The allure of Forbidden knowledge: The temptation of Sabbatean literature for mainstream rabbis in the Frankist moment, 1756-1761

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Abstract

This paper investigates the eighteenth century phenomenon of the wide spread and use of Sabbaetean literature by "main stream" Jewish rabbis. For what reason did participants in the Jewish rabbinic elite posses and use copies of heretical manuscripts, while integrating them in their literally projects as well as their personal daily practice? Moreover, how did the tempestuous controversy over Jacob Frank and his believers at the middle of the eighteen century affect this status of Sabbatean texts in the rabbinic library? In this essay I will examine a particular aspect of this literary opacity from the viewpoint of two Torah scholars. By dating and revisiting lost manuscripts and short fragments, along with well-known polemics, this paper will attempt to uncover the basic attitudes of R. Ezekiel Landau of Prague and R. Pinhas Katzenellenbogen of Boskowitz toward Kabbalistic and Sabbatean literature. Several personal writings dating from 1752 to 1761 will be closely examined with the aim of tracing two opposing, yet prototypical responses to the place occupied by Sabbatean literature on the Kabbalistic-Lurianic shelf of the contemporary rabbinic library.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-616
Number of pages28
JournalJewish Quarterly Review
Volume102
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Abraham Rovigo
  • Angels
  • European early modern history
  • Forbidden knowledge
  • Heresy
  • Jacob Frank
  • Jewish early modern history
  • Kabbala
  • Modern prophecy
  • Nathan of Gaza
  • Pinhas Katzenellenbogen
  • Prague
  • R. Ezekiel Landau (1713-1793)
  • R. Jacob Emden
  • R. Jonathan Eibeschütz
  • Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzatto
  • Sabbatean literature
  • Sabbateanism
  • The self
  • Zohar

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