JHOM - Personalities - Glückel of Hameln - Memoirs-Shabbetai


Appearance of false messiah Sabbetai Zevi

In 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.

Glückel 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 Memoirs (analysis and selections):

The story of the father bird and the baby birds

The death of a child; the birth of another

Glückel mourns the death of Chaim of Hameln

Glückel rescues her ne'er do well son Loeb from debt

Appearance of self-proclaimed messiah Sabbetai Zevi

Dangerous travels to the Leipzig fair

A match and a wedding

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 pleased otherwise.

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.


Barnes & Noble linkGlückel. 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.




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