Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chayeh Sarah The Valuable Lesson of Camels

Chayeh Sarah    The Valuable Lesson of Camels

Eliezer on his camel?
            Have you ever given thought to the important role that camels played in the Bible. Thus camels are used by the wandering Midianites who bring Joseph to Egypt and again camels are used by the Midianite enemies of Israel in the time of Gideon. But in our Torah portion, the camel is a very important element for it is at the core of the great test of  the bride for Isaac.

            There is an unusual tidbit about the origins of the camel at least according to Bedouin legend.
            “The Bedouin of Arabia have a strange legend about the origins of the camel. According to them, it was the Jews, not the Bedouins who had camels first in antiquity. The legend says that the Jews lived in the mountains of the Hijaz, while the Bedouins lived in the deserts.”   The Bedouins were lost …. Until “ they came to a plain where the Jews lived.
            “When they came to the plain, surrounded by hills, they discovered the many tents of the Jews. In front of the tents were strange animals that the Bedouin had never seen before. These were camels, known to the Bedouin as al-vil. The Bedouins hid until sunrise and then attacked the Jews in the early morning by surprise. The Jews fled by every possible means, and with them, they took their female camels. The Bedouin then chased the group of Jews, defeated them, and took their female camels. Since that time the Jews have had no camels to raise, and instead became farmers or tenders of sheep and goats. “
            The legend continues to say that the Jews would put out buckets of water, hoping to draw the camels back to them.” From this story the ancient Bedouin proverbs developed for something one does not expect to attain or achieve, rajw al-hihuud min al-bil. or "the Jews hope for the camels." (http://nabataea.net/camel.html)

            This curiosity tells us that while the Arabs may be angry at the Jews for stealing Arab land, we have a claim against them for stealing our camels!
            Bible critics have had a heyday with camels because archaeological evidence seemed to indicate that camels weren’t used intensively till the ninth century before the common era. Thus they claim that the writers of the Bible use the word gamal, camel, only because that’s what the audience knew, like saying “ car” for a story about horse and buggy times. However, the story of Gideon fighting the Midianites really makes sense only in describing people who knew and used the camel for warfare and that account predates the time set by these archaeologists by two centuries. Even more, newer archaeological evidence do show references to camels and pictures of people riding camels in Mesopotamia dating back to the time of Abraham. That evidence puts the camel back into play in our account!
            We have this popular and well known story of Abraham sending his trusted servant, Eliezer of Damascus, to his home town of Haran to find a wife for his son.  In the Bible, the well is core of civil life. In a world without water faucets, no bottled water, and no canned coke, getting water plays a central role in society and becomes a metaphor for all that sustains life. Therefore, Eliezer will meet Rebecca at the well, a generation later Jacob will meet Rachel at the well, and then Moses will meet Zipporah at the well. Clearly, the well is eHarmony or JDate of its day. It is also extensively used as a metaphor for the spiritual nourishment needed— U Shavtem Mayim be  Sason,” You shall draw water with joy,” Mi Maayanei Hayeshua, “From the fountains of salvation”.(Isaiah 12:3)
            Let’s ask ourselves now. Why did Abraham go out of his way to send for a bride from his homeland? Was it just that he wanted his boy to marry into his faith? After all his family was not Jewish; they were all idol worshipers while he was the lone monotheist in the group. .
            Why would he not have his son marry one of the local Canaanite women? After all he had developed some friendly relations with the locals as it was shown just a chapter before when he negotiated with the people of Hebron for a burial place for Sarah. Did he look down on the Canaanites as racially inferior? Was it a reflection of the accusation later made by anti- Semites who claimed that Jews don’t allow intermarriage because they don’t want alien blood?
            He is afraid of the influence of the Canaanite culture.
             Abraham is the epitome of kindness to strangers; only a few chapters before we had seen the worst of cruelty in the behavior of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The culture of Canaan is also described in the Bible as a culture of sexual license. Abraham is concerned with shaping progeny who were dedicated and loyal and neither trait would be fit for his children.

            We’re all familiar with the test that Eliezer devises to identify the right woman and it raises lots of questions. For example, some of our rabbis asked “Isn’t this an act of divination or of going to an oracle?” You create some test and if the test comes to be then you know that’s your answer? That goes against the teachings of the Bible that we do not use acts of divination.
            It was also, they said, in itself, an unfit request. What if the woman that carried this out was unfit for marriage? Never make an oath that you might regret!
            Rather should see this not as an act of fortune-telling but as a kind of entry exam, let’s say it’s an S A T test not for college but marriage instead.
            What is nature of the test?
            Drawing water for a stranger is, by itself, not so unusual. It would have been a common courtesy to a stranger in those days.
            But in our day? Could imagine all the possible answers that Rebecca could have given if she was one of our modern teenagers?
            “You’re standing near the well, you can go draw it yourself.”
            “I just finished going to the well. Why don't you get one of the girls who has just arrived to help?”
            “I just got the pitcher up on my shoulder; get it down by yourself.”
            The test becomes a real test when we realize what it involves.
            Have any of you ever been on an archaeological tour Israel where you are taken to see ancient wells. You know they are you deep and cavernous circular pits in the ground with staircases cut into the rock going all the way down. It’s not our common depiction of the well with a crankcase attached to a water bucket. You had to go down down down with your bucket and then up up up with a bucket full and heavy.
The great pool of Gibeon, cut from rock, measures 37 feet in diameter and 35 feet deep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Here's an unusually large cistern
             This mystery woman( or girl) is described as descending into the ancient well of that time  so to draw the water is a major effort.
            Where does she have to bring the water? The watering trough is not next to the well but at a distance, so she is described as running, not walking!
            Eliezer only asks for water for himself. She offers not only to give him water but to draw water until all the camels have finished drinking!
            Eliezer is stunned and we can only understand this when we do the arithmetic for watering camels.
            It turns out that a camel drinks about 25 gallons of water a shot and Eliezer has 10 gallons. That means a total of 250 gallons and if we assume she can carry 5 gallons bucket seven trip, then that is 50 trips up and down the steps of that the well and to the watering trough. Now that is a prayer fulfilled.
            It is now clear for us how Rebecca is so very different from the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. When strangers come to Sodom and Gomorrah they are almost gang raped and killed. When the stranger comes to Rebecca he is nourished. That makes clear why the heir to Abraham’s vision cannot be from the Canaanite peoples but only be from someone like Rebecca.
            Here is the person who runs to help, offers aid without expecting a
tit for tat, without asking “What’s in it for me”, or” why should I bother?”. Here is the ideal one who does not say “call on somebody else.”
            So we can see how much we owe to these camels, because through them, we find a match made in heaven. Perhaps Rebecca was the originator of the slogan, “I’ld walk a mile for a Camel”( but the cigarette people used it the wrong way.)
            We can all use more Rebeccas.
            People of her time may have thought of her as a fool to go out of her way for a stranger, but  I want to respond to it with a quote from Pirke Avoth in the name of Akabya ben Mehalelel:
            “Better that I be called a fool all my life than that there be one moment of wickedness on my account in the presence of God.”
            Let's all choose to be called fools; lets all be like Rachel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Father and Son - A follow up to my Rosh Hashanah Sermon on Parshat Vayera

Father and Son - A follow up to my Rosh Hashanah Sermon on Parshat Vayera

            I hope you remember my sermon on Rosh Hashanah. It was on the possible interpretations of the Binding of Isaac, which is part of the Torah reading today, Vayera, as well as the core of the Rosh Hashanah Torah reading.
            As you know, the function of the reading is to reassure us that God will hear us and pardon us and save us, just as he saved Isaac from death. Hence, the Ram’s horn, the Shofar, as a reminder of the Ram offered in Isaac’s place.
            A friend of mine asked me, quite rightly, how can it be possible to test Abraham’s loyalty as the expense of Isaac? It is, to borrow a metaphor,” I will fight to the last drop of his blood. “Extreme ideologists seem to adhere to this, as Hamas left the children on the rooftops to face Israelis missiles  while they themselves sat in their bunkers in safety.
            However, as we see, God spares Isaac and Abraham is stopped, with the message that it is all a test and the test can never come at the expense of an innocent’s life.
            Still, we have a legitimate concern. Doesn’t Abraham care for the life of his son Isaac? Doesn’t he care for the anguish and terror that Isaac suffers? He cares for the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah, but not a bit for his own innocent son?
            I can only think that to understand this reading calls for a suspension of disbelief. In other words, we must assume, for the sake of the argument, that the issue of Isaac’s life and suffering is put aside, that for the sake of debate, at this point, Isaac is a cipher, an inanimate object, or at most, another sheep (which  is offered in his stead). It is a test of Abraham, not whether he will kill his son, but whether he is willing to lose the very promise of the future that God gave him, for the sake of faithfulness to God. Faithfulness to God leads him to plead on behalf of the wicked and faithfulness to God leads him to be willing to lose all that he has, Isaac.
            We can allow ourselves this luxury as, from the hindsight of history, we are descended from Isaac, and we have read the book, so we know the happy ending. After all, it is a test of Abraham, not Isaac, not whether he is willing to murder, but whether he is willing to lose it all.  
            I want to take this Shabbat to read with you some ancient and modern variations on the story of the Akedah, as each generation saw itself in the account as either Abraham or Isaac.


