Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pouring Lead and the Evil Eye

Much to my disappointment, the Five Towns Jewish Times this week features an article praising Rebbetzin Aidel Miller and her methods of removing the "evil eye." These include red threads, a vial of holy water from the Baal Shem Tov's well, and the Italian witchcraft charm of ruta sprigs. But the focus of the article, and the primary source of Rebbetzin Miller's fame, is her practice of bleigiessen, pouring lead. As the article describes:
To perform blei gissen, Rebbetzin Miller takes an ordinary looking pot, places a small bar of lead in it, and begins heating it on the kitchen stove. She gives out a laminated sheet with a tefilah on it to read while the lead melts. She does this in a typical kitchen with foods baking and children walking through. When the tefilah is finished and the lead has melted. Rebbetzin Miller casts a thick, off-white sheet of cloth like a tallis over the person. The molten lead is poured from the saucepan into a pot of cold water above the person’s head as the Rebbetzin speaks softly. The lead crackles and pops as it hits the cold water. The sheet is removed. The lead has fragmented into long pieces that look like silver twigs. If some of them have bulbous ends, the Rebbetzin explains, “Those are eyes. There is some ayin ha’ra. We have to do it over.”
Sometimes a curved piece can emerge that the Rebbetzin says is a “bird,” which signifies an imminent simcha. She repeats the process one more time to make sure all the ayin ha’ra is gone. Then, for good measure, she takes the names of a couple of the person’s family members and pours lead in their names. She concludes by pressing a few red strings from Kever Rachel on the subject along with a sprig of ruta in a tiny plastic bag.
At the end of the article, it does say that "it is ultimately tefilah that will make the difference in our lives," and that segulos are "a means of getting us to pray." But, frankly, that seems disingenuous. The point of visiting Rebbetzin Miller, in her tour across the US, is not to pray - it's to pour lead!
 
So where does this practice of divination via pouring lead come from? The article claims that bleigiessen "has its source in the Gemara." It does not provide the source, and I haven't been able to find any Gemara that speaks about it. Not that it would make it any the more rationalist if it was in the Gemara; after all, there are plenty of non-rationalist beliefs recorded in the Gemara, often relating to demons, none of which are really taken seriously today by anyone. Still, at least one could then legitimately claim it to be a classical Jewish practice. If there is no source in the Gemara, then the author of this article is guilty of misrepresentation.

What is the real source of bleigiessen? Known in English as molybdomancy, it appears to have originated in Ancient Greece, and later became a popular custom in Germany. It is still popular in Germany, where one can buy bleigiessen kits. However, authorities there have tried to discourage it, due to the dangers of lead poisoning, and bleigiessen kits that are sold in Germany today contain tin rather than lead.

In the past, I have written about how I am fairly tolerant of superstitions - one person's segulah is another person's fundamental religious belief. How much more inherently irrational are segulos than, say, tefillas haderech (which I am extremely makpid about)? Furthermore, they can be psychologically helpful.

However, I am gradually becoming less and less sympathetic to them. First of all, I have seen how some capitalize on segulos in order to take advantage of people. Second, the entire anti-scientific mindset is clearly very harmful - just look at the new measles outbreak, which seems to be caused by the anti-scientific anti-vaccination movement. Third of all, this specific segulah is particularly harmful, due to the risk of lead poisoning, which is extremely dangerous.

It's a pity that people can't make use of more traditional segulos. Here is Rabbi Dovid Landesman's list of segulos that are indeed rooted in classical Judaism:

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)
10. Segulah for parnasa – learn a profession (Kiddushin 30a)

Other posts on this topic:
The Ring of Power

58 comments:

  1. I actually did this many years ago in a different life time. (Even then it was somewhat under duress.) We waited an hour watching many people have a turn before us which gave me ample time to analyze what was going on. I estimated given that she worked about 3 hours a day that she was earning roughly $60,000 cash a year. (This was about 15 years ago.)

    Basically what happens (as described) is that you sit in a chair while molten lead is poured into a pot of cold water that's being held over your head. The lead immediately solidifies into a lattice. If the lattice has little nodules ("eyes") they represent your Ayin Horas. The process is repeated until there are no more nodules, indicating that you've been relieved of your Ayin Horas.

