The concept of the 1שד יהודי is introduced by Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan 12:1

(Source from Sefaria.org)

מַה שֶּׁאָנוּ רוֹאִים, שֶׁעַל־פִּי הָרֹב הַלּוֹמְדִים חוֹלְקִים עַל הַצַּדִּיקִים, וְדוֹבְרִים עַל הַצַּדִּיק עָתָק בְּגַאֲוָה וָבוּז, זֶהוּ מְכֻוָּן גָּדוֹל מֵאֵת הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ. כִּי יֵשׁ בְּחִינַת יַעֲקֹב וְלָבָן; יַעֲקֹב הוּא הַצַּדִּיק, הַמְחַדֵּשׁ חִדּוּשִׁין דְּאוֹרַיְתָא וְלוֹמֵד תּוֹרָתוֹ לִשְׁמָהּ, וְטוּבוֹ גָּנוּז וְשָׁמוּר וְצָפוּן לֶעָתִיד, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה: לְמָחָר לְקַבֵּל שְׂכָרָם (עירובין כב.); וְעַל שֵׁם שֶׁשְּׂכָרוֹ לְבַסּוֹף, עַל שֵׁם זֶה נִקְרָא יַעֲקֹב, לְשׁוֹן עָקֵב וָסוֹף, שְׂכָרוֹ לְבַסּוֹף. וְלָבָן הוּא תַּלְמִיד־חָכָם שֵׁד יְהוּדִי, שֶׁתּוֹרָתוֹ לְהִתְיַהֵר וּלְקַנְטֵר, וְתַלְמִיד־חָכָם כָּזֶה נְבֵלָה טוֹבָה הֵימֶנּוּ (מ"ר ויקרא א, עיין מתנות כהונה):

That which we see among most of the learned who go against the Tzaddikim and speak about the Tzaddik wantonly with arrogance and scorn, is specifically planned from G-d. For there is the relation of Yaakov and Lavan; Yaakov is a Tzaddik who creates original (Torah) ideas and studies the Torah for its own sake and his reward is stored, guarded and kept for the future, as our sages of blessed memory state: "The next day they will claim their reward" 2 (Eiruvin 22). Because his reward is in the end he is thus called "Yaakov", a language of delay and end, his reward is for the end. As for Lavan, he is a wise scholar שד יהודי(?), whose Torah (study) is done to glorify himself and to provoke, and a dead animal is better than a wise scholar like this.

Was there anyone in particular Rebbe Nachman is speaking about when referring to the שד יהודי? Or is it to be thought strictly a concept developed?

1 The English translation of the Likutei Moharan (Put out by the Breslov Research institute) translates this as "Scholar Demon"

2 i.e. in the world to come

  • "Was there anyone in particular Rebbe Nachman is speaking about when referring to the שד יהודי?" Yes, Lavan.
    – msh210
    Aug 17 '17 at 4:23
  • this expression is frequently found in Toldot Yaakov Yosef, the student of the Besht. Particularly describing the encounter between Yaakov and the angel. The basis is gemara in chulin, saying that the angel was similar to a talmid chacham. Shedim yehudyim is used to describe galut inside Jewish population
    – kouty
    Aug 17 '17 at 4:29
  • 1
    To mysterious downvoter: why the downvote? @TrustMeI'mARabbi - +1
    – ezra
    Aug 17 '17 at 4:42
  • generally this expression was used by chasidim at the time of rude oposition against chasidim
    – kouty
    Aug 17 '17 at 6:37
  • @ezra I'm not sure why it was downvoted also but that's how the internet is I guess. Aug 17 '17 at 15:54

The source is the Zohar Pinchas 253b.

There the Zohar says

ואוף הכי דפרשין דמלכא הוו מארי משנה דאינון כמלאכים משמשין לון שדים יהודאי דאינון רשימין באות שדי (ס"א באת י') ואית שדין ומזיקין מסטרא דמסאבו דאתקריאו שדים עכו"ם וזה לעומת זה עשה האלקים ובגין דא אמרו מארי מתניתין דאינון ג' מינין מינייהו. חד מין דלהון כמלאכי השרת ומין תניינא כבני אדם ומין תליתאי כבעירן ואית בהון חכימין באורייתא דבכתב ודבעל פה. אתקרי יוסף שידא על שם דאוליד ליה שד ולאו למגנא אמרו מארי מתניתין אם הרב דומה למלאך יי' צבאות תורה יבקשו מפיהו. ואשמדאי מלכא הוא וכל משפחתיה הא אוקימנא דאינון שדין יהודאין דאתכפיין באורייתא ובשמהן דאורייתא. ובני אהרן בגין דעריכו קרבנהון בגין דא אתענשו דכלהו קרבנין אע"ג דאתקריבו לגבי מלכא איהו פליג לון לכל חד כדקא חזי ונטל לחולקיה מה דאתחזי ליה:

In short, many deamons study Torah, and keep the Torah (Or Zarua Eiruvin 147).

In Tanya, the "inner difference" is explained thus:

וכח המתאוה לדברים המותרים למלאת תאותו הוא שד משדין יהודאין לפי שיכול לחזור לקדושה כדלעיל The power of lust for permitted things comes from the "Jewish demons", since they can be returned to holiness.

So if one eats a steak for physical pleasure, the energy goes to the "evil side". However, when one learns Torah with that energy, the "evil side" gets elevated to the "good side".

In contrast to the "Non-Jewish demons", who desire for not-kosher food which can never be elevated.

So to it's possible that when a person studies Torah not for its own sake, he's like a "Jewish demon" who studies Torah (a good thing) but with bad intent (a bad thing), but when they'll do Teshuva the Torah they learned will be elevated back to good.

  • 1
    Wow!! Very well sourced! I plan on marking this correct if a better answer isn't given. Aug 17 '17 at 16:02
  • @ShmuelBrin Legendary answer!!
    – Moshe
    Apr 2 '20 at 7:10

Rabbi Nachman is talking about the Misnagdim. The proof is that He starts of talking about those who appose the tzadikim.

  • How is apposition [sic] to tzadikim proof? Maybe he means hassidic opponents of non hassidic zadikim'
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 17 '17 at 22:50
  • 1
    Misnaged just refers to someone who is against a tzadik, it doesnt have to be a chasid tzadik. For example Korach was a talmid chacham who was misnagid againts moshe. I would say that he would be considered a sheid yehudi. Aug 17 '17 at 23:42
  • Okay. Once you use the term like that (a horrible way to convey information, as that is not the general usage of the term), it becomes a circular definition, rendering your post essentially useless.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 18 '17 at 1:54
  • Well Misnagid also refers to those who are misnaged against the Chassidic Tzadikim. Rabbi Nachman is talking about them and all the other kinds of misnagdim. Aug 18 '17 at 21:06

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