Text of Jewish exorcism discovered

17 12 2009

A rare – and possibly unique – text describing a Jewish exorcism has been discovered by a scholar of medieval Jewish studies.

The 150 word neatly written fragment – discovered by Dr Renate Smithuis – describes a ceremony to dispel the evil spirit of Nissim Ben Bunya from his widow, Qamar Bat Rahma. Dr Smithuis thinks the Hebrew document was most likely written in the eighteenth century and probably originated from Egypt or Palestine. The fragment provides what is likely to be unique evidence of the prayer ritual’s actual use in a synagogue.

The fragment contains the second part of a prayer ritual in which the husband  – or husband-to-be  – of a widow recites an exorcism prayer, to which the other men gathered in the synagogue respond with a similar prayer. Apparently, Qamar had been possessed by the spirit – or dybbuk – of her late husband Nissim Ben Bunya while engaged to, or just married with, Joseph Moses Ben Sarah. In the prayer, Joseph and the rest of the congregation ask God that the ghost may be expelled from Qamar and that the new family and all their possessions may be protected from the troublesome ghost also in the years to come.

Professor Gideon Bohak from Tel-Aviv University, who has worked with Dr Smithuis –  discovered that the prayer is ascribed to the famous eighteenth-century Kabbalist Rabbi Shalom Shar‘abi.

More information can be found at: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=5324

Text of Jewish exorcism

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