Let’s try and explain what ‘Sabbateanism’ and ‘Frankism’ really are.
Before we move forward (very cautiously…) in exploring what happened to all those many thousands of ‘pious orthodox Jews’ (including big rabbis) who were really secret Sabbateans, let’s first back up, and try to understand what it means to be a ‘Sabbatean’, or a ‘Frankist’, or whatever today’s branding of that very old ‘religion’ actually is.
A few months ago, I put together a crash course on the history of Shabtai Tzvi and Jacob Frank, which you can (and probably should…) go and read here:
This post isn’t going to rehash that more historical information.
Instead, it’s going to try to explain what Sabbatean / Frankists actually believe, and how their beliefs have trickled down into every layer of Jewish life, religious and secular – and why that’s such a problem for us today.
Let’s kick off.
‘The problem’, primarily, is NOT that Shabtai Tzvi’s followers, and then Jacob Frank’s followers believed that these men were potential candidates for Moshiach.
It’s a principle of Jewish faith, enumerated by the Rambam, that we should expect the Moshiach to arrive every single moment, and there is no ‘sin’ involved – whatsoever – in thinking someone might be a potential candidate for Moshiach.
Of course, that candidate has to fit the criteria laid out by the Sages, to help us identify who the Moshiach really is.
If someone is a Moloch-worshipping, baby-slaughtering prince of black magic – for example – then even if they do happen to ‘descend from King David’, that’s still not enough to swing the vote to crown them Moshiach.
Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
So, the problem wasn’t so much that so many people in the Jewish community believed Shabtai Tzvi was ‘Moshiach’, at least initially, until he converted to Islam and then died without redeeming anyone.
The problem was, and always has been, with the ‘theology’ that the Sabbateans, and the Frankists and Donmeh after them, teach.
I know this stuff can be hard for a person to get their head around, so let’s go slowly.
Judaism is based upon the idea that when we fulfill Hashem’s will, i.e. by performing a positive ‘mitzvah’ or by avoiding a negative / evil action or transgression, that is how we rectify the world.
When the holy Arizal came along, he revealed way more kabbalah that explains this process of ‘raising the sparks of kedusha’ out of the evil shells, or klipot, that they had fallen into, when the original ‘vessels of light’ exploded, at the creation of the world.
Those slivers of sublime kedusha are now embedded in every layer of creation, and are hidden all over the place, in this concrete, materialistic world we currently inhabit.
Every time we do a mitzvah – defined as performing God’s will – we raise up more of these sparks of holiness, and give them back to God. When this process is complete, and all the sparks have been lifted out of the side of evil and put back in their rightful place, the world will be fully rectified, and geula will occur.
This is the basic idea, clearly very simplified.
To keep this real, let’s give a few examples.
When you say a blessing on that apple, you are lifting the spark of kedusha out of its materialistic shell, and returning it to God in a rectified state.
Similarly, when you avoid getting angry at really annoying and frustrating people and situations, you are also rectifying some of the sparks of kedusha located in your own body / soul combo, and doing the job of purifying your neshama.
Every single second we are alive on this earth, we have the chance and the choice to ‘rectify sparks of holiness’ in this way – or to do the opposite.
There are two ways we can do the opposite of building the world, and rectifying the fallen sparks.
One way is by NOT doing positive commandments, like laying tefillin, or reciting brachot on the food we eat.
While this is not contributing anything to building and rectifying the world – which is basically the whole point of being alive – this ‘absence of good’ is still the lesser evil.
Because the second way of doing the opposite of rectifying the sparks is:
By transgressing the negative commandments and deliberately doing exactly the opposite of how Hashem told us we can fix the world.
And this is where we segue back in, to our discussion of what ‘Sabbateanism’ and ‘Frankism’ really stands for.
As we learned in the post about the ‘bad Baal Shem’ of London, Samuel Chaim Falk, yimach shmo, these people were not irreligious, or ‘secular’. Anything but.
They were deeply religious, often very ascetic and spent their whole life in pursuit of ‘spirituality’.
It’s just that their ‘spirituality’ was all coming from the dark side.
As I’ve discussed before, they took the notion that the Moshiach will only come when the world it ‘totally good’ or ‘totally bad’ literally, and decided that the world could never be ‘totally good’.
So, if they really wanted Moshiach (and man, they really wanted Moshiach now!!!, whatever else you can say about them) – they decided that the only way to get him to come was by making the world ‘totally bad’.
All the s*xual immorality that you find by both the original Sabbateans, and also within their splinter groups of the (externally Muslim) Donmeh in Turkey, and the (externally Catholic) Frankists in the West and Israel, is not an accident.
