- Shabbetai Sevi

In 1665, a Turkish mystic named Shabbetai Sevi visited Aleppo, declaring that he was the messiah. Jews throughout the Mediterranean embraced him.

“There had always been among Sephardic Jews a very lively messianic movement. By that, I mean there had always been brief episodes of false messiahs offering a quick solution to problems that captured the imagination of the Jews. This was true in Crete, in Morocco, in Spain.” – Jane S. Gerber, Episode 1
“Shabbetai Sevi was a charismatic man, extremely gregarious in personality, and most of the Jewish world honestly thought that he was the Messiah; even the Jews of Aleppo. Rabbi Laniado, who was the rabbi and leader of the Sephardic Jewish community of the Syrians fell under his spell as well, and spoke his praises, recommended everybody follow him. And it’s just fascinating that somebody so mesmerized the Jewish people even the most religious, the most serious, the most conservative rabbis that he was the Messiah.” – Joseph Jack Sitt, Episode 1
“This episode got too shaky for the Turkish government. They got very scared. They thought he might overthrow the king. So they threw him into a fortress to lock him up. And they said, “Either you die now or you become a Muslim.” So that day he converted. That cooled down this whole Messiah revolution. The community of Aleppo was very affected. On Friday night, because of Shabbetai Sevi, when it comes to L’Cha Dodi, our community decided to cut out a lot of the stanzas that have to do with awaiting the coming of the Mashiach.” – Rabbi Raymond Sultan, Episode 1

(Image of frontispiece showing Shabbetai Sevi crowned king, 1666.)

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