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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

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 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

Washing hands repeatedly in the morning to dispel the bad spirit on them. (Some perform this ritual after sleeping in the daytime as well).

This is stated in the Gemara Shabbos 108b-109a:

הוא היה אומר יד לעין תיקצץ יד לחוטם תיקצץ יד לפה תיקצץ יד לאוזן תיקצץ יד לחסודה תיקצץ יד לאמה תיקצץ יד לפי טבעת תיקצץ ידלגיגית תקצץ יד מסמא יד מחרשת יד מעלה פוליפוס תניא רבי נתן אומר בת חורין היא זו ומקפדת עד שירחוץ ידיו ג' פעמים

This article on the Seforimblog cites the opinion of R. Abadi who writes:

That he is inclined to rule – ולולי דמסתפינא הייתי אומר להלכה למעשה – that the entire practice of negel vasser is no longer relevant to us because ruah ra’ah is no longer a concern.

This avoids the question of whether demons ever existed, noting only that now they apparently do not.

It should be noted that there would still be an obligation to wash one's hands, but it would not require repetition. According to the Rosh the reason for washing is for cleanliness before prayer (besides for the matter of spirits). Accordingly, ritual repetition would be unnecessary.

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Oddly enough it makes matters worse for his case. But I got mixed up before. Shivsa is the one Tosafos and Rashi argue about . Yoma 77b. There Tos says not to worry about shivsa cause they don't have it in their country. But everyone Shulchan Aruch included say to do 3 times. And all more recent poskim too. I'm not going to rescind on my up vote, but had I known these two sources were coming, I wouldn't have voted up. –  user6591 Jul 9 at 1:57
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Just the sources:) actually I don't mind Rabbi Abadi. But the fact that it's coming through that site along with Y.H.H. makes me not so inclined to care for it. Seems all I ever hear or see from those sources are justifications of why whatever halachos don't apply anymore or stuff like that. Everyone is allowed to be michadesh and be meikael. It just gives them more credence (in my eyes) if they also know how to uphold standards and be machmir. Doesn't have to be equally, but enough that it puts my mind at ease. And for the record I feel the same the other way. People who are only mach –  user6591 Jul 9 at 2:05
    
Machmir and uphold the old without ever being meikel or looking at the changed world lose my vote too. –  user6591 Jul 9 at 2:06
    
I agree with your general sentiments. There are certain rabbis I would not quote given their character. I just so happen to know very little about R' Y.H.H. –  mevaqesh Jul 9 at 3:23
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@user6591 Well I checked his English Wikipedia. Dont think that the AHSH would be to thrilled with partnership minyanim. Therefore, as noted, I deleted the reference. –  mevaqesh Jul 9 at 3:42

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
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@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
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@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
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See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12644. –  msh210 Jul 20 '12 at 21:21

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

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