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"Pulsa De-Nura": The Innovation of Modern Magic and Ritual Author(s): Zion Zohar Source: Modern Judaism

"Pulsa De-Nura": The Innovation of Modern Magic and Ritual Author(s): Zion Zohar Source: Modern Judaism, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 2007), pp. 72-99 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4139986 Accessed: 28-06-2016 14:56 UTC

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Zion Zohar



Every year as the fourth of November approaches, the majority of

Israeli society and world Jewry recall one of the most devastating tragedies to take place in the history of the State of Israel. For on

November 4, 1995, a Jewish zealot assassinated the then-Prime

Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin.' The scene is vividly etched in the

collective mind, and the consequences are well known. Yet, what

remains enigmatic is not the question of why the opposition wanted to

prevent Rabin from pursuing his peace initiative, but rather the

question: What motivated a fellow Jew to pick up a gun and kill the democratically elected leader of the State of Israel?2 This question takes on even greater significance when we consider

that traditional Jews are obligated by Jewish law to observe an annual

day of fasting called Tzom Gedaliah, which memorializes the assas-

sination of yet another Jewish political leader, Gedaliah ben Ahikam,

the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, over 2,500 years ago.

Gedaliah's murder was the impetus for the final dispersion of the

Jewish remnant in the Land of Israel and thus, Jewish spiritual leaders

of the past decided to mark it annually as a day of fasting and self- reflection. Two and a half millennia later, the fast is still observed by traditional Jews, indicating how dreadful the impact of the assassina-

tion was upon the nation.:

In view of the tragic consequences of Gedaliah's death, questions

remain: How could such a thing happen again? What were the

circumstances that created the atmosphere allowing such a tragedy to take place in our own time? As we try to uncover answers, we find

ourselves involved in a multi-layered investigation.

In order to understand the atmosphere leading up to the

assassination, we must recognize that overall, anti-Rabin actions were

undertaken by two types of political groups motivated by two distinctly

different underlying principles.4 One group engaged in anti-Rabin

doi: 10.1093/mj/kjl013

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Pulsa De-Nura 73

activities was driven by secular concerns, whereas the other group was

motivated by religious values. While the motives of Rabin's secular

opponents were relatively straightforward, stemming as they did from the political philosophy of Israel's right-wing opposition,5 the motives deriving from religion have been, by contrast, much more difficult to


On the one hand, some religious opposition to Rabin centered

upon halachic (Jewish religious legal) objections to his overtures for

peace with the Palestinians. Such objections were made manifest in

attempts by certain rabbis to determine whether Rabin's political

behavior violated religious law and thus placed him into the legal

category of din rodef 7 and mosser,8 a traitor and betrayer of the Jewish

people. Alternatively, other religious opponents expressed their

objections utilizing a more mystical, magical approach-by performing the "ritual" known as pulsa de-nura ("Lashes of Fire").9

In this article, I intend to make a modest contribution to our

understanding of the events leading up to Prime Minister Rabin's

assassination by tracing the sources and understanding the meaning

behind the magical1o "ritual"" known as the pulsa de-nura,12 which

was carried out by a group of radical, religious Jews with the intent of cursing Yitzhak Rabin to death. Significantly, it is widely believed that

the origin of this mysterious "ritual" stems from The Zohar or some

other ancient Jewish mystical/magical source.13 This article will

attempt to disprove this supposition by critically analyzing all of the

likely sources in the Zoharic literature as well as many sources

from pre-Zoharic literature. However, before delving into a philo-

logical, textual, and theological discourse on this issue, let us first

acquaint ourselves with the ritual itself as well as the events

surrounding its use against Rabin as reported by the media and in

popular literature.

The Pulsa De-Nura in the Media and Popular Literature

In Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin,14 the public

casting of the pulsa de-nura ritual (which occurred about a month

before the assassination) is described by the authors as follows:

[I]n October, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a very different sort of

incident had taken place in front of the prime minister's official

residence in the quiet residential neighborhood of Rehavia [in Jerusalem]. Wrapped in prayer shawls, a handful of Meir

Kahane's disciples had stood in a circle on the sidewalk reciting an

ancient execration known as the Pulsa de-Nura [sic]("Lashes of Fire").

According to a tradition dating to the Middle Ages, if ten rabbis

cursed a man by invoking the formula, he would meet his end within

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thirty days. The leader of the strange group was Avigdor Eskin, who

had come to Israel from the Soviet Union in the early 1970's and

been drawn into Kahane's circle

Rocking back and forth on the

sidewalk that day, he raised his eyes to the prime minister's house

and solemnly intoned the words: "I deliver to you, the angels of

wrath and ire, Yitzhak, the son of Rosa Rabin, that you may smother

him and the specter of him, and cast him into bed, and dry up his wealth, and plague his thoughts, and scatter his mind that he may

steadily be diminished until he reaches his death." As Eskin

declaimed the Aramaic text, the men around him chimed in: "Put

to death the cursed Yitzhak, son of Rosa Rabin, as quickly as possible

because of his hatred for the Chosen People." For the finale, Eskin

filled his lungs and shouted up at the building: "May you be damned,

damned, damned!"'5

Generally speaking, rituals similar to the pulsa de-nura16 belong in the

realm of practical Kabbalah.'7 In contrast to theoretical Kabbalah,

which includes discourses concerning the structure and meaning of

the mystical-divine world, in texts of practical Kabbalah one finds

specific details and instructions on how to achieve some desired

outcome in life. For example, Kabbalistic texts of a practical nature

might include explanations on how to heal a sick person, predict the

future, talk with the dead, induce a person to fall in love with you, rid

a dangerous animal from your village, and the like, by means of

magical rituals.18 The ritual of pulsa de-nura would be'9 the type of

procedure found within the texts of practical Kabbalah, with its purpose being to place a fatal curse upon the intended recipient.

According to the description of the pulsa de-nura "ceremony" cited

above, as well as in other instances where this ritual is found in

popular literature,20 the invokers of this curse petition for two things.

First, they ask the protecting angel of the accursed to remove his

protection (seeing as every person has a personal, protecting angel),

and second, they request that divine angels of wrath take the life

of the accursed.

According to the majority of popular sources,21 this ritual must be

conducted by a quorum of at least ten mystics22 who gather in a

synagogue at midnight after having fasted for three consecutive days. In the shadow of light cast by black candles, the mystics blow a shofar (ram's horn) while intoning the words of the curse in front of an open

ark, followed by the recitation of specific verses from the Book of

Deuteronomy.23 As soon as the curses are uttered, the candles

are extinguished-a sign that the light of heaven has also been

extinguished for the accursed.

In keeping with these sources, in order for the ritual to be

performed successfully, the participants need to know the exact name of the guardian angel of the accursed, since an essential part of the

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Pulsa De-Nura 75

ritual is directed at that particular shielding angel. In lieu of this name,

the curse may be directed upon the angel in charge of the month in which the accursed was born. Using various formulas that include the holy names of God and the angels,24 the casters of the curse request divine help for what they perceive as their holy quest. Allegedly, this

ritual creates the necessary amount of negative energy to kill the

accursed within thirty days.25

One crucial caveat of the curse, however, is that under certain

circumstances, it could backfire upon those casting the curse, causing death to either themselves or a family member. Indeed, because the

ritual's release of powerful energy must be fulfilled in one way or

another, when the desired outcome does not take place, it is believed

that the curse must deflect upon one of the curse casters or his family.

Such an incident might occur if, for example, the accursed possesses

a good lineage, is known to be a righteous person, or has many merits

in this life or in past incarnations.26

This is, in short, the description of the ritual pulsa de-nura as

portrayed in the media and in some popular publications. Certainly,

it contains a very powerful and fascinating story with especially

compelling elements-a synagogue at midnight, ten mystics standing in

front of the open ark bathed in the shadows of light cast by black

candles, the eerie wail of the shofar (ram's horn) as it pierces the

gloomy night, and so on.

Second, it features evocative content-a dangerous magical

formula filled with references to angels, sinners, harsh curses, and

the conflict between good and evil. In short, it is a very tempting ritual

for the masses to believe in and for journalists to report. Overall, it would seem a perfect fulfillment of common preconceptions regard-

ing the dark, "medieval" aspect of Jewish mysticism. Perhaps most surprisingly, and certainly more problematic, is that

this account infiltrated not only popular culture, but the academic

world as well." To grasp how deeply this narrative has influenced leading scholars, two descriptions of the ritual as found in works

published by fine academic presses are presented below.

