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Throughout Tanach and Talmud, there are numerous recorded uses and practitioners of magic1.

From Pharaoh's magicians to Shaul's necromancer, and magic cucumbers to were-donkeys, the references are numerous. These are not only brought as stories, but oftentimes as factors in halacha.

My question is, why don't we see magic practiced today? Does it still exist? Is it still theoretically do-able or has "nature changed"? If it's no longer possible, when did this change occur?

1: (When I say "magic", I refer to supernatural powers that stem from the forces of impurity in the world. Commonly referred to as "sorcery" or "'black' magic", it was used to do things that are naturally impossible, such as necromancy, transforming objects into other objects, and "creating" things (as long as they're larger than a barley-corn (I think that's the measurement, right?)). Frequently "sheidim" (demons) and their powers were employed in the use of magic. Not to be confused with illusions and illusionists.)

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It would help if you defined what you mean as magic: if you mean illusions and sleight-of-hand, then we certainly see that today. So you presumably mean supernatural events? Like miracles? –  Curiouser Jan 26 '12 at 21:18
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@Curiouser. I think that it can be understood from my examples, my questions and the tag. I'll clarify the question, but what I mean is sorcery, or "black magic". –  HodofHod Jan 26 '12 at 21:33
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There was the famous story (mentioned in Reshimos) with the contest between Shmuel Munkas and the two sourcerers (which may have had something to do with the Alter Rebbe's arrest), also Napoleon was involved in kishuf, so it's still around. –  Shmuel Brin Jan 26 '12 at 23:02
    
@ HodofHod: As you can see from avi's answer below, your question is predicated on the assumption that there ever was black magic, something the Rambam (Akum 11:16) did not believe and for which he was criticized viciously by the Gra (YD 179 #13), in the same way that you attacked avi's answer. –  Curiouser Jan 27 '12 at 14:24
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Any explanation for the downvote? –  HodofHod Mar 2 '12 at 21:14
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2 Answers

There is no magic today because there never was magic. Magic is what we humans call things which we do not understand. The more we learn about how the world works, the less things we can call magic.

While people in generations prior to us, obviously felt that there was magic, in reality they are just describing situations which they think they understand what was happening (i.e. the use of magic). If all the facts were given to us, we would likely describe these situations differently. Perhaps we might say they are a coincidence, or we would be able to explain the situation "scientifically", or we would say the person was lucky with their intuition, or we would say it was just a false confirmation bias, or we would call it poetic language. It's impossible for us to know, since we no longer have the mindset of people who see "magic" happening around them on a relatively common basis.

This follows Rambam’s view. Accordingly, the references to practitioners of magic in Tanach, as well as the prohibition against engaging in such activity, refer to slight-of-hand being presented as supernatural ability. E.g., Uri Geller’s frauds are prohibited; James Randi’s entertainments might not be.

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Source........? Your answer seems to contradict the pshat of many things in Tanach, as well as undermine many halachos whose reasonings are based on magic. –  HodofHod Jan 27 '12 at 14:08
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@HodofHod Just because the Talmud bases a halacha off of spontaneous generation, and says that because lice don't lay eggs you can kill them on shabbat, does not mean that lice suddenly started to lay eggs. It just means what they saw and how they explained what they saw, is different from what we see and how we explain what we see. Your question might as well be, "Why is there no spontaneous Generation today?" or "Why doesn't the Sun circle the earth today?" –  avi Jan 27 '12 at 14:11
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Source: Mishna Torah Hilchos Akum 11:16 (hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?rid=372) –  Curiouser Jan 27 '12 at 14:21
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@Curiouser there is no disproof of Geocentricism, so there is no need to say the Rambam "The Rambam made a mistake" (CH"V) –  Shmuel Brin Jan 27 '12 at 21:42
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@avi, the Torah says to execute witches (Mechasheifa lo Sechaye). It is also codified in the Rambam. If witchcraft was only a sleigh of hands (or something natural that people didn't know), then any sleigh of hands is going to be punishable through stoning? –  Shmuel Brin Jan 29 '12 at 3:58
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Since the strength of Kedusha is not what it used to be, therefore the strength of Tumah is also not what it used to be. The Koach HaTuma mirrors the Koach HaKedusha.

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+1 I like this, do you have a source? –  HodofHod Jan 26 '12 at 21:58
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I have heard it numerous times from my Rabbeim, however do not remember source. I will try to find the source and update. –  Gershon Gold Jan 26 '12 at 21:59
    
Did you hear it specifically about magic, or tumah in general? –  HodofHod Jan 26 '12 at 22:01
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@monica the existence of kedusha doesn't prevent the existence of magic. The idea is that kedusha and tumah must be of equal strength. Hence, since the strength of kedusha is declining (less tzaddikim today, and of a lower caliber, no Beis Hamikdash), then the strength of tumah must decline as well (no more magic, no/less temptation for idolatry). –  HodofHod Jan 29 '12 at 17:28
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@GershonGold any luck with a source? –  HodofHod Feb 13 '12 at 4:32
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