A Spiritual Path to HaShem for the Noachide with Kabbalistic Commentary - Class 5

The basis of these lessons uses a book titled "The Path of the Righteous Gentile-An Introduction to the Seven Laws of the Children of Noach" by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky.

This is Chapter 5 that comes from a blog BY NETIV / THE PATH · SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

Noachide Mitzva of Idol Worship Part 1 to Part 6

PART ONE: Definition of idolatry.

1. The essence of the Seven Laws of Noah is the prohibition against idolatry. One who worships another deity besides the God of Abraham, Creator of heaven and earth, denies the essence of religion and rejects the entirety of the Seven Universal Laws. And one who guards himself against idolatry demonstrates belief in God and affirms the entirety of the Seven Universal Laws. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 2, law 4

chanoch's Commentary

This section is titled the Definition of Idolatry yet this verse no 1 is not a definition. It uses the word religion yet in the Torah itself there is no word that translates as religion. The word in modern Hebrew for religion is Dati which connects to the non Sefirah of Daat or Knowledge. In the current stage of the Jewish religion this is something that is not taught. Since the Children of Noach are to define their own spiritual path this is very important to know. That is the code and the message in this verse no 1.

2. The commandment prohibiting idolatry teaches that one should not serve a created thing – no angel, no plant, no star, nothing of the four fundamentals, earth, water, fire, and air, nor anything that is formulated from them. Among those things formed of the four fundamental elements is man. The worship of any man, in the flesh, before the flesh, or after the flesh is idol worship.

Even if the worshiper knows that God is the Supreme Being and worships some creation as a way of glorifying God’s greatness and His ability to create great beings and things, nevertheless this is idol worship. Mishnah Torah, 2:1 and 1:1

3. A person may ponder the heavenly spheres and observe that they do not die like other things and that it is therefore proper to bow down to them and serve them. To do this is to place them between oneself and the Creator. For although God may have assigned these celestial beings certain roles in the conduct of the world, nevertheless, man’s responsibilities are to God and not to God’s messengers. This, in fact, is how idolatry came to exist in the world. The generations that lived immediately after Adam recognized that God had created magnificent heavenly beings, the sun to rule by day and the moon to rule by night. And these people began to honor God’s exalted messengers. Soon it was forgotten that these messengers had been appointed by the Creator, and the sun and the moon began to be honored for their own greatness. This devolved to the worship of these creations as deities themselves without awareness of the God who had created them.

chanoch's Commentary

In the generation of Enosh the people had been taught by their parents to thank the angels who they knew made everything happen in the physical world. After all the cause is always spiritual which is an Angel which is a messenger from HaShem. So they would thank you - HaShem and Name of Angel - which they knew. Soon people got in the habit of dropping the Name of HaShem and only showing gratitude to the Angel. This is how idol worship began, as taught by the midrash.

4. Although there are opinions which state that the Children of Noah transgress the prohibition of idolatry from the moment they make an idol, the final law is that the transgression does not come into effect until a Noahide actually worships or serves the idol. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 56b; Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, chapter 9, law 2

chanoch's Commentary

The spiritual principle that creates this different attitude about idol worship has to do with potential versus actual. The potential argument is once an idol is built by a person then he most likely did the building for the reason of doing the action of idol worship. Even if the idol was built by one person for another person the person building it bears some responsibility for the other person doing idol worship since he facilitated the action of idol worship. The other attitude is that this is the world of action and only the specific action matters not the ancillary actions. The Halacha follows this attitude. In my opinion this comes from the difference in desire to receive of the Benai Noach and the Benai Israel, since the Benai Israel is frequently responsible for the thought as well as the actions.

5. According to many authorities, a Noahide is not warned against the concept of “partnership with God.” Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim, chapter 156, law 1The concept of partnership is the acknowledgment of the existence of the God of Israel in combination with belief in the possibility and existence of a deity (independent will) other than God. So long as ascribing power to a deity other than the Creator remains conceptual, it is permissible to the Children of Noah according to many authorities. Nodah B’Yehudah, volume 2; Yoreh Deah, number 148 74 But any worship of this independent being is clearly idolatry. The danger of the concept of partnership is that it frees people to act in accord with non-existent gods and opens a doorway to actual idolatry. Most recent authorities agree that Noahides are forbidden to believe in a partnership. But even according to this opinion a Noahide is permitted to swear by the name of an idol in combination with God (to swear by the Lord of Hosts and a Hindu deity, for example).

chanoch's Commentary

For any person this "concept of partnership" is a significant risk and it is my recommendation to not utilize this and train oneself not to use Names of Idols for any purpose.

6. The Children of Noah are not commanded to sanctify God’s Name by refusing to bow to an idol in the face of a threat to their lives. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 10:2 And there is a dispute whether the Children of Noah are even allowed to choose to lay down their lives in this manner, since they are not commanded to do so. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 74b and 75a; Tosefos on 75a However, since the Children of Noah may perform any of the 613 Commandments of the Torah to receive reward (with the exceptions found in the previous chapter), then it would follow that a Noahide may choose to lay down his life for the sanctification of God’s name rather than bow to an idol, even though not commanded to do so.

7. Many books have been written by idol worshipers concerning the nature of their idolatry, the service, procedures, and laws. These teachings may include fascinating philosophy concerning their idolatry. One is advised not to read these books at all, nor should one think about them or speak of them. Even studying the form of an idolatrous figure or asking how some god is served without having the intention of serving it might cause one to be led to engage in idolatrous practices. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 2:2

8. Anyone who acknowledges that an idolatrous religion is true, even though he does not serve the idol, insults the mighty and exalted Name of God. Mishneh Torah, 2:6

chanoch's Commentary

The Children of Edom - which is the west has many different religions that relate to the man from Nazareth. Some of these religions are clearly idol worshipping. Some of them may not as i do not know the true aspects of their teachings. This verse no 8 is putting all of these religions in this category due to the teachings and power of the Catholic Church. One needs to be cautious with these kinds of generalizations in my opinion.

PART TWO: Serving an idol; making an idol.

1. There are many different types of idolatrous service and the service of one idol is not like the service of another. For example, the ancient idol Peor See Deuteronomy 4:3 was served by man’s defecating before it. Note: This bizarre form of worship came about in a degenerative way, similar to the growth of idolatry itself. Originally, worshipers of this idol attained so great a state of ecstasy that they lost control of themselves and defecated. Their children saw the effect and, misunderstanding the cause, concluded that the worship was defecation. The lesson from this remains important today. That a religious rite feels good is no proof of a religion’s truth or validity.

chanoch's Commentary

People today do not understand what idol worship was during the times that there were Prophets. HaShem had given permission for entities to inhabit various sections of the world. Primarily rocks, streams, or trees. When a human would walk by this entity veiled in a form of the earth the entity using telepathic or other psychic tools would activate the human's pleasure center of the brain. This was then the allure of the serving this tree or other earth form - the pleasure center would be activated when someone would do what the entity asked the human to do. This connection was directed to one human not to all. Thus the children would see the effect on their parents but not be receiving the same pleasures. Thus people came to understand how to serve the entity with out receiving that resulting pleasure center activation.