The Pulsa De-Nura within Academic Research

In his book Liberal Democracy And The Limits Of Tolerance,28 Professor

Raphael Cohen-Almagor,29 Director Of The Center For Democratic

Studies At The University Of Haifa and a professor in the Department

of Communications, recounts:

The last example of incitement concerns a religious curse called pulsa

denurah. In October 1995, on the eve of the most sacred day in the

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Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, a person named Avigdor Askin,

together with some other people, distributed this curse, which was composed by three Cabbalists (mekubalim) against Prime Minister Rabin. Mr. Askin was photographed30 during the recitation of the

pulsa denurah prayer outside the prime minister's official residence in

Jerusalem. The prayer called on Rabin to cease his wrongful deeds in

this world; it was recited in the presence of media reporters who

were invited to the scene to publicize the ceremony and to deliver an

inciting message to the public. The message was that Prime Minister

Rabin could not escape the death curse that was placed upon him

because of his evil policies. In effect, Rabin's blood was allowed. This was a provocative measure calling for his death.31

The late Ehud Sprinzak, professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University and a world-renowned scholar on terrorism and religious

radicalism,32 also repeats this dramatic story. In two of his accounts on the pulsa de-nura, we find parallels to the aforementioned descriptions

of the ritual. In his article "Israel's Radical Right and the Countdown to the Rabin Assassination"33 he writes:

On October 6, 1995, just two days after Yom KippurS4, an odd group

of extremists gathered in front of the prime minister's Jerusalem residence. The purpose of the meeting, convened by Avigdor Eskin,

a former Kach activist, was to conduct the traditional pulsa di nura

rite against Yitzhak Rabin. Pulsa di nura ("blaze of fire" in aramaic) is

the most severe death curse that can be invoked against a Jewish

sinner. The invocation of this mystical penalty is rare and done, if at

all, by Kabbalistic rabbis. The curse rite is so rare and mysterious that

it is not even written down. The rules of its execution are said to be

passed orally from father to son and are not a simple matter. Ten rabbis and community heads must convene in a synagogue, fast for

three days, and then say the curse at midnight. The curse is

considered dangerous because, if made against an innocent person, it ricochets against the cursers. The curse text,"5 uttered after a long

ceremony focused on a mystical dialogue with the angels of

destruction, reads

requirements of the pulsa di nura were met by the group convened

in front of Rabin's residence. But the fact that Israeli citizens,

although very few and very extreme, took part in its invocation and

preparation during Yom Kippur was telling. It indicates that the

verbal violence directed at Rabin in the fall of 1995 had become

serious enough to include death wishes. It showed, furthermore, that given the risks involved in a fake pulsa di nura, the rabbis felt very



is not known whether all the formal

Both Cohen-Almagor and Sprinzak's colorful, even mesmerizing,

depictions contain some elements that are certainly fabricated. Popular media knows very well that its audience is thirsty for

information on this sort of dramatic subject, and while ostensibly

committed to presenting the truth, it remains after all a commercial

enterprise that seeks to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

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Pulsa De-Nura 77

However, one generally expects more diligence and attention to detail

from scholars in the academic world. Accordingly, the following

pages are preliminary notes toward shedding greater light on this

important historical event and attempting to set the record straight.

As a starting point, I begin by investigating the following three major


* The term pulsa de-nura and its sources,

* The curse formula and text, and

* The surrounding ritual and all its elements


To properly understand the Aramic term "pulsa de-nura" in its various

contexts, it is essential to trace this concept from its initial

appearances in the Talmud to its subsequent treatment in the mystical

writings of The Zohar. Elsewhere,38 I have analyzed the most important

if its appearances in detail, attempting to comprehend the multiple

meanings of the term. Therefore, I will refrain from a lengthy deliberation on the topic here. My findings may be summarized

as followed:

Pulsa De-Nura in the Talmud

Talmudic sources mention the term a mere four times.39 While in

each case it seems to refer to a punishment of fiery lashes, in context

the term does not seem to be intended as actual or physical

chastisements. Rather, these lashes serve as some sort of metaphoric

or spiritual retribution. Two of the usages are directed against non-

human or celestial beings,40 and the other two relate to human beings.

However, one is directed against a deceased person and the other

against a rabbi by his rabbinical colleague during a heated argument.

The latter is clearly an expression of displeasure and in both cases, the

term is used metaphorically or as a figure of speech. After thorough investigation, we can categorically state that the

ritual formula recited by the group of so-called "Kabbalists" in front of

Prime Minister Rabin's house in November, 1995 as well as the one

used against Prime Minister Sharon in the old cemetery of Rosh Pina on July, 2005 are not found in Talmudic literature whatsoever. While

the term pulsa de-nura is utilized in Talmudic texts as an instrument

of punishment against sinners, in every case it is meant to be taken in

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a metaphorical, rather than realistic sense, and primarily seems to

apply to non-living/non-humans in any case.

Pulsa De-Nura in the Zohar

The term appears six times in Zoharic literature. It is mentioned once

in its singular form (pulsa de-nura), and five times in its plural form,

(pulsei de-nura). After close textual analysis of the different contexts in

which it is placed within The Book of the Zohar, we found that the term

is utilized in the following manner:

Pulsa De-Nura as an Educational Tool

In the only text containing the singular form of pulsa de-nura,41 the

author attempts to understand the idea of fear, specifically fear of

God, within a mystical framework. Reading the passage in its proper

context, it becomes clear that pulsa de-nura is meant to serve as an

educational tool encouraging fear of God, which in turn, eventually leads to a love of God. Thus, in the broader context of this Zoharic

discourse, pulsa de-nura is portrayed as a positive tool propelling

people to a higher level of spiritual conduct, rather than as a tool of


Pulsa De-Nura as a Protective Tool

The first instance of the term's use in its plural form42 comprises a

story about Rabbi Simon, the main hero of The Zohar, who travels on a

donkey while two of his students, Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Judah, walk

by his side. As is customary in The Zohar, a whole discussion

concerning the mystical understanding of the Bible ensues during

which the term is used. In this context, the term pulsei de-nura is

understood not as a tool of punishment, but rather as a tool of

protection or as a weapon enabling the angel to accomplish his task, i.e., the task of serving the Shekhinah by keeping all of the external

negative forces from clinging to her.

Similarly, in the second instance of its use in plural form,4 sixty

pulsei de-nura clothe the Shekhinah, serving as her "dress", so to speak, since they surround and shield her at all times. Here, in contrast to its treatment in the Talmud, pulsei de-nura are understood to be lights or

powers that are used by the Shekhinah to reward the angelic being

Metatron so that he may serve her properly. The third mention of pulsei de-nura is found earlier in the same Torah portion of The Zohar," and presents pulsei de-nura or whips of

fire as a manifestation of the Sefirah of judgment (din) in combination

with grace (hesed). While these two sefirot are considered opposites of

each other, they serve the necessary purpose of maintaining balance

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Pulsa De-Nura 79

and harmony in the Divine world. Thus, although the sixty pulsei

de-nura or whips of fire are clearly stated here in connection with

instruments of judgment and severity, they also represent part of the

wholeness of perfection, a very positive image.

Again, we find that pulsei de-nura utilized by the shekhinah do not represent a tool or instrument intended to punish, nor serve as a kind

of curse, nor is it employed in connection with an angelic being.

Rather, the pulsei de-nura contribute to perfection and the implemen-

tation of harmony in the divine world, as well as by extension, the

lower world-our own world here on earth.


In sum, we may conclude that pulsei de-nura-the lashes, whips, clubs, or rods of fire-as they are variously translated from Aramaic, serve a

very different purpose in the texts of The Zohar than they do in the texts of the Talmud. Whereas in the Talmud they function as

a means of punishment, in The Zohar they typically operate in a more

positive fashion as tools of education, protection, and service, which

ultimately lead to and create harmony in the worlds above that

and below.

What makes this specific inquiry most important is the fact that

there exists a widespread belief within the Jewish religious community that the origin of this mysterious "ritual" stems supposedly from The

Book of the Zohar, the central book of Jewish mysticism. This association

with The Zohar imbues it with considerable religious authority

(both mystical and political) in the eyes of those who hold The Zohar in the highest regard. Consequently, a significant amount of power45

has been granted those who have performed this ritual and those associated with the performers; hence, the importance of under-

standing and tracing its true sources.

For this reason, we have critically analyzed all the available sources

relating to the term pulsa de-nura in the Talmudic, as well as the

Zoharic literature in an attempt to disprove the supposition that this ritual is found in either the Talmud or The Zohar. Again, it must be

categorically stated that in no place within the Talmud or The Zohar is

there any discussion or even indication that this term refers to a

ceremony, ritual, or curse whose purpose is to take life, human or


If neither the Talmud nor The Zohar is the source of the pulsa de-nura

ritual, then what is its source? To get closer to answering this question,

let us turn now to the second of the three major components under

investigation-an examination of the textual formula of the ritual.

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The Curse Text Formula

Regarding the text of the curse, there would seem to be no one

specific formula. Rather, there are multiple versions, of which I have

found four so far. Three were directed against the late Prime Minister Rabin and the fourth, against Prime Minister Sharon. Two of the four

seemed to be fragmented, while the other two are more complete.

Needless to say, the availability of several different formulas raises

certain issues of credibility.

Regarding the curse directed against the late Prime Minister

Rabin, one might expect to have a single identical formula cited in all the three reports, but that was not the case. At the very least,

this indicates that the reports are based on shaky foundations, since

logic would dictate that reports of the same event would be consistent.

Although the fourth version used against Prime Minister Sharon was

videotaped and, therefore, is not in question, the three versions

directed at the late Prime Minister Rabin are quite problematic.46

Lacking evidence that might lead us to prefer one version over

another, each are analyzed subsequently.

The first text formula is taken from the book Murder in the Name of

God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin.47 The authors claim that it was used

against Prime Minister Rabin in the fall of 1995:

"I deliver to you, the angels of wrath and ire, Yitzhak, son of Rosa Rabin, that you may smother him and the specter of him and cast him into bed, and dry up his wealth, and plague his thoughts, and

scatter his mind that he may be steadily diminished until he reaches

to death the cursed Yitzhak, son of Rosa Rabin, as



quickly as possible because of his hatred for the Chosen


May you be damned, damned, damned!"48

The second text formula can be found in two different sources with

translations that deviate slightly but are almost identical. Both are

reported by Ehud Sprinzak; one in his book Brother Against Brother:

Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin

Assassination, the other a year later in his article "Israel's Radical Right

and the Countdown to the Rabin Assassination".49 In the latter

account, we find the following updated formula:

"Angels of destruction will strike him. He is damned wherever he

goes. His soul will instantly leave his body

the month. Dark will be his path and God's angel will pursue him. A

disaster he has never experienced will beset him, and all curses

known in the Torah will apply to him."'5

Although both are brutal curses aimed at Prime Minister Rabin, it is obvious that the first and second curses are quite different. The first

and he will not survive

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Pulsa De-Nura 81

part of the first text from "I deliver to you, the angels of wrath and "


is found in one of the central books of Jewish magic from antiquity,

Sepher Ha-Razim.1 The original source for the second text,

as reported by Sprinzak, is still unclear to me.53 Having said that,

the usage in the second reported text (Sprinzak's) of "Angels of

destruction" and the call for the immediate death of the accursed with

the words "His soul will instantly leave his body" are repeated themes

in all of the texts. Moreover, the paraphrased biblical expression

"all curses known in the Torah will apply to him" also appears in three

of the four versions.

Even though the first text is partially based on an authentic

magical source (Sepher Harazim), it is important to stress that the

original citation in Sepher Harazim has nothing to do with the term

pulsa de-nura. Of further interest, the term pulsa de-nura is found

nowhere in Sepher Harazim, which by all accounts is one of the most

important books of Jewish magic.

to "that he may be steadily diminished until he reaches death"

It appears as if these two texts are not two parts of one common

source and that we seem to possess two texts, one from an academic book and one journalistic, which simply report the same event in two

different ways. Again, this divergence casts doubt on the reliability of

these reports. Credibility becomes an even greater issue when we take into consideration that there is still one more formula (at least) that

was reportedly employed against Prime Minister Rabin. This third text differs from the first two, as we shall now see. In the following pages,

I will provide my own English translation in a "critical edition"

format of the last two curse texts, which were originally reported

in Aramaic and Hebrew.55

The third text formula is found in a home-produced, printed

booklet entitled Pulsa DeNura that circulated in limited numbers

among right-wing religious extremists, such as Kach members and the

like.56 The author, Yossi Dayan,57 claims that he used the curse

formula included in the pamphlet against the late Prime Minister

Rabin.58 This third formula appears to be a complete curse, possessing

a beginning, middle, and an end:

And upon that man, Yitzhak, son of Rosa, known as Rabin, we have permission to call upon the celestial beings, and it is permissible for us in this place to demand of the angels of wrath that they run a

sword through this evil man. Furthermore, the Angels of Wrath, who

are earthly messengers, have no authority to be merciful to him and

forgive him his sins. Therefore, all the merits that he acSquired in this

world will be forgotten. And these are the two gates59 that will be

opened in order to kill him for his incitement of the holy people and for delivering60 the Land of Israel to its enemies, the descendents of

Ishmael, may they perish immediately. About this it is written,

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"The Lord will never be willing to forgive him." 61 Rabbi Yose said that:62

"All the goodness of the tree of life will never be given to him, and

nor will he enjoy its fruits. That is [the tree of life] good insight63

without evil whatsoever." As long as no good is bestowed upon him [upon Rabin], the world is blessed, and that is [when] good insight

[is] without evil. May all of the achievements"6 of that one who stands

at the head of the evil government [of Israel] be voided. Of him it

should be said twelve times: "To the men who sit upon the wal/ that they may eat their own dun& and drink their own urine. "65 And until he dies

a strange death, "let every curse66 recorded in the Torah67 come down

upon him.""8 May not even one be omitted.

Note that the first two curse texts were reported by people who were

not involved in the casting of the curse and, therefore, saw themselves

as objective third-parties covering the event for journalistic or

academic purposes. In contrast, this third text formula represents

a first-hand account given by one of the curse-casters himself. In numerous media appearances, Dayan proudly acknowledged his

involvement in performing the ritual and issuing the curse against

Rabin. As Dayan points out in his booklet, the version mentioned

above is the shorter one.69 Be that as it may, the next curse version is

much longer than the third one, and resemblance between the two

is quite obvious.

In contrast to the previous three texts that were used against

P.M Rabin, the fourth pulsa de-nura formula was employed against

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In front of television cameras,

approximately twenty "Kabbalists" conducted the ritual early on the

morning of July 22, 200570 in the old cemetery of Rosh Pina near the

grave of Shlomo Ben-Yosef,71 who was executed by the British

mandatory government for his anti-British and anti-Arab activities.

Based upon a tape of the ceremony that was shown on Israeli

television,72 I have translated the formula as follows:

Here we stand at this time with pure thought "at the spring of water"73

from which prayers issue forth. We offer our supplications before the

Master of earth and heaven, that He will pass judgment against this man. Since, by his hand, he stole and violently robbed the crown74

and stands as the head of the holy assembly of Israel; he is Ariel

Sharon, the son of Vera of the Sheinerman family, nicknamed Arik

Sharon. Each and every one of us "born of a woman" 75 have

permission to call upon the celestial beings; it is permissible for us in

this place to demand from the Angels of Wrath that they run him

through with a sword along with the sinners that are with him.

May the Angels of Wrath, who are earthly messengers, have no

[authority to forgive him for his sins

ing to forgive him." 77 All of his merits from the past will be forgotten;

his countless lies and iniquities-because of them, he should die. As it is written in Kabbalah: "If a righteous person turns away from his


"The Lord will never be will-

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Pulsa De-Nura 83

righteousness and does evi; practicing the very abominations that the wicked

person practiced, shall he do them and live? None of the righteous deeds that

he did shall be remembered; because of the treachery he has practiced and the

sins he has committed-because of them, he should die"78 now, at this time.

"It is not an enemy who reviles me-I could bear that; it is not my foe who

vaunts himself against me-I could hide from him"79 as it has been said: "the

righteous man will rejoice when he sees retribution; he will bathe his feet in the

blood of the wicked. Men will say, 'there is, surely a reward for the righteous;

there is, indeed, divine justice on earth' "80 because he "had strengthened

his hand in the slaying of his brothers,"81 to hand over [limsor]82 to our

enemies the territories from the Land of Israel, "on which the Holy

One keeps His eye from year's beginning to year's end"8, "shall never come

to pass,;" "shall never come to pass," "shall never come to pass."84

And because of this, "God will never be willing to forgive him; for the

anger and fury of the Holy One will rage against that man, and all the

curses85 recorded in the Torah86 will come down upon him, and He will blot

out his name from under heaven."87 And he shall die immediately;

because he has spoken slander "against the Lord our God, who brought

us out of exile and redeemed us out of the house of slavery."88

Elsewhere,89 I have analyzed the manipulative use of biblical verses in the pulsa de-nura curses as a form of hate speech and incitement to violence. Due to limited space, here I will restrict myself to the two

main examples of manipulation found in this formula. In the

quotation above, I have placed all of the biblical references

throughout the text in italics"9 to demonstrate the extent to which

this passage is not based on any Kabbalistic texts, but primarily on

either biblical verses or biblical language. As the extensive italics

clearly indicate, the claim that this is a "kabbalistic" curse, as has been

reported in the print and visual media as well as endless sites on the worldwide web,91 is baseless. Nevertheless, the text's author had the

audacity to make such a claim in the body of the curse text itself by

stating in the second paragraph "as it is written in Kabbalah",

when the text that follows is obviously a biblical verse taken from

Ezekiel 18:24.

The main biblical text that frames the most important part of the

curse and serves as the backbone of the whole formula is a verse from

Deuteronomy 29:19-"The Lord will never be willing to forgive him." The second paragraph of the curse opens with it, and it also serves as

one of the two closing verses for the formula. In the opening, it is

briefly mentioned, is recited in Hebrew and sets the tone. However,

the second time it is used the entire verse is quoted fully, and this time

in Aramaic. The change to Aramaic is likely an attempt to lead the

reader to assume the quotation is taken from The Zohar or some

similar kabbalistic literature. In fact, I found that the source for the

Aramaic quotation is actually an ancient Aramaic text-but not

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kabbalistic in the least. It was taken almost word for word from the

traditional, ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah (known as

Targum Onkelos) on the verse in question, Deuteronomy 29:19. Once again, these curse-casters going to great lengths to bestow a pseudo-

mystical/kabbalistic aura to a text that has almost nothing to do with

mystical or kabbalistic sources.

Overall, this fourth curse formula can be roughly divided into

three types of texts. The first and largest part constitutes direct

quotations from the Bible and the use of biblical language. The second

part refers to Prime Minister Sharon. Finally, only in the third

and smallest part is there a vague resemblance to magic or Kabbalah by way of mentioning "angels of destruction", although the formula

does not even mention the angels by their specific names as

is customary in authentic magical and mystical texts. Ironically, in

many ways, this fourth text formula-the longest and most public

of all92-is the least kabbalistic or magical of all the curse formulas

mentioned thus far.


No less an important feature of the pulsa de-nura is its ceremonial

aspect. Due to limitations of space, I will not elaborate on it at length,

commenting about it only briefly. As detailed in the introduction, the

ritual involved a long list of dramatic and symbolic acts meant to

bestow on it an impression of solemn sanctity, on the one hand, as

well as urgent necessity, on the other. As reported to us, the ceremony

of pulsa de-nura contains all the elements and the structure of a


In an interview conducted by the ultra-Orthodox weekly magazine Sha'ah Tovah, Yossi Dayan attempts to clear up the mystery around the

curse by declaring:

Like any Jew, when he or she encounters a certain problem, they turn

to God and ask to be redeemed by words of redemption and

compassion. It is so with the opposite as well. When there is a person who commits acts that should not be done and betrays his people, we

curse that person

the principle is that we come and say to the Holy

One Blessed Be He: "this man has sinned, transgressed, revolted and

betrayed his people. We testify that he deserves death and he should

indeed die. For that we pray in a meaningful place."94

Indeed, these words clearly emphasize the ordinary act of prayer,

rather than the power of the mysterious ritual that was so much a part

of the media coverage on the curse. This is the testimony of Yossi

Dayan himself, the person who conducted the curse against Rabin

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Pulsa De-Nura 85

as well as Sharon. An echo of this reading can be found in the

introductory comment of the interviewer and writer of the article,

Mr Schiff, when he states: "Rabbi Yossi Dayan, who researched the

topic deeply and also wrote a book on the 'Pulsa Denura,'95 said to us:

'First of all, one should understand what "Pulsa Denura" is exactly' ",96 and then the writer interprets Dayan as saying: "No, we are not talking

about an event with a mystical aura, performed by ghostly images

clothed in black at midnight by the light of candles."97 This denial

of any trace of mystical elements in the curse is repeated throughout

the article.

If this report is accurate, meaning the mystical aspects are in fact absent from the curse ritual, then can we conclude that the media and

the popular literature fabricated the whole thing?

While I cannot elaborate at length, it is sufficient in this context to

state a few key observations. It is possible that the curse casters had no

mystical intention, and one might even take Dayan's testimony that:

"this was merely a prayer" at face value. However, what of the

frequent actions by the curse casters, including Dayan himself, that

involved lights, Torah scrolls, midnight ceremonies, shofar blowing, and the like during the performance of the ritual? While they claim their intention is purely prayerful, their actions point to a different and more sinister intent altogether.

In my opinion, the picture that Dayan tries to portray is far from

being accurate. As I have indicated previously, while the media might

share the blame in promoting the mystical aura surrounding the pulsa

de-nura, the curse casters have made no attempt to correct this impression over the past ten years, and in fact have contributed

greatly to it.98 This burst of seemingly candid revelation on the part of

Mr Dayan in the aforementioned interview likely stems from his

attempt at "damage control" so as not to be charged for incitement by

the authorities. Moreover, it was probably also meant to counter-

balance the strong criticism uttered against him and his compatriots

from within the ultra-Orthodox community.99

Pulsa De-Nura and the Herem (Ritual of Excommunication)

After thoroughly analyzing the multiple formulas of pulsa de-nura and

the ceremonial actions attached to it, nowhere can a connection be

found between the term pulsa de-nura as mentioned in classical sources

and the rituals described throughout this article. If the original,

authentic pulsa de-nura term has nothing to do with the contemporary

ritual called pulsa de-nura, what then is this contemporary ritual exactly? What is its source, and when was the connection to pulsa

de-nura made?

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Unfortunately, there seems to be no simple answer to these

questions. However, we can say that one of the first places in which

this connection appears is in modem time is in the book of Yigal

Arica.0oo Arica boldly links the term pulsa de-nura and the ritual

pulsa de-nura, which those scholars who come after him accept as a

firm reality.101 Furthermore, upon further examination of Arica's description of the pulsa de-nura ritual (as outlined in the introduction

to this article), we find that it strongly resembles the traditional

excommunication ceremony known in Hebrew as herem.

Indeed, it is in the herem ritual that we discover many of the most

dramatic mood setting aspects of the modem pulsa de-nura ceremony,

on the one hand, as well as fragments of the "pulsa" curse texts,

on the other. A significant source for the herem ritual is found in the

book Ozar Dinim U-Minhagim:

"The great excommunication (herem) was held in the synagogue by a

group of people with black lit candles in their hands and with the

blowing of the ram's horn (shofar). Then they pronounce harsh

curses and at the conclusion of the curses, the candles are

extinguished as a sign that the light of heaven has been extinguished and the Lamp of God will no longer shine on the

individual who was excommunicated. The formula of the excommu-

nication varies according to the individual and his sin, but above all

the harshest curse is applied to mossrim.102 A story was told about a


scroll and extinguished candles, etc

court is authorized to be harsh on him

that was excommunicated in the presence of the Torah

Furthermore, the religious

especially in the case of the

mosser, who at times they allowed to be put to death

but Rabbi

Solomon Ben Aderet wrote: 'I have never seen that a sinner was

treated according to [these harsh regulations]

' "103

The history of the herem is long and detailed, stretching back to

biblical times. Since then, the herem has evolved from a relatively

simple concept into a complex ritual with many variations and levels

of severity.I? One should pay close attention to the many significant

points of correlation (indicated by the bolded words in the body of the

text) between the herem ceremony and reports of the modem pulsa

de-nura ritual.105


In sum, in our analysis of classical texts, we found no correspondence between the original term pulsa de-nura and the ceremony known by that name. Furthermore, we found no evidence in these classical texts

of the ritual called pulsa de-nura. Instead, I did notice a distinct

correlation of said ceremony to that of the herem.

