Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Safek Darkei Emori, Casting Wax, and Casting Lead

An interesting teshuva from haElef Lecha Shelomo (Rav Shlomo Kluger), that doubtful darkei Emori is not problematic. This may have some impact on the case of casting (/pouring) lead, from a previous post.
שו"ת האלף לך שלמה חלק יו"ד סימן רטו

שא' מה שנוהגין כמה אנשים ששופכין שעוה לחולה ומלחשין עליו וחשש רו"מ אולי יש בזה משום דרכי האמורי הנה ידע רו"מ שבהשקפה ראשונה עלה בדעתי שאיסור דרכי האמורי אינו רק אם ידענו שזה הוי דרכי אמורי מתחלה אבל אם לא ידענו אם הוי זה דרכי אמורי אין איסור בזה מספק ות"ל מצאתי אח"כ בד"מ /יו"ד/ סי' קע"ט בשם הר"ן כן דמספק אין לחוש לדרכי אמורי וא"כ ה"נ מאן לימא לן דהוי זה דרכי אמורי ואף שגם הם עושין כן אולי הוי להיפוך דהם למדו הסגולה מאתנו ועוד מפורש בש"ס פרק במה אשה הובא ג"כ בד"מ סק"א דאין במה שהוא משום רפואה דרכי אמורי ומוכח שם דאף במעשה אין בו משום דרכי אמורי עיי"ש ובשם תשובת הרשב"א גם עיין בא"ח סעיף ז' גבי למדוד איזור וליחוש עליו מוכח נמי דכל כה"ג אין בו חשש דרכי אמורי אף דהוי במעשה וה"נ נמי התכת השעוה מה לי זה או זה לכך הדבר ברור לי שאין בזה חשש דרכי אמורי ואין להאריך בזה ולא באתי רק להוציא מלב החושש לכך

He was asked whether a practice of pouring out wax and muttering an incantation over it is darkei Emori. He gives two reasons why not -- a principle in Shas that anything for refuah is not darkei Emori; and that the problem is only for certain darkei Emori, but if you do not know the source, perhaps the gentiles got the segulah from us!

A manifestation of this practice among non-Jews, which I think is the practice he was referring to:
"A fascinating medical folk ritual called vylyvaty visk or strakh vylyvaty is known among Ukrainians in Alberta. A loose English translation of the name would be "the pouring forth of wax" or "the pouring forth of fear." During the ceremony, a patient who comes to a healer for help is seated in a chair. A bowl is filled with cold water, and a lump of wax is melted. The healer engages in conversation and asks the patient for his or her symptoms. An incantation is uttered, and the wax is poured into the water over the head of the patient. The solidified wax is taken from the water and turned over, and its shapes are interpreted. This process is typically repeated three times. The ceremony is considered effective in curing fear sickness and numerous other maladies."
Another example of the same:
Stepania is a Ukrainian folk healer, known to her fellow villagers as a babka, or babka-sheptukha (—granny,“ or —granny-whisperer“).(2) Babky are elderly women who perform magico-religious rituals such as —the pouring forth of wax“ (vylyvaty visk sometimes called strakh vylyvaty, —to pour fear“) to treat a variety of maladies.(3) They are usually respected figures in their communities, and are seen by many to possess a valuable form of wisdom that cannot be learned in books. Though some babky are rumored to be witches who practice both —white“ and —black“ magic, and their practices are derided by some as —superstitions,“ their fellow villagers usually respect them, seeing them as God‘s chosen healers.(4) The babky see themselves (and are seen by most villagers) in terms of what Faith Wigzell has described as the role of the Russian znakharki (knowing ones). Historically, she writes, znakharki were folk healers who (in contrast to witches and sorcerers), —did not embody supernatural powers, but acted as mediators with the unclean force“ [1998:49]
(This is the link to the previous post, since the wax is being interpreted, a sort of nichush. Of course, in that case, it is not specifically for the sake of refuah, has other superstitious elements to it, and perhaps we can document enough of a history to demonstrate that indeed it comes from gentile superstitions.)

I wonder if ancient Assyrian precedents to incantations over wax, to remove illness, would be persuasive that this has non-Jewish origins. Perhaps not. But anyway, from the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, on the entry on אש, fire:

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