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Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg, [1939], at



1. Ch. V, p. 7a.

2. Ber. 6a and Rashi; Git. 68a; Rashi on Nu. 22:23.

3. Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 27; Isserles to Yore Deah 179:16. Prof. Ginzberg considers the statement "they are more God-fearing than men are" to be essentially Islamic; Güd. I, 207, n. 3; HaḤayim, IV, so; Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 27.

4. Ber. 43b—a man who walks alone is in danger of attack from demons; two walking together are safe, though they must be on guard; three walking together need have no fear at all; a torch may be considered the equivalent of one companion; Judah b. Bezalel's commentary, Derech Ḥayim, on Abot III, 5.—Ms. S. Gematriaot, 65b; Netivot 'Olam, 40e-d; Joseph Omeẓ, 94, §455; Testament of Judah the Pious, §43-4; cf. Grimm, III, 435, §14; Kiẓur Shelah, 75-7 (Inyane Tefilat HaDerech).

5. Cf. Pes. 112b, Meg. 3a, San. 44a; Maḥ. Vit. 507-8; Güd. I, 294; S. Ḥas. 239, 468, 939; Maharil, 86b; Solomon Luria, quoted in B’er Heteb on Yore Deah 116:5; Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 27;—Derech Ḥayim on Abot III, 5; Maḥ Vit. 734; Toledot Adam veḤavah, 15:30, p. 112C; Abrahams, Ethical Wills, 48; Isserles, Yore Deah 116:5;—Semak 171; Yore Deah 116:5; Orḥot Ẓadikim, 32a; —Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 8c-d; Leket rasher, II, 84; Responsa of Jacob Weil, 74a; cf. Samter, 131 ff.

6. Pes. 112b, Maḥ. Vit. 81, 83-4, S. Ḥas. 1909; Marmorstein, JJV, I (1923), 306, cites an early source which adds ‏ובמוצאי שבת ובמוצאי יום טוב‎; see also H. Gollancz, Clavic. Sal., 39;—cf. Ber. 6a and Tos., ad loc.; Rashi, Shab. 24b; Semag, II, 19; S. Ḥas. B 1170; HaTerumah, 94b-c; Rabiah, §10, p. 8, and §196, pp. 240-1; Mordecai, Shab., §564, p. 13c; Kol Bo, §35; Maḥ. Vit., 280; HaPardes, 22a; Tyrnau, Minhagim, 4b. The original reason for introducing a shortened ‘Amidah in the Friday night service, as Prof. Ginzberg pointed out to me, was that at first this was the only evening service during the week; it was given this superstitious explanation when the Ma‘arib became a daily service.

7. Cf. Ber. 54b—"Three require protection [from the demons]: an invalid, a bridegroom and a bride. Another version has it: an invalid, a woman in confinement, a bride and a groom. Some add, also a mourner." Cf. also Rashi, ad loc.

8. Cf. Landshuth, p. xx; Samter, 21 ff.; JE, IV, 92 ff.; Ginzberg, Legends, VI, 341, n. 118.

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9. "Testament of Solomon," JQR, OS, XI (1899), 20; Marmorstein, JJV, II (1925), 355 f.

10. Ẓiyuni, Toc, 22b; S. Ḥas. 305, 327, 1544; Hut. 94a; Tyrnau's Minhagim, 7b, §61; Nishmat Ḥayim, II, 26; Lebush, Yore Deah, 179: 54; Grimm, II, 698 f., Samter, 79.

11. Ed. Gaster, 301 ff.; Prof. Ginzberg writes (p. 686): "This is to my knowledge the earliest story about a Dibbuk, which is first met with in the writings about Luria and his pupils. The nearest to that given in the Ma‘aseh Book is the one told about Luria and Vital in the different versions of Shibḥe HaAri, which, however, were published later than the M. B." See, however, Scholem, EJ, V, 1099, where mention is made of a Safed protocol of 1571 containing reference to a Dibbuk. On Kabbalistic metempsychosis see Franck, 200 ff.; C. D. Ginsburg, 124 f.; Bloch, MGWJ, XLIX (1905), 160.

12. Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues, recounted the curious tale of a nun who ate a lettuce-leaf without making the sign of the cross, and was immediately possessed of a demon, which had been sitting on the leaf. (Lea, III, 381, Thorndike, I, 639.) The belief in demonic possession was so strongly held that the Catholic Church has a rite of "Ordination of Exorcists," De Ordinatione Exorcistarum, and a "Form of Exorcising the Possessed" (Summers, 207 ff., 211 ff.). This far the Synagogue certainly never went, though we have records of exorcisms utilized by individual Jews (cf. Scholem, loc. cit., 1099-1100). For the Talmudic view see Blau, 13, 31, 34, 55.

13. Ḥayim b. Bezalel expressed this view most clearly in his Sefer HaḤayim, IV, 10; Menasseh b. Israel (Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 10) again says the final word in the matter: "This is one of those traditions which require no proof."

14. Zera‘ Kodesh, by Moses b. Menaḥem of Prague, Furth 1696, end. The technique of exorcism among Jews and Gentiles shows a close relationship, even to such fine points as the requirement that the spirit make its exit through a specified spot on the body (in the case mentioned, the little toe of the right foot), and leave a sign of its departure, either on the body, or as here, in a tiny hole which it was to bore in the window-pane to permit egress. Cf. De Givry, 164 f.

15. See Ginzberg, Legends, V, 148, n. 47. This belief was equally widespread in medieval Christendom, and was accepted as literally true by the Church. In fact, physical relations between spirits and humans were believed to be the most characteristic feature of the witch-cults, and some medieval writers attributed the alarming development of witchcraft to the attractions of such a relationship. See Lea, III, 383 ff.; Summers, 90 ff.

16. Cf. Erub. 18b and Rashi. This theory was very popular with the later mystics and appears often in the writings of the Horowitz family, e.g., ‘Emek Beracha, II, §52, p. 60b, note by Isaiah; also p. 61b of the same work; Yesh Noḥalin, 18b, n. 17. It is because of this view that the avoidance of keri occupies such a prominent place in the mystical hygiene of this group.

17. Disputation of R. Jeḥiel, 15. Menasseh b. Israel (Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 16) discusses this question at some length, and with considerable erudition: one opinion has it that the demons, themselves without physical attributes of any kind, gather up the semen and use it to impregnate women and themselves; another, that demons do possess sex organs and are capable of physical union with men and women; a third admits of such a possibility only when demons temporarily assume human forms and seduce the children of men. Menasseh b. Israel draws here on Christian as well as Jewish sources; he forbears to commit himself to one or another of these views, but does not question the possibility of such unnatural carnal relations. These views find striking expression in medieval Christian thought. Thomas Aquinas explains how by acting alternately as succubus and

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incubus, the demon could bear man offspring, while William of Auvergne "regards demons as incapable of sexual intercourse with human beings, but he thinks it possible that they may juggle with nature so as to produce the effects of sexual intercourse." The views of these two outstanding teachers of the thirteenth century were accepted and often repeated by their successors. Cf. Lea, III, 385, Thorndike, II, 358, IV, 310.

18. Such a story is to be found in the Ma‘aseh Book, 383 ff.; Gaster suggests in his notes that this seems to be a German folktale, but the essential element, a demon marrying a girl, is as Jewish as it is German, or, indeed, of any other nationality.

19. Ẓiyuni, 49b. This is an interesting version of the well-known sociological phenomenon that when members of two races mate, their offspring are regarded as belonging to that race which is socially inferior, while within this group they tend to arrogate to themselves a superior position.

20. Or Zarua, I, §124, p. 22c;—Responsa of R. Meir b. Gedaliah (Maharam) of Lublin, 116.

21. Kab HaYashar, 69. Although the date of this event, 1681-2, is late, the passage is faithful to the beliefs of an earlier period. An interesting parallel to the episode of the forced separation between the demon and her human lover is afforded in an early Aramaic incantation in which a magical get (a bill of divorcement) achieves a like result; cf. Montgomery, 159.—That the proper habitat of demons is the desert and the mountain is an ancient and widely held belief (cf. Mat. 12:43). The banning of demons into these places occurs often in Babylonian-Assyrian, Hellenistic, and post-Talmudic Aramaic incantations and exorcisms. Cf. Montgomery, 78, n. 60.

22. The outstanding work on the subject is S. Seligmann's Die Zauberkraft des Auges and das Berufen, Hamburg, 1922; cf. also Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London 1895; Wuttke, 162 ff.; Bischoff, 50 ff.