The Sabbateans and Frankists were masters of kabbalah, (which don’t forget, is the basis of all black magic in the world, because it’s truly the ‘recipe’ that Hashem used to create the physical world.)
They understood way more than most of us, the tremendous power of evil that could be harnessed through misusing the act of procreation.
That’s why ‘sacred orgies’ were such a big part of Sabbateanism and Frankism.
That’s why they went out of their way to engage in forbidden relationships of the very worst sort, including transgressing the prohibition of incest.
That’s why Frankists (and also Freemasons) were known to deliberately engage in acts of ‘auto-eroticism’ before any big festival, or project, or ‘spiritual service’ they were undertaking.
It wasn’t an accident or a mistake.
It was totally deliberate, to ‘capture’ the power of the evil created by their misuse of the procreative act, and use it to juice up all their other evil designs.
So, the main problem wasn’t that people were ‘worshipping’ Shabtai Tzvi or Frank as the messiah (although we’ll discuss more about that in a moment.)
The main problem was that essentially, these ‘secret Sabbateans’ and ‘secret Frankists’ were effectively binding themselves to the side of evil, in the most extreme way.
Remember, we are dealing with arch-hypocrites here.
They were and are the epitome of ‘two faced’.
They often present a very makpid, orthodox religious face to the outside world, and judge other people oh so very harshly for their minor infractions and failings, while all the time pretending to be ‘perfect and infallible’ themselves – because behind closed doors, they are doing whatever the heck they please.
So now we hopefully understand that Sabbateanism / Frankism was about the worship of evil, and not just about some case of ‘mistaken identity’ about who was going to be the Moshiach, let’s return to the historical side of things, to lay out what was actually going on.
And how that’s still affecting us today.
First, here’s some basic tenets of what I’ll call ‘Sabbateanism theology’.
As we already learned, Sabbateans hold that you rectify the world by performing acts of evil, and deliberately going against the explicit will of Hashem.
They also hold that as soon the ‘Messianic Era’ began, the ‘upside-down world’ was turned the other way up, which meant that every ‘Thou shalt not’ became a positive commandment.
In their warped ideology, it was now a mitzvah to kill, rob, steal, covet, and commit adultery and incest.
That’s why they used to have a ‘blessing’ lehavdil of: “Blessed art thou, L–d, who cancels and allows the prohibitions.”
Clearly, it wasn’t Hashem who they were blessing by saying this.
So who was it?
Sabbateans also taught that the soul of Shabtai Tzvi, their false messiah, would come back in one of two ways to ‘complete the job of redemption’.
(Yes I know. We’ve heard that before somewhere, haven’t we?)
Either, Shabtai Tzvi would have a ‘second coming’, where he would literally rise from the dead, or come out of the cave he was hiding in, or beam down from the spaceship he’d flown off to gan eden in (maybe together with Elvis Presley, who knows?).
The specific soul of Shabtai Tzvi would ‘reincarnate’ into one of his followers, as part of the secret of ibbur, and complete the job that way.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to pin down some of the errors in Sabbatean theology, is because so much of it was wrapped around a kernel of truth, from authentic and holy yiddishkeit.
For example, on the side of kedusha we know that there is a special type of soul referred to as the ‘Tzaddik yesod olam’ – ‘Tzaddik, the foundation of the world.’
There is only one of these souls to be found in every generation, and that soul is the soul of the potential soul of the Moshiach.
Pay close attention, because I’m going to try to explain the subtle, but hugely meaningful difference between genuine Jewish belief and Sabbatean / Frankist heresy here.
The Zohar teaches us that this soul of the redeemer, aka the Moshiach of the generation, contains all the soul sparks of the entire nation of Israel.
Every single one of us from big to small, and from left to right, and even from ‘most evil’ to ‘most holy’ is included in this soul of the Moshiach.
That’s why each of us has a very real role to play in ‘bringing Moshiach’, because the more we work on rectifying ourselves, and particularly the bad middot, the more we are bringing that spirit of Moshiach down into the world.
This is not what the Sabbateans and Frankists (and heck, let’s include the xtians here too, as it’s effectively the same problem) believe.
They believe that *one particular person*, one particular soul, is *the* Moshiach.
And that *particular person* just keeps coming back and reincarnating in a different body, or even ‘taking over the body’ of a different person, in something that sounds akin to demonic possession, until they get the job done.
It’s a subtle difference, but it literally makes all the difference in the world:
‘Moshiach’ as the ‘mirror’ / composite soul of the whole of the Jewish people – which means we all have our part to play to get to geula – or ‘Moshiach’ as one specific guy who comes and ‘fixes’ everyone else.
It’s also the difference between a false Moshiach that’s ‘branded’ as belonging to a particular group, or sect, and a Moshiach that represents the entirety of the Jewish people.
That’s why after Shabtai Tzvi died, there was a massive power struggle between his closest followers to try to claim that they were his true incarnation.
Whoever could convince the massive group of followers that they were ‘Shabtai Tzvi #2’ would inherit the power base, the followers, the influence, the power, the money.
That’s why there were so many different ‘false prophets’ of Sabbateanism after Shabtai Tzvi died, and that’s why there were so very many ‘false messiahs’ in the 18th century, when his followers had finally given up on the idea of the ‘second coming of Shabtai Tzvi’, and moved over to the second model described above.
So, when Jacob Frank, yimach shmo, turned up on the scene, he wasn’t trying to create a ‘new religion’.
All he did, at least initially, was to stake his claim as being that generations ‘incarnation’ of Shabtai Tzvi.
As I’ve mentioned, there were huge pockets of secret Sabbateans all over Turkey, Podolia, Italy, Amsterdam and Germany, at this time. Anywhere you had Jewish communities, you also had large groups of Sabbateans.
Some communities, like Rohatyn, Zolkiew, Podholice and Furth (to give just some examples) were known to be almost entirely ‘Sabbatian’ in the 18th century.
Externally, these were still communities of ostensibly ‘orthodox’ Jews.
They still had ‘Av Beis Dins’, and synagogues, and shochets, and yeshivas. But behind closed doors?
There was a poisonous root of ‘anti-Torah’ heresy growing and spreading.
Before I learned all this, it always amazed me how someone like Jacob Frank could show up and convince tens of thousands of orthodox Jews – including big rabbis like the distinguished ‘Shor family’– to drop their religion so quickly, and publically convert to Catholicism.
Once I realized that Frank was just the latest in a very long line of ‘false messiahs’ to successfully inherit the ‘crown’ of Shabtai Tzvi, it all made way more sense.
So now, let’s end this post with some examples of specific ‘Frankist’ theology, that will hopefully help you to detect some of those ‘Frankist’ influences that are currently all around us, in the Jewish world.
Shabtai Tzvi gave us ‘doing bad’ as a mitzvah, and deliberately perverting the procreative act.
His doctrine is almost certainly behind all the child abuse scandals plaguing both the Catholic church and the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.
Frank added to this:
- Literally worshipping ‘the messiah’ as though he is god (deliberate small ‘g’ here, to respect the Almighty).
- Sanctifying and encouraging incest (which went one step further than Shabtai Tzvi).
- Raising religious hypocrisy to an artform, where his followers would ‘pretend’ to be devout orthodox Jews, and later, devout Catholics, while secretly working to subvert from within.
- Actively promoting assimilation within the wider community – (in later years he wrote about his desire to create a ‘one world religion’ to encompass Judaism, xtianity and Islam. Does that sound familiar?)
- Deliberately going against even external compliance with Torah law (but only to the degree accepted by the doctrinal norms of the Catholic church, which is why he kept his s*xual immorality / nihilism and dark occultic practices more hidden.)
- Actively promoting settlement in Israel, to await ‘the final redemption’.
This last one included the following elements:
- Actively promoting Jews living on what was called ‘agricultural settlements’, which became the forerunner of the kibbutzim in the State of Israel.
- Actively encouraging Jews to become soldiers.
Frank himself had an army, and encouraged his followers to engage in military training.
And if you look into who was encouraging ‘agricultural settlements’, both in Russia, the new world and Eretz Israel, you will start to identity many of the ‘secret Frankists’ who have so far escaped detection.
I know, this is big, heavy stuff, isn’t it?
This morning, I was talking to God again about what He really wants from me here, because God forbid I should do anything He doesn’t want me to do.
I’m very happy to leave this can of worms untouched, if that’s what He wants.
But the message I keep getting – loudly – is continue!!!!!
These secret Frankists have been holding the rest of the Jewish world hostage for way too long already, and delaying redemption.
And from what I can tell, God’s finally had enough of it.
I got this comment, which is making a fair point:
I think it’s important to point out that most of the ‘secret sabbateans’ today probably never heard of Jacob Frank and vaguely know that Shabtai Tzvi was some false messiah. However, they are still continuing in their footsteps by believing and promoting the same ideas.
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