Blessing for [Do Not Insert Anything Here]

BoSD said a prayer at the kever of R’ Meir ba’al Hanes on his yartziet. Conclusion of her boss: “Wedding upcoming!”

Response of BoSD: “Say what?”

This reminded me of something that annoyed the bejeebers out of me in seminary.

For those who don’t know or might have forgotten, many seminarians participate in the sport of Brocha Collecting. The goal is to get as many brochos as possible from as many Big Names as possible in the course of your 10 months in Israel.

I was never a major-league player, but initially I dabbled in it in the ad hoc street game way. If a bunch of athletes were going and had the extra space, hey why not. I went along. If I was in the right neighborhood for Shabbos and my partner for the weekend wanted to score – we went.

Now, weird thing: nobody ever asked us what sort of brocha we wanted. In fact, 99.9% of the time, the only brocha we got at all was for a rapid betrothal.

I can’t really blame the rabbis and rebbetzins of Israel for taking the cognitive shortcut of assuming they knew what interested us. If I was accosted by wide-eyed seminary girls on my way to Shabbos lunch, I’d also throw them a quick bone and continue home. There’s no way a gaggle of 18-year-old girls is going to stand between me and my chulent.

Maybe marriage is all that occupies the minds of 18-year-old Israeli girls, but it really didn’t bother me much at the time. After all, everyone knows that after seminary you go home and get married. It’s a natural thing, like teenage growth spurts and getting wrinkles. It just happens. Why would I ask for special intervention on the matter?

But it wasn’t just the rabbis. It was everyone. Our tour guides would talk about how every kever we visited was a segula for getting married. Random strangers at various kevarim would accost us to tell us tales of chizuk lest we lose hope and not daven for our zivug with as much kavana as we might. People who we visited for Shabbos would insist that we visit the kever of their local ‘saint’ and wink and ask for an invitation when we returned.

The assumption is so widespread, I’m sure it applies to the dead as well. I can just see what’s happening in that kever while we all pray. “Hm. Sem girl, I’ll jot her down for marriage.” He stifles a yawn. “Now that middle-aged woman over there – I wonder what she needs?”

Truth be told, I also found it a drop insulting. I mean, do they all think there’s absolutely nothing else occupying our minds? If we got married tomorrow, our happiness would be complete? A slightly shallow analysis, methinks.

Which was why I resolved that when I grew up and became a tzedekes and rebbetzin, sought out for brochos, I would always ask everyone what concerned them. Well, unless the chulent was getting cold. Then I’d just give something general like “may your wish come true.”

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54 thoughts on “Blessing for [Do Not Insert Anything Here]

  1. The brachos from tzaddikim aren’t so insignificant Bad4… Btw there is a major misunderstanding in how visitng Kevarim works, and what you’ve written is borderline Avoda Zara.
    “The assumption is so widespread, I’m sure it applies to the dead as well. I can just see what’s happening in that kever while we all pray. “Hm. Sem girl, I’ll jot her down for marriage.”

    That’s NOT what you’re meant to do at a grave. You’re meant to daceb that in the dead person’s zchus, and in his memory, you should have x happen. Davening to the dead is Avoda Zara. Unfortunately it’s a pretty widespread phenomenon.

  2. This always bothered me too! The very first time someone gave me the bracha to find a good shidduch it was a random lady who I gave Tzedaka to at the Kotel. At the time I was 15 and burst out laughing cause getting married seemed like something far off in the future.

    I don’t know why people assume that the only bracha to give single girls is about shidduchim. I personally think happiness no matter what’s going on in your life should be the automatic bracha to give. I agree with you that the best bracha really is that Hashem should fulfill all Mishalot Leebecha L’Tova, that whatever it is you’re davening for you should get.

  3. The way they told us, the dead person’s zechus is like putting in a good word for you up there. Can you anthropomorphize a zechus? I think I did. You don’t seriously think I seriously think there’s a gentleman in there taking notes on who to mention for what before God?
    Personally, I prefer to do my own praying, but kevarim are big business in Israel – as are segulos.