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Pulsa De-Nura 87

Therefore, I tend to believe that what we in modem times call the

pulsa de-nura ritual is in actuality a very recent innovation, meant to

serve a specific political purpose. Such rituals against Rabin and Sharon, asserts Menachem Friedman, a sociologist and an expert

on ultra-Orthodoxy, are the mechanisms of the helpless to deal with

their helplessness. "Magic isn't used by the regime or the group in

power. It's used by the powerless. When they do abracadabra

ceremonies it shows that they're terrified. Magic gives them a sense

of power."'106

Because in an open, modem society the power of the herem ritual is virtually non-existent outside the ultra-Orthodox world, what the

curse-casters have done is renew this out-moded ceremony of excommunication by grafting an ancient, seemingly mystical

term-i.e., pulsa de-nura-onto it. If correct, the contemporary incarna-

tion of the pulsa de-nura ritual would then be a prime example of a type of modem myth-creation that attempts, consciously or not, to

follow the ancient pattern of pseudoepigraphy,107 and by so doing,

confers a fresh measure of religious authenticity onto a ritual that had become virtually obsolete.108



As I was preparing to submit this article for publication, I received a

popular, non-academic article from my colleague Yaacov Maoz in Jerusalem on the topic "Who Is Afraid of the Pulsa De-Nura?"

(Hebrew). The article was published in the religion supplement of the

ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpacha (Nissan 2005, pp. 22-26) and written by

Rabbi Dov Schwartz (not to be confused with the Bar Ilan University professor of Jewish thought mentioned below) and Rabbi Moshe Isaac

Blau, an ultra-Orthodox journalist/activist. In spite of what seems to be

certain correct conclusions, the article carries a strong sectarian and

polemical overtone against the Israeli secular public and media. Having

advanced this caveat, I would like to thank Rabbi Blau for his exchange of

thoughts on two occasions concerning this subject-first in the summer of 2003 in which I introduced my intention to publish this article and shared

with him some preliminary findings, and again in August of 2005 during

which we further discussed our thoughts but mainly our differences.

1. This article is partially based on papers I delivered at two academic forums-the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta, Georgia, November,

2003, and the Coolidge Scholars Colloquium, Auburn Seminary,

New York, July, 2004. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all

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who were present at those forums for their valuable feedback and critique.

My deepest gratitude goes to Moshe Idel, Samantha Baskind, and

Yuval Harari, who provided me with a thorough evaluation of this article. Without their help, this article would be lacking essential

information. Words cannot express my thanks for their generosity of

time and of spirit.

2. This year (2005-2006) marks the tenth anniversary of P.M. Rabin's

assassination, and as such, is expected to be filled with ceremonies

commemorating his life. May this article (and another one on a related

topic-forthcoming) be my modest contribution in tribute to Rabin's life,

his sacrifice for peace, as well as his service to the Jewish people and

all humanity.

3. Ironically, Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, is a practicing Orthodox

Jew, and therefore, quite likely observes this day of fasting and reflection

as well.

4. For a similar and more specific division of motivations relating to

the general phenomenon of Right-Wing religious Zionist ties to the

land and the diverse behaviors stemming from these ties, see Dov

Schwartz, The Land Of Israel In Religious Zionist Thought (Tel Aviv, 1997),

pp. 18-20 [Hebrew].

5. Such as that of the Likud Party and its leader at that time,

Benjamin Netanyahu.

6. Attempts to capture the complexity of Jewish fundamentalism can

be found in the many scholarly works published over the past three

decades. See, e.g., Norman, J. Cohen, (ed.), The Fundamentalist

Phenomenon: A View From Within A Response From Without (Grand

Rapids, Michigan, 1990); R. Scott Appleby, (ed.), Spokesmen For The

Despised, Fundamentalist Leaders Of The Middle East (Chicago and London,

1997). In the latter book, see in particular articles by Gideon Aran,

"The Father, The Son, And The Holy Land: The Spiritual Authorities Of

Jewish-Zionist Fundamentalism In Israel," pp. 294-327, and Samuel C.

Heilman, "Guides of The Faithful, Contemporary Religious Zionist

Rabbis," pp. 328-362. More recently, see Gabriel A. Almond, R. Scott

Appleby, and Emmanuel Sivan, Strong Religion: The Rise Of

Fundamentalisms Around The World (Chicago, 2003).

7. Author Samuel Heilman maintains that the following arguments

were circulating in yeshiva circles since at least 1993: "If the withdrawals

[from Judea and Samaria] were truly endangering life, then the Jews

who were making and implementing these life-threatening

agreements might be defined as a rodef

According to Jewish law,

a rodef (pursuer) is someone who threatens the life of a Jew or through

his action puts the life of a Jew in danger

one must, or at least may, kill the rodef and punish the

moyser." Heilman, in Spokesmen for the Despised, (ed.) R. Scott Appelby,

pp. 353-354.

8. In Hebrew, mosser is the term for "one who delivers the Land of

Israel to enemies", and refers to a halachic (legal) category that sanctions

The law asserts that

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Pulsa De-Nura 89

the killing of such a person in order to protect the Jewish community as a whole. A fragment of conversation from the interrogation of the assassin,

Yigal Amir, as well as that of his accomplice is cited here. The same

justification that Amir gives below for murdering Rabin is also articulated

by a leading American Orthodox figure, Rabbi Hecht (see the end of this


"Yigal Amir: 'I would not have done all that I did were it not for my

religious obligation to defend the Land of Israel from the mosser, Yitzhak

Rabin, as explained by numerous rabbis who fear for the fate of the

Land of Israel and the Jewish people. I did it for God, people and

country '

Q: Where did you get the halachic authorization? Yigal Amir: 'From my own knowledge and from religious leaders.' Q: Can you give the names of these religious leaders? Amir: 'No.' Q: Why? Amir: 'Because' Q: Can you state that they were unequivocal in

their decision? Amir: 'Yes.'

During the interrogation of Amir's accomplice, Dror Adani, he said:

'The law of rodef applies to both Rabin and Peres, meaning they are both

deserving of death. If we had seen that Rabin went easily, we would have

continued with Peres

applying to Rabin, that he should be killed

as far as the Shulchan Aruch [the Code of Jewish Law] and the rabbis are

concerned, Rabin was designated a mosser, and as such, he was deserving

of death."' [Originally published in the Hebrew newspaper Yedioth

Aharonot, December 11, 1995.] Taken from an English translation in:

Amnon Rubinstein, From Herdzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism, (New York, 2000), p. 148. Noteworthy also is the statement made by Rabbi

Abraham Hecht, the senior leader of New York's large Shaarei Zion

synagogue' and one of the more prominent leaders of Orthodox Jewry in

America, in an interview on October 9, 1995: "According to Jewish

Halakha, Rabin deserves to die. He who intentionally transfers living

people, money, or property to strangers commits, according to the

Halakha, a crime punishable by death." And he added: "Maimonides

maintained that he who kills such a person is doing the right thing." From

Ehud Sprinzak, "Israel's Radical Right and the Countdown to the Rabin

Assassination," in The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, (ed.) Yoram Peri

(Stanford, 2000), p. 100.

9. This will be described in detail subsequently. Inevitably, some

individuals' anti-Rabin perspective was influenced by both halachic and

mystical paths.

10. Magic has been a fundamental (though often discouraged) practice

within Judaism since antiquity. For a detailed treatment of the subject, see

the works of: Yuval Harari, Early Jewish Magic-Methodological and

Phenomenological Studies, PhD dissertation, Hebrew University of

Jerusalem, (Jerusalem, 1998), [Hebrew]; Harari, "What is a Magical

Text?-Methodological Reflections aimed at Redefining Early Jewish

When Yigal Amir spoke to me of the law of rodef

I wouldn't have done it, but

Magic," in Officina Magica-The Working of Magic, (ed.) S. Shaked

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(Leiden 2005) pp. 91-124; Harari," 'The Opening of the Heart': Magical Practices for Gaining Knowledge, Understanding and Good Memory in

Judaism of Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages", in Shefa Tal Studies in

Jewish Thought and Culture presented to Bracha Sack, (eds.) Z. Gries, H. Kreisel, and B. Huss (Beer Sheva, 2004), pp. 303-347; Harari, "How to

Do Things with Words: Philosophical Theory and Magical Deeds,"

in Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore, No. 19-20 (Jerusalem, 1998), pp. 365-392, [Hebrew]; Harari, "If You Wish to Kill a Person: Harmful

Magic and Protection from it in Early Jewish Magic," in Jewish Studies,

No. 37 (Jerusalem, 1997), pp. 111-142, [Hebrew]; Harari, "Power and

Money: Economic Aspects of the Use of Magic by Jews in Ancient Times

and the Early Middle Ages," Pe'amim, Vol. 85 (Jerusalem, 2000),

pp. 14-42, [Hebrew]; Moshe Idel, "Judaism, Jewish Mysticism And

Magic," Jewish Studies (Jerusalem), No. 36 (1996), pp. 25-40, [Hebrew];

P. Schifer and S. Shaked, Magische Texte aus der Kairoer Geniza, Vols. I-III

(Tiibingen 1994-1999); Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Amulets and

Magic Bowls: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem, 1987);

Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late

Antiquity (Jerusalem, 1993). A more general treatment of the phenom-

enon of Jewish and non-Jewish magic can be found in: Joshua

Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (New York, 1939; reprint

Philadelphia, 2004); Dov Schwartz, Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought (Ramat Gan, 1999); Esther Liebes, (ed.), Devils, Demons and Souls, Essays on

Demonology by Gershom Scholem, (Jerusalem, 2004); and Bengt Ankarloo

and Stuart Clark, (eds.), Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Middle Ages

(Philadelphia, 2001). Regarding the academic construction and the

methods of research of magic, see in particular: Randall Styers, Making

Magic: Religion, Magic & Science in the Modern World (Oxford, 2004).

11. In "Who Is Afraid of the Pulsa De-Nura?," in Mishpacha (Nissan 2005), pp. 22-26, [Hebrew], Rabbis Dov Schwartz and Isaac Moshe Blau

claim that no such ritual as the pulsa de-nura exists. Recently, Rabbi Blau

made the same claim in Aaron Granot, "The Pulsa De-Nura That Has

Never Existed," Mishpacha (July 28, 2005), p. 4, [Hebrew]. As I show here,

the picture is much more complicated and requires a detailed and

nuanced deliberation.

12. In a forthcoming publication, I will explore the connections

between the term pulsa de-nura and other rabbinic and mystical terms in

which the word "fire" is present, such as the term river offire, houses offire,

sparks of fire, swords of fire, angels of fire and the like.

13. Of the many specious assertions, is the one that this ritual

originates in The Zohar. In my conversations with various rabbis, I posed

the question: "What is the source of the pulsa de-nura's ritualistic

formula?" Most replied immediately: "It is in The Zohar." However,

when I asked them to tell me where it is found in The Zohar, the majority

could not indicate an exact location. Those who could cite a particular

passage referred me to a text in which the term pulsa de-nura is found, but in reality does not relate to the ritual/formula that was employed against

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Pulsa De-Nura 91

Rabin. This latter response, given without a sec6nd thought, indicates how

little actual knowledge of the ritual even the most learned religious leaders possess. See also the quote in the body of the text cited from

Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to

Kill Yitzhak Rabin (New York, 1998): "

the Middle Ages, if ten rabbis cursed a man by invoking the formula, he

would meet his end within thirty days

to a tradition dating to



(the emphasis is mine). Here

again the source of the formula is said to be from the Middle Ages though

no proof of this claim has been found. Such an assumption about the

origins of the curse ritual is not only confined to rabbis. In the media as

well as within academic literature, it is almost always described as deriving from a Jewish mystical or Kabbalistic source, though no one is ever able to

precisely cite it. See, e.g., the article by Yaakov Katz, "Rabbi Who Cursed

Rabin Targets Sharon," The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2005: "

the curse

which is based on passages from the Zohar, Kabbala's major work "

(the emphasis is mine). Also E. Sprinzak, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin,

pp. 119-120: "The purpose of the meeting, convened by Avigdor Eskin, a

former Kach activist, was to conduct the traditional Pulsa de-Nura rite

against Yitzhak Rabin. Pulsa di Nura ("blaze of fire" in Aramaic) is the

most severe death curse that can be invoked against a Jewish sinner. The

invocation of this mystical penalty is rare and done, if at all, by

Kabbalistic rabbis. The curse rite is so rare and mysterious that it is not

even written down. The rules of its execution are said to be passed orally

from father to son and are not a simple matter." (the emphasis is mine).

This article will, at the very least, prove this connection to The Zohar


14. M. Karpin and I. Friedman, Murder in the Name of God.

15. Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name of God, pp. 90-91.

16. None of the different scholars of Jewish mysticism and magic that

I have consulted over the last four years concerning the sources of this ritual knew its original source, or if it actually exists at all. In light of

this, I was pleased when my colleague Yuval Harari referred me to a

potential source for a fragment of the formula, which will be explored in

the section on formulas below. By the end of this article, I will offer

a potential answer to the dilemma of whether the pulsa de-nura ritual and formula are in fact traceable to a particular, historical Jewish text. See also

Idel, Judaism, Jewish Mysticism And Magic, p. 34. Having said that, the term,

though not the ritual, is mentioned numerous times in rabbinic

as well as kabbalistic sources, which will be discussed briefly, later in

this article.

17. A brief description of practical Kabbalah can be found in Gershom

Scholem, Kabbalah (New York, 1974), pp. 182-189.

18. For an example of practical Kabbalah, see Sepher Ha-Razim:

The Book of the Mysteries, trans. Michael A. Morgan, in the Texts and Translations Pseudepigrapha Series, Harold W. Attridge, (ed.), Society of

Biblical Literature (Chico, 1983). Also Sepher Ha-Razim: A Newly Recovered

Book of Magic From the Talmudic Period, edited with introduction and

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annotation by Mordechai Margalioth, (Jerusalem, 1966). Despite the

fact that Kabbalah is a product of the Middle Ages originating

with the 11th century Kabbalistic text Sefer Ha-Bahir, Gershom Scholem

nevertheless holds the position that: "Historically speaking, a large part of

the contents of practical Kabbalah considerably predate those

of speculative Kabbalah and are not dependent on them. In effect,

what came to be considered practical Kabbalah constituted an agglomera-

tion of all the magical practices that developed in Judaism from the Talmudic period down through the Middle Ages." Scholem,

Kabbalah, p. 183.

19. If it truly exists.

20. Unfortunately, most of this literature was not written by qualified

academic scholars and thus is lacking in many ways. In fact, generally it

amounts to a jumble of well-known facts mixed with unconfirmed

hypotheses. Some of this information is provided here as it appears in

the literature.

21. See, e.g., Yigal Arica, Kabbalah In Clear Light, (Tel Aviv, 1996)

p. 258, [Hebrew] as well as Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name

of God, pp. 90-91.

22. Some claim three mystics and the rest of the participants can be lay

people, see Roni Zinger and Nadav Shragai, "A Rabbi from Pesagot: I Will

Perform Pulsa Denura Against Sharon." Haaretz, (September 14, 2004),


id=4121 &PHPSESSID=55fb 125dc4e5904fa32f29819fbb8b44

23. See Arica, Kabbalah in Clear Light, p. 258, where he claims the

verses are taken from part of Moses' last speech to the Children of Israel.

There, Moses gives the people a choice between God's blessing or curse:

"See, this day I set before you blessing and curse

11:26-2, Parashat Re'eh).

" (Deuteronomy

24. Lists of these angels and the months over which each is responsible

can be found in texts of theoretical and practical Kabbalah, such as

Mal'achei Elyon, (ed.) Reuven Margaliot (Jerusalem, 1988) [Hebrew]

or Raziel Hamal'ach (Photocopy of the traditional Amsterdam edition [1701]). (Jerusalem, n.d.) [Hebrew]. An excellent example of the role

of Angels in the magical process can be found in the healing

text known as Pishra De-Rabbi Haninah Ben Dosa published from a

14th century manuscript by F.M Tocci: "Note e documenti di letteratura

religiosa e parareligiosa giudaica", Annali dell'Instituto Orientale di Napoli,

Vol. 46 (1986), pp. 101-108. Many thanks to Yuval Harari for his

referral to this article.

25. A full description of this ritual and commentary on it can be found

in two popular books: Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name of God,

pp. 90-91 and Arica, Kabbalah in Clear Light, pp. 258-260. In a

conversation I had with the author of the latter book, he admitted that

he does not know the source of the ritual. All he could share was that he

saw the formula of the ritual in an old book he glanced at while visiting

some Kabbalists in Jerusalem.

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Pulsa De-Nura 93

26. According to Arica, Kabbalah in Clear Light (p. 259), an example

of such a deflection is believed to have happened to the head of one of the ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem. Rabbi Nachum Visepish performed the ritual against Saddam Hussein, then President of Iraq

during the first Gulf War. As of the time this article as written, Hussein is

still alive. However, one of the rabbi's family members died for no

apparent reason a year later, despite the fact that Hussein did not seem to have fulfilled the necessary requirements for the curse to be deflected.

27. As we shall see soon, several well-known scholars were seduced by

the allure of this fascinating narrative. Yet, as the journalistic dictum goes:

"a story is only as good as its sources". Thus, when the sources are

questionable, the entire story loses its credibility, which applies not only in

the field of journalism, but even more so in the world of academia.

