Tuesday, November 27, 2007
SABBATAI ZEVI AND THE LOST TRIBES
Strangely enough Sabbatai Zevi has also turned up in the Database of Jewish Communities website. The website belongs to The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora which is dedicated to uncovering "The Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel". In that website I found a drawing of Zevi's prophet Nathan of Gaza leading the Tribes, and the following:
The medieval speculations about the fate of the lost tribes were enhanced by the Christian traditions about Prester John, a powerful ruler of vast regions believed to be located in either the Far East or in Africa. Most medieval Christian commentaries about Prester John contain references to the Ten Lost Tribes, many of them quite similar to the descriptions of Eldad ha-Dani. R. Obadiah ben Abraham of Bertinoro in northern Italy, a pilgrim to Jerusalem at the end of the 15th century, noted the information he gathered about the Ten Lost Tribes, especially about descendants of the Tribe of Dan who are at constant warfare with Prester John....
The interest in the fate of the Ten Lost Tribes received a new impetus from a number of developments, among them the growth of the Kabbalah and of the Jewish mysticism after the 16th century, including various messianic movements, of them that of Shabbetai Zvi (1626-1676) having the strongest impact...In the 17th century, the myth of the Ten Lost Tribes became a central theme of Sabbatean propaganda – Shabbetai Zvi; the false messiah is depicted as commander of the Ten Tribes. At the same period, R. Manasseh ben Israel of Amsterdam (1604-1657) in his book Mikve Israel (Hope of Israel, London, 1652) brings the testimony of the Portuguese crypto-Jew, Aaron Levi (known as Antonio de Montezinos), who claimed to have encountered during his travels to South America (Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela) Indian tribes practicing some Jewish rituals and who allegedly were descendants of the tribes of Reuben and Levi. Manasseh ben Israel used the legend of the lost tribes in pleading successfully for the admission of Jews into England during Oliver Cromwell's regime.
The website links many websites which share the interest, among them Brit-Am, an organization whose website carried an article by Athol Bloomer, a member of the Association of Hebrew Catholics, when I was researching his writing.
British Israelism is also mentioned in the article:
...it was John Wilson (d.1871), an Irishman, who turned these ideas into the movement of British Israelism. He and his followers strove to discover and describe the historic connection between the Ten Lost Tribes and the British people, via various waves of migrations and immigrations from Central Asia to the north shores of the Black Sea and ultimately to Britain. The movement consequently gained many adherents in Britain and from there it spread to other English speaking countries, especially to the US. British Israelism continued to flourish in the first half of the 20th century and still has followers in many countries.