by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A Friend Asked:
Recently, I attended a concert that was put together by my daughter-in-law for her Chabad House on campus. Baruch Hashem, everyone enjoyed it--but me. The issue is, the Rebbe said, "We must cry out for Moshiach."
It appears to be a contradiction. To enjoy a concert or any other thing implies an acceptance of the status quo i.e., exile. It is like being satisfied with a sugar candy when what we want/need/deserve is to experience the Source of Happiness with the Redemption.
It is frustrating. Like the Alte Rebbe said, "I don't want Your Garden of Eden. I don't want Your World to Come. I want You alone." We want Moshiach-Redemption and, it appears to me that being happy/accepting anything less just prevents us from achieving that goal. Yet there is a mitzvah to Serve Hashem with Joy!
Your thoughts would be appreciated.
If we were to be sad all the time because the Redemption has not come, then we would have been sad since we were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. We are to pray for, and yean for the Redemption with all our heart, but at the same time, we are to be thankful for how close we are coming. Your daughter-in-law has the right idea. Joy brings Jews home, not crying for what we lack.
G-d said to be happy, especially when it is Jewish joy. Jewish joy is the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah, and it will be Jewish joy that brings the Redemption, not sorrow.
“This comes to teach you that the Divine Presence does not come to rest (upon a person) through gloom (while in a state of gloom)… but through the joy associated with a mitzvah. As it is written: “and now, bring for me a musician; and it happened that when the musician played, G-d’s hand rested upon (the prophet Elisha)”[i]
[i] Gemora Shabbos 30b, ll Kings 3:15
The first four Jews I helped with tefillin yesterday afternoon put them on for the first time in their lives.
The Jew pictured above lives in New Zealand. He was born in Prague in 1938. His father visited Vienna in 1939 and saw what the nazis (may their name be blotted out forever) were doing to the Jews there. He ran back to Vienna to warn his family, but no one would listen to him. He grabbed his wife and baby (pictured) and fled to New Zealand where they lived the rest of their lives. They were the only ones in his family to survive.
A Lawyer from America
A Russian who now lives in America
Four totally unrelated lives; these men do not know each other, they never met, not even once. They have lived their entire lives far, far away from each other, in location, and in deeds. Yet, they walked up to the Kotel the same day, within a few minutes of each other and put on tefillin for the first time in their lives.
The Torah tells us that not only are we brothers and sisters from the same father and mother (Avraham and Sarah), but that we actually share one soul, and that our lives are judged as one. While in this world we are not only judged for our own behavior, but by the behavior of all of the Jewish people, even those who are no longer alive! A great reason to love your fellow Jew.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
As I write this, the Northeast United States is hunkered down against Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy. Naturally, and particularly in an election cycle, the government officials wish to be seen and be seen being effective.
To do so they presented this picture (with associated video clip):
FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency, check.
People – Officials of some sort (who require name plates to know each other), check.
President – Looking important, check.
*** Now I’ve been to many an important business meeting, and even some government meetings. They are loaded with projectors and presentations, computers and everyone checking their iPhone’s. It may be true the most important people don’t have that, but they’ll have an assistant nearby with it.
So let’s see how, in this day and age, our government officials are prepared to capture and look up information, and quickly communicate emergency decisions…
Microphone, check. ???
Reporters, check. ???
Laptops – none.
Pads – none.
Smartphones – none.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
“I do not want to drink any wine, only grape juice!” my Shabbos guest told me. Actually, he said this five years ago when he first came to my house. This week he came back, and he laughed at himself for having said it.
He was on what he thought was a more pure path than the Torah teaches. Often, when someone begins to follow the Torah, he or she will take a medical report from here, an alternative lifestyle report from there, an idea from an Eastern religion, a few fond memories, and blend them all into what they think is a really groovy way to be. They end up inventing what they believe is a more holy, or more healthy way to live. This is pretty much what the 1960s did so “well.” It’s called, “roll your own.”
But when you see that the Torah has sustained the Jewish people so beautifully for thousands of years, you should tread very carefully before you stray from even the smallest bit of it.
But wasn’t my guest right in abstaining from wine? After all, common belief is that drinking wine leads to drunkenness! Isn’t alcoholism one of the major pitfalls of society today? Alcohol is horribly unhealthy, right? Surely, we should not encourage our young people to drink alcohol?
Lo and behold, today’s medical reports show that moderate alcohol consumption is very good for you. Of course this assumes that you do not overindulge. The Rambam, who besides being a principal Torah scholar was also a medical doctor, wrote that wine is good for the stomach.
There is an interesting law regarding a nazir. A nazir is a Jew who, wanting to become more aware of G-d’s presence, would take a vow of abstinence. He could not cut his hair for this period of time, nor was he allowed to eat grapes or drink wine. He was not allowed to become spiritually unclean by tending to the dead, ether. Most often the vow was to last for 30 days. After he fulfilled his vow he would go to the Temple in Jerusalem and offer up certain required sacrifices. Then, his vow would be fulfilled and he would return to normal life.
One of the sacrifices that he was required to bring was a sin offering. It is asked, “Why should a man who tried to become more aware of G-d have to bring a sin offering? What was his sin?”
It is answered; wine in moderation brings joy. The nazir’s sin was that he forbid himself something that G-d put into the world to bring joy.
My advice is, if you want to abstain from something to become healthier, or to become more aware of G-d’s presence, then you should abstain from such things as; sorrow, anger, overeating, laziness, judging others, and a few things like this.
Mystical Paths wishes our readings in the Eastern United States blessings for safety and minimal impact of Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy.
Please take appropriate precautions.
We’d be interested in hearing about the situation and your experiences. Add yours in comments below.
The 11th of MarCheshvan, which falls out this Shabbos, is the yaretzheit of Rochel imaynu, the Biblical Matriach Rachel, wife of Yaakov Avinu (the biblical patriarch Jacob).
