For the most part, life in Eretz Yisrael during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was very challenging. Besides the extreme poverty and persecution that was the lot of the Jewish community, two events in particular shook Eretz Yisrael to its core. The first was the appearance of the false Messiah, Shabbtai Tzvi in the year 1665. The euphoria that initially marked his emergence was soon followed by feelings of remorse and embarrassment in the wake of Shabbtai Tzviís conversion to Islam together with hundreds of his followers. The beginning of the eighteenth century witnessed the mass migration of some 1,500 men women and children to Eretz Yisrael led by Rav Yehudah Chasid and R. Avraham Malach, an avowed Sabbatian. This too ended in failure with the death of Rav Yehudah Chasid, soon upon his arrival, with the last of his poverty stricken followers chased out of Jerusalem some twenty years later, leaving all of their property and synagogue in ruins. The end of the eighteenth century saw another attempt at resettling the land. This migration was led by Rav Mendel of Vitebsk and Rav Avraham of Kalisk, disciples of the famed Magid of Mezrich, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. This migration, too, met with severe difficulties. These stories are the subject of this lecture.
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