Also, while the friend (who is the grandson of the rav in the story) allows his family's real names to be used (and even published a book in Hebrew, which included the story below), I hesitate to use the real names only because certain aspects end up in a negative light (like how most of the rav's descendants ended up divorced, irreligious, dead, etc.).
It's a bizarre story, but the lesson rings clear in the end.
So let's get started...
The Moroccan Beginnings
It hosted a thriving Jewish community, producing quite a few rabbanim proficient in what some call "practical kabbalah."
For Moroccan Jews, Draa became the go-to place if you needed protective amulets.
Family names like Edry, Edri, and Deri indicate Jewish families who come from Draa.
Anyway...a certain family headed by a talmid chacham came from Draa to Eretz Yisrael in the 1950s or 60s and settled in the North, not far from the Golan Heights (prior to 1967, when the Golan was still under Syrian occupation).
Basic Jewish Law: The Best Protection
Within Judaism, different levels of spiritual protection exist.
Many of our prayers contain protective elements: the morning blessings, Pitom HaKetoret (the Incense Offering), Shemoneh Esrei, the Bedtime Shema, and so on.
These are beautiful prayers & very holy, very humble, and beloved to Hashem.
Prayer in general provides wonderful protection & blessing.
Objects of protection include a mezuzah on every doorpost of a home, holy books in the home, and so on.
Tsniyut (dignified & modest behavior & dress) provides both practical & spiritual protection for both men & women.
(Although men's tsniyus receives less emphasis, we tachlis see that every single major talmid chacham dresses with full modesty regardless of heat & humidity, and entire religious communities of men dress with full modesty and would never even entertain the idea of appearing on the street wearing, say, shorts no matter how blistering the sun.)
Learning Torah (and assisting others in learning Torah) remains one of the most powerful forms of protection.
Other Jewish concepts clearly provide all sorts of protection: shemirat halashon (guarding the tongue), shemirat anayim (guarding the eyes), and so on.
The Hebrew word shemirah can be translated as keeping, guarding, securing, or protecting.
All the above consist of following basic halacha, so people aren't doing anything unusual (although they're still doing something heroic & special) by performing the above.
So those are the standard types of protection and if you invest only in these for the rest of your life, you have made a wonderfully effective & holy investment.
Active Appeasement of Entities? Controversial–Not Recommended
And this category consists of appeasing impure entities (demons).
Not everyone agrees it's even okay to perform acts of appeasement, but those who do rely on what Rav Chaim Palagi (1788-1868) wrote in Chapter 34 of Chaim BaYad. (Rav Chaim Palagi is best known for his halachic sefer Kaf HaChaim.)
At this point, I must thank my husband for reading through the difficult print & esoteric Hebrew in order to explain the ideas to me—couldn't have done it on my own. Thank you, Husband!
In Chaim BaYad, Rav Palagi allows acts of appeasement, which he likens to appeasing human officials, like how we bow before a non-Jewish king—not because we worship him, but as part of cultural etiquette.
This ranges from passive customs observed by all frum Jews—such as not sealing up a window in a room without making some kind of an opening in that same room—to other more proactive acts of appeasement not performed (or desired) by the majority of Jews.
It depends a lot on the holiness of the person performing the act.
Mostly, such acts aren't necessary (i.e., you're better off learning Torah or saying Tehillim), so it's best to stay away from the whole topic—which, as stated, exactly what the vast majority of Jews do: They stay away from it.
Today, even if you hear of people seeking out these more proactive forms of appeasement (and most don't), it tends to be not-so-frum Jews seeking out rabbis to perform these acts for success in business.
The truth is, these traditional-yet-not-so-frum people would be MUCH better off guarding their eyes, davening in a minyan EVERY time EVERY day, and committing themselves to other fundamental halachot before turning to these types of appeasements.
Also, the minority of rabbis willing to carry out these acts (for a nice price, of course) aren't generally the best of the rabbinical lot...far from it, actually.
And it's questionable whether Rav Palagi himself would approve of their actions...especially regarding the price they demand in return for the "favor."
(Especially because, as stated, most of these people aren't so frum—barely or even not at all shomer Shabbat. Rav Palagi would certainly insist on their keeping the minimum of mitzvah observance and not only rely on mystical appeasements.)
Another issue is where the more passive appeasement ends & a more proactive (and dangerous) role begins.
Judaism, being a truly pure & holy system derived straight from Hashem, definitely provides real protection.
That should be enough. We shouldn't feel the need for more.
Yet relying on that protection might make a person feel a bit too comfortable messing with these entities because he truly knows (unlike non-Jewish practitioners) how to best protect himself from harm.
The problem is that even the wisest of all men, Shlomo Hamelech, ran into trouble dealing with these entities.
So ideally, Shlomo Hamelech's experience should be a lesson to everyone else.
Let's Go Back in Time to BEFORE We Knew that Every War Ended in a Miraculous Victory
Those of us who live with the modern history of Medinat Yisrael have become accustomed to miracles:
- The 1948 War of Independence? Hashem clearly on our side! How else?
- The 1967 Six Day War? An impossible & obviously miraculous victory!
- The 1973 Yom Kippur War? THANK You, Hashem, for yet again outdoing the impossible!
- All those scuds falling all over the place during the 1990-91 Gulf War? Of course hardly anyone got hurt—that's how it always goes!
(Yet what's missing in the hype over the early victories is the very real human toll. The Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael paid a very high price for these early miracles.)
But before these early miraculous victories occurred, things looked really bad.
REALLY, REALLY bad.
Vastly outnumbered by the surrounding countries, the massive enemy troops, the enemy's superior amounts of equipment & weaponry, plus the enemy's thirst for blood, vengeance, and feeling super macho...these attacks really seemed like they might be the end of the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael.
Remember, prior to the 1967 Six Day War, the Syrians held "the eyes of the country"—the strategic Golan Heights.
In addition, the threat of mass genocide & the savagery of the enemy soldiers struck fear in the hearts of Jews everywhere.
Stories of mutilation of the bodies of dead Jewish soldiers—and even more chillingly, reports of mutilations committed against live, but helplessly wounded Jewish soldiers (not to mention the horrific abuses committed against civilians)—imbued the Jews with desperate terror & dread.
So this rav living with his family in the North, not far from the Syrian border, saw the situation prior to the 1967 Six Day War and felt compelled to help by any means possible.
ANY means possible.
And he had means others did not.
The Demon Draft
He sincerely intended to help others.
I don't (nor wish to) know the particulars, but apparently, it takes two people to perform the communication because the initiator needs the hands of another person, through which he sees the entities & communicates with them.
So the rav used 3 different people: his daughter, his son, and one of his talmidim.
He had other sons and daughters and talmidim, but these 3 were the ones who assisted him.
Combined with this, the rav went along the Syrian-Israeli border and placed amulets meant to stop the Syrian troops via the use of demons.
This actually isn't such a bad idea if you think about it.
Rather than stationing Jews to face military onslaughts, station demons!
Charedim against the IDF draft can demonstrate with signs saying:
Leave yeshivah students alone!
Demons must share the burden!
Nezikin tzrichim l'set banatal!
(What else could Lapid have meant when he said "hatzibur kuuuulo"—the entire public!—must share the burden of military service? Let's be fair & share the burden across the entire breadth of ALL populations! Ha!)
This method obviously has the potential to save human lives, plus enables the continuous learning of Torah by our precious young men.
Also, it would be a lot more entertaining to see the above signs in the anti-draft protests.
After all, we're probably all tired of the same old slogans.
The rav from Draa clearly possessed only the best of intentions.
And indeed, Israel won the war.
What Won the War?
How much did the rav's efforts help stem the enemy invasion from the North?