She passed away on and was buried “on the way”, on the road leading to Jerusalem outside of Bet Lechem – Bethlehem. Kever Rochel, the holy tomb of the Biblical Matriach Rachel, wife of Yaakov Avinu (the biblical patriarch Jacob) is located on what was formerly a desolate roadside between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Today it’s within the outer edge of Bethlehem, but with an isolated access road and security walls for conflict prevention (meaning, to stop the Arabs from trying to injure or kill the Jews and others who wish to visit this ANCIENT JEWISH HOLY SITE).
There are pictures of the site going back as far as photography goes, and paintings much farther than that. Via the incredible site Israel Daily Picture, pulling out archival pictures of the Land of Israel…
Kever Rochel in 1895. Notice there are NO other buildings anywhere nearby. Bethlehem is in the distant top left.
Kever Rochel in 1900. From this angle, Bethlehem is a mile or two away in the top right.
Jews visiting the tomb around 1900. Check out the carriages.
Kever Rochel in 1914. We see Bethlehem starting to build towards the tomb, and the area gaining a wall.
“30 men ('3 minyans') from a Jerusalem old age home praying for
the well-being of friends and donors and other brethren from the
House of Israel in the Diaspora next to the gravestone of Mother
Rachel of blessed memory”. The interior is virtually the same today.
(Photos from the American Colony collection, the Oregon State University collection, and the Jewish Postcard Collection, and all via Israel Daily Picture.)
As for today, here’s a video of us visiting Kever Rochel on the yaretzheit 4 years ago… This year the rush will be after Shabbos, since it’s not within range of Jewish neighborhoods for a visit on Shabbat.
Here’s more historical background provided by Israel Daily Picture with some additions by us…
In 1622 the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem permitted Jews to build walls and a dome over the grave, the same dome which exists to this day though now surrounded by a larger more protective structure.
For several hundred years a local Bedouin tribe and local Arabs demanded protection money from Jews going to Rachel's grave. In the 18th and 19th century the Arabs built a cemetery around three sides of the shrine in the belief that the proximity of the deceased to the grave of a holy person -- even a Jew -- would bestow blessings on the deceased in the world to come. Muslims even prepared bodies for burial at Rachel's grave.
In the 1830s, Jews received a decree from Ottoman authorities recognizing the Jewish character of the site and ordering a stop to the abuse of Jews there.
In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore secured permission from the Ottoman authority to build an anteroom for Jewish worshippers.
During the 1929 Muslim attacks on the Jews of Palestine, the Muslim religious council, the Waqf, demanded the site from the British.
For 19 years of Jordanian rule on the West Bank (1948-1967), Rachel's Tomb was off limits to Jews.
After the 1967 war, Israel reclaimed control of the site.
In 1996 and during the Palestinian intifada in 2000-2001 Rachel's Tomb was the target of numerous attacks. To protect the holy site and continue to allow OPEN ACCESS TO ALL, the Israeli army built 50 foot high walls as well as a separate road entrance while blocking off access from Bethlehem, as well as encasing the historical tomb structure in a highly protected defensive building, to protect worshippers and OPEN ACCESS to the site.
Today the site can be accessed safely by car without entering Palestinian Authority controlled territory or Arab neighborhoods, making it a 10 minute drive from Jerusalem. In addition bus service from Jerusalem travels there almost hourly throughout the day.
For the Yaretzheit, large crowds of tens of thousands visit the tomb with hundreds of buses (access is only by bus on this day) and massive police and army presence. [Because the tomb has been separated from Bethlehem, this provides no inconvenience to the residents of Bethlehem.]
Zohar - “And there will be War in the North in which two kings will perish. And at time all the nations of the world will combine against the daughter of Ya'akov to drive her from being a nation in the world. It is about that time that it is written: "And it will be a time of trouble unto Ya'akov, but out of it he shall be saved." (Yirmiyahu 30:7).
At that time all the souls in the Heavenly storehouse of souls will have been used up, and will need to be re-created. Then in the year 73 all the kings of the world will assemble in the great city of Rome, and HaKodesh Baruch Hu will shower on them fire, hail, and meteorites until they are all destroyed, with the exception of those who will not yet have arrived there.”
Dov bar Lieb -
All the above is after the molad for Siwan in 5772 1/2 when the sun was aligned with "7 stars in the north", the 7 Sisters during the annual solar eclipse for the molad for Siwan. Also the South Lebanon War in 5766 was a signpost for Mashiach appearing in the Galil in the year 66 (another statement in the Zohar).
In the 9 years that I have lived in the Land of Israel, it was sadly the greatest moment when all of (former Israeli Prime Minister) Olmert's plans for hitkansut (complete evacuation of all territory) were annulled because of the bombing of Haifa and the rest of the Galil that began on the 17th of Tamuz in 5766.
So we are right on schedule.
It would seem this will be sometime after the conclusion of the Syrian War, when two kings will perish.
Southern Israel has some incredible hiking and touring spots. Midbar Yehuda, the Judean Desert, has astounding biblical level views. Some friends of mine from work went on a tour, here’s a few incredible pictures they shared with me. This is Nachal Og…
What’s incredible is the scope and beauty of the Land of Israel. And hour and a half north and it’s lush farmland, an hour and a half west and it’s coast and sea, and yet hear is start desert.
Most of the year these are bone dry riverbeds. For brief moments in the winter, they become raging rivers.
The Israeli parks authority prepares marked hiking trails, creating “safe” paths and, in this case, pounding climbing supports into the rock. Safe is relative, each such trail has a difficulty rating. Climbing walls with narrow metal supports, fun but challenging.
Not a short drop!
What incredible views. As well, what biblical history!
Sorry I wasn’t there myself!
Parents in a California community are considering legal action over the constitutionality of a form of yoga being taught to their children, which they claim is introducing religion into public schools.
Last month, students attending classes in San Diego North County began taking Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") yoga for 30 minutes twice per week.
Concerned parents have now retained a constitutional first amendment attorney who says that Ashtanga yoga is a religious form of yoga, and that religious aspects have been introduced into the schools.
"The poses and positions are acknowledged by Ashtanga and Hindi yoga as forms of worship and prayers to Hindu deities," "They have a spiritual and religious meaning behind them."
Broyles said that although he was at first skeptical that there were truly religious belief and practices being taught to kids, the more he investigated and spoke with parents, the more he realized it was a constitutional issue….
The yoga…is being funded by a grant from a nonprofit that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world.
All of the instructors teaching the students are certified and trained by the Jois Foundation in Ashtanga yoga.
The district's program will be studied by the University of Virginia and University of San Diego to look at benefits of Ashtanga yoga...
"The study will look at the way that public school systems can impact student learning, health, positive relationships, and overall wellness through the implementation of a holistic approach to student wellness," Baird said in the letter. He says that parents are now not only questioning Hindu religion entering their schools, but the validity if this study being undertaken.
"We think that children are being used as guinea pigs," he said. "Following the money, you see what's going on … It would be like a charismatic Christian organization funding classes in worship and praise, and also funding a research center at a public university that is studying whether this is an effective form of exercise."
Broyles says that it has been argued that the in-school yoga programs have been stripped of their spirituality. But he says that kids are being exposed to Hindu thought and belief within the school.
"On the wall there was a poster that showed the Ashtanga, or 8-limbed deity. There are words showing what the limbs are," he said. "The ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the universe, which is called (deity name removed). They had a poster depicting that. Fundamentally it is a Hindu religion being taught through Ashtanga yoga."
Children are also being taught eastern meditation techniques to calm themselves, where one clears the mind of all thoughts, poses that were imparted by Hindu deities, and in one class were trained in drawing mandalas, according to Broyles.
…."If we were introducing Christian worship of bowing, there would be outcry in the community," he said…
by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths
A hippie marriage ceremony in the 1960s; binding the couple with a scarf.
A young man, around 20 years old, came for Shabbos dinner. He told me his family history and I said, “That is so beautiful.”
He said, “You are the only one who ever said that. All of the rabbis I’ve told it to found it pathetic, or even disgusting.”
You decide: His father was (or is) an American, Jewish, Rastafarin. The actual Rastas started out in Jamaica in the 1930s. They were worshipers of an Emperor of Ethiopia, saying that he was a yushka incarnate. But the American Rastas were mostly followers of the popular 1960s musician, Bob Marley.
The main distinguishing characteristics of the movement were (are) its love of reggae music, and cannabis (marijuana). For most, it wasn’t a religion, but a way of life, rejecting society (except for food stamps, and such) getting stoned, and singing freedom songs.
His mother is a Yemenite Jew. His grandmother was born in Mea Shearim. Mea Sharim is the ultra, ultra ‘charedi religious neighborhood of Jerusalem. As a youth, his mother ran away from the restrictive lifestyle, dropped all religion, fled to America, and became a Deadhead. Deadheads were (are) followers of the Grateful Dead (a famous 1960s rock group.) Deadheads would follow the band from concert to concert for years.
As things happen…, Rasta boy meets Deadhead girl, they fall in love and move to Bolinas, California. Bolinas is a small unincorporated coastal community in Marin County, California, 30 miles north of San Francisco. It has a reputation for being an extremely reclusive artist colony. There are no signs on the highway that point to Bolinas because the residents tear them down. There are less than 700 households in the entire community. What it was back in my day when I lived in Marin, 45 years ago, and seems to have maintained its flavor, was a place where ex or not so ex hippies would land trying to get off the street out of the city and still avoid society.
As things go their way, Rasta man and Deadhead lady have a baby boy who was born in Bolinas. Now comes the beautiful part. The boy grows up, and of all of the crazy things in the world… this outrageous boy decides to become a baal teshuva! Do you know what this means? He becomes a religious Jew, and ends up in a yeshiva in Jerusalem. Totally nuts! I love it!
Look at the nature of our people. By all rights this boy should have become a dope smoking, part time silversmith, fashioning handmade earrings for men, and fancy roach-clips[i] for women. But no…he wants to learn Torah.
This love of Torah is inside every Jew, even those who run away from it. An angel teaches the Jewish soul the entire Torah while the embryo is still in the womb. Then, just before the baby is born, the angel taps it on its lip and the baby forgets almost all that it was taught. So, if the baby forgets it, what was the value of teaching it to him or her in the first place? Because that Torah is still buried within each of us, and whenever we want, it is there ready to surface. But we have to want it. This fulfills the principle of freewill, yet allows us the great hidden desire for G-d.
So, why didn’t the rabbis he told his story to see the beauty in it? Those rabbis have been religious all of their lives. Jews who have been religious all of their lives really believe, with all their heart that the resurrection of the dead is going to come. They really believe this. A baal teshuva like me sees that it has already happened.[ii]
[i] Drug paraphernalia
[ii] Obviously, the actual Resurrection of the Dead will come later, but for the baal teshuva, it seems that his life has started again.
Times are tough. It’s unfortunate but not a surprise that the Jewish religious communities adjusted to good times by building many large charity organizations that did tons of good in helping people in need (even in good times there’s people hurting, and even in bad times people who are successful).
With a good donation stream, it was easy for such organizations to increase advertising (for donations), build up staff for mailing campaigns, put out pushke’s (charity boxes), etc. One of the things such organizations did was build up an inventory of public charity boxes. Public charity boxes are medium to large steel locked boxes, ostensibly for collecting money or actual canned food items.
But times aren’t good right now. Donation streams have slowed down while the people in need of charity have significantly increased. More must be done with less, more must be helped with less, and many a charity is stretched to the breaking point. (Hashem Ya’azor, G-d should help!)
But one wonders, what to do with an inventory of expensive steel public charity boxes? Wonder no more…
Spotted in a local cemetery… Food Drop public charity box… (because I often bring canned goods with me when stopped by the cemetery.)
Elsewhere in the same cemetery (I’ve noticed no public charity box ever sits alone)… Bolted to the gate (????) to make sure no one (of the residents?) leaves without donating…
Now this FOOD DROP box is placed directly in front of a local Pizza Shop (not nearby any type of grocery store)! I’m not sure you could get a fresh hot pizza to fit, but maybe if you folded the box?
Giving charity is a wonderful thing, and all of us are OBLIGATED to help those in need. But I’m wondering if these are signs of desperation, or just excess inventory working as advertisements?
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Althouse: “What has happened to the beautiful people? Did some disease just strike Hollywood? Seriously, they look ill or corrupt or desolate.
Are they all somehow dying? Is this the return of "heroin chic"?
(Heroin Chic - was a look popularized in mid-1990s fashion and characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes and angular bone structure. The look, characterized by emaciated features and androgyny, was a reaction against the "healthy" and vibrant look and reflected the appearance of “high class” heroin addicts. The trend eventually faded, in part due to the drug-related death due to a heroin overdose of prominent fashion photographer driving the trend.)
Did the picture-of-health go out of style? What's happening?
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
I was exhausted, and thought to take a 15 minute nap before returning to the Kotel late afternoon. It would mean that I would be a little later than usual to help with tefillin. I sat back in my soft chair, closed my eyes, relaxed for two minutes, when all of a sudden my mouth slammed shut biting a tiny spot on the inside of my lip. It really hurt! I screamed, “What did You do that for?”
I saw that I wasn’t going to get a nap, so I got up and went to the Kotel. On the way, I was trying to figure out why it happened. “There must be something that I need to see, and would have missed had I napped. But, it will have to happen within the first 15 minutes, or else I would have been there anyway.”
I davened mincha (prayed the afternoon prayers) and went to set up my little cart with tefillin. Shmuli from the tefillin stand was there talking with two men. One of them pointed to me, and said something. Shmuli brought them over and said, “You gotta’ hear this one.”
One of the men was an American tourist, and the other was his Israeli tour guide. The guide told the story. He pointed at me again and said, “He’s the one who said it.”
The story goes; a little over a year and a half ago the guide brought an America to the Kotel. His name was Steward. He encouraged him to put on tefillin, and when he did he started to cry uncontrollably. The guide asked him why he was crying. He said, “I have good reason to cry. My doctors told me that I have the bad disease, and that I have only two months at the most to live.”
The guide brought him over to me, and asked for a blessing. He told me the story and I said, “Steward, G-d gives doctors the ability to heal. They can often heal someone, but they cannot say when a person is going to die. That is up to G-d.” I told him to be happy for whatever time G-d gives him and, “Remember, it’s G-d Who gives and takes life, not the doctors.” Then I said, “We’ll see you in a year when you come back to put on tefillin again.”
Then Shmuli said that a year later Steward came back to the Kotel with his wife to put on tefillin again. I wasn’t there to see him. He told Shmuli the story and said that he came back to see us like we said he would. And, as far as I know, G-d hasn’t called him home yet.
Obviously, G-d had something planned for Steward that his doctors didn’t know about. And apparently, G-d wanted me to hear the story, too, because if I would have come 15 minutes later, as I planned, they would have left and I would not have heard it. And why did G-d want me to hear the story? …Obviously, to be able to tell it to you. Apparently, someone out there really needs to hear this story.
Let me know if it’s you.
at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths
Dr. Gerald is a lung specialist from Silver Springs, Maryland. He came to Israel to attend a conference on the latest developments in his field of medicine. When he walked into the Kotel area one of the men from the tefillin stand asked him to put on tefillin. He refused, and rushed away saying, “I am not a very good Jew.”
When he was on his way out I went over to him and said, “You are not allowed to say bad things about a Jew, not even about yourself. You are not a bad Jew, it’s just that you have not been taught about these things. Come, put on tefillin. I’ll help you. It will only take a minute. You’ll have a good time.” I gently pulled him over and put tefillin on him.
“What are these?” he asked. I checked again to make sure that his mother was Jewish. How is it possible that a grey-haired doctor from the Washington D.C. area could live his life without ever having seen tefillin? Someone out there is not doing their best to reach the Jews in their neighborhood.
He is really a spiritual person. He took a very long time with his eyes closed praying for the people he loves, and for his patients, too. And, as you see, he had a great time.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
High on the list is a virtual siddur, a prayerbook on the phone so one doesn’t have to carry one around for afternoon and evenng weekday prayer. This was particularly convenient as a maariv (evening prayer) group started in my office building (possible now with sundown happening around 5:30).
So I rushed off to the maariv group and started up my siddur app. We did the preliminaries and started Shemona Esrai (the standing silent prayer of 18 blessings).
It was nice, I could read it easily (the location was poorly lit, but that’s not an issue for a lit phone display), and I was enjoying focusing on prayer as a wrap up to my office day. Blessing 1…. 2…. 3…. 4…. 5…. 6….
…and my Siddur CRASHED. I’m in the middle of prayer before G-d staring at some type of phone software error. I tried to start it back up, it immediately crashed again.
I went through the rest by heart, but couldn’t shake the experience… a siddur crash. What a strange cross between modern technology and a multi-thousand year old religious practice.
I deleted that app and found a replacement (pictured above). When I went to maariv this evening, it even poped-up to remind me to add the extra portion for Rosh Chodesh (the new month), a nice surprise feature.
And it didn’t crash.
There’s a communal debate within the Jewish religious community over whether smart phones are worth their risks (with built in Internet access) versus the benefits, with some religious authorities taking positions anywhere from “they should preferably be avoided”, the extreme “they should be destroyed”, and the more lenient “use with caution and for appropriate purposes and/or business only”.
But every tool can be used for the good. And there’s a growing selection of excellent Jewish and Torah apps to consider.
by Reb Gutman Locks
Regarding my article, “Are You Connected,” one of our readers wrote:
The Sfas Emes [i]puts it in terms of הסתר/hiding and גלוי/revelation. Our mission is to "reveal" Hashem in this world by doing His will consciously. Although, I should say that he also uses the term התדבקות which can be interpreted as "connection". How do you understand דביקות? (Deveikus)
The Sfas Emes said it very well, Hashem is hiding, and our task is to reveal His presence in this world. This is exactly why we have been created.
As for deveikus; deveikus does not mean to connect. It means to cleave to (cling), or to adhere. Its root means, glue.
G-d is Infinite. By definition the Infinite has to be all. If we find anything other than the Infinite, then what we thought was Infinite, would not have been Infinite. So the question is, since Hashem is all, including us, what are we supposed to cleave to? We are already one with Hashem. He is All.
We are to try to cleave to His Shechina. Shechina is not simply G-d’s Presence as is most often thought. G-d is always present everywhere. When it is said that the Shechina was present (such as on Mt. Sinai, and in the First Temple) it means that G-d revealed His presence at those times in those places.
Shechina is the revelation of G-d’s presence. This is what we try to experience by living a life of Torah and mitzvahs. Then, if we could be so blessed, we are to try to cleave to, or adhere to that experience of His revealed Presence.
“Part” is the wrong word here. The definition of part is, “a component of a whole.” The “whole” that the Jewish soul is made of (G-d) has no components. G-d is not made of components, parts, or elements. All these are found in the lower world, and are made of Him. G-d has no parts.
So what would be a proper way to explain the Jewish soul’s unique place in creation? The holy soul is like a ray of Hashem coming down from on High, down into this lower world with almost no concealment (tzimtzum). It is like a beam, a portion, or area of the Most High being poured into the Jew’s physical body.
“The soul that You have given me is pure.” [iv] Take good care of it. It’s the most precious thing that you have.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher 1895-1983 The Sfas Emes was Rav Yehuda Leib Alter (1847-1905)
[ii] Job 31:2
[iii] Likutei Amarim Chap. 2 (Bi-lingual edition)
[iv] Early morning prayer
at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks
These brothers are from America. The one on the right is a very nice young man who works as a comedian telling off-colored jokes. The younger one has made aliyah (became an Israeli citizen and moved to Israel), is serving in the army, and plans to live all of his life in Israel.
They come from the same place, have the same genes, were raised in the same house, but what fills one brother’s life doesn’t even enter his brother’s life… this one’s concerns do not concern that one, not at all… they do not share hopes, dreams, moments…what makes one brother happy is not what the other brother is looking for…what entirely different lives they are living.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A young man came up to me at the Kotel. It was late Shabbos afternoon. He said that he was not pleased with himself. He wanted to connect to G-d. I told him that he was wasting his time… that he did not have to connect to G-d. He said that he had heard that doing mitzvahs and self-improvement would connect him to G-d.
I tried to explain, but I do not think that he understood. It seems that this concept is very difficult for most people to understand, and it is even more difficult to take to heart and actually make it part of your life.
If you express your objective in the wrong terms you may very well waste years of your life. There never needs to be a “connection” to G-d because there never is disconnection from G-d. If you insist that you want to be connected to G-d you are also saying that you are presently disconnected from G-d. This is not true. It is very poor wording, at best.
G-d is Infinite (and beyond). The Infinite cannot be parted because there is no place to put anything that would separate it from the Infinite. You cannot move anything to a place where it would no longer be within the Infinite. Even though you can disconnect and connect limited objects that are within the Infinite from each other, you cannot disconnect them from the Infinite. The Infinite must always include all. Got it?
The problem, and its solution, is not “disconnection” and “connection.” When you use such terms to express your dilemma you will strain to plug into, touch, or reach out for something that you are already One with. The One is All. It is everywhere. It is the actual Being of all creation. When you try to reach It you are trying to do something that need not be done because it is already the nature of reality. The One is not made of the parts. The parts are made of, and formed of the One. They are still within the One.
Instead of saying that a mitzvah connects you to G-d, you are more likely to find the solution to your problem by saying that a mitzvah fulfills G-d’s will for you. A mitzvah makes you holy so you can begin to reveal G-d’s holiness in your life. A mitzvah expresses your service to, and love of G-d. Expressing the objective of your search this way will soon bring you to the goal that you are really seeking; love of, and recognition of G-d in your life.
Nefesh Ha-Chayim is a philosphical, mystical and kabbalistic work by Rav Chaim of Volozhin -- foremost disciple of the Vilna Gaon.
There’s a number of stories regarding the reason for creating the work. One of which I’ve heard is that the Gaon requested a non-chassidic response be created to Tanya by the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, and that’s Nefesh Ha-Chayim.
I once walked into a shiur (a Torah lesson) on Nefesh Ha-Chayim, and I didn’t realize for 20 minutes that it wasn’t Tanya being taught (meaning they cover many of the same topics and differ in very deep esoteric points only).
This new edition translates, for the first time, the kabbalistic sections of the sefer (previous English editions did not). The translator tells me his translation, “includes haskamote/divrei chizuk from two roshei yeshivot at Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzkhak Elchanan (YU-RIETS) and two local rabbanim in the NY/NJ area.”
This work, as well as Tanya, form the theological foundation of Judaism.
I have NOT reviewed this translation, but recommend everyone learn Tanya or Nefesh Ha-Chayim or such other foundational theological Jewish works. The further availability of such works in English is a blessing.
Israel has a wide range of architecture styles. Jerusalem style is covered with “Jerusalem stone” and often has echo’s of generations past.
A local yeshiva built a building on a hillside in Jerusalem style. As a money maker, they built a wedding hall on one of their levels (a very smart idea for ongoing support of the yeshiva). The view and lighting as we attended a wedding there (before the holidays) was very nice, and included a moon overhead…
and yet, sometimes there are attempts to merge the traditional with the modern. Here is the new Jerusalem Technology Park’s tower complex (a Jerusalem stone modern office tower)…
A mix of the new and old.
Hey, our own Reb Gutman Locks is mentioned and pictured in this weeks Mishpacha Magazine. (Mishpacha, “Family” in Hebrew, is an orthodox Jewish weekly family magazine.)
Way to go Gutman!
by Reb Akiva and Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
All of our regular readers know our position on yoga, that being it’s inappropriate, for religious reasons, for Jews. (We’ve got about 50 articles, research and, in Reb Gutman’s case, extensive Eastern experience to back up that position. You can see them here.)
Within the Orthodox Jewish community, we encounter two social and cultural positions that conflict with our position.
1. We are maaminim bnei maaminim, believers the sons of believers. While Judaism is a religion of doing, performing the religious practices of the mitzvot, belief is part of the picture. Many Jewish practices are spiritually based or oriented. And many of our religious works, and having thousands of them going back over 2,000 years, discuss healing and health practices – and being from ancient times there are many practices that today we’d called belief based yet having no real validity. However, because they’re part and parcel of religious works, they continue to get studied and discussed and affect communal thinking.
So we are bit open to healing and health practices that may be described as spiritual, natural, or energy based. Members of the religious Jewish community do not avoid regular doctors or normal health care treatments, but they’re open to alternatives – in some ways too open.
2. There have been some Jewish religious authorities that have stated opinions on some spiritual or natural practices, usually discussing one and having their opinion extended to others. One of the most well known is the Rebbe (of Chabad Lubavitch), who was looking for an alternative to Transcendental Meditation in the 60’s and 70’s, a “neutral meditation”, as a way for those heavily involved in such practices to ease their way out. (Heavy meditators can’t just go cold turkey.)
A number of people wrote the Rebbe about wanting to create health programs based on meditative practices. Example, (Rebbe responding) “Thank you for your letter of 13 Adar II. I appreciate your comprehensive response to my letter and memorandum on the need to organize widespread use of Transcendental Meditation and similar techniques in psychotherapy compatible with the Torah with the double objective of making such therapy available to Jewish patients in a kosher way and at the same time saving numerous Jews from getting involved with avoda zora [idolatry] as now commonly practiced in the USA.”
The problem was: no such “kosher way and non-idolatry way” was found (this has been certified by certain shluchim of the Rebbe who were sent to find the neutral meditation), and the Rebbe’s discussions were EXCLUSIVELY about Transcendental Meditation – a particular problem in the United States in the 60’s and early 70’s.
It NEVER included Yoga, chakra practices or any other new agey or energy practices invading the Jewish community.
It’s become unfortunately common to take such statements by the Rebbe or other rabbis and “extend” them to new foreign practices which we’ve never known.
We want to believe in spiritual practices. But when it comes to foreign ones which we’ve never known… the Torah warns us against such.
by Reb Aharon Rubin on Mystical Paths
The purpose of creation was so that G-d could give of Himself.
G-d, the Ultimate Source of all Goodness, wishes to do the Ultimate Good. Since He is the Ultimate Good, that act of Ultimate Goodness is to share Himself, thus bestowing His Prime Goodness; to do that, He withdrew, as it were, or hid His Presence and created man with free-will and the intelligence and wherewithal to find Him.
After humanity and the world had fallen with the sin of Odom, Avrohom, Yitschok and Yaakov were the first to truly seek, find and attach themselves to G-d, to become the ‘man’ that G-d could delight in and bestow His Presence on them. Because of them, G-d chose in their descendants to be the nation within the sea of humanity to bring His Presence into the world, to reveal It within the physical, to complete G-d’s purpose and Will and enable Him to Grant His Unity to His Children. With the acceptance of the Torah, they proved themselves to be the true descendants of Avrohom, Yitschok and Yaakov.
On Rosh HaShonnoh we proclaimed the Creator, our King. We brought His presence closer. We blew the sound of redemption. We brought closer the correction of the world and the ushering in of His Revelation to all humanity.
On Yom Kippur each of us personally became cleansed; we entered a spiritual washing machine, we clove to G-d like a child running back to a mother’s open embrace, hugging, crying, pleading, while the mother presses the child close to her bosom. And as we pressed ourselves close to G-d, G-d wrote our names on His Heart, as it were, sealing us to Himself, everlasting life.
On Succot G-d says, you have come so close to Me, stay with Me, sit with Me, bask in My Presence, become One with Me; here is a Mitsvoh [Sukkoh] that gives you a taste of Olom Haboh, the world hereafter. And here is a Mitsvoh [the four species] that represents Myself in this world.
You know that My goal is the complete revelation of My Presence to the entire world, למען דעת כל עמי הארץ כי ד' הוא האלקים אין עוד – that all nations will recognise and know that G-d is the Prime Force, there is nothing else. You, My children, are always My Prime Thought. Everything I do in the world is because of you and I guide everything towards the time when all nations will declare the G-d of Israel is King and rules over all and there is none like His people Israel. The revelation of My Glory will come about through you, My beloved Children.
During the holiday of Succot G-d says to take the four species in our hands. The four made up of seven represent My seven lights that are hidden within My Four-lettered Name through which I continually renew and guide the world. Take these lights and become one with Me. The six directions around you are the six main ways that I connect with the world and draw it closer to that Revelation of My Everlasting Kindness and Glory. The seventh point is you, my children, whom I have chosen to be the catalyst for that revelation. You are thus always on My Heart.
So as you are one with Me, and guide these seven lights from the six directions, all towards the seventh [the heart], so I am doing: drawing down Supernal Lights of Everlasting Love from the point that transcends creation from which I renew creation, drawing those lights down arousing My Love to connect with the world through each of My six attributes, and building the structure that will be speedily revealed, the revelation of My Kingdom on earth.
כן יהי רצון
 Three haddassim [myrtle branches], two arovos [willow branches], one lulov [palm branch] and one esrog [citron].
 These are essentially the five words אור [light] mentioned in Bereishis. Thus לולב אתרוג הדס ערבה עהאוה"כ גימ' ה' פעמים אור and ד' הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד עה"א גימ' שמע ישראל ד' א' ד' אחד וה' פעמים אור
 לולב אתרוג הדס ערבה בסוכה עה"כ גימ' שמע ישראל ד' א' ד' אחד
 Love, Constraint, Harmony, Victory, Glory, Balance and Connection.
Reb Gutman shared this article going around various Jewish sphere blogs. It’s an original article written in the Arab News. Source link here.
The 1967 War lasted only six days. But, these three wars were not the only Arab-Israel confrontations. From the period of 1948 and to this day many confrontations have taken place. Some of them were small clashes and many of them were full-scale battles, but there were no major wars apart from the ones mentioned above. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complicated conflict the world ever experienced. On the anniversary of the 1973 War between the Arab and the Israelis, many people in the Arab world are beginning to ask many questions about the past, present and the future with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The questions now are: What was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people. And the harder question that no Arab national wants to ask is: What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, health care and the infrastructures instead of wars? But, the hardest question that no Arab national wants to hear is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people.
I decided to write this article after I saw photos and reports about a starving child in Yemen, a burned ancient Aleppo souk in Syria, the under developed Sinai in Egypt, car bombs in Iraq and the destroyed buildings in Libya. The photos and the reports were shown on the Al-Arabiya network, which is the most watched and respected news outlet in the Middle East.
The common thing among all what I saw is that the destruction and the atrocities are not done by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings and the destruction in these Arab countries are done by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard the people of these countries. So, the question now is that who is the real enemy of the Arab world?
The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.
These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.
In the past, we have talked about why some Israeli soldiers attack and mistreat Palestinians. Also, we saw Israeli planes and tanks attack various Arab countries. But, do these attacks match the current atrocities being committed by some Arab states against their own people?
In Syria, the atrocities are beyond anybody’s imaginations. And, isn’t the Iraqis are the ones who are destroying their own country? Wasn’t it Tunisia’s dictator who was able to steal 13 billion dollars from the poor Tunisians? And how can a child starve in Yemen if their land is the most fertile land in the world? Why would Iraqi brains leave Iraq in a country that makes 110 billion dollars from oil export? Why do the Lebanese fail to govern one of the tiniest countries in the world? And what made the Arab states start sinking into chaos?
On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel was declared. And just one day after that, on May 15, 1948 the Arabs declared war on Israel to get back Palestine. The war ended on March 10, 1949. It lasted for nine months, three weeks and two days. The Arabs lost the war and called this war Nakbah (catastrophic war). The Arabs gained nothing and thousands of Palestinians became refugees.
And on 1967, the Arabs led by Egypt under the rule of Gamal Abdul Nasser, went in war with Israel and lost more Palestinian land and made more Palestinian refugees who are now on the mercy of the countries that host them. The Arabs called this war Naksah (upset). The Arabs never admitted defeat in both wars and the Palestinian cause got more complicated. And now, with the never ending Arab Spring, the Arab world has no time for the Palestinians refugees or Palestinian cause, because many Arabs are refugees themselves and under constant attacks from their own forces. Syrians are leaving their own country, not because of the Israeli planes dropping bombs on them. It is the Syrian Air Force which is dropping the bombs. And now, Iraqi Arab Muslims, most intelligent brains, are leaving Iraq for the est. In Yemen, the world’s saddest human tragedy play is being written by the Yemenis. In Egypt, the people in Sinai are forgotten.
Finally, if many of the Arab states are in such disarray, then what happened to the Arabs’ sworn enemy (Israel)? Israel now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and advanced infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian?
The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and in better situation than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. Now, it is time to stop the hatred and wars and start to create better living conditions for the future Arab generations.
by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Hundreds of Yeshiva students were dancing at the Kotel late Monday afternoon. Simcha Torah was ending and they were honoring the holiday by dancing in large circles, singing, and carrying Torah scrolls. There were many small children running between them. It was very joyful. Everyone was in a happy mood.
I sat there watching them, and although I was happy for them, I thought, “That’s not fun for me.” Maybe it has to do with age, or maybe I was raised in a different mood, but jumping up and down, and running around in circles just doesn’t do it for me. “It seems like hard work!”
So, I asked myself, “Well then, what does make you happy?”
I looked back over the holiday and tried to find the things that I really enjoyed. Well, I liked having guests over, but I do that every week.
I really enjoyed giving a class to 15 teens in my sukkah. They were moved in a direction they had never thought of before, and to change Jewish lives really makes me happy.
But neither of these were the one thing that I could say about the holiday that really made me happy. I looked back over each day and there were many joyful things. For instance, I was very pleased with my etrog this year (one of the four species taken for the holiday).
I was really happy when a very young boy led the singing for a while on Simcha Torah. He was only 8 or 9 years old, but he had a great way of intoning the songs.
Another thing that made me happy was listening to two very young Temeni (Yemeni) boys reading from the Torah scroll. Although all year long only bar mitzvah boys and older may be called to the Torah, on Simcha Torah even small boys put on their father’s tallis (prayer shawl) and say the blessings. Some were so small that their fathers had to pick them up so they could see the writing in the scroll. But when the two small Temeni boys came up, their father asked the Reader if the boys could read their portions instead of the Reader.
The Reader asked with wonder, “Can they read from the Torah scroll?”
The father quickly answered, “Of course!”
