Sacrificing Sweets To Demons

Israel

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Polemical works generally target intellectual attacks on Judaism. Kenisiyah l’Shem Shamayim, however – which I acquired this week – targets anti-Jewish practices that crept into Jewish society due to ignorance.

In the Middle East in the 19th century – in Syria especially – rabbis sensed that the masses had been deleteriously affected by contact with their Arab neighbors over centuries. So in 1874, in partnership with scores of his contemporaries, R. Menashe Sutton of Aleppo (who happens to be my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) published Kenisiyah l’Shem Shamayim, fiercely attacking various magical practices and beliefs in demons that were prevalent at the time.

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In this work, he describes the practice of many ignorant Jews to sacrifice incense and sweets to demons in an attempt to appease them, as well as numerous other superstitious practices and beliefs that were fundamentally antithetical to Judaism.

Scores of rabbis from Aleppo and Jerusalem wrote haskamot and supporting letters for the book’s publication, which succeeded in a large part to eradicate these practices from the Jewish community.

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