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Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg, [1939], at



1. Thorndike, II, 973, IV, 317; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, ‘Akkum, 11, 8; Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 21; Moses of Tachau lent his support to this Maimonidean position in his anti-Maimonidean polemic (Oẓar Neḥmad, III, 82), and severely criticized "those men to whom the spirit of Torah is foreign, who busy themselves with astrology and believe in it and make it their creed, and thereby bring harm to others." See JE, II, 243 ff. and EJ, III, 578 ff., for a general survey of the rabbinic material. The use of the word mazal, "star," "constellation," to signify "luck" may be seen in the Talmud; in the Middle Ages it was more frequent. "We call good fortune, good mazal, and the reverse, bad mazal . . . in German it is Glück and in Italian ventura" (Levita, Tishbi, s. v. mazal). This usage of the word did not displace its astrological sense in the vernacular until modern times.

2. The literature is too extensive to be cited in full. See D. Feuchtwang, "Der Tierkreis in der Tradition und im Synagogenritus," MGWJ, LIX (1915), 241-67; L. Löw, Gesammelte Schriften, II, 115-31; JE, II, 241-5; A. Marx, "The Correspondence between the Rabbis of Southern France and Maimonides about Astrology," HUCA, III (1926), 311-58; A. Z. Schwarz, "Iggeret R.

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[paragraph continues] Abraham b. Ḥiya HaNassi," Ad. Schwarz Festschrift, Berlin 1917, 23 ff. (Hebrew section); "Beraita de Mazalot," Oẓar Midrashim, ed. S. A. Wertheimer, Jerusalem 1913, pp. 1-7 (Introd.) and 1-28 (from which Raziel seems to have borrowed extensively); Abraham b. Hiya HaNassi, Megillat HaMegaleh, ed. Julius Guttman, Berlin 1924; Raphael Levy, The Astrological Works of Abraham ibn Ezra, Paris 1927; Bischoff, 124 ff.; see also pp. 69 f., 208 above. Some of the more important references are: Shab. 156a-b and Rashi, M.K. 28a; Teshubot HaGeonim (ed. Harkavy) 206 ff.; S. Ḥas. 989, 1447, 1453, 1516; Eleazar of Worms, Commentary on S. Yeẓirah, 14e; Niẓaḥon, 145; HaḤayim, I, 3, III, 6, IV, 10; Isserles, Yore Deah, 179:2; Neḥmad veNa‘im, §298, 303, which enumerates the cities and countries governed by each Zodiacal sign. See also Thorndike I, 306, 353 f., II, 6, 42, 183, etc. According to one view, God "appointed" a star for each man before even the earth was created; Raziel, 21a; Eleazar of Worms, op. cit., 1b; Kammelhar, 41. As was pointed out in the chapter on angelology, the stars were personalized by associating angels with them, so that each planet had its own archangel, and each man "an angel of his star." See the references there cited, and also Rashi, Meg. 3a; Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 8e, 16d; Pa‘aneaḥ Raza on Ex. 13:3, p. 73b; Yom Tob Mühlhausen, HaEshkol (ed. Judah Kaufman), 145.

3. Cf. Ginzberg, Legends, V, 164; Raziel, 17b, 34b; Eleazar of Worms, Commentary on Sefer Yeẓirah, 12a; Montgomery, 97-8; Thorndike, II, 900.

4. Eleazar of Worms, loc. cit.

5. Suk. 29a; S. Ḥas. B 1148, 66;—Neubauer and Stern, 65, 76; Kammelhar, 14;—Thorndike, IV, 413 f.; Leket Yosher, II, 17-18; Güd. III, 128-9; cf. Neḥmad veNa‘im, §295, 297.

6. Raziel, 17b ff., 34b, 41b; S. Ḥas. 1549; Eleazar of Worms, op. cit., 8d ff., 20c ff.; Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 17b; Rokeaḥ, 353; HaḤayim, V, 6; Iggeret HaTiyul, 8a, 9a-b; Or Ḥadash, 15; Grunwald, MJV, XIX (1906), 109-10; Güd. I, 154; Thorndike, I, 113, 679, II, 582 ff., etc.; Wuttke, 58 ff.; cf. Neḥmad veNa‘im, §8, 98, 107, 301.

7. Ibid., §299; Rashi, Shab. 75a; Raziel, 20a-b; ms. S. Gematriaot, 84a; Eleazar of Worms, Commentary, 12a; MGJV, VIII (1901), 114; ms. S. Gematriaot, 84b; cf. Wuttke, 63; Grünbaum, Ges. Auf., 227; Thorndike, III, 103 ff.

8. Shab. 129b and Rashi;—Kol Bo 58; Tashbeẓ, 554; Responsa of Jacob Weil, 74b; Tyrnau, Minhagim, 28a; Mateh Moshe, 965; Joseph Omeẓ, §739, p. 165; Lebush on Yore Deah, 116:5;—Rabiah, I, 348-9; Raben, 371; B’er Heteb on Yore Deah 116:6;—Yore Deah 179:2 and the comment of Lebush; Joseph Omer, 349; Eleazar of Worms, Commentary, 21d; a 16th century ms. (N. Brüll, Jahrbücher, IX [1889], 5) accounts for the prejudice against beginning undertakings on Monday and Wednesday on the ground that bed (the two Hebrew consonants which designate these days) in Persian signifies "bad," but this explanation is far-fetched; cf. Ginzberg, Legends, V, 39, n. 209. Parallels to this Monday-Wednesday superstition may be found in German belief (see Berliner, Aus dem Leben, 90-1): "Montags Anfang hat keinen guten Fortgang"; "Was man Montags beginnt wird nicht Wochenalt"; Grimm, III, 463, §821; see also Thorndike, I, 672 ff.; Grim, II, 953 ff.; Wuttke, 88; Steinschneider, Ueber die Volkslitteratur, 15-16.

9. Landsberger, "Der Brauch in den Tagen zwischen dem Pessach- und Schabuothfeste sich der Eheschliesung zu enthalten," Jüd. Ztschr. f. Wiss. u. Leben, VII (Breslau 1869), 81-96; I. Lévi, "Le mariage en Mai," Mélusine, VII (1895), 105 ff., VIII (,8g6), 93 f.; Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, 184; Güd. I, 276, n. 1;—Rokeaḥ, 355; Tyrnau, Minhagim, 14b; Mateh Moshe, 686-8; Oraḥ Ḥayim 493:1-4; Leket Yosher, I, 97-8.

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10. Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 6b; Commentary on S. Yeẓirah, 9b;—Yore Deah 179:2; Isserles, Eben Ha‘Ezer, 64:3; Joseph Omeẓ, 349; ‘Emek Beracha, II, 52, p. 62a;—S. Ḥas. B 59; Semak, 136; Grünbaum, Jüdischdeutsche Chrest., 260; Joseph Omeẓ, 348;—Testament of Judah, §56, 57; B’er Heteb on Oraḥ Ḥayim 260: 1; cf. Abrahams, op. cit., 185; Berliner, op. cit., 91; Digot, III, 184; Grimm, II, 595; Wuttke, 57-8.

11. JE, IX, 244; ‘Emek Beracha, II, 6z, p. 75b; cf. Wuttke, 14: "Wenn man dem Vollmonde drei Verbeugungen macht, bekommt man etwas geschenkt"; Kiẓur Shelah, 136; JE, XII, 6,8; Lipez, 130 (cf. S. Ḥas. B 97); Ta‘ame HaMinhagim, I, 55a, §432; Thorndike, IV, 282.

12. See Aptowitzer, "Issur Shetiat Mayim B’sh‘at HaTekufah," HaẒofeh, II (1912), 122-6 and Ginzberg, "Arba‘ Tekufot," ibid., III (,913), 184-6, for a survey of the Jewish material; Teshubot HaGeonim (ed. Musafia) §14; Joel, II, 24-5; HaManhig, Hil. Seudah, §18; cf. Wuttke, 63 f., 78 f., 301, also 85: "Am Georgi-Tage, 23 Apr., soll niemand Brunnenwasser trinken, dann öffnet sich die Erde und lässt ihr Gift aus"; Grimm, II, 590, III, 454: "Bei Sonnenfinsterniss decke man alle Brunnen, das Wasser wird sonst giftig." Grünbaum, op. cit., 144, mentions a Coptic belief that on Midsummer Day or near it, the archangel Michael discharges a drop into the Nile which makes its water undrinkable. There is also a remark that during Nisan (the month in which the Spring Equinox occurs) a poisonous, jelly-like substance falls on vegetation (HaPardes, 23a).

13. Ginzberg, Legends, VI, 204, n. 109; Perles, Etym. Studien, 73; Grunwald, MGJV, V (1900), 84 ff.; JJV, I (1923), 217; Schudt, II, 29:13, p. 10b; Güd. I, 206; Wuttke, 104. In Northern Italy the peasants went out into the fields on Midsummer Day to seek "the oil of St. John," which had wonderful properties, on oak leaves. Brück, 45 ff., suggests that the Jewish belief may be connected with the Phoenician Adonis rites, celebrated during the midsummer season at a river near the Syrian Byblos, when the river ran red with the blood of the dying god.

14. Aptowitzer, op. cit., 122, 126; S. Ḥas. 562; Ẓiyuni, 62b; Rokeaḥ, 275; Mordecai, Pes. §894, pp. 20d-21a; Maharil, 6b; Leket Yosher, I, 70; Responsa of Israel Bruna, §36, p. 16b; Isserles, Yore Deah, 116:5; Oraḥ Ḥayim 455:1 Hagahot Maimuniot, Hil. Pes., 458:9; Tyrnau, Minhagim, 8a; Shibbole HaLeket, 211, p. 171. An attempt was made to explain the use of iron on the ground that Ex. 7:19, speaking of the first plague, predicts that all the streams and all water stored "in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone" will turn to blood, omitting metal receptacles; another, Kabbalistic, explanation was that the consonants of the Hebrew word for iron, barzel, are the initials of Jacob's wives, Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Leah, and that these ladies protect the water against the spirits (Isserlein's supercommentary to Rashi, Ex. 7:19; Brück, 4,-2). Ẓiyuni, 42a, has the note that "in many places they call the Tekufah 'Wasserkalb'"; Güdemann's suggestion (III, 130) that this ailment, dropsy ("Wassersucht, ahd. auch wazarchalp") may have been traced to the Tekufah is borne out by Schudt (IV, 2, p. 270): "so jemand in solchen Augenblick [of the Tekufah] auch nur das gerinste von Wasser trincke, so bekomt er Wassersucht und andere Kranckheiten."

15. Testament of Judah, 48, 49; Isserles and B’er Heteb on Yore Deah, I,:4.

16. Eleazar of Worms, Commentary on S. Yeẓirah, 10 ff., 15b; Ẓiyuni, 4c-d; Pitron Ḥalomot, I, 8:1; Thorndike, IV, 134 and index, s. v. "Astrological Medicine."

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