I heard that a dybbuk is kind of like a soul that came back from heaven and inhabits a body.
1. Does anyone have any more information that would make the concept easier to picture?
2. Is there a specific reason for becoming a dybbuk?
3.Is there a way not to become a dybbuk or to get out of it once someone is one?

  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dybbuk May 26, 2020 at 19:32
  • 1
    I dont know how well we can trust wikipedia for a jewish term
    – Dani
    May 26, 2020 at 19:34
  • 1
    @DaniLevin Who do you think wrote the Wiki page? Plus you can check the source material at the bottom.
    – ezra
    May 26, 2020 at 19:39
  • 1
    my favorite book on the subject amazon.com/Dybbuk-Gershon-Winkler/dp/091081838X
    – rosends
    May 26, 2020 at 19:45
  • 2
    torahanytime.com/#/lectures?v=52148 the first in a 3-part series on dybbukim. I thought it was good with a lot of info and sources. Note: slightly not for the faint of heart (I don't quite remember how graphic it gets, but I remember that the descriptions were quite creepy).
    – Harel13
    Jun 6, 2020 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


I begin by noting that I am not a Kabbalist (Jewish mystic) and therefore I am no expert on the subject matter but this is what I found on the subject that may help to provide a greater understanding on the topic.

The term 'dybbuk' stems from the Hebrew root 'דבק', which means to 'cleave' or 'cling', which describes how the itinerant, sometimes evil, soul cleaves to the individual it possesses. (as expressed eloquently here)

Indeed, this concept of possession is brought down in Nach. In Shmuel aleph 16:14 we are told about the following episode with King Shaul:

וְר֧וּחַ ה' סָ֖רָה מֵעִ֣ם שָׁא֑וּל וּבִֽעֲתַ֥תּוּ רֽוּחַ־רָעָ֖ה מֵאֵ֥ת ה'׃

"Now the spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD began to terrify him."

The Late 16th Century saw the rise to prominence of the study of Kabbalah - Jewish Mysticism. Many scholars such as the Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal), his student Rav Chaim Vital and Rav Moshe Cordovero all explored this notion of evil possession.

Perhaps the most famous of studies is the Shaar HaGilgulim (lit. the Gate of Reincarnation) which is based primarily on the Zohar in Parshas Mishpotim where gilgulim are discussed, it is from the writings of the Arizal and the book was recorded by his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. It is here that the concept of possession is discussed as a 'Ruach haRa'ah' an evil spirit.

The end of Shaar HaGilgulim relates a happening with Rav Chaim Vital who was called to oversee an exorcism of an evil possession that had taken hold in a girl called Esther. With the help of 10 gifted talmidei chachomim (Jewish sages) he commanded the spirt to depart. This caused Esther’s left foot to bounce upward which was interpreted as the spirit leaving her small toe.

In a similar vein, Rav Moshe Cordovero employed the term 'Ibbur Ra'ah' - An Evil Impregnation drawing on the fact that this possession attaches itself to soul.

Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer (1870-1939, Baghdad and Israel), building on this explains in Kaf HaChaim, Orach Chaim 46:32 that is possible during one's lifetime, one might become 'pregnant' with one of these… Each night, one's soul gives an accounting before its Creator, and is judged for its deeds. Sometimes they will give it another soul, in the 'secret of pregnancy'.

It is worth noting though, whilst there is sufficient sources to say that such things exist/existed Rav Zeff Leff makes the following assertion here:

If concern means believing that these phenomena exist, then, yes, being concerned sensitizes one to the fact that aside from the physical world that we are aware of through our five senses, there is a spiritual world – just as real, if not more real, and more significant.

If concern, though, means to fear these things or to let them interfere with one’s life, then we must know that they are in the realm of “hanistaros laShem Elokeinu” – “hidden things are in G-d’s realm.” And we therefore should not let them interfere with our behavior.

(A good book which speaks more at detail on these topics is Jewish Views of the Afterlife authored by Simcha Paull Raphael - starting on p. 239)

  • Did you quite large sections of this from thejc.com/judaism/rabbi-i-have-a-problem/…
    – Double AA
    Jun 7, 2020 at 12:31
  • I saw the first paragraph about the meaning of the word and the source from Shmuel alef but the rest was my own research.
    – Dov
    Jun 7, 2020 at 12:37
  • Plagiarism (aka stealing someone's wording) is not tolerated here. If you are quoting someone, reference it and format it with quotation marks.
    – Double AA
    Jun 7, 2020 at 12:48
  • I agree. I will edit accordingly now - but as I said I liked how he expressed the meaning which I have now sourced. Everything else was mine.
    – Dov
    Jun 7, 2020 at 12:50
  • Liking how someone says something is indeed a good reason to quote them. See judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/76/759
    – Double AA
    Jun 7, 2020 at 13:44

Dybbuk is a superstitious belief. It is often affiliated with mysticism. The roots can be traced to Roman Catholic accounts of exorcisms.

Answering briefly now.

  1. It is the soul of a person who committed many misdeeds. This person usually tries to evade justice by invading a host, usually a woman. The only way to remove the dybbuk “possession” is to bring a mystic rabbi who will say some mystical prayers, magic, and enchantments. The dybbuk usually leaves the person by the foot.

  2. My understanding is that it only happens to bad people.

  3. My understanding is that one must be a good person to avoid becoming a dybbuk. If one is already a dybbuk they may pray to G-d to relieve him of his trouble. Or, the person may be entrapped on an apple, for example, and only receive redemption if and when a holy sage eats the apple. This can sometimes last for hundreds of years.

  • What does "bad" include, doing any sort of aveirah?
    – Dani
    May 27, 2020 at 0:39
  • Are there any Jewish sources for this (mishna, gemara, medrish, rishonim, acharonim) other than theater and folklore?
    – user17319
    May 27, 2020 at 0:43
  • @Tesvov No because I find that there are often little sources for late-mystical views.
    – Turk Hill
    May 27, 2020 at 1:50

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