Discussion in 'Occult.. Research' started by webmaster, Sep 12, 2003.

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    Keyword to research futher for everybody Maharal

    Rabbi Judah Loew, The Maharal of Prague

    The Maharal was one of the most seminal thinkers in the post-medieval period. he developed an entirely new approach to the aggada of the Talmud and it is likely that no previous author devoted so much space to the interpretation of the non-halachic thought of the rabbis of the Talmud.

    He was held in great esteem by his contemporaries and has had a profound impact on all streams of Judaism. Rabbi Kook stated that the "Maharal was the father of the approach of the Gaon of Vilna on the one hand, and of the father of Chasidut, on the other hand." He has been described as a Kabbalist who wrote in philosophic garb.

    In translating the text of each Mishna, we will not necessarily follow the "standard" translation, but base our translation on the way the Maharal understands the text

    Keyword to research futher for everybody Mishna
    (mish´ne) , in Judaism, codified collection of Oral Law—legal interpretations of portions of the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and other legal material.

    I would for all of you to consider what Jesus said here!
    Matthew 15:1-6
    Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,
    "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread."
    He answered and said to them,
    "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
    "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'
    "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"; 'then he need not honor his father or mother.'
    Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
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    Mitzrayim is the ultimate of pits. The entire splendor of the world was contained within. So much wealth, so much beauty. Yet it is also known as the center of "Kishuf". (13) Kishuf (sometimes referred to as magic) is the harnessing of the natural forces to be used against the Creator. (14) The denizens of Mitzrayim cut the world off from its source. They don't feel the need to rely upon a higher power. They can obtain anything they desire via their practice of "kishuf". It is appropriately called "Mitzrayim", which means "limitation" (as in the posuk, "min hametzar karasi yah"). It is nothing more than a dead pit.
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    The hidden knowledge of the stars, properly speaking, is not considered a category of secrets of the Torah, but secrets of the world. Among the secrets of the world are the secrets concerning the Sheddim or demons, as they are rough-shoddily called. Also the knowledge of the spirits, of which there are many categories, are secrets of the world. The knowledge of the souls ( neshamot), on the other hand, does not pertain to secrets of the Torah but are higher secrets known only to the Hidden Tzadikim. Here are a few words of explanation from the original introduction:

    Secrets of the Torah and secrets of the world are two extremely general and inclusive categories. In general, a true Tzadik knows what is above, what is below and what is in the world. The Tzadikim have no permission to speak about higher levels. The Hidden Tzadikim possess:

    the knowledge of the souls or neshamot; this includes the knowledge of how many times a neshama was in the world before, when, where, what it had done in its other lives and how it had been judged etc.

    the knowledge of the ruhhot or spirits; this includes being able to see them and to speak with the spirits of the deceased; it also includes the knowledge of exorcising them from the body of a person who has become possessed by one.

    the knowledge of the Sheddim (sing.Shedd) or roughly translated demons; these are the inhabitants of the lower worlds, that is, the Shiva Adamot or 7 Lands ‘below’ this world, each level being inhabited by a different category or groups of categories of Sheddim. This knowledge includes the secrets of how to summon them, to speak with them or to command them, if necessary, and to know from which level they derive etc.

    Secrets of the Torah and Secrets of the World meet in such categories as the ‘Secrets’ of creation, the Secrets of the Higher Chariot and Secrets of the serving angels. The true Tzadikim cannot speak about these levels or write about them, for they are outside of the nature of this world and attempting to speak about or to describe them in human language would falsify them. Any attempt at description would ultimately confuse people and lead them into temptation to reach what cannot be reached by any contemplation or pious behaviour.

    Ha-Moreh Haim gave us merit on several occasions to let us hear his holy words concerning these subjects. We also merited on several occasions to be present when he exorcised spirits or demons from someone.* The Teacher Haim told us that when he was living in Cairo, it happened that a young Jewish girl had become possessed by a spirit. The desperate parents, after having consulted the best doctors and spent much money in vain, had asked some of the ‘known kabbalists’ to come and try to cure her of this ruah (spirit). The three kabbalists who came were very pious Jews, knowledgeable in Talmud but dedicated to the Zohar and Etz Haim etc. When they came to the house of the unfortunate girl, they began pronouncing names and combinations of names and special prayers found in their books. The evil spirit, as soon as they began their exorcism started to shout at them and he finally struck them. One of them received a wound on his face before he was able to escape from the room with others.

    * Although the Tzadik was totally hidden in Italy, there were Jews from Cairo who knew ha-Moreh Haim from the time he had worked as vice-Rabbi of the Cairo Jewish Comunity alongside of Rav Nahhum. They also knew that he was the Head Shohhet and teacher of 70 shochetim in Cairo. They, of course, did not know the true identity of the Tzadik but they did know that he was of the elevated Yemenite tradition and some knew that he possessed many secrets and ‘segullot’ (such as the knowledge of the virtues of herbs and stones etc) of that tradition. Ha-Moreh Haim told me that he had cast out sheddim and exorcised spirits and saved many people in Cairo. Thus some of these Jews from Cairo who had settled in Milan, when something happened, knew whom to ask for help. Generally the Tzadik never refused, but he took many precautions to keep the interventions under a veil of silence, given the difficulty of many people to hold their tongues quiet.

    One of the close relatives of the girl’s family knew ha-Moreh Haim (who then worked in the Jewish Community of Cairo, as vice-Hhacham of the known Rav Nahhum) and came to ask that he please intervene because the girl was causing great anguish to her by now desperate parents and the situation grew worse and worse every day. Ha-Moreh Haim agreed to visit the girl the next morning. When he arrived he found a small group of the family’s relatives and friends, among which were the three kabbalists, all waiting.

    When ha-Moreh entered the ante-chamber where the girl was sitting, she immediately stood up with her head slightly bowed in silence. Then the Tzadik called to the ruah. The expression on the girl’s face changed completely and her eyes bulged. “What is your name, rasha’!” the Tzadik said with a fixed looked of power. Through the girl’s voice came a distinctly male voice who answered the question and the further questions of ha-Moreh Haim as to when he had died and where he was buried (later verified), the reason for his punishment and the mistake of the girl reason for which the ruah had had permission to enter her. The ruah then began crying and pleading with the Tzadik not to expel him. The Teacher answered that the girl had been sufficiently punished and ordered the ruah to leave the girl and to give a sign for everyone to see: when the ruah left her body, there arose a terrible wind inside the room, until ha-Moreh Haim said, “Enough”! The ruah left, the wind stopped and all was still. The girl returned to her nature, as if awakening from a dream and did not understand why she was there and why all the people were standing about. She did not know what had happened or how much time had passed.

    The 3 kabbalists sought forgiveness from ha-Moreh Haim who rebuked them to this effect: It would be better for you to abandon all this foolishness. It is forbidden and dangerous to attempt to cast out a ruah , unless one knows what he is doing and such a knowledge is not to be found in books. It is not from me that need ask forgiveness but from Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu, because you have transgressed the commandment of the Torah to guard your own health. You have also used names mentioned in those books which are prohibited even to think about. Furthermore, you are wasting precious time.

    The Tzadik Haim taught us that even the ‘secrets’ of true magic, a thousand separations, which are strictly prohibited by the Torah, could never be studied from books. Even if someone reads the vast literature on magic, he will be no closer to those secrets than he was at the beginning. Those who practice true magic have an oral tradition, a thousand separations, which they generally give over to one pupil after years of virtual servitude to his master.

    True magic always employs ‘impure names’ (shemot tumah) through which ‘sheddim’ are conjured up and ‘commissioned’ to do the bidding of the magus (mechashef). To do this the mechashef must be extremely exact and courageous because the appearance of a shedd is outside of the nature of this world. The mechashef will see, for example, that the wall before him opens up and the shedd enters, or the shedd may appear to him in the size of a large building. In our times, however, the Tzadik, Haim, explained, virtually all of the true magi (there are also many false ones and charlatans) do not have the power to see the shedd but only to speak to him. The shedd comes without showing himself because he knows that if he shows himself, the mechashef might either die of fright or go insane, and the shedd wishes not to lose his sacrificial portion.

    The reasons for which the Torah prohibited magic (kishuf) are mainly two. The first is that the mechashef (or female mechashefet) must repay the ‘commissioned’ shedd with whatever ‘service’ the shedd desires. Most often this is the blood of a cat or rabbit etc. ‘Sacrificed’ in the name of the shedd. This is considered idolatry because the mechashef must serve and obey the shedd in this. (Note- the blood is a great ‘delicacy’ to the sheddim, reason for which all pagan cults as well as magic rites needed blood sacrifices whether animal or human. The ‘priests’ of those cults were in fact the mechashfim who performed ‘miracles’ through the employment of sheddim who in return for their benefits would require of the priest the sacrifice of their choice. Thus the priest, to the same measure that he was a servant of the shedd had his power enhanced by the benefits of the shedd. With this knowledge the reader will be ableto understand the underlying reason for which, in all ancient history, the power of the priest was so dominant and why the force of idolatry was so incredibly potent. The people received benefits for their services and sacrifices but they would have those benefits only if the priest agreed. The priest would agree only on the condition that he be rewarded for his services and obeyed at word. We may also note here that among the many reasons for which the Torah prohibited the consummation of blood, one of the essential underlying principles is that the person must refrain from partaking of that portion which is the food of the sheddim etc. )

    The second reason is that the ‘names of impurity’, since they are impure, cannot be recited in cleanliness. Therefore the mechashef must render himself impure which he does by way of urine or excrement or male sperm or menstrual blood. Thus the Torah prohibited all magic in as much as its impurity is in direct contrast to the cleanliness and sanctity (kedusha) in which every Jew is commanded.

    If not for these two reasons the calling up of sheddim would not be prohibited. We find in fact in the Talmud that the Hachamim sometimes called up a particular shedd to serve them when they had need. So too the Tzadik may call into service any shedd if he so wishes and to order him as he desires. The shedd is completely subservient to the will of the Tzadik and not vice versa.

    Of necessity the Tzadik must know the secrets of kishuf. Occasions arise in which magic must be destroyed in order to save a person on whom the magic was made. There are a thousand categories of kishuf and the Head of the Hidden Tzadikim* knows them all in detail. Many times, thank God, we had the privilege to witness the cases of persons who had been victims of magic and for whom no remedy was possible had ha-Moreh Haim not intervened. It was sufficient for the Tzadik Haim to look at the person and immediately he would know what level and what kind of kishuf had been employed and who the mechashef was.

    * All of the 36 Hidden Tzadikim can destroy any form of magic by the power of the sanctity (kedusha) upon them, but the Tzadik Haim had the complete knowledge of exactly how each kind of kishuf was made etc.

    Here is an example of one case: The Teacher Haim told me about a girl from a well-to-do family, (in Cairo, I believe) very beautiful and intelligent, with whom a young and well-to-do Arab had fallen desperately in love. The young Arab had commissioned a young a well-known mechashef to have her fall in love with him and to follow him. The mago accepted his request for a large sum of money, explaining that this required an extremely strong kishuf with many precise preparations. After less than a week, the girl, who was of a traditional Jewish background, had suddenly decided to leave the University where she was studying and she began to spend all her time in the company of her Arab boy-friend.

    The good fortune of this family had it that a close friend of the girl’s father knew ha-Moreh Haim, who, on the condition that it be kept a secret, agreed to intervene. In brief, the Tzadik came to visit the girl and knew immediately that she was under the effect of a ‘difficult’ kishuf in which a particular ‘impure name’ is written with menstrual blood on the skin of a cat and placed under the head of a dead person already buried. The Tzadik Haim went directly to the mechashef and threatened him with total destruction of his powers if he would not undo the kishuf. Ha-Moreh Haim said to him, “If I want, I can destroy your kishuf in one minute but I want you to tire yourself out in digging it up as you did in burying it”. The mechashef went and undid the kishuf. The girl returned to her normality, abandoned the young Arab and returned to her university studies.

    Obviously, aside from the knowledge, great courage and strength are needed to enter such matters.

    Also the ancient star-worshippers (‘ovdei kochavim u-mazalot - those who do service to the stars and to the constellations - also known as kosmim) possessed secrets which were passed on from teacher to pupil orally. The Teacher Haim explained that if the kosem was not expert in his science of obtaining from the star its desired influence, he put himself into vital danger. The kosem had to know, for example, the exact moment and place in which words had to be said while dressed in certain vestments of a particular colour etc. He had, that is, to know all the conditions by which the influence of the star could be received. The conditions differ for each star. Let not the science of the ancient star-worshippers, such as the magusi and sages of the Caldeans, Babilonians and Egyptians be light in the eyes of the modern reader. Those secrets were extremely precise and complicated formulas, a received knowledge concerning the characteristics of individual stars. The kosem in fact rendered himself servant to the star of his worship in order to receive of its influence. His secret was to know precisely which service pertained to that particular star. He had also to bow down to the star and to praise it for which reason the Torah prohibited such practices. Only the Creator, Blessed is He, is worthy of all service and praise.

    It is not, however, of itself forbidden to know about the particular influences, powers and functions of individual stars. It is only that such a knowledge is completely secret (and is received by the Tzadik in a manner totally different from that of the ancient star-worshippers, a thousand separations) and cannot be given to anyone who is not under the protection of the kedusha. The Tzadik through his power and hidden knowledge can know and dominate these celestial influences but, except for extremely rare and particular cases, never does such. One reason for this is that the influence which derives from the stars is in any case in direct relation to the nature of this world and therefore the Tzadik will not interfere unless there is sufficient reason.
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    To better understand the concept of hippuch, we must first divide evil into its two major expressions. There is one manifestation of evil that results from the disregard of man's true goals. This takes place either when one is blind or apathetic to the Divine, or when one is pulled astray by temptations of lust or greed.

    If one were to visualize service of God as traveling a road leading toward Godliness, then these types of yetzer hara, the evil inclination, could be pictured as either stopping in the middle of the road or simply going off the road at an angle. Never in this type of evil does the yetzer hara present itself as an alternative to truth -- but in the guise of a more comfortable, appealing lifestyle. Its power lies primarily in blocking man's vision entirely, or at least obfuscating the goal at the end of the road.

    But there is a second form of evil, far more pernicious than the first. That is when evil presents itself as an alternative route to Godliness or poses as the Divine itself. No longer is it a question of straying from the road or becoming sidetracked; rather, it is a total reversal of the direction in which man is to be headed. Under this general rubric, we could include idolatry, kishuf (witchcraft), and perhaps extreme cases of ga'avah (self-aggrandizement).

    If we wish to visualize it in terms of the road to Godliness, then this would be represented by an arrow pointing in the opposite direction, as if someone had lit a light at the wrong end of the road, beckoning the traveler to "progress" toward it. ... versal.asp
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    And this is the reason why the Rambam writes that there's absolutely no such
    thing as kishuf - black magic. All the meforshim barrage him with questions
    from a dozen Gemorahs, which tell us many interesting stories about magical
    creations that they saw with their very own eyes. How can the Rambam argue
    with all these clear-cut stories in the Gemorah? The answer is that the
    Rambam isn't arguing with any Gemorah at all. He's not debating whether
    they were seen or not. Apparently people did see all these things mentioned
    in the Gemorah. The Rambam is just saying that these things simply do not
    really exist. It's nothing more than a movie. It looks perfectly real.
    Even 3-D. But it's not really there. Nothing is really happening. It just
    appears to be real. Why? Because "ein od milvado". There can be
    absolutely nothing besides Hashem. That's why if you say (and naturally
    truly believe) in 'Hashem Echad' all magic dissolves, disintegrates and
    disappears. It's all a mirage. Nobody's denying that you saw it, and you
    heard it. We're just saying it's all totally meaningless. It's all a
    trick of the eye. It's all like Cinema 180. You think, feel and see
    yourself actually going around mountains, down rivers, etc. Yet it's
    nothing but an amazing illusion. For there can be nothing but Hashem
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    Moshe spent his childhood in the royal palace, raised by the daughter of the Pharaoh, ultimately receiving from the priests and the magicians there a Harvard-and-Hogwarts (ala Harry Potter, “l’havdil elef havdalot”) style education there (though he learned what the world of “kishuf,” or magic that was centered in Egypt had to offer, only to understand what the opposition had up its sleeve, so to speak). Unbeknownst to the palace, he would slip out occasionally to observe the fate of the Hebrews, and to internalize a critical leadership "skill" of the heart - what the Saba of Kelm called the ability to be "nosei b'ol im chaveiro," to share his fellow's burden; to empathize with the suffering of his people.
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    And with regard to the Golden Calf, there were certainly other factors present – in particular, the “Erev Rav,” the “mixed multitude” of Egyptians, who had cast their lot with the Jews, in order to be on the side “of the winners,” but now that the enterprise seemed to be falling apart, relied upon their “kishuf,” black magic, that they had brought with them from Egypt, to bring forth from the flames one of their old gods, the calf.

    But Moshe’s statement (Devarim 9:20), mentioned above, “And against Aharon, HaShem’s wrath burnt very fiercely, such that He intended to destroy him...,” his own rebuke to Aharon upon his descent from Sinai (Shemot 32:21), “And Moshe said to Aharon, ‘What did this people do to you that you brought upon them this great sin?!’,” and the testimony of the Chumash itself, where we find (Shemot 32:25), “And Moshe saw the people, that they were out of control, because Aharon had made them wild,...” all demand an explanation.
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    A lot of information is to be found about Kabbalah, the tradition of Jewish mysticism.
    Practical Kabbalah: Glossary
    kesef or kishuf: magic
    khokhmah khizonah: Dark knowledge; that is, black magic.
    m'kasefa: witch (Hebrew)
    maskil (sing.) maskilim (pl.): mystic, mystics.

    Yet though he tried every source, he could get no information about magic, for magic was forbidden to the Jews, God's chosen people.
    "The Sorcerer", from Meshal Ha-Kadmoni, by Isaac Ibn Sahula (1281). Quoted in Rabbinic Fantasies, p. 299

    Forbidden Practices
    1. Any act which is performed without divine or related supernatural aid. In other words, any act which does not rely in some way on the power of God and/or His creations (e.g., angels).

    2. Anything which produces a material effect solely by means of "the performance of an act", such as transmuting one thing into another. (Moses' staff becoming a snake would in my mind be an exception, since that was a divine act–God made this happen, and personally directed Moses' actions, in an attempt to sway Pharaoh.) This was also known as "manipulating the inner nature of a thing".

    3. Inappropriate use of the Divine to do harm, serve greed, or to blatantly defy nature. For example, the Ba'al Shem Abu Aharon was chastised for using Holy Names to make a lion turn his mill (after the lion ate his donkey), not because he used "magic" or called on God's power, but because it upset the natural order of things. A lion was not meant to do such a thing.

    4. The use of sympathetic magic; that is, affecting someone or something from a distance through the use of an image or effigy (like a doll). This would generally be considered manipulating the inner nature of a person or thing without divine aid (see above), which is forbidden. Though these practices seem to have been forbidden, I have found references to and examples of sympathetic "recipes" for love charms and so on, probably borrowed from non-Jewish sources. I have also encountered stories of hero-rabbis using a mirror to see evildoers or reflect their attacks back on them. There seems to have been a legitimate means of getting to someone via a divine third party; this was by calling on an angel known as the memuneh.

    5. That which creates an illusion, because illusions are the creations of demons.

    6. "Black Magic", necromancy, the use of unholy Names, etc. Knowledge of these matters was not forbidden (since it was sometimes necessary to combat the forces of evil), but practicing them was. Unfortunately, because information on the "black arts" was sometimes included in the same book as information on acceptable, practical Kabbalah, this contributed to the negative reputation of the practical Kabbalists.

    Permitted Practices
    1. That which invokes God or other supernatural aid (e.g., angels).

    2. That which relies on the use of divine Names.

    As you can see, what is "permitted" occupies a fairly limited scope which eliminates much what we would normally call "magic". (Still, we find some very creative applications within the boundaries.)

    The point, and the most important thing to keep in mind, is that the power lies not with the mortal, but with God. It is the mortal¹s piety, virtue, and knowledge which allows him to call on this divine aid–not a small thing at all, when you think about it. As long as the process involved divine intervention for the right reasons, it was acceptable.

    Many Jewish mystics also believed astrology to be a permissible "magic", since the stars were associated with the heavens. Moses Isserles called this the "scientific" branch of the "magical arts", "by which a man can foretell the future, make talismans, and subdue the spirits and the powers of the stars..."
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    Rabbi Jeremy Rosen welcomes you to a growing community of observant Jews seeking to gain deeper knowledge of their heritage. Everything you wanted to ask about Jewish life and didn't know who could possibly answer...
    Different ways of looking at traditional beliefs.

    Are Jews forbidden to indulge in Magic ? Can Jews go to palmists or tarot card readers ? What part does luck play in our religion ? Is magic or spiritualism compatible with Judaism ?

    The first use of a word in the Torah that might hint at the world of magic is uttered by Laban, Jacob's father in law, when he says ' I saw in my magic that God has blessed me because of you ' . In modern Hebrew, the word ' LeNachesh ' usually means 'to guess'. It is possible that Laban was saying something like ' I took a risk in employing you but things have worked out well'. But the Chaldeans were well known for their interest in the supernatural and that was probably Laban's world. There is even a Midrash that says that the rabbis agreed with Chaldean methods . The same word is used of Joseph being able to guess, or divine the real truth about the brothers .

    Within Egypt, Pharaoh has disturbing dreams and calls upon his ' Chartumim' , commonly translated 'magicians' to interpret his dreams. Most scholars take the origin of the word to come from ' Cheret' a stylus or engraver and so the 'Chartumim' would be those who interpreted texts, perhaps the scientists of those days.

    When Moses meets God at the burning bush , God uses a variety of methods to persuade Moses to take on the assignment of going down to Egypt to get the Children of Israel out. There was a burning bush that did not burn up, a staff that turned into a snake and an arm that turned leprous. We might have put all these down as miracles performed by God were it not for the fact that the Egyptian Chartumim could, initially at any rate, imitate many of Moses's miracles, including the snake trick . This situation reflects on the nature of miracles. Were they events that were part of the world order but used in specific ways and at crucial moments ? Or were they then, and would be now, special and uniquely Divine interventions against the natural flow of the world. Why did God give Moses something to do that could be imitated unless He was delivering a message that there was something valid in Egyptian knowledge as well for it to be able to do similar things ? Was the issue simply one of who applies this knowledge, its application and the leadership ? However the word Chartumim is not used in the rest of the Torah in the context of magic again. It appears that it was intended as a specifically Egyptian phenomenon.

    There are five different words that are used in the Torah for magic, wizardry or the supernatural. Nachash ( Its root suggests 'Lachash', to whisper or talk or 'Nachash' , meaning a snake, with its hissing and slyness ). This is the word used of Laban and Joseph and it is the word favored by Balaam when he is invited to curse the Children of Israel. Balaam declares that ' There is no magic ( nachash )in Jacob and no witchcraft ( kessem ) in Israel', in other words that magic has no power over Israel, presumably because Israel is protected by God . He discovers that God does not want him to curse so he no longer returns to consult his ' nachashim' . So the most appropriate translation might be a 'fortune teller'.

    A word that is used in connection with 'Nachash' is 'Onen' which might mean telling the future by reading the clouds ( since the word for cloud is identical ) or it could come from 'answering' replying with words to requests for information. Then there is the word now commonly used for magic 'Kishuf' which indicates the ability to reveal secrets. It is used in Egypt together with wise men and so must have been one of their 'sciences'. ' And Pharaoh called to his wise men and his magicians ( mechashefim )' .

    Connected and yet different is the word ' Kessem' which is more a description of objects used in magic than a system. So when the elders of Moab come towards Balaam they bring ' Kessamim' ' Charms in their hands' and someone who uses charms is called a Kossem. The word Kessem also means sticks possibly the art was in casting down sticks or wooden dice and reading them.

    There is another category that involves making something, either an effigy or raising up an image of someone. The words are 'Ov' and 'Yidoni' and the Torah talks about not turning towards them ( for answers ) ' Do not turn to the Ovs and the Yidonis ' ' Do not ask of them' and here the context adds ' asking of the dead' so it would appear that these elements were part of a procedure of calling up the spirits of the dead. The prophet Isaiah also forbids ' asking ' of them . An Ov might be an image, figurine or effigy and a Yidoni might be a spirit or a less material form having some special knowledge ( given that Yidoni has the same root as the word for knowledge ). The Deuteronomy text also adds another category , that of the ' Chover Chaver ' . Literally this means a friend. One can only assume it is a confidant or a private consultant on the affairs of the occult. It could also mean someone who has a special relationship with spirits or is on a higher level, like the honorific term later given to scholars ' Chaver'. So there are seemingly a series of very different categories .

    When it comes to the specific laws of the Torah there are a series of very specific laws that deal with magic and its allied areas. In Exodus there is a specific command to get rid of witches ' 'Mechashefa' A witch should not be allowed to live' Then there is a specific command against individuals to try doing these things. ' Do not try to make charms or tell the future' ' Do not turn ( for answers ) to an image or a spirit and do not contaminate yourselves with them for I am God' . Here we go a step further in specifying that this approach is a form of contamination that goes against God directly. The implication is that one accepts God's instructions and no one else's. But the same text goes on ' Do not eat over blood, do not make charms or tell the future'. Eating blood was strictly forbidden in the Torah. It was a very important part of idolatrous rites in Canaan and has continued to play a role in magic rites supposedly passing on the qualities of the previous 'owner' of the blood. We have a clear indication that these practices were rooted in idolatry and the opposition is to the context as well as the act itself.

