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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Superstition

if you call it “kabbalah” you are guaranteed a whole legion more of suckers.
ganpati-shtreimel

I will concede that a person’s frame of mind can make a tremendous difference to his will to overcome challenges. These placebos may have such an affect. But we are taught that a direct line to the Almighty is the true response to a crisis. It helps us cope. It is one thing to turn to a greater or holier person for inspiration. But it is a failure of one’s humanity to expect them to perform miracles for us.

In days gone by, people they explained the irrational in life as the work of spirits, evil eyes, curses, or the wheel of fortune. They saw astrology as a tool to explain the way God intervenes in the world, rather than as a system in competition with the Divine. They realized there were external influences such as gravity and natural phenomena. They just wanted to know how they could control it all. We graduated to seeking scientific information. Yet still there is so much that escapes us. That is why we still cling to magic.

Superstition is the belief that totally illogical, random actions cause bad things to happen. As well, acts of equal randomness can be antidotes. Such an idea flies in the face of numerous Biblical and post-Biblical texts. The magician Bilaam, who was invited to curse the Israelites, ended up blessing them and declared that “Jacob is not subject to magic and Israel is not influenced by sorcery” (Numbers 23). My father always used to tell us children that if we were frightened of anything we only had to say the “Shema”. That would be our hotline to God, and that was the only protection we would need.

So today when we wish each other Mazal Tov, what can that mean? The rabbis argued about whether Mazal applied to God-fearing Jews (Shabbat 156a and b). Overwhelmingly, they decided it did not. Good deeds and charity were the only response. But there were no guarantees. Death and sickness were and are inevitable. So is the human capacity for inflicting evil. “The world functions according to its own rules” says the Talmud. When we wish someone Mazal Tov we express the hope that their lives will be as free of pain and suffering as possible, not that random actions can save us. But then, as they say, there are no atheists in a war zone, so I guess there is no logic when one is desperate. I just wish all that wasted money would go instead to people or institutions that really deserve it!

About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.


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19 Responses to “Superstition”

  1. Dukuly Soko says:

    no not me, I only need my Lord and his father.

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    "Mazel Tov" has as many nuances as does "nu" Other than that, right on brother. Personally, I'm a rationalist. All the mysticism I need is found on the pages of The Book. The rest is just mumbo jumbo.

  3. Ben Yosef Shomer says:

    you are wrong rabbi Rosen……

  4. Can someone tell me the difference between religion and superstition they're both based on the supranational.

  5. Fantastic article, it was sorely needed, there are many menuvalim calling themselves mekubalim!!!!!

  6. I agree with you entirely, we need to be aware that the Zohar is a medieval forgery done by a shady character Moshe de Leon, probably with some Franciscan brothers helping him. The real thing is the Tenach and the Talmud, but beware of taking midrashim literally.

  7. Only analyse the etymology of the words:
    Religion comes from the latin "religare"which means to put together,it implies a relationship with the divinity and with the society. Religion is based on revelation and reason.
    Superstition is what is left from traditions all the mumbo jumbo, without logic. It can parasitize religion.

  8. Why is the Rabbi wrong? EXPLAIN!! Are you afraid of the truth?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great article. This Humanoid (elephant god) called Ganesh and all others gods that the Hindus worship are very real and NOT a myth. They are the products of the Nephillim that were destroyed by YHWH in Noah's flood. This Hindu god of luck, Ganesh, a giant, was also worshiped in Central-South America. Idols of Ganesh have been excavated in plenty in Mexico.

  10. You don't harness Divine energy. It is God who commands us and hopefully we obey Him. He is not a machine that we control by certain actions; He is the Creator of all things and the Sovereign Lord.

  11. The rabbi is wrong because the people must put their whole trust in the Lord G-d of Isreal, as there is no other G-d beside Him, and so we should learn lessons from the Israelites while they wandered in the desert for forty years and grumbled and G-d was angry with them, for not remembering that He brought them out with a mighty hand. and so we should look to the risen Christ who was lifted up, like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness for healing and faith in the Living G-d

  12. superstition is like worshipping false gods who have no power, only what is imagined in the mind.

  13. buddy religion doesnt save either, neither does believing in idols which have no power there is only one true G-d which is the Lord G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Seek ye Him, while He yet may be found, Isaiah not sure which chapter.

  14. Joel Chesky Salomon says:

    Sientje Seinen Both the serpent Moses erected and the later snake in the grass were worshiped as false gods. What’s your point?

  15. Rahel Sivan says:

    Agree, GOOD article!!

  16. Ben Yosef Shomer says:

    Chaim Yosef Levi , i am sorry about you

  17. Ben Yosef Shomer says:

    Chaim Yosef Levi , i am sorry about you

Comments are closed.

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