What's a Segulah?

Jewish man praying at Western Wall
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If you've ever been to a Jewish simcha (celebration) of any kind, you've probably noticed certain traditions or interesting quirks that seem a bit hokey.

Whether it's a single woman wearing the bride's jewelry while she's underneath the chuppah (wedding canopy) or a woman struggling to conceive visiting the mikvah after a proud mother of many, the segulah is a potent part of Jewish life. 

Meaning

Segulah (also written segula; plural segulot) literally means a "remedy" or "protection" in Hebrew.

The term is pronounced suh-goo-luh. 

In Judaism, a segulah is viewed as an action that will lead to a change in one's luck, fortune, or destiny. 

Origins

The term appears several places in the Torah, always relating that the Israelites will be God's "treasured" people. 

And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure (segulah) out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth (Exodus 19:5).

For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured (segulah) people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6). 

For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a treasured (segulah) people for Him, out of all the nations that are upon the earth (Deuteronomy 14:2). 

And the Lord has selected you this day to be His treasured people ... (Deuteronomy 26:18).

In both instances, segulah means a treasure, although the Ohr HaChaim says that a segulah is a "charm that supersedes logic."

The theory is that these acts represent going above and beyond the "call of duty," which makes the individual treasured in the eyes of God, heightening the likelihood of whatever it is they desire or need to come to pass. 

Although many segulot have a basis in Jewish law, many do not and many are considered "old wives' tales." When in doubt, talk to your local rabbi or do some searching to make sure that the segulah you're considering has a solid basis in Judaism.

 

Segulah Examples

One of the most popular segulot is to say the Torah portion known as "Ha'man" every day for 40 days (except on Shabbat) in order to gain parnassah (livelihood). Another segulah for livelihood is to bake a shlissel challah (bread for Shabbat in the shape of a key).

At weddings, there are many different types of segulot, such as a single woman wearing the bride's jewelry while she stands underneath the chuppah in order to merit a husband. Because the bride and groom are meant to come to the wedding canopy as unadorned as possible, the bride usually removes all of her jewelry before the ceremony and puts it back on after the chuppah is over. 

Many will pray at the Kotel every day for 40 days in order to "shake the rafters" of Heaven and increase the likelihood of finding a spouse or receiving a favorable response for whatever it is you're seeking. Others will recite Shir ha'Shirim (the Song of Songs) every day for 40 days to cause the same to occur. 

A new mom and dad will often ask a childless couple they know to take part in the brit ceremony as a segulah for them to be blessed with children, while a childless woman might take a dip in the mikvah after a woman who has given birth to many of her own.

 

Another very popular segulah is to give someone who is going on a long journey or flight money to give as tzedakah (charity) upon arrival. The idea is that the individual is on a mission to do a mitzvah by giving charity upon his arrival, so he'll be protected along the way from danger.  

Lastly, if you're preparing for Rosh HaShanah, consider purchasing a new knife, as it's said to bring about livelihood!

For more discussion about segulot, click here