Definitions

dybbuk

dybbuk

[Seph. Heb. dee-book; Ashk. Heb., Eng. dib-uhk]

In Jewish folklore, a disembodied human spirit that must wander restlessly, burdened by former sins, until it inhabits the body of a living person. Belief in such spirits was common in eastern Europe in the 16th–17th century. Individuals thought to be possessed by a dybbuk were taken to a baaynal shem, who would carry out a rite of exorcism. The mystic Isaac ben Solomon Luria helped promote belief in dybbukim with his doctrine of the transmigration of souls. The folklorist S. Ansky depicted such a spirit in his classic Yiddish drama The Dybbuk (circa 1916).

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In Kabbalah and European Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. Dybbuks are said to have escaped from Gehenna, a Hebrew term very loosely translated as "hell," or to have been turned away from Gehenna for transgressions too serious for the soul to be allowed there, such as suicide. The word "dybbuk" is derived from the Hebrew דיבוק, meaning "attachment"; the dybbuk attaches itself to the body of a living person and inhabits it. According to belief, a soul that has not been able to fulfill its function in its lifetime is given another opportunity to do so in the form of a dybbuk. It will leave once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped.

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