web analytics
August 3, 2015 / 18 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Amulets


Silver - Persia, 19th century.

Silver - Persia, 19th century.

‘The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious’ – Albert Einstein

 

Cut out parchment - Ukraine, 19th century.

Cut out parchment – Ukraine, 19th century.

In this article we will deal with kamayot or amulets, significant items in the collection of Judaica.  (A more comprehensive delving into this fascinating subject can be found in my introductory text to our exhibition catalogue on Jewish Amulets.)

From the earliest period of human development, man has recognized the existence of hidden powers at play in the world, powers that can influence the events of his life for better or worse. In his lack of control and resultant fear of virtually everything happening around him, he fashioned a variety of idols and images to which he might pray for deliverance. With the giving of the Torah, life became meaningful, and he could now find answers to his problems within the sacred text.

Silver gilt. Italy 18th century.

Silver gilt. Italy 18th century.

The Torah attempts to explain that the vicissitudes of life are “ordained by G-d,” and that all natural phenomena in the universe belong to the Creation as described in Genesis. Therefore, the yearning for solutions and answers to all the inexplicable and mysterious events surrounding us, as well as to our daily problems, may be channeled and addressed to the G-d of Moses and the patriarchs. The formulation of such supplications has been the domain of individuals, known as mekubalim, versed in composing special prayers for redemption, healing and salvation.

While the Torah categorically forbids the practice of magic and sorcery, the type of magic that utilizes the many mystical Names of G-d is permitted. Despite the fact that some Talmudic authorities condemned the use of the names of demons, Rabi Eliezer of Metz held that quoting the names of demons is not very different from quoting the names of angels. Thus, the practice of writing amulets that include the holy Names of G-d and the multitudes of angels and demons has existed for millennia. During the early medieval period, Kabbalah was co-opted in the formulation of amuletic texts, particularly in the so-called “Ilanot Katanot” – small trees. However, a distinction was made between the deeply spiritual Kabbalah (Kabbalah Iyyunit) that investigated the infinite G-d of the Torah and the practical Kabbalah (Kabbalah Ma’asit), in which the principles and accoutrements of Kabbalah were applied to amulet texts and procedures aimed at influencing life in the material world.

During the Talmudic period (ca. mid 1st to late 5th centuries) the use of amulets was often discussed, and the Sages concluded that if the amulets were intended to cure and remedy personal problems, their use was permitted. In medieval times the use of amulets was so widespread that the subject frequently came up in rabbinical responsa.

Gilt silver, North Africa, 19th century.

Gilt silver, North Africa, 19th century.

Rav Moshe Isserles, the Rama, explains the use of names in magic as follows: “From G-d comes the power to invoke heavenly princes by means of the holy names.” Rav Moshe Zacuto, the Ramaz (1625-1697), in his Shoreshei Hashemot (Roots of the Names) quotes over 2,000 magical names. According to kabbalists, the Torah itself is an elaboration on G-d’s various Names. Ramban, in the 13th century, stated the matter clearly when he declared that “the whole Torah is composed of G-d’s Names.” The first edition of the Zohar in 1290 was also a great impetus towards the formulation of magical amulets. The mystical dimension of Judaism and the emotional and spiritual language of amulet texts had deep roots in kabbalistic mysticism.

About the Author: Romanian-born Peter Ehrenthal came to the States in 1957. He and his son have owned one of the finest Judaica galleries in the world since 1973.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Amulets”

  1. Any magic is wrong, from horoscopes, to readings, and Pokemon.

  2. It is still forbidden

  3. Vicki Spaan says:

    Israel has my heart. Keep up the good work (all branches of Israel Defense Forces). You have The Lord God Almighty on your side. You are guaranteed to win. I am praying unceasingly for each of you in IDF and Israel. I am praying for the families of the fallen heroes. May their memories be a blessing. I am also praying for the sick and injured people of the Israel Defense Forces. I support Israel’s right to defend herself. … Thank you, US Congress, for caring about Israel and giving them a last minute infusion of $225 million for the Iron-Drone anti-missile system on 8-1-14. I also support Prime Minister Netanyahu. Most importantly I am praying for Peace in Jerusalem!

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Rouhani: Iran Has Right to Enrich Uranium Under Nuclear Deal
Latest Sections Stories

We studied his seforim together, we listened to famous cantorial masters and we spoke of his illustrious yichus, his pedigree, dating back to the famous commentator, Rashi.

Singer-Saul-Jay-logo-NEW

Jews who were considered, but not ultimately selected, include Woody Allen, Saul Bellow, David Ben-Gurion, Marc Chagall, Anne Frank, and Barbra Streisand.

Personally I wish that I had a mother like my wife.

What’s the difference between the first and second ten-year-old?

What makes this diary so historically significant is that it is not just the private memoir of Dr. Seidman. Rather, it is a reflection of the suffering of Klal Yisrael at that time.

Rabbi Lau is a world class speaker. When he relates stories, even concentration camp stories, the audience is mesmerized. As we would soon discover, he is in the movie as well.

Each essay, some adapted from lectures Furst prepared for live audiences, begins with several basic questions around a key topic.

For the last several years, four Jewish schools in the Baltimore Jewish community have been expelling students who have not received their vaccinations.

“We can’t wait for session II to begin” said camp director Mrs. Judy Neufeld.

More Articles from Peter Ehrenthal
Silver - Persia, 19th century.

While the Torah categorically forbids the practice of magic and sorcery, the type of magic that utilizes the many mystical

Chanukah lamp, Russia 19th century (2)

Synagogue ritual art is also abundant but for various reasons not usually collected.

A new generation of Sabra artists have come to the fore, creating imaginative and attractive pieces of arts.

The highlight of the auction was a superb and extremely rare ram-shaped silver spice container (very similar to the one in the Kiev Jewish Museum, and probably by the same maker) which brought $36,000.

Collecting Jewish antiques entails a bit of dedication as well, as there are many different categories of art that we have to deal with.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/amulets/2014/08/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: