Snake Skins and Oil
All snakes regularly slither right out of their skins, and so the snake collection at the Biblical Museum of Natural History regularly provides us with sloughed-off skins. (One of our larger snakes once shed an immaculate nine-foot skin in the evening. I spread it out on the floor to dry overnight. When the secretary came in the next morning and saw it, she coincidentally jumped out of her skin!)
A woman who works in a store that I frequent has been asking me for a while for the shed skin of a snake. I assumed that she wanted it as some sort of novel household decoration, but yesterday she told me the reason, and it was quite different. She has unfortunately been unable to conceive for several years, and she was referred to a Holy Rabbi who told her to hang the shed skin of a snake in her home.
I literally (literally) slapped my palm over my face.
"What?" she asked.
"That's complete nonsense!" I said.
She attempted to reassure me by explaining that this Holy Rabbi certainly possessed special powers. After all, he knew all kinds of things about her, such as the name of her husband, which there was no earthly way of his knowing!
I facepalmed again. "How did you get to him?" I asked.
She explained that an associate of his heard about her and referred her.
"Is it not possible," I gently suggested, "that this associate used Google, or some other means, to find out this information?!"
Her face fell for a moment, but she recovered herself and said that she didn't think that this was likely. It was more likely that the Rabbi had special powers. Besides, she said, even if it's not true, what harm does it do to hang up the snakeskin?
"True," I admitted. "It doesn't do any harm. As long as you didn't give him any money."
No, she insisted, he's not that kind of person. He didn't ask for any money -
"Oh, good," I interjected -
- he just has a tzedakah box on his desk, she continued, in which she placed 500 shekels.
(See too my post Karma and Chameleons)