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Gönderen Konu: Sabbetai Zevi's Religious Faith  (Okunma sayısı 1612 defa)

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Mart 10, 2012, 03:46:45 ÖÖ
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Studies in Jewish Myth and Jewish Messianism
Yehuda Liebes, 1993


More than any other Jewish messianic movement, except for Christianity, Sabbateanism shows high interest in theological issues, and this concern shaped its messianic visage. Problems of religious faith were Sabbetai Zevi's main concern throughout his life, and he seems to have approached his discovery of the Mystery of the Godhead as the linchpin of his messianic activity. This mystery also determined his "religious faith" in the other meaning of this term, namely, his bond with the two religions -- Judaism and Islam.
 
But what were the contents of Sabbetai Zevi's religious faith? I think they have remained rather vague until now because they have not been duly separated from  the thought of two other Sabbatean theologians -- Nathan of Gaza and Miguel Cardozo. The latter were prolific writers and their powerful theories indeed shaped Sabbatean ideology in the historical consciousness (though there are striking differences not only between them and Sabbetai Zevi, but also between themselves). As we shall see, Sabbetai Zevi's Mystery of the Godhead cannot, by its very nature, be fully articulated or easily communicated to others. Sabbetai Zevi's faith was vital to the emergence of Sabbateanism and was certainly the decisive influence in the thought of other Sabbatean thinkers. The latter were impelled by the faith and the strong personality of their Messiah even when failing to understand him fully but, nevertheless, the contents of Sabbetai Zevi's Mystery of the Godhead have been forgotten in the course of time.
 
Ostensibly, we do possess a theological work written by Sabbetai Zevi -- the treatise Raza de-Meheimanuta. However, I would not recommend this as a reliable source for the purpose of understanding Sabbetai Zevi's religious faith. Although he carefully endeavored not to leave any traces, I believe that Cardozo, rather than Sabbetai Zevi, wrote this book and then attributed it to Sabbetai Zevi many years after the latter's death?   A comparison between this work and other of Cardozo's writings should make this clear. This comparison will indeed demonstrate that the contents of the Razade-Meheimanuta, including its title, appear in Cardozo's treatise Boker de-Avraham [Abraham's Morning]. Cardozo wrote this work even before the time at which he later claimed Sabbetai Zevi had written the Raza de Meheimanuta and many years before, according to Cardozo, Sabbetai Zevi's treatise had happened to reach him. Years later, a theological dispute arose between Cardozo and other Sabbateans, led by Samuel Primo. Cardozo was at adisavantage, because Primo had received the Mystery of the Godhead directly from Sabbetai Zevi whereas Cardozo had never met his Messiah; it was only then that Cardozo wrote the Raza de-Meheimanuta, which contains his own ideas, and attributed it to Sabbetai Zevi.
 
To make best use of this treatise as a reliable and effective weapon in this dispute, Cardozo added a fabrication describing how Sabbetai Zevi wrote it at the end of his life and how it reached Cardozo's hands through the offices ofanonymous intermediaries, who were themselves surprised to find such close similarities between the Raza de-Meheimanuta and Cardozo's views. From the claim that the treatise was written at the close of Sabbetai Zevi's life, Cardozo concluded that this was the authoritative and final version of the Mystery of the Godhead. As further evidence, he cited the fact that, unlike the time when Sabbetai Zevi had revealed the Mystery to Samuel Primo, he did not swear the listeners of the Raza deMeheimanuta to silence. As we shall see, this claim proves that Cardozo failed to understand the real motives behind Sabbetai Zevi's adjuration.
 
This forgery might explain why other Sabbateans, such as Nathan of Gaza and Samuel Primo, who were much closer than Cardozo to Sabbetai Zevi, knew nothing of the Raza de-Meheimanuta, his only work. Cardozo's testimony is indeed the only source for Sabbetai Zevi's authorship of this work, which was published by Cardozo's best known disciple, R. Nehemya Hayyun. There is evidence that other Sabbateans also questioned the attribution of this work to Sabbetai Zevi.
 
