Browsing on the Internet while working on last week’s column, which had to do with a blessing in the morning prayer, I came across the following: “The lechatchila time for shacharis is neitz. B’dieved, if a person davened from amud hashachar and onwards he is yotzei. In a shas hadchak he may daven from amud hashachar and onwards lechatchila…. After chatzos it is assur to daven shacharis. One should wait till after mincha and then daven a tashlumin. The possibility for a tashlumin doesn’t exist for someone who was bemaizid.”
Mort Reichek of Boynton Beach, Fla., asks about the origins of the word “dybbuk.” In Jewish folklore, of course, a dybbuk is the ghost or spirit of a dead person that enters a living one and takes possession of him, causing him to speak and act in irrational and unrecognizable ways. This is by no means an exclusively Jewish notion. Various cultures and religions have believed in demonic possession as a way of explaining such things as schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder — among them Christianity, which probably borrowed the belief from Judaism. In the New Testament there are several stories about Jesus’ healing the mentally disturbed by casting out demons, parallels to which exist in talmudic literature.
Virginia Gross Levin writes from Broomall, Pa.: “Are you familiar with a Yiddish expression greynetz mentshn “border people”? My great uncle used it to describe our family’s secretive nature. In the 50 years since then, I have never heard it from anyone else. I understand that people on the border had to learn to hold their tongues because they never knew who might be listening. But was this just an expression used by my Polish Jewish family or was it more widespread?”