Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Strangest Segulah Ever?

(Note to those who wrote in about the book sale - your orders will be fulfilled. Stay tuned for another book sale, this time also including my other books, which I will probably announce tomorrow.)

What's the strangest segulah you've ever heard of? Last week, I picked up a book entitled To Fill The Earth: 277 Segulos and Advice on Fertility Issues, In Personal Consultation with Maran HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlitah. Opening it at random, my eye fell upon the following segulah, in a chapter entitled "Segulos Pertaining To Food":
"A dried pig's testicle, pulverized and ground up, will help a woman conceive. If the right testicle is used, a male child will be born; if the left testicle is used, a female child will be born (Segulos Yisrael, ma'areches os ayin, from the sefer Mar'eh Yeladim)."
Note that there is no kashrus problem here, for reasons that are too complex to get into right now. Still, I highly doubt that pig's testicles, whether the right or the left, are actually directly efficacious at causing a woman to conceive. Of course, they are equally unlikely to cause any harm (unlike one of the other segulos mentioned - carrying mercury in one's pocket).

What about the psychological effects? Placebos can be immensely powerful, perhaps even to the point of helping a woman conceive. But I wonder if advising people to run after all kinds of weird segulos has a net psychological benefit. Furthermore, strengthening the segulah mindset may put people who are in a difficult situation, and thus vulnerable, at risk of being financially preyed upon by those who sell charms, witchcraft, blessings, and who psychologically terrify these poor people.

On balance, I think that if one is advising people on spiritual acts to do to accompany their medical efforts, the things to recommend are those that are part of classical Judaism: repentance, prayer and charity. The pig's testicles are probably best left with the pig.

97 comments:

  1. "Note that there is no kashrus problem here, for reasons that are too complex to get into right now."

    Maybe in the comments?

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    1. Yeah - you can't leave us hanging like that! How can a pig's testicle be kosher?

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    2. The heter is probably like that of using rennet to curdle milk. I read that they obtain rennet from a calf's stomach by drying out the stomach and pulverizing it. The powder can be made into the form of capsules or pellets, that are then added to milk. There is no problem of milk and meat, because drying out the skin of the calf renders it tasteless.
      Perhaps, I'm surmising, because the Torah forbids eating pig where the person eating it derives some pleasure from the taste--if the testicle has been rendered tasteless and is swallowed like a pill, it is no longer forbidden.

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    3. Real kishka is made by several times drying out the (cleaned, i'm told, by i tend to doubt the efficacy of the cleaning) intestines of a properly slaughtered behema tehorah (thus, not pig) and drying and cleaning and cooking several times.

      Similar with real gelatin (not found today.) The gelatin is pareve, but it must come from a behema tehorah. The gelatin found today is made from kosher species of fish, and has a fishy taste, i am told, thus not edible with meat (a whole other story you discussed here.)

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    4. Yehuda P.: The halacha distinguishes between the Keivah, which IIUC is the partially curdled milk found in a slaughtered calf's stomach and Or Keivah which is the actual stomach. Or Keivah of a non-kosher cow is considered Assur, while the Keivah is considered Peresh or waste product, which can be eaten. For example, the Kohain is allowed to eat the Keivah of an Olah offering which otherwise cannot be eaten.

      The Rama holds that if you dry out the stomach until it is like wood with no moisture and then leave the milk there to curdle, then this is considered OK.

      The general minhag is to require Jewish supervision or participation in adding rennet to cheese even if the rennet comes from non-animal sources. Famously, the Rav was lenient on this at least in some circumstances.

      MiMedinat HaYam: Gelatin from non-kosher animals is kosher according Rav Ovadiah Yosef and going back, according to Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. In America, the influence of Rav Moshe led it to be prohibited, but not so in E"Y.

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    5. @David Ohsie: The Rema's heter was to use the skin of the stomach as a sort of bag to hold milk--the Pri Megadim differs because after it will hold milk for 24 hours, the stomach skin will soften up again. The heter I mentioned was where the skin has not only dried out, but has been reduced to powder form.

