Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Harry Potter and the Halakhic Seal of Approval

Just in case you were worried about it, it turns out, at least according to Prof. Menahem Kellner of the University of Haifa's department of Jewish history and thought, and his daughter Rivka Kellner, who is a doctoral candidate in literature at Bar-Ilan University, that the brand of magic used in the Harry Potter's book meets with Maimonides' posthumous approval. In other words, it's kosher magic.
According to the Kellners, many generations of researchers deliberated on how to define magic. Much attention had been paid to distinguishing between magic and science on the one hand, and between magic and religion on the other. They explained that Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish sage, philosopher and physician known as the Rambam, rejected the kind of magic that was supernatural and could not be explained. He saw it as competing with religion.

The version of magic used by Rowling's Harry Potter, however, was different, they said. This magic was similar to normal science, and it was explainable - whether we understand it or not.

To demonstrate this, the researchers cited the Potter books' Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The fictional school, they contend, taught magic in a "scientific" way, and the use of magic in the world of Harry Potter depended on study and training as well as on the talent of the performer. It is, therefore, something with an explanation.
Good to know.

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