  4. Honestly, its just the law of averages at work. For instance when my wife and I were living in the Rova and thus serving as a hostel for any and all Sem girls looking for a place for Shabat, we had close to about 300girls come through in two years. As soon as they found out I studied Kabbalah, first question I got was could I give them a bracha for Shidduch, second was could I take them to the Big Namers that I knew to get brachot for Shidduch. There were only two that ever wanted a bracha for anything else. One wanted a bracha for help in overcoming a personal issue, because the Shadchanim wouldn’t send her on dates until she got it taken care of. The other wanted a bracha fro hatzlacha in being a nurse, because she was pinning her shidduch hopes on that. So in the end, it just seems the most sensible that when faced with a wide eyed single girl of a certain age, to give them a bracha for Shidduch.

    My Rosh Yeshiva actually asks everyone who comes to him what they want, as he also answers shailot. In just over three years learning by him, I have seen between 30-40 girls come every day to get a bracha from him. I can still count on my fingers the number that requested anything other than a bracha for shidduch(though there were those who requested segulot and/or kameot for the same as well). All things considered I guess for those in more of a hurry, it just makes sense to shoot for the most common denominator. If they want something else, they will ask.

  5. I’m not a player when it comes to collecting brachos and segulos. However, I once gave a gadol a ride, and my mother commanded me to ask him for a bracha. I did so against my will ,and whatever I got in response did not include anything about a shidduch. I totally freaked out about that. He blessed me with health, happiness, and to know what direction I want to take in life….all very good, but for a while after that I was convinced I was not meant to get married 🙂

  6. “though there were those who requested segulot and/or kameot for the same as well”
    Talking about borderline Avodah Zorah.

  7. mekubal – I think part of it is that major-league brocha collectors collect brochos for their own sake. Faced with having to come up with something significant to be blessed in, they just shrug and take something succinct and readily available. Who cares what it’s for? It’s a brocha from a gadol.

  8. “do they all think there’s absolutely nothing else occupying our minds?”- Right. I mean, what was the last time you posted anything about shidduchim? : D

  9. Actually Noson, what you have written is border line kefira!
    There is ample support and encouragement within our holy Torah for asking for brachos directly from Tzaddikim at their kevarim. Tzaddikim never die, and according to the Zohar are even more present after histalkus.

  10. feivel: *ahem* This has nothing to do with your being Chabad, dude, but many people really do have in mind that they’re requesting something FROM the tzadik, “praying” to the tzadik, if you will. As if the tzadik has some supernatural powers of bestowal. THAT is bordering on “kfirah” and “avodah zarah” (obviously borrowed terms in this context). All you can do is bequeath the tzadik to pray to G-d FOR you. Anyway, the “point” of tzadikim is to study from their wisdom and follow in their ways, not ask them for stuff…

  11. Feival you gotta be kidding.
    “Tzaddikim never die, and according to the Zohar are even more present after histalkus.”
    Whether they die or not is not the point. The problem is praying to something other than god. Please give a better reference than, “There is ample support and encouragement within our holy Torah”.

  12. Feivel- Did you just determine someone was a kofer for disagreeing with what is written in the zohar? I like the writings of the zohar a lot, but someone isn’t a kofer for not believing something written in there.

    Bad4 – Could it be that the reason people are so focused on that area of life is because it is so game changing in the long run that it is best to focus in on that rather than the smaller goals. What I mean is a married person (just a guess, still looking) has a totally different way of looking at the world. It is not just 2 single people living together in the same house and having to share their decisions. It always seems like they have a different way of looking at the world, especially later on in life. Whether you become a great scholar or a nurse or a whatever the thing that (hopefully) won’t change throughout all that is that you are married.

  13. I am going to write a blog post about it later tonight bez”h.

    Also, if you agree that death is no nafka mina, then according to you it should also be a problem when they are alive biologically. In that case you are going to have messy problems even if you just ask me to pass you the ketchup. Don’t ask me, ask Hashem!!!!!!

    You are not davening to a tzaddik as an independent entity. The point is that a tzaddik can act as a conduit and ask for you. Like greasing the wheels, you know?

