Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interesting Posts and Articles #246

  1. At Cross-Currents, Not A Zero Sum Game,

    There is a tendency in the Israeli Torah community to view the world as a zero-sum game, in which that which benefits the secular population is at our expense and vice versa. An intelligent friend of mine once argued with a straight face that the chareidi community is overtaxed because the funding we receive for education constitutes a lesser percentage of national budget than our share of the population. When I explained to him that we also use the roads, are protected by the IDF, and drink the water, he reacted as if he had never thought of that... 
    Chareidi employment is another area in which there is an intersection between the interests of the broader Israeli society and the Torah community. (The two interests are not necessarily identical, just overlapping.) The ability of Israel to compete economically in the world is primarily dependent on brainpower. And the Torah world represents Israel’s greatest untapped source of that brainpower.  
    From an economic point of view, Israel has no interest in chareidim performing menial work when they are capable of much more productive labor. As a professor of computer science at Bar Ilan University commented recently, “Anyone who can hold kop in Rabbi Akiva Eiger can be taught to be a highly skilled computer programmer.”
    See Jewish Worker about this.

  2. Rabbi Ari Enkin on Jewish women who shave their heads, and the background and halachics of it.

    It should go without saying that this practice is not halachically required, and, in fact, it is clear from the Talmud that this custom was never practiced.[5] Moreover, the Talmud itself declares it "repulsive" for a husband to be forced to see his wife without hair.[6] Indeed, since Biblical times, forcing a woman to shave her head was regarded as a punishment.[7] Sefardic women never had the custom of shaving their head.[8] In fact, according to normative halacha it is forbidden for a woman to shave head under the prohibition for a woman to imitate the practices of a man![9] Nevertheless, it is worth exploring the issue and trying to understand how the practice began.

  3. The Jewish Side has a listing of several segulos, from a class on segulos in seminary. Mekubal posts on one of them as a segulah gone wrong:

    Most notable was segulah number twelve. Which states that for a better memory, the first time it snows, to rub the snow on the forehead. Somehow I see in my mind's eye a line of Sem girls rubbing snow on their foreheads hoping to become Ba'alei Zicharonim. Unfortunately it doesn't quite work that way. 

    This isn't a segulah it is a Tikkun. It is found at the end of sefer Nahar Shalom by R' Shalom Sharabi Z"L. There are certain sins that cause one to have a bad memory(at least for Torah subjects) and to not be able to enter into the learning. Therefore Tikkunim need to be done. The different Tikkunim require certain numbers of days of fasting. Only after those other Tikkunim have been completed can we come to do this Tikkun. What this Tikkun requires is that one fast three days and nights. Then not to simply rub snow upon oneself, but to actually roll one's entire body in the snow. You also need to dressed in the same manner as when using the mikvah, so there are some difficulities with performing this, but those can be creatively overcome. 

    and he continues. I posted on another one of them, namely:

    1- If a person is chocking on a bone, they should put a bone on their forehead and say  “חד חד נחית בלע בלע נחית חד חד " – it works.
    “והיתם לי סגולה מכל העמים”, Something can just work even if it doesn’t make sense. Like medicine comes from grass, so too Segulos will work through Torah.

    On parshablog, I give what I think is a rational reason for it to work, having to do with the gutturals ayin and chet.

  4. This week's Haveil Havalim. Apparently, the regular email informing people about it did not go out.

  5. Balashon on pashtida, and how it might relate to shibboleth.

  6. Imamother post asking about the source of a certain segulah:

    I am wondering if anyone has seen a source for it being a segulah to take challah during the ninth month of pregnancy to have an easy childbirth. I have seen it in several places but not written with a source. TIA!!!
    I would guess that is finds its basis in the Mishna and Gemara in Shabbat 31b-32a:


    GEMARA. What is the reason of niddah? — Said R. Isaac: She transgressed through the chambers of her womb, therefore she is punished through the chambers of her womb. That is right of niddah, but what can be said of hallah and the kindling of lights? — As a certain Galilean lectured before R. Hisda: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I put a rebi'ith of blood in you;28  therefore I commanded you concerning blood.29

    I designated you the first;1  wherefore I commanded you concerning the first.2  The soul which I placed in you is called a lamp, wherefore I commanded you concerning the lamp.3  If ye fulfil them, 'tis well; but if not, I will take your souls.

