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[page 382]


Dilling Exhibit 294

BAAL-PEOR: Name of a Canaanitish god. Peor was a mountain in Moab (Num. xxiii, 28), whence the special locality Beth-peor (Deut. iii. 29, etc.) was designated. It gave its name to the Ba’al who was there worshipped, and to whose service Israel, before the entrance into Canaan, was, for a brief time, attracted (Num. xxv. 3, 5; Ps. cvi. 28). Thc god is himself also called “Peor” by abbreviation (Num. xxxi. 16; Josh. xxii. 17). It is commonly held that this form of Baal-worship especially called for sensual indulgence. The context seems to favor this view, on account of the shameful licentiousness into which many of the Israelites were there enticed. But all Ba‘al-worship encouraged this sin; and Peor may not have been worse than many other shrines in this respect, though the evil there was certainly flagrant. In Hosea ix. 10 “Baal-peor” is the same as “Beth-peor,” and is contracted from Beth-baal-peor.”

J. JR.

J. F. McC.

—In Rabbinical Literature: The worship of this idol consisted in exposing that part of the body which all persons usually take the utmost care to conceal. It is related that on one occasion a strange ruler came to the place where Peor was worshiped to sacrifice to him; but when he heard of this silly practice, he caused his soldiers to attack and kill the worshipers of the god (Sifra, Num. 131; Sanh 106a). The same sources mention various other facta concerning the cult, all of which give the impression that it still existed at the time of the Tannaim. That the statements of the Rabbis are not wholly imaginative and do not take their coloring from the rites of some heathen or antinomian-Gnostic sects is shown by the fact that the worship of Peor is ridiculed, but nowhere stigmatized as moral depravity, by the Rabbis, which latter might have been expected, had the assertions of the Rabbis been based on the Gnostic cults mentioned.

J. SR.

L. G.


Dilling Exhibit 265

BA‘AL SHEM […] (plural. “Ba‘alei Shemot,” more correctly “Ba‘alei Shem,” i.e., Master of the Name): Designation of certain people who were supposed to work miracles through the name of God. This belief in the miraculous power of the Sacred Name is very old, having a history that covers more than two thousand years (compare SHEM HA-MEFORASH and GOD, NAMES OF): but the designation “Ba‘al Shem” seems to have originated [page 383] only with the German-Polish Jews when they became acquainted with the practical Cabala of the school of Luria. The payyetan Benjamin b. Zerah is indeed called “Ba‘al Shem,” which, however, only indicates that in his piyyutim, he frequently alludes to the various mystical names of God. The first one who is known to have borne this name, Elijah of Chelm, flourished about 1500, at the period when the study of the Cabala was widespread in Poland.

The Ba‘al Shem, which first was undoubtedly applied only as a special distinction to particular men who were considered great saints and in whose miraculous powers the people believed, had two centuries later developed into a profession. These “Ba‘ale Shem” represented a mixture of quack doctor, physician, and cabalist. They wrote amulets, prescribed empiric medicines, with which they were well acquainted, and engaged also in casting out or summoning spirits. Their profession was such that they incurred the hostility of physicians, with whom they often entered into serious competition. The following prayer, composed by a Ba‘al Shem for himself and his compeers, is indicative of the attitude toward the physicians: “Preserve me from enmity and quarrels; and may envy between me and others disappear. Let, on the contrary, friendship, peace, and harmony prevail between me and the physicians — that I may be respected in their opinion — that they may not speak evil of me or of my actions” (“Toledot Adam,” Zolkiev, 1720). Solomon Maimon speaks, in his autobiography (i. 217), of a Ba‘al Shem who possessed medical knowledge and sufficient astuteness to make him a formidable competitor of the physicians.

Following is an approximately complete alphabetical list of persons known to have been Ba‘ale Shem:

(1) Elhanan, rabbi in Vienna, seventeenth century (Dembitzer, “Kelilat Yofl,” 78b: (2) Elijah. rabbi at Chelm (government of Lublin), a progenitor of Zebi Ashkenazi. flourished about 1500 (Responsa of Zebi Ashkenazi, No. 93; Emden. “Megillat Seter,” 4); (3) Elijah b. Moses Loans (1555-1636); (4) Falk. Hayyim Samuel, 1708-1782; (Gedaliah of Worms, an eminent Talmuditst, died between 1622 and 1624 (Kaufmann, “Ya‘ir Hayyim.” Bacharach, p. 20, note 2 ; (6) Israel b. Eliezer (1700-1760), commonly known as BA‘AL SHEM-TOB (see article); (7) Joel b. Isaac Heilprin, middle of he seventeenth century; (8) Joel b. Uri Heilprin, beginning of the eighteenth century; (Selig of Lublin, beginning of the eighteenth century (Kahana in the passage cited below, p. 63); (10) Wolf, who, like most of the Ba‘ale Sbem, lived in Poland in the beginning of the eighteenth century (Kahana l.c.); (11) Seki Loeb Wormser (1768 — 1846), the MichaelstaedterBa‘al Shem, still known in Germany under that name.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kabana, R. Yisrael Ba‘al Shem-Tob, 1900, pp. 59-64; Dembitzer, l.c.


L. G.