Tree of Life
A king of demons, respectful of God’s commandments and Torah. Still, one would not invite him to dinner. Some sources claim there is a single Ashmedai, while others state that since demons are not immortal, “Ashmedai” is a hereditary name, or a title, given to all kings of the (Jewish) demons. ba’al shem (sing.), ba’alei shem(pl.)
“Master of the Name”. Sometimes “tov” (good) is added to the end. Refers to a practical kabbalist, and is sometimes part of the man’s name. May also refer to Isreal Ba’al Shem Tov (or, the BeShT), founder of modern Hasidism. banim shovavin “Mischeveous sons”. Half-demon offspring of succubi who try to claim a birthright from their human father, often showing up at his funeral to do so. They might also seek to harm legitimate heirs.
Berufen or Beschreiren
A curse delivered through an envious gaze, possibly with demonic help. Saying “Unbeshrieren” after a suspicious compliment or receiving a nasty look might counteract it.
“Cleaving”; that is, to God. This was the aspiration of of the righteous person. It does not mean becoming one with God or meeting God, but experiencing a a level of spiritual purity. dybbuk A dispossessed spirit which seeks to possess a body. Originally these were believed to be a specific type of demon. Later they were said to be spirits of evildoers denied transmigration. Punished with wandering and beatings by attendant angels, they seek refuge in a living body. They may wish harm or revenge, or redemption from a pious rabbi so they might be forgiven and move on. In some cases the dybbuk is not evil, but simply a lost or misplaced soul, such as one who died unnaturally or who was not properly laid to rest. The common theme is a desire for the flesh to escape the torments of a nomadic spiritual existance. Depending on the dybbuk, one might be possessed for a long time and never know it.
The “mixed multitude” or host of demons Lilith is sometimes attributed with heading up.
Garden of Eden
The head of an academy; title of respect for a great scholar.
A method of Torah interpretation which involves assigning numercal values to words and names, and looking for correspondences between words or passages which have the same value. This method was used in mystical interpretations of the Scripture. The techniques are a little dense and twisted, but they do result in a variety of interesting coincidences...or are they? genizah A “cemetary” or repository for books, Torah scrolls, and other documents containing the Name(s) of God which are too old or damaged to be used. Documents containing the Name(s) of God are not to be destroyed. gilgul The transmigration of the soul; reincarnation. When used as a noun, it refers to one who is a reincarnation. In some cases gilgul is a natural part of the process of the soul¹s “life”; in others, it is a punishment to make up for wrongdoing, religious transgressions, etc. It is sometimes said a living person shares the soul of a deceased sage, etc. See also ibbur. golem A body without a soul, made out of clay and brought to live through one of a number of often complex procedures. Golem have typically been created as servants and protectors. They appear to be human. In some stories they have powers, such as great strength, a knack for picking out evil-doers, a lack of fear, sensitive hearing, and invulnerability to fire and water. However, they can never speak. The finishing touch in bringing a golem to life is to inscribe a Name of God on its body (often forehead) or by putting a piece of paper with a Name in its mouth. Removing the paper or scratching out the Name will deactivate it. Other variations include writing “Adam” on the forehead, and scratching out the first letter, leaving the word ³”Dam” (blood) to deactivate it; or by writing “Emet” (truth), and scratching out the first letter, leaving the word “Met” (dead). In many stories the golem must be deactivated because it grows too large or goes out of controlthe price paid for attempting to create life.
Literally, “pious ones”. May refer to a medeival German sect, but usually used in reference to a
particular Orthodox movement founded by Israel Ba’al
Shem Tov in
A “positive” possession in which a (typically) righteous soul temporarily inhabits a living person for a particular reason, for example, to fulfill a promise or religious duty, or to finish something they started but could not complete because their life was cut short. The living person may never know an ibbur has occurred. See also gilgul.
People born with a harmful gaze, a.k.a. “the evil eye”. They might be identified by unusually striking eyes, but often are indistiguishable from anyone else. They may be unaware of their condition...they might even be pious! kame’a (sing.), kame’ot (pl.)
Amulet, amulets. See also shemirot.
“The shortening of the way”. The use of Names of God to speed up a journey, teleport, or colocate.
Kesef or Kishuf
Dark knowledge; that is, black magic.
Kohan (sing.) Kohanim (pl.)
Descendants of the priestly caste. That’s where the name “Cohen” comes from. lamed-vovnick “One of the Thirty-Six”. There arose from a figure of speech in the Talmud the legend that there are thirty-six righteous souls in every generation upon whom the world rests. They are also called “hidden saints”, as they operate very discreetly. Sometimes a lamed-vovnick will disguise his righteousness in boorishness, low-key modesty, apparent stupidity, etc., so as to divert attention from his true identity. If he’s found out, he’ll move to another community where he’s unknown, and continue to quietly work for the good of all.
