Superstitions or Segulahs

A segulah is an action that is reputed to bring about a change in one’s fortunes. Or if you like, a superstition. But in this context it’s about doing something to effect positive change. Here are some I have collected from various sources. I am not saying that these do or don’t work – it’s been a very interesting subject to research. Please feel free to add more in the comments and I will update the list. Thanks to all who replied to my facebook and twitter requests for segulahs.

For finding a mate:

  • Drink the wine that bride and groom drank at wedding / sheva brachot
  • Saying Perek Shira for 40 days
  • If you are female and a kiddush wasn’t made to celebrate your birth, make that kiddush now
  • Hold the bride’s jewelry while she is under chuppah
  • Say shir hashirim (song of Solomon) in it’s entirety daily for 40 days
  • Don’t sit at the corner of a table
  • A single woman should buy a tallit for her future not-yet-met chattan
  • I have also heard a single man should buy a wig or diamond ring for his future kallah
  • Keeping a part of the broken plate from an engagement
  • Visiting Amukah in Israel and davening there at the grave of Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel
  • Opening the door for Eliyahu Hanavi by the Pesach seder
  • Pour water for people sitting at your table
  • Recite all of Tehillim (Psalms) on Purim night
  • Daven at the Kotel for 40 consecutive nights

For getting pregnant:

  • Being Kvatter (godparent, or the one who carries the baby in) at a Bris
  • Going into a mikvah after a women who is in her 9th month of pregnancy
  • Eating a cake baked by a woman in labour
  • Getting bracha from sandek (one who holds the baby during circumcision) at bris
  • Getting a bracha from someone who was insulted and didn’t answer back
  • Swallowing the foreskin cut off at a bris

For parnassah (livelihood):

  • If a bird poops on you it’s good for parnassah
  • Schlissel Challah – baking a key into a challah the first Shabbat after Pesach.
  • Reb Mendel M’Riminov said that saying Parshas Hamon on Tuesday Parshat B’Shalach, is a Segulah for Parnasah. Click HERE for the complete text of Parshas Hamon
  • When you wash for Netilat Yadaim, fill the cup to the top and allow it to overflow. Do the same with Kiddush and Havdalla. This is a segulah that your livelihood should brim over in abundance
  • When you daven Ashrei, say the bracha of “poteach et yadecha” with extra kavana
  • Many have the minhag of dipping their fingers in the Havdalah wine/grape juice and putting it in their pockets, symbolizing extra Parnassa (touching their heads for a little extra sechel as well)

For Refuah (healing)

  • Maran HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt’l, the mashgiach of Ponevezh Yeshiva, was accustomed to tell others that a wonderful segulah for refuah is saying the bracha of asher yatzar word by word, out loud, with full kavannah (intent) and concentration
  • If a person has warts, take the Havdallah wine and put it on, and the wart will go away
  • Before taking a medicine say “May it be for a refu’ah sheleimah by the zechus of Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Soroh, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah”

Miscellaneous or combination of above:

  • Segulah Challah – 40 women take challah with a bracha for the same Shabbat
  • Pregnant women who want a good looking baby should only look at beautiful people.
  • If you do psicha (opening the ark) for tfillas geshem (prayer for rain) you’ll have a financially successful year
  • For an easy childbirth a woman should go to mikvah in the 9th month.
  • If a person can’t have children, boil Aravos and drink it, same for migraines
  • Davening for certain people when kneading challah
  • eating etrog jelly brings brocha (blessing) to the home, also good segulah to eat it for an easy labour
  • If your baby is breech, check your seforim–likely there is one upside down. Change it, and baby will turn
  • Wear a red string around the wrist to keep the evil eye away

There are some more interesting ones posted over here on the Jewish Side.

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43 Comments

  1. You left out the ruby segula associated with a safe pregnancy and childbirth. See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/12/on-ruby-sgula.html
    There are some things offered as one-size-fits-all segulas, See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/05/gotta-love-those-cure-all-segulas.html and http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/08/who-you-gonna-call.html
    Then there are those who seek to sell — literally charge money — for access to a bird’s nest for the mitzvah of shiluach hakan with the claim that it is a segula for all sorts of things, see http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/04/bye-bye-birdie-hello-promises.html

    Then there are

  2. My own take on the peddling of segulas: ( Kiddushin 39b) presents the following story: A father and son were walking together when the father spotted a bird’s nest. The father asked the son to ascend a ladder, send away the mother bird, and bring down the nest. As the son was descending after completing the task, he fell off the ladder and died. The Talmud remarks on the fact that the son, who was simultaneously fulfilling both the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and sending away the mother bird, received neither goodness nor long life, the specified reward for both of these mitzvot. Therefore, the sages explain that the blessings of long life and goodness mainly refer to what one earns for the World to Come.

