June 07


[1]Throughout the Chronicle Najara regularly refers to himself in the third person, as “this rabbi.”

[2]The Hebrew acronym for “our Lord, our King, may his majesty be exalted” – a standard Sabbatian designation for Sabbatai Zevi.

[3]Numbers 7:48-53. The sequence of offerings described in this chapter began “on the first day of the first month” (Exodus 40:2, 17) – that is, Nisan – and Elishama brought his tribe’s offering on the seventh day.

[4]In Jewish tradition, “Messiah ben Ephraim” (or “ben Joseph”) is a forerunner of Messiah ben David, to be slain in battle against the Gentiles. The Sabbatians imagined him to be Sabbatai’s contemporary, his partner, and at times his heir. The early days of the Sabbatian movement saw a number of candidates for “Messiah ben Ephraim” – the brilliant, quirky, often outrageous Abraham Cardozo (to whom I dedicated my book Abraham Miguel Cardozo: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, 2001); the dissolute Jacob Querido, founder of the Dönmeh sect. Here we learn that Sabbatai proposed his own little son for the role.

[5]Leviticus 19:23-24, translating in accord with the traditional Jewish interpreters. In its original context the passage refers to a fruit tree.

[6]This sound very much like a stratagem for keeping the Muslim dignitaries of Adrianople from witnessing Ishmael’s circumcision, while being able to claim afterward that he had issued invitations to them all.

[7]Set up at a Jewish circumcision for the invisible guest at the ceremony, the prophet Elijah. No one but Elijah is normally supposed to sit on it.

[8]The “godfather” at the circumcision, who normally sits in a chair next to the Chair of Elijah and holds the child on his lap. (Karillo’s subsequent conversion to Islam, at Sabbatai’s behest, is described later in the Najara Chronicle.) Normally, of course, the child being circumcised is an eight-day-old infant. This scene, involving a three-year-old boy, does not bear to be imagined in too much detail.

[9]The Sabbatian designation for the fortress at Gallipoli, where Sabbatai was imprisoned by the Turks the summer before his conversion to Islam.

[10]Which would normally have been read in the synagogue, not the Sabbath before Passover, but three weeks afterward.

[11]Talmud, Yevamot 63b, Sanhedrin 100b. The prescribed cure is divorce.

[12]The story of the revelation at Mount Sinai.

[13]That is, one of his manic phases (as opposed to his “eclipses,” his depressive phases). It is commonly accepted, following Scholem, that Sabbatai suffered from what we would now call bipolar disorder.

[14]A hymn for the third Sabbath meal, composed by the sixteenth-century Kabbalist Isaac Luria – normally followed, as here, by the Twenty-third Psalm and the blessing over the wine.

[15]A hymn composed for the grace after meals by Najara’s grandfather, the poet Israel Najara.

[16]Apparently referring to some gorgeously bound copy of the Zohar that Sabbatai had made for himself. It is referred to in an earlier passage of the Najara Chronicle.

[17]Referring to Midrash Genesis Rabbah 3:7, 9:2, “The Blessed Holy One created worlds and He destroyed them, until He created these. He said: ‘This world pleases Me; the others did not please Me.’ ” “The World of Chaos” (olam ha-tohu) is a Kabbalistic term for the system of divine potentialities preceding the current one, to which, according to the Kabbalists, the strange midrashic utterance about “destroying worlds” was intended to apply. Sabbatai is obviously comparing his own actions to God’s, but it is far from clear what he is trying to say. It is very unfortunate that the passage is broken off in the middle, several pages having been missing from the Najara Chronicle at this point, in the manuscript from which our one surviving manuscript was copied.

[18]The entire city of Hebron, apparently.