Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ten Commandments - Why All the Pomp?

Something about the "Ten Commandments" event needs explaining.

The spectacular, awesome pomp surrounding the giving of the Ten Commandments led to what appears as an anticlimax - such simple rules as "Don't steal" and "Don't kill". Without these basic rules a community could hardly function properly, let alone thrive. After all, wouldn't plain common sense require them?

So what necessitated this amazing show of divine power as a backdrop for receiving society's most rudimentary moral standards? What sense does it make to introduce trivial news with fireworks? What's so big a deal about telling folks to "Respect your parents", or not to kill?

Our sages tell us, G-d thereby indicated that morality cannot be upheld unless it's coupled with belief in The Creator. Without belief in divinity behind the commandments, the resulting morality will necessarily be unjust. Leave up to man alone to devise judicious rules of behavior, and they will fail.

Look at history, and look around you; Man cannot compile a decent set of moral values based on his own intellect. In Sparta they reasoned it wise to eliminate weak or handicapped children, to ensure a strong army and progressive society. The Eskimos reasoned it wise to eliminate the sick and the elderly so they not be a drag on the rest of society. The Japanese believed it best never to surrender. The Germans figured it's okay to annihilate "inferior" human species. The Muslims think it's okay to kill, mutilate or torture anybody for the slightest grievance, and trash women.

Right here in America, abortion became legal decades ago and ever since, hundreds of thousands of innocent little people are murdered - until today, all because some are convinced as long as the baby did not breathe air, he/she isn't yet considered human; Or, because the bother to the unwed mother justifies the death. This is another example how man's arbitrary godless rationale (usually fostered by the "liberal" mindset) can lead to no less than a holocaust.

Only when man submits to The Almighty's wisdom and has fear of The Eye Above, acknowledging the awe and trepidation associated with any of His Commandments, can a society function fairly and lawfully.
- - - - - - - - - - -
A story that happened:

Once an Israeli young man left to Thailand and became involved in their spirituality. He joined the Buddha priesthood to learn more. Over the years he advanced steadily.

His parents tried desperately to dissuade him, but to no avail. This young man dearly loved his aging grandmother. For her birthday, he succumbed to go back to Israel, but only for a week. During that week the parents invited rabbis to come and speak to him, to persuade him to stay home. But he remained adamant.

On Shabbos, he agreed to go to a Chabad shul with his father. They entered during a Talmud session where the subject was - can we rely on our minds to distinguish right from wrong. The rabbi taught, "No, we can't, because the love we have for ourselves blinds our reasoning." At the end of the lesson, the man and the rabbi got into an argument. He did not accept the rabbi's contention that man can easily pervert what's right to suit himself. The young man argued that the lofty ability of man's mind can determine right from wrong.

He returned to Thailand to pursue his career. He had one final exam upcoming in a few days to reach the highest rung in the Buddhist hierarchy. He and a few others were to take this exam on the peak of a high mountain they would climb.

During their climb up the mountain, the young man spotted a wallet up ahead. His instructor, walking before him, saw it too, picked it up, opened it and then pocketed it. Noticing the instructor's happy face, the man asked him when he expects to return it to its owner. The instructor said, "I won't. It was meant for me to have. Divine providence wanted to reward me and did so by giving me this opportunity to merit the lost wallet."

Suddenly the man remembered the argument he had with the rabbi of Chabad regarding reliance on one's own mind to determine right from wrong. He stayed at the peak only for a few moments then dashed down the hill and took the very first plane home to Israel.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We Have Liftoff - into Messianic Times
       A Prediction from the Zohar

The Kabbalistic book, the Zohar, written some 2,000 years ago, reveals for us many levels of depth underlying Torah text, divulging secrets embedded therein we'd not have the intelligence to determine for ourselves. (Why did they know, back then, what we know not today? Because prior generations had more intelligence and wisdom than pursuant generations [in contradistinction to the belief held by today's "evolutionary theorists"]. The closer a generation was to Moses' generation, the greater was their wisdom.)

This is, by the way, one good reason why a translation of Torah cannot possibly do justice to the script it translates, because the Torah's Hebrew language, unlike any other language, is G-d's language, with infinite layers of profundity beneath the surface text. In fact, a translation of scripture actually does a disservice - because it implies existence of only a surface layer.

One such revelation in this book predicts Moshiach's arrival and the Era of Final Redemption will happen during the 6th millennium. Some people err to think this will happen only in the next millennium, but this the Zohar clearly rejects, "In the 6th millennium and not at its very end" (New Zohar, Beraishis, 21, 1). In other words, although the 7th millennium will have its own ideal features, a preceding period is necessary in order to prepare the world for this Sabbatical millennium. And the first Messianic era will happen towards the "evening" of the 6th millennium. This parallels our requirement to taste on Friday from that which is cooked for the morrow, to get a foretaste of the day of Sabbath.

The verse from which the Zohar learns of the pre-Sabbatical, inaugural, preparatory phase is based on Genesis 7, 11 (where the Torah begins to narrate the onslaught of The Great Flood): "In the year of 600 years in the life of Noah … all the wells from deep down burst open and the floodgates from heaven opened." This verse alludes to comparable future phenomena. Explains the Zohar, "During the 6th millennium, the presence of G-d will begin to unveil itself, to shake off its dust [so to speak], and the unveiling will proceed gradually. But then a critical milestone will be reached [from when such events shall proceed rapidly], when in the 6th century of the 6th millennium the gates of wisdom will open from above and the wellsprings of wisdom from below, and the world thereby will be fixed to enter into the 7th millennium." (Zohar, Vayera part 1, 117, 1)

The Zohar speaks of two wisdoms whose advent will precipitate meteoric changes in the world starting in the year 1739 (or in the year 5500 from creation), one from "above", which refers to Chassidus breakthroughs (the innermost aspects of Torah), and one from "below", which refers to the secular technology breakthroughs, both happening simulataneously. In fact, the secular breakthroughs come as a direct result of the Chassidic breakthroughs.

It's quite understandable how Chassidus, lofty concepts that relate to G-d and Torah, can prepare the world for its ultimate elevation, but how, you might ask, does secular scholarship and technology provide such a boost? For one thing, Jews today can better disseminate the concepts of Chassidus using modern technology. The airwaves and other signals too carry this knowledge to all corners of the world. The big world is being networked together so the ultimate moment can easily be broadcast and appreciated far and wide. The unity sought for and to which physics is inching closer also renders the concept of G-d as One much more comprehendible. In this way, the world is being "fixed" from a secular perspective.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ezriel - Reaching Out to Other Jews

Another story by the chassid that "works" the Kotel's tefillin stand.
My Hero!
by Gutman Locks

Ezriel is here in Jerusalem learning for the year. He comes from a large family in New York. He is the youngest of 13 children. His father is a rabbi in a shul (synagogue) and learns all day. His mother, besides raising the family, supports the family by running a kindergarten that has 70 children.

When he first told me that he is the youngest of 13, I said, “You must be really spoiled, having 12 older brothers and sisters.” He answered, “I used to have 12 extra people telling me what to do. Now that they are all married, I have 24.”

He comes from a Chassidic tradition, but not one that teaches reaching out to bring Jews to Torah. For some reason, when he would come late afternoon to daven (pray), he would stand by the tefillin stand and watch me bring Jews over to put on tefillin. I would speak to him, trying to get him to become involved:

I said, “If you saw a Jew whose donkey fell down, surely you would help him to pick it up. If you would help him to pick up his physical donkey, how much more so should you help him to pick up his spiritual donkey?”

Slowly, he began to help. At first, he would only hand me the tefillin for me to put on the people I brought in. Little by little he did more and more, until he learned to go ask Jews if they had put on tefillin, and bring them over and put tefillin on them.

