“Magic” is a term we first learn when still a child. It refers to that which we cannot explain. We see a magician at a friend’s birthday party seemingly fabricate a rabbit out of his hat. “Where did the rabbit come from?” we wonder. Things that make sense, we understand not to be magic, but are called “nature”. We are not impressed with that which we can explain, and see everyday. (However this should be reversed when we mature, as nature reflects God’s wisdom) But that feeling of magical amazement lingers, originally entering our infantile consciousness by that magician’s unbelievable tricks.
We get older, attend schools, marry, start families, and work rigorous schedules. However, we never lost that infantile amazement and belief in “magic”…nor did we lose the absent-minded impression that maybe this magician really “did” perform some magic. We never think into it, for that birthday party was mere entertainment, and not where we are supposed to apply our minds, nor did we possess minds at such a young age…and therein lies the error: we harbor, and sustain this belief in an unexamined, and accepted magic. However, as Jews, adhering to Torah as our guide in “every” aspect of life, here too we must reexamine our infantile ways, and abandon them, attaching ourselves to truth, and applying our intelligence in yet another unexplored cavity of our unsubstantiated belief system.
Last week we ran an article in which addressed the advertisement of an organization charging $40 in exchange for what they promise is Divine Intervention: reciting Tehillim or Shir Hashirim – they claim – will generate some positive change in a person’s life, providing a “segula” as the ad stated. This organization does not care whether you are a rasha (sinner). Provided you pay $40, they claim to override God’s system of justice, where although you sinned and God wishes to punish you, their recital of Torah verses will grant your wish. For nowhere in their ad is there any caveat “sinners not accommodated”. They claim their practice works for anyone with $40. Does this practice seem idolatrous, and appear to violate God’s just system of reward and punishment? Yes to both.
Why did this newspaper run this ad that violates Torah principles, reason, and with no proof of such claims? Why do people believe such claims, enough to print them, and pay for unproven promises? A few reasons come to mind, as Maimonides stated: these claims are “printed” and people believe anything printed; Rabbis “endorse” them; and the masses follow them. Are these arguments sufficient that an intelligent, Torah abiding Jew should accept such ads’ claims as truth? How do you feel, knowing that the Torah (Deut. 18:13), Rashi (ibid) and Maimonides (Laws of Idolatry, 11:7) refer to such Kosame practices as idolatrous, refuting those “endorsing” Rabbis? Certainly God’s very words override these practices. (Kosame refers doing strange acts and forecasting the future including reading mezuzas, as this act deviates from the Torah’s words.)
This week again, yet another Jewish publication advertised the following: “Harav XXXXX: Seer of Mezuzot from Jerusalem; endorsed by Rabbinical leaders worldwide such as Rav XXXXX and Rav XXXXX.” The first thing that’s puzzling is why someone who is successful at “reading” a mezuzah needs any endorsements. Think a moment: a successful doctor needs no endorsement; his cured patients are all the proof necessary to verify his skills. Now, if someone consistently describes peoples’ pasts or futures with exactitude, his evidenced skills should obviate any need for endorsements. Endorsements add nothing when evidence exists. Just as the great doctor needs no endorsement, this “seer” needs none…if he truly performs what is claimed regarding him. However, had this Rav the skills claimed about him, he would be a famous, worldwide phenomenon. But he is not, and requires paid publicity in the form of a small, 1/18th page size ad. Could he not also “see” in his own mezuzas that I would be challenging his claims, with this article of mine? Why then has he not phoned me, asking me not to write this paper? Certainly, I would cease from doing so, being overwhelmed by his proof of his abilities with his phone call!
But the primary problem is this: the Torah demands that we follow all 613 commands, and they include the prohibition of consulting seers, warlocks, and enchanters. These idolatrous practices include the reading of bones to determine future events, and making noises and falling into faked trances where the seer would then claim knowledge of the future. Also included by Maimonides as prohibited, is saying, “Since such and such happened, I shall gauge my activities accordingly”. It makes no difference of one says, “Since a fox crossed my path”, since “Food fell from my mouth”, or...”Since the mezuza is missing this letter”. If one follows any of these categories of gauging one’s action based on unrelated phenomena, one violates a very severe Issur D’Oraissa, “Torah Prohibitions”. The Rabbis teach that one who admits of idolatrous practice, is as if he denies the entire Torah. And do not be mislead that since this person is Jewish, a Rabbi, or endorsed by others, that this in any way removes God’s prohibition. Study the Torah, and you will realize that this practice is idolatrous.
