Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky, for
"The Chumash of the Lubavitcher Rebbe"
The purpose of divination is to predict the future in
order to enable one to choose the most effective course of action in
the present. The Torah forbids this because we are supposed to lead
our lives according to its laws, and not according to any notions we
may have of what might prove advantageous. In the "gray area"
of life, i.e. those issues about which there is no explicit directive
from the Torah and regarding which someone might be in doubt regarding
what to do (for example, what career to pursue, whom to marry, etc.)
it is permissible and even advisable to attempt to ascertain
G-ds will through means that He himself has provided: as the Torah
here describes, we are allowed to consult bona fide prophets for this
purpose, and ever since the close of the era of prophecy, the inspired
insight of reputable sages of the Torah has taken their place.
(Tanya, Igeret Hakodesh 22)
In addition, there are many other permissible means available (some
of which were used even during the era of prophecy), such as dream interpretation,
bibliomancy, and so on. These techniques are too numerous and their
methodologies too complex to be detailed here, but their common denominator
is that they only be practiced under the guidance of a competent and
qualified rabbinic authority, so as to avoid any unwitting flirtation
with divination. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah
178-179. See Chikrei Mingagim, vol.1,
Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org
Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor
and anthologist. Originally from Los Angeles, he moved to Israel in
1977, and currently lives in Jerusalem. While living in Tsfat, he was
one of the three founders of ASCENT in 1983.