamuz 2448 by the Erev Rav and will be destroyed (G-d willing) on the 17th of Tamuz 5772 and 5773.  The subsuming of Noga (Venus) in the rare Venus transit on the 16th of Siwan will contribute mightily to this process since Noga is the final klipah of the Erev Rav.

2. In the year 2449 when we were supposed to finally enter Eretz Yisrael after our hiccup, the Golden Calf, another group of wayward folk lead us astray.  In this case it was from the tribes themselves, not from the Erev Rav.  They wanted to continue to study Torah in the desert in part because the Shekhinah was with us and provided all of our needs. 

Who wanted or needed to rough it in Eretz Yisrael when everything was provided in the Diaspora, in this case by G-d Himself. At the End of Days we still have such folk with us as in the 111th generation after Sinai has to undergo the same tests.

(This is counting 30 years between generations even though a single generation unto itself is 40 years.  It is 30 years between generations because the average age of childbearing is at age 30 for women where they have half their children before 30 and half after 30 years.) 

So 3300 years after Matan Torah was the Gregorian year 1988 (5748).  The 30 year cycle after 1988 is therefore a retest of our Primordial sins: the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies.  The Gematriah of the word Aleph, which means one, is really 111.  So the 111th generation is the redo of the Dor HaMidbar.  (This is not an innovation but brought down from rabbonim, and I learned it from Rav Matisyahu Glazierson in 1984).

In this generation we have the Erev Rav that was described above and here we have another group of troublemakers called the Erev Ze'ir. They are very different than the Erev Rav.  They do not want to be like the other nations of the world.  They simply want to learn Torah in the Diaspora where they think that the Shekhinah will dwell with them as long as they are there, or they want to divey up parts of Eretz Yisral so that the nations of the world won't bother us or shoot missiles at us for the same reason, to learn Torah without Geulah. 

What is the main feature of the Geulah both the Erev Rav and the Erev Ze'ir have in common?  That Eretz Yisrael can be diveyed up so that

a) the world will love us and then we will have peace and quiet or

b) that learning Torah is a desert outside Eretz Yisroel is preferable to living inside Eretz Yisrael with a lower standard of living.

This has blocked the full Geulah process since 2448 and 2449 when the first three months of the year were so promising (Nisan, Iyar, and Siwan), but the next two months were catastrophic (Tamuz and Av). 

So the Geulah was divided.  The Geulah from Egypt was with the Yud and the Hey in HaShem's Name.  And the final Geulah would be with the Vav and the Final Hey in His Name. 

The Zohar on page VaYeira 119 says that the Final Redemption would begin with the mystic force of the letter Vav in HaShem's Name.  And that Mashiach could not come b'itah until the year 5666 (1906), 2/3rds of the way through the 6th Millennium on the last day of Pesach.  That was the earliest that Mashiach could come b'itah.  In honor of that occasion the Rebbe Reshab of Lubavitch launched two projects at that time

1. and entire year of Sichot called the Samech Vav sichot

2.  Seudat HaMashiach (at the end of Passover) which was for the first time celebrated on the last day of Pesach 5666. 

Then this page of the Zohar introduces a concept called the threshold of the 6th Millennium.  Now one might think that that year was 5666, but it is not.  It is the first century mark after that year, 5700.  (In order to know why, please ask Rav Glazierson or someone else that has been talking about this process for at least 30 years like he has.) 

The verse that is being analyzed by the Zohar is from this week's parsha that was just completed:  "I will remember my covenant with Ya'akov, and my covenant with Yitzchak, and my covenant with Avraham I will remember, and the Land will I remember."  This is important because this is the only pasuk in the entire written Torah (5 Books of Moses) where Ya'akov's Name is spelled with a Vav.  So this entire page of the Zohar is seeking to explain why. 

Then the Zohar continues:  60 years after crossing the threshold of the 6th Millennium there will be a pequidah of the daughter of Ya'akov.  For a tzaddik a peqidah is pretty good since he has no liabilities.  So Sarah was remembered with a peqidah on Rosh HaShana before Yitzchak was born. 

But for all us bainonim, peqidah takes into account assets and liabilities, and requires a final tikkun for all the neshamot that were here in Eretz Yisrael at the time of this peqidah, taking into account all previous gilgulim too. 

So in the year 5760 on the last two days of the year the Al Aksa Intifada began, meaning that the peqidah was on the previous Rosh HaShana 5760.  On Erev Rosh HaShana, just before 5761, Jews were already being injured by rocks being thrown over the Western Wall from the Temple Mount. 

Then this page of the Zohar says to wait 6 1/2 years (in honor of the Vav in the name Ya'akov and because zechirah is usually associated with Nisan and not Tishrei), and in the year 5766 1/2 there would be a full zechirah of the daughter of Ya'akov. 

What happened at that time was amazing.  Israeli Prime Minister Sharon had already evacuated Gush Katif with his number two man Olmert.  After Sharon's (the foolish Shepherd from Zecharia 11 and 13), Olmert planned to do the same thing to Judea and Samaria that his predecessor had done to Gaza, except that Olmert called it hitkansut (let's all get together) instead of hitnatkut (disengagement).  It sounded so much nicer, didn't it? 

Yet, on the 16th of Tamuz the war began, and on the 17th of Tamuz Hezbollah started to bomb the Galilee with a massive missile bombardment.  Red Haifa was pummeled for slightly over 30 days.  After the war all of Olmert's plans were thrown out the window, and all further unilateral demolitions of established and accepted yishuvim ceased.  That was the miracle of the year 5766 1/2. 

But the Zohar goes on to say the following:  Then another 6 years will elapse, a second Vav number of years, making altogether 72 1/2 years.  In the year 66 Mashiach (ben Yosef) will appear in the Galilee.  Keep in mind that what happened in 5766 was the ending of all unilateral disengagements from the rest of Yesha because of the bombing of the Galilee. 

To understand this you have to understand that we are at an extremely low level spiritually.  The Erev Rav and Erev Ze'ir have a tremendous hold on the Jewish people throughout the world.  For that reason alone, the Holy Zohar says that one 6 year cycle would not be enough.  We would have to wait a 2nd six year cycle until 5772 1/2.  Then comes the humdinger pasuk. 

A star in the east will swallow seven stars in the north, and a flame of black fire will hang in the rakia for 60 days. 

The question is since this solar eclipse for the molad of Siwan is the event that triggers the black fire, does the black fire itself begin on the 29th of Iyar and end on Rosh Chodesh Av.  Or does it begin on Isru Chag, the day after, Shavuot and end on the day before Tisha B'Av?  (While this article was written before that date, it’s being published on Mystical Paths after that date – so it would appear Isru Chag is the target.)

Keep in mind the purpose.  It is to begin the completion of the Final Redemption process by attaching the Vav in HaShem's Name to the Yud and the Hey from the First Redemption.  In order to do this, the happy and rising times from Nisan through Shavuot have to be attached to the consequences of the 17th of Tamuz and Tisha B'Av at their root.  This way by the end of this summer, the Yud Key Vav will all be attached together which is an integral part of the Final Redemption process.  bringing Jews collectively to finally realize

1. World Public Opinion is meaningless to the idea of coming close to G-d, which trumps all of our silly pre-conceived notions about constantly worrying about what others might think about us before we do the right thing in G-d's eyes. 

2. The only way to collectively complete our service to G-d in this world is to do it from Eretz Yisrael.  No more pretending that G-d is going to remain in the Diaspora with us forever and ever. 

G-d willing, and only b’rachamim, the Diaspora concept by Tisha B'Av this year will come to a close.  There will be 6 million Jews here in Eretz Yisrael to witness the Final Redemption.  And they will be here before school begins in the Fall.  So come now, and be a part of the action as the G-7 nations go plop, down whatever spiritual or financial sewer they eventually end up in. 

Yes, Persia is on the rise.  but do not fear, from this set of circumstances not only will we have Mashiach ben Yosef within the next few months, but it is the West and the Persians who will duke it out in the Shmittah year 5775 (as clearly stated in the Gemora Sanhedrin), and Eretz Yisrael will only be saved by more and more miracles.  Please come now if you can.

There is a vort that is from the Sefas Emes that the Rabbinic festivals are lunar reflections of the three pilgrimage festivals that are compared to the sun.  So we see that Purim is exactly 30 days prior to Pesach and that Chanukah is exactly 60 days after Isru Chag of Sukkot.  It is brought down that at the End of Days there will be a lunar reflection of Shavuot too. 

For this we have to understand that Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones is such that there are two "thus saith the L-rds" and therefore two prophesies in one.  The first is on the Atzamot (the dry bones) to gather up and flesh to attach and to stand up an entire population of Israel (whether that be 600,000 or 6 million is open to debate.)  There were 600,000 people in Eretz Yisrael at the founding of the State of Israel in 5708, and the date was the 5th of Iyar, exactly 30 days prior to Shavuot, and even the words Atzamot (bones) and Atzmaut (Independence) are virtually the same. 

Yet, there is a 2nd "thus saith the L-rd", this time on the four winds, the spiritual part of the Final Redemption.  It just so happens that exactly 60 days after Isru Chag of Shavuot is the day before Tisha B'Av, and since Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbat this year in effect pushing off the fast, we are talking about a monumental event the day before Tisha B'Av. 

oo(Reb Akiva adds…) Since events of the world are not random, it’s also worth noting the “world tour” of the Olympic torch started Saturday as well.  If anything represents the Hellenist versus Jewish approach to the world, it’s the Olympics.

The Olympic symbol, the torch, is still lit in a sun worship ceremony.  As Wikipedia writes, “The Olympic Flame is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Z by P, its origins lie in ancient Greece, where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics (a practice which has been followed in the modern Olympics)”. 

(IBN) The London 2012 Olympics torch was kindled by the sun's rays in ancient Olympia on Thursday, sparking a relay that will culminate with the lighting of the Olympic stadium's cauldron at the Games opening ceremony.. On a warm and sunny day at the site of the ancient Olympics, a (actress playing the part of) high priestess lit the torch from the sun (with the help of a parabolic mirror).

After the end of a choreographed ceremony, the priestess handed over the torch to the first torchbearer…”

While we await 60 days of black fire, the Helenistic fire is on a 70 day tour and the actual country of Greece is on fire and melting down – and may bring with it the collapse of the Euro currency and European Union.

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at the Kotel with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     I do not speak Russian, so I cannot tell the Russian tourists to close their eyes, picture everyone they love, and ask G-d to bless them. Instead, I learned one word in Russian, melitza. It means, "Pray."


     After they read the Shema in Russian (the card I put in his pocket), I place their hands like this, and then with the tone of a Russian policeman, I say Melitza! Momma! Poppa! Melitza!" They always understand, and they end up standing there for the longest time talking to G-d. I love to see their faces when they do it. One minute of talking to G-d like this is worth at least ten minutes of reading the fixed prayers.













Sunday, May 20, 2012


Remembering Reality: What Really Counts

by Rabbi Michael Alkohen on Mystical Paths

Part of living the introspective life of a would be mystic, is that you are constantly re-evaluating your priorities.  When I made my first ventures in the blogging world so many years ago, I had one infant/toddler, a much freer schedule, and few chips on my shoulder.  That was, if the archives are to be trusted four years ago on my main blog (a little longer if you go back to when I started reading and commenting on blogs).  A lot has changed since then.  My career path has changed.  The number of offspring I have vying for my attention has changed, the economy has changed, and I have changed.

One of those changes is that I am re-evaluating my internet presence.  No I am not going to stop my primary blog or stop writing in general (sorry if that disappoints a few of you).  However, I was thinking recently after a senseless squabble that I allowed myself to get drawn into with an anonymous blog commenter on a different blog... Why?  Why do I give this person any authority in my life to dictate my emotions.  Why do I care what this person, who hides behind anonymity, has to say?  They don't like my opinions... tough it's a free country (mostly).

Really the internet should only ever be entertainment.  When I can't just walk away from it, it has passed beyond a healthy boundary.  When I am distracted during those precious few hours I get with my children every day because of what some wing nut said on the internet, something needs to change.  Like hey, while we may be able to find some pockets of actual holiness on the internet, the internet is not reality.

This lead me down a further path of thought, to the issue of ikar and toful.  As in what is primary and what is secondary.  For instance normally if anything we are going to eat contains a wheat product we make the blessing regarding that wheat.  However, if there is something that is more important (and this is really subjective) to the wheat, to the point that the wheat is really just a container, we don't make the blessing over the wheat, but that other item (don't believe me?  Look it up.).  Life is the same way, it is full of things, and they are subjective(mostly) that are either ikar or toful.

For instance, if you are flying on a plane, are you going to take the chance of having some people scoff at you for putting on those tefillin and even possibly looking like a religious nut for a few minutes, or are you going to say, that their opinions don't really matter, the important thing is Avodat HaShem.  Yes there is a right choice, but still the choice is yours, what is the ikar to you.

When San Francisco (and then even possibly all of California) was considering banning even Jewish circumcision as Rabbi friend called me and was complaining, saying that many mohelim don't know what they are going to do, they fear going to jail etc.  I told him, with my wife's approval, if they pass that law, I want to come there and do a Brit the day after it goes into effect.  His reply was that it was going to be a felony, I would go to jail, I would lose my right to vote (and few other inalienable rights that would suddenly become quite alienable apparently).  My response was, that's Ok, the Torah says that this is the most important mitzvah, it is equal to all the 613 combined, I am willing to take a little heat to fight for it.

Funny but then on the other hand I have let various things that should be the toful become the ikar.  The Arizal writes that Shavuot has the power to remit one's sins the same as Yom HaKippurim.  It is your second fresh start within the year.  As we approach this Shavuot, let's be mindful of what needs to change, and make the change.

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Why Should I Wear a Kippa?


by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     Mikey, whose real name is Mordechai, came up to me at the Kotel wearing tzitzis (fringes) but no kippa! (head cover) This is highly unusual. Tzitzis is a much more “advanced” mitzvah than the kippa. Although tzitzis is commanded directly from the Torah, and kippas are “merely” a rabbinical custom, wearing a head covering is common to many more Jewish men than wearing tzitzis.

     When a Jew becomes a baal t’shuvah (returnee) he begins to follow the commandments. There is a lot of leeway in the beginning as everyone understands that you are just starting. Each of us begins at our pace and goes as far as we want. If it is pleasing, inspiring, we go on and on until it is hard to distinguish between a baal t’shuvah and a Jew who has been raised in a Torah-observant home.

     So, when I asked Mikey what he was doing walking around wearing tzitzis, and even wearing the garment outside of his shirt where everyone could see them, but not wearing a kippa, he challenged me asking, “Why should I wear a kippa?” I knew what he was going to say.

     “Tzitzis are a Torah commandment. G-d told us to wear them! Kippas are just a rabbinical custom. Why should I wear a kippa? Why did they make up that rule?” He asked.

     “The rabbis did not just invent the custom.” I answered. “Kippas are based in the Torah. Nowadays we do not have a Temple, so there are no kohaneim (Jewish priests) serving in the Temple. This means that our individual spiritual service is even more important than it was back then. The kohaneim always wore a head covering when they served, so the rabbis instituted the custom that we too should wear a head cover.”

     I went on, “There is a deeper reason to cover our heads. When you wear a covering on your head there is always something above you.” I looked up as if I was trying to see my hat, and then even above that. “When you wear something on your head it reminds you that there is always Something above you.”

    He got the idea. He smiled, and walked away with a kippa on his head. I saw him the next day wearing a new colorful kippa. I commented on how nice it was. With a big smile he said, “Well, you explained it to me.”


Jerusalem Undivided–Jerusalem Redivided?

. . . . . . . . . .



by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

More than 10,000 students from all over Israel visited Jerusalem on Thursday, in honor of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Reunification Day) which is celebrated today, Sunday.

Here are some of them at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in the Old City.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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“I Believe”

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


     Last week, two people tried to explain to me why their religious beliefs were correct, and mine were not. The first was a non-Jewish woman from England, and the second was a young, Jewish traveler from Argentina.

     The non-Jewish woman tried to convince me that without her man-god my sins would not be forgiven, and the Jewish man tried to convince me that buddhahahaha taught the proper path for all mankind, and without following his teachings I would merely wallow in the illusion of creation.

     Although I explained to both of them what the Torah says, and why they were mistaken, they did not budge from their beliefs. This is the nature of belief. Belief in foolishness and belief in the truth employs the same mechanism. A religious Jew who believes in the Torah, and bases his spiritual life only on belief is doing fine, but his spiritual life is being bet on the same thread that those other two people are betting their lives on.

     So, what is the difference between believing in Torah and believing in the religions of idolatry? Some Jews like to answer that those other stories are based on merely one man, or a few men’s experience, whereas to the opposite of this, the giving of the Torah was witnessed by millions of Jews standing at Mt. Sinai at the same time. But that argument is not as good as it seems because each of us did not get our belief from millions of people, but from only the one or two who taught it to us.

     Then, what is the proof that our belief is in truth and theirs’ is not. We see in our lives that the Jews who follow the Torah go on as Jews. Their grandchildren are almost certainly going to be named Moshe, Avraham, Sarah, Rachel, and such. While almost every Jew who has accepted other religions, or even deviated from the sages’ teachings, their grandchildren will almost certainly be called Luke, John, Maya or Samsara. The point here is not that just their names will be such, but that in almost all likelihood, they will intermarry and have non-Jewish children.

     But, what about those other religions? They see that their beliefs cause their religions to continue, just like we see that our belief causes the Jewish people to continue. What did I show them that contradict their beliefs, (not that it changed them)?

     To the one who reads the Bible but told me that I needed someone else to die for my sins, I answered: “Fathers shall not be put to death because of sons, and sons will not be put to death because of fathers, a man will be put to death for his own sins,”[i] and “The son will not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son, the righteousness of the righteous will be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon him,”[ii]and “Everyone will die for his own iniquity.”[iii]

     And to the buddhist Jew I tried to explain that this world is not an illusion, but to most, it is a delusion. I told him that an illusion is outside of your head… out there in the physical world like a mirage, and a delusion is within your head, like thinking that there is no Creator.

     I told him, “Buddhahaha taught that all life is suffering, and the only way to avoid the suffering is to detach from the world. To the opposite of this, the Torah stresses that, when used properly, this world is the gorgeous, Garden of Eden. We are not to detach from it. We are to become involved with it, and to elevate it by using it for holy purposes.”

      “They teach that everything that happens was destined to happen, and no matter what we do, each of us is always subject to our karma. And the Torah teaches that we can turn at any moment we choose, and when we do turn, none of our past will follow us. Since they teach that there is no G-d, they will not bother to ask for Mercy. Who can they ask? Thank G-d, we know that there is a Creator Who is forgiving.”  

[i] Deuteronomy 24:16

[ii] Ezekiel 18:20

[iii] Jeremiah 31:29.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Guess What?

at the Kotel with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


      David is an American, bible believing, xian who knew that his mother’s mother was a Jew, but he did not know that he was. “Awesome!” was his response when I told him.

     Since he had read the Bible a lot, I was able to show him where the Torah says that you are Jewish if your mother is Jewish, (Avraham and Sarah with Yitzchok vs. Avraham and Hagar with Ishmael). I also showed him where it says that G-d is everywhere, even in hell (Psalms 139:8). And since, according to the christian book, yashka is not in the grave, so obviously, he can’t be G-d!

     It was the first time I can remember ever telling these things to a christain who did not say, “I gotta go,” and walk away. David really appreciated the information.

      He asked me how to buy a mezuzah (Torah scroll for his doorpost). After telling him, he went on his way, which was a totally different way than the one he walked in on. Thank G-d.


Monday, May 14, 2012


The Doomed Internet Asifa – Schizophrenia

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Are you ready to be yelled at yet? Told how horrible you are for interacting with the scourge of the generation?  Because this is it, right here, right now…


Mishpacha Magazine this week demonstrates why this position not only doesn’t resonate with me, but doesn’t resonate at all.  The quote above is from the Internet Asifa ad in the beginning of the magazine.  But here’s the back page of the family section…


For anyone unclear, that’s a Torah organization giving away laptops or iPads (your choice) in their fundraising raffle to the religious Jewish community.  And for anyone unclear, iPads don’t work (you can’t load content on them) without an Internet connection.

So which is it?  “Terrible decree” or a great way to participate in a Torah charity raffle?

Let me give a real life experience…

A couple of years ago I was teaching a class on business management & concept in Kiryat Belz, Jerusalem.  Kiryat Belz is the epitome of a charedi neighborhood, such that it doesn’t get any more charedi than that except for perhaps Meah Shearim, Jerusalem.

It was a private class, though it was arranged through the Charedi Institute for Technological Studies.  The students were a group of chassidim ranging from 25-35 years of age, who’s parents were ending their support for their ongoing Torah studies (kollel) and preparing them to enter the business world.

I was given a syllabus, but had to prepare my own lessons.  I decided to each using PowerPoint, building presentation points and walking them through each topic.  They hadn’t been presented to before (though they were also taking computer classes at the same time) and thought it was pretty neat.

In one class we were talking economics.  I told them that they had to pay attention to the local economy where they were focusing their business, and (particularly in smaller countries) the international business market and economy as well.  As homework I assigned to read a business oriented publication and bring back an article dealing with business issues that could affect them.

I gave them a short list of recommended publications, which, given the audience, I make sure was targeted and available in print form (because I was in Kiryat Belz, I couldn’t expect them to have Internet access!)  I recommended either The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times of London, Forbes Magazine, Inc. Magazine, or (if they preferred a Hebrew publication) Globes of Israel.

I told them most of these should be available in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, which was a short distance away from their neighborhood.

They looked at me like I was a bit crazy, and I was worried I had made a cultural faux pax by directing them to a secular publication.  They then, as a group, turned around, opened their briefcases, pulled out laptops, connected to the wifi in the home we were holding the class, and asked me “maybe such things can be read on de internet?”

We did discuss Internet access briefly.  One told me he would only use filtered Internet, another said he only used the chassidic Internet provider, another whipped out his new iPhone and asked if it could be used to read the business news.

The Internet has many problems, and there’s plenty that should be avoided.  BUT that’s not what the Asifa is about.  This is (IMHO)…


Mishpacha Magazine article on the Asifa - “A grassroots expression of a desire for change.  Rabbanim meet…” 

A “grassroots” understanding of what’s going on, the needs of the current generation to use these tools for commerce, information and communal interaction (yes, that’s right, there’s now new forms of communal interaction), is not expressed by a group of elderly rabbonim (in Lakewood, New Jersey, USA).  Grassroots is pretty much the opposite of such a meeting.

Further, if the express point of such a meeting is to “neutralize the terrible decree” (from the ad for the Asifa), well that kind of says it all.

