Talk:Sabbatai Zevi

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Sourceless Marker[edit]

While specific statements are not references, the bibliography and other links seem relatively complete. Perhaps the template could be more specific, or removed altogether? Calaf 03:07, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree on the "relatively complete." There are some good references, and a lot of non-referenced statements. Overall, it is OK, because it started from a good base at the Jewish Encylopedia, as stated in the "References" section. The marker does not bother me one way or the other.
warshy 17:00, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
The account is not encyclopedic; I have done extensive editing to reduce the tone of hagiography. Quotes should still be sourced; it's not enough to say it was "mostly" taken from the Jewish Encyclopedia.--Parkwells (talk) 15:57, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Turkish encryption[edit]

Following Turkish encryption is found in the original Shabbatai Zvi article, which contains important information about the Donmeh cult.

Hi, my family is an Turkish-Tatar family. I think Sabbetai is a turkic name, orginally from tatar. Sabbetai may be from Karaim or khazarian origin?????

Our article contains no such text. Even if it did, such text would have to be deleted. This is the English language Wikipedia encyclopedia, thus our contributions are always in the English language. If there is some information in a Turkish-language article that you would like to add, you must first translate it into English. I personally would love to see some more information on the Donmeh, and any information you can provide (in English) would be most welcome! RK


According to the book "The Messiah of Turkey" by Aubrey Ross, there were still many followers of Zevi living in Turkey in 2002 and they included senior politicians. See the review in Ha'Aretz: [1] -- bdm


This article seems to use various adjectives which allows no room for anything but an extremely negative point of view. Not that he deserves any respect, but it does seem that this article takes every chance it has to deride Zevi, which may decrease its scholarly value. Presenting the information in a less opinionated language would surely increase its efficacy.

The article appears biased: the implication throughout is that Zevi was a charlatan, with no discussion to what extent he may actually have believed his own claims. Deipnosophista 21:58, 27 August 2007 (UTC)


IZAK, your latest category change strikes me as wrong. Yes Zevi lived in the Ottoman Empire, but no not in Palestine or any part of the Empire that later became Palestine, as far as I can see from skimming his biography. I'm not removing this category change because I'm not %100 sure, but I will remove it after doing a thorough check - or maybe you should yourself. --Woggly 08:25, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

You were right, I was wrong. Apologies. --Woggly 08:32, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

English Millenarianism[edit]

Sabbatai's father, who as the agent of an English house was in constant touch with English people, must have frequently heard of these expectations and, himself strongly inclined to believe them, must naturally have communicated them to his son, whom he almost deified because of his piety and cabalistic wisdom.

This comes across as conjecture compounded with speculation. Is there any evidence that Sabbatai learned about Millenarianism from his father? Josh Cherry 17:29, 9 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Agree that it was speculative and deleted it - no source given.--Parkwells (talk) 15:59, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Hello Mr. Parkwells, and welcome to the turf,

First of all, I don't think you read my addendum to this discussion section that follows below. I have now rewritten the original paragraph above you removed and reinserted it in the appropriate section of the main article. The entry is very correctly and very importantly referring to English Millenarianism, and the fact that Sabbatai's father, among his other successful commercial activities, was also the agent of an English house in Smyrna, makes a direct, personal, human connection between Sabbatai and English Millenarianism. As for sources, the note mentions two of the most important sources for any discussion of Sabbatai Zevi, Graetz and Scholem, and points to the very important divergence between them. The direct quote from Graetz will be brought up in due time, but the fact that Scholem purposefuly chose to argue with it and against it in his major work on the subject, also points to the fact that the careful historical detail is important and accurate, and carries with it, furthermore, some weight.--warshytalk 18:56, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

English Millenarianism[edit]

To Josh Cherry:

Your observation is a very good beginning, IMVHO.

I believe there is at this point no concrete or reliable historical evidence that Mordecai Zevi did ever teach his son anything about English Millenarianism.

As you point out, in the manner it is articulated, this sentence is currently no more than mere "conjecture compounded with speculation."

I also think it is impossible to ascertain from this historical distance if SZ as an individual did ever learn anything specific about English Millenarianism, and from whom. But, if the previous paragraph is correct in its assertions, then the conclusion is warranted, in my view, that there was some sort of direct influence from English Millenarianism on the phenomenon of Jewish Messianism in the 17th century, of which SZ is perhaps the major expression.

As far as I know, such mutual influences have not been sufficiently studied or written about to this date. SZ's case would be but one instance of these possible influences. A very important and telling instance, to be sure. However, the main historical work on SZ to this date, denies quite emphatically that such influences had any importance. I am referring primarily to Gershom Scholem's extensive, massive English tome on SZ. I believe, from my readings and research so far, that Scholem is mistaken on this crucial point, as well as on many others regarding the significance of the phenomenon of Jewish Messianism in the 17th century.

