Ask Ketzirah: Response to an Orthodox Woman
I got an email from a woman who identified herself as Orthodox. When I sent a response, the email bounced back as invalid. As she use the contact form on my website, it means she most likely typed her address in wrong. I wouldn’t normally post this response publicly, but as there is nothing to identify her I don’t feel like I’m violating her privacy. Plus, this is the only way I can respond to her now.
I come here wondering if Jewitchery would be a means to adding to my spirituality as Orthodox Judaism seems to have killed it somehow. I was always drawn to certain things like crystals, spells, incense–things that people in the OJ community would find ‘strange.’ My basic question is if Jewitchery clashes with traditional Judaism? Do Jewiches fast all the fasts, keep kosher, keep the sabbath as orthodoxy prescribes or how does it differ?
I am not Orthodox, so I can’t say if Jewish magick clashes with Orthodox Judaism. I don’t think it does or it has to, but it depends on your community and their openness to anything “different.” Your observance of traditional Judaism is entirely up to you. Jewitch does not infer any level of traditional practice nor prevent anyone from keeping religious obligations. It is important for you to know that many people who call themselves Jewitches, are actually Wiccan – but were raised Jewish. I have no problem with that, but I think it’s important to understand the range of people you might encounter. I have studied with Wiccan teachers — but I am Jewish and my practice is Jewish, although not Orthodox.
Up until the 20th century Judaism was a much more magickal religion than it is today. While scholars like Maimonides always discounted the magickal and mystical, it was common practice for most people – it’s just been discounted as “superstition” now. I know that I’ve spoken to traditional Rabbis (reform or conservative) about my understanding of magick, and they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I find it’s often the words we have available to us. If you use “witch” — it will not go over well. If you use “magick” — it will either confuse people or you will be told it’s forbidden. But in both cases those are simplistic answers.
For someone who is orthodox, I would recommend starting with traditional sources like the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. His stories are encoded mystical/magickal (Kabbalistic) teachings. Hopefully, his writing would be completely acceptable in an orthodox community. I would also recommend reading “Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion” by Joshua Trachtenberg, “Ancient Jewish Magic: A History” by Gideon Bohak, and the “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism” by Rabbi Geoff Dennis. The reason I recommend these is so you are able to have a full understanding of what Judaism’s relationship to magick & mysticism is, so you can make informed choices for yourself. You may find, as I did, that there are magickal foundations to many common, mainstream Jewish practices.
I know walking around with these books could complicate things for you, so there are online alternatives. “Jewish Magic and Superstition”, which is a scholarly study of Medieval Jewish Magic, is available online in full and there are excerpts available on a great website. The “Encyclopedia of Jewish, Myth, Magic and Mysticism” is not available online, but Rabbi Geoff blogs aspects of the book and it will give a lot of great information.
I get lots of interesting questions — feel free to ask me yours. I’ll do my best to answer it!