The Internet is a tool.  A powerful one, a dangerous one, and a wonderful one.  We could flood it with Torah, we could upload every single shiur (Torah lesson), yeshiva class and kollel learning directly to YouTube.  We could share and preserve every great lesson of every great rabbi, in every language it’s given!

We can given every Jew, wherever he or she may be in the world, access to a full wealth of Torah knowledge.  Halacha, TaNach, Gemora, Chassidus, Mussar, Kabbalah, we can share it all!  We can share the wisdom of the Torah with every Bnei Noach and all the peoples of the world, directly, easily and cheaply!

We could experiment with new ways of teaching Torah for those the current ways don’t reach.  We could create interactive Torah lessons, Skype conference call learning sessions connecting Jews (and non-Jews) around the world with the Torah and He who wrote it.

The full Torah knowledge of the generation, every shiur, every chiddush, every insight, could be preserved and shared directly with the next generation.  Every holy sefer could be made available for instant lookup of any Torah topic. 

It’s the information age and the people of the book, those who have carried and protected the Holy Information for 3,000 years, are turning away.

The Internet can be a harsh decree or an incredible gift.  In truth it’s both.  But it’s up to make it that gift.

What are we waiting for?

This, however, is not it…


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Did You Ever Wonder?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

      How in the world are you going to build a bonfire for Lag b'Omer in a place like the Old City where there are no dead tree branches?










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Nuclear Kodak?

In the ‘say what?’ department…

thumbnail (5)(via Gizmodo) Kodak (the film company that recently went bankrupt) had a secret nuclear reactor loaded with weapons grade uranium hidden in their headquarters basement.

But why did Kodak have a hidden nuclear reactor loaded with weapons-grade uranium? And how did they get permission to own it, let alone install it in a basement in the middle of a densely populated city?

Nobody really knows. Kodak officials now admit that they never made any public announcement about it. In fact, nobody in the city—officials, police or firemen—or in the state of New York or anywhere else knew about it until it was recently leaked by an ex-employee. Its existence and whereabouts were purposely kept vague and only a few engineers and Federal employees really knew about the project.

It's extremely strange that Kodak managed to get something like this. …it's "such an odd situation because private companies just don't have this material." …Kodak's purpose for the reactor wasn't sinister: they used it to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing. The reactor, a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was acquired in 1974 and loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core…

It wasn't until 2006, well after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, that it was decided to dismantle it.



The IDF and Charedim

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I was contacted by a French Canadian reporter for information about Charedim (the Jewish ultra-orthodox) in Israel and the Israeli Army.  The reporter sent me these questions:

- do you know if more and more haredim are going to the army? And how much?

- how do you perceive the fact to go to the army? isn't it contradictory with one of the commandment "don't kill"?

- do haredim people are doing more the civil service than the military service? if yes what kind and when (after the wedding?)

- what could be the evolution in next year? do you expect more units like the nachal charedi (the Israeli army ultra-orthodox combat battalion) to develop ? is it successful (I saw some letters complaining about the rules which are not respected)

- what do you think about the invalidation of the Tal law?

Here was my lengthy response and analysis…

1. Over the past 5 years the army has created a series of units designed for the needs of the ultra-orthodox Jewish Israeli.  This means the units make sure the food provided is the highest standards of kosher, the units are single gender for their full command structure and the bases or base areas where they are located are single gender and don't tend to interact with mixed gender or opposite gender units, and their schedules allow for times for prayer (according to the daily Jewish schedule) and times for Torah (bible) study daily.

These units include:

The army Netach Yehuda (the Mighty Men of Judah) combat battalion.

The air force Blue and White aircraft electronics maintenance units.

The army intelligence Green and White intelligence analysis units.

These units and battalions are at 100% capacity, have waiting lists and require some "pull" to get into.  They have been judged a complete success and fully capable by the army.  Further, they have a higher rate of reenlistment and requests for officer training than almost any other IDF units.

So yes, charedim are entering the army as fast as the army is preparing capacity for them. 

2.  The modern state of Israel has an unusual history.  Part of that history is a transfer of a Jewish religious-societal cultural conflict from Europe to the nascent state.  The founders of the modern state were out to avoid anti-semitism, which they did not understand, by removing the Jew from their host societies as well as building a "new Jew".  The new Jew did not huddle over ancient tomes in fear of attacks by non-Jews.  They stood proud and strong and rebuilt their homeland with the strength of their arms.

Following World War II, Israel had a population influx of religious Jewish survivors of the Holocaust with no where else to return.  Following the creation of the State of Israel, another influx (over the next 10 years) of religious and traditional Jews arrived from Arab countries (which systematically expelled their Jewish populations).

