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Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah (Bollingen Series, No. 93) Paperback


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Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah (Bollingen Series, No. 93) + The Messianic Idea in Judaism: And Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1030 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (January 1, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069101809X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691018096
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Immensely important and fascinating. . . . A monumental work of historical scholarship, which recounts in minute detail a moving tragedy of vast dimensions."--
The New York Review of Books

Language Notes

Text: English, Hebrew (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Recommended for more serious readers and students.
Amazon Customer
If a book is going to be 1000 pages, it had better have something awfully important to say.
David Dressler
Patterns of the growth of the movement are given great attention and are fascinating.
J. A Magill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By David Dressler on March 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
If a book is going to be 1000 pages, it had better have something awfully important to say. Luckily, this tome is an engrossing, heavily detailed account of Sabbatai Sevi, whose influence on Jewish history is usually underestimated. Scholem is the perfect author to write this book: he is the foremost expert on Kabbalah, which was a major influence on the movement. There are times when I felt the book was a little TOO heavy on detail; the book seemed to be dancing the line between dissertation and readable history book. I am glad it erred on the side of too much information, however, and Scholem's writing style (which can sometimes be awfully dense) is quite readable.
I strongly recommend this book. I recommend it to Jews who want to know about their history. I recommend it to Christians, since the parallels between Sevi and Jesus are many and deep. Lastly, I recommend it to anyone who has an eye for the tragic, who is prepared to read how human frailty can bring about great acheivements and the noblest of intentions can nearly destroy a people.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How often does a scholar write a text that is uniformly considered definitive? Rarely. However, Scholem's work on Sabbatai Sevi is exactly that. So important is this text, that all other examinations before have fallen away and are no longer studied and almost all that came after are derivative. A brilliant scholar, the author goes to great depths, examining both the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Judaism's largest Messianic movement since Jesus.
The author rejects the traditional explanation that followers of Sevi were attracted to him because of the deprivation experienced by some Jews of the period. As Scholem points out, even wealthy communities of Jews in Amsterdam and Greece found him irresistible. Patterns of the growth of the movement are given great attention and are fascinating.
Many people are put off by the length of this work (almost 1000 pages of prose). However, the field is so vast, that a shorter book would not have done it justice. While somewhat esoteric, Sabbati Sevi provides a powerful window into a period of Jewish history given too little study.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on October 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
but always informative. Rather than reiterating the other reviewers' comments (all of which I agree with) I wanted to mention a few things about the book that grabbed my attention:

1. That complaints about the popularization of kabbalah was as common 350 years ago as it is today. One rabbi wrote in 1662: "now there have appeared presumptuous men who abuse [kabbalah], turning it into a spade with which to feed themselves. They write books on kabbalistic subjects . . . and even mingle the inventions of their hearts with kabbalistic teachings, until it becomes impossible to distinguish between the words of the kabbalist masters and their own additions." (p. 87). Take that, Madonna!

2. Claims that the Messiah is coming were even more common among Jews in those days as today. Scholem mentions numerou such instances (usually based on gematria, a kind of Jewish numerology involving turning letters from the Bible into numbers and adding up the numbers to achieve interesting results). For example, Kabbalist Moses Cordervero wrote: "Though not delaying the date of redemption, they [our sins] have hidden it so that its light is invisible until the appointed time. But none of these things will be later than the year 408 [1648], and some will occur earlier, such as the resurrection [of the dead] in the Holy Land." (p. 88-89) Instead of getting Messiah, Jews in the Ukraine got massacred in 1648. After the massacres, other rabbis used gematria to show that the Torah predicted the massacres, and asserting that the massacres were the "birth pangs" of the Messianic age (p. 92)- a prediction which of course failed to materialize. For example, one commentator noted that the Hebrew words for "the messianic woes" equalled 408 (Id.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Cheifetz on July 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Sabbatai Sevi by Gershom Scholem is a quintessential study of a little understood episode in Jewish history. Often dismissed as a marginal incident supported by marginal players, Scholem systematically outlines the background and broad scope of the acsent and decline of the "mystical messiah" Sabbatai Sevi. Scholem provides rich detail of the intellectual and political climate that paved the way for a mass messianic movement that reached across world Jewry. He documents the level of support that Sabbatai Sevi enjoyed from a critical mass of world Jewish leaders, support that would later be retracted (and denied) after the decline of the movement.

The book is a challenging read for individuals without the academic background, but is nonetheless rewarding for those willing to work to digest the high-academic style of much of the writing. Like Scholem's other works, this book is a window to a world of Kabbalistic belief which historically existed in parallel to "traditional" Rabbinic Judaism, quietly passed down and further developed in the shadows. Most importantly, the book portrays the explosive mix of a powerfully appealing ideology with a cultural appetite driven by a sense of desperation.
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