Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The Torah teaches us that saving one's life takes precedence over any religious observance, even Shabbos or Yom Kippur! The story is told of an elderly Jew who was told by his doctor that he needed to eat on Yom Kippur, even though he felt that he was strong enough to fast. He approached his rabbi certain that he would be allowed to fast. Instead, the rabbi told him, "In my synagogue, we don't allow idol worshippers. If you choose to fast, you will never again receive an aliya to the torah and will be excommunicated from the community! I don't care whether the name of the deity you worship is Baal, Molech, Krishna or Yom Kippur, it is still idol worship. The torah explicitly teaches us that one who has been determined by an expert to potentially be in a life or health endangered situation by fasting, is forbidden to do so, and to fast under such a circumstance would be considered as a severe violation of the Torah!"

From this story we see the extent that the Torah values the preservation of human life and health. But there is another important discussion in the Torah which calls this principle into question.

As Jews we are forbidden to engage in activities which utilitze the para-psychic to either predict the future or to influence it. These are the prohibitions of kosem and kishuf. The fact that they work are not the issue, no matter how simple or exotic. Any external method used to predict the future is considered kosem and is forbidden by the Torah. Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern of Jerusalem explains that this is the problem with using a pendulum, or muscle testing to extract information. (By the way, muscle testing to determing allergy or sensitivity is permitted, as it merely tests the body's relative strength in the presence of a food or substance, and doesn't request subjective information from the subconscious.) The fact that they works is irrelevant, as in each case information is acquired through para-rational means. This is the issur of kosem or divination. But the prohibition of kosem does not apply to someone who perceives the future simply through their own heightened awareness. In reality, there are 3 gradations: First there is kosem, who, as I mentioned, uses various methods, which by the fact that they do not originate from a source of kedusha, are rooted in tuma. Second are those masters of the Holy Names of Ha-Shem, who use those the powers of kedusha, not so much to acquire information, but rather, specifically to increase the presence of G-dliness and Kiddush Ha-Shem in the world, and whose entire modus operandi, is through kedusha and tahara. But then there is the third group--and psychics are included in them. This group is connected to the klipa noga, which is neutral, but very vulnerable. Therefore, one who has an innate sensitivity needs to be careful not to fall prey to the forces that might encourage using this gift for inappropriate means, such as being a fortune teller and the like.

Predicting the future through technical means is also closely akin to kishuf, or black magic, and the line between kosem and kishuf can easilybecome blurred. What distinguishes them is that kosem only attempts to predict future events, while kishuf also professes to influence and change them for good or bad.

There is also an interesting controversy between the shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah) and the Zohar Hakodesh in potential life threatening situations (pikuach nefesh). The Shulchan Aruch adjudicates that for Pikuach nefesh one is permitted to engage in Maase Emori and actions that are related to kosem. However, the Zohar forbids it. Rav Morgenstern explains, that because the root of kosem and maase Emori is tuma, one opens himself up to powerful impure influences and if one's life force is sustained by tuma, it is like breathing tainted oxygen, which, Chas V'Shalom, can change a person's whole being and essence. As such Rav Morgenstern does not recommend it, and says that it just is not worth it. Better to recall the pasuk (verse) from David Hamelech in tehillim, "Habote'ach Ba-Shem chesed yesoveveno" (One who totally trusts
Ha-Shem, kindness encompasses him), and as the Chazal tell us, "sakanta adifa m'isura" (danger is more severe than prohibition.). The key is the root of the approach taken. Therefore, included in non-recommended practices are those that have been supposedly sanitized, such as using Reiki, chanting or meditation, inserting or substituting pesukim or Jewish words or ideas. Because their shoresh (root) is from Avoda Zara and Tuma, that insidious abhorrent influence continues to pollute. A skunk is still a skunk, even if it is painted to look like a cat.

Philosophically, we Jews need to always consider whether what we do is in harmony with the Torah. Every action we take needs to be carefully thought out. A jew is never neutral. Every action can only be Kiddush Ha-Shem or Chillul Ha-Shem. As the pasuk says, "Va'atem had'vekim Ba-Shem E-lokechem chayim koolchem hayom" (You who attach yourselves to Ha-Shem your G-d, are alive today). Being connected to Ha-Shem needs to be viewed as spiritual oxygen, and if one stops breathing, he endangers his life. When our actions come from a non-Torah source, and are involved in the para-psychic, we tread on VERY thin ice, which, to me, is just not worth the risk.

No comments:

Post a Comment