    I noticed that the first times it was being done, short bursts of lead were poured into the water multiple times. The "last" time it was done was almost always one quick shot poured all at once. My theory is that the short bursts caused the lattice to be more complex causing the "eyes". Whereas the full shot created a smoother lattice without "eyes".

    It's not for me to say if this was intentional or something that was merely "handed down" and the person may actually believe what he was doing. (In our case the grandson of the Ayin Hora lady was working that day.)

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    1. Menachem, there is a perfectly sound scientific account your observation of the lead-casting procedure. If you pour the melted lead slowly, the narrow liquid column will develop a spherical end due to surface tension forces. Such ends become frozen in shape upon hitting the cold water. The clever practitioner who has adjusted the flow to produce that effect will interpret the spheres as representing remaining 'evil eyes' that must still be eliminated. Such elimination is produced by a more rapid pour wherein the flow dominates over surface tension. Hence, no spheres and the alleged elimination of the 'evil eyes'. It's a trick to delude the simple and take their money.

      Y. Aharon

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    2. segula for rational thoughtJanuary 23, 2015 at 3:03 AM

      What you and they didn't realize was that it was a segulah for something else, and it worked. It turned you into a rationalist.

      Delete
    3. It could be that if the pourer wasnt spilling intentionally, if they were simply pouring with a pure heart messing up and eventually got it right (accidently), that it may actually be reflecting real things- their mess ups. Ein Mikre.

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    4. Anonymous,
      The practitioners are just as deluded as their clients. They actually believe in their powers of divination. Cut them a little slack.
      You see if you attack them in a personal way, they will get defensive and insist that they have been blessed by God with the ability to help many people. I don't know how to reach these people- but calling them phonies isn't going to help.
      That being the case, I'm sure at least some of them are indeed self-aware charlatans!

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    5. > Basically what happens (as described) is that you sit in a chair while molten lead is poured into a pot of cold water that's being held over your head.

      One hopes she has a steady hand!

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    6. What's the segula for a steady hand?

      Delete
  2. Thank you for this post. I actually think that lead-pouring is אסור מדאורייתא as a form of divination. And I would like to add to your list of Torah-true segulos. The Chazon Ish would say that a segula for memory is to do it right away!

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  3. This woman is the granddaughter of Yaakov Herman who once broke the nose off her mother's doll (she was little at the time and extremely upset). Such zealotry to remove any tint or hint of idolatry in his home (as if a doll could be considered an idol) is now followed by the daughter of that little girl practicing some occult arts. The fact that a modern Jewish newspaper would promote such nonsensical, heathenish, and harmful practices is very distressing. I assume that it's a case of showing favor to a friend or family connection. Segulot are nonsense, while lead-casting is an irrational heathen practice. It should be forbidden on the basis of the latter aspect (chukot hagoyim).
    P.S. I would hope that the blog owner doesn't say tefilat haderech as a segula rather than prayer for a safe journey.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. "Segulot are nonsense, while lead-casting is an irrational heathen practice. It should be forbidden on the basis of the latter aspect (chukot hagoyim)."

      Not quite. Segulot- i.e. non-scientific methods to achieve some positive effect, may fall under the category of דרכי האמורי. That's certainly the case if they are proven ineffective. Lead-pouring is divination. It doesn't involve a remedy per se, rather it's a non-scientific method of diagnosis. As such, it falls under the prohibition of קוסם. It makes no difference whether it's effective or not. Nor does it matter whether the origins are. It's prohibited to practice this craft, and it's prohibited to ask someone to do it. All forms of divination are forbidden with the exception of גורל הגר"א and פסוק לי פסוקך. But even in those exceptions, there are limitations (it may be permissible to do it for oneself, and not as a "diviner" for others) - and "your results may vary".

      I would also add, that it seems to me that some of these practices (as well as other superstitions) are well-entrenched among some people. You have to realize that these people really believe in this nonsense, and they are very afraid of עין הרע and שדים. Call them hypochondriacs of spiritualism. You're going to convince a phobic that he has nothing to be afraid of? Where's your psych. diploma? See Rav Yosef Engel in בן פורת, סימן יא where he discusses this problem.

      What can be done is to prevent people who are not yet familiar with these practices from getting sucked into the occult....

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    2. > You're going to convince a phobic that he has nothing to be afraid of?

