…They are sweet and a little bit never hurt anybody.
I reveled in the responses I received from so many of you (privately and publicly) following my Talisman Tallis article which told the story of the prayer shawl purchased years ago with the hopes of marrying the guy I was dating and the burden it became when I kept it, unmarried, much longer than intended.
Readers, thank you for enlightening me. When I wrote my prayer shawl piece it came partially from anger and I wanted to show the evils of segulas. That’s still there but your stories made me aware of the underlying spirit of hope of the people around me – this is the other side of the segula coin.
As some explained to me, certain segulas can be seen more as a prayer, a private call out to the world and a small act of faith. I like that.
The danger is that the “success” stories are so romantic, people wait to be the next segula success.
Check out this ad as an example:
When I saw this booklet over Shabbat, I felt anger (and fear) again. These ads go straight for the jugular of our hope. They make all these promises and they are terribly public and commercialized.
A man’s quiet prayer
On the more palatable side of the segula spectrum are people’s personal stories. One man wrote (read the whole comment here):
The act of buying the talit seems more like an act of prayer than a segula, a way to express hope and perhaps faith. I have my own personal act of prayer with the same thought in mind: I light an extra set of Shabbat candles each week, the candles that I pray, hope and trust will one day be lit by a woman in my life.
A scarf from India
In downtown Jerusalem on Friday afternoon I bumped into a friend who pointed to the scarf she was wearing to cover her hair. She told me that she found it when travelling in India and she bought it with the intention of wearing it when she gets married. She also had a table runner she purchased with the intention of using it in her home with her husband.
She and a few other women told me that they used to do regular segulas ad nauseum and they had to stop because it became destructive for them.
A tallis romance
Another woman had a very romantic tallis story to tell me.
She bought a tallis as a segula to get married. She put it away and after a while forgot about it. When she got engaged years later, someone reminded her about the tallis. Her fiance had a very specific style in mind and he is also average height when she’d normally dated taller guys. So as she went to get the tallis, expectations were low that this would be the one for him.
But when they opened it, they found that it was his size and the exact style he wanted.
The secretly romantic nature of segulot
As I listened to/read segula stories from many of you, I kept finding myself smiling from the romantic nature of the stories. In fact, I mentioned the romantic side of my segula act. It is most definitely part of the package.
Sometimes the stories were about ridding yourselves of the burden of silly things like pieces of broken plates. I loved hearing about that bravery. Other times it was about small gestures people are making privately. That was touching to learn about.
I still believe what I wrote in my piece two days ago. Like the ad above, segulas potentially feed into our fears in regards to something we want very badly. But now I wonder if done with thoughtfulness and in small doses, they can be a connection to the romance of life. They can also be something that changes us a little on the inside for the better.
It’s nice knowing about the sweet secrets with which so many of us walk around.
As for my tallis…
In case you’re wondering where my tallis is going, well, talking about it with all of you has made me hesitate giving it away. It seems so unromantic! So I’m going to wait a few days to see how I feel. : )
Part 1 of this Jerusalem tale (published May 23, 2013): https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-embarrassing-secret-of-my-talisman-tallis/
Part 3 of this Jerusalem tale (published June 18, 2013): https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-never-ending-tallit-story/