Yaacob Dweck: The Ordeal of Jacob Sasportas

FEB 08, 2019 | 10:30 AM TO 12:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




February 08, 2019: 10:30 AM-12:30 PM




The Center for Jewish Studies


The Ordeal of Jacob Sasportas
This talk will examine the notion of Sabbatianism as “a new law” or “a new religion” in the writings of Jacob Sasportas (1610-1698). A rabbi who lived in the major centers of the Western Sephardic Diaspora, Sasportas emerged as the most articulate opponent of the messianic movement that coalesced around Sabbetai Zevi and his prophet Nathan of Gaza in 1665-1666. In his principal Hebrew work, Zizath novel zvi (Heb. The Fading Flower of the Zevi), Sasportas repeatedly described Sabbatianism with the Hebrew phrase “Torah hadashah,” which can be rendered in English as “a new law” or “a new religion.” Furthermore, he made an analogy between Sabbatianism and early Christianity, an analogy that would have enormous staying power for subsequent students of Sabbatianism from Jacob Emden to Gershom Scholem. This paper asks two related questions: what did Sasportas mean in his use of the phrase “Torah hadashah?” And what was stake for him in the analogy between Sabbatianism and Christianity? 
Yaacob Dweck holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and is Associate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at Princeton University. His work focuses on early modern Jewry, with a particular interest for intellectual history and the Sephardic world. His first book, The Scandal of Kabbalah: Leon Modena, Jewish Mysticism, Early Modern Venice appeared in 2011. He is currently writing a study of Jacob Sasportas, a critic of the seventeenth-century Jewish Messiah, Sabbetay Zevi.