Blessed are you for Creating Harry: Jewish Affinity for Harry Potter
by Cia Sautter, Ph.D
Cia Sautter, Ph.D. is a professor of World Religions with a deep love of story. She's explored the practice of kabblah through formal academic training and practical experience with Jewish meditation. As a dancer and yoga instructor, she understands the power of moving metaphor to make magical changes.
“Ah, that Harry Potter, pssss….such a kabbalist!” said my Jewish meditation teacher. He confirmed my suspicions. The story was about spiritual growth – all that business with the mirror of desire, and talk of hearts and love. It was like it was illustrating parts of the Jewish mystic Zohar –The Book of Enlightenment. But, was Harry supposed to be Jewish? With spells that almost sound like blessings, seeming borrowing of rabbinic tales, and even use of last names like “Black,” the affection of many in the Jewish community for the series is not surprising. It reads “Jewish.” But there are also several historical and social factors allowing for such an extraordinarily positive reaction to the stories. Significantly, there is a amazingly strong correlation with Jewish spiritual traditions, magic presumably serving as a symbol of spiritual reality amidst the material world. .
Since Rowling is apparently influenced by the Inklings tradition, some Western Religious influence on the storyline isn’t surprising. What is almost startling though is the way Harry Potter seems to follow a kabbalistic path of spiritual development. This is a path of learning how to love deeply, which is, ultimately, appealing and familiar to Jews.
Basic Considerations : On a basic level, the attraction of Harry Potter for many Jews is hardly surprising. Stories are simply part of being Jewish, and we have many tales of a human made man (golems), magic transformations, shamir worms that talk to kings, dybbuk souls that attach themselves to living beings, and magical Elijah who walks between worlds of heaven and earth. These tales come from Jewish communities around the world, and share a Torah tradition of explaining life through stories. If they break the illusion that existence is purely rational and material, this is good. Jewish tradition affirms this is true. Otherwise we’d have been destroyed as slaves in Egypt long ago. But, our great magician Moses used his wand to somehow change that reality. We prefer to state this “magic” in picturesque metaphoric ways in the Torah, to describe a power of love beyond us providing life, hope, and freedom.
In sum, Harry Potter fits very much into Jewish story tradition. My own personal study and teaching of ritual gave me a further “inkling” that Rowling is doing something similar in her books. As I was teaching a fourth grade class that they must first say a blessing in Hebrew, then follow it up with an action, I compared it to swishing and flicking a wand after saying Wingardian Leviosa. The comparison absolutely delighted the fourth graders. I then discovered many Jewish adults were also enchanted by Harry. One Jewish author bluntly asks “Is Harry Jewish? He notes that there is, at least, much Jewish commentary on Mr. Potter:
… the five Potter books have been subject to almost as much rabbinical commentary as those other Five Books. Some say Harry's story is rife with odd Kabbalistic symbolism” and note biblical reference to the “Potter” of creation... ( Isaiah 64:7). (Wishna)
Cantor Amy Miller asks, "What's a nice Jewish boy like Harry Potter doing in a place like this?" in her Convention Alley 2004 paper . Focusing on “Harry's "neshama," his good soul, she comments that "he grew up without role models… but he's a real mensch." Miller also carefully perused the text, finding that Aunt Marge in Prisoner of Azkaban says "Thanks for the nosh, Petunia." While “nosh” is currently not just a Jewish word, Miller does conclude that Harry has strong ethical standards and a sense of hopefulness, which are qualities promoted by Judaism. She states that “his story is one of courage, of hope and of faith, which makes him a good candidate for a “nice Jewish boy.” Yet she questions the use of a wand, and jokes about the school name of”—Hogwarts?!” (Wishna; Miller). 1
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz’s findings validate some of my experience, and despite its non-kosher sounding name he compares Hogwarts to a Jewish Yeshiva teaching Torah. The lessons on spells and History of Magic he compares to our prayers, which are meant to affect change.
At Hogwarts, Harry studies magic. ... This is like our study of Torah. (This gets a huge lehavdil, which is what we say when we compare two things that really aren’t alike.)
Harry and his friends cast spells, but the charms they cast don’t always turn out as intended. ..To a degree this can be compared to davening [-prayer with motion]…
My favorite commentary is by writer Naomi Sable, who points out that Jews live a separate and special reality, as does the magic community of Harry Potter. This Jewish reality includes “liv(ing) in the same world as every one else” yet with “ vastly different lives” that include “ our own secret world of practices and rituals.” Additionally, Jews “ have our own mission that requires special responsibilities” that help “ to reveal God's presence on earth .. in our daily activities in a spiritually conscious way.” Thus, Jews reveal a magic that exists in the world.
The most direct and obvious connection between the magic world and Judaism though is in that stereotypical phrase of magic – the Aramaic abra k’dabra meaning “ I create as I speak” (Winker 95). It is associated with Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. The variant we get in Harry Potter is about destruction with words, and latinized into avada kedevra. It’s an extreme curse rather than a blessing.
General Background of Judaism and Magic: Literature and Practice
Beyond these more obvious points of comparison of Judaism with the magic world of Harry Potter, there is a magic tradition within Judaism. It is more familiar than one might expect.
Rabbi Gershon Winkler studied “magical” Jewish traditions after writing extensively on the “Golem,” which is a story about a rabbi bringing to life a man-made creature through a kabbalistic prayer. This tale is a very well known Jewish story, and reportedly used as a basis for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster, and Tolkien’s “Gollum.” Winkler’s in-depth study of this story allowed him to understand that “magic” in Judaism was not uncommon nor necessarily dark. He looked at prayers and blessing that may be described quite well as magic formulas. Many call on the powers of nature, such as wind or “ruach.” He points out that ruach was identified with angels as messengers of God. So, when reciting the traditional bedtime prayer envisioning four angles of protection, according to “ancient” Kabbalah understanding one is invoking the four winds or “spirit beings.” Winkler’s translation of the ‘protection spell’ reads:
In the name of the Infinite One/Power of the God Wrestler;/at my right is meecha’el(Michael);/ and at my left is gavree’el; (Gabriel)/ and in front of me is uree’el (Uriel);/and behind me is rafa’el (Raphael);/ and above my head is/ the Feminine Presence of the Power (Shekinah). (44)
Many people do not realize the magical implications of this bedtime prayer. Yet, the fact is Jews call on the power of God in many prayers. The understanding is that by doing so, or even simply saying a blessing, one is changing reality. In the Talmud, the rabbis note how prayer alters life, and even insist that one must not simply say the words of a blessing, but must complete the words with an action. Much as Professor Lupin tells his class, “you can’ just say the words. You have to do something” (POA-US 134).2
Winker points out that the kabbalistic basis for understanding the idea of “I create through by speech” may be found in Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation). While dense and cryptic, on one level it might be interpreted as saying that humans receive inspiration to create. Through a process of reception, formation into letters, words, and finally story, inspiration becomes physical reality (Winkler 15-28; Fisdel). Use of powerful words would also allow one to see “that the spirit realm and the physical realm share the same reality.” In Jewish magic tradition, this is a lifting of the ‘veil of illusion’ or ‘par’gawd.’ This allows one to see the “magic in the ordinary” (Winkler 8; Unterman 153).
Unlike the Narnia tales or the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth, Rowling places Harry in a world that is our world, yet he is able to connect to its magic. In this, she matches a kabbalistic understanding of the world. According to Winkler, such a view is not strange, but deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. Magic practices –word formulas with specific actions – “are real teachings, by real people who were real, practicing Jews who actually lived … who had the consciousness of experiencing magic in everything”(8). While this may be a shock to some, in general Winkler’s claim is well supported by historical documentation and general sources. A brief paging through the Dictionary of Jewish Legend and Lore supports his claim, with examples of protection “spells,” and stories of rabbis walking on both sides of the veil. Jews practiced magic (Unterman 125-126; 153).
