The False Messiah Who Caused a Century of Upheaval in the Jewish World

In 1665, a young Jewish scholar named Shabbetai Tsvi declared himself the messiah in the synagogue in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) to shouts of joy from those present. Soon messianic fervor swept Jewish communities across the world, in what would be the last global Jewish movement until the First Zionist Congress in 1897. He converted to Islam a year later after being arrested by the sultan, and died in 1676—but not before disseminating his unusual and heterodox mystical doctrines, which would continue to cause controversy in the Jewish world for the next 100 years. Some of his followers still live in Turkey today. Matt Goldish tells the story of Sabbatianism and its aftermath in a two-part conversation with Nachi Weinstein. Listen to the first part below, and to the second part here. (Audio, 105 minutes.)

Read more at Seforim Chatter

More about: Jewish history, Messianism, Mysticism, Shabbetai Tzvi

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy