Tuesday, May 25, 2004


A shade is a demon, and the Talmud discusses them so demons must be real, right? Not so fast. The Talmud also discusses idol worship, but would anyone argue that idols are real?

So what is a demon? A clue is provided by the Talmud where it tells us to ignore a demon that greets us in the country. Why the country, and not the town? Perhaps, because demon are figments of our imagination that are more likely to haunt us when we are alone. A demon then is a psychological malady or a form of madness.

Perhaps this is why Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid warns against closing up windows. Remember, in rural areas the houses were far apart, and without electricty, even city houses were dark and gloomy. Closing up a window meant closing out the light, and shutting out the neighbors, which are just the sort of actions the might precipitate a descent into madness.

When sit alone in the dark, hidden from your community and friends the demons visit. Not actual demons, but the demons of lonliness and insecurity. It is these symptons of madness that the Talmud wishes us to recognize and avoid.