(זאת התורה לעולה למנחה לחטאת ולאשם וגו’ (צו ז:לז
“This is the law of the burnt-offering, the meal-offering, the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering;” (Parshas Tzav 7:37)
The Gemara (Menachos 110a) extrapolates from this pasuk that one who toils in the parsha of the Korban Olah is considered as if he has brought a Korban Olah. One who toils in the parsha of the Korban Chatas considered as if he has brought a Korban Chatas, etc.
Rabbeinu Bachayei writes: “The idea [behind this Gemara] is that a person should contemplate and recognize the explanation of the Parsha [which he is learning] and to what it alludes. As a consequence of this, he will fathom and understand wonders from the Torah of Korbanos which will result in increased efforts in performing Torah and Mitzvos, and atonement for his sin as if he brought korbanos. For one cannot say that the intent [of this Gemara] is that a person should simply read the words of the Parsha without understanding them.
Similar to this, Chazal say [Gemara Brachos 4a]: ‘Anyone who says Tehila L’David [Ashrei] every day is promised to be a Ben Olam Habah.’ The intent being that by contemplating and recognizing what the pasukim teach and to what they allude, one will recognize the wonders of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and strengthen his heart with emunah in Hashem and His service, with which he will merit Olam Habah.”
Our great leader and sage, Rabbeinu Bachayei, student of the holy Rashba, has set down for us a significantly important cornerstone in our faith. The dissemination of this point is a mitzva. The Jewish religion is not one of superstitions. Rather, the objective is fairly simple: by doing what Hashem wants of us, like keeping the Torah and doing Mitzvos, we find favor in Hashem’s eyes and merit Olam Habah. And if not, chas v’shalom…
In Judaism there are no tricks or shortcuts or anything of that sort. On the contrary, practicing “segulas” makes Judiasm appear primitive and childish. The only reason why shaking a palm branch on Succos does not appear as such is because Hashem told us to do it. Had He not, but had there been some “tradition” that doing so would make the “shaker” wealthy or bring rain, this would not prevent him (not to mention the religion) from looking very foolish. Even when Chazal make statements that imply a guaranteed positive result to one who does or says a certain thing, Rabbeinu Bachayei is explaining to us that Chazal’s intention was in recognizing and working on the meaning behind the act or the saying. Avodas Hashem is just that: serving Hashem; it involves a cognizant (thinking and knowing) relationship, not just habitual acts.
Although there are certain things which can help our avoda (like looking into a siddur when davening to improve concentration), they are not “segulas” in the classic sense, but rather experience-tested methods which are basically guaranteed. A wilder example would be what Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch (Yorah Deah 336:1): “The Maharil said, ‘We are forbidden to attempt any of the medical advice that is mentioned in the Talmud since we are unable to fully understand them. They will not be effective, resulting in criticism and mockery of the words of our Sages. This is not including the advice mentioned in the Gemara Shabbos (67a), the one who has a bone stuck in his throat shall bring from the very same type, that is to say the same type of bone, and place it on his forehead and say, ‘Chad chad nachis bula bula nachis chad chad.’ This incantation is guaranteed, therefore only this one are we allowed to continue to practice, and not a single one more.’” This tool is not simply “hocus pocus,” but rather an example of the medical knowledge of Chazal which even we are not inadequate enough to botch.
The bottom line is – we need to drum it into ourselves that the only way to serve Hashem is with full awareness and cognizance (see Isaiah 29:13-14 regarding “lip-service” in Avodas Hashem). If we do our part and try, Hashem will help us continue in the right path (see Menachos 29b בא לטהר מסייעין אותו). May we merit serving Hashem b’emes.