One of the basic tenets of Judaism is the belief in the coming of the Messiah, or Moshiach, and the advent of the Messianic era. It is a major theme in our daily prayers, and it is the theme of the last paragraph in the Aleinu prayer, as well as the Kaddish. It is clear from the Talmud, however, that this period of bliss will be preceded by untold suffering, the “Messianic birth pangs”. After the unprecedented tragedies of the mid seventeenth century, it was only natural that many would view that suffering as the expected “Messianic birth pangs”, and when a man of tremendous charisma, known for his intelligence and Kabbalistic knowledge, as well as for his piety and asceticism, arose during this period to proclaim himself Moshiach, it was no wonder that he was greeted with mass enthusiasm by Jews throughout the world. Sadly, this only ended in disappointment, as this self acclaimed Messiah converted to Islam and converted others as well. His name was Shabbsai Tzvi, and his tragic story is the subject of this and the following lecture.
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