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Palm Readers and Fortune Tellers

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

While most of us don't believe in crystal balls, we are quite gullible when a charlatan masquerading as a “kabbalist” examines our hand or our mezuzah or kesuba. Even the skeptics become ardent believers when the supposed kabbalist makes a reading that is right on target, especially when we are convinced that there was absolutely no way that they could have been privy to that information beforehand. And so these Kabbalistic palm readers, fortune tellers, and astrologers, flourish like weeds on a rainy summer day and take advantage of the gullible, the troubled and the many fools who believe in this nonsense. They also take advantage of the ignorant that don't have the faintest idea of how these tricks work.

I've often played some of these tricks in class on my students and written articles revealing some of their secrets. That's because only by understanding how these scams work will we be convinced that they are all a fake and not be bamboozled by any of them. Let's remember! You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time! Not everyone is a fool.

I must admit that I like many others, was always fascinated by those who seemed able to read people's past and future by gazing into a crystal ball or by reading ones palm or even one’s mezuzah. How are psychics able to reveal secrets that were totally hidden from man? Was it a science that I too could learn? Why did the Torah prohibit the use of astrology? Was learning to read a horoscope a true science yet still prohibited by the Torah for some other reason? I watched in amazement as people read palms with deadly accuracy and wondered how this supposed science worked? I'd heard psychics reveal people's past and predict their future and wondered what special powers they possessed and wondered if I too could learn it as well? I read the Rambam who claims that all of these things are all a fake and wondered at how millions could be fooled by them? It all seemed so real! I studied the seforim such as "Tomim Thiye Im Hashem.." written by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel one of the leading mekubolim of our generation who warns that it's all a fraud and wondered how intelligent people fall for these hoaxes? (You can get the English translation Faith or Folly
The Occult in Torah Perspective, which is published by Feldheim Press.). It was only after reading many books on this subject such as “The Psychic Mafia,” and other books by James Randi who exposes many of these charlatans such as Uri Geller and others, that I understood that it was all a clever hoax and that one better have his head on straight otherwise we too can easily be taken by these brilliant con-artists.

I must say that the practice of revealing the hidden by reading one’s palm still fools thousands of people who are unaware of the simple tricks used. The more personalized secrets the palm reader or crystal ball gazer is able to reveal, the more one is inclined to believe that palm reading is actually a skill rather than a trick. While some readings are done by collecting information on the client beforehand or use known principles of psychology that apply to nearly everyone. and is referred to as a hot reading, others are preformed by what is known as a cold reading. This is when the crystal ball or palm reader uses both his clever intuition or insight into a persons personality or character traits to give the reading. Sometimes he is also able to extract lots of information from his client by observing him very carefully and listening to his answers.

Recently a person masquerading as a rabbi has gone on the radio and claims to be able to predict the future and know all about the person. All you have to give him is your birth date and then he supposedly will start telling you all about yourself and also make predictions about your future. If you listen very carefully to what he says you’ll quickly learn his tricks. He usually begins by making some general observations that usually apply to anyone and then continues on to probe deeper as he gets a clients feedback. Telling a person that he has “great hidden potential” or “is very sensitive” or that he has “gone through certain disappointments in life” or will soon experience some disappointments,” or that he had some or will have “financial setbacks” or that someone in the family has “health problems” will usually hit the target. After all, most people that go to see these people or call them are doing it because of financial, marital or health reasons. He may flatter you by saying that you are very kind and love doing favors to others. Of course, everyone will believe those things about himself. He may of course continue with predictions about the future and say “you will someday be very rich,” or that “you will soon meet a very nice girl etc.”. He may make some generalizations about your personality that apply almost to everyone such as, “you are sometimes afraid to make difficult decisions,” or that “you sometimes worry too much,” and other such generalities.

There is of course no way for the listeners to the program to know if his predictions will come true, and by then there are enough gullible people that believe that this amazing guru knows what he’s talking about. He can also have some of his cohorts call into the program and every time he says something about them they will praise him for his accurate analysis. This convinces the listeners that this mind reader is for real and actually knows a person’s hidden secrets. Waiting for their clients feedback sometimes tells them how to continue probing. One can also add statements like “there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel” and that “better times are coming” or any other prediction that will make the client feel better and get him to come back for more. If the prediction comes true, then the psychic has scored a direct hit and the client will spread his amazing abilities to others and thereby attract other suckers to the poisonous spider’s web. A sitters reputation is largely based on many chance hit testimonials and a sucker’s belief in the irrational.
Many years ago I careful watched how a supposed “mezuzah” reader made many direct hits using this method. At first I was fooled as many others were and thought that he possessed some mysterious powers and was able to see what no one else could see. Only after watching carefully and studying his answers did I realize that it was all a hoax and they were practicing the generalization techniques used by all fortune tellers. Unless one is familiar with their methods, one can easily be deceived as I once was. That’s why I’ve written many articles revealing many of their secrets. Hopefully as people learn how the tricks work, they will learn to stay away from these “kabalistic” con-artists. The only kabala they possess is the one transmitted to them by Lavan HoArami who was a master at this art.

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