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Dissident RabbiThe Life of Jacob Sasportas$
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Yaacob Dweck

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691183572

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691183572.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Dissident Rabbi

Yaacob Dweck

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter provides a background of Jacob Sasportas. Around 1610, Sasportas was born in Oran, a garrison town at the edge of the Iberian Empire on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa in present day Algeria. The scion of a rabbinic family, Sasportas served the Jews of Oran and nearby Tlemcen as a rabbinic judge for several decades. In his early forties, he was exiled from North Africa for reasons that remain unknown, and fled to Amsterdam. For almost half a century, Sasportas lived among the Portuguese Jews of the Sephardic Diaspora. In 1665, he emerged as one of the few opponents to the provocative persona of Sabbetai Zevi, the self-proclaimed Messiah who became the center of a mass movement. From his temporary home in Hamburg, he conducted a vigorous campaign first to challenge and later to undermine the messianic claims of Sabbetai Zevi and Nathan of Gaza, keeping a meticulous record of Sabbatianism as it was occurring. This book asks why Sasportas would oppose a messianic movement and what the substance of this opposition is. In other words, it explores the truth-value of doubt within the rabbinic tradition as it was expressed by one man living in the midst of a maelstrom.

Keywords:   Jacob Sasportas, Jews, Sephardic Diaspora, Sabbetai Zevi, self-proclaimed Messiah, Sabbatianism, messianic movement, rabbinic tradition, rabbinic judge

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