Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bribing God

Awhile back, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine. In it, she pointed out that we were both single, and she had a plan to fix this. The plan?
To spend some time regularly studying the laws of Lashon Hara, pledging to spend two hours a day not speaking Lashon Hara, in hopes that this would be a segulah to get us married. Then, as a group, the group devotes two weeks to devoting the merit of this learning to that person.

My reaction?

Wait, I'm supposed to try to manipulate my Creator through promising to do something I should be doing already? No, thank you.

Now, I think the whole learning the halachot of Lashon Hara is a great idea. It is something I plan to start doing.
The promise? Too difficult to make a promise about unless I make this promise between the hours of 3:00 through to 5:00 a.m.

Giving tzedaka is a time honored method for bribing God. But this? This makes me sad. Both because it seems to speak of an attitude where God can be bribed and because it seems as though my friend is really desperate about her single state.

Now, however, we're about to hit Tisha b'Av. I think that these Halachot, and those of dealing with others should be learned. Not, because we should try to manipulate or bribe the one who is our Father and King (Dad, I'll do the dishes for a month if I can just...) but because if we cannot treat each other well, then what is the point of this fasting? 

Amos: 5: 21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Yea, though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; and let Me not hear the melody of thy psalteries. 24 But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.


  1. I'm not saying I agree with bribing...but from an educational perspective we learn about the halachot of tefillah from chana....who could be said to have done that....

    (This question came up in one of my classes, it was a good discussion)

  2. Yes, it does seem similar. However, I felt that Chana was not so much offering a bribe as stating a case. She said that if she were given a son than she would dedicate him to God, which is really arguing that if she is given a gift that she'll make good use of it. She's not, for instance, bringin an extra korban every month so that she might have a child.
    If I were to try to convince Hashem in that way to find me a husband, I would pledge to make my future home a "bayis neeman beyisrael" and bring up Torah scholars. But I will not try to make myself more of a mensch in order to manipulate God. If I want to convince Hashem of something, I try to put more effort into a mitzvah centred around God - like brachot or davening.

  3. I get so annoyed when people think that Hashem is susceptible to bribing. Whatever we do, we do for ourselves, more than for God. He needs us to do anything? He's GOD.

    If I am going to improve myself, it is for my sake, not God's. He doesn't need me to do Him any favors.

  4. Exactly!
    That said, as much as this thinking frustrates me, I can't stay frustrated. What does this come from? A real feeling of pain, that there is something needed that isn't there. Like I said, desperation. And I have trouble staying frustrated with people when their behavior comes from that much pain.

    There was a man who was in the middle of downtown Manhattan and hunting frantically for a parking space.
    He looks up and says, "God, if you give me a parking space, I promise I'll make minyan three times a day."
    He sees a spot.
    "God, never mind. I'm good!"

  5. You know the ritual of the Sotah? As the midrash goes, Hannah, the mother of Shmuel the prophet (the guy with the book named after him), couldn't get pregnant. So she goes to the Mishkan and says the following (I may be paraphrasing a wee bit):
    Here's the deal, God. It says in the Torah that if a man suspects his wife of having a dalliance with another man he can officially warn her to stay away from the guy. If she then disappears behind closed doors with the guy the husband can take her to the Mishkan/Temple and have her undergo the Sotah ritual of drinking the bitter waters. If it turns out she never did the nasty with the guy then Your Torah says she'll immediately conceive.
    Now I've tried praying, I've tried the righteous living thing and it hasn't worked. So here's the deal - either You arrange that I get pregnant from my husband or I'll conceal myself with some guy so my husband has to take me to the Mishkan and test me. And since I'm innocent I'll get pregnant because You promised it!

    Now that's bribing God!

    1. I remember that Midrash! That one always made me laugh.

      Yes, but that approach seems less underhanded. It's using rules God already laid out and then stating your case from there. This, where is the support for this idea?
      This segulah? It just feels a bit like using God as an atm.
      Hey, God, if I put in so many hours of x mitzvah, then I get y merits? K?
      Chana's wording reads a bit more like a dialogue.

    2. Channah isn't bribing God; she's holding God hostage. There's a difference. :)


Please keep comments respectful.