2. A person transgresses only when he worships the idol in the normal manner ascribed to each respective idol. Consequently, courts of law have to know the appropriate service for the idol in any case of idolatry.

3. The preceding law applies to unique forms of worship. If, however, the person bows down or offers sacrifices or incense or a drink offering (the four forms of service of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) to any one of the idols, he incurs the death penalty even though this may not be the way of that idol’s official worship. Deuteronomy, 3:3

chanoch's Commentary

Thus if one defecates in front of a hindu God statue there is no violation of idol worship status. there is only one thing to consider. The consciousness of the person is still aware that he or she is dealing with a god that is an idol. It is important for a person to realize that there is only one God and His/Her/Its Name is HaShem. Any thing else in someone's consciousness is going to lead one astray even if the Halacha says otherwise, in my opinion. Of course, the reason for this halacha is to attract people who are worshipping multiple Gods and who would be unwilling to stop doing that. In order to provide for that Idol Worshipper to change him or her self and return to HaShem. The Halacha allows people to still be comfortable with multiple Gods while only serving HaShem properly.

4. Food placed upon an altar as an offering to an idol is forbidden to be eaten. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 84, law 6 There is a difference of opinion concerning the permissibility of eating food that is unlikely to be offered to an idol, such as a grasshopper or a cockroach. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 3:4

5. Things such as water and salt, which are not normally in the category of offerings to an idol, are forbidden if they are found directly in front of an idol or within the curtains that surround the idol.

6. It is forbidden to honor an idol even by offering things to it outside the boundaries that surround the idol. This is considered decorating the idol.

Throwing coins at an idol or even into a pool of water next to an idol, such as the statues of oriental gods and demigods commonly seen today, would appear to be in the category of honoring an idol and symbolically ascribing powers to it. Otherwise, why throw money, which is clearly an act of beseeching a power for returned good fortune?

7. If something has been prepared to be offered to an idol, but has not yet been offered, it is permitted for personal use. One should be strict, however, and not use anything found in the house of idol worship. Therefore, one should never take candles from the place of idol worship. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 3:4 It is doubtful whether one should purchase or use sticks of incense sold by any of the idolatrous religions or pseudo-religions. For example, as most Hindu sects are pantheistic and idolatrous, incense and health foods purchased from such groups are questionable, for the foods themselves may have been worshiped.

chanoch's Commentary

A few years ago there was a problem with the wigs some communities used to cover the heads of women's hair. The women in India donated their hair for the use in these wigs by donating to their Gods. Thus the hair donated could not be used for this purpose according to this Halacha.

In truth, any religious food discipline wherein the foods themselves or the combinations of the foods themselves are honored as miraculous in their health-giving properties Such as macrobiotics' reverence of whole grain brown rice. may be idolatrous. Concerning the verse, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3),” we are taught that it is not the bread itself which nurtures the body of man and gives it strength but the word of God, which is spiritually enclothed within the bread and gives the bread its existence. Torah Or, Beshallach, 65b, column 4 Obviously, the same is true of any food or herb or wonder drug that heals, it is merely the power of God within that food or herb or wonder drug that is the healing agent. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev taught that doctors demonstrate the great healing power of God. They show that God can heal a person even though the person places a doctor between himself and God.

8. If one offers excrement to an idol or pours a libation of urine for it, he transgresses, as this falls in the category of sprinkling, one of the four services in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 3:4

9. If someone slaughters an animal that is missing one of its limbs, he is held harmless unless this is the idol’s particular service.

10. If a man lifts a brick and says to it, “You are my god,” or any such similar speech, he is liable for idolatry. Even if he would retract immediately and say, “This is not my god,” his retraction is of no help. This does not mean that the person cannot repent. He surely can repent and God will forgive his idolatry. But if there are witnesses who heard his speech, he will be brought to trial and condemned as an idolater notwithstanding his retraction or his repentance.

Repentance is good only between man and God. Jurists and courts of law lack the power to search a man’s heart to determine the sincerity of his repentance. This only God can do. Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 13b, commentary of Rashi, “Rabbi Akiva says that you are cut off.”

chanoch's Commentary

This statement implies that the human court must follow its laws according to strict judgment and only HaShem can achieve an injection of Mercy to create justice. This is very important to understand since the person will be judged according to earth laws and it is best to accept this judgment as true yet still pray for Mercy - God's intervention.

11. One who worships an idol according to its prescribed ritual is liable, even if he does it contemptuously. For example, if one defecates in front of Peor in order to disgrace the idol, since he performs the prescribed worship, he is liable. MishnehTorah,Laws of Idolatry,3:5

12. So long as a person accepts the idol as god, even if he worships it only because its workmanship is stunningly beautiful or because he superstitiously fears that some evil will otherwise befall him, he is liable. Mishneh Torah, 3:6

13. If a person serves an idol in the manner of one of the four forms of service used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – prostrating, sacrificing (including incense), sprinkling sacrificial blood, pouring drink offerings – and serves the idol with love and fear, but without accepting it as a god, he is held harmless. If he hugs it or kisses it or dusts it off or pours water on it to cleanse the dust off it or anoints it or clothes it or does other things in order to honor it, these are in the category of prostrating oneself to it.

14. If a thorn gets stuck in a person’s foot while he is in front of an idol, he should not bend down to remove it, as it appears he is bowing down to the idol. This holds true even if there is no one around to observe the act. This is also true if he drops his money in front of the idol and wishes to pick it up. Rather, the person should first sit, then remove the thorn or pick up the money. Mishneh Torah, 3:7 Or he should turn his back to the idol or turn aside from it prior to removing the thorn or picking up the money. And if for any reason a person has to remove his hat for a personal need, he should not remove it until he passes before the idol so that it does not appear as if he is removing it to pay respects to the idol.

Note: There is a medieval house of idolatrous worship in Jerusalem that attracts many tourists. The door leading to the room where the idol is kept is extremely low so that anyone entering the room must bend down to enter, thus forcing each tourist who enters the room appear as if he or she were bowing to the idol.

chanoch's Commentary

i do not know if this note is true. i checked on line - just the first page and did not see any item like them. The other issue is that there are idols in Christian churches in Israel. Why do you think there is no discussion of this in his note? Why do you think he did not specify the specific name of the idol?

15. If there is a fountain made with statuary that pour water from the mouth of the statue, a person should not drink from this water by placing his mouth to the statue’s mouth as it would appear as if he is kissing it. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 87:8

16. One is forbidden to commission a craftsman to make an idol for himself even if he does not intend to serve it. Also it is forbidden to make an idol with one’s own hands even if the idol is meant for someone else and the maker does not intend to serve it. All the more so, it is forbidden to make an idol with one’s own hands for oneself. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 23:9

17. It is forbidden to make statuary for ornamental purposes, even though the figures are not idols; that is, one should not make images of gold or silver that are merely for artistic purposes because he might cause others to mistake them for idols. This prohibition pertains to forms with human characteristics in three-dimensional relief. Though forbidden, such actions do not warrant capital punishment. Mishneh Torah, 3:10

18. An image that is concave rather than in relief, or two-dimensional such as paintings or woven tapestry, is permitted.

