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5. Healing in the Name of Jesus The mysterious heretic by the name of Jacob makes yet another appearance in a story preserved again in Palestinian as well as in Babylonian sources. This time he does not seduce a rabbi by his convincing Bible exegesis and expose the poor rabbi’s hidden leanings toward Christianity but introduces himself as the proverbial miraculous healer who whispers a potent magical word or phrase over a wound/illness and, through the power of the word(s) used, heals the patient. Rabbinic Judaism seems to be ambiguous about the custom of “whispering over a wound” for healing purposes. In the famous Mishna Sanhedrin 10:2,1 R. Aqiva counts such miraculous healers among those who “have no portion in the world to come”: “one who whispers over a wound and says: I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the Lord am your healer (Ex. 15:26).” This sounds like a definite prohibition. The Tosefta, however, is much less strict. There it is stated clearly: “[It is permitted to] whisper over an eye, a serpent, and a scorpion (= over the bite inflicted by a serpent or a scorpion) and to pass [a remedy] over the eye on the Sabbath,”2 and this tradition is repeated in both the Jerusalem and the Babylonian Talmud.3 The Tosefta and the Talmudim take it for granted, therefore, that people whisper over wounds for healing purposes and even allow this practice on Sabbath. With a certain sense of irony, the Yerushalmi mentions R. Aqiva, of all people, as someone over whose sick eye a (healing) object was passed. The Talmudim do not resolve the contradiction between Aqiva’s strict prohibition in the Mishna and the fact, documented in the Tosefta and related traditions, that such customs were not only (reluctantly) tolerated by the rabbis but commonplace and even explicitly permitted on Sabbath . An easy way out of this dilemma may be the suggestion made by Rashi (and followed by the Soncino translation of the Bavli): whispering over a serpent or a scorpion does not mean whispering over the bite in- flicted by these venomous animals but rather whispering over the animals themselves (= charming them) in order to “render them tame and harmless ”;4 accordingly, “passing an object over the eye (ma


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