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Messianic figures that did not come through

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After the failed Bar Kokba war, there was an end to Messianic movements for several centuries. However, the hope of a coming messiah nonetheless continued.

Moses of Crete appeared in the 5th century C.E., and won the Jews there to his movement. He called himself Moses, and promised to lead the people, like the ancient Moses on dry land through the midst of the sea back to the land of Israel. His followers, convinced of his claim, left all their possessions and waited for the promised day; upon which they followed Moses to a promontory overlooking the sea and at his command cast themselves off – where many drowned or were destroyed on the rocks below.

Theudas  died in the year 46. He was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century. His name which comes from Greek means “gift of God”. Around between 44 and 46 AD, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt.

Theudas, persuaded many people to join with him, and follow him to the Jordan river. He told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and they would easy pass over it. Many were decieved by his words. Fadus, the Roman procurator of Judea did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. (Jewish Antiquities)

The Persian Jewish sect of Abu ‘Isa or the “herald of the Messiah” sect existed from 684-705. Its leader and self proclaimed Messiah, Abu ‘Isa (father of Jesus), was a working man “a plain tailor”. His devotes said “He could neither read nor write, yet he wrote books without any assistance” (the same was said of Muhammad). Abu ‘Isa’s adherents stressed that, in spite of his illiteracy, Abu ‘Isa wrote books, and they claimed thiswas proof of his divine inspiration. None of Abu ‘Isa’s writtings exist any longer, if they ever did.

Abu ‘Isa said that the coming of the Messiah was to be preceded by five messengers, and he himself was the last messenger and the Messiah himself. Abu ‘Isa claimed he was entrusted with the mission of delivering the Jews from the rule of the Gentiles, and of making them politically independent.

He and many followers among the Jews of Persia, and raised a revolt against the calif. Abu ‘Isa sent an army against him. The decisive battle was fought at Rai (the ancient Rhagæ), and resulted in the death of Abu ‘Isa and in the complete defeat of his adherents. One of Abu ‘Isa’s disciples narrates that when the battle resulted so disastrously Abu ‘Isa hid in a cave, and that his ultimate fate was never known.

Another account of the battle ascribes a miraculous victory to Abu ‘Isa. It is said that he surrounded his camp with a rope and assured his men that they would be safe from the enemy’s swords so long as they did not leave the enclosed space. The hostile army fled from the rope, and Abu ‘Isa’s followers pursued and completely destroyed the enemy. The prophet himself then wandered into the desert, to announce to the Jews the word of the Lord and his prophetic mission.

Abu ‘Isa became the founder of this first Jewish sect in the geonic period, the members of which were called, after him, ‘Isawites, “‘Iswanites,” or “‘Isuyites.” Their practices differed from rabbinic Judaism in dogma and ritual but little is know of them. It is known they abstained from wine and animal food, According to Harkavy, Abu ‘Isa, in imposing these restrictions, was influenced less by the custom of the Rechabites (comp. Jer. xxxv. 2-10) than by the Pharisaic view (B. B. 60b) that meat and wine ought not to be indulged in by the Jews so long as they live in exile (“galut”). Divorce was not allowed even in case of adultery—a prohibition which was also observed by the Sadducees. According to Maḳrizi, Abu ‘Isa had seen Jesus and Mohammed in heaven and were recognized by the sect as prophets, each of whom had been sent as a missionary to his nation. Al-Ḳirḳisani, the Karaite, held that Abu ‘Isa took this attitude merely for diplomatic reasons. (this too is similar to what Muhammad did) According to the passage in Psalms :

“Seven times a day do I praise thee,” Abu ‘Isa instituted seven daily prayers in place of the three rabbinical ones. In accordance with the rabbinical opinion, he declared the “Shemoneh ‘Esray,” the “Shema’,” and the two benedictions before and one after the “Shema'” to be obligatory by divine order. The ‘Isawites used the Rabbinite calendar, which at that time was a very essential point; for upon the strength of this the Rabbinites did not hesitate to associate and even intermarry with the followers of Abu ‘Isa.

  Jacob ben Ephraim al-Shami answered Al-Ḳirḳisani, who objected to the friendly attitude of the Rabbinites toward the ‘Isawites. Altogether, therefore, Shahrastani’s judgment that the customs of the ‘Isawites differed greatly in many essential points from the laws of the Torah does not seem to be well founded.

Abu ‘Isa and his disciple Yudghan greatly influenced the founder of the Karaites, Anan, who lived about seventy years later; for instance, Anan took from Abu ‘Isa the rule of abstinence from meat and wine.

At the time of Al-Ḳirḳisani (about 930) the sect survived in Damascus only, and numbered not more than twenty persons.

Another failed Messiah was Named Serene . His name is a Latin form of שריני , according to a responsum of Naṭronai Gaon (“Sha’are Ẓedeḳ,” p. 24a, b). Serene represented himself as the Messiah, establishing certain religious observances opposed to the rabbinical law, abolishing prayer, neglecting the laws of “ṭerefah,” not guarding the wine against “nesek,” working on the second holy day, and abolishing both the ketubah and certain incest laws established by the scribes.

The date of Serene’s appearance is given by Isidor Pacensis (“Chronicon,” in Florez’s “España Sagrada,” viii. 298) as 103 of the Hegira (c. 720 C.E.), which was during the reign of Yazid II. This same historian states that in Spain many Jews abandoned all their property and prepared to join the supposed Messiah. The latter, indeed, owing to his promise to put the Jews in possession of the Holy Land. He was finally captured and taken before Yazid II., who put some questions to him concerning his Messianic qualities which he was unable to answer. He declared that he had never had any serious design against the calif, and that he desired only to mock the Jews, whereupon he was handed to the latter for punishment. His adherents, having repented of their credulity, on the advice of Naṭronai Gaon were received again into their communities.

In the 12th century was a women who claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, her name is no longer known. (or is much about her, this is all I could find). She was known to have sexual relationships with many of her followers. (Max Dimont “the indestructable Jews)

Yaakov Frank’s daughter Eve Frank (1754–1816/1817), In 1770 declared herself to be the incarnation of the Shekinah, the female aspect of God, as well as the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary and thus became the object of a devotional subcult herself in Częstochowa, with some followers keeping small statues of her in their homes. She finnaly claimed to be the messiah upon her father’s death.

The great Jewish teacher from Andalusia, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon of Córdoba (1135-1204), tells the story of an anonymous Messiah from Yemen, who was preaching repentance. Those who gave their worldly possessions to the poor would gain a treasure in heaven. Not everybody was impressed by his humane teachings, and in 1172 the Muslim authorities had him arrested. His interrogators wanted a sign that he was indeed the Messiah, He was brought in chains before the king of Yemen. He was asked by the king to proform a Miracle to prove he was the Messiah. The man told them to chop off his head and he would come to life again after he was beheaded. The authorities allowed the experiment, but unfortunately, the Yemenite Messiah was unable to live up to his claim.

Abraham Abulafia (ca. 1240–1291) was a self-proclaimed Messiah and founder of a school of ecstatic Kabbalah. He was native of Spain and he set out towards the Middle East at the age of twenty in search of the fabled Sambation river so to return of the ten lost tribes of Israel. When this project failed, he continued his travels in Greece and Italy. He taught and had many followers in southern Italy and Sicily. Rabbi Abulafia believed the end of days were approaching and he saw himself as chosen by God to reveal the Divine truth. His messianic claims were a result of his revelations and experiences. In Rabbi Abulafia’s writings, he he teachs that any Hebrew can become a messiah insofar as they can bring about a spiritual liberation of their own souls.

The night of Rosh Hashanah, in the year 5040 (1280) Rabbi Abraham Abulafia found the perfect time to pay a visit on the Pope. Pope Martin to received word of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia coming. The Pope gave orders to the Vatican staff that they should arrest Rabbi Abulafia immediately and send him to a place outside the city where firewood was already prepared for quick execution. Though Abulafia was notified in advanced of the Pope’s intentions, he remained determined nonetheless to keep his appointment.

At that moment, the pope made this announcement, Pope Martin passed away Rabbi Abulafia’s life was saved. Needless to say, the good rabbi saw this development as divine intervention and as irrefutable proof of the authenticity of his mission–notwithstanding the fact that he was imprisoned for a month by Franciscan monks.

David Reubeni, a mysterious adventurer who claimed to be the brother of the monarch of an independent Jewish kingdom in Arabia.

Masquerading as a descendent of the of Islamic prophet, he wandered through Ethiopia, Egypt and Israel. It was while sojourning in Alexandria in 5284 (1523) that he Rosh Hashanah in a small synagogue awaiting the next available ship to Italy.

It would take more than two months to find a galley sailing to Venice, and more than a year before he would enter the Papal palace on a white steed. Pope Clement greeted David with full diplomatic honours when the Hebrew emissary proposed a diplomatic alliance between his kingdom, Rome and Portugal, such that a Jewish army would expel the Turks from the Holy Land. Clement even provided David with letters of reference to several European rulers. With these documents in hand, he came close to finalizing a pact with the Portuguese king for the transporting of armaments to Reubeni’s fictitious regiments.

David Reubeni’s teachings inspired a young Marrano named Diego Pires to return openly to Judaism, he took the name Solomon Molkho.

Convincing himself that he was the Messiah, Solomon journeyed to Turkey, Israel and Italy, and of course he eventually arrived in Rome for the obligatory confrontation with the Pope. The pontiff extended to him hospitality and protection.

When it became impossible to resist the Inquisition’s persistent calls for Molkho’s death, it is stated that Pope Clement saved his life by substituting a condemned criminal to be executed in his stead. Eventually however, Solomon became unable to fend off his accusers. He was arrested by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and perished as a martyr proudly proclaiming his Judaism to the end.

David Reubeni, who was imprisoned along with his disciple, managed somehow to escape death, and lived out the rest of his days in a Spanish prison under Imperial protection.

A Jewish chronicler reports that even after Molkho’s demise there remained many Jews who were convinced that the aspiring messiah had miraculously cheated death, and that eight days after the auto-da-fé he had been seen at his home.

Moses Botarel was a Spanish scholar who lived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. He learned Kabbala from Jacob Sefardi (the Spaniard). He made amulets , and declared that he was able to combine the names of God for working miracles. He stated that by means of fasting, ablution, and invocation of the names of God and of the angels one can attain prophetic dreams. He stated that the prophet Elijah had appeared to him and appointed him as Messiah.

After this he addressed a letter sent to many great rabbis of his time, asserting that he was able to solve all perplexities, and asking them to send all doubtful questions to him. In this letter (printed by Dukes in Orient, Lit. 1850, p. 825) Botarel refers to himself as a well-known and prominent rabbi, a saint, and the most pious of the pious. Many believed in his miracles, including the philosopher Hasdai Crescas.

Rav Botarel composed a commentary on the Sefer Yezirah. In his commentary, he quotes earlier cabalistic works, including some ascribed to the old authorities, such as the amora Rav Ashi. Rav Botarel’s commentary on the Sefer Yeẓirah was printed at Mantua in 1562, with the text and with other commentaries; it was republished at Zolkiev, 1745; Grodno, 1806; and Wilna, 1820.

Rav Botarel told the king of Spain he could prove he was the Messiah. He told the king to cast him into a flaming furnice and he would walk out from it unharmed. The king did comply with his request but there is no record of what happened after that.

More at www.jewishencyclopedia.com

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