    And why particularly in childbirth? — Raba said, When the ox is fallen, sharpen the knife. Abaye said, Let the bondmaid increase her rebellion: it will all be punished by the same rod. R. Hisda said, Leave the drunkard alone: he will fall of himself. Mar 'Ukba said, When the shepherd is lame, and the goats are fleet, at the gate of the fold are words, and in the fold there is the account. R. Papa said, At the gate of the shop there are many brothers and friends; at the gate of loss4  there are neither brothers nor friends.5
    Presumably someone thought that michlal lav ata shomea hen, so if they perform these, they will be protected in childbirth. But the gemara makes clear that this is that their slacking off in these matters caused problems. Transforming it into a segulah thus takes the idea away from sechar vaOnesh and into the realm of superstition.

  7. Rav Aviner on whether there is such a thing as supernatural power. 


E-Man said...

How did segulas creep their way into Judaism? Is it actually based on something real or is it a hyperextension form the idea of Mitzvos and learning Torah protects one from evil and harm?

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

Thanks for the link up.

Interesting about the sounds in the "Ches" and "ayin" actually being like exercises for the throat, to get the bone out.

E-Man said...

“והיתם לי סגולה מכל העמים”, Something can just work even if it doesn’t make sense. Like medicine comes from grass, so too Segulos will work through Torah."

The medicine from herbage makes sense if you know anything about science, segulas don't make any sense even if you know everything about Torah. This is especially true if you believe in the Rambam's Judaism.

Anonymous said...

The person choking on the bone does not say the phrase-the person placing the bone says it so it doesn't seem to have to do with gutteral sounds.
Also, there are segulahs such as giving money to Reb Meir BaalHaness tzedakah for a lost object which people have found helps.

Anonymous said...

I like your blog. This is very interesting. Thank you for putting these together.

This is Joshua from Israeli Uncensored News

joshwaxman said...

"The person choking on the bone does not say the phrase-the person placing the bone says it so it doesn't seem to have to do with gutteral sounds."

that's the thing. according to the gemara, it is the person choking on the bone who says the phrase. the same person choking places the bone on the head. read the gemara inside. it is modern-day people (such as rav belsky) who change from what the gemara itself says (and what it says is non-darkei emori), and who thus indeed change the gemara's recommendation into a superstition.


Anonymous said...

there is a weird minhag aka segulah of going to the mikvah in the ninth month.
is it because of this mishna, they are scared of timas Niddah before childbirth.


joshwaxman said...

that, indeed, would be my guess. though not that they are scared of tumas nidah, but that immersing somehow is the opposite of not observing the laws of niddah, and so forms a magic cure for an easy delivery.

the zechus avos blog covers the minhag, and discusses the origins in endnote 31 and 32:


§ Some pregnant women have the custom to immerse in a mikvah, or ritual bath, during this month.[31] Most women immerse one time, but there are others who immerse three times.[32]

[31] See Imrot Shlomo 18:3 citing Sefer Zechira p. 102 who explains that immersing in a mikvah, a ritual bath, releases the unborn child from any of the possible affects of evil the mother may have seen or experienced during pregnancy. See also Segulot Yisrael Mem, p. 65b, 66; Zichron Yaakov Yosef 16b, Tzeida L’Derech 1, 3:13 who relate that immersing in the ninth month can ease help ease labor pains. However, certain communities do not have this tradition, as cited in Bnei Beitcha Vol. 3, 33:22 who quotes the Satmar Rebbe, saying that he never heard of such a custom among his family. If a woman does immerse in the mikvah during the ninth month, a physician should always be consulted, for naturally if there is a threat of danger, she should not immerse.

[32] This is based upon the Mishnah Berurah 606:21, who teaches that when one is immersing for penitence, a person should immerse three times. Nevertheless, this immersion does not remove the state of niddah (if a woman is in niddah) unless it is performed following the guidelines of immersion of a niddah. Additionally, a shower is deemed sufficient preparation for this immersion. Finally, there is no need to cut one’s nails or perform the other preparations usually required for immersion, nor is a blessing recited. All in all, this immersion has the status of the immersion customary on the day preceding Yom Kippur, which is meant for the sake of penitence. For this reason, it does not require the normal preparations for immersion, such as combing the hair, washing, and removing chatzitzot (obstructions). See Responsa Shevet HaLevi Vol. 2, #101, who rules that a pregnant woman should immerse only in warm water, and not in hot water, in order to avoid any possible harm to her child.



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