>Peter Bebergal, in an article published in Tablet Magazine, has an excellent essay on Jewish traditions about the occult, mysticism, and the Jewish preoccupation with demons, evil spirits, and superstitions. The following is an excerpt from the article:
While some Jewish families see Halloween as a pagan holiday that should not be observed, the fact is, Jewish tradition is itself no stranger to the otherworldly, with its own history of golem-makers, sorcerers, and demon wranglers, and throughout the centuries Jews have been as afraid of evil spirits as anyone else.
As early as the Roman period, Jews used amulets as a best defense against evils-both real and supernatural-that lurked outside their doors, a practice that continued into the late 17th and 18th century. The amulets could be made on flattened bits of metal inscribed with the names of angels or on small, encased scrolls, much like the mezuzah. But there were other kinds of magic as well. Medieval Jews called out God’s name and those of His angels to smite enemies and to gain affections. In addition, Jews of all ages practiced astrology and looked for omens in the form of animals. Since traditional liturgy made little room for personal prayers, these extra-liturgical means helped people combat what they saw as constant threats.
As Judaism struggles between assimilation and the preservation of tradition, Jewish magic suggests that Jews are very much like everyone else in so many beliefs. Ghosts, evil spirits, bad luck, and good are a part of a world view that co-exists with an omnipotent God and a complex moral system. And despite how far into the modern world Jews have moved, they continue to hear the echo of Sefer Hasdim, the famous medieval text, which advised, “One should not believe in superstitions, but it is best to be heedful of them.”
I learned much by reading Bebergal’s article. What this article teaches is that the belief in the supernatural has existed throughout human history and is present in almost every culture of the world. The article also demonstrates that religious people are not immune from believing in the supernatural. Religious people believe in the supernatural because they believe in an order of existence that is beyond human understanding and that goes beyond the visible universe.
Superstition, however, is a distortion of true religious faith because it is a system of beliefs that is not based on historical facts, on human experience, or scientific knowledge. Superstitious claims are associated with the paranormal, occult practices, belief in magic and luck, and the fear that the lives of individuals can be affected by these elements.
Jewish life was not devoid of these influences, as Bebergal has demonstrated in his article
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Amulets, Demons, Evil Spirits, Gematria, Magic, Mysticism, Occult, Superstition
>A truly insightful article. One thing stood out for me:"In addition, Jews of all ages practiced astrology and looked for omens in the form of animals. Since traditional liturgy made little room for personal prayers, these extra-liturgical means helped people combat what they saw as constant threats."I realized the importance of a personal prayer, a personal relationship, something close to your heart and your mind, something that makes 'religion' real and personal. Orthodoxy instead of orthopraxy. I am glad that in Jesus we have someone who is as close as a father, brother, friend, and most of all a saviour God.
>Pedjazoo,When it comes to personal prayer, and a personal relationship with God, I have to say amen to that. People who know God and have that kind of relationship with him do not have to fear the occult: "I fear no evil."Claude Mariottini