Sunday, April 28, 2013

Seridei Aish: Recommends psychology rather than force or prohibitions to deal with teenager who is obsessed with magic tricks

Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Seridei Aish 3:95): Because of the principles of education, it is best to avoid using forceful means on a son who has deviated from the normal path. You correctly mention that it is prohibited to hit a grown child. You are also correct in saying that the prohibition is not limited to hitting a grown child but rather it is prohibited to use any type of force because it has the potential to bring about results that are the opposite of what was desired. The modern educational experts have proven that force or strong pressure arouses in a teenage youth extreme stubbornness and a tendency to rebel. The best advice is to find an alternative activity for this youth which he would enjoy. In other words the strategy should be to transfer his current obsession for magical tricks - without his awareness - to other activities. Fortunately in the present case the youth is committed to Torah and mitzvos. Perhaps it is a good idea to send him to Israel to learn in yeshiva there. The change of friends and the spiritual atmosphere will cause him to move away from the American lifestyle and immersion in the nonsense activities of American youth. It is also a good idea that that the trip to Israel should be presented as a reward for his good behavior. You can also promise him that his magic trick devices  that he is enamored with - will be stored away and protected until he returns from Israel. However it is quite likely that when he returns from Israel, he will no longer be interested in the nonsense of magical tricks.

23 comments :

  1. There's nothing wrong with magic tricks. I'm a magician. My rabbi said it's permitted. You can make a living doing magic shows. It makes people happy.

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    1. Chochmas Adom 89:6, rules that acts that appear to be magical are prohibited, even if they are acts of sleight of hand. Rav Ovadia Yosef , Yechaveh Da'as 3:68, accepts the Chochmas Adam's opinion as binding.

      http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/coffeeroom/topic/magic-shows-and-tricks

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    2. Rav Moshe Feinstein permits it

      שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ד סימן יג

      אבל שייך רק לדון להתיר לבדחנים שעושין ענייני אחיזת עינים על חתונות באופן שיהיה ידוע ומפורסם שהוא מצד קלות התנועה וכדומה, שהוא מעשה טבעי ולא שייך לכשפים. והחכ"א (כלל פ"ט סימן ו') משמע שאוסר גם באופן זה משום סברת הב"ח, שקצת משמע שהסכים לו גם הש"ך, אף שהוא נסתר ממילא ממש"כ שכן הוא בתשובת הרב כדלעיל. וזה היה שייך לאסור להבדחנים רק אם יאמרו שעושין זה באיזה לחשים, אף שהם לחשים שאינם ע"י כישוף, דהוא אחיזת עינים כתשובת הרמ"א. אבל אם אומרים שעושים בדרך טבעי, וכן הוא ידוע ומפורסם, איני רואה בזה שום איסור. אבל עכ"פ להוראה למעשה לא בא לידי עניין זה ולא שמעתי שבכאן עושין בדחנות בכלל. ובמקצת מקומות שנזדמן שהייתי על חתונות שהיה שם בדחן, לא נתעסקו בדברים כאלו. ולכן לא נשמע ממני זה אלא בלימוד ולא למעשה, אף שלא מסתפקנא בהלכה. ואם היה בא למעשה הייתי משתמטנא מפני כבוד רבותינו האוסרין. ואם לא היה אפשר להשתמט הייתי מורה דבדרך טבעי, וידוע ומפורסם שהוא דרך טבעי, שמותר.

      ומה שהוסיף כתר"ה דידוע שהרבה ילדים מתפעלים מזה, עד שחושבים שודאי יש לאדם זה כחות בלתי טבעיים, הפריז על המידה. אלא שילדים חושבים שאדם גדול הוא, ויש ודאי ילדים שחושבים שהרבה איכא כמוהו, ולא שייך שום חשש בזה.

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    3. Ben,

      If "acts that appear to be magical are prohibited, even if they are acts of sleight of hand", then cell phones, televisions, computers, airplanes, cars, and all modern technologies should also be prohibited.

      As long as you tell the audience that it's trickery, than it's permitted to do magic, according to my rabbi.

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    4. Many Gedolim permit Magical Shows with the premise that an announcement or sign is hung that 'Magic is where the hand is quicker than the eye and nothing out of the ordinary, 'Gd like' is happening.

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    5. i really don't see how saying that if magic tricks are forbidden, than a cell phone should be forbidden. that you can't see a radio wave isn't the issue.

      anyway, i wasn't telling you that you shouldn't do magic. you asked for a psak and got a heter. that is all that one needs to do in a situation like this.

      having said that i have to add the following: that your rav paskens like rav moshe doesn't mean that the other opinions don't exist.

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    6. I don't understand this statement, "However it is quite likely that when he returns from Israel, he will no longer be interested in the nonsense of magical tricks."

      Every Talmud Chachum should study the principles of modern magic to understand how the human mind can be deceived into believing false things. It's definitely not nonsense. It makes a person humble to see how easy it is to be fooled.

      Understanding how modern magic works is as important as understanding physics, chemistry, biology, math, perhaps more important.

      Modern magic is an art form, and lots of great books are written about it.

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    7. Ben,

      I don't understand how the other opinions could possibly make sense:

      Suppose you were to travel in time 500 years with two walkie talkies and demonstrate it to the poskim then (without a scientific explanation). Would they say it's permitted? Probably not. They would probably think you are doing real magic.

      Then if you were to explain to them how it worked, they would probably say it's OK.

      Similarly, with magic tricks. If you do magic tricks without telling people that it's really tricks, they could be fooled into believing it's real magic, if one is good enough as a magician. But if you explain to them that it's tricks, then you have the same situation as the cell phone.

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    8. the chochmat adam wrote about magicians doing tricks at weddings. it was a profession, just like what people do today. i have no doubt that everyone knew that what he did was a trick. and with all that, he still wrote that it is assur doreitta.

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    9. Ben,

      But it wasn't like it is today back in the day of the Chochmat Adam. Most people didn't know these were just tricks. Today, you can find out how to do virtually any magic trick online. Just watch youtube and you'll find an unskilled magician perform the magic trick and then you'll know how it's done. It wasn't like this when I was a kid 30+ years ago. Then you had to go to a magic shop and buy a book or a trick. It wasn't free, but still anyone could learn.

      But back in the day of the Chochmat Adam, the art of magic was very secret. Not just anyone could learn. There were no magic shops like today. Magicians were very careful about not revealing their secrets. Many of them played it real. Plus, many people believed in real magic, unlike today. I can't see how one can use the opinion of the Chochmat Adam to poskin that modern magic today is assur. Back then, it was very different than today, as there were very few books on magic.

      The oldest book which tells how magic tricks were done was published in 1584, "Discoverie of Witchcraft" by Reginald Scot in England. You can get it online translated into modern English. Many of the secrets given in this book are still used today.

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    10. but the last posek to rule this way on the issue wasn't the chochmat adam but rav ovadia.

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    11. Do you have any information why Rav Ovadia rules this way? My rabbi told me that he thinks it's a cultural thing - magic shows in which the magician reveals that he is only doing tricks aren't big in Muslim countries where Sephardim come from. So there isn't a real precedent for Sephardic poskim to permit it.

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    12. no, i don't have a copy of that psak.

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  2. what's so bad about magic tricks? It's even something you can make money with...

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    1. Magic is the only profession that is honest in that magicians will tell you that what they are doing is not for real.

      You can't say that about doctors and lawyers. You still have to pay doctors even if they don't cure your sickness and still have to pay lawyers even if you lose in court.

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    2. your analogy doesn't work. assuming that you signed a contract, you would still have to pay a magician even if he sucks at what he does.

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    3. It depends on what the contract says.

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    4. everything depends on the details.

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  3. conclusion: the seridei aish believes in using pedagogical theory over p'sukim, masoret, piskei halacha.

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    1. Nope - that is not what he says. The first part of the teshuva deals with whether the father can prohibit the magic equipment to his son by taking a neder similar to nezirus . He concludes that has no validity in halacha. Therefore he proposes that instead of trying to use force one use elementary psychology. It is clear from the halacha that as a general rule one should avoid forcing an an adult son to do something and it is not a chidush of psychology. In fact I don't think there is any chidush of psychology in what he says. I think all parents/teachers/rabbis use similar techniques of distraction and redirection.
      There is a major review article on corporal punishment in Tradition 2003 which specifcally rejects your conclusion which had been proposed by Rav Guttel in his review article[shana b'shana 5762] on the subject where he contrasted the approach of Rav Dessler and that of the Seridei Aish.

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  4. The modern educational experts have proven that force or strong pressure arouses in a teenage youth extreme stubbornness and a tendency to rebel.

    very many educators today (in certain schools) would be loath to use the words "modern educational experts" and many of the same advocate force or strong pressure, even for guys 18, 19 (or older) years old.

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    1. True there are such educators but that doesn't mean that the Seridei Aish was rejecting the Traditional approach and was using psychology instead. You made your assertion in regard to the Seridei Aish and there is no support for your position in what he says in the teshuva.

      It seems more likely that he was just using common sense and but in order to convince the one who raised the question he cited secular authority

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    2. Common Sense is a psychology term also....

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