Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Parshas Hamon And Other Segulos
A Simple Jew asks:
The Yerushalmi mentions that a person who recites Parshas Hamon every day will never be lacking his parnossa. This teaching was later cited in the Mishna Berura and also explored in depth in the sefer Lechem Abirim by Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.
Today, however, segulos like reciting Parshas Hamon or Ketores seem to be greatly ridiculed and held in extremely low regard outside of the Chassidic world. What would you attribute this phenomenon to?
Chabakuk Elisha answers:
OY, ASJ – I could write a book on this one! This goes right to R' Nachman's Sophisticate and the Simpleton paradigm; but I'll try to keep it brief. And rather than to discuss this as an Us vs. Them issue, I'll speak about this with the microcosm in mind:
We all have these little voices lurking in the recesses of our psyche. One of those voices is the Amalek voice. It, Chazal tell us, is the voice of doubt; it throws cold water on everything spiritual and everything Klal Yisroel might do (unfortunately, that voice is nurtured and promoted quite a bit in the blogosphere – as a good friend of mine aptly put it: "It's like Amalek jumping into the proverbial hot tub").
Another voice that pipes up is the Tzeduki (Sadducee) voice. As the Baal HaTanya explains, the Tzeduki theology is always with us; it is the voice that says: "I don't want to do anything more than I have to, and I'm definitely not interested in what the "Rabbis" come up with. I just want to know what G-d said I have to do, no more no less."
So, whenever we take a Jewish custom, a hanhaga, a segula or a story of a Tzaddik, these voices, that voice of Amalek and the Tzeduki jump in with a laundry list of problems and complaints to minimize it and question its legitimacy. Every Chassidic story is shot down as a fairy tale, every custom, hanhoga or segula is labeled as ridiculous or of non-Jewish origin, etc. But then we have that other voice who says: "Emunah! Simple faith! Stop throwing cold water on everything already!" But that voice often gets shouted down by the ostensibly smarter, more intellectual, rationalist agenda.
So here we have a minhag of reciting Parshas HaMon. And although it is not a minhag that I follow, all the debates out there as to its legitimacy are, in a word, rubbish. They are irrelevant. It reminds me of another argument: How can we give tzedoka to ______? How do I know if the tzedoka is actually completely legitimate? How do I know if the man is really so poor? But the bottom line is, it doesn't really matter.
Because the point is not the specific individual tzedoka recipient – it's all about the giver! It's a mitzvah to give, and if the recipient isn't as legitimate as he claims, that's his business, not the givers. Similarly (and even more so), the point is not the specific minhag / segula / hanhoga, it's the intent of the one following it!
This may help sum it up: R' Nachman said, "There are Rebbes who are not tzaddikim at all, but because of the emunas chachomim of their chassidim, their advice and brochos are mekuyom..."
Sadly, though, we are living in decidedly rationalist time. And while I agree with Napoleon Bonaparte when he said, "From sublime to ridiculousness there is only one step," I still do maintain that by deleting every supra-rational idea in the world of Yiddishkeit we throw out the baby with the bathwater. We live in anti-spiritual times, but I have met very special people in my life: People for whom Torah drips off their lips like honey; people who live with G-d at every moment of their day; people who inspire me on sight. And perhaps that's the difference: I know, deep down, that they live life the way I wish I did. I look to people like this and silently pray that I would spend eternity with people like this, and be saved from spending my eternity with the rationalists.