28. Raphael Cohen-Almagor, "Boundaries of Freedom of Expression

before and after Prime Minister Rabin's Assassination," in Liberal

Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance: Essays in Honor and Memory

of Yitzhak Rabin, (ed.) Raphael Cohen-Almagor, (Ann Arbor, 2000).

29. For more details about him, see his web page http://hcc.haifa.ac.

il/~-rca or http://almagor.fetchauthor.info.

30. For the photograph, see Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name

of Religion, pp. 148-149.

31. Cohen-Almagor, Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Tolerance, p. 90.

32. An expert on terrorism and right-wing extremism in Israeli politics

and society, Sprinzak's list of accomplishments and honors is truly

impressive. He was a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace

from 1997-1998 and a grantee in 1990. Institute President Richard

Solomon recalled, "Ehud's views were sought out by policy-makers in

Israel and in Washington." Sprinzak served as an adviser to former Israeli

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whom he once warned might be the

target of an assassination attempt. Eitan Haber, director-general of Rabin's

Prime Minister's Office, noted that for Rabin, Sprinzak was "a partner

to important and fateful decisions." For more details about him, see,

http://www2.aya.yale.edu/clubs/israel/newsletter_1.htm and http://


33. E. Sprinzak, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

34. Note the discrepancy in the timing of the event between these two

scholars. While Cohen-Almagor claims that the event took place "on the

eve of the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur", Sprinzak,

in contrast, holds the position that the event took place: "just two days

after Yom Kippur".

35. While it is clear from Sprinzak's footnote that the curse was taken

from a report found in an Israeli newspaper article (namely, Dov Elboim, "The Killing Curse," Yediot Aharonot, November 13, 1995

[Hebrew]), it is not clear what Sprinzak's sources were for the rest of

the story.

36. E. Sprinzak, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, p. 120. This very

same account, identical almost word for word, can be found in Sprinzak's

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other scholarship Brother Against Brother: Violence And Extremism In Israeli

Politics From Altalena To The Rabin Assassination, (New York, 1999), pp. 274-275.

37. Over the past four years, I have continually attempted to trace the

origin of this ritual by researching about it at the Institute of Manuscripts

of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as in the manuscript

collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. In addition,

I have talked with academic scholars, rabbis, Kabbalists, and authors of

popular literature. As of the publication date, I have not gotten a firm and full answer to this question.

38. In an article currently entitled, Pulsa Denura: The True Historical

Textual Concept and Modern Distortions, (in progress). In this article, I offer

a thorough exploration of this controversial idiom.

39. B.T. Yoma 76b-77a; B.T, Baba Metzia 85b; B.T, Hagigah 15a;

B.T, Baba Metzia 47a.

40. These are beings that exist in the divine realm, such as angels, divine

powers, and deceased prophets like Elijah (or a deceased sinner, see Minor

Tractates, Kalah Rabbati 2:9), who clearly have no material bodies or

corporeality, as do normal humans. See the Adin Steinsaltz edition of the

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia, p. 199 at the bottom.

41. The Zohar, Vol. 3, p. 263b. All references from and to The Zohar in

this article are from Reuven Margaliot's edition (Jerusalem, 1984) [Hebrew and Aramaic]. The English translation is based on that of

Soncino Press (The Zohar, (trans.) Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon

(London, 1970) as well as Dr Daniel C. Matt (The Zohar: Pritzker Edition,

Standford, 2004), with modifications as I deemed appropriate.


The Zohar, Vol. 1, p. 223b.


The Zohar, Vol. 2, pp. 66b-67a.


The Zohar, Vol. 2, pp. 51b.


One indication of this power is the frequent threats by religious

extremists to employ this "ritual" against public figures whenever their

actions do not meet with the extremists' approval. The power of the

extremists is magnified even more by the reactions to these threats, not

only in the media and among the public, but also mainly from the Israeli

legal and security authorities.

46. Unless the two fragmented versions and the third one that seems

to be complete can all be traced to one source.

47. Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name of God.

48. Karpin and Friedman, Murder in the Name of God, pp. 90-91.

Ellipses appear in the quotation because I have edited out the author's

comments inserted in the text.

49. Ehud Sprinzak, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

50. Sprinzak, The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, p. 120.

51. Mordechai Margalioth (ed.), Sepher Harazim: A Newly Recovered

Book of Magic from the Talmudic Period, (Jerusalem, 1966), p. 70, lines

63-66 [Hebrew]. The English version of this text is found in Michael A.

Morgan (trans. and ed.), Sepher Harazim: The Book Of The Mysteries,

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Pula De-Nura 95

(Chico, 1983), p. 27. Note that the text reported by Karpin and Friedman

is a direct translation from the Hebrew version of this book and not a

replica of the English version. I would like to thank Dr Yuval Harari,

expert on Jewish magic, for directing me to this book.

52. Sprinzak's reference for the curse is an article in the Israeli

newspaper Yediot Acharonot, but he did not provide the original classical


53. Although certain words and phrases in this text can also be found

in texts three and four below, I was unable to find the classical source of

the entire text, if it indeed exists.

54. I go beyond a mere translation of the curse texts (more so in the

fourth text than this one) by providing the potential biblical verses that

serve as the direct or the inspirational source for many of the phrases

utilized in these curses.

55. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that these texts appear in

the English language. To capture the tone, style, and intention of the

original text, I have utilized two biblical translations (JPS and Artscroll) as

I deemed necessary.

56. Founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, Kach was a military anti-

Arab, far-right wing political party in Israel, which was outlawed by the

State of Israel in 1988 for "incitement to racism".

57. Yossi Dayan is a former member of the Kach party. Before party

membership was deemed illegal, he was listed second after Kahane on the

party list to the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) in the elections of 1988.

58. This third curse formula text as well as the fourth one was written

originally in Hebrew and Aramaic.

59. Alluding to two Kabbalistic concepts, the sefirot Yesod and

Shekhinah, see The Zohar 1:8a, in which Yesod and Shekhinah correspond

respectively to Good and Understanding (or insight): "Hence in that

place abides fear, which is the gateway to all that is good. 'Good'

and 'understanding' are two gates," Zohar, Bereshith (E. T., London, 1970),

Section 1, p. 8a. Matok Medvash interprets the two gates as Yesod and

Tiferet, See Daniel Frish, Matok Me-Devash, (Jerusalem, 2005) [Hebrew],

but I tend to accept Daniel Matt's understanding in which Yesod and Shekhinah are Good and lower Wisdom (or insight) respectively, see

Daniel Matt, The Zohar, Vol. 1, p. 51, fn 357. In any case, Yesod is

often called "Good", thus the curse writer's usage of the "gates" as a

source of harm and killing in this context is quite puzzling to me.

60. This refers to the Hebrew term, mosser, explained in fn 8.

61. Deuteronomy 29:19

62. The author of this text paraphrases a Zoharic discourse concerning

the ideas of fear, wisdom, and the tree of life, which refers to the biblical

verse: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord; all who practice

it gain sound understanding [sechel tov]. Praise of Him is everlasting."

(Psalms 111:10) The Zoharic text, taken from the Daniel Matt translation, The Zohar, reads as follows: "Rabbi Yose said, 'Good insight [sechel tov] is

the Tree of Life-good insight with no evil at all. Since no evil abides there,

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it is good insight without evil.' " Thus, from "Rabbi Yose" to "[when] good insight [is] without evil" only is a paraphrase from the actual Zoharic text.

One can see that the usage of this discourse is not only taken out of

context (i.e., from the context of a mystical journey attained by a mystic

who thorough a spiritual process eventually reaches the upper wisdom

(hokhmah) in the Sefirotic realm), but the writer also took the liberty of

corrupting the Zoharic text in order for it to fit his "holy quest", the death

of Rabin.

63. The term used in The Zohar is "sechel tov", which means good

insight (according to Matt's translation of The Zohar) or good under-

standing (according to the Soncino translation).

64. Literally "the doings of his hands".

65. Isaiah 36:12, based on the Soncino translation on CD-ROM.

66. In Deuteronomy 29:19, the word "ala" is used, which means

"a curse". In the wording of this ritual, Dayan prefers a more simple and

colloquial form for the word "curse", using term "klalah" instead.

This usage might imply that he seeks to be accessible to an audience that

likely would not understand the more obscure biblical term "ala".

Despite the opening words of the ritual, the curse is clearly not meant to

apply only to celestial beings. 67. Dayan uses the phrase "in the Torah", while in the original Hebrew

of the Bible (Deuteronomy 29:19) the words are "in this book".


