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I'm an amateur magician.

All of the Ashkenazi rabbis that I've talked to said that as long as my audience knows that I am just doing tricks and not real magic, the Torah allows me to perform magic tricks for them.

But all of the Sephardic rabbis that I've heard said that modern magic is prohibited even if the audience knows that it's just tricks. Why is there a difference of opinion?

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I asked my rabbi this on shabbos. He said that the halacha is that you have to tell the audience that you are not doing real magic, that it's just tricks. He also said he thinks the reason why Sephardim don't allow magic is a cultural thing - in the Middle East, magic is taken more seriously than in the West and is often used to scam people.

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It is a dispute between Maran Yosef Karo and the Rema in hilkhot Avoda Zera. Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 179:15

אוחז את העינים אסור וע"י ספר יצירה מותר

For a fuller treatment see the article on Torah.org, where the majority of the sources and later poskim are quoted.

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Ping. Any luck? –  msh210 Apr 3 '13 at 15:33
    
Not yet. Hilkhot Avoda Zera never makes any of the Semikha exams, and I wound up becoming involved in an unfortunate domestic situation. I'll try to come up with it. Thanks for the reminder. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Apr 3 '13 at 16:50
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Achizas Einayim is an issue brought by the Rambam 32 (lo taseh). Slight of hand which is not supernatural is the issue. The Chachmas Adam said that people who perform doing these tricks at weddings are oiver on this and if they employ someone to do this it is lifnei iver.

Rav Moshe explains the issue not based on slight of hand.

This applies to Jews; for performance by a non Jew see Yechave Daas (Chacham Ovadia).

See YD 179 and nosei keilim.

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can you summarize the reasoning of each view a bit more? If my intent with slight of hand is only to "pull" a coin (or foam ball) out of a child's ears, how is that lifnei iver. I'm doing it to amuse, not cheat them in business. –  Bruce James Apr 3 '13 at 13:06
    
According to some you can explain that it is not magic rather a talent of swiftness.However there are those who hold that even if it known that it is slight of hand it is assur. –  sam Apr 3 '13 at 14:25
    
@Sam Slight of hand is not a talent of swiftness but a skill of employing misdirection and concealment of one's movements. Are the sources who say it is assur of the belief that any trick that involves tricking a person to believe something is in one place, when it is in reality in a different place, a violation of lifnei iver (throwing a stumbling block before the blind), or would that not be limited to cases where there is an attempt to defraud, e.g. Three-Card Monty. –  Bruce James Apr 3 '13 at 14:35
    
@sam, magic has nothing to do with swiftness. That's only what magicians tell their audience - "the hand is quicker than the eye". Magicians are really no quicker than non-magicians. Magicians use only psychology plus sometimes dexterity to fool their audience. –  Craig Feinstein Apr 3 '13 at 15:00
    
Whatever it may be,the point is that if one mentions that his performance is using methods and not real magic it is fine,but there are those who say it is still assur. –  sam Apr 3 '13 at 15:20
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