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Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
The concept that there is a protective force other than G-d is alien to Judaism.
We have never seen an object given any value other than its own simple
function. A lamp gives light. Do we bow down to it? A fireplace gives
heat. Do we say it also possesses intellect? No.
Attributing powers to simple, physical objects is an absurdity. The truth is, if one were to ask a person who believes in red bendels, "when does the bendel become powerful? Once it is twined, or even before? As it is half full of red dye, or only completely red? Before or after it dries?" The person will be dumbfounded, as there are no rules. Showing how the bendel is a manufactured item, and follows no rationale, removes the strength of the power incorrectly attached to it. It shows the believer that it really isn't any more significant than a green bendel. They will fully admit that a bendel of any other color will not protect. Also, if this is so powerful, why has G-d not mentioned it in the Torah?
Believing in the bendel is just that....a belief without proof. It is based in an insecurity in the follower. Many items discussed by the Rambam as being under the category of Avodah Zarah also bear the same markings as the red bendel. A need for security.
The Haftorah on Parshas Vayikra states that people used to take a tree,
half of which they would cook their food, and even warm themselves. The
other half they would make into an image, and say to it, "save me,
for your are my god". What this Haftorah is teaching, to quote a
Rabbi, is contrasting these two performances, 1) warming oneself, and 2)
idolatry. This Haftorah is showing how absurd it is to take an object such
as a tree, to which nobody would claim had any power, and use half for
practical purposes, and half insanely for idolatry. The apparent
contradiction is that half is only firewood. So why was the other half any
better, that they should prostrate themselves to it and call it a god?
Rambam (Hilchos Avoda Zarah, 11:4) certainly classifies this type of activity as idolatrous. Anyone who gives signs for themselves is partaking of primitive practices. Rambam states, "If one's bread falls from his mouth, or his staff from his hand and he says I won't go to such and such a place for I won't be successful", this person receives lashes (Malkus). These activities have no bearing on daily occurrences.
The same applies to red bendels, or placing a prayer in the Kotel Hamaaravi, the Western Wall. The bendel is just a thread. The wall is just stone. As a matter of fact, the passage in the Torah says (Exodus, 20:21)"any place that you mention my Name, I will come to you and I will bless you". Hashem can hear equally well from the Wall, or from one's shul. One is no closer to Hashem by merely being at the Wall. Closeness in physical proximity to the Wall, does not mean closeness in one's approach to Hashem.
There are statements in the Talmud that talk about the air of Israel making one wise, and the like. These are accurate statements, but one must interpret these statements carefully. Breathing the air of Israel will not make someone wise. It means that when one is in the environment where the forefathers and prophets lived, it creates in him an additional awareness of his heritage and the ideals of the Torah. It is an added impetus to cleave to the Torah. It is not mystical.
The most clear statement however regarding red threads is actually an open Tosephta in Chapter 7 of Sabbath. It states there a list of acts which are considered as "darchei HaEmori", "ways of the Ammorites", and the Tosephta includes "one who wears a red thread on their finger".
In Jeremia 9:23, the Metsudas David states that G-d says, "I am
G-d, there is no other". The Metsudas David further states that
"G-d forbid (one should think that) there are good or evil forces in
By keeping these sources in mind, let us examine our ways and return to Hashem and the teachings of the rabbis, and abandon the foolish habits of the masses.