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How Jewish Mystics Sought to Vanquish the Coronavirus and Hitler

How Jewish Mystics Sought to Vanquish the Coronavirus and Hitler

May 8, 2020

Israel Studies, Culture & Jewish Thought

Excerpted from Haaretz — This past Purim, in late March, a delegation of kabbalists and rabbis from Jerusalem flew over Israel in a helicopter, praying and blowing shofars and horns. Their aim was to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

There are precedents for this type of mystical maneuver in Jewish history.

Prof. Yuval Harari Credit: Emil Salman

Prof. Yuval Harari, a scholar of Jewish magic and mysticism in BGU’s Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought, points out, in an interview with Haaretz, that in 1940, a similar flight took place – also originating in Jerusalem.

He writes about it in his article “Three Charms for Killing Adolf Hilter.”

At that time the kabbalists’ goal was to protect the Land of Israel from the Nazis. They wanted specifically to protect the country against an invasion [by the Germans].

Their flight took place over the country’s borders, and they prayed and slaughtered white roosters in the air and sprayed their blood from on high. The flight was only part of a larger effort by kabbalists in Jerusalem to block an invasion and vanquish Hitler.

From their point of view, it worked: Rommel failed at El Alamein [in 1942] and was forced to retreat.

What does flying over the country symbolize?

According to Prof. Harari, the idea is to demarcate a particular region and create a protected space within it.

Magical-mystical activity of this kind also took place in the Talmudic period among the Babylonian Jews, who designated certain spaces as safe against demons.

The principle is to isolate a specific area and protect it, and this repeats itself even in as basic an act as drawing the circle of Honi Hame’agel [a 1st-century B.C.E. Jewish teacher, who according to the Talmud drew a circle around himself to beseech God for rain during a drought], for example.

It’s interesting to note that the Jerusalem kabbalists perceived Hitler and the Nazis as both evil itself and as its emissaries.

Recipes for fighting the Nazis

Prof. Harari’s research on this subject started with a piece of paper he found in Israel’s National Library: a note that someone wrote to Rabbi Eliyahu Dehuki titled, “Three Charms for Killing Adolf Hitler.”

“It captivated me immediately. We have an extensive and fascinating literature of magical practices that has accompanied the Jewish people from the fifth century on – how to manipulate reality by means of ritual,” he says.

Someone took three “recipes” from that body of work and provided them to Dehuki, one of the lesser-known kabbalists in Jerusalem at that time. They are very aggressive recipes – two of them entail killing an animal.

The page containing “Three Charms for Killing Adolf Hitler,” found by Harari in the National Library. Courtesy of the National Library of Israel

These recipes make use of what is known as the “principle law of similarity:” the attempt to bring about in reality something that has been performed in a symbolic way; and the “principle of contact:” to take something that was in contact with someone upon whom we wish to exercise the magic – his clothing, fingernails or hair – and to make use of it.

If you act on the object that represents someone, you are effectively acting on the one represented by it.

Accordingly, if you are supposed to be slaughtering a rooster, it is impossible to make do with any random fowl.

The recipe calls for the rooster to be purchased in Hitler’s name, so that already on the occasion of acquiring it you create the connection between the object and what it signifies – and then you raise it at home under the name of Hitler. Through the name and through the intentionality [of your actions], an association is forged between the rooster and Hitler.

The act of slaughtering a fowl or, unfortunately, of burying it alive in the earth, as the recipe calls for, is intended to create a reality that will affect the real Hitler.

And according to the law of similarity, when I slaughter that rooster, Hitler will be likewise be slaughtered.

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