Friday, June 8, 2012

Do you believe in magic?

Having a run of bad luck?  Check your mezuzahs.
Breaking the law?  Donate to Kupat Ha'ir.
Want your daughter to get married?  Join with other women to bake challah.
Segulos.  Now there's something I DEFINITELY did not sign up for.
When I was 15, a love of nature combined with a field trip to Salem, Massachusetts sparked an interest in Wicca.  Three years later, I dropped it all for a weekly trip to the little synagogue that could.  Several years after that, my Messianic ex convinced me to burn all my Wicca books.  (Seriously.  He took me to the beach and set fire to my books.)  I considered magical interventions to be a closed chapter in my life.
Then Thing 1 was born.  Right away, my family wanted to me to put a red string on her to protect her from the evil eye.  No thank you.  Speaking as someone who spent three years learning about magical practices, this had "talisman" written all over it.  I'm sorry, but the last time I checked, doesn't the Torah, oh I don't know, FORBID this sort of thing?
Unfortunately, this was only the first of many segulos I heard about.  I read the Kupat Ha'ir brochures mostly for laughs, but on occasion there would be a story about someone breaking the law.  The authorities would be on to the person, but one call to Kupat Ha'ir and--problem solved!  Chavie's family is having trouble with various health problems, so she wants to check her mezuzah.  Why?  Putting up a mezuzah is a mitzvah, not a magic spell to protect your house.  I think too much of what we now call Yiddishkeit got mixed up with Eastern European superstitions and folk magic.  And, because we focus almost exclusively on mesorah, we can't separate out the actual Judaism from the cultural flotsam and jetsam.
Hashem has given us a Torah, but has also given us a world that works in a certain way.  Instead of using segulos, work with what's there.  And stop treating your mezuzah like some kind of protection charm.  Somehow, I don't think that's what G-d had in mind.

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