  14. Shlomo
    You can ask the tzaddik all you want, but tzaddikim do not have the power to do anything for you. The only thing that one can do is beseech god that in the zchus of the tzaddik your teffilos should be answered.

  15. Feivel I look forward to your post. The better analogy would be, if somebody would pray to you that ketchup should magically appear in their hands. People, tzaddik or not, alive or dead, have absolutely no power to affect prayer. God does.

  16. “Hatzaddik gozer v’hakadosh baruch hu m’kayem”
    There is a world of difference between getting a brocho, and praying to a human being.

  17. I don’t understand going to kevarim. I can understand going to my own family, having been at the cemetery this past week for my grandfather’s yartzheit – ask your people for a bracha, if one is needed. I went back to the old country and saw my ancestors’ graves. That has meaning.

    Consider the poor gadol. He’s dead, he can finally get some peace in the next world, and people come hocking him regularly. I can practically hear the Rambam holler, “Why are you coming to us? Go to Hashem!”

    Rabbi Yisroel Reisman has a very dim view of segulos. If one does everything else right, then maybe they can indulge in them – though he says the only potentially valid one is making 100 brachos a day (rather then collecting them).

  18. What if someone would ask ME to pray to Hashem that ketchup would appear in their hands???
    Granted, I would assume said person to be a bit off because I’m not tzaddik and I could easily just pass it to them…
    but there would be no halachic problem…

  19. Errrrr. Tzaddikim exist for the benefit of klal yisroel. I don’t think any tzaddikim are bothered by you asking for their help if it is for the right reasons. Also, I don’t think your communications distract them from other things they are doing. They aren’t really being bounded by biology after kevura…

  20. “though there were those who requested segulot and/or kameot for the same as well”
    Talking about borderline Avodah Zorah.

    You honestly speak about what you do not know. Chazal speak of Kameot, and even whether one is allowed to wear them on Shabbat. The Ramban gave specific kameot that he felt every Jew should wear, even on Shabbat. Shabbat 66 lists a number of segulot. Shabbat 61 explains kameot and the pre-requisites for being able to wear or carry them on Shabbat, the Rambam in hilkot Shabbat 19:14 and 20:13 states this as halacha(despite his aversion to Kabbalah).

    I am sorry that you feel these things are Avoda Zera for whatever reason. However there is a documented tradition going back to the Mishnah for them being a legitimate part of Judaism.

  21. Sh’lomo – touche. I shall now be silent. 😀

    Tzafnas – I was actually thinking of things more personal and ephemeral than jobs. You know, like being a good person, etc.

  22. Feival- In the case of a ketchup bottle it would be just fine, but if addressing yourself to a deceased person, it would be very problematic. See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128:13), where he states that one must be careful not to address himself to a departed tzaddik,due to the issur of dirush el hamaysim.

    Mekubal- The gemoroh in shabbos is aggadic in nature and should not be taken at face value. In fact, the Meiri states that all the segulahs and kameiot that are quoted there have no effect whatsoever, and were permitted only because they are so outlandish that nobody would be led astray by them. It is also possible that since the masses believed in them, they had a placebo effect and were therefore permitted to be used on shabbos (see Yoreh Deah 179:6). The Rambam states unequivocally that all sorts of incantations, charms, and the like are without any substance and only given credence to by fools. He states that the reason that these items were allowed on shabbos is because at the time of the Mishna they were thought to be scientificially accurate(see Rambam Avodas Kochavim 11:16 & Moreh Nevuchim 3:37)

  23. “where he states that one must be careful not to address himself”
    Sorry, I forgot the forum. That should read “oneself”.
    As an aside, it is disheartening to see how the segulah business has turned into a massive cash cow for those that push it. This shady industry preys on misfortune, desperation, and ignorance and turns a huge profit. Truly sad.

  24. @feivel
    isn’t that Ikkur #5: I believe with perfect faith that it is only proper to pray to G-d. One may not pray to anyone or anything else. ?
    The Mishna Berura says that it is forbidden to pray to tzadikim for this reason. The RaN in the Drashos points out that the reason we pray at Kivrei Tzadikkim is because there is a higher level of kedusha over there, but we are davening to Hashem, not to the Tzaddik.

