A Wolf in Sheep’s String


Moshe Ben-Chaim



Proponents of the Red String claim it protects one from the “Evil Eye”, it watches over children, offers success, and insures healthy pregnancies. These claimants attempt to cloak their thread under the guise of “Jewish Tradition” by wrapping it around our matriarch’s grave. But make such claims about any other object, say, a cross or a rabbit’s foot, and these very same Jews will holler “idol, idol!”  Is the Red Bendel a Jewish tradition, or idolatry, and why should we treat it differently than other charms?


Moses killed the Egyptian, who was torturing the Jewish slave. He criticized Dathan and Aviram when they argued. He also defended the daughters of Yisro when troubled by the male shepherds. And timely enough,
Mordechai stood up to Haman, refusing to prostrate, even when sacrificing the safety of Jews. How much more must we take action when no one's life is in danger, while our fellow Jews are deceived that Red Strings protect, and that they form part of Judaism? This is no small issue. Red Strings question Judaism's fundamentals. We must do as Moses and Mordechai exemplified in their deep concern for others, and take action. Inactivity
conveys disregard for the proliferation of false notions among your brothers and sisters, and si contrary to the perfection displayed by Moses and Mordechai.


What does the Torah and its greatest teachers say? What is demanded by reason?


Tosefta Shabbos, Chapter 7:


These things are “from the ways of the Emorim” (i.e., behavior of idolaters): one who cuts his hair “koomi” (i.e., like the idolaters), and one who makes a plait (locks worn by Roman or Greek youth or upper classes) and offers it to the gods, one who raises her child between the dead, one who ties a cushion to his hip (a superstitious custom), or a red string to his finger, and one who appoints and throws rocks to the sea or the river, these are idolatrous behaviors; one who and claps and dances to the fire, this is idolatrous behavior.


Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed” (Book III, Chap. 37):


The same idolatry and superstitious performances which, in your belief, keep certain misfortunes far from you, will cause those very misfortunes to befall you. “I will also send wild beasts among you” (Lev. xxvi.22), “I will also send the teeth of wild beasts upon them, with the poison of those that creep in dust.” (Deut. xxxii. 24). “The fruit of thy land, and all thy labors, shall a nation, which thou knowest not, eat up.” (ibid. xxviii. 33). “Thou shalt plant vineyards and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, etc. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil.” (Dent. xxviii. 39,40). In short, in spite of the schemes of idolaters to support and firmly establish their doctrine, and to make people believe that by idolatry certain misfortunes could be averted and certain benefits gained, worship of idols will, on the contrary, as is stated in “the words of the covenant” prevent the advantages and bring the troubles.”


“Our Sages say distinctly, “whatever is used as medicine” does not come under the law of “the ways of the Emorite”: for they hold that only such cures as are recommended by reason are permitted, and other cures are prohibited. When, therefore, the dictum was quoted: “a tree that casts off its fruit may be laden with stone or dyed with red color”, the following objection was raised: “The loading of the tree with stones may be justified on the plea that it serves to weaken the strength of the tree, but why should it be permitted to dye the tree with red color?” This question shows that the dyeing of the tree with red color, and all similar things which are not explained by analogy from nature, are prohibited as “ways of the Amorite!”




No Proof

Where do today’s false rabbis, self-proclaimed kabbalists, and peddlers derive this notion of a Red String? Did they witness some correlation between one wearing a Red String and such fortune? Can you truly correlate wearing anything, and a successful pregnancy, claiming the former caused the latter? Isn’t such a correlation bereft of any causal relationship? Hence, one cannot suggest strings cause healthy pregnancies, or any improvement in health, success, etc.


If there were any cases where Red Strings proved miraculous, why are there no recorded miracles of this kind? With no record of such miracles, and with no basis in reality, we are forced to suggest two ways that Red Strings came about:


1) Deviant Jews concocted this myth. I would ask these Jews why they see doctors for medical treatments and surgery, when this Red String has so much power! Why do they even work at all? Let this great string deliver their needs miraculously! But they do work, precisely because their Red Strings are useless. But they care nothing about deceiving you, so they manufacture Red Strings and sell them under the pretense that they will bring you success and health. Money is their god. If Torah was their objective, they would abandon their sale of Red Strings in light of the following, most authoritative source on the subject, which identifies Red Strings by name as prohibited;


2) According to the Tosefta in Shabbos chapter 7, the Rabbis warn us not to wear Red Strings, as they are the “ways of the Emorites.” The Emorites concocted Red Strings. Now, if their ways were provable and reasonable, the Rabbis would not prohibit them, as Ibn Ezra says, “The Torah does not prohibit that which is true, but only that which is false.” (Leviticus, 19:31) The Talmud too records a case where the Rabbis acquiesced to the Greeks, submitting that the Greeks surpassed them in certain sciences. Torah is based on truth. Hence, the Rabbis of the Tosefta prohibited the Red Strings because they are senseless, and the Jewish nation is a wise nation.



The Evil

I accuse these peddlers of a great crime, “in their terms”: if in their minds, the Red String has the power to heal and insure healthy pregnancies, then they should give this string away FREE to those in need. But they don’t. They keep them under lock and key until they receive some money. Thereby, according to their ‘logic’, they bring miscarriages upon women who don’t have the $25 to pay for this string. In their own terms, Red String peddlers are most evil people.



Antithetical to Reason

They suggest there is a, “if-then” argument…a  “causative” relationship between wearing a Red String, and certain success or health: “If” you wear a Red String, “then” such and such will happen. Yet, they cannot explain why, or how wearing Red Strings causes these specific results, nor have they any accounts as proof.



The Contradiction

In essence, Red String proponents contradict themselves. For they say there is a “causative” relationship between wearing strings and certain results. Yet, we know that with regards to any, true cause of a result, one readily sees the relationship, thereby explaining “how” X was the cause of Y. We know exactly how dripping black ink on a white carpet is the cause for the carpet’s new stain: pigmentation and dying properties exist in the ink, and the carpet possesses a contrasting hue and moisture retention. For one to intelligently suggest that X causes Y, there must be apparent characteristics explaining this statement of “causality”.


However, when we review the words of kabbalists and current day Red String peddlers claiming these strings cause certain results, we see through their transparent lies: they borrow only half the equation, attempting to gain credibility by claiming Red Strings “cause” certain results. An average person would never think someone would make a claim that strings “cause” something, had it not been witnessed. But with a little intelligence, and the courage to oppose someone with the title “Rabbi” or “Kabbalist”, one can easily uncover the game these charlatans play.


Ask them for an explanation of how Red Strings affect reality as they suggest. They will of course have no answer. The ask them, “Why must the string be placed on my wrist? Why must it be on my body? What is the difference if it is red or blue?” These Rabbis and Kabbalists cannot answer these questions, because there is no answer or any reasoning, which could explain their claims. They are lying to you. Then ask them, “If you cannot answer me, why do you believe these Red Strings work?” Their only line of defense is to cite a previous Rabbi or Kabbalists. Then the cycle repeats itself.


In the end, you find no Torah source, no reason, but simply a bunch of fools purporting idolatrous powers to exist, which have never been witnessed, and they defame Torah in the process. This is why we must take a stand against such seemingly innocuous matters. But in fact, the fundamentals of Judaism are severely harmed if we remain silent. People begin to accept “powers”. Then, God’s exclusive claim to all that we see is marginalized. Therefore, we speak out.


On Monday, March 7, an Arab terrorist sprayed gunfire at Israelis standing at the entrance to the Machpela Cave, the tomb of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hevron. Four people were injured including a Border Guard soldier who sustained serious wounds. But Red String proponents claim if you wrap this string around Rachel’s grave, it obtains some power. But we must ask: how is it that a gravesite in Hevron containing even more Patriarchs and Matriarchs than Rachel’s grave, was not protected from gunfire? If the gravesite has no defense to protect itself, it cannot impart defensive or protective powers to a string.


Honestly, the mere uttering of these words, “a string having powers” is so infantile and primitive, I am amazed that adults buy into it. What’s worse: these adults are raising children - our next generation.


People, use your intelligence: God gave it to you for the precise objective at adhering to His Torah based on your use of reason. Don’t be misled by the popularity of Red Strings, the reputation of the seller, be he “Rabbi” or “Kabbalist”.


Reason exposes this idolatry cloaked in Jewish disguise, as a “wolf in sheep’s string”.