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Asher Lemmlein: Another Jewish false messiah you never heard about

Over the course of my research into the false messiahs like Shabtai Tzvi and Jacob Frank, another name kept coming up around the edges.

That name was ‘Asher Lemlein’.

Here and there, I’d catch references to some ‘false messiah’ in the 16th century who wreaked havoc on the Ashkenazi Jewish world, and caused hundreds and maybe even thousands of people to ‘turn Christian’, when their messianic hopes turned out to be unfounded.

I know you never heard about this.

It seems that almost nobody has ever heard about this, but I decided to try and track down more info, if possible, to see who he really was, and what really happened, the century before Shabtai Tzvi / SHACH appeared on the scene.

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Last week, I finally got the book that sets out the whole story.

It’s called: Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation, by Rebecca Vos, associate professor of Jewish history at Goethe University, Frankfurt.

Here’s the basic story of ‘Asher Lemlein’, and then we’ll see if we can track him down in some family trees, which will also be a very interesting addenda, because there is nothing new under the sun.

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In the Middle Ages, there was an open spiritual ‘war’ going on between xtianity and Judaism, as to who was really ‘God’s chosen people’.

The xtians believed that God had basically dumped the Jewish people, and was now orchestrating their ongoing persecution at the hands of the xtians, because the Jews has failed to recognise Yoshki as the ‘true Moshiach’.

In our times, this idea is called ‘xtian replacement theology’,  and it’s at the heart of a lot of what is currently going wrong in the State of Israel.

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In an over-simplified nutshell, the xtians knew their bible very well, and they knew the prophecy given to Rivka that ‘Yaakov’ would serve ‘Esav’, and that when one brother was up, the other would be down.

And they also knew all the prophecies about Edom (Esav) being destroyed at the end of days.

But, the xtians flipped everything on its head, to say that they were the ‘new Yaakov’, and that the Jews themselves had now been cast in the role of ‘red Edom’ / Esav.

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Around this time, there was a lot of talk of the ‘Red Jews’, associated with the lost 10 tribes of Israel, who the xtians believed would show up again when the Jewish moshiach came to do battle the xtians and take vengeance against them for their horrible treatment of the Jews in their midst.

There is a set of stained glass windows from 1370 that commemorate these ‘Red Jews’, in St Mary’s church in Frankfurt an der Oder. One of them is called: The Antichrist with the Red Jews beside the Sambatyon River.

In case you hadn’t figured this out already, in xtian eyes, the true Jewish Moshiach is their ‘antichrist’, who was meant to come and fight against the xtians at the End of Days.

So, the xtians were super-vigilant about any potential ‘Moshiach’ candidates in Europe, and that also contributed to an atmosphere where the Jews usually tried to cover up the discussion about their fake messiah candidates, so it wouldn’t spark retribution from the xtians.

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This is the background, and it’s part of why you’ve never heard of  the false messiah Asher Lemlein (Gunzburg?).

Let’s tell his story now, and then we’ll get to the other reason why you’ve never heard of him.

Vos starts her chapter on this guy with these words:

“At the turn of the sixteenth century, messianic expectations among European Jews and Christians reached a zenith.”

Europe was being convulsed by peasant revolutions; the Spanish empire (which had just kicked out or converted most of its Jews) was expecting ‘the end’ imminently; and the Ottoman Turks had just recently conquered the seat of the Byzantine church in Constantinople – and were on the march towards Europe itself.

Everyone was talking about geula.

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On the Jewish side of the fence, Yitzhak Abravanel published Ma’ayenei HaYeshua in 1497, which identified the year 5263 (1503) as a very auspicious year for the coming of Moshiach.

Meanwhile, on the non-Jewish side, the astrologers were off calculating planetary movements, and saw that in 1503-1504, there would be an unusual and propitious ‘conjunction of the superior planets’, namely Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

Let’s just press pause for a moment, to explain once again that there is nothing new under the sun.

Every ‘false messiah’ episode in Jewish history has always been fuelled by some sort of ‘auspicious year’ prediction for the coming of Moshiach, combined with weird planetary activity, plus wars, famines and natural disasters.

Personally, that’s comforting to me, as the world continues to disintegrate into madness.

There is nothing new under the sun, and just like we weathered previous crazy times, we will weather this period of time, too.

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So, back to Asher Lemlein.

