Segulas: Open Letter to Email Lists


Moshe Ben-Chaim



The Torah teaches that Hashem punishes the wicked, and rewards the righteous. It does not say that challah baking or any other activity will help address our needs, as those practicing “segula” suggest.

When the matriarchs were barren, they did not resort to segulas, but introspected and prayed. On Devarim 10:17 “Hashem does not take bribes”, Sforno wrote the following commentary:


“The punishment of a sin will not be removed at all due to the reward of a mitzvah that this sinner performed. As the Rabbis taught, ‘A mitzvah does not extinguish a sin’. And all this teaches that one should not be confident that if he sins, that his sin is removed at all...except by complete repentance.”


Sforno was a great thinker, Rabbi, and a true Torah commentator. He remained loyal to Hashem’s Torah words, and did not follow practices that violated Hashem, unlike proponents of Segulas. And it matters none how popular segulas have become, if they are in direct opposition to Torah and our Rabbis. Sforno taught that our mitzvahs cannot remove our personality flaws, which may deserve a punishment. The only way we are forgiven for our sins and remove Hashem’s wrath, is when we identify the cause of our sins, recognize the error, and abandon our poor behavior forever. But, ignoring our flaws, even by occupying ourselves with many great mitzvahs, in no way removes our flaws. “Let us search and examine our ways and return to Hashem”. (Megillas Eicha, 3:40) Eicha teaches what we must do, and it does not say segulas are the Torah’s approach. No pasuk says so.


Nothing in Torah supports this concept of segula; Torah sources reject the idea of a segula. If we deserve a punishment, and we don’t address our shortcomings, baking challas with brachos cannot help. And if we have no sin, then the correct approach to infertility is medical treatment. In either case, segulas are useless, and violate the Torah prohibition of Nichush. Nichush in common day terms, are good luck charms. It does not matter if the charm is a rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe, a challah, key or a red bendel. The practice assumes that forces exist, which do not, and it is idolatrous. Tosefta Shabbos chapter 7 prohibits red bendels openly. It refers to bendels as “Emorite practices” which are idolatrous. This applies to all practices where we assume a causal relationship, which does not exist. Separating challa so that we remove infertility, find a shidduch, etc., assumes a causal relationship that does not exist. Hashem gave us sechel -- intelligence -- precisely because He desires we use it in all areas, especially in our Torah lives. Hashem prohibited many idolatrous rites since they were not supported by natural law. That is why He wiped out so many people, since they worshiped stone gods, or believed in demons, spirits, and other forces that defy natural laws. Hashem wants us to follow what our minds tell us is true, and not what our emotions “wish” to be so. I understand your good intent, but our actions must be based on Torah and reality.


Please help to remove false practices from Jewish culture, and instead of supporting segula, we should spread these Torah sources to our friends, for whom we desire to help. We must adhere meticulously to Hashem’s Torah...the Torah He said, “not to add to or subtract from”. (Devarim, 4:2)

It is time to use our minds and realign our path of life with Torah sources, not blind faith practices.