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Harriet Berkal
Manny Berkal-Sarbit


by Harriet Berkal, Sept 1, 2017

Every year we wish each other a heartfelt Shona Tovah, a Happy New Year, during the High Holiday season. It is a custom that remains with us all our living days. We remember the fuss that went into the Rosh Hashona dinner, which our mothers made from scratch; the long services which we attended and bored many of us to tears, while it enlightened others; and the sounding of the shofar, forever embedded into our minds.


We believe that the New Year will bring us good health and happiness and recognize that none of us know for certain what will happen in the coming months. But what if – just what if – someone could help guide us along or unveil things we yearned to know?


Jewish law is quite definitive about the usage of soothsayers. Our history is filled with the story of prophets but they come with pedigrees unlike the world of those who may or may not be “gifted”.  (I hope I haven’t lost any of you by now as I have ventured off into the abyss of psychics. However, try and be open-minded and not so dismissive. It truly is quite intriguing!)


Here is what is often quoted in the realms of Jewish circles:


“There are however, those who possess supernatural foresight. Such foreseers are divided into two categories: prophets, and psychics (or other forms of black magic). The former is divine, the latter is dark. We are commanded to heed the prophet's calling, yet prohibited from seeking the psychic's insight.”,193/What-is-the-Jewish-view-on-psychics.html#footn



And Tarrot cards and Judaism ?

Tarot cards, fortune tellers, consulting "psychics" all those sorts of things are completely forbidden by normative halacha. At a minimum it's darchei emori and superstitious nonsense. At worst, it's considered forbidden magic. Even though you view it as "just for fun" there are people who take this stuff seriously and the act itself is problematic. It doesn't matter if the person using them didn't believe it (remember that the people who invented these various forms of nonsense were charlatans doing it to make a buck), the problem is that other people are fooled by the illusion.




When I lost both of my parents in 2009, within an 8th month stretch, I attended a bereavement group. The eight individuals who gathered had each experienced the loss of a loved one; either a mother or father like me or a spouse or even a child. There were, of course commonalities to each of our feelings. But we were all at a loss of how to move on and how this new void could be dealt with?


And so I asked the facilitator if anyone had ever contacted a psychic to try and reach out and connect. She said she had the numbers of three reputable individuals within the city. (I guess the question wasn’t so shocking as I thought it might have been.)


The majority of people will never admit to seeing a spiritual healer or whatever you wish to call these people who, in my mind, and without a doubt have a “special talent” as it were. How do you know they aren’t charlatans?   Personally, I’ve met more people in my everyday life who lack more ethics and morals than the three, now four, whom I have seen.


So how can you be sure? Well, word –of- mouth is usually the best way to navigate this back alley. What can you expect and how to proceed? Some of them like you to bring photos (showing the eyes of the person you are trying to reach or know about.) They ALL use tarot cards but this is as far from mahjong as you can expect. Go with as little information as possible. By that I mean block your phone number, do not give them a last name, and say little if anything – think “poker face” and you may be astounded by what you hear come out of their mouths.


For my  first meeting I brought the photos of my parents. Of course I didn’t tell the reader who they were or anything about them. Most allow you to record the session, but I always take notes as well and this too, avoids eye contact with them.


So the first “reading” indicating that those in the photos were my folks didn’t shock me as appearances alone could reveal that. The disturbance came shortly thereafter. I was told that someone was watching over me. She described a younger man, so that threw me. However, she described the synagogue where my beloved father worked to a tee. “ I see a building by the river with lots of limestone and inside there are these different cabinets with sliding doors and scrolls inside – all on a stage of some sort, I’m sorry I can’t read that language.” There are two ferns on either side of this special cabinet is how she described the arc. Okay, I know who this is now, but didn’t acknowledge this to her at all. She asks if I want a message he has for me? “Sure!” “ He wasn’t happy with the care he received in the last eight months of his life!” Not what I expected as a message from my dad but certainly in keeping with what I knew. It was making more and more sense.


Another time she told me that one of my siblings had a different genetic disorder that my two other siblings had. I had never told her how many siblings I have. She was rather specific in the disorder so I advised my other brother to get things checked out. A month later he called me to say she was simply lucky.


So is it luck or something more than that? I have been told precise things which have either occurred but not to my knowledge then. For example, it was specified to me that my daughter’s boyfriend at the time had just bought a red sport car the other day, which turned out to be true. Not even close to a generality.


She has read certain photos of people whom I have known and either dropped them to the floor acknowledging that they represented evil forces in my life or the reaction has sometime been to insist on burning the photo to obliterate the malevolent vibe from my life. To further test this response out, I have shown the exact same image to other psychics I know, only to receive the same vehement result. Coincidence? No way!


So do their readings dictate one’s life? They should not. But I try and glean what feedback I can get – be it comfort or reassurance or insight into situations and try to learn from them. Not always easy to do.


What is most intriguing about these visits is to understand just who goes to these colorful characters seeking something from them in the way of guidance. I can honestly attest that I know people from all walks of life who see these credible psychics, be they from the professional fields – anyone from clergy to social workers, students to psychologists, and students and homemakers.  But they return time and time again, as they are believers in these modern day soothsayers and feel the gift of their words and interpretations.


Does one lose credibility by admitting they see a psychic? Some keep it very private for this very reason as others might view them differently, in an unfavorable manner. For myself, I have absolutely no issue with admitting that I do see them – not just anyone but only those I have come to trust and who have been spot on about events in my life.


Does this make me less of a Jew? On the contrary- it connected me to my father whom I view as one of the greatest jews I have ever met. The comfort I felt from that specific meeting, I carry with me at all times.


I pray no one casts an “ayin ha-ra” an evil eye upon you this forthcoming year, but of course there are no guarantees. (The evil eye is a curse believed to be cast by a malevolent glare, usually given to a person when they are unaware. Many cultures believe that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury.)



One thing is a certainly: a new year is coming which we have no control over. We can only treat others the way we wish to be treated with love, respect, honesty and dignity. Will that happen? I can be optimistic that we all will endure any hardships thrown our way over time. But truthfully I haven’t a clue! I have never been good at playing cards but trust me, I do know of others who have a head’s up and a gift for comprehending the past and the future.



Shana Tova to all. 

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