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Gershom ScholemAn Intellectual Biography$
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Amir Engel

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226428635

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226428772.001.0001

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Against All Odds: Sabbatean Belief and the Sabbatean Movement

Against All Odds: Sabbatean Belief and the Sabbatean Movement

(p.124) Chapter 5 Against All Odds: Sabbatean Belief and the Sabbatean Movement
Gershom Scholem

Amir Engel

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses each of Scholem’s four attempts to provide a comprehensive and synthetic description of the Sabbatean Messianic movement from 1928, 1937, 1941 and 1956. Each of these attempts, it is argued here, provides a different angel of Scholem’s understanding of the movement and together they provide a representation of Scholem’s evolution over and against major philosophical and political questions. As is shown here, Scholem uses his first comprehensive study - “The Theology of Sabbateanism in light of Abraham Cardozo” – in order to warn against the Messianic tendencies of the Zionist project. In his final attempt to describe the – in Sabbati Sevi the Mystical Messiah – Scholem hardly ever addresses those aspects which are at the focal point of his earlier analysis and which made Sabbateanism so dangerous in the first place. The evolution of Scholem’s study of Sabbateanism serves as evidence of Scholem growing reluctance to criticize the Zionist project in the aftermath of the Holocaust and World War Two and for his gradual turn from the fringe to more mainstream political convictions.

Keywords:   Sabbateanism, theology, redemption through sin, messianism, Kabbalah, politics of despair, hope

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