Is there any interest, on your part, or on any other person's part, in continuing this discussion here? --Warshy 15:20, 31 May 2005 (UTC)

Corrected an image[edit]

I uploaded another copy of the image used for Shabbatai Tzvi as a prisoner in Abydos. The one that was there was a duplicate of Former followers of Shabbatai do penance for their support of him.--Pucktalk 06:38, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Suggest another redirect[edit]

How might one create a new re-direct? I read an essay and found many references to "Sabbatai Sevi", but Wikipedia came up empty on this topic. There is already a re-direct from "Sabbatai Sebi", so is it possible to add one more?

Done. --Briangotts (Talk) (Contrib) 19:03, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
All you have to do is start a new article with the name you want, then type "#REDIRECT [[name of article redirecting to]]" --Briangotts (Talk) (Contrib) 19:03, 25 January 2006 (UTC)


Martin Sherman's play "Messiah" addresses this phenomenon at length from the POV of a Polish Jewish woman pilgrim. (Can't find a substantive link but thought someone might want to add the info the the main page


Wasn't this great city, notwithstanding its being ruled by the Ottomans since 1453, known as Constantinople until 1930?

This is the previous editing I had done on the main article page regarding this issue. This edit is on the section called "In Salonica", line 6:
Istanbul (which was still known in the Christian West at that time as Constantinople),
I believe the note above is more precise historically, since for non-Christian residents of the Ottoman Empire at the time of Shabtai Tzvi (residents like himself, who spoke Arabic as their main language of communication), the capital city of the empire must certainly have been known as Istanbul, not Constantinople. In light of the above, I believe the previous title should stand, with the addition of the parenthesis note as written above. warshy 13:40, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
As this is the English Wikipedia I have corrected to Constantinople, which was the term used in English at the time. Deipnosophista 21:57, 27 August 2007 (UTC)


"long awaited" by nature can not be npov. Rabbis have many different views of the messiah. Rabbi Hillel for example held there will be no future messiah for Israel. Similar views are shared by Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

Who said anything "by nature"? what the heck is "npov"? "Long awaited" here refers to the context of overall messianism, and more specifically Converso messianism in the period, and to the fact that this was indeed the first massive and encompassing messianic movement in Judaism since the beginning of Christianity. I will revert it, unless you respond to these arguments.
warshy 11:37, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

"rabbi" refer to the Joseph Solovietchik argument for this. Maybe call him a cleric. 22:01, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

I said that Scholem brings evidende to the fact that he was an ordained rabbi before he started his kabbalistic speculations and that I have the quote, just have to put it in footnote form. If you go back to the history of the page you will see the Scholem citation. Who cares about Soloveitchik on this matter? Since when is he a historian? I will revert likewise, unless I see any compelling argument otherwise.
warshy 11:37, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

Circumcision - Jewish ritual only?[edit]

Circumcision is a very common practise in Islam among the boys and men, and a circumcisor perform this on the males at either during infancy, childhood or adulthood. So, what makes this a Jewish ritual and different to Muslims?

Well, good question, why not? For one, because it is supposedly described in the book of Genesis (17; 15-27), the very first one of the Hebrew Bible, and Jews supposedly have been performing that same ritual, at the same 'age' in which it is performed by Abraham on Isaac, since that "time," uninterruptedly. Why do Muslims perform the ritual, and where in their scripture is it performed? My impression is that from the age in which it is performed by Muslims, it may come from the same source, as it was performed by Abraham on Ishmael at the age of thirteen. So it may be a Muslim ritual too, for different reason and at a different age, in addition to being undoubtedly a Jewish one.
warshy 20:01, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Which skirts the point. The article says that the Donmeh practise Jewish rituals such as circumcision. Since circumcision is also a Moslem ritual, and it's not unknown for Moslems to circumcise their sons in early infancy, how is this a Jewish practise, and therefore evidence of a continued Jewish tradition? It's a good question, and if we don't get an answer within a few weeks it would probably be best to take that out of the article. -- Zsero 23:26, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't know if you are the original person asking the question above, but I think it is safe to assume you are. Before taking out anything we would have to ask how the Donmeh view their practice, as coming from Muslim law or as coming from the Hebrew Bible commandments. I did not skirt the question at all, since you did not specify what sentence had promtpted your question to begin with. But my answer still stands anyhow, because I gave you the sources of the practice among Jews, whereas you are only speaking in generalities. You did not give the sources and/or reasons for the Muslim practice, neither the common age at which it is practiced. The only thing you said is that it is "not unknown." I am asking for KNOWN facts before you dismiss my answer as squirting the point. How common is the circucisiion practice among Muslims in early childhood? Furthermore, Jews perform it, if health conditions permit, on the eigth day of life. The precise eigth day, as prescribed in scripture, is very different from a generic "early childhood." How common is it for Muslims to peform the practice on the eigth day of life of the boy? And again, before dismissing or deleting anything, we would have to know if the Donmeh also perform the practice on the eigth day of life, which would definitely identify it as Hebrew/Jewish, regardless even of their views. Regards,
warshy 13:04, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Your assumption is not at all safe. Why didn't you check the history, and save yourself the risk of assuming? -- Zsero 15:24, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Check what history? I believe I have read much more historical material regarding Shabtai Tzvi and the Donmeh than you can dream even exist. But that is immaterial here. I have provided sources and logical evidence for what I am asserting so far, and you have not provided one iota of verifiable facts up to this point. But furthermore, the one arguing for change is you, not me, and therefore the onus of any proof regarding this matter is on YOU, not on me. Unless you can substantiate your position with sources and citations, as I have done, there does not seem to remain anything else for us discuss here.
warshy 19:39, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Ahem. Check the history of this page, before making assumptions about who wrote what. -- Zsero 19:53, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

about his conversion to islam[edit]

from God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Hitchens, Christopher:

Summoned to the vizier's palace, and allowed to make his way from prison with a procession of hymn-singing supporters, the Messiah was very bluntly asked if he would agree to a trial by ordeal. The archers of the court would use him as a target, and if heaven deflected the arrows he would be adjudged genuine. Should he refuse, he would be impaled. If he wished to decline the choice all together, he could affirm himself to be a true muslim and be allowed to live.

is this really how it happened? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:06, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

Yes, at least according to what I've read in this book. --AFriedman (talk) 03:50, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

He climbed to the top of the Reichstag and set off holy sparks from the roof![edit]

Content Creativity Barnstar.png The Content Creativity Barnstar
Shabbetai, nothing was like your joyous originality when it caught hold of whatever was around it, things that anyone else would accept as immutable or dismiss as untouchable, and turned them upside down until some hidden spark came flying out. You could even take a blessing, normally a rote formula about a hidebound ritual, and transform it into the simultaneously thought-provoking and exhilarating Blessed are You, Lord our God, who makes forbidden things permissible. Usually, Barnstars are not awarded to the subjects of Wikipedia articles, no matter how extraordinary they were. Tonight, as I transgress this unspoken rule of Wikipedia on your behalf, amen. --AFriedman (talk) 07:05, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Hello AFriedman,
If you believe what you say above, I thought I'd ask you: a) do you believe the conversion description as given in the book you cite immediately above this last expression of admiration (which I haven't read)? and, b) if you do (I am not sure I do), what were his reasons (in your view) for adopting the choice/course of action he did (true and declared conversion, supposedly)? Thanks, --warshytalk 19:36, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

I think this sequence of events re: Zvi's conversion may be about the best we can reconstruct, even if I'm not sure the accounts themselves were completely faithful to what actually happened. The book in question was written by a professor of physics at Bogazici University in Turkey, who also wrote a number of other books about Turkish subjects. According to the author's own description of how he conducted research for the book, he spent quite a long time poring through reputable and often difficult-to-find sources such as the original historical documents. He also traveled to many of the locations mentioned in the book, in search of firsthand evidence of Sabbateanism--especially evidence that the historians were unable to find. Since John Freely is a professional academic at a major Turkish university, I would expect him to have a sense of what would constitute a reputable scholarly source.

Even if the events in question did not happen per se, I really do think Shabbetai converted to Islam under threat of death. The Ottoman Sultan would have had this type of power over Shabbetai, and it would be in the Sultan's interest to weaken the movement by killing or discrediting its leader. The Jews were already incompletely integrated into the Ottoman Empire, and the movement was a growing force that seemed to be posing a threat to the Sultan's power. In fact, Shabbetai had to be exiled to a more remote place (the one in Albania) because years after the conversion, the Sultan was still threatened by his not-fully-Islamic behavior as palace gatekeeper. Even as a professed Muslim and a prisoner of the Sultan, Shabbetai (who was under tremendous scrutiny in the palace) was continuing to semi-openly practice many aspects of Judaism and promote his highly original ideas. In Shabbetai's letters (quoted by John Freely), he expressed resignation to the fact that he needed to convert to Islam. This reveals that he was not completely comfortable with the choice he was forced to make. However, he was not the only Jew who made this type of choice in a similar situation. Some of the Sabbateans were recent descendants of the Crypto-Jews of Spain, who are not vilified by Jewish tradition. From a Jewish perspective, the Crypto-Jews are mostly viewed as people who did what they needed to do to survive and were courageous in continuing to practice Judaism in Spain. I don't understand why there is this seeming double standard for Shabbetai, especially since Islam (unlike Christianity) is not considered idolatry from a Halakhic (Jewish legal) perspective. The principle of pikuach nefesh (that most Jewish laws do not apply in a situation where life is threatened) is normally quite permissive about halakha, including (I believe) all or nearly all the places where Islamic law would be different from Jewish law. Although Jewish law encourages resistance to a persecuting enemy, I'm not convinced the Ottoman Sultan was such an enemy. He was certainly less of an enemy than the Spanish government, since nearly all the Jews (Shabbetai being a conspicuous exception, for obvious reasons) were allowed to live in relative peace in the empire. So I don't view Shabbetai's conversion to Islam as an act of cowardice or a betrayal of the Jewish people.

John Freely's book does not describe Shabbetai's conversion, or the Donmeh's continued connection to Judaism and Jewish traditions, with the negativity that other sources seem to. His tone is essentially neutral with regard to whether Shabbetai and the Sabbateans "ought to be" Jewish or Muslim. I was very happy to see this, because it helped me think about his post-conversion life in a different light. I was glad to read that as soon as Shabbetai converted to Islam, he basically picked an influential but very idiosyncratic and in some circles disreputable Whirling Dervish to be his mentor. (That person's name slips my mind right now, and would be important to add to the article.) This was Shabbetai being pure Shabbetai, and not someone who was so afraid of the Sultan that he was pretending to be someone else. Even the ultimate threat, the threat of death, could not kill that part of him. Perhaps Shabbetai felt that the Judaism and Islam of his time were too rigid and lifeless--Judaism too saddened by its long history of defeats to reinvent itself and shine outside the walls of the ghetto; Islam too closed to ideas from other groups to fully comprehend what Judaism could still achieve. I see Shabbetai as someone who used his supreme knowledge of classical Judaism (and later Islam) to break the classical traditions and develop a more free-wheeling and improvisational way of being. Shabbetai certainly seemed to follow the mantra of the jazz musician Duke Ellington, "It's better to be a number one yourself than a number two somebody else"--even when faced with some of the most venerable traditions and powerful people in the world. You may want to read this passage about the jazz musician Charlie Parker, which basically describes what I think of Shabbetai Tzvi. Had Shabbetai chosen to die when the Sultan told him to convert, he would no longer have been himself. Yet Shabbetai seems to have found a kindred spirit in the facet of Islam he embraced, an Islam that was blissfully antinomian like he was and very different from the violent fundamentalism that Westerners usually hear about nowadays.

I think it's problematic that many Jews have such a one-dimensional view of Muslims, who are more than 1 billion people with each one unique. It's also problematic that many Muslims have such a one-dimensionally negative view of Jews. In the meantime, members of the more progressive movements of Judaism--the movements that are most willing to break doors by associating with Gentiles and cross boundaries when it comes to Jewish law--too often lack the initiative to bring Judaism to their own children, let alone to the many places where it is quite desired and least expected. The state of much of Judaism today is like a song by Bruce Springsteen called Radio Nowhere: "This is Radio Nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?" If the old ideas do not awaken these people, perhaps a new approach is needed. The Jews of the Enlightenment, in their desire to fit into the Gentile world, seem to have obscured a certain vital Jewish spark by confusing modernism with Gentileness. Yet the world outside the eighteenth-century Jewish ghetto is Jewish and not just Gentile--one need only learn about Christianity, Islam or countless other subjects to recognize some of what our predecessors in that world have wrought. This is why the Jewish people are special, and is a narrative that progressive Jewish movements can use when teaching people to be both proud members of their people and proud citizens of the world. Shabbetai Tsvi is only one part of the rich and largely unexplored tapestry modern Jews can use as a reference point. If we can clean off the dirt our predecessors covered him with, I think there is greatness underneath. --AFriedman (talk) 14:27, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Great answer! And much better than anything I was expecting!
I promise I will study your reply above very carefully in the days and weeks ahead, until I can absorb at least part of the new sources you suggest, that are as yet unfamiliar to me. The first one being of course Freely's book, of which I had never heard until you referred to it first. Let me just point out off the bat that we are in complete agreement here regarding the currents views of Judaism on SZ, and I am very glad I asked the question and you answered the way you did. As for the historical reasons for this rather distorted view of this important historical development, I want to point out also that it is due in no small part to the rather negative view of the subject in general and of SZ in particular by Gershom Scholem in his major work on the subject that is referred to in the main article. My own views and study of the subject started from Scholem's work, which I have studied carefully, in rather particular detail over many years. Have you read the work? There are many wrong and distorted views of the historical phenomenon there, but the work is still considered the "ultimate history" of the subject as far as contemporary Jewish historiography is concerned. Thanks again for a carefully thought out and well written, richly substantiated reply. As I said, I need to go back and get myself much more familiar with your own sources, before we can continue this rather fruiful conversation here. Regards, --warshytalk 15:59, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Thanks. I haven't had time to read Scholem's book, but I'll probably get to it sooner or later and will let you know when I do. Freely's book, FYI, is much more concise and is written for a popular audience. I'm not surprised Scholem would have a negative view of Zvi, given that he inherited the Jewish party line about Zvi. I inherited the same party line--for example, my elderly grandmother can't imagine why a modern person would have such a high opinion of Zvi. But I am skeptical of that point of view, because the people who pass it on mostly aren't thinking about the other ways of viewing the phenomenon. I haven't heard anyone else ask whether Shabbetai's conversion would have been justified by pikuach nefesh, for example, and I still can't get a convincing answer of why not. I also haven't seen this interpretation of Shabbetai as a supremely original thinker who defied the boundaries, not only for himself but for the Jewish people, and blazed his own path. BTW, I also think the Rabbanites used similar tactics of intellectual suppression against the Karaites. See the article about Anan ben David, which incorporates text from the Jewish Encyclopedia that basically slanders him and his movement. But anyway, I look forward to continuing this discussion. --AFriedman (talk) 18:20, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Well, for one, he wasn't just an individual acting on pikuach nefesh when he 'converted.' He was the expected Messiah/King of the Jews, and the extant negative accounts also have detailed descriptions of how contemporary Jews in various parts of Europe and the Mediterranean 'worshipped' him as such, as a mystical true "Messiah." But you'll see all that when you read Scholem's major work on the subject. If you want to save yourself sometime, you really don't need to read the whole work. Just read Scholem's own entry on SZ on the Encyclopaedia Judaica from Jerusalem, published in the '80s of the past century, and even available now online, I believe. I have a printed out copy of this summary of his own major work, written by Scholem himself, in a pocket book format. Most of insights I have gathered on the subject I first glimpsed them just by reading this encyclopedic summary written by Scholem himself; but reading it very carefully, with a critical historic frame of mind, and mostly reading in between the lines, if you catch my drift, reading what he's really implying by his very detailed biased descriptions, but is consciously/purposely avoiding to state and recognize openly. For example, that this was a major diplomatic/geo-political event at the heart/capital of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, and not just a whimsical attempt by a "crazy" individual impostor, as he clearly states. I have ordered Freely's book already, and I am also looking forward to continuing this conversation once I have at least skimmed through it with my own eyes once. --warshytalk 22:18, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Thanks. Where is the Scholem Encyclopedia Judaica account? Re: the fact that Shabbetai was an ostensible Messiah, IMO he was in deep trouble as soon as his messianic movement began, more or less whatever he did. Even by the standards of a supposed Messiah, the expectations of Shabbetai were especially unrealistic, since his particular movement took off when he was alive and predicted he would accomplish great miracles in a specific year as a living man. The messianic movements of Jesus and Rabbi Schneerson, by comparison, are based on the men in question being dead. So what people expect to see is more similar to what they will see, since a dead man won't disappoint the way a living man can. (A book we're both familiar with, Chizzuk Emunah, goes into detail about how the former messianic movement, when closely examined, is actually quite incoherent as a narrative, something I think many people realize but few people address. However, it certainly has much better sound bytes than Judaism, and in practice, the "New Covenant" is a set of teachings that people can live by--perhaps even more than the "Old Covenant" with its onerous restrictions on human life.) In Shabbetai's case, the messianic movement seemed to have the immediate benefit of giving Shabbetai a certain license for his eccentricities, license he needed in order to be an accepted member of society at all. This may have given Shabbetai some sort of cognitive dissonance about whether or not he believed he was the messiah--especially after consulting a learned man such as Nathan of Gaza who was telling him he was.

As for Shabbetai's dilemma about death vs. conversion, I'm not convinced death would have been a better option. Either way, Shabbetai and the movement would have lost and Judaism would have felt yet another disappointment. Furthermore, the spirit of Sabbateanism was to use new energies to break old patterns--celebrating the ancient fast days as feast days, for example, and committing "holy sins." It was already part of the Sabbatean liturgy to pray that this new Messiah, Shabbetai, would not meet the fate of his predecessor Jesus. Shabbetai's choice of conversion over death was certainly a break in the standard pattern. However, I would like to read Scholem's take on this.

It is noteworthy that the Dervishes were able to appreciate Shabbetai's unique talents and their actual capabilities, rather than dismissing him as a madman or a heretic or loading him with unreasonable expectations. Once Rabbinic Judaism began to gain a clear upper hand, non-Sabbatean Jews also accepted certain Sabbatean ideas on their own terms, to quite interesting effect. For example, even the Besht acknowledged the importance of joy in Jewish practice (why hasn't most of Progressive Judaism followed suit? Might improve synagogue attendance)--and I wonder if other aspects of Sabbateanism also remain disconnected from the people that could bring them new life. The specific concept I had in mind was the "holy sinner," which doesn't seem to have been explored by a progressive Jewish movement too rationalistic to venerate a particular person as the Messiah. The "holy sinner" is an indigenously, perhaps quintessentially Jewish idea that allows for a remarkable flexibility of observance and, if planted in the right type of mind, might grow into some very interesting views of the world at large and the role of Judaism within it. To me, it seems as though this idea might be a natural fit for a variety of Progressive Jewish narratives. Reform Judaism and Renewal Judaism seem to me like obvious places for a "holy sinner," but I wonder if even neo-Karaism could pull this off if its proof text is the Book of Esther (read on the assumption that Esther violates many of the laws when she becomes Queen of Persia, yet is still a positive role model for the Jewish people. How come? Lots of ways to interpret these passages if you're a Karaite). Anyway, just some thoughts. --AFriedman (talk) 05:23, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Scholem's Encyclopaedia Judaica entry[edit]

I had written/recommended before "Scholem's own entry on SZ on the Encyclopaedia Judaica from Jerusalem, published in the '80s of the past century..." It was first published in 1972. But I have now published in the main article the correct bibliographic reference for this entry, which was republished as you can see, in 2007. I just went to the library yesterday and xeroxed the 20 pages again. I have also finished reading Freely's book above, and I am soon adding it to the references. I am also going to write here some observations about this book. warshytalk 23:13, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

Review/comments on Freely's book[edit]

As I said, I have finished reading/digesting Freely's book The Lost Messiah: In Search of the Mystical Rabbi Sabbatai Sevi (2001). I bought it first some half a year ago, follwoing AFriedman's published link to the book on above. I had not heard about the book before Friedman's note here.

