Letters Dec. 2007
Reader: I need your help with this. You did talk about the subject of Rabbis teachings and students and having the correct idea. But this one blew me away yesterday. My 8 year old came home with an extra credit assignment from his Rebbe asking him to please write down in Ivrit of a nes, miracle, that happened to him. Luckily, my son is not very interested in extra work, so he chose not to do it. What if this were an assignment that was mandatory? How do I handle it with the Rebbe and what would I tell my son in terms a child can understand.
Mesora: The response is that man cannot know if a miracle occured...unless it violates natural law. But escaping a near car accident or the like...may, or may not be God's actions. We cannot know for sure, since it could just be nature.
When God wanted Pharaoh to know HIS hand made the miracles, He created something unnatural. God doesn't want us to be in doubt when He makes miracles. Chanukah is a perfect example: He created the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days to teach that the military success was via miracle.
Reader: So as far as I can see, transmigration of souls (gilgul or reincarnation) is "part" of Judaism, since its glorious times in Europe. Do you deny this is part of Judaism? So, what about what is written in the Talmud, like Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, a contemporary of Josephus, who alludes to the practise of exorcism by saying: "Has an evil spirit never entered into you? Have you never seen a person into whom an evil spirit had entered? What should be done with one so affected? Take roots of herbs, burn them under him, and surround him with water, whereupon the spirit will flee." (Pesik, ed. Buber, 40a) And also Rabbi Akiva (d. 132), in speaking of diseases, uses the technical terms of exorcism. ('Avodah Zarah 55b).
And of course, a Rabbi drove out the demon called Ben Temalion from the daughter of a Roman emperor?
How do you explain the seemingly belief of the Rabbis in those Dibbukim rites?
Mesora: Saadia Gaon spoke harshly against transmigration of souls. Please look up that term on our website for my response. We explained that this belief violates Torah fundamentals of each person living their own life, and not paying the price for a "previous" soul's errors. Regarding exorcism, Torah fundamentals reject the fact that anything but man's free will cause him to act. Such beliefs are baseless and violate Torah principles.
Moses also told the people that they might choose life or death...death being a terminal result. Now, if death is final, reincarnation was not Moses' belief...and God endorsed Moses' words, by recording them in the Torah. Moses did not say one's soul has another chance.
When you will find conflicting opinions, what do you do: follow what you see in print? But opposing ideas are written! The authoritative sources must be accepted, and other opposing views rejected. Certainly, when reason tells us that it is unjust for the Creator to poison one alive today, with the sins of one who died. Why should an innocent person today pay for the sins of an evildoer? "Each man in his own sins shall be killed" is also a Torah verse. Torah verses must be your starting point. Do not be troubled that great reputations in history argue on Torah, for no reputation competes with Moses.
Additionally, and think about this: there can be no "physical" evidence of "metaphysical" occurrences of this type. One does not "see" a spirit entering another person. One only sees a person acting deviantly. Therefore, all Talmudic cases of demons must refer to one's unruly instincts, or psychological diseases. Perhaps the treatment of "roots of herbs" you cite, mean to say that pleasant odors will ease the troubld person. The Rabbis also teach that whomever is depressed, should cure himself by walking in the park. Visual pleasantries ease the heart and soul.