Segulah, Superstition and Backwards Thinking

The confluence this week of several things I’ve written about in the past got me to thinking about Religion and how it inhibits progress.  (See some of the posts here, here and here).

Friend of the Blog Dan sent me this link via email, about the upcoming court case in Israel about mehadrin busses.  See, here in America, we’re about 50-some years past  “sitting at the back of the bus,” which has a long and distinguished pedigree of being symbolic of mistreatment and prejudice.  Yet, somehow in Israel, this is allowed.  And in “Ultra” Orthodox circles, this is encouraged.  The article even mentions separate lines in the post office for men and women.  Because we all know about all the sex that was going on in post-office lines!  This is getting completely out of hand.  “Religion” is being used (in a completely inappropriate way) to justify the systematic degradation and oppression of half the population.  This can’t be allowed to continue.  This makes “us” (I use that term because the world lumps me in with them.  I put it in quotes because I have zero identification with that group.) no better than radical Muslims that force the women to walk behind the man, and wear clothing that covers everything but the pupils.  One even wonders how such backward thinking can continue in modern society.

And then, the semblence of an answer comes in another email that is apparently making the rounds, since I’ve gotten it more than once: “Segullah for Parnassah – Parshas Hamon“.  You see (snarky apikorsus alert), when God created the Universe, he built in some special powers.  Among them was this one, that hundreds of years after the power was built, when the Torah was written down, and then hundreds of years after that, when the Torah was translated into another language, that reading the story about one time when God was gonna give the Israelites food in the desert (and they would screw it up by looking for some on Shabbos) twice in Hebrew and once in this foreign language (but not just any foreign language, this specific one from a country that destroyed the temple and exiled thousands of Jews) that would automatically, regardless of everything else the person has done, and whatever else he deserves, grant this person wealth.

That’s when I realize that the backwards thinking isn’t only with the Ultra-Orthodox.  It’s with everyone who believes in this stuff.  This isn’t Judaism, it’s phony, mail-order, easy-way-out religion.  It’s superstition and chanting and talismans, and is close to real religion as sacrificing a virgin to Athena in hopes for a good harvest (not a real practice, but whatever you get the point).

I wonder, to close out this barely coherent rant, how the people that believe in Parshas Hamon reconcile this with what we believe about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  On RH and YK, we daven for the upcoming year that it should be a good year, one with health and happiness and good livelihood.  We believe, and this is part of the davening, that every person’s year is inscribed in advance on Rosh Hashana.  So what good can parshas hamon do?  My year’s already been inscribed.  And that’s not even to mention the theological and philosophical impossibility of a perfect and infallible God chaning his mind. 


14 responses to “Segulah, Superstition and Backwards Thinking

  1. In fairness you could ask the same Rosh Ha’Shana question about the beracha of boraich alainu in shemona esrei. The parshat HaMon thing doesn’t bother me so much. I find nothing wrong w/ pausing during our day to recognize that all that we have in terms of material wealth comes from God. If anything we should do it more often. I do agree that it has become too supestitious/kitschy. Ppl. think it’s what they have to do to make it rich as opposed to internalizing the essential meaning of the tefilah which is to acknowledge hakol bidei shamayim.

    The seperate lines thing, however, is ridiculous on all fronts. I can’t imagine what the true gedolim of yesteryear would think about such behavior.

  2. I love my new name on here!

  3. When vigrins are sacrificed to the gods, do they get to have sex with 72 suicide bombers in heaven?

  4. Haha, so you’re saying that one religion is a fairy tale whereas your religion is real and true?

    Perception is an interesting thing.

  5. Actually, Chris, not at all. I was discussing and comparing practices within one religion, between what’s genuine and what’s not, despite the latter becoming more and more regularly done. I’m not sure what religion you think I said was “fairy tales” and which I said was “real and true.”

    Reading comprehension is also an interesting thing.

  6. I believe it’s a custom there not so much a sign of disrespect. I know it might seem strange to us, but in their culture, that is natural and you can’t just say “my culture does it this way, we are better, EVERYONE adapt to our customs”. That’s called intolerance.

  7. campion, I’m not sure which “there” you are talking about. I’m also not sure where I said that everyone needed to adapt to my customs.

    Nevertheless, if a culture forces its women to engage in certain behaviors that they otherwise would not, just saying “it’s their custom we have to be respectful” doesn’t change the fact that’s it’s still degrading to women.

  8. This isn’t Judaism, it’s phony, mail-order, easy-way-out religion. It’s superstition and chanting and talismans,

    It’s the unchecked mutation of Chasidism.

    –recently found the blog…knew I had found a kindered spirit when I saw KSK & FJM in the blogroll.

  9. The problem is that this *isn’t* “some other culture’s way of doing things”, these are new practices being enforced and imposed on people who have no history of such things.

  10. Perhaps my prior comment was a bit cursory, but my point is less to the fact that you’re comparing religions and moreso that you’re utilizing your own religion as the standard on which to judge the others on.

    It seems more than a little presumptuous, is essentially what I am saying. And, saying “real religion” as though it were an indisputable fact of truth seems like an error of logic.

  11. you’re utilizing your own religion as the standard on which to judge the others on.

    Are you posting comments to someone else’s posts here? Is this some kind of mistake. You are addressing words and comments that aren’t even remotely in the post?

    What “other” religions have I judged again my own? I have judged only one practice within one stream of one religion, one that I happen to be a part of. I am an orthodox Jew, using my years of education and training to make value judgments within my own religion. I don’t discuss other religions at all. What are you even talking about?

    Again, your reading comprehension is lacking. When I said “real religion” the meaning of the words wasn’t “the one true proper belief” as some sort of declaration about who’s right and who’s wrong. Rather it was meant in the sense of “genuine worship of the Almighty.” And being an orthodox Jew gives me some qualification and insight to make a value judgment about what constitutes genuine worship of God within my own religion and what doesn’t.

    I can’t make the same value judgment about Islam or Christianity, so I won’t even try. And I didn’t. Again, there is no inter-religion comparison or discussion going on in my post. This is completely an insular discussion about certain practices common within Orthodox Judaism circa 2007 and their provenance. Why can’t you see that?

  12. Noyam, you did make a reference to practices of “radical Muslims” in your original post. So, a bit of religion comparing is implied there. Sure, , it’s a cultural reference or you may wish. 🙂

    But dont worry about that. No one, of any religion, can think of any other without judging it from the perspective of their own beliefs. There is no rationality that is un-belief-oriented or somehow outside of the box. We’re all looking at each other from our different perspectives, perceptions and judging. We judge each other because that’s a function of one of the most fundamental acts of the mind which is to seek to understand what a thing is. In the process of making sense of acts, practices, beliefs outside our own tradition, we perform a comparision of concepts. Really, its nothing to get upset about or apologize for doing. None of us can help doing this. (Nietsche and others like him wanted to operate outside of academia as if this would free him of it influences and he could rest in an untainted dot in the universe from which he could judge everything else–not a silly conclusion, just confused).

    The moral point here though is there are better and worse ways to go about this. Respect seems to be a good guidline as it upholds the dignity of every individual…

    To get back to your theme, however, about the definition of superstition vs genunine religion. Please understand that it may turn out that God himself created the universe with a tinge of what you or I think is hokey or superstitious. Rub these two things together, hop 4 times and say this phrase 5 times. Dont get too caught up in what may seem silly to you. Focus more on not simply the desire of the performer of such acts to seek God via his possibly cloudy vision of Him, but also whatever spiritual force is drawing that person closer to God. So, the person asks for a $14/hr raise and gets it after the practice. Then what? They look for the next most superstitious thing? When God hears my prayers, however I forumulate them, I often tear up at my good fortune…that the creator of the universe has heard wholly and completely insignificant me. It causes me to quickly go back to the well…and repeats and repeats. The next thing you know, I seem to have a relationship with God. More than that though, that very small pin prick in the fabric of the universe is widening and I can see God more clearly and I begin to understand the words of the prophets:

    O God, take pity on us and bless us, and let your face shine upon us,
    so that your ways may be known across the world, and all nations learn of your salvation.

    Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you.
    Let the nations be glad and rejoice, for you judge the peoples with fairness and you guide the nations of the earth.

    Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you.
    The earth has produced its harvest: may God, our God, bless us.
    May God bless us, may the whole world revere him.

    The transformation is from someone who is seeking something for themselves for possibly trite reasons to someone whose only sense of what should be done in life is to confess and proclaim that God is better than anyone had previously attempted to explain….

    When the light of God truly shines upon you, you will be a beacon of joy for everyone….open yourself up to the many ways He is pursuing you.

    God Bless.

    PS Chris…hope your observations about comparison of religions does not form the outline of a conceptual box you’re stuck in. If not, you wont mind me suggesting that the best next mystery of your life should be your own Will. Peace.


  14. Pingback: This Is What I Meant | The Noy G Show

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