The Jewish mystic and messiah, Sabbatai Zevi (1626-76), referred to by the abbreviated title of Amirah by his followers, was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey. Sabbatai's first teacher was the Gadol Reb. Isaac di Alba, a member of the Bais Din in Smyrna with whom he studied Kabbalah beginning in 1650. After six years under Master Isaac, Sabbatai continued his studies under the illustrious R. Joseph Eskapha, author of "Rosh Yosef" and a leading halakhist of his time. He most probably gave Sabbatai smicha and the rabbinical title of hakham ("wise" or "sage") when the latter was still an adolescent.
By 1648 Sabbatai showed signs of what modern scholars (who are caught up in the meme of reductionist materialism) claim to be manic-depressive psychosis. In other words, strange behavior and violations of religious law, and proclaimed himself the Messiah. Expelled from Smyrna around 1651-54, he wandered through Greece, Thrace, Palestine, and Egypt. In 1665 he met the charismatic Nathan of Gaza, who persuaded him that he was indeed the Messiah. Sabbatai Zevi then formally revealed himself, named 1666 as the millennium, and soon gained fervent support in Palestine and the Diaspora. It is important to realize that the entire Jewish world of 1665-66 believed that Sabbatai was no mere "prophet" or "teacher" but the Promised Messiah and a living incarnation of God. It was the only messianic movement to engult the whole of Jewry; from England to Persia, from Germany to Morocco, from Poland to the Yemen.
Sabbatai attempted to land in Constantinople in 1666, but was captured andimprisoned by the Turkish authorities in 1666. He converted to Islam, supposedly to escape execution, although Nathan and his other followers put a different interpretation on this. Sabbatai's conversion actually represented the descent into the klippotic realm in order to reclaim the lost sparks of light. Many of his followers converted likewise. Sabbatai - who, like Meher Baba and Max Theon was called "The Beloved" by his followers - may have had close relations with the Sufis. He died in exile in Ulcinj (in what is now Montenegro, part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro). The Sabbatean movement was revived in the 18th century by Jacob Frank.
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