James Randi on Kabbalah strings for sale
STRING BELIEVERS TARGETED BY TARGET
Reader Jeff Trapp sends me an excerpt from an item in the New York Post:
In case anyone needed further proof that Kabbala, the branch of Jewish mysticism embraced by celebs like Madonna, is a money-making venture, look no further than Target. The store is now selling red Kabbala strings — like the ones Madonna, Demi Moore and Britney Spears wear — for $25.99. . . . Many mainstream Jewish leaders have blasted the Kabbala Center's commercial ventures like selling these strings and "Kabbala water."
Wait a moment! Religion — in any of its thousand varieties — is, first and foremost, a money-making business. It always has been. What's this big surprise? Is there much difference among selling holy water, crucifixes, Kabbala strings, mandalas, rosary beads, horoscopes, Buddhist prayer beads, or rabbit's feet as supernatural charms? It's all the same superstitious, simplistic, magical, wishful thinking, in my opinion. This item is just a 72-inch skein of red knitting yarn, no weirder than a cony's pedal extremity on a chain...
Under "Product Description" of this item, Target actually uses this incredible text:
A centuries-old spiritual tool used by Kabbalists, this red string is believed to protect against the evil eye, a negative energy source. What makes this particular piece of string so special is, in part, the fact that it has traveled to Israel, to the ancient tomb of Rachel the Matriarch, and returned, imbued with the essence of protection. The string is tied to the left wrist — the left being the body and soul's receiving side — and worn to essentially deflect the negative energy brought forth by unfriendly and envious stares, unkind glances and looks of ill will. A feeling we've all experienced, the evil eye is considered by Kabbalah to be a powerful force and an influential factor in regards to achieving goals and everyday well-being. The string draws upon the connection to and awareness of Rachel and must be tied on by a loved one and sealed with Rachel's protective energy by reciting the Ben Porat prayer (included on a card). From The Kabbalah Centre.
Madonna wears one, and we all know how perceptive and intellectual she is, so we'd better get in on it. But as I type this, Target reports that they're out of stock! Don't fret. No doubt a boatload of red string is steaming back from a visit to Israel right now, charged with Rachel's essence! We're saved!
Can you imagine what might happen if you had this tied to your right wrist, or had it fastened there by someone who really can't stand you, or it had been taken in error to the tomb of Murray the Barber instead of Rachel? If you got the Ben Porat prayer switched for a nursery rhyme, I can't bear to think of the disasters that would result.
A reader has reminded me that TV's Monty Python had a selling-useless-bits-of-string sketch, years ago. The owner of the string had inherited 122,000 miles of string, and wanted to sell it, so they worked up a commercial. Said the ad agency flack in the sketch:
Wait, I see a television commercial...
There's this nude woman in a bath holding a bit of your string. That's great, great, but we need a doctor, got to have a medical opinion.
There's a nude woman in a bath with a doctor — that's too sexy. Put an archbishop there watching them, that'll take the curse off it. Now, we need children and animals.
There's two kids admiring the string, and a dog admiring the archbishop who's blessing the string. Uhh — international flavor's missing — make the archbishop Greek Orthodox. Why not Archbishop Macarios? No, no, he's dead. Never mind, we'll get his brother, it'll be cheaper. So, there's this nude woman....
But Target didn't even need to write an ad, nor to get a nude woman. They already have a cast of stars voluntarily — one hopes — plugging the string. Madonna supplies the religion angle for them — with her name and her devotion to the Kaballah, Demi Moore has done the nude stuff already and has the kids, and Britney Spears is... well, Britney Spears.
Folks, Target presently has more than 1,500 stores in 47 states. It's a leading American retail outlet that is actually selling Magic String, and proudly features it on its "Hot Buys" list! Will we ever grow up?