Those who know me, know how much disdain I have for "voodoo Judaism", regrettably so rampant in Israel today: incessant dippings in the mikveh, frequent trips to graves, red strings tied around the wrist, "holy" water, amulets to ward off the evil eye, chairs to "cure" barren women, kabbalah seminars, and so on and so forth.
My sister forwarded me an email today linking to this PowerPoint presentation. As it is in Hebrew, I will summarise it here.
In August 2001, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a fast food restaurant in central Jerusalem, killing 15 and wounding more than 150. Shortly thereafter, followers of the Breslov Hasidic movment printed a miraculous story in the Tikkun HaClali - a booklet containing some psalms and prayers which, if recited daily, they believe will cleanse them of their sins (specifically the sin of masturbation).
The story in the booklet goes like this: minutes before the bombing, the cashier at the restaurant told everyone that the resturant is full and a few customers decided to leave. Among them was this American woman. After the bombing, the woman sought out the cashier and found her in a hospital. Grateful for being saved, she left the girl her phone number in New York telling her to call her if in need. Some time later the cashier called and they agreed to meet in NYC. On the day, the woman left her office at the Twin Towers to go meet the visitor from Israel. You guessed right, the date was September 11, 2001 and thus the American woman was saved once again from certain death by the cashier.
And it just so happens that the cashier had a copy of the Tikkun HaClali next to her when working at the restaurant. Not only did the booklet save her life; it managed to save the American woman's life, twice. Sounds amazing, right? Surely enough to make anyone religious on the spot, joining the dancing Breslov nutcases in busy street intersections, no? Well, not so fast.
The family of the cashier heard about this "miraculous story" and could not believe their ears. Because, you see, the cashier, 19-year-old Tehilah Maoz, died in the bombing. She is buried in Jerusalem. The story was made up in order to shamelessly promote the voodoo booklet by a bunch of so-called believers. Rabbi Nachman must be turning in his grave knowing his name is used by such lowlifes.
This is just one small story and were it representative of the pervasiveness of this "voodoo Judaism" it would not be so interesting. Sadly, rather than dealing with the demanding task of keeping mitzvot, many prefer to wallow in the imaginary comfort of magical instant gratification. Avodah zarah was and remains an easy way out for errant souls.