    The clearest evidence of the idolatrous context of these practices comes towards the end of the Torah. 'When you come into the land which YHVH your God gives you, do not learn from the to do the abominations of those nations. There should not be amongst you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a charmer of charms, a reader of clouds, a fortune teller or a magician. A friendly fortune teller or someone who asks of an image or a spirit or asks of the dead. Because God despises anyone who does these things and it is because of these abominations that YHVH your God is driving them out before you . You should be straight with YHVH your God. For these nations that you will displace , they listen to fortune tellers and charmers but you should not do so' . And then the Torah goes on to talk about the Prophet as the proto-type of spiritual leadership and spiritual direction. He is the one to turn to for advice and for help in dealing with the unknown, the frightening and the uncertainty of the future.

    The most famous case in the bible of asking after the dead concerns King Saul. Desperate for guidance after Samuel dies he asks his servants to find him a ' Baalat Ov' a woman who can produce images of the dead . This , of course gives us a clue as to the meaning of 'Ov' but it also raises a different question. The spirit of Samuel does indeed appear to rise. This seems to indicate that magic in one form or another can achieve results. The Torah, interestingly, does not say that magic is baseless, empty or primitive. Its instructions are simply not to get involved in it in any way that might have some influence or power over a person. But clearly these practices were so ingrained and popular that they were all but impossible to wipe out. Shimon Ben Shetach is reputed to have executed eighty women when he waged a campaign against witches

    The very name of the Festival Purim is based on the word for the magic lots that Haman cast to determine the appropriate time to destroy the Jews. Haman is portrayed as trying to use his 'magic' to destroy the Jews. However Divine influence, even though hidden, not obvious, Esther's name means 'hidden' ( and that is also why God's name is not mentioned directly in the story of Esther ) is more powerful. As Haman's wife and his wise men ( a parallel with the wise men and magicians of Pharaoh ) tell him ' If you have begun to fall before him ( Mordecai ) you will not be able to overcome him' . This is a very obvious contrast to the Jewish historical experience which often has included a decline before rising. This is an assertion of the superiority of the Jewish way of responding to challenges over the pagan way of feeling determined how to act and therefore more passive in the face of adversity.

    However by the time of the Talmud the debate centered more on astrology and mazal. There is a difference of opinion as to whether these 'skills' count as part of idolatrous practices and therefore are banned under the general prohibition of anything to do with idolatrous practices. Or whether they count as 'wisdom', ' The men of the east know about mazalot and astrology ' . Non Jewish wisdom that has no heretical connotations , is not prohibited and on the contrary something to be appreciated and there is even a blessing to be said over wise men .

    There is also a major difference as to the extent to which the constellations or various forms of mazalot do or do not influence human behavior. It was at the time a universally accepted idea that there were twelve signs of the Zodiac that were an integral part of the way God's universe was made up. The role of the mazalot in determining the future seems bound up with magic and other esoteric practices ' What did they do wrong ? They consulted the stars ( signs of the Zodiac ), magicians who look at birds and those expert in reading signs ( 'Tayar' some commentators say these are the 'auspices' of Roman tradition, the innards of birds, others suggest symbols, the origin of Tarot ) .

    In the creation process described in Genesis , there is no mention of mazalot. The Torah talks about the Sun , the moon and the stars. But by the Second Book of Kings there is one quote where mazalot replace the stars . The fact that the mazalot are not mentioned in the Torah leads one opinion to argue that there are no such things as mazalot and mazal has no influence over Israel. ' Abraham said to God I can see the future in my mazal and I will only have one son. God took him outside and showed him the Heavens and said to him ' Ignore your astrology, mazal has no power over Israel ' . The main discussion on this issue has Rebbi Yochanan, Rav, Rebbi Yehuda, Rebbi Nachman Bar Yitzchak, Rebbi Akivah and Shmuel all agree with different sources that mazal has no power over Jews.

    On the other hand Rebbi Channina says there that both wisdom and wealth are influenced by mazal and that every hour of the day has its mazal exercising control over it . The most famous quote that supports the influence of mazal is that ' Life ( how long a person lives ) ,Children ( how many or how they turn out ) and income do not depend on a persons deserts but on mazal ' . Similarly ' There is not a blade of grass that does not have a mazal in the heavens and ' Mazal affects people' seem to assert that something extraterrestial has an influence, whether it is the constellations or the power of God working through various processes before it reaches mankind. If a person suddenly feels frightened it may be because although he hasn't seen anything dangerous , his mazal has but the Gemara responds by saying that the answer is to say 'The Shema'. In other words having a direct connection to God is a protection against any sub-Divine powers or influences. The compromise position is that mazalot exist and have influence but that God controls everything ' There are twelve Mazalot God created in the heavens ' or 'God controls the mazal ' .

    At the time of Maimonides the function of the signs of the Zodiac was still seen as a scientific truth. After describing the ' heavens' and the spheres and the place of the Sun, moon and the stars in them he goes on to describe the names and the functions of the signs of the Zodiac . The whole chapter reads very strangely to those of us brought up on a scientific model of how the universe is structured. For Maimonides the signs of the Zodiac are part of the world of Astronomy. Yet when it comes to what we call astrology, Maimonides is very definite in saying it has no place in Jewish life. The only question is whether the prohibition comes under the general category of idolatry or not.

    In his list of the commandments in the Torah , Maimonides lists three separate laws in the idolatry category.

    8. We have been forbidden to make an 'Ov'. This refers to offering well known incense and performing special rituals to an effigy and then imagining that one hears replies to questions he asks it.'

    9. We have been forbidden to make a ' Yidoni' which is a form of idol worship. This refers to taking a bird bone and putting it in the mouth and making smoke and going into a trance and behaving like someone who is sick and falling into a trance like state and giving instructions.

    10. We have been forbidden to get involved with spells , looking into the spirits of stars having an influence upon us and making images and offering incense to them and acting in a particular way.

    And then he gives a further list of things that are forbidden because they divert a person from following Torah. They come after the prohibitions against listening to false prophets and against following non-Jewish customs and social values.

    31. We have been warned against magic ( Kossem ). This means allowing the powers of illusion that tell a person what events will happen before they do. The events actually do seem to happen because of the powers of their illusions and this leads people to become dependent on them and so slowly they take control of peoples souls… some of them strike the dust with a staff in particular ways and cry unusual cries and look at the ground for a long time until they see signs in the sand and foretell what will be and I have seen this several times in the West. And others throw down small stones onto a leather curtain and they look at them for a long time and then tell things and this is common in places that I have been to. Others throw a leather girdle onto the ground and look at it and reveal secrets. The aim of this to make use of the powers of imagination. It is not that the action itself does anything or indicates anything but the masses are deluded by these things…

    32. We have been warned against making decisions like saying that this day will be good for doing this action or that on this day one should not do something. This is what is meant when He says ' You should have no Onen '…but it is also forbidden to ask someone to tell the future and it is forbidden to act on what they say in the hope of succeeding or benefiting and included in this is all acts of magic. The rabbis have said that a future teller is an illusionist who can fool people into believing things that have no truth like putting a piece of rope into their cloaks and taking out a snake or throwing a ring into the air and taking it out of a person's mouth…

    33. We are forbidden to use omens ( LeNachesh ) like empty minded people who say ' Since I turned back on my route I will not succeed ' or ' Today is the first day of the week and this was the day I saw something and that is why today I cannot succeed '…

    34. We are forbidden from practicing magic…

    35. We are forbidden to be soothsayers which means uttering combinations of words saying things that we think will help us…this includes saying things over a scorpion or a snake bite in the hope that the words will cure..

    36. We are forbidden to ask things of an Ov ( the previous law was against making one )..

    37. We are forbidden to ask anything of a Yidoni ( similarly, the previous law was against making one )…

    38. We are forbidden to ask anything of the dead…

    And Maimonides concludes his chapter on these practices by saying that ' These are all lies and falsehood that are the nature of Idolatry.' In effect there are two issues that go towards explaining rabbinic opposition to these practises. The first is that anything associated with idolatry is forbidden. In so far as one needs a reason, the reason is that idolatry requires of a person obedience to corrupt practices and symbols that traditionally destroyed the fabric of a moral, caring society that protected its citizens and delivered them into the random and unpredictable power of priests and magicians who had control over life and death. Children were sacrificed, women were expected to perform as Temple prostitutes and the instructions of 'holy men' based on spells and 'reading signs ' had to be obeyed regardless of any law or any appeal. This conflicts with the Jewish concept of a clear commitment to a known constitution which preserves rights and protects the weak. In accepting Judaism one knows precisely in advance what is expected and what the rules are.

    The second issue is the responsibility of a person to decide how to act. The opposition to these practices is because a person is handing over the decision making process either to another or is subjecting the decisions to random or unknown criteria. This is not the same as asking for advice or seeking out expertise because the one still has responsibility for the final decision. And in Judaism , the expert advice of say a great rabbi is still based on clear set of assumptions and criteria. It is handing oneself over to unknown powers that conflicts with the Jewish principle of obedience to God and Torah.

    Despite this very definite prohibition, the fact is that Jews around the world do pay a great deal of attention to good luck charms , things that protect from harm and people who have special 'gifts' to see into the future. Particularly in the Sephardi world which ostensibly follows Maimonides as the major authority, the Chamsa wards off the evil eye and there is a whole range of special formulae to be said. In the West many people pay attention to astrological charts and go to see miracle workers to discover the appropriate times for deals and betrothals. It seems that almost everything Maimonides specifies as being wrong, is popular in many Jewish circles. And what of those who regard the Mezuzah as a charm to protect homes ? What is more, many people have had experiences with mind readers, palm readers or psychics that are remarkably correct both about the past and the future. Besides, the Torah does not say these things are all nonsense, just that we should avoid them. And if the Bible can record Samuel's body returning doesn't this prove that there is something it ?

    Just because people do things , this does not make them right. The Mezuzah is not a charm. It simply reminds us of the principles and the commandments that each home should be dedicated to. The word on the exterior is the name of God. It is God who protects us, not the mezuzah. Yes, we have all heard of ' wonders' that happen when we check a mezuzah and find a letter missing but like all 'miracles' there are other ways of seeing what actually happened and of course we hear about the coincidences and the wonders but not of the cases where nothing happens at all. People are very gullible. That is precisely why so much of the Torah is devoted to attacking these sorts of practices.

    The fact is that individuals should try to run their lives according to accurate information and well thought out decision making. Sadly there are people who need placebos in the medicine of the mind as much as in the medicine of the body. Even if there is something supernatural and a nether world that is different to ours, that does not mean we should pursue it. Indeed, as with idolatry, the Torah does not say there are no other gods, just that we should not allow them to influence us or be dominated by them.

    Does this mean that it is all total garbage ? Not necessarily. Does this mean that one cannot study these practices out of interest ? Not at all. ' A person who learns anything from a sorcerer ( associated with idolatry ) deserves to die but someone who learns from a magician ( illusionist ) it is written ' You should not learn to do what these nations do ' To learn to do is forbidden but not to learn to understand and to teach, indeed anyone who knows about calendars or the signs of the zodiac and does not use this knowledge of him it is said ' They pay no attention to the work of My ( God's ) hands' . There is room to study these phenomena to try to understand what is going on and to better understand the universe we are part of. However the guiding principle is ' Be straight with the Lord Your God '. We have the possibility of a direct and personal relationship with God, This is the route to go down. It is, to give an analogy, like having direct access to the President but instead one makes appointments with his secretary. We have no need of intermediaries only of wise and spiritual people who will help us make up our own minds. ... _MAGIC.asp
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    Idolatry, Idolaters, and Idolatrous Practices
    Not to make a graven image; neither to make it oneself nor to have it made by others (Exodus 20,4) (CCN9).
    Not to make any figures for ornament, even if they are not worshipped (Exodus 20,20) (CCN144).
    Not to make idols even for others (Exodus 34,17; Leviticus 19,4) (CCN10).
    Not to use the ornament of any object of idolatrous worship (Deuteronomy 7,25) (CCN17).
    Not to make use of an idol or its accessory objects, offerings, or libations (Deuteronomy 7,26) (CCN18). See Grape Products.
    Not to drink wine of idolaters (Deuteronomy 32,38) (CCN15). See Grape Products.
    Not to worship an idol in the way in which it is usually worshipped (Exodus 20,5) (CCN12).
    Not to bow down to an idol, even if that is not its mode of worship (Exodus 20,5) (CCN11).
    Not to prophesy in the name of an idol (Exodus 23,13; Deuteronomy 18,20) (CCN27).
    Not to hearken to one who prophesies in the name of an idol (Deuteronomy 13,4) (CCN22).
    Not to lead the children of Israel astray to idolatry (Exodus 23,13) (CCN14).
    Not to entice an Israelite to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13,12) (CCN23).
    To destroy idolatry and its appurtenances (Deuteronomy 12,2-3) (affirmative).
    Not to love the enticer to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13,9) (CCN24).
    Not to give up hating the enticer to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13,9) (CCN25).
    Not to save the enticer from capital punishment, but to stand by at his execution (Deuteronomy 13,9) (negative).
    A person whom he attempted to entice to idolatry shall not urge pleas for the acquittal of the enticer (Deuteronomy 13,9) (CCN26).
    A person whom he attempted to entice shall not refrain from giving evidence of the enticer's guilt, if he has such evidence (Deuteronomy 13,9) (negative).
    Not to swear by an idol to its worshipers, nor cause them to swear by it (Exodus 23,13) (CCN13).
    Not to turn one's attention to idolatry (Leviticus 19,4) (CCN16).
    Not to adopt the institutions of idolaters nor their customs (Leviticus 18,3; Leviticus 20,23) (CCN21).
    Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech (Leviticus 18,21) (negative).
    Not to suffer anyone practicing witchcraft to live (Exodus 22,17) (negative).
    Not to practice observing times or seasons as favorable or unfavorable (using astrology) (Leviticus 19,26) (CCN166).
    Not to practice nachash (doing things based on signs and portents; using charms and incantations) (Leviticus 19,26) (CCN165).
    Not to consult ovoth (ghosts) (Leviticus 19,31) (CCN170).
    Not to consult yid'onim (wizards) (Leviticus 19,31) (CCN171).
    Not to practice kishuf (magic using herbs, stones, and objects that people use) (Deuteronomy 18,10) (CCN168).
    Not to practice kesem (a general term for magical practices) (Deuteronomy 18,10) (CCN167).
    Not to practice the art of a chover chaver (casting spells over snakes and scorpions) (Deuteronomy 18,11) (CCN169).
    Not to enquire of an ob (a ghost) (Deuteronomy 18,11) (CCN172).
    Not to enquire of the dead (Deuteronomy 18,11) (CCN174).
    Not to enquire of a yid'oni (wizard) (Deuteronomy 18,11) (CCN173).
    Not to remove the entire beard, like the idolaters (Leviticus 19,27) (CCN177).
    Not to round the corners of the head, as the idolatrous priests do (Leviticus 19,27) (CCN176).
    Not to cut oneself or make incisions in one's flesh in grief, like the idolaters (Leviticus 19,28; Deuteronomy 14,1) (CCN28).
    Not to tattoo the body like the idolaters (Leviticus 19,28) (CCN163).
    Not to make a bald spot for the dead (Deuteronomy 14,1) (CCN164).
    Not to plant a tree for worship (Deuteronomy 16,21) (negative).
    Not to set up a pillar (for worship) (Deuteronomy 16,22) (CCN162).
    Not to show favor to idolaters (Deuteronomy 7,2) (CCN20).
    Not to make a covenant with the seven (Canaanite, idolatrous) nations (Exodus 23,32; Deuteronomy 7,2) (negative).
    Not to settle idolaters in our land (Exodus 23,33) (negative) (CCI26).
    To slay the inhabitants of a city that has become idolatrous and burn it (Deuteronomy 13,16-17) (affirmative).
    Not to rebuild a city that has been led astray to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13,17) (negative).
    Not to make use of the property of city that has been so led astray (Deuteronomy 13,18) (negative).

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