I tended to think that the copious prayers going on at that time made the difference.
Plus, Hashem had His Plans. He clearly did not want the Syrians to win.
My husband of course agreed with this, but he also felt that the rav's entity-enlisting amulets still contributed something.
(He's very into the power of the chachamim.)
Certainly, my husband has good a point, but nonetheless, I tend to think the prayers and merits of Torah learning & other good deeds decided the outcome, not to mention the then-recent genocide suffered by the Jewish people only a couple of decades prior to the Six Day War.
In other words, I think the war & the land would've been won without the amulets.
Really, it's impossible to know their specific influence on the outcome, whether it protected the locals or nationally, or how much they protected at all.
So, I'm just stating the opinion of a small person, that I firmly believe in the power of the prayers & merits of that time, not to mention the tragic kaparah of the Shoah that preceded the Six Day War.
A Disclaimer for Any Brainwashed Jew-Haters Reading This
These entities are notoriously impossible to control.
They don't like human beings and the only way to control these entities is compulsion—meaning, against their will.
Holy & knowledgeable rabbis utilize the best of protection, but sort of like how even very holy people don't go walking off cliffs due to the effects of physical physics (i.e., gravity), very holy people also don't summon entities due to the effects of spiritual physics (i.e., the entities' insatiability & inborn compulsion to harm humans).
This is why even holy & knowledgeable rabbinical Sages stay far away from this type of activity.
For example, a Sage in the Gemara decided to view these entities, took precautions to avoid harm, but was harmed anyway. (His fellow Sages helped him recover.)
So even the greatest & holiest people get no guarantee against the entities.
And even if these entities respect the holiness & purity of a Sage, it doesn't make them nice.
That's why in Minchat Yehudah (Parshat Miketz), the demon pretending to be Eliyahu HaNavi did not simply 'fess up when confronted by the holy tzaddik Rav Yehudah Petayah.
When directly confronted by such Torah greats as Rav Shimon Aharon Agassi & Rav Yaakov the son of the Ben Ish Chai, the deceptive demon did NOT say, "Aw, shucks...I simply cannot keep up the act any longer in the face of such good & holy people! No, I'm not really Eliyahu HaNavi, but simply a demon named Elijah. I sure am sorry about fooling everyone."
No, the demon kept up the deception until Rav Petayah tried to force him to translate a verse from Yirmiyahu 10:11 (a prediction of the eventual destruction of demons) and the demonic pretender got really angry & swore never to return—and he didn't.
So the vast majority of talmidei chachamim (and regular Jews) completely avoid them because they're icky & psychopathic—plus one is likely to pay an unbearably high price for any perceived benefit (as you'll unfortunately see in a moment).
The Bitter Ends
The talmid, whose hands the rav used in summoning demons, fought as a frum soldier in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, during which his body was riddled with bullets—yet he miraculously survived.
The twentysomething son died while riding a motorbike, which suddenly drove straight off the road & crashed.
(I know this kind of thing happens with motorbikes, but he wasn't reckless, there weren't problems in the road that might lead to this, and witnesses said it looked like he suddenly just drove off the road for no reason.)
The rav died relatively early, like in his fifties, leaving his faithful wife a widow.
And while the rav ended up with around 100 grandchildren & great-grandchildren so far, hardly any of them are frum & nearly all of them divorced once. Their second marriages aren't so happy either, and the one or two who remained in their first marriage also aren't happy.
But the most bizarre & disturbing outcome affected his daughter Ora (yes, her real name), who was in her early twenties around the time of the following story.
It was Ora's hands via which the rav used to communicate with the entities (in addition to those of his son and talmid).
After the rav died, Ora made the occasional journey to Yerushalayim to deal with acquiring property the family wanted to own there.
Back then, the bus ride from the North to Yerushalayim took hours & depended on erratic bus service. It was a big help to the widowed mother that Ora took this task upon herself.
On her last trip, Ora got on the bus in the North—but never got off.
She simply disappeared.
Now, I know what you're thinking because I was thinking the same thing: Surely she must have gotten off the bus and THEN something happened, rachmana litzlan.
The family made inquiries on their own, plus they reported her disappearance to the police who launched an investigation.
She disappeared en route. She never got off the bus.
There was simply no sign of her and no sign of criminal or terrorist activity involved in her disappearance.
So, being from Draa & having lived with the rav all these years, the widow suspected the involvement of entities in Ora's disappearance.
Despite the distance & wearying journey, the rav's widow made her way to Yerushalayim to speak with big rabbanim there, but no one wanted to get involved.
As stated earlier, these entities are extremely harmful & difficult to manage. In contrast to non-Jewish practitioners (priests, shamans, occultists, etc.), even a genuinely knowledgeable rabbi does not want to deal with these entities for any reason (BECAUSE he understands how things really work—unlike the non-Jewish practitioners).
Finally, the widow went to a Druze practitioner of kochot hatumah (impure powers) in the North.
These types of practitioners—whether you call them demonologists or priests or sorcerers or shamans or whatever—also deal with these entities, but with impure manipulations. And just like human manipulators, these entities don't mind putting on an act as long as the practitioner gratifies their demands.
Lacking any real connection to Hashem, these practitioners get fooled into thinking they possess real powers.
So this Druze practitioner contacted some demons who informed him that Ora was still alive, but held by the demons. They abducted her from the bus.
Supplied with this information, the widow again asked qualified rabbis for help, but none of these big rabbanim wanted to get involved in retrieving Ora because in order to do so, they'd need to contact the entities themselves and then engage in some kind of transaction to free her—which is obviously extremely risky.
After all, that's how Ora got snatched in the first place, and what rav wants to risk his own family's well-being?
However, the Baba Sali was in Eretz Yisrael at that time (1964-1984), so why not ask him for assistance? Sure, he lived way down south in Netivot, which was a VERY long & unreliable journey from the North, but worth it.
However, the grandson of the rav (who provided my husband with all this information) said he didn't know why they didn't contact him.
In Yerushalayim, some very great & holy mekubalim lived at that time, but the grandson wasn't sure exactly which ones were consulted. He only knows that out of all the rabbanim consulted, no one wished to get involved due to the great danger to both themselves & their families.
As an interesting correlation to this demonic abduction, Rabbi Wallerstein gave a famous lecture regarding a story in the Kav HaYashar that occurred a few hundred years ago.
Just to summarize it: A mohel is called upon by a wealthy stranger who needs to make a brit milah for his newborn son.
The mohel travels with the stranger in a luxury carriage for miles & miles until they arrive at a city populated by mansions hidden in a valley.
As the mohel prepared the baby for the brit milah, the baby's mother confides that she is a Jewish woman kidnapped by demons as a young girl. The entire luxury town consists of demons and the baby's father is a demon too.
She tells the mohel how to prevent being trapped there too, and the story ends happily for the mohel, but no more is known about the young Jewish woman who remains behind with the demons.
Though she clearly lived a life of luxury, it doesn't seem like she enjoyed it so much. After all, she helped the mohel avoid her fate while making him promise not to let on that it was she who revealed the secret to him.
It all reminds me of Rebbe Nachman's story The Lost Princess, in which the viceroy initially finds the banished princess trapped in the opulent environment of a palace, surrounded by delicacies & the finest in music & entertainment—yet the lost princess called the environment the place of the Lo Tov—the Not Good (often translated as "the Evil One").
And just as the princess eventually merited rescue from the place of the Lo Tov, may Hashem rescue all of us from the Palace of the Lo Tov too!
But back to our story...
The Importance of being Tamim with Hashem & the Power of a Mezuzah
It's stated outright in the Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:13.
Tamim tihyeh im Hashem Elokecha.
