JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Shabbetai
of false messiah Sabbetai Zevi
1666, self-proclaimed messiah Sabbetai Zevi gained the largest messianic
following in Jewish history. Jewish tradition proclaims that the Messiah
will come at a time following great war and pestilence, and the stage
was set by the Thirty Years' War and the massacres and misfortunes in
Central and Eastern Europe. Thousands of believers, vulnerable to the
promises of redemption made by the charismatic Sabbetzi Zevi, packed their
bags, and waited for deliverance to Jerusalem.
relates in her Memoirs how Jews with whom she was acquainted were
truly convinced that the Messiah was soon to arrive. In the following
selection, she relates Her father-in-law moved from Hamelin to Hildesheim,
leaving things standing as they were in the house, preparing barrels of
food which he planned to take with him to the Holy Land.
About this time people
began to talk of Sabbatai Zevi [the Messianic pretender]. But woe unto us that
we have sinned and never lived to see what we had heard and nigh believed. When
I think of the repentance done by young and old my pen falls me-but the whole
world knows of it!
O Lord of All Worlds,
hoping as we did that Thou hadst shown compassion on Israel and redeemed us,
we were like a woman who sits in labour and suffers mighty pangs, and thinks
once her suffering is over she shall be blessed with a child; but it was only
hearkening after a wind. So, dear God and King, it befell unto us. Throughout
the world, Thy servants and children rent themselves with repentance, prayer
and charity;' for two, yea, for three years Thy beloved people Israel sat in
labour; but there came forth naught but wind. It was not enough we were unworthy
to behold the child for whom we had laboured and in whom our, hope was sure;
we were left, in the end, abandoned. Still, my Lord and God, Thy people Israel
despair not; daily they trust that in Thy mercy Thou wilt redeem them. Though
redemption be deferred, yet every day I hope upon its coming. When it will be
Thy holy will, Thou wilt in truth remember Thy people Israel.
Our joy, when the letters
arrived [from Smyrna] is not to be told. Most of them were addressed to the
Sephardim who, as fast as they came, took them to their synagogue and read them
aloud; young and old, the Germans too hastened to the Sephardic synagogue.
The Sephardic youth came
dressed in their best finery and decked in broad green silk ribbons, the gear
of Sabbatai Zevi. With timbrels and with dances they one and all trooped to
the synagogue, and they read the letters forth with joy like the Joy of the
Feast of Water-Drawing.
Many sold their houses and
lands and all their possessions, for any day they hoped to be redeemed. My good
father-in-law left his home in Hameln, abandoned his house and lands and all
his goodly furniture, and moved to Hildesheim. He sent on to us in Hamburg two
enormous casks packed with linens and with peas, beans, dried meats, shredded
prunes and like stuff, every manner of food that would keep. For the old man
expected to sail any moment from Hamburg to the Holy Land.
More than a year the casks
lay in my house. At length the old folks feared the meat and other edibles would
rot; and they wrote us, we should open the casks and remove the foodstuffs,
to save the linens from ruin. For three years the casks stood ready, and all
this while my father-in-law awaited the signal to depart. But the Most High
Full well we know the Most
High has given His word, and were we not so wicked, but truly pious from the
bottom of our hearts, I am certain God would have mercy on us; if only we kept
the commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself!"But God
forgive us for the way we keep it -no good can come from the jealousy and footless
hate that rule our lives. Nevertheless, what Thou, Lord God, hast promised,
Thou wilt like a gracious king fulfil.
With this I will leave the
subject and return to my story.
The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln. Marvin Lowenthal, trans. Copyright
© 1977 by Schocken Books (New York), pp. 45-47. Reprinted by permission
of Schocken Books.