- Chassidishe Silver Rings II
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- The following was sent to the Jewish Press as a response
to an article reprinted on July 11, 2003. In this article, the
Jewish Press endorsed the ability of "Chassidishe silver
rings" to assist in fertility, health, and business success.
The article cited many Rabbis who endorse these rings. The Jewish
Press referred to a portion of the Talmud which condoned carrying
certain amulets on Shabbos. The author, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum,
sought to support his claims from Moses' brass serpent, and claimed
that tefillin and mezuza are "universally acknowledged as
having powers of protection", a claim openly refuted by
none other than Maimonides, as well as the Gilyon M'harsha in
our Shulchan Aruch. The author claims that these rings cure Parkinson's
disease, depression, banish evil thoughts, and cure other maladies.
Certain rituals of immersion are "required" when making
such rings - as is wearing white clothing - notions not mentioned
by the Talmudic portion addressing amulets. The author also states
that one must maintain ritual purity when wearing such rings,
and they must not be brought into the bathroom, as the rings
- I wish to examine such claims, in light of what our Talmud,
our Torah, and our Sages hold as Judaism's principles.
- Do "Powers" Exist - other than G-d?
- This question must be asked and answered by any religious-minded
Jew. It forms a "yesode", and basic tenet of Judaism.
If one remains ignorant to the answer of this question, one forfeits
true knowledge of G-d. This is the gravest crime. A human does
not have power over his own life, can he control another's life,
even with objects? We do not rely on objects of any kind for
protection. This is what G-d commanded, (Deut. 20:4) "Do
not make for yourself a statue, and any form that is in the heavens
above, and that is in the Earth below, and that is in the waters
under the Earth." There is no exclusionary clause permitting
objects which have Hebrew writing. Even Moshe himself broke the
first set of the Ten Commandments, lest the people deify them,
as they did the Golden Calf - and these had G-d's own writing
on them. Nonetheless, Moshe destroyed objects of G-d's own writing,
lest the people assume powers to exist in them. G-d told Moshe
he acted properly.
- One rightfully asks how amulets were permitted by the Talmud,
as your article quoted. I will address this shortly. For now,
allow me to support my claim by the words of the Torah and Rishonim.
Each day we recite, "Ki hu livadu po-ale g'vuros" ,
"For He (G-d) alone works might". Our prayers attest
to man's incapability to perform wonders, or the like. This is
clear. This discounts powers in any object.
- I understand, many may be awed by the reputation of those
endorsing these silver Chassidishe rings. However, just as the
Rishonim did not follow people, rather, they followed ideas,
arrived at only through critical, rational analysis, we too must
follow this method of study. We must engage our Tzelem Elokim,
our G-d-given intelligence, and choose a view not based on an
author, but based on the validity of its content - its compliance
with Torah. The Talmud teaches, "I would not follow (that
view) had even Joshua said it". (Talmud Chulin 124a, at
the very bottom). The Rabbis of the Talmud paid no respect to
reputation, not even to one as great Joshua, Moshe's prized pupil.
Ramban didn't simply follow Maimonides due to the fame of the
latter. Reputation played no role in Ramban's Torah adherence
or Torah reasoning. We don't find Ramban arguing with Maimonides,
yet saying Maimonides is also right. This is absurd and
against reason. Celebrity endorsements play no role in the validity
of reality, and Torah.
- Unfortunately, today, many are impressed with reputation,
not chochma (wisdom). Our communities echo with sentiments like,
"who am I to argue with so and so?" People abandon
the use of their own minds if someone with a great reputation
makes a philosophical statement. People feel if someone is a
Rabbi, he must be right and "who am I to argue?" In
Jewish law, yes, we look for psak - a ruling, but not in hashkafa.
Simple reasoning shows the fallacy of this argument. If there
are for example, two Rabbis who argue on a philosophical point,
by definition, they cannot both be correct. Astonishingly, I
have even heard people say they can both be right. How
far we are from honesty. The Ramban showed both he and Maimonides
cannot both be right when they argue. So how do people hold such
self-contradictory positions? They evidently are not following
reason. The Chovas HaLavavos says we must do just the opposite.
- The same way we look to the words of the Chumash to determine
what is Torah Shebicsav, (Written Torah) we also look to the
Rishonim for Torah She'bal Peh (Oral Torah). Torah has at its
core the system of the Mesora, the Oral Tradition, which originated
with Moshe (Moses) and which was passed down through generations.
We must limit our sources to these to determine what falls within
the pale of Judaism, and what does not. This is our sole barometer.
- The Torah' View on Objects, and their Connection to Changes
- Amulets may have been accepted
by certain individuals, but keep in mind, they are "mutar",
permissible, not obligatory. This teaches that their existence
in limited forms is tolerable, not a suggested
practice. What exactly were these amulets, as recorded in Talmud
Shabbos 61b? We must be precise and true to the Talmud's words.
Amulets were simple writings, or roots of certain plants. They
were not scriptural verses, "holy" names or angels'
names. They were not written to endow women with fertility, or
to make one successful in business. The Talmud clearly understands
that an amulet has no power. Its only function was healing one
who was sick. So how did it heal? If the amulet was a root, it
had real medicinal value, such a strong chest rub. If the amulet
was text, it functioned to ease one's mind and enabled one to
recuperate faster. Today, doctors teach that good feelings actually
assist in better health. Conversely, stress decreases our health.
G-d's natural laws - science - and Torah are not at odds. They
are both created by G-d, and therefore, must be consistent and
complimentary in the wisdom they contain. But there were no other
effects of these amulets. So how do people today suggest silver
Chassidishe rings make women fertile, or men successful in business?
Such ideas are not sanctioned by the Talmud, or by reason.
- We must not endorse amulets as they
are falsely understood today as having powers. This is clearly
false, against reason, and against our Tfilos. Additionally,
the Talmud does not say any amulet maker immersed in a
ritual bath, or immersed his amulets in such a bath. A ritual
bath - a mikvah - has its scope of laws clearly outlined in their
appropriate areas of Jewish Law. Amulets is not one of them.
Therefore, the attempted ritualization of silver rings by association
with a mikvah, distorts where and when mikvah is to be used.
If the makers of silver rings suggest that any immersion is essential
to the creation of these rings, I fear this superimposing of
mikvah laws borders on a further error of adding to halacha.
- You cited the case of Moshe creating a copper serpent. When
Moshe was commanded to place a serpent on a pole, the serpent
possessed no powers. The serpent was made of copper, an inanimate
substance. However, when the Jews gazed at the serpent, they
became mindful of their evil speech (reminiscent of the serpent
during Adam's time). They realized their sin, repented, and G-d
healed them. This is what the verses in the Torah state. (This
copper serpent was commanded by G-d Himself and therefore not
Avoda Zara - idolatry. Chazal already explained that the serpent
didn't heal, but G-d did the healing. The serpent had no powers.)
- Did Men Ever Possess Powers?
- Not a single account in Torah, nor in our Talmud by any of
our Rabbis, accepts that there are any powers possessed by objects
on Earth, not even in a mezuzah, and not by man. When Moshe raised
his staff in Egypt, it was not Moshe who caused the hail, the
locusts or any other plague. Moshe is a human being, as all men
are. People are created things. God alone controls nature, as
He alone created it. Moshe's involvement in the miracles was
ordered by G-d so as to imbue others with the truth that the
G-d of the Israelites was effectuating change in nature, and
that G-d selected the Jews as His people. This also teaches that
G-d relates to man. G-d's reward and punishment are realities.
Pharaoh confessed to this first hand, (Exod. 9:27) "G-d
is righteous, I and my people are wicked." All is empowered
by G-d Himself, as we say in our prayers each day, "He alone
works might". Prior to the splitting of the sea, Moshe said
the Jews would witness G-d's salvation. Not his own. When our
prophet Elisha (Kings II, 4:34) laid upon the boy and placed
"his mouth on the boy's mouth, his eyes on the boy's eyes,
his hands on the boys hands..." and the boy returned to
life, the commentaries clearly state this was done so as to concentrate
on his prayer to G-d. The prophet had no powers to revive one
who is dead. This praise we direct exclusively to G-d three times
- Reward and Punishment
- It is crucial to understand that assuming silver rings to
contain power, denies G-d's unshakeable laws of Reward and Punishment,
discussed throughout the Torah, and so clearly in Yeshiah, chapter
18. G-d teaches us that a wicked person is punished, and a righteous
person rewarded. According to this view of "rings",
someone deserving a punishment from G-d will not receive punishment
if he wears one of these rings. Someone deserving infertility
by G-d's hand, is said to become fertile by wearing a silver
ring. So what is mightier, these rings or G-d's laws of Reward
and Punishment? If people will respond that G-d still punishes
a wicked person, even while wearing these rings, and He rewards
the righteous even when they don't wear these rings as we
see throughout the Chumash, then these rings do not effect any
change. We have now proved conclusively that silver, Chassidishe
rings have no powers. This applies to any object.
- What is the Created, is not the Creator
- All else but G-d alone are "created" things. This
means that all that we see, all matter, is assigned a given design,
from which, it cannot deviate. A tree cannot produce offspring
of a cow. A cow cannot be planted and produce branches. All matter
follows the design given to it by the Creator. A ring cannot
"effect" change. Its is inanimate. If a silver ring
cannot make itself become gold, so how can one suggest that it
can help impregnate or fertilize one who is barren, by G-d's
hand at that?