Overall, I believe the book is usefull and it is a good contribution to the study of the field, if nothing else, as a consolidator of the current status of knowledge. Any serious student of the phenomenon will have to delve first into Scholem's major work on it, given in the main article references here. But Scholem's book was written in the 40's and 50's of last century in Hebrew first (first Hebrew edition published in 1957), and it's English translation, with Scholem's review/approval was first published in 1973. Scholem's summary of a lifetime of study of the subject was first published in the Encyclopaedia Judaica in 1972, also now updated in the references here according to the section above on this page.

So I think we can surmise that Scholem's last own word on the subject was written around 1970. He passed away in 1982. Freely's book is a summary of his own research on the subject for some 40 years, apparently, and it was finally published in 2001. So Freely's view comes some 30 years after Scholem's, and it is seemingly the last published view on the phenomenon that I know of.

It is a pity the book does not have any notes and does not point directly to any sources, except in the "Select Bibliography" and the Index at the end. For example, I cannot be sure if Freely saw himself this source given in his bibliography:

- Carpi, Solomon Joseph, The History of Sabbatai Sevi, ed. Nachum Brull (Vilna, 1879)

Or that he just quoting and summarizing what Scholem says about this source. That is because he does not say in what langauge the source/book is written at all. From scouring Scholem's book more than a dozen times to understand this source, it seems to me it must have been written/published in Hebrew. But Freely does not clarify the matter.

Or another "primary" source much quoted and referred to by both Scholem and Freely: Baruch of Arezzo's account of Shabbetai Zvi's story. Baruch of Arezzo's account is cited directly by Freely more than a dozen times, but as far as I can see it is not part of Freely's select bibliography at the end. What version of Arezzo's account did Freely see or study? Or are all these citations just unacknowledged quotes of Scholem's own quotes?

Until these basic questions about his sources can be elucidated a little better, the only thing I think can be said about Freely's book is that it is maybe a good consolidator of the current status of knwoledge on the subject, and of the important 17th century ["contemporary'] sources that have to be consulted by current students of the subject. How reliable is it as a serious source of analysis on the subject on its own is a question that is still open in my mind, until basic "primary sources" questions as the ones above can be answered.
warshytalk 17:31, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the review. I don't know about the uncited sources, but I think Freely's book was intended for a popular rather than scholarly audience. This isn't his field of scholarship. If you'd like, other people might find it helpful if you posted this review on some of the WikiProjects above and on articles about John Freely. Also, the book itself is probably notable and may deserve an article in its own right, which I don't have time to make. I do feel that our knowledge of this subject is still distorted by overreliance on a single source--Scholem. Scholem's book was quite comprehensive and some of his findings were fascinating, but IMO there are many ways to retell this story. Condensing Scholem's thousand-page tome into a 200-page travelogue accessible to both Jews and non-Jews, which Freely did, was certainly an accomplishment in my opinion. --La comadreja formerly AFriedman RESEARCH (talk) 13:27, 12 September 2010 (UTC)
Welcome back La comadreja and I hope you're all wikirecovered and wikihealthy ;) Looks like you are. I agree with all your points above, and especially with the point about overreliance on a quite distorted single source for the history of the phenomenon. I am working on this primarily, but the "source" we are alluding to is quite an institution in itself in the world of Jewish schollarship and learning today and it is not easy to challenge. It can only be challenged, if at all, from a very sound and solidly constructed material base. Who knows how far one can get when this is not his or hers main occupation or livelihood? Thanks for being an otter here. Regards, warshytalk 14:14, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

You too, welcome back. Warshy, that's one of the reasons I changed my name specifically to La comadreja. Weasels will fight animals much larger than they are and if they were scholars, they wouldn't be afraid to be amateurs taking on Scholem. If we try to make sense in our arguments, the fact that we have a different view than Scholem can only help, not hurt. I've heard that it's not uncommon for scholars who are becoming established in a field to challenge one of the leading authorities on one of their more famous points. I also think that part of modern people's problems with Shabbetai could be a general skepticism and disdain for people who are eccentric, especially if they have what would be considered a diagnosable mental illness. Unfortunately, this skepticism and disdain hurts many people who, for whatever reason, can't or won't conform but could be very productive and valuable under a different set of expectations. Do you have an unrelated day job or other primary responsibilities that are separate from this project? Do you have an academic background? What got you interested in the project you had mentioned earlier? Also, have you been to Wikiversity? That's the Wikimedia Foundation project for, among other things, original research. IMO it could use a nice essay about Shabbetai or some other subject in Jewish history. --La comadreja formerly AFriedman RESEARCH (talk) 16:17, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

I have an academic background in History but I don't work on the field. I work in IT support. I have been reading and researching Scholem for many years, and the glaring shortcomings of his narrow (kabbalistic, mystical) view on the phenomenon of 17h century messianism jumped to my eyes when I first looked at it. I believe the phenomenon is much wider and it has a very solid material historical basis, not only mystical or 'ethereal.' I promise I will look into the Wikiversity project you work on, with some more time. The problem is that in this changing world the variety of new mediums can be very distracting. You spend more time trying to understand and master the technological aspects of the medium than on straight historical research and writing. The technological medium in the end can easily eclipse the historical subjet... warshytalk 17:05, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. The Jewish people were very disappointed in Shabbetai's time with a number of events that happened to them, and they were looking for "out of the box" answers. Shabbetai's movement reminds me of the Native American Ghost Dance, a Native American religious/spiritual/"messianic" movement that appeared when Europeans were conquering the American West and promised Native American sovereignty. It also reminds me of the "Bible of Hell" from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If you don't understand, I'd be happy to explain further--they are 2 separate analogies.

