Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

The year was 1666, at the height of the false messiah Shabetai Tzvi’s popularity, when this rare volume I acquired was published. It is estimated that half the Jewish World were adherents of Shabetai Tzevi at the time, with many feeling the imminent arrival of the Messiah and believing that the end of days was near.

Following the calamities that befell the Jews of Europe a few years earlier during the Khmelnystsky pogroms, in which an estimated third of the Jews of Europe were murdered, many believed that the time was ripe for the Messiah’s arrival. The study of Kabbalah and rituals influenced by a kabbalistic way of life became prevalent during this period.

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One custom that gained popularity during this time was the practice of saying additional prayers and selihot in the early mornings. This publication, titled Tikun, was one such collection of prayers and song. Attributed to the prophet of the Sabbatean movement, Nathan of Gaza, this volume, published in Amsterdam, has the unique characteristic of featuring a portrait of Shabetai Sevi on the title page. The frontispiece shows Shabbetai Tzvi seated on King Solomon’s throne.

Further displaying its messianic fervor, the date of the publication was noted as the Hebrew word Moshia (I will save), alluding to the coming saving of the Jewish people by the Messiah.

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.