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he Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816 (Jewish Culture and Contexts

jan peczkis|Saturday, November 30, 2013

This work goes deep into theology, and focuses on the interface of Christianity and Judaism in the 18th century. Owing to the breadth of the topics presented, I focus only on a few issues, notably those I consider to be of broader significance.

4.0 out of 5 stars Implications of the Frankist Movement, Including Jewish Assimilation, the Inquisition, Blood Libel in Poland, November 26, 2013 This review is from: The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816 (Jewish Culture and Conttext
Consistent with other works on Frank, this one portrays him as one driven by messianic antinomianism (p. 14), and one who was a consummate opportunist. Frank switched religions according to convenience. Thus, when converting to Christianity, Frank hid his earlier sympathy towards Islam. (p. 107). Later, when Poland was about to be Partitioned, he attempted to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church. (p. 183).

For further study of Jacob Frank and the Frankist movement, please click on Militant Messiah: Or, the Flight from the Ghetto: The Story of Jacob Frank the Frankist Movement, and read the detailed Peczkis review.


Nowadays, the millennia-long Jewish resistance to assimilation is commonly framed in terms of Jews having nothing to which they could assimilate. According to this thinking, widespread Jewish assimilation had to await the Enlightenment concepts of citizenship, equality, and the secular state. However, significant emulation of Gentile dress and behavior, among Jews, existed at least since the Middle Ages. (p. 205). In addition, the author makes it obvious that the degree and extent of Jewish assimilation largely derived from evolving Jewish interpretations of what Jewish self-identity entailed. Moreover, this change in Jewish self-concept did not necessarily proceed linearly in the direction of greater Jewish willingness to adopt the ways of the GOYIM.

Thus, Maciejko writes, (quote) The wording of these accounts is significant in its making explicit use of the concept of HUKKOT HA-GOY (literally, the laws or customs of the Gentiles). The concept is of biblical provenance (Leviticus 20:23: "you shall not walk in the manners of the nation [HUKKOT HA-GOY], which I cast out before you"), and its original meaning referred to specific types of sexual immorality practiced by the Egyptians and the Canaanites. In rabbinic literature, however, the notion was extended to copying or emulating non-Jewish customs and practices in general. Of course, as such, the concept of HUKKOT HA-GOY became open to countless interpretations. Early halakhists tended to adopt a lenient view, applying the notion to the RELIGIOUS conduct of the Gentiles and often emphasizing the absurdity of banning certain practices simply because they were also carried out by non-Jews. However, a stricter interpretation gradually emerged... (unquote). (emphasis his). (p. 206).


The Catholic Church in general and the Inquisition in particular, is usually framed as a raw tool of oppression directed against those who deviated from Catholicism. The reader may therefore be stunned to learn that the Church claimed jurisdiction in non-Christian religions. Thus, Maciejko comments, (quote) The canon law principle of the Catholic Church has supreme authority in the internal affairs of not only Christians but all peoples and all confessions has a long history. The popes claimed power to punish the Jews for deviations from Mosaic Law, exactly as they were empowered to punish pagans for transgressing natural law. (unquote). (p. 29).

It did not stop there. Even more amazing is the fact that Jewish authorities not only accepted, but also invited, the direct intervention of the Catholic authorities in the suppression and punishment of heretics within Judaism. (p. 31, 35, 40, 49-50, 54).


It is commonly thought that the traditional Polish tolerance for religious minorities gave way to intolerance, of non-Catholics, in the century or so before the Partitions. This intolerance is clearly exaggerated.

The author points out that, whereas witchcraft trials during this time were relatively common, those involving the blood libel were NOT. He writes, (quote) The total number of ritual murder trials in the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the entire early modern period has been estimated at seventy to eighty cases, and Dubnow's "frenzy of blood accusations" refers to some twelve cases between the first trial in Sandomierz (1698) and the trial in Wojslawice (1761). (unquote). (p. 96).

Finally, religious prejudices between Christians and Jews always went both ways. The Sabbatians identified the Land of Edom with the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. (p. 4, 185). However, this was true of Judaism in general. Maciejko quips, "In Jewish tradition, 'Edom', the land of Esau, is a common general term for Christianity." (p. 185). Comment Comment | Permalink
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