My own Wikiversity work is actually in biology, but the Research link in my signature is for all fields. Wikiversity has plenty of space for your thoughts that would fall under Original Research on this wiki, and I'm working on continuing to develop the research facilities over there. I've been to real-life Wikimedia conferences, and there might be some in Ann Arbor. Do you have access to the library of a major university? --La comadreja formerly AFriedman RESEARCH (talk) 17:40, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

I have very easy phyisical access to the libraries of the University of Michigan, but not academic access to match yet. Working on this. I am also working on a basic research article to publish on the subject we are talking about here, and when time comes to do it, in 3 or 4 months, I will look at your online 'facility' as a possible venue for publishing it. warshytalk 18:48, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

Hope you can get the academic access. BTW, Wikiversity also hosts drafts of articles, which is the stage that some of my Wikiversity research is in. It also works as a brainstorm space for your thoughts. --La comadreja formerly AFriedman RESEARCH (talk) 19:02, 12 September 2010 (UTC)


From the article, in the section about Nathan of Gaza: "At this point also his followers appeared to start using for him the title of AMIRAH, which is a Hebrew acronym for the phrase "Our Lord and King, his Majesty be exalted" (Adoneinu Malkeinu Yarum Hodo)." A reference is not cited. There's no sign of this detail in the original Jewish Encyclopedia article, but this detail seems to have been part of this article for several years now. Does anyone have any idea where this detail came from? --Brasswatchman (talk) 16:33, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes, this detail is described in detail in the Scholem book (look at the bibliography), and also in the Freely book discussed above, which hasn't even made it to the bibliography in the main page yet. I did not bother adding specific references since most of the details in the main article here don't have yet references. If you want I can check these two sources and add the references needed. Did not look to me there were that many people interested in the subject here... Regards, warshytalk 19:05, 20 September 2011 (UTC)
I'll take your word for it. Like I said, I just get curious about random little facts sometimes. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it. --Brasswatchman (talk) 23:22, 21 September 2011 (UTC)


The lead of the article says Zevi was forced to convert to Islam by the sovereign. The detailed description given later in the article says his conversion was done as a ruse. In any case he doesn't show the heroic defiance shown by a mother and her seven sons at the time of the Maccabees, all tortured to death because they would not submit to the king's command to take just one little bite of pork. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:07, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Sabbati and Sarah/Simon Magus and Helen[edit]

I found the section of the article on Sabbatai's wife Sarah to be very similar to the story about Simon Magus and his wife Helen. I think that adding a sentence or two making the connection would improve the article. It doesn't have to imply that this proves him to be a false messiah.Pete Hardy (talk) 13:01, 2 June 2013 (UTC)

The new source added to the lead[edit]

The argument made based on the new source added must first be squared with the argument made based on all the sources already existent in the article.

Shabbetai was arrested in Constantinople on February 6, 1666, and after a long imprisonment in a special fortress in Galippoli, where he still received visits from the leaders of this followers, the conversion occurred only on September 16, 1666. And this is how Gershom Scholem had summarized the research on the matter of the conversion:

Since the Turkish archives from this period were destroyed by fire, no official Turkish documents about the movement and the proceedings in this case have survived, and reports from Jewish and Christian sources in Constantinople are conflicting.

Scholem, Gershom. "Shabbetai Ẓevi." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 18. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 340-359. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. (This is among the sources already in the article for the section on the conversion.) warshy (¥¥) 15:00, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

birth date[edit]

Many sources such as the Jewish Encyclopedia and Britannica say his birth date was July 23, 1626. I assume this is on the Julian calendar. However, per Conversion between Julian and Gregorian calendars for that year we should be adding 10 days to get the Gregorian date, which would make that August 2, not August 1. Hebcal computes the 9th of Av, 5386 to be August 1 (with the caveat that it doesn't do a Julian conversion), so something is off here. howcheng {chat} 18:27, 30 July 2018 (UTC)

For a more updated discussion of his presumed birth date (since both the character and the precise dates in this tale are all enveloped in deep layers of pure legend), you should see the Encyclopedia Judaica article on him written by Gershom Scholem, or Scholem's magnum opus on the character. Both are referenced in detail in the main article's references and bibliography. warshy (¥¥) 19:29, 30 July 2018 (UTC)
Even John Freely's book on the character, also referenced in the bibliography, contains updated discussions both of his date of birth, and of the date and location of his presumed death. Thank you, warshy (¥¥) 19:32, 30 July 2018 (UTC)
@Warshy: I'm sorry, but would you mind summarizing? I'm only asking because this article was included on WP:Selected anniversaries/August 1 as a birth listing, and I was simply verifying that it was supposed to be there. What I need to know is: is it accurate if we list him on that day? Thanks. howcheng {chat} 00:25, 31 July 2018 (UTC)

Here is the quote from Freely's book, page 9, following Scholem to the letter: "Sabbatai's own testimony gives the date of his birth as the Ninth of Ab in the Hebrew year 5386 - 1 August 1626 in the Gregorian calendar. ... The Ninth of Ab fell on Sabbath in 5386." Is that enough for your verification, or should I bring Scholem's lengthy discussion of the subject, that nonetheless comes to the same conclusion? Thanks, warshy (¥¥) 23:05, 31 July 2018 (UTC)

Works for me. Thanks! howcheng {chat} 01:46, 2 August 2018 (UTC)

Hebrew spelling[edit]

Warshy says that the correct spelling of 'Sabbatai' in Hebrew is שַׁבְּתַי (translit: šbty), without an aleph before the yodh, but this contradicts both the articles contents, transliterations, and also cognate translations in other language Wikis for this article.

The transliterations for his name in the article also include Shabbeṯāy Ṣeḇī, with an 'ā', indicating an aleph, as apposed to an 'á' indicating a short vowel. The cognate articles for fellow Semitic language Arabic also writes the name with an aleph as شبتاي (translit: šbtʾy). The Persian article, likely a direct descendant from Ottoman Turkish spelling, writes his name as شبتای (translit: šbtʾy).

Under 'Early life and education' it says "His name literally meant the planet Saturn, and in Jewish tradition "The reign of Sabbatai" (The highest planet) was often linked to the advent of the Messiah." The word for the planet Saturn in Hebrew is spelled שַׁבְּתַאי (translit: šbtʾy), not שַׁבְּתַי (translit: šbty). It includes an aleph. This is the article for the planet Saturn on Hebrew language Wikipedia, and it is spelled שַׁבְּתַאי (translit: šbtʾy).

In fact, even the Hebrew-language wiki for this article spells Sabbatai Zevi's name as שַׁבְּתַאי (translit: šbtʾy) throughout the article. For example: "שבתאי צבי לא הציג שום הוכחות הלכתיות להיותו משיח האמת של העם היהודי, טען בתוקף יעקב ששפורטס." The word for his followers, the Sabbateans, is also spelled שבתאיים (translit: šbtʾyym), again with an aleph. For exmaple: "גרעינים שבתאיים נסתרים וגלויים שרדו במזרח אירופה עד אמצע המאה ה-18, אז הופיעה בפולין התנועה הפרנקיסטית שגררה את מרבית השבתאים הנסתרים. לאחר התנצרות הפרנקיסטים ב-1759 גוועה השבתאות באירופה. גם בבלקן, בטורקיה ובאיטליה, מעוזיהם האחרונים של השבתאים, גוועה השבתאות עד לאמצע המאה ה-18, אך רעיונות בעלי מוטיבים שבתאיים, דוגמת "עברה לשמה" ו"העלאת הניצוצות" הוסיפו להימצא במוקד של מספר פולמוסים מאוחרים יותר."

I think it should be pretty decisive that his name is spelled with an aleph as שַׁבְּתַאי, not שַׁבְּתַי. — LissanX (talk) 18:01, 2 October 2019 (UTC)

Well, why don't you look at the Hebrew Wikipedia article (, which is planly called שבתי צבי, and opens with the name with nikkud, שַׁבְּתַי צְבִי.
You appear to be much more proficient than me in quoting foreign languages on WP, but you are apparently not a native Hebrew speaker. The difference and confusion stems from two modes of spelling in Hebrew, one with the vowel marks, and the other without the vowel marks. When vowel marks are used, the correct spelling is given above in the Hebrew Wikipedia. When vowel marks are not used, then an Aleph is added to indicate the missing vowel. I will still check, when I can, the Hebrew version of Scholem's book to see how he dealt with the issue, but for the time being the Hebrew wiki will suffice, I believe. Thank you for all your research above. warshy (¥¥) 19:14, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
I appreciate your response Warshy. I am aware of the niqqud diacritic Patach indicating the vocalization of a "full" aleph without writing in the consonant. Arabic also has a comparable diacritic known as Alif Khanjariyyah, which could potentially be used to write شبتاي (Hebrew שבתַאי) as شبتٰي (Hebrew שבתַי). The thing is, both are used to contract the word and the writing of the aleph creates a non-contracted, "fully" spelled out form. — LissanX (talk) 22:26, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes, the fully spelled out form (ktiv maleh) in Hebrew is the "non-contracted" form of the name. There is no discussion about that. But in the article the Hebrew name is being spelled out with nekudot, and in that form the correct spelling is usually without the Aleph. As I said, I will still look in the Hebrew version of Scholem's book to see how he dealt with the issue, but as for the correct spelling of the name with nekudot, I will leave it as it right now in the English article. Thank you, warshy (¥¥) 23:48, 2 October 2019 (UTC)