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Nathan of Gaza

Nathan of Gaza

Nathan of Gaza appears to have been both a prophet and theologian.  He studied intensively the Talmud and the Kabbalistic mysticism of his time.  He elaborated his ideas in numerous open letters and treatises, but especially in a manuscript the Hebrew title of which (Zemir Aritzi'm) means "Overthrow of the Enemy Forces" or "Overthrow of the Tyrants," i.e., of those who hinder redemption.  It was written about 1670.

Nathan taught that the soul of the Messiah was from the beginning of the world inextricably bound up with the Tree of Life and was never subjected to the "fall" like Adam who became subject to the law through tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Thus he is beyond good and evil, because he never left the state of Paradise. Only from our perspective do his actions often seem reprehensible or scandalous, when in truth they conform to the laws of his origin.

Nathan met Sabbatai Zevi in Jerusalem, and was convinced Sabbatai was the Messiah.  He convinced the much older man, who was plagued by self-doubt, that his mission was legitimate. As the prophet of the Messiah he then embarked upon missionary activity to the Diaspora Jews and served as Sabbatai's apologist

Nathan died in Skoplje, Macedonia in 1680  in poverty, but surrounded by many friends and disciples.

The above material is mostly gleaned from the on-line articles at The Messianic Idea in Judaism

A person who busies themself with matters pertaining to AMIRAH, even by only telling stories [about him], is considered like one who studies the mysteries of the merkabah 
                                       Nathan of Gaza, The Holy Lamp

AMIRAH [Sabbatai Zevi] was exalted and hidden, body and soul, on Yom Kippur, at the time of ne'ilah. Whoever thinks that he died like all men and his spirit returned to God commits a grave sin.
                                       Nathan of Gaza, The Holy Lamp

He that is the messiah will restore to holiness his qellipah [shell], which is Jesus Christ
                                      Nathan of Gaza

Sabbatean Teachings and Divine Incarnation

There is no elaborate idea of the Divine incarnation in the Sabbatean Kabbalistic works of Sabbatai Zevi himself or of his Prophet Nathan of Gaza. Certainly, it was spoken about the manifestation of Zeir Anpin through Sabbatai Zevi. Moreover R. Israel Hazzan definetely spoke about AMIRAH (Sabbatai Zevi's abbreviated Messianic title) as about "the Lord our God", but in any case this was not very important theme for early (at least) Sabbatean Kabbalah. Its most important topics are:

  1. Descension of the Messiah into the abyss of kelippah and his fight against the "dragons" of the dark "another side" (sitra ahra) and
  2. The primary religious importance of the Sefirah Tifereth as the level of the complete manifestation of the Godhead (as opposed to the impersonal Absolute of En-Sof).
Evgueni Tortchinov

The Treatise on Dragons (commentary on):

The Treatise on the Dragons:
Evgueni Tortchinov's comments on this important text 
The Treatise on the Dragons (2)
Avraham Elqayam comments and reply
The Treatise on the Dragons (3) and (4)
additional commentary by Prof. Tortchinov

see also:

Lurianic Kabbalah
Sabbatai Zevi
Jacob Frank


on-line essay

on-line thesis The Mystery of Faith in the Writings of Nathan of Gaza - by Abraham Elqayam

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page uploaded 23 October 1998