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Frankist Antinomianism: Or, how I broke the rules of the Jews and became Messiah

Updated: May 29, 2023

Don't miss Part III of our discussion of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

Sunday, May 28, 2023, 3:00-4:30 pm Pacific

If you are left wondering, what's it all about? Who was Jacob Frank, after all? Did he do all the strange, heretic, worldly, self-serving, licentious, and repugnant acts attributed to him in the last third of Olga Tokarczuk's book? What were Tokarczuk's sources? What role does Tokarczuk play or purpose does she add in the perpetuation of Jacob Frank's memory and legacy?

Left: Portrait of Eva Frank, Daughter of Jacob Frank. Below: "Jacob Frank addressed his followers: 'I came not to elevate your spirits, but to humiliate you to the bottom of the abyss, where you can get no lower, and where no man can rise from by his own forces, but only God can pull him with his mighty hand from the depth.' By 'abyss' he meant particularly sexual rituals that included sacred orgies with just a touch of incest. The sexual adventures reached the ears of the senior rabbis of Poland, after the Frankists held a rough sexual ceremony described by David Kahana in his 'Book of Darkness': on the 26th day of the month of Shvat in 1756, on a market day in the town of Lanzkron, Podolia, the people of the Frank sect gathered in the morning in an inn of one of their own, closed all the windows in secrecy, and took the rabbi’s wife, a beautiful and promiscuous woman, sat her down naked in a palanquin, placed a Torah crown upon her head and danced around her, playing instruments, falling on her and kissing her, while calling her 'mezuzah'." -- Sources: ANU Museum of the Jewish People

As has been usual with this book, we end with more questions than we had at the start. The end is the beginning. The last will be first. We have not really scratched the contemporary sources that could help us understand what Tokarczuk herself was up to in writing this saga. (Are you interested in a further study group? Let us know.) Meanwhile, if you have the chance, read the essay below by Jay Michaelson on the self-proclaimed Messiah as Jewish rule-breaker-in-chief.

"This essay," facilitator Haim Beliak promises, "helps us not to overread too much of Jacob Frank's claims about himself and the many derogatory claims we can make against him. Michaelson brings a certain order to Frank's outlandishness from a historical perspective."

Let us see about that. Meet you at the last hurrah, Sunday 5/28!

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