“You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
And a man or woman who has (the sorcery of) Ov or Yid’oni (consults mediums) shall surely be put to death; they shall pelt them with stones; their blood is upon themselves.
When you have come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of those nations.
There shall not be found among you … a soothsayer, a diviner of (auspicious) times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a Yido’a sorcerer, or a necromancer.
For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations, the Lord, your God, is driving them out from before you.”
(Exodus 22:17, Leviticus 20:7, Deuteronomy 18:9-12 Judaica Press Complete Tanach).
One would think that the status of magic as treif (non-kosher or unfit for Jewish use) would be self-explanatory.
Unfortunately, the extreme proliferation of segulot suggests otherwise.
Segulot (literally, “treasures”), are actions that are supposed to gain the one performing them some sort of good fortune.
Examples include reciting all the verses in the Book of Psalms that start with the letters of one’s name, one’s mother’s name and one’s father’s name, for forty consecutive days as a way to gain healing and deliverance from all misfortune.
Reciting Parshat Haman (Exodus 16) is supposed to grant livelihood for an entire year.
Segulot are so well-accepted, in fact, that those who don’t believe in their efficacy are often frowned upon, with their faith in God becoming suspect.
I intend to demonstrate that it’s not only kosher to not believe in this kind of magic, but that it’s forbidden to do so.
Admittedly, segulot have had a long history among the Jewish people, one of the earliest references being in Exodus 17:9-12.
Moses’ hands become a segulah that allows the Israelites to win the battle with Amalek.
Whenever his hands are raised, the Israelites prevail; whenever they fall, the Amalekites prevail.
Our Sages, in Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 29A, ask rather sarcastically if Moses’s hands are able to determine the outcome of war, before explaining that his hands were to serve merely as an inspiration to the people to turn to God.
The copper serpent (Numbers 21:8-10) was supposed to serve the same purpose, and finally had to be destroyed by King Hezekiah because the people started worshipping it (see 2 Kings 18:4).
Maimonides classes the prohibition against magic with the laws of idolatry, (see Moreh Nevachim 3, 37 and Mishnah Torah, Sefer Hamada, chapter 4).
All of the above should be more than enough to illustrate that relying on segulot and other magical superstitions, regardless of what name they’re known by, is nothing less than idolatry.
Anyone who engages in these types of practices is attempting to manipulate a world which is very much under the aegis of God, and is guilty of coersing His spiritual agents for personal gain.
The practice of magic denies the oneness of God, because the magician seeks to make use of the laws of the spiritual realm independent of God.
Thus, he or she is exhibiting a belief in multiple spiritual forces and powers, which is a form of idolatry.
A Jew is supposed to live his or her life as though exempt from the influence of any supernatural force except God.
We are commanded not to rely on miracles and wonders for help in performing our day-to-day tasks, and we are required to use our God-given intellect to work out a sound solution to our problems when possible.
To do otherwise is a slap in God’s face, as it were, and a very poor way to express our gratitude for having been delivered from not only Egypt, but all the other life-threatening calamities that have befallen the Jewish people.
The fact that many of these so-called segulot have rabbinic endorsement makes no difference.
If they worked, they wouldn’t need to be endorsed.
Word-of-mouth would be all the endorsement and advertisement necessary.
In this case, I think rabbinic endorsement has the opposite effect, at least among people who aren’t willing to suspend reason and intellect long enough to let a belief in segulot slip below the crapometer.
“You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
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