In Kabbalah literature, there is a difference between those who used their abilities for the good and loving one’s neighbor, or for evil and selfish gain. Like in Harry Potter, the Voldemorts of the Kabbalah world were frowned on. In Torah, there are forms of “magic” that are acceptable, but involve life-giving, healing, and nature. However, it is a matter of interpretation about whether or not there was a biblical prohibition on “sorcery.” Biblical verses state that one should either “kill” a Makashfah –witch or sorceress- or not support one using magic as a livelihood (Exodus 22:17; also I Samuel 28).3 Winkler examines the Hebrew and determines that the latter interpretation is correct (3). Feminist scholarship notes that biblical, talmudic, and even Kabbalah literature support a claim that the prohibition displays patriarchy suppressing powerful women. It is always “witches” who are condemned, yet the rabbis reportedly practiced magic (Frankel 125; 313). Sources such as Encyclopedia Judaica say magic was unacceptable, but then present considerable evidence that some practice of it was always accepted.
Unfortunately, because of magical practices, Jews were associated with the dark arts and evil witchcraft, and subject to the same sort of persecution as legitimate witches. According to Dr. Ann Llewellyn Barstow, both women and Jews were persecuted or tortured for “being associated with practices” like “wearing amulets, and possessing the evil eye” and activities similar to those in Hogwart’s classes. These activities include “making potions,” interpreting “dreams, fortune-telling,” knowing “the magical properties of gems,” and turn(ing) themselves into animals”(Winkler 5).
Torah text separates between what we might call “dark art” and the magic of love. The Kabbalah formulas given by Winkler are clearly blessings and prayers, and ultimately they are about invoking positive change. Real magic in Jewish terms comes from God, and it provides growth of the soul. While this power to change reality may not be taught explicitly as “magic” in synagogues, the concept is familiar to a Jewish audience. An increasing number of Jews are also studying this concept in Kabbalah texts, and finding that there is a very specific pattern associated with spiritual growth in the tradition. It is almost entirely centered on prayer, positive relationships, and love.
This system is based on a Tree of Life schema, with envisions stages of spiritual growth as sefirot – a word associated with counting, stories, and even sapphires. Sefirot might be described as centers of energy, levels of consciousness, or emanations of the Holy. There are ten of them, with twenty-two connecting paths. They exist without form, though they are associated with different levels of physical reality. The base level is earth (malkhut), the next level is one of yetzirah or creation, and it is accompanied by the sefirot of netzach (victory) and hod (glory) Over time, they are metaphorically associated with the genitals, and legs or kidneys. This level is about producing, and the energy and organization to create. The next level is one centered on beauty or splendor (tiferet) and associated with the heart. It is accompanied by love (chesed) and strength (gevurah). One must have both to be balanced and grow spiritually.
According to Kabbalah texts, especially the Zohar, this level is one entered in prayer. One grows beyond this level through deep meditation, to an upper plane of awareness that consists of wisdom (chochmat) and understanding (binah), a sort of right brain/left brain pairing. These two sefirot are also called mother and father. Finally there is knowledge (da’at) and the crown (keter). The entire system flows from eiyn sof - without end. Here, there is a curtain or “veil” separating this level of “no ending” with keter. For, eiyn sof is the full presence of God, and would normally cause death for humans to attain this level. But, reaching knowledge of this level might be possible temporarily (Matt 8,11).4
Though complex, the Kabbalah system quite likely was utilized in the medieval world by the alchemists, Masons, and Grail story writers. Characters in the Harry Potter books may be seen as representative of different sefirot. On the right center side of this tree of life, the energies are considered masculine. Victory, love, and wisdom are all giving , while the left-handed energies of splendor, strength, and understanding are considered containing. They are energies that provide organization and ability to the right-sided sefirot.
