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Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816 (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)

Rok: 2011
ISBN: 9781904113843
OKCZID: 110875726



Women are conspicuously absent from the Jewish mystical tradition. Even if historically some Jewish women may have experienced mystical revelations and led richly productive spiritual lives, the tradition does not preserve any record of their experiences or insights. Only the chance survival of scant evidence suggests that, at various times and places, individual Jewish women did pursue the path of mystical piety or prophetic spirituality, but it appears that efforts were made to suppress their activities. This contrasts sharply with the fully acknowledged prominence of women in the mystical traditions of both Christianity and Islam. It is against this background that the mystical 17th-century messianic movement known as Sabbatianism stands out as a unique exception. Its attitude to women was highly liberationist: the leader of the movement, Sabbatai Zevi, promised to make them 'as happy as men' by releasing them from the pangs of childbirth and the subjugation to their husbands ordained for women since biblical times. This redemptive vision became an integral part of Sabbatian eschatology: in their view, the messianic era was unfolding in the present, and as part of this their New Law superseded the Old and overturned the traditional halakhic rules governing relations between the sexes. This was expressed not only in the ritual transgression of sexual prohibitions but also in the apparent adoption of the idea - alien to rabbinic Judaism - that virginity, celibacy, or sexual abstinence were conducive to women's spiritual empowerment. In this book, author Ada Rapoport-Albert traces the diverse manifestations of this vision in every phase of Sabbatianism and its offshoots, demonstrating how the culmination of the Sabbatian endeavor was to transcend the traditional gender paradigm that had excluded women from the public arena of Jewish spiritual life.

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