Abracadabra, Please and Thank You!

I have always loved magic.  Not so much the kind where the guy with the skinny mustache saws the blonde in half; more the kind where the frumpy looking worm builds a house around herself and in total dark and privacy, somehow manages to turn into something as unlike what she was before as, say, a wrench is to an elephant.  That’s magic.

Everything’s magic, really.  I mean, look around you.  How did all this stuff get here?  OK, I know there’s a basic division between those who believe that everything was created by a Deity, and those who believe that everything somehow managed to get here randomly, and natural selection, and mixtures of all of the above.  OK.  It doesn’t matter.  The question remains: there is all this STUFF.  How did it get here?

The Sabbath is almost here, so I don’t have time right this minute to tell you about how Kabbalah explains the Big Bang.  Don’t worry–I will, after we’ve learned together a little more and gathered a few handy vocabulary items.  For now, let’s just make the assumption that energy is matter and vice versa, and we shall see.

But getting back to Magic: isn’t that supposed to be forbidden?  “Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live,” and all that?

It depends.  In fact, it all goes back to Creation.

I’m talking about ABRA-CA-DABRA, please and thank you!

In Hebrew, one of the important words for “to make” or “to create” has the root-form B-R-A  (Hebrew words are formed out of three-letter roots).

As in, “Bereisheet BARA Elo-him et ha’shamayim ve’et ha’aretz.”   “In the beginning, G-d created (BARA) the heavens and the earth.”

Do you see that three letter root in aBRA ca daBRA?  Oh my goodness.  The “a” prefix means “I will.”  The “ca” means “as.”  And what about the last word–dabra?  It has the BRA in it, and it also has “da,” but in this case it’s not a prefix–it’s a whole new word.  Actually, it’s a word-within-a-word.

The word for “speak” in Hebrew is DABER.  Pronounced “dah-BEAR.”

Now we have to get back to creation.  If you look at any of the ten utterances of creation (actually you will see only nine, since one is hidden), they begin, “And the LORD said.…,” and so it was.  And the way it came into being was because G-d said it.  The world was spoken into being.  This teaches us that speech is very powerful, clearly.  If worlds can be created through speech, then we had better take it very seriously.

ABRA-CA-DABRA.  I shall create as I speak.

By now you should be thinking, wait a minute–this is nothing for some joker in a top hat and skinny mustache to be messing around with.  And you’re right!  But no worries–that guy probably doesn’t possess the immense spiritual development that would make him potentially dangerous in the Abracadabra department.

But Avraham did.  That first Avraham, the one we talked about in Jewish Geneology.  That Avraham was so close to G-d that it is said by our sages that he was actually capable of being a partner with G-d in creating new people.  Yes, I know this is freaky.  Stay with me.

There is a hint about that in the Scripture itself, in Genesis 12:5: “Avram took his wife Sarai and Lot, his brother’s son….and all the souls they had made in Haran.”  The Kabbalists hint that “…all the souls that they had made in Haran” were actually real people, created anew in the flesh!  Others say no, this is a figurative term for all the people that Avram and Sarai had turned on to the fact that idol worship is foolish, and so they were “as if” newly created beings.

However…there is a book called “Sefer Yetzirah,” or the “Book of Creation,” which I happen to have staring at me from my bookshelf right now.  It was translated and annotated by a great scholar, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, who passed away a number of years ago at the age of 39.  The book contains virtually all the secrets of life, from the way the universe is constructed, to the secrets of time, months, and seasons, and especially, the secrets of speech and its power to create.

The Sefer Yetzirah is said to have been authored by Avraham himself, and passed down through the ages as a memorized code.  Sometime during the last few centuries B.C., a wise person wrote down the code in super-coded form, not even a page in length, because s/he knew that rough times were coming and a lot of people were going to be killed, and even worse, the traditions of our learning were likely to be broken.

Sure enough, that is just what happened.  And luckily for us, the heirs of the tiny coded Sefer Yetzirah started writing more and more of it down, because they could see the writing on the wall, as far as the incipient scattering of our people.  But the book, even though more of it was on parchment, was still shrouded with layer upon layer of encodement.

It is said that the Maharal of Prague used the Sefer Yetzirah to create his famous Golem, a man-like creature made from clay and brought to life via the secrets of the Sefer and the Four Letter Ineffable Name of G-d (Y-H-V-H).

So what can we learn from Abracadabra?  To me, it means: be careful what comes out of my mouth, because speech is an agent of creation.  We can build our child or our partner or ourselves up, make them feel good about themselves, inspire them to do good and think good, by means of our speech.   On the other hand, we can tear them down with cruel words.

Some say that when we speak we are creating angels: good angels when we talk good, and bad angels when we talk bad.  That is to say, when we are speaking kindly we are releasing good energy into the universe, and conversely, the opposite.

It really does matter what we say–and how we say it!  Abracadabra, please and thank you!  Shabbat Shalom!

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  1. I used to think that what I spoke was here today and gone tomorrow, but I have since had a change of mind regarding the power of speech and I think this is a brilliant post. The history of abracadabra is fascinating, I was openmouthed in wonder. I love how you tie it to God’s spoken words at creation. And I love how you tie the power of words to the spoken word itself. Great job Laura!

    • Thank you. Speech is like emal–once you hit the “send” button you can’t take it back, so it’s best to put it in the “drafts” folder and look at it after you’ve calmed down. One of the causes for my PTSD and failure in relationships is the awful things my mother said to me constantly, and when I’d cry or react in any way she would give me the “you’re too sensitive, you need to grow a thicker skin” routine. Speech creates energies that materialize. PS–I didn’t think of this stuff all by myself–it’s traditional Inner Torah.

  2. When I was little I had a fairy tale book and all I can remember about one story — my best sister & I talk about it often — is that it had two sisters in it. Every time one sister spoke pearls, gems, roses and all things good came out of her mouth b/c she was the good sister. The other sister wasn’t good and every time she spoke frogs, snakes and all kinds of icky things came out of her mouth. I can still partially see the drawings of them in my mind’s eye. That’s what I saw when I was reading the last part of this post.

    Thank you so much for taking the time, effort and energy to talk about all these things. You know, from our past conversations, how much this fascinates me. Even though we believe differently about some things, we believe the same about others. I always learn something from you and for this I’m quite grateful to you and to God.

    Shabbat Shalom, my friend!!

    • Oh, I love that story, even though I don’t think I’ve seen it! That’s great! If you happen to think of the title, please let me know. Thanks so much for your kind words! This is one of my true passions.

  3. Wonderful to read.

  4. I love this, thanks so much for the continuing education!

  5. I looked into the etymology of “Abracadabra” and it was attributed to an Aramaic phrase meaning “I create through what I speak”. I don’t know much about Aramaic (a “dead” language) save it was spoken contemporary to Hebrew in antiquity and there certainly could have been an overlay or exchange with this concept. The idea of the,the Word leading to manifestion etc. also appears in Gnosticism and Hermetic paths. We also have the idea of using words meaningfully, as Thought can lead to Word can lead to Action.

    I love your posts like this! The information is quite valuable.

    • Good job, Jenny! As I said above, “ABRA-CA-DABRA. I shall create as I speak.” Same thing, right? And the reason is….drum roll…that Aramaic was the “Lingua Franka” of traders in the entire Middle East, from the “Stans” through Iraq, which was where Ur-Kasdim was, so Avraham certainly spoke Aramaic. In the 7th century BC, the Hebrews were taken into captivity in Babylon, where the language was Aramaic. Aramaic became the scholarly language of the Jews, and the Babylonian Talmud, which is a compilation of explanations of all parts of Tanach (Torah (the Five Books of Moses), Navi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (everything else, like Psalms, Chronicles, Book of Ruth, Book of Esther, etc.) The Babylonian Talmud fills an entire wall of book cases.

      Because of the intimate relationship of Aramaic and Hebrew both culturally and linguistically, many Aramaic words persist in Hebrew. In fact many scholarly works are still written in Aramaic today, although it has become less frequent. But to my frustration, because my Aramaic isn’t so great, some authors will be rolling right along in Hebrew and for reasons unknown to me, jump mid-sentence into Aramaic.

      Many Kabbalistic prayers are also in Aramaic, because Aramaic is less holy than Hebrew and the less holy language is said to throw jealous spirits off the trail so they can’t feed on the holiness of Hebrew and gain strength.

      You are so right on about the Thought>>Word>>Deed trifecta. Many religions subscribe to that (I suspect that’s because it’s true). I spent 10 wonderful weeks in South India studying with a Brahmin priest who is a master Ayurvedic physician. We found amazing correspondences between structural Hebrew Kabbalah and Vedic mysticism. I long to go back and be his student forever.

      PS: Aramaic isn’t dead yet! There is one pocket of Aramaic speakers somewhere in the Caucasus, I think, and in one of my Hebrew classes I met a wonderful priest in a tall hat and black-and-red robes, which I coveted, who was from a sect that only spoke Aramaic. I had him speak some for me, and it didn’t sound anything like I imagined Babylonian Aramaic would sound. It was really cool, though, to know that the language is actually in use today!

      • Thank you for the information on Aramaic! I didn’t realize it was still spoken anywhere in the world today, that’s pretty cool.

  6. P.S. – meaning the overlay could have been Aramaic speakers familiar with the Hebrew words and their meanings may have shortened it to the phrase “Abracadabra”.

  7. When we speak, we create realities. If I say something about someone else, I create a reality in which what I said is at least possibly true in the minds of my listeners. If I tell someone, “I believe that you can accomplish such-and-such” I may be giving them hope, which will feed any ability that they have. By the same token, if I say, “Oh, that’s impossible!” when someone tells me about something for which they hope, then I have reduced the likelihood that they can accomplish it. Even our idlest words are incredibly powerful, makers and destroyers of worlds. That’s the reason that Jewish tradition warns us to be very, very careful with words.

    When we hear “abracadabra” we think of stage magicians, but it speaks (ha!) to a deeper set of truths which Laura has laid out so beautifully.

    Er… relative to the Aramaic bit, jennydevildoll, Aramaic and Hebrew are closely connected and both have the root which gives us “abracadabra.” The grammatical form may be a smidge closer to Aramaic, but it’s equally true to say that it has origins in Hebrew.

    • Very true, Rabbi. Somebody once did a heinous experiment where they would have a person go up to another person and say, “Oh, you don’t look so good today. Are you sick?” And after a couple of repetitions, the poor victim WOULD get sick! Words are energy forms that create realities.

  8. All I can say is I am Thankful I Found you.

  9. This makes me cringe even more so at all the times, in the heat of the moment, I failed to use my words for good. 😦 Such an informative post. Thank you.

  10. PsiFiGal

     /  January 6, 2014

    Thank you again for a most informative lesson, one that I needed to be reminded of. I am sure some of my low self-esteem comes from some of the things my father said to me, like “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”when I would dress up for a date or something. I know he didn’t do it in a mean way, it was his type of humor, but still it resonated… It took a long time for me to accept that I wasn’t ugly, thankfully I had friends and counselors who helped me to see that. I’m looking forward to your next lesson 🙂

    • OMG, what a damaging thing to say to a young person! I’m sorry you had to suffer that. I hope that in time you’ll heal from that. It’s rough, I know from my own experience. Take good care and know that you ARE beautiful.

  11. This is amazing. From last two or three months, I was becoming interested in reading about Kabbalah and Torah. And you know even our thoughts matter. Our thoughts are our prayers, so we should always mind our thoughts too. This is what meditation teaches us, keeping the mind in check.

  12. I almost neverr leave remarks, however i did a few searchjng and wound up here Abracadabra,
    Please and Thank You! | Bipolar For Life. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s
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