For the week ending 27 November 2004 / 14 Kislev 5765

Dybuk - Part 2

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Helene in Louisville, KY

Dear Rabbi,

I read your article on reincarnation and I found it so interesting that I re-read it several times. However, an idea keeps returning to my mind. If a soul can come back many times in different bodies, can it come back into someone elses body who is already living? I dont mean to be redundant, but I guess Im asking if a soul can return to possess another person.

Dear Helene,

Last week we explored the phenomenon of dybuk in depth. We concluded with the question of whether dybuk exists today. Rabbi Chaim of Velozhin purportedly said that before the coming of the messiah, spirituality will be so hidden that even dybuk will be uncommon. Nevertheless, a famous dybuk involving the Chafetz Chaim was reported by an eyewitness, the great Rabbi Elchonan Wasserman, to his son Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Leib:

On the way from Isisock to Vilna there is a town called Stretzi where there lived a Jew named Nachum. Once this man came to Radin with his 14-year-old daughter who was ill. The father said that she was possessed by a dybuk, and told my father what happened:

After Chanukah a horse fell dead in the barn. Everyone went outside to see what happened, including his daughter. The daughter, very excited and sweaty, went into the house and drank cold water from an open vessel. From then on she became progressively ill. At first, she started convulsing and would fall lifeless like a stone but afterwards she wouldnt know what happened. After this happened several times, a voice started speaking out of her.

The voice said that it was the soul of a daughter of elderly parents who, when 12 years old, converted to Christianity. She later moved to another town, and the Jewish children would run after her, jeering her. In her anger, she joined several non-Jews and strangled two Jewish children. Five years later, when she was seventeen, she died and was judged in the Heavenly court to be reincarnated for 15 years.

At first the soul entered into the cross over her grave. When the cross was crushed, she went into a tree. The tree was cut and she went into a stone that was in the stall where the horse was. When the horse stepped on the stone it fell and died. From the horse the soul went into the vessel of water from which the daughter drank.

At that time, 5 years had passed and she still had another 10 years. The father asked the soul why it possessed his daughter. She answered in a sad voice, Nachum, she is a sinner. She drinks without making a blessing. If she had blessed, I could not have entered her. All this, the man told my father, Rabbi Elchonan.

On Friday morning, my father, Rabbi Naftali, and Rabbi Koller were in the attic where they learned Kodshim, and the Chafetz Chaim came up and asked them to go see the girl. Rabbi Eliyahu Dushnitzer asked her who rules over her, and she said demons. He asked, What is their name? She answered, Why do you need to know? And then she explained that when she enters some object she is protected from the demons that wait for her, and when they find her they torment her. When the voice spoke, the onlookers saw that the girls tongue didnt move normally, but rather by some other force.

Rabbi Goldberger, who learned in Radin, told me that he heard Rabbi Eliyahu say, Even the wicked in that world rest on Shabbat. She replied, Whoever doesnt rest on Shabbat here, doesnt rest on Shabbat there. On Shabbat in the afternoon she started talking; my father asked her if she knows the Chafetz Chaim. She answered, Yes, he is as great as a Tana. If he commands you to leave, will you leave? She said, Yes. My father said, The Chafetz Chaim orders you to leave. Ill go. When? Tonight. After you leave, you wont return? If they will say Kaddish for me, I wont return, but if not Ill enter her or her sister. Who shall say Kaddish? Two rabbis. My father asked, How long should they say Kaddish? One week. She asked, From what part of her body should I leave? He told her, From her small finger.

During maariv, people came in saying that the dybuk left the girl. When it left, four people were there and they described how the girl started to scream, My side hurts, then My shoulder hurts, and then My arm hurts. Then her hand swelled and after that her small finger swelled. Then they heard breaking glass from the window as the dybuk left. After waiting to see that girl was stable, her father took her home and the Chafetz Chaim ordered that they say Kaddish in the Kollel and learn mishnayot. Rabbi Eliyahu and Rabbi Gershon of Salant said Kaddish the whole week, and the dybuk never returned.


  • Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, Guf vNeshama, p. 91
  • Rabbi Yehuda Pataya, Neshamot Mesaprot, Publishers introduction
  • Rabbi Yisrael Lugasi, Netzach Yisrael, p. 222
  • Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Chayei Olam, vol.1 p. 20

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