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



1. Moses Taku, Oẓar Neḥmad, III, 88; Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 30c; S. Ḥas. 1512, 1566; Glassberg, 226; Güd. III, 100; Rabbinowicz, 21.

2. R. H. 16b; Yoma 20a; Rashi, R. H. 28a; Raben, 61; Responsa of Jacob Weil, § 191, p. 64b; ‘Emek Beracha, II, 61, p. 76b; cf. Finesinger, HUCA, VIII-IX (1931-32), 201 ff.; Lauterbach, HUCA, XI (1936), 256; Kol Bo §35—Pes. 100; Mordecai, Pes. §896, p. 21a; Maḥ. Vit. 280; Kol Bo, loc. cit.; Or Zarua, II, 56a; Maharil, 6b, 17a-b; Isserles, Oraḥ Ḥayim 481:2; etc. Prof. Ginzberg has called my attention to a statement in the Mekilta (ed. M. Friedmann, Vienna 1870, p. 16b) which turns the "night of protection" into a night when "all Israel requires protection." No echo of this view is to be found in the medieval sources.

3. JE, XI, 365; Tyrnau's Minhagim, 29b; Mateh Moshe 395; Landshuth, p. xxv; Brüll, Jahrbücher, IX (1889), 40; Ber. 43b: "A scholar should not go out alone at night," originally a counsel against inviting gossip, as the Gemara explains, was later given a superstitious interpretation when it was attached to the passage (Ber. 54b) enumerating those who must fear demonic attack. Rashi (Ber. 62a) writes: "A scholar needs special protection against demons, because

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they are more envious of scholars than of other men." Cf. also Testament of Shabbetai Horowitz, §24.

4. S. Ḥas. B 1154; Rokeaḥ 337; Tashbeẓ 315; Güd. I, 53.

5. S. Ḥas. 327; Maḥ. Vit. 70; Joseph Omeẓ, toe; Testament of Shabbetai Horowitz, §23; Sha‘are Ẓion, 67a; etc.;—Ber. 5a; Mordecai, Ber. §6, p. 2a; MGWJ, LIX (1915), 242. The literature on the "Keriat Shema‘ at the bed" is too extensive to cite in full. No special insight is necessary to discern the import of its contents even in modern expurgated versions. Prayer, especially in the mystical sense favored by the "practical Kabbalah," enjoyed a fairly distinctive magical rôle, which has not yet been fully investigated. See J. Bergmann, "Gebet and Zauberspruch," MGWJ, LXXIV (1930), 457-463; H. G. Endow, "Kawwana: The Struggle for Inwardness in Judaism," Studies in Jewish Literature in Honor of Prof. Kaufmann Kohler (Berlin 1913), 82-107; G. Scholem, "Der Begriff der Kawwana in der alten Kabbala," MGWJ, LXXVIII (1934), 492-518; Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Stroock Lectures for 1938, Lecture 4; JE, III, 465; Bischoff, 86 ff.

There is a curious statement that to leave a knife with its cutting edge upward is to court trouble. According to a German saying, "When a child falls into the fire, and at the same instant one notices a knife lying on the table sharp edge up, one should turn the knife over before saving the child." The explanation of this superstition is singular: "the blade turned upward cuts the face of the dear Lord and of the angels," who retaliate in consequence. This explanation is not found in the Jewish sources, but the injunction against bringing a knife into a synagogue, or leaving it on the table while grace is being said (it was either removed or covered) was probably based upon some such notion. The reasons that were offered are not very persuasive; "prayer lengthens man's days, but the knife shortens them" was a popular one; another told a gruesome tale of a man who, while saying grace, was so overcome with grief at the memory of the destruction of Jerusalem that he picked up a knife from the table and plunged it into his breast. But there was an ancient tradition that the Shechinah, the divine presence, hovers over men at prayer, and it is quite likely that we have here a fusion of Jewish and German beliefs. Cf. Güd. III, 129, n. so; Wuttke, 312; Grimm, III, 454, §596; Kol Bo 17; Mateh Moshe, 304; Oraḥ Ḥayim 180:5.

6. Kol Bo, 6,, 67; Neubauer and Stern, 26; Responsa of Meir of Rothenburg (ed. Berlin 1891), 158-9; HaḤayim, IV, 7; ms. Eẓ Ḥayim, 516 (289 of original);—Marmorstein, JJV, I (1923), 289; JE, V, 347 f.

7. Joseph Omeẓ, 351.

8. Ibid., 466, p. 96; Rashi, Men. 35b; Sha‘are Ẓion, 120b; Brüek, 63; Löw, Die Finger, p. xiv. See also p. 175 above.

9. S. Ḥas. 211, 371, 1463 (cf. Güd. I, 205, n. 2); Shimmush Tehillim, Ps. 10; Blau, 91; Ber. 20a; Raziel, 43a; cf. Elworthy, 389 ff.

10. Ber. 43b; S. Ḥas. 325; cf. Bergmann, MGWJ, LXXI (1927), 162 ff.; Samter, 67 ff.; Seligmann, Mag. Heil- and Schutzmittel, 110 ff.; Wuttke, 93 f.

11. Blau, 158 f.; Rashi, Ber. 33a; Pa‘aneaḥ Raza, 123a (cf. Grimm, I, 487, n. 4: "Ein Mensch von der Otter gebissen stirbt nicht, wenn er eher als die Otter, über das nächste Wasser springt").—Rashi, San. 67b; S. Ḥas. 1453; B 1544; HaḤayim IV, 10; Nishmat Ḥayim III, 20; Shimmush Tehillim, Ps. 15, 29. One is reminded of Washington Irving's "Headless Horseman" whose wild pursuit of poor Ichabod was halted at the bridge. Cf. Wuttke, 92 f.

12. Blau, 162 f.; Oraḥ Ḥayim 328:20;—Berliner, Aus dem Leben, 96 f.; Elworthy, 412 ff.;—S. Ḥas. 326, 327; HaGan, ch. 2, end; Testament of Shabbetai Horowitz, §23.

13. Ber. 62a; Pes. 112b; Wuttke, 185; Samter, 60; Güd. III, 130.

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14. Ḥochmat HaNefesh, 30d; Güd. I, 204, n. 4; Brantspiegel, ch. 66, p. 105d; cf. Blau, 159 f.; Seligmann, op. cit., 156 ff.; Elworthy, 221 ff.; Samter, 51; Wuttke, 95 f.; I. Goldziher, "Eisen als Schutz gegen Dämonen," AR, X (1907), 41-6.

15. Samter, 151 if.; Otto Schell, "Das Salz im Volksglauben," Ztschr. Ver. f. Volksk., XV (,905), 137-49; Seligmann, op. cit., 266 ff.; Wuttke, 95, 283; Lea, III, 511;—Tos. Ber. 40a; Leket Yosher, I, 34; Joseph Omeẓ, §88, P. 20; Kiẓur Shelah, 38; Isserles, Oraḥ Ḥayim 167:5; Lipez, 50; cf. I. Löw, "Das Salz," Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut, N. Y. 1935, 454 ff.

16. Güd. I, 204, n. 4; S. Ḥas. 1465; Pa‘aneaḥ Raza, 91a; Schudt IV, 2, P. 385;—cf. Samter, 153; Grimm II, 877, 923, III, 434, 440, 454; Wuttke, 529.

17. Jews have come to recognize the apotropaic virtues of garlic and onions in comparatively recent times (see I. Löw, Die Flora der Juden, II, 547). Cf. Samter, 159 f.; Grimm, II, 902; Scheftelowitz, Stell. Huhnopfer, 32.

18. Ber. 55b (cf. Blau, 155); Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 27 (cf. Grünbaum, Ges. Auf. 106-7); S. Ḥas. 327; Güd. I, 206, n. 5; Joseph Omeẓ, 351; Grunwald, MGJV, V (1900), 35, §55, 40, §81, 66, §225; cf. Gaster, Sword of Moses, 42, §1 1, 117; Elworthy, 151 ff., 245 ff.; Samter, 509 ff.; Schönbach, Ztschr. Ver. f. Volksk., XII (1902), 7; Löw, Die Finger, p. xvii.

19. Pitḥe Teshubah on Yore Deah 179:3 mentions this Sephardic custom: before moving into a new home a hen and rooster were domiciled there for a while and then slaughtered on the premises; Scheftelowitz, op. cit., 20-1, 54; Testament of Judah the Pious, §50; cf. Marmorstein, JJV, II (1925), 361 f.; S. Ḥas. B 1145, 1146; Elworthy, 79 ff.; Strack, 31 f.; Grimm II, 956 f.

20. Shab. 67b; Testament of Judah, 51, 52, 59, 60; S. Ḥas. 171, 514; Brantspiegel, ch. 66, 105e; Responsa of Maharil, 118; Yore Deah 179:3; Leket Yosher, II, 6; cf. Marmorstein, JJV, II (1925), 364-5; Grünbaum, Ges. Auf., 218; Schorr, HeḤaluẓ, VII (1865), 47-8; Scheftelowitz, Ztschr. Ver. f. Volksk., XXIII (1913), 385 f.; Grimm, II, 949, III, 437, §83, 486, §23. In Austria, a Christian sells his crowing hen to a Jew! Wuttke, 118.

21. The literature on the Kapparah is fairly extensive; for a discussion of the rite see I. Scheftelowitz, Das stellvertretende Huhnopfer, Giessen 1914; I. Lévi, "Les Jardins d’Adonis, les Kapparot et Rosch Haschana," REJ, LXI (1911), 206-12; M. D. Hoffman, Shibalim, (Vienna 5876), 39-45; I. Löw, Die Flora der Juden, IV, 336 f.; J. Z. Lauterbach, "The Ritual for the Kapparot Ceremony," Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut, N. Y. 1935, 413-22, and HUCA, XI (1936), 262 ff. The essential medieval Hebrew sources are: Rashi, Shab. 81b; Mordecai, Yoma §1181, p. 27c; Sha‘are Teshubah, ed. Fischel (Leipzig 1858), §299 (cf. Joel, II, 27); Responsa of Solomon b. Adret (Vienna 1812) §395, P. 47a; Orḥot Ḥayim (Florence 1750), Hil. Erev Kippurim, §1; Tur Oraḥ Ḥayim 605; Oraḥ Ḥayim 605 (Venice 1564 ed. of Shulḥan ‘Aruch); ms. Eẓ. Ḥayim, 289 (155 of original); Toledot Adam veḤavah, 7:1, p. 41a. All the codes contain descriptions, which embody minor variations; see, e.g., HaOrah, §95, p. 109; Shibbole HaLeket, 266; Maḥ. Vit. 373; Kol Bo, §68; Tashbeẓ 125; Maharil 43b-44a; Tyrnau's Minhagim, 22b-23a; Leket Yosher, I, 53940; etc. For parallel customs from other cultures see Scheftelowitz, op. cit., Samter, 55 f., Grimm, III, 418, §44. Cf. also Aptowitzer, Addenda et Emendationes ad Sefer Rabiah, Jerusalem 1936, pp. 113 f.

22. Maharil, 38a; HaḤayim, IV, 5; Torat Ha‘Olah, III, 56; Shelah, II, 145b (Mas. Rosh Hashanah); ‘Emek Beracha, II, 61, pp. 75a-b; cf. JE, XII, 66-7; Scheftelowitz, AR, XIV 0911), 383-4; Reifmann, Ẓion, I (1841), 184; H. Bodek, ibid., II (1842), 48, 54-7; Brück, 23-4; Grunwald, JJV, I (1923), 20; Samter, 65 f. Prof. J. Z. Lauterbach has treated this subject exhaustively in

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his essay, "Tashlik—A Study in Jewish Ceremonies," HUCA, XI (1936), 207-340.

23. San. 92a (cf. Lauterbach, HUCA, II [1925], 358, n. 11); Yore Deah 178:3; Oraḥ Ḥayim 180: 2;—Lebush on Yore Deah 178:3; Kiẓur Shelah, Inyane Shabbat, p. 119;—Bergmann, MGWJ, LXXI (1927), 170-1; Reifmann, Ẓion, I (184,), 184;—Leket Yosher, II, 15; Ḥul. 105b and Rashi;—Joel, II, 28-9; Mordecai, beg. Yoma; Lev Tov, VI, 66, p. 63c; Mateh Moshe, 306, 504; Leket Yosher, I, 57-8; cf. Grimm, I, 370, 422 f., II, 843 f.; Wuttke, 37, 67-8; MGWJ, loc. cit., 168.

24. R. H., 6b; S. Ḥas. 366, 367, 1136, 1519; B 247.

25. Joseph Omeẓ, 351; S. Ḥas. 1446, 1447; cf. Grimm, III, 451, §509.

26. Yore Deah 179: 9 and Pitḥe Teshubah ad loc.

27. Leket Yosher, I, 49.

28. Joseph Omeẓ, loc. cit.; Schudt, IV, 2, p. 223.

29. Tishbi, s. v. Lilit; HaḤayim II, 8.

30. Raziel, 43b; cf. Scheftelowitz, op. cit., 8 f.; Zoller, Filologische Schriften, III (1929), 126.

31. Güd. I, 214; cf. Grimm, III, 417; Wuttke, 195; Digot, III, 181; cf. also A. Geiger, Jüd. Ztschr., V (1867), 139 f.

32. Glassberg, 18, 61 (cf. L. Ginzberg, Ginze Schechter, II, 541); Shelah, I, 182a (Mas. Ḥullin).

33. Ibid.

34. Kiẓur Shelah, 73 (Inyane Milah); Mateh Moshe 118b (cf. Glassberg, 149, 179);—Glassberg, 65; Ma‘aseh Rokeaḥ, 54; HaManhig, Hil. Milah, 129; Yore Deah 265:12; Perles, Graetz Jubelschrift, 23; Güd. III, 103; B‘er Heteb on Yore Deah 178:3;—cf. Bergmann, MGWJ, LXXI (1927), 167; Goldberger, HaẒofeh, XI (1927), 166-7; JE, XII, 454.

35. Toledot Adam veḤavah, 17:5, p. 127b; Yore Deah 178:3, 179:17.

36. Pirke de R. Eliezer, ch. 29; Rokeaḥ 113; Gaster, Ma’aseh Book, II, 391; MGWJ, loc. cit., 169-70.

37. Shelah, loc. cit.; Shibbole HaLeket, 377; Glassberg, 59 f., 230; Bamberger, JJV, I (1923), 327.

38. See pp. 41 f. above.

39. Rokeaḥ, 353; Tashbeẓ, 465; Responsa of Moses Minz, 109, p. 100a; Responsa of Israel Bruna, 93, P. 40b; Mateh Moshe, 107b; Lauterbach, HUCA, II, 360; J. Reifmann, Kochve Yiẓḥak, XXXII (Vienna 1865), 31; cf. Grimm, III, 487, §31.

40. Lauterbach, HUCA, II (1925), 355; Tashbeẓ, loc. cit.; Joseph Omeẓ, 331-2; Isserles, Eben Ha‘Ezer 64:1; S. Ḥas. 375.

41. Raben, 258b; Tashbeẓ, loc. cit.; Maharil, 64b; Mateh Moshe, loc. cit. A similar custom is observed by some Oriental communities.

42. Prof. Lauterbach has analyzed this custom as well as the other usages in the interesting essay already cited, "The Ceremony of Breaking a Glass at Weddings," HUCA, II (1925), 351-80; the sources are all painstakingly examined there. See J. Perles, "Die jüdische Hochzeit in nachbiblischer Zeit," reprint from MGWJ, IX (1860), for Talmudic material; cf. also Schudt, II, 25:6, p. 5; Grotte, MGWJ, LXVI (1922), 2; Grunwald, JJV, I (1923), 21; Glassberg, 149; Samter, 39 ff., 58 ff.; Grimm, III, 451, §514, 466, §884.

43. Lauterbach, op. cit., 368; Rabiah, I, 126; Tashbeẓ, loc. cit.; Responsa of Moses Minz, p. 101b,.—Rokeaḥ 352, 353; Maḥ. Vit. 589; Raben, loc. cit.; Maharil, loc. cit.; Lauterbach, op. cit., 359; cf. A. Büchler, "Das Ausgiessen von Wein und Öl," MGWJ, XLIX (1905), 12-40; Bergmann, ibid., LXXI (1927), 166; Samter, 171 ff.; Scheftelowitz, 14 ff., ch. 3; Digot, III, 177.

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44. Maḥ Vit., loc. cit.; Kol Bo §75; Maharil, loc. cit.; Responsa of Moses Minz, 79a, 99b; Leket Yosher, I, 113; Lauterbach, 359-60; Güd. III, 121 f. Mitron is a Hebraization of the French mitre, mitra (J. Perles, Beiträge, 59); the sarganes (a word which Prof. Ginzberg believes to be derived from saracen, denoting a wide, flowing garment) was originally worn on the Sabbath and holidays (Rabiah, I, 245-6), but came later to be identified as a mark of mourning; it was worn at weddings "to remind one of the day of death," in the words of Moses Minz. Seligmann, Mag. Heil- und Schutzmittel, 135, points out that ashes, the product of fire, are often employed as a means of protection.

45. Rokeaḥ, 353, 355; Maharil, loc. cit.; Responsa of Moses Minz, 99b; Yereim, 96; cf. Samter, 90 ff.; Grimm, II, 983 f.; Elworthy, 427 ff.; Prof. Ginzberg (REJ, LXVII [1914] 149 f.) interprets the transfer of the groom's garments to the bride as a token of possession.

46. Berliner, Aus dem Leben, 100; Mateh Moshe, 107c; Schudt, II, 25, p. 3; Maharil, 65a.

47. Mateh Moshe, 111e, citing Kol Bo; Landshuth, p. xxv; Leket Yosher, II, 96; S. Ḥas. 315, 317, 318; Isserles, Yore Deah, 339:1; cf. Grimm, III, 443, §281, 454, §593; Samter, 61 f. See, especially, "Beliefs, Rites and Customs of the Jews Connected with Death, Burial and Mourning," by A. P. Bender, JQR, OS, VI (1894), 317 ff., 664 ff., VII (1895), 101 ff., 259 ff.; and JE, III, 434 ff.; also Landshuth; J. Perles, "Die Leichenfeierlichkeiten im nachbibl. Judenthume," MGWJ, X (1861), 345-55, 376-94; and J. Rabbinowicz, Der Todtenkultus bei den Juden, Frankfort 1889.

48. See Semaḥot ch. 1; Yore Deah 353: 2 and M.K. 25a;—Landshuth, P. xxxii; Shelah, II, 24b; Nishmat Ḥayim, III, 26; S. Ḥas. 1542; Testament of Judah the Pious, §7; Rokeaḥ, 316; Löw, Die Finger, pp. xiv ff.; cf. Samter, 1 ff., 45 f., 80 f.; Bender, 102-3.

49. Testament of Judah, §2, 3; Rokeaḥ, 316, p. 83a; Toledot Adam veḤavah, 28:1, p. 182b (cf. Wuttke, 214, 215); Rabbinowicz, 27.

50. Hadar Zekenim on Nu. 20: 1; S. Ḥas. B 851; Kol Bo, 114; Pa‘aneaḥ Raza on Nu. 20:2; Shibbole HaLeket, p. 171; Mordecai, Pes. §896, p. 21a; Tashbeẓ, 442, 447; Or Zarua, 56a; Maharil, 6b; Brantspiegel, ch. 74, P. 114a; Digot, III, 180; Cecil Roth, History of the Marranos, Phila. 1932, 101; A.Z. 20b. See also Rabbinowicz, 11; Landshuth, p. xxx; Bender, 106 ff.; Güd. I, 210; Grimm, III, 408, 422; Wuttke, 465; Samter, 83 ff.; Sartori, Ztschr. Ver. f. Volksk., XVIII (1908), 362 f.; Seligmann, op. cit., 104.

51. Landshuth, p. liii; Toledot Adam veḤavah, 28: r, p. 182b; Testament of Judah, §8; Rokeaḥ, loc. cit.; Joseph Omeẓ, 326; Isserles, Yore Deah 358:3 San. 20a; Rabbinowicz, 31; Tashbeẓ, 447; Joseph Omeẓ, 327; Yore Deah 359:1; Yesh Noḥalin, 38a, n. 48; cf. Ber. 51a.

52. Joseph Omeẓ, loc. cit.; Mateh Moshe, 112a; Testament of Shabbetai Horowitz, §3.

53. Raben, §11; Kol Bo, §114; Marmorstein, JJV, I (1923), 287; Shibbole HaLeket, §14, P. 345; Or Zarua, II, §422, p. 86b; Maḥ Vit. 247; Tashbeẓ, §447; ms. Eẓ Ḥayim, 542 (308 of original); Rokeaḥ, §316, p. 82b; Responsa of Israel Bruna, §18r, p. 66b; cf. Güd. I, 211, n. 2; JE, XI, 599; Samter, 96, 150, 153-4; Seligmann, op. cit., 148 ff.; Grimm, III, 444, 446; Blau, 73.

54. Toledot Adam, 28:2, p. 182b; Or Zarua, loc. cit.; Kol Bo, loc. cit.; Mateh Moshe, loc. cit.; Isserles and Lebush on Yore Deah 376:4; Kiẓur Shelah, 61.

55. Raben, loc. cit.; Maḥ. Vit., 248, §280; Kol Bo, loc. cit.; Tashbeẓ, loc. cit.; Maharil, 84b; Joseph Omeẓ, loc. cit.; Mateh Moshe, loc. cit.; Kiẓur Shelah, loc. cit.; cf. Bender, op. cit., 109 f.; Landshuth, p. lxviii; Sartori, op. cit., 368 ff.,

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56. Rokeaḥ, §313, pp. 77b, 79b; Joseph Omeẓ, 330;—Yore Deah 393:2, 3;—Maharil, 83; Tyrnau's Minhagim, 23b, n. 155; Responsa of Jacob Weil, 75b; Kiẓur Shelah, 61;—Joseph Omeẓ, 329, Leket Yosher, II, 96-7;—Siddur Rashi, §981, p. 281; Shibbole HaLeket, 353; Maharil, 83b-84a; Yore Deah, 386:1, 393:4. The custom of covering mirrors or turning them to the wall, which prevails among Jews nowadays, is not mentioned in the medieval sources, and is evidently a late borrowing. It is observed almost universally, arising, according to Frazer (The Golden Bough, I, 146), from the fear "that the soul projected out of the person in the shape of his reflection in the mirror, might be carried off by the ghost of the departed, which is commonly supposed to linger about the house till the burial." Cf. Bender, 117; Ta‘ame HaMinhagim, III, 93b; Von Negelein, AR, V (1902), 22; Samter, 134.

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