Segulot and Yeshuot

by Dovid Landesman

Many of us, based on personal conversations as well as perusal of various blogs, seem to share discomfort when confronted with yet another advertising campaign by Kuppat ha-Ir and its fellow travelers. It has become a rarity to see pictures of R. Aron Leib, R Elyashiv or R. Chaim Kanievsky unattached to promises of health, wealth, zivugim and/or children et. al Various deals are offered for prayers at a potpourri of holy sites in Israel and abroad, all suggesting that yeshuah is but a phone call and credit card payment away.

At the beginning of last week a flyer appeared in my mailbox soliciting funds for the provision of supplies to those who were travelling to Miron for Lag ba-Omer. In a departure from the practice of similar solicitations offering bounty for those providing chai rotel of inebriating liquids, this request was for money to purchase shoko and a lachmaniah [a bag of chocolate milk and a roll] – I assume for the children who would be attending the hilula. Incidentally, but this would be grounds for a separate posting, many people claim that Rebbi Shimnon bar Yochai leaves Miron on Lag ba-Omer because he cannot stand the scene.

However, an e-mail that I received yesterday leads me to believe that not all is lost and there still are a number of sane individuals in the asylum. The e-mail quotes a rav [identity unknown to me] who offers a list of time tested segulot straight from the pages of the Torah, Talmud and rishonim. As a public service, I have translated them and cited the sources. I would be grateful to readers who would add their own submissions in the comments section.

1. Segulah for recovery from illness – go to a doctor [Berachot 60a, Bava Kamma 46b)
2. Segulah for longevity – lead a healthy lifestyle (Rambam, De’ot 4:20)
3. Segulah for marriage – look for a suitable wife (Kiddushin 2b)
4. Segulah for shalom bayit – love and forebearance (Sanhedrin 7a, Bava Metzia 59a)
5. Segulah for children – prayer to Hashem (Shmuel I 1)
6. Segulah for yir’at Shamayim – learning (Avot 2:5)
7. Segulah for spirituality – learning and mitzvah observance (Megillah 6b)
8. Segulah for kavanna in prayer – take it seriously (Berachot 5:1)
9. Segulah for pure faith – don’t believe in segulot (Devarim 18:13)
I would add the following two:
10. Segulah for honest paranasa – learn a profession (Kiddushin 30a)
11. Segulah to prevent drowning – learn how to swim (ibid.)

[Editor's note: I would add one more.
12. Segulah for absolutely anything at all - Daven! (Source: G-d. See Yeshaya 65:24, and Nefesh HaChaim on it, if you don't get the message from the pasuk)

Maybe we should open this up to readers.]

Rabbi Dovid Landesman resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he comments on the foibles of living in Israel. His latest book – FOOD FOR THOUGHT – NO HECHSHER REQUIRED – is available at Jewish bookstores or on Amazon.com

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17 comments to Segulot and Yeshuot

  • E. Fink

    It’s a parody. There is no Rabbi Navon. As you know, navon means wise…

  • Tal Benschar

    Yes, but these “Segulot” take hard work and working on oneself, which misses the whole point of segulot.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    Segula for the yiras shamaim of one’s children – keeping them far away from segulot.

  • joel rich

    rav asher weiss suggests sticking to segulot mentioned in the gemara -perhaps these are what he has in mind.
    KT

  • YM

    I find this entire posting by Rav Landesman to be offensive. And I count myself as someone who doesn’t like fundraising approach used by Kupat Hair.

  • LI Reader

    Remember the story about the minister who told his congregation that he would speak the following week about lying, and asked them to prepare by reading Isaiah 85? The next week he began by asking all who had read the chapter to raise their hands. Several parishioners did. “You’re just the people I want to speak to today”, he said. “There is no Isaiah 85″.

    “Editor’s note: … See Yeshaya 85:24″. There is no Yeshaya 85. You mean 65. :-)

    [YA - Two possibilities: 1) I meant that Yeshaya would have made my point, had he gotten around to writing perek 85. 2) It was a typo and has been corrected :-) ]

  • Big Maybe

    Non-parody seguloth from the Torah:

    – Segulah for getting rich: give maaser (Devarim 14, Shabbos 119a)
    – Segulah for bumper crops: observe shmita (Vayikra 25)
    – Segulah for old age: honor your parents (Shmos 20); fulfill Shiluach haKan (Devarim 22)

  • Doron Beckerman

    As one who is far from a supporter of Kupat Hair campaigns, allow me to quote the following:

    Segulah for Yiras Shamayim – wear a kippah (Shabbos 156b)
    Segulah for children who are Talmidei Chachamim – light Shabbos candles (Shabbos 23b)
    Segulah for a nice home – be meticulous with Mezuzah (ibid.)
    Segulah for growth in Torah learning – fear of Rabbinic leaders (ibid.)
    Segulah for same – gladden Chasan and Kallah (Berachos 6b)
    Segulah for unlimited Nachalah – Berachah on a full cup of wine (Berachos 51a)
    Segulah for sitting in the Yeshiva Shel Maalah – help a Torah scholar with his business affairs (Pesachim 53b)or teach Torah to your friend’s son (Bava Metzia 85a)
    Segulah for wise and wealthy children – give Tzedakah (Bava Basra 9b)
    Segulah for wealth – give Maaser (Taanis 9a).

