by Shelomo Alfassa
In New York City, we have both Ashkenazi and Sephardi 'rabbis' who come from Israel to provide 'blessings' to those who visit them. These rabbis also read palms; claim to be able to tell people when they will be married; advise people if they are infected with 'ayin harah' (the evil eye); promise businessmen they will reap great rewards; advise people about their past lives; and advise people on their future. The events that take place in the privacy of these sessions between the rabbi and his unsuspecting victim often fall under the rubric of Practical Kabbalah.
The people who come to have their fate told and who provide a donation to the rabbi (or his yeshiva, camp or kollel), have no idea that: 1) many times these people are not great Torah scholars or even rabbis; and, 2) they are going against Jewish law by visiting with these men. This paper strives to advise people, male and female, that these charlatans are nothing more than fakes. It is the hope of the author that Jews will read and share this paper, written with a Torah-grounded intellectual (not emotional) approach, to learn for themselves, that they are being taken advantage of by visiting with these pseudo-rabbis.
The author would like the reader to know that by participating with these people, that they are being taken advantage of, and are unintentionally conducting themselves in a way that is not in line with the Torah and goes against the desires of the Almighty.
True mekubalim (kabbalists) through the ages have condemned the practice of 'selling' spiritual remedies. This includes such great rabbis as Hakham Yishak Kaduri (1899-2006) and Hakham Yisrael Abuhatzeira (the Baba Sali 1890-1984), who never sought monetary reward for any advice, discussions or prayers with a person. These men strove to hold by every word (usually in the strictest manner) of the Shulhan Aruh (Code of Jewish Law). Therefore, anyone who seeks monetary gain through hocus pocus, which the Shulhan Aruh says does not affect the Jewish people--is by all means a charlatan.
The following is taken from "Faith and Folly" by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel:
How can we see through a charlatan?
* Stop and think. How could anyone today reach the level of Yeshayahu and Yirmeyahu, when it is so difficult even to achieve the degree of Divine inspiration possible in our times? How could anyone skip the steps and suddenly jump from the bottom of the ladder to the top, so that he knows the future and performs miracles?
The truth about these miracle workers must be that they are using one of three things: deception, the forces of impurity, or Practical Kabbalah.
As for us, Heaven is testing us to see whether we cleave to G-d in perfect faith; and our redemption depends on our passing the test.
* Beware of anyone who asks for money.
It is not fitting for one to whom G-d has given a share in Kabbalah to accept any benefit from man. Unbearably heavy is the sin of those who use Practical Kabbalah to frighten people into giving them handsome gifts. [Zecher David, ma'amar 1, perek 59, 151a]
* Beware of anyone who acts with familiarity toward women outside his immediate family. Unfortunately, there are charlatans who take advantage of the despair and confusion of suffering women who turn to them for help.