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    6. david O: forgot about that. the custom in Israel is to allow gelatin, I believe. but not to allow what we in America call "chalav stam" per RMF igrot moshe.

      so would this be the "heter" for pig testicle? and or the issue of "adding cheese" is irrelevant to this segulah.

      and which is right, and which is left? from whose prospective? and if she eats both (ewww!) will she have twins one each? (rhetorical question. don't answer)


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    7. @MiMedinat HaYam: I think that pills are considered generally to be inedible and permitted no matter what the ingredient. For example from the star-k website: "L’halacha, such a person [a sick person] may swallow any tablet, caplet or capsule regardless of whether or not it contains chometz (unless an equally effective non-chometz medicine is available). However, where possible one should use only medications that do not contain chometz."

      I think that is actually a Chumra and others hold that you can simply take the pill.

      @Yehudah P.: What is the source for your example? It doesn't follow from any of the sources that I know of (which doesn't mean much).

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    8. @R. David: The example was from a sefer in a library here in Jerusalem--it was a book on kashrus I used to prepare a class, around 15 years ago. It might be a while until I get around to locating it.

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    9. I highlt doubt you'd taste any fish in fish gelatin, not after what stuff goes through to become gelatin. There's also vegetable gelatin, I think.

      To clarify, in Israel, because R' Ovadiah said pig gelatin is OK (you can also get it in the US, especially in LA), that makes it OK for Shas, and thus the Rabbinate, and thus pretty much every secular, traditional, dati leumi, and Sephardi charedi type. That leaves Ashkenazi charedim, and since R' Chaim Ozer said it was OK, I'm not sure some Litvish won't eat it too.

      R' Rakeffet says he doesn't it, but admits he has no halakhic basis to do so, and it's a matter of emotion.

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    10. By the way, I'm not sure what "custom in Israel" means. Chalav stam is pretty much a non-issue because milk products come from Jewish owned farms in Israel. (The workers may be Jews or non-Jews, but there are always some Jews around.) Furthermore, there are government regulations (based on supposed economic reasons, not kashrut or health ones) that tightly control dairy imports.

      That said, chalav stam does pop up every now and then. A year or two ago there was a big uproar when the Rabbanut tried to ban Haagen Dazs, which is imported and uses avak chalav akum. (It has an OU.) I think they gave up. Some Israelis use chalav akum, some use avak chalav akum, some use neither, just like Jews all over the world.

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  2. The strangest segulah that I have seen is one a Moroccan one that promises male children. However, I don't feel comfortable typing it out on a family blog like this one...

    To Fill The Earth: 277 Segulos and Advice on Fertility Issues, In Personal Consultation with Maran HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlitah.


    I wonder how to square that title with this quotation from the Rav Aviner website: "All of these pieces of advice can be found in Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievsky's answer to the question: How do we know which Segulot are true? - "I only know that which is written in the Shulchan Aruch" (Segulot Raboteinu p. 321)."

    For a somewhat humorous and rationalist Segulot post, see the full post on the Rav Aviner website: Segulot that Work.

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    1. Doesn't SA say position the bed north south or something similar for male child?

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    2. Good point, but the one that R Slifkin lists as being endorsed by Rav Kanievsky is not.

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    3. This book talks about positioning the bed, never fear.

      Remember that the Kanievskis sell blessed wine and etrog jelly.

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  3. Rabbi Slikfin, how can you post this and make light of the fact that the geulah has been delayed many times over by the belief in false Segulot?

    Everyone knows that the only proper segulah for children is a public burning of the Zohar performed while wearing T'cheilet on a day other than the equinox.

    --do

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    1. No, I think the geulah has been delayed because of people like you who harbor שנאת חנם towards an entire sector of Jews that are יראים ושלמים, and then justify it from all sorts of rationalizations. The Gemara says explicitly that שנאת חנם is the cause of the churban, not relying on ridiculous segulos.

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    2. I chuckled, but in all seriousness, the pertinent issue here is that anyone who performs this issue is hayav malkot.

      אין מנחשין כגויים, שנאמר "לא תנחשו" (ויקרא יט,כו). כיצד הוא הניחוש: כגון אלו שאומרין הואיל ונפלה פיתי מפי, או נפל מקלי מידי, איני הולך למקום פלוני היום, שאם אלך אין חפציי נעשין; הואיל ועבר שועל מימיני, איני יוצא מפתח ביתי היום, שאם יצאתי, יפגעני אדם רמאי. וכן אלו ששומעין צפצוף העופות ואומרין יהיה כך ולא יהיה כך, טוב לעשות דבר פלוני ורע לעשות דבר פלוני. וכן אלו שאומרין שחוט תרנגול זה שקרא ערבית, שחוט תרנגולת זו שקראת כמו תרנגול. וכן המשים לעצמו סימנים, אם יארע לי כך וכך אעשה דבר פלוני, ואם לא יארע לא אעשה, כאליעזר עבד אברהם. וכל כיוצא בדברים האלו, הכול אסור; וכל העושה מעשה מפני דבר מדברים אלו, לוקה.

      הלוחש על המכה וקורא פסוק מן התורה, וכן הקורא על התינוק שלא ייבעת, המניח ספר תורה או תפילין על הקטן בשביל שיישן--לא דיי להן שהן בכלל חוברים ומנחשים


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    3. @Yehuda P.: My apologies. I was joking around in anticipation of a comment from Gavriel M.

      @Gavriel M: I'm happy to see your reaction. I intended it to amuse.

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    4. @R. David: For what are you apologizing?
      @Gavriel M./Mavriel G.: the יראים ושלמים I was referring to were not segulah-users, but rather Zohar-enthusiasts and true Kabbalists. [I mean really--only Kabbalah seforim discuss segulos? Doesn't the Gemara itself list segulos?] Ok, Chassidim were, from the inception of Chassidus, called a "cult". Let's dismiss them. But does your desire to publicly burn the Zohar include books that quote the Zohar as well? You would end up burning the Chafetz Chayyim's Shemiras HaLashon as well. Maybe you'll have to burn Mikraos Gedolos, since they all have the Ohr haChayim's commentary, which also quotes Zohar. Would you also burn the Gra's commentary on ספרא דצניעותא?

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    5. Geez Loooeez. It was a spoof post - by him.

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    6. @R. David: For what are you apologizing?

      I was the person who made the Mavriel G post (see the "--do" signature at the end). I was doing an over-the-top version of the real Gavriel M. I wasn't really advocating the burning of the Zohar, and Gavriel M is not the same as Mavriel G.

      Again, apologies for inducing confusion.

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    7. R. Gavriel was going gung-ho about burning Kabbalah seforim (he also mentioned burning all the copies of Tanya as well in the past) in a previous blog post here ("Right Points, Wrong People"). The problem is that he seems serious about it, and he's not joking.

      I remembered a "segulah" that I do recall that is mentioned in the Zohar: there are several stories about reading the Parshah of the Ketores, that were effective in stopping a plague, just like Aharon brought ketores and stopped the plague after Korach's rebellion. Would reading the parshah of ketores at the time of a plague (G-d Forbid) now be considered 1) witchcraft, 2) harmless mumbo-jumbo (then again, a person still has the reward for learning Torah if he recites the pesukim) or 3) having the same rationale as for reading the korbonos, as a sort of תשלומין for not being able to bring korbonos? Of course I'm assuming that people will take the proper precautions as well, like getting vaccinations--not just relying on the segulah.

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    8. If you go by the Rambam, then it would seem to be OK if you were doing it because you wanted to do additional Mitzvot, but if thought that there was a direct interaction between the practice and the medical benefit, then you would be making the Mitzvot into a medicine for the body instead of the soul and it would prohibited and a terrible practice.

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    9. I just recalled where the Rambam distinguishes between segulos and refuah (it's actually a lot like the case under discussion): The mishnah in Yoma 8:6, where Rabbi Masya ben Charash allows feeding a person bitten by a rabid dog, the diaphram of the dog. The Tanna Kamma doesn't allow it:
      ואין הלכה כרבי מתיא בן חרש בזה, שהוא מתיר להאכיל לאדם הכבד של כלב שוטה כשנשך, כי זה אינו מועיל אלא בדרך סגולה. וחכמים סוברים כי אין עוברין על המצוות אלא ברפואה בלבד, ר"ל בדברים המרפאים בטבע, והוא דבר אימיתי הוציאו הדעת והנסיון הקרוב לאמת. אבל להתרפאות בדברים שהם .
      מרפאים בסגולתן, אסור, כי כחם חלש אינו מצד הדעת, ונסיונו רחוק, והיא טענה חלושה מן הטועה
      [Frankly, I don't understand the last phrase. How did the segulah start in the first place, if not by trial and error?]

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    10. Medicine has only become scientific in the very recent past. One of the most important discoveries was that anecdotal evidence is highly unreliable; controlled experiments are needed to establish anything. The result is ancient medicine had all kinds of false beliefs besides a completely wrong theory about how biology works. Pruess says that this particular segulah was derived from Roman medicine and the רבי מתיא בן חרש lived in Rome where he presumably picked it up.

      However, this Rambam is only telling you that you can't violate the Kashrut laws for something that doesn't work. Reading a Parshah as a cure is considered much worse.

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    11. Rashi calls ketoret a 'raz' secret, not a segulah (?picking at words?) Anyway the segulah of reading parshat ketoret from a klaf (parchment) writen in sofer style is for 'parnassah'.

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  4. Last summer I was in the Ukraine. I met a baal teshuva who told me that his sister was having trouble conceiving. He had read that if such a woman eats a foreskin she will conceive. This guy stole a foreskin from a brit milah in the shul, put it in his freezer and then invited his sister and husband over for shabbat meal. He slipped it into her chulent and she ate it. He reports she became pregnant 6 months later.

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    1. Disgusting. Besides the fact that eating human flesh is prohibited at least mederabanan.

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    2. See Ben Ish Chai Shana 2 Emor 5 - that this custom is a Torah violation and Shulchan Aruch YD 265 that it should be buried.

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    3. On this and other 'repulsive' segulot, see http://seforim.blogspot.com/2013/01/hakirah-metzitzah-and-more.html at the end of part 2 (text accompanying notes 7 and 8).

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    4. Besides the fact that eating human flesh is prohibited at least mederabanan.

      Maybe not if it actually helped. You can use human body parts for medical purposes, as this is not considered a desecration of the corpse.

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    5. Your comparing using body parts for medical benefit to a segulah whose benefits are iffy at best?! Disappointing.

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    6. @Moshe David Tokayer: I'm not endorsing the practice and obviously it doesn't work. But if you did it because you were convinced it really worked, then it should not be considered desecration of the corpse.

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    7. @David Ohsie, Obviously, everyone who does a crazy segulah, does so because they're convinced it works! So by that criteria, the restriction wouldn't apply at all to segulas.

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    8. @Avi: Correct. You have to attack the Segulah itself. The fact that involves body parts is not enough to invalidate it. Otherwise we could not do transplants.

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  5. Also mentioned in The Forbidden Queen, a historical romance novel.


    `His Majesty is capable, my lady,' Beatrice observed. They would know how often Henry came to my bedchamber, of course.

    `Yes.' The heat in my face became more intense.

    Joan, the youngest of my damsels, with a kinder eye, spoke up. 'My sister says that if you grind the dried testicle from a wild pig into powder, mix it in wine and drink it, the result is excellent.'

    `Do we have a testicle of a wild pig?' I heard myself asking, unnerved at the advice.

    A silence. A pause. Then my damsels erupted into laughter, with an edge that was, to my mind, not kind at all. I thought they looked at me with pity, even when Alice took them to task.

    `I have heard of such a nostrum, Joan, but that was not help-ful. Unless you are volunteering to go and kill a wild pig for us? And you can take Beatrice with you. Her scowl will kill a boar at twenty paces. I think we can do better. If you carry a walnut in its shell, my lady, it will strengthen your womb and aid fertility.'

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  6. Just wondering:
    If it is so true that "repentance, prayer, and charity" are classical Judaism, how did things like Tashlich and Kapparos become unanimously accepted amongst all Jews? Would a rationalist Jew refuse to do these customs/ segulos even though they are so widespread? What about all the mystical kabbalistic things mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch?

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    1. The Mechaber criticizes the custom of kapparos in Shulchan Aruch...

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    2. They were not unanimously accepted amongst all Jews. In Yemen for instance, Tashlich was not practiced whatsoever (הליכות תימן, p. 12; online in http://www.chayas.com/roshhashan.pdf). Likewise, the Yemenites did not accept the minhag of כפרות (see beginning of http://www.chayas.com/kippur.pdf).

