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THE DYBBUK

Xavier Perez-Pons

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It seems that every day is Shabbat eve in Chelm for a week now. As soon as it starts to get dark, the villagers rush to lock themselves in their homes. Not to celebrate the arrival of the Shabbat, no. But to avoid bumping into the dybbuk! (Or into the Golem. Or into Frieda Zalmatscka the-frog-eater. Or into the gigantic frog that ended up eating Frieda Zalmatscka. Or into Frieda Zalmatscka the-frog-eaten.) Fortunately, the wise men of Chelm finally decided to reveal the existence of the Golem to the people, who reluctantly agreed to entrust him with the mission of patrol at night the streets of the village. The Golem has thus become the protector of the Jews of Chelm and, as such, must be responsible for catching the dybbuk who escaped from the cemetery with the skeleton of Menashe Abramowicz on his back.

Because nobody would like to bump on a dark night into a dybbuk! Even less into the dybbuk of Menashe Abramowicz, of unlucky memory for, a century ago, in his lifetime, he stole all the candelabras of Chelm forcing people to illuminate themselves with trained fireflies. (Training a huge group of fireflies was such an arduous and complicated task that many inhabitants of Chelm preferred to move around their homes in complete darkness with the consequent risk of collide with something, rather than undergoing such torture.)

At last, on the eighth night, the Golem catch the dybbuk. But then the dybbuk catch the Golem! That is, the dybbuk manages to enter the soulless body of the Golem. Possession by a dybbuk (a wayward soul) is one of the two worst things that can happen to you. (The other is to turn yourself into a dybbuk.) Especially if the wayward soul is that of someone like Menashe Abramowicz, the candlestick thief. So, the Golem goes from Chelm's protector to Chelm's candlestick-stealer. The same ones who previously supported him, now turn their backs on him. Complaints against the Golem begin to accumulate in the town hall, and the wise men of Chelm have no choice but to decide to get rid of him. However, making the decision is easier than carrying it out. (This is a general rule of life, as taught by Kabbalah.) There is only one way to get rid of the Golem and this way is erasing the “Shem” from his forehead. And it would do you no good to ask for permission because not only would he deny it but he would also hit you with a candlestick. (Provided that the Golem is possessed by a candlestick-stealer dybbuk, otherwise he would hit you with something else, like a broom or a marble fountain.)

The elders meet at the town hall to address the issue and they finally decide to draw lots between themselves. By this procedure, it is established that Fishel will be propelled to the town hall's upper floor, where the Golem lodges, and, once there, he will manage to erase the “Shem” from his forehead. Dovid suggests Fishel to buy a wig and, under the pretext of going to try it on the Golem, cross out the sacred word with a stiletto. Feivel recommends to play piggy-back with the Golem... But these proposals seem risky to Fishel, who prefers to wait for him to fall asleep. No sooner said than done, once they hear the Golem snoring on the upper floor of the town hall, the wise men of Chelm lend their hands to propel Fishel on the count of three. Unfortunately, with so many hands at work the propulsion is excessive, and Fishel not only is fired straight up into the upper floor, but he surpasses it, opening a hole in the ceiling and landing in the Beit Midrash roof in a comatose state.

No doubt that in the Zohar we would find a quote which would fit like a glove to this shameful episode (because Kabbalah has a proper reflection on each situation regrettable though it may be). But right now we don't have time to search it.



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