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Later Messiahs (5)

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Jacob Frank

Sabbathai Zvi reincarnated in Polish Galicia in 1726 as Jakov ben Judah Leibovich, but as a young man, he was unaware of his true identity. During one of his travels in the Turkish Empire, however, he met members of the Dönmeh sect who were expecting Sabbathai Zwi's resurrection.

After studying the Cabbala, Jacov understood that he was not only the reincarnation of Sabbathai Zvi, but also of Baruchya Russo; and he was not only the Messiah, but also the present incarnation of God. From this moment -1751- on, he called himself Jacob Frank.

He also knew why he had not succeeded in his former life: the Jews had not been completely repentant, which in turn had been caused by the fact that they had not tasted enough sin. Only true sinners could feel truly guilty and could truly repent. The cure that Frank prescribed was to sin as much as possible; if one indulged in every sin, it would soon become unattractive and lead to repentance. He and his followers did everything in their power to hurry up the end of times, breaking all rules of Mosaic Law - especially the commandment about fornication. For once, those accusing a religious innovator of incest were right. In 1756, the rabbis condemned the remarkable new doctrine.

For some time, the Austrian and Polish governments did not interfere; the authorities were Catholic and hoped that they could one day convert at least some Jews to their own faith. (Moreover, the Christians thought that Frank's criticism of rabbinical Judaism was identical to Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees.)  As a matter of fact, Jacob Frank and his disciples, who believed Christianity was an intermediary stage on their way to messianism, received baptism in 1759 in Lvov. King August III acted as his godfather.

However, Frank's idea that sexual ecstasy was a necessary precondition to repentance was as much against Christian morals as it had been against Jewish Law. One year after his baptism, the Messiah was arrested and incarcerated in the dungeons of the inquisition at Czestechova. His adherents regarded this imprisonment as the suffering that was expected of the Messiah.

He was released by the Russians, who occupied Czestechova in 1773, and together with his twelve apostles, Jacob Frank was exiled to Austria, where he was supported by the archduchess Maria Theresa, who made him baron. The Messiah lived for several years in wealth from the contributions of his followers.

Jacob Frank died in 1791 in Offenbach, a suburb of Frankfurt.

Asher Lämmlin (c.1500)
Isaac Luria (1534-1573)
Hayyim Vital (after 1542)
Sabbathai Zwi (1626-1676)
Jacob Frank (1726-1786)
Moses Guibbory (1899-1985)
Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)
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