by S. An-sky
(Yiddish: Der dybuk)
of Characters of "The Dybbuk":
A. Baratz ...................................
Elisheva Factorowitch .............
Miriam Goldin ...........................
E. Golland .................................
Ina Govinskaya ........................
Chana Hendler ..........................
Aharon Meskin .........................
Anna Paduit ...............................
A. Prudkin ..................................
L. Pudalower .............................
B. Tschemeritsky .......................
E. Winiar ....................................
Tmima Yudelwitch .....................
Benjamin Zemach .....................
Naum Zemach ............................
Voice Off Stage in Third
An Old Woman
Habima. "The Dybbuk".
Dybbuk (original version), a dramatic
legend in three acts, by S. An-sky, with
music by I. Engel; staged by E.
Vachtangiv; presented in Hebrew by the
Habima Players at the Mansfield
From the NY Times review,
by J. Brooks Atkinson
"The Dybbuk" in Hebrew
December 14, 1926
"...In order to describe it one must
report some of the details. First of
all, the make-up is extraordinary. Faces
are painted with curious designs, in
high colors, not unlike grotesque masks;
mouths are pulled out of shape by daubs
of grease-paint; eyes are rendered
almost uncanny by circles and arches;
noses are pulled to a sharp point. The
black gowns of the Chassidim are
crudely smeared with white at the edges.
All the benches and chairs used in the
synagogue and at the wedding breakfast
are off centre; the angular treatment of
the property extends even to the
unpretentious scenery. The actors move
about the stage with grotesque motions,
with absurd attitudes; the lines of the
human figure are broken up by stooping
or leaning heavily to one side. And the
voices of the beggars, the professional
prayer men and the choruses n general
are individually unnatural, stressed and
strained. Divided into its various
parts, like the individual scores for a
symphony, the production would be
When all these separate parts are pulled
together in a symmetrical performance
the effect is astonishing--as unreal as
the mystical legend of the play, as
profound in its searching of the
emotions, supple, resilient and
the Habima we see a fresher method of
group-acting, suited to dramas of a
freer technique. Our stage may learn a
good deal from it in the orchestration
daughter of Sender
a lame man
the bridegroom's father
So, here is the
synopsis of An-sky's "The Dybbuk".
house-of-prayer. Students are studying Gemara2.
At one side sits the Messenger. Three "batlonim,"
always half-starved but cheerful, pass the time
singing a song, "For What Cause? For What
Cause?" and telling each other stories of the
greatness of the Zaddikim. One tells the other:
"At the house of
the Zaddik of Rusin they had a band of
twenty-five musicians!" "The Zaddik of Talna
went about in golden shoes!" "The Zaddik of
Nikolsburg conjured up the original serpent of
Eden to frighten a stingy rich man."
"But Susya of
Anapolia," puts in the Messenger, " was a poor
man, and nevertheless worked just as many
miracles." Hanan (one of the students) joins in
the talk. "Were can one find such a miracle
worker, such a Kabalist as you've been talking
about?" he wonders.
"Hanan is a
genius," the students tell the Messenger. "Hanan
is the pride of the Yeshiva, and is already a
great scholar in Kabalah!"2
A woman runs in
weeping. She wishes to pray at the Sepher Torah3
for the health of her dying daughter. She gives
a few coins to the batlonim, and they leave
their table to go and pray for the invalid.
alone. His thoughts are concentrated upon Leah.
They love each other, but Leah's father, Sender,
wants a rich bridegroom for her. Till now,
Sender has not found one. All his efforts have
been in vain. Hanan thinks this failure is due
to his (Hanan's) opposition. Even now, although
absorbed in spiritual matters, Hanan thinks
aloud about Leah: "To whom -- to whom will Leah
belong? She must belong to me! If not through
heavenly power, then -- What fearful thoughts!"
Enoch, rebukes him. "You have no more faith in
"The Gemara is
cold and dry," answers Hanan. "It holds one down
to earth. But Kabalah! That leads one into the
mansions of mysticism, to the holiest mysteries.
It lifts up a corner of the great Veil. But the
road is perilous. It leads one easily into sin.
But isn't sin itself created by God? No, surely
not by God, but by Satan. But who made Satan?
Did not God make him? Satan is the opposing
side, the other side of God." And Hanan becomes
more and more inflamed. "What is the most awful
sin of all? What sin is most irresistible to
man, and is the most difficult to overcome?
Passion for a woman. But if one should purify
this passion with flame, so that there should
remain only a pure spark, then it is transmuted
into holiness, a Song of Songs!" And from
Hanan's lips there breathe the sounds of a verse
of the Song of Songs: "Thou art fair, my
beloved, thou art fair!"
unusual happens. Leah comes into the house of
prayer, accompanied by her old nurse, Freda, and
her friend, Gittel. Leah has come to look at the
Holy Curtain before the sacred Ark, planning to
make a new one as a gift to the Synagogue on the
anniversary of her mother's death. The beadle of
the house-of-prayer shows them the old curtain.
Leah sees Hanan. For a time he had lived in
Sender's house, eating at the same time, where
he was considered to be a future Zaddik. While
Leah's companions kiss the Sepher Torah, Leah
and Hanan greet each other, for the first time
in their lives.1
(Peace be with you), Hanan! You are here again?"
"Yes," he replies.
And that is all.
The women leaves.
"I have won!" Hanan bursts out in joy. And one
of his comrades, Asher, brings him the news that
Sender's newest plan for Leah's marriage has
But this is not
true. The prospective fathers-in-law have come
to terms and the marriage will take place. This
news is brought by Sender himself, who comes to
the Synagogue to make the students rejoice with
him. Hanan is stunned. How is this? All his
fasts, all his penitential wanderings,2
all his prayers -- of no avail? He tries to find
salvation in the book of the angel Raziel (one
of the most sacred books of Kabalah), but his
strength fails him. He dies.
sends out for wine and dainties. One must
celebrate the betrothal of one's only daughter
with one's brother Chassidim! They sing, they
dance, more and more swiftly and gaily, "All
must dance! Call the students! Hanan! Where is
he? Hanan! Hanan!" Suddenly they stumble on the
lifts up the book which fell from Hanan's hand
as he died. "The book of the angel Raziel!"
According to custom, a meal has been prepared in
Sender's home for the poor people, so that they
may join in the celebration before the wedding.
The beadle and Sender's relatives wait on the
and the singing and dancing begin again in his
honor. All are delighted with the meal. What
rejoicing! What good cheer! At last the beggars
are greeted by the bride herself.
All dance in her
honor. Afterwards the women dance in turn with
the bride. This honor is granted to all except
the imbecile, Dresel. She insists on her right.
For forty years she has not danced. For a moment
everybody's attention is diverted by the
distribution of money, but Dresel remains
insistent. She suddenly seizes the bride, and
begins again to dance. The bride is
half-terrified, half-pleased. She feels that
they are her friends. Soon her strength fails,
but Dresel, together with the whole crowd of
beggars, insist, "More! More!" There is wild
confusion. Leah faints. The beggars set her down
and run away, dismayed.
comes to her senses. "A kind of unearthly force
seized me and carried me, far, far away," she
tells her nurse. "Is it true that the souls of
those who died before their time live among us
-- surround us?" But instead of her nurse, there
suddenly appear the Messenger. "The souls of
those who died before their time return to earth
in new incarnations," he says. "But it also
happens that the straying soul takes possession
of the body of a living person, assimilates that
soul, and fulfills there his destiny. Such a
spirit is called a Dybbuk."
disappears. But his words have pierced Leah's
heart. After receiving her father's blessing,
Leah goes with her nurse to the cemetery, to
invite her dead mother to the wedding." She
extracts from her nurse permission to invite
At this moment
appears the bridegroom (Manassah), his father,
and his rabbi. There is music. The fathers go
away to make a final settlement as to the dowry
and other important matters. The Rabbi tries to
make the bridegroom rehearse the speech which he
must make after the wedding meal.
however, is all in a flutter. Everybody will
look at him, he says, and worst of all she, too,
will look, she whom he has never seen in his
life.2 The Rabbi quiets him,
and leads him away.
The beggars appear
again. Their meal is over. They criticize
everything. "What a wretched meal that was! So
miserly! They tried to save money on everything!
But it'll be quite different when it comes to
the meal for the rich friends! A plague
And the crowd
streams threateningly towards Sender's house.
The master of the house himself appears. All
step back, and, hiding their animosity, become
silent. Sender is irritated. "Where is the
bride?" At last she also appears, and goes to
dress herself for the wedding. The beggars help
to put things in order for the ceremony.
Now the melancholy
strains of the wedding song are heard. The bride
is solemnly led in and seated upon a chair. They
lead the bridegroom to her. But when Manasseh
prepares to cover the bride's face with the veil
she springs up and thrusts him back.
"You are not my
bridegroom!" she cries out. And from her very
heart there bursts forth in Hanan's voice the
melody of the Song of Songs.
"A 'Dybbuk' has
taken possession of her!" cried the Messenger.
The beggars receive the news with exclamations
of triumph and satisfaction.
At the house of
Rabbi Azriel, the Zaddik, in Miropol. The
after-Sabbath meal.1 Rabbi Azriel is
restless. He is troubled with a feeling that he
is needed to bring salvation to a Jewish soul.
The call has already come. Sender has has
brought his daughter to him so that the Dybbuk
may be cast out.
At first the Rabbi
feels helpless, and pities himself. "Who am I
that people come to me from the four corners of
the earth to get relief? I alone am nothing."
But, reminding himself of his great ancestors,
his confidence is strengthened. "Call Sender!"
he orders his attendant.
examines Sender, asking whether he knew Hanan
previously, and whether he had not put Hanan to
shame. Sender answers: "I knew him; but I did
not put him to shame, as far as I know. But who
can be certain? We are only human beings."
The Zaddik and
Leah remain alone. As long as Leah speaks
herself she is weak and submissive; but when
Hanan, hidden within her, begins to speak, her
words are full of extraordinary perversity. To
all the requests and pleadings of the Zaddik,
the Dybbuk answers the same thing: "I will not
go out of her. In the whole world my soul has
found only this one home, and do you wish to
drive me out of there also? I will not go out!"
The Rabbi of the
town enters hastily, together with his two
Dayonim (assistants). The night before, there
had appeared to them three times in dreams
Nisan, the dead father of Hanan, asking that
Sender be brought before a religious court of
law. Evidently this has a connection with the
Dybbuk. Rabbi Azriel immediately calls the court
of law before him. Rabbi Shimshon and his
assistants beg the Zaddik to preside. On one
side is the plaintiff -- the dead Nisan -- and
on the other side the trembling defendant,
Sender. The explanations make it clear that
during their youth Nisan and Sender were
friends. They married at the same time, and
betrothed their children even before they were
born. But, soon after, they parted and never met
again. Sender who had become rich, had a
daughter, Leah. Nisan, who died poor, had a son,
When these souls,
predestined for each other, met, Sender
interfered, and opposed their union. In vexation
of soul, Hanan fell into the snares of Satan,
and passed away prematurely. His father, Nisan,
thus remained cut off from both worlds without
offspring, and without a Kaddish (a son to pray
for his soul).
The court decrees
that Sender shall say Kaddish all his life for
Nisan and Hanan, and that he must give away half
his wealth to the poor. Then the court asks the
spirit of Nisan to forgive Sender because he had
not known whose son Hanan was. The court also
asks Nisan to command his son to leave the body
of Leah. But when the question is asked as to
whether the two parties accept the judgment of
the court, Sender along answers yes, while
Nissan disappears, without giving a reply.
Habima. "The Dybbuk".
This is regarded by all as an ill omen.
But Rabbi Azriel
is determined to bring the matter to a
conclusion. His plan is, in his opinion, a
righteous on. Among living persons one must give
first consideration to the living. The soul of
the dead Hanan must be driven out of Leah, and
Leah must be married to a living being. But the
Dybbuk refuses to go of his own accord. Then
Rabbi Azriel takes steps to pronounce
excommunication upon the spirit. The assembly
gives unanimous approval. They raise the Sepher
Torah; black candles are lighted, the Zaddik
blows the Shofar.1 Three times the
Zaddik commands the Dybbuk to go out. Finally,
after solemn excommunication is pronounced in
its most severe form, Hanan's soul is compelled
to leave Leah's exhausted body... She faints.
Rabbi Azriel congratulates Sender, and bids him
call the bridegroom at once, to prepare for the
wedding. The Chassidim, with Rabbi Azriel at
their head, march with joyful songs toward the
alone, in the magic circle which Rabbi Azriel
had drawn around her. A groan is heard from
outside the circle, and then another one from
within. "Who groans?" asks Leah, coming to her
senses. For answer is heard the melody of the
Song of Songs. "I hear your voice, but your face
I do not see. Who are you?" she asks. "I have
forgotten; but the memory of me lives in your
heart." "Ah, it is you! I come to you, my
The Song of Songs
is heard from both. With the strength of her
love, Leah breaks through the magic circle, with
which Rabbi Azriel had surrounded her. Her soul
unites with the soul of Hanan, and her body
covers her up just as he had formerly covered
the body of Hanan. "Too late! too late!" he
calls out, when the sounds of the wedding music
are heard. It grows dark. "Blessed be the
The curtain falls
to the sound of the same melody: "For what
cause, for what cause, did the soul descend from
the loftiest height into the nethermost abyss?"*