From the desk of Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
Thursday, January 20, 2022- Shevat 18, 5782
AMULETS, COLORED WRISTBANDS, SPIRITUAL NECKLACES, SPIRITUAL HEALERS AND ALL KINDS OF SEGULOS IN TIMES OF NEED, IN TIMES OF FEAR, IN TIMES OF DESIRES FOR MAYSIM TOVIM
HOW DO RABBIS AND CHAPLAINS FACE THE CHALLENGES OF
PATIENTS, OF CONGREGANTS, OF THOSE WHO SEEK THE MANY SEGILOS PATHWAY TO HOPE
EMUNAH, BETOCHEN, HOPE, FAITH, BELIEF IN THE HOLY ONE OUR G HEARTFELT CARE, SINCERITY, GOOD LISTENING PROFESSIONALISM AND THE WILLINGNESS TO RECOMMEND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WHEN NECESSARY
RABBI CHAIM MINTZ ON SEGULOS- YES, NO MAYBE SO
A patient so fearful and concerns about his/her medical condition and future. Someone who is an older single who has never been married or has been divorced or whose spouse died and seeks a shidduch. A couple desperately wanting to have a child. A person looking for parnasa. These and so many other reasons rabbonim and chaplains are often the first person to go to and to share from one’s heart so many of these concerns. Though there are rabbis and chaplains who are also mental health professionals, their role as rabbis and chaplains is not as a mental health professional. The same holds true for the rebbitzens, many who are also mental health professionals. Often, it is the rebbitzen from whom the women congregants seek guidance. Often, the rabbi and the rebbitzen compliment each other and with the permission of the congregant will collaborate for the sake of that congregant.
Recently, there have been various Jewish organizations promoting all kinds of segulos. It is not my intention to encourage nor discourage anyone from seeking the blessings, connected to any specific organization promoting their segulos .We all give tzedakah, recite our tefilos, and say our bakashos to the Ribono shel Olam. There are those who feel without those segulos, maysim tovim might not be possible. I surely am not one to say those segulos are not possible. What is important is to listen to the concerns of a person and offer the appropriate chizuk, practical and realistic advice for that person, couple, or family. There are individuals wearing all kinds of bracelets, necklaces, colored strings, pursuing seeking segulos from various so-called healers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving contributions to any specific organization, but for some, it is likened to purchasing a raffle ticket and praying with all ones koach to win. You might ask, well isn’t that what speaking to the Ribono shel Olam and saying ones bakashos all about -asking Him for ones needs? Of course, the essence is to be mispallel to receive what He feels is best and to be able to be mikayeim many mitzvos as well as to have maysim tovim. Rabbis and chaplains are keenly aware of not being able to fix a problem, cannot wave a magic band, but could also offer guidance and advice with wisdom, kindness, understanding, compassion, sincerity, and their blessings. Most of all to journey with that person, to be in his or her presence and to speak from one’s heart with TLC. Unless a person is doing something negative or harmful, there is no need to make an issue of wearing those things that they believe to have important significance. Years ago, a rabbit’s foot was the cool thing to carry around. Many believed rubbing the rabbit’s foot and having it always would bring much luck. The fur covering the rabbits foot came in a variety of colors.
There is so much emunah, betachim, we can offer those who are experiencing and in need of hope, understanding and compassion. However, it is important to be careful not to offer unrealistic suggestions or a blessing that is not practical. Should a person need therapy the rabbi, rebbitzen or chaplain should not be a therapist, recommend seeing one or calling an agency such as Ohel for guidance. Boruch H there are professionals and organizations addressing many issues such as fertility, parnasa, mental health, autism, various kinds of addiction to name a few types of concerns that are not in the purview nor expertise of a rabbi, rebbitzen or chaplain. It is important to ensure recommending to a known agency, organization, or licensed therapist. Regarding shidduchim, there are so many who desire a match made in heaven, but do not know who to turn to. There are reputable and well known shatchanin. A shiduch can surely come from anyone. Like everything else, it is all up to H. There are young age, middle age, mature age men and women seeking shidduchim. There are those who for whatever personal reason never got married, perhaps being a caregiver for a close relative, but are now interested. There are those who are divorced –for whatever reason and want to remarry. Then there are those whose spouse r’l had died and now the surviving spouse is interested in getting remarried. This spouse could be of any age- the younger age, middle age, or mature age. Yes, there are countless of those who want to be married, want to have a child, want parnasa, good health or a refuah. The rabbi, rebbitzen and chaplain are remarkable for their chachmas. What about all those segulos being promoted by various organizations?
The following is what Rabbi Mintz has to say from “Ask the Rabbi” written by Shmuel Zitter Excerpted from Q& A asked to Rav Chaim Mintz Mashgiach of Yeshiva of Staten Island and Manhig Ruchni of Oorah. (The Yated Ne’eman January 14, 2022, Pages 79-80) “The Power of Segulos and reading Parshas Hamon” Question, “I am bombarded with daily texts and emails of segulos, such as, “If you read this chapter of Tehilim on this day, or give a certain amount of tzedakah, you will merit good children.” This week’s segulah was to say the parsha of the mon, as a merit for parnasah (sustenance). Is there any meaning to all this? Answer, There is something to segulos, but it is way overdone. This concept has been overtaking the Jewish people for some time now, unfortunately causing people to forget H. It has come to the point where it is “just do this or that and all will be fine.” This is the downside of segulos, because people start relying on them and forget about the biggest segulah of all- belief in H, the Source of all sustenance and the need to turn to Him for all our needs. In truth, this is not a new phenomenon, and it was already addressed by the Chofetz Chaim, He would decry spending large sums of money on these various segulos to merit children. He writes that people would do themselves a great favor if they would follow the advice of the Torah and study more Torah, daven with more kavaneh, and perform acts of kindness, the greatest segulos of all. We often hear of people who are facing distress and go running to segulos. For example, some people will immediately check their mezuzos. However, Chazal have a different recommendation. The Gemara (Brachos 5a) tells us that one who is suffering should inspect his deeds and try to become a better person. Our behavior is the true source of any situation we find ourselves in, and distress is Heaven sent, a wake-up call to better ourselves. Occasionally, if the source of the segulah is from a great person, then it’s ok to do it. And even if there are times when one should check his mezuzos, it would be far more powerful to check himself and see if he is fulfilling the mitzvos contained in the mezuzah. In fact, having a kosher mezuzah on your doorpost, or even kissing it every time one passes by, is not the true fulfillment of the mitzva. The Rambam writes that when one passes the mezuzah, he should be reminded of H’s constant involvement in our lives, which will help keep him focused on serving Him properly. There is a story of someone who was in need of a salvation, and after receiving a blessing from a tzadik numerous times with no results, the great man told him that it seems that he is unable to help. The man then cried to H. “What should I do now? Even the tzadik turned to him and exclaimed, “Now I know you will be helped! My powers are limited, but once you turned to the Source of all salvation and relied only on Him, you will definitely be answered!” In short: The greatest segula is belief in H, the source of all sustenance, turning to Him for all our needs, and keeping the Torah. Other segulos have overtaken the Jewish people, making them forget about. A segulah with a source from a great person can be done once in awhile.”
When my wife was diagnosed with her cancerous tumors it was a total shock. We were mispalled H should guide us and of course we sought guidance from Rav Dovid Feinstein ztkl. A good friend of mine and well know rav who deals with medical concerns and referrals, made it possible for us to get an appointment with the right specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center whose expertise in the cancer my wife had was considered one of the best. He had just returned to Sloan after a medical conference over seas. Getting an appointment with him in such a short time was like a miracle. It was heart wrenching to be told there was no known cure for what she had, but he will do everything possible for my wife. Dealing with changing insurance, all kinds of treatments to be expected, procedures some which were to be painful, yet our goal and especially my wife’s wishes was to continue to live life with much love and care for each other, all our children, grandchildren, and entire family. Most of all, to increase our emunah, our betochen, our faith, our hope, our tefilos, our mitzvos, our relationship with the Ribono shel Olam. We were blessed to have a supportive family. Never intrusive, but always caring with sensitivity. My wife was willing to try a segulah or two, but what we did seek was the blessings from rabbis, their rebbitzens and my fellow chaplains. My wife’s wishes were not to spread the news and to live as normal life as possible. Not that we were adverse to anyone suggesting a segulah. What my wife wanted most was to receive the blessings and our connection with H to be strong and steadfast. I remember not long after my wife’s diagnosis and meeting with the fabulous doctor from Sloan, we were invited to a bar mitzva dinner that was graced by distinguished rabbonim and Chasidik Rebbe’s. I gave my wife’s name and requested each to be mispallel to the Ribono shel Olam for her refuah. It was so heartwarming that each Rav and Rebbe gave me such a warm and sincere bracha . All the many brachos comforted my wife. Even to the end of her life, she did not give up hope, but was realistic and conveyed to all who knew her the importance of hope, emunah, kindness and to love H with all of one’s heart. I have written extensively the many months prior to and after her demise. I share this now, to also convey the importance of life, of our prayers, our bakashos rather than emphasizing a segulah without one’s connection to H. Her messages were as it still is for me. the importance of kindness, sincerity, emunah, faith, hope no matter of ones background and to be Mekadeish H. To be thankful for all that H does for us. My wife was so unselfish. Her concerns for me and the entire family to get over any sadness, to live a meaningful life filled with simchas hachayim was so important to her. Though we all miss her as do so many others, we all want to fulfill her wishes and truly go on in life as she wanted us to do. This was not about how overcoming any grief and bereavement has been possible, but the essence of life even during one’s trials and tribulations. If someone wishes to seek segulos or wear certain items that brings that person comfort, is truly up to that person. Rabbis, rebbitzens and chaplains have such magnificent opportunities of bringing the meaning of life, comfort and of hope to those in need. If someone you know could benefit from a siddur with English translation, try the Artscroll Siddur that is transliterated which is great for anyone. Aside from seeking just segulos, the siddur is filled with inspirational tefilos. Understanding the words we daven adds to our kavaneh and helpful for all Jewish men, women and children’s relationship with H.
We are living during challenging times. Covid, inflation, crime, anti Semitic hate, and who knows what else lurks around the corner. We are fortunate to have many men and women not of the Jewish faith who stand beside us. We are truly fortunate to have law enforcement men and women throughout our Country who are ready to protect the safety of all citizens and enhance the quality of life.
We all need each other. Let us not forget the meaning of achdus = Am Yisrael Chai and Chaveirim Kol Yisrael. The Ribono shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael and our love for Him should continue with all of our hearts. In the concluding tefilos of the Shemone Esrei we recite “May they find favor the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart before You, H my rock and my redeemer.” “He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us and upon all Israel. Amein.”
Thank you. Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank