The Jewish sources speak in many places about magic e.g shemot 7:11, 7:22 & Vayikra 19:26 etc.

Are there different types? if so what are they?

3 Answers 3


There are 2 types of magic with which one incurs a being from the upper realm to fulfil ones wish by creating something/bringing something unavailable, which are both mentioned in the Torah which the necromancers of Egypt used in Sanhedrin 67b:

  • בלטיהם אלו מעשה שדים - "Lot" is the work of a sheid (demon) which one incurs to fulfill (in exchange for a hefty price) This is forbidden but not punishable by death.
  • בלהטיהם אלו מעשה כשפים פירש"י מעשה כשפים ע"י מלאכי חבלה הם נעשים - "Lahat" is incurring work of fire Angels (translation based on Sanhedrin 106b) this is known as Kishuf i.e. this is forbidden punishable by death

The Gemora explains that a Sheid is more accurate than Malachei Chabala and will bring exactly what one wants: אמר אביי דקפיד אמנא שד דלא קפיד אמנא כשפים

There are other categories of magic/superstition which are forbidden:
ניחוש - This means superstition on something that has happened in the past e.g. his bread fell from his mouth so he thinks this means that he cannot travel etc. (there is a Machlokes on a superstition in the future is permitted like Eliezer and Rivka) chayav lav
מעונן - Making an illusion that people do not understand how it happened chayav lav
חובר חבר - whispering spells to cause snakes and other animals to gather round him chayav lav
דורש אל מתים - Sleeping in the cemetery in order for a Ruach Tumah to take hold of him. chayav lav
קוסם קסמים - Divination through various methods including hitting sticks on the floor and shouting, and watching the effects to divine the future
אוב - Burning incense in order to make him speak the words of the dead through his armpit. chayav misah
ידעוני - Put a certain bird called "Yadua"'s bone in his mouth this makes him speak without control. chayav Misah

  • So how does one do these things?
    – Moshe
    May 13, 2020 at 2:15

Devarim 18:10-11 lists the following species of magic:

There shall not be found among you . . . a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido'a sorcerer, or a necromancer. (R' A. J. Rosenberg's Judaica Press translation).

See Rashi for a definition of all these at chabad.org (enter Tanakh in Search).

  • In short, magic dose not exist. It has never been proven and therefore it is mere fabrication of the wild imagination. Thus, your question is irrelevant when it comes to Judaism. Maimonides rejected the notion of magic as nonsensical. Ibn Ezra also rejects the existence of magic. For example, Ezra says that the reason G-d forbid us communicating with the dead is not because there is a way to do it, rather because its impossible. G-d desires that we use reason and His Torah when discerning Truths.
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 8, 2019 at 20:32
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    @TurkHill There are many episodes throughout Jewish folklore of the deceased appearing in dreams to saintly individuals (throughout history, up to and including the present). That is a form of communication with the dead. Do you deny the veracity of every such occurrence? I don't think there is a compelling basis to do so even from a rationalist perspective such as the Rambam's.
    – user9806
    Apr 23, 2019 at 15:44
  • @user9806 you will admit that the definition of Truth is what we can experience and no-one has ever experienced conversing with the dead because it's impossible to contact them as that is the definition of being dead. In his commentary to Leviticus, 19:31, Ibn Ezra says: "Those with empty brains say 'Were it not that fortune tellers and magicians were true, The Torah would not prohibit them. ' But I (Ibn Ezra) say just the opposite of their words, Because the Torah doesn't prohibit that which is true, But it prohibits that which is false. And the proof is the prohibition on idols and statues."
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 27, 2019 at 22:41
  • @user9806 This is precisely the reason G-d forbids it. An example here is King Saul who believed he spoke to Prophet Samuel, who foretold his impending death in his next activity, war. But in fact, it was only his imagination. He was desperate to conquer which thrilled his emotions to the point where he would latch onto anything ridiculous. He mistook a daydream of Samuel for a title of absolute authority, rendering his vision a fact, which has become so prevalent in many religious circles today. My final example is Rambam who said angels only appeared in visions or in dreams and not folklore.
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 27, 2019 at 22:47
  • @TurkHill Are you claiming that the deceased can not appear in dreams to the living? You say yourself that "Rambam said angels only appeared in visions or in dreams". So if angels can appear in dreams, why not the dead?
    – user9806
    Apr 29, 2019 at 16:53

Magic dose not exist. It has never been proven.[1] Maimonides rejected the notion of magic as nonsensical. Ibn Ezra also rejects the existence of magic. For example, Ezra says that the reason G-d forbids us from communicating with the dead is not that there is a way to do it, rather because it's impossible to do so. G-d desires that we use reason and His Torah when discerning Truths.

[1] Although other commentators feel that it does exist.

  • 1
    I won't argue with you and just let you be with your opinion.
    – Ilja
    Apr 9, 2019 at 21:11
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    Rambam and Ibn Ezra are only some of many. There are dozens on the opposite side of the argument, who say magic does exist. Does it not strike you as disingenuous to not at least label it a contested subject, rather than declaring it outright "nonsense" by only quoting one side of a very large debate?
    – Yehuda
    Jun 21, 2021 at 1:17
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    Forgive me, but... If you are on the level of the Rambam, you don't need to quote him and you can declare magic nonsense yourself; if you are not, then you should quote both sides of a debate amongst individuals greater than any of us. Not doing so is intellectually dishonest.
    – Yehuda
    Jun 22, 2021 at 17:54
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    If you are having a conversation comparing Indian and Jewish beliefs, yes. You are discussing mainstream Jewish beliefs, so Indian sages are irrelevant. However, other Jewish sages are not. To not quote other Jewish sages suggests that other Jewish sages are irrelevant, and to do so simply because you like the way the Rambam sounds because "you are a rationalist" is arrogant and self-serving, rather than an honest discussion. To state unequivocally that "magic does not exist" is not an honest or accurate representation of the Jewish debate; only that your opinion is that the Rambam is correct.
    – Yehuda
    Jun 22, 2021 at 19:15
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    The Rambam is not the only view to the exclusion of all others. To present the Rambam's view to the exclusion of all others when the question is not exclusively about the Rambam's view is intellectually dishonest because it suggests that the Rambam's view is the only view.
    – Yehuda
    Jun 22, 2021 at 20:04

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