Friday, August 31, 2012

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The “New” Anti-Semitism

Robert S. Wistrich via Powerline

th (10)…mythologizing of Jewish power lies at the heart of the so-called “new anti-Semitism” which is ultimately not so different from the old.

Already in the mid-19th century, socialists as diverse as Karl Marx, Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, had postulated the existence of a universal, anti-social Jewish mercantile “essence” which had supposedly seized control of the capitalist world and would therefore have to be destroyed.

Their heirs today have embraced the phantasmagoric (something in a dream or created by the imagination) view that humanity can only be redeemed (and peace finally achieved in the Middle East) if the world is physically liberated from the new “Jewish” yoke – that of a demonic American-Zionist-Israeli conspiracy.

There’s an interesting anti-spiritual spiritual component there.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

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From the Four Corners

Lipa Shmeltzer is a chassidic pop singer, very popular in the Jewish religious world among the younger crowd, who mostly sings in Yiddish.

His new video, a catchy tune, is taken in Israel.  Just noting some of the sites… the pizza shop in Kfar Chabad, Machane Yehuda shuk (open air market) in Jerusalem, Nachalot neighborhood alley in Jerusalem, the main Chabad synagogue in Kfar Chabad, Ben Yehuda street and square in Jerusalem, among others.

And I spotted someone from my shul in the video!

Direct video link.

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Unclean Names and Visions of Blue

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

th (12)      It is hard for people to give up spiritual practices that they enjoy and think are helpful. One commentator to my article “Yogaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” wrote that yoga was among the gifts that Avraham gave to his sons whom he sent to the East. He asked, “If yoga has spiritual benefits, why would that be bad?” He also asked about a number of Eastern practices.

     Our sages explain that the gifts that Avraham gave to those sons were actually “unclean names!” (evil powers) [i]

     Briefly, Avraham knew that these powers already existed in the East. If his sons would have gone there without knowing these powers they would have become subservient to those with the powers. But since they too could wield such things they were able to push off that influence.

     It is natural for yoga lovers to try to justify their practice, but no matter how you look at it, yoga is a non-Jewish, spiritual practice. Again, except for one or two movements that are entirely associated with yoga, it is not the movements themselves that are the problem. The problem comes when there is ANY association with yoga. Yoga is a branch of idolatry.

th (11)     Idolatry is not just a social problem. It leads seekers in the wrong direction. One simple example; a famous Indian yogi-guru wrote in his book, “The Blue Pearl” that the highest vision possible is the “blue light.” There was a young man in my apartment just last week who raved about his martial arts master because when he looked at the master he saw a blue light surrounding him. He swears by this master now because of this vision.

    Jewish mystical writings state, “All colors in visions are a positive sign except for the color blue. It is the lowest color, and much ardent prayer must be exercised to avoid it!”

     This is a simple example of how idolatry is the worship of a particular form, and ignores the Universal. The real problem goes much deeper. The real problem is where idolatry leads. For instance, a common Eastern teaching is that insanity is considered a step along the way to development! And if you would learn what it is that drives them insane, you would tremble, and run from it.


[i] Genesis 25:6 Rashi

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When You Say It Right…

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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      These Indians (from India, not Native Americans) asked me about tefillin. I explained what they are, and that G-d commanded only Jewish men to put on tefillin, but He also commanded all mankind certain things.

     “Let me ask you a question. What do they teach you in Madras? (their hometown) Is G-d in the heart of the devil?”

     It took them a while to understand the question. Then they shook their heads and said, “No! Oh, No!”

     “Then you have a little god in Madras! If your god is not in the heart of the devil he is not everywhere. The G-d of the Bible is everywhere. King David wrote, ‘If I make my bed in hell, G-d is there.’ G-d is even in hell! He is everywhere.”

     “Yes, yes,” they agreed, “G-d is everywhere.”

     I said, “This is what you came here to learn. Only worship the G-d Who is everywhere.”

     They agreed, and I went on. “There is a story about a man who was crucified 2,000 years ago. Did you ever hear that story?”

   “Oh yes, many times.”

   “After he was crucified, they went to his grave on the third day. Was he in the grave?”

   “No, No. He was arisen.” They said with total conviction.

    “Well, if he is not in the grave, then he is not everywhere. Do not worship him.” They were caught in one of their religion’s contradictions. They looked at each other not knowing what to say. I went on, “Only worship the G-d Who is everywhere.”

     It caught them by complete surprise. Almost always at this point in the conversation, chr-istians say, ‘We gotta go,” turn, and walk away. Chr-istains are taught if they even waiver in their belief they will burn in hell forever. They cannot hear anything that challenges their beliefs. But these Indians were happy. Again, I asked them, “Where is G-d?”

     They answered, “Everywhere!”

     “Good for you.”

     They asked if they could take some pictures of us together. I said, “You can take the pictures as long as when they take the picture you say, ‘G-d is everywhere.’”

     They laughed, had a good time, and will surely remember the conversation. Will their catholic priests convince them that G-d is everywhere only sometimes or in some ways, but that their god is still god? I think that he is going to have a difficult time convincing them now.

     When you learn how to explain the spiritual truth in a positive way you can influence those around you. Instead of demeaning their god, which would only cause hard feelings, try to help them in a simple way that they can understand.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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GOP Invocation, by a Rabbi

Orthodox Jewish rabbi offers the opening invocation at the Republican National Convention in the U.S.

Direct video link.

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The World’s Healthiest Countries

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

(Reb Akiva adds…   People often worry about Israel, whether living or visiting.  Israel is portrayed in the media as dangerous, terror ridden, or alternately backward.  The truth is Israel is a modern Western democracy and society with strong religious and moral foundations.  The life expectancy is the 3rd highest in the world, it ranks in the top 20 of the happiest places to live, and below is Israel’s ranking in the healthiest list…)

Bloomberg Rankings of the World’s Healthiest Countries

1 Singapore

2 Italy

3 Australia

4 Switzerland

5 Japan

6 Israel

7 Spain 

8 Netherlands 

9 Sweden

10 Germany

11 Cyprus

12 Austria

13 France

14 Canada

15 New Zealand

16 Greece

17 Hong Kong 

18 Norway

19 Ireland

20 Belgium

21 United Kingdom

22 Finland

23 Portugal

24 Costa Rica

25 Slovenia

26 Denmark

27 Chile

28 Cuba

29 South Korea

30 United Arab Emirates

31 Kuwait

32 Czech Republic

33 United States

34 Bosnia and Herzegovina

35 Bahrain

36 Croatia

37 Mexico

38 Albania

39 Panama

40 Poland

(Reb Akiva adds… The Israeli lifestyle is significantly higher in exercise, follows a Mediterranean style diet that’s low in saturated fats, high in vegetable intake, and low in beef intake, than most Western nations.  It may seem strange for an American to have some salad and some white spreadable cheese for breakfast, but it’s certainly healthy.)

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Migron–Biblical, Current, Threat

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

2012-08-28 021Migron is a biblical village north of Jerusalem.  It was the home base of King Saul, as mentioned in Samuel I.  Today it’s a long term existing Jewish village in the West Bank that’s under threat of forced expulsion due to some legal manipulations by Euro-funded NGO’s and left wing aspects of the Israeli government and system.

Contributor Dov bar Leib invited me to the West Bank today to see Migron first hand, as well as the alternate uncompleted site they intend to expel the families to.

2012-08-28 023Below is a 3 minute video of pictures and short clips we made showing the area, the biblical background and the village (Dov is the primary speaker in the video).

Two points I want to emphasize. 

First, why are they doing this?  How’s it worked out so far?  Every expulsion has led to INCREASED attacks, INCREASED terrorism, INCREASED threats, increasing confidence in a terrorist enemy who simply wants to kill Jews.  The wonderful holy Jews who choose to dedicate themselves to G-d’s gift of the Land of Israel voluntarily choose to accept the risks and act as a buffer between the barbarians and civilized Israel. 

Remove that buffer and you have today’s news report of the children of Sderot and Ashkelon running from the school yard to bomb shelters from Gazan Arab “peace rockets” on their first day of school (report here – Hebrew).

2012-08-28 006Second, the new location selected is unlike the old one which is on an empty hilltop, the new one is right off a highway junction, NOT exactly a safe location in the West Bank (any Arab car could stop and open up with automatic weapons, spraying the whole neighborhood - and these "houses" are pre-fab caravan construction).  EVERY Jewish town in the West Bank is on a hilltop, distant from travelled roads and with a major security perimeter.  But not new "lower Migron".

I respect that some portion of the government is trying to do something to make sure these people don’t end up on the street.  But there’s no comparison between being at a biblical ancient Jewish location and being stuffed in a corner at a highway intersection.

Here’s the video… (direct video link here)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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Going Galt or Going Together?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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In the American lexicon, “going Galt” WAS a reference to a fictional 1920’s book, Atlas Shrugged, where the successful producers of society are taxed and nationalized to the point that all incentive for success is removed, at which point the they withdraw and let society collapse under the weight of incompetent operators, excessive bureaucrats, and a majority of the population focused on receiving benefits rather than producing or being self sufficient.

A real life example of this situation can be seen right now in the city of Detroit.  (Yet, with crumbling parts of the city, they still have on staff a Water Department Horseshoer.)

In the last few years, the term has come back into use.  Instapundit reports the following from one “Patrick Carroll”…

I decided to take six months off this year. I sold stock and did what I wanted for a blissful six months. I read books, drank good wine, watched my garden, got out my high-powered binocs and looked at the planets, hiked, cooked, ate well, just lived. I did so because I expect the crowd in power to destroy everything, so I thought I’d take a break before the deluge. Oh, and BTW, I balanced things so I can claim on losses when I do start actually earning again.

I see it as a sort of South-of-France John Galt Living-well approach to dealing with the current crowd. I’ve denied them current and future taxes, while enjoying an extended vacation.

Oh, I also bought guns (rifle, shotgun, pistol each for the wife and I), and have contracted with a local landscaping company to build a highly-defensible, nice-looking (fence/hedge combination) perimeter for my property.

Oh, and I bought water barrels. And a propane tank. And a generator.

This post above is by no means rare anymore as segment of successful Americans give up in the current economic/social/political environment.

th (9)There’s a problem though.  Going Galt usually means going survivalist, preparing to survive a societal breakdown on your own.  With the breakdown of American community culture, the rich and successful business owners live separate, and as the example above demonstrates are preparing to survive “separate”.

In chaos and breakdown no one does well.  The prepared may last longer, and the rich may have the resources to prepare better, but the end result is ugly for everyone, eventually.

What’s the solution?  If you feel a need to Go Galt, don’t absorb the capitalist maximalist message of Atlas Shrugged, rather work to build a productive community.  Prepare as a community. Help each other as a community.

In unstable times, we have a much better chance…together.

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Here’s 20 Shekels…

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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      He tried to hand me 20 shekels as he walked by. Instead of taking it, I asked him if he had put on tefillin. He laughed, and tried to force the money into my hand. “But did you put on tefillin today?” I asked again.

    He laughed and tried to give me the money again (and avoid tefillin).

     I grabbed him, hugged him tightly around his shoulders, and said, “I don’t want your money…. I want YOU!” I pulled him. He laughed and gave up. I started to help him, but he knew how to put them on by himself.

     I said, “You know how to put on tefillin!”

     “That’s the problem,” he said, meaning that since he knows how to do it he surely should be putting them on every day.

     He read the shema and prayed nicely for his family. You could see that he was happy that he did the mitzvah. Oh, as he left he gave me the 20 shekels for the tefillin stand, so I got both him, and his money!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

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Why Did G-d Create the Universe?

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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To have someone to love.

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Today’s Working Options

I knew I was doing something wrong working for a living…

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

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While Tatti Davens to Hashem…

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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I’m going to write Him a letter.

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No Bris in Israel?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

th (7)In the year 2012, a brave rabbi and mohel (ritual circumciser) in Germany is defending himself against the charge of violating the human rights of an 8 day old infant for performing a Jewish ritual circumcision.

Several days after this news came to the fore, a (not) brave Israeli Jewish news commentator recommended Israel follow the German regional court lead and ban Jewish male circumcision.

“It is time to replace the fear and ignorance surrounding the subject - due to its religious-traditional roots and due to the fact that it has become the norm – with educated dialogue that will bring about cultural progress…

In summation, I predict that within a few years the fear and ignorance in Israel will be replaced by a social pact to protect babies' members, allowing the country to take a great cultural leap forward and join the rest of the sane world which leaves its children's penises whole.”

I’m not going to jump into the sickness of a German court ruling a Jewish religious procedure illegal in 2012, or a German prosecutor actually acting on such a ruling.  Certain Former Chief Rabbi of Israel and child Holocaust survive Rabbi Lau said everything that could be said here.

But for an Israeli Jew to make such a comment and recommendation is a level beyond idiocy and repudiation of his heritage, culture, people, G-d, and the Land of Israel. 

Simply put, if he actually believes what he wrote (as opposed to just shouting out stupidity for attention) he might as well drive to downtown Gaza City and throw himself on the mercy of Hamas (mercy, ha, haha, hahahahaha.)

Because in case he hasn’t noticed, no matter how much he hopes or desires “the sane world” is NEVER going to allow Israel to “join”. 

Much of Israeli secular society has begun to notice.  They took a chance and left Gaza (for peace!), and ended up with the bottom 1/4 of the country civilian population under constant rocket attack.  They left the security zone of Lebanon and got constant border attacks, kidnapped soldiers, and a minor war putting the top 1/4 of the country under heavy rocket attack. 

(Notice how when the Jews defend themselves it’s a cycle of violence, overwhelming force and an illegal attack, but when the Arabs directly target civilian population centers – the very definition of a war crime, it’s ‘legitimate resistance’?)

And today, after taking serious national risks for peace, many of which have resulted in Jewish civilian deaths as well as national trauma, the Hezbollah leader is declaring he’s going to slaughter Israel, the Iranian leaders are declaring their intent for out and out genocide while clearing working on nuclear weapons, the new Egyptian leadership is stating intent to act against Israel, and Europe as well as the U.S. State Department are diplomatically pressuring Israel weekly.

Any Israeli who still thinks he’s going to create an Israel that assimilates (nationally) into the “family of nations” (meaning Western democracies – which aren’t looking too well or stable themselves at the moment) is beyond deluded.  He’s ignoring the very reality that’s slapping him (nationally) in the face.

The Hand of Hashem is clear.  No assimilation into the family of nations, no easy way to walk away from your job as a light to the nations.

While I’ve focused on the author’s ridiculous position, even I’m astounded that a mainstream Israeli paper would publish it.  What kind of mindset leads a leading Israeli newspaper to publish such drek?

Dear author and publisher, I’m tempted to say if you’re that afraid of being a Jew or being in the Land of Israel, grab a flight to Uganda and see how they accept you.  But we see, Hashem doesn’t let His people go.  We have a job to do, and the Hand of Hashem is going to make sure it happens.

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Doors & Gates of Jerusalem's Old City

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths


There is an almost endless variety of doors & gates in the Rova (Jewish Quarter). 

For instance…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Guess whose door this is.


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Saturday, August 25, 2012

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Iran to “Attack the World”?

Middle Eastern specialist Michael Totten reports…

Con Coughlin reports in London’s Telegraph:

According to Western intelligence officials, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the order to the elite Quds Force unit following a recent emergency meeting of Iran's National Security Council in Tehran held to discuss a specially-commissioned report into the implications for Iran of the Assad regime's overthrow.

Damascus is Iran's most important regional ally, and the survival of the Assad regime is regarded as vital to sustaining the Iranian-backed Hizbollah militia which controls southern Lebanon.

The report, which was personally commissioned by Mr Khamenei, concluded that Iran's national interests were being threatened by a combination of the U.N. sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme and the West's continuing support for Syrian opposition groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government.

Intelligence officials say the report concludes that Iran "cannot be passive" to the new threats posed to its national security, and warns that Western support for Syrian opposition groups was placing Iran's "resistance alliance" in jeopardy, and could seriously disrupt Iran's access to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

It advised that the Iranian regime should demonstrate to the West that there were "red lines" over what it would accept in Syria, and that a warning should be sent to "America, the Zionists, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others that they cannot act with impunity in Syria and elsewhere in the region."

(Michael Totten) I’m not convinced the Iranian regime easily can or actually will dispatch terrorists to Western targets, but I could be wrong. Khamenei has every reason to view the fall of Bashar al-Assad with despair. For his post-modern Mediterranean empire will have its torso ripped out.

(Reb Akiva) This sounds suspicously like the trigger for the Gemora described conflict between Rome and Persia as part of the geulah, and a lead up event to Yalkut Shimoni Remez Yishayahu 499.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

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Praying at the Kotel

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     This very young boy sat on the floor in the middle of the entrance to the inner area of the Kotel reciting the blessings that he learned to read in gan (kindergarten). He touched each word with his finger as he said it out loud. When he finished he jumped up and ran excitedly to his father and proudly told him what a great thing he did. He had just read each of the morning blessings at the Kotel! And he was right, too. It was a great thing.

     It is a wondrous thing to teach a small child to read. It is even more wondrous to teach him to love the words.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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Are Angels Real?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

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Dear Rabbi Gutman,

     I have a question. The Jewish sages claim that after the Tower of Babel the 70 nations with their 70 guardian angels were founded. Do these angels exist in our times, and if they do, are these angels enemies of Israel?

     In the Zohar Esau and Ishmael have guardian angels. Also, Ishmael has 12 sarim (princes). Perhaps these sarim are subordinated to the angel of Ishmael.

     A nation falls when the sar (prince) of that nation falls. The sar of Egypt in the story of Genesis fell when Israel was going through the Reed Sea.

     Esau has more than 12 princes/chieftains. Does this mean that the angel of Esau has lower (subordinated) sarim … for example, Europe, USA, Rome, etc. as Esau nations?

      I hope you are willing to send me an answer, despite I am not Jewish.

Dr. H. Dubbelman

Gutman’s Answer:

     First, understand that an angel is not a separate, independent, being. “Angel” in Hebrew means message. An angel is a message from G-d. The function of the angels that are over the 70 Nations is to bring to them G-d’s sustaining existence. The angels, so to speak, stand between G-d and the Nations. While Angels are “heavenly” (spiritual) entities, sarim (princes) usually refers to human leaders of the Nations. However, when sarim is used referring to the Nations it is actually referring to their angles, so in this case the sarim are spiritual entities.

     Jewish mystical writings explain that every person in the world, Jew or non Jew, male or female, free person or slave, can come to the spiritual level of ruach hakodesh (literally, “holy spirit”). It all depends on one’s deeds. Ruach hakodesh is the spiritual level just below Prophecy.

     This means that everyone has freewill. No one is forced to be evil, unless their preference and past is evil. Then, G-d will use that person as an emissary of evil.

     If on the other hand, although a person’s past is evil, he or she chooses to do good, then they will be given the opportunity to do good. Their angel will help them to do what their free will chooses. This means that their angel follows their desires, and is actually lowered or raised according to that nation’s actions.

     In the end of days (Redemption) almost all of the Nations will repent and will look to Jerusalem for leadership. They will support the Jewish State, and their angels will help them to do this.

     If you will keep the “Seven Commandments of Noah” you will be a righteous person. You will have a wonderful life in this world, and a share in the World to Come. You would be wise to learn them and treasure them as your passport to a good life. Check out such sites as AskNoah.org

     I also recommend you seeing at least two of my videos, “Answers to a Pastor,” and “G-d is Everywhere.”

Be well,

Gutman

The Viewer’s Reply:

     I thank you very much for your answers and advice. I wish you much success with your website etc. and I hope Israel and the Jewish people succeed and survive in the Middle East among the Muslim enemies and the anti-Semitic attitude of some European politicians/nations.

Dr. H. Dubbelman

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It’s a Different World

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     What would you do if the guy davening at the amud (leading the prayers) took out his cellphone and starting reading from the screen while he was saying the prayers out loud? It used to be that we would scream at him. But now, it’s a different world. He was reading the prayers that he was saying from his smartphone screen.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Yogaaaaaaaaaah!

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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A Reader Asked:

     I am interested to hear what you have to say about Yoga as a physical exercise and mind-centering activity (I'm discussing the poses and movements, not pranayama or seated meditation). Supposedly it has physical and mental benefits. Is the practice of the poses inextricably linked to Indian religious beliefs or are they harmless in and of themselves?

Gutman’s Answer:

     It seems that “religious” Jews who practice yoga want to continue practicing it, no matter what. Even if everyone agrees that yoga is not merely physical exercises, still, they insist that they are just exercising their body so it is alright. Here again we see that they are fooling themselves and are actually participating in the spiritual practice of Hinduism which is the main form of idolatry (actual idolatry and associated practices as identified by the Gemora) in the world today.

As long as you are doing “yoga” you are involved with Hinduism.

     Last week the New York Tax authority announced that since yoga is primarily a spiritual practice and not just physical exercise they are no longer going to tax the yoga studios.

      And this week the Yoga Journal Newsletter writes:

“Today, many yoga practitioners assert that yoga is not a religion in their minds. This begs the question: If hatha (exercise) yoga is not a religion, what is it? Is it a hobby, a sport, a fitness regimen, a recreational activity? Or is it a discipline, such as the study of law or the practice of medicine? The odd truth is that there are ways in which the practice of yoga resembles all of those pursuits.

Perhaps it would be helpful to consider the difference between the word "religion" and another word commonly associated with it, "spirituality." Spirituality, it could be said, has to do with one's interior life, the ever-evolving understanding of one's self and one's place in the cosmos—humankind's "search for meaning." Religion, on the other hand, can be seen as spirituality's external counterpart, the organizational structure we give to our individual and collective spiritual processes: the rituals, doctrines, prayers, chants, and ceremonies, and the congregations that come together to share them.

The fact that so many yogis report spiritual experiences in their practices indicates how we might best view the ancient art. While many Westerners come to yoga primarily for its health benefits, it seems safe to say that most people who open to yoga will, in time, find its meditative qualities and more subtle effects on the mind and emotions equally (if not more) beneficial. They will, in other words, come to see yoga as a spiritual practice. But, without credos or congregations, it can't properly be regarded as a religion—unless we say that each yogi and yogini comprises a religion of one.”

Reb Akiva adds: if the teachers and specialists of yoga specifically state that yoga has spiritual religious-like experiences as well as effects on the mind and emotions, we must take note.

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Chabad Children

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     There was a celebration at the Kotel for the completion of a very special sefer Torah (scroll). Each of the hundreds of thousands of letters in this new sefer Torah was dedicated to a Jewish child. Thousands of Chabadniks and young children came to the celebration. 

     Whoever thinks that the Rebbe did not have any children does not understand the nature of reality.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

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Why Would the Creator of the World…

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     …take the time to paint a fish in such a way? He must truly love to make beautiful things. We are told to emulate our Creator. We can see from this fish that we are to try to make the world an even more beautiful place than it already is.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

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Kiddush HaChodesh

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

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What is kiddush hachodesh (blessing of the new month)? Why are we mekadesh the chodesh? What does it involve and why do we announce the molad? Do need to know the molad at the time of the prayer?

Chodesh literally means new moon. Each month starts with the rebirth of the moon, waxing till the middle of the month, then waning for the next fifteen days, till it disappears and the cycle repeats itself with the next ‘new moon’. The molad is the time of the birth of the New Moon.

Astrologically, the moon is ‘dead’ at the time of its rebirth; it cannot reflect or direct influences, either of itself or of the other planets and stars. Specifically at this time, when it is סמוי מן העין – hidden, at the moment of its rebirth, we can ask G-d to bless the new moon [1], that all astrological influences for the coming month be good ones, blessed by G-d’s favour. That is the reason behind announcing the molad: we need to know the molad in order to bless that moment of the ‘rebirth’ of the new moon.

[Like all Mitsvos, the meaning behind Kiddush hachodesh is profound and multi-faceted but the above significance is relevant on all levels. On a higher level, for example, there is a renewing, as it were, of the particular influx from the Shechinoh, peculiar to that month: this is part of the deeper implication of Kiddush HaChodesh.]

The subject of astrological influence vis-à-vis the Jewish people is largely misunderstood. Besides the fact that most Rabbis of the Mishnah, Talmud and later commentaries are of the opinion that the Jewish people are not [both individually and, according to the Ibn Ezra and Bnei Yissosschor, collectively] beyond astrological influence [2], even the oft-quoted saying of R’ Yochanon (Shabbos 156a) that אין מזל לישראל – there is no such thing as astrological influence [mazal = influence of a constellation] for Yiden – in other words, that Jews are apparently above astrological influence, is explained by Rabbi Chaim Vital [3] and others to mean that though there is undoubtedly astrological influences on each person [4] [he goes as far as to write[5] that every happening during a person’s life can be [fore]seen in the stars], each spiritual world has its mazal, so since the Jewish soul is rooted higher than the stars and their influence, the higher worlds’ mazal, the influence of the world of souls, etc, can override any astrological influence. But this overriding does not mean it ignores the astrological process; it is a higher influence that is then channelled through the mazolos of the constellations. (On a practical level, this means that a person is still likely to express him or herself according to the arrangement of the mazolos at the time of birth and the subsequent planetary aspects.)

