Cover image for Spirit possession in Judaism : cases and contexts from the Middle Ages to the present
Spirit possession in Judaism : cases and contexts from the Middle Ages to the present
Goldish, Matt.
Publication Information:
Detroit : Wayne State University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
476 pages ; 24 cm.
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BM645.S65 S75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This extraordinary collection of essays is the first to approach the phenomenon of spirit possession among Jews from a multidisciplinary perspective. What beliefs have Jews held about spirit possession? Have Jewish people believed themselves to be possessed by spirits? If so, what sorts of spirits were they? Have Jews' conceptions of possession been the same as those of their Christian and Muslim neighbors? These are some of the questions addressed in these thirteen essays, which together explore spirit possession in a wide range of temporal and geographic contexts.
The phenomena known as spirit possession are both very widespread and very difficult to explain. The late Raphael Patai initiated study of spirit possession as found in the Jewish world in the post-Talmudic period by taking a folkloric and anthropological approach to the subject. Other scholars have opened up new avenues of inquiry through discussions of the topic in connection with Jewish mystical and magical traditions. The essays in this collection expand the variety of approaches to the subject, addressing Jewish possession phenomena from the points of view of religion, mysticism, literature, anthropology, psychology, history, and folklore. Scholarly views and popular traditions, benevolent spirits and malevolent shades, exorcism, social control, messianic implications, madness, literary structure, and a host of other topics are brought into the discussion of spirit possession in Jewish culture. This juxtaposition of approaches among the essays in this volume, some of which analyze the same texts in different ways, creates a broad foundation on which to contemplate the meaning of spirit possession.

Author Notes

Matt Goldish is Samuel M. and Esther Melton Associate Professor of Jewish History at the Ohio State University

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Goldish (Ohio State Univ.) has edited an extremely important collection of essays that promises to radically transform the way many people view Judaism. One of the volume's most useful features is its wide historical scope. Although many of the essays focus on the extraordinarily rich material found in the Lurianic Kabbalah of the 16th century, others examine medieval, Sabbatean, Hasidic, and even contemporary Israeli cases of spirit possession. This collection explores different forms of possession, including dybbuk (malevolent possession), the best-known phenomenon; and lesser-known types such as ibbur (impregnation), gilgul (reincarnation), and maggid (angelic mentor). Several essays that address the underlying theoretical issues further strengthen this volume, helping the reader to situate the phenomenon of spirit possession within Judaism cross-culturally and to understand its psychological and social dimensions. Finally, the book includes a number of appendixes with translations of original accounts of spirit possession; most are excerpted from the highly influential Hebrew writings of the Kabbalist Hayyim Vital, Isaac Luria's chief disciple. There is also a bibliographical essay that points readers to other works on the topic. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. N. R. Deutsch Swarthmore College

Table of Contents

Erika BourguignonMatt GoldishJoseph DanYoram BiluJonathan SeidelLawrence FineJ. H. ChajesMenachem KallusMorris M. FaiersteinHarris LenowitzMatt GoldishRoni WeinsteinZvi MarkTamar AlexanderYoram BiluJ. H. ChajesMenachem KallusMenachem KallusMenachem KallusMorris M. FaiersteinHarris LenowitzHarris LenowitzMatt GoldishMatt Goldish
Forewordp. 9
Prefacep. 11
Section I Historical and Phenomenological Background
Prologuep. 25
Introductionp. 27
The Taming of the Deviants and Beyond: An Analysis of Dybbuk Possession and Exorcism in Judaismp. 41
Possession and Exorcism in the Magical Texts of the Cairo Genizap. 73
Section II The Sixteenth Century
Prologuep. 99
Benevolent Spirit Possession in Sixteenth-Century Safedp. 101
City of the Dead: Spirit Possession in Sixteenth-Century Safedp. 124
Pneumatic Mystical Possession and the Eschatology of the Soul in Lurianic Kabbalahp. 159
Maggidim, Spirits, and Women in Rabbi Hayyim Vital's Book of Visionsp. 186
A Spirit Possession Tale as an Account of the Equivocal Insertion of Rabbi Hayyim Vital into the Role of Messiahp. 197
Section III The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Prologuep. 215
Vision and Possession: Nathan of Gaza's Earliest Prophecies in Historical Contextp. 217
Kabbalah and Jewish Exorcism in Seventeenth-Century Italian Jewish Communities: The Case of Rabbi Moses Zacutop. 237
Dybbuk and Devekut in the Shivhe ha-Besht: Toward a Phenomenology of Madness in Early Hasidismp. 257
Section IV The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Prologuep. 305
Love and Death in a Contemporary Dybbuk Story: Personal Narrative and the Female Voicep. 307
Dybbuk, Aslai, Zar: The Cultural Distinctiveness and Historical Situatedness of Possession Illnesses in Three Jewish Milieusp. 346
Appendix A Texts concerning Spirit Possession in Sixteenth-Century Safedp. 367
Appendix B Lurianic Texts concerning "His Portion and His Neighbor's Portion"--A Moral Problemp. 385
Appendix C Lurianic Texts concerning the Hazards of the Self-Rectification of the Incomplete Tzaddikp. 403
Appendix D Lurianic Texts concerning Rabbi Hayyim Vital and His Psychical Experiencep. 407
Appendix E On the Possession of Rabbi Hayyim Vital from His Book of Visions, book 5, chapter 12p. 415
Appendix F Texts from Vital's Autobiography concerning the Vision of Pillarsp. 417
Appendix G Selections from Sefer ha-Hezyonot, by Rabbi Hayyim Vitalp. 421
Appendix H From Sha'ar Ru'ah ha-Kodesh (The Gate of Holy Spirit), by Rabbi Hayyim Vitalp. 437
Appendix I On How the Spirits of the Dead Enter the Bodies of the Living, from Sefer Nishmat Hayyim, by Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, book 3, chapter 10p. 441
Bibliographical Essayp. 445
Glossaryp. 449
Contributorsp. 455
Indexp. 457