I turn first to the Midrash

The Torah tells us that God called to Abraham,”Take your son.”
“ But I have two sons! Which son?”
Your only son!
“But both are the only son, one for one mother, one for the other mother.”
The one whom you love!
“Are there limits to my love? I love both.”
,Abraham and Isaac approach the selected sight of the slaughter.
Isaac says to his father:” My father, my father.” What prompted it after 3 days of silence?
The angel of death approached Abraham:” Old man, old man, have you lost your heart? The son who was born to you at the age of one hundred--You are about to slaughter him!”
“Even so.”
“Isn't he testing you beyond your Iimits?”
“ I can stand even morel!”
“If tomorrow, he accused you of murder, for murdering your son?”
“Even so!”
The angel of death realized that he could get nowhere with Abraham and  proceeded with Isaac.
“ Son of the poor, saddened woman, this man is going to slaughter you!
“Even so!”
But think of all those trinkets and goodies your mother made for you. Your hated brother, Ishmael, will inherit them all, and you will get nothing !
At this point Isaac began to have his doubts. Then he said “My father, My father.”

How willing was Abraham to commit his deed?
When God said “Do not set your hand on the lad, Abraham was stunned!”
“Yesterday you promised me that my descendants would come through my son Isaac! Then you told me to take my son for an offering! Now you say do not do them any harm! What is going on?”
God replied,” I do not annul  my covenant nor change my words. When I told you to take your son I did not say “Kill him”! I said “Bring him up to me!” I told you to bring him up and you followed my directions. Now you bring him down.”
The midrash continues. To what can this be compared? To a king who told his dearest friend, “Bring me your son to my table. He brings him his son and brings his knife as well. Says the King.” Did I tell you to bring him here in order to eat him. I told you to bring them here because he is dear to me!”

Thus, Abraham was never asked to kill Isaac—it was the fruit of his own over-eagerness to please God!
During the Crusades, nearly a millenia ago, would-be-heroes discovered
that it was far easier to gain glory and honor by killing Jews at home than by traversing thousands of miles of sea and land to face the powerful Moslem armies in the land of Israel.
Entire Jewish communities were surrounded, locked into their synagogues, and were offered the choice of conversion to Christianity, or death.
They chose death, in sanctification of God's name, and saw themselves as the real Isaacs being offered on the altar. In many cases, entire communities committed suicide, and fathers literally drew the slaughterer's knife across the necks of their own children.
These are the words of those who witnessed it:
0 Lord, mighty One, dwelling on high!
Once, over one Akedah, Ariels cried out before Thee. But now how many are butchered and burned?
Why over the blood of children did they not raise a cry? .
Before that patriarch could in his haste sacrifice his only one,
It was heard from heaven: Do not put forth your hand to destroy.
But now how many sons and daughters of Judah are slain—
While yet He makes no haste to save those butchered nor those cast on the flames.'

On the merit of the Akedah at Moriah once we could lean,
Safeguarded for the salvation of age after age—
Now one Akedah follows another, they cannot be counted."
How the outcry of the children rises!
Trembling, they see their brothers slain.
The mother binds her son lest he be blemished as he startles,
The father makes a blessing before slaughtering the sacrifice.
To their mothers in grief the tender children say,
Offer us up as a whole burnt offering! We are wanted on high!
With their fathers the sturdy young men plead,
Quick! Hurry to do our Creator's will! . .
His father tied him who was offered on Mount Moriah,
Who prayed he should not kick and disqualify the slaughter.
But we without being tied are slain for His love . ( From Spiegel, The Last Trial)

