Sunday 30 January 2022

369) Menachem Tziyoni’s kabbalistic writings on demonology


Sefer Tziyoni, Korets, 1785.


This article, following the theme of the previous post, further pursues the notion of demonology within Kabbalistic theology. I have drawn extensively upon the research by Professor Boaz Huss[1], a leading contemporary scholar in Kabbalah. This brief study will show just how far into the occult the mystical tradition is sometimes prepared to go.

Sunday 23 January 2022

368) Ramban and his surprising references to ‘necromancy’


Ramban's Commentary on the Torah form an edition printed in Lisbon in 1489
(Marsh's Library Exhibits, accessed January 23, 2022,


Ramban (Nachmanides 1194-1270), known as the ‘father’ of Kabbalah, was a Spanish born rabbi from Girona, whose Catalan name was Bonastruc ça Porta (Mazal tov at the gate). This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Reimund Leicht[1] from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as Professor Dov Schwartz[2] from Bar Ilan University, deals with Ramban’s unusual usage of the word נגרמונסיא, or ‘necromancy’, which occurs four times[3] in his Commentary on the Torah. “Necromancy” is defined as “the act of communication with the dead in order to discover what is going to happen in the future”.[4] Although Ramban does not necessarily follow this exact technical definition of the term, he has some very interesting views on magic, idolatry, demons and astrology.

Sunday 16 January 2022

367) The “Shevartzeh Chaseneh” or Black Wedding

 The Yizkhor bukh fun der Zhelekhover yidisher kehileh (Chicago, 1953) shows a Black Wedding taking place in Zelechów during the time of the Holocaust.

This article explores the very strange practice of performing a Shevartzeh Chaseneh or Black Wedding at a Jewish cemetery. It entailed the conducting of a legal wedding ceremony between two people in the belief that such an event would appease the dead to intercede on behalf of the community and halt a crisis such as a typhus epidemic. I have drawn extensively upon the writings of Hanna Wegrzynek[1] who has researched this very strange yet quite common phenomenon and has traced it roots and origins.

Sunday 9 January 2022

366) Changing perceptions of the “other”


This manuscript is of the Hebrew translation from the original Arabic Guide of the Perplexed, translated by Samuel Ibn Tibbon (died c. 1230). It was produced in Spain, around 1350. 


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Menachem Kellner[1], examines various perspectives of the “other” in the writings of Maimonides and traces how these teachings were sometimes changed by later editors who attempted to “correct” the original Maimonidean texts. Kellner (2007:1) explains that the reason why later editors and copyists were keen to change the original Maimonidean texts was “to pull the sting of their universalism and make them accord with more widely accepted notions of Jewish separateness and superiority”.

Sunday 2 January 2022

365) Leniencies in conversion or stringencies in avoiding assimilation?



The discussion on conversion to Judaism has once again assumed a position of centre stage within Israeli and Jewish politics. This article explores a number of approaches as articulated by Professor Richard Hidary from Yeshiva University[1] in Part I; as well as some recent writings by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, author of the Peninei Halacha series[2] in Part II.