19. It is forbidden to wear a ring that has a seal on it in the image of a man (a cameo) if the image protrudes in relief, but it may be used as a seal. If the image is concave, it may be worn, but it is forbidden to use it as a seal because the seal creates an image in relief. Mishneh Torah, 3:11

20. It is forbidden to form images of the sun or moon or stars or constellations or of the angels or a single form of the four faces of the Chariot See the Book of Ezekiel 1:4-15. that Ezekiel saw, since it is forbidden to make images of the ministering angels that serve God. Such figures may not even be made in two-dimensional form.

21. According to other opinions, it is forbidden to make forms of the angels and the chariot only in three-dimensional form. Drawing them on canvas or weaving these images on cloth or painting them on stone would be permitted since this form of expression is not three dimensional. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 85:3

However, even this latter lenient opinion forbids the drawing of the sun, moon, or stars in their complete form in a two-dimensional drawing because the sun and the moon appear to us two dimensionally in the sky. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 85:5

22. Concerning a sculpture of man, some authorities say the face by itself is forbidden. Others say that sculpture becomes forbidden only if the whole face is made with its body. According to this second opinion, making a human body with its face is permitted as long as one does not make the complete body. However, it is proper to follow the stricter opinion even if the sculpture is made just for beauty. Chochmat Adam Laws of Idolatry, 85:4

23. It is not forbidden to keep or hold the image of a man in one’s hand unless it is distinctly the image that which is worshiped as a god. Any other human image may be kept or held, so long as the image is slightly distorted or damaged, such as by chipping the nose, to dispel any suspicion of its being an idolatrous form. This act of damaging an image is called nullifying the idol. Chochmat Adam Laws of Idolatry, 85:6

24. It is permitted to make statuary of trees and of wild or domestic animals, even of animals which are symbols in astrology, such as the lion, ram, or bull. One may make the full form of these figures and retain them in his possession. However, one may not make one form of all twelve astrological symbols. Chochmat Adam Laws of Idolatry, 85:7

25. There is a stricter opinion forbidding all three-dimensional forms, whether they are in relief or concave. This opinion forbids making such forms in order to keep them in one’s possession. Chochmat Adam Laws of Idolatry, 85:8

chanoch's Commentary

This stricter opinion will keep people from changing their ways. This is because people frequently use objects for luck or for reminding them of some incident in their lives. When one hears that they must give up these things that are meaningful to them it can become a barrier to doing what will actually help them spiritually. Yet it is important to realize that all physical objects actually are the home of the negative system and do cause people to delay their spiritual growth. This is what Kabbalah teaches.

26. One should never stare at three-dimensional images of idolatrous figures of man. Such gazing is spiritually damaging. But images upon a ring, since they are commonly found without idolatrous connotations, may be gazed upon. Chochmat Adam's Laws of Idolotry, 85:9

27. The three chief idolatrous images in the world are:

A. The dragon, which is a deification of the primordial serpent. Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zara 42b

B. A full figure of a man offering the beholder something (such as the globe of the world) from the palm of his hand. Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zara, 41a This image is commonly found today in front of some Catholic Churches. Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah, 141:1, Shach note 4

C. A woman nursing an infant. This is an idolatrous perversion of Eve, the mother of all mankind. It became the symbol of the queen of heaven and is an image that still pervades numerous cultures and religions. This is the i Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 85, law

chanoch's Commentary

There are many other idolatrous images. As stated earlier when one views an idol will cause a blemish on their souls. With that said it is not meant to generate fear it is meant to cause someone to think through their own perceptions and to understand the idea of idols which in Hebrew is Avodah Zera - Strange Service. With that in mind one needs to depend on their own intuition as to what is the right thing to do in this specific area. If one feels something uncomfortable in viewing some image one needs to ask a question of your intuition - "Is this image that i am viewing an idol?" If the answer is no they may continue to view the image yet they need to be willing to accept some form of chaos or pain that will be the cause of cleansing this action. If the answer is yes they need to trust their intuition and turn away from this image immediately. If they do not think they got an answer then they should assume that the answer is yes and turn away. Trust your intuition.

PART THREE: Persuading others to serve an idol; false prophets.

1. There is a difference of opinion whether the Children of Noah transgress the commandment of idolatry by persuading someone else to worship an idol. One opinion states that the Children of Noah do not transgress this commandment by leading others to serve an idol. The other opinion states that one is liable for the death penalty, but only if he leads a Jew away from the worship of the God of Israel and convinces him or her to serve an idol. If, however, one Noahide convinces another Noahide to serve an idol, he is not liable for punishment in a court of law, but since he has denied himself and the other person the opportunity of being close to God, he is punished from heaven. S’dei Chemed, Peat HaSadeh, The Set Category Gimel, section 6, note 26

2. If a person says, “The idol said to me, “Worship!” or he says, “God said to me, “Worship the idol,” he is a false prophet. If he influences the majority of a city, he is stoned to death. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:2

chanoch's Commentary

This appears to me to indicate that there is a divide between a false Prophet that is a Jewish false Prophet and a false Prophet for the Noachide. This is because we are being presented with a different set of laws for a Noachide False Prophet and a Jewish false Prophet. The halacha for a Jewish false Prophet is death while the Noachide false Prophet is only incurs the death by stoning if he is able to influence the majority of a city. Can anyone perceive that a person who claims to be a Prophet and issues a false Prophecy would not be covered by the current news system - both the bloggers and the main frame news organizations. If that is true it is clear that there can not be a different set of Halacha on this one subject between the two types of Prophets. That is significantly unsettling as to the universality of Torah for me. The Torah is universal and that means this Halacha, i think is incorrect.

3. A seducer to idol worship is equally liable whether he uses singular or plural expressions in his seduction. For example, if he says, “I will go and worship the idol,” or, “Let us go and worship this idol,” he is a seducer.

4. One who convinces others to worship him as an idol and says to them, “Serve me,” and they worship him, he is stoned to death. If they accept him as their god but do not worship him, he is not stoned. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:5

chanoch's Commentary

What is the distinction between "a person asking someone to serve him as an Idol" and "to accept him as a God?" There is nothing against Torah if someone thinks they are a God. Yet there is something against Torah if some one thinks they are an idol. The reason in my opinion is that the Torah itself uses the the word Elohim - generally translated as God to apply to the Angelic Cheiftans. The question still remains as to why God is "jealous" of an idol and not a "God"?

5. If a prophet prophesies in the name of an idol and says something to the effect of, “This particular idol or this particular star said to me that it is an obligation to do such-and-such or not to do such-and-such,” even if his words teach the law correctly, he is subject to the death penalty for idolatry. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:6

6. It is forbidden to establish a law or to refute a law by the authority of someone who prophesies in the name of an idol. Nor do we ask him to produce a sign or a miracle. If he does so by his own volition, we pay no attention to it nor do we reflect about it. Anyone who thinks about these miracles and says, “Perhaps they are true,” transgresses a law. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:7 Even if he were to walk on the water or raise the dead, we are to pay no attention to these acts. Such miracles are a test of our faith in God.

7. Similarly, a false prophet is killed by strangulation even if he prophesies in the name of God and teaches the Seven Universal Laws correctly, neither adding nor subtracting from their true meaning.

chanoch's Commentary

How does someone become a Prophet and then a false Prophet? Prophecy is something that someone goes to school to become a Prophet. The tools that are taught in that school are the same tools that are taught in Kabbalah - the Hebrew Letters - The Ana Bekoach - The techniques taught in the Sefer Yetzirah by a Kabbalists not an academic - Hebrew Astrology - Hebrew Meditation - How to contact your Magid and some additional tools as well. Who teaches these tools? The members of the Sanhedrin. Each one was taught by their teacher and each teacher taught many students. Once one achieves proficiency in these techniques, one is said to have Ruach HaKodesh - Holy Spirit. This is still said about certain people today and the term means the same thing as it did during Temple Times. It means that your intuition is sending you correct messages about you and possibly other people if they ask you. Today someone asks for a Blessing and if the Blessor has Ruach HaKodesh the Blessing that they receive is correct for that person. When the second Temple was being built the Sanhedrin asked HaShem - together - meaning unified astral travel of some type, in my opinion, to remove the addiction of Idol Worship. HaShem responded that to do that would require the loss of Prophecy since they were related and included in the same Sefirah - Netzach and Hod. The Sanhedrin went ahead and ask HaShem to do so, which he did. Rabbi Ashlag had a dream where he asked HaShem to return Prophecy and He was told that as a Talmid Chacham - Wise Student of Torah he was already on a higher level. Now let us turn to false Prophecy. The Torah and Talmud say that a false Prophecy is one that does not come true. The Talmud goes on to explain that in the state of Ruach HaKodesh someone can "perceive" what they want to perceive and make up what they want to make up. Thus there were many false Prophets during both the First and Temple times. These false Prophets were telling people what they wanted to hear. Powerful people like the King and Queen of both Judah and Israel/Efraim would ask questions about the future. The answers would be what they wanted to hear and would pay handsomely for the false Prophets Prophecies. Their Prophecies did not come true. They were labeled false Prophets and still they continued to produce false Prophets. Where do you find this in Torah? Just read the various Book of Prophets, including the Books of Daniel, the Book of Ezra, and The Book of Nehemnia and Both Books of Chronicles. Some of these books are not concerned books of Prophets since Prophecy was discontinued in their generations.

8. One who prophesies words that he did not hear in a prophetic vision or one who hears the words of a true prophet and says that they were received by him and not the true prophet and he prophesies concerning these words, is a false prophet. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:8

9. One who holds himself back from killing a false prophet is a transgressor. And it matters not whether he fears to act because of the false prophet’s exalted position, or because he is fearful of the false prophet’s words. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:9

All false prophets, their disciples, and other idolatrous practitioners instill fear in the hearts of their victims, usually by threats of eternal damnation, hellfire, or other similar terrors. One can strengthen his heart against these threats by remembering that God is All Merciful and rewards and punishes according to a person’s deeds, and that His punishments come as correction and purification of the soul. As King David wrote, “Do not place your trust in benefactors, nor in the son of man in whom there is no salvation. Fortunate is he whose helper is the God of Jacob, whose hope rests upon the Lord his God” (Psalms 146:3,5).)

10. A man should not use an idol or a house of idolatry as a signpost, such as telling his friend, “Meet me next to this particular house of idolatry.” Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 5:11

PART FOUR: The idolatrous pillar; benefiting or profiting from idols.

1. A pillar that serves as a central point of worship for gatherings of people is called a matzeva, a forbidden pillar. It is forbidden even if the people come to it in order to worship God, for this was the way of the ancient idolaters. The Kaaba stone in Mecca is just such a forbidden pillar. And the concept of the forbidden pillar is still with us today, at least conceptually. The film, Space Odyssey: 2001, was written as praise of the powers of an idolatrous pillar. Anyone who erects such a pillar performs a forbidden act, but is not executed for it. Mishna Torah 6:6

chanoch's Commentary

"This is the way of the ancient idolaters" is a physical cause. What is the spiritual cause for not using a Matzeva? What is the difference between a Pillar and a Synagogue Building? A Pillar may have an entity that has permission to become an idol as a test for some human beings. This is never the case for buildings. The above Halacha is a fence to keep people from falling into idol worship yet it is not truly necessary, in my opinion. Is there an entity still in the Kaaba Stone? i do not know. Someone will have to go to Mecca to determine this. Someone sensitive to energies.

2. A stone floor with figures carved on it to attract the eye is called a figured stone and is forbidden. Even if one bows down on it with the intention of honoring God, he performs a forbidden act, for this was the way of the idolater, but he is not executed for it. The way of idol worship was to lay a stone floor such as this before the idol. All stood on the figured stone floor, then bowed before the idol. Therefore, one should not employ a similar practice concerning the worship of God.

chanoch's Commentary

Many times in the religious world view things are prohibited and the explanation as to why is related to a physical cause "the way of the idolater" meaning people in earlier generations. One needs to realize that unlike the western world that thinks we - our generation is greater than earlier generations; the current generation, in the Jewish World View is lower than the earlier generations. Thus, according to this world view if someone did something in the earlier generations then they had access to spiritual energies that we may not have access today. So, there reasons must be a minhag that should be followed today. This is the meaning of tradition and its power to instill comfort into people. The question now becomes do i follow these actions which many people consider superstitious? Ask your intuition. What ever the answer Ask your intuition many times throughout your life since an answer today may not be the answer tomorrow or next year or next decade. Does this mean that i need to do Teshuvah for the earlier "superstitious" actions? You decide.

3. The previous law applies in all places but the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where it is permissible to bow down to God upon a stone floor. Mishna Torah, 6:7

4. One who bows down on a figured stone floor does not transgress unless he bows in total prostration, spreading his arms and legs. But if he bows to an actual idol, even if the figured stone was merely a floor placed before the idol, or whether he bows down in complete prostration or merely bows from the waist, he transgresses the prohibition against idolatry and is executed for it. Mishna Torah, 6:6

5. It is commandment to destroy all idols and everything used in serving them and anything made because of them. In the Land of Israel it is a commandment to pursue the idol until it is destroyed and driven completely from the land. Mishna Torah, 7:1

6. It is forbidden to derive pleasure or benefit from actual idols and all items needed for their service or sacrifices Such as wine or incense, etc. and all that has been made to beautify them. For instance, candles or curtains made to provide a beautiful environment to honor the idol. Anyone who benefits from any of these transgresses but is not executed for it. Mishna Torah, 7:2

7. One is forbidden to benefit or use an animal that has been offered to an idol, including the animal’s bones, horns, hooves, skin or excrement. Therefore, if there is a skin with a mark on it that indicates this skin was offered to an idol, such as a round hole torn opposite the heart of the animal, this skin is forbidden for use in any way. Mishna Torah, 7:3

