Between Worlds: Dyb­buks, Exor­cists, and Ear­ly Mod­ern Judaism

J.H. Cha­jes
  • Review
By – November 1, 2011
Dyb­buks are best known today by virtue of An-Sky’s play of the same name, and so they are usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with nine­teenth cen­tu­ry East­ern Euro­pean Jew­ish cul­ture. But the phe­nom­e­non had its hey­day cen­turies ear­li­er. This impres­sive work of schol­ar­ship stud­ies Jew­ish accounts of spir­it pos­ses­sion from the six­teenth and sev­en­teenth cen­turies. Cha­jes frames these sto­ries in sev­er­al con­texts, includ­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of sim­i­lar pos­ses­sion sto­ries and learned dis­cus­sions about them in Chris­t­ian soci­ety dur­ing the same peri­od. Anoth­er impor­tant con­text he pro­vides is the devel­op­ment of Kab­bal­ah in Safed and its impact on the beliefs and prac­tices of Jews through­out the Mediter­ranean. On the con­cep­tu­al lev­el, Cha­jes incor­po­rates recent the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sions of mag­ic lan­guage, gen­der rela­tions, and men­tal health. The book is writ­ten in rich prose, stud­ded with ref­er­ences to twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry music and cul­ture. Now released in paper­back, Between Worlds deserves a place in any col­lec­tion with an inter­est in Jew­ish culture.

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