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In Jewish folklore, a disembodied human spirit that must wander restlessly, burdened by former sins, until it inhabits the body of a living person. Belief in such spirits was common in eastern Europe in the 16th–17th century. Individuals thought to be possessed by a dybbuk were taken to a ba'al shem, who would carry out a rite of exorcism. The mystic Isaac ben Solomon Luria helped promote belief in dybbukim with his doctrine of the transmigration of souls. The folklorist S. Ansky depicted such a spirit in his classic Yiddish drama The Dybbuk (c. 1916).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on dybbuk, visit Britannica.com.