People are always surprised to learn that my kids go “trick-or-treating”. Cheryl and I have no problem with our kids celebrating Halloween. We both grew up with Halloween and have great memories of dressing up, getting scared and eating too much candy. Yes, I know that Halloween has pagan roots and was influenced by Christian teachings. But, the holiday that our kids take part in tonight is an American “ritual” devoid of anything religious. While some of you will disagree with me, I believe it is perfectly fine for our kids (under our watchful eyes) to become one of the ghosts or goblins that wander our streets tonight looking for junk food.
Many are bothered by Halloween because they feel that Judaism stays away from the dark world that Halloween glorifies. This is just not true. Judaism has her fair share of ghosts and goblins. In the spirit of Halloween, I share with you an excerpt from one of the most popular posts on my blog, a post that gets many hits on a regular basis. The post contains a 16th century Jewish exorcism ritual that I discovered while researching Jewish ghost stories. Read it, if you dare, and see for yourself that our tradition believes in a dark side!
…[t]o remove a demon from the body of a man or woman, or anything into which a male or female demon has entered…Take an empty flask and a white waxen candle and recite this adjuration in purity:
I adjure you, the pure and holy angels Michael, Gabriel, Shuviel, Ahadriel, Zumtiel, Yechutriel, Zumtziel…by 72 names I adjure you, you all the retinues of [evil] spirits in the world – Be’ail Lachush and all your retinue; Kapkafuni the Queen of Demons and all your retinue; and Agrat bat Malkat and all your retinue, and Zmamit and all your retinue, and those that were made on the eve of the Shabbat [This refers to a rabbinic dictum (Avot 5:6) that demons were spawned on the twilight of the sixth day of creation, though in his translation Chajes cites Tikkunei Zohar for this tradition] – that you bring forth that demon immediately and do not detain the mazzik [destructive spirit] of so-and-so, and tell me his name in this circle [circles are important protection against demons and warlocks – Sefer ha-Chasidim 2, Zera ha-Kodesh, Megillat Setarim] that I have drawn in your honor….Immediately they will tell you his name and the name of the father and the name of his mother aloud [demons procreate – Chag. 16a, Eruv. 18, Alef-Bet ben Sira; knowing the name of a spirit is critical to gaining power over it – Testa. Of Solomon]; do not fear.
Recite this adjuration in such a way:
I adjure you the demon so-and-so, by the utterance of the watchers and the holy ones [Dan. 4:14] by YHWH God of the Heavens, with these names I adjure you the demon so-and-so, son of so-and-so and so-and-so, that you now enter this flask immediately and immediately the flask will turn red [Chajes reports that bottling up the spirit was commonplace and also appears in Islamic exorcism rituals – the inspiration for “I Dream of Jeanie”]. Immediately say to him these five [divine] names YHW….That demon will immediately cry a great and bitter cry from the great pressure; do not believe him until he swears by YUD HA VAV HA explicitly [more divine names in permutation, thereby binding him to do no further harm]. Then leave him alone and pay him no further heed.
Text taken from Shoshan Yesod ha-Olam, 16th century medieval magical Hebrew text compiled by Rabbi Joseph Tirshom, a kabbalist from Salonika. The text above was translated from the Hebrew by Israeli scholar Jeffrey Chajes and can be found in his book, Between Worlds.