Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Limitations of Black Magic

By: Rabbi Eliyahu Haim Aboud

Probably the greatest sorcerer of all time was the evil prophet Bilaam, who, as the Torah relates, attempted to place a curse on the Jewish people and have them annihilated. The commentaries explain [Ramban in Parashat Balak chapter 22:31] that Bilaam’s extraordinary powers stemmed from his mastery of sorcery and black magic, and not from his abilities as a prophet. In fact, he was not worthy of prophecy at all, and was given prophetic capabilities only for a very brief period. This is why in the Prophets he is referred to as “Bilaam Hakosem–Bilaam the Sorcerer,” with no mention of his prophetic status. According to the Midrash  Bilaam and his two sons were originally the most prestigious advisors and sorcerers of Pharaoh during the period of Bene Yisrael’s enslavement. And many other stories abound of ancient nations who enlisted Bilaam to reveal to them the outcome of their battles and to help them win through his extraordinary mystical powers.

Bilaam acquired his great powers of sorcery directly from the evil angels Aza and Azael. Bilaam visited these two angels every day until he learned all the mystical secrets they knew.

Some sources identify Bilaam with Lavan, Yaakov’s crooked father-in-law, who sought to destroy Yaakov and prevent the emergence of the Jewish people. According to this tradition, Bilaam lived well over 300 years.

Bilaam was killed by Bene Yisrael during the battle of Midyan prior to their entering the land of Israel. The Midrash relates that when the Jews captured Bilaam, he used sorcery to raise himself and the five kings of Midyan high in the air and disappear from sight. (Though the powers of impurity can only be summoned while standing on the ground, once the sorcery is initiated, the subject could use the powers to levitate off the ground for a period of time.) Pinhas, the grandson of Aharon, flew after him by uttering the divine name or, according to others, by directing the name of Hashem written on the tzitz (frontlet) of the kohen gadol towards the airborne Midyanites counteracting Bilaam’s powers of magic. Bilaam and the kings immediately fell to the ground and were then easily killed by Bene Yisrael. Bilaam’s decaying body and tarnished soul transformed into evil spirits, snakes and scorpions, the result of the impurity with which they had been saturated during his lifetime.

Limited Time Span
The commentaries add that objects created by the powers of sorcery cannot remain in existence permanently. These creations can exist for only limited periods of time, after which the laws of nature take hold and return them to their original state. This is why the frogs that descended upon Egypt during the second plague remained in the Nile River after the plague, and did not just disappear. Gd demonstrated to Pharaoh and the Egyptians that His creations can exist indefinitely, as opposed to the creations of magic, which are only temporary.

Sorcery is also subject to limited accessibility. The Zohar writes that the forces of impurity are unable to perform magic from hassot (midnight) at night until midday, whereas Hashem, of course, can overturn the natural order he created anytime He wishes.

Additionally, someone born during the month of Adar II, on a leap year, cannot be affected by magic. This is because he is born in a month which doesn’t have a specific mazal and “doesn’t really exist”. Therefore the magicians have no way of dealing with him. In this vein, when Yehoshua gathered an army to fight Amalek, who came to fight Beneh Yisrael using witchcraft, he purposely chose people who were born in Adar II, to whom these forces take no affect.

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Leah said...

Very interesting.I will let my son read this- he has always asked me about this.....thanks!

Devorah said...

Leah, I deleted that other post so couldn't reply to your question about Rabbi Glazerson and the moon.... but the answer is that I haven't found anything about this except for the L.A.Marzulli video.
If Rabbi G. makes a video, I'll post it on the blog.