A Sabbathaian Will from New York

By:
Articles Image

The late Elkan Adler was especially interested in previously unobserved and undetected by-paths of Jewish life and history. I may, therefore, be permitted to pay my homage to his memory by strolling a little into one of these by-paths, namely, the sect of the Sabbathaians or followers of Sabbathai Zewi which flourished in a number of Jewish communities until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The document which I present in the following pages is a rather peculiar one and it is doubtful whether any other of its kind has been written or at any rate if written, has been preserved. This is the last will of Gottlieb Wehle, a member of the Sabbