we read in Parasha Balak the story of Balaam and his talking ass.
A talking ass? Seriously?
Sounds like black magic joo joo to me —
which we Jews are warned against
though in Pirke Avot the mouth of Balaam’s ass
is listed among the ten things created on the eve of the first Shabbat.
(Could Our Fathers be talking out of both sides of their mouths, here?)
On My Jewish Learning's website, Dr. Alan J. Avery writes, “Judaism, like most systems of religion, distinguishes between miracles — the extraordinary deeds of the true God or agents of the true God — and magic — the extraordinary deeds of false gods or their agents. The former acts are judged good and acceptable, so that a person who is able to use the power of the divine for purposes the religion deems right and appropriate is thought of as a holy man, miracle worker, or sage. By contrast, a person — usually an outsider or practitioner of a different religion — who demonstrates similar abilities is derided as a witch, demon, or fiend.”
To paraphrase Dr. Avery, though our sages warn against divination and magical practices — interpreting dreams, using magic staffs, reciting blessings and curses and referring to oracles — these practices are found in Jewish text and figure prominently as suitable behaviors of the progenitors and heroes of the Israelite nation.
Guess that means our magic is sacred. Theirs, profane.
Our tzizit more potent than their mala beads.
Our lulav less pagan than their rain stick.
To read about Our Rituals vs. Rituals of the Other,
scroll up down.
And if you're so inclined, feel free to share this site with your friends.
Be sure to say p’tui, p’tui against ayin hara.
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Ten things were created on the eve of the first Shabbat at twilight.
the mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach and his army;
the mouth of Miriam's well that followed Israel through the wilderness;
the mouth of the female donkey that spoke to Balaam;
the rainbow Noah saw after the Great Flood;
the manna that fed Israel in the wilderness;
the staff that Moses used to work miracles;
the shamir, the special worm used to build the Temple;
the mystical letters for the Ten Commandments that could be read from both sides;
the writing tool that Moses used;
the stone used for the Ten Commandments.
Some say also Moses’ grave and the ram of our father Abraham.
Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter 5:6
A rabbi’s daughter visits Chichicastenango
At night they come from hills above the town. Men, women, children, their shadows smear the window of our room where we sleep, wrapped in llama skin. Flute notes hit the pane. Burros bump the wall. Dawn stands beside my bed, her light fingers on my hair. Market day is here.
The Guatemalan sun climbs eighteen cobbled steps and stops outside the doors of Santo Tomás. It puts pale toes on splintered threshold but does not cross. Inside the church is mystery, hymns, floor thick with flickering candle offerings. Embroidered fish swim across stones, through sacrificial smoke as darkness grows up the walls to join soft sounds of beating wings, attesting to the presence of a distant roof. Outside, ripe melons sweat. Mothers suckle children while fathers, like snails, carry small pine houses on their backs. Maya shamans swing censers, mumble incantations in clouds of incense.
Hebrews slaughtered goats, burned sheep
rain blessed the barley
The Conquistadors are gone. Maya still remain in labyrinths of vendor stalls. Buy our flowers. Our kaleidoscopic carpets. Buy our machetes, chickens, woolen shawls, wooden masks of devil gods, woven hammocks, leather shoes, kettles, mango, corn, lemons, herbs, plastic beads. Buy our amulets, our legends, our replicas of Tikal ruins. Buy a statue of the goddess, Xochiquetzal. Buy a silver crucifix.
Buy our kamiyot
against Lilith’s evil eye
buy our scarlet thread
copyright © Ozzie Nogg 2016