    In his Shabbos HaGadol drasha, a local rabbi cried out again the organizations that advertise the magical effects that result from sending them money and even cite certain names for endorsement. He declared that he does not believe the rabbi named would ever have said such a thing. He pointed out the absurdity by saying that the traffic on the Van Wyck will not instantly clear for you at your wish as a result of making a donation. He wasn’t referring to this particular ad, but the same idea applies. Such magical thinking is not what Torah true Judaism is about. Really what happens when your wish doesn’t come true? Would the appropriate response be, “Well, I did my part, but Hashem did not keep His promise!” Of course, not. That is the point of the story in the Gemara. These instant “solutions” peddled as the quick and easy way to get what you want are antithetical to Torah truth

  3. Lady Lock and Load says:

    SWALLOWING FORESKIN TO BECOME PREGNANT?!? Mucho gross! Yick!

  4. isn’t also eating the challah at a wedding supposed to be a segulah for finding a mate?

  5. also changing the name of someone who is sick to fool the angel of death, preferably to a name that means healing

    not buying stuff for a baby before it is born to keep away the evil eye, Not telling people you are pregnant until very late in the pregnancy, saying “bsha’ah tova” instead of mazal tov to a pregnant woman, all to keep away the evil eye

    not whistling or clapping because it attracts shadim

    chamsas keeping away the evil eye

    (people in my family are very into the evil eye)

    and what woman has ever baked cakes while in labor? :)

  6. tom says:

    so…tell us Hadassah, what are the superstitions in which you indulge? The evil eye was big with the folks from southern Italy with whom I grew up.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      I don’t really. Personally, I know G-d has His plan for me, and whatever will be will be.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      i had to come back to this. a little over a year ago a friend and I decided that we would stop cursing as a segulah for me finding a husband. little over 13 months later I have been married for 9 months (yesterday) – so maybe that worked? or maybe it was part of God’s plan anyway??

  7. mekubal says:

    There is also the one about drinking breast milk to get pregnant.

    There are also the wide array of Kameaot.

  8. I must agree with LLL that the foreskin consumption sounds beyond disgusting. Barring that, a lot of these other segulot seem almost to me a bit like those types of things suggested in The Secret or in the concept of positive attraction.

    Basically, if you want something in your life, start acting and thinking like you already have it and it will be yours. Hence, the tallit/ring for a yet-to-be-determined spouse or the poteach et yadecha for a little extra from G-d.

    Whether you completely believe in it or not, going with these harmless gestures can perhaps make the difference. B’hatzlacha to us all – I’m off to read Shir HaShirim!

    • hadassahsabo says:

      there’s no harm in most of these things, i guess if you believe in them they can help. if you don’t perhaps they won’t…

      B’hatzlacha!

      • YC says:

        hadassahsabo: there’s no harm in most of these things

        I agree with Ariella Brown who wrote: These instant “solutions” peddled as the quick and easy way to get what you want are antithetical to Torah truth

        If this is a topic you are interested in please read http://www.jewishideas.org/min-hamuvhar/religion-and-supe

        PS I liked everything Ariella Brown wrote but the story from Kiddushin has little or nothing to do with this topic. The reward for those two mitzvot are in the torah, the gemara explained the long life was in world to come. I think people who do mitzvah of shiluach hakan with intention for reward and not for mother or eggs is part of this conversation.

  9. frumgoth says:

    well, one segulah that i believe in… my now ex-husband and I were kvatter (kvattim?) at a nephew’s bris, this was in June of that year, and my daughter was born the following March, after 2.5 years of secondary infertility. I say partake in segulot to your heart’s content people! Very interesting post Hadassah

  10. Kerstin says:

    So I should try to bake a cake when I go into labor for a woman trying to get pregnant? I’m not sure I’d be able to keep focused on cake baking… :)

    It doesn’t seem like a lot of people in my community know about b’sha’a tova, although I’m really careful to not say mazel tov to a woman who has just announced her pregnancy. I got about a zillion mazel tovs and two b’sha’a tovas (one from the Rabbi). Is it an English thing?

    • batya from NJ says:

      kerstin, i think b’sha’a tova is more of an Orthodox expression & not a specifically English thing…do u live in an Orthodox community b/c i think it’s universally said in Ortho communities but i may be mistaken…

      • Kerstin says:

        No, we are part of a Masorti (Conservative) community. When I was back home in Toronto, it was b’sha’a tova all the way, but here in England it was a woman in my congregation from Texas and our Californian Rabbi who were the only ones that said it. That’s why I wondered if it was just an English/European thing to say mazel tov. Interesting that non-Orthodox communities in North America are more “aware” of this segulah…

      • devorah says:

        “mazel tov” actually means the same thing as b’shaar tova.
        Mazal – or constellation – occurs when the stars are in a certain position. Some days or times are auspicious for a good mazal, others are known to be times in which misfortune could happen, G-d forbid, due to the unfavorable mazal. So at certain moments, the mazalot can have influence on the people. Even the day on which one is born has an influence on his characteristics (Shabbat 126a). Therefore, specific mazalot provide people with good or bad tendencies. (Nevertheless, the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva 5:4 says that a person is not controlled by his natural tendencies and he has the power to change them)
        See more here: http://shiratdevorah.blogspot.com/2009/07/effects-of-eclipse.html

  11. underanne says:

    Is the foreskin not
    - Ever min ha chai
    -human fle sh

    so how could it ever be permissible to eat it?

    • hadassahsabo says:

      i have no idea. i have no sources for this segulah – but it came up time and time again.

    • Mark says:

      In a discussion earlier this month on twitter, I asked this very question. The answer was that it isn’t considered to be “eating”, just “swallowing”. I still don’t quite understand the difference (other than perhaps not tasting the thing being swallowed).

      It was also put forth as a custom among certain Moroccans that the mother swallows the foreskin. Not as a segulah for getting pregnant (she just completed a pregnancy), but rather as a segulah to ease the pain the baby’s brit milah (circumcision).

  12. tila says:

    if you are single and cracking eggs. Remember to crush the shells. I am told the whole shell will sail off any potetial mates.
    The other one happened to me in a class room. We were doing a craft and a woman across the table asked for scissors. I picked them up waited for her to take them from me. She looked me in the eye and said “put them down!” I did and then asked why. Her reply:”I like you and do not want to severve the friendship”. Apparently this goes for any sharp cutting utensil.

  13. Gavi says:

    I would go one further than Mrs. Brown: many segulos are not just ineffective, but close to idol worship – and instead of putting any stock in them, perhaps we should concentrate on learning torah, praying, and doing acts of kindness… Things that always work.

  14. mekubal says:

    FYI I linked this post. It just got me thinking.

  15. Gavi says:

    People follow segulos because it’s easier to be superstitious than religious…

  16. jess says:

    not sitting at the corner of the table? oh dear! i get claustrophobic unless i sit at the end, and at my parents’ shabbos table i have to sit at the corner so i can help my mom! but there may be a kiddush at Beit Knesset HaNasi (Young Israel of Rehavia) in the coming weeks ;)

    • hadassahsabo says:

      let us know how that works for ya Jess! I never heard the corner thing before…

      you know whats a segulah for a shidduch? go on a date!! ;)

      • Mark says:

        And the best segulah for pregnancy is …

        … to have sex

        … as often as possible.

        • Mark says:

          I’m sort of sorry I wrote the comment above, because I now realize that it could be hurtful to those who have had difficulties getting pregnant. If anyone feels hurt by it, please realize, first that I am very sorry, and second that it is meant as a lighthearted joke (copied from, IIRC, @dovbear on twitter).

  17. Josie says:

    ok Hadassah, breaking the “comment cherry” loved reading all of these, however, I have been in labor twice and neither time did baking a cake enter my realm of possibilities!!!!

  18. Leah says:

    Here is a new Sgula tremendously popular in Israel for EVERYTHING – The Amen Party

    You get a group of people together and set out a table with food for each one of the brachot except hamotzi. You start out with mezonot, either going around the room with one person making the bracha each time and everyone answering amen, or split into 2 – one group makes bracha the other answers amen than switch. Afterwards do the same with hagefen, bore pri haetz, haadama, and shechakol. Everyone has in mind for the zechus of brachot and amenim to be for a certain person and someone also says a prayer for him/her.

  19. mima says:

    I know that many think that it is wrong to practise superstition, doubt that there is a plan for us and similar sentiments and I can understand this.

    However I feel the act of doing something good for another, with love, with warmth and hope is special and cannot be wrong. If it required blood sacrifice or endangerment or even breaking kosher I would avoid segulah, but as I see it now if my best friend has not conceived by the time I feel my first labour pains there will be cake mixing. I don’t see that it could harm either of us to share that.
    You see?

    • Mark says:

      mima – I don’t see that it could harm either of us to share that.
      You see?

      The harm comes when people truly believe that it (segulah) helps. Then when there is no apparent help, they lose a tiny bit of that belief. Repeat this enough times and they lose all belief. That’s pretty harmful!

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