Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ask Yourself This Before Reciting Parshas HaMon Today...

Before you go reciting Parshas HaMon today to get a segulah for a good parnassah, I want you to stop and ask yourself this question:

If you've decided to take five minutes from your day to do what you feel is necessary for a good parnassah, which do you think is a better use of your time -- reciting Parshas HaMon, or opening your heart to your Father in Heaven and asking His help in providing for your needs and your family's needs?

I have no objection to prayer -- on the contrary, I think prayer is a wonderful thing.  With prayer, a person has the ability to beseech God for anything and everything.  It gives you the opportunity to open your heart and become closer to HaShem.  With prayer, you have the opportunity to express true emotion.  Do you need a refuah from a sickness?  You can pray for that.  Do  you need help supporting your family?  You can pray for that.  Do you need comfort in times of crisis and anguish?  You can pray for that.  Do you really need to convert the 7-10 split?  You can even pray for that too.  For anything from the most important to the most trivial, He is never too busy to receive your prayers.  You may not always get what you ask for, but nonetheless, He is there.

But why is prayer so important?  After all, God has no need our prayers.  Our praying to Him doesn't change Him in any way whatsoever.  So, why does He ask it of us?  Why do we engage in it? 

One answer that I've often seen given is that prayer is not for God's benefit, but for ours.  The word "to pray," in Hebrew is l'hispallel.  This word is reflexive in nature, connoting something that one does to (or for) oneself.  In other words, we don't pray to God for His benefit, we pray for *our* benefit.  We are meant to be moved and changed by our prayers, hopefully for the better.  We are meant to come to the understanding that God is the source of all of our blessings.  We are meant to better understant that He is the one who provides us with life, health, parnassah and the ability to convert the 7-10 split.  So, when I pour my heart out to God for whatever it is that's important to me at the moment, I'm not just asking him for something.... I'm (hopefully) acknowledging and understand that He is the source of the good in the world.  By praying to Him for parnassah, I hope to become closer to Him.

A while ago, a blogger (who has long since disappeared, but thoughtfully left his blog up) came up with the term Vending Machine Judaism to descirbe the way segulos are "sold" and done by the public today.  In his words:

My main beef with the segulah explosion we're witnessing, is that it cheapens Judaism. I've used the term Vending Machine Judaism before, and I think it's the perfect description of the new religion we're creating. Basically, God is a giant vending machine. We stand in front of it, see what we want, press a button, and we expect to get it. Need a shidduch? Say Shir haShirm. Parnasah? Say Parshas Ha'mon. Can't find your keyes? Give money to R' Meir Baal Ha'Ness.

This is turning religion into nothing more than a means to an end. It's a selfish version of Judaism, as in "How can I use God to get exactly what I want"?

This is, to my understanding, the antithesis of prayer.  By *expecting* that God will grant you favor because you do X (especially where there is no commandment to do X), you do the exact opposite of prayer.  Instead of drawing you closer to God and making you appreciate Him, it causes you to think of Him as some cosmic vending machine.  Instead of beseeching, you come to expect and demand.  Instead of being forced to engage in internal contemplation and soul-searching, you simply expect to recite a paragraph by rote and receive what you deserve.

So, think about this before you invest five minutes in the recitation of Parshas HaMon today, and ask yourself this question:  if you're going to invest five minutes of the day in pursuit of turning to Him for help in parnassah, how do you think He would rather you spend those five minutes -- in rote recitation of a paragraph, or in emotional prayer from the heart?

The Wolf

24 comments:

S. said...

>So, think about this before you invest five minutes in the recitation of Parshas HaMon today, and ask yourself this question: if you're going to invest five minutes of the day in pursuit of turning to Him for help in parnassah, how do you think He would rather you spend those five minutes -- in rote recitation of a paragraph, or in emotional prayer from the heart?

For awhile there was a certain way you could bend a metrocard and get a free ride on the subway. Of course it was illegal, but it worked. What approach would have been the best one for the MTA to take? Should they have told people who knew how to do it that it's not the best way to get a ride on the subway, that they should be honest and pay for the ride? Of course not. The people weren't going to listen. Instead they had to threaten to issue a summons to anyone caught doing it and at the same time work on the system so that the hack doesn't work anymore.

I think the rabbis who take the tack you did here, to tell people not to do a shortcut, are obviously going to be ignored - as are you. The only way to stop this is to undermine it entirely, tell people that it's superstition and they should be embarrassed to fall for it. If you tell them "What do you think God would prefer?" while being coy about the efficacy of the segulah, what else will they conclude but that it works, or may work - even if God "prefers" prayer? And if it could work, then who says God doesn't want you do to do it? Choshuve seforim say to do it, you see.

Nice Jewish Guy (signed out) said...

Couldn't it be argued that saying Parshat HaMon is in itself a form of prayer? After all, the person saying it is (hopefully) saying it with the intent of it somehow facilitating his underlying request to God for a better financial state. And further, the person could say PhM and also pray for the same amount of time- the two are not mutually exclusive.

Personally, I happen to agree with you- I think these things are superstitions. But I think most people take the position of, "well, it can't hurt, and it might help", so they do it.

Unknown said...

I don't think that your argument is much different than one one could make vis a vis daily tefillah in general.

I noted to someone today that my family as a whole thinks little of segulos (we're really Litvish :) ). That said, my mom actually sent me Parshas HaMon, so I figured why not read through it... and if you DO pay attention to the words, it's exactly like a heartfelt tefillah. I've had a rough year (let's just say dishonest Jews), so reading "b'nachas v'lo b'tza'ar, b'chavod v'lo b'bizui, b'heter v'lo b'issur" meant a lot. And a bit of a reminder of how we're supposed to view parnassah and sustenance from the actual parsha was good, too.

Basically, I think I'm saying that as with anything, one's kavanah and approach matters. Yes, if people think "Ooo, magic!!", that's a problem, but that's not an issue with the Parsha - just with the person.

ItcheSrulik said...

Personally, I think it's nonsense and I didn't say it. I'm not even up to there in my leining prep. That being said, saying parshas haman seems to be a prayer following the aims described in sefer hacharedim (a book written long before chareidi-ism was invented.)

The author writes that the purpose of prayer is to make us think about our situation to better ourselves thereby becoming more worthy of getting what we are asking for. Parshas Ha'man serves that purpose very well by reminding us exactly where all our hard-earned money comes from.

PS Did you see the link I sent gave you to the listserve archive? I tried posting it on the YWN forums, gave up and left it in the comments to the post below this one.

Woodrow/Conservadox said...

What's a 7-10 split, anyhow?

Anonymous said...

and those who make a misheberach that says "please heal X because we are praying for him" you understand (i.e. why not just pray for him?)
KT
Joel Rich

Ben Torah said...

If you've decided to take five minutes from your day to do what you feel is necessary for a good parnassah, which do you think is a better use of your time -- reciting Parshas HaMon, or opening your heart to your Father in Heaven and asking His help in providing for your needs and your family's needs?
...
So, think about this before you invest five minutes in the recitation of Parshas HaMon today, and ask yourself this question: if you're going to invest five minutes of the day in pursuit of turning to Him for help in parnassah, how do you think He would rather you spend those five minutes -- in rote recitation of a paragraph, or in emotional prayer from the heart?


One is not mutually exclusive of the other. Instead of 5 minutes it'll be 10 minutes.

BrooklynWolf said...

One is not mutually exclusive of the other. Instead of 5 minutes it'll be 10 minutes.

Then why not spend the entire 10 minutes davening for parnassah?

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

What's a 7-10 split, anyhow?

See here.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

and those who make a misheberach that says "please heal X because we are praying for him" you understand (i.e. why not just pray for him?)

You could very easily make the argument that the MiSheberach is a prayer in and of itself. The fact that we say during the prayer that we're going to continue to pray for the sick at a future time is not really relevant.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Basically, I think I'm saying that as with anything, one's kavanah and approach matters. Yes, if people think "Ooo, magic!!", that's a problem, but that's not an issue with the Parsha - just with the person.

Agreed... and, in truth, if people viewed this segulah (and others) in that light, I probably wouldn't have cause to complain.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Couldn't it be argued that saying Parshat HaMon is in itself a form of prayer?

I don't think so. It's not in the form of a prayer.

The Wolf

Ben Torah said...

Then why not spend the entire 10 minutes davening for parnassah?

So do that. And spend 5 minutes of the tefila. It'll be 15 minutes.

Ben Torah said...

BTW Wolf, are you saying spending 10 minutes davening for parnassa is more effective than spending 5 minutes davening for parnassa?

Anonymous said...

I usually recieve 8 emails prior to the day of the recitation of parshas ha-mon. It has always made me extremely nervous because they make you feel like if you do not get a chance to say it, you will be doomed. we have to do our hishtadlus, and leave the rest up to the aibeshter. g-d will help us even if we cannot say it. wolf, many pple do not stop and pray to g-d from their hearts.(using their own words ) I learned very late in life, but I learned to speak to him. may we always feel that closeness to hashem.

Anonymous said...

and saying tehillim.
BTW if one of my rabbeim once told us the best segula for parnassa is to learn a trade. R' Asher Weiss suggests sticking to segulot that are mentioned in the Talmud.
KT
Joel Rich

BrooklynWolf said...

So do that. And spend 5 minutes of the tefila. It'll be 15 minutes.

BTW Wolf, are you saying spending 10 minutes davening for parnassa is more effective than spending 5 minutes davening for parnassa?

The amount of time is really irrelevant. The point is this: if you're going to set aside time to do what you can with HKBH for parnassah, how do you think that time is better spent -- heartfelt tefilah, or reciting segulos?

The Wolf

jrs said...

Speaking of MiSheberach's... regular prayer is, theoretically at least, a personal plea to Hashem for whatever you need/want. Misheberach's, OTOH, are a prayer-by-proxy with no effort expended other than a monetary pledge, and they tend to mention one's family, shul tablemates & assorted favored people the oleh chooses to include, looking randomly around the shul. Are we to believe that these unknowing recipients are somehow in for some extra good from Hashem, merely because their shul-buddy included them, but not the guy next to them?

How about the mass Refuah-Shelaimah Misheberach lists that are now recited in countless shuls? So if there's some choleh out there who's not sufficiently 'connected' to have his name added to the list, he's got less of a chance?

Ben Torah said...

The point is this: if you're going to set aside time to do what you can with HKBH for parnassah, how do you think that time is better spent -- heartfelt tefilah, or reciting segulos?

For the 5 minutes you can do both.

Chaim B. said...

1. The whole point of reading parshas haman is to think about the fact that Hashem provides parnasa (like man). No more magical than davening.

2. Do you wave na'anuim with your lulav in order to prevent hurricanes (as Chazal teach)? Wouldn't it be better to pray to G-d or change or ways rather than wave a lulav around thinking that that that's going to accomplish anything?

Ichabod Chrain said...

"We are meant to come to the understanding that God is the source of all of our blessings. We are meant to better understand that "He is the one who provides us with life, health, parnassah and the ability to convert the 7-10 split. So, when I pour my heart out to God for whatever it is that's important to me at the moment, I'm not just asking him for something.... I'm (hopefully) acknowledging and understand that He is the source of the good in the world. By praying to Him for parnassah, I hope to become closer to Him."

Wolf, I have no idea what you're talking about in this post. All you've convinced me is what prayer doesn't do, and why we shouldn't rely on segulos. You haven't made the case for why we should daven.

What does it mean to be closer to Him? How do I know it when it happens? What is the point of it? Even if some closeness were good, maybe you're at the optimal point of closeness right now, so why would you want to become closer, especially if doing so means becoming like many of those you have criticized over the years?

If you can't answer those questions then you can raise the same objections to prayer as you can to segulos.

Balashon said...

A few years ago (on an earlier blog), I discussed this phenomenon, but I called it instead of a vending machine, a "divine jukebox":

no divine jukebox

no divine jukebox, part 2

In the second post I touched on some of the same points you did in yours.

Anonymous said...

the best segulah for a good living is wearing blue socks on days of the week that have an "a" and them and wishing every third person you see"Happy Sandwich Day."This,however,only works in towns and cities with a population of at least 7 Zoroastrians.For those wishing to really test the boundaries,get a good education, and work hard.I hear that also works.

Avram in MD said...

Hi Wolf, I like your blog.

I understand exactly what you are saying about relying on segulos. A person risks placing faith in the segula rather than in Hashem through proper davening.

Your argument, however, can be extended to question the use of pesukim in our regular daily tefillos, e.g., the Tehillim, verses, and Az Yashir in P'sukei D'zimra, among others. In other words, wouldn't it be better to completely scrap a set liturgy altogether and spend the time pouring one's heart out to Hashem?

I think combining heartfelt prayer with pesukim makes for a powerful combination.