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A live person is forbidden from using necromancy to communicate with a dead person.

But is the reverse true?

Is the dead person permitted to initiate the contact?

If the live person contacted the dead person through forbidden necromancy, is the dead person permitted to respond?

Samuel's response to Saul is not a proof example because his warning that Israel would be defeated was pekuach nefesh.

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  • 2
    Maybe Shulchan Aruch needs a 5th section - Hilchot Shamayim?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 26 at 20:07
  • 1
    See gemara Brachos 18B that indicates they can communicate. sefaria.org/Berakhot.18b.15?lang=bi Shmuel's (the amora) father spoke with him and others.
    – Chatzkel
    Feb 26 at 20:28
  • Hmn. So could there be methods of communicating with the dead that are not forbidden? Feb 26 at 21:01
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    Both the Maharsha and the Ben Yohada say it was done through dreams.
    – Chatzkel
    Feb 26 at 21:36

2 Answers 2

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The Talmud says that the dead aren't bound by mitzvos

גמרא נדה ס"א::ה' וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן לְטַעְמֵיהּ דְּאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן מַאי דִכְתִיב {תהלים פ"ח:ו'} בַּמֵּתִים חׇפְשִׁי כֵּיוָן שֶׁמֵּת אָדָם נַעֲשָׂה חׇפְשִׁי מִן הַמִּצְוֹת.

And Rabbi Yoḥanan conforms to his standard line of reasoning in this regard, as Rabbi Yoḥanan said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Set apart [ḥofshi] among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom You remember no more” (Psalms 88:6)? Once a person dies, he becomes free [ḥofshi] from the mitzvot.

Rambam codifies it lihalacha

רמב"ם כלאים י':כ"ה מותר לעשות מן הכלאים תכריכין למת, שאין על המתים מצוה It is permitted to make shrouds for the deceased from kilayim, for the deceased are not obligated in any mitzvot.

So it would seem that one is certainly permitted to respond to a posthumous summons.

I'm unsure about initiating as perhaps the dead are only off the hook regarding personal mitzvos but not regarding tripping up others ("lifnei iver").

In any event the above is all presumably unnecessary to allow for either responding or initiating as the prohibition is for a living person to summon a spirit—not for a spirit to initiate or respond.

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  • But is a summoned spirit, who doesn't lie in a grace, count as dead during his visit? Feb 26 at 20:17
  • @ClintEastwood I would imagine so as he is still dead. Proof can be brought from the fact that we can clothe them in shaatnez. If when summoned they aren't considered dead anymore then we'd be tripping them up.
    – Nahum
    Feb 26 at 20:20
  • I can understand if his body is no longer his, but his spirit is. If a man loses his foot, can he put it in a shatnez sock? Feb 26 at 20:49
  • @ClintEastwood interestingly, some interpret the exemption to apply even to resurrected dead (the principle got a lot of discussion in medieval times b/c of the implication that the mitzvos will one day no longer apply)
    – AKA
    Feb 28 at 1:18
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An example where it's done: the work "She'elot u-Teshuvot min Ha-Shamayim", Responsa from Heaven, is a 13th-century collection of almost seventy halachic questions, posed by Rabbeinu Yaakov of Marveges and answered by members of the heavenly Yeshiva. One of the members of the Yeshiva is implied to be the deceased R. Yitzhak al-Fasi (Siman 8).

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  • How doea the author claim to have contacted the yeshiva? Mar 1 at 2:14
  • @ClintEastwood He posed the questions in his dreams, or just before he slept.
    – Josh
    Mar 4 at 8:40

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