Coming back to Kiddush HaChodesh. ‘Sanctifying’ the New Moon means asking G-d to ‘bless’ the new moon; through our tefillos, all astrological influences are now subjugated to the higher holy worlds – of the holy angels, the soul and higher still. On a certain level, this appears to be at play too when we are mekadesh the levonnoh [6], and that is why according to the Gemoro [inferred from the discussion there], Semag, Rambam, [Rabbeinu Yoinoh,] and Arizal [7], it is important to be mekadesh the levonoh as early as possible – striking the iron while it’s still hot. Astrologically, the moon is responsible for directing and expressing the influences of the other planets to the individual. By being mekadesh the chodesh and levonnoh, we realise all influences to be directed by HaShem and thus repel any untoward outcome.


[1] This is why we say in Hallel, ‘זה היום עשה ד', נגילה ונשמחה בו’: the time of the New Moon is Kabbalistically a time ripe to receive heavenly blessing as all influence is סמוי מן העין [hidden] ואין הברכה שורה אלא בדבר הסמוי מן העין (ב"מ מו:) – blessing can only come when it is hidden.

[2] The Rambam’s opinion appears to be the exception though even he appears to acquiesce that there is astrological influence; he merely says that to try to interpret the stars or ‘foresee’ events is futile.

[3] Shaarei Hakedushoh

[4] As can be seen quite clearly from the proof that Rav brings – see Shabbos ibid.

[5] ספר התכונה

[6] Kabbalistically, kiddush halevonoh has much deeper significance, effects and meanings, beyond the scope of this short article. On the kabbalistic level, the moon corresponds to the Shechinoh, the Divine Presence, which is responsible for the blessings that accompany the Jewish People.

[7] The exact opinion of the Ari HaKodosh is a subject of dispute. From Shaar HaKavonos and Pri Eits Chaim it is apparent that the Arizal adopted the opinion of the Rambam, contrary to the opinion of earlier kabbalists and the prevalent minhag. However, the Rashash Hakodosh waited seven days from the beginning of the month till being mekadesh the levonnoh; as he never veered from the Ari in his customs and opinions, it appears he knew of another source in the Ari, unknown to us. A fuller analysis of this dispute is given in the sefer עמודי הוראה by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel שליט"א.

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Kosher Chabad Meditation

spilt-red-seaChabad chassidus teaches in sefer Tanya that to internalize, understand and connect to Hashem via the intellectual path of His Knowledge through the Torah and inner Torah, one must contemplate deeply on subjects of the inner Torah.

A Chabad shaliach in India, Rabbi Dror Shaul, together with Rabbi Ginsberg, shlita (a Chabad kabbalist) has turned the Chabad chassidic approach of knowledge contemplation into a Contemplative Meditation to provide a kosher alternative to Hindu practices that many Israeli Jews travel to India to encounter… 

(Hisbonenus – Jewish Contemplative Meditation)

“Rabbi Dror Shaul decided to develop courses that provide a meditative experience along with contemplation of Chassidic concepts.”

The location: Dharamsala, India.  The breathtaking scenery and villages at the foot of the majestic Himalayas in northern India is a source of inspiration in and of itself. The course: Jewish Meditation.  The instructor: A shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  This is a description of a scene that repeats itself daily during tourist season.

Over the past several decades, Dharamsala has become a magnet for anything associated with spirituality and meditation.  There are ashrams, centers of healing and courses on meditation of all sorts.  Visitors from the world over flock there in droves in order to find tranquility.  Jews in general, and Israelis in particular, head the pack.  Some of them even give courses and workshops on spirituality and various forms of idol worship. 
Fortunately though, twelve years ago, Rabbi Dror Moshe Shaul and his wife Michal opened a Chabad house, which is also a center where courses on spirituality are given, albeit of the right sort.  Over the years, the Chabad house firmly established its presence and now there are two Chabad houses in Dharamsala.

During the annual tourist season, many Israeli backpackers from all over India head to Dharamsala in order to attend the Chabad house's special courses, which interweave intensive in-depth Jewish learning and experiential tools for self-knowledge.  In these courses, they find answers to many questions that preoccupy them in their spiritual search.  The urge to see what Judaism has to offer only grows in light of the exposure they have to numerous Far Eastern disciplines, most of which are sourced in impurity.  The courses in the Chabad house of Dharamsala address the structure of the soul according to Chassidus and Kabbala.  They enable the students to express their inner world in terms of Tanya and deep maamarei Chassidus.

The shluchim, R' Dror Shaul and R' Uri Tzipori designed the courses under the guidance of R' Yitzchok Ginsburgh, who has been involved in the establishment of the Chabad house of Dharamsala since its inception.  R' Ginsburgh even gave some shiurim in order to guide the shluchim in how to create an authentic and internal system of soul meditation. The fact that the shluchim themselves were involved in their own spiritual search in the Far East not that long ago, enables the tourists to identify and relate to them.  The common language along with personal experience has become a successful recipe for hafatza.  In recent years, hundreds have become baalei t’shuva by way of the Chabad house, many of whom are shluchim themselves today.

