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Mystical Steganography

Friday, 2 July, 2010 - 6:00 am

The headlines this week brought us back some forty-plus years to the Cold War era. The federal government arrested an alleged ring of Russian spies acting on U.S. soil for years.

One amazing revelation about modern-day espionage is the hi-tech methodology employed. As it becomes more and more difficult to snoop, many countries are reportedly resorting to satellite imagery, audio intercepts and unmanned aircraft.

One method of sharing information with fellow moles and handlers is steganography, the art of sending hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message. Gone are the days when slaves’ heads were shaved, tattooed and then the hair re-grown to send secret messages (well, maybe in Waziristan some still resort to those methods).

Modern steganography has progressed significantly. In this case, it appears, the Russian agents were able to operate for some time – unnoticed and in places like Manhattan – by using digital steganography. Texting messages and emails are dangerous ways for spies to communicate in our digital age. But with fairly simple software, sending a digital photograph via mobile phone can contain an encrypted message that no one else can decode or even suspect. The images appear benign – my family, cat or dog, or vacation photos – but carry vital, and sometimes treasonous, information.

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Animal sacrifices are somewhat of a taboo in modern society. But if we look at the Torah portion of Pinchas, we see that holidays were all marked in the Temple by specific offerings of vegetables, herbs, oils, wine and animals. In fact our daily prayers correspond to daily offerings brought in the Temple.

The Torah states that the sacrifices served as a “pleasant fragrance for G-d.”

What is the pleasant fragrance G-d ‘smells’? 

Much has been written on the meaning and relevance of sacrifices from a philosophical and spiritual standpoint. The Mystics, however, put it very simply. Deep within the sacrifice exists a spiritual energy that, unbeknownst to the average person, gives G-d tremendous satisfaction.

In other words, encoded within the mitzvah is an energy that only those with the proper software can decode and appreciate.

Truth be told, every mitzvah contains this energy. Lighting Shabbat candles is not beautiful only because it brings satisfaction to the woman kindling the flame, or the family enjoying its radiance. The mitzvah of Friday night lights is a mystical energy that sends a crucial and vibrant message to the Decoder.

Next time you feel lacking in inspiration when performing a mitzvah, remember that you are pressing the send button with a secret, critical message to the source and origin of life.

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