This resulted in a government and societal majority that was looking to build a modern future and bury a recent past of pogroms and the Holocaust, and a small but extremely dedicated minority that was completely dedicated to a full Jewish religious traditional life.

To prevent internal conflict, the government basically left the religious sector alone.  But they went a step further and isolated them, providing disincentives to continue their lifestyle while preventing them from having an impact on the rest of society.

Over the next 64 years Israel build and developed a fully modern country.  The religious sector recovered from the Holocaust and rebuilt the religious institutions of Judaism to the level they were before World War II.  The latter was not expected by the secular majority, who had expected the religious sector to fade away into a modern secular society.

Instead the religious sector grew as a proportion to the general society.  Like most modern Western societies, modern Israelis had smaller families and people focusing exclusively on career instead of having children.  But Jewish religious society, continuing to follow the religious goals and morals, continues to focus on family and children and has larger families.

The result is the religious, as a proportion of society, have grown from a small minority to a significant minority.  In some parts of the country, 40-50% of the school age children are from religious and/or ultra-religious families. 

Both sections of Israeli society face a major coming change from this trend.  Secular society has to accept that the religious sector will be a major portion of Israel's future and create the paths for them to integrate and gain in capabilities to do so.  They find this a major major challenge as it means they have to accept what they've previous determined was worthless and would fade away, and they have to cede some of their power structure to a different societal segment.

The religious society faces an equal challenge.  They isolated themselves from the negative influences of secular society, and since secular society was actually out to get them, they defined them as 'the other who's out to get us'. 

An example of this is army service.  While the secular created an army exemption so the religious could remain in their religious study houses, when the religious did enter the army they were frequently harassed and placed into situations that directly challenged their religious practice.  Further, exempted Jewish religious CANNOT LEGALLY WORK or study career or educational tracks (only religious tracks) UNTIL AGE 30.  (Note that this limitation is focused on exempted JEWISH religious – exempted Muslim Israelis have no such limitation.)

But today, due to demographic trends I discussed above, the army must prepare situations to allow the religious to serve if it’s going to maintain it’s draft levels over the next 20 years.  On the other side of the spectrum, religious society growth demands more economically successful families meaning they cannot delay (legal) working until age 30.  Both sides are being forced by demographics to abandon their previous positions.  Neither is doing so willingly or with pleasure.

Changing societal positions is a generational change if it’s going to happen without major upheaval.

3. "isn't it contradictory with one of the commandment "don't kill"?" 

The commandment is not "don't kill", it's "don't murder".  Killing in self defense is not murder.  The Jewish orthodox communities of Israel do not avoid army service due to religious incompatibilities with army duty, they avoid it due to religious incompatibilities with Israeli army _culture_ - which has been highly secularly oriented.

A simple example of this a recent controversy over singing in the army.  The IDF maintains moral singing troops, mixed gender singing bands, which sing at the end of army ceremony's.  Jewish religious law states it's inappropriate for men to listen to women singing publicly who are not members of their own family.  The army forced a group of religious officer candidates to attend such a ceremony with the mixed gender singing.

Judaism is not a religion of pacifism.  Jews, as a persecuted minority in the countries where they lived, were usually not allowed to own weapons nor be involved in military or martial training.  But Jews are engendered by their religion to defend themselves, their neighbors and community, against those who would kill them or subjugate them.  This has simply not been possible until the return of the State of Israel.

While Judaism is not a religion of pacifism, it's also not a religion of aggression.  Jews ARE NOT engendered to "conquer the infidel", kill or subjugate the other.  Any non-Jew or non-religious-Jew has and would have full rights and protections in any Jewish religious society (and certainly has such rights today in Israeli society).

4. The future is bright but societal change is a slow process.  Nachal Charedi (renamed Netzach Yehuda, which I talked about above) is full.  The army must continue to create additional units that are compatible with charedi lifestyle but is doing so only gradually.  Similarly, the percentage of charedim entering the military is low but growing steadily.

Economic statistics for Israel show a steadily and significantly increasing percentage of full time workers among the charedim, and charedi oriented technical colleges are operating at 100% capacity [for example the Charedi Institute for Technological Studies in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak].  This is another area where the government could increase support with a direct economic and societal benefit.  It’s also one that could be done quietly and would be seen as non-threatening.

5. Is Nachal Charedi successful?  Like any new organization, it has growing pains.  It's actually above capacity, and some units have been spun off outside the main battalion.  This is where you are hearing complaints from, as some are being placed in areas with more integration than planned or desired. 

There's a reverse complaint you may not have heard about... the Nachal Haredi combat soldiers who completed their service are complaining that they ARE NOT being called back for combat reserve duty.  Reserve duty is a major pain for former Israeli soldiers, who sometimes have to leave their work and families for weeks at a time every year.  Here a group of charedi soldiers is demanding to take their part of the burden.

6. The invalidation of the Tal law could have caused political chaos.  10 years ago it surely would have. 

You missed a good question though, why was it invalidated and why now?  The answer is the completely secular run Israeli Supreme Court is getting in it's last shots at the weakening the religious.  Why last shots?  Because a significant portion of the lower court judges are now religious and will clearly be part of the Supreme Court over the next generation.  The aggressively and (almost) exclusively secular portion of the Israeli justice system is nearing retirement.

The surprise is the Israeli political system has significantly matured over the past 10 years.  It's working it's way through the problem without threats, fits, strikes or protests.

(I wrote this before the almost-elections and then the super-national-unity coalition being formed in Israel – but this problem was one of the drivers of that formation.)

Another compromise will come together.  The exact form is not clear.  But the charedim will take a more active role in Israel (note I didn't say integrate, but rather step up and take a more active role), both as part of the army and economically.  And the secular society will accept that Israel, as a Jewish State, should put aside and support a select segment of the population to be focused on religious studies.  After all, every country needs some morality and the Holy Land should be keeping a vibrant Judaism.

None of this means everyone will be happy, that there won't be protests, that there won't be fanatics and some societal conflicts.  But Israel is undergoing a generational change right now, both among the secular society and charedi society.  Among the secular, Israeli president Shimon Peres is the last active leader of his generation. 

Among the religious, the past few years have seen the passing of most of the previous generation of Torah scholars, with only perhaps 3 remaining from that older generation (who are all in their 90's!)

One final demographic note.  In Jerusalem, 55% of elementary school students are religious or charedi.  In the IDF, 50% of junior officers are religious (not charedi though). 

The future is not a hope, it's in front of us today. 

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The Halo’s Back

commentary by Reb Akiva on Mystical Paths


Get yours on news stands at the start of next week.  (This is not a photoshop.)

Newsweek declares U.S. President Barak Obama achieves eternal secular sainthood for his declaration of personal, but not political (since he’s in charge of executive polices and has not actually changed any to enable this lifestyle), support for toeva and governmental recognition thereof.

Go O.  Forward!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

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Orthodox Jewish Girl A Finalist in Google Logo Design Contest

doodle(Voz iz Neias) A fifth grader at a … Maryland Orthodox day school has been chosen as a finalist in the annual Doodle 4 Google contest, putting her one step closer to winning not only a $50,000 technology grant for her school but also a $30,000 college scholarship.

Eleven year old Johanna … was chosen as the Maryland winner in the fourth and fifth grade category.  Over 114,000 entries were submitted in the contest which offers students in kindergarten through twelfth grade the opportunity to submit designs for the Google logo which appears on the site’s homepage.  250 finalists were chosen from the entries, with one finalist per age category per state.  Public vote at the Doodle 4 Google website will determine one winner per age group, with a panel of judges choosing the final winner at an awards ceremony to be held in New York on May 17th.

In keeping with this year’s theme “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…” Johanna’s design, titled “Weaving My Past”, depicts sewing and needlework, reminiscent of that done by her Hungarian ancestors….

“Johanna’s teachers say that she is a good writer and a terrific artist but, more importantly, she has such beautiful middos,” Rachel Robinson told…

While the Torah Day School of Greater Washington was a little leery of allowing Google representatives to come to the school and conduct an assembly in Johanna’s honor, Rabbi Yitzchak Charner, headmaster of the school, said he found the Google representatives extremely cooperative, holding two separate assemblies so that no student would miss out on any Limudei Kodesh (religious studies) time.

“I had to explain to them that not only do we discourage our children from using the internet, many families have no internet access at home,” said Rabbi Charner.  “They were more than happy to work with us, even editing one of their videos in order to better accommodate our standards of tzniyus.”

Rabbi Charner turned the assembly into a learning experience for the students, reminding them that they each have their own innate talents.

“I told the kids that while we see a product that Johanna made that is very beautiful and indicative of her artistic abilities, the important thing to remember is that we all have different talents that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has given us and we have an obligation to use them in a constructive way to benefit klal yisroel and the world,” explained Rabbi Charner…

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Old City Furniture Movers

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths


(In the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel)

I think the old chair was headed for the Lag b’Omer bonfire.


Friday, May 11, 2012

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What Happens….

at the Kotel with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

     …to a platoon of Israeli soldiers 35 years after discharge?


     You have a reunion at the Kotel and see old friends whom you haven’t seen in many years.

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