Are King Solomon’s Magical Powers Concealed Inside This Book?

These methods will help you discover if you are in possession of an ancient book containing mystical powers, or perhaps not

“The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon,” an 18th-century manuscript that remarkably claims to be a work by King Solomon

Pseudepigraphy is not a Jewish invention, but resonances of this form of writing, which attributes later works to familiar and important historical figures, can be found already in the Bible.

It is not difficult to imagine the reason that prompted many later authors to omit their own names from various exquisite manuscripts created over the centuries. Why would scholars and mystics from a society that sanctifies traditions thousands of years old be interested in the writings and prophecies of unknown persons, when they might pay good money to purchase a work that was only recently “discovered” and contains the words of such luminaries as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (author of the Zohar), the Abraham the Patriarch (Sefer Yetzirah [“Book of Creation”]), or even the musings of Adam himself (The Book of the Angel Raziel).

For centuries, readers have had to decide whether to accept or reject the claim of authorship of a particular work ascribed to a great figure, relying primarily on their gut feeling. Today, with advances in historical research, a researcher wishing to date a suspicious work claiming ancient authorship often uses one of the four following questions to get at the truth.

First, what is the earliest mention of the work under investigation? It may not necessarily be the work itself, but its citings in other sources. The more removed this reference is from the period it is attributed to, the less likely it was composed then. It is rare that a work written by an important figure disappears without leaving any trace, and rarer still that it “suddenly” appears, hundreds or even thousands of years after the death of its author.

Second, what is the language of the work and is it compatible with what we know about the language spoken by the author it is attributed to? It is not enough to know, for example, that Aramaic was the language spoken by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, in order to conclude that he was the author of the Zohar (the primary text of Kabbalistic tradition). While the Zohar was indeed written in Aramaic, this ancient language has a range of different dialects, each attributed to a different period.

Third, what is the story surrounding the circumstances of the writing and discovery of the work, and does this story make sense to us today? Needless to say, dream revelations or transmissions through supernatural means are incidents that historical researchers find difficult to accept today.

And the last and most important question of all – Is the content of the work compatible with what we know about the period in which it is claimed to have been written?

Now that we have laid out the research framework, let’s apply it using this suspicious manuscript—an eighteenth-century copy of a mysterious work known as “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon.

This manuscript purports to be a magical work describing various ways to enlist the powers of supernatural beings—angels, demons, and other higher spirits. The copy we will consider is preserved in the National Library collections.

Mysterious symbols for Monday with the names of the relevant angels, from “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon”
Mysterious symbols for Monday with the names of the relevant angels, from “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon”

The Secrets of Rabbi Solomon

 

The angel Anael, “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon

Earliest reference: Locating the earliest reference of a work is almost always the most complicated task, and this was no exception. The Hellenistic Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, was apparently the first to link the figure of King Solomon to his with magical practices. Josephus writes in his book Antiquities of the Jews that the heir to the throne of King David authored more than three thousand books, including several that dealt with the exorcism of demons.  It is possible that here Josephus is relying on works of magic that were widespread in the ancient world and were attributed to King Solomon.

However, the earliest mention of the particular work before us is not found in antiquity and certainly not in the biblical period. It can be traced back to thirteenth-century Europe. The example in the National Library is a copy of a text found in a notebook belonging to the estate of Ebenezer Sibley, the renowned eighteenth-century naturalist, who also dealt with “deeper truths”—meaning the occult.

Portrait of Ebenezer Sibley. Artist unknown, source: Illustration of the Celestial Science of Astrology, 1826

The language of the work: There is a clearer hint here. The manuscript in the National Library is written primarily in English—a language that did not exist at the time of Solomon. In the introduction to the work, Sibley claims that the book was first written in Hebrew, translated into old French and from there into English. Study of older manuscripts of “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon contradicts this claim, proving that the original language of the work was Latin. Could a biblical figure who lived in the tenth century BCE, even the wisest among them, have been fluent in Latin? Common sense says no. However, this particular individual was also said to be capable of conversing with animals, so who knows?

In contrast to earlier versions of “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon,” this later version is characterized by clear language and simple instructions for the user

Wednesday, under the sign of Mercury, from “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon

The story behind the work: Contrary to the norm with a work that is “discovered” after thousands of years of being lost, the copy in the National Library does not boast an origin story about the treatise or its later discovery. To better understand the background story, we will have to look at other, earlier manuscripts of the work.

Many of them contain different versions of the story, but if we remove all of the various embellishments we arrive at the heart of the matter: Towards the end of his life, Solomon compiled a book for his son Rehoboam (some versions claim the work was a joint collaboration). The magical book by Solomon was buried with him and a version of it was discovered a thousand years later. The attempt to decipher the work frustrated those involved and they turned to divine help, which appeared in the form of an angel. The angel agreed to interpret the text, provided that the interpretation did not fall into the hands of unworthy readers, who were either wicked or lacking in their faith.

As mentioned, this story does not appear anywhere in the Library’s copy of “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon” and was apparently omitted from all the later versions of the work.

Summoning demons and spirits - “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon”
Summoning demons and spirits – “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon”

The content: It seems that herein lies the answer that may undermine the belief of those who are convinced of the work’s authenticity. Simply stated, this hundreds-of-pages-long book is a magical manual that provides clear and simple ways to summon spirits and make them fulfill the wishes of the conjurer. The mystical summoning of souls occurs in a number of ways, with the main one being the use of spells and incantations, and the drawing of various mystical symbols such as the pentacle. There is also the possibility of turning to various mythological creatures such as nymphs and satyrs or conversing with spirits face to face (which very few can do).

“The Grand Pentacle of Solomon,” from “The Key of Magic of Rabbi Solomon

This abundance of creatures, powers and symbols points toward the varied sources from which the author of the work drew his inspiration. Alongside the biblical figures—angels or human—are creatures from Greek and Roman mythology, in combination with crosses and other Christian symbols. In addition to all this are the names of many superhuman beings that have no parallel anywhere other than in this work.

How could King Solomon be aware of all these mystical and mythological symbols, most of which did not exist in his time? The answer to this question is not to be found in any copy of this work, however ancient and “authentic” it purports to be.

This article was written with the help of Gal Sofer and Dr. Yoel Finkelman.

 

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When the Child Prisoners of Cyprus Dreamt of Israel

Stone carvings, made by Jewish children in detention camps on Cyprus, depict their longing to finally reach the Land of Israel

קפריסין

As waves of refugees from World War II made their way to the Land of Israel, the British were forced to find a solution for the influx of immigrants. The detention camp in Atlit was filled to capacity. As a result, additional camps were built in Cyprus, also under British control at the time, in 1946 and 1949. There, tens of thousands of Jews awaited government approval to enter the Land of Israel. A dream, which would eventually come true.

The British understood that they could not treat the Jewish refugees as ordinary prisoners and, therefore, allowed the detainees a certain level of autonomy. With the help of large donations from the Land of Israel and Jews across the world, the Jewish leaders in the camps tried to create a semblance of normal life for the refugees. Part of setting up this new order was the creation of jobs and societal roles within the camps.

An image of an illegal immigrant ship made by a child in the camp
An image of an illegal immigrant ship made by a child in the camp

 

Within the confines of the barbed-wire fences, cultural, welfare, educational and religious activities were established and organized in an attempt to recreate routine, daily life. Naturally, nurturing the children of the camp was at the center of community priorities and values.

 

A map of Israel engraved in stone. The opposite side shows an engraving of the name Haim Itzkovich, who was in the fifth grade.
A map of Israel engraved in stone. The opposite side shows an engraving of the name Haim Itzkovich, who was in the fifth grade.

 

An expression of what life was like in the camp for the children which also tells us something about their mindset, can be seen in an unusual collection preserved at the National Library. There was no shortage of stone available in the Cyprus camps, and it was soon utilized in the children’s educational frameworks, which included the art of stone carving.

 

Inkwell with the words "Cyprus 1948" and the initials of the carver, S.L (ס.ל.).
Inkwell with the words “Cyprus 1948” and the initials of the carver, S.L (ס.ל.).

What did they choose to carve?

Perhaps the obvious choice. The children carved images of the ships that were supposed to bring them to Israel- and one day they would. They also carved maps of the Land of Israel in to the stones, anything that might serve as a reminder that the detention camps in which they were imprisoned were not their home, but a temporary station where they awaited the opportunity to reach the Promised Land.

 

A stone carving by fifth-grader, Dov Feldman, who also added the inscription "Long Live the People of Israel"
A stone carving by fifth-grader, Dov Feldman, who also added the inscription “Long Live the People of Israel”

 

In many cases, the children inscribed their names and school grade on the carvings. The artists who created these works as children may very well still be with us today, living in the State of Israel.

This collection was presented by the National Library in honor of the third Global Forum of the National Library of Israel held in March of 2019 and dedicated to the subjects of “Migration-Borders-Identity”.

 

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What was Hidden Behind the Curtains at the Declaration of Independence?

Who designed the setting for the historic moment when Israel became a State?

independence hall

Israel's Declaration of Independence, on May 14th, 1948 (5th of Iyar, 5708), Photo: Rudi Weissenstein

At 11 am on May 13, 1948, Otte Wallish was assigned a sensitive task. As the official graphic designer of the Jewish community, he was asked to decorate the entrance hall of the Tel Aviv Museum in preparation for Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The budget at his disposal was a mere 150 lira. The ceremony, as per David Ben-Gurion’s plans, was to be conducted under heavy secrecy.

Otte Wallish, 1941. Photo from the Photo House Collection

Wallish tackled the urgent task with all the energy he had remaining after several sleepless nights designing the first stamp series for the state-in-the-making. Wallish scrambled around Tel Aviv- buying wood for a table from the main department store, a cloth to cover the wall behind the stage (which was covered in nude paintings) and a carpet that would lend a more respectable appearance to the hall. Chairs for the stage were confiscated from the nearby cafes. The meager design budget would not be enough for flags, and it was not yet possible to obtain a picture of the State’s visionary, Theodor Herzl, in stores. He requested these two items from the Keren Hayesod organization (the United Israel Appeal).

 

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When he finished his rounds of purchasing, confiscating and borrowing, the graphic designer suddenly became an interior designer, making use of his artistic intuition to arrange the hall for the momentous occasion. And so, at 11 o’clock the next morning, exactly twenty-four hours after he was assigned the task and just five hours before the Declaration of Independence was signed, Wallish declared the hall ready to make history.

 

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Naming the Soldiers: A Special Joint Project by the National Library and Facebook

A special project by the National Library in collaboration with Facebook Israel in honor of the country's 71st Independence Day - come identify and tag your loved ones, family members and friends in these rare and historic images of IDF soldiers from the National Library collections

Photo shows: IDF soldiers with armour support acting on the Golan Hights with its new Israeli Merkava tanks

Among the many treasures preserved in the National Library of Israel are thousands of photographs documenting the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces throughout the history of the State of Israel. As part of the massive digitization project undertaken by the Library in recent years, these old photographs are being brought back to life, with the yellowing negatives being converted into high resolution images.

However, in many cases the Library is lacking information relating to the identities of the soldiers appearing in the photographs – and that’s where you come in…

Last summer, the National Library and Facebook Israel launched a joint project dedicated to making Israel’s cultural treasures accessible to the general public. As part of this ongoing initiative, today we are uploading a series of photo albums featuring images of IDF soldiers taken during Israel’s various wars in the past. We hereby invite the public to identify and tag their loved ones, family members and friends who served in these wars. In this way, their names will be commemorated in the history pages of the State of Israel, their memories preserved for the benefit of future generations alongside other Israeli cultural treasures of at the National Library.

The National Library collection includes more than 2.5 million photographs documenting the history of the Land and State of Israel. This is the world’s largest collection of Israeli photographs spanning a period of over 150 years. This unique assortment of photographs in fact includes several different collections, most notably the Dan Hadani Collection – an archive of more than a million photographs documenting almost every event in the history of the country. For decades, Dan Hadani and his team of press photographers documented political and cultural events, as well as wars and periods of national mourning. The photographers accompanied IDF soldiers during the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, during the battles in Sinai and the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War, and during Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon. Wherever soldiers were sent to fight and defend the State, these photographers would follow.

Dan Hadani donated the collection to the National Library, where it will be preserved for future generations, but the Library staff encountered a problem: the information accompanying the photographs was not always complete. In many cases, it includes only the location and date of the photograph – “1982, Peace for Galilee”, is a typical example. In light of this, the Library decided to turn to the general public, and with the help of Facebook Israel we are now distributing these photographs to as many people as possible – so that they can help provide the most important information of all – who are the soldiers who appear in the pictures and what are the stories behind them.

“We are happy to share with the Israeli public the important task of preserving the culture and heritage of the State of Israel,” says Yaron Deutscher, head of the National Library’s Digital Access Division. “We are confident that through this cooperation with Facebook, which enables us to extract these cultural treasures from the archives of the Library and make them accessible to large audiences, a great deal of information will be gathered, enabling students, researchers and the general public to know more about what has happened here since the establishment of the State.”

Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, the photographs are being uploaded to the National Library’s Facebook page, while the information received from the public will be preserved in the Library’s catalog, alongside cultural treasures of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, so that the sons and daughters of future generations will be able to know and understand more about what has transpired here over the past 71 years. This is a long-term project, and in the coming months we will share more and more images with the public.

Adi Soffer-Teeni, GM of Facebook Israel: “Today in the digital age we see a change in the ability to tell the story of the establishment of the State. We can now tell that story in a profound way that makes the history and the people who were there tangible and accessible to the public. A state’s past is one of the greatest assets it has and it outlines what it is and what it will be. This treasure trove of images tells the story of the State throughout its various stages and connects us to the people who were there and thanks to whom we are now celebrating our 71st Independence Day. I am very excited about this and I hope that we will be able to connect names to faces in these exceptionally rare photographs.”

 

Click on the links below to see the full albums

The War of Independence

A soldier leading supply-mules to the Barkan outpost on Mt. Gilboa during the War of Independence, 1948, from the Visual Memory Collection, the Bitmuna Collections, the Kibbutz Heftziba Collection.
A soldier leading supply-mules to the Barkan outpost on Mt. Gilboa during the War of Independence, 1948, from the Visual Memory Collection, the Bitmuna Collections, the Kibbutz Heftziba Collection.

The Sinai Campaign

Soldiers on leave following the Sinai Campaign, 1956, from the Eddie Hirschbein Collection, the Bitmuna Collections
Soldiers on leave following the Sinai Campaign, 1956, from the Eddie Hirschbein Collection, the Bitmuna Collections

The Six Day War

Soldiers in the Negev desert, 1967, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
Soldiers in the Negev desert, 1967, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

The War of Attrition

The IDF in Sinai, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
The IDF in Sinai, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

The Yom Kippur War

Soldiers enjoying a performance by singer Dvora Havkin, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
Soldiers enjoying a performance by singer Dvora Havkin, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

Operation Peace for Galilee (The First Lebanon War)

Soldiers returning from Lebanon, 1982, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
Soldiers returning from Lebanon, 1982, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

The IDF in the 1970s

The Women's Corps, 1970, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
The Women’s Corps, 1970, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

The IDF in the 1990s

A soldier prays at the Western Wall, 1989, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection
A soldier prays at the Western Wall, 1989, photo: IPPA staff, the Dan Hadani Collection

 

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