      Extinguishing phobias is fairly straightforward. Especially since the phobic person knows that his fear is irrational, but is afraid anyway, and wants to stop being afraid.

      Believers in the occult don't know that they're being irrational, and will (understandably, given that you're challenging their whole worldview) be offended if you suggest it.

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  4. Lead interferes with neural development, and so is especially toxic to children. Solid chunks of lead are not as dangerous as soluble lead salts or as fumes and vapours, which may contain tiny airborne particles of lead oxides or carbonates. It would be very hard to argue that this is a harmless segula.

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    1. segula for rational thoughtJanuary 23, 2015 at 3:11 AM

      Especially while they are melting it down! Toxic (and carcinogenic) fumes.

      Delete
  5. It's not for me to say if this was intentional or something that was merely "handed down" and the person may actually believe what he was doing. (In our case the grandson of the Ayin Hora lady was working that day.)

    In "Pigeons as a remedy (segulah) for jaundice," I believe that Fred Rosner discusses this issue. In that case, the idea is to squeeze the pigeon hard enough so that it dies (they are very delicate), but of course you don't want to intentionally crush the pigeon. So they practice until they get the right feel for it. Nevertheless, if memory serves, he reported that the process was not a conscious one; they merely practice until they figure out how to hold the pigeon correctly to get the desired result which they believe is due to the absorption by the birds of disease.

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  6. Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer has a post on this as well.

    " If there is no source in the Gemara, then the author of this article is guilty of misrepresentation."

    I think supporters of the Segulah argue that there is a source in Kabbalah, or from a Chasidishe Rebbe.

    There are other cases where Kabbalah and Midrash have similarities to other cultures(eg, Metatron), and one approach is to argue that other cultures took it from the Jews. Alternatively, I wonder, if, and when, one can say that the Mekubalim/Chazal saw a certain phenomenon elsewhere, and provided a Jewish view on it. See here for sources in Chazal on Metatron. http://rchaimqoton.blogspot.com/2006/07/metatron.html

    To me, its ironic that the non-rational Haredi world accepts segulos of all types, but does not accept the rationalist Rishonim and bans them!

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    1. It is still a lie to say that there is a source in the Gemera!

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  7. My question is: Did Rav Scheinberg approve of this? What was Rav Schternbuch's reasoning for approval if this is ossur de'Oraisa?

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  8. One more for your list, though it doesn't fit the theme:

    11. Segula for a Talmid Chacham Son - Light Channukah candles well (Shabbos 23b).

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    1. Thought of another: 12. Wealth - Washing with lots of water (Shabbos 62b).

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  9. If there is no source in the Gemara, then the author of this article is guilty of misrepresentation.

    Obviously, if it works, then Chazal must known about it and how could they left something so important out of the Gemara? Rather, the censors removed it, lest we be suspected of witchcraft.

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  10. I found M Lipkin's hypothesis intriguing (in comment thread above). I'd like to test whether pour rate influences formation of "evil eyes" and "birds," or perhaps I can identify some reproducible factor which can produce or suppress their formation.

    Can people who have seen the procedure answer a few questions below? I don't need precision; I can probably cobble together an approach from some casual descriptions.

    I'd like to know first how the lead was handled, ie within one "session" with multiple "pourings" was the same lead retrieved from the water and remelted? Was there a potful of lead simmering throughout and some was drawn off for each pour? Was the burner lit throughout?

    Was the water replaced? Refreshed? Is the solid lead removed before the next pour?

    Was the quantity in each total "pour" roughly the same?

    The pot of cold water - is it much larger than the quantity of molten metal?

    It would be especially helpful if someone could identify whether the metal was genuinely lead; besides toxicity, there's also the problem that its melting point is very near the maximum output of a stove burner. If it's described as a "pour" then that implies completely liquid, so it's likely an alloy or different metal outright. I'm hoping for tin personally since I'd rather not deal with lead fumes.

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    1. This is a good point. It may well be a lead-tin alloy (like many solders). I still wouldn't want to have someone melt it in a pot in my kitchen.

