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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oy, Hawking of Yeshuot Moves to Daily Deal Sites

I generally refrain from all but informational blog posts during the 3 weeks. But after tons of segula posts and a cry against how tzedakah is marketed, I am choosing to blog this because, you know what, this is informative (!) as it is a change in the fundamentals, the underpinnings, the very basics. Truth be told, I had a bit of a laugh initially because it was so unexpected and the entire format of the deal seemed humorous. A coupon for tzedakah? With an expiration date to boot!

But then I stopped laughing. Looks like we have a new forum for hawking yeshuot and tzedakah. And if you read the background, it is worse than hawking tzedakah. Let someone else take over tefillah for you (I think tefillah is something that is difficult for many of us and that we could develop greater understanding and skill in), and believe that we are getting closer to Hashem while our "hearts desire" is fulfilled.

The online daily deal format is highly impulsive. It is a brilliant idea, a lot like a virtual Costco. There are lots of deep discounts and some really great deals, but you went in intending to buy some basics to realize the savings (yeast, flour, eggs, cheese), and now you own a beautiful jungle gym, some great gadgets, a lifetime supply of crasins, and a CD collection.

And, after reading the small print (see below because it is really important to absorb), there is so much to say, but I will save the commentary.


Wish you could find your soulmate, get a better job and keep your family in good health ("gay gazinta hate!")? Buy this jdeal for $38 and a Torah scholar will pray on your behalf at the Kotel for 40 consecutive days ($95 value).

Of course, it would be such a m'chaya if you could get there yourself...but unless you won our recent seriously surprising jdeal for a free ticket to Israel via the HAS Advantage card, it may not be in the cards. Let a Torah scholar do it for you with daily trips to the Kotel (come wind, hail, rain or snow) where he will daven with kavana and say all the right things to help get your prayers answered. You too can join the countless individuals who found their beshert, and improved their jobs and health after these prayers. The best part: Your $38 will go to charity to support Jerusalem families.

Buy this jdeal today and thank Hashem for always being there...even when you can't be.

Expires 07/29/2011. May buy unlimited vouchers. Voucher redeemable 1 business day after purchase. Sign up form needs to be completed within 10 days after run date. No limit to sign ups per person. One person will be prayed for per sign up. Prayers will begin within 2 weeks of sign up. Must use in one sign up. Tax included. No cash or credit back. Not valid with other offers. Subject to availability. Redeemable online only.


The idea for Western Wall Prayers originally came from Gershon [deleted]. Gershon left his family's insurance business in Chicago in 1999 to pursue full-time Torah studies at the Center Program at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva in Jerusalem. After two years, he moved to Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah in the Old City where he learned full-time until he became its Executive Director in 2004. He now divides his time between a rigorous personal learning program and running much of the yeshiva's day-to-day business and management affairs.

Gershon founded Western Wall Prayers together with his wife Batya [deleted], a former lawyer who moved from her hometown of Toronto to Israel in 2001. She studied full-time at the Neve Yerushalayim and Eyaht seminaries before meeting and marrying Gershon in 2003.


Batya and Gershon live in the heart of the Jewish Quarter with their children [deleted], and are active members of the local community. They regularly host Shabbos guests from Jerusalem and around the world. Batya trained and certified as a spiritual therapist under Rabbi Efim Svirsky (head of the Aish HaTorah Russian program). She brings these skills to her role at Western Wall Prayers, using an understanding and intuitive approach to help applicants articulate their personal prayers. She sees her involvement in Western Wall Prayers as a true calling, an opportunity to help people get closer to their Creator and develop their power of prayer.

Batya and Gershon hand-pick some of the Old City's finest and most capable Rabbis, teachers and students to pray at the Kotel. These people's entire families often stay in the Old City with them for 40 consecutive days so that they can meet their awesome responsibility to the donor.

For the past six years on, Western Wall Prayers has attracted international attention and prayer requests from every corner of the Earth - and the result has been spectacular (thank G-d). But the essence of Western Wall Prayers remains the personal attention and guidance that Batya and her assistant Shira give to every single donor. Many of them stay in touch long after their 40 days have ended and their hearts' desire has been fulfilled."

26 comments:

Istavnit said...

What is so remarkable about this offer that you posted it on your blog during three weeks?

Are you trying to promote Gershon's business?

Orthonomics said...

Please re-read the intro:

this is informative (!) as it is a change in the fundamentals, the underpinnings, the very basics. Truth be told, I had a bit of a laugh initially because it was so unexpected and the entire format of the deal seemed humorous. A coupon for tzedakah? With an expiration date to boot!

