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Sabbatai Zevi & Jacob Frank

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Sabbatai Zevi & Jacob Frank

  1. 1. Sabbatai Zevi & Jacob Frank Sabbatai Zevi (1626–76) Jewish mystic and pseudo-Messiah, founder of the Sabbatean sect, b. Smyrna. After a period of study of Lurianic kabbalah he became deeply influenced by its ideas of imminent national redemption. In 1648 he proclaimed himself the Messiah, named the year 1666 as the millennium, and gathered a host of followers. In 1666 he attempted to land in Constantinople, was captured, and to escape death embraced Islam. Nevertheless, the influence of the Sabbatean movement survived for many years; it had secret adherents in the 18th cent. and was revived under Jacob Frank. Jacob Frank (1726-91) Jewish false messiah. He was an uneducated visionary who claimed to be the reincarnation of Shabbetai Tzevi. He proclaimed himself messiah in 1751 and founded the Frankist, or Zoharist, sect, based on the Sefer ha-zohar, which he sought to put in the place of the Torah. The sect rejected traditional Judaism, and their practices, including orgiastic rites, led the Jewish community to excommunicate them in 1756. Protected by Roman Catholic authorities, who hoped Frank would help in the conversion of the Jews, Frank and his followers were baptized in Poland. In 1760 he was imprisoned by the Inquisition, who had realized that Franks followers regarded Frank, not Jesus, as the messiah. Freed in 1773 by invading Russians, he settled in Germany and lived as a baron until his death. A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO HASIDISM"They conduct themselves like madmen, and explain their behaviour by saying that in theirthoughts they soar in the most far-off worlds .... Every day is for them a holiday. When they pray... they raise such a din that the walls quake ... And they turn over like wheels, with the headbelow and the legs above ... " (From a denunciation of the Hasidim by traditional Eastern EuropeRabbinic authorities, circa 1772)The Hasidim, or "pious ones" in Hebrew, belong to a special movement withinOrthodox Judaism, a movement that, at its height in the first half of the nineteenth century,claimed the allegiance of millions in Eastern and Central Europe--perhaps a majority of EastEuropean Jews. Soon after its founding in the mid-eighteenth century by Jewish mystics,Hasidism rapidly gained popularity in all strata of society, especially among the lesseducated common people, who were drawn to its charismatic leaders and the emotional andspiritual appeal of their message, which stressed joy, faith, and ecstatic prayer, accompaniedby song and dance. Like other religious revitalization movements, Hasidism was at once acall to spiritual renewal and a protest against the prevailing religious establishment andculture.The history of Hasidism, which encompasses a variety of sometimes conflicting outlooks, isa fascinating story. The movement survived a century of slow decline--during a period when 1
  2. 2. progressive social ideas were spreading among European Jewry--and then near-totaldestruction in the Holocaust. After World War II, Hasidism was transplanted by immigrantsto America, Israel, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe. In these most modern of places,especially in New York and other American cities, it is now thriving as an evolving creativeminority that preserves the language--Yiddish--and many of the religious traditions of pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jewry.The Hasidic ideal is to live a hallowed life, in which even the most mundane action issanctified. Hasidim live in tightly-knit communities (known as "courts") that are spirituallycentered around a dynastic leader known as a rebbe, who combines political and religiousauthority. The many different courts and their rebbes are known by the name of the townwhere they originated: thus the Bobov came the town of Bobova in Poland (Galicia), theSatmar from Satu Mar in present-day Hungary, the Belz from Poland, and the Lubavitchfrom Russia. In Brooklyn today, there are over sixty courts represented, but most of these arevery small, with some comprising only a handful of families. The great majority ofAmerican Hasidim belong to one of a dozen or so principal surviving courts. Hasidism is nota denomination but an all-embracing religious lifestyle and ideology, which is expressedsomewhat differently by adherents of the diverse courts (also called "sects").The Hasidic way of life is visually and musically arresting, with rich textures, unusualcustoms, and strong traditions of music and dance. Hasidic tales, intriguing and memorabledoorways into a complex world of Hasidic thought, religious themes, and humor, are fruitsof a long and continuing oral tradition. Popularized in the non-Hasidic world by writers suchas Martin Buber, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Elie Wiesel, they are famous for their particularwisdom and wit.Yet this world is virtually unknown to most Americans, who are apt to confuse Hasidic men,who wear beards, sidelocks, black hats, and long coats, with the similarly-dressed Amish.This shared style of dress does indeed reflect similar values of piety, extreme traditionalism,and separatism. But where the Amish are farmers in rural communities, the great majority ofthe approximately two hundred thousand American Hasidim live and work in enclaves in theheart of New York City, amid a number of vital contemporary cultures very different fromtheir own.Most of the approximately 165,000 Hasidim in the New York City area live in threeneighborhoods in Brooklyn: Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Boro Park. Each of the threeneighborhoods is home to Hasidim of different courts, although there is overlap andmovement between them. There are approximately forty-five thousand Satmar Hasidim inWilliamsburg, over fifty thousand Bobover Hasidim in Boro Park, and at least fifteenthousand Lubavitch in Crown Heights. The population of each of these groups has increaseddramatically since the first American Hasidic communities were formed in the late 1940sand 1950s, with especially rapid growth in the last two decades. From the Public Broadcasting Service Website (PBS) and the documentary film “A Life Apart – Hasidism in America”. http://www.pbs.org/alifeapart/intro.html Some other useful Websites – Judaism 101 - http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm – - Rabbi Gershom - http://www.pinenet.com/~rooster/index.html 2

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