      It's interesting that you mention the Shulchan Aruch. I hope you can respect what the Shulchan Aruch actually says, as opposed to what "everybody" wants it to say. Here's סימן תר"ה from an uncensored Shulchan Aruch: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Kaparot.jpg

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    3. As I learned from "Changing the Immutable," he actually called it a "foolish custom" in the original version which you can see here. Those words were later removed.

      Nevertheless, Rav Yosef Karo endorses various practices that the modern mind finds curious.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. It's great that you all mention this interesting fact about kapparos, but no one answered my question

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    6. I don't understand. You asked how tashlich and kapparos became unanimously accepted - the answer is that they were not unanimously accepted, and references were given.

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    7. Well, in answer to your questions, then:

      1. The fact that lots of people do something is no proof. Lots of Jews worshipped avoda zara back in the day, but that didn't make it right. Most Jews today are not observant of Jewish law, but that doesn't make that right.

      In any event, "unanimous" is too strong word. Lots of Jews never accepted these things.

      2. Yes, a rationalist would refuse to do them. The Gra didn't, and he was a kabbalist. Rav Soloveitchik did not do kapparot and I don't think tashlich either.

      But we're all on a spectrum. There's nothing too offensive, even to most rationalists, about either of those things, provided you don't say *all* of the associated tefillot and don't buy into the wilder claims about them. And stay away from chickens, I suppose. Pigs' testicles are another story.

      3. We don't, surprise, do everything the Shulchan Aruch says. When he starts citing kabballa, many Jews tune it out.

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    8. So the answer is:

      1) Some have in fact chosen not to do it. You don't necessarily need to do all the kabbalistic customs in the Shulchan Aruch. Find a knowledgeable rabbi how shares your viewpoint and ask him what to do.

      2) You can do it as a nice custom to remind you that you deserve punishment and should do Teshuvah, and not as a Segulah.

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  7. Robby: That was the one that I saw in the book of Moroccan minhagim, but I didn't want to type it. I think that it beats the pig testicles hands down.

    joshwaxmanAugust 11, 2015 at 6:20 AM
    Also mentioned in The Forbidden Queen, a historical romance novel.


    Demonstrating once again the Gra's principle that one who lacks in secular knowledge (or at least facility with google search) lacks in Torah knowledge 100 times over :).

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  8. Did someone ever do a study? Many folk medicines contain drugs we make in the lab.

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  9. Oh my gosh- I just saw this book last week as well. The one chapter that struck me was the foreskin-eating one. First, that it had been published in the first place- did the author really have to publish it, let alone translate it? Second, I couldn't help but chuckle that it Hebrew, it was a segulah for a *male* child, but in English, it was for any child. It's been pointed out that there are things that Israelis- charedim or otherwise- can take that Anglos can't, and translations are often adjusted. For example, Artscroll left the bit about R' Elyashiv not knowing his kids' (or daughters') names out of their translation. Marc Shapiro has listed these. (Brachot for a male child are actually very common across the spectrum in Israel, while most born Anglos find them a bit unnerving.)

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    1. Anglos can't take it because it sounds like the Godfather ("And may their first child be a masculine child.")

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    2. I don't agree that "anglos" (talk about a gross stereotype!) have a problem with brachos for male children. Most orthodox Anglos do not buy into the feminist "we are all equal" nonsense. Different parents want different genders at different times, and those who believe in the segulah/bracha business get their segulas and brachos accordingly.

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    3. Sure, people wants sons and daughters, etc. That's natural, I suppose. But the implication of these brachot and segulot is that everyone wants only boys, all the time, with girls being a necessary side effect.

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    4. I don't agree that "anglos" (talk about a gross stereotype!) have a problem with brachos for male children. Most orthodox Anglos do not buy into the feminist "we are all equal" nonsense. Different parents want different genders at different times, and those who believe in the segulah/bracha business get their segulas and brachos accordingly.

      If that was true, then it is even more important to advertise that it brings boys, because those that want girls will not get what they are looking for with this Segulah.

      I think that Nachum is right that this is why the translator changed it. If you think that it is false stereotype, then go argue with the translator :).

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    5. I also don't see how those who don't buy into the "we are all equal nonsense" are thus obligated to want to have only boys. I'm hardly the world's biggest feminist, and I find such brachot offensive.

