The Gemara in Eruvin 43a asks the following:

(Sources from Sefaria)

?בָּעֵי רַב חֲנַנְיָא: יֵשׁ תְּחוּמִין לְמַעְלָה מֵעֲשָׂרָה, אוֹ אֵין תְּחוּמִין לְמַעְלָה מֵעֲשָׂרָה

Rav Ḥananya raised a dilemma: Does the prohibition of Shabbat limits apply above ten handbreadths from the ground, or perhaps does the prohibition of Shabbat limits not apply above ten handbreadths? In other words, does the Shabbat limit apply only close to the ground, in which case walking more than ten handbreadths above the ground, would be permitted?

As one of the proofs that it does not apply above ten handbreadths the Gemara states the following:

תָּא שְׁמַע: הָנֵי שָׁב שְׁמַעְתָּא דְּאִיתְאַמְרָן בְּצַפְרָא בְּשַׁבְּתָא קַמֵּיהּ דְּרַב חִסְדָּא בְּסוּרָא, בַּהֲדֵי פַּנְיָא בְּשַׁבְּתָא קַמֵּיהּ דְּרָבָא בְּפוּמְבְּדִיתָא. The Gemara cites another proof: Come and hear a resolution from the incident involving the seven teachings that were first said on Shabbat morning before Rav Ḥisda in Sura and then repeated toward the conclusion of that Shabbat before Rava in Pumbedita, despite the fact that the distance between them is too great for someone to have traversed it on Shabbat.

The Gemara Rejects this proof citing that someone by the name of Yosef the Demon

מַאן אַמְרִינְהוּ? לָאו אֵלִיָּהוּ אַמְרִינְהוּ? אַלְמָא אֵין תְּחוּמִין לְמַעְלָה מֵעֲשָׂרָה! לָא, דִּלְמָא יוֹסֵף שֵׁידָא אַמְרִינְהוּ.

Who said those teachings, and delivered them from one place to the other? Was it not Elijah the Prophet, who traveled from Sura to Pumbedita by way of a miraculous leap through the air above ten handbreadths from the ground, who said them? Apparently, the prohibition of Shabbat limits does not apply above ten handbreadths, for Elijah would not have transgressed this prohibition. The Gemara rejects this argument: This is no proof; perhaps Yosef the demon, who does not observe Shabbat, reported these teachings and brought them from Sura to Pumbedita.

What I know so far

I looked around at a couple of blogs (see here and here) but the material does not seem very well sourced.

Are there any documented sources who explain who he is?

  • Also appears in he.wikisource.org/wiki/…. And folkmasa.org/b/b210.htm, כי על כן קרא שמו יוסף, יען כי המשיך בקרבו את הרוח של יוסף שידא הנזכר בתלמוד [עירובין מג, א; פסחים קי, א]
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 5:33
  • Reb Tzadok (books.google.com.au/books?id=pzERAQAAIAAJ) seems to say that the significance of whether or not it was Eliyahu or Yosef Sheda is: ולא ידעו אם הי ' מצד הקדושה ע " י אליהו בבחי ' רוה " ק , או מצד יוסף שידא . ( פר " צ מקץ יד ) היינו שכנגד האומות שכפרו בך למרות הטובה שהשפעת להן. I.e. Yosef Sheida is anti-Yosef (who was the baal ha'hashpaah).
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 5:43
  • Zohar says אתקרי יוסף שידא על שם דאוליד ליה שד
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 5:50
  • @TheGRAPKE Can you please translate the Hebrew parts? (Including "baal ha'hashpaah"). Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 8:51
  • @Alex Can you please translate to english if you wouldn't mind? Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 8:52

3 Answers 3


Adding to @Dov's answer, Yosef the Shed was a shed who would assist the sages by giving them info on shedim, as Sforno writes on Vayikra 17:7:

"חקת עולם תהיה זאת שלא יזבחו לשעירים אף על פי שלא היו מקבלים אותם לאלוה בשום פנים אבל היו חפצים בחברתם להיות השדים להם משרתים ומסייעים בעסקיהם או שליחותם אל ארץ רחוקה כמו שהזכירו (חולין פרק כל הבשר) על יוסף שידא ועל שידא דהוה שכיח בי רב אשי..."

Translation: "This shall be to them a law for all time that they may offer their sacrifices no more to the goat-demons, even if they don't accept them upon them as a god in way whatsoever, but were interested in their company for the demons to be servants to them and assisting them in their businesses or their ventures to far-off lands, as they mentioned (Chulin ch. Kol Habasar) about Yosef Sheida and the sheida that was often at the house of Rav Ashi..."

In this ParshaBlog post, Rabbi Waxman explains why he thinks that Yosef was a shed and not a human expert on shedim:

In my earlier post I considered the possibility that Yosef Sheda was a human expert on demons. I would now say that I regard this as unlikely, based on the wording in Pesachim: אמר רב פפא אמר לי יוסף שידא בתרי קטלינן בארבעה לא קטלינן בארבעה מזקינן בתרי בין בשוגג בין במזיד בארבעה במזיד אין בשוגג לא Or in English: Rav Papa: Yosef the Shed told me that Shedim kill on account of two (e.g. cups); they damage on account of four, but they do not kill; 1. They strike on account of two whether it was Shogeg or Mezid; they damage on account of four only if it was Mezid. From the wording of קטלינן, and מזקינן, "we kill" and "we damage", it rather seems that Yosef Sheda himself is a sheid.

As to what sort of demon Yosef the Shed was exactly, based on this answer, it seems he was a kind of "Jewish demon", who would study Torah, and for this it seems that he was friendly with the sages (and maybe that also got him a Jewish name, rather than something like "Ashmadai").

