Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For When One Segulah Just Isn't Enough...

From Shmais.com comes this exciting offer of not one, but two segulos from the organization Chaya Mushka Yad leKallah...

Double Segulah for shidduch or any other blessings…until this Wed.

For segulah#1, all you have to do is give a contribution destitute Anash in Israel who are struggling to marry off their children.

Segulah #2 is available in two versions. A representative of Chaya Mushka Yad leKallah will be traveling to the grave of Yonasan ben Uziel for his yahrtzeit on 26 Sivan (this Thursday). For a small donation of $100, you can send the name of the person for whom you want divine favors with the representative.

However, for a donation of $300, you can get the segulah super deluxe. In addition to having your name (or the name of someone you want prayed for) to the grave, you can also write a full letter that he will read for you there, as well as at the grave of Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, R. Shimon bar Yochai, R. Meir Ba'al Hanes and R. Yehuda bar Ilai.* You can use that letter to pray for shidduchim, livelihood, health or anything else at all.

Hurry now! Don't let this valuable opportunity to curry Divine favor pass you by! Make sure you get your brownie points upstairs!!


OK, all sarcasm aside, I think that this reflects two sorry aspects of the way we as a community do things in the charity fundraising world.

The first sorry aspect is the way that "segulah" has become the new marketing buzzword of the tzedaka business. Everything is a segulah these days. Give to this organization, it's a segulah. Give to that organization, it's a segulah. What's it a segulah for? Shidduchim? Yeah, it's good for that. Livelihood? Yep, got you covered there too. Getting rid of warts? Sure, why not?

Back when I was kid, there was a word for that... prayer. But nowadays it appears that to be competitive in the market for the ever-scarce tzedaka dollar, you can't simply say that you'll daven for someone. You have to use the term "segulah." In fact, you might say that using the term "segualah" is a segulah in itself... to increase contributions. And, of course, one segulah is not enough. To truly complete, you have to offer the double segulah, with a super deluxe option.

The second sorry aspect of this whole thing is that the entire meaning behind the mitzvah gets completely lost. Heck, I'm all in favor of helping out destitute people. I don't personally know anything about
Chaya Mushka Yad leKallah, but I'd give better than even odds that they are an organization that does wonderful things to help people get married. Giving to people in need is a great mitzvah, whether it's to help with their everyday expenses or for those once-in-a-lifetime events like marriage.

But these organizations are beginning to realize that it's far better to tell people what "in it for them" rather than about the good work that they do. Notice that there is not one word in the advertisement that tells how many people Chaya Mushka Yad leKallah helped to get married, or what their goals are for the next two years. There's no mention of how many poor Anash were helped in Israel through this program over the last year, or how many people they plan to try to help this year. It's no longer about actually helping people who need help, it's about getting as many Divine brownie points as you can. And that's just sad.

The Wolf

* Did Rachel, Rabbi Akiva's wife, actually marry all those other tanaaim after his death? Seems unlikely to me given what her age must have been. Or am I reading it wrong and it's her grave and the graves of the other tanaaim?


TheAnswer said...

I received a mailing the other day which seemed like a Purim shpiel. The charity was "selling" an auto-insurance policy. For for a $36 donation, the students in the charity will say Tehillim for the donors auto-safety. What made it funny was the brochure used a lot of marketing terminology you would expect for a real auto policy.

This whole approach is making a mockery of charity. It is removing a personal relationship with God from the equation.

micha berger said...

I would site Antignos ish Sokho in Avos 1:3, but that's not strong enough.

Here's the gemara's definition of paganism (Bava Basra 10b): "'The kindness of the nations is sin' (Mishlei 14:34) — that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification." Okay, the gemara proceeds that to say that among Jews, it's not actually sin...


ProfK said...

Surely not by accident that segulah and superstition are both spelled in English with an "S," along with silly, stupid and self-deceptive. Those who market these segulahs are appealing to the lowest common denominator of our makeup. We don't require intermediaries in our prayers, nor is there a formal hierarchy with some people able to go closer to God than others, thus necessitating their intercession on our behalf.

I guess it's too much to ask that a tzedaka organization simply ask us to donate and tell us what it is they do and for whom they do it.

Ariella's blog said...

Sgula alert! I'll have to put a link.

aaron from L.A. said...

But if you act now,we'll double the offer and in addition,send you absolutely free, a weed-whacker and vegetable juicer.If you call in the next half hour,we'll also add the hippy-dippy potato and onion chopper. All you need do is pay postage and handling!

Elitzur said...

There is one segula I heard that actually works every time. If your tea is too hot recite Psalms 119 and it will cool down!

(Psalms 119 has 176 verses)

mlevin said...

Actually, the only thing I see wrong with it is calling it a segualla. What I see is a bunch of people whose job is praying for others. You pay them money and they will pray instead of you at the certain location or a certain prayer or both. Jews has been doing it throughout the ages. Even today, none frum Jews pay frum Jews to say Kaddish for a year.

These people don't need to describe what their organization does. There is one obvious thing, your money provides for the livelihood of those who are doing the praying instead of you.