 In the lifetimes of many of us here, the entire Jewish people was once again confronted with an Akedah—the destruction of one third of all Jewry during the nightmare of the Shoah. This Shabbat is also the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, so this is an appropriate theme. This experience set the tone for modern Jewry's view of the Akedah-for a Jewry no longer willing to see itself as sacrificed by God's will.
The following is the interpretation by the Israeli poet, Amir Gilboa, who wrote Isaac in 1953
Toward morning the sun strolled in the forest •
Together with me and with father.
My right hand was in his left.
Like lightning flash, a knife between the trees
And I fear the terror of my eyes opposite the blood on the leaves.
Father, Father, come quickly and save Isaac
That no one may be missing at the noon meal.
It is I who am slaughtered, my son,
And my blood is already on the leaves.
Father's voice choked. His face grew pale.
And wanted to scream, writhing not to believe
And I opened my eyes wide
And I awoke.
Bloodless was my right hand.
(Translated by Miriam Arad)
Veteran’s Day leads us to  a contemporary version, written in the shadow of the Vietnam War era by song writer and  poet, Leonard Cohen.
The door it opened slowly
My father he came in
I was nine years old
And he stood so tall above me
Blue eyes they were shining
And his voice was very cold.
Said, "I've had a vision,
And you know I'm strong and holy
I must do what I've been told."
So he started up the mountain
I was running he was walking
And his ax was made of gold.
The trees they got much smaller
The lake a lady's mirror
We stopped to drink some wine
Then he threw the bottle over
Broke a minute later
And he put his hand on mine.
Thought I saw an eagle
But it might have been a vulture,
I never could decide.
Then my father built an altar
He looked once behind his shoulder
He knew I would not hide.

You who build the altars now
To sacrifice these children
You must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
And you never have been tempted
By demon or a god.
You who stand above them now
Your hatchets blunt and bloody,
You were not there before.
When I lay upon a mountain
And my father's hand was trembling
With the beauty of the word.

And if you call me brother now
Forgive me if I inquire
Just according to whose plan?
When it all comes down to dust
I will kill you if I must
I will help you if I can.
When it all comes down to dust
I will help you if I must
I will kill you if I can.
And mercy on our uniform
Man of peace or man of war -
The peacock spreads his fan.
The last selection of readings for the Akedah deals with the psychology of feelings rather than faith. It looks at the Akedah as a personal familial event which every father and mother, daughter and son, passes. Hence the following interpretation of the Akedah by by the contemporary American Jewish poet Ruth Brin
I dreamed that my first-born of Sara
would be the father of a great nation,
a nation as numerous as the sands of the sea,
as bright as the stars of heaven.
I taught him to be a chieftain
but I forgot that God demands of us our first-born.
It is easier when they are infants,
but now I know the lad, slender and quick;
he leans against me and my hand rests on his
curly head.      
How can I do what I must do?
Oh my God! I would give back every promise
Thou hast made me
for the life of my son, my only son, Isaac!
My father led me up the mountain,
tied me down on the uneven faggots
with my head thrown back.
I saw his hand, the knuckles white,
clutching the knife with the jagged edge:
I knew that when my throat was cut
and my blood running out on the ground
death might not come before the burning.
But then my father's hand stopped in mid-air,
and I heard the angry bleating of the ram.

Oh God, I know Thee now,
not as a maker of covenants,
but as the giver of life.
I pray to Thee:
Let my son dream his own dreams, not mine.
Let him make his own promises to Thee.
Let him live the life Thou hast bestowed upon him
as Thou and he see fit.

My father used to teach me many things
so I could learn to be a great chieftain,
but since we went up on the mountain
he is quiet and gentle and only tells me
that as I grow older I, too, will speak with God.
When I wander in the fields at eventide
and sometimes watch a caravan pass by
I think about my father finding the ram
and I wonder what God will require of me.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Of Shedim and Mazikim,ptuh, ptuh, ptuh.

Of Shedim and Mazikim,ptuh, ptuh, ptuh.