Whaddya know, in this heady atmosphere, a whole slew of ‘prophets’ suddenly turn up around 1500, both in the Jewish and the xtian worlds – and especially in Italy.

One of the more famous non-Jewish prophets around this time is Girolamo Savonarola, who preaches fire and brimstone sermons about people needing to repent because ‘the end is nigh’ – until the Vatican leaders decided to execute him, because they were sick of him pointing out all their corruption to the masses.

At this same time, one ‘Asher ben Meir Lemlein Ashkenazi’ suddenly steps into the limelight, on the Jewish side of the fence.

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According to Vos, he first appears around 1500, and his family seems to hail from the city of ‘Reutlingen’, where the Jews were expelled in 1495.

I can’t find anything for ‘Reutlingen’, but there was a Jewish community at that time, at that place, in Treutlingen, which apparently burned down in 1495.

Snippet from HERE:

Treuchtlingen (among Jews, Troilingen) of Middle Franconia. Germany. Jews were among the victims of the Black Death persecutions of 1348-49. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they lived under letters of protection and constituted one of the important communities in Bavaria

 Vos explains that a lot of Jews from the area of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ that we now know broadly today as Germany settled in Italy around this time, mostly as a result of persecution.

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Istria, the area where Lemlein started preaching, near Venice, was known for having a Jewish community that was populated by bankers, traders and money lenders.

This snippet comes from HERE:

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Asher Lemlein was a kabbalist with some very ‘controversial’ opinions about the transmigration of souls and techiat hameitim.

His kabbalistic teachings were strongly criticised by the author of the Shalshelet ha-kabbalah, amongst other contemporary kabbalists.

Vos states that his views “caused outrage and indignation”, even before he proclaimed himself officially as a prophet in 1500, to a group of h is students in the Italian town of Isola.

Snippet, from page 53:

[H]e professed the ability to produce signs and wonders with the help of angelic and divine names….Lemlein appeared to many as other insane, or possessed by a demon…”

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These false messiahs ALWAYS have their hands mixed up with ‘practical kabbalah’ aka demon-conjuring, to perform their ‘miracles’ and persuade the masses that they are who they pretend to be.

We saw the same thing with Jacob Frank, and his father-in-law Dr Falk, the demon-conjuring bad ‘baal shem’ of London (and founder of the satanic Order of the Golden Dawn), who is still being venerated as a ‘tzaddik’ today….

There is nothing new under the sun.

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So, Lemlein shows up, does some open miracles via the use of impure names and conjuring demons, then starts to tell the many hundreds of thousands of Jews that God wants to bring the geula very soon.

But, before that can happen, he tells the Jewish community that they need to go through six months of agonizing ‘penances’, bodily mortifications and teshuva.

Lemlein tells them if they do this (p55):

“[A] fiery column with a dark cloud shall surround all Jews, in the same way as happened in the times of Pharoah, and drive them again to Jerusalem, where the temple shall be rebuilt and offerings made.”

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And the Jews, God bless them, they do it!!!

They fast 2 and 3 times a week, they flagellate themselves, they wear sack cloth non-stop

With maximum self-sacrifice. Even for more than six months, they do all this for almost a year.

And then…. nothing happens.

And so many Jews get so disappointed that after all that effort for the ‘false messiah’, they still didn’t get to geula, literally hundreds and thousands of them start converting en masse to Christianity, because they have lost hope of the geula ever happening.

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One of those famous Jewish apostates is Johannes Pfefferkorn.

Pfefferkorn becomes one of the most vicious anti-Jewish, anti-Talmud opponents of his former brethren.

This snippet is from his Wikipedia page – which totally omits any mention of how Asher Lemlein caused the Pfefferkorn family to convert:

Johannes (Josef) Pfefferkorn (1469–1523) was a German Catholic theologian and writer who converted from Judaism. Pfefferkorn actively preached against the Jews and attempted to destroy copies of the Talmud…

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Another famous apostate is ‘Anton Margaritha’, who converts in 1522, also despairing of geula.

Wikipedia states that his father was Rabbi Jacob Margolioth of Ratisbon / Regensburg.

But according to the Encyclopaedia of Judaism, HERE, ‘Anton Margaritha’ was Jacob’s grandson:

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There’s a few interesting things here.

Take a look at who Jacob Margolioth’s son is: Shalom Shakhna, the author of Yam she-Asah Shelomo.

