I would like to know how mazikim, sheidim, se'irim and ruchot rah (often translated as demons or evil spirits) are able to effect our lives. That is, broadly, is their effect physical and psychological? I am not looking for particular examples.

  • 1
    These creatures are part of G-d's system of creation. How they interact with Jews has changed over time for a variety of reasons. For Jewish interaction, it is indirect effect, if at all. Beyond that, the scope of this question is too large. They all operate within the confines of the natural world which G-d established. Feb 20, 2017 at 12:52
  • @YaacovDeane but how does one understand these 'creations' and how come time has any effect on them? Are they comparable to deseases that pass away because of knowledge, is there such kind of thing that develops over time that they have less influence on us?
    – Levi
    Feb 20, 2017 at 15:04
  • 3
    Note that while some Jews believe in demons and the like, others do not. They are not an essential part of Judaism.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 20, 2017 at 16:35
  • 2
    As demonstrated by the last link alone, for those who believe in demons, their possible effects are just about endless, so this question seems too broad.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 20, 2017 at 16:38
  • 2
    They teach Torah, wear out our clothes, make Agunos Feb 20, 2017 at 17:44

3 Answers 3


Yearot Devash Derash 1

the Sitra Achra (realm of evil) sucks (yonkim) from the Jew who sins, the holy shefa (flow) inside him, and the Jew is a provider to them. Therefore, "around the wicked they keep walking" (Tehilim 12:9). But, after they sucked from him and his soul has dried up and there is no moisture of holiness left in him, for G-d has left him and his deeds are bad and sinful, what do they do?

They put in his heart the desire to repent to G-d and do good. Then when his soul is fattened with the good of G-d according to his service in performing G-d's mitzvot and he is full of good blessings from G-d, and they see "Yeshurun has become fat" (Devarim 32:15) and his soul is full of good, then they will prevent him from going in the mitzvot of G-d, as each time before, and they suck out from him all the shefa of holiness...

and in Etz Chaim's introduction

And certainly the klipot (forces of evil) will come to fight him to make him sin. Therefore do not come to any sin, even shogeg (unintentional) so that they will not have any shaychut (connection) with you.

both sources from this

Apparently, they have a power to make a sinner sin more. Perhaps this is related to "sin brings sin" in Pirkei Avot and the Talmud's saying "No one sins unless a spirit of folly enters him" (Sotah 3a).

  • 1
    Do you have any sources regarding the mazikin, shedim, seirim, and ruhot ra that the OP asked about?
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 21, 2017 at 6:37
  • 1
    @mevaqesh thought it was self-understood that the sitra achra includes all this
    – ray
    Feb 21, 2017 at 6:42
  • Remember to always include all essential information in the post.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 21, 2017 at 13:43

As has been mentioned in the comments above, it is worth noting that there is a question whether or not they are still in existence today - refer to the Magen Avrohom 173:1 speaking about רוח רעה. As such, in the context of your question which is phrased in the present, it might be, that they can't do much if they do not exist.

However, it is worth noting as far as their 'remit' - the term "mazikim" is in the hiphil - the causative conjunction, to mean that they cause damage. It is precisely this idea of potential physical harm and damage that is suggested in numerous occasions throughout Shas. I know you said not to bring specific examples - but I will list a couple of instances just to showcase this point: - In Brachos 3b we are warned not to visit a building site alone lest we encounter these mazikim. It is this sense of solitude in which these beings thrive. The Maharal in נתיבות עולם - נתיב התורה פרק א notes that places that are uninhabited, lack any human presence meaning they are alienated from the world’s essence. The world’s essence is 'ישוב' - settlement. Ruins and similar are apart from settlement; Therefore malevolent forces [פגעים], which are in discord with the world, dominate. Thus they are drawn to, and pray on passing individuals.

The Gemoro later in Brachos 6a again alludes to how they essentially cause damage including painful feet and worn out clothes. It would seem that possibly they have an innate desire to cause damage and it would seem that this damage is indeed physical in nature.

This sense of potential harm that they bring is something that is codified in Halocho. So, although the Magen Avrohom cited above and others opine that they do not physically exist - we are still left with a halachic requirement as a make-safe against such a presence. Halocho (Shulchan Aruch 4:2-4) dictates that when awakening in the morning, a person must wash his or her hands (three times) to remove Ru’ach Ra’ah. Until one does so, one must be careful not to touch the mouth, nose, eyes or ears so as not to allow the Ru’ach Ra’ah to enter into the body. HaRav Moshe Sternbach shlita in תשובות והנהגות, חלק א סימן ח notes that this concept of Ruach Ra'ah is not to be taken lightly and that these spiritual forces that can impact negatively on both the body and soul. He thus concludes that one should be, "ליזהר בזה מאד במאד" - "To be extrememly cautious".

Moreover, the (כף החיים (ד:יט notes that the physical danger goes hand-in-hand with the potential spiritual damage. If a person touches one eyes and ears before washing, they will become no different to a deaf or blind person (chas veshalom) which by extension, will adversely affect their entire spiritual existence through an inability to learn Torah.


Jewish Encyclopedia in the article 'demonology' ( www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5085-demonology) states:

In the main demons were workers of harm. To them were ascribed . . . various diseases, particularly such as affect the brain and the inner parts . . . .

To cure such diseases it was necessary to draw out the evil demons by certain incantations and tailsmanic performances, in which the Essenes excelled. Josephus, who speaks of demons as "spirits of the wicked which enter into men that are alive and kill them," but which can be driven out by a certain root ([On the Jewish War] vii. 6, § 3), witnessed such a performance in the presence of the emperor Vespasian ([Antiquities of the Jews] viii. 2, § 5), and ascribed its origin to King Solomon.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .