About the Frankists


The Frankist Ecstatics of the Eighteenth Century


Copyright © 1998 by T Allen Greenfield
First published in Agape V1N2 February, 1998 EV
Agape copyright ©1998 by Ordo Templi Orientis

"Uno avulso non deficit alter. " - Virgil

By T. Allen Greenfield

A century before the European Enlightenment produced the conditions in which modern European Judaism arose, the ghetto world of the Jews of Europe and Asia Minor was wracked by a messianic fervor virtually unknown today outside Judaic intellectual circles.
The influence of the Qabalism of the late medieval period reached a final flowering in the works of Isaac Luria and other mystics of the 1600s.
An outright messianic movement developed around the person of one Shabbetai Tzvi (1626-76 EV) and his prophet, Nathan of Gaza.
This movement was shattered when, faced with martyrdom or conversion, the would-be messiah Tzvi chose conversion to Islam.
Nathan became a Roman Catholic, and the movement largely collapsed, though some followed Tzvi into conversion, and there is down to the present time an Islamic sect in Turkey that follows Tzvi's teachings.
In recent years there has been some effort made among Jewish revisionist historians to more-or-less rehabilitate Shabbetai Tzvi as a kind of protoZionist leader.
It is certainly true that the messianic movement's collapse led in the 1700s to the development of the mystical-ecstatic Chassidic Judaism. Under the leadership of Israel Baal Shem Tov, this has been far more widely accepted as a legitimate Jewish religious trend. Scholars of the stature of the late existentialist Martin Buber have done much to establish the legitimacy of Chassidic thought and practice. It has nonetheless continued as a movement to have both a Qabalistic and messianic undertone, as witnessed by the messianic expectations centered on the Lubovicher Rebbe that reached a peak shortly before his recent death.
At approximately the same time that Chassidic Judaism was developing, another trend which for many years was almost lost to history was bubbling up in the Ghettoes of Eastern Europe in the wake of the Tzvi messianic expectations. Indeed, most older English-language sources relegate this rather substantial movement to a footnote, usually couched in the most unflattering terms.
This was a sect known as the Zoharists or Frankists, after Jacob Frank (1726-91 EV), originally named Jacob Leibowicz1.
Like the Chassidim, the Zoharists were deeply steeped in Qabala and magick and ecstatic religious expression.
Like the followers of Tzvi, they were also messianic. Unique to the Frankists was a doctrine of salvation through sexual ecstasy that had not characterized these other tendencies. Indeed, the Zoharists anticipated the sexual magick that emerged a century and more later under the influence of such luminaries as P.B. Randolph, Max Theon and, ultimately, Aleister Crowley.
There is a bare chance, in fact, that the Zoharists may have influenced these later exponents of sexual spirituality.
Frank was born in Galicia in Polish territory, traveled widely, and died in Offenbach, Germany on December 10, 1791 EV.
He traveled in the Balkans and got to know the followers of Tzvi, some of whom looked forward to the latter's resurrection.
About 1751 he proclaimed himself the Messiah and promulgated a "Higher Torah" -- based on the medieval Qabalistic writings of the Sefer Zohar ("Book of Splendour").
Frank maintained that certain elect individuals were above the conventional moral law.
He even went so far as to engaged the staid Rabbinical Community of the time in a debate over the value of the ecstatic principles promulgated in the Zohar as opposed to the legalism of the Talmud, which the Zoharists considered blasphemous.
Within five years the Rabbinical Judaism had denounced the Zoharists as heretics.
The Frankists enjoyed some protection in Roman Catholic circles, ever hopeful of making conversions among the Jews.
In a certain sense Frank's critique of the Talmudic Judaism of his time resembled the friction between Jesus and the Pharisees of an earlier era.
Frank, who felt that his sect was above restriction, was quick to exploit this protection, and proceeded to promise Baptism of his followers.
He was himself baptized in Warsaw with the Polish King, Augustus III, acting as his godfather.
But the Frankists continued to practice sexual orgiastic ecstasy as a spiritual sacrament, and soon ran afoul of the Holy Inquisition.
Like Count Cagliostro a few years later, Baron Jacob Frank found himself imprisoned by the inquisitors in 1760 EV, at the fortress of Czestochowa.
He languished there for 13 years until being freed by the Russian conquest.
He relocated to Germany, which then became the seat of the Zoharist movement.
It should be noted, and more than in passing, that Baron Frank's sexual movement among the Jews coincided with the birth and flourishing of the so-called "Hellfire Clubs" of England and France, the Elect Cohens and later Martinists of France, and other communities with similar ideas and practices of sacred sexuality.
Frank lived out his life in the luxury of the nobility, supported by his huge following.
Most unusual for the time, Frank was succeeded, upon his death, by his daughter Eve2, who continued the Work of the sect until her own passing in 1816 EV.
Be it noted that later in the 19th century another enigmatic Polish Jew, the son of Rabbi Judes Lion Bimstein of Warsaw, came to teach an almost identical sacred sexuality as the Grand Master of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light.
This man was one Louis Maximilian Bimstein, better known as Aia Aziz, and better still as Max Theon.
Based in North Africa and France, Theon taught a "fully Tantric" approach to spirituality, according to Sri Aurobindo.
He exercised a profound influence upon HB of L Frontal Chief Peter Davidson, who, in turn, was a profound influence upon Papus and other luminaries of the "occult revival".
Whether this represents a direct continuity from the Zoharists we may never know. Clearly, Jacob Frank, his daughter Eve and their followers deserve a special place in the history of Western Sexual Occultism comparable to that only now being fully recognized where P.B. Randolph, Peter Davidson and their circle are concerned.

For further reading :

MY PEOPLE by Abba Eban (Behrman-Random House, 1968) (section) "False Messiahs" pp. 232-238;
THE LEGENDS OF THE BAAL SHEM (translated 1955) and
TALES OF RABBI NACHMAN (translated 1956) by Martin Buber;
THE HERMETIC BROTHERHOOD OF LUXOR by Godwin, Chanel & Deveney (Weiser, 1995) pp. 293-302;
MAGIC, MYSTICISM, AND HASIDISM by Gedalyah Nigal (1994);
DEMYSTIFYING THE MYSTICAL by Chaim Dalfin (1995). Also see:
FRANK, Jacob, (article) Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (1994);
Frank, Jacob, (article) Encyclopaedia Britannica (1995);
Frank, Jacob (article) Webster's New Biographical Dictionary (1983);
FRANK, JACOB, (article) The Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge (Behrman's, 1938);

Most general and especially Jewish references have either an article under Frank's name, or some mention in an article on 'false messiahs' or specifically Shabbetai Tzvi.
Take note that there is a lot of nonsense in reference to the Zoharists, and many usually reliable sources will either repeat without variation the assertions of earlier sources, or fall into sectarian vilification. One would do well to sort through the many short references, and compare consistencies and inconsistencies.

Notes :

  1. The reader may be bewildered by the variation in names; Jacob Frank is variously referred to as Jacob Leibowicz, Jankiew Leibowicz and the more familiar Frank.
    His birthplace is sometimes given as Podolia, Berezanka or Korolowka.
    He is reported to have died in Offenbach.
    Patronized by the Archduchess Maria Theresa, he may indeed have been made a Baron.
    He was certainly a man of wealth and means to the end of his colorful life.
  2. Frank's daughter was variously called Eve or Eva, depending on source material.
    She became the object of a devotional subcult herself, with some followers keeping small statues of her in their homes.


Yakov Leib Frank "Jacob Frank"


Jacob Frank's real name was Yakov ben Judah Leib Frankovich (1726-91).
He was born in Podolia (then Poland, now a region of Ukraine), the son of a rabbi.
As a young man traveled in the Middle East, where the Turks gave him the surname Frank.
On his return to Poland in 1755, he founded the Frankists, a heretical Jewish sect that was an anti-Talmudic outgrowth of the mysticism of Sabbatai Zevi.
Subsequently, he claimed to be the recipient of direct revelations from heaven and exhorted his followers to espouse Christianity as an intermediate stage in the transition to a future messianic religion.
In 1759 the Frankists underwent a spectacular mass baptism at Lvov, Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine), under the eyes of the Polish nobility.
But the church brought charges of heresy against him, which resulted in his imprisonment in 1760.
Upon his release 13 years later, Frank assumed the role of messiah, and selected 12 apostles.
He settled at Brünn, Austria (now Brno, Czech Republic) where he gained the patronage Maria Theresa, archduchess of Austria, who employed him as an apologist of Christianity to the Jews.
After 1786 he moved to the small German town of Offenbach, where he spent the rest of his life in luxury, thanks to the donations of his followers.
After his death leadership of the sect passed to his daughter Eve Frank, but the movement was soon absorbed into the Roman Catholic church.
From "Frank, Jacob," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 MicrosoftCorporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.

Frank kept Sabbateanism alive and ended its tribalism, opening its adherents to the world outside Judaism.
Sabbateanism become Frankism was one of the most important of the 18th century movements which freed man.
The great revolution in consideration, [the Turkish revolution], and the French and American revolutions sprang from his loins.
Prof. Harris Lenowitz
The Sayings of Yakov Frank. An aspect of the Godhead, a true aspect, grew in me like a pearl that grows of itself; and I have no man to whom I might reveal the truth of this matter.
Yakov Leib Frank (aka Jacob Frank) was the Third Strand in a Jewish Messianic Trinity beginning with "The First," Sabbatai Zevi;
passing through Sabbatai's successor, "The Second," Rebbe Berechiah;
and ending with "The Third," Frank himself.
It's my interpretation that these "Three Strands" also refer to the realms of the Biblical Jacob (Judaism), Esaus (Christianity) and Ishmael (Islam) - a trimurtri, so to speak, Frank alludes to when he says: "The Holy One Blessed Is He -- His face [i.e., Sefirah Tiferet] wonderous beautiful - set me on His knees and gave me a Strand of Golden Threads and said to me, 'Look my son, when the day comes to unfasten this Strand you shall not let it go."

The New World Order - A Brief History

The 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were an age of tremendous progress.
It saw the Renaissance, the reformation, the arts and Sciences were reborn after the dark ages.
Yet it was also an age which saw the occult secret societies flourishing as they had not done for many centuries.
Many leaders in this new age of science were occultists. The Rosicrucian, free Masonic and cabalistic sects were leading in this occult revival.
One such scientist of the late 15th Century was Theophrastus Bambastus Von Honeium, who is commonly called Parcelsus, believed by many to be the founder of modern medicine, Parcelsus was a Rosicrucian!
These groups were a revival of the pagan mystery schools of Egypt and Babylon and that mixture of the Jewish religion and freemasonry known as 'The Cabbala'.
The Cabbala had its origin in the Babylonian captivity of the Kingdom of Judah and claimed to throw new light on the old testament scriptures by looking for occult mystical interpretations in the biblical text.
In 1754 Matinez de Pasqually, a Portuguese Jewish Rosicrucian and mason, founded 'The French Illumines', also known as 'The Order of Elus Cohens' (elected priests).
After his death the movement was led by Louis Claude de Saint-Martin and became known as the Martinists.
In 1760 Dom Pernetti started 'Illumines d'Avigion', all these secret societies were based upon the Cabbala. Jacob Frank was a Polish Jew who founded a movement in 1755 called 'The Frankists', sometimes known as 'The illuminated'.
The doctrines of The Frankists were based upon the cabalistic book 'The Zohara' or 'Book of Light'.
It is upon this book that all modern occultism is based.
Rabbi Marvin Anteiman has stated 'The Frankists glorified evil as holy, even as a means of salvation, and quoted cabbala authority Gershom Scholem as saying that Frank will always be remembered as one of the phenomena of Jewish history.
The Frankists followed cabalistic priests and false miracle workers were known as Zaddikim or Ba'al Shems.
There is evidence that Amschel Mayer, the founder of the Rothschild banking dynasty may have been a Frankist, the symbol of the Frankists was a Red Shield.
This very sign was placed over their family shop in Frankfurt. Amschel Mayer chose that red shield as the family name, Roth=red, Schild=shield==Rothschild.
Upon that shield was the 'Star of David', though this star has nothing to do with the biblical King David.
The 5 or 6 pointed star has always been the most important symbol of the occult, Magick, Witchcraft and Satanism.
This symbol is a cabalistic sign, first used by an Ashkenazi Jew Menahem ben Duji, who changed his name to David Al-Roy.
This man was a leading Ba'al Shem of the Cabalistic, who also claimed to be the Messiah.
The best known British Ba'al Shem of the 18th century was Hayim Jacob Falk, known as 'The king of the Jews.
Falk was a leading Free Mason, and a leader in other secret societies, he was a supporter of The Duc du Orlen in the French revolution.
However one order was set to combine all the malignant features of all these groups, The Illuminati.

Ten False Messiahs


I am convinced that there is no subject that has the potential for misunderstanding as does that of Messianism.
In popular religious thought in the United States, it is simply a given that Jesus is the messiah - end of discussion.
No thought is given to what are the characteristics of a messiah, what he is to accomplish, what are his qualifications, or even how many messiahs there are.
Many are not even aware that the Jews, with whom Christians share the Bible, do not accept the New Testament and therefore have a much different view of the messiah.
Seldom does anyone go to the Hebrew Bible for understanding of these matters from the point of view of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, to see how they compare with the manner in which the theme of messiah is developed in the New Testament.
In the Christianity that has evolved in our time, every prophetic utterance about a deliverer, a redeemer, a prophet to come, a savior, or many, many other such designations is presented as being fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
What is needed is some broadened understanding of the whole scope of messianic thought, rather that a closed minded view that is common in both Christian and Jewish circles. I believe that both have allowed some degree of error to creep in.
Unfortunately, there is no subtle way to say that the widespread influence of traditional Christianity has led to a mindless acceptance of a messiah that is very different from the earliest messianic notions.
Please understand that I am not trying to trash Christianity by saying that.
I am simply drawing attention to the fact that Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of every facet of the Old Testament.
If one wants to have a comprehensive understanding of the subject, he should make it his business to understand the issue of messianism, not only from the Christian view but from the Jewish view which preceeded it.
Whatever view one takes concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the notion that all the prophetic figures in the Hebrew Bible refer to the same individual simply cannot be supported by a careful investigation of the Bible.
Many such prophecies are simply not referring to The Messiah.
In addition, there are multiple messiahs spoken of in the Prophets.
Every king and priest in ancient Israel was a messiah.
The Hebrew word moschiach, from which we transliterate our word messiah, means simply the anointed one, from the practice of anointing one who is chosen with oil.
Only recently, since the public has been given access to the Dead Sea Scrolls, have we had a window of access into the messianic views of the period that followed the close of the Hebrew cannon.
A much different view of messianism has emerged.
In the Dead Sea Scrolls, it comes out clearly that at least two, and perhaps three, messiahs were expected (one of David and one of Aaron and a third figure, the Prophet, who is said to come with the messiahs of Aaron and Israel).
There are also many other prophetic figures whom one would never equate with the messiah, were it not for the professional help of some overzealous theologian.
It is not my purpose in this article, however, to discuss the Christian notion of the messiah, or the relative merits of one view over the other.
That will have to wait for other articles.
Here I will explore an aspect of the Jewish concept of the messiah by looking at a ten prominent figures throughout Jewish history who have come to be known as false messiahs.
Given the prevalent misperceptions of the messiah, one might think that such an article would be anti-Jewish.
This is certainly not my intention.
In fact, the bulk of the material for this article is adapted from a Jewish publication, The Jewish Almanac, October 1980 edition, published by Bantam Books.
The Jews themselves recognize these individuals as false messiahs.
One might think that this would be an embarrassing admission for the them.
But that is, again, based on the Christian notion of the messiah rather than the Jewish notion.
Among Jews these individuals are not thought of as heretics or demonic agents, although some of them exhibited some rather bizarre behavior.
They are simply would-be deliverers of Israel who failed to achieve what they aspired to.
Understand this key concept : The major prophesied purpose of the messiah is to restore the greatness of Israel.
He is expected to be wise and understanding, a charismatic individual who will bring peace and justice to Israel and mankind.
He will usher in an age of world peace.
The notion of The Messiah took form mostly in the era after the close of the Hebrew canon, climaxing at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century.
It has undoubtedly been modified over the centuries that followed, in a kind of knee-jerk reaction to Christian claims that Jesus was The Messiah. Judaism seems to have absorbed some of that tendency to coalesce various prophetic personalities into a single Messiah, although in their view, it would decidedly not be Jesus.
One should note that, as long as the temple stood, there was no real messianic expectation.
God was still with Isreal in the temple liturgy.
The nation of Judah still existed as a political entity, albeit only a shadow of its former self.
The messianic notion at that time was only half baked, so to speak.
There was a realization that a restoration of the former glory of the kingdom was needed, but the kingdom had not been totally eliminated.
Messianic expectation could not come into full flower until the temple and the polity of Israel was completely gone.
When the temple and the nation of Judea were obliterated by Rome in the year 70, the kingdom was completely dead.
At this time the messianic expectation began in earnest. Let us now examine the unfortunate episodes that followed over the next 2000 years and the individuals around whom these times revolved.