We were all so impressed with the little boys as each in his turn sang the portion, sounding just like their Temeni teachers must sound as they chant the Torah to them over and over again until the boys know it by heart. That really made me smile.
But as I looked back over the entire holiday there was one thing that really stood out. It not only made me very happy every minute I was doing it, but it makes me smile to think about it now.
There is an interesting law regarding shaking the luluv. It used to be a Torah law to shake it every day of the holiday in the Temple but not in the other areas where Jews lived. Actually, today it is a Torah law to take the luluv only on the first day of the holiday. The rest of the days of the holiday it is a rabbinical law to shake the luluv. However, according to the Rambam, even today, in the Old City of Jerusalem, it is still a Torah mitzvah to shake it all seven days.
This means that when religious Jews, who certainly are careful to shake their luluv every morning in their home areas, come to the Kotel on the holiday, they like to shake the lulav again to fulfill the mitzvah of shaking it, not only as a rabbinical law, but according to the Rambam, as a Torah law.
So every afternoon I would join the handful of men who stood at the Kotel holding a luluv, making the Torah based mitzvah available to anyone who wanted.
Hundreds of religious Jews came up to me and motioned, “Can I borrow your luluv?” And I handed the luluv to them. They get such a good feeling doing this. They were all so thankful for the opportunity. I saw their happy faces and I got such a good feeling, too. Each and every one of them made me feel good.
Surely, when I would bring in someone who had not taken it at all that day (or year) and I would help him make the blessings it was an even greater joy, but each and every one who borrowed my luluv made me happy.
And as you might suspect, when really serious Jews would shake it and not seem happy, I was quick to remind them that the Torah clearly says, “You have to do it with joy!” They always smile and do it again.
It was really a great holiday.
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I was recently sent a video called “Hyper Revolution” (intentionally not linked), showing the power and impact of the Internet on society by focusing on the role of the Internet in the Arab Spring. I was asked what I thought and to share it. Here was my reply…
Given your focus on the Arab Spring events, which have subsequently ended with mass bloodshed (Syria), replacement of dictators by Islamofacist dictators (Egypt) or chaos (Yemen, Libya), and that your presentation naturally avoids those countries where the Internet Uprisings resulted in the resisting populace being either imprisoned or killed (Iran, Bahrain), I think it's a bit off target to focus solely on those events as primary examples of the societal benefits of the Internet.
Your examples may actually demonstrate the opposite... the Internet acting as a mass instant communication facility driving emotional coordination without organization or planning. Great for a flash mob or driving the masses to overthrow a government, but not so good (understatement) for creating, building a foundation, laying out operating principles or a thought out or planned approach.
The Arab Spring Insta-Revolutions primary failing may turn out to be the Internet, as it allowed implementation without planning, response without preparation, and instigation by reactionaries instead of planners. The result has been either chaos or power grabs by niche power brokers…which bodes very poorly for the general populace of those countries…and the world.
at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths
This very nice young man was born and raised in Germany. A couple of years ago he moved to Hong Kong. He has been in Israel for the past month hoping to find a wife. I told him, “Don’t look for her in a bar.”
He answered, “Why not? I am very liberal about these things.”
I tried to explain that the girl he chooses to marry has to be more than a great girlfriend; she also has to be a good mother to his children. “Your kids are not only going to look a lot like her, but they are also going to act a lot like her.”
He could not see that far. He couldn’t get past her body and her smile.
I tried again, “There are plenty of things that we love for a while, but then a few weeks later we do not want to even be by them. You have to have your intellect decide who to love.”
He walked away thinking that I was really an old-fashioned, old man, who had no clue as to what real life was all about.
“…and you will not follow after you heart and after you eyes by which you go astray…”[i]
by Reb Akiva with input from Dov bar Leib at Mystical Paths
1. On Yom Kippur, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave a speech at the United Nations consisting of a semi-coherent religious-mystical rant declaring the Zionist Regime, the Western Democracies and the Capitalists as the source of all evil in the world. But not to worry, his god and his messiah is coming to clean it all up. (Full text link.) Not to worry his messiah will bring the xian messiah along as a bowling buddy (he says so!).
2. The Syrian Civil War was resulting in 1000 dead per month until Tisha B'Av. After Tisha B'Av 5000 people have been killed per month. Note any discussions of Western action have fallen away (the U.S. election is the focus) even while reports of chemical weapons on the move and increasing Iranian presence. Even the Russians have begun to evacuate their people and bases (source link).
3. In the biggest ignored related news item, a Syrian attack crossed the Turkish border and killed (at least 5) civilians in Turkey. The Turkish response has been massive and swift… returning fire directly at Syrian military bases near the border as well as running a sweeping artillary bombardment to create a 10 mile buffer zone (news link). (Note when Israel did something like this in Lebanon and Gaza, immediate massive world condemnation… here, crickets.) The Turks also got a NATO backing statement (the incident qualifies as a foreign attack on a NATO member).
Here’s the point. Several trigger incidents are in place, each of which by itself could precipitate a regional or world war and further align nicely with various prophecies (Zohar VaYeira 119. "There will be a major war in the North in which two kings will perish.")
a. Turkey – Syria. Turkey is primed to react, Syria continues in it’s civil war with increasing Iranian presence (and the Iranians have their own goals).
b. Iran/Hizbollah/Hamas – Israel. The proxy war scenario is not new but remains primed and could provide a good distraction from Iran’s perspective.
c. U.S. – Iran. The U.S. now has 3 battlegroups in place to protect Arab oil suppliers to the West. This is a hair trigger situation with Iran threatening almost every day.
d. Israel – Iran and nukes. How and when will Israel react to Iranian nuclear progress, as well as Western sanctions now causing hyper-inflation in Iran [news link], which may cause Iran to react sooner and/or target it’s actions against the U.S. or the E.U.
Ignore the politicians, note the events.