Postscript: Rav Sternbach “Excommunicates” Rabbi Batzri’s Dybbuk

Aristotle and the great Greek writers like Euripides, Sophocles, and Aristophanes regarded irony (from the ancient Greek noun  εἰρωνεία  [eirōneía] meaning hypocrisy, deception, or feigned ignorance) as a situation where an observer sees an incongruous circumstance that evokes paradox and laughter. Irony suggests that there is a profound polar difference between appearance and reality, between expectation and fulfillment. The Bible also has many stories about irony; perhaps its most famous story about irony is the birth of Isaac–a tale that evokes laughter and paradox.

Quite typically, truth invariably triumphs over the players who are involved within its web of intrigue. With theatrical performances, the  irony is always obvious to the audience, but never to the characters in the play. In terms of my own personal theology, I believe that God speaks to us through the ironic. What man proposes, God disposes–it is God, Who has the last “laugh.” God is the ultimate comic. Our following story is an excellent example as to how the ironic sometimes functions in our spiritual lives.

Who needs Hollywood, when you have Skype and Youtube?

Rav Batzri trying to  talk to Dibuk via Skype connection in Brazil

(Rav Batzri trying to converse with Mr. Dybbuk via Skype connection in Brazil)

See our previous post on Kabbalist David Batzri, Exorcist Extraordinaire

Welcome back to the world of 14th century Judaism.

Well, Rav Batzri may require the help of the Ghostbusters or a Catholic priest, or even Jack Bauer to get rid of this troublesome spirit. By all accounts, the dybbuk [1] proved to be too much of a match for the famous Israeli Kabbalist, who built a reputation on defeating the evil spirits that threaten Israel and the world. At the ceremony, Rav Batrzi urged the demented spirit to leave the body via the mouth, but evidently such an extraction was considered to be too dangerous and dangerous it was. Reports say that the dybbuk started coming up through the throat, as his voice changed and he started choking, when Rav Batzri screamed at it to go back down and not come out that way, but only through his big toe.

What a strange way to exit the human body!

Well, the dybbuk had other plans, and so he decided to take up residence elsewhere in the body–to parts unknown. Perhaps Rav Batzri should have mapquested the directions to the confused dybbuk so that he might leave his host’s body in the most expeditious manner.  Fearing the dybbuk’s revenge, Rav Batzri decided to go to the Haredi Beth Din of Jerusalem, and seek help from Rav Moshe Sternbach, who is better known as a Talmudic and Halachic scholar than he is an exorcist.

Upon the request of VIN News, the word got circulated that Rav Sternbach, Rosh Av Bait Din (Chief Justice of the rabbinical court) of the Eidah, released a p’sak (halachic decree) from the bait din placing the dybbuk in a state of cherem (“excommunication”), thus formally forbidding it from causing any harm to Rav Batzri. Now in practical terms, once a dybbuk is placed in cherem, nobody will be permitted to interact with the dybbuk; nor will the dybbuk be permitted to be part of a minyan, nor can he serve as a witness in a Jewish court. For all intensive  purposes, the Haredi community will consider the dybbuk as if he were “dead.” But wait a minute, isn’t the dybbuk already dead? Secondly, if the dybbuk refused Rav Batzri, why would it care what Rav Sternbach has to say?

But wait, the story gets even more interesting . . .

Latest word: Rav Sternbach categorically denies his role in the entire story.  Actually, he claims that the “possessed” person was really mentally-ill.  He also expressed dismay that thousands of people believed that this was a dybuk and were involved with Rav Batzri’s ceremony.

Gee, what a surprise. As one critical Haredi astutely observes, “Perhaps these gadolim (Torah giants”) are just as clueless and fanatical as their thousands of followers. Thousands watched some cyber operation by gadolim to remove a “dybuk” through WiFi by screaming and blowing a Sheep’s horn! Give me a break from this insanity please! Exorcisms are still performed in the most backwards tribes in Africa and poorest countries in South America. But now we have Gadolim who do this too in 2010!”

Somehow, I do not think the Brazilian man was the only one missing a few screws. I hope Rav Sternbach quietly recommends some medication and psychiatric care for Rav Batzri.  We wish him a speedy recovery. By the way, the Shofar blast is bad enough to drive its listeners batty.

One suspects that like the indefatigable fighter Rocky Balboa, Rav Batzri will be back in the ring for another round with the dybbuk.

We wish him luck.

Video of dybbuk exorcism performed in Dimona, Israel in April, 1999 by Rabbi David Batzri



[1] Wikipedia defines the dybbuk as spirits “who are believed to have escaped from Gehenna  (a Hebrew term loosely analogous to the concept of Hell) or to have been turned away from Gehenna for serious transgressions, such as suicide, for which the soul is denied entry. The word “dybbuk” is derived from the Hebrew דיבוק, meaning “attachment”; the dybbuk attaches itself to the body of a living person and inhabits the flesh. According to belief, a soul that has been unable to fulfill its function during its lifetime is given another opportunity to do so in dybbuk form. It supposedly leaves the host body once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped.”

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