Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666 - 1816


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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Conventions Used in the Text

1 Female Prophets in Sabbatianism
2 Historical Precedents and Contexts
3 Sabbatian Women as Religious Activists
4 Women in Sectarian Sabbatianism
5 The Egalitarian Agenda: Sources of Inspiration and Modes of Implementation
6 In the Egalitarian 'Family' of Jacob Frank
7 The Redemptive 'Maiden'
8 'The Mother of God': Frank and the Russian Sectarians
9 Conclusion: From Sabbatianism to Hasidism

Appendix: 'Something for the Female Sex': A Call for the Liberation of Women and the Release of the Female Libido from the 'Shackles of Shame', in an anonymous Frankist manuscript from Prague, c.1800


About the Author

Ada Rapoport-Albert, who died in 2020, was Professor of Jewish Studies and head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London.


Reviews 'Impressive.'
Joshua Schwartz, Ancient Traditions, New Conversations (Yeshiva University Law School blog)

'An important work in the history of Sabbatianism and Jewish women's studies. Highly recommended.'
Daniel Schiede, Association of Jewish Libraries Review

'To be congratulated for demonstrating that Jewish messianic mysticism, far from being an arcane scholarly domain of interest only to textual specialists, is a topic of key significance to anyone interested in the processes through which the corporatist boundaries of eighteenth-century European society travelled.'
Adam Sutcliffe, Eighteenth-Century Studies

‘A breakthrough in this field, interpreting previously known sources in a way that sets up new research areas that have been overlooked or ignored... a thorough analysis of sources. It is very well documented and very inspiring. The book should not only be studied by those who are interested in Sabbatianism and gender studies, but also those interested in the historical study of religion, ideology, and ideas.’
Michał Galas, H-Judaic

'A book of importance for all those interested in gender issues related to Jews and Judaism, as well as for those engaged in the study of Jewish mysticism. It further challenges people engaged in the study of Jews and Judaism in the early modern period to pay careful attention to the ways in which Sabbatian believers influenced historical developments both in direct and dialectical ways.'
Ira Robinson, IsraBlog: Canadian Institute for Jewish Research

'A fascinating book . . . Rapoport-Albert shows with great scholarly detail that women were actively involved in the Sabbatian movement . . . Some of the details in this volume are startling, but the work opens up an intriguing and valuable window to the status of women in east European Jewish life.'
Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Journal

'Exhaustively researched and brilliantly written . . . One aspect of Frankism on which Rapoport-Albert is especially good is the peculiar tension between sexual libertinism and asceticism.'
David Biale, Jewish Review of Books

'Not only breaks down many stereotypes about the roles of women in Judaism and Jewish society, but it is also a major contribution to understanding how Sabbatianism and Frankism spread and operated . . . rich in original ideas and insights. While many of the topics call for further research, the rich documentation Rapoport-Albert brings to bear on the topics leave little room for doubt that a call for changed gender roles, to a greater or lesser degree, was a central element in the Sabbatian and Frankist movements. It is a very stimulating contribution to the literature on Kabbalah, on modern religious movements, on gender history, as well as on conservative responses.'
Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review

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