Geni is totally missing this ‘Shalom Shakna’ out, for some reason.

I think he could be the same as this guy, the father-in-law of the REMA, who mysteriously has no parents despite being such a famous rabbinical figure, and who we’ve already written about being a suspected Karaite.

Screenshot from HERE:

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In the meantime, this comes from the YIVO website:

SHALOM SHAKNAH (ca. 1495–1558), rosh yeshivah and rabbi in Lublin; chief rabbi of Poland.

Shalom Shakhnah ben Yosef was born into one of the richest Jewish families of Poland. His father Yosef (Yoska) and grandfather Shakhnah were successful farmers of customs duties in Poland. After Yosef’s property was plundered, he moved from Lwów to Lublin in about 1504 and opened a money-lending business.

After Yosef’s death in 1507, Shakhnah maintained the business, but subsequently turned to Torah study and a rabbinical career.

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So, ‘Yosef (Yoska)’ turns out to be R Jacob Margoliyot;

  • The Margoliyots turn out to be ‘one of the richest families in Poland’, with tight links to the royalty and jobs as royal tax farmers;
  • Jacob / Yosef moves to Lublin the exact same year that false messiah Asher Lemlein is proven to be a bust, causing tons of Jews convert to xtianity;
  • One of his sons is Shalom Shachne SHOR, REMA father-in-law, tax farmer, suspected Karaite and Chief Rabbi of Poland
  • Another one of his sons is R’ Shmuel of Posen – ABD of Greater Poland before his brother Shalom Shachne, and father of the famous Jewish apostate ‘Anton Margaritha’…

Are you starting to understand why there are so many ‘mysteries’ all the time in these family trees?

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Let’s get back to Asher Lemlein.

By 1509, he’s known to have run away to Israel – to Tsfat, specifically – where he’s writing things about why the Moshiach didn’t come the way he promised everyone he would, back in 1502/3.

He has a ‘vision’ where he’s shown that the main reason Moshiach didn’t come then… is because the Sephardim are mangling the prayers by mispronouncing the Hebrew letters…

But that’s not all. He also writes this about the Sephardim (p59):

“They all became apostate…, because they did not believe in God and had no faith in His redemption, saying belief is but an invention of the masses. And all of this is merely the fruit of philosophy.”

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It’s all so strange, these writings, because a large percentage of the Jewish population had converted to Christianity barely 20 years before, in 1492, and were still living as xtians.

Like, duh!

Of course God wasn’t happy with them doing that…

And yet, this massive piece of information is so regularly and so casually overlooked, in ways that are hard to fathom.

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Apparently one of Asher Lemlein’s ‘big believers’ was none other than Eliezer Treves.

He’s that same Eliezer Treves who married Jutta Treves, and sired most of ‘big rabbinical families’, plus a whole bunch of mysteries about why so many people in his family appear to be marrying their aunts.

Snippet from pg 71:

“[As told by David Gans, his student Frankfurt am Main] Decades after Lemlein’s prophecy, Treves was heard to say ‘that it was no empty word and that he had produced signs and wonders. And he said that perhaps our sins led to it and delayed him [the Messiah’.”

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As to Lemlein himself… he apparently disappears without a trace of any family or descendants – like all these false messiahs always do.

But… I’m struck by the similarity in name of this guy, Asher Aharon Leamali Ulma Guntzburg, hanging out bang in the middle of the Guntzburg family tree that all roads eventually lead back to, when I’m trying to track down ‘interesting people’:

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This guy seems to be 80 years too late to be ‘Asher Lemmlein’ himself.

But if I’ve learnt one thing about the family trees of false messiahs, it’s that they lie about just about everything.

And history has a funny way of repeating itself over and over and over again, when it comes to ‘false messiahs’ popping up in this particular extended family tree, which leads us to the SHACH / Shabtai Tzvi and also to Jacob Frank (and later on, to the Satmar Rebbe, the Chabad dynasty, and a whole bunch of other chassidic rebbes, plus of course, the Vilna Gaon.)

So.

Who knows, really, whether ‘Asher Lemmlein’ just vanished in thin air in Tsfat, or whether he and his family got recycled again as the infamous Gunzburg clan?

But one thing is clear:

There is really nothing new under the sun.

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7 replies
  1. doo wop rebbe
    doo wop rebbe says:

    THE EVANGELICALS CONCEDED WE STILL ARE CHOSEN BUT MESSED UP BY R EJECTING YOSHKI BUT WILL ADMIT IT WHN HE RETURNS( DONT HOLD YOUR B REATH) HENCE THETR PHILO SEMITISM AND PRO ISRAEL STANCE TRUMP WAS PO ISRAEL TO PLEASE 30 MILLION OF THE NO 1 MILLION FRU JEWS

    Reply
  2. JR
    JR says:

    “I know you never heard about this.”

    I’ve heard of him.
    His obscurity could be because he’s eclipsed by that latter more infamous, more destructive messianic imposter. And he is also less important that Bar Kochba.
    Lehavdil, how many people who learn Rashi daily could name the second most important gadol in late 11th century France?

    You see, it’s rare to remember who was second & third place.

    Reply
  3. Z
    Z says:

    Hi there,
    You seem understandably confused as you see terrible things happening to the religious world by religious people and even more so by others. Let me try to clarify things for you. There are bad apples in the religious world and there always were there is nothing new under the sun. Geni is a very mixing up conglomerate of families which comes out to impossible relationships in general these are mistakes of the people loading the information. You seem to have been scared off from exploring the real perpetrators of evil in the frum communities a rav told you “it is to dangerous”. Please be Dan lekav zechus your own people as much as possible especially our great leaders. I have seen corruption by leadership in the frum world. That doesn’t pasul everyone all the time. I’m sure you don’t want to be exposed at your weakest point or family links weakest point. In the video you posted And I watched the children always seemed to be talking about goyim perpetrating the evil. I do believe they are using kochas hatummah and other things but that doesn’t make them Rabbis or connected to Rabbis. In general the people who help them from inside the community all some how have a disorder of 2 personalities which is easily confused with a head which was hypnotized and “programmed”. When will anyone get it? Hashem help.
    I hope that I helped you

    Z

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      I appreciate your sincere input, and you are making some very good points, thank you.

      Just to be clear, the geni stuff is the tofel, not the ikker. If you check back through the posts going up here, you’ll find that there is usually a wealth of information from other sources, including books, academic journals and things like the Encyclopaedia Judaica, which help to piece together most of the story. And then geni is just to see how all the different pieces of the existing story may relate to each other.

      Once you see people mixed up with false messiahs, etc, and you know that those false messiahs encouraged all sorts of terrible acts that went contrary to Torah, particularly in the area of personal holiness, then it becomes more of an interesting question as whether all the ‘forbidden relationships’ in those families are just plain old ‘mistakes’, that no-one seems to be able to rectify easily, or whether something else is going on.

      I guess the point is that Sabbateanism-Frankism is a RELIGION, mamash, passed down the generations in certain families, which encourages and promotes the behavior that otherwise we think is just a problem with random ‘bad apples’.

      I’m saying it’s not random.

      Abused people become abusers themselves, until and unless the abuse is uncovered, addressed, and the trauma is somehow processed and ‘released’ in a healthy way.

      Reply
      • JR
        JR says:

        “and you know that those false messiahs encouraged all sorts of terrible acts that went contrary to Torah,”

        What terrible acts did Asher Lemlein encourage? From the scant information we have, there’s no indication that he was anything like SZ. Not all false messiahs are evil people. As the Rambam states:
        ואם לא הצליח עד כה, או נהרג – בידוע שאינו זה שהבטיחה עליו תורה, והרי הוא ככל מלכי בית דוד השלמים הכשרים שמתו. ולא העמידו הקדוש ברוך הוא אלא לנסות בו רבים
        Note the last statement- that Hashem sends these false messiahs to test the people. It’s implied, that if the people lose their faith over the disappointment, it’s them that have failed the ordeal. The false messiah remains ” ככל מלכי בית דוד השלמים הכשרים”.

        Reply
  4. Shimshon
    Shimshon says:

    There is a very interesting and comprehensive book about Jewish false messiahs that came out a few years ago. It is only available in Hebrew, sadly. It is by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger, known colloquially as the “Yekke Rebbe” because of his role in researching and preserving the original Ashkenaz nusach and minhagim.

    “What terrible acts did Asher Lemlein encourage?” If he is guilty of such, they will be in the book.

    https://moreshesashkenaz.org/en/other-publications/3-false-messiahs

    Highly recommended for your research.

    Reply

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