Looking for spooky tales Turn to the Book of Samuel

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Halloween is obviously not a Jewish holiday. So go to work as usual and don't fast.

So, should Jews go trick-or-treating? It's fine halachically, as long as your neighbors don't distribute pork chops or bowls of young stewed goat in mother's milk sauce. And if they do, ask if you could have a Hershey Bar with nuts instead.

Philosophically, however, Halloween is a very non-Jewish holiday because the air is full of witches, spooks and spirits. And they're not singing Adon Olam.

In fact, in the Hebrew Bible, witches don't get very good press because, basically, theirs was a heathen occupation. It still is.

In the Bible, statements about these creatures are usually linked with stones — like "she shall be stoned to death."

Even today, you never hear a Jewish mother say, "Well, your daughter may be the best pediatrician in town, but my daughter's a very successful witch."

Still, if you do let your kids loose on Halloween, how about ending the evening with an appropriate Bible reading.

It's a spooky story found in the Book of Samuel. And if you let your kids nibble on the loot as you read, you may actually be able to hold their attention.

The darkly dramatic tale focuses on troubled Saul, the first king of Israel.

First the set-up: Saul has a lot of troubles. He's worried about young David as a rival. Saul's own son Jonathan seems to have a passionate attachment to his competitor. Politically, Saul's also in deep cholent, as they say in the Negev.

He's at war with the Philistines, which is actually the worst of his problems. The Philistines are a technically advanced society. They know how to work iron. Their swords, shields and daggers are sharp and hard, unlike the bronze banana weapons of the Israelites.

So, back to the story. The king is preparing to meet the Philistines at Gilboa and "his heart trembled greatly." He needs all the help he can get — from a roadside fortune teller, a shrink, or even the sorceress who lives in the village of Endor.

He decides on the latter. But Saul being Saul, nothing is simple.

Saul has previously banned the profession of witchery. It's as illegal as roast pork on the Friday night oneg table.

So when Saul shows up at the witch's house and asks her to bubble her cauldron and read the future, she says, "No way baby. That stuff is against King Saul's law. You're just trying to get me in trouble."

"But I am Saul, the first and only king of the Israelites and I say it's OK. Divine unto me," he insists.

The sorceress yields.

At Saul's request, she conjures up the Prophet Samuel from his eternal sleep, which is not a bad trick for a small-town witch who hasn't had much time to prepare her props.

Saul kneels, puts his face into the dirt, and tells Samuel that the Lord has forsaken him.

Samuel proceeds to tell Saul that tomorrow — the day of battle — will be disastrous. And so it is. Saul is killed.

Most biblical scholars, both religious and secular, find it interesting that, though the Bible condemns the art of witchcraft, it also tells this tale of supernatural power. The Bible, as usual, lets it all hang out.