Sunday, July 10, 2011


No Divination

כי לא נחש ביעקב - For there is no divination in Yaakov – Balak 23:23

deep insights by Reb Aharon @ Mystical Paths

snake_eyesWhat is the difference between Torah meditation and Eastern methods of meditation, as well as the type of meditation used by mediums or ‘psychics’?

נחש has a significantly large part to play in the Torah. The word נחש refers both to the serpent, as in the snake first mentioned in the sin of Adam, or to sorcery, as, for example, we find Lovon sayingנחשתי , or Yosef Hatsaddik saying כי נחש ינחש איש אשר כמוני.

The snake starts the ten plagues, with a staff changing into a snake and back again. We find him [Mishpotim] in the commandments of לא תנחשו – not to practice sorcery and [in Chukas] in connection with slander: a plague of snakes descends on the camp as a result of bad-mouthing the Manna. Moshe is instructed to make a ‘Sorof’ and place it on a standard or staff; the resultant copper snake placed on a staff [note again the theme of staff and snake] heals the stricken and is to become the emblem of healing till the present day.

And then we come to this [last] week’s sidrah, with several references to ‘nachash’, sorcery: לקראת נחשים as opposed to כי לא נחש ביעקב. Plus we are treated to interesting words that don’t appear elsewhere in Tana”Ch, for example: וילך שפי, words used to describe Bilom’s method of inducing his ‘prophetic’ state.

The various commentaries discuss the meaning of שפי. Rashi says it means he went ‘quietly’. Onkelos translates it as ‘he went alone’. Yonason Ben Uziel explains it to mean ‘he went like a snake’.

I suggest that all these meanings describe various facets of a certain mental state used by the ‘sorcerer’, which also throws light on the use of snake as a metaphor.

The primal meditative state advocated by the עובדי עבודה זרה (ones who practice idol worship) is to clear one’s mind. Psychic or mediumistic ‘messages’ are easily detected on a still mind. This method has not changed for the past four thousand years. It is this method we see here described in the Torah.

This is the state called שפי. It intimates quietness of mind [Rashi], mental [and/or, physical] solitude [Onkelos] that brings the mind to a type of ‘snake-like’ state [Yonason Ben Uziel], as it imperceptibly slides along, taking note of the slightest ‘ripple’ or disturbance.

This is also what is meant by Bilom when he says ואנכי אקרה כה: (and G-d might happen to appear – Balak 23:15) it is a state of waiting, an acceptance of any ‘message’ or communication, of opening oneself up to any outside influence.

All this is in direct opposition to the Torah way of thought and meditation. The Torah way increases one’s holiness, making oneself a place for the Shechinoh [Divine Presence] to reside. All thought or meditation is directed to the Shechinoh. We connect with the Divine Presence within us. This connection, in turn, makes us privy to רוח הקודש, the Divine Spirit, which brings clarity to matters otherwise hidden from human intellect. כי לא נחש ביעקב – For there is no divination in Yaakov, rather it comes only from the Divine.


  1. Where was Moshe while all these was happening ? Why wasn't he mentioned once ?

  2. reb gutman, please help out here. isn't it kosher meditation to sit quietly: as 'al me menuchot ynahaleni'..He leads me beside still waters (tehillim 23)?
    isn't it kosher meditation to let te body and mind be quiet or peaceful (not 'open'..just quiet and peaceful)?

  3. As an additional reply/comment to Mr. Anonymous [July 12th]
    I have just seen Rabbi Gutman's excellent answer to you. I would merely like to add and clarify. Most definitely, sitting quietly is to be encouraged but as the verse says in your quotation, "on the calm, settled waters He leads me", the stress is on the 'He': let the body and mind be quiet, by all means, that is an extremely praiseworthy exercise and found extensively in our earliest, traditional sources, but the aim isn't simply to clear the mind and let it go at that. Our map of the psyche dictates that our G-dly soul, the highest, most spiritual part of us, is a portal to G-d. As such, this quietness is a directed quietness, a quietness of self or a focus of the self to G-d. Achieving this not only brings about a profound peacefulness, it brings with it an indescribable experience of 'deveikus', cleaving to G-d. This is the difference between the 'snake of kedushoh [holiness]' (referred to in Zohar, the writings of the Arizal, Ramchal) and the other, r"l.


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