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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.

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