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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

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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