23. Grünbaum, Ges. Auf., 105 and Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 27.

24. See Blau, 152 ff.; A. Löwinger, "Der Böse Blick nach jüdischen Quellen," Menorah, IV (1926), 551-69; Grünbaum, loc. cit.; R. Lilienthal, "‘Ayin Hara‘," Yidische Filologye, I (1924), 245 ff.; Montgomery, 89.

25. Ẓiyuni, 65c: according to the "scientists," "there are men who can work havoc with the merest glance," and also animals "whose roar spreads death a bow-shot away."

26. Nishmat Ḥayim, loc. cit.; Rashi on Nu. 12:1, Suk. 53a, and Ex. 30:12 (cf. II Sam. 24: I ff.); S. Ḥas. 534; Netivot ‘Olam, 107d;—Rokeaḥ 296; Kol Bo §74; Gaster, Studies and Texts, III, 228;—Tashbeẓ, 190; Leket Yosher, II, 38; Oraḥ Ḥayim 141:6;—Isserles, Eben Ha‘Ezer 62:3; Rashi, B.B. 2b. Since the seventeenth century belief in the evil eye has become very prominent in Jewish superstitions; the expressions "unbeschrieen," "unberufen," or, in Hebrew, "no evil eye," have become automatic accompaniments on Jewish lips of the slightest compliment. See Lilienthal, op. cit., for a detailed account of East-European Jewish beliefs.

27. Cf. Elworthy, 8; Thorndike, I, 217, II, 608; Netivot ‘Olam, loc. cit.; S. Ḥas. 981, 1823.

28. De Givry, 92.

29. Ber. 19a, 60a; Preuss, Berliner Festschrift, 296 f.; Ginzberg, Legends, II, 95; Blau, 61 f.; Yore Deah 402:12; Kol Bo 114; Landshuth, p. xxxi; Rashi, Ket. 28a; Kol Bo 30; Tashbeẓ, 551; Yore Deah 335:1 and Ned. 40a; S. Ḥas. 1446.

30. Schwab, Vocabulaire, 7; Lev Tov, 6:112, p. 67a; Testament of Shabbetai Horowitz, §11; Landau and Wachstein, Jüdische Privatbriefe, passim; etc.

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31. Cf. S. Ḥas. 1, 1464, 1435, 1436, 688, 858, 705; Kiẓur Shelah, 149; Leket Yosher, II, 83. Not all rabbis were obsessed by this superstition. This same Isserlein, replying to a query as to whether the statement, "I'll be baptised before I let my mother-in-law put foot in my house!" was to be regarded as a vow, limited himself to the immediate question, and passed up an excellent opportunity for a homily on the evils of making such remarks (Pesakim Uketabim, §192).

32. 7. Meg. I, 72b; J. Yoma I, 38d; B.M. 85a; S. Ḥas. B 416; S. Ḥas. 1287; cf. Yesh Noḥalin, §16 and n. 51, p. 39a;—Ber. 56a; B.K. 93a; Lea, III, 382; S. Ḥas. 129, 1436, 1439, 1727; Joseph Omeẓ, 354.

33. S. Ḥas. 101, 1504; Güd. I, 282; HaḤayim, I, 7; cf. Tos. Meg. 31b. It was customary not to call anyone to the Torah by name when the Tochaḥah was to be read, but the invitation was extended to "whoever wished" to accept it. In Mainz the practice was to stipulate, when employing a sexton, that he must read the chapter when no one else was willing to do so; cf. Maharil, Hil. Keriat HaTorah, Isserles, Oraḥ Ḥayim, 428:6; JE, XII, 175; E. N. Adler, Jews in Many Lands, Phila. 1905, p. 178. Reifmann wrote in 1841 (Zion, I, 184) that he himself saw a man refuse to eat bread which had been placed before him while he was reading the "chapter of maledictions."

34. Pa‘aneaḥ Raza on Gen. 12: 3, p. 16a; Joseph Omeẓ, loc. cit.; Brantspiegel, ch. 56, p. 100c.

35. Kiẓur Shelah, 202 (Seder Hatarat Kelalot); the Kol Nidre formula is dissimilar in purport and content; cf. JE, VII, 539 ff.

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