Re: Jack Hickman Cult Shoresh Yashi
Date: January 14, 2008 09:58PM
Shabbetai Zvi Compared to Jack Hickman
Life of Shabbetai Zvi (various spellings)
Shabbetai Zvi was born in Smyrna in 1626, he showed early promise as a Talmudic scholar, and even more as a student and devotee of Kabbalah. More pronounced than his scholarship were his strange mystical speculations and religious ecstasies. He traveled to various cities, his strong personality and his alternately ascetic and self-indulgent behavior attracting and repelling rabbis and populace alike. He was expelled from Salonica by its rabbis for having staged a wedding service with himself as bridegroom and the Torah as bride. His erratic behavior continued. For long periods, he was a respected student and teacher of Kabbalah; at other times, he was given to messianic fantasies and bizarre acts. At one point, living in Jerusalem seeking "peace for his soul," he sought out a self-proclaimed "man of God," Nathan of Gaza, who declared Shabbetai Zvi to be the Messiah. Then Shabbetai Zvi began to act the part, as Gershom Scholem describes:
Riding around on horseback in majestic state [he] summoned a group of his followers, appointing them as apostles or representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The messianic news spread like wildfire to other communities in Palestine ... First reports about Shabbetai Zvi reached Europe early in October 16,65 ... detailed accounts, deeply involved with legendary material, arrived in Italy, Holland, Germany and Poland.
Messianic fervor took hold of communities that had no immediate experience of persecution and bloodshed as well as those which had.... Repentance alternating with public manifestations of joy and enthusiasm was the order of the day.
From many places delegations left bearing parchments signed by the leaders of the community which acknowledged him as the Messiah and king of Israel.
Not only did Shabbetai Zvi gain militant adherents in his native Turkey and in the Near East, but even in such cosmopolitan European cities as Venice, Livorno, and Amsterdam leading rabbis and sophisticated men of affairs were caught up in the messianic frenzy.
On September 15, 1666, Shabbetai Zvi, brought before the Sultan and given the choice of death or apostasy, prudently chose the latter, setting a turban on his head to signify his conversion to Islam, for which he was rewarded with the honorary title "Keeper of the Palace Gates" and a pension of 150 piasters a day.
The apostasy shocked the Jewish world. Leaders and followers alike refused to believe it. Many continued to anticipate a second coming, and faith in false messiahs continued through the eighteenth century. In the vast majority of believers, revulsion and remorse set in and there was an active endeavor to erase all evidence, even mention of the pseudo-Messiah. Pages were removed from communal registers, and documents were destroyed. Few copies of the books that celebrated Shabbetai Zvi survived, and those that did have become rarities much sought after by libraries and collectors.
Source: Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, (DC: Library of Congress, 1991).
Both built theology from Kabbalistic Sources. Gershom Scholem considered Kabbalah to have latent antinomian tendencies.
Followers experienced cognitive dissonance after scandals, as the internal reality did not agree with the external reality.
Both developed theology of Redemption Through Sin.
Both Movements Went Underground After a Scandal
Shabbetai Zvi had bipolar disorder. In his manic phase he performed bizarre acts which he could not afterwards explain. His depressive state was interpreted as a struggle with the forces resisting redemption (Satan, serpents) and as necessary for redemption. Hickman did not exhibit bipolar disorder, to my knowledge.
Nathan of Gaza was a prophet for Zvi, interpreting his life messianically. Hickman was his own prophet.
Shabbetean Messianism spread among people who never met Zvi. To my knowledge, through 1983 (when I left), no one was a follower of Hickman who had never met him.
Later Developments in Shabbetean Messianism
Hints or Proclamations that Zvi was God or shared in divinity.
After Zvi’s apostasy by conversion to Islam, the moderate wing of followers said that only the Messiah was permitted or required to contravene the Torah. The radical followers said that all needed to follows Zvi’s example, sinning in order to conquer evil. The Donmeh were followers who converted to Islam while secretly continuing Jewish practices, and special Sabbatean practices. They practiced a ritual adultery between members, believing that the messiah will be born of an adulterous union.
The moderate wing eventually assimilated into the wider society. The radical wing produced further offshoots, led by alleged reincarnations of Zvi. A few years ago, tens of thousands of Donmeh were reported in the Israeli press as living in Turkey and seeking to immigrate to Israel. It is thought that some members of Donmeh families have risen to prominent political positions in Turkey. This is evidence for survival of an underground movement for more than 300 years. However, many descendants of Donmeh families may now be atheists.