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Seeing is not Believing

12/01/13 18:04:30


R Pesach Siegel

Seeing is not Believing – The Elusive Barley Grain

Parshas Va’Eira 5773

The Land of Egypt is smitten with ten plagues. Each and every one delivered a distinct message. The waters of the Nile were transformed into blood. Pharaoh’s mechashfim (aka magicians) were able to duplicate the feat. Mitzrayim was infested by a deluge of frogs, the mechashfim managed to do the same.

Until the plague of kinnim. The mechashfim failed. They tried but they just couldn’t do it. Our sages tell us the reason why. Mechashfim have no power over anything smaller than a barley grain. They cannot create it. They cannot even summon it.[1]

They can transform matter. They can replicate animal forms. But they can’t move a louse from here to there.

Perhaps the following gemara can shed light on this particular inability of theirs.

The gemara tells us that once a woman attempted to remove some dust from under Rabi Chanina’s foot. This was a form of kishuf intended to cause harm to the victim. He saw her. He said, “Go ahead. Try and succeed. The Torah says, Ein od milvado – There is no other but Him alone. If it is G-d’s wish that I be harmed, then I will be harmed. If it is not His will, your efforts will amount to nothing.”[2]

From this gemara it is evident that kishuf can have no effect on a person. All is G-d’s will.

Let us look at another gemara.

Rav Chisda and Rabbah Bar Avuha were travelling on a boat. A woman wished to travel with them, and they declined. She uttered an incantation, and the boat was locked in place.[3]

It would seem that this woman did possess the ability to affect and severely limit the movements of Rav Chisda and Rabbah.

Kishuf is a force. It is one with real ramifications. One who believes in kishuf puts his faith in supernatural powers that are independent of the Creator. G-d created these powers, but he gave them over to the hands of man to do with them as he wishes.

This is heresy.

In fact, Hashem did not create these powers, and He certainly doesn’t allow for their use. What Hashem did do was give man the potential to create these powers on his own. Man creates kishuf through the power of belief. One who believes that the world can be separated from its Creator, and can exist as a self generating reality creates power through this belief.

Rabi Chanina was on such a high level of belief that to him an independent world is not a reality. This is conveyed by the words he said, “Ein od milvado.” For Rabi Chanina, kishuf does not exist.

Others, even Torah sages, are not on the same lofty level as Rabi Chanina.

There are different levels in emunah. It is a challenge to be surrounded by a world that all that is true is hidden from the naked eye. All that can be seen tends to lead one astray. The level of belief where one sees in total clarity that all that exists has no independent existence, that all matter is constantly being recreated is an elusive one.

One way of attaining this perfect faith is by the study of particles.

Nothing is as it seems. All things are nothing but combinations of even smaller things. And those smaller things are made up of even smaller things, and so on and so forth.

Kishuf is based on the belief that this world is solid, that it is independent, and can sustain itself. Its power stems from the illusion of this world being an entity on its own.

The existence of particles smaller than a grain of barley are a contradiction to this false belief system. They are evidence that all in this world have no substance on their own.

The mechashfim have no power over the evidence of their own lack of substance.

This is the lesson of the plague of kinnim.

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781