On Marranos and Sabbateans

מאמר מצורף: 
Ezer Kahanoff

D.Ezer Kahanoff

On Marranos and Sabbateans: A Reexamination of Charismatic Religiosity - Its Roots, Its Place and Its Significance in the Life of the Western Sephardi Diaspora

Descriptors: charismatic religiosity, conversos, heterodoxy, Marranos, Western Sephardi Diaspora.


Broadly speaking, heterodoxy and political struggle within "traditional" Jewish society in the Diaspora has manifested itself in two directions -one, a move away from the intervention of the supernatural in nature and human affairs, the other, a growing attraction to charismatic religion. Most scholarship has focused on the former and the impact of individual thinkers such as da Costa, Spinoza, and Prado on Judaism. The research takes issue with the assumption that this was the dominant form of heterodoxy in Jewish life among Sephardi communities in the 17th century - at least from a quantitative standpoint. The research investigates the scope of attraction to the 'other outlet' - charismatic religion, manifested in the mass attraction within Sephardi communities - among all sectors of society, but particularly among ex-conversos -- to the messianic Sabbatean movement. Examination of primary sources - both books written by supporters and opponents of Sabbtai Zvi and records of Sephardi Jewish communities in the Amsterdam and Hamburg - bear witness not only to the temper of the times, they shed light on a host of previously undiscussed psychosocial factors both within the Jewish community to which the ex-conversos had returned and the Christian society from which they had come, that made this messianic movement so attractive to conversos - including the grounds upon which one can understand the extraordinary tenacity of faith exhibited by former Marranos in the Western Sephardi Diaspora in the Sabbatean vision even after the apostasy of its leader.

The research begs the question whether there is not room for a more balanced picture of heterodoxy at this juncture in Jewish life, and a reassessment of the widely accepted view that the dominant challenge to halakhic Judaism and the Establishment among Sephardi communities in the 17th century was the 'rationalist path'.