8. The difference between an idol belonging to a Noahide and the idol of an Israelite is that the former is forbidden immediately after its making is completed even though it has not yet been served. A Noahide’s idol becomes a god from the moment it exists as a graven image. The idol of an Israelite is not forbidden until it is served. Mishna Torah, 7:4

9. A Noahide who inherits an idol from his idolatrous father should cast it into the sea or dispose of it in some other definitive way. Mishna Torah, 7:5

10. Figures and images that are made for artistic purposes and not idolatry are permitted for pleasure or profit. Those that appear to have been made for idolatry are forbidden. A full-figured statue that holds a staff or a bird or a globe or a sword or a crown and a ring in its hand is presumed to be an idol and it is forbidden for any use. These symbols all indicate rulership – the staff because he rules over the world, a bird because it flies above all and its eyes gaze down upon all, a ball because it represents the globe of the earth which he holds in his hand, and so forth. Otherwise, it is presumed to be of nothing more than artistic beauty and is permitted. Mishna Torah, 7:6

chanoch's Commentary

This comment is a warning based on human nature. As these halachot are promulgated throughout the world to people who are searching for a connection to HaShem it will come to the ears of unscrupulous individuals. Perhaps these people will provide an "artistic" form which is truly an idol for them. A word to the listeners should be sufficient.

11. Crosses that are publicly displayed in Christian houses of worship are in the category of idols since people give honor to them, remove their hats before them, and bow down or genuflect to them. All the more so, if the figure of Jesus is hanging from the cross. However, the cross that hangs around a person’s neck is considered a memorial and is permitted. Other personal uses like hanging a cross from the rear view mirror of an automobile are also permitted. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 85, law 1

12. However, priests who have crosses in their vestments or around their necks represent something very different from the cross of a person who wears it as a memorial, since the priest stands as a figure of religious authority. Therefore, one must never bow to such priests nor remove the hat in front of them nor do anything that may give the appearance that one worships the cross worn by a priest. If one bows or removes a hat as a gesture of giving honor to God, it must be discreetly away from the presence of such a cross, and preferably prior to the priest’s appearance.

If it is in a place and a sect where it is known that these worshipers do not bow down to their images, but merely give honor to the priests that wear them, then one can be lenient to avoid offending these priests. But where it is known that the people do bow down to their statues and crosses in a manner that clearly appears idolatrous, one must be strict and avoid this.

13. One need not be strict about the wearing of a medal around the neck for luck when traveling or the like, Like a St. Christopher’s medal or a jade Buddha. since the image on the medal is not worshiped.

14. If one finds vessels such as jewelry or expensive fabrics with images on them, if it is known that these images were made in the name of idol worship such as those found in India, they are certainly forbidden. But if one is not sure what the images were made for, or if they are found on non-precious vessels used for water or other foods, they are not forbidden. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 85:2

15. Today, people are not so attached to their idols, even to the images that they serve, such as the cross or a nursing mother with her child. Because of this, if a vessel is found in Western lands, it can be assumed that the images are for beauty or a memorial and not for idolatry. Thus, the vessel would be permitted for use, but one is advised not to keep it his possession as it might convey the impression that the owner is an idolator.

chanoch's Commentary

In the west there is an essence of belief that one should not be overly concerned with others opinion of their actions. The spiritual world view indicates as said above it is important to take in account what others think of our actions in advance of doing these actions.

16. It is idolatry to consume a food or a drink with the idea that it is the substance of a god and that the person consuming them is therefore assimilating the substance of the god into his own being. Note: Historically, non-Jewish nations have fallen into idolatrous practices because of a lack of discernment between Elohah and Elohut – God and Godliness. One can say that all of creation is Godly because it all contains God’s life force, but to say that anything of creation is God is idolatry.

chanoch's Commentary

This comment as all my comments is meant to clarify the statements. In the spiritual world view there is a transfer of energy from a person into material things. The strongest example is tumah - impurity of death. Yet in the Hasidic world it applies to the tea or other substance - even a dollar bill given for the purpose of charity, that one receives from a Holy, at least in one's mind, Man. It is hard to understand a distinction between these actions and consuming a substance that, in the mind of the Priest and the receiver comes from a spiritual historical personage. The only explanation i can conceive is that the spiritual world view is seeing a personal physical connection while the items mentioned above is something that is far removed physically in both time and space.

17. It is forbidden to use vessels one finds, upon which appear the figure of a sun or a moon or a dragon if the vessel is of gold or silver. Similarly if one finds a cloth of silk with scarlet color with these images on them or rings or earrings with these images, they are forbidden. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 7, law 8

18. If one finds these images on other less precious articles, they are permissible because they are presumed to have been made for artistic purposes and are merely ornamental.

19. Idols and other articles used for their worship cause objects that they become mixed up with to be forbidden, even if the idolatrous articles are but a small factor in the number of objects. For example: if an idol is mixed in with ornamental figures, even if the idol is but one in a thousand of the figures, everything is forbidden and must be thrown into the Dead Sea or similar water where metal will corrode or be lost. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 7:9

chanoch's Commentary

Another example of how energy get transferred. It seems that based on different Halachot that apply to various items there are certain metaphysical energy that limits how it transfers and other metaphysical energy - and idol energy is one of these that has no limit to its negative energy being transferred to other objects.

20. If a person finds money or vessels on the head of an idol, and the items appear to be placed there as an expression of contempt, they are permissible for use. For example: a purse found hanging on the neck of the idol, a cloth draped over its head, a vessel turned upside down and placed on top of its head – all these are permissible. These items were obviously placed there to disgrace the idol, and so it is with anything similar to this. Mishneh Torah,Laws of Idolatry 7:16 Conversely, if the objects appear to be there to honor the idol, they are forbidden.

chanoch's Commentary

This is teaching that the human consciousness overcomes natural spiritual laws at least in potential and in this case in actuality.

21. If there is a garden or pool with an ornamental idol in it, one may use either the garden or the pool so long as it is not expressly for the benefit of the idol’s priests. But if it is for the priests, it is forbidden for use. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 7:17

22. If the garden or pool is there for the idol and for the general populace, even if the priests use it as well, one may use it so long as no fee is paid.

23. It is forbidden to trade in a store from which profits are used for the upkeep of an idol. However, if the profits are collected by the government and they in turn support the upkeep of the idol, then it is permissible to trade in the store. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 86, law 3

chanoch's Commentary

We continue to see how human consciousness applies to the physical world.

24. If those engaged in the upkeep of idols collect taxes for the needs of the idols, it is forbidden to pay them any taxes. However, if the profits first go to the government, which in turn dispenses money for the upkeep of idols, it is permissible to pay the taxes.