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  10. And with that, gentlemen, I have now heard everything....

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    ReplyDelete
  12. These things may have been useful for keeping the uneducated and/or superstitious within the fold in previous generations, but do Judaism no favor in our times.

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  13. Rabbi Slifkin, you're making this up, right? I mean, this is so ludicrous that it has to be a gag, right? What self-respecting Yid, who isn't a complete simpleton, could believe such...(wait for it)...hogwash?

    On a serious note: My wife (of 26+ years, thank God) and I "suffer" from wholly unexplained primary infertility. Without going into the details of what treatments we did & how many, God's "No" to us is about as loud and clear as it gets. I would not insult Him, or our intelligence/spirituality, by resorting to such glorified carnival tricks.

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    1. וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי, יָד וָשֵׁם--טוֹב, מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת: שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן-לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת

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  14. R. Slifkin: Thank you for posting this fascinating item, but I am disappointed by your "no harm, no foul" approach to segulot. In fact, there is much harm and much foul.

    The now-pervasive segulah phenomenon (virtually unknown in non-Hasidic Ashkenazic circles a generation ago) goes hand-in-hand with the rising popularity of "kabbalist" miracle workers, who sell segulot and other fraudulent services to vulnerable believers. Both phenomena are a reaction to modernity and the ever-increasing prestige of science.

    In the West, following the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, rabbis (and churchmen, for that matter) were no longer regarded as arbiters of truth in scientific matters. Much of enlightened Jewry acknowledged this, but many communities located in regions that the Enlightenment bypassed remained beholden to superstition.

    We are now witnessing a resurgence of segulot and practical kabbalah, largely driven by two factors:

    1. By having (and selling) access to esoteric knowledge and miracles, ostensibly derived from divine inspiration, "kabbalists" wield great power over their followers -- a power that will never be available to science.

    2. In our increasingly secular society, the need for spirituality has never been greater. The desire of many unsophisticated -- sometimes desperate -- people for a tangible connection to the divine and/or relief from dire circumstances drives them to trust seemingly pious rabbis who promise salvation, for a fee.

    The entire enterprise is fraudulent. In addition to purveying fraud in the name of Torah, some "kabbalists" are, not surprisingly, also very bad moral actors (e.g., Y.Y. Pinto, Ezra Sheinberg, Yaakov Deutsch).

    Segulot are no longer just a curiosity to observe with skepticism, but with a measure of tolerance. We must raise our voices in protest against an affront to science and clear thinking, and a phenomenon that threatens the future of our religion.

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    1. Not only must we "raise our voices in protest against an affront to science and clear thinking" but also, more importantly, against an affront to Torah!

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    2. > In our increasingly secular society, the need for spirituality has never been greater.

      I think the "need for spirituality" is about the same as ever, but spirituality doesn't pervade our mundane lives as it did in the past when the mechanisms of the mundane were unknown. This is by now an old problem, one which gave rise to Pietism and chassidus.

      I also suspect that reliance on magic was at least as common in the past as it is now, but back then it wasn't thought of as superstition, it was just how the world works. So that while now we laugh at the idea of crushed pig's testicles as a fertility treatment but regard taking fertility drugs as perfectly reasonable, in the past the crushed testicles and similar potions *were* the fertility drugs.

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    3. Rabbi Menachem Borenstein is the head of Puah Institute, which assists couples with fertility problems. I heard a lecture of his in which he said that there been a outbreak of people whom he calls "קבלנים (=building contractors)" (instead of מקובלים) who have dabbled in a little Kabbalah, and already start making amulets and the like. Unfortunate couples have relied on such charlatans, and only received real assistance when they consulted the Puah Institute.

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    4. "This is by now an old problem, one which gave rise to Pietism and chassidus."

      G*3--Can you explain what you mean? What "problem" was there?

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    5. > Can you explain what you mean? What "problem" was there?

      The problem was that as we understood more and more about how the world works, spirituality retreated to the periphery of our lives. For instance, lightening is no longer the awesome weapon of the god's, it's an electrical discharge that can be redirected by a metal rod and some wire. Examining religion the same way pushed spirituality back even further.

      The solution to the problem of lessened spirituality in day-to-day life was pietism, a deliberately mystical religious movement. Chassidus is what happened when pietism met Judaism.