    Can you source that Zohar for me btw?

  25. Dirty Shirt,
    I am aware that the rationalist stream of our mesora has essentially been against kameot on the basis that they are meaningless. However, none have said that they are kefira. On the flip side of that there are Geonim, Rishonim, Acharonim, and Gedolim today that take a different view. Considering names such as the Ramban, the Ari, the Besht, the Chida and R’ Ovadiah Yosef have said that they are a valid part of Judaism, I see it as hard to state that they are Avoda Zera, especially without such being specifically stated in the Shulchan Aruch. Your piece from the Shulchan Aruch is dealing with incantations and sorcery… not something in the Kabbalist’s arsenal, and which the Ari states is Avoda Zera.

    I am not sure that I understand how there is a “segula business” where it is a cash cow for anyone. All of the Segulot that I know involve reciting Tehillim or specific prayers to HaShem for a period of time(or everday ad infinitum). For instance a segula for Parnassa that I heard from Rav Kaduri, was to recite Tehillim 20, 21, 23, 24 and 29, followed by a short prayer for forty days. On the fortieth day one lights a yahrtzeit candle for Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes and recites a slightly longer prayer. Where is the money to be made in that?

    Now if you are speaking of selling off of kameot, that is far more problematic. The instruction I recieved in that was that they were to be given freely. The only exception that I have heard of to this, was in dealing kameot printed on silver or gold, there one is allowed to charge the fair market value of the metal, and nothing more. There are unscrupulous people that will pretend to be kabbalists to steal peoples money… to wit I say, beware. One should never need pay a mekubal for anything(excepting if you want a silver kamea).

  26. Feivel,

    Actually I am certain that Dirty Shirt is right on this one. Praying to a tzaddik or davening at a tzadik’s grave, aside from very specific tefillot are assur. The Ari mentions it in Shaar Ruach HaKodesh that any Tefilla, excepting tefillot for the ascension of the soul of tzadik is Avoda Zera. I know there are other sources, but I don’t remember them, they are in my notes at the Yeshiva. I will give them up motzei shabbat if you like.

  27. Harryer,

    The Zohar he is referencing is Tikunei Zohar Tikkun 33 on daf 77 of the standard printing. Though I don’t think that he has understood it correctly, if I have time later I will copy the Matok UMDvash over. In the meantime you might want to check Helek 1 Daf 98a, H’1 D’180a, H’2 D’141a, H’3 D’38a, H’3 D’56b, as they will give a more complete view.

  28. Harryer et al,

    Slight mistake, the source I was thinking of is not in Tikunei HaZohar, but rather in Helek 3 Daf 70b. If you are using a version that is divided up according to the Parshiot, it is found in Achrei Mot 70b. Anyway there the Zohar brings down that there are three divisions of Tzadikim. The firs and lowest division, their nefeshot dont’ have the ability to completely ascend from this world, and thus stand over their kevarim until the resurrection of the dead(other Tzadikim their lower aspects of their nefashot only stand over the kevarim on the date of their hilulla(yahrzeit)). These Tzadikim make tefilot for this troubles that come into the world, as is also related in the Gemarra Berachot 19b where it says the dead know the troubles of this world.

    I would suggest, if at all possible, looking it up in the Matok MDvash(it is just too long for me to transcribe it here).

  29. I do feel quite vindicated 🙂
    Sorry Bad4, I knew you were just anthropomorphising from the context and following sentence, but it did stick out to me that most people don’t know proper decorum and machshava when davening at a kever.

  30. I have not been bested.
    Don’t get too jumpy yet.
    Not only do I still maintain that at Kivrei Tzaddikim you are allowed to speak to the Tzaddikim buried there, but that it is what you are supposed to do! (Not that you shouldn’t also pray to Hashem there, but that in addition you are meant to address the Tzaddikim and request that they be a melitz and arouse mercy in Heaven.)

  31. @mekubal- i would be fascinated to read your notes.

    @feivel- when you bring sources, instead of positions that certain sects of Judaism posit which others consider close to kefira/avoda zara/foolishness, we’ll talk. In the meantime i feel like Nosson G, that what the Rambam and others state clearly as problematic, is problematic.

  32. Feival- The fact that a large segment of our people do something, by no means makes it correct. One should not do something only because they were taught to do it. Unfortunately, many foriegn practices have crept into our tradition.
    What would you have done at the time of Eliyahu? There were only 7000 Jews who remained loyal to god. The rest had strayed and worshipped the Ba’al. People can err, even while having the best of intentions. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  33. If under the guidance of righteous Torah sages something becomes the accepted practice it is certainly correct.
    Minhag Yisroel IS Torah.

    If this accepted practice was akin to Avodah Zara I would think that R’ Chaim Volozhiner would not have been on good terms with The Mitteler Rebbe, and Rabbi Ganzfeld would not have based his KSA partly on the psak of The Alter Rebbe, and The Rabbonim of Brisk, and The Chofetz Chaim, would not have been close to The Fifth and Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbeim as well as countless other Chassidic Rebbeim. I would think they would have wanted to distance themselves from Avoda Zara, no?

  34. Mekubal- The discussion of rationalism vs. kabballah is an important one. The only Rishon that you mention is Ramban. While Ramban was inclined towards kabbalah, his kabbalah was pre-Lurianic and quite different than the kabbalah practiced in later generations. On the flip side there were many Rishonim that were opposed even to the kabbalah of the Ramban. These include Rambam, R’Avraham ben Harambam, Rabbeinu Meshullam and many others. I do admit that this is a bit off topic and really beyond the scope of this blog. However, you do seem like a sincere person and seeker of truth. I would recomend that you check out http://www.mesora.org/ToharHayihud.pdf. This was written by a Talmid Chochom who must remain annonymous do to the inevitable backlash he would face. Read it, it may change your life.

  35. Feival- You may disagree strongly with what is written, however nothing that is stated there is in contradiction to the yud gimmel ikrim, and therefore does not constitute heresy. In addition, the author studied kabbalah long and hard, and is now an elderly man. Sometimes it is more comfortable to call something nonsense, than to actually refute it.

  36. No, there are things written there that are heresy.
    I could refute it but that means I will have to do alot of research and dig up maareh m’komos etc.
    I will put that on my list of things to do but that sort of waaaaay back burner.

  37. Feival- Please be a bit more specific than “things”. You’re not helping your point when you talk in generalizations

  38. THINGS as in the author’s whole conception of Hashem’s unity.
    This is not the place to elaborate I said I will eventually deal with it but that would involved reading through the whole thing again and also looking up alot of stuff, which I can not do right now.

  39. Hey guys – not to be rude, but this is getting long. Write up positions on your own blogs and link to each other.

  40. Wow thanks for shouting that out to the world.

    I also have posted concerning the issue. As well as the supposed debate between Kabbalah and Rational Judaism.

  41. Hey, this was my rant! From Bnei Brak after we got brachos from that poor bignamesoandso when we accosted him outside his apartment building. I wanted to save my bigname brachos for success, but nobody bothered to ask me :(.

    It gets worse if you’ve been married for more than a year or so and are not visible pregnant or attached to a squirmy bundle of mess, noise, and joy. Then everyone assumes you’re dying for a little one and gives you the same pitying looks.

  42. Ha ha. Funny. I like your last line how when you’ll grow up and be a tzadekes highly sought after,,,,

  43. You know what bothers me more than people assuming they know what I plan to ask? People who think they know better than me, even after I’ve told them.

    I once went, at my husband’s request, with him to meet a gadol. For a bracha. So I asked for a bracha of simchas hachaim and yishuv hada’as (if you’ve read my blog, you’ll understand). Apparently the gadol couldn’t hear that well, but his shamash or gabbai or whatever so kindly repeated my request to him: a bracha for parnassa and children. Um, so not my current issues, thank you.

    People really have to stop making asusmptions about other people’s lives.

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