Hello. I'm The Messiah
Shabsai Tzvi was born in Smyrna,Turkey on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples, a most befitting birth date for the Messiah.
He is charismatic. He is a genius and has a photographic memory. He is an accomplished student in the Written and Oral Torahs, including the Kabala.
Shabsai Tzvi has some problems.
He goes through long periods of depression and isolation, living as a hermit. He practices self-flagellation. He undergoes ritual immersions as many as thirty times a day. By age twenty-two he already has been married twice, without consummating the marriages.
Shabsai Tzvi also has several personalities. Frankly, he is a nut.
Shabsai lives during a period and in a region that was steeped in mysticism and superstition. To many people in his era he appears to be holy man. For him, insanity is an asset, not a liability.
The news of the carnage in the Ukrain reaches Smyrna and triggers him off. He has dreams that he is the Messiah and that he will lead the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, he publicizes the dreams. He ignores warnings by the local Rabbis to cool it.
In 1650 he almost drowns by accident in the Mediterranean. He views his survival as a sign from G-d that he is destined for greatness. His campaign continues. He is whipped, excommunicated, and exiled from Smyrna. Shabsai wanders about, but he can't shut up. Shabsai is kicked out of communities by the local Rabbis but he receives some monetary and physical support from the people. Looks like a following.
The ban ends in 1658 and he returns to Smyrna.
It takes two to tango and Nathan of Gaza enters the scene. He is also a student of Kabala. In 1663 the two somehow meet in Jerusalem. In 1665, Nathan The Prophet proclaims Shabsai as the Messiah. Nathan sets out on a world-wide publicity tour. The news is eaten up by the remnant of a people who are starving for the Messianic era. They go hysterical.
This does not go unchecked.
Teams of scholars are sent to investigate. They find Shabsai to be a very scholarly and charismatic person. However, something smells very wrong. Shabsai is not what one would call a fully observant Jew. For example, he has a record of licentious acts. At times he eats non-kosher food in public places. Nathan steps in to explain that G-d is merely testing the Jewish people to see whether they can maintain their belief in the true Messiah, despite the Messiah's mysterious personal life. Either take it in stride and believe or you will be damned. It all can be justified through the Kabala. Don't worry if you don't understand it.
Some Rabbis become believers. Privately, some are not convinced but they go along with the delirium, acknowledging that this may just be a fling but that it is beneficial, because it appears to bring many of this broken nation back to their Jewish identity. Some Rabbis withhold their support of Shabsai. Some lose their positions and become persecuted as a result of their conviction.
The entanglement affects international commerce, as the Jews book every ship in the Mediterranean for their return to the homeland. Jews stop showing up to work.
Shabsai Tzvi abolishes the Fast Of The Ninth Of Av because the Third Temple will be built next year.
The Sultan of Turkey is keeping quiet. He smells a tourist attraction with huge potentials for revenues. He would like nothing more than to have world Jewry move to Turkey and increase his taxation base. However, the Islamic fundamentalists become outraged at the Shabsai's potential incursion and the Sultan gets scared. He places Shabsai under house arrest in the city of Galipoli. Shabsai is non-plussed. He dons robes that resemble those of the Sultan. He holds court in Galipoli.
Shabsai is brought for trial before the Sultan in 1666. He is bluntly given a choice. Either put this turban on your head right now, symbolizing conversion to Islam, or we remove your head. Shabsai Tzvi dons the turban and becomes Aziz Machmud (Mohammed) Offendi. He gets a good job in the Sultan's court.
Nathan keeps the gig up for another ten years. He claims that this is the final and culminating test. Most everyone now thinks he's a phony. However there are small pockets of believers throughout the 1670's.
Shabsai drops dead in 1676. Anybody still interested in his resurrection?
The Jewish people become the laughing stock of the world. Now, they are really broken.
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