H - The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism: Second Edition (2016)

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism: Second Edition (2016)



Note: The Hebrew letters Chet and Chaf are often transliterated into English as “H.” Thus one frequently finds transliterated words like “Halom.” This encyclopedia transliterates these letters as “Ch,” resulting in spellings like “Chalom.” Thus some words the reader is seeking in this chapter will appear under the heading “C.”

Habakkuk: The biblical Prophet was the boy whom Elisha miraculously resurrected (Zohar I:7b). He was a master of esoteric knowledge (Mid. Teh. 7:17, 77:1; Bahir 46-47).

Habitation: (59736/Zebul). Fifth of the seven heavens. In it exists the heavenly Jerusalem and Temple. Michael is both the angelic Prince and High priest of this precinct (Chag. 12b).

Habraham (Abraham) the Jew: A 15th-century French alchemist and author of Livre des Figures Hieroglifiques, “The Book of Hieroglyphic Figures.” It is unclear whether Habraham was an observant Jew, a convert to Christianity, or simply a pseudonym for an anonymous alchemist who wished to give his writings greater gravitas by linking them with the Jewish occult. SEE ALCHEMY..

Hadraniel: ( 59734). “Acclaim of God.” An angelic guard who first challenged then guided Moses in his ascent into heaven (PR 20.3; Zohar II:258a). His voice carries across 200,000 firmaments. Lightning springs from his mouth (BhM I:59). He also appeared to Adam to caution him about revealing the secrets of a book of power, either Sefer Raziel or the lost book of Adam. (Zohar I:55b).

Hadumiah: ( 59749). A seraf that governs Rakia (ZCh Ruth 82:3).

Hafuch: (59752). “Turn [Around].” A word or phrase revealed by rearranging the letters of another word; an anagram. For example, mishnah (the oral traditions of the Torah) can be rearranged to spell nishama (Soul), teaching that learning the opral Torah is the key to eternal Life. Perhaps the earliest recognized anagram is in the name Noach (Noah), which not only means “comfort,” but when its Hebrew spelling is reversed (chet-nun), it means “grace.” Both themes are central to the Noah saga.

By Talmudic times, finding an anagram in a word was an accepted hermeneutic strategy for reading Scripture. It also became a feature in medieval poetry. Anagrams appear frequently in Kabbalistic thought and can also be referred to as temurah. Thus in Lurianic systems, the names of God are combined and recombined into meditative phrases. SEE ABBREVIATIONS; ENCRYPTION.; GEMATRIA.

Hagar: The handmaiden of Sarah (Gen. 16-22). She encountered an Angel after she was expelled out of Abraham’s encampment. According to the Midrash, she and Abraham were reunited at Sarah’s death, for the Rabbis identify her with the woman named Keturah mentioned in Genesis 22. Her change into a righteous woman triggered God to change her name (R.H. 16b; Zohar I:133b). SEE ABRAHAM.

Hai Gaon: 10th- to 11th-century leader of Babylonian Jewry. He is notable for providing us with corroborating reports on the existence of Hechalot mystics, magical books such as the Sword of Moses, amulets, other esoteric practices he observed among his contemporaries in his rabbinic opinions on proper (and improper) Jewish observance (known as Responsa). He takes no position on the practices of those seeking mystical ascent but, in general, while he acknowledges the existence of magical beliefs among some Jews, he “finds no truth in the matter” and “the simpleton believes anything.” 1

1. Emanuel & Shoshanna, eds., Newly Discovered Geonic Responsa (Jerusalem-Cleveland: Ofeq Institute, 1995) [Hebrew], 131-33.

Hail: (59754/Barad). Hail is emblematic of divine punishment. It emanates from storehouses in the heavenly abode of Depository. Different texts identify either Yurkami or Baradiel as the Prince of Hail. The hail which fell as a plague upon Egypt was a “miracle within a miracle,” being ice of burning fire that neither water quenched nor heat evaporated. In Gehenna, it hails continuously half the year (Ex. R. 51:7). SEE RAIN; SEVEN HEAVENS.

Hair: (59759/Se’ar). Hair is a symbol and source of power in Jewish tradition. Based on the image of the lover in Song of Songs (chapter 5), which is interpreted as an allegorical description of God, God is often referred to as having “hair” or “locks.” The dew of resurrection clings to God’s hair; one day God will shake it off, reviving all the dead (PdRE 34; Shab. 88b).

The description found in Daniel of God as Atika Yomim, the Ancient Holy One, also elevates the symbolic importance of beards. God has thirteen “curls” in His divine beard, representing the thirteen merciful attributes (Zohar III:131a). These curls are the conduits by which those qualities flow into Creation (Likkutai Torah). Some sources identify the Zer Anpin first described in the Zohar as “God’s beard.” Moses Cordovero spoke of the “mystery of the beard.”

For mortals, hair symbolizes identity, compassion, and vanity. In the case of men, it conveys virility and strength. The Bible forbids Israelite men to “round” the corners of their hair (Lev. 19). Most interpret this to mean men should remain bearded, though others see it as requiring lengths of uncut hair, known as payot.

Nazirites, biblical devotees who desired a higher level of commitment to God, could not cut their hair at all (Num. 6:1-21). Samuel and Samson are two examples of biblical Nazirites. In the Samson narrative, of course, his hair was the reservoir of his supernatural strength (Judg. 16). In Jewish folk custom, the hair of a male child is not cut for the first three years of life, evidently with the idea that it gives the vulnerable child an added measure of protection, and is then only cut for the first time in a ritual, preferably at a place of power, like the tomb of a saintly person. Many Chasids consider the side curls and beard to be so important that they are ready to be martyred rather than allow theirs to be cut.

A woman’s hair is also a source of potency, but in a different way. It is seen as the most visible sign of her sexual power, and therefore must be concealed from all but her husband after marriage (Ket. 2:1; Ber. 24a). Thus the image of women with unbound hair becomes a stereotype for wantonness and danger. In medieval tradition, vampires have the power to fly once they release their hair.

The Zohar uses hair in the practice of physiognomy and regards hair to be a reflection on personal disposition and character (Zohar II:77b). Borrowing from Greco-Roman practice, hair could be used as an ingredient of magico-medical formulae (Git. 69a; Shab. 110a). The most fearsome example of such use would be a curse, or binding ritual, which would require a lock of the victim’s hair.1 Therefore, the proper disposal of hair is critically important. SEEBEARD OF FAITH.

1. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, 119, 197.

Ha’itmari, Elijah: Rabbi and exorcist (Turkish, ca. 18th century). This rabbi-spiritualist interviewed a poltergeist who revealed many secrets of the spirit world to him (Midrash Talpiyot).

Ham: One of the sons of Noah. According to Midrash Tanchuma, Noah did not curse Ham, but his son Canaan. That Ham, Shem, and Japheth have another brother is based on Genesis 9:19-25, where Noah begins his curse poem, “Cursed be Canaan …” Other sources conclude Ham either castrated or sodomized Noah to merit the curse of his son (Sanh. 70a; Gen. R. 36). The subjugation of the Gibeonites, descendants of Ham, in Joshua 9:23 fulfill the curse. In the Zohar, Ham is the personification of the sefirah Gevurah in the generation of the Flood and Canaan the demonic energy that is spawned from the left side of the sefirotic tree (I: 73a). SEE SEX.

Haman: Advisor to the Persian king Ahasuerus and villain of the Book of Esther. As a descendant of the Amalekite King Agag, he was possessed by a metaphysically rooted hatred of Jews, leading him to seek the extermination of the Jews of Persia. According to the Midrash, he was an astrologer who selected Adar as the month for the massacre because no Jewish holiday fell in that month to grant the Jews protective good fortune. Angelsnevertheless helped trip him up in the disastrous (for him) wine party with Queen Esther (Meg. 16a). When his plan failed, he was sentenced by King Ahasuerus to hang, but of all the trees in the world, only the reviled thorn tree would allow him to be hung from its branches (Es. R. 9). SEE ASTROLOGY; LOTS.

Hamnuna Sava, Rav: In Talmud, he is merely another of the Sages. According to the Zohar, on the other hand, he is a heavenly being who descends to Earth disguised as a humble ass-driver and reveals secrets of the Torah to righteous initiates prepared to hear his wisdom. He is evidently the offspring of a monstrous sea creature, perhaps Leviathan (I:5a-7a). He dwelt in heaven until sent to earth, where he is fated to walk until the coming of the Messiah, when he will serve as the Messiah’s footman. He is the author of a lost book, Sefer Hamnuna Sava, which is cited several times in the Zohar (II:146a-b). SEE SAR HA-TORAH.

Hamsa or Chamsa: (59774). “Five.” A hand-shaped amulet. SEE HAND.

Hamshakhah: (59777). “Drawing Down.” Hamshakhah is tapping into the divine effluence. In the writings of David ben Judah Leon, this is the term he uses for prophetic ecstasy (Magen David). The writings of Ezra of Gerona, it is the experience of “feeding” from the Shekhinah (Perush Shir ha-Shirim, comment to 1.7). In later Kabbalah and Hasidism, it becomes synonymous with various aspects of the mystical experience. Most often it is the efflux of thesefirot for theurgic purposes through the performance of a Jewish ritual, especially through the act of reciting a statutory blessings over a person or phenomenon (Ginnat Egoz; Pardes Rimmonim). Unleashing this theurgic power in a Jewish rite is usually a matter of kavanah, of bringing the right state of mind to the ritual.1 SEE THEURGY.

1. Idel, Hasidism, 71-72.

Hand: (59781). The hand is a symbol of strength and action. The Bible speaks of both the hand and fingers of God, though most readers understand that to be figurative language. Still, the hand is a symbol of godly potential. God’s right hand is the manifestation of divine power (Deut. 33:2; Pss. 118, 139). When God’s hand is extended in love, it is the source of deliverance, protections, and revelation (Ex. 6:6, 33:22). Once the Egyptians had experienced the ten plagues, Pharaoh's counselors declared it the “finger of God.” The Sages take this to mean that when God’s entire “hand” is raised against the wicked, fifty plagues are unleashed against them.

Even the number of fingers and joints in the hand conceal secrets of the divine nature (Isa. 51:16; Zohar I:5a). Hands draw down divine energy (Zohar III:195b). They can also be the wellspring of impurity (i.e., masturbation) (Zohar I:129a). According to Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, Adam and Eve were initially protected by a skin made of nail, which disappeared when the first couple sinned, leaving them naked (14).

Ritual immersion of the hands before eating is a fixed rabbinic practice, but in the Zohar it takes on metaphysical consequences: those who fail to wash allow the evil eye or unclean spirits an opening, while washing elevates one to the status of an Angel, with all the protection that entails.

Many Jewish communities arrange the fingers of a corpse awaiting burial to resemble Hebrew letters that appear in the names of God.

Magical uses of the fingers and hand include both rituals and signs to be used against the evil eye. For example, squeezing the thumb with the opposing hand is a prophylactic act (Ber. 55b). While chiromancy is described in theDead Sea Scrolls and the Zohar, palm reading such as is familiar to us today is a form of divination mostly derived from non-Jewish sources, but is given credence in some later writings (Nishmat Chayyim 3, Ma’aseh Book).

The chamsa, a representation of an open hand, is one of the most ancient of Jewish amulets. It is sometimes called the “hand of Miriam” (among Jews) or the “hand of Fatima” (among Muslims). These amulets often incorporate other protective devices, such as verses of Scripture in microscript and/or eyes embedded in the palm. SEE FINGER.

Hanhagot: (59799). “[Spiritual] Practices.” Special spiritual and devotional practices, above and beyond the usual requirements of Jewish tradition, which are taken on by an individual for the purposes of cultivating a higher consciousness.

Hanhagot Tzadikim: This anthology contains the collected hanhagot of the spiritual giants of Chasidism.

Harba de Moshe: SEE SWORD OF MOSES.

Harp of David: David is known as “the sweet singer of Israel” and there are several legends concerning his harp or lyre. With it, he temporarily exorcised Saul’s evil spirit (1 Sam. 16; Pes. 119a). It would play by itself each midnight, rousing David to pray and compose (PdRE 21). The strings of the harp were reputed to be made from the sinews of the ram that Abraham sacrificed on Mount Moriah (Ber. 3b). As a sign of eschatological hope, it is taught that this harp, symbolizing God’s promises to Abraham, will be played by David, progenitor of the Messiah, at the resurrection to awaken the dead. A seven-string harp is a symbol of the unredeemed world; eight of the time of the Messiah; the ten-string harp is the instrument of the World to Come (EY 13b). The ten strings are harmoniously attuned ten sefirot (T.Z. 12) SEE DAVID; MUSIC.

Hashbaah: (59801). “Swearing/Adjuration.” A magical adjuration, usually for summoning angels, mostly for protection, often recited at Havdalah, when the week is beginning.1 SEE INCANTATIONS, SPELLS, AND ADJURATIONS;LECHISHAH; SEGULAH Or Segulot.

1. Ginsburg, The Sabbath in Classical Kabbalah, 11.

Hate Spell: A particular type of curse that creates enmity between two people targeted by the adept. Evidently these curses were used to undermine rivals, particularly rivals for love. If one could create hostility between a rival and the person the practitioner desired, this would be advantageous. One can think of it as a kind of aversion-conditioning love spell. The few examples found in Hebrew magical texts (ShR; Cairo Geniza fragments) are by and large identical to such spells appearing in Greco-Roman magical spell books, so the technique may well have been borrowed.1 SEE CAIRO GENIZA; CURSE; INCANTATION; LOVE.

1. S. Ortal-Paz, “An Incantation Bowl for Sowing Discord,” Journal of Semitic Studies 58 (2013): 241-256.

Havdalah: (59796). “Separation.” A ceremony performed to mark the end of the Sabbath at sunset on Saturday. It involves a cup of wine, inhaling aromatic spices, and a candle that is extinguished in the wine to mark the end of the holiday. The origins of the ritual are said to go back to Adam who, experiencing terror at the first sunset, received from God the gift of fire, over which Adam uttered the first blessings. The Messiah will first appear at Havdalah.

As the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the week, Havdalah is a time of transition, an ideal time to utter supplications and incantations for protection, healing, love, and good fortune:

This is the Havdalah of Rabbi Akiba against all witchcrafts and against injury from an evil spirit, or for [one] who his woman is forbidden to him, or to open a heart … And after he has received the cup, he will speak beginning from “A song of David: Ascribe to the Eternal, O divine beings …” the entire psalm, until “may He bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29). [Then he will recite] “Untie the fetters of wickedness, loosen the binders of tyranny, and send away liberty crushers and all oppression be cut off.” [angel names recited …] (Havdalah de-Rabbi Akiva 1)

Closely connected to the theme of love, young women who gaze at the light of the Havdalah candle reflected in their wetted fingernails can see the face of their future husband. Touching those same hands to the eyelids brings good luck.1 Allowing the candle to burn down entirely before extinguishing ensures a good spouse for a daughter. Wine used in Havdalah can heal ocular ailments (Mid. Teh. Ps. 32). Sprinkling the wine on the table ensures a week of bounty. It can also have detrimental effects if abused. SEE RITUAL.

1. Ginsburg, The Sabbath in Classical Kabbalah, 257-63. Also see E. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices: Mystical, Magical, and Pietistic Dimensions in the Tosafist Period (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2000).

Havdalah de-Rabbi Akiva: A guide to a theurgic ritual to be used during the Havdalah ceremony, it contains elaborate add-ons to the halachically mandated Havdalah ritual, including angel-invoking anti-demonic adjurations similar to those found on incantation bowls:

By means of the angels of Adonai is a bright leopard burst. I adjure and I surely bind and I surely cut off, I surely forswear against a[ny] spirit or demon or shade or spells or bindings or charms, evil acts or an evil eye, or any bad women, or any evil word, or any evil creation (woe) that is in the world; you will clear away and cancel from the 248 limbs of Peloni bar Peloni, from this day and beyond in the name of Adiriron, Adonai Tzevaot, Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, amen, amen, amen, selah!

The language often parallels the rhetoric of magical manuals. Most Jews who possess this book keep it as a segulah, an amulet. Rather than read from it or perform the rituals, the book itself is thought to have a talismanic function.

Hay: (59812). The fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It has the numeric value of five. It is one of the three letters that form the Tetragrammaton. According to Kabbalah, God created the Earth with the letter hay. When God changed Abram’s name to Abraham by adding a hay, it signified that the world was created for the sake of Abraham coming into it (Zohar). Similar name changes occur for Sarah and Joshua.1

1. Munk, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, 85-93.


Healing: (59818/Refuah). “Whatever is effective as a remedy is not witchcraft” (Shab. 67a). Preventing and curing illness and disease is a universal human preoccupation. Jews have been tremendously influential in the history of Western medicine and their reputation as formidable healers reaches back into Classical Antiquity.

In the Bible, God is the most often identified source for disease and healing (Ex. 15:26), and the most common cause for God sending disease is sin (Deut. 28:27). God flatly declares, “I wound and I heal” (Deut. 32:40). It would have been logical, therefore, to conclude that human medicine and healing are actually contravening the divine will.

Jewish tradition does not accept this line of argument, however (Shab. 82b), and instead argues that the human attempts at healing are analogous to the human cultivation of the Earth: a necessary activity if human life is to thrive (Midrash Samuel 4). The appropriateness of healing incantations is also debated, one side arguing that a variety of healing practices are de facto magic prohibited by the Torah, while others permit any efficacious healing remedy or device. Its effectiveness is its own divine endorsement (Hor. 13b; Shab. 67a-67b; Tos. Shab. 7:21; J. Shab. 6:9). Based on its profound subject matter and life-sustaining intent, sound medical advice is, ipso facto, to be considered Torah:

R. Huna said to his son Rabbah, “Why are you not to be found before R. Hisda, whose dicta are [so] keen?” “What should I go to him for,” answered him, “seeing that when I go to him he treats me to secular discourses! [Thus] he tells me, when one enters a privy, he must not sit down abruptly, nor force himself overmuch, because the rectum rests on three teeth-like glands, [and] these teeth-like glands of the rectum, might become dislocated and he [his health] is endangered.” “He treats of health matters,” he exclaimed, “and you call them secular discourses! All the more reason for going to him.”(Shab. 82a)

Just as Jews believed that illness can have supernatural origins, it can likewise be treated via magical, theurgic, and other supernatural means. In practice, all this has meant that amulets, spells, exorcisms, and potions were a regular part of the healer’s arsenal of treatments.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, evil spirits are regarded as the source of many illnesses; an idea that finds parallels in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s healing ministries. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there exists a fragmentary text (4Q560) that is a collection of protective formulae for fending off demonic attack. Specifically, it deals with protection against fevers, tuberculosis, chest pain, and the dangers of childbirth. Other texts (4Q510-11; 11Q11) deal with the binding of disease-causing demons.

In rabbinic writings the word for epilepsy, nikhpeh, means to be “possessed.” Exorcizing spells are therefore included along with other treatments. The Talmud regards demons as the cause of ocular diseases, food poisoning, and other ailments (Pes. 111b-112a). Witchcraft, spiritual attack by another human being, was also an accepted explanation for disease. In the Talmud an opinion is recorded that “ninety-nine out of a hundred die from an evil eye” (B.M. 107b).

Aside from a wide array of petitionary and intercessory Prayers, Jewish literature preserves a vast list of theurgic and magical methods of healing illnesses, whether or not such illnesses are ascribed to attack by evil spirits. Along with conventional folk remedies involving diet, curative foods (Git. 67b, 69a-70a; Eruv. 29b; A.Z. 28a-b; Ket. 50a; Yoma 83b-84a), exercise and healthful practices, the Sages would prescribe the recitation of Scriptural verses (Deut. 6:4 [the Sh’ma], or Ps. 29, for example) and incantations, called refuot (healings). Talmud Shabbat 66b-67a and Gittin 67a-69a record examples of such healing incantations.

The very act of studying Torah serves as a treatment for illness, according to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (Eruv. 54a). Rabbi Judah declares sacred study “a drug for the entire body.”

Angels, or in a few cases demons, could be invoked to effect a recovery (Shab. 67b; Sanh. 101a). Tractate Shabbat lists the names of the healing angels not included in other sources: Bazbaziah, Masmasiah, Kaskasiah, Sharlai, and Armarlai. Demons, presumably the sources of a given affliction, could be summoned in order that they might be adjured, bound, and/or exorcised.

amulets and talismans were frequently used both as preventatives and as remedies (Shab. 67a), though again, some Sages strongly disapproved of such devices. Tractate Shabbat discusses whether one may go in public on the Sabbath with healing charms (one is permitted only to carry a limited number of things on the day of rest), including locust eggs (for an earache), fox tooth (for sleep disorders), or a nail from a gallows (for an inflammation).