At Halloween time, we Rabbis tend to preach against commemorating what is a remnant of an ancient pagan celebration.
But please allow me to use this as an excuse for one of my favorite topics which is Jewish magic and superstition. Now we all know the Jews are highly rational, highly reasonable individuals, adherents of a religion of reason and rationalism. But there is always “on the other hand.”
In every major phase of Jewish history, there has been what we could call an official Judaism. There is for example the Judaism as expressed in the Bible which very clearly rejects any kind of demons, any kind myth any kind of magic.
You look at the story of the patriarchs and with Abraham and Isaac; there is not one single magic trick mentioned, not one incantation. Jacob, it is true has his fight with what he thinks is a demon but the demon has been transformed into an angelic messenger. The Egyptians have their magicians and the Babylonians too, but what about ancient Israel? As the pagan necromancer, Balaam, himself admits,” There is no magic in Israel”! We outlaw and forbid it. The Bible is, in essence, on the warpath against magic and magical, fantastical thinking.

 The Judaism as expressed in the Mishna is in the same vein- it rejects all mystical speculation. “Whoever asks, ‘what is above, what is below, what before, what after--it were better he never were born! ( Mishnah Hagiga 2). That pretty much shuts down any discussion of afterworld daemonic realms.
The Judaism of the philosophers like Maimonides or Saadia Gaon  held no truck for anything irrational.In the same vein, when we approach the modern era, the great Jewish thinkers, from Reform to Orthodox, slammed the door shut on any discussion of anything other than the religion of “Pure Reason”.
Nevertheless in each and every age, there was always an intriguing and interesting very colorful underground of Jewish magic and superstition, although it must be clear, at heart very benign and well intending. There is no playing the devil and no black magic in Jewish sources.
Probably some of the most intriguing of stories go back to the time of the Mishna and Talmud some 1500 to  2000 years ago.
First of all, the early rabbis want to distinguish between true magic and fraud. It is said that Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Eliezer had a favorite trick called “the magic cucumbers. “ It is said that Rabbi Akiba asked Rabbi Eliezer “teach me how you plant the cucumbers” and so he said a word and the whole field was filled with cucumbers. Rabbi Akiba continued, “Now show me how you get rid of the cucumbers.” and he said another word and they disappeared. Their colleagues  then asked the question,” Since magic is so completely forbidden, how was he able to do this ? To which, the answer is, in order to fight magic you have to know magic .You have to know your enemy in order to your enemy.”
The Rabbis, in general, tried to discount miracles and the miraculous. They tried to explain away miracles as events created by God at the beginning of the universe; otherwise would be to admit that God made a mistake in creation if he needed to undo his own laws of physics.
And then…
There is the  story of the daughters of Rabbi Nachman who  could put their hands in boiling water without being scalded. How could that be? Because of their righteousness.
There is also the realm of the Mazikim. Now some of you familiar with modern Hebrew and   Yiddish know that a Mazik is often use to refer to a mischievous child. That is not the real meaning though of Mazik,  which means a destroyer, of the daemonic kind.
A good Jew would never enter a ruined building because of the Mazikiim inside. It may also be good practical sense because it’s it if it’s a ruined building, it could collapse.
Kin to the Mazik was the Shed, the demon.
 The king of all the Shedim was Ashmodai, or in English, Asmodaeus.  Now it is said of Ashmodai that he was not intentionally malicious; he was just drunk, mischievous and licentious. He was a hobgoblin to wise King Solomon and legends abound of him playing pranks on King Solomon, usurping the throne of Solomon, kicking Solomon out, pretending to be Solomon on throne while King Solomon had to spend aggravating time trying to get back to his throne.
It is said that Ashmodai has a host of followers who can be seen.
Said Rabbi Huna,” they all around us, 1000 to the left, 10,000 to the right. Said Rava.” When you are crowded sitting in the Academy but the room doesn’t look  full is because of the Mazikim. If your clothes get worn out before their time is because of the Mazikim. If you wish to know where they are, sprinkle flour around your bed at night and in  the morning you’ll see tracks like chicken feet. If you wish to see one, take the afterbirth of a black cat, daughter of a black cat, the firstborn daughter. Burn it to ashes and then rub it on your eyes; you will then see the Mazikim! ( Berakhot 6a) .
So far we’ve only talked about male demons. But let’s be fair. If Ashmodai is King, Agrat bat Mahlath is Queen and she has 10,000 demon attendants. It is said that at one time she was active at all times but Hanina ben Dosa restricted her powers to Wednesday nights and Saturday nights. Later it is said that Abbaye banished her from all populated regions but she still lurks in alleyways. Demons are especially harmful , it is said, in and around palm trees. Therefore should never go to the toilet by a palm tree or under a palm tree as that invites their attention.( Talmud Pesahim 110a)
Now do any of you remember an old  Superman comic in which he has a daemonic pest whom he can remove only by making him say his name backwards. I suspect the authors, who were Jewish, may have known of this solution to get rid of the demon Shabriri. You chase away a demon by using his name so if Shabriri strikes, you say Shabriri, Briri, Riri, Ri. You know by the way the famous magician’s charm, Abracadabra. That too, it is said, stems from a Jewish charm to remove the demon where a syllable is removed from each line till there is nothing left of the demon. The phrase itsel is said to come from the Aramaic, Abrech Dabra- Flee, Demon.
This perspective wasn’t just restricted to the world of the Talmud. If any of you read the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer the Nobel prize-winning Yiddish novelist you know that his world is full of demons and magicians and I once heard him affirm, in a public lecture, that he very much believed in them. They were not just elements of his fiction or imagination, however.
I once asked my father if Singer was exaggerating in his description of life in the old world, and then he told me of what was common in his little town of Dolina when he was a child .
For one thing you would never go to shul at night. After all the ghosts of the dead also want to go to synagogue and pray and where would they go if not to the synagogue. Of course they were considerate and they would not come during the daytime to bother anybody,  so when else would they come, if not at midnight. If a plague would strike, the townspeople would look for an orphan male and female teenager, take them to the cemetery and set up Huppah next to the graves of their parents and marry them off. They knew that the souls of the parents would be so happy at this marriage that they would then plead to heaven to stop the plague.
Finally, there is our well beloved phrase in Yiddish “Kine hora.” “Kine Hora” is a slurred Yiddish/Hebrew phrase” Kein eyin hora”-No evil eye, upon which you know we spit 3 times, Ptuh, Ptuh Ptuh, and knock on wood. Now it turns out that Greeks also spit three times and everybody knocks on wood. But kinehora goes back to a very good expression stated by the Rabbis, who said that one of the greatest trait we can have is Eyin Tov, a good eye, because we see good in other people and the worst trait is Eyin Ra, an evil eye, because we would only see evil  in other people and be consumed by  jealousy.
The truth is that belief in an evil eye is something widespread especially in the Mediterranean; I think all of us know this sense that when things go to well for us we’re always afraid of pressing our  luck. Thus came the idea that when something good happened or when someone said a complement, anxiety would set in and with came the need to protect and defend from someone else’s jealousy, which really is at the core of the idea of evil eye, the eyin hora or “eyna Bisha”.
The evil eye could come in many forms and many traits, so there were a number of charms and  amulets to protect against it. For example it is popular today to wear a charm with a hand of five fingers up with a blue stone in the middle known as the “Hamsa”, Five. It is almost literally like a hand being held up to block something. Blue is considered the most effective color and you’ll find  doors painted blue protect the house throughout the Middle East.
I still have my grandfather’s notebook in which he collected all sorts of what were called “Seguloth”, guaranteed formulas to solve problems. So one of them is a formula, ” Lachash Leayin Hara”- An incantation against the evil eye-tried and tested.” Mashbia ani aleychem –I  swear against you, all manner of evil eyes: eyna tsehuva, eyna techelta, - a yellow eye, a blue eye, a tall eye ,a short eye , etc . that you flee and abandon so and  so and all his household and you will not have the power over him and his household, neither day nor night, neither asleep nor awake from now and for ever more.”

Now what can we conclude from this. We know that we are rational creatures; we know that we think things through. We also know that we have our own anxieties and fears. Rational people go to feng shui to tell them how to design the rooms in a house. Rational mothers refuse to immunize their children thereby exposing them to an epidemic of measles and mumps with serious side effects. Rational people are filled with contradictions.

 Perhaps the healthiest thing in all of this,  is the thought that while Judaism takes us away from the irrational  and away from magical thought,  Jewish people are people like everyone else. All of us need something to hold onto, something that gives us a little extra bit of assurance, rational or not. It may be that we have the equivalent of the old adage about “Chicken soup.” A man is rescued from drowning at the beach and someone shouts. “Give him chicken soup .” To this another one replies “Chicken soup can’t help him!”. At this the man answers” Well it won’t hurt.”

So, ptuh, ptuh, ptuh, kinahora, knock on wood, we should all be healthy and well.