Do not eat with the blood, Do not make enchantments, and do not observe times
Is it permissible to ask G-d “If we will be successful with our Synagogue, let Marvin call me right now?” I will know that we will fail if he does not call. Can we test G-d in such a way?
The answer to this question relies on an age old argument between our rabbis of blessed memory.
This week’s Perasha says, “Lo Tenachashu” – “Do not cast spells.” Is asking G-d for such a sign a spell or just a prayer for G-dly intervention?
We are all familiar with the story of Eliezer Abraham’s slave. before he met Rivkah he asked G-d for a sign that the girl should not only serve him water but should offer to give all of the camels to drink.
The Gemarah states, “Any spell which is not like the spell made by Eliezer Abraham’s servant or Yonaton the son of David is not a spell.”
According to the Rambam from this Gemarah we know that asking G-d for a sign is forbidden. Rambam believes that it is forbidden to test G-d in such ways.
Although many agree with the Rambam others disagree. They say that it is impossible to say that G-d would help a person through doing something which is forbidden. The Radak even goes far enough to rewrite what the Gemarah meant.
Radak differentiates between a sign which you ask for from G-d and something which occurs and you take it as a sign. Examples of this are to say that a fox crossed my path so it is a bad omen or the bread fell out of my mouth so I will not go to work and lose money.
To ask for a sign is a different story. So according to Radak, Eliezer was not transgressing the Torah by asking that the girl should offer to give the camels. Also it would then be permitted to ask if our Synagogue will succeed.
The Rashbah follows the spirit of the Radak. He says that he permits making a metal Lion which was used for medicinal purposes. If you have it around you will get better from being sick. Shmuel 1 , 14 – 9
The Rashbah pulls no punches in this argument. He says that for medicinal purposes almost anything is permitted. He states that many medications and healing practices are not understood yet we still do them. If we have proven that something works we should use it. A good modern example of this is Aspirin. Modern Medicine is far from knowing exactly how it works yet we use all the time for many different problems.
He believes that the Gemarah clearly agrees with him. There we find such treatments as “If one has a bone caught in his throat he should bring a similar one and place it on his forehead and should say ‘one one rest swallow swallow rest one one.'” There are many of this kind of medicine found in the Gemarah.
Of course we would still like to know about our case whether it is permissible to ask for a sign. The Ramah quotes the Radak and comes to the conclusion that although it might be OK it is best not to ask for signs. Tamim Tiheyeh Im Hashem – Be straight when dealing with G-d. It is, therefore, best not to ask.