Reader: In my community people are too involved in what’s called a segula. Can you please elucidate what this is and explain what is the right way to approach it? By the way, I was wondering where you learned this approach to the torah. I am subjected to all these nonsensical ideas about ayin hara, segula and the like. Fortunately I went to the proper school and was taught to think the correct way.
Mesora: Segula is nothing more than another attempt by the insecure mind to guard oneself with physical objects. This is obviously foolish and affords no security. Furthermore, it is a form of idolatry, as it is a projection of powers onto creation.
Why there is such a thing as segula? Haven’t people already “protected” themselves with the other falsehood, that mezuzas protect us? Perhaps, people aren’t always in proximity to a mezuza. This creates insecurity. So they create a mobile protective device. What people do with segulas, is to force a physical object into their Judaic practices, and calls it a segula, a salvation of sorts. They need it to fit into Judaism because an outright claim that a mere physical object has powers is something their view of Judaism won’t tolerate. So they say that this device will either help one get married, give financial success…all things which satisfy their idea of the essence of Jewish life.
But if we examine the proper authorities, the patriarchs, the Rishonim and all Jewish leaders in the Torah and Prophets, we find no segulas. They relied upon God alone. The intelligent Jew is not impressed with physical objects. Did not King David state in Tehillim:147, “Not in the legs of a man does He (God) favor, God favors those who fear Him”. If one should not rely on an animate being, but rely on God, certainly, one should not rely on these inanimate objects known as segulas.
One should realize the fact that only God has power. If you can show this to other people, you will be doing them a great service. Saving one from the false ideas of the times can make the difference between their receiving Olam Haba, or not. Rambam talks about people who believe mezuzas have powers, and claims they have no world to come. These foolish people are making a mistake in the most serious of areas. They remove God’s distinction as the Sole Creator when they ascribe power to other objects.
Keep asking questions and don’t accept that which has no source in the Rabbis’ words, in Torah, or in reason. Let only that which makes sense to your mind enter your value system. Do not be impressed by mere numbers. Just as millions of people suggesting 2+2=5 will never sway your mind, so too, thousands of Jews who err must not affect what you see as truth, and Torah.
To answer your last question, this approach, is the only approach: reason. One, who studies the Rabbis, the Talmud, and the Torah accurately, will arrive at what is sensible. It is only when Jews fail to study, that their emotions are not in check, and they manufacture falsehoods.