Sunday, March 18, 2018

An unusual title for a practical guide to Amulets, titled נחש הנחשת

The ongoing debate regarding the use of amulets in Judaism, will most likely be going on eternally. One book which I recently acquired, seems to sum it all up in it's title. The book, titled נחש הנחשת, being the bronze serpent on a pole, which Moshe Rabbenu made to protect the Jews from fiery serpents which God has sent to punish them, "עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ עַל-נֵס; וְהָיָה כָּל-הַנָּשׁוּךְ - וְרָאָה אֹתוֹ, וָחָי".

In Melachim, King Hezekiah institutes an iconoclastic reform that requires the destruction of "the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan". The term means "a brazen thing, a mere piece of brass". M. G. Easton noted that "the lapse of nearly one thousand years had invested the 'brazen serpent' with a mysterious sanctity; and in order to deliver the people from their infatuation, and impress them with the idea of its worthlessness, Hezekiah called it, in contempt, 'Nehushtan', a brazen thing, a mere piece of brass" "וְכִתַּת נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, כִּי עַד-הַיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה הָיוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מְקַטְּרִים לוֹ; וַיִּקְרָא-לוֹ נְחֻשְׁתָּן".

This book, contains a very practical guide to writing amulets, love lotions, magical remedies, and lotteries to determine the future. Following the title page, appears a stark warning from the publisher, stating that much calamity can be forthcoming from using such a book and he only published it to fulfill the wishes of the author, רבי שלום כתר. The author testifies in his introduction, that there is no need to actually use the book, just having it in your home, will bring protection and blessings to it's owner. Perhaps there can be no better title for such a book, that though well-intentioned, can result in idolatry and superstitious beliefs, far removed from Judaism.

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