Furthermore, this forgery might be better understood when placed in the context of Cardozo's spiritual and ideological attitude toward Sabbetai Zevi. Cardozo dwelled at length on his ambivalence in the treatise Kodesh Israel la-Adonai that, on the one hand, reflects Cardozo's spiritual identification with Sabbetai Zevi while, on the other hand, attests to his jealousy and his reservations about him. In this treatise, Cardozo also developed a theory claiming that he himself is in the role of the Messiah Son of Joseph and, as such, he is to clarify and explain the Mystery of the Godhead that the Messiah Son of David -- Sabbetai Zevi-- could not fully articulate. Cardozo furnished kabbalistic explanations for the characteristics and the roles of the two Messiahs, according to their origins and their places in the different sefirot.
 
We may thus infer that, before Cardozo decided to write the Raza de-Meheimanuta, he had already been concerned with Sabbetai Zevi's lack of literary and kabbalistic productivity, and later solved the problem by writing the Razade-Meheimanuta and attributing it to Sabbetai Zevi. He may even not have seen this as a forgery because, as the Messiah Son of Joseph, he is authorized to clarify the intentions of the Messiah Son of David -- Sabbetai Zevi -- even if these intentions are not clear to the Messiah Son of David himself. A similar concern appears in another description by Cardozo, claiming he had stopped believing in Sabbetai Zevi's messianic powers after hearing the Mystery of the Godhead as known to Samuel Primo; he was only relieved when, after finding the Raza de-Meheimanuta, he discovered that Sabbetai Zevi completely agreed with him. It should be noted that, besides the discovery of the Mystery of the Godhead, Cardozo seems to have been totally uninterested in any other aspect of the messianic role.
 
The fact that the Raza de-Meheimanuta has proven to be a forgery casts doubts on all other statements by Sabbetai Zevi that have reached us via Cardozo. Sabbatean scholars may have exagerated the value of statements such as those found in Cardozo's treatise Raza de-Razin, where Sabbetai Zevi is quoted as having said that Luria "built a perfectly beautiful carriage, but did not say who rides it." In another statement, Cardozo quotes R.Azariah Levy as having heard Sabbetai Zevi say more than a hundred times that "the Holy One, blessed be He, the God of Israel, was a Second Cause clothed in the sefira of tiferet."
 
The only unimpeachable testimony by Cardozo about Sabbetai Zevi, which has also been confirmed by many other sources, is a negative one; namely, that Sabbetai Zevi failed to specify his kabbalistic views and that he swore to secrecy all  those followers to whom he did reveal the Mystery of the Godhead. However, Sabbetai Zevi did not act in this way for the reasons adduced by Cardozo -- his lack of kabbalistic and literary ability or his doubts about the truth of his own beliefs.
 
Understanding the meaning of Sabbetai Zevi's behavior requires us to delve into the essence of his Mystery of the Godhead. Rather than limited ability, his conscious opposition to the technical and impersonal style adopted by Lurianic Kabbala --in which an advanced, multifaceted machine had replaced the personal God --guided Sabbetai Zevi. (By the way, merely understanding Sabbetai Zevi's opposition on this count would suffice to eliminate him as the possible author of the Raza de-Meheimanuta.) His main challenge against Lurianic Kabbala is in posing the very question that no kabbalist had ever raised before -- who, then, is the God of Israel? Sabbetai Zevi did not refrain from answering this question, but his answer could not be exhausted through technical kabbalistic terminology or through human language altogether. The God known to Sabbetai Zevi was personal, more easily found in his soul than in his mind. I believe that Sabbetai Zevi expressed the personal nature of this God in the name true God and stressed his personal attachment in names like the God of Sabbetai Zevi or the God of Sabbetai Zevi's faith. Sabbetai Zevi himself clearly formulated this link  between his soul -- both in its present form and in its previous incarnations-- and the God of his faith, in the opening of a letter sent to his two brothers: "The true One that only I have known for generations and for whom I have so strenously toiled."  Replacing the Lurianic machine with a personal God led Sabbetai Zevi to abandon Lurianic devotional prayer and pray "as someone who prays to His King," as attested by his fellow student R. Moses Pinheiro.
 
Sabbetai Zevi obviously attempted to articulate his faith and used kabbalistic terminology for this purpose, though he resorted to the personal Kabbala of the Zohar rather than to the mechanistic Lurianic one. We do not know Sabbetai Zevi's detailed formulations because he guarded their secret very carefully; however, it is known from many sources that his God became manifest, in one way or another, in the sefira of tiferet. This use of tiferet for "the God of Israel" is not new and appears frequently as a kabbalistic notion, but the personal approach to divinity symbolized through this sefira is his own.
 
This personal approach could not be communicated -- it is not words that are vital, but the direct relation between the bearer and the receiver of the message. For this reason, Sabbetai Zevi did not write a book explaining his view (such as the Raza de-Meheimanuta) and also swore to secrecy those to whom he had revealed the Mystery of the Godhead lest they reveal it to others, as such a revelation necessarily entails further distortion.
 
Nathan of Gaza was indeed guilty of such a distortion though, unlike Cardozo, Nathan cannot be accused of deliberate forgery. However, because he was committed to Luria's mechanistic Kabbala, Nathan relied on it for interpreting Sabbetai Zevi's mystery and thus highly distorted its original intention. Indeed, Sabbetai Zevi strongly admonished him for "betraying a great and awesome ban"; namely, for reneguing on his oath and revealing to others the Mystery of the Godhead -- "and stole and fed others after him." At the same time he ordered Nathan to appear in front of him and hear anew the Mystery of the Godhead from his own lips. This event is also mentioned in a letter by Hayyim Malakh, who explicitly states that Sabbetai Zevi accused Nathan of distorting his Mystery of the Godhead.
 
The personal knowledge of God entails the possibility of antinomianism. Whoever knows God through his own soul can receive knowledge of positive and negative commandments directly from Him, dispense with the mediation of halakhic authorities who lack this direct attachment, and be above any halakhic establishment. Indeed, his private and direct acceptance of the commandments might explain Sabbetai Zevi's "strange acts" and, most important, his apostasy.
 
For Sabbetai Zevi, his apostasy was indeed linked to the revelation of his Mystery of the Godhead -- before demanding from  any of his adherents to follow his lead and convert, he would reveal the Mystery. Once a disciple heard the Mystery of the Godhead from Sabbetai Zevi but refused to convert, and Sabbetai Zevi chided him with the verse "why did you steal my God."  It appears that when Sabbetai Zevi admonished Nathan of Gaza in similar words, this rebuke was also related to Nathan's unwillingness to convert.
 
In a note sent to his brother Elijah immediately after his conversion, Sabbetai Zevi claimed that it reflected God's arbitrary will and he himself was simply clay in the potter's hands and could not understand its meaning,  a view confirmed by Elijah Mujajun's testimony.  When Sabbetai Zevi later realized why God had wanted him to convert, he wrote another letter to his brothers and added the explanation he had been unable to provide in the first note. The letter opens with the sentence (quoted earlier) expressing God's personal character and His wish for Sabbetai Zevi's apostasy, a wish that, here as well, precedes all explanations: "The true One that only I have known for generations and for whom I have so strenously toiled wanted me to enter the religion of Islam with all my heart." In later passages, Sabbetai Zevi suggested grounds for God's wish,though his reasons are far removed from the reknowned Sabbatean explanations for the apostasy, which are based on the Kabbala of Nathan of Gaza and develop Lurianic mechanistic theories. Sabbetai Zevi himself did not even hint at the need to descend into the kelippot to liberate the fallen sparks. It was Nathan of Gaza who offered this explanation of Sabbetai Zevi's apostasy and not Sabbetai Zevi himself.
 
According to Sabbetai Zevi, the Messiah's apostasy was a form of punishment to Israel for having failed to recognize the true God -Sabbetai Zevi's personal God. A kind of lex talionis is at work, as Moses says in his song: "They have stirred Me to jealousy with what is no god. . .so I will stir them to jealousy with those who are no people" (Deuteronomy 32:21), as Moses destroyed the tablets when he saw Israel worshipping the golden calf.  It is not simply a coincidence that Sabbetai Zevi chose to compare himself with Moses because he, as a Redeemer, resembles Moses: as Moses was "his servant, loyal to the house" of God, namely, personally attached to Him, so is Sabbetai Zevi. The same personal attachment that conferred on Moses the authority to hand down God's Torah to the people of Israel enabled Sabbetai Zevi to revoke the Torah, in line with the wishes of the God of his faith. As we mentioned, those linked to the personal God are above the halakhic establishment. In his words, "The words of our sages, of blessed memory, are not realized until the loyal servant of the true God agrees with them." Moreover,what is the point of abiding by the Torah when God is not known? It is like a body without a soul!
 
In this letter, Sabbetai Zevi also accounted for the choice of Islam for his apostasy, as a form of punishment to Israel. He drew his argument from a Moslem principle of faith -- the abolition of the Torah -- but changed its meaning. The Moslems believed that the abolition of the Torah is final and the Koran, which ranks higher, will forever take its place. However, for Sabbetai Zevi, apostasy is only a temporary punishment (in his words, "until the last age"), and after being duly chastised, the Torah will return to its initial standing and the people of Israel, which were exchanged for Ishmael, will regain their status as first born.
 
Contrary to the Moslem view, the replacement of the Torah with the Koran is not to Islam's credit. Using Islam to chastise Israel attests to the measure of din [harsh judgement] and to the arbitrariness of this religion, based merely on blind tradition. The true God chose it to express his arbitrary will, as apunishment to Israel. Sabbetai Zevi expressed this idea in the same letter, in an Arab proverb: "Din Islam Haq Haq." I believe that Sabbetai Zevi thought of Islam as the law of the true God (Haq in Arabic means "truth" -- the name of God for the mystical sufis). This law is the arbitrary punishment decreed by the true God, as it appeared further on, when Sabbetai Zevi expounded the phrase Haq haq in line with God's words as quoted by the rabbis: "I have ruled an ordinance, edicted a decree, and you are forbidden to question it."  (Incidentally, using the Haq haq quote as his point of departure, Nathan of Gaza developed  a long and complicated kabbalistic treatise in his Raza de-Malka Meshiha, far removed from the original literal sense of the words. This is a prominent example of the difference between the two men that I pointed out earlier).
 
At a later stage Sabbetai Zevi abandoned this explanation for his apostasy and claimed that, from then on,"wearing a fez is no longer a punishment required for tikkun but a great mystery." 13 As it was not revealed, I do not know what this mystery is, but several testimonies claim that new revelations came to Sabbetai Zevi during this period. I believe that it was then that Sabbetai Zevi begun to refer to Islam as "the Torah of hesed" [grace] (though, in Sabbetai Zevi's terminology, this is not a positive term either) and to exclude it from the realm of din (in a play of words on this term, which in Arabic means "religion"), often mentioned in regard to Islam in the letter cited previously. It was perhaps then that Sabbetai Zevi ceased signing his letters with the name Me'ammet, which closely resembles the Hebrew word verifier, and returned to the correct spelling of his Moslem name Muhammad.
 
Whatever the nature of Sabbetai Zevi's new revelations, they are not the central issue. As we saw, at the time of his apostasy Sabbetai Zevi did not yet understand its meaning and, having understood it, changed his mind about it soon after. The apostasy does not depend on its explanations. The main and strongest religious reason was simply that the God of Sabbetai Zevi's personal faith wished it, and Sabbetai Zevi understood this wish without mediators.
 



Nisan 12, 2013, 12:25:28 ÖÖ
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I suppose that have been shared from the book ' Studies in Jewish Myth and Messianism .. '

İf I take the book nutshell : Book examines from the Talmudic era, the development of the direction in which Jewish legends. And the various levels of this phase describes the changes caused by external factors. Kabbalah and Messianism manifestations are explained in detail.

I have not read that book. Currently due to my exams, I can not find  time to read these books. But according to my research, a book which is contain great information for those who want to learn and understand that information. (Of course for the enthusiast)
Adequatio intellectus et rei


 

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