Ron, Sirius, James, and even Dumbledore might be identified with the emotional, right side of the schema, with the headmaster being at the advanced wisdom level. On the left side, we have matches in Hermione, Ginny, Molly Weasley to a degree, Polly Pomfrey, and Minerva McGonagall at the understanding level. Lily Potter as “mother” is also described as very understanding, which fits the qualities of binah. The converse is also present in the characters. Voldemort is the antithesis or dark side of love, where Bellatrix LeStrange is the perfect Lilith-like evil strong woman (Tishby 1333).
The seven central sefirot may also be identified with each book in the series. Harry’s stages of growth may be seen as one following the center pillar, first of earthly learning in the muggle world, then gaining knowledge of magic or creative abilities at Hogwarts. Through saving his godfather, he learns about having love and strength. The Goblet of Fire even mentions Harry needing to play to his strengths (344), while The Order of the Phoenix stresses how it is Harry’s heart that saved him (844). It appears in the last two books, he will gain wisdom through better control of his mind, and learning how to use his emotions wisely. Yet, the central and most important sefirot is tiferet, the level of the heart, which is identified with neshemah, or the higher soul of a human. Interestingly, tiferet balances not only compassion and strength, but also the “animal and spiritual tendencies” (Ariel 132). Perhaps this is the level one must master then to become an animagus!
While this pattern of development could be seen as a general schema of spiritual growth, the markers of Jewish Kabbalah in the books are striking. Perhaps it is because Rowling does refer to alchemy and the Holy Grail. Yet, she uses concepts about desire, love, and attachment that seem to be lifted directly from a book on Jewish spirituality.
In Kabbalah, desire is positive and the “core essence of a human being.” It demonstrates a longing for something good, and is ultimately a reflection of human longing for God. It is even seen as a reflection of the god-like quality of humans. B’tzelmo Adonai – being created in the image of God – is central to Judaism. Kabbalah understands that this means human desire is also about learning how to receive from God, which creates a longing to give back. The Zohar even describes sensual and especially sexual desires in this way (Zohar, I:88a on Song of Songs, 7:11 ). For, human desire causes a “ stirring above”; God responds to human longing (kabbalah.com).
Discovering of the positive aspects of one’s desires takes self-reflection. Mirrors, which may symbolize reflection, appear many places in the Harry Potter books. They almost always seem to reflect states of mind. Even the two-way mirror that Sirius provides Harry seems to do so at the end of Order of the Phoenix. Yet the most notable mirror is that of desire. Presented as the mirror of Erised, it allows Harry to visualize his longing for a mother and father. Harry is told by Dumbledore that he must not dwell on this desire, but do something about it. This statement would fit directly into the Kabbalah system, which understands that all desire is ultimately a longing for the goodness of God. This longing leads to the positive attachment of devekut – clinging to goodness. Kabbalah texts stress the pursuit of desire through acts of loving kindness, beyond that required of the commandments (Buxbaum 7). In this instance, Harry’s longing is for parents to love, who love him. His true desire goes beyond honoring his parents, a basic commandment. Harry is also quite fond of thinking about when to break rules, demonstrating he understands protecting the welfare of others is an important reason to break a rule.
Later in the Sorcerers Stone, the mirror is used to show the difference between longing for goodness and greedy longing. Because of the spell Dumbledore uses, Harry is able to see the philosopher’s stone in the mirror, while the greedy professor Quirrel can not. He and his Master Voldemort are unable to see their desires for what they are, and remain at a base spiritual level. (240ff.; 360-362).
Attachment: The Dybbuk
While the use of desire in Harry Potter resonates so well with Kabbalah, Rowling’s explanations about death also resonate well. Voldemort clings to a life that really isn’t a life anymore. He doesn’t seem to have a soul, and he may have even attached what he did have to Harry. Like the story of the Dybbuk, Rowling has indicated that there is some sort of bonding he’s made to Harry (JKRowling.com).
Attachment or devekut is a good thing in the kabbalah system. But, it depends of what you attach yourself to. Kabbalah encourages seeing beyond material reality, valuing more highly relationships, especially one’s relationship to the loving God. By doing so, resurrection might even be granted. “The second-century Rabbi Shim’on bar Yochai resurrected the dead as did his collegues Rabbi Chanan’ya ben Hakini and Rabbi Chanina ben Chama,” according to Winkler, who quotes from the Talumd. He also relates the tale of Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya’ir. He had learned of a well-digger whose daughter drowned on her wedding day. Rabbi Pinchas pointed out to the Almighty the irony and unfairness of the situation, and the girl was resurrected and walked out of the water (Winkler 122-123).
Quite clearly in the series, clinging to this material world alone is not beneficial. The Dursleys are a base example. They miss the magic of life, thinking possessions will provide this for them. In the magic world, Harry of course learns this is not true. What Dumbledore teaches Harry at the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone is that death is the “next great adventure” beyond the veil. Harry’s experience proves Dumbledore’s point, and that there is a mystery to death. Though dead, his parents are still with him in ways. And though he even “dies” or thinks he is dead at the end of each book, he might be seen as going through a death and resurrection experience (see Granger 141 ff.).
Centering on Love and Heart
Techniques for the practice of Kabbalah are made decipherable through the Hasidim, the Jewish mystics of Eastern Europe . They stress that the system is really based on overcoming ego, and learning how to love God and neighbor. “For all loves and good things are rooted in Him who is their source” (Buxbaum 113). Control of actions, speech, anger, and dream interpretation, all aid one in “fearing” God and rising to the level of the heart, which is both strong and giving. It does include one’s emotions, which are useful as gifts of the Creator. While a mystery, the creator is the source of great Love that is beyond life and death. It is a love that provides strength, and the courage to care for others.
…on a higher level of love, where all our being is passionately directed to cleaving to God…fear in the normal sense disappears…for when love is intense, the fear subsumed under it is not the fear of punishment …but the fear of separation itself, and the fear of alienating the affection of the One loved…
In d’vekut, love is supreme, love is as strong as death. (Buxbaum 113)
C.S. Lewis portrayed this type of love in his allegoric-like stories, looking at it as a personal strength, rather than an emotion or act of all-giving. In The Allegory of Love, he begins by stating the notion of love as only romantic is unnatural to the likes of Aristotle and St.Paul (3). In the Weight of Glory, he explains Christianity of old would state love as the most important “virtue” rather than “unselfishness”:
Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.…If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is not part of the Christian faith. (Lindskoog 104)
Lewis prime example of love being a mix of courage, compassion, and positive desire is represented in the Narnia tales by the chivalrous and somewhat courtly little mouse Reepicheep. He has outstanding valor, and is generous to others and himself, which seems to fuel his great boldness (Lindskoog 106-7). Lewis’ rich understanding of love seems to be reflected in Harry Potter, and Rowling has indicated he is an important influence on her work.
There are specific examples from the Harry Potter books about love, that allude to both strength and emotions. As Harry discovers finally in Order of the Phoenix, suppressing his emotions will not aid him in his battle against Voldemort. Sirius is also quite emotional, and his ability to feel deeply apparently saves his life at Azkaban. While their strong emotions lead to problems for both Sirius and Harry, it is because they need to learn how to use them effectively, and temper their great love with strong judgment and improved discernment of a situation. On the other hand, the mistake of Voldemort and also Snape is to think that power derives from suppressing emotions and using only reason ( OP- US 536).
Rowling’ s characters then seem to outline states of spiritual development in their behavior. John Granger has written about how he understands Rowling incorporates specifically Christian notions of spiritual growth in The HiddenKey to Harry Potter. He makes several key points about possible biblical allusions, and symbolic meaning of characters. Notably, he also describes the medieval tradition of alchemy as that of unlocking the mysteries of personal transformation. Personal transfiguration – read spiritual growth – was the goal of alchemy (140-153; 83-102). Granger might be criticized for limiting theology to his rather old fashioned view, claiming Rowling is making exclusivist Christian statements. But the point on alchemy is significant. Alchemy was largely based on Kabbalah, or at very least, presumed to be based on this tradition.5
It is not just medieval alchemy that may be based on Kabbalah, but also Tarot cards and Grail stories. There are actually several Grail story traditions, which writer Cass Dalglish reminds us of in Nin. Based on academic research, her novel tells of how the stories of searching for salvation may simply be a reworking of a tale of death and rebirth found in the biblical Elijah story. At the end of her book, Dalglish also provides a good summary of the basic tale. There is a boy. Though told not to, he puts on a red armor to search for the lost king. A banquet and feasting, a castle, and a headless creature are part of the story. Eventually, the boy finds the lost king, a queen has the grail, and order is restored to the land.
Influences on Harry Potter might be seen via this summary account of the Grail stories, and it is important to remember there are courtly versions. Notably they are "Le Conte del Graal" by Chretien de Troyes and "Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Critics say that they are all about “self transformation” where one may “understand reality” and be “saved.” The quest for the grail then involves “mystical experience” patterned on the kabbalistic Tree of life. In this case, the tree of life image is envisioned as a grail or castle. Sefirot are represented through specific characters, including knights and ladies, and specific objects, such as spears or wands (in Tarot)! Compared with the original framework, the Kabbalah worlds of action, formation, creation or heart and emanation, are symbolized in the grail by a dish, cup, sword and spear. In alchemy as in Kabbalah, the associations are with earth, water, air, and fire. These “ritual object(s) symboli[ze) … activating principles”…for spiritual “transformation” (Courtis; meta-religion.com).
If Harry Potter seems Jewish through a promotion of certain spiritual values, it may well be that it is through allusions to the Grail story, borrowing from Kabbalah. The tree of life/Sefirot model provided a basis for the Grail account, which helped Christians move beyond the level or prayer, and to the level of personal transformation, beyond this level. While this might be read as moving beyond the level of the heart, the heart might also be seen as the grail – the container of blood. Beyond prayer, one is to learn heart – courage and love.
…“the true mystery inherent in this myth” may be “that the Grail is the heart, illumined and awakened so that it may serve as a receptacle for divine energies….[This ]‘would also explain why the few successful candidates are those who are pure of heart, for the heart must be pure before it can be illumined.’(Smoley)
Conclusions: Is Sirius Black Jewish
Given all evidence then about Jewish connections to the Harry Potter story, is Sirius Black Jewish? With his last name being a not that uncommon Jewish surname, some have questioned if this was a clue. They were also basing the question on his description, when he first appeared in Prisoner of Azkaban – thin, long thick dark hair, pale skin. His family history chart is also reminiscent of the Fisher King of the Grail tales, whose lineage may be traced back to Jewish ancestry and Joseph of Arimethea. Though he may celebrate Christmas, the depiction still causes discussion.
While some Jewish women may argue that his characteristic loyalty proves he is unlike any modern Jewish man they have dated, his mark as the “God” father suggests some sort of special, symbolic spiritual role. His passing through the veil adds to this identification, as it is reminiscent of the veil in biblical traditions. As mentioned, Jewish legend adds specifics about the meaning of the veil separating divine and humane worlds. This pargod is associated with a “spiritual curtain between the human and divine worlds. There are some “who manage to penetrate the pargod or to overhear voices conversing on the other side of it,” and “find out what is in store for the world in the future” (Unterman 153).
Even if you are a Jew who doesn’t know this particular veil legend, or Kabbalah, the Harry Potter tales do sound familiar. There is a symbolic quality to them. Like Jewish rabbinic biblical commentary, as well as medieval Christian interpretations, allegory was how you portrayed the spiritual aspect of a story. Harry Potter may be read at many levels – simple, implied, metaphoric, and hidden or allegoric. A common medieval method of biblical analysis, it is one that Jews are still familiar with. We are used to hearing tales or “midrash” to explain what reality is like. “Drash” then provokes more questions. So, in Jewish fashion, I am left with questions.
