Houdini’s Magic

Friday, 20 January, 2023 - 6:23 am

My son once bought a magic trick set. He was so proud of the few tricks that he had mastered. He was longing for the opportunity to show off these tricks (after subjecting the family to incessant renditions). He had ample chance to do so and enjoyed his new hobby.  Until he met his match.  When he went to a ‘real’ magic show, his heart sunk. “I can never do those types of tricks.”

It’s one thing to impress family and friends. But to impress the pros is a different league altogether.


When Moshe and Aharon brought forth the first few miracles and plagues in Egypt, Par’oh was not impressed.

The Midrash recounts that Pharaoh began to mock them and crow at them like a cock, saying to them: "So these be the signs of your G-d! It is usual for people to take goods to a place which has a shortage of them; but does one import brine into Apamea or fish into Acco? Are you not aware that all kinds of magic are within my province?" He then called for children to be brought from school and they also performed these wonders.  Moshe replied: "To Herbtown one carries herbs."

The goal of the ten plagues was not simply to destroy Egypt so the Jews could escape. G-d wanted Egypt to recognize – and repent for – the tyranny and cruelty for which they had been responsible.


Indeed, inspiring a magician with magic is no easy feat.  But winning over Houdini would be the grand prix of magic.

We too possess a Pharaoh. The internal Pharaoh is the voice of resistance and mockery to all things holy.  Impressing our divine soul with Torah is no big feat. But transforming the animal inside of us into a partner for good – that’s the entire purpose of our existence.

If Pharaoh could ultimately admit, “G-d is the righteous One, and I and my people are the guilty ones,” we too can train our inner dark side to appreciate, admire and be enthused about all things holy.

Then, instead of an antagonist, we would have a partner.

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