THE TANYA SAYS: PICTURE IT IN YOUR MIND

In a special interview with Beis Moshiach, R' Dror Moshe Shaul agreed to discuss his courses and to share what lies behind the unique Jewish meditation workshops.

In the past, meditation was regarded as outright idol worship, but in recent years it has become more accepted.  Today, many forms of it are known in medicine such as guided imagery.  What is the difference between them? Which are associated with idol worship and which can be utilized?

Meditation includes a plethora of techniques and tools, depending on the place where it was developed and its spiritual source.  The common denominator of them all is that it is a method by which you calm the body and soul, and then you focus the power of thought on a particular issue that you want to implant in your psyche in a deep, experiential way.

Today, this idea is also used in conventional medicine under the name “medical hypnosis,” to address emotional problems and physical pain.  Although there is neutral meditation, most of the approaches and techniques that the public is exposed to come from a source of idol worship, usually from Eastern religions.

Today, most of the teachers of these techniques have learned to gloss over the direct connection between the approach they teach and the prohibitions of idol worship, so as not to turn people off.  But in the vast majority of meditational paradigms there is impurity and idol worship mixed in, such as a connection to a spiritual mentor or names of impurity.

Do you think that the connection between kosher meditation and Chassidus is a natural one?

In Chassidus it explains the difference between external hearing to inner hearing (derher).  The first is when you absorb the content intellectually, so that the listener and the topic remain two separate things.  The second is when the topic is internalized.  The difference between the two types is enormous.  While intellectual understanding is also prone to contradiction and forgetting, a direct experience remains forever, even if it is sometimes contradicted.  The emphasis in our courses is to try and lead the students to an experience in which Torah and they are one thing, and learning from seforim is a sort of glimpse into their souls.  This way, the learning doesn't remain mere pretty words but is actualized in exercises whose goal is to experience the learning on the most practical level.

Chassidic meditation demands substantive contemplation as it is explained in several places in Tanya such as perek 11 of Igeres Ha’kodesh, “Now when a man will contemplate in the depths of his understanding and will [moreover] picture in his mind how he comes into being ex nihilo at every single moment ...” In other words, the Alter Rebbe demands that we have a direct experience of G-d's existence in order to fulfill the “bottom line” of truly living a life of faith.

Do you know of people who got more involved with Chassidus as a result of these courses?

One of the unique programs that we do at the Chabad house in Dharamsala is an eight day intensive meditation course.  The participants get up very early in the morning, immerse in a mikva and start the day by learning Chassidus, hisbonenus and t’filla.  Then, throughout the day, we learn Chassidus together in the Chabad house.  The high point of the course is when the participants go on a four day hike in the Himalayas.  Every day there is a Jewish meditation exercise and learning of Chassidus, so that within two weeks, they go through a process of inner work in conjunction with physical and mental challenges.

On one of these outings we encountered very bad weather with heavy hail coming down.  We had to take shelter in a cave until the storm died down.  We sat together, learned an inyan in Chassidus, did a meditation and relaxation exercise while meditating upon what we had learned earlier.  After a few hours of the exercise, we opened our eyes and saw that it was still hailing outside, so we decided to continue sitting in the cave.  While sitting there, we asked each participant to relate what he had experienced while meditating.

In the group was a man who had learned with us for a while at the Chabad house, but still hadn't felt moved by the learning.  Before we had gone on this trip, he asked me whether he would be able to sense the learning on an experiential level during the trip, since until that point, he hadn't felt anything in particular.  When it was this fellow's turn to share, he asked whether everyone had seen what he had seen.  When we didn't know what he was referring to, he said that during one of the niggunim he opened his eyes and saw an old man with a white beard and white clothes enter the cave and touch the head of each person.  He said he had felt a special delight during this exercise.

He was emotionally overwrought by the experience and wanted to make a special hachlata.  I started suggesting the usual things: t’fillin every day, Chitas, setting fixed times to study Torah.  I finally suggested that when he arrived in Eretz Yisroel he should go to the Ari's mikva and immerse there.  He liked this idea very much, but he said he wanted to immerse immediately in the river at the place we had planned on davening Shacharis.  I tried to dissuade him by saying that the water flowed from a glacier and was freezing, but he insisted, and with great mesirus nefesh he immersed in the freezing waters at dawn.

To appreciate what this experience did for people I will tell you that out of nine people in this workshop, I know that five are Lubavitchers today who have established Chassidishe families, boruch Hashem.  That bachur is a shliach who runs a Chabad house at one of the Israeli universities.

HISBONENUS – LIKE LISTENING TO A MAAMER

Since it was very important to me to ensure that there was no impurity in the content or techniques,  I spoke to R' Yitzchok Ginsburgh and told him about the request to use meditative techniques in a way of k’dusha.  He responded with a number of fascinating shiurim, some of which were given in Yeshivas Od Yosef Chai at Yosef's grave in Sh’chem.  The shiurim explained the inyan of hisbonenus in Judaism according to the (Chabad) Rebbeim.

The shiurim were textually based on chapter “Ein Dorshin” in tractate Chagiga which deals with the structure of the earth and the seven heavens.  These shiurim were the basis of the book I wrote, which is a practical guide to Jewish meditation called, Hisbonenus B'Maaseh Merkava.  R' Ginsburgh published these shiurim in several books, the most fundamental one being, Lichyos B'Merchav Eloki.

