Magic and Superstition in Orthodox Judaism

The following is a guest post by Ibrahim Qasim from the “Proving Islam” Youtube Channel.

Magic and superstition are two forms of shirk that Orthodox Judaism has fallen into.

While Deuteronomy 18 explicitly forbids the two, we find plenty of magic and superstition within the Talmud itself.


To start with, we can take a look at Sanhedrin 68a in the Babylonian Talmud which mentions a story of Rabbi Eliezer filling a field with cucumbers through the use of sorcery. The passage then goes on to ask how it is possible that Eliezer performed magic while the Torah forbids it.

It answers the question by explaining that it is actually permissible to learn and perform sorcery in order to understand it.

The problem with this explanation is that sorcery is idolatry. The Talmud is essentially saying that it is permissible to commit shirk in order to better understand it!

Just imagine I worshiped an idol in order to understand Hindus better. See the problem?

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Working With Jinns

The way magic works as explained to us by the Qur’an and Sunnah is through contact with the jinn.

This is important to keep in mind as we take a look at another text, Sanhedrin 101a:8 in the Babylonian Talmud, which says:

“The Sages taught demons of oil and demons of eggs, it is permitted to consult them”.

There are two rabbinic explanations for what this means:

A) that it is speaking of demons who have been consulted by means of oil and eggs;[1] and

B) that it is speaking of consulting the demons of oil and eggs themselves.[2]

Regardless of which of the two interpretations one favors, the essence of the passage is that there are demons which the Talmud deems permissible to consult.[3]

Allah says in Qur’an 6:100:

Yet they associate the jinn with Allah even though He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters out of ignorance. Glorified and Exalted is He above what they claim!

Furthermore, Allah says about the Jews in Qur’an 2:102:

And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Hārūt and Mārūt. But they [i.e., the two angels] do not teach anyone unless they say, “We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practicing magic].” And [yet] they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of Allah. And they [i.e., people] learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But they [i.e., the Children of Israel] certainly knew that whoever purchased it [i.e., magic] would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew”

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Again, there is a plethora of superstition found within the Talmud.

We shall mention two specific examples from astrology here.

Firstly, in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 156a:11, it claims that the positions of the stars determine a person’s nature. Among other things it claims:[4]

“One who was born under the influence of Venus will be a rich and promiscuous person”.


“One who was born under the influence of Mercury will be an enlightened and expert man”.


“One who was born under the influence of Mars will be one who spills blood”.

The second example I intend to present is in Sukkah 29a:13 from the Babylonian Talmud.

It reports superstitions regarding eclipses.

For example, it says:

The Sages taught that on account of four matters the sun is eclipsed: On account of a president of the court who dies and is not eulogized appropriately, and the eclipse is a type of eulogy by Heaven; on account of a betrothed young woman who screamed in the city that she was being raped and there was no one to rescue her; on account of homosexuality; and on account of two brothers whose blood was spilled as one.

Even the phrase Mazal Tov you may have heard Jews use to congratulate each other is relevant here. Mazal means destiny, but can also mean constellation.[5] This shows just how deeply Judiasm has fallen into astrology.

A hadith reported in Sahih al-Bukhari 3201 mentions:

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم (said, “The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of someone’s death or life (i.e. birth), but they are two signs amongst the Signs of Allah. So, if you see them (i.e. eclipse) offer the (eclipse) prayer.

Allah said in Qur’an 4:51-52:

Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture, who believe in jibt [superstition] and ṭāghūt [false objects of worship] and say about the disbelievers, “These are better guided than the believers as to the way”? Those are the ones whom Allah has cursed; and he whom Allah curses – never will you find for him a helper”

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[1] See the translation of this passage on (which is the William Davidson Talmud).

[2] See footnote 17 on Sanhedrin 101a from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud Book V Folios 93a-113b “Sanhedrin Translated In English With Notes” by Jacob Shachter (chapters I – VI) & H. Freedman (chapters VII – XI). Edited by Rabbi I. Epstein. The footnote explains: “Every plant in the vegetable kingdom was believed to have its own presiding genius, which could be provoked by incantations.”

[3] One may point out that the passage continues by saying these demons deceive people and hence it is futile to consult them, but this doesn’t change the fact that the shirk has been made permissible in the first place. Imagine someone deemed it permissible to pray to idols but just said there’s no benefit in it so there’s no point in praying to them. This is still highly problematic because it is still allowing people to pray to idols which should be forbidden in the first place.

[4] All three quotes mentioned here are from the translation on (which is the William Davidson Talmud).

[5] Rabbi Aron Moss writes and I quote “thus mazel is the influence dripping down from the stars.”. This is from his article “What Does “Mazel Tov” Mean?”.

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