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Bendel Brief

What a simple red string says about our fears and dreams

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Once upon a time I went to the Western Wall, where a stranger approached me and informed me that a simple piece of red thread would ward off the evil eye. Ever mindful of bad luck’s impending arrival—but sufficiently rational that I know strings don’t really prevent unhappy accidents—I tied it in a knot around my camera strap. And there it stayed for a dozen years until I took my Pentax to get cleaned. It came back stringless.

Everywhere I turn these days, somebody is wearing a red thread. At first its ubiquity on the wrists of famous, influential non-Jews—from Madonna to Lindsay Lohan—perplexed me. Then, this week, I got an email foretelling of good luck if I sent it on to another 15 people and bad luck, terrible in fact, if I did not. How could I put myself on the line like that? Was I willing to forfeit the potential buona fortuna that might smile upon me?

Absolutely not.

I was raised, I thought, in an unsuperstitious home. In my youth, red strings were used for nothing more than sewing hems on trousers. Certainly I knew my astrological sign but nobody else’s. Still, somehow as a child, I took care not to step on a sidewalk crack lest I break my poor mother’s back. And, to ward off the evil eye that same, strong-backed mama told me to pull my ear three times and spit over my shoulder, as her grandmother had taught her. Unknowingly, a fear that preventable ill could come upon me took root. Even writing this, the thought occurs that I may, hereafter, face a terrible doom.

The good luck-bad luck email is a kind of amulet, like the red string. I haven’t yet deleted that kind of message when my equally fearful friends (they are legion and smart—you would not suspect them) have sent them my way. But, kinehora, the good luck the email promised didn’t arrive and my camera’s nakedness has not yet stopped it—or me—from good health.

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Bendel Brief

What a simple red string says about our fears and dreams

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