[Avodah] Fwd: A Different Approach to Sheidim

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Mar 15 13:29:30 PDT 2013

On at 03:45:56PM EDT I quoted R' Mordechai Torczyner's (CC-ed) blog post
: The sages of the Talmud describe all sorts of experiences with sheidim
: -- creatures which are neither human nor beast, which may or may
: not be visible or tangible, and which affect our world in numerous
: ways. The term sheid is often translated, unsatisfyingly, as "demon".

RYBS, Confrontation (Tradition 1964 v6n2), cut-n-pasted from
or <http://j.mp/ZNQjTc>:
    Second, the logos, the word, in which the multifarious religious
    experience is expressed does not lend itself to standardization
    or universalization. The word of faith reflects the intimate,
    the private, the paradoxically inexpressible cravings of the
    individual for and his linking up with his Maker. It reflects
    the numinous character and the strangeness of the act of faith of
    a particular community which is totally incomprehensible to the
    man of a different faith community. Hence, it is important that
    the religious or theological logos should not be employed as the
    medium of communication between two faith communities whose modes
    of expression are as unique as their apocalyptic experiences. The
    confrontation should occur not at a theological but at a mundane
    human level. There, all of us speak the universal language of modern
    man. As a matter of fact our common interests lie in the realm of
    faith, but in that of the secular orders.8 There, we all face a
    powerful antagonist, we all have to contend with a considerable
    number of matters of great concern. The relationship between two
    communities must be outer-directed and related to the secular orders
    with which men of faith come face to face. In the secular sphere,
    we may discuss positions to be taken, ideas to be evolved, and
    plans to be formulated. In these matters, religious communities
    may together recommend action to be developed and may seize the
    initiative to be implemented later by general society. However,
    our joint engagement in this kind of enterprise must not dull our
    sense of identity as a faith community. We must always remember
    that our singular commitment to God and our hope and indomitable
    will for survival are non-negotiable and non-rationalizable and are
    not subject to debate and argumentation. The great encounter between
    God and man is a wholly personal private affair incomprehensible to
    the outsider - even to a brother of the same faith community. The
    divine message is incommunicable since it defies all standardized
    media of information and all objective categories. If the powerful
    community of the many feels like remedying an embarrassing human
    situation or redressing an historic wrong, it should do so at the
    human ethical level. However, if the debate should revolve around
    matters of faith, then one of the confronters will be impelled to
    avail himself of the language of his opponent. This in itself would
    mean surrender of individuality and distinctiveness.

Different faith communities divide the world in different categories,
look at it from different angles, and thus speak different languages.

Mapping ideas from one religion to another should probably be avoided
for this reason. In recasting one religion's concepts to anothers'
words and categories, one inevitably shifts the meanings of the concepts.

So, I would just leave sheidim as "sheidim". And (as per RSRH's critique
of the Rambam) avoid identifying mal'akhim with Greek notions of pure
intellects or HQBH with Aristo's Prime Mover. No matter how similar,
the parallel concepts are merely parallel -- not actually identical.


Micha Berger             The true measure of a man
micha at aishdas.org        is how he treats someone
http://www.aishdas.org   who can do him absolutely no good.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                   - Samuel Johnson

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