The Mishna tells us that one may not go out on shabbos wearing an amulet that does not come from an expert.
On the other hand, an amulet from an expert may be worn, and is considered a valid garment and not a burden.
The Gemara says that these rules apply to both amulets which have potions in them as well as amulets which contain holy verses from the scriptures.
The Torah, in Parshas Shoftim, prohibits various types of superstitious behavior, amongst them following or practicing omens, charms, calculating special times, magic, etc., and tells us to be “perfect with Hashem”- i.e. believe in and follow Hashem alone and no other supernatural powers or forces.
The Mishna and Gemara in Sanhedrin (perek 7) and describe these prohibitions in great details, and they are taken very seriously by all.
There is also a well-known dispute regarding the efficacy of these practices .
The Rambam and others of his school, appear to deny the existence of any supernatural forces in the world, and consider all these actions to be completely ineffective, in addition to being prohibited, calling them absolute foolishness.
On the other hand, the Ramban, and others mainly of the Kabbalistic school, believed that there are supernatural forces in the world , and that many of these actions can in fact work , but that as Jews, we are prohibited from following them.
The first Mishna in perek Cheilek lists someone who is “לוחש על המכה”, whispers holy verses to heal a wound, as one of those who have no share in the world to come .
The Rambam )Avoda Zara 11/12) , as is his way, explains that turning words of Torah into magical charms is the ultimate disgrace to Torah, in addition to the fact that they do not work.
So how does our daf make allowance for amulets with holy pesukim in them, on the basis that they have been shown to be effective?
Surely everyone would agree that even if they are effective, this is forbidden as per the Mishna in cheilek and the above prohibitions?
And how would the Rambam who believes that such things have no real affect at all, explain and rule on this explicit Mishna and Gemara which allows wearing such an amulet on shabbos?
In addition, amulets with potions in them should also be forbidden, based on the prohibitions of superstitious behavior, and according to Rambam’s approach, of course, also considered useless.
Please share your thoughts, and I shall try give some of mine in the comments section or in a later post, as this theme comes up again a little later in the perek.
These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha .