The Secrets of an 18th-Century Kabbalistic Cookbook

April 19 2019

Composed by a Polish Jew identified only as Elḥanan—probably in the 1730s—Virtues and Medicines: A Large Volume of Virtues, Medicines, Amulets, and Fortunes consists of 290 handwritten folio pages dealing with what scholars call the “practical kabbalah”: mystical knowledge, in this case in the form of recipes, that could be used to cure diseases, bring material or marital success, ward away demons, and so forth. Agata Paluch describes its contents:

Elḥanan’s manuscript contains a well-known recipe for the production of gold ink. It recommends emptying an eggshell and filling it with mercury. After the shell is sealed with wax or tar, it is supposed to be put under a hen among the eggs that are waiting to hatch. In this case, the result of the mercury egg’s hatching would be an ink that has all the features of gold. . . .

The idea of augmenting the qualities of certain materials was a straightforward consequence of understanding matter as imbued with creative and active forces. Kabbalistic practitioners often attempted to tap into and manipulate these forces with the abilities of their minds. A prayer recitation and mental focus (kavannah or “intention”) on a divine name would seemingly add to the potency of matter or help to change its qualities. . . .

Elḥanan’s compilation offers a number of recipes to treat koltun, [a] disease that causes hair-matting, also known plica polonica. One of the recipes to cure this unfortunate condition recommends, among other things, an adjuration that employs a series of divine names intended to get rid of the demonic element responsible for causing the ailment in human hair. After adjuring an angel whose power extends over [this particular demon], one is to strike it with “the name of eyes”—that is, with the Tetragrammaton written with circles and lines that resemble the shape of eyes—and thus focus his intention on both the ocular shape of the Tetragrammaton and the numerical value of 1,600 for the number of “forces” accompanying the culpable spirit.

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More about: Kabbalah, Magic, Polish Jewry

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror