Messianism, Manuscripts, and Music

Current fellow Hadar Feldman Samet has been working for years on a trove of particularly intriguing but difficult manuscripts. She is decoding the dense, multilingual songs of the sect of Sabbatians that maintained secretive religious beliefs and practices for centuries. Based on indicators in the handwritten texts of hundreds of hymns, full of kabbalistic and messianic symbols and abbreviations, she has managed to reconstruct the tunes that some were sung to.

JQR Contributor Conversation: Hadar Feldman Samet on Sabbatian Hymns

Hadar Feldman Samet’s essay Ottoman Songs in Sabbatian Manuscripts: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on the Inner Writings of the “Ma’aminim” (JQR 109.4) explores a little-known set of liturgical songs produced and used by members of the religious group devoted to Shabbetai Tsvi, a seventeenth-century messiah who was embraced by Jewish masses all over the world but then rejected by most after his conversion to Islam.

Medieval Frenemies: Jewish and Christian Martyrs Had a Lot in Common

"Do not be saddened or troubled, good sister. Your brother will die today as a good Jew." These are the words reportedly spoken by a fourteenth-century mendicant friar, just before taking his own life. He had declared his conversion to Judaism, and despite his sister’s tearful entreaties, he chose a public and violent death over forcible return to his order. One Avraham ben Avraham Avinu, whose dramatic and literally iconoclastic antics made him the subject of at least three contemporary reports, did the same.