Jacob Frank (1726-1791)

With the embarrassing disillusionment of the Shabbatai Tzvi debacle of the previous century, you would think in unlikely that the Jews would again be drawn in to a similar circumstance again.
But it happen again with tragic consequences.
Residual Sabbateans were still clinging to their faith in the early eighteenth century, although they were mostly underground to avoid the wrath of their peers.
But their was growing expectation that the time was ripe for a new contender to messianic office from Poland.
That contender was Jacob Frank (Jacob Judah Leib), an arrogant practical joker, involved with gangs of rebellious youth.
He would boast of his complete ignorance of Jewish matters.
But he was a charismatic leader, a spirited force to coalesce the scattered messianic.
His appearance was destined to throw the entire Jewish world of Poland into intense agitation and despair.
As a merchant he traded in the Balkans, dealing in cloth and gems.
He studied under a Sabbatean teacher and became involved in the Zohar.
His teacher promised to initiate the young Frank into the secret Sabbatean sect after he became married the daughter of a respected merchant.
He was initiated into the mysteries settled in with a large group of Sabbateans in Salonika.
He gave up on his trade for an ambitious new role as prophet.
Soon he was proclaiming himself to be the divine reincarnation of the soul of Shabbatai Tzvi.
Frank began travelling to many towns, visiting Sabbatean cells, which quickly came under his influence.
He gathered many adherents, proclaiming his messiahship.
His teaching was heavily about the acquisition of wealth and riches, even if by the most fraudulent means.
In 1756 he and twenty of his followers were discovered conducting a heretical religious orgy behind locked doors.
Opponents claimed that the Frankists were performing an indecent dance around a naked woman and kissing her.
Later Frank claimed that he had purposely opened the windows to compel his believers to go public after decades of hiding.
The police broke down the doors and arrested the disciples.
Frank, mistaken for a Turkish foreigner, was expelled from the country.
Frank and his disciples were excommunicated by rabbinical courts everywhere.
The Frankists were denounced to the authorities and eventually Frank was again arrested.
To gain his freedom, Frank agreed to convert to Islam.
But after this conversion, Frank persisted in making secret visits to Poland to confer with his disciples.
He remained the leader of the majority of Sabbateans all over Galicia, the Ukraine, and Hungary.
They were outwardly Jewish but secretly transgressed all the Torah prohibitions, especially those concerning fornication, adultery, and incest.
His excommunications prompted a wave of persecution.
Frank and his followers appealed to the bishop of Poland for protection, by exaggerating their common beliefs with Christianity such as the Trinity and rejection of the Talmud.
The Church saw it as an opportunity to convert thousands.
They began forcing anti-Jewish propaganda out of the Franks.
To ease the persecution, the Frankists, issued a proclamation that they were "almost" Christians, though they did not fully embrace Christianity.
They composed a declaration of faith that would satisfy the Church's demands.
To sweeten the deal, they asked for a public debate against the rabbis.
The bishop was quite willing to protect the Frankists from persecution in order to promote hatred for ordinary Jews.
The public debate that followed was moderated (manipulated would be a better word) by the bishop, who was anything but impartial.
It spawned public burnings of the Talmud.
These continued until the sudden death of the bishop.
