Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Sabbatian Credo

In a recent post I discussed the issue of principles of faith within Judaism. I offered my own formulation of them. Since then Bray of the Fundie has kindly offered his own list of principles. I just came across a list principles of faith for the Sabbatian sect of the Donmeh. The Donmeh were Jews who converted to Islam in the seventeenth century, following in the footsteps of the apostate messiah Sabbatai Sevi. As with many Sabbatian groups, the Donmeh practiced a radical form of antinomianism, the ritual violation of religious taboos. For example they believed in ritualized wife swapping. (And people think that religion is prudish and boring.)

I believe with perfect faith in the faith of the God of truth, the God of Israel who dwells in [the sefirah] tiferet, the “glory of Israel,” the three knots of faith which are one.

(This is a common theme within Gnostic thought. There is the lower creator God and the true God revealed to the initiates of the group.)

I believe with perfect faith that Sabbatai Zevi is the true King Messiah.

I believe with perfect faith that the Torah, which was given through our teacher Moses placed before Israel, as ordered by God through Moses. It is a Tree of Life to them that hold fast to it and its supporters will be happy … [here follow several biblical verses extolling the Torah].

I believe with perfect faith that this Torah cannot be exchanged and that there will be no other Torah; only the commandments have been abolished, but the Torah remains binding forever and to all eternities.

I believe with perfect faith that Sabbatai Zevi, may his majesty be exalted, is the true Messiah and that he will gather together the dispersed of Israel from the four corners of the earth.

I believe with perfect faith in the resurrection of the dead, that the dead shall live and shall arise from the dust of the earth.

I believe with perfect faith that the God of truth, the God of Israel, will send the rebuilt sanctuary from above down to us [on earth] beneath, as it is said: Unless God buld the house, those that build it labor in vain. May our eyes see and our heart rejoice and our soul sing for joy, speedily in our days. Amen.

I believe with perfect faith that the God of truth, the God of Israel will reveal Himself in this [earthly] world [called] tevel, as it is said: And the glory of God will be revealed and all flesh shall see it, for the mouth of the Lord has promised it.

May it be pleasing before Thee, God of truth, God of Israel who dwells in the “glory of Israel,” in the three knots of faith which are one, to send us the just Messiah, our Redeemer Sabbatai Zevi, speedily and in our days. Amen. (Gershom Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism pg. 157)

For all you people in the market for a Jewish savior without the messiness of getting nailed to a piece of wood, may I suggest a nice Jewish boy from Turkey. You can acknowledge before him that you are a sinner and pray:

Sabetay Zevi, Sabetay Zevi,
No ai a utro como a ti
Sabetay Zevi, Sabetay Zevi
Esperamos a ti

(Sabbatai Sevi, Sabbatai Sevi
There is no other like you
Sabbatai Sevi, Sabbatai Sevi
We hope to you)


e-kvetcher said...

>For example they believed in ritualized wife swapping.

What are the sources for that?

Izgad said...

See Scholem's essay "Redemption Through Sin" in The Messianic Idea in Judaism.

e-kvetcher said...

"During a recent visit to Turkey, I had the good fortune to make contact with a Sabbatean descendant. I shall call him Hassan. Hassan is a Kapandji. He allowed me to interview him and to write this article so long as I did not use his real name or otherwise identify him. Hassan was quite emphatic about contradicting some of what has been written about the Donmeh. He denied that any of the Sabbatean sects engaged in antinomian deviations including wife-swapping — accusations that have been accepted by reputable scholars. He also asserted that Sabbateanism is not completely dead but still had adherents among “a couple of thousand of the Karakashis.” Lastly, he denied that Sabbateanism was affected by the Islamic religion except to mask their inner Sabbatean faith, “especially in Sabbatai Zevi’s times.”

The false allegation of sexual promiscuity among the Donmeh has two origins, according to Hassan. It came about as a result of an equality among the sexes practiced by the Sabbateans, which offended both Jews and Moslems. These allegations were also used as a club by the rabbis to prevent Jews from marrying Sabbateans. Unsure whether Jewish law contravened their status as Jews, the Jewish religious authorities used the suspicion of Sabbatean offspring being mamzerim (bastards) to apply Jewish law so that Jews were prohibited from marrying Sabbateans."


I mean, I know what is attributed to them, and unfortunately I don't have access to Sholem's essay, but I assume he was working at primary sources? I am wondering what those were.

Izgad said...

Good article!

Scholem was relying on internal Sabbatian documents. Need I point out that internal documents of Sabbatians from several centuries ago outweigh the oral testimony of a Sabbatian living today.

If you are interested in this subject a good person to get in touch with would be Dr. Elisheva Carlebach.

e-kvetcher said...

I did not mean to imply that Scholem was incorrect or that "Hassan" was more knowledgeable.

However, I am usually suspect of outrageous claims of sexual behavior and therefore wanted to learn more about Scholem's sources as I do not have access to the article you cited.

I am interested in this, but unfortunately won't have time to pursue it myself. If you have any more posts, please share!

The Bray of Fundie said...

Yasher Koakh. Illuminating though sad and tragic stuff.

I'm esepcially intrigued to what there concept of eternal Torah and negotiable Mitzvos was based on.

This is an obvious nod to the Rambams principle that begins the same way but has no exception of rmitzvos.

The Bray of Fundie said...

Sabetay Zevi, Sabetay Zevi,
No ai a utro como a ti
Sabetay Zevi, Sabetay Zevi
Esperamos a ti

Breslover (Bratzlaver)

Khasidm sing similar encomiums e.g. Bukh Rabenu and khidush k'moso to /about Rav Nachman


The Bray of Fundie said...

I wonder whether or not we non-Breslovers ought to find that troubling.

Izgad said...

I found it troubling, but why should you be bothered? These people are willing to acknowledge that Jews are, in a fundamental sense, different from everyone else.

Barzilai said...

Elisheva Carlbach is an Orthodox Jew married to a Rosh Yeshiva. Her opinions, therefore, are likely to be self-serving and irrational.

Izgad said...

If you think Dr. Carlebach is simply some Haredi propagandist, I suggest you look at her book Divided Souls. It deals with Jewish converts to Christianity in the early modern period. It argues that these people are an important part of the Jewish narrative and a valuable source for understanding Jewish society. We are dealing with people who devoted their lives to destroying Judaism and she has not a word of judgment against them.