25. Bread that is given to idolatrous priests is permissible because this bread is not offered to the idol but is the priests’ portion. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 84:9

26. Wax candles that were lit before an idol for ornamentation are forbidden even after they were extinguished because the intention may have been to relight them. But if they were extinguished without the intention of relighting, they may be used. However, even if the candles were knowingly extinguished without the intention of relighting them, they may not be used in any way for the honor of God or to fulfill a commandment, such as to illuminate a house of worship or to have light to study the Torah. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 84:10

PART FIVE: Things remaining permissible despite an involvement with idolatry; idolatrous trees; nullification of idols.

1. Anything that cannot be handled by man or made by man, even though it is worshiped, is permissible for use. Therefore, even if idolaters worship mountains or hills, trees that grow naturally or were planted for fruit, excluding those planted originally for idolatrous reasons, public streams or animals, all are permissible for use. And it is permissible to eat fruit that was worshiped so long as it remains in a state of natural growth, attached to the tree or bush, and it is permissible to eat worshiped animals that have not been sacrificed. An animal that is designated for use in idolatry as an offering, prior to its being offered, may be used or eaten. But once the animal is used for the idol, even in the slightest way, it becomes forbidden. For example, if the animal has been slaughtered for idolatry or has been exchanged for an idol or has been exchanged for something that has been exchanged for an idol, it is forbidden, as it now has monetarily equivalent to an idol. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:1

Basically, there are two kinds of forbidden idols. One is an object or image that represents the god and is worshipped as a form of representation, such as is the case in some branches of Christianity and Buddhism where people worship statues of Jesus or Buddha. The other is where the worshippers believe that the god has placed his essence within the idol itself, such as with the Hindu god Krishna and the ancient Philistine worship of Dagan.

2. In the above situation, it is assumed that a person’s own animal is used for idolatry; but when a person takes another’s animal without permission and slaughters it for idolatry or exchanges it, it remains permissible for use. A person cannot cause anything to become forbidden which is not his own.

3. If one bows down to the earth in its natural state, the ground to which he bows does not become forbidden, but if he digs pits, ditches, or caves in the name of idolatry, the ground becomes forbidden.

4. If a person bows down to water which has been displaced from its natural state by a wave washing it into a ditch or the like, it is not forbidden water. But if he takes the water in his hand and bows down to it, it becomes forbidden. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:2

5. Rocks of a mountain that a person worships are permissible so long as they remain in their natural place, but if they are handled and moved, then worshiped, they become forbidden.

6. If a person erected a pillar or even set up a stone with the intention of worshiping it, but he did not worship it, then other idolaters came along and worshiped it, it is forbidden, as this is considered an idolatrous pillar. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:3

7. A tree planted in order that it may be worshiped as an idol is forbidden. Equally forbidden are its branches, fruit, shade and anything that might give one some kind of benefit. This tree is called an asherah, and is specifically mentioned in the Torah. Deuteronomy 16:21

8. If a tree is bowed to, although its trunk is permissible, all the shoots and fruit and branches and leaves that come forth during the time that it is worshiped are forbidden.

9. If idolaters watched the fruit of a tree and said that the fruit is there for them to make a drink for an idolatrous temple, and they made the drink and drank it on the day of their festival, this tree is forbidden. It is considered as if they planted it for idolatry in the first place and this is why its fruit was used.

10. If an idol stands underneath a tree, so long as it is there, the tree is forbidden. It is considered an accessory to idol worship and any pleasure from this tree, even its shade, is forbidden. If the idol is removed, the tree becomes permissible, for the tree itself was never served as an idol. Misneh Torah

11. If a house was not made or served as an idol, but was renovated, plastered, and decorated with images that were inlaid or carved in relief in the name of an idol, one should remove the renovations. They are forbidden because they were made to serve an idol. Then the rest of the house is permissible for use.

12. If one brings idols into a house, for as long as they are in the house it forbidden for use, as it is considered an accessory to idol worship. Once the idols are removed in a way that indicates a nullification of the house’s use as an accessory to them, the house becomes permissible. If the idols were brought there by an idolatrous Noahide, and an Israelite removes them from the house, this does not represent a nullification, because it may be construed that the Noahide wishes the idols to remain, but the Israelite did not. Therefore, just as a Noahide brought the idols into the house, a Noahide must take the idols out of the house in order for it to be considered a nullification of the house’s status as an accessory to idol worship. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 84:15

13. One may not use a forbidden house in any way. One may not enter it or sit in its shade. However, it is permissible to pass through its shadow. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 84:16

14. It is also advised that one should distance oneself at least eight feet from the entrance of a house of idol worship.

15. It is forbidden to listen to the music, smell the fragrance, or gaze at the ornaments of idol worship. Certainly, one is forbidden to gaze at the idol itself.

16. If one must walk near a place of idol worship, he should cover his eyes, stop up his ears, and hold his nose to avoid having sensory benefit from the idolatry. It is common for idol worship, particularly in the orient, to burn incense and chant melodies. Even if the person has no intention of taking pleasure from these sights, sounds, and smells, he is should still conduct himself in the manner described, since he will certainly receive some pleasure from them if he does not so act.

17. If an idol rests on a stone, the stone is forbidden for use for as long as the idol is there. When it is removed, the stone is permissible for use. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 8, law 5

18. If one has a house with a common wall to a house of idol worship and his house falls, he should not rebuild it as it was, but build it completely within his own property so that he shares no wall with the idolatrous house. The space that remains between his house and the house of idolatry he should fill with rubble so that the house of idolatry not be enlarged to encroach on his territory. If he has a common wall with an idolatrous house, he should measure the thickness of the wall. The inner half of the wall is his and the outer half belongs to the idolatrous house. The stone or wood or dirt from the outer half is forbidden for any use.

19. The proper manner of destroying an idol and all the articles that are forbidden along with the idol is to grind them to powder and scatter them to the wind, or they should be burned and dumped into the Dead Sea or a similar body of water to corrode and be forever lost. Mishneh Torah, 8:6

20. An idolatrous figure is nullified by chipping off the tip of the nose or the tip of the ear or the tip of the finger or by hammering in a portion of its face even though no material is lost or by handing the figure over to a Jew who smelts metal. All these constitute nullification. Mishneh Torah, 8:10 Once nullified, the figure is permissible to own and use. Mishneh Torah, 8:8

21. An idol or any accessory to an idol, if it is nullified as an idol, becomes permissible for use. But anything that is offered up to the idol remains forbidden forever, and nullification is of no help. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry; chapter 84, law 5 The general rule is that nullification must be performed by the one who worshiped the idol. If one who did not worship the idol nullifies it, the act accomplishes nothing. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8: 9

chanoch's Commentary

Another example of consciousness controls. It takes an idol worshipper to change the consciousness of an idol.

22. An idol worshiped by Jews can never be nullified, even if a Noahide owned it in partnership with a Jew. It is forbidden forever and must be destroyed. Similarly, if the idol of a Noahide comes into the possession of a Jew and afterward the Noahide nullifies it, his nullification is of no help at all. It is forbidden forever.

23. An Israelite cannot nullify the idol of a Noahide, even if it is in the domain of the Noahide and the latter gave the Jew permission to nullify it. Only a Noahide can nullify his own idol.

