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Sabbatai Zevi

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Sabbatai Zevi
A Tragedy in Three Acts
By Shalom Ash
Translated by F. Whyte
Kessinger Publishing, 2003, 140 pages
ISBN 10: 0766140059
ISBN 13: 978-066140059

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 30, 2010

One of the most tragic false prophets that appeared to Jews and who misled them from traditional Judaism in the seventeenth century in Turkey, during the time of Muslim rule, was Sabbatai Zevi. Zevi acted bizarrely and taught bizarre lessons. He said that he would take the Jews to Israel and they should sell all of their property and be ready to travel. Many Jews listened to him and sold their properties at very low rates because they expected God to care for them in Israel. The Muslim leader was concerned that Zevi was causing a rebellion and told him that he had a choice; either become a Muslim or die. Zevi became a Muslim.

Shalom Ash's play is terrible. It fails to capture any of the drama of the time. It is filled with pompous, non-responsive, virtually nonsensical pseudo-biblical language, such as the following conversation:

Zevi: I am the servant of the God of Jacob. With His Torah I desire to be united; along her ways I wish to go.

Sara: His service is not the service to heaven. He is the God-man. Heaven - heaven is the Lord's, but earth is given to men. Might is thine, thou art the ruler; they wish to serve thee, in thee there is strength and power over us. (To the prophets) Look! Behold thy God-man! Glory to his name forever and ever. Hallow and glorify the name of the "God-man." (The quotes are in the play only in the last sentence.)

Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on and on His website is

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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