Parshat Mishpatim: Magic in the Torah

Eitan Black
Eitan Black (Courtesy)

By Eitan Black

The Harry Potter books and the Torah both deal with magic. In Harry Potter, all witches and wizards are allowed to use magic anytime they want, as long as they are 17 or older. There are many references to magic in the Torah. However, in the Torah, magic only happens periodically as opposed to in Harry Potter where magic happens all the time.

In the Torah, someone who practices sorcery regularly is supposed to be put to death.

My Torah portion discusses magic in one verse: “you shall not permit a sorceress to live,” Mishpatim 22:17.

Why does God allow magic for some people and not others?

One idea is that God is okay with Moses and other leaders using magic for the benefit of others, specifically his people, but not okay with people who use magic for themselves, to hurt others or for no reason. When Moses splits the sea they are running away from Pharaoh and his people so that’s definitely for a purpose. He had to do it in order to escape the Egyptians.

I read two commentaries about the verse I mentioned from my Torah portion. The first one I read was from Ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra said that sorceresses who have lust are likely to act on this in an inappropriate way and create a cult of people who are interested in this in a similar way. It’s similar to the death eaters in Harry Potter because they also started a cult and were probably dangerous because they both have magic and are wizards and witches.

Ramban also commented on the verse. Ramban said that the sorceresses are very unorganized and lack spirituality, which could cause them to create some sort of cult following and because of this possibility, officials must be very strict on if the witches can live or not.

I agree with both of them because magic, if used in the wrong/right way depending on how you see it, can be very dangerous. In both Harry Potter and the Torah, magic is allowed and also forbidden because both don’t want them to be dark magic.

One value that was important to me in this d’var Torah was trust. In Harry Potter, you have to trust one another to not attack you even though they have the power to. Some people would trust each other and others wouldn’t. In the Torah, many people didn’t trust the sorceresses and that makes sense because they have a history of destruction. I have a hard time trusting people myself, but after getting to know them, I start to trust them more. How do you decide who to trust in your own life?

Eitan Black is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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