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    6. "who have dabbled in a little Kabbalah, and already start making amulets and the like."

      People who privately think the entire kaballah enterprise is nuts, but don't want to say it aloud, focus their criticism on people who have only "dabbled" in kabbalah. In their heart of hearts, they don't think there's a wit of difference between a dabbler and a full-timer. Nonsense is nonsense.

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    7. No one nowadays can give an across-the-board condemnation of learning Kabbalah, after there is the precedent of so many notable Rabbanim who have studied it. Calling it "nonsense" would cast aspersion not only on the Chassidic masters and the Sefardi Kabbalists, but also the Vilna Gaon and the Ramchal, just to mention a few. Why weren't they convinced that it's nonsense?

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  15. The source for the lovely segulah in question is given as "sefer Mar'eh Yeladim." According to a listing on Virtual Judaica, this book was published in Jerusalem in 1914 and is described as follows [wth misprints uncorrected]: "Medical remedies and segulot by R. Rafael Ohanah (1850-1902). Included in Mareh ha-Yeladim are many types of cures and benefits, segulot and gorlot compiled from numerous books and manuscripts, from east and west, north and south, from Ashur and Miszrai,. From the cities of Iran and Yemen. The entries are arranged alphabeticaly, so that anyone who seeks a segulah or a remedy for a wound or a goral to know his illness, or to determine his condition or character, or his star or partner (spouse), or if childless haw to cure it to have sons and daughters, or his wife conceived and he does not know if male or female, all this is addressed in Mareh ha-Yeladim. There are approbations from R. Samuel ben Kiki, R. Jacob Hai Zarihon, and R. Elijah Yaloz, all Sephardi Tohor."
    May I suggest a carefully conducted, double-blind clinical trial of the segulah at issue to determine its efficacy once and for all. The results will probably not be surprising.

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    1. Anything in their about repaying graduate student loans? Just sayin'!

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    2. From the Rav Aviner website:

      Segulah for Debts

      If someone has debts, he should spend less than he earns and not rely on the miracle of overcoming the rules of mathematics.

      The Tur wrote that one should limit his expenses. And the Mishnah Berurah wrote that this is a harsh criticism against those who are enticed to spend money on luxuries without seeing the consequences, which in the end will lead to theft and disgrace (Biur Halachah chap. 529). One should plan well.

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  16. from an article by March Shapiro (Seforim Blogspot Jan. 13th 2013)

    "Here are two [segulos] cited by Shlomo Sprecher in his article mentioned in note 6: 1. Barren women would swallow the foreskin of newly circumcised boys as a segulah so that they could become pregnant. 2. Epileptics drank a potion that contained a girl’s first menstrual blood as a segulah to cure them of their epilepsy."

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  17. from the same article

    I recently found another bizarre segulah that also falls under the rubric of “repulsive”, and I think that it would probably also be regarded by law enforcement as a form of sexual abuse. It comes from R. Zvi Hirsch Kaidonover (1646-1712), Kav ha-Yashar, ch. 51. For obvious reasons I am not going to translate this into English.
    ועוד סגולה נפלאה לתינוק הנולד שלא יקרה עליו חולי נכפה בר מינן, מיד כשנולד ישימו בפיו ברית קודש של תינוק ויהיה ניצול כל ימיו מחולי נכפה

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    1. Back then, wouldn't this be done for every Bris for health reasons as it is still done for many today under the rubric of MBP? I'm at a loss to understand what they're adding here. I'm also at a loss to understand Professor Shapiro's distinction between this and MBP.

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    2. From Tom Voletz' quote, it seems they suggest using another infant, and using it for saving the new-born from epilepsy.

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    3. I think that you might be right. But if so, it is even less disturbing to modern sensibilities than MBP.

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    4. It will not be sexual abuse in the UK. The legislation is quite clear that these sorts of things are only a criminal act if some sort of sexual pleasure or arousal is involved. Otherwise you would have a very long prison sentence for mezitzah b'peh.

