Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Scandal of Meah Shearim

Hardly a day goes past where I don't learn something interesting from blog comments, and today's lesson was a doozy. I'm still sort of reeling.

Here's the original report from Micheal:

Ever been to the "Ayin Hora" lady in Mea Shaarim? My wife dragged me. I watched the process for an hour while waiting. It was so obvious to me what the scam was. I estimated that she easily pulls in $60K/yr working just a couple of hours a day.

Here's the process:

- You sit in a chair next to a stove.
- She puts a towel over your head.
- Takes a saucepan with molten lead and swings it over your head. I don't remember if she said anything, but she probably did.
- She then pours the lead into another pot with cold water.
- The lead immediately hardens into a lattice form.
- Usually the first time there are little nodules in the lattice, or "eyes". These "eyes" represent your "ayin horas".
- The process is repeated until there are no more "eyes" in the lattice.
I think she charged in the area of $25 per person. (This was 10 years ago). We were tourists, she charges less for Israelis.
- She can also do the process for people who aren't there.

My observation was that each time the lattice produced "eyes" the lead was poured into the water in several short bursts. The final time it was usually in one shot. My theory is that the bursts caused the formation of the lattice to interfere with itself causing the little eyes.

Ye Gods. And this goes on in holy Meah Shearim where immodestly clad woman are routinely abused and humiliated? How corrupt, how lost, how sinful has Judaism become that a woman sitting in the wrong part of a bus is thought to be a legitimate target for harassment in the very same neighborhood that patiently tolerates a thief of this magnitude? What is wrong with us? Where are the Rabbis? Where are the bloggers? Where are the good people of faith and conscious who in generations gone by would have put a stop to this?

G*3 explains the scam: Fortune-telling with molten lead and water is an old Northern European practice. It’s up there with tea-leaf and animal intestine reading. Fear of the evil eye is rampant in the Middle East. And here you’re describing a wonderful multicultural synthesis that combines superstitions in an authentically frum way to fleece people.

He continues: I wonder if she believes in her own abilities? She may not be aware that different pouring methods yield different patterns. It may be a formula: the first time you pour in so many steps, the second time in so many steps, and so on. She may think that’s just the way the ritual works.

Even so, what she is doing is fraud. I'm miles away from Meah Shearim, unfortunately, but if you are nearby and able to catch this bunko artist on camera, I will post it and pay you a bounty.

There needs to be an outcry about this.

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