I recently received tickets to a ballet called "The Dybbuk," with music by Leonard Bernstein. It sounds like something like the "Jewish Exorcist." Please tell me what this is all about.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

A dybbuk is a case of a dead person, whose soul is sent wandering by God because the soul does not merit eternal rest. In some instances that soul may "chase" a living person and enter that person's body - this creating a situation where an alien, second soul lives through the person's body. The word "dybbuk" is derived from the Hebrew word meaning "attachment."

In the Bible (Samuel 18:10), a bad spirit is briefly described as attaching itself to King Saul. Two of the most influential rabbis in modern history - Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch) and the Chafetz Chaim (author of the Mishnah Berurah) - have both have told of experiences regarding dybbuks - so such stories cannot be dismissed so quickly.

The exorcism ritual involves a quorum of 10 men who gather in a circle around the possessed person. The group recites Psalm 91 three times, and the rabbi blows a shofar (ram's horn) with certain notes, in effect to shake the possessing soul loose.

Such a case was reported recently in Israel, where a woman's dead husband came back, and began "speaking" through her. A team of rabbis went in and chased the dybbuk out of the woman. The story received widespread press throughout Israel, and seems to have been 100 percent true. As a result, many people were encouraged to look deeper into the issue of spirituality, and to some degree, this had the effect of turning some Jews back to Torah.

More Questions

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try Note also that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Receive the Daily Features Email

Sign up to our Daily Email Newsletter.

Our privacy policy