We need to go through our lives with wholehearted trust in Hashem.
Apart from normal hishtadlus, we need to rely on sincere prayer from the heart & improving our deeds, delving deep into our heart & psyche to accomplish this.
Sure, Syrian troops are scary.
But the best way to fight them is through teshuvah, prayer, tzedakah, and physical hishtadlus (like advanced weaponry).
On the other hand, if the Israeli government ever decides to abandon their pursuit of yeshivah bachurim in favor of recruiting demons, that might be a good idea.
Except that instead of well-meaning talmidei chachamim, we could have the Torah-hating Leftists summon the demons.
For example, just imagine if Tommy Lapid would have said, "Yair, come here please—I need to use your hands for something..."
And then later, while being chauffeured to dinner with fellow kofrim at a non-kosher restaurant, Yair suddenly disappears from the limousine!
The chauffeur alerts the Lapids: "One minute I see him uploading anti-charedi rants to all his social media accounts, and the next minute—my rearview mirror shows an empty seat, except for Yair's phone lying there with the annoying beeps of unanswered messages!"
A search reveals no criminal or terrorist activity. Illegal interrogations of hilltop youth ("We've never even been within dalet amot of a limo or a treif restaurant—leave us alone!") reveal no leads.
Finally, they consult a Hamas shaman, who informs them: "He's been kidnapped by demons. They're forcing him to serve as ringmaster for their circus, where he must now wear a black top hat for all performances, which so reminds him of charedim, he cries and tantrums all day long."
But getting back to reality now...
In the same chapter mentioned above (Chapter 34 of Chaim BaYad), Rav Palagi mentions the disturbing behavior of a specific group of Jewish women who discovered certain machinations to communicate with demons and compel them to do their bidding.
Again, they probably meant well. Women in those times possessed no rights in non-Jewish society. Outside of prayer, even Jewish women possessed little control over most aspects of life.
(The truth is that every person lacks control over life, but modern developments fool us into thinking we possess a lot more control than we actually do.)
Finances, childbirth, health, and many other aspects of life lay far out of control.
Back then, poverty meant life-threatening deprivation & hardship. Furthermore, antibiotics, infusions for those unconscious & incapable of eating, anesthesia, proper knowledge & sterilization of germs, and many other developments lay far in the future.
Also, their surrounding Muslim culture also indulged in this kind of behavior, making it seem normal. (Sort of like how we're influenced by our surrounding cultures today, even when Judaism outright forbids these influences.)
When the local rabbanim found out about their activities, they put a firm stop to it.
That kind of thing is completely forbidden in Judaism.
But what intrigued me about that anecdote was how the women removed the mezuzot from their homes in order for their machinations to work!
Meaning, even though they went through effective machinations to communicate with these forbidden entities, the entities still could not enter as long as the mezuzot remained in place!
This alone shows the power of a mezuzah.
And what is a mezuzah?
It's so little & passive.
All in all, it's a little piece of kosher parchment with the routine Shema prayer properly inscribed on it by a knowledgeable scribe (sofer), and rolled up into a little case.
(For basic information about the mezuzah, please see here.)
While some mezuzot reside in beautiful cases, many reside in simple plastic cases.
Yet see what powerful protection they provide!
Being Tamim with Hashem is the Best!
He addresses using Hashem's Name verbally, but with regard to our story, what was in the amulets stationed along the northern border by the rav?
Not sure, but usually amulets contain holy verses, holy names, etc.
There are different kinds of amulets.
But again, the main lesson here is to go tamim with Hashem.
Just keep on doing what you're supposed to & that's more than enough!
We see, despite the Draa rav's personal holiness & knowledge, the rav's extremely well-intentioned yet controversial efforts led to negative consequences affecting the rav's family at least 2 generations later and long after the rav's passing.
The fundamentals of Jewish Law & Jewish belief provide wonderful blessing & protection!:
- Guarding your eyes brings blessing & protection.
- Guarding your tongue brings blessing & protection.
- Guarding yourself from anger brings blessing & protection.
- Keep Shabbat & Shabbat keeps you! (It makes more sense in Hebrew. Basically being shomer Shabbat is shomer you. The observance of Shabbat provides blessing & protection.)
- Prayer—particularly heartfelt prayer—brings blessing & protection.
- Tsniyus (dignified & modest dress & behavior) brings blessing & protection.
- Learning Torah brings blessing & protection.
Hashem gifted me with a tough example of this:
Once, due to rushed & stressful mornings, I decided to drop Pitom HaKetoret from my morning davening. Though it's an incredibly powerful part of davening with many compelling segulot, it's not strictly necessary, particularly in the obligations of Shacharit for women...and anyway, I found myself unable to say it with decent kavanah.
Within a couple of days, one of the few people I know with psychopathic tendencies started contacting me after YEARS of no contact.
I could not figure out what the person wanted from me, but I knew from past experience that this person meant harm covered by a veneer of innocence or helpfulness. This person derived pleasure from hurting others & causing profound emotional distress.
As common among such people, this person reeled in other unsuspecting "helpers" to participate when I tried to avoid interaction.
This person also excels at trapping others into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dynamic, making it impossible to reach a healthy response to the person's deviousness.
Fortunately, Chazal states that if you encounter suffering, you must examine your deeds.
So I did.
I realized that the whole distressing saga welled up shortly after I dropped Pitom HaKetoret from my morning davening.
You can bet that I immediately made it part of my regular Shacharit again.
Right after I started Pitom Ketoret again, the entire distressing situation evaporated as if it never existed.
No one from that whole set-up contacted me again—neither the person nor the "helpers."
The entire time I'd been reciting Pitom HaKetoret, I hadn't seen any obvious blessing or protection.
It looked like it wasn't "working."
And anyway, I hadn't been saying it with much kavanah.
But the entire time, it HAD been protecting me—I just didn't know it!
Because if the distress doesn't occur, then how can you ever know about it?
So that was a big lesson for me. Talk about tough love!
Just keep on doing what you CAN do and what you SHOULD do.
Even when not perfect, it still contains value & power.
Tamim tihyeh im Hashem Elokecha.
That's more than good enough!
As my husband & I discussed the particulars of the story with the rav & Ora & everything else, two lights in our living room suddenly went out.
My husband and I looked at each other and he gave me a reassuring smile.
But as a joke, I put my hands to my face & gave a fake quiet scream, like how they do in the stupid horror movies. (I made it quiet because we live in an apartment and it would be onaat devarim to distress my neighbors by screaming for real.)
The truth is that those 2 lights are connected & have flickered out on their own a couple of times before.
But then, my husband's kosher Hadran cell phone clicked on all by itself while lying on the table out of reach of either my husband or I.
As we listened to the duet emanating on its own from the cell phone, I said, "Gosh, who knew that demons also like music by Yishai Ribbo and Amir Dadon?"
But my husband pointed out that his phone contained mostly songs by Yishai Ribbo and that any random press of the cell phone would most likely elicit a song by Yishai Ribbo.
Also, he noted that sometimes the cell phone clicked on by itself.
That's true; I've seen it happen.
But the timing, during that particular conversation, was freaky.
And funny. We laughed.
Also, we have kosher mezuzot—so nothing to fear!
And there you go.
- Temimus: Wholeheartedness is Necessary to Build Torah Institutions
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Mitzvah of Mezuzah
- The Theory of Absolute (one of several times Rabbi Wallerstein tells his story of gambling addiction & exit; his story starts at around 15 minutes)
- Torah Perspectives on Addiction (one of several talks Rabbi Wallerstein has given on his prior addiction and lessons learned; I think this is one of the times when he tells the mohel story from the Kav HaYashar)
- Past posts about Rav Yehudah Petayah & his book Minchat Yehudah