But then I stopped laughing. Looks like we have a new forum for hawking yeshuot and tzedakah. And if you read the background, it is worse than hawking tzedakah. Let someone else take over tefillah for you (I think tefillah is something that is difficult for many of us and that we could develop greater understanding and skill in), and believe that we are getting closer to Hashem while our "hearts desire" is fulfilled.

Anonymous said...

I should hope Jews get coupons for prayers.... afterall, only goyim pay retail.

tesyaa said...

Just as an aside, don't knock Costco shopping so much! Those of us who are regular shoppers don't fall for the impulse purchases. When I go to Costco, I stick to my list. Maybe a shopper who rarely goes to Costco is overwhelmed with the desire to buy unnecessary items, but that doesn't make shopping there a bad deal.

Istavnit said...

I think you are purposely misinterpreting service that is pitched there. Nowhere does it say that this is a substitute for your regular tefillah. Also "Getting close to Hashem" is not what the service is for. It appears to be for special situation (protection from being killed in a war, children, fixing relationship with a loved one)

A belief that physical actions and prayers of our agents (esteemed rabbis, hasidic leaders, just plain common people) have a consequence in our regular life is a big part of our tradition. All that for a measly $40!

Orthonomics said...

tesyaa-Certainly people can control themselves in Costco. Just using the example. Target is another great store that I have a love-hate relationship with. But I'm headed over today. The daily deal sights do play on the impulses.

Back to the post, I'm sorry, but this constant hawking of yeshuot cheapens.

Bob Miller said...

What's next, a eBay auction of services to the highest bidder? After all, the service providers are limited in numbers and in time.

Or else...

Pray sincerely, directly to HaShem who is all-powerful and also all-available at all times! Bolster your case by doing mitzvot in the right spirit (not mainly to bolster your case).

Istavnit said...

Lets speak straight about the issue w-out ridicule like "whats next, an ebay auction ..."

We have a tradition where prayer agents intercede on behalf of other people (please say tehillim for speedy recovery of ..., "I will keep you in my prayers", etc...) Why not have an agent pray for your (good) cause @ western wall?

Judaism does have a lot of mystical - metaphysical recipes that suppose to help you in a difficult situation. Random sampling:
- Psicha as a sgula for easy delivery
- Special parshiot that are sgulos for parnassah and learning on Yom Kippur
- Public announcements of cholim in shul

Looks like Gershon was clever and used technology to bring this service to Jews worldwide using internet. This is a sort of a "combination therapy" where it is a nice add-on to your regular exercises of faith. Level of commitment is negligible ($40-90) and if the premise resonates with you, why not!

There are many things of suspicious effectiveness that claim to help people in many ways: stretch mark removal creme, colon cleansing as a sure way to health, homeopathic supplements against every ailment.

So why would you ridicule someone distributing a Jewish service. Also (once again) why would you claim that this has to come at an expense of personal prayer.

Whats next, you going to claim that Kupat Hair's (endorsed by our gedolei hador) stories of miraculous deliverances short time after a donation are sham?

Aharon Fischman said...

I have a solution for the Costco quandry. Team up with a good friend and give them you list and money and they give you their list and money. You are not using your own money so you are motivated to keep to the list, and so is your friend.

Of course, if I had an MBA I would create a service for a minimal fee to match buyers.

Wait - I have an MBA - I think I'll spend more time with my family :)

aaron from L.A. said...

I'm running my own tefillah service...For the reasonable sum of $18,I will pray from my home in Los Angeles for any baseball team you select.As a former New Yorker,I will make an extra effort for the Yankees,and daven that Derek Jeter starts hitting again.(As far as Russel Martin is concerned,I'm afraid he'll never hit like Jorge Posada,but for an extra $10,I'll say a Kapitel tehilim for him,anyway)
Dressed in my Yankee T-shirt,I will ask the great Menachem Mendel(known on earth as Mickey Mantle)to ask Label Gehrig and Yosel Di Maggio,to join him in interceding with the great Yankee in the sky to topple the Amalekites of the American League(the Red Sox)and bring a yeshua to all those who have not lost faith in the pinstripes...Did I hear an Amen?for this week only ,Amens are only $5)
P.S. Forget the Mets,I'm not,after all, a miracle worker.

Orthonomics said...

Istanvit-Kupat Hair's marketing techniques, and those as number of other "endorsed"-glossy-ad organizations promising yeshuot if you give to THEIR tzedakah, are particularly reprehensible.

I have never seen a source in Tanach or the Rishonim or the Achronim or in any Mussar work that gives legitimacy to these tit-for-tat campaigns. Many of the segulot we see marketed are just plain invented. See my last post on the very subject:

http://orthonomics.blogspot.com/2011/06/can-someone-just-say-it-out-loud.html

We have a problem (even if, as commentors claim that Chareidim don't take these campaigns seriously)! The proliferation of this type of marketing is handing the next dor a changed mesorah.

The formula we repeat on the yomin normaim, the formula derived from tanacha, of teshuva, tefillah, tzedakah is quickly being replaced by a different formula.

I'm not writing to be light headed or to mock. I'm writing because I fear for the next dor who are inheriting a mockery of normative mesorah. Let's reread some of these words and then look into Tanach to see if this is normative thought:

***Let a Torah scholar do it for you with daily trips to the Kotel (come wind, hail, rain or snow) where he will daven with kavana and say all the right things to help get your prayers answered.

***You too can join the countless individuals who found their beshert, and improved their jobs and health after these prayers.

*** Many of them stay in touch long after their 40 days have ended and their hearts' desire has been fulfilled."

Orthonomics said...

Why not have an agent pray for your (good) cause @ western wall?

Furthermore, "Why not" is extremely dangerous position! A halachic life cannot be pinned on "why not?" Everyone I know will double check on the reliability of a hashgacha, or at the very least evaluate the purchased based on knowledge of halacha. Yet when it comes to intermediaries and segulot the answer is "why not?"??? The question should be why and what is the mesorah?

Before impulsively buying some cure for our personal challenges we should be consulting with our own rabbonim, those we have some personal access to, not rushing because you have 14 hours left to buy! and someone stamped an endorsement on the ad!

Anonymous said...

Aaron from LA is really clever. He should write humor professionally - maybe he already does.

Chaya said...

Aaron, you cracked me up, rotflol!

Y'know, praying at the Kotell doesn't make you closer to God's ears than praying in my Baltimore living room. It's just that you're more likely to be reminded to have intent (kavanah) when praying at the Kotel.

So, if you have a photo of the Kotel in your living room in the USA, and that brings you to the same level of intent in your prayers, there's no reason to actually go to the Kotel!

Anonymous said...

At a deep discount! Everyone knows Jews can't resist a bargain!

I laughed hard when I saw this one.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I was going to beg you to tell me this is a parody. But the discussion looks like taking it seriously. So I'll just beg you to tell me it is a parody.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

You know, this thing has probably also proven to be a great segulah for parnassah.

I'm not Jay Wagner said...

It never ceases to amaze me how much effort is spent trying to raise tzedakah for Jerusalem families. They should try what my wife & I have done for years, get a JOB & don't have a baby every year.

Boxed Whine said...

This strikes me as tacky. It implies that one's own prayers are not good enough.

AztecQueen2000 said...

Intermediaries between our prayers and G-d? For a minute I thought we were Jewish, and that sort of thing was frowned on. I mean, I only have a vague understanding of the religion, but aren't we suposed to bring "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" directly to our Creator?

Aaron from L.A. said...

to Anonymous...July 20,3:56 pm

Thanks ,mom!

Anonymous said...

To Aaron from L.A.: And modest, too! No, I'm not your mother, Aaron, just an anonymous fan (July 20, 3:55 pm).

Anonymous said...

I know Gershon personally having learnt in the yeshivah for a bit and he's a wonderful person as is his family. I forwarded him the blog post to elicit his reaction and he even read some of the comments. He responded to me and some of what he had to say I am posting below; 2 sep. comments.

"WWP does not say that there is a deadline for tzedakah or hand over tefila to someone else. Anyway, WWP had given away over a million dollars to needy Bnei Torah! Even if you don't believe in the segula, aren't there worse things that you could do with your money then support Torah and tefila. There is a reason why it usually costs much more, there are tons of expenses. Each person signing up for the campaign is an out of pocket loss. People should read the hundreds of success stories, they are shocking. Most people don't even report their stories. People have become Frum through this and non Jews started keeping the 7. Anyway, Baruch Hashem the campaign has been a big hit. "

"My wife spends hours counseling these people in strenghthening their emunah, etc..."

Just thought you should all know this. There is a site and you can see many of the stories for yourself. So many people comment without researching these days and their answers whether on this site and certainly on comment boards like Yahoo reveal ignorance and more importantly hatred. you are entitled to disagree, respectfully. I don't like the Kupat Ha'ir programs but I've seen WWP in action and it's the real deal.

Ariella said...

I never give to causes that make promises of yeshuot, etc. I support real tzedakas that support needy families with food, medical care, or or other necessities, as well as some Torah institutions.

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