angel of death (movie)

Fri, 20 Jan 1995 15:34:51 -0600

>2. She is given a new Hebrew name " the Angel of Death couldn't
>find her." What is the procedure for this?

This way of trying to escape illness shows up sometimes in medieval Judaism.
The theory behind it is that if one changes one's name the afflicting demons
(or, in this case, the angel of death) would lose track of their victim and no
longer harm him/her.

Joshua Trachtenberg describes the ritual as follows:

"This change of name was and still is solemly effected before an
assembly of ten persons by an expert reader who holds a scroll of the _Torah_
in his hand while he repeats a prescribed formula whose institution is
attributed to the Geonim [rabbinic authorities from c. 7th-10th centuries CE].
After announcing the new name, the ritual formally notifies the heavenly
authorities of the change, and requests them to take cognizance of it and to
consider this person as not identical with the one who bore his former name,
'for he is another man, like unto a newborn creature, an infant who has just
been born unto a long and good life.' The new name then becomes the true name,
even though the old remains in use, and in legal documents the individual is
identified by it with the notation that he bears his former name as an alias."

This is how it was done, at least in the 1930's.
The reference is Trachtenberg, _Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk
Relgion (NP: Behrman's, 1939, rpr. Atheneum, 1970).

Jim Davila
assistant professor of religion
Central College, IA