Based on Deuteronomy 29:19.


One wonders where the longer version is.


According to Ben-Horin, a Right-Wing extremist and one of the

participants in the ritual, the event took place on July 21, 2005. Perhaps

the discrepancy can be explained by positing the ritual's start at midnight

on Thursday night and its continuance through the early morning of

Friday the 22nd.

71. Shlomo Ben-Yosef was arrested by the British mandatory authori-

ties in pre-State Palestine after shooting at an Arab bus in retaliation for

the murder of six Jews. He was sentenced to death, and on June 29, 1938,

was hanged in the Acre jail at the age of 25. Ben-Yosef was subsequently buried in the Rosh Pina cemetery.

72. A segment of the ritual can be seen via the following link to

channel 2 news in Israel:



Referring to Genesis 16:7


Referring to the fact that for the curse casters, Sharon had acted

against the majority of the members of his own party by seeking

to withdraw the Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip. Because he had

only a small number of supporters for this decision within his party,

his actions were considered illegitimate by many: "Sharon's death is

more important [than] that [of] Rabin's. With Rabin, he was just one man

surrounded by many others in power who were pushing for the same

capitulation to terror. Here, Sharon is the single man pushing his party

and many unwilling people to go along with the evil evacuation plan.

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Pulsa De-Nura 97

Getting rid of Sharon can do the trick." For more, see the link

to the article of Aaron Klein in WorldDailyNet.com (July 26, 2005):

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45454 or in an article on July 27, 2005, from the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz at:


75. Referring to Job 14:1, 15:14, 25:4.

76. The additions in square brackets are mine. The rest of the sentence

contained within the square brackets is my own reconstruction of the text

based on what was shown briefly on TV as well as that found in Yossi

Dayan's booklet. The video clearly shows that the leader of the group lost

his focus and coughed at this point during the ritual, obscuring the rest of

this sentence.

77. Deuteronomy 29:19. In the original biblical context, God is unwilling

to forgive the person or group that turns away from serving Him in order to

serve other gods. The text also notes that such a person would hear the

words of this curse and think he would be safe even though he chose to

follow his own willful heart. Such an individual or group will be "set aside for

evil" by God and the Land will be cursed as well.

78. Ezekiel 18:24.

79. Psalms 55:13.

80. Psalms 58:11.

81. A paraphrase of Judges 9:24.

82. Limsor is the verbal form of the same root as the Hebrew term

mosser, alluding to "one who delivers the Land of Israel to enemies".

83. Deuteronomy 11:12.

84. Ezekiel 20:32.

85. The biblical text uses the word "kol ha-ala" meaning "the entire

imprecation" or "every sanction".

86. In the ritual, the text employs the words "in the Torah" (oraita in

Aramaic), while in the original Hebrew of the Bible the words are "in this


87. Deuteronomy 29:19. During the ritual, this verse was recited in

Aramaic based upon the traditional, ancient Aramaic translation of

the Torah known as Targum Onkelos, and is taken from it almost word

for word.

88. This is a very "creative", or more accurately, a very distorted

paraphrase of Deuteronomy 13:6, which refers in the original biblical

context to a false prophet who tries to lead the people to worship other

gods. This textual manipulation is obviously designed to insinuate that

Sharon is not only leading the Jewish people astray through public

support of false ideas, but is also deserving of death--the biblical

punishment for false prophets. Note also Deuteronomy 13: 9-10

" show no pity or compassion, and do not cover up the matter; but take that person's life "

89. In a chapter in my book in progress on pulsa de-nura.

90. I have, in fact, italicized biblical texts in all four of the curse

versions discussed.

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91. See for example the article by Yaakov Katz, "Rabbi Who Cursed

Rabin Targets Sharon," The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2005; and

E. Sprinzak, Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, pp. 119-120. 92. I call it "the most public of all" because it was captured on film and

broadcast widely on television. P.M. Sharon's subsequent illness only

heightened its effect.

93. "Ritual is a system of actions and beliefs that has a beginning, a

middle, and an end, and is directly related to superhuman beings . This relation is usually expressed through the language

of ritual belief. It is this relation that constitutes ritual. Thus, ritual is

made up of act and belief. Rituals have a specific system or


This structure has three stages that can be identified

as follows: the preliminal stage, the liminal stage, and the postliminal

stage. All rituals

consist of this threefold structure that marks the

beginning, the middle, and the end of a ritual." Jonathan Z. Smith (ed.),

"Ritual," The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion, (San Francisco, 1995),

pp. 930-931.

94. H. Schiff, Sha'ah Tovah, the week of January 14, 2006, pp. 14-15.

95. It is not a book; it is merely a small booklet, which mostly

constitutes page after page of direct quotes from classical sources.

This, as we have shown, has nothing to do with the modern version of

the ritual of Pulsa De-nura.

96. H. Schiff, Sha'ah Tovah, p. 14.

97. ibid, p. 14.

98. See Dayan's booklet in which he makes use of many Kabbalistic

texts within which the term Pulsa De-nura is used. His attempt to

contextualize the whole ritual in a mystical framework is self evident.

99. See mainly Rabbi Dov Schwartz and Rabbi Moshe Blau,

"Who Is Afraid of the Pulsa De-Nura?," Mishpacha (Jerusalem, Nissan 2005, pp. 22-26), [Hebrew].

100. See Arica, Kabbalah In Clear Light, p. 258. Unfortunately, I do not

have access to Dov Elboim's article, "The Murdering Curse," Yediot

Aharonot, November 13, 1995 [in Hebrew], which may be even earlier than

Arica. In any case, Arica's work is no doubt one of the earliest modern

versions of the connection between the ritual and the term, if not the earliest one. However, I would be remiss if I do not mention the existence

of a potential source predating modernity from the circle of Rabbi Luria

Ashkenazi, which has not been mentioned by anyone thus far in any

context and requires greater deliberation beyond the scope of this article.

101. Rabbi Moshe Blau asserts that the first time this connection was

made it was by the leader of the Neturei Carta, Rabbi Amram Blau, in

1950, who purportedly performed a condemning ritual in the Beit Midrash

Kehal Yereim Hasidim that he called, for the first time, Pulsa De-nura. It was

used against another member of the ultra-Orthodox community who had

cooperated with the authorities in their attempt to relocate an old Jewish

cemetery in order to allow greater space for the building of the new

government headquarters and the Israel Parliament. I have yet to see the

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Pulsa De-Nura 99

documentation for this story. See Yaakov Stern, "The Pulsa Denura

of Rabbi Amram Blau", Sha'ah Tovah, the week of January 14, 2006,

pp. 16-17 [Hebrew]. In an even earlier episode of its use, Professor

Moshe Idel reports hearing personally from Professor Gershom Scholem

that during World War II the Haredi community performed Pulsa De-nura

against Hitler. Although in Stern's article, Moshe Blau dismisses

this information, saying, "There never was a Pulsa De-nura performed

against Hitler."

102. See endnote 8.

103. J.D Eisenstein, Ozar Dinim U-Minhagim: A Digest of Jewish Laws and

Customs in Alphabetic Order, (New York, 1938) pp. 143-144, [Hebrew]. The translation and emphasized words are mine. A detailed form of the herem

can be found in the anthology Sefer Kol Bo, Part II (printed version, Jerusalem, 1997), pp. 524-526.

104. For the history of the herem (excommunication), see the term in the

following sources: Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-ROM Version, Keter

Publishing, Jerusalem, 1997, as well as Encyclopaedia Britannica, CD-ROM

Version 1994-1998. See also Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Vol. 18, pp. 51-56, [Hebrew]. For herem in the biblical period, see, Encyclopaedia Biblica, (Jerusalem, 1958), Vol. 3, pp. 290-292 [Hebrew]. For specific kinds of

herem, see: R. J. Zwi Werblowsky and Geoffrey Wigoder (eds.), "Herem

Beit Din" and "Herem Ha-Yishuv," The Oxford Dictionary Of The Jewish

Religion (Oxford, 1997), p. 317.

105. Even if the reports about the pulsa de-nura ceremony do not reflect

reality, by which I mean that even if the ritual did not actually take place,

it is, in any case, important to discuss due to the fact that these accounts

are attested to in written sources and are believed to have taken place by

many readers. Thus, an objective review is required in all cases.

106. http://mystical-politics.blogspot.com/2004/09/i-named-this-


107. The art of attributing works to well-known texts and personalities

from ancient times.

108. It is considered outmoded in modern times by all except for a

small minority among some haredi circles.

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