Before I ask my question, I have to preface it with a little personal information about me so you have some context. One of the most important and most obvious aspects of my personality is an incredible thirst for knowledge and experience. I'm one of those annoying people that can't be beaten at trivial pursuit because I know enough about just about anything and everything to be dangerous and annoying. I also love experience and am one of those people that will try just about anything once (other than illegal things) just to understand and feel what it is. I am also a reform Jew.

Because of my thirst for knowledge, I have recently started reading books on Wicca and Witchcraft. I then started reading what is generally considered the foremost authority on magic for practicing magicians. This is not a book on black magic and actually is very serious about teaching people only to practice white magic. I figured I wanted to try it out to see if it works (and purely for that purpose only). I started reading and following the instructions which included buying a deck of tarot cards. As I began reading into the first lesson, it stated that I needed an altar. It was very clear that this was not to pray to some evil spirit or false gods or anything like that but given my Jewish faith that was the first thing that made me hesitate in going further. As I continued to read, it said that on the altar should be a few "tools" none of which is particularly important to my question. I felt some very serious conflict between my faith and wanting to understand this type of positive white magic and its potential uses or falsities. My question is what does the Jewish faith say, if anything, about practicing magic or engaging in this type of activity not as means of religion but for the sake of experience?


Rabbi Chaim Vital asked his teacher, Rabbi Isaac Luria—the holy Ari, the greatest kabbalistic authority of the past millennium—about the use of "practical Kabbalah." This means the use of divine names of G‑d and of angels in various permutations in amulets and incantations to heal the sick and otherwise manipulate the natural world.

The Ari was strictly opposed to such practice. When Rabbi Chaim pointed out that great tzaddikim (holy individuals) were known to have used such methods, the Ari explained that these were people who were pure and holy and able to relate to the higher realms of purity and holiness. The rest of us, he explained, are in danger of connecting only to the lower realms which are a mixture of good and evil, thereby risking bringing impurity into ourselves, G‑d forbid.

This applies to the secrets of the Kabbalah, wisdom that was passed down by holy men and women who were only interested in good. When it comes to Tarot and Wicca, there is obviously a much greater danger, since many of the teachers were not at all pure and holy—and often on the contrary...

For a Jewish soul, the danger is much greater. A Jewish soul must nurture spiritual energy from a Jewish place. No substitutes will suffice in the long term—just as you cannot replace mother's milk with cow's milk, and all the more so with Coca Cola.

There are simple meditations for every Jew, beginner or advanced, and they are all in the siddur (prayer book). Meditating on the forms and sounds of the Hebrew letters is an ancient and highly recommended tradition. Saying the words of the Psalms or the daily prayers in a mindful state, with heart and soul, works wonders beyond what any magic can perform. Even more so when you put a few coins in a charity box before and afterwards.

As far as kinetic activities for these meditations, that is one of the reasons we have a tallit and tefillin; women light Shabbat candles, take challah and immerse in a mikvah at intervals—these are all meant to be mindful, meditative actions.

I know you write you are a Reform Jew. But we don't believe in labels. Jewish practice is for Jews, and that's the only type of Jew there is—a Jewish Jew.

Here, take a look at our Daily Life and Practice section. Start your spiritual journey with this primer.

You might also gain a lot from, one of the best websites on authentic Kabbalah.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for