The Jewish and cinematic musings of the Rabbi of The Reform Temple of Rockland in Upper Nyack, New York.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Elul Day 20 - Exorcisms, Dybbuks, and The High Holy Days
The Last Exorcism was the big winner at the box office this past weekend. Though it is not a movie I am planning on seeing any time soon or ever, I do recall when I saw the Exorcist for the first time when I was about seven years old. I was home sick and had access to HBO. Let’s just say I chose not have any split pea soup to aid in my recovery that week.
The practice of exorcism is primarily found within Catholic tradition, though there are some rituals for removing a dybbuk that can be found in Jewish tradition as well. We just don’t advertise it very much, nor make too many movies about it. But there are certainly streams of Jewish magic that abound dating back to the Torah. I started thinking about the idea of exorcism and what it is really about. Some speculate it was a way of dealing with mentally ill people well before mental illness began to be understood in any clinical sort of sense. Almost all the rituals involve the attempt to remove some sort of outside force compelling the afflicted individual into sinful acts.
In some strange way, this is a comforting idea. Commit a sin, perform a ritual, and magically, the demon is gone. But in reality, life doesn’t work that way. To understand our choices for requires lots for reflection. To no longer make those same choices requires daily efforts to change. Neither of which are easy to do, and neither of which can be done over a short period of time.
Change may be a constant, one of the only constants in the universe, but it certainly not easy to engage in personal change. It demands of us desire and commitment, something which we recommit to every High Holy Day Season.
Is there something in yourself you are hoping to change for this year?
Rabbi Sharff is the Senior Rabbi for The Reform Temple of Rockland in Upper Nyack, New York. He was raised in Houston, Texas where he discovered the acoustic and electric guitar while sitting in his dorm room one day. Rabbi Sharff graduated from the University of Texas and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.
Rabbi Sharff is the rhythm guitarist for RTR's in House Band, and he also served as the editor for Howard Salmon's z"l Comic Book Siddur.