Quote from Rabbi Rachmiel:
Dear Rabbi Ben Chaim,
I applaud your defense of what you believe to be a threat to the concept of the oneness of the Almighty.
However, your offense to me personally regarding the position of the Rambam on Kameahs and the like is not appropriate. The Rambam was a Rishon. He was not the only Rishon, nor is he the last word in Hallacha. There have been many others as I have previously stated and it was from those other authorities that I quoted as they perceived their colleague and not, heaven forbid, my own meanderings.
The point remains the same. By focusing on a non-issue regarding Jews who have authorities to rely on, whether you like their opinions or not is deleterious to your argument. They don't believe that physical things have power by themselves, nor do they worship them. Check out a Hallacha regarding wearing Tefillin on Shabbos (which is usually prohibited) nevertheless in cases of danger they can be used as a spiritual / physical protection. The Medrash Rabbah relates to the manner of death of Billim and Balak as their Black magic was negated by the Teffilin of the Cohen Gadol.
The Gemara, Chumash-Rashi relate how the Aron HaKodesh carried its carriers in the air as the Jews traveled in the wilderness.
The Gemara relates how a Cohen was killed after coming to close to the Aron HaKodesh which was hidden under the floor of the Beis HaMikdash during the time of Yoshiyahu HaMelech.
The Gemara further relates how Avraham, our father, had a special jewel which he wore around his neck and all that were sick could come to him, look at the stone and be healed. (Click here: Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim's elucidation on the metaphor)
Should one, heaven forbid, try to undo the obvious conclusions that the Gemara created directly or by inference. Physical objects can and must play a role in serving Hashem. No, they have no power other than what Hashem chooses to give them. Yes, this reality can be very misleading and dangerous and it needs to be given over with Yire Shamayim or not at all!

Viewer response to Rabbi Rachmiel

Dear Rabbi Rachmiel,
I read your comments and I do not understand some of your statements. First of all I am interested to know where your sources are from (i.e. Gra, R. Yaakov Emden, Maharal etc.). Secondly, just because most of Klal Yisroel accept certain customs or do certain things does not make them correct. Most of Klal Yisroel are not even frum, perhaps we should abandon the Torah as they have! The fourth perek in Pesachim discusses the concept of minhagim. We see from those gemorahs the idea of minhag shtus. Chazal did not care how many people were doing these minhagim or how old the practices were. If it was false, it was shtus. People can become very attached to their customs and think that they are following the halacha. Therefore, Chazal did not want to outright abolish these customs (i.e. taking challah from rice) so as not to turn the masses against halacha. If people throughout their lives are doing something they feel is true and then are shown it is really false, they will not like this new revelation. They might not listen and they will transgress the halacha intentionally. People can be very stubborn. As long as the custom did not border on avodah zara, Chazal did not prohibit it. The gemorah in Pesachim (109b) discusses Zugos. The Meiri states that many of our people in those times were drawn after numerology. Since it was not 'srach' avodah zara or the Way of the Amorite Chazal did not prohibit it. They did not want to turn the masses against the Rabbis and halacha. It is clear that Chazal thought that numerology was ridiculous, but they understood the psychological state of the masses and they realized if they abolished it, the system of halacha would be jeopardized. If the people were involved in practices, which were 'srach' avodah zara, Chazal would certainly have abolished them. It is a fact that African tribes would tie red strings around their children to ward off evil spirits. Where did they get this practice? I do not think they got this from the Jews. I do not think they have heard of the Torah let alone seen a Jew. These tribes live their lives only according to their instinctual emotions. The need for red strings as a protective device is a primitive insecurity, which can certainly be categorized under 'srach' avodah zara if not Way of the Amorite. Whether some or most of Klal Yisroel do it, we must try and abolish it. We should not follow the nonsense of the Goyim.
Your statement that the Rambam was not the Rishon to choose when discussing these matters is an outrage. His brilliance was unparalleled in his time. All Rishonim recognized his greatness. The Ramban and Ritva defended the Moreh Nevuchim beautifully. Why else would R. Yonah regret what he did and do teshuva if he did not recognize the truth of the Rambam's words. Let us not forget the famous saying, 'From Moshe to Moshe there was none like Moshe'. In truth, the Ralbag, Sadia, Ibn Ezra and many more had the same opinion as the Rambam on these issues. The Rambam, indeed is not the only Rishon.
The 'matir' to wear tefillin in a dangerous situation is just that - a 'matir'. How can you say that tefillin has some kind of intrinsic protective power? Perhaps we should put tefillin on dying people so that they will never die! Has a person ever been killed or injured while wearing tefillin or tzitzit? We do not have to go far back in history to see people being murdered (Rachmana L'itzlan!) wrapped in tzitzit and wearing tefillin. The allowance to wear tefillin in a dangerous situation is solely to ease the mind of the person. Once again, Chazal knew the makeup of man and allowed a person to think it was protecting him temporarily thereby his mind would be at ease. He could now think clearly and work out a way to overcome the danger. In fact, the Rambam himself (Hilchos Avodah Zara, 11;11) allows one to be 'lochiesh' on a sick person even though we know in reality it does not work. Again, it is simply to ease the mind of the sick person so that he should recover. (See Shulchan Aruch and Tur, YD 179;6, as well.)
Isn't it obvious that the Chazal you quote are not meant to be taken literally? They do not make any sense. If you wish to take every Chazal literally, then perhaps you hold it is permitted to kill an Am Ha'aretz on Yom Kipper that falls on Shabbos as the gemorah in Pesachim (49b) states. The Ritva writes that this gemorah is 'loshon guzma' - they are not meant to be taken literally. They contain a deeper idea. We should not run after wild stories.
Furthermore, how do you understand the posuk of "kol d'ruchav mishpat"? Why should a person that wears a red string be more protected than a person that does not? Are they judged differently? Does Hashem ask the person when brought to din why he wasn't wearing his red string? Would you go to Beis Din and show the Dayanim your red string and expect to win the case? All types of segulahs would violate this posuk. Should Hashem grant sustenance to a person who puts a key in a challah and make poor a person who does not? Is that justice? Will Hashem strike down a person's children just because he didn't say "bli ayin hara" when someone complimented his kids? Where's the justice in that?
I can only hope that we all see the true ideas of Torah so that we can be redeemed from this awful exile.
Avroham H.

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