According to legend, Adam’s first wife,
made independantly of him. They quarrelled
because she wished for equality, and fled Adam. She became a queen of demons
who preyed on monthers in labor and small children.
She also fills a role as a succubus, and her female offspring are called lilot. Protective amulets against her are common. She is
often said to be the head of a host of demons, and also the Demon Queen of
1. A popular preacher.
2. An angel or attendant spirit which appears to righteous and worthy scholars
(especially in dreams or meditations) to convey knowledge. maskil (sing.)
maskilim (pl.) mystic, mystics. megillah A scroll. Typically used as an
abbreviation for the Scroll of Esther, but also applicaple to Torahs. Or in my
experience, slang for a story that goes on and on. mezuzah (sing.), mezuzot
3. A small fixture attached to doorposts containing a piece of parchment with inscriptions from the Torah. The verses proclaim the oneness of God and express the command to carry out and remember His commandments. The mezuzah also protects the home. In medeival times, in some places, extra verses or charms were added for further protection, and they were believed to be powerful devices. Sometimes a miniature mezuzah is worn as a charm on a necklace. midrash literally “study”, but more accurately “interpretation”. Bible commentary which examines the meaning of unclear passages, inconsistancies, discontinuities, etc. They sometimes take the form of stories or retellings and elaborations of the stories at hand. mitzva (sing.), mitzvot (pl.)
4. Commandment(s), as dictated by God, which are to be fulfilled or obeyed. There are 613 of them. mogen david The Star of David, also known as the Seal of Solomon. A six-pointed star made out of two overlapping triangles (e.g., the one on the Israeli flag). Sometimes used on protective amulets and other charms. nefesh A sort of “middle soul” or “spirit”. Who we are, our personality, etc. The nefesh is said to wander back and forth from the house to cemetary immediately after death, and hang around the general area for a year after death, weaning itself away from the body. These are what seem to inspire ghost stories. Some say it¹s the nefesh which is reincarnated. See also ru’ah, neshama. neshama The higher soul, the eternal soul, the holy soul. It is sometimes said only Jews have a neshama, and even among them it must be earned or bestowed through piousness and study of the Torah. This is the sould that exists in an androgynous state in Heaven, and separates into male and female upon its descent to earth. Some say there are a limited number of them, and they are recycled. It is also said that since the neshama is heavenly, it can intercede on your behalf in heaven; hence the practice of praying at a righteous person’s grave. See also nefesh, ru’ah, ibbur, gilgul. nukba di-tehoma rabba “The Maw of the Great Abyss”. The place to which demons return on the Sabbath, when they have no power over humans.
A rabbi, particularly Hasidic, or a Hasidic leader who is part of a rabbinic dynasty. A positive and respectful title. ru’ah “The Breath of Bones”; the “living soul”. The lowest level of soul which could be described as our life force. All living things have one. It never leaves the body, not even after death. See also nefesh, neshama.
Sefirot (pl.), Sefirah (sing.)
Loosely translated, “spheres”, or emanations of God¹s qualities. There are ten. in descending order,they are: Keter (crown), Hokhmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding), Hesed (mercy), Din (judgement), Tiferet (splendor), Netzah (triumph), Hod (majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkhut (kingship; also known as the Shekhina, the feminine aspect of God in exile on earth). these qualities are often “mapped” to actions, colors, the body, spiritual development, etc. A vast array of texts have been written on this topic and it is outside the scope of this glossary and site to cover this toipic in depth. Shabbos (Yiddish), Shabbat (Hebrew)
Friday evening to Saturday evening. (Sunset to sunset.) shed (sing.), shedim (pl.)
Demon, Demons. Shem (sing.), Shemot (plural)
Name, names. Typically in reference to holy Names of God. Various powers and qualities are attributed to Names.
Protective charms, Amulets.
“Unholy Names”; for example, of demons or creatures from sitra akhra. sh’liakh mitzvot “One sent to fulfil commandments.” A sort of wandering righteous person out to do good and set a good example through religious observance. Not magic in connotation, but faintly mystical; such a person might project a sense of goodness which may inspire or spiritually heal. shul (Yiddish), beit-k’nesset (Hebrew)
A daily prayerbook
The “other side”; a realm of “dark emanations”. Creatures and things from this realm are evil. It is sometimes considered a world ruled by “anti-sefirot”. (see sefirot.)
The most powerful Name of God, YHVH. Its pronunciation has been lost. This Name, and permutations of it, is often used in meditations, amulets, and prayer. tallis (Yiddish), talit (Hebrew) a prayer-shawl, mostly (but not exclusively) worn by men. May be either a sort of wide scarf or a very large, long cloth. It is always fringed; the fringes serve as reminders of God’s commandments. tzadik A righteous man, sometimes translated as “saint”, but not in the Christian sense. Can also be used to mean “wonder worker”. This is a title of honor. It is said that the body of a true tzadik does not decay.
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