Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home Renovations & Demons

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Before making any renovations to one's home, one may want to consider a design which addresses the concerns for the demons and ghosts which are alleged to live in one's home. Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid teaches that when one demolishes a home in order to build one which is bigger or more beautiful one must ensure that no changes are made to the existing passageways. This is true even for one who is merely remodeling an existing room. All remodeling must preserve the former arrangement of doors and windows, and by extension, preserve the typical manner of movement in the home. Similarly, one must never change the position of an oven or stove top from its designated location in the kitchen.[1] Placing other furniture or appliances in a spot customarily reserved for an oven is especially discouraged. Indeed, one should consider including one's oven along with the sale of one's home.[2]

All these seemingly peculiar instructions are in order to appease the demons, angels, and other spirits that are reputed to live in one's home. It seems that they get annoyed when any changes are made to existing passageways or their routine movement is restricted. In fact, Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid says that one who is not careful about these issues are putting their lives in "danger".[3]

Click here to read moreMake no mistake, these concerns apply only to changing or minimizing the prior number of doorways or number of windows. One need not hesitate to add or expand to them. As such, one should seek rabbinic guidance before transforming one large room into two smaller ones. While some authorities argue that Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid's directive regarding maintaining the configuration of windows and passageways applies only in residential edifices, other authorities disagree and insist that these matters extend to all structures, including synagogues.[4] Closely related to this idea is the widespread custom to open the windows in a room where a person is about to die in order to allow the soul to exit as quickly and efficiently as possible. For similar considerations, the prophet Daniel would always open the window in a room before praying.[5]

There is actually Scriptural basis for the idea of maintaining the existing passageways in one's home for demonic traffic. It is explained that when Bilaam and his donkey encountered an angel along the way, the angel was simply powerless to move from its position in order to allow the donkey to pass.[6] It is derived from here that the movement of angels, demons, and other spiritual beings are restricted to Divinely ordained routes.[7] We also learn from the episode of Bilaam that only animals have the power to see these beings. In the unlikely event that one is privileged to see these spirits, one mustn’t share the news with anyone else for at least ten days. It is taught that when one feels a sudden, inexplicable feeling of fear, it is likely due to being directly in the path of traveling demons.[8]

One should not simply dismiss this issue as an outrageous superstition. It must be noted that Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid cautions us concerning making these changes no less than three separate times throughout his writings. While there are many authorities who rule that one is not obligated to observe the instructions that Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid wrote in his Last Will and Testament[9] this particular issue is also included in his other writings as well, making it an issue worthy of serious consideration before proceeding.[10]


[1] Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid 52
[2] Rambam Mechira 26:5
[3] Sefer Chassidim 461
[4] Yosef Ometz 37
[5] Daniel 6:11
[6] Bamidbar 22
[7] Pesachim 111a/b, Chullin 105b
[8] Sefer Chassidim 1146. See also Megilla 3a
[9] Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid 20
[10] Shem Aryeh 24, Igrot Moshe Y.D. 3:133

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