The Gemara Shabbos (67a) records

תני תנא בפרק אמוראי קמיה דרבי חייא בר אבין אמר ליה כולהו אית בהו משום דרכי האמורי לבר מהני מי שיש לו עצם בגרונו מביא מאותו המין ומניח ליה על קדקדו ולימא הכי חד חד נחית בלע בלע נחית חד חד אין בו משום דרכי האמורי

The tanna recited the chapter of the Tosefta discussing the actions of the Amorites before Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Avin. Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Avin said to him: All those enumerated there contain an element of the prohibition against following the ways of the Amorite, except for these: One who has a bone in his throat brings a bone from the same species as the bone that is stuck in his throat, and places it on his skull, and says as follows: One by one descend and be swallowed, swallow and descend one by one. That does not contain an element of the prohibition against following the ways of the Amorite.

Does this incantation (Rashi: חד חד נחית - לחש הוא) still work today? [Extra appreciation for a story!]

  • You want to honest truth? Probably not. If someone's choking, you're better off giving them physical medical treatment (like the Heimlich Maneuver), not reciting an incantation.
    – ezra
    Nov 5, 2018 at 2:54
  • @ezra Agreed, although I once heard someone said Rav Belsky z"tl successfully used it at a Purim seuda when someone was choking...I haven't seen anything about it though.
    – NJM
    Nov 5, 2018 at 3:21
  • Eh, could just be bobbe maises.
    – ezra
    Nov 5, 2018 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


Yes, the incantation will work today, but only if you are precise in your pronunciation of the Hebrew letters, in the manner that Chazal historically pronounced them. This is the only incantation which is not superstition, because it makes total rational sense that it will work.

As I explain here:

by holding the same food over his head, he stretches his pipes in a certain way. Then, consider the "incantation": חד חד נחית בלע בלע נחית חד חד . We don't necessarily realize it, because we Ashkenazim pronounce our chets like chafs and our ayins like alephs (or rather, like nothing at all). But ayin and chet, as the Amoraim pronounced them, are actually gutturals. And every single one of the words in this incantation has on of these difficult gutturals in it. Combine it with the other phonemes, and you are giving yourself quite a linguistic workout. Do this when you have a stuck bone in your throat, and it certainly makes sense that you could dislodge a bone!

  • Perhaps that is why it is not considered kishuf or following the ways of the Amorite...
    – user18155
    Nov 5, 2018 at 9:02
  • Very nice +1!! חכם גדול אתה שקיימת דברי חכמים (Negaim 9,3)
    – yO_
    Nov 9, 2018 at 14:29

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