Right before the holiday he told me he was upset. His father had asked him to go home for the holidays, and Ezriel wanted to stay in Jerusalem. I told him G-d was sending him to New York to help a particular Jew, and he had to keep his eye out for that Jew so he would not miss him. I said that he was the only one who would help that Jew.

He emailed me a couple of times, telling me he had not been able to find the Jew he was supposed to help. I told him to go out onto the street with his luluv (the four species for Succos) and walk around looking for him. He couldn’t find him.

When he went to the airport to return, he looked around -- last chance -- but no luck. He got on the plane, happy to be returning to Jerusalem, but a little sad he did not find that Jew he was supposed to help. He did not look forward to telling me he failed.

The plane had a three-hour stopover in Germany (of all places). He was in the airport lounge and saw a couple of Chabad boys looking for people to help, but they couldn’t find anyone. Then a passenger told him his tefillin were with his baggage and he could not get to them. He asked Ezriel if he could borrow his tefillin. Obviously, he was glad to lend them to him, but he thought, “Could this be the guy I went all the way to America to help?” It didn’t seem to be enough.

The man finished with the tefillin and returned them. Before Ezriel put them away, he saw another Jew sitting there, and asked him if he wanted to put them on. He said no; he was not interested.

Ezriel said, “Look, you have 3 hours to wait here in the airport. What else do you have to do?” The guy agreed and Ezriel helped him to put them on. Boy, was he happy. Then, when this one was finished, he looked around and found 3 more Jews who agreed to put on tefillin. Now he was flying!

He came up to me at the tefillin stand knowing that the last I heard from him was he was going to the airport to return to Jerusalem, without having found the Jew he was sent to help. Then, he told me what happened. I burst into laughter. Boy, was I happy. He made my day, and a few more days, too.

There is no better way to help the world than to bring someone to the love of G-d through a mitzvah.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

65 Years After Hiroshima

America, 65 years ago, in August 1945, dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.




Today, Hiroshima looks like this:




Here's what Detroit looks like 65 years after Hiroshima was bombed:




So what caused greater damage in the long run, the Atom Bomb or stimulus packages by American governments to buy the votes of those who wanted something for nothing?

America - it's time for some soul-searching and account-taking.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Professional Baseball at its Best

If you enjoy baseball, when the microseconds make the difference, and unrehearsed broadcasting, watch the few minutes of this half inning - until its very end!

(By the way, Mel Gibson is an anti-semitic American actor.)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Power Behind Words

Gossiping to a 2nd person anything negative about a 3rd person, even in the latter's absence, transgresses the Jewish prohibition of "Lashon Hara" - or "bad mouthing" (even if truth is being told). One outcome of this transgression is it empowers the evil inclination of the 3rd person! In the battle between inclinations, the bad versus the good, the bad one thereby gains some advantage, whether or not that person even knows about it.

This demonstrates the enormous power inherent in speech. (Even thought has power to influence the environment, but that's another issue.)

If speaking negatively has this power of influence, then certainly this power holds true, that much more, when speaking about somebody's good features. It is for this reason our sages coined the axiom, "When mentioning a righteous individual, invoke his praise."

Last week's Torah portion, Noah, provides an example. The 1st verse reads, "These are Noah's descendants, Noah the righteous, the pure one in his generation, always walking the path sanctioned by G-d. Noah had 3 children ...." (Genesis 6, 9). See how Torah interjects praise of Noah, just after mention of his name, before his ancestry is again addressed.

But wait, you might ask, this isn't the first time Noah's name is mentioned in Torah; In fact, twice before his name is mentioned and neither time is any praise interjected thereafter?

The Rebbe explains - the context here is important. Noah was the sole individual in his generation who walked the righteous path. This was no easy accomplishment when everyone else trangressed the Noahide laws. He was the only one going against the grain. The Torah, by injecting praise here after the mention of his name, and not before, indicates that the power delivered from verbal invocation of his praise here, where he needed it most, had given Noah's good inclination the boost it needed to dominate over his evil inclination in his struggle to walk the straight path.

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Open Letter to the Continent of Europe
(Kissing Europe Goodbye)

Europe, Prepare for the Flood
Open letter to Europeans, who killed Jews and are now contending with radical Islam
by Avi Rath

Good evening Europe!

Hello to you, dear continent. For a while now I've been meaning to write you a few words, as a close neighbor here in the Middle East who loves traveling through your beautiful landscape, and whose roots lie deep within the continent.

You were our home for thousands of years, and especially for the past 1,000 years. We've known good times of neighborly relations as well as economic, cultural and spiritual prosperity. Yet we had also known difficult days of hatred, expulsions, humiliation, and blood libels. Oh, did we ever know such days.

Somehow, we survived; both you and us. To our regret, and shamefully for you, we were not the ones who chose to end our affair with you, dear continent. We could have maintained neighborly relations and cooperation for many more years, yet for reasons of your own you chose to put an end to this partnership, literally.

The plan was formulated on your soil, the camps were built there and the trains traveled there; the graves were dug on your soil, and the blood flowed to your rivers. Within a short period of time, you cut off a significant, 1,000-year Jewish presence. You murdered and expelled millions of loyal Jewish citizens. You eliminated not only them, but also all their contributions to the culture, economy, art, humanities, academics, literature, medicine, education, commerce, banking, and life in general.

I've been meaning to write you for a long time, yet it hasn't worked out. However, this week, after seeing two things, I decided that I must say a few words.

First, I saw reports drafted by all sorts of demography and sociology experts, who claim that within a few years, you, Europe, will be turning Muslim. In some European states, 50% of all births at this time already are Muslim. If we add this to the low birthrates of non-Muslim Europeans, white, Christian Europe shall soon enough turn into a Muslim continent.

You are indeed trying to engage in rearguard battles against this phenomenon – against mosques in Switzerland, against burqas in France, against immigration, and against all sorts of other things. Yet you too realize that this train cannot be stopped. Nobody will be able to forbid a Muslim woman from putting on a veil. Indeed, the liberal, enlightened, and scantily-clad European women realize that a day may come where radical Islam gains enough strength to end the party.

The second thing I saw was the travel advisories issued by many states to warn their citizens against heading to Europe for fear of terrorism. Someone already noted (and it wasn't necessarily a Jew) that while not all Muslims are terrorists, for some reason most terrorists are Muslim.

Slowly, our dear continent, you are starting to understand what you're dealing with here. You are starting to understand the kind of religion and culture brought along by radical Islam. Suddenly, you discover hatred and the culture of martyrs, as well as intolerance and isolation, alienation in the face of real democracy, and the shunning of human and women's rights.

Suddenly, radical Islam is stuck like a bone in Europe's throat. You cannot eject it – because that would immediately raise cries of racism, human rights, and the usual babble – but you cannot swallow it either, because the white, democratic, liberal and Christian European culture cannot contain such radical cultural and religious elements. It will end with a major explosion, in more than one way.

Dear continent, there is no vacuum in the world. You expelled and exterminated us, and got the Muslim world instead. At first it was nice, getting a little Mideastern atmosphere and breeze, yet with the passage of time the radical Islamic storm arrived and now threatens to sweep you away, our dear neighbor.

Now you are starting to sleep in the bed you made. Suddenly you are discovering women wearing veils, zealous eyes, and mosques at every corner. Suddenly you need to contend with high birthrates, a culture with radical characteristics which you cultivated, and terrorism and violence which you ignored. You cannot deny this for much longer. The confrontation is already here. Unfortunately we are already experts on the issue, even though here too there is no shortage of naïve, self-righteous individuals.

The first time the Creator decided to raze the world as result of our conduct, he agreed to grant humanity another chance. He asked Noah to go into the ark in order to create a new basis for the world and produce a more decent humanity. The ark was the world's chance; a momentary shelter.

So dear Europe, will you be wise enough to prepare ahead of time a physical and cultural Noah's Ark in order to survive and preserve yourself? Or will your aggressiveness, arrogance, and hypocrisy not allow you to admit to the disaster you brought upon yourself, turning into a continent living on borrowed time?

Regards,
Your Jewish neighbor from the Middle East
(original here)

Japanese Synchrony

It's worth the 8 minute watch, because you've probably never seen something like this, although I can think of much better ways to spend so much time as it would take to perform in this show. video

Floods in the Israeli Desert

This week we read about The Flood, in the year 2656 after creation (3,115 years ago), that wiped out Noah's generation.
Speaking of floods, they can happen - in a desert too! Here are two, in Israel. It looks harmless at first, but woe to he who underestimates its torrential power.
video
video

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Noah's Ark

Noah's ark was no small chore to accomplish, especially because he undertook to do it all himself ("Build for you an ark …."). It's dimensions, in yards, were circa:

In length - 150 yards
In width - 25 yards
In height - 15 yards

To give you an idea of the real size of this boat, here's a very close approximation of it: Take a football field, and attach to it half of another football field (halved at the 50-yard line). The length and width of this extended field defines the floor of the ark. Then imagine you build a box on top of this area, with a height that's about as high a 3 goal posts one on top of the other.

At least he had 120 years (+ 7 days) to build it. [Rashi; Genesis 6,14]

(Why did G-d ask Noah to build the ark 120 years earlier? To raise the curiosity of by-passers who would ask, "What are you building?". Noah was then to answer, "G-d has decreed to destroy mankind by bringing a flood, because the people have transgressed by resorting to lewdness and robbery." And if they would ask, what wood are you using, he would say, "From the Gofer tree," and explain its significance: Making use of "Gofer" (can be rendered to mean "sulphur" in Hebrew) is another indication of pending destruction, implying it will be from the heat below. Just as their excessive transgressions have taken them to a state of lowliness, their destruction, too, will include a hot source from deep down.

After 120 years of such rumors in circulation, we can be sure the whole wide world in those days would have known and been forewarned about it. Because they ignored the warning and refused to mend their ways, the rest is history.

The additional 7 days [Genesis 7, 4] was to spare those mourning Metushelach the righteous, in whose honor the flood was delayed.)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Caroline Glick - On the Stuxnet Malware

The lessons of Stuxnet

There's a new cyber-weapon on the block. And it's a doozy. Stuxnet, a malicious software, or malware, program was apparently first discovered in June.

Although it has appeared in India, Pakistan and Indonesia, Iran's industrial complexes - including its nuclear installations - are its main victims.

Stuxnet operates as a computer worm. It is inserted into a computer system through a USB port rather than over the Internet, and is therefore capable of infiltrating networks that are not connected to the Internet.

Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Company, told reporters Monday that the malware operated undetected in the country's computer systems for about a year.

After it enters a network, this super-intelligent program figures out what it has penetrated and then decides whether or not to attack. The sorts of computer systems it enters are those that control critical infrastructures like power plants, refineries and other industrial targets.

Ralph Langner, a German computer security researcher who was among the first people to study Stuxnet, told various media outlets that after Stuxnet recognizes its specific target, it does something no other malware program has ever done. It takes control of the facility's SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition system) and through it, is able to destroy the facility.
Read the rest here.

UPDATE: April 12, 2012

Stuxnet delivered to Iranian nuclear plant on thumb drive

An Iranian double agent working for Israel used a standard thumb drive carrying a deadly payload to infect Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility with the highly destructive Stuxnet computer worm.

That was the conclusion of a report issued today by ISSSource, which wrote that Stuxnet quickly propagated throughout Natanz–knocking that facility offline and at least temporarily crippling Iran’s nuclear program–once a user did nothing more than clicking on a Windows icon.

ISSSource’s report was based on sources inside the U.S. intelligence community.

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