What techniques are your workshops based on?

There are a number of techniques that we use, but the classic structure that we created is based on a similar process of saying a maamer as was customary by the Rebbe.  Generally, before saying a maamer, the Rebbe said a sicha, and before he said the maamer, people stood up, sang the Niggun Gaaguim (song of yearning), closed their eyes and listened, and then concluded with a Niggun Simcha.

Similarly, hisbonenus begins with learning Chassidus while engaging in deep discussion and providing vivid examples.  Then the seforim are set aside and after creating a silent state in body and soul while standing, we begin singing one of the niggunei gaaguim like “Tzama Lecha Nafshi,” while meditating on its meaning, closing our eyes and using the tool of guided imagery on the basis of the Chassidus that was learned.  When the guided imagery is over, we return to the world with a Niggun Simcha.

I got an especially interesting and powerful reaction from a girl who came to the Chabad house for the course and wanted to inform me that she was dropping out.  When I asked her why she was leaving, she said she chose not to continue since she felt that it was affecting her on such a powerful level that she couldn't take the enormity of it.  She said that after hearing the niggun “Tzama Lecha Nafshi” the day before, during the hisbonenus, she dreamed of the Rebbe singing the niggun and she felt a powerful feeling of k’dusha.  And being that she felt so distant, she felt that she couldn't handle the intensity of the experience.

There are also exercises in which we combine meditation with breathing exercises.  Another course consists of exercises that combine movement and restful poses in the shape of Alef beis according to Chassidus.  Having to move the body in the proper way from a medical standpoint, along with channeling the consciousness towards the spiritual energies of each letter, turns the exercise into a process of inner work which is felt in the limbs of the body.

What is the difference between the approach that you use and the classic approaches to meditation used in the world or any guided imagery that are not associated with avoda zara?

There are many important differences between Jewish meditation and what is generally found in non-Jewish meditation.  Jewish meditation consists of deep Chassidic content, which is learned in depth by the intellect and only then is fused with experiential exercises that access the super-conscious. So that when a person experiences something G-dly, it is generally absorbed in the intellect and translated into genuine love and fear and not anything delusional.

In non-Jewish meditation, they usually try to empty the head of any thought or content.  Then, if there is a spiritual experience, it turns into an ego trip or towards avoda zara.

Another important point, although Jewish meditation is in lofty, subtle concepts, the purpose is to bring it down and affect this world with simcha and action which express love and unity with others.  In meditation that is derived from unholy sources, the exercise causes the person to look at the world from the top-down and this leads the person to feeling estranged and sad.  In other words, Jewish meditation engenders inner humility, chayus (life force strengthening) and giving, while the other meditation – which boasts of love and wholeness – engenders estrangement and apathy.

In my experience, anyone who was ever involved in other forms of meditation and is then exposed to Jewish meditation, experiences the enormous conceptual revolution and understands its significance.

…the full article can be found here.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

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It’s the Sefer Torah Party Truck!

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

(Direct video link.)

My wife and I went out for groceries a few nights ago, traveling to another nearby town in the midst of a Torah (Jewish religious) community.  Upon loading our purchases, we turned and found the street engulfed in a Hachnasos Sefer Torah – a welcoming parade for a new Sefer Torah scroll being brought to a nearby synagogue.

The traditions for this involve lines of people holding torches as the Torah is paraded to it’s synagogue under a Wedding Canopy, with rows of dancing and singing men welcoming the Torah.

Somehow the Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel have adopted a new custom… it’s the Sefer Torah Party Truck!  The Sefer Torah Party Truck is a full mobile disco studio, with glowing and spinning crowns (for the crown of Torah), mass party lights, and a full neighborhood volume mobile sound system blasting Orthodox Jewish karaoke with a live MC or DJ on mike singing.

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The wedding canopy and sefer Torah is still there, though it may be powered and lit (and with flashing lights) as well.  It’s all a bit (way way way) over the top, but it’s all to bring honor to the new Torah as it’s escorted to it’s synagogue home.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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Twin Bar Mitzvahs

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     Most Jewish men who are accustomed to wearing shtreimels (fur hats) begin at marriage. There are a few groups that begin when they are bar mitzvah’ed.

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A Night at the Kotel

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

My daughter returned from a trip visiting my mother overseas.  After coming home and dropping off her suitcases, she asked me to take her to the Kotel (the Western Wall).

We arrived late night and found the Old City of Jerusalem an absolute tourist madhouse, even given the very late hour.  Not only is it high tourist season, but it’s bein hazmanim (yeshiva and kollel are out) and prime vacation season among Israeli’s.

Here’s some pictures from late last night…

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There’s always some intense davening (praying) going on at the Kotel…

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Father and son?

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Family or not, all Jews are brothers and here they pray together.

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It’s the middle of the night.  Do you know where your prayers are?

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These folks do…

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But the tefillin stand is empty!  Where’s Reb Gutman???

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Surely at home sleeping, gaining energy to put tefillin on all visitors needing them tomorrow morning.

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