" Thou comest to me with a sword and a spear and a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast humiliated..." (I Samuel, 17:45-47)

Friday, February 11, 2011

The "Amuqah" Idolatry (audio)

Disclaimer: I would like to point out that in general, whenever I cite a certain Rabbi or scholar, it should not be taken as an indication that the person mentioned supports (or in the case of a deceased person, would have supported) the ideas expressed in this blog. In the interest of the reader, here are three works I cite in the following audio. They are worth reading and owning. 
  • Rav Chaim Zimmerman, "Torah and Existence"
  • Dr. Paul Eidelberg, A Jewish Philosophy of History (I read a quote from his accompanying essay on a section of R' Zimmerman's work, on page 273)
  • Rav Nathan Kaminetsky, "Making of a Gadol"

For some inexplicable reason, so many deluded Jews find that the Halachic imperative to pray to Hakadosh Baruch Hu lacks the attraction of visiting a shrine and praying to the dead. Or receiving a vial of holy water from a wonder worker. Or putting an amulet under a pillow to aid a woman in childbirth. Amulets. Segulot. These are the kinds of pagan (and possibly idolatrous) expressions of religiosity which call out to them. What runs through the minds of such people? I can only imagine. 

"Really? Just praying to Hashem, does that actually work?" 

The laundry lists of segulot would fill an encyclopedia. Many of them are reportedly useful for finding one's eventual partner, having children, financial success, or curing disease. All of them are nonsense, all of them contrary to Torah. They are expressions of Jewish magic. Useless and forbidden. Only with complete faith in The One, are we permitted to place our trust.

"You shall be perfectly faithful to Hashem your G-d." (Devarim, 18:13)

And then of course there is the popular superstition of visiting the purported grave of the Tanna, Yonathan Ben Uziel, at Amuqah, as a segula for finding one's "bashert." (An ancient custom we are told, which as it turns out , isn't so ancient.)  This pagan practice has even descended to the level where some undignified woman drape certain "garments" on the tomb in the hope of finding their match. While those who propagate and encourage the Amuqah myth generally condemn such practices as obscene and disrespectful, they themselves are to blame. The pagan drive (which draws them there in the first place) often leads to sexual impropriety.

I'm not of the school of thought that says that its better to let Jews keep their narishkeit. Certainly not when a particular practice involves the abrogation of biblical prohibitions. At the very least, going to Amuqah skirts the periphery of idolatry. For that matter, so does writing kvitlach to dead people. And the entire periphery has a sudden drop right into the abyss of idolatry. Praying to the dead in hopes of salvation is the definition of Avodah Zarah.

As I will point out in the accompanying audio post, the Amuqah shrine was invented in the 50's by a tour guide who wanted to make money. I don't know if this repugnant person is alive today, but one can only gasp at the Divine punishment in the afterlife, of one who creates a pagan mythology to profit from peoples pain. Most Jews who go to Amuqah or other shrines, whether they be fertility shrines, marriage shrines, or parnasa shrines, are searching for something to alleviate emotional pain. They are the tragic byproduct of a Judaism that is largely devoid of any intellectualism. "Captured babies", if you will. Their teachers and rabbanim who cultivated these superstitions are really to blame. And in the absence of true Torah wisdom, man will usually turn to soothsayers when he is desperate. 

Rational Torah committed Jews should make it their mission to denigrate superstitious practices whenever the subject comes up, even if it upsets their Shabbat dinner guests. Praying to the dead is idolatry. (I would venture to say that even the permissible practice of visiting the graves of righteous people is dangerous for many Jews, who unfortunately end up praying to the Tzadik.) Many simpletons will bring up the story of Calev, as some sort of proof for visiting graves. As if Calev, who was one of the gedolei hador, was actually praying to the dead, Heaven forbid! In the hostile environment of the sinful meraglim, Calev went to the Maachpela to derive strength from these great Jews. He reflected on the tribulations of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, and strengthened himself in the knowledge that he and Yehoshua could persevere as the lone righteous voices in the group. When a Torah committed individual visits a grave, he reflects on the life of the gadol and then turns away (both literally and figuratively). Out of sight, and out of mind. The popular notion of a "meilitz yosher" is a dangerous and problematic concept. We Jews have no such need. We pray to The Creator. Anything else is idolatry. 