Items imbued with kedushah, spiritual power, such as leftover wine from holiday Kiddush, or olive oil blessed for use in a Chanukah menorah, were also felt to have extra medicinal power. This also raises the point that particular foods and herbs were often suggested to counteract illnesses. In rare instances, this even included non-kosher meats. Mishnah Yoma 8 sets the precedent that non-kosher food may be consumed if it has a medicinal purpose. Examples are given in the commentary to that Mishnah (Yoma 84a) of treatments that include donkey flesh (for jaundice) or dog liver (for rabies).

In the Talmudic age, remedies were mostly based on the principle of similia similibus curantur, using natural materials and treatments that seemed to have some analogous/symbolic association with an illness. An example of this homeopathic approach would be using parts of a bush—think of “burning” bush—to obtain a cure for a fever (Ket. 50a; Git. 69a; Shab. 67a).

This use of material chosen for its “logical” suitability as a treatment dominates in both early Jewish medicinal and magical texts. Occasionally, rabbinic literature will describe a medicinal recipe containing noxious ingredients, such as animal excrement, Earth from a grave, or gall. Poultices, curative broths, and topical mixtures, again frequently crafted from the most unlikely materials, were also common (Git. 68b-69a).

Cupping and bloodletting, well-established traditional treatments of antiquity, continued to enjoy favor, even though the Talmud itself expresses serious doubts about the efficacy of the former.

Faith healing—the belief that certain people had the power to heal residing in their touch—also appears in a famous passage in tractate Berachot. Two Rabbis in particular, Chiyya and Yochanan, were famous for having this healing power (Ber. 5b).

The synagogue of antiquity was not only a place of sacred assembly, but also a center for healing. Some early Church Fathers railed bitterly because their congregants were entering Jewish places of worship in search of treatment for their ailments. These complaints were often accompanied by accusations of Jewish sorcery, which suggests that various forms of spiritual and/or magical healing were common practice.1

By the medieval period, Jewish medicine was increasingly based on naturalistic premises, which is to say that Jews were educated in the Galenic principles of the “four humors” as etiological theory and as a diagnostic tool. Treatments that were more empirically grounded, as opposed to magical and homeopathic, were becoming a larger part of medical practice. In fact, Jews became famous and sought-after as practitioners of scholarly Greek-style healing. Still, whether provided by folk healers or scholastic healers, most medicine continued to be based on a hodgepodge of natural and supernatural assumptions and a mélange of natural and magical treatment regimes.2

Jews were enthusiastic in applying the Arab elaborations on the Greek methods of medicine during the Middle Ages and began making their own unique contributions using the new methods. Outstanding Jewish physicians, like the philosopher Maimonides, championed naturalistic theories of disease etiology and treatment over more fantastic traditional assumptions.

Jews embraced the subsequent scientific revolutions in medicine and as a result, traditional folk healing has been pushed to the periphery of Jewish life in recent centuries. Now it is mostly the domain of communities that resist the influences of modernity, such as the Chasids, or among Oriental Jewish communities that are still only a generation or two away from more traditional folkways. Interest in non-Western healing methods, however, is on the rise, and many Jews are re-incorporating traditional Jewish healing practices of Prayer, healing touch, and herbal medicine into their treatment. SEE PHARMACOPOEIA. ; SEGULAH Or Segulot.

1. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue, 274.

2. Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic, and Science, 26-34. Also see Zimmels, Magicians, Theologians, and Doctors.

Heart: (59826/Lev). In Hebrew thought, the heart is the seat of intelligence rather than emotion. It also symbolizes harmony and the center. The Holy of Holies was called the lev ha-olam, the “heart of the world.” Israel is described as the “heart” of humanity, while the other peoples are the limbs (Kuzari). Judah ha-Levi also compares the two sides of the heart to the tablets of the Ten Commandments (Jer. 17:1; Diwan 2:272), where God’s name is inscribed (Ex. 23:21; Diwan 3:88). Esoteric or paranormal teachings about the heart focus on it as an organ for visionary and prophetic experiences, and usually take verse 5:2 from Song of Songs as the textual departure point. Divine manifestations are perceived through the “awakening of the heart” or the “heart’s eye” (Guide I:4):

My heart has seen You and believes in You as if I had stood at Sinai;

I have sought You in my visions,

Your glory passed over me,

descending upon the clouds. (Diwan 3:65; also see Kuzari II:24)1

In Sefer Yetzirah, the sefirot are contemplated via the heart (1.8). The critical theurgic act of unifying the sefirot occurs in the heart (Perush Shir ha-Shirim). The Zoharic idea that Tiferet is the “heart” of the sefirot.

1. Wolfson, Through a Speculum that Shines, 74.

Heaven: (59830/Shamayim). The abode of God and God’s celestial court. Sometimes, but not always, it is thought also to be the place of Gan Eden, the afterlife abode of the righteous dead. By the Greco-Roman period, it is regarded to be the highest plane in a triune cosmic structure: the heavens, the Earth, and the underworld.

The notion that the heavens themselves are segmented into a hierarchy of seven compartments is a common belief in classical and late antiquity.


A diagram of the heavens from Sefer Raziel

It may have its roots in the seven obvious heavenly structures: the moon, the sun, the planets visible to the naked eye, and the stars, though Jewish descriptions of the seven layers do not generally conform to this purely astronomical scheme of the heavens. Thus in Jewish writings, the planets and stars are generally confined to a single level. Rather, Jewish traditions of the heavenly hierarchy are based on either angelology—segmenting the heavens according the class of angel that inhabits it—or parsing it according to the many unseen heavenly functions and phenomena, like the sources of precipitation, the abodes of the dead, and the celestial residences.1

The idea of heaven being divided into seven precincts first figures in the Apocrypha and in the sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially in the work Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. The names of the seven heavens that are given in Talmud are Vilon, Rakia, Shechakim, Zebul, Maon, Machon, and Aravot (Chag. 12b; AdRN 37). Each level is separated from the other by a distance of five hundred years (Gedulat Moshe).

Re’uyot Yehezkel, an early work of some relationship to the Hechalot literature, offers its own list: Shamayim, Shemei Shamayim, Zebul, Arafel, Shechakim, Aravot, and Kisei ha-Kavod. Yet another list gives the following seven with one add-on: Rakia, Shemei ha-Shamayim, Zebul, Arafel, Shechakim, Ma-chon, Aravot, and Kisei ha-Kavod. According to this text, the eighth heaven is where God abides while not sitting on the Throne of Glory in the seventh palace/heaven. In one aggadah, there are actually seven chariot/thrones, one in each level.

In the Zohar, the seven heavens are equated with the lower seven sefirot (Zohar I:32b, 86a). SEE PALACE.

1. Elior, The Three Temples, 77-78.


Hebrew and Hebrew Alphabet: (59836). Called the Lashon Kodesh, “the Holy Tongue,” Hebrew is considered a supernal language, the language of heaven. One Sage goes so far as to say that angels do not recognize Prayers said in other tongues (Shab. 12b). Hebrew is the language of theurgic power par excellence. The first key to the power of the language, Jewish mystics teach, lies in the Hebrew alphabet:

[T]he letters of the Torah are vessels and chambers of God, and by means of the kavanah, man draws down within them the emanation of the supernal light. (Or ha-Ganuz) 1

The Hebrew alphabet consists of twenty-two letters, all of them consonants (an additional system of vowel symbols was adopted in the Middle Ages).


The Hebrew alphabet

The Hebrew letters have always been accorded special power because God brought the universe into existence through a speech-act (Gen. 1; Ps. 33:6). In the Bible, adding or changing even a letter to a person’s name had the power to change their destiny (Gen. 17:5, 35:15).

In the Midrash, language, the world, and scripture form an overlapping semantic and existential field:

Just as Torah was created by means of the holy language, so too, the world was created by the holy language. (Gen. R. 18.4)

According to the Talmud, Bezalel was selected to build the tabernacle, which was a microcosm of the universe (Num. R. 12:13), precisely because he also knew how to manipulate the alphabet (Ber. 55a; Tanh. Bereshit 5). Many other passages find supernal meaning in the alphabet and even in the shape of its letters (Gen. R. 1:10; Tanh. Bereshit 11). One legend, in which the letters of the Ten Commandments reportedly fly back to heaven when Moses destroys the tablet, illustrates the divine nature of these characters (Pes. 87b).

Sefer Yetzirah further explores the ideas about the supernal nature of language that are found in Talmud. Possibly influenced by Pythagorean mysticism, it teaches that the alphabet, along with the decimal base numbers, are the very building blocks of Creation and that mastery of their esoteric power allows the initiate to likewise create new realities, even animate matter. The esoteric significance of letters is the major concern of several other early mystical texts, such as Shi’ur Qomah and III Enoch, and continues as an ongoing feature of Kabbalistic writings.2 In the Zohar, the Hebrew alphabet is equated with Shekhinah. Out of this, an exalted “word mysticism” emerges:

Just as there are twenty-two letters of the Torah and prayer, so there are twenty-two letters in all the existent things of matter and body, because the world was created by their means … but the letters are clothed in matter … and within the letters, there the spiritual force of the Holy One, blessed be He, is dwelling … (Toldot Yaakov Yosef )

According to this ideology of language, Hebrew, letters are not just instruments, but actual forms of the divine. The unique sanctity and power of the Hebrew alphabet becomes a basis for defending the custom of prayer in Hebrew, even though Jewish law permits prayers to be recited in any language. For the same reason, Hebrew letters are considered important vehicles for meditation. Combining the idea of the alphabet as cosmic building blocks with the belief that each human is a microcosm, Chasidism teaches that every person is made up of the twenty-two letters. Given this reality, when properly “arranged,” a righteous person becomes a logos, an embodiment of God’s word (Sefat Emet, Ekev). Curiously, while a great deal of thought is given to the twenty-two consonents, a parallel metaphysics of vowels, already a well-articulated ideology in Greek thought in antiquity, did not really emerge until the medieval period (Or haShekhal). SEE SPEECH.

1. Idel, Hasidism, 335, 65, 70, 156-57. Also see Lauterbach, “The Belief in the Power of the Word,” 293-300.

2. Janowitz, Icons of Power, 33-61.

Hechalot: (59844). “[Divine] Palaces/Temples.” The first distinctly mystical movement in Jewish history, Ma’asei Merkavah, appeared in the late Greco-Roman period. The many and often fragmentary writings, known as “hechalot literature,” mostly preserved in medieval copies, are the likely literary artifacts of that movement. The central elements of all Hechalot writings are accounts of mystical ascents into heaven, divine visions, and the summoning and control of angels, usually for the purpose of gaining insight into Torah. The loci classicus for these practices is the Chariot vision of Ezekiel (chapter 1) and the Temple vision of Isaiah (chapter 6). It is from this and the many extracanonical apocalyptic lwritingsof heavenly visitations created by Greco-Roman Jewry that Hechalot literature emerges.

The title, Hechalot, derives from the divine abodes seen by the practitioner. In their visions, these mystics would ecstatically project themselves into the higher realms and journey through the seven stages of mystical ascent: the seven heavens, usually experienced as a celestial palace or Temple compound, and seven throne rooms.

Such a journey is fraught with great danger, and the adept must not only have made elaborate purification preparation to approach God, the essence of purity, but must also know the proper incantations, seals, and angelic names needed to get past the celestial guards, as well as know how to navigate the various forces at work inside and outside the palaces.

The literature sometimes includes fantastic and baffling descriptions of the precincts of heaven and its awesome denizens. The highly literal and overly explicit images of heavenly objects and their numbers (“four thousands of thousands of fiery chariots and ten thousand fiery torches amidst them …”) common to this literature are probably meant, reductio ad absurdum, to convey the truly ineffable nature of the ecstatic experience. The literature is overwhelmingly a rhetoric of symbolic analogy.

At times, heavenly interlocutors will reveal secrets of the Torah. In some texts, the mystic’s interest centers on the heavenly music and liturgy, usually connected with the angelic adorations mentioned in Isaiah 6:3. Both those who wrote Hechalot texts and those who later used them in their ascents would describe the music and Prayer language they heard while in the heavens. The mantra-like repetitive nature of many of these compositions seems meant to encourage further ascent.

Literary works that have survived in whole or in part include the texts known as Hechalot Rabbati, Hechalot Zutarti, III Enoch, Ma’aseh Merkavah, Masechet Hechalot, Chatom ha-Merkavah, Otiyyot Rabbi Akiba, and possibly reiyot Yehezkel. In addition, there are many fragmentary manuscripts that seem to belong to this genre, along with some magical texts, but the exact relationship of such texts to Ma’asei Merkavah and to each other is often not clear. SEE PALACE.

Hechalot Rabbati: “The Greater Palaces.” This is perhaps the most intact surviving document of merkavah mysticism. This work describes the methods and experiences of ascending into the seven heavens. The work gives a detailed account of the perilous progress of a living Soul negotiating its way through heaven, including descriptions of the angelic guards and how to get past them, the many hazards, and what one could expect to see. In this work, the princely angel Anafiel serves as the guide to Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha, the narrator and presumed author. Hechalot Rabbati concludes with an apocalypse in which heavenly mysteries are revealed. Some versions have an additional material on the Sar Ha-Torah appended. This book has been highly influential in some branches of Jewish mysticism, particularly on the German Pietists and on the Spanish Kabbalist, Joseph Gikkatilla. SEE ENOCH, BOOKS OF;ENOCH THIRD BOOK OF; HECHALOT.

Hechalot, Sefer: Alternate title for the book also known as III Enoch. SEE ENOCH, BOOKS OF.

Hechalot Zutarti: “The Lesser Palaces.” A work of merkavah mysticism that has survived only as manuscript fragments and quotations found in other writings. Its major theme is expounding on the account of the four Sages. SEEHECHALOT.

Helios: The Greco-Roman god of the sun, and equivalent of the Egyptian god Ra, makes several appearances in Jewish contexts, a surprising phenomenon given that the Mishnah expressly forbids a Jew possessing celestial objects that could be construed as “religious.” Most notably, he is clearly represented at the center of a mosaic zodiac on the floor of the Beta Alfa synagogue, an excavated Byzantine synagogue in northern Israel. Just as puzzling, Helios is included in adjuration texts that appear to be part of the Hechalot corpus, most famously in Sefer ha-Razim, which reflects a deep interest in the power of the sun.

Scholars are divided on what the presence of Helios means. Some argue this indicates that the Jewish communities that produced these were out-and-out syncretistic polytheists, fusing the worship of the God of Israel with Roman paganism. Other scholars, perhaps the majority, think these references to Helios signal a kind of tolerant Jewish “inclusive monotheism,” more common than might seem intuitive, in late antiquity, in which pagan deities are demoted to the status of Angels, but are still counted as parts of the host of heaven. This latter theory is made for attractive by the fact that the Greek spelling, HLYWS, contains the letters YHW, an abbreviated form of the Tetragrammaton. Elsewhere we see lists of angels with the four-letter name of God embedded in their monikers, so Helios may have been regarded as on par with those celestial servants.1

1. Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic, 251-252.

Hephzibah: The mother of the eschatological Messiah. Mentioned only in Sefer Zerubbabel, she is credited with playing a significant role at the end of times (beyond giving birth to the Messiah). A messianic warrior in her own right, she will slay two kings by wielding the wondrous rod of Aaron.

Herbs and Vegetables: As in most world cultures, Jews have used herbs for far more than dietary supplements and flavoring. Selected herbs are common ingredients in medicines, potions, and poultices (Pes. 42b; J. A.Z. 2:2). Medicinal uses for herbs found in the Talmud include the following:

Asparagus: Beer or broth made from it is beneficial to both heart and eyes

Beets and onions: Good for general healing

Bitter vetch: Good for the bowels

Black cumin: Eases chest pain

Dates: For hemorrhoids and constipation

Garlic: Improves virility, increases circulation, and kills intestinal parasites

Lentils: Prevent croup

Milt: For teeth

Mustard and asparagus: General preventatives

Radishes and lettuce: Aid digestion

Small cucumbers: A laxative

In addition to these, some herbs were thought to have influence over supernatural forces. Fennel, for example, was prized for driving away evil spirits. Jewish magical texts of antiquity, like their Greco-Roman counterparts, used herbs in magical concoctions (ShR). Josephus, in particular, devotes considerable discussion to a mysterious “baras root” that had the power to “draw out” possessing demons (War 8.46-49). Mandrake has been an ingredient in love potions since biblical times (Gen. 30).

While most modern Jews no longer look to the herbal healing methods of their ancestors, there is a renewed interest in the topic, and some herbal treatments are enjoying a revival. SEE FOOD.; HEALING; PHARMACOPOEIA.

Hermes, the Books of: A collection of forty-two books attributed to either Hermes/Thoth, the Greek God, or Hermes Trismegistus, the mythic founder of the discipline of Alchemy. Most, if not all, of the books so identified were actually composed by anonymous theurgists, mystery cultists and mystics, some of which may have been Egyptian Jews.1 SEE ALCHEMY..

1. Patai, The Jewish Alchemists, 403.

Heschel of Opatov, Abraham Joshua: Chasidic master (Russian, ca. 18th-19th century). Rabbi Joshua was a noted Chasidic Kabbalist who taught the doctrines of reincarnation and regarded himself to have been reincarnated several times, including one incarnation as a High priest of ancient Israel.

Hexagram: Six-angled or six-cornered shapes are used throughout the world as a talisman against evil. In Judaism, the six-pointed Magen David is the religion’s most distinctive modern symbol and a frequent seal incorporated into protective amulets.SEE SEAL, MAGICAL.

Hezekiah: King of Judah of the Davidic Dynasty (726- 697 BCE). One of the few kings to earn God’s favor, Hezekiah enjoyed the counsel of the prophet Isaiah and merited a miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian armies of Sennacherib, which were smitten by angelic forces (2 Kings 17).

Hezyonot, Sefer ha-: “The Book of Visions.” A kind of spiritual memoir and dream diary of Chayyim Vital , it contains some of Luria’s teachings on reincarnation, along with Vital’s accounts of ghostly possession, his personal visions, psychic experiences, encounters with mantics, and other mystical phenomena. The book offers an unusual window into the social world of a 16th-century Kabbalist.

Hillel Baal Shem: (Russian-Polish, early 18th century). An itinerant folk healer and amulet maker, one of the notable baalei shem who arose in Europe prior to the development of Chasidism. He is the author of the segulot manuscript, Sefer ha-Cheshek, and a work that instructs on metoposcopy, chiromancy, and exorcism, as well as magical formulae, as remedies for ailments.

Hillula: (59877). “Wedding.” Also ziyara (Arabic, “visitation”), aliyah ha-regel (Hebrew, “pilgrimage”). Celebrations held at the gravesides of venerated scholars, rabbis, and faith healers. Largely unknown in Talmudic times, the custom arose in the Middle Ages, coinciding with the rise of saint veneration in Christian and Muslim societies.

There are appointed “holidays” (a yom hillula) for some figures, often on the yahrzeit, the anniversary of their death, which since the transfiguring death of Simon bar Yochai, has been referred to as “the Wedding.” The most famous such day in Israel is the Lag B’omer (33rd Day of the Omer Count) hillula at the Safed grave of Rabbi Shimon, the Talmudic Sage, mystic, and purported author of the mystical tract, Sefer Zohar. Others include Choni ha-Ma’agel, the Talmudic rainmaker buried in Hatzor, the medieval healer Meir Baal ha-Nes in Tiberius, and Baba Sali, a modern folk healer, in Neivot.


Jews celebrate Hillula of Shimon bar Yochai—Photograph by Yolan Haik, with permission
of the Israel Government Press Office. Photograph from Israel National Archive.

These events are lively social gatherings, freely mixing religious, commercial, and party atmospherics, with food, drinking, bonfires, marketing, worship, dancing, and Bar mitzvah celebrations. They also are the focal points for a widespread belief in miracles. Like Lourdes, these sites will attract pious petitioners seeking spiritual intervention for health, fertility, marital problems, and the like. Offerings are made—sacred books, bottles of olive oil and liquor, Candles (often tossed, or hurled en mass, into a huge brazier)—in hopes of soliciting a divine response.

Hiner Plet: “Catatonic.” A deathlike trance state. Certain people would be stricken by a hiner plet, only to awaken with occult knowledge about the sins and transgressions of neighbors in the community. demons and punishing spirits were assumed to be the source of this secret knowledge (Sefer ha-Hezyonot; ShB 20).1

1. D. Ben-Amos and J. Mintz, In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov [Shivhei ha-Besht] (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1970), 34-35; Goldish, Spirit Possession in Judaism, 259-261.