First, I wonder what is on Rowling’s book shelf, and how many Jewish stories she has read. Then, I’d like to know why blood is so important in her story. Is she making a veiled reference to Passover – blood will save you? Or, will poor Harry be the pascal lamb? What about other seeming biblical or Christian allusions such as the names James and (Easter) Lily, or animals like snakes and unicorns? While they seem to be derived from the New Testament tradition, the allusions often seem expansive. Godrick Gryffindor – Why is it God –rick? Though his associated symbol is a Griffin, a Christian symbol, the character seem to have more in common with the Lion of Judah or even Abraham, as a founding father. Mostly though, I’d like to know how Harry learns to love deeply. Will he cross the veil of the spiritual journey, and gain deep wisdom? Living through his egotistic teen existence, Harry may well learn about the great and mysterious force beyond life and death first-hand. He has already experienced its power, as his heart was full of love for others when attacked by Voldemort.
Finally, Rowling’s constant reference to heart and love is evocative for Jews. We chant about hear and love on a regular basis in the Ahavtah – Love God with all your heart, and also Ahavat Olam – “with everlasting love you love us.” So “teach us …the correct path.” For these ways and words “are our life.” Baruk atah Adonai ohev kol khai – “We bless the Love that sustains all life.” Rather than focus on death, Jews celebrate life and love. It is the Voldemorts of the world who venerate death by fearing it. Baruk Ha Shem for inspiring the story of Harry Potter, who teaches us of living and loving with all your heart, and Ahavat Olam –everlasting, deep love. Blessed are you for creating Harry.
1. On the name Hogwarts, according to word origins in The Oxford Dictionary of English, the “hog” may not refer to pigs, a non-kosher food for Jews. The word Hogsmeade, for example, means a barrel for fermenting mead. The “warts” may refer to a medicinal herb. ^ back to article
2. See The Talmud, Brachot, 33b , on prayer and body motion; see Lawrence Hoffman, Beyond the Text: Indiana University Press: Bloomington, IN, 1987, pp.133-136; 137-139 on the rabbis on Passover, and how one was to perform the text.^ back to article
3. Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament connects the word with “adulteress” and “false swearers” in Malachai 3.5 and 2 Chronicles 33.6. They also note that the term “sorcerer” is only implied in Deuteronomy 18.10. Ellen Frankel notes that in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 44b), rabbis endorse or brag about killing “witches.” Yet, they include notes on magical practices they perform. Frankel also notes that the phrase in Sayings of the Fathers (Pirke Avot) 2.7 reads “the more war, the more witchcraft,” p.313; p.125 for commentary. In all then, the evidence suggests that the condemnation of women who practiced magic very much appears to be deeply imbedded sexism rather than blanket condemnation of magic. ^ back to article
4. On these points Dan Ariel notes that “the soul comes from the masculine aspect of God and, therefore, returns to it, (Zohar 1; 224b) p. 133. Also, “Beyond Hokmah is the nothingness of keter, the annihilation of though. In this ultimate sefirah human consciousness expands, dissolving into infinity.p. 76 ^ back to article
5. Granger presents the key to understanding Harry Potter by assuming that since Rowling is Christian, Harry Potter is a “Christian Hero” (140). While he makes sharp commentary and presents good evidence about why this story concerns “preparing our hearts and minds for the conscious pursuit of the greater life,” his addition of “in Jesus Christ” implies that he thinks Rowling believes Christianity has exclusive rights on the spiritual journey. Given the inclusion of Indian, Chinese, and Jewish students and soft biblical allusions, on the contrary, Rowling seems to be a new breed of Inklings writer who deals with contemporary and inclusive theology. ^ back to article
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