10 Popular Jewish Superstitions

My young co-worker once came late to a department meeting and found that there were no empty seats at the long conference table. She thought she was being discreet as she quietly pulled up a chair at the corner of the table in the back of the room. Little did she realize that this act would immediately halt the meeting as people shouted out to her that she will never get married if she sits at the corner of the table. Oy!

Chances are, if your grandmother is Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, or Ukrainian, you probably grew up with this superstition and many like it. Like many cultures, Jews have developed numerous superstitious practices or bubbe meises (old wive’s tales), that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Here is a list highlighting 10 of the most common, long-held Jewish superstitions:

1. Don’t Sit At The Corner Of The Table. According to Russian superstition, if an unmarried girl sits at the corner of the table, she won’t get married for the next seven years.

2. Don’t Step Over Someone. If someone is sitting on the couch with their legs propped up on the coffee table, do not step over their legs. If you do, you will cause them to stop growing. To reverse this curse, just step back over them and ask that they put their feet down.

3. Never Leave Your Purse On The Floor. Never leave your purse or bag on the floor if you want to keep your money.

4. Spit Three Times After seeing, hearing, or learning of something horrible, it’s customary to spit three times to ward off the evil eye. Jews also spit and say “pu pu pu” after receiving good news. This ensures that the evil eye also doesn’t spoil the good news.

5. Don’t Take A Direct Path Home From The Cemetery. Cemeteries are filled with evil spirits, so after visiting a loved one don’t go directly home. You wouldn’t want the demons to follow you back to your house.

6. Bring Jam To A Housewarming Party. Not only is any flavor of jam a tasty gift to bring to a new home – it also serves as a distraction to evil spirits. While guests celebrate and mingle, demons nosh on sweet jam instead of wreaking havoc in the new home.

7. Only Bring An Even Number Of Flowers. While flowers are always a great way to commemorate a special occasion, make sure that bouquets are filled with an odd number of flowers. Bouquets with an even number of flowers are reserved for funerals only.

8. Wear A Metal Pin On Clothes When Embarking On A Trip. Attach a safety or straight pin out of sight under a shirt collar or on a sleeve before taking a journey. The metal is thought to be a powerful protective substance and can successfully ward off the evil spirits.

9. Never Hand A Knife Directly To Another Person. To avoid getting into a fight, make sure to place the knife down on a surface for the other person to pick it up. Or, you can give it directly, if you point the sharp end to yourself and make the knife’s handle accessible for someone else to grab.

10. Close Open Books. Always make sure to close your book before you leave it, or the demons will steal the “holy knowledge” and use it for evil plans!

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