Re-thinking the Segulah of Parshat Ha-Man

A number of well-meaning acquaintances have sent me (and presumably to many others) a reminder that today is a segulah (auspicious time) for ‘parnassah’ (i.e livelihood) as it coincides with Parshat Ha-Man.

Apparently according to the Hassidic master, R’ Mendel of Riminov (1745-1815)  reciting certain verses from the episode about manna from heaven on this day (in this week’s Torah portion of Beshalah) can impact our material fortune.

I would like to suggest that this ‘segulah’ should not only be a segulah ‘for’ parnassah but, for many of us, a segulah ‘from’ parnassah.

While there are indeed those among us who are truly in need of a bit of added mazal, and hopefully this segulah works in their favor, there are at least as many – probably a great deal more of us – who need to be rescued from our obsessive material pursuits.

In the Diaspora especially there is an obsession with material success that has virtually come to define what ‘Yiddishkeit’ is. A bigger house. A bigger Lexus. A bigger empty apartment in Yeushalayim. A more luxurious Passover getaway.  Monogrammed white shirts and Italian ties by the bushel. Personalized hangers in endless walk-in closets to file more suits and dresses and shoes than one could possible need. Not to mention sets of dishes, sterling silver, jewelry etc.

Children grow up lacking any meaningful values. They go through the motions of religion with no emotion, and go through life never knowing the satisfaction of actually taking care of themselves, of creating something new,  of protecting others, of assuming responsibility.  Their sense of entitlement is egregious and appalling. Worst of all, fawning rabbis and roshei grovel before them, because all they see is the dollar signs.

For such people ‘Eretz Yisroel’ as they call it is an amusement park of kosher restaurants and good times where everyone else has to pay the taxes, shoulder the burden of defense, and keep the Jewish Disneyland going during the 50 weeks when they are busy in Lawrence or Hancock Park or Bal Harbor running after more and more and more.

For such people the message of Parshat Ha-Man and its segulah is not embedded in the passages that R’ Mendel of Riminov includes in his suggested recitation, but rather in verse 16:16: “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded, Gather of it each one according to his eating capacity, an omer for each person, according to the number of persons, each one for those in his tent you shall take.”

But there is another major segment of our people who desperately need  a different spin on what a segulah for parnassah should be.

Right here in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, in Bet Shemesh and  Kiriat Sefer and Beitar illit are legions of the  self-designated poor  who are obsessively engaged in the maniacal pursuit of money, only without having to work for it. They spend endless days and nights scheming, manipulating, borrowing, kiting, draying, canoodling, schnorring, defrauding. All this has replaced the spirit of Yiddishkeit and turned it into a twisted game of how to survive and make it without ever doing an honest day’s work.

Clearly, for them, Parhsat Ha-man is something they take too literally; That somehow it all has to fall effortlessly into their hands, the ends justifying any and all means.  No actual job. No serving in the army. No paying taxes. No reporting of income. Frequent overseas trips to filch funds from those who have too much.

So my prayer today on the day of the segulah for parnassah, is that the ‘segulah’ should be as stated in verse 18: … and whoever gathered much did not have more, and whoever gathered little did not have less…”. And indeed whatever has been gathered has been gathered with integrity and with the satisfaction of having known an honest day’s work.

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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