Jacob Frank – the phenomenon of a messiah

Written by: dr hab. Jan Doktór
For 40 years Frank had led his followers often changing his teachings and the purpose of the messianic mission, depending on the circumstances.

On 10th December, 1791 at 4am in a rented castle of princes of Isenburg in Offenbach, died Jacob Frank, the biggest Jewish heresiarch in the Polish history, considered by his supporters to be the third and last Messiah after Sabbatai Zev and Baruchia Ruso. For 40 years of the messianic winding road, Frank had led his followers through various countries, cultures and religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) often changing his teachings and the purpose of the messianic mission, depending on the circumstances. However, the unchanging foundation of his doctrine remained, the idea of”walking to Esau,” or some form of Judeochristianity.

He was born in 1726 in Korolivka in Podolia. When he was only one year old, his parents, accused of sabbatical heresy, escaped from persecutions to Wallachia. Jacob was being brought up in a tradition of Sephardi Jews and hence he received the nickname Frenk or Frank (Ashkenazi Jews nicknamed Sephardi Jews that way).

In December 1755, he was sent by the Koniozos sekt, the followers of Sabbatai Zevi and Baruchia, to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in order to lead Polish sectarians out of the underground and lead their Esau, or the Roman Catholic Church, where they were to set up their messianic camp, just as they had done in Islam. And he accomplished his mission despite initial resistance of Polish sectarians. What helped him were repressions which sectarians suffered from after public disputes with rabbis in front of a consistory in Kamieniec Podolski in 1757. They forced the messianists who presented themselves as „Anti-Talmudists” firstly to flee to Wallachia and secondly to leave Judaism. In 1759, after the second public dispute with the rabbis, about 2 thousand „Contra-Talmudists” got baptised.

For Frank, who had became enemy no. 1 of all Jewry, it meant constant search for a hiding place. For the first few years he stayed in the safest, as it seemed, place of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth — the monastery of Jasna Gora. „Liberated” from there by Russian troops, he went with his life guards to Brno in Moravia, having the status of de non tolerandi Judaeis, and from there to Offenbach am Main.

dr hab. Jan Doktór