Project Genesis

Judaism and Non-Jews

Idolatry and Non-Jewish Practices

Mediums, Speaking to the Dead

Question: What does the Torah say, if anything on the subject of mediums, people who can (presumably) see, sense or interact with the dead. If the Torah does not address this, is it addressed anywhere? And if so, what does it say. References would be good so I can look up the specific information.

Answer: Interesting question. First you should look at Deuteronomy 18 (9-22). This is the main source describing the Torah’s attitude toward these things. It describes there various ways that people had of contacting the dead and/or finding the future. But the Torah is very much against the whole idea. Ancient religions were very death-centered, but G-d wants us to be focused on this world. The Torah says that G-d gave us prophets who can actually give exact predictions of the future, and see things beyond our mortal view. But even there, “you should be whole-hearted before your G-d.” We should be focused on our service to G-d. The purpose of prophecy is not to be an oracle, but to help us understand how to serve G-d properly in this world. Their ability to prophesy, to see the future, is a tool to help them help us.

There are a number of other places in the Torah that briefly discuss the “ov” and “yid’oni” (see Leviticus 20(27)), ancient ways of contacting the dead. All the references are very negative.

As a little bit of counter-point to this, see also the story of the last days of Saul in Samuel I chapter 28. There King Saul, abandoned by the prophets, unable to find proper advice on how to deal with the Philistine threat, takes a drastic and desperate step: He contacts a woman who can bring back the shade of Samuel the prophet to advise him.

Best wishes,
Michoel Reach

No Follow-ups »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress