Tuesday, April 21, 2009

R' Aviner on Segulot: "Something that does not exist"

From his blog:
[from "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – Parashat Shoftim 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

People often times turn to Rabbis asking for "segulot" [spiritual aids or shortcuts] to help the sick. Besides going to the doctor, they look for spiritual tricks, recitation of a particular verse, or an amulet, just so there is some change for the better. Unfortunately, they are searching in vain for something that does not exist.

Some will respond: “Who says? My aunt had no children, she used a 'segulah' and now, thank G-d, there are children around her table.” Yet someone else had a childless aunt who used no "segulah," and children were born to her anyway. [...]

Is it written that when our great Sages had troubles, they used "segulot," with mezuzot and amulets? Where have we heard of such a thing? Not in the Torah, not in the Mishnah and not in the Talmud. Rather, they prayed and they repented and performed kind deeds.


  1. So help me out then. Is the custom of adding a "shem tov" to the name of someone severely ill or completely calling them by this new name a segulah, a minhag or does it have a basis somewhere in our holy writings? I've seen this done across the whole slew of Jewish practices, not just chasidus.

  2. I think that's a different thing - by changing the name you're trying to change the gezeirah against the person.

  3. And how many segulahs are there? I know someone who dropped everything in America so could come daven--I forgot what tefilah--for 40 days in a row at the Kotel. Three years later she got married. AHA!! It worked!

  4. ....not that I don't think prayer at the Kotel is a great thing. I actually feel the best segulah for anything is tefilah. And if you don't receive what you're praying for, well, that's an answer from G-d as well, isn't it?

  5. Aren't there places in the gemara or Talmud where it says "this is a segula for something or another"?

  6. I actually feel the best segulah for anything is tefilahExcept teffila isn't a segulah - it's teffila! :)

    Btw, I found this just now:

  7. R' Asher Weiss said stick only to those specifically mentioned in the Talmud.

    My general take is I'd suggest reading the Rambam at the beginning of hilchot avodah Zara as to how avodah Zara was started by some well meaning folks.

    To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke's famous insight (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic),Any sufficiently advanced mnemonic for bitachon is indistinguishable from superstition :-)

    Joel Rich

  8. I did hear my daughter say something strange about names recently. She said that a classmate 9about 12) was told that her name -- Hannah -- causes ayin hara. I don't quite geti t because Hannah is simply a translation of Chana. But this girl declared her Hebrew name is NOT Chana and now asked to be called Esti. Note she was not ill or anything but decided on a name change as a preventative measure.

  9. Baila - Tefilah he specifically mentions. It's not a segulah. :) And yes, sometimes the answer is No... :(

    Bad4 - Very specific things.

    I've seen people basically make up segulos, or make up reasons for why people do things, and then later on other people are quoting them.

    Erachet - Classic.

    Joel - Yiasher kochacha.

    Ariella - Oy.