There is a method of finding underground water called Dowsing, or Water Divination. It involves walking through a field with a stick until the stick moves, which indicates there is water underneath the ground at that point.

Regardless of whether it actually works, I'm curious if any Poskim speak about it. If so, do they discuss whether it is permissible?

On one hand, I can see it being permissible if it is considered a skill, with no supernatural elements to it (similar to a way a chef is more sensitive to, and able to identify, ingredients and spices in food). On the other hand, I can see it being forbidden if it is considered some kind of witchcraft.

[Not that it matters to the question, but I live in an area where most of the water is supplied by wells, and dowsing is the method of identifying where to dig for wells]

  • Why are you disregarding whether it works? Why do you assume that the question is somehow unrelated to that? – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 2:20
  • Why do you think it would be witchcraft? Which prohibition in particular do you think it might be? What is the category of "considered a skill" and where do you see it relevant to the laws of witchcraft? – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 2:22
  • I want to see if rabbis discussed it in the past. I don't care whether people think it works or not. -- when I used the word skill, I meant that it is completely natural and not supernatural – Menachem Nov 26 '17 at 3:08
  • @mevaqesh, I believe there is Machlokes among the Rishonim (Rambam vs. most others) if Witchcraft actually exists or ever did. According to most Rishonim it is not forbidden unless it works. – heshy Nov 26 '17 at 3:27
  • @heshy I know that, but don't see how it clarifies the question. – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 4:07

A new book was recently published titled "Shulchan HaLevi on Alternative Medicine". It is a posthumous publication on Rabbi Yisroel Belsky's view of various Energy healing methods. In it (page 36), he clearly forbids Dowsing as a form of Avoda Zara. He adds that - "Furthermore, this whole system fits in exacly with what the Rishonim describe as the prohibition of kosem kesamim, divination." Also, there is an unusually long footnote which includes a comprehensive compilation of Responsa prohibiting similar methods.

To quote from the sefer, "If a person discovers that he has a problem or medical condition, he should go to a doctor and get a scratch test; that's the best way to find out what you're allergic to."

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    Is kosem kesamim avoda zara? Does he say it is the former or the latter? – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 4:06
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    What does the last paragraph have to do with the question? – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 4:09
  • To get a clear picture i would suggest you read the Sefer (it's in english). He places many methods under a general title of "Avoda Zara", and he points out that it fits into kosem kesamim. (I try to be careful with my wording) – heshy Nov 26 '17 at 4:11
  • Given that kosem kesamim is it's own prohibition, I'm not sure why the two are being conflated. I don't have the work, and I suspect many other users don't either. Answers shouldn't require users to consult other works to understand them. – mevaqesh Nov 26 '17 at 4:15
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    Interesting - but most likely not what the questioner had in mind - since he mentions water and sticks - not pendulums - just make sure R Belsky is addressing the water dowsing being asked about. Kol tuv – mbloch Nov 26 '17 at 4:57

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