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    2. Just to answer your questions to which I know the answers:
      I've witnessed the lead pouring a number of times. I can second what Menachem Lipkin said--usually the first two spills of lead were slow, yielding "eyes", whereas the third was a rapid spill, where there "suddenly" were no eyes. (That made me suspicious as well.) The alloy is discarded after each spill, but the water used is always the same. I'm not aware of the proportions of alloy and water, nor do I know if it's lead or tin.
      The particular practitioner of this segulah (or whatever you want to call it) had a photocopy of a Teshuva from the Tzemach Tzedek ( the third Rebbe of Chabad) regarding doing it on Shabbos for a deathly ill person--חולה שיש בו סכנה. (I don't want to rely on my memory and cite the conclusion without reading it again.)

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    3. The citation from the צמח צדק and R' Grossman clears up a question I've had for some time. R
      Shlomo Kluger in his האלף לך שלמה also has a תשובה (no. 215) on wax pouring in which he permits the practice. It's clear now that there are two different practices that involve lead pouring. One which is a remedy is referred to by these poskim who permit it. The Rebbitzen however is pouring lead to diagnose עין הרע. These poskim are not dealing with lead pouring as divination. Any citation of these תשובות for support is either ignorance of dishonesty.

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  11. "Second, the entire anti-scientific mindset is clearly very harmful - just look at the new measles outbreak, which seems to be caused by the anti-scientific anti-vaccination movement."
    I am with you on the vaccination issue. However, I imagine that the anti-vaxxers consider themselves anti-*bad*-science, but pro-*good*-science. I think they're wrong in their conclusions, but it might not be accurate to call them "anti-science."

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    1. I would call anyone who rejects clear and overwhelming scientific evidence and then promotes that position as "anti-science".

      Just as there are things that are beyond the limits of what Torah Judaism accepts and if you reject them you aren't a Torah Jew, there are certain things in science that are backed up by such overwhelming evidence that if you reject them you have rejected the entirety of science.

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  12. Doesn't Judaism ban witchcraft? This is witchcraft.

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    1. It seems to me that this falls under the category of קוסם, and perhaps דרכי האמורי too. I doubt it would be considered כשוף. Not as bad as real witchcraft, but still forbidden.

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  13. I asked the Mi Yodeya community if they could find a source for this practice in the Gemara.
    http://judaism.stackexchange.com/q/52969/2

    So far, they've turned up two sources indicating that there's no such source:

    - A responsum by R' Aharon Yuda Grossman that permits this sort of procedure for curing nightmares on the basis that it's a medical procedure. If it was based on a Gemara, he likely would have cited it. (Note that the usage he describes sounds much more acceptable from a rationalist point of view than curing evil eyes, since nightmares are a psychological phenomenon, and an impressive procedure could actually have a psychological affect.)

    - A responsum from R' Shlomo Aviner that says explicitly that this procedure has no source in Mishna, Gemara, Rishonim, Shulchan Aruch, or Achronim.

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    1. Halacha allows even fasting on Shabbat because of nightmares. As dreams are generally seen as meaningless, most poskim agree that these are meant to relieve psychological stress, which itself is seen as important enough to "override" Shabbat.

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  14. ILG, the actual physical phenomenon that I described in response to Menachem's observations is well known and doesn't require detailed study for verification. It can be more easily and safely verified, however, by using a viscous liquid such as honey or glycerin. If you insist, try tin which has a lower melting point than lead and much less toxicity. The 327 deg. F melting point of lead is achievable on a gas burner. Lower melting metal alloys used in soldering are available. Toxic lead or other heavy-metal vapors will be produced, however. I pray that no one tries to melt lead or its alloys inside an oven, which would contaminate any food placed in that oven - besides the vapors initially produced.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. It's 327.5 degrees centigrade, 621.5 F, not a temperature I can reach on my burner

      Delete
  15. Considering the health hazards, and spiritual hazards of lead pouring, perhaps you should have titled this post...Lethal Woman!!!

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  16. Lead-pouring is divination. It doesn't involve a remedy per se, rather it's a non-scientific method of diagnosis. As such, it falls under the prohibition of קוסם. It makes no difference whether it's effective or not.

    Rambam is pretty clear that if something is effective then it is Mutar. Rashba accepts that even though is view of the efficacy of "segulot" is very different.

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    1. David, you're conflating דרכי האמורי with קוסם. Now, the Rambam denies the efficacy of all forms of divination. Nevertheless, he includes them under the prohibition of קוסם. If these methods were shown effective, than the Rambam would assume them to be based on science and hence permitted. Other poskim who believe in the existence of divination, will hold that even if these methods are effective they would still be prohibited. They would allow segulot as remedies. But there's a difference between remedies and divination. Divination is always prohibited.
      (Those three תשובות of the רשב"א deal with דרכי האמורי and not קוסם.)

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  17. Although I am not surprised that this practice flourishes, I was initially shocked to read that the article appeared in the Five Towns Jewish Times. However, upon reflection, it occurred to me that publication in that particular journal simply evidences what has taken place in the Five Towns and many other "modern" Orthodox neighborhoods - that is neighborhoods populated by Orthodox Jews who by and large have attended university, are gainfully employed - often as professionals - and who, in their daily commercial and professional endeavors, regularly interact with the non-Jewish world. These people have increasingly elected to bifurcate their lives and behavior. While they refuse to live cloistered lives like those lived by their brethren in New Square, Kiryas Yoel or even Williamsburg, and while they act rationally in their commercial and professional lives, they have allowed their Jewish lives to be influenced by and often led by the more anti-rational factions of the Yeshivish and Chasidish worlds. Thus, it is no surprise that a publication designed for residents of the Five Towns would elect to publicize this this silly and dangerous "segula".

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    1. One should not be surprised by FTJT nuttiness -- this is the paper that published an essay on its web site defending genocide -- authored by the teenaged son of the publisher!

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    2. The FTJT isn't a "journal," it's a bunch of advertisements with a few articles in between so that people will take it home and read through it. And it regularly publishes things far crazier than a description of something that happened recently in its community.

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  18. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I urge you to reconsider your inclination to tolerate superstition. We are living through an age of brazen fraud masquerading as frumkeit, and it is up to sound-minded, responsible people to stand up and expose charlatans like Pinto and Miller. Even if these third-rate miracle workers believe they have divine powers, they should not be allowed to prey on the desperate.

    There is absolutely no comparison between segulot and tefillat ha-derekh, or any other prayer directed to God. The Torah repeatedly tells us to turn to God and the prophets rather than rely on magicians and soothsayers.

    Unfortunately, those who are and desperate and gullible are easily taken in by all kinds of superstitious and pseudoscientific nonsense like astrology, incantations, and the evil eye (calling these falsehoods “mazalos,” “lachash” or “ayin hara” does not make them any more legitimate). I challenge all Orthodox rabbis who value Torah and truth -- including Haredi rabbis -- to take a strong stand on this issue.

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  19. Rabbi Landesman's list of "more traditional segulos" is so clever it made me laugh out loud. Brilliant!

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  20. He omitted another segulah for shalom bayit: wash dishes while your wife gets some rest.

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  21. Blei Gissen seems to me to be a segula that the Haredi community has a big problem in believing nonsense.

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  22. 1. She has a heter from Rav Eliashiv.
    2. I did it, it was nonsense, and she also did some cold reading on me, at no extra charge!

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  23. I am ratified this is finally being discussed on RJ as over a year ago I came across it and was troubled by it.

    In Sept 2013, an advert for the Rebbetzin's services appeared on Edgwarek (a UK email bulletin reaching over 5000 people) - included in the advert was the following text:

    Letter of Recommendation fron Rav Scheinberg zt"l - Rebbetzin Miller also is an expert in using the segula of "Blei Gissen" (pouring of lead). This segula is mentioned in the sefer of the Semach Tzedek and other seforim, this segula is known in klal yisroel for many generations mekubalim have given their approval to this segula.

    I emailed the organisers of her trip as follows:

    1. How strange that RCPS approves of Blei Geissen, when he is among the maskimim to R Yaakov Hillel's Sefer 'Tomim Tihyeh' wherein he decries the practice of the above. [http://mekubal.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/being-lead-by-lead/]

    2. The Sefer 'Semach Tzedek' (sic) does not exist - I believe they refer to a Teshuvah in Tzemach Tzedek, wherein he actually writes that one may use it on Shabbos because its effectiveness is dubious and therefore it does not count as refuah. Hardly a supportive opinion!

    3. A simple Google search reveals that Lead Pouring is actually an ancient German (non-Jewish) tradition – possibly therefore Chukas Hagoy: http://german.about.com/library/blsilvester.htm and http://www.mrshea.com/germusa/customs/bleimean.htm Also see here on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molybdomancy

    4. I also read an article about the Rebbetzin (As published in the Five Towns Jewish Times print edition of 12-14-2012 p.76, also I believe published in Mishpacha Magazine) which says

    “I use a lot of psychology,” she allows. “As I pour the lead and speak to people, I get to know them, and I can give them advice. People feel they are being helped, and they become calmer and more hopeful.”

    This article very disturbingly implies the Rebbetzin herself believes the leadpouring is a placebo and there is no special koach to it.

    Your notice will reach several thousand people on EdgwareK. Some of them are no doubt vulnerable people in need of Yeshuos who are willing to do anything (including pay large sums of money) for a solution to their position. There is therefore a very great responsibility on yourselves before preparing such a notice.

    Sadly, I got no response.

    I sent the same email this year and they agreed to remove the reference to the 'Semach Tzedek' - but I think they missed my point.

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  24. Just noticed I already submitted the same response last year, on your site!

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/11/manipulating-with-mysticism-for-money.html

    for some reason my login name has changed since.

    Leyzer / Baal Ha Boss

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  25. Not only has lead been blamed for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, it may have been responsible for the dramatic rise in violent crime in the US starting in the 1960s. And the removal of lead from gasoline may have been responsible for the dramatic drop in violent crime starting in the 1990s.

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

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    1. Correlation equals causation? Charlie, aren't you a statistician?

      (Of course, then there's abortion...)

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  26. According to The Five Towns Jewish Times web site (5tjt.com), this article appeared there [not this week but] more than 2 years ago -- on Dec. 13, 2012!

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  27. This kind of silliness seems to be of a piece with the general desire to be free of the burdens of clear thought, judgment and responsibility. How is relying on the puring of lead into water as a segula or diagnostic tool any less rational that letting a noneginarian rabbi who doesn't know you from Adam tell you how to vote, or whether you should work for a living?

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  28. Rav Slifkin-
    I have to admit I was surprised that you compared Tefillat HaDerech and this lead-pouring thing and other such segulot. Tefillah is a basic way of connecting with the Divine and it goes all the way back to the TANACH itself, where we see Avraham Avinu pray for Avimelech haPlishti's household and Moshe prays to end the plagues on Egypt, or Hannah prays for a son in the Mishkan.

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  29. I posted about this in 2008 when Hamodia had an article about her helping to put out a fire at a wedding using blei gissen see http://jewishworker.blogspot.co.il/2008/01/is-this-othodox-judaism.html

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  30. This list of R. Landesman is a translation, I believe, or Rabbi Chaim Navon's list. As opposed to the first comment there, R. Navon is alive and well. A shame credit it not given there nor by your posting (maybe you didn't know).
    http://www.kipa.co.il/jew/44248-%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A8-%D7%94%D7%A1%D7%92%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%9D.html

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  31. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEaiuKCh9wI

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  32. She turned me into a newt!... I got better...

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  33. You miss the point again: seguloth are cishuf. You are not allowed to tolerate it regardless of how much or little harm you think it does.

    We are not allowed to tolerate people who bake keys in their bread, and we are not allowed to tolerate people who take their children up a mountain to give him a haircut next to a bonfire, and we are not allowed to tolerate people who pray at graves etc.etc.etc.

    It's not about how you feel, it's about how Hashem feels and He has been about as explicit as we have any possible right to demand. "Rationalism" has flip all to do with it.

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  34. A couple of years ago I was solicited by a well-meaning but deluded woman for money to buy "sug alef" magical stones that are a segula for fertility. She lamented that at present she only had the funds for the "sug bet" stones, and she was looking to upgrade.

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  35. It all boils down (pun intended) to desperate strokes for desperate folks. People don't do these things until they've tried everything else. Klal Yisrael is hurting in so many deep ways that don't always have solutions; it is not surprising that people resort to these things. There is so much pain out there, and when tragedy/trauma hits, the sense of powerlessness is overwhelming. I don't believe in these "segulos" but I do understand what makes people vulnerable to trying them. Besides doing one's hishtadlus in rational ways, sincere davening (is davening "rational?") is best, or at the very least, comforting. It's just sad that there are people who look at someone else's tzaar as a money-making opportunity in the guise of "helping."

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