Ansky's Dybbuk as Heretical Midrash

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This paper suggests that The Dybbuk, by S. Ansky (1863–1920) may be read as a modern retelling of the ancient myth of fallen angels, in which heavenly beings descend to earth only to be seduced by it. It also shows that most of the mythic elements in the play can be attributed to Ansky, rather than his translator, H. N. Bialik. Ansky thus steers a modernist course that differs meaningfully from those charted by some of his contemporaries. His play neither redeems the ascent-apotheosis, nor plunges into the nihilistic abyss of Y. L. Peretz's Drei matones or Bialik's Heziz ve-nifga . Rather than deconstructing the sacred to expose its bankruptcy, Ansky embraces a sacralization of the profane. Exploring the mythic trajectory of embodiment, of fallas-ascent, in The Dybbuk he crafted a modernist myth pulsing with the energy of an ancient heresy, of divinity-in-desire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-84
Number of pages19
JournalJewish Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Heresy
  • The Dybbuk
  • Fallen Angels
  • Bialik
  • S. Ansky


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