Rabbi Yaakov Sasportas, Rabbi of Amsterdam (1610-1698)

Rabbi Yaakov Sasportas published a book called Tzitz Novel Tzvi about the Sabbatean movement and his reaction against it. The book has been republished many times in an abridged form, called Kitzur Tzitz Novel Tzvi. Reading this book, we notice some similarities between Sabbateanism and Zionism, and from Rabbi Sasportas’s reaction we can learn what our reaction should be today.

For example, he writes (p. 37a) of a certain follower of Shabbesai Tzvi, “How could he have had the audacity to claim that moshiach will go and ask the Turkish Sultan to set Israel free and make him king? This is wrong, for the redemption will not come through any man, but only through Hashem’s hand, as it says, ‘On that day I will raise up the fallen succah of David’ (Amos 9:11). And in the dream of Nevuchadnetzar, ‘a stone broke off, not by hands’ (Daniel 2:34), which meant that ‘the G-d of Heaven will establish a kingdom that will never be destroyed’ (v. 44). So how could it happen through the Turkish Sultan?”

Rabbi Sasportas prints a letter by the rabbis of Venice, bemoaning the fact that their community strayed after Shabbesai Tzvi: “Who does not understand the acts of Hashem? The justice of Hashem is true and right, measure for measure. Because our community did not keep the oath not to arouse or awaken the love, we were punished with anger and powerful hatred that is aroused against us among the gentiles in all places.”

In a letter of advice to a rabbi who was attempting to convince his community not to join the Sabbateans (p. 50b), he writes: “In general, you should warn them not to force the end of exile and not to violate the oaths written in Shir Hashirim (2:7) ‘not to arouse or awaken the love before it is desired.’ Remind them of history, of past generations who erred in following false messiahs and prophets. In cases where danger is likely, we must not rely on miracles! This is especially true of the western communities, whose exile is much more difficult due to the oppressive governments they live under. They must lend their shoulder to bear the yoke of exile, and wait for their redeemer, though he may tarry. They must hope and hope again, for he will surely come and not delay. And in reward for their hoping, the redemption will come sooner, as Chazal say, ‘Israel has no merit but hoping. They are worth redeeming in reward for the waiting’ (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim 736).”