But now, let our minds enter the picture: let is think about the very claims of this “seer advertisement”. The claim of mezuzah readers in general is that by reading a mezuza, someone obtains true knowledge about the mezuza’s owner: the reader can tell about your past, your present, and forecast events. However, can anyone explain how this works? Even the seer himself cannot explain how his words are validated. He won’t even guarantee he is correct. But he will take your money. Thus, with no evidence, why should one accept his claims as truth? Why do newspapers accept these ads? Are they not concerned with misleading people if these claims are unproven? Are they not concerned with violating Avodah Zarah?
I phoned the number on the ad and asked if they could validate their claims before I spend my money. I asked to learn what type of information would be offered to me by the reader, and if he guaranteed this as 100% accurate. They said they don’t ask for money, but rather a “contribution of $100 per month for 12 months”. More dishonesty. I asked to speak to the Rabbi before paying, and they said he is holy, and does not come to the phone. I asked for some proof that what he will say is true, and they said, “we have many cases of success.” I asked for one. I have not heard back from them. During my conversation, I tried to educate them saying, “We do not find Moses, Joshua, the Patriarchs are any prophet succumbing to such idolatrous practice, and they never read mezuzas. Why does this Rabbi deviate from the Torah?” They apparently could not accept that their Rabbi violates God Torah. The “person” of this Rabbi became more important and “true”…than God’s Torah, Rashi, Maimonides and all the prophets from Moses through Eliyahu.
Entertain this scenario: 2 years ago I buy a new house. I have 12 doorposts that require mezuzas, so I purchase 12 mezuzas from my local scribe (sofer). However, this scribe was miserly: he saved on his ink purchases by diluting his inks used in about 35 mezuzas. By natural law, these 35 mezuzas with thinned-out inks were going to become brittle in under a year. And if placed on doorposts exposed to the outdoors, regular moisture and heat would hasten their decomposition. Unaware, I purchase 12 mezuzas from this crooked scribe’s lot of 35 flawed mezuzas. I ended up not needing all 12 mezuzas, so I gave 2 to my parents as a gift. Three months later, my mezuzas and those I gave to my parents have deteriorated. But of course, we do not know, as the parchments are encased in opaque cases. At this very time, both I, and my parents fall sick. My friend Michael says, “Have your mezuzas checked”. However, we don’t follow this practice of accepting mezuzas as possessing powers, and do not check them. Additionally, as the mezuzas are practically brand new, Halacha does not demand we check them yet. When we recover, we take a trip, and Michael secretly enters our homes, takes our mezuzas off our doorposts, and has them read. Sure enough, they are found to be missing letters and are invalidated. Now, what are we to say about this scenario: that my parents and I deserved illness because of something out of our control? Surely, the scribe was the sinner. So such a claim that we are punished because of someone else’s corruption cannot be so: this is not God’s justice. Another ridiculous conclusion Michael is forced to make, is that it was divine intervention that I purchased “these” specific 12 mezuzas, just so that I would have a “sign” that my punishment was divine. Michael must suggest that all events contributing to the mezuzas falling into my possession were “planned”. As you can see, this is a far-fetched fantasy, created by people to substantiate their baseless faith in objects, as opposed to God.
Rashi writes, “Do not seek knowledge of the future, but accept all that happens with perfection, and then you will be with God and among His portion.” (Deut. 18:13) Seeking future knowledge, one is no longer “with God or part of His portion”. This is because God created the world with cause and effect, and free will, precisely so man uses his mind to learn “how” the world operates, so as to procure his good, and avoid evil. Had God desired mezuzas to offer this knowledge, he would not have prohibited this mezuza-reading practice, and He also would not have granted us intelligence to discern what actions lead to success or failure. Intelligence would be useless if all our answers are magically provided. But as God gave us intelligence, and as a Rabbi taught, even called it by His name (Tzelem “Elokim”), we understand that God desires we use our intellects. This is how we are “perfect with God”…we follow His will that we use intelligence.
Furthermore, regarding those seers who forecast matters based on mezuzas’ flaws, what exactly is this seer supposedly “reading”? The words are identical in both kosher mezuzas and flawed ones. So the only differences are in the weathered letters and arbitrary cracks in the ink. Reading these random cracks is exactly what palm readers do: they claim each randomly-formed crease in your skin is…well…not random but significant. These seers do the same thing, and are violating laws of idolatry, as they claim accidental cracks and missing parts of letters to convey our personal flaws, where we must correct ourselves via Teshuva. But there is one grave injustice seers thereby promote: that God is evil. Through their theory, a person will be punished, if he does not check his mezuza and find out the “secret message” to repent. Thus, if I follow Torah law – acting properly – and know that I don’t need to check my mezuza for another 7 years, I am still going to be punished, since I never learned of my flaws, indicated by the “magical” mezuza! This view teaches that God’s system is evil. For He will punish people, even when observing the Torah!
In direct contradiction to this sinful theory of “mezuza seers”, our Torah actually says this: “Let us search and examine our ways and return to God”. (Lamentations, 3:40) Here, the Torah teaches again that Teshuva (repentance) has nothing to do with mezuzas, but must occur after we examine our actions, realize our flaws, feel remorse, abandon our sins, and only then…God will forgive us. This happens with or without reading mezuzas, which do not communicate God’s will, or are anything more than their written words. God’s Torah contains only those ideas that are pleasing to our minds and hearts. “This makes sense” must be an intelligent person’s response to this verse in Lamentations. God defines from where man might repent: he must recognize his flaws and resign himself never to act this way again. Only with such an intelligent realization of that which destroys us, and our abandon of such sins, does it make any sense that God should pardon our sins, and be close with us. But the absurdity that God should punish someone who didn’t check his mezuza since Halacha does not warrant it yet, is a crooked thought, and not part of God’s just system.
This lie that mezuzas are tools of “communication” is not seen in any of the books of the Torah, and the idea itself is against reason and putrefies the beauty of real Torah truths.
Where in God’s perfect Torah did He write that mezuzas are divinely endowed with messages? Nowhere. God, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and every great prophet never claimed mezuzas to possess such information. Thus, anyone today who opposes God, Moses and these prophets is a liar. These “seers” are crooks, as they take money for lies, unproven claims, and newspapers further this sin.
If we count the sins involved herein, we find 1) lying (to others about these readings), 2) stealing (people pay for these false readings), 3) idolatry, 4) Chillul Hashem (since the seer represents this as Torah philosophy), 5) Lifney Ivare (misleading), 6) Gaava (haughtiness, as in claiming knowledge of the unknown), 7) distortion of the mitzvah of mezuza, 8) denial of God’s system of Reward and Punishment, and I am sure many more. These are the worst of sins. For Shima, which is written in the mezuza, is the Torah portion teaching of God’s Unity, one of the most fundamental commands, and these sinners turn it into some magical spell that was never practiced by our great Torah leaders…for money no less.
These mezuza readers should really read something else: Maimonides Mishneh Torah (“Star Worship”, chapter XI) wherein these exact practices are identified as idolatry. The question is this: will one continue accepting magical mezuza theories as Torah and truth, or, will one consult the Torah and reason, and determine if these practices fall outside the pale of Orthodox Judaism, regardless of the numbers who follow such practices, or the reputations of those who endorse it?
These unproven claims are sinful, and those who advertise for these liars with no proof, lose credibility: not a good move for those reporting “news”. These claims mislead others, and reinforce what Maimonides defines as Avodah Zarah. Don’t think that our generation is exempt from the same idolatrous sins for which the Prophets rebuked the Jews in the times of the Neveim. The Jews back then also adhered to idolatrous shortcuts to secure good fortunes and futures. Man today has not been reinvented, that he no longer possesses the same emotional makeup as those who Yeshaya rebuked. Follow the Torah understand Hashem’s message delivered by His prophets, and you too will see through the false claims of today’s foolish Jews endorsing idolatrous practices. Hashem granted us intelligence to detect what is false, such as mezuzas readers, chamsas, and segulas. Unfortunately, these practices have become so ingrained in the Jewish culture, that “prevalence” becomes the barometer for what is viewed as authentically “Jewish”, even if to opposes the Torah.
This is a great shame: what is popular overrides what makes sense and what God says openly. These ads are a disgrace, and I am sorely bothered that other Jews do not join and denounce such travesties of Torah.
If a house catches fire, it will burn to the ground with all of its mezuzas. If the mezuza cannot protect itself, how can it protect you?