The Lost Messiah: In Search of Sabbatei Sevi
by John Freely
"The Lost Messiah" is the astonishing story of Sabbatai Sevi, a 17th-century rabbi who through the mysticism of the kabbalah convinced vast numbers ... Show synopsis "The Lost Messiah" is the astonishing story of Sabbatai Sevi, a 17th-century rabbi who through the mysticism of the kabbalah convinced vast numbers of Jews throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa that he was the long-awaited Messiah. Many of his followers were disappointed when he embraced Islam on threat of execution from the Turkish sultan, but many others continued to believe in him. Some of them even converted to Islam, creating the sect known as the Donme - outwardly Muslim, yet clinging secretly to Judaism. Today, a few Sabbatians still secretly hold true to their beliefs, patiently waiting for their Messiah to return and lead them to redemption; they believe that Sabbatai is not dead but merely hidden from human view, despite more than three centuries having passed since he left them. When John Freely came across the name of Sabbatai Sevi in an old Jewish bookshop in Istanbul, he was instantly fascinated by the story and journeyed to Ismir, the Aegean port of Turkey and Sabbatai's first home. Brilliantly evoking the vanished world of the 17th-century Jewish diaspora in the Ottoman Empire, his journey moves to the ghettoes of Venic and Rome, the bazaars of Cairo and the rabbinical schools of Jerusalem and Safed. Ranging from the Sultan's palaces in Istanbul to the synagogues of North Africa and out to the isolated Jewish communities of the Yemen and the remote reaches of Albania, Freely's remarkable quest takes us deep into the esoteric world of Jewish mysticism and the messianic cult which still inspires belief today.