Letters Aug 2006 II



Is it not an internal contradiction to “support” historical credibility from Jewish texts, with another text? I mean, if a “single” historical document (Torah) or artifact is viewed as insufficient evidence alone, how can that same corrupt, “singular” nature of another source add any credibility? That second source is equally deficient as the first...and so on ad infinitum. Is it not truly the mass acceptance - even from a singular source - and universal transmission/acceptance of histories where masses were present, which truly convince the mind of a historical truth? If so, we need not look outside a nation’s documents, since mass transmission of witnessed events is 100% proof that no other history is true. 


Moshe Ben-Chaim




“Shelo LaChavor Chaver: the prohibition against employing charms:

[That] We were restricted not to make incantations about any matter. In substance, this refers to a man who will say words, then tell people that those words helped or caused harm in any particular matter. About this it is stated, “There shall not be found among you...a charmer (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).” In the language of the Midrash Sifre: It is all the same thing, whether a person casts a charm on a snake or casts a charm on a scorpion — in other words, he says words over them so that they won’t bite him, according to his opinion. So too if one says words over a wound in order to be relieved of the pain (i.e. recites a pasuk to cure a wound).

Now perhaps, my son, you might pose a question to me from what we read in the Talmud Shevuos 15b: The Psalm against evil occurrences is with lutes and lyres (Psalms 91), and then he says Psalm 3. In other words, the recital of these Psalms is of use to provide protection from harm. And it says in tractate Brachos 3a: R. Joshua b. Levi would say these verses and go to bed.

However, this matter is not similar (perish the thought) to the business of a charmer that we mentioned. Long ago, the Sages of blessed memory said in this regard (Shevuos 15b): It is forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah. Yet they mentioned to say these Psalms, since they contain words that inspire the soul that knows them to shelter in the Eternal Lord, place all his trust in Him, establish a reverent fear of Him firmly in his heart, and rely on His kindness and goodness. As a result of his awareness about this, he will be protected, without any doubt from every harm. This is what was answered in the Talmud in this regard. For it was asked there, but how could R. Joshua do this? Here R. Joshua said it was forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah! And the reply was given: To secure protection, it is a different matter. In other words, the Torah did not forbid a man to say words of Torah so as to arouse his soul in a good direction, so that this merit should shield him to protect him.”

Sefer Chinuch, Mitzva 512, translated by Jessie Fischbein

Translator’s message: Note that recitation without understanding cannot possibly be considered something that helps a person focus on the concepts of bitachon, fear of Hashem, and reliance on His kindness. a person’s merit protects him, not the words of Psalms. He gains merit when he ponders the words of Psalms and they become real to him, not when he recites them without understanding them)