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News: The Pillar of Smoke was featured in the October 18, 2007 issue of Pittsburgh's Jewish Chronicle. The article can be found here; while Sara is misquoted in it (pagan gods are most certainly not part of magic in a Jewish context), on the whole the article was somewhat better than we expected. The UJF has removed our listing on their links page, as of October 19, 2007, at the urging of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Council; the Chronicle covered this development on October 25, 2007, in this article. Jason's letter to the editor in response was also in the October 25 Chronicle, but without the quote from Gershon Winkler and the references to What the Bleep, The Secret, and our website (in short, with all the cited justifications removed). The original text is available here. Jason's direct response to the editor regarding the deletions, along with his response to the author of both articles, can be read here. The Chronicle also subsequently published Sara's letter to the editor, which can be read here. You might also want to read Sara's (2001) response to similar questions"Why I teach Kabbalah to Polytheists".
In the interest of clearing up the common misconception that "magic is antithetical to Judaism", expressed in the articles above, we present a quotation from Rabbi Gershon Winkler's book Magic of the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism. Rabbi Winkler is a classically trained Orthodox rabbi who chose to create his own Jewish path instead of clinging to the standard dogma of Orthodox rabbinic thought. He writes, "The proscriptions in the Bible against divination and sorcery refer specifically to the kinds of sorcery practiced by specified cultures whose ways the Jewish people were forbidden to emulate. The Hebrew scriptural verse (Exodus 22:17), for example, has for centuries been haphazardly translated as 'You shall not suffer a witch to live,' when literally it translates: 'You should not sustain a witch,' meaning don't get into the habit of supporting the livelihood of the village magician; don't let some guy with a lot of supernatural power drain you of your savings through fear and intimidation. Let him get a job like everybody else, and perform his magic out of the goodness of his heart and in recognition of the sacred gift he possesses."