This caused popular sentiment to turn against the Frankists once again.
Persecutions of Frankists again increased.
Many Frankists, including Frank himself, fled Poland at that time.
Ever the opportunist, Frank asked for protection from the king of Poland, citing his past relationship with the archbishop.
When he returned to Poland, Frank was boldened to proclaim himself as the living embodiment of God.
He brazenly rejected Sabbatean theology.
He introduced new rituals, shunning kabbalistic jargon and capitalizing on Christian terminology.
He appointed twelve apostles and twelve female concubines to serve him.
To ingratiate himself with the new bishop, Frank asked again for a public debate.
His stated purpose this time was to prove Christianity and to demonstrate the blood libel (the supposed requirement of Christian blood to make matzah)!
This only demonized Franks image among the Jews.
They regarded him as a sorcerer.
The public debates took place in 1759.
Frank himself participated in the last debate only.
This one concerned the blood libel.
He deceptively used misquoted statements and altered documents.
External pressure finally halted the debates.
Many of the Frankists submitted to baptism, including Frank himself.
In fact, he was baptized a second time under the sponsorship of the King of Poland after arriving in Warsaw in a very public display.
But, the ruse could not last forever.
Word got out that some of the Frankists saw Frank as God.
This was too much. Frank was arrested, tried, and exiled to a fortress, where he was confined for thirteen years.
As the blood libel spread, many Jews were annihilated.
In turn, there were repercussions against the Frankists, who went further underground.
Frank somehow maintained communication with his disciples on the outside.
It was rumored that he held secret sex orgies in the compound.
Frank continued to grow more duplicitous.
His final years were spent living like a king in a luxurious mansion near Frankfort.
He was supported by huge gifts from followers around the world.
He died suddenly in 1791 of an apoplectic stroke.
His children tried to take up the leadership but they were largely unsuccessful.
Frank's disciples continued to uphold their faith in him for years, refusing to admit to themselves that he was a charlatan.
Frank's work "Words of the Master" were still being published in the 1820's.
Adam Mickiewicz, the famous Polish poet, was a Frankist.
Likewise, many in the Polish nobility were Frankists well into the nineteenth century.
Clandestine communities of Frankists are still thought to exist to this day.
The last of the ten false messiahs is undoubtedly the most difficult to contemplate and to write about because he is contemporary.
As with most great men, the essence of the contribution he has made is not always appreciated properly in the present.
The facts about his life are easily gathered because his movement is far flung.
There have been newspaper articles about him.
There have been television programs about him and his movement.
His work and influence can be seen on the internet.
There is no shortage of information about this man.
Yet, it is the freshness of the information that makes it more difficult to evaluate.
To begin with, I run the risk of offending those who believe in him as the messiah by simply classifying him among false messiahs.
I do not wish to offend, but I must be consistent in using Jewish criteria to make that classification.
This man never claimed to be the messiah, but his people attempted to draft him for the job.
Irrespective of his greatness and of the fruits of his life, he did NOT usher in the messianic age.
He, therefore, is not the messiah.


© Copyright 2000 by Wayne Simpson
Biblical Research Foundation
629 Lexington Road, Sapulpa, OK 74066
This document may be reproduced and distributed provided this copyright notice remains on all copies.

A converted Jew, J. J. Frank,
forms a sect called the Frankists at Lemberg.


These people were all Jews who had become Christians in revolt against the evils taught in the Talmud.
They said that it was the Talmud which was the root of all the troubles between Jews and Gentiles.
Prince Etienne de Mikoulissky, administrator of the archidiocese of Lemberg, instituted public debates between the Frankists and the Talmudic Jews.
A debate held in July took place in which various matters were dealt with point by point until six points had been settled;
the seventh one was the Frankists' declaration that "the Talmud teaches the employment of Christian blood and he who believes in the Talmud ought to make use of this blood."
The Frankists said they had learned this in their youth as Jews.
Under the heading Baruch Yavan, the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1903) Vol. II, p. 563, admits that the Frankists brought the blood accusation against the Talmudists; also in Vol. VII, p. 579, under Judah Lob ben Nathan Krysa.
The Frankists completely defeated their opponents in these debates.
Ultimately they became assimilated into the Christian community.
There is a large bibliography with reference to the Frankist community, of which the following two works may receive mention here:

La malfaisance juive, by Pikulski, Lvov, 1760;
Matériaux sur la question relative aux accusations portées
contre les Juifs à propos des crimes rituels,
by J. O. Kouzmine, St. Petersburg, 1914.

Sefer ha-zohar
(Hebrew : "Book of Splendour")

13th-century book, mostly in Aramaic, that is the classic text of esoteric Jewish mysticism, or Kabbala.
Though esoteric mysticism was taught by Jews as early as the 1st century AD, the Zohar gave new life and impetus to mystical speculations through the 14th and subsequent centuries.
Many Kabbalists, in fact, invested the Zohar with a sanctity that is normally accorded only to the Torah and the Talmud.
The Zohar consists of several units, the largest of which--usually called the Zohar proper--deals with the "inner" (mystical, symbolic) meaning of biblical texts, especially those taken from the first five books of the Bible (Torah), from the Book of Ruth, and from the Song of Solomon.
The lengthy homilies of the Zohar are mixed with short discourses and parables, all centred on Simeon ben Yohai (2nd century AD) and his disciples.
Though the text names Simeon as the author, modern scholars are convinced that the major portion of the Zohar should be credited to Moses de León (1250-1305) of Spain.
They do not rule out the possibility, however, that earlier mystic materials were used or incorporated into the present text.
Because the mystery of creation is a recurrent theme in the Zohar, there are extensive discussions of the 10 divine emanations (sefirot, literally "numbers") of God the Creator, which reputedly explain the creation and continued existence of the universe.
Other major topics are the problem of evil and the cosmic significance of prayer and good deeds.
After their expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Jews were much taken up with thoughts of the Messiah and eschatology and turned to the Zohar as a guide for mystical speculations.
The greatest influence of the Zohar, especially among the masses, did not occur, therefore, until several centuries after the book was composed.


Out of print :
The Kronika : on Jacob Frank & the Frankist movement, by Hillel Levine, 1984
ISBN 965-208-065-9

About the Frankists :

Date: Thu, 2 Mar 2000
Michael Honey <100421.142@compuserve.com>
Subject: I have located "The Militant Messiah" [by Arthur Mandel].

It was ultimately located at Bridgewater State College library in Bridgewater, Mass.
The book has been worth the wait. It describes in a fair amount of detail the bizarre life and claims of Jacob FRANK, and there are several pages devoted to Frank's 13-year stay in Brno (1773-1786).
The book indicates that a number of these families emigrated in 1848 to the United States, and one of the most famous of their descendants was the late Justice and leading Zionist, Louis Dembitz BRANDEIS.
Justice BRANDEIS was married to Alice GOLDMARK from another Frankist family.