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Wednesday, August 11, 2010


End the segulah madness

This has become a popular topic in recent weeks. DovBear writes about it today. Others have been writing about it for the last few years: The phenomenon of organizations promising salvation and healing through segulos.

It's Rosh Chodesh Elul today, and this is the day Kupat Ha'ir representatives start their 40-day unbroken minyan of Tehillim reciters. Other organizations--including one collecting money for Rubashkin--have promised 40 days of prayer at the kotel for contributors. Will it help? Maybe?

I had an argument with a prominent kiruv rabbi about this a few weeks ago, after he insinuated in a lecture that G0d helps those who daven in a particular way.

"Can you guarantee me that G0d will do X if I do Y?"
"Of course not."
"Then how can you tell people do daven in such-and-such a way and Hashem will help them in a specific way?"
"Well, it increases their chances."
"So it's like going to Las Vegas."

Then yesterday, I got a mailing from the Mikvah of Rockland County (MORC). The theme of the mailing is, "What can I do to make sure my child doesn't end up an 'at-risk' youth?"

Way to play on people's fears, huh?

The first answer, of course, is give as much money as you can to MORC. The second answer is, pray. To that end, the mailing included two cards with little aphorisms and prayers on them, attributed to the Chofetz Chaim and to the Steipler.

Here's the problem. According to the card, and I haven't confirmed this and don't particularly care to, the Steipler said the following things, among others:
There's more on the card, but this is enough to give anyone pause, isn't it? First of all, since when are women allowed to bentch audibly? Okay, that was just slightly facetious. But in all seriousness, did the Steipler actually say these things?? Did he make these determinations by studying children in yeshiva and then going to their houses and studying their mothers? Was he talking about his own mother, and generalizing?

And how can he, or any other human being on planet Earth, make such ridiculous statements and expect to be taken seriously? Does anyone remember Elisha Ben Avuyah?

This is the state to which we've sunk. Snake-oil and superstition are replacing direct communication with and faith in G0d.

And it's Rosh Chodesh Elul. Maybe I should pay a rabbi to pray for me for 40 days so my faith in rabbis can be restored.

*Here's the way it's presented in a discussion forum on the Imamother site.

1) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother davens each and every word (slowly and with kavana --ed. the Hebrew doesn't say this), understand Gemara and Mishna better than other children. 2) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother says each bracha out loud and in a pleasant voice, have better middos and less chutzpa. 3) A mother who davens every day and turns her eyes to heaven, has children who have more success than other children. 4) More effective than any educational method in the world, is the sound of a mother who says the bracha, shehakol nihiya bidvaro out loud in her home. 5) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother says Birkas Ha'Mazon out loud, have more protection from illnesses and traffic accidents and merit great heavenly protection. 6) A mother who mentions the name of Hashem and praises Him, will merit children whose faces reflect the chein of Yosef Ha'Tzadik.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Mazel Tov, Chelsea & Marc

Everybody's up in arms about how Chelsea Clinton married a Jewish man. Yated calls it a symptom of the "spiritual holocaust" in which we live. R' Asher Lopatin thinks there may be a kiddush Hashem hidden within the chilul Hashem, because now millions of Americans saw a proud Jew 'doing' Jewish, as Richard Joel used to put it.

I think there's an element of spiritual karma here, and you may disagree, but I think it's just as good a theory as any.

Ten years ago, Hillary campaigned in New Square and arranged for Skvere askonim to visit her husband. Miraculously, a few weeks after she was elected as senator, Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of four Skvere chasidim who were convicted of stealing $30 million from the government. Here's the relevant excerpt from Wikipedia:

Four Hasidic men from New Square, Benjamin Berger, Jacob Elbaum, David Goldstein, and Kalmen Stern, created a nonexistent Jewish school to receive $30 million United States dollars of education grants, subsidies, and loans from the U.S. Federal Government. The men were convicted in 1999. In October of that year all four men received prison sentences ranging from 30 months to 78 months. Two other suspects who were indicted left the United States. Hillary Clinton met with New Square-area Hasidic leaders as part of her senate campaign. Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty of TIME said that "as far as anyone knows, that was a campaign event only; no pardons were mentioned." Hillary Clinton attended another session with the men, who wanted to see the four Hasidic leaders released. After Hillary Clinton was voted in as a senator, during the morning of December 22 Twersky and an associate visited Bill Clinton in the White House Map Room in Washington, D.C. and asked him to pardon the four men. Hillary Clinton attended the meeting; she said that she did not participate in it and did not discuss the meeting with her husband. On January 20, 2001 President of the United States Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of the men; Berger's sentence became two years and the other men each had 30 months. Federal prosecutors investigated the pardons to see if they were made in exchange for political support.

Now, let's say that the purpose of the sitra achra (or satan or whatever name you give to the negative spiritual forces) is to get Jewish people to do bad things, and to create general chaos and problems in the world. These four guys served the SA's purpose admirably, and Hillary and Bill furthered the SA's agenda by helping these guys get lighter sentences. Now, chasidim know that they can defraud Uncle Sam and their rebbes will intercede and 'take care of business.' And sure enough, in the last decade, how many chasidim and even rebbes have been investigated, caught, and sent upstate to a nice 'bungalow colony' for a couple of years? Surf around and you'll see.

So doesn't it make sense that the SA would 'reward' Hillary and Bill by helping them be the vehicle of another aveira - namely - the intermarriage of Marc Mezvinsky? I think it's poetic and elegant, the way G0d works. And I think you can blame the chasidishe rebbes for this 'spiritual holocaust.'

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