Thoughts on Segu’los
Recently I was in the Living Torah Museum in Boro Park, New York. As the fascinating tour was going on the guide mentioned three different segu’los. While thinking about the subject of segu’los in general it occurred to me that there may be a great downside to this practice. In a way this idea takes our focus away from the One who provides the bracha, Hashem, and refocuses us on what an object can do for us.
The most famous segu’los are perhaps the one we have Lail Rosh Hashanah. These segu’los are mostly based on cute word play to remind us of some need or want that we have for the upcoming year. But we don’t rely on the object. Rather, each food in accompanied by a tefilah where we ask Hashem to give us a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. The new segu’los I heard were totally different.
The first segu’lah was owning a machatzis ha’shekel. He claimed that merely owning such a coin would bring untold wealth to the owner. He told all those present that the person he had got his first machatzis ha’shekel from was a billionaire and how he after getting this machatzis ha’shekel became a multimillionaire. He listed a long list of well know people and Rebbes who had purchased some of the 30+ machatzis ha’shekel coins he had found. We were all encourage to believe that if we were to own such a coin we would similarly become wealthy. The appeal was made directly to our Yetzer Ha’rah. Buy this coin and get rich. Though the problems of making money being the central goal of the lives of American Jews are for another time.
The other segu’los where similar in nature. One was that owning all the spices that make up the ketores would protect one from fire. The other was that owning the precious stones that were in the choshen would provide countless benefits to the owners. Each segu’lah he had a story and a source. Some of the sources were from the writings of well-known rabanim some, mostly the ones for owning a machatzis ha’shekel, were a stretch at best.
None, however, were based on turning to Hashem and asking for these needs or wants. For each one we were told that each object had within it some sort of mystical power to change our lives in seemingly positive ways. A story is told that the Chafetz Chaim once told his talmidim, when the Mississippi River overflowed its bank killing some people and causing wide spread destruction, that events like these are wake up calls telling us; do teshuvah! Turn back to Hashem and trust in him! But when we turn to spices and say these spices protect us from flame then when a fire happens will we say to ourselves “how can we be better people” or will we say “I’m ok, I’ve got spices”? Here-in lies the great danger of many segu’los. If not put in the right context they run the risk of turning us away from Hashem, chas v’shalom, and toward putting faith in an object, which may be avodah zarah.
Thoughts on Segulos (PDF)