Prof. Levine | 21 Aug 22:28 2012

Mezuza Not an Amulet

At 02:39 PM 8/21/2012, R. Joel Rich wrote:

A very rationalist approach (which suits me just fine) BUT (and perhaps very much to the point of the Aishdas society) there is obviously something rotten in Rationalistland if we have large groups of people who are seeking the eit ratzons of R' Nachman assumedly because they are not finding  fulfillment in tfila and doing mitzvot because we are so commanded and doing them is what pleases HKB"H.  Unfortunately I don't think there are quick fixes to this issue and I'm not sure we won't be yotzeh scharo bhefsedo if we try to discourage these practices without something more than just people should understand better what HKB"H wants of them.

There is a tendency in some circles to think of Judaism as some sort of "magical hocus pocus,"  which it most certainly is not.  I think to some extent this results from people thinking that Judaism is a religion like other religions, which again it is not.  RSRH points out that religion is man's thoughts about the Creator, whereas Judaism is the Creator's thoughts about man.  Thus to categorize Judaism as a religion is to do it an injustice.  See RSRH's essay Sivan I at http://www.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/sivan_1.pdf for more on this.

I agree that "there are no quick fixes to this issue."  More than this,  everyone of these "Segulas"  that are being presented with more and more frequency these days feeds this view of hocus pocus as being a part of Judaism. 

The 9 Sivan 5768 issue of Hamodia Magazine featured an article about segulos.  (The Hamodia kindly gave me permission to post the article on my web site, and it is at http://www.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/hamodia/segulos.pdf )  In part the article quotes  the Mezhbuzher Rav, Harav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel Bick. According to him

[Segulos ] are nothing more than bubbe maasos, eitzas yetzer hara that
give people a license to spend money way beyond their means and then ask
for a yeshuah. All these formulae ­ saying Shir Hashirim forty times, Tehillim
HaChida, etc. ­ are methods used by the yetzer hara to take from us the little
[spirituality] we have left.

Prayer, on the other hand, is not a segulah ; prayer is a way of communicating with the Ribbono
shel Olam. When we use segulos to get what we want, it’s as if we are stealing something from Him,
something that is not rightfully ours. It reminds me of today’s Chinese auctions at charitable events.
Whereas women used to give charity without ulterior motives, they have now replaced their mitzvos
with Chinese auctions.

Another contributing factor to the belief that Judaism is some sort of magical hocus pocus is, IMO,  the fact that children are often taught in yeshiva the most fantastic of midrashim and given the impression that they are to be taken literally.  Thus,  from a young age the idea of magical hocus pocus is implanted in people's minds.

R.  Avigdor Miller would "push away" all fantastic stories.  I once asked him why, and he replied,  "Our minds are strained enough by what we are required to believe,  to add to this is not wise."   I think that this is an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to one's approach to Yahadus.

YL
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