Tuesday, 17 January 2012

More on Superstitions

Blog Commenter Fish listed a bunch of other superstitions in the Superstition Post that his frum family followed, and it amazed me how many of the things he listed have seeped  into my secular life. Here are his additions:
  • Don't cut the hair of a baby before they turn three. According to Fish's grandmother this is so as not to cut out their brains. My parents did this for my brother. Check. (And guess what?! It worked!).
  • Put on the right shoe before the left shoe, and make sure you tie the left lace before the right. We didn't do this one. I thought this was halacha, but my "source" for thinking this is A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. (p. 142) "Why that order?  . . .'That's what the rabbis tell us to do. I don't have to think about it. It saves me a lot of thinking.'" Ha! Amazing! And until I read that, I never actually thought about it. Anyway, while we're on the topic, where does custom end and law begin etc.? (I know, I know . . . .Probably should be a question for a whole nother post . . .)  
  • Don't have a conversation or eat food before you wash 'negelvasser' in the morning or your hands might be tainted with 'ruach ra' (evil spirits), and it might spread. Also didn't make it into our home. Negelvasser -  what a great word!  - wasn't something we did. 
There's the pervasive Ayyin Haro (evil eye):
  • [You] should not brag  . .. or else others might think ill of you. Check. 
  • Why a woman does not announce that she's pregnant until she's visibly pregnant. Sorta Check. I was too excited to contain the news, but I did feel guilty about it. 
  • Why Jewish women will not have baby showers .. .might cast the evil eye on the baby. Check. I   hardly had anything ready before my son was born - not the room, not the stroller, barely a wardrobe etc. It proved to be completely impractical, and drastically increased the shock-and-awe-factor when he was born. For my daughter, I was much more prepared - shower and all - and the experience was significantly more civilized.  
  • If you try having a convo with a chnyok (ultra frummie), they tend to say "ken ayno haro" or "bli ayyin hara" . . . after saying anything that may possibly be construed as good news. Check. She was never chnyok - another fantastic word - but Baba Two is a big fan of this.
Apparently God wasn't worshiped in our household, but the Ayyin Haro was.

5 comments:

  1. I can understand the not announcing the pregnancy until a certain amount of time has elapsed. Miscarriages are not all that uncommon in the first month or so. It's bad enough to suffer through one without having to explain to everyone what had happened.

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  2. Hi Andy! Welcome!

    The problem with this aspect of the culture is that women also need support when miscarriages happen. And because no one knows they were pregnant, they often go through the miscarriage alone, without emotional support from other women. Also, the taboo means women aren't always cognizant of how common miscarriages are among their peers, and may feel even more isolated.(It's one thing to read about it on babycentre.com, but another when real people around you have experienced it).

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  3. > Put on the right shoe before the left shoe, and make sure you tie the left lace before the right. We didn't do this one. I thought this was halacha,

    It’s in the shulchan aruch and the mishnah brurah (and probably other places).

    > Why Jewish women will not have baby showers .. .might cast the evil eye on the baby. Check. I hardly had anything ready before my son was born

    When we were expecting my oldest, I insisted that this was ridiculous. We had pretty much everything we needed before she was born, and my wife was able to find some pretty good deals online for stuff because we had months to shop around.

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  4. @Andy: Another problem with the convention is that in their first trimester women often have strong symptoms (extreme fatigue, nausea) that make it difficult for them to function as well, and though not impossible, it is very difficult to be in a situation where your professional obligations suffer, but you can't explain to your boss why that is. Obviously this is short term, and not the end of the world, but just another angle from which to consider the taboo.

    When I'm not on maternity leave and blogging while my baby sleeps, I work with children. In my second and third trimesters, once families knew I was pregnant, I found they were MUCH more considerate about rescheduling when their children were sick. By not telling people I was pregnant in my first trimester, I was potentially exposing myself to more illness than I would have otherwise. I did get fifth's disease in my first trimester with my son. Thankfully it did not transfer to the foetus, but had it happened, the OB explained he might have needed intrauterine heart surgery - a very scary consequence, for an otherwise common and innocuous disease. Obviously I still could have contracted fifth's disease had I announced my pregnancy right away, but the point is that for pregnant women the extra consideration they get can be extremely valuable, and until they announce they're pregnant, they won't get that consideration.

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  5. I expect that the evil spirit we're supposed to worry about on our hands is actually urine, semen, and feces that they might have picked up over the night. I can't explain why we need to pour water over our hands instead of just, you know, washing them.

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