• January 27, 2020
  • 1 5780, Sh'vat
  • פרשת בא

Magic: Is it real?

Magic: Is it real?

The Torah prohibits practices that we call “magic” in several places. What is fascinating is the question, “Is magic is real?” Probably most educated people who view themselves as rational do not believe that magic is real. We look kindly at children who are enthralled by the world of “Harry Potter” stories but we expect our children to realize that the world of Harry Potter is a fantasy.  It is a fact that when we look into the Jewish sources that some of the greatest authorities believed that magic actually is real. In the course with Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman explore the debate between those who believe that magic is real and those who say that it is nonsense. We will see the writings from both sides of the issue and we will see how the prohibition against magic is relevant in our society.

June 30, 2019 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Magic: Is it real?: Lesson
Class description

Hello Everyone,

My name is Stuart Fischman and I want to welcome you to the series of shiurim on the subject of “Magic: Is it Real?.”

Magic- כישוף – is a subject which is probably difficult for most of us to take seriously. Magic and sorcery are subjects which figure prominently in children’s literature but adults view them as fantasy. Why then does the Torah give so much attention to occult practices? Are these prohibitions simply a reaction to the pagan cultures which surrounded our ancestors or do they reflect a certain spiritual reality of which we (or at least most of us) are unaware?

Two schools of thought have evolved over the centuries in response to the question of the occult practices. One school views these practices as nonsensical and the second school takes them very seriously. The most prominent figure from this first school is the Rambam, while the Ramban spoke eloquently for the second school.

In the course of the shiurim we will examine the writings of both schools and see how they have influenced our culture over the centuries.

Please feel free to write to me with any questions or suggestions. My e-mail address is fish9999@gmail.com

July 7, 2019 9:53 am - 10:53 am
Magic: Is it real?: Quick Launched Event
Class description
July 7, 2019 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Magic: Is it real?: Lesson
Class description

Hello Everyone,

Last week we were introduced to the world of magic as interpreted by Chazal and our greatest sages. From the Gemarah’s juxtaposition of Rabbi Chaninah and Rabbi Yochanan to the Ramban’s critique of the Rambam (and all followers of Aristotle) we see that there is no single  “Torah view” on magic.

The upcoming shiur will address the concept of “mazal.” I am not certain that there is an adequate one-word translation of this particular word  into English. It would seem from the way that the word is used in the Gemarah that “mazal” connotes predestination. Some people are born with “good” mazal and others are less fortunate. I wonder what the word “mazal” is meant to convey when we wish people “mazal tov” on happy occasions, and perhaps at the end of the shiur this will be made more clear.

We will focus on two interpretations of “mazal.” We will see a letter that the Rambam wrote on this subject to the sages of Southern France. We will also see an essay by one of the greatest sages of the previous century, Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt”l Rav Dessler’s essays and shiurim were collected in the five-volume work, Michtav Me’Eliyahu.

I look forward to meeting with you this coming Sunday.

July 14, 2019 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Magic: Is it real?: Lesson
Class description

In the past two lessons we have seen the divergence of views regarding the reality of magic and “mazal.” In our culture magic is not taken seriously by most people who possess even a modicum of education. Rather magic is viewed as a form of entertainment. No educated person believes that there are people who can conjure coins out of the air or make rabbits hop out of empty hats.

Magical entertainers have an interesting name in the Gemarah. The magician is called “האוחז את העיניים”- “The One Who Holds the  Eyes.”  This name reflects, perhaps, the most important skill of any magician, the skill of misdirection. A successful magician distracts the audience at the critical moment.

Magic acts are tremendously popular but the question that I wish to discuss with you is whether or not it is permitted, according to the Halacha, to watch a magician’s performance. We will see that many Poskim say it is forbidden and those that permit this do so rather reluctantly..

I look forward to studying this subject with you in this shiur.

July 21, 2019 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Magic: Is it real?: Lesson
Class description

Hello Everyone

Until now we have seen discussions regarding the reality of magic. What do we mean when we discuss magic? I think of magic as that which can be done not in accord with the laws of physics as we understand them.

We have seen that there are many opinions regarding the reality of magic ,but everyone agrees that it is forbidden to engage in magical practice with one exception.

Today we will discuss that one exception. Today we will discuss ספר יצירה and the world of סגולות.

The idea that Judaism has a place for, or acknowledges the efficacy of, talismanic objects is abhorrent to some people but is a source of strength for others.

This will be the final shiur in this series of shiurim and I hope that you found them interesting. I certainly enjoyed studying this subject with you.

thank you for spending this time with me.

Stuart Fischman

Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.