The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Miracle-workers and money

with one comment

1.  The latest copy of the free London Jewish Advertiser – a useful advertisting magazine which I have always liked and admired because it has never pretended to carry any kind of substance other than advertising – contains an advertisement that one can only hope is simply a cruel and tasteless fraud.

2.  The text of this full-page advertisement says as follows: “A G-d fearing man of great ability who lives in Israel, can heal people of cancer from one day to the next.  He asks with every lashon of bakashah that women DO NOT contact him but a man should contact him or her behalf.  Please speak only in Hebrew as the man doesn’t understand English at all.  There are 2 things that need to be prepared: 1. To prepare a CT scan where there is a cancerous growth.  2.  To phone the man abopve to arrange a mutual third party who you will agree to deposit an agreed amount of money, either at a Beis Din, Rav, lawyer etc., and to pay the agreed deposit to the third party.  The man will then prepare a tikun and then to get a new CT scan from the hospital. If the illness has gone within 1 WEEK, then he will take the money as agreed from the third party.  IF, HOWEVER, the illness has not gone then the man will not take any money at all!”

3.  Hopefully, this is just a plain and simple fraud, in which case presumably someone will by now have arranged for the police in Israel to do the necessary.

4.  But what was the Advertiser thinking of printing this stuff?  The Advertiser is circulated to houses with mezuzot in orthodox Jewish areas, and is aimed at the orthodox Jewish community.  Presumably, if someone wanted to insert an advert for pornography, the advertisement would be refused.  Is there nobody capable of exercising enough editorial discretion to work out that this advertisement is either (a) a simple fraud, or (b) at the very least, every bit as tasteless as an advert for pornography?

5.  Either this man has special powers or he doesn’t.  If he doesn’t, the advertisement is a crude attempt to extort money from the vulnerable.  If he does, the advertisment is a crude assertion that these powers are to be made available only in return for payment, which is contrary to every notion of orthodox Judaism as I understand it.

6.  What troubles me is that this is by far the first – although certainly the crudest and most tasteless – emergence of attempts to exploit religious credulity within the orthodox community.  The number of glossy brochures for orthodox charities which now openly promise “yeshuos” – salvations – and publicise past miracles received by donors, seems to increase all the time.  And several miracle workers – blatantly advertised as such – have been brought to the country and publicised in straightforward marketing exercises.

7.  So it is time for the Jewish community to reassert that we are a community united by religion, not by superstitution, and that we are not all entirely stupid.

8.  The power of prayer and blessing is an intense and real part of the Jewish religion – but it has never meant miracles to order, and those whose prayers and blessings are genuine, and therefore will sometimes be efficaceous, bestow them in a selfless and altruistic manner, without thought of payment whether on a conditional basis as suggested by this advertisement or otherwise.

9.  An advertisement proclaiming powers to control divine intervention and offering to exercise them in return for payment is such a shameless parody of the concepts of blessing and prayer that the editors of the Advertiser should have seen from a mile off that to include it in their magazine would have been to subject their readers to gross offense.

10.  Hopefully the next issue will carry an unequivocal apology.



Written by Daniel Greenberg

September 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

One Response

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  1. We saw this “advertisement” before we read your blog and were absolutely horrified by the contents. What shocked me more was that amongst all the adverts for sheitels and other useful services, the editors have seen fit to insert a page of pure garbage. Did they not think for even one moment how this advert would be received by any cancer sufferers or anyone who knows someone who is suffering? We have a friend whose sister, unfortunately, passed away from cancer just five weeks ago. To say that she was horrified and upset by this advert in an understatement. The next Advertiser is due after Yom Kippur. The Editors should issue an IMMEDIATE retraction and request foregiveness from the whole community – sufferers, their families and everyone else – for their error of judgement, well before Yom Kippur.

    Henry Ehreich

    September 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm

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