Re: Segulas (spiritual remedies)

Israel Rosenfeld (iir@[128.139.4.12])
Thu, 29 May 1997 21:19:38 +0000

Chava Stepen <CStepen@ndc.co.il> wrote:
> This past Shabbat, I was informed that most Segulas I have been made
> aware of during my life are actually closer to superstition rather than
> a true Segula.
> Can anyone provide either a 1)source and/or 2) tell me if the following
> are really superstition:
> 1) Praying at Amuka
> 2) Drinking Segula wine at a wedding or sheva brachot (same goes for
> Segula challa)
> 3) Placing wine from Havdala behind your ears and in your pockets for a
> good week

1) This is a long story so please be seated.

I came to Israel as a single in 1967 and learned in a hasidish(Chassidic)
yeshiva (torah academy) in Bene Brak. It is the custom of hasidim (orthodox
Jewish sects who accept the authority of Rabbi Israel Baal-Shem) in Israel
to visit graves of rabbis from the Talmud and other great rabbis on the day
before Rosh Hodesh (beginning of a new month). This is done especially for
the month of Nissan (contains Passover) and Ellul (the month before the New
Year). So the day before the start of Nissan, my yeshiva rented a bus to
take the boys to graves in Israel. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the
bus stopped (so did the road) and everyone began walking. The target?
Amuka. Being new, I asked no questions. Returning, a fellow student
fainted. Being the "well fed American", I was expected to carry him. Oh,
Amuka means 'deep!' That is where Yonatan be Uziel is buried. And being a
"lazy American", I asked if there were insufficient graves in Israel that
we had to so far for one grave. My friends answered: "A SINGLE WHO PRAYS IN
AMUKA WILL MARRY WITHIN A YEAR". Wow! (BTW, I became engaged a year later -
to the day!) So I asked, 'Who says?' and the answered, "Everyone knows!'
Not wanting to schlep (drag) a guy a kilometer for what everyone knows, I
decided to look into it on Passover when I would be in Jerusalem. After a
few days of asking people I was introduced to Rabbi Shmuel Tchechik, one of
the elders of Breslov and a brilliant, but slightly eccentric, man. His
story: If in 1967 it was hard to get to Amuka, in the 30's it was near
impossible. Now he had trouble finding a mate and a rabbi told him that if
he would pray by the rarely visited grave of a great rabbi, The great rabbi
would return the honor by helping him in prayer. So he chose Amuka. But how
to get there? Simple, drum up interest in people to go there, so he could
tag along. Then he remembered something he had learned: I quote Bavli(
Babylonian Talmud) Yevamot 17a in Rashi: 'she-hakol ponim sham' - (Rashi's
quote from the Talmud) 'All turn to there' - (Rashi's explanation) All
illegitimates that can't find a wife turn to there. (Rashi's next quote
from the Talmud!) It's Amuka! And this was his solution! To tell people
it's a segula for finding a mate. Want to meet Rabbi Tchechik? He is the
cantor of the first minyan (prayer quorum) every 'Yom Kippur Katan (special
prayer said the day before a new month)' at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar
Yochai in Meiron. 12:15 in winter, 13:15 in summer.

2) Wine - It's a mitzva to drink 'Kos shel Bracha', 'wine used for a ritual
blessing'. Yalta, Rava's wife (from the Talmud), destroyed 300 barrels of
Rava's wine because he forgot to send her 'Kos shel Bracha'! Chala (braided
bread) - The Gaon (genius) of Vilna said that eating of the chala from a
Pidyon Haben (redemption of the first born on his 30th day), is equivalent
to fasting 84 days - the Torah uses the word 'pidyom' which is the letters
- PD (peh dalet), the number 84 and 'yom' - day.

3) Havdala - blessings to end Sabbath and holidays. The blessing is made
over wine, and if Sabbath, over a candle too. It is customary to extinguish
the candle in the left-over wine and to place some of that wine on the
eye-lids as a segula not to forget Torah learned that week.

I asked my father a"h why HE put some in his pockets (he was a rabbi and a
student of the kabbalah - secrets of the Torah) and he said that there is
no valid reason to do so, but if everyone else does, maybe it would work.

In conclusion, I would suggest reading the book 'Taamei Haminhagim'
(sources of the customs). It's an eye opener. I wonder if it was translated
to English?

Behatzlacha raba.

Yisrael