23 Shevat 5767, Feb. 11, 2007

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Nullifying Kishufim
By HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok. Copyright (C) 2007 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.

A very interesting story about witchcraft is related in the Gemara (Shabat 81b). 

Rav Hisda and Rabah bar Rav Huna are traveling on a boat when they are approached by a woman who wishes to be seated near them.  Sensing something wrong, the two Sages refuse.  In response, the woman utters something under her breath and suddenly the boats stops, unable to move forward.  The Sages aware of the subtle power unleashed here unleash a force of their own.  Together they say a word and the ship suddenly moves again, the power of the woman was broken.  The Sages were faced by a witch using witchcraft and they responded by neutralizing her powers by using a holy Name emanating from the Torah.

While the Gemara does not reveal to us what this special holy Name is, one of our later Sages, the Ba’al Shem Tov (SBST, Mishpatim 5) did.  In a moment I will reveal the Name, yet prior to doing so, it is important that we fist understand some essential aspects about witchcraft and about holy Names.

First and foremost, we must understand that our Sages not only believed that the powers of witchcraft were (and are) real, they were also very much well educated in ways of Torah that can be used to neutralize it.  Our Sages were well versed in the  ways and means of both natural and supernatural laws; they were well versed and experienced in interacting with inter-dimensional beings and forces that can be unleashed from within the hidden recesses of the human mind. 

This knowledge is nothing new.  Even in Biblical times, the Torah speaks of Bilaam who had the power to curse the nation of Israel.  Now, a curse is far more than just a bad wish one projects onto another.  A curse has an actual power to it that can create the negative results solicited.  It was for this reason that HaShem Himself intervened and sent His Angel to prevent Bilaam from unleashing this very real and negative power.

Other Biblical examples abound.  Therefore, anyone who claims to truly accept and follow Torah must acknowledge the reality and danger of these powers.  Although some later Sages were of the opinion that witchcraft was nothing more than a form of trickery, most other Sages were not so simplistic. 

Today, most Rabbis follow in the philosophical footsteps of the rationalist school of Eastern Europe and therefore dismiss and distain anything mystical or mysterious.  Not only do these Rabbis dismiss witchcraft as having any significance, they have gone so far as to dismiss the value and legitimacy of Torah mysticism, the Kabbalah.  Unfortunately this self-imposed ignorance has created a large number of Rabbis who cannot understand or deal with spiritual matters or threats, so much unlike our Sages of old, who were very much experts in this field.

Although a large number of Rabbis today are unaware of the dangers posed by alternate spiritual realities, not all our modern day Sages share this ignorance.  Those well trained in the ways of the original Hasidim and in the ways of the old Sephardic schools have maintained the ancient knowledge and use it today with the same efficiency and success as was in ancient times.

A detailed exposition about how witchcraft and other spiritual forces actually operate in a technological and psychological way is far beyond what I can present in this limited essay.  Suffice it to say that these powers exist and that they definitely pose a serious threat and danger to us all; and let us not forget that our holy Torah includes within it all we need to know and do about how to combat and neutralize these malevolent forces.

In Pirkei Avot (5:25), the Sage Ben Bag Bag says with regards to the Torah, “Turn it over again and again for everything is in it.”  Torah was never meant to be delegated exclusively to the realm of religion and philosophy.  Torah was meant to be studied and exposed as being a guide to science and technology, including all the laws of the physics of the natural, supernatural and the inner workings of the human mind.

There are numerous forces at work in our natural universe of which modern science only knows of a few.  Every generation modern science becomes more aware of the subtle forces in which we live.  More and more modern science is beginning to sound like ancient mysticism.  In the not-to-distant future, I predict the two paths, the ancient and the future will intersect and merge, bringing upon us a new dawn of civilization.  After all, this was always the purpose of Torah since the beginning. 

Therefore, within Torah there have always existed multiple layers of knowledge just waiting to be discovered and explored.  Many of our Sages of old were very well aware of these depths of Torah, yet were bound by oaths of secrecy to conceal this knowledge until such a time when it could be revealed safely, and then only to those select individuals who could handle it.  In every generation there have been Sages well versed in this secret knowledge.  It is they who were (and are) very much on the forefront of combating evil in their communities, especially when that evil is disseminating through the forces of witchcraft and the occult.  As Solomon long ago said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Kohelet 1:9).

Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, better known as the Ba’al Shem Tov was one of the last of the European Sages to be a master of this ancient knowledge.  In his day, he fought long and hard against significant malevolent forces and worked hard to bring the secrets of the Torah to the masses in a way and format that the majority could understand and embrace.  This was his mission and the true underlying purpose of the original Hasidic teachings. 

We cannot at this time delve into Hasidic history to discuss how most of the schools have lost their original connection to this sacred knowledge.  Suffice it for now to know that while most today are unaware of the ancient teachings, this does not mean that they have become lost.  The teachings are still available, however due to the great influence of the rationalist school even most modern Hasidim are unlearned in this sacred field and are thus most unqualified to deal with spiritual issues. 

Although lost to the majority, the teachings are still well preserved by the minority, and this group transcends all borders of ethnicity, language and culture.  True Sages still reside amongst the Jewish people, and their identities, like their powers remain a well-guarded secret.

With all this being said, and the forces of evil being what they are, we can now discuss one of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov and learn his comments on the above story related in the Gemara about how witchcraft is confronted using a holy Name from the Torah. 

The Ba’al Shem Tov comments that the Torah verse itself that condemns one who practices witchcraft to death contains the secret Name that when used properly can neutralize the witchcraft itself.  The Torah (Ex. 22:17) states, “M’kha’shefa Lo T’hayeh” (a witch shall not live).  One who knows how to recite this verse with the proper intent, devotion and meditations shall break the powers of witchcraft. 

Regardless of the doubts of skeptics, witchcraft does pose a serious threat to all today and its powers have been unleashed upon the masses from sources best left unmentioned.  Nonetheless, in order to provide spiritual protection for those who seek it, I will now discuss in brief how from this verse can be extracted a powerful holy Name that when used properly and combined with a lifestyle of holiness and health can protect one from even the most malevolent of spiritual forces.

The initial letters (Reshei Tevot) of the three words of this verse are Mem, Lamed and Tav.  These three letters combine to form a holy Name, pronounced with the vowels as they appear in the verse itself; shva, holam, shva.  When this Name is combined with the Name Havaya (YKVK) written with the vowels of “pituhei hotam,” we have a seven-letter combination that can be meditated upon and projected upon a source of evil, the results being the nullification of that evil.

This then was the secret of the Ba’al Shem Tov.  He was master at discovering and using these holy forces of Torah knowledge to combat ignorance and evil.  He taught his students well and his teachings survive to this day and are available to all who wish to study them in the original Hebrew.  The Ba’al Shem Tov is only one of many who have distributed this sacred knowledge.  Other Sages today still invoke Heavenly powers and are active in protecting the masses.  Yet, regardless of whom they are or what they do, we too can participate in this holy work, even as the Ba’al Shem Tov taught the masses to do.

The Ba’al Shem Tov taught us about the powers of the human mind.  While we cannot create physical reality around us, we can indeed control our perceptions of it within ourselves.  The great power to overcome any malevolent influence already resides within us.  HaShem has given to each of us this latent power.  All we need is the knowledge of Torah to enable us to recognize it. 

A holy Name is not magic, neither for that matter is witchcraft.  In reality, there is no such thing as magic.  All there is are technologies of the mind unknown to most people.  These forces are and have been known for millennia to those who wish to manipulate others and to those who wish to protect others from such manipulations.  One who learns the disciplines and inner workings of the mind will realize these latent powers.  One of good character will use these innate human powers for good, others of lesser character will use these powers for selfish gains; this is evil.

The Ba’al Shem Tov therefore taught the importance of good character and how by trusting in HaShem with childlike simplicity one can tap these inner powers of the mind and thus enable them to protect one from any outside source of unconscious influence.  Therefore, the simple initial letters of a verse when combined with HaShem’s holy Name should be enough of a reminder to anyone that HaShem is in charge and that He has the power to nullify any force of evil.

Reciting the Name or the letters is not the way this spiritual technology works.  This is why we do not provide a formula, a prayer or an invocation.  Nullifying influences upon the mind is performed by a simple mental exercise; verbal recitations have little or no power in this regards.  What you think matters most.  What you say matters little.

The power of the Torah is so profound; it takes us into the inner most recess of the mind and at the same time enables us to explore the most outer limits of all reality.  One who learns these lessons well will have embraced the essence of all the secrets of the Torah regardless of their forms within the teachings of the Kabbalah or Hasidut.
Shalom, Ariel Bar Tzadok

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