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November 13: 1,000 Talmuds Put to the Match

November 13, 2015

Jacob FrankSome 1,000 copies of the Talmud were dragged through the streets and burned on this date in 1757 in Kamenets-Podolsk, Poland, following a disputation between Jacob Frank and local Jewish leaders. Frank was the leader of an heretical, anti-rabbinic movement, descended from the messianic movement of Shabtai Zvi. The Frankists had been excommunicated by the Jewish rabbinate in Poland, who were especially offended by Frank’s teaching of “redemption through transgression” (that the messianic age would arrive through the transgression of Jewish law), by his abandonment of laws of modesty (the Frankists were said to conduct orgies), by his introduction of Christian elements to his sect, and by his suggestions that the messiah would be a woman. Frank informed Bishop Dembrowsky of Kamenetz-Podolsk that his sect rejected the Talmud and embraced only the Zohar, the mystical book that, they claimed, spoke to the truth of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The bishop ordered the disputation to be held, judged the Frankists to have won it, and ordered the burning of the Talmuds. Frank and his followers would be baptized several years later, but Frank would then be imprisoned as a Christian heretic for thirteen years. His influence and his sect persisted, however, until his death in 1791.

“Frank was dangerous not because he was a mystic, but because he rejected rabbinic authority, initially calling his group the ‘Contra-Talmudists.’ He used Christianity as a tool to subvert the rabbis, to the point of ostensibly instigating Christian blood libels against the Jews.” —Shaul Magid, The Forward