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April 05, 1996 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-04-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

HOW PORSCHE
DRIVERS LOOK ONCE
THEY'RE PREGNANT.

With its responsive 5-cylinder DOHC 1.68-hp engine, 4-wheel ABS and rack-

and-pinion steering, the 1996 front-wheel-drive Volvo 850 Sportswagon will expand

your idea of a spoils car—by 67 cubic feet of carrying space. See your obstetrician, then

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LUCKY STARS page 3

custom of covering a bride's face
has a biblical basis. Laban hid
the identity of his eldest daugh-
ter, Leah, to trick Jacob into
marrying her. Though Jacob
was in love with Rachel, how
would it look for the younger
daughter to wed first?
After love and marriage, of
course, along comes the baby
carriage.
This, too, is a time replete
with the use of magic and sym-
bolism, Mrs. Tarnoff-Cooper
said.
The problem once again was
those pesky evil spirits, who
might come to snatch away the
baby. In ancient days, she said,
Jewish women in labor would

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I.56 JEFFRIES

""

open doors and windows "to let
the demons escape."
Of course, you wouldn't want
to let Lilith in at the same time.
She may be a popular icon
among modern feminists, but to
many Jewish women Lilith was
the most terrible of creatures —
a baby killer.
To protect themselves from
this she-demon, mother and
baby were given cards bearing
the names of three angels of
God. The Prophet Elijah also
was appealed to, in an effort to
ward off Lilith or any other
demons.
Perhaps the most widespread
superstition among Jews was
that of the "evil eye," which
would snatch away happiness in
a heartbeat. Jewish men and
women wore amulets to prevent
such a dreadful occurrence —
and even came to hold certain
Jewish religious symbols as po-
tent antidotes against trouble.
Making no mention of "good
fortune," the Torah commands
Jews to place mezuzot on their
door posts. But many came to re-
gard this scroll as an incompa-
rable good-luck charm.
"It was considered the most
powerful amulet of all times,"
Mrs. Tarnoff-Cooper said. Dur-
ing the Middle Ages the
m e_zuz ah_was th_ouqh tto_Euard

against the Black Plague, while
Christian soldiers during World
War II carried or wore a tiny
mezuzah for protection.
(To this day, stories abound of
Jewish families troubled by un---/
usual events, which mysteri-
ously stopped after a small flaw
or a worn spot in their mezuzah
was corrected.)
Yes, Rabbi Bergman agreed,
some people have come to see
the mezuzah as a charm. But
that has nothing to do with Ha-
lachah. Jews hang mezuzot be-
cause it is a mitzvah, not
because it might bring them
good fortune.
"The Torah talks about writ-
ing the words of the Sh'ma (con-
tained on the scroll in a
mezuzah)," he said. "It's a pub-
lic declaration of God and of your
faith. There's an element of pro-
tection involved, but not the be-
lief that if you say the right
formula, something will magi-
cally happen."
The Torah itself denounces
magic and magical practices,
which it labels "abominations."
Deuteronomy 18 directs Jews to
stay away from the "soothsayer,
or an enchanter, or a sorcerer,
or a charmer, or one that con-
sulteth a ghost or a familiar spir-
it, or a necromancer." The
Talmud goes on to equate the
use of magic with idolatry, and
performing acts of magic is pun-
ishable by death. One of the tal-
mudic rabbis was so incensed by
magic that he said, "He who is
free from superstition attains an
eminence in the world to come
which is beyond the reach even
of the serving angel."
Maimonides also denounced
the use of magic, as did Saadiah
Gaon. That their writings rarely
mention it, however, is proofs

/

Women sought
protection from
Lilith, the baby
snatcher.

U

that the problem was rare in
Jewish society. (You would be
hard-pressed to find a lot of
books on "How Jews can use
magic to win friends and influ-
ence people.")
Of course, it's with death that
most people find themselves feel-
ing, well, a little mystical. Mrs.
Tarnoff-Cooper said she spoke
with rabbis and funeral direc-
tors throughout metro Detroit
while researching how magic
and superstition have influenced
Jewish mourning and burial
customs. She discovered that
many of the traditions are sim-
ply an effort to keep dead spir-
its in their place.
Ancient cultures believed that
th_e_P- h

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