    While one is silly if he avoids Hishtadlus for these things B’derech Hateva, ignoring Chazal’s advice is just as silly. It saddens me that the reaction to the excesses of Kupat Hair is a sense of coldness to things that, say, the Chafetz Chaim, unabashedly quotes in his Sefarim.

  • dovid landesman

    Reb Doron:
    I think that you would agree that there is a vast difference between what trhe Chafetz Chaim quotes and the offer made in this week’s HaModia for R. Chaim’s segulah wine [which features a picture of R. Cahim on the label and testimony from his wife regarding its effectiveness. I am saddened to face thus narishkeit every time I open my mailbox.
    YM
    I am sorry that you find my words offensive – I would appreciate knowing why.

  • Tal Benschar

    R. Beckerman — I could not help but notice that all but one of the items listed in your post involve a kiyum ha mitzvah.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    >Segulah for wealth – give Maaser

    Just to point out. This can only be done in Israel. It is not talking about maaser kesafim which is unfortunately the only kind of maaser most people in chu”l think about. Another disclaimer – in actual practice no correlation can be seen between giving maaser and wealth.

    I think segulahs, whether their source is in the gemara or later authorities can be divided into two types – one is magical, the other is educational/natural consequences. The educational ones are valid as long as the person who practices them see them as such. The magical ones are always theologically problematic – no matter how great the religious personality behind them. I think most people can appreciate the idea of a kipa leading to yiras shamaim or the idea of gladdening a bride and groom causing happiness to the one who is gladdening them. However, the idea of a nice etrog causing fertility or a trip to Amuka causing a shiduch or R’ Kanievsky’s magical wine are all magical segulas which are highly problematic.

    [YA - 1) Not so fast. The Ramo (Yoreh Deah 247:4) does apply the wealth segulah to maaser kesafim. While others like R Yaakov Emden disagree, it remains the Ramo's position. 2) I personally know people who will swear up and down that they have seen consistent correlation between their charitable giving and unexpected windfall profit 3) "Problematic" is often a weasel word. Not understanding cause and effect does not mean that a segulah is not effective. I'm no greater fan than you are about some of the newfangled segulos, but I find your position too constricting. I'm not going to reject statements in the gemara that don't fit your definition. How will you deal with, say, the gemara in Shabbos that offers three reasons why women die in childbirth? And before you answer, take a look at the Maharal who certainly does see the gemara in segula-like terms: Mitzvos that are specific to women afford zechus and protection for hazards (like childbirth) that are specific to women.]

  • Danny Rubin

    Segulah for Parnassa, Shalom Bayis, mental and physical health- Live within your means. (Common sense)

  • Dr. E

    No one mentioned the Segula for Kupat Hair its off-shoots to go out of business. )Then again the printer of those glossy brochures works very hard, employs many fellow Jews in the print shop and distribution, and is likely making a fine parnassa from this, so we must not wish him ill.)

    Also no one mentioned the Segula to make the ubiquitous Pidyon Shevuyim appeals for law breakers go away. I’d be interested in what to do for that as well. I just saw another one is back on our radar screens (although it is not clear as to what that money will exactly be going towards at this stage of the game).

    I would say that the contrary to common practice, the Segula for marriage is NOT for young women to recite Tehillim throughout the Chuppah, but for their teachers to advocate for the desegregation of genders (except for Devarim Shebikedusha) and allowing for Hashgacha Pratis to run its course–sort of like the way it has always been throughout Jewish History before the advent of the Seminary Industry 25 years ago.

  • Bob Miller

    If a segulah is a mitzvah, optional or mandatory, doing it should be OK, except if it’s done in a pagan kind of way (pushing a button to force a response).

    If it’s not a mitzvah, or, worse yet, if it’s something absorbed from paganism, it should have no place in our lives. For example, I’ve seen articles in Orthodox newspapers that actually tout a “Jewish” adaptation of the practice of Bleigiessen, [of dropping molten lead into water, and reading the future from the forms that the lead takes.]

  • Abie Zayit

    The author may not know Haim Navon, but it is no parody. Travel from Bet Shemesh to Gush Etzion and you can meet him personally – or, if you prefer to let your fingers do the walking, see Wikipedia

  • MP

    From Hirhurim:
    Kissing sefarim is cited as a segula for remembering one’s studies as well as a remedy for forbidden speech.[8]

    [8] Minhag Yisrael Torah 246:44

  • dovid2

    YM, in your May 23 comment, you wrote that you found “this entire posting by Rav Landesman to be offensive.” Rabbi Ladesnman wrote back to you the same day asking you courteously to explain what it is you found offensive in his post. We have been holding our breath for the past ten days. Can you expand on your statement?