Monday, December 20, 2010

Jewish woman gets scammed by Rabbi; writes about it in New York Times article

The weekend paper included a sweet story about a no-longer Orthodox Jewish woman and her search for a husband, a search that included a visit to a kabbalistic Rabbi for curse-removal. >> See it here

Though the woman kindly gives the Rabbi some credit for a semi-successful outcome, I see in the Rabbi's behavior all the hallmarks of a scam. These include:

:: The forced diagnosis. Instead of examining or interviewing the woman, the Rabbi announced that she was under a curse after she picked a word from a book. The word was "kishuf" which means "magic" and, it was based on this selection that the Rabbi determined that the woman was under a curse. This is a very odd way to make a diagnosis, and its also quite easy to manufacture. There are literally dozens of ways for a conjurer to compel a desired outcome, despite the appearance of a free choice. Several of them require no special skill. If the book contained other words that might plausibly be associated with "curse" (like קללה the actual Hebrew word for "curse") the trick is even easier.  

:: The diagnosis of a curse This is standard operating procedure for all bunko artists. They declare that the victim is under some invisible curse, then demand a fee to remove it. I know of at least one famous Rabbi who takes money to remove ayin haras on a regular basis. 

:: The sacrifice of money Also, a standard trick. In one variation, the mark is asked to bring a package of cash. After a serendipitous switch, the operator burns a look-a-like package containing nothing but paper. The Rabbi in our story doesn't even rely on slight of hand. Instead, he dedicates the money for "charity", but the mark still has to deliver cash, and she's not given the opportunity to select a recipient of her largesses. It all goes straight into the Rabbi's pocket.

:: The open-ended prophecy An honest prophet might be expected to say what specifically would be accomplished, but our Rabbi only promised his victim only that it would be "Done on Chanukka." What does that mean? Many different interpretations are possible, and had the victim come back after several Chanukka to complain that the promise was still unfulfilled, the Rabbi, no doubt, would have explained that it was done IN HEAVEN on Chanukka, and that additional obstacles, still required removal at additional expense. This, perhaps, is why the initial fee was only $100. Seeing a 38-year old spinster in front of him, the Rabbi may have expected her to remain unmarried and to return to him again, and again for additional mumbo-jumbo.

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