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Medieval Messiahs (6)

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Abu'lafia 

Abraham ben Samuel Abu'lafia was born in Saragossa (Aragon) in 1240 Anno Domini, the year 5000 of the Jewish era. When he was twenty years old, he came under the influence of God's Spirit and started to wander. He visited the Levant, where he tried to find the legendary Sabbath River, which -according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus- only flows on Saturday.

He never found it, but he did discover the Cabbala, the mystical study of the Scriptures. Using his newly acquired knowledge, Abu'lafia wrote a commentary on The guide for the perplexed, the standard work of Jewish philosophy, written by the famous Andalusian scholar Rabbi Moses ben Maimon of Córdoba (1135-1204). In his own book, Abu'lafia claimed that mysticism and philosophy were not incompatible.

In 1271, God granted him a vision and he received the Spirit of prophecy. From now on, he called himself Raziel, 'the seer of God's secrets'. Abu'lafia's cabalistic studies soon convinced him that the Messiah would come to judge mankind in 5055. In one of his popular apocalyptic pamphlets, he wrote:

The Lord's spirit reached my mouth and worked through me so that I manifested many dread and awful sights with signs and wonders (…) When I reached to the Names and untied the seal bands, the Lord of all revealed Himself to me, and made known to me His secret, and informed me concerning the end of the exile and the beginning of the redemption.
God ordered Abu'lafia to go to Rome, where he had to convert the pope and invoke his assistance to bring the Jews home to the Holy Land (which was still occupied by the Christian crusaders). Like the prophet Jonah, Abu'lafia hesitated; but God had ways to make the wandering Aragonese obey - a second vision. This time, Abu'lafia learned that he was the Son of God and was urged to visit pope Nicholas III.

In 1280, the mystic arrived in Rome, but he discovered that the pope had gone to the castle of Sorriano near Viterbo. When Abu'lafia reached the papal residency, he was immediately arrested and incarcerated, because the pope had ordered his execution. But he was never executed, because Nicholas III had died four days earlier and the superstitious Christian soldiers dared not maltreat the Jew whose enemy had so miraculously died. He was released, but the Jewish communities of Italy were afraid to help him. After all, the new pope was likely to say that Abu'lafia had killed the pope with some devilish trick.

But God comforted his son. In 1282, He informed him that he was the Messiah. 

The Lord of all revealed Himself to me, and made known to me His secret, and informed me concerning the end of the exile and the beginning of the redemption.
Abu'lafia prayed and during his prayer, he felt how he was anointed. He became convinced of his true identity. Unfortunately, the Italian Jews were less convinced; the Messiah was exiled to Malta, where he lived to hear the news that the Muslims had taken the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land (1291). He was planning to visit the new rulers of Palestine, but died before he could have manifested himself as the Messiah.
Muhammad (570-632)
Abu Isa' al-Isfahani (c. 700)
Moses al-Dar'i (c.1127)
David Alroy (c.1147)
Yemenite Messiah (c.1172)
Abu'lafia (1230-1291)
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