- Authentic Sources
- I will quote our authentic sources - not for the sake of
endorsement, but for the sake of showing the Mesora:
- Torah (Genesis)
When Rachel asked Yaakov for children, Yaakov said, " Am
I in G-d's stead?". Yaakov attested to the fact that he
had no power to give her children. If people have powers, why
did Jacob respond this way? It is clear that Jacob understood
that no one is able to do what G-d does. Those were his very
words, "Am I in G-d's stead?" Additionally, when Yaakov
said, according to Rashi, "G-d has withheld children from
you and not me", he was not acting viciously. He meant to
say, "You have the need, not me, and G-d has not answered
you. You must then be the one to pray, as prayer enables you
to reflect on your needs, hopefully directing you to your flaws,
and then repenting from whatever character trait prevents you
- Navi (Prophets)
When Naaman requested Elisha to rid him of his leprosy, Elisha
did not leave the house, but rather, he sent a messenger to instruct
Naaman to bathe, and this would remove his ailment. Naaman was
upset with Elisha, that he did not come out, call upon G-d's
name, and "wave his hand over the place of the leprosy and
remove it". A friend suggested wisely, that Elisha desired
that G-d alone retain the grandeur for such a miracle. Therefore,
Elisha did not leave the house. He avoided the spotlight, as
Elisha knew that G-d was the performer of all miracles, and did
not want to mislead Naaman. Elisha was aware that people desire
to believe in man as a miracle worker. Elisha therefore avoided
at all cost, taking any credit for that which man has no connection
- Tosefta Shabbos
Sabbath, Chapter 7 states the wearing of red threads on fingers
is considered "ways of the Emorites". Against Judaism.
(This directly denounces 'red bendels'.)
- Maimonides Mishneh Torah (Laws of Tefilin
5:4) "....but these (people) who write on the inside
of the mezuza the names of angels or sanctified names or passages
or seals, they are in the category of those who have no world
to come. Because it is not enough that these fools have taken
a command and nullified it, but they rendered a great command
- the Unity of G-d, the love of Him and the worship of Him -
as if it's an amulet for personal benefit and they assume in
their foolish hearts that this will give them pleasure in their
futilities of this world."
- Gilyon M'harsha, Yoreh Daah, 289, (page 113
on the bottom)
- "If one affixes the mezuza for the reason of fulfilling
the command, one may consider that as reward for doing so he
will be watched by G-d. But, if one affixes the mezuza solely
for protective reasons, it in fact has no guidance, and the mezuza
will be as knives in his eyes".
- Ibn Ezra - Parshas Kedoshim (Lev. 19:31)
"..the brainless people say if it wasn't for the fact that
the Ovos (idolatry) and also the witchcraft worked, the Torah
would not have prohibited them. But I say opposite their words,
as the Torah doesn't prohibit what is truth, but rather, (it
prohibits only that) which is false. And the proof is (the prohibition)
against "elilim" and "psilim" (statues of
idolatry which all attest to their inability to do anything).
If it weren't that I do not desire to go into this at length,
I would bring clear proofs against Ove".
- Maimonides - Peirush Mishnayos, Avoda Zara 55a
"...the good and pious of our own (Jewish) nation feel 'there
is truth to idolatry, but they are prohibited only from the Torah'.
But they don't know that they are futile and lies, and we are
commanded by the Torah not to do them, as we are warned in the
Torah not to lie."
- Saadia Gaon - "Emunos v'Daos"
"I say also that it was for this very reason that G-d made
the prophets equal to all other human beings in so far as death
was concerned, lest man get the idea that just as these prophets
were capable of living forever, in contradistinction to them,
so were they also able to perform marvels in contradistinction
- "For if G-d would have done that (allowed prophets existence
without food or drink) men would have ascribed this fact to some
peculiarity in the constitution of the prophets wherein they
deviated from the rules applying to all other men. They would
have said that just as the prophet necessarily deviated [from
the character of the rest of humanity] in this respect so too
it was a forgone conclusion that they be able to do what we cannot."
- "G-d did not allow the prophets to commit miracles at
all times nor permit them always to know the secrets of the future,
lest the uneducated masses think that they were possessed of
some peculiarity as a matter of course. He rather permitted them
to perform these miracles at certain stated occasions and to
obtain that knowledge at certain times so that it might thereby
become clear that all this was conferred upon them by the Creator
and that it was not brought about by themselves."
(This denounces any distinction given to kabbalists or rabbis
feigning to have powers. If they defend themselves by stating
they do nothing without G-d's intervention, they border on being
- Rabbi Bachya - "Chovas Halavavos"
"Whoever has the intellectual capacity to verify what he
receives from tradition, and yet is prevented from doing so by
his own laziness, or because he takes lightly G-d's commandments
and Torah, he will be punished for this and held accountable
- "If, however, you possess intelligence and insight,
and through these faculties you are capable of verifying the
fundamentals of the religion and the foundations of the commandments
which you have received from the sages in the name of the prophets,
then it is your duty to use these faculties until you understand
the subject, so that you are certain of it - both by tradition
and by force of reason. If you disregard and neglect this duty,
you fall short in the fulfillment of what you owe your Creator."
- Devarim 17:8-10 states: "If a case should prove too
difficult for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between
plea and plea, between (leprous) mark and mark, or other matters
of dispute in your courts, ....you must act in accordance with
what they tell you." Regarding this passage, Rabbi Bachya
states: "the verse does not say,.....simply accept them
on the authority of Torah sages,...and rely exclusively on their
tradition. Rather, (Scripture) says that you should reflect on
your own mind, and use your intellect in these matters. First
learn them from tradition - which covers all the commandments
in the Torah, their principles and details - and then examine
them with your own mind, understanding, and judgment, until the
truth become clear to you, and falsehood rejected, as it is written:
"Understand today and reflect on it in your heart, G-d is
the G-d in the heavens above, and on the Earth below, there is
no other". (Ibid, 4:39)
- Additional Arguments Against Powers in Objects
- I wonder, can these rings can cause an amputee to regrow
that limb? These rings have no such ability. Then what is the
system by which the ring may cause certain miracles to occur,
but not others? If followers hold of miraculous cures produced
by these rings, why do the ring makers not hold that all miracles
can be performed by these rings?
- The phenomenon which ring makers say are caused by these
rings, are natural, and for which, man cannot pinpoint the cause.
Since there is no way - in their minds - of proving these rings
didn't cause the phenomena, they will give credit to the
rings. People do heal in time, make fortunes, find psychological
ease from stress, all without these rings. All that is occurring
when one wears the rings is the maker takes credit for natural
phenomena which will happen anyway. Had the successful business
man not worked for months, he would not have made a fortune just
sitting at home wearing these rings. But these ring makers still
maintain the rings caused the fortune. If a sickly person wears
the rings without taking medicine, he will die. I don't think
any of these Rabbis quoted would - if sick - abandon medicine
in favor of wearing metal rings on their fingers. If they would,
they are foolish. Maimonides never prescribed such nonsense,
he worked within the confines of natural science, and prayer.
- The Talmud states (Avoda Zara 55a) that Zunin, a Jew, asked
Rabbi Akiva, "We both know that there is nothing to idolatry,
so why is it that I see a sick heathen enter a church, and then
see him leave all healed? Rabbi Akiva responded, 'Diseases have
a duration, they would have left his body at this time anyway,
so just because this fool chose to enter a Church at the precise
moment his illness was to leave, should the illness remain and
oppose natural law because of this fool?"
- This gemara teaches that people will always try to view a
phenomena as "cause" for events, if such relationships
fit a person's fantasies. In this section of gemara, the heathen
undoubtedly felt his prayers to his idols caused his health to
return. A chochom such as Rabbi Akiva, saw the truth. Unfortunately,
these ring makers are falling sway to the same idolatrous emotion
as this heathen, as they fabricate relationships between the
wearing of these rings and the found success or health. When
confronted with such stories, the gemara is what we follow. We
don't follow present day stories and throw out the Talmud. We
must be honest, learn the Talmud, and realize the truths contained.
Even if it opposes a majority of people.
- Authentic Torah principles are those which sit well with
man, they are of ease to his mind and jive with his G-d-made
intellect. Yes, there are Chukim, but this
does not mean they are bereft of reason. Even Shlomo Hamelech
knew the reasons for all except one. This means that for all
other Chukim, King Solomon understood their reasons.
- To arrive at a clear hashkafa, (philosophy)
I urge you, read the Torah, see Chazal (the commentators), and
understand clearly the precise laws and principles which G-d
wishes we understand. Follow G-d's word in the T'Nach and Talmud,
not current views which differ. What will you do when two Rabbis
argue in philosophy? You cannot hold they are both right. You
must use your own mind to determine the truth, and without Torah
knowledge, you will have no tools to do so. Philosophy
has no psak (ruling), so study Torah carefully and accurately.
Think for yourself, arrive at conclusions only when matters are
clear to you.
- You are living your life for yourself, and only once. Take
great care during your one chance here. Learn what G-d has placed
before you to discern. G-d designed each of us with reason. We
each have the ability to determine what makes sense, and what
is false. Don't be afraid to do so.
- It is G-d's will that each person use their own mind, as
He has given each of us intelligence, and free choice.