Monday, November 30, 2009

Various Gedolim on the Latest Kupat HaIr Segulah

of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year since Yovel:

הגרמ"י לפקוביץ: זה מעלה גדולה לתרום לקופת העיר וביותר שמצאו שזהו עת רצון מיוחד.
הגראי"ל שטינמן: אף פעם לא שמענו מכך, אבל הם מראים בספר אז כנראה זה נכון, אבל צדקה לבד זה גם סגולה.
רבי דוד אבוחצירא: אכן זוהי סגולה חשובה עד מאד, ובודאי ראוי לנצל עת רצון גדולה שכזאת.
הגר"ח קניבסקי: לא שמעתי על כך, מי שרוצה ישועה שיתפלל, אפשר להתפלל תמיד מתי שרוצים.
Rabbi Lefkowitz: This is a great thing, to donate to Kupat Ha-Ir, and especially that they found that this is a particular time of favor.
Rabbi Steinman: We have never heard of such a thing, but they show it in the sefer. Thus, it appears that this is correct. But tzedakka alone is also a segulah.
Rabbi Abuchatzeira: Indeed, this is a very respectable segulah, and certainly it is appropriate to utilize a time of favor such as this.
Rabbi Kanievsky: I have not heard of this. One who wishes for salvation via praying, it is possible to always pray, whenever one wishes.
Rav Steinman's comment, that he never heard of such a thing, but since it comes from a credentialed sefer, it must be correct, reminds me of a comment from about a month and a half ago on a Hirhurim thread, by S.:
200 years ago the hamon believed in ghosts and devils. There was a modernizing, rationalizing turn for some decades, and now it's turned again. People used to be far more superstitious, even if today it seems like Orthodox society has become more superstitions than it was 20 years ago. Go back even further and you had people doing things like holding mock weddings in cemeteries to ward off a cholera epidemic, I kid you not.

Personally I think the return to sgulos and the like is another aspect of 'textualism.' There is a tendency 'out there' to believe anything in a 'sefer,' or to put it another way, if it's in a sefer it is an unquestioned part of our tradition. Since people are beginning to read old, neglected seforim, and they are not employing critical skills to distinguish between things, many practices and beliefs are being revived, but they're not really new. For example, lead casting may seem like a new shtus-avoda-zara, but actually its an old one.

But indeed, we have this tremendous corpus of Rabbinic literature, and it is filled with all sorts of ideas. Some of those ideas might be superstitious; some might even dance at the edges of Lo Seonein, as defined by Rabbi Akiva. And people discover these old practices and do not know how to filter. If it is in a sefer (and this arcane sefer approved by a major kabbalistic figure or two), then it must be correct.

Contrast Rav Shteinman's position with that of Rav Kanievsky. I don't know if I am reading too much into Rav Kanievsky's words, but I think that he does not support any and every segulah, just because it is in an arcane kabbalistic sefer. He never heard of it, and one can -- and perhaps should -- focus on the davening, rather than on davening at this precise propitious time. Because we can always daven. And, I would add, turning tefillah into a segulah misses the point, and cheapens it. Turn to Hashem and pour out your heart, rather than calculating precise times like a modern-day Bilaam!

I see in Rabbi Kanievsky's words an echo of a response from Rav Elyashiv, regarding the segulah of davening 40 consecutive days at the kotel. This segulah indeed does have some basis, with a rabbi in the past endorsing the practice. But,
Rav Elyashiv's answer is that there is no basis for this. Any time, and every time, one goes to the Kotel to daven his prayers are accepted.
Note the idea and stress of any time and every time, just as in the words of his son-in-law.

See also Yeranen Yaakov for a roundup of posts on this. And see The Cool Jew who has scanned in quite an extensive writeup.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I see the contrast between R. Steinman and R. Elyashiv (albeit in two separate cases) as most interesting.

R. Steinman: "Well, it's in a sefer."
R. Elyashiv: "There's no basis for it." -- even though it is, at least, also found "in a sefer."

Actually, the contrast with R. Elyashiv and R. Kanievsky is quite interesting as well.

R. Kanievsky: "I never heard of it."
R. Elyashiv: "There's no basis for it."

Yosef Greenberg said...

What you are seeing is really a good manifestation of their respective personalities.

Rav Elyashiv doesn't care for political correctness. If he doesn't believe in something he says so.

Rav Kanievski is a more friendly personality, so he'l say what he thinks but put it down in a way that won't offend anyone.

Rav Steinman is a master politician in internal politics. He won't lie of course, but he will put it down most delicately.

I see them all saying the same thing.

Anonymous said...

"turning tefillah into a segulah misses the point, and cheapens it. "

Thank you so much I've wanted to express this idea for a while now and you just hit the nail on the head.

Moshe Laymore said...

Isn't it funny how 2009 was the 9th year from Yovel and now it's 2013 and it's the 9th year from Yovel again? Last year the 9th of the 9th was on a Friday which was a very, very special segula and worth spending lots of money for. What will be special about the 9th of the 9th next year? We'll have to wait and see unless we make a competition on this blog and send the best answers to Kupat Ha'ir.

Moshe Laymore said...

2011 was also the 9th year of Yovel so maybe 2014 will be also unless they think we have to wait a bit longer to forget that this year was the 9th.


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