Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg, listed in Who's Who in American Jewry, in his defensive yet illuminating book, Jewish Magic and Superstition (Behrmann's, N.Y., 1939), writing of the age-long reputation of Jews as practitioners of black magic and all occult demonistic rites, states (Second chapter, entitled "The Truth
Behind the Legend"):
The sources indicate that Jews were at least acquainted with methods of inducing disease and death, of arousing and killing passion, of forcing people to do their bidding, of employing demons for divinatory and other purposes We find accounts of the magician s power to project his soul to far-distant places, there to perform an errand, and then return to his comatose body. (Page 13) Jewish magic functioned within the framework of the Jewish religion. (Page 15)
Rabbi Trachtenberg also states:
Knowledge of the names, through which Jewish magic worked, was inaccessible to women, for it required not only a thorough training in Hebrew and Aramaic, which most of them lacked, but also a deep immersion in mystical lore from which they were barred Early mystical and magical lore was successfully guarded by a limited oral transmission. The secret lore of the Kalonymides [Note: who brought it from Babylonia] was first written down in the 13th Century Jewish life had turned more and more inward and intensive study of the
Talmud had become almost its sole intellectual pursuit But the German Kabbalah never attained the theoretical depth of its Spanish counterpart, nor did it exert so much influence. (Pages 16-17, same publication) So we may say that every Jew whose desire led him thither essayed a little magic in a small way. But it was generally recognized that only a minor portion of the mystical lore had found its way into books; much of it remained private, jealously guarded property. (page 18)
In the same work, and under the title of "Forbidden and Permitted," Trachtenberg says: "The Bible had pronounced an unqualified condemnation of sorcery. The Talmud . pursued its customary function of clarifying and classifying Jewish law, and so broke up the all-inclusive category of sorcery into several divisions ." Then are cited various hairsplittings, ending with an admission that the Talmud actually permits the very proscribed or forbidden acts denounced by the Bible.
Trachtenberg sums up: "From a practical standpoint, they succeeded in effectively excluding from the proscribed 'magic' all the forms current among Jews." (Pages 19-20)
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia cites Rabbi Trachtenberg Jewish Magic and Superstition as a rabbinical authority on these subjects.
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