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Jewish Magic Kindle Edition
|Length: 376 pages|
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I was somewhat embarrassed at first by the notion that Jewry had a magical component at one time. Magic seemed to be the antithesis of what Judaism was, how could this wholly non-Jewish thing be present in Jewish history? Yet I soon became enthralled by Trachtenberg's book. He carefully dissects and explores every facet of Jewish magic and superstition. He traces the non-Jewish incursions and he explores the uniquely Jewish component. More importantly, the text allows one to see how Jewish magic and superstition is set apart from its Christian counterpart. Jewish superstition lacked any notion of a God-Devil dualism that is present in Christian magic and superstition. That slight difference is a game-changer. The Jewish model evolves completely differently. It intersects and weaves through the canonized religion. Jewish magic was not opposed to religion, it was a field for scholars who sought to understand and use the laws of nature that came from God. In a way, it seemed akin to the emergence of early science.
This book is easy to read. It will answer your questions and leave you with new ones to ponder. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Some of the information may be somewhat outdated, but it still seems to represent a core component of the study of Jewish magic and superstition. This book covers magic, superstition, some of the roots of anti-Semitic magical thinking in Christianity, and so much more.
Then again, the ganeyvim who published it probably know that, as there's no publisher listed at the front of the book. The chapter numbers are listed without chapter titles. The layout of the book is terrible for readability. (Way too wide across a large page). And most unforgivable, the book is missing its extensive, and helpful, footnotes.
Feh. Do yourself a favor, get this book and pay a few extra books for a legit, older edition.
About the text. It is a comprehensive and explicit look at some of the practices believed to have been a part of the Jewish experience in the periods just before, during and right after in medieval Western Europe. This is not a text that covers an exhaustive look at all Jewish superstitious beliefs nor for all periods of Jewish existence. That would be impossible for even 10 volumes. For a look at Jewish beliefs of Eastern Europe, I highly recommend, The Book of Legends: Sefer Ha Aggadah.
Some of the topics, Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg (of blessed memory) used as a part of his doctoral dissertation, "The Powers of Evil"-- thoughts concerning the makeup, work and influence of evil. "Man and The Demons," "In the Name of..."-- using incantations of Biblical phrases and divine names. "Amulets," "Dreams," "Astrology" are also covered thoroughly.
One reviewer erroneously stated that this book "only scratches the surface...[lacks] the breath and flesh." What book was he reading? Again, this book is not supposed to address all Jewish beliefs for every given period or every locale. Our own experiences are influenced by the environment by which we inhabit, that's true for all people at all times. He should not be expected to answer all questions for all Jews at all times. This is for a specific period and for a specific location. Period. By the way, the bibliography is well-research at 90+ pages to support his conclusions.
This book, I would say, reveals the basis of Modern (not Classical) Christian Anti-Semitic beliefs. To see how medieval Christian attitudes were demonstrated I would suggest Dr. Trachenberg's follow-up (and part two of his doctoral dissertation) The Devil and The Jews, and Shakespeare and The Jews by James Shapiro.