Rabbi Asad, however, wrote in Yehudah Ya'aleh Orach Chaim 199:

"הנה התם פירש"י דלא מינטר שבתא ומ"כ צריך לפרש כן. א"כ התם לא הישראל נקרא שד אלא איפכא אותו השד שאמר הכי שב שמעתא קמיה דר"ח וקמיה דרבא קראו אותו חכמי התלמוד בשם יוסף אולי משום שלא רצו להזכיר שם שד מזיק בלבד ע"ד ותבחר לשון ערומים תוסיפו לו שם קדש. אבל ביבמות דף קכ"ב ע"א איתא לר"ח א"ל יונתן שידא כו'...אי נמי הכי הוי השד שלימד כן לר"ח קראו אותו גם בשם קדש יונתן ג"כ..."

Translation: "There Rashi explained that he didn't keep Shabbat and why did he need to explain this so. Therefore, there it isn't that the Jew was called a demon but the opposite, that demon who would say those things before R"Ch and before Rava, the sages of the Talmud called him by the name Yosef, perhaps because they didn't want to mention only the name of the destroying demon, per "So you choose crafty language" they added to him a holy name. But in Yevamot 122a came to R"Ch and said Yonatan Sheida etc...so too here, the demon who taught so to R"Ch was called by the holy name Yonatan as well..."

So according to Rabbi Asad, Yosef and Yonatan (and other such shedim, if there were/are) had demonic names but were given by the sages new names so that the sages wouldn't need to use their demonic names.1

Small Update:

As I mentioned previously, Yosef Sheda was mentioned on (at least) one Jewish incantation bowl by the name of 'Rav Yosef Sheda' (רב יוסף שדא), probably dated to ca. the 6th-7th centuries (around the time of the Savoraim). The bowl in question is numbered JBA 26, and features the line "ותיהוי בשמתא דרב יוסף שדא..." - "and may you be under the ban of Rav Yosef Sheda". See Shaked, Naveh and Bhayro's Aramaic Bowl Spells vol. 1, p. 153.

Tal Ilan in her essay 'Rav Joseph the Demon in the Rabbinic Academy in Babylonia: Another Connection between the Babylonian Talmud and the Magic Bowls', in: Festschrift for Günter Stemberger on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday, pp. 381-394 pointed out that he was mentioned together with another potentially shed-figure, 'Rav Agzar bar Dibshata' (רב אגזר בר דיבשאתא), as well as 'Ram Shed, king of the shedim' (רם שד מלכא דשדי, possibly an epithet for Ashmedai) and suggested all three were "reformed shedim" who comprised a court of three necessary to cast out a ban (שמתא) upon dark forces (the main purpose of these incantation bowls). Her conclusion is that these three reflect a rabbinic domestication of shedim. I recommend reading the entire essay.

Just as an interesting FYI, Yosef the Shed appears as a character in the Orthodox Israeli comic book "L'azazel Im Baba" by Shay Charka2. Here's one image:

Yosef the Shed

1 Afterwards, however, Rabbi Asad expounds a little bit on the view that these were men and not demons.

2 Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with him in any sort of way, other than the fact that I love his work...

  • 1
    yasher kochacho some great finds!
    – Dov
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 19:48
  • 3
    Deserves an upvote just for the cartoon! (The rest is great too.)
    – Meir
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 16:51
  • Great answer and I am probably just showing my ignorance here, but the one aspect I had trouble understand was "two (e.g. cups)". Well that and I'm wondering why the comic chose an owl to represent Yosef Shedim instead of an evil ox or something. I know owls can represent shedim in general though but why specific to Yosef, or I just wonder why they made that choice. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 8:56
  • 1
    @ShipBuilding presumably because the owl is considered a wise creature, though there might be some midrashic source that describes shedim as owls. The talmud states that they had chicken-like feet. As for the e.g. cups, I don't know for certain what that means. Perhaps it makes more sense in the context of the post. I think I assumed at the time that it's like saying "two [insert random objects]".
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 10:01
  • @Harel13 That makes sense. Is chicken-like feet a feature of shedim or what should I learn from that in this context? Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 4:20

There doesn't seem to be much to work off. The only thing I have to add is the following:

As has been noted, he also appears in Pesachim 110a - Interestingly, in both instances Rav Steinsaltz zt"l interprets his name to mean that he was a sheid/demon himself. See here for Eiruvin 43a and here for the above case in Pesachim.

However, it is worth noting that Rashi elsewhere in Yevamos 122a upon noting someone with a similar title, namely 'Yonasan Sheida', writes:

לימדני יונתן שידא - שד היה או בקי בהן

Yonsasan Sheida taught me - i.e. his name denotes that he was either a sheid or an expert on them (and that's why he warranted the title).

So it could be based off this Rashi that Yosef Sheida was similarly, possibly only a human that happened to be an expert on the topic of demons.

  • 1
    Yosef Sheida was a Shed that added (Yosef) insight to the Chachomim (regarding sheidim...) additionally, he was able to fly (chaggiah - sheidim fly). Yosef wasn't his name as his name, it was his definition , he has another name .
    – TwoOs
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 4:25
  • Why don't you turn this into an answer?
    – Dov
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 6:52
  • Bc it's my own pshat
    – TwoOs
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 16:00

The (אור זרוע (ח"ב עירובין סי' קמז speak a bit about him. Rashi on the page says that שדים do not keep shabbos. However, the אור זרוע quotes his rebbi ר' יהודה החסיד who says that the שדים accepted the torah (with some conditions, see there). In explanation of the gemara, he says that יוסף had a subterranean communication system that enabled them to communicate across distances even on shabbos!

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