I'm not a Jew, but I'm writing a fantasy novel set in medieval Europe, and one of my characters is a Jew. I've got a group of people with diverse backgrounds who've come together to fight a great evil. Being a fantasy novel, this great evil includes mythological monsters like vampires.

At one point, the characters are split up and need to find places of safety. In mythology, churches often resistant to evil because they're places of worship under divine protection and are holy ground. So thinking about my plot, I though well, this character could find refuge at a Synagogue because a Synagogue is a place of worship, and thus holy ground.

Then I thought, wait is that right? Is it basically the same thing as a church? Would a Jewish reader laugh at that and think "This is ridiculous! That's not how Synagogues work!"1

In particular: is there a concept in Judaism of a Synagogue offering protection from supernatural evil creatures, or is this idea completely foreign to Judaism?

1. Of course, they might laugh at the quality of the writing and the plot, but that's a separate issue.

edit: the crux of the question, is whether the idea that a Jewish person could find refuge from supernatural evil in a synagogue simply because it is a synagogue be explicitly against Jewish teachings.

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3 Answers 3


The Babylonian Talmud (M'gila, page 3 column 1) relates in the name of Ravina:

One who is afraid [for no apparent reason] — although he doesn't see [anything], his mazal sees [something].

The commentary of Rashi explains that "mazal" here refers to the person's angel. And the commentary Ben Y'hoyada explains that what his mazal sees (and he's afraid of) is a shed (some kind of spiritual creature).

The Talmud continues:

What is his remedy? Let him read Sh'ma.

While this doesn't have anything to do with synagogues specifically, we do see here that recitation of a holy text that's used in prayer (which is one of the things synagogues are intended for) can be used to protect oneself from a spiritual creature.

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    You may consider Berakhot 5A for another source regarding Qeri'at Shema' warding off negative forces.
    – Lee
    Jul 30, 2015 at 4:26
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    Also Sukkah 30-something for lulav-shaking warding off evil forces
    – MTL
    Jul 30, 2015 at 13:36
  • This is a stretch. Doesn't directly address the question. The Gemara's suggestion to recite Shma doesn't imply in any way that being in a synagogue would impact the results whatsoever.
    – Chaim
    Jan 11, 2017 at 23:05
  • @Chaim Nor does he claim that it does
    – DonielF
    Mar 20, 2019 at 15:12

Also to the contrary, see Talmud Kiddushin 29b, where the story is told of a demon that attacked people who entered the study hall.

הוה ההוא מזיק בי רבנן דאביי דכי הוו עיילי בתרין אפי' ביממא הוו מיתזקי אמר להו לא ליתיב ליה אינש אושפיזא אפשר דמתרחיש ניסא על בת בההוא בי רבנן אידמי ליה כתנינא דשבעה רישוותיה כל כריעה דכרע נתר חד רישיה אמר להו למחר אי לא איתרחיש ניסא סכינתין

There was a certain demon in Abaye's rabbinic seminary. When they would enter as a pair, even in the daytime, they'd be damaged. He said to them: No one should provide lodging to him. Maybe a miracle will happen. He went in and slept in that rabbinic seminary. It appeared to him as a serpet with seven heads. Each time he bowed down, one of its heads fell off. Rav Acha said to those gathered there the day after: Had there not been a miracle here, I would have been in great danger.

(Sefaria community translation)


Somewhat to the contrary, there was a superstition among Easter European Jews that the dead held services in synagogues at night, a “minyan macabre” if you will. My grandfather z"l told me how in his youth he was afraid to walk near the town shul at night, lest he hear his name called up to the Torah at these spectral minyanim.

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