No, this is not about the Women of the Wall. It is a story about a segula I bought into a few years ago.
Segula has no perfect translation in English but it could be called a superstition, a talisman or a supernatural cure.
The cure I needed was from my singlehood. I was dating a nice guy and we both really wanted to make it work. And so without him knowing, I went and bought a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. Buying a prayer shawl is considered a segula for getting married.
I try my best not to give in to these superstitions but I really wanted it to work out. Also, I was imagining that if we did get engaged, I could show him the tallit and tell him the story and it would be romantic.
And so I did it. I went to Meah Shearim – an ultra Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem – with my best friend. We went to a few stores and asked about prayer shawls. The storekeepers all assumed I was engaged and we didn’t correct them. Rather they think I’m engaged than desperate and silly.
Finally we chose a very pretty tallit and a beautiful bag to go with it.
And then we broke up and it was for the best.
While the relationship is behind me, unfortunately, the tallis isn’t. It’s years later and I still own it. And that’s what this post is all about.
Since the purchase all those years ago, I’ve hidden this secret away from all the world, with only my best friend knowing about it. There have been months when it sat (always well hidden), totally forgotten by me. There were times I was paranoid that someone might see it. Most recently, I realized that a guy I was dating a few months ago probably saw it one day when he was helping me organize things on top of my closet.
All this made me realize that owning this beautiful prayer shawl and bag is a burden.
I can’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t be disappointed when they don’t work. I can’t be embarrassed about having tried it and I can’t be embarrassed about it having failed. And I really can’t have a perfectly lovely tallit and bag sitting on top of my closet when someone could be using it right now. (And no, I am totally uninterested in that person being me.)
Although parting with it is a little sad for me, I thought I long ago understood that I can’t control the root of my salvation through one little action. And I need to get rid of it in order to prove that to myself.
Why so publicly? Specifically because it’s so sensitive for me. I want to fight superstitions and the fears they come with. People feed them to us and we’re scared not to believe. So either we believe in the segulas which weighs us down with strange commitments or we say we don’t believe them which weighs us down with worry that maybe we’re wrong.
I have another segula story. Someone once gave me a note that I was supposed to carry with me at all times also with the purpose of getting me married. It was a friend giving it to me and it had gotten other girls married and so it was sure to get me married too. Although I swore that I won’t buy into these things, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d jinx myself terribly if I didn’t listen or if, horrors of horrors, I threw the note out. And so I rolled my eyes to make it clear what I thought, but I also tucked it into my wallet and walked around with it for a while.
Now I just wish I could find the damn thing so I could throw it out thus helping protect potential future segula victims.
Segulas usually play on fears and always related to something we want very much. In the case of the prayer shawl, at least there is some direct connection between the segula and the outcome you’re wishing for but putting so much weight on illogical things bogs down the mind, the heart and the soul.
The note and the tallit are a hindrance to my vibrancy and I’ve had enough of them.
One tallis for sale…
So my never-been-worn-or-used tallit and bag are for sale. Please write me for more details. If you know of someone who cannot afford one but needs one, let me know. Pickup in Jerusalem.
And don’t worry, it isn’t a bad omen taking a talisman tallis off the hands of a single lady. I think… I hope…
Part 2 (published May 25, 2013): https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/segulas-are-like-candy/
Part 3 (published June 18, 2013): https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-never-ending-tallit-story/