Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Perhaps the Way Segulos Were Intended

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Typically, the segula debate is a polarizing venture, pitting (for lack of better terminology) rationalists against mysticists. The mysticists fully believe in the power of segulos. They think some may be more powerful than others, but in the end, they all work. On the other side of the ledger are the rationalists who are more skeptical of the power of segulos. I assume they don't believe in their efficacy and therefore do not participate in mass segula events like Parshas Ha'mon.

I think both of these approaches are wrong.

Granted, my opinion is pure speculation, but I believe it is in consonance with the teachings of my mentors and rebbeim.

I think a segula was intended to be a ritual reminder. A sign-post along the way that refreshes our collective memory and helps us to recalibrate our mitzvah observance. Sometimes we need an external reminder. That is what segulos were supposed to be.

Take Parshas Ha'mon for example. I am speculating that it was never instituted as a method of obtaining parnassa. Rereading Parshas Hamon does however, remind us of the unique relationship we had with God in the desert, where God clearly sustained us for 40 years in the wilderness. Contemplating that is a good reminder that our parnassa is not purely in our own hands.

That kind of segula can remind us of an important lesson for our lives.

Many other segulos are similar. The act or the reading is not the ends, nor is it even the means to an end. It is a reminder. It is a reminder to include God in our lives. A reminder that we are an "am segula".

I think the perversion of segulos began with using these reminders as magic tricks. This led to the proliferation of more magic tricks using the same term: segula. (I abhor these and so do all of my teachers.)

Then the rationalists reacted to the reliance on magic using the same term again: segula. And if something is called a segula it is met with fierce opposition.

And I really think both sides are missing the real, intended meaning of many of the segulos and I think that is a shame.

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