A Brazilian man claiming to be possessed by a dybbuk, or spirit, sought the spiritual guidance of Rav Chaim Kanievsky through friends of his. What he received was the first documented case of an exorcism performed via the internet telephone program Skype. It was a far different scene from exorcisms performed in films and was the first such “remote” exorcism performed by a Rabbi using the internet.
When Rav Chaim first heard the pleas of a small group of friends who said their friend was possessed, he asked several questions in order to ascertain whether this was indeed a dybbuk or merely mental illness manifesting as some form of supernatural oppression complex. When he ascertained that the demon appeared to be real, he recommended they speak with a more expert Rabbi on the subject of dybbuks. He recommended Rav Shteinman who forwarded them to Rav Dovid Batzri who is a well respected expert in the field of exorcisms. Unfortunately Rav Batzri was in Israel far from the Brazilian man’s home. The solution? Patch Rav Batzri in through a live Skype feed and attempt the exorcism remotely.
As the exorcism began through live video, they did not connect with the entity and the exorcism failed. Of course this was no surprise to Kanievsky, who declared that remote exorcism would not be more successful via video phone as the person’s presence was required for the ritual to succeed. Curently the Brazilian man is recovering from the exorcism, but it is unknown if the ritual was a success. After the Skype experiment failed, his friends arranged for him to travel to Israel where the exorcism took place under the guidance of myriad Rabbis, but including Kanievsky and Shteinman.
The inability of Rabbis to perform an exorcism may sound like bad news, but consider this: If an exorcism fails through an internet connection it would stand to reason that evil spirits (using a generalized editorial term) cannot travel directly via information but require some form of vessel in order to transport themselves. This may be good news for those who genuinely believe themselves afflicted by the ghosts of haunted websites or email chain letters. So this would put to rest the concept of spectral negative energy traveling through email altogether.
It may sound laughable, but the sheer number of chain letters traveling through the information superhighway at any given moment driven by superstition is absolutely staggering. If the experiment performed by Rav Batzri was any indicator of ghostly transferal through the electronic medium then these were sent out of false fears “just to be safe.”
On the other hand, every medium throughout history that developed also evolved mystically. First it was images, hieroglyphs, and runes that were magically imbued or likewise cursed. Then it was the spoken word, incantations, and chants that held magical power. After that it was books, such as the Egyptian book of the dead. Film has now been likewise magically imbued, but it is now the internet that appears to become an almost haunted spectral place. How do we know the images of ghosts we so casually transmit from one place to another and the texts we have running through the very space around us and encompassing everywhere a wireless internet port is available isn’t likewise haunted somehow?