Yaacob Dweck, "Dissident Rabbi: The Life of Jacob Sasportas" (Princeton UP, 2019)


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In 1665, Sabbetai Zevi, a self-proclaimed Messiah with a mass following throughout the Ottoman Empire and Europe, announced that the redemption of the world was at hand. As Jews everywhere rejected the traditional laws of Judaism in favor of new norms established by Sabbetai Zevi, and abandoned reason for the ecstasy of messianic enthusiasm, one man watched in horror. Yaacob Dweck's new book Dissident Rabbi: The Life of Jacob Sasportas (Princeton University Press, 2019) tells the story of Jacob Sasportas, the Sephardic rabbi who, alone among Jewish leadership, challenged Sabbetai Zevi’s improbable claims and warned his fellow Jews that their Messiah was not the answer to their prayers.

The story of a lone voice against the crowd, the story of a lonely man of faith who insisted on reason in the face of mass passion, Dissident Rabbi is the revelatory account of a spiritual leader who dared to articulate the value of rabbinic doubt in the face of messianic certainty. It is a revealing examination of how Sasportas’ life and legacy were rediscovered and appropriated by later generations of Jewish thinkers.

Although his name may not be widely known, Sasportas’ impact continues in Jewish life today.

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, and Middle East commentator for the nationally syndicated TV program, The Armstrong Williams Show. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com or tweet @embracingwisdom

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