Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Use of a floating wooden plate to find a corpse, in Taamei Haminhagim

As a followup to my previous post about "A Miracle Worthy of Elisha," it seems that there is a similar segulah mentioned in Taamei Haminhagim, by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Sperling (1851-1921) and accessible at HebrewBooks.org on this page here (page 582 in the pdf pager, or 569 if you have the physical book). The image to the right is the relevant selection.

In this accounting of the segulah, it seems that they do not use a flat bread with a lit candle on it. Rather, "if they throw a wooden plate upon the face of the waters and leave it, it floats of its own accord to the place where it stops of its own accord. Then, in that place, that is where he drowned." He cited Yosef Ometz, page 205, though I cannot at the moment track the specific sefer and the specific page.

But written there is: "I have heard that via this segulah they found a certain man whose name was Meir, the father-in-law of Tevlin {?} David, who is near Pidkap {?}. And if the matter is true, it is a segulah and a wondrous matter to permit the wife of the one drowned, such that she does not need to dwell as an agunah."

Thus, they came up with the same idea I did -- why not use this in general to be mattir agunot, whether in a body of water that has an end, or does not have an end? I am not sure if he meant this specifically where they find the body in this location, or if one is so confident in the efficacy of the segulah that one could use this. If the latter, it would be an interesting intersection between miracles and halacha, something discussed here earlier.

There is a difference here in what they did, from the practice mentioned in Taamei HaMinhagim. All sorts of additions to the practice as mentioned in taamei haminhagim. Here, they baked a bread with the meis in mind, and put a candle on it. And after they found the "spot," they dropped a stone with writing attached to it, to get the body to come up. And they had a bunch of rabbis saying tehillim and tefillot. This frums it up a bit, but at the same time makes it into greater sorcery. And I still do not think that it works, or worked.


bion said...

Should the question of whether the segula "works" and how we ought to be mechanech people generally about segulos be separate from what to do once the family already thinks it works and wants it done? I read that this segula was performed at the request of the family (dont know if someone informed them of it and pushed them to ask for it). How is this different than the explanation offered for the Rambam on amulets, that it is enough for people to think it works? Alternatively, how rigorous does the definition of whether it works have to be - i.e. if three people thought it worked and that is the general perception, would that not be enough? If the family thinks it is a tested segula that works, do we have a situation where it is cruel not to perform it?

Devorah said...

I think it's called kabbalah. The original and best.
Sorcery is a distortion of real kabbalah. Real kabbalah done until the proper conditions al pi Torah does work, as we have just seen.

Remember, doubt is Amalek, the greatest enemy of emunah.


joshwaxman said...

It is most certainly not called kabbalah.

It is a 200 year year old pseudo-scientific practice, which was adapted into a segulah, and to which all sorts of superstitious accouterments were added. And we have *not* seen that it does work, for all the reasons given above.

According to some midrashim, Amalek caused doubt. But that does not mean that all doubt is bad, and is Amalek. I would doubt it if someone said they had been cured by Jesus -- as would you -- but that is not Amalek. Rationalism is a good thing, and carefully evaluating claims is a good thing. Evaluating a prophet to see if he is false or not is a form of doubt, and is commanded by the Torah.

But we come from very different perspectives, and one or one thousand comments won't resolve this.

Kol Tuv,

joshwaxman said...

interesting points, and bli neder, I'll try to address it in a post next week.

Kol Tuv,

Blue Man said...


For those of us who are unfamiliar with the kind of community that uses these segulot, can you explain it a bit?

Why would a more haredi population be more inclined to believe in segulot? Is it simply that segulot seem really "frum"? Is it connected to daat torah? If you can explain the issue, I think it could make for interesting insight.

Anonymous said...

check out this link full coverage on the segulah
refresh the page wow

joshwaxman said...

thanks for the heads up!


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