24. A minor or a fool cannot nullify an idol.

25. The nullification of an idol automatically nullifies its accessories. But if the accessories themselves were nullified, although they are permissible for use, the idol itself remains prohibited.

26. Vessels that an idolatrous priest holds in his hand, such as a goblet, an incense tray, or a flute or other musical instrument, are considered accessories and require nullification. Chochmat Adam, Laws of Idolatry, 84:12

27. If an idolatrous figure is given as collateral or sold to a Noahide or to an Israelite who does not smelt it, or if it falls onto a garbage pile and it was not hauled away or it was stolen by robbers and was not recovered, or if one spat in front of it or urinated in front of it or dragged it on the ground or threw it into excrement, the idol is still prohibited as these do not constitute nullification. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:10

28. If the worshipers abandoned an idol and it is a time of peace, it is permissible for use as a nutcracker or a paperweight or the like, because it is considered nullified. Since the owners did not take it with them, it shows that they no longer value it. But if it is a time of war, it is forbidden because they may have abandoned it only because the war time situation caused them to flee without it. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:10

29. If an idol broke in half by itself or by accident, Such as by falling onto a pavement the broken pieces are forbidden until they are nullified. Therefore, if one finds broken pieces of an idol, they are forbidden for use because it is possible its worshipers did not nullify it.

30. If the idol was made in pieces that fit together so that the average person could reassemble it, one has to nullify each separate piece. If the idol cannot be reassembled, only one piece of it needs to be nullified.

31. An idol’s altar that becomes damaged is still forbidden to use or to benefit from in any way, such as selling it, until the major portion of it has been damaged by the idolaters. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 8:12

chanoch's Commentary

This section does not have many comments. This is because most people read this section literally. Now i am suggesting you realize that the concept of an idol statue is not very acceptable in our current western society. Yet most statues and most of these laws are written for us to relate to modern idols as well not just statues and the like. What are modern idols? A rock star or sports hero or people and things like that are modern idols. Endangered Species can also be a modern idol although the work to save these animals are not idols. It is suggested that you reread section 5 with the modern idols in mind and ask the Kabbalistic questions about these Halachot.

PART SIX: Ghosts and spirits; witchcraft; divination; astrology; charmers; necromancer

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1. One who consorts with ghosts or raises spirits to know hidden things or to know the future, and does it intentionally and of his own free will, is liable for idolatry. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 6:1A Noahide is permanently warned about these matters. This means that any person of normal intellect should realize that these things are evil and forbidden without having to be told. Therefore, a claim of ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense.

2. If a person stands and burns incense and waves a myrtle branch in his hand and speaks whispered words to summon a spirit, then hears the summoned spirit speak to him, and if the spirit answers what it was asked in words that seem from below the earth in a deep voice that is not heard by the ear but felt in the thoughts; or if the practitioner takes the skull of a dead person and offers incense to it and uses arts of divination with whispers and various other rituals to the skull until he hears a low voice proceeding forth from under his armpit – all these acts come under the category of raising ghosts, and the practitioner is executed for doing them.

chanoch's Commentary

If you think that these rituals will connect you to the negative system know that it will not only connect you to the negative system but it will cause you to be a demon of the negative system. Therefore be warned and take caution not to do these rituals.

3. If a person places the bone of a certain bird or other kind of creature in his mouth and offers incense and performs other rituals until he falls to the ground like one stricken with an epileptic seizure, and if he speaks while in this trance things that will happen in the future, this is a form of idolatry and he is executed for it. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry

chanoch's Commentary

This is what happened to Bilam. There is a section in the Zohar Sulam Commentary on the Parasha Balak Section 13 that describes the death of Bilam at the hands of Tzelyah.

4. It is a matter of dispute whether a Noahide is forbidden to perform acts of witchcraft. Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 56b, commentary of the Meiri; Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:4 If the final ruling of law is according to those who forbid it the sorcerer or witch is found guilty and given the penalty of death by stoning. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, Raavad’s commentary Note: Inasmuch as such practices attach the practitioner to evil spiritual forces, they are harmful to his soul. People who claim that today there is no longer genuine witchcraft or genuine idolatry are ignorant and naive. Witchcraft as well as idol worship exist in the most complete and virulent meaning of the terms. Voodoo rites and satanic covens are flourishing today in England, the United States, Japan and throughout the rest of the world just as they did in ancient Egypt. We can even bear witness to a popular force in contemporary music where certain bands have declared themselves agents and disciples of Satan. Teenagers and adults by the millions have naively become enamored with these groups and their philosophies, which advocate sexual perversion and physical cruelty. In effect, the fans of these rock groups are disciples of disciples of the satanic forces. Even though the dark side powers “cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good (Jeremiah 10:5),” nevertheless one is well advised to avoid them, lest he give them power by acknowledging them. The protection against these evil rites and their intended results is to remember that evil as well as good comes solely from God, the Master of all forces, and He brings forth evil See Isaiah 45:7. in order to bestow free will to man so he can earn reward or punishment.

5. There is also a dispute concerning the permissibility of divination, the act of interpreting signs. Some authorities hold that it is forbidden and idolatrous, while others contend that it is permissible and even meritorious, approaching the level of prophecy, and that great and holy sages engaged in such practices. Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, 166:2

6. How does one engage in divination? For example, one might say, “Since my bread fell from my mouth or my staff fell from my hand, I will not go to a certain place today, because if I go today, my needs will not be done,” or, “Since a fox passed on my right side, I will not go out of my house today, for if I do, a sneaky individual will meet me and trick me.” Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:4

chanoch's Commentary

What if the sign happens as above and the interpretation is that i will meet a sneaky individual who will trick me so i need to be on my guard and protect myself yet i will go to meet him as an opportunity? What is your answer? What do you think the Halacha says?

7. Similarly, those who hear a bird calling and say, “It will be thus and it will not be thus,” or, “It will be good to do such or it will not be good to do such,” are engaging in divination.

8. Also, if a person proposes conditions, saying, “If thus and so happens to me, I will do thus and so, but if it does not happen to me, I will not do it,” he is performing an act of divination.

9. Everything that is similar to the foregoing is divination. But even according to the opinion that considers it forbidden, divination is not punishable by the courts.

10. Certain interpretations of signs are considered permissible by all, however. It is not wrong to say, “This house that I built has been a sign of good luck from the moment I built it,” or, “My wife has been a blessing, for from the moment I married her, I started becoming wealthy,” or, “This animal that I acquired has brought me luck, for from the moment I got it, I started becoming wealthy.” Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:5, Commentary of the Raavad 98

11. And similarly, if someone asks a child, “What verse did you learn?” if the child tells him something that indicates a blessing, and the person says, “This is a good sign,” he does no wrong.

chanoch's Commentary

Why is it that he does no wrong? Why is it not worded that he does good? The no wrong is he is reinforcing a child's action. giving the child approval. He does not do a good action since the child can not receive good until he reaches the majority age of 13 or 12 for a girl.

12. The difference of opinion occurs only when a person determines future actions by the interpretations of signs. A person who merely acknowledges a sign for something that already occurred is not practicing divination. There is another opinion that permits the interpreting of a sign to determine future action if the specific sign has proven successful three times in the past.

13. What is magic? It is engaging in exercises or disciplines that bring one to a euphoric state or that interrupt normal thought processes in order to proclaim future events. One might say, “Thus and so will happen in the future or it will not happen,” or he might say, “It is advisable to be careful of thus and so.” Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:6, Commentary of the Raavad 99

14. There are those who engage in magic who use a stone or sand, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:7, Commentary of the Raavad 100 and there are those who bend down toward the earth and spin around and emit screams. There are those who look into a brass mirror or a crystal ball, then predict the future to one who is seeking this knowledge. There are those who lift a staff in their hands and lean on it and strike it until they alter their thought processes so as to be able to speak about the future.

Note: Today, many places abound with practitioners of these rites, which include horoscope predictions, palmistry, tarot cards, phrenology, and many other similar practices. These practitioners commonly establish businesses and advertise their services freely. To partake of such practices as a client is an act of faith in powers other than God’s. What little gain might come from visiting such practitioners will certainly be more than offset by one’s separation from God through involvement with these negative influences.

15. Moreover, the use of illusion to captivate the spectators by showing them things that are not in the natural order of things, and who makes it appear to the spectators that the illusionist did a magic trick.

Note: On August 23, 1999 in Central Park, the Dalai Lama drew a crowd of 40,000 people who watched him create a painting out of colored sand of “the four-faced god with twenty-four arms who subdues violence.” He then poured the sand into a body of water where the sand’s healing powers will sweep across the earth. This is witchcraft. miraculous deed, is in the category of magic. Such actions are forbidden as they lead to actual idolatrous practices. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:9

16. Although it is forbidden to practice magic or to consult one who practices magic, the courts do not punish for the practice of magic or for consulting a practitioner of magic.104 One must be reminded that all transgression outside the jurisdiction of the courts is punished by the hand of Heaven. 17. It is forbidden to be an astrological observer of the times. What is an observer of times? It is one who gives certain times that, according to astrology, indicate that such a day is good and such a day is bad, such a day is proper to do thus and so and on such a day one should not do thus and so, or that a certain year or month is bad for certain acts such as marriage or engaging in a new career.105 18. Astrological forecasts are in a different category from using astrology to understand a person’s characteristics and natural tendencies, the latter being a permissible practice. 19. Observing times is forbidden even if the observer of times does not perform any action but merely conveys falsehoods to gullible people and convinces them that these are words of truth and contain wisdom. All who conduct themselves and their activities because of astrological forecasts, working at a certain time or traveling at a certain time determined by the astrologers, transgress the law, but the courts do not punish for this.106 20. What is a charmer? It is one who speaks words that are not of the language of people and that make no sense. None of the vulgar sounds or words or names spoken by the charmer contain the power to cause harm, nor do they do any good. But gullible people accept such things to the point where they will believe a charmer when he says, “If you are confronted by danger and will say thus and so, no harm can befall you.” or, “If a person has thus and so said to him, he is protected from harm.”107 21. The charmer might hold a key or a stone or any object while he says his nonsensical things. Anything similar to this is in the category of dealing in charms, and both the charmer and the one subjecting himself to the charmer transgress the law, but neither are punished by the courts. 22. If a person was bitten by a poisonous snake or stung by a scorpion, he is permitted to whisper any kind of spell he chooses over the place of the wound if he thinks it will help. This is allowed so the person, who is in mortal danger, can put his mind at ease and take courage. And even though what he says will certainly not help at all, since he is in danger he is allowed to do it to avoid panicking.108 23. One who whispers spells over another’s wound or reads verses from the Torah over someone who is sick or dying, or similarly one who reads verses over a child to prevent the child from becoming fearful, is worse than one who is in the category of a diviner or a charmer, because by using the Holy Scriptures like this to cure the body, he denies the truth of the Torah, which comes as a cure for the soul. But if one studies appropriate parts of the Torah or reads Psalms in order that the merit of reading them should protect him and save him from danger and harm, this is permissible.109 It is certainly best to pray to God for protection and healing of every kind. 24. What is a necromancer? This is one who starves himself and sleeps overnight in a cemetery in order to bring the dead to him in a dream to inform him of something.110 25. There are also those who wear special kinds of clothing and speak incantations and offer incense and sleep alone in order to bring a specific dead person to come and speak to them in a dream. 26. In general, all who do various rites in order to summon the dead so as to learn information are in the category of necromancers and they transgress the law, but they are not punished by the courts for it. 27. It is forbidden to consult one who raises ghosts or spirits, because these practitioners are liable to the death penalty. One who consults with these practitioners but does not do the rituals himself is not punished by the courts.111 28. One who does not practice real witchcraft but merely uses sleight of hand or other illusions to fool onlookers transgresses the law but is not punished by the courts for it. It is, however, a serious matter, as such illusions are found in true witchcraft.112 Note: Witchcraft is definitely not a meaningless illusion. If it were, why would one performing it be subject to the death penalty? It is not unusual in our generation to find people who consider themselves “white witches,” meaning that they do not use powers to perform any acts of evil or destruction, but use their knowledge to aid and benefit people. Nevertheless, the fact that they are dabbling in the use of “powers” places them squarely in the realm of serving forces other than G-d. 29. The foregoing are acts of deception and are false things, and through them the idolater deceives the people of the world in order to gain a following. Without a single exception, the numerous cults, pseudo-religions, false messiahs, and demigods that are prevalent in the world today employ idolatrous practices to achieve spiritual power. Like the false prophets, they use spiritual threats to support their promises of salvation. Those who take refuge in these deceivers and find goodness in them should take warning: evil rarely announces itself as evil, otherwise people would avoid it. Evil announces itself as good and mixes truth and goodness with its destructive falsehood. Herein lays its deceptive power. But those who are wise and possess true knowledge know by clear proof that these idolatrous practices are empty and without value. Those who are drawn to such things lack understanding and depart from the way of truth.113 Because of this, the Torah instructs everyone concerning these foolish vanities, “Be wholehearted with the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 18:13).” This means that people should put their trust in God Who took the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and know that everything that comes from Him and that He is good and the nature of good is to do good.114 —————————————————————— 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 . 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 103 104 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:7 105 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:8. Horoscope readings found in many daily newspapers are examples of this form of practice. 106 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:9 107 This is the Rambam’s ruling. Others maintain that some similar practices are permissible, such as wearing a red or white string around one’s wrist to protect from an evil eye or subduing a vicious dog by reciting the verse, “But against any of the Children of Israel no dog shall whet its tongue (Exodus 11:7).” 108 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:11 109 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry Ibid., 11:12. There is a practice prevalent today to randomly open a book written by a holy teacher in order to receive a blessing or get answers to questions. This is definitely divination. The Baal Shem Tov called such practices “treating the Torah like a game.” He uses the same word (keri) as nocturnal emission or spilling one’s seed. 101 110 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:13 111 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:14 112 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:15 113 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 11:16 114 Deut. 18:13, commentary of the Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel ben Meir)