Hiram: King of Tyre (ca. 7th century BCE), he is not to be confused with the donor/architect of the same name who constructed Solomon’s Temple:

And King Solomon fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in brass. (1 Kings 7:14)

This description, with its references to wisdom, insight, and skill, serve as the starting point for esoteric speculation about Hiram. Furthermore, the later Hiram is condemned by Ezekiel for claiming to be god. Sages merge the King Hiram of Solomon's time and the King Hiram of the 7th century condemned in Scriptures, insisting that they were in fact one and the same.


Hiram was tormented for his crimes.

According to Midrash, God had granted him exceptionally long life, but this only led the king to think of himself as a deity. According to Baba Batra 75b, it was God’s foreknowledge of Hiram’s arrogance that made the deity ordain Death for all humanity:

Rabbi Judah said in the name of Rab, “God said to Hiram: When I created the world, I looked and observed that you would rebel, thinking yourself a god. I therefore created holes and apertures in men.” And according to others he said: “I saw that you would rebel and therefore decreed death over Adam the first person.”

His hubris drove him to build a fabulous structure upon the sea, an inverted pyramid, which he dubbed the seven heavens. God’s punishment for his arrogance was that he was overthrown by his own son-in-law, Nebuchadnezzar, who then forced Hiram to eat pieces of his own flesh until he died. The structure he built, on the other hand, was drawn intact down into the sea and will re-emerge in the Messianic Age. Another legend tells of him being brought alive into heaven like Elijah, only to be expelled into Gehenna after he showed the poor judgment to declare himself a god once he got there (Gen. R. 9:5; B.B. 75a; Yalkut Lech Lecha 247; BhM 111-12).

Hisda, Rabbi: Talmudic Sage (ca. 3rd-4th century). The leading oneiromancer in the Talmud, he expounds many of the axioms that have become the principal assumptions of Jewish dream interpretations (Ber. 55a). He also taught that the Soul of the departed lingers over its Body for seven days (Shab. 152b). Concerning his own death, his devotion to study made him immune to the Angels of Death, who had to break his phenomenal concentration before he could claim Hisda’s soul (Mak. 10a).

Histakelut: ( 59897). “Vision.” A vision experience, perhaps entailing a meditative technique involving creative visualization (Synopse #81; Zohar II:82a, 217a, 218b).

Hitbodudut: (59899). “[Self] isolation.” This term can refer to either physical isolation before God (Likkutai MoHaRan I, 52), or mental concentration (Kad Kemach Torah 427). In both cases, it is used in relation to meditation techniques. The term is used in radically different ways. Isaac of Acre specifically identifies it with the technique that Ben Azzai used when he “looked and died” in his exploration of Pardes, making this a very fraught enterprise (Otzer Chayyim). Nachman of Bratzlav is the most famous advocate for this practice, and his version of the technique does not seem so potentially lethal.

Hitkasherut: (59926). “Attachment.” Originally meaning “binding” in the contractual sense, this word came to be the term used for the spiritual practice of concentrating on words in order to unleash their spiritual and/or theurgic potential, or it can refer to the special bond formed between an esoteric master and his disciple. SEE KAVANAH.

Hod: (59924). “Majesty.” The eighth of the lower sefirot, it works in concert with Netzach to bring forth Prophecy—knowledge of divine purpose—in the lower worlds (Zohar I:203a). It is personified by Aaron. The meaning and role of this sefirah is one of the least explored or explained in the sefirotic system.

Hollander, Isaac, and John Isaac: Alchemists (Dutch, ca. 15th or 16th century). These two men, known only through their writings, De Triplici Ordine Elixiris et Lapidis Theora and Opus Saturni, were highly influential on later practitioners of the Great Art. Their collected writings were published in the 17th century under the title Isaaci et J. I. Hollandi Opera Universalia et Vegetabilia sive de Lapide Philosophorum. SEE ALCHEMY..

Holy of Holies: (59922/Kodesh Kedoshim, also Lev ha-Olam; Devir). The Holy of Holies is the innermost sanctum of the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant resided. It was hidden behind a curtain and the High priest alone would enter it, and then only once a year, for the Yom Kippur ritual (Zohar III:66b). When King David moved the Foundation Stone into the Holy of Holies, the Sages feared that people might learn how to pronounce the name of God inscribed upon that rock, so they created two bronze guardian lions on pillars by the doorway. When someone entered with the intent of learning the name, the lions would roar, and the terror of the experience would blot the Name from the person’s memory (PdRK 148a). The lions were no longer part of the Second Temple edifice, which is why it was possible for Jesus to steal the explicit name of God and use it for magical purposes (Toldot Yeshu). The Holy of Holies takes on an erotic connotation in the Midrash and Kabbalah, which describes it as the “Wedding chamber” of God and Israel (Tanh. B. folio 17; S of S R. 3:15-19). In Zohar, it is interpreted to be the “womb” of the divine feminine (III:296b).

Holy One, Blessed or Blessed be He: (59920/ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu). In rabbinic parlance, this is a common honorific for God. Often it is abbreviated as HKB’H. In the Zohar, however, the term specifically refers to the masculine dimension of the Godhead and is the divine name referring to the sefirah of Tiferet (I:178b; 195a).1 The theurgic goal of all mystical practice is to reunite Tiferet with its divine-feminine counterpart, Shekhinah. This is the basis for the kavanah Prayer that is frequently used in Hasidic circles before performing a mitzvah:

[I perform this] for the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed be He, and His Shekhinah, to unite the name Y-H with V-H in a perfect union, in the name of all Israel.

1. Green, Guide to the Zohar, 47.

Holy Sparks: SEE NITZOTZ.

Holy Spirit: (59918/Ruach ha-Kodesh, 59929/Ruach Elohim). The immanent presence of God in Creation and in the individual; enthusiasm (in the original Greek sense of the word, “filled with divinity”). It is the divine Presence that inspires individuals, such as David and Bezalel, to create sacred words and art (Me. 7a; PdRE 4; PR 3:4; SY 1:6-9, 6:1).

The Talmud teaches that many biblical figures not identified as Prophets in the TaNaKH, were in fact, seers. This status is merited because they conversed with divine entities. Citing the example of Sara, Rabbi Isaac states “she observed the divine will by means of the Holy Spirit” (Meg. 14a). Leviticus Rabbah 1:3 also declares the Holy Spirit the mechanism for visions, Prophets would observe [visions] by means of the Holy Spirit.

Moses was clothed in the Holy Spirit, continuously, granting him perpetual prophetic powers (Kitvei Ramban 2:297). It can also be a conduit for divine power; those who are possessed of the Holy Spirit have the power to revive the dead (M. Sot. 9:9; A.Z. 20b). There was controversy among the Talmudic sages as to whether prophecy continued to function in their own days as it did in biblical times.

Various forms of Jewish mysticism equate it with different aspects of the Godhead. Sefer Yetzirah links it with divine speech and the upper sefirot; the Zohar equates it with Shekhinah (I: 79a; II:43b).

Medieval thinkers continue the Talmudic controversy over whether the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit amidst Israel still allows the possibility of true prophecy and knowledge of the divine will. Thus Hai ben Sherira Gaon (10th century) argues the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit amidst Israel makes the prophetic experience still attainable. In the Kuzari of Judah Ha-Levy, the Holy Spirit is the substance which serves as the substrate of the Kavod, the divine Glory that makes God apprehensible to mortals (II:4). Likewise, it is from the Holy Spirit that Angels, another visible manifestation of divinity, are formed (IV:25).

Chayyim Vital , the great systemizer of Isaac Luria's mystical teachings, returns to distinguishing the Ruach ha-Kodesh, which is attainable, from prophecy, which is no longer possible. According to Vital, the Spirit is what triggers embodied inspiration; it does not cause the “Soul to leave the Body.” By contrast, the spirit of prophecy separates the higher soul from the body in order to disengage the human imaginative faculty and allow for a purer perception of divinity. Vital lists five forms that the Holy Spirit can take—a supernal light in the soul; an angelic possession; a visitation of Elijah; an ibbur (a beneficent spirit-possession by a dead saint); a dream-vision. These claims are based on kabbalistic tradition rather than an appeal to biblical prooftexts. SEE GLORY; RUACH ELOHIM.

Hoopoe: (59940). A mythical ferocious bird that guarded the Shamir worm until Asmodeus helped Solomon steal it (Git. 67a-b; Legends of the Jews, 32-33).

Hormin: A demons, one of the children of Lilith. He possessed extraordinary speed. He was executed by the demonic authorities for making his presence visible to mortals (B.B. 73a).

Horn: (59942/Karan). In Judaism, a horn is a symbol of power, of alarm, and of otherworldliness. In rabbinic tradition, Cain sprouted a horn from his forehead­—this is the “mark” that God gave him to protect him. As a result, Cain’s semiblind grandson Lemach accidentally killed him because he mistook Cain for a game animal.

In early Christian tradition, Moses was thought to have horns, an idea derived from the language of Exodus 34:29. This idea is even enshrined in Michelangelo’s statue of the prophet. Evidently this is based on a Latin mistranslation of the Hebrew word keren, which can mean either “horn” or “radiate” in Hebrew. This otherwise quaint confusion took on darker overtones during the Middle Ages when Jews were widely regarded to be minions of the Devil. The popular superstition that Jews concealed horns under their hats only added to the atmosphere of contempt and hatred that Jews had to endure. In fact, medieval Jews were required to wear a pileum cornutum, a “horned hat” (it resembled a Chinese “coolie” hat with a spiked peak). In some Christian countries, Jews were further required to affix horn-shaped figures on the doors of their synagogues, or horns were part of the “Jew’s badge” worn on outer garments. All of which served as a kind of dark echo of the myth about the horned murderer, Cain, to whom Jews were constantly compared by Christian exegetes.1

1. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, 44-52.

Horoscope: (59948). Records that use the appearance of the heavens and track the influence of celestial forces as a means to determine one’s character, predict one’s personal future, or diagnose illness. While there is one possible example of a horoscope (4Q186) among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Talmud makes passing reference to birth predictions (Shab. 156a), Jewish interest in casting formal horoscopes is more clearly evident by the medieval period, when examples can be found in the Cairo Geniza. The mania for horoscopes (especially medical horoscopes) that marked the High Middle Ages and Renaissance is also evident among European Jews. SEEASTROLOGY; ZODIAC.

Hospitality: Hospitality is highly valued in Judaism. It is important to show hospitality to spirits. Abraham is famed for the welcome he extended to the three Angels (Gen. 18). There are many legends concerning Elijah that relate the consequences resulting from how particular people treated him when he appeared on their doorstep. The Babylonian Jewish custom of having a dargesh, a spirit bed, in one’s home was a part of this belief. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire would welcome visiting ghosts by setting out chairs for them (Sefer ha-Hezyonot 22). There is also the Sukkot tradition of ushpizin, of welcoming the spirits of the ancestor into the sukkah.

Even demons need to be treated well, if only to prevent them from doing ill to the host. Thus, some amulets actually use the language of hospitality in their adjurations: “If you are hungry, eat! If you are thirsty, come drink! But if you are not hungry or thirsty … go back the way you came …!”

Host Desecration: The pernicious myth that Jews would steal the sacred wafers of the Roman Catholic mass in order to compulsively reenact the passion of Jesus was a popular medieval superstition, one that ultimately claimed several thousand Jewish lives and caused untold Jewish suffering over the centuries. The whole concept grew out of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Catholic belief that the wafer, once consecrated, actually became the flesh of Christ. And as actual flesh, it was popularly believed, it would presumably bleed and feel pain if stabbed or misused.

According to the narrative of Host desecration stories, Jews would steal or purchase wafers through bribes and then stab, crucify, or burn the bread in the service of Satan, their master. Between 1215 (when the doctrine of Transubstantiation was affirmed) and 1600, scores of such accusations were made in communities across Europe, with the result that suspected Jews, even whole Jewish communities, found themselves subject to inquisition, torture, and capital punishment. The Church hierarchy made several attempts to repudiate the calumny, but such efforts had only limited success. The accusation is closely related to the blood libel.

Host of Heaven: (59953/Tzeva ha-Shamayim). A term that can refer either to the stars and constellations or to the angelic court and army. It appears several times in the Bible, often with indeterminate meaning. In the book of Joshua, Moses's successor actually encounters the Sar Tzevaot, angelic commander of the host outside of Jericho (Josh. 3), which in different traditions is identified as either Metatron or Michael.

Hechalot literature starts to fuse the two ideas and by late antiquity, a number of Jewish texts talk about angels as the animating genii of stars and planets. In time, this would lead to the amalgamation of native Jewish angel magic with zodiac-based gentile Hermetic magic. In texts like Sefer Raziel, there is an almost complete fusion of angelic identities with stars and their influence. SEE ADAT EL; ANGEL AND ANGELOLOGY

House of Study on High: SEEYESHIVA SHEL MALAH.

Huldah: This female prophet appears in 2 Kings 22:14 and helps identify a forgotten book of the covenant, probably the book we know today as Deuteronomy. According to the Sages, God gave her the particular mission to prophesy to the women of Israel. She was one of seven female prophets (Meg. 14a).

Hydromancy: (59965). The use of water for purposes of divining the future. There are multiple ways to use water in impetrated divination, such as combining it with oil, or dropping foreign objects in it (think tea leaves). Studying reflections on the surface of lakes and rivers for images, Angels, or omens is the most common form mentioned in Jewish sources. (Gen. 32:33; MdRI 1; Sefer Zerubbabel 1; Reiyat Yehezkel). There is a Greek-Christian text entitled the Hydromancy of Solomon. SEE DIVINATION; LECANOMANCY; RIVERS; SUMMONING.

Hyena: (59967/Tzavua or Napraza). In the Hebrew Bible, hyenas appear alongside satyrs and lilot (Liliths) in a list of evil creatures (Isa. 34:14). According to the Talmud, the hyena is a shape-shifting animal that evolves first into a bat, and finally into a demon (B.K. 15b; J. B.K. 2).