Witches, witches everywhere?

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan,

I am a home organizer which means that people invite me into their houses. Today, I was surprised by the house I visited when I saw some odd items. The homeowner explained she has added the practices of a nature religion to her previous spiritual Buddhism, and she thinks of herself as a practicing witch.

I had been hearing stories like this from other home organizers, but it was my first Wiccan experience. What does the Torah teach us about women and why they are attracted to witchcraft?



Dear Marie,

When you became a home organizer, we’re sure you adopted the same professional protocols of physicians, psychologists and social workers. In other words, you learned to cultivate a poker face. You are being invited into someone’s life to help them with a specific task, not to respond to any lifestyle choices they make.

However, your question is an intriguing one and it set us on a path of exploration. Scripture speaks of a number of different types of activities that we might group as belonging to the occult; the English might mention soothsayers, divination, witchcraft, augurs, and sorcerers to name a few. This reflects that there are quite a few different Hebrew words when this general topic is raised. [Exodus 7:10-12; Exodus 22:17; Leviticus 19:26, 31; Leviticus 20:27; and Deuteronomy 18:10, for example]

If the Bible describes reality, what can we learn from this? Perhaps we can learn a lesson that is easier to see today than at other times in history. As you point out, the occult is definitely enjoying a resurgence in Western countries. The very women who bristled at the idea of accusing someone of being a witch when they learned about the Salem Witch Trials in school, now proudly proclaim themselves to be witches!

God created human beings with a need to connect with the spiritual. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of spiritual as good or holy. We explain this in much more depth in our Scrolling through Scripture Unit One online course. In reality, spiritual simply means that which cannot be measured in a laboratory. Kindness and cruelty are spiritual, as are optimism and pessimism. When people reject God, they do not become science and fact-driven automatons. They crave something larger, and this empty space is often filled with the occult. In other words, just as nature abhors a vacuum, so do our souls. In the absence of God-centric spirituality, humans turn to its opposite. Spirituality at a distance from God.

Just as proper faith can lead people to be great, negative spiritual schematics can cause great damage. The Bible warns us so heavily against tapping into negative spiritual “vibes” because we can do so. Like murder, it is forbidden, but it is certainly possible.

It is interesting to note that Exodus 22:17 specifically denotes a female “mechasheifah*,” while many other verses speak to both male and females. In Hebrew, a masculine noun can include females (just as mankind or mailmen used to be understood to include women as well), but if a feminine noun is used it excludes males. So, there is a focus here on a female aligning herself with the occult. A phrase in ancient Jewish wisdom, written down around two millennia ago, highlights this point by saying, “The more women the more potential for witchcraft.”

This reflects our catch phrase, “How the world REALLY works.” While men, too, have a need for spiritual connection, women who do not access it in a healthy way often feel a tug to the occult. Whether it is seances attended by women such as Mary Todd Lincoln, or good luck charms, or Ouija boards, certain particular types of occult appeal more to women than men. We think this may explain what you and your fellow organizers are seeing.

Keep your spirits up,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

In our recommended Bible:

  • מכשפה – P. 232 – 11th line from the top, last word on the line.

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One of the best-known and most beloved books of Scripture, the book of Ruth is a compelling story of love, family and redemption.

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  • What similar ideas highlight both a good marriage and a good government?
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