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Inspired by R' Slifkin's new monograph, Wrestling with Demons, and acknowledging the fact that the existence of sheidim and other things magical in nature is an age-old dispute, I am wondering about the following question:

What halachic and/or customary practices would be affected by one's belief in demons? That is: I am looking for examples of halachos or minhagim that people observe that are dependent on the literal existence of sheidim, such that if one denied their existence, these laws/customs would be irrelevant.

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You ask which "practices would be affected by one's belief" and which "would be irrelevant" (emphasis added). Do you mean to ask which practices actually are dropped by those halachic authorities who discount shedim, or do you mean to ask also which ones merely 'should' be so dropped (even if perhaps they are in fact kept, perhaps because they are entrenched customs)? –  msh210 May 23 '11 at 18:49
I meant which practices 'should' be irrelevant, even if perhaps people might observe them anyway. If there are halachic authorities who mention it, all the better. –  jake May 23 '11 at 18:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Some people are careful to spill off a little bit of water (and other liquids?) before drinking, a practice explained in the Gemara (Chullin 105b, bottom) as due to concern that a shed may have drunk from it. However, most people don't worry about it.

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This is brought in Shulchan Aruch Harav as well, Hilchot Shmirot Guf V'Nefesh U'Bal Tashchit: chabadlibrary.org/books/default.aspx?furl=/adhaz/sh/sh6/12/1/4 –  Menachem May 13 '12 at 1:10
@Menachem also Taame Haminhagim, "Likutim" (in the back) 74. –  msh210 Nov 6 '13 at 6:39

What about the "Birchat Me'ein Sheva" at the end of the friday night prayers? Shulchan Aruch says that this was added so that the people in the synagogue should have extra time to finish their prayers, so that they could walk home together. The sages were worried about "Mazikim" (usually understood to be demons).

Here's a link to the Paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch Harav: Siman 268 Se'if 13

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One could understand mazikim as demons, but one could also understand it as other rural dangers like the Rambam does, as he brings this takana (Hil. Tefilla 9:11) even though he presumably does not believe in sheidim. –  jake May 23 '11 at 22:53
Is that the same logic used by the Shibolei Haleket in saying azkaros before sh'mone esrei of ma'ariv "for protection"? –  WAF May 24 '11 at 2:12

We don't keep the halachos in the gemara about zugot (pairs), a demon-related issue.

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Don't we? I grew up with the understanding that we don't boil an even number of eggs at a time. –  msh210 May 24 '11 at 3:36
@msh: my understanding was that this is because of kashrus considerations (in case some of them turn out to have blood spots, they can be nullified by the majority), not because of zugos. –  Alex May 24 '11 at 3:53
@Alex, that explains why not to boil one or two eggs, not why not to boil four or six. Unless I'm missing something? –  msh210 May 24 '11 at 3:58
@msh210: true, technically it should just require us to boil three eggs or more together. It looks like people have incorrectly generalized that it should always be an odd number, though. Be that as it may, it doesn't seem to be related to zugos, because that would apply to eating the eggs, not to their preparation. –  Alex May 24 '11 at 15:41
See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12644. –  msh210 Jul 20 '12 at 21:21

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