Fellow Jew, stay away from Amuqah and other forms of pagan worship. There are entire movements within "orthodoxy" who propagate a Judaism based on outlandish folklore and "Jewish mysticism." One who has any sense of yahadut knows that such practices and beliefs are merely an expression of 2000 years of living with goyim. Those who purport to be wonder-workers are all charlatans, and those who would send you to them are either delusional or worse. 

"You shall not suffer a witch to live" (Shemot 22:17)

Once again, I am not callous to the pain and suffering of misguided Jews, who cleave to a profanity masquerading as "holiness." On the contrary. I feel for them. I also care for their souls. By trying to rectify corrupt ideas, I hope to point Jews in the only proper direction. Man (Jews and gentiles) needs no conduit to Hashem. I am advocating the only authentic Torah approach. Turning to The Almighty. May Hakadosh Baruch Hu protect His chosen nation from all spiritual contagions, and from those who perpetuate them. * Click the following link to hear some fascinating views from Harav Bar Chaim, shlitah, on the general practice of visiting graves."The Superstitions of Graves"

Warning: The following video contains approximately 12 minutes of ramblings from one who knows nothing about Judaism. It is important to see an example of the pagan infection that contaminates so many Jewish souls. This ignorant fellow endangers Jews with his foolishness. The fact of the matter is that the contemporary Breslov movement offers nothing to the thinking Jew, the exception being a litany of dangerous notions which pervert the fundamentals of Torah. As a movement, it is a replete with concepts that are both foreign and forbidden to Judaism. At the core, it is a cult dedicated to the worship and veneration of a dead Rebbe. I speak not only of the "Nah, Nah, Nuts", but also the "mainstream ones" whose Judaism is premised almost exclusively on superstition, demonology, segulos, perverted ideas of "purity and holiness" (based on sexual/aggressive frustration) bizarre tikkunim, and the idol worship of praying to the dead. I think it is a fair question to ask a genuine Torah scholar whether this constitutes a form of necromancy.


  1. Out of interest what is your opinion of Hitbodedut, is that something which is foreign to Judaism?

  2. My opinion is that I am unaware of any normative Torah source that supports this "practice." What I am aware of is the fact that contemporary expressions of "hitbodedut" often encroach into the world of paganism and primitive worship that has more in common with eastern-idolatry than Judaism. Of course I could be wrong. Perhaps you could point out some classical Torah sources (other than chasidic writings)which refer to it.

  3. I see where you are coming from regarding the practice of hitbodedut, though I fail to see how laying one’s cards on the table (so to speak) and speaking to G-d with complete honesty, in order to gain a clearer understanding of one's personal motives and aspirations can be considered pagan or a form of primitive worship.

    Especially since one is essentially praying to G-d, talking about his or her issues to G-d and expressing one’s gratitude to G-d.

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any non-chasidic sources that refer to hitbodedut though for what it’s worth I have come across a book about the practise called “In Forest Fields” by Rabbi Shalom Arush, which claims to have approbations from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef amongst other people. It would be interesting to hear non-chasidic views on the practice of hitbodedut if they exist.

    Thing is, I would of thought that all Orthodox rabbis agree, or at least should agree, that the Torah is not something academic and detached but rather, a means to come close to God. That is not to say I agree with stuff like “amuqah”, it is just I fear where an overly rational anti-emotive approach to Yahadut will lead.

  4. I appreciate you intelligent points, and your desire to have an intellectual discussion. As a result I would like to address your points in a follow-up blog post entitled "Response To A Reader." Thank you once again for providing a forum to engage in these issues, whether or not we ultimately will agree with each other.


What do you think? I'm interested in your comments.