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  18. It gets even worse (from the same article):

    מעשה באשה אחת שמקשה לילד שהיתה בסכנה ... התיקון שיבא איש שלא ראה טיפת קרי מימיו ויתן בריתו בפיה ומיד תלד ותינצל
    The text comes from Meir Benayahu, Toldot ha-Ari (Jerusalem, 1967), pp. 224-225, and describes a “cure” recommended by R. Isaac Luria. The passage is too bizarre to translate. If the man who “came to the rescue” was just a man off the street it would be one thing. However, we see that it was none other than R. Moses Galante, a great sixteenth-century Torah scholar of the land of Israel who was given real semikhah by R. Joseph Karo. Even though the pre-modern mind was able to come up with all sorts of strange “cures”, I would like to believe that the entire story is a fiction. But even if it never happened, the fact that people believed it happened tells us a great deal about their mindset.

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    1. See page 84 of A Separate People by Ruth Lamdan.

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    2. @EML
      Could you please provide the quote.

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    3. https://books.google.com/books?id=OKlYce7f8iAC&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=moses+galante+semen&source=bl&ots=DcgyLkvH8t&sig=GhhpU3o8v6V6b8XR5neZuSUgm3Y&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAWoVChMIk4qWrsKixwIVQjg-Ch2ejAwG#v=onepage&q=moses%20galante%20semen&f=false

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    4. One is forced to wonder whether a sgula like this is connected to certain currently reported events...

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  19. Let's hope no one walks into a treif butcher shop assuming that this is a normal thing they sell there.

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    1. Dont like chinese or other far easternes eat bull testicles (and eskimos and Japanese eat whale testicles (or other reproductive organ)?

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  20. Trust Hashem ONLY when in need for help!Believing segulot,hamsas and similar man-made stuff helps you is mamash idolatry!Period.

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  21. A modern attitude toward medicine includes knowledge of cause and effect. We expect to understand how a disease operates, and how a cure is effective.
    To the pre-modern mind, this pig`s-testicle nonsense is not that different from what we know as modern medicine. Imagine telling a pre-modern with pneumonia that his disease was caused by invisible animals (bacteria), and could be cured using moldy horse manure (i.e., penicillin)!
    However, today we know better. Today those who rely on segulot do so not because they believe that there is a causal relationship between the pig's testicle and fertility, but because they believe it to have a supernatural effect. That's witchcraft, period. I don't care how black his hat is, anyone who counsels or performs such acts is a heretic, and it's past time they were named as such.
    And there is a special place in hell for those who take advantage of the desperate and credulous by performing these magic spells for money.

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    1. A modern attitude toward medicine includes knowledge of cause and effect. We expect to understand how a disease operates, and how a cure is effective.

      Not necessarily. We just need the results to be reproducible. Vaccines were proven effective long before their mechanism of action was understood. Cholera was understood to come from contaminated water before the pathogen was isolated.

      So the differences between now and then are twofold:

      1) We understand that anecdotal evidence under unreproducible conditions is not sufficient to provide evidence of efficacy.

      2) We understand more about medicine, so that today there is no plausible mechanism of action for this particular segulah to operate (e.g. left=girl and right=boy).

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  22. I don't think anyone answered David Ohsie's significant question: "I wonder how to square that title (In Personal Consultation with Rabbi Kanievski) with this quotation from the Rav Aviner website: "All of these pieces of advice can be found in Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievsky's answer to the question: How do we know which Segulot are true? - "I only know that which is written in the Shulchan Aruch" (Segulot Raboteinu p. 321)."
    It seems that if a person wants to look favorably upon Rabbi Kanievski, then he will believe Rabbi Aviner, and if he wants to tar Rabbi Kanievski, then he will believe the author of the book.

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    1. What if someone just wants to honestly know R. Kanievski's position?

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    2. He'll go ask him or write him a letter?

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    3. Look at the book: While there are a number of haskamot (to previous books), R' Kanievski is simply quoted as saying "yafeh" and "you write nicely." Hardly glowing endorsements.

      Then again, R' Kavievski sells bottles of blessed wine and there's his wife's blessed etrog jelly, so who knows.

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  23. Sounds like a load of b****cks to me.

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  24. For easy childbirth, ish tzadik haya recommends having the pregnant woman do 'petichah' opening the aron kodesh. Rav levin was consulted on how to do it, considering women did not go to shuls in yerushalayim in those days; besides, she was ambulatory already. Interesting solution, only the tzadik of yerushalayim could devise.

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