Moshe Ben-Chaim



In proving that Noachides are prohibited from practicing witchcraft in addition to their other commands, Talmud Sanhedrin (59b-60a) cites Rabbi Shimon citing two Torah verses: “A witch, one shall not let live. All who lie [perform sexual activities] with animals must certainly be killed”. (Exod. 22:17,18) The derivation is that since the two verses form a single section (parsha) in the Torah, the two commands must be linked. That link being that since a Noachide is prohibited in sexual deviations, and this verse immediately follows the prohibition to perform witchcraft, therefore, the Noachide is also prohibited in witchcraft. Connected verses in the Torah provide lessons. This makes sense. But we wonder at these two verses. What commonality exists between witchcraft and bestiality, as opposed to others sexual violations? And why is it specifically witchcraft that God chooses to link to bestiality, as opposed to fortunetellers, superstitions, idolatry and all other false, idolatrous beliefs?


The Medrash states that Adam had intercourse with all the animals, but “Adam could not find a mate”. (Gen. 2:20) Of course this is not literal. But what is the lesson? God as well said, “It is not good that man is alone”. (ibid 18) What did God mean?

The Medrash teaches that man sought a partner. However, man’s partner is not simply one that gratifies sexual needs. That is why Adam was dissatisfied with the animals. He didn’t literally have intercourse with all animals: this is impossible. But it means to say that Adam recognized an essential component was missing in the animal kingdom. That component was the psychological identification with another. Animals do not possess a Tzelem Elokim – a soul. This is necessary for man’s attachment to, and enjoyment with his partner.

What does this teach us about one who performs bestiality? It is clear: one desires the sexual gratification alone, without the element of identification, companionship or procreation. Such a deviant seeks to pleasure himself, and no one else. He is abnormal, as he does not seek a union with another human being. The self is the focus. It is all about “me”. Part of the sexual act is man’s appeal to pleasure his partner. This satisfies man psychologically, and it is a healthy emotion. But this deviant has only himself as his sole focus. Bestiality is thereby different than all other sexual deviations, as all others include two human partners. The sexual act is not limited to one person. Let us now understand witchcraft.


What exactly is witchcraft, and how does it differ from all other idolatrous practices? Well, in the base act of idolatry, one assumes a powerless object (stone, metal, animals, etc.) to possess powers. The idolater prays or serves the idol, awaiting a positive result. A necromancer assumes he or she has contact with the dead, but it is the dead person who offers power or knowledge. The same is true of fortunetellers: they say that certain times or fortuitous. And those who follow superstitions assume objects or events to be causal, when in fact they are unrelated to the anticipated outcome. Molech is also an assumed power outside the self. In all these cases, one assumes powers to exist. But the witch is different. The witch or warlock boasts powers to be possessed by them. As a witch or warlock, “I” claim to be the cause of future events. “I” possess powers to alter nature.


We now see the unique parallel that exists between bestiality, and witchcraft. In both cases, the “me” is the focus. In bestiality, the deviant sees only the self. He or she seeks gratification for the self, and no other. Witches and warlocks as well live a life where their sense of reality is centered on whatever they fantasize to be true. In both cases, the deviant person suffers from an egomania, in which, he or she creates a reality around their sensual and psychological needs, and assumes this is their objective, and real human existence. They do not examine true reality to determine what is truth. Their sole focus is dictated by the unobscured value on the self, over all else. And when someone lives a life where reality is dictated by ego, God is mutually excluded to a severe degree. So focused on the self are these two personalities, that their lives are no longer justified. Both must be killed. And they are not killed for idolatrous or sexual violations per se, but for the corruption of the soul that is generated by such an attachment to the self. I thank my brother Brett for this keen insight today.


Maimonides teaches that one must seek a life where one is equidistant from both poles in all emotional spectrums. One must not be greedy, or a spendthrift…but generous to a point. One must not be a glutton or fast at all times, but enjoy food moderately, and when in need. But when it comes to ego, Maimonides teaches that one must never cave into that emotion, but always refrain and be humble. Maimonides teaches that the ego plays no role in our serving God. One who follows the ego to this degree is not living as God desires, and opposes the purpose of human life, where we are to recognize God, and not the self.

This insight, I find most unique, for it further defines two prohibitions in the categories of idolatry and sexual prohibitions, normally viewed as just other deviations of the ‘same kind’. It unveils a new facet of human nature. And with this recognition, we may now detect other Torah violations committed because we tend to view the “me” as the sole authority. Of course, falling pray to the “me emotion” is not always met with death. Or maybe, it is…


This week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert freed 441 prisoners. And as DEBKAfile REPORTED, “Overriding IDF and Shin Bet objections, Olmert approves arming Palestinian West Bank forces with 50 Russian APCs, 1000 rifles and 2 million bullets.” (Nov. 21)

Whether the freed prisoners had blood on their hands or not will not save the potential victims these enemies might kill. Following his own views, Olmert endangers Israel and Israelis. Had he followed God’s teachings, he would not seek the world’s accolades, but he would succumb to Torah counsel: absolute truths authored by the Creator. Unfortunately, Israel continues its self-destructive path, ignoring God, when we have so many proven, historical cases where God defended us when we followed Him. Chanukah is around the corner, and all that is recalled are the pretty lights, and not the crucial lesson of upholding Torah and fighting wars based on God’s rules. Those brave Jews did not rely on miracles, nor should we. But we should be convinced of what our history teaches: without Torah, our lives are meaningless. Olmert too sadly carries on a distortion of this lesson, as he – without Torah – also proves Israeli lives are meaningless to him. Ironically, if Olmert seeks world approval, he should lead his country based on integrity, and the only true morality: that defined by God. Without God’s teachings, man simply follows his subjective feelings of morality, which must be wrong, and the greater his position, the greater the harm he inflicts.

Human morality breeds mortality. Israeli history has proven this sufficiently.

Anti-Semitism will only find renewed strength in knowing that our homicidal enemies are rewarded with freedom. King David was a leader and warrior led by God’s lessons, not his ego. His calculations and military tactics proved successful, since he followed Torah, truth, and not fantasy. Today, Israel sorely needs a leader led only by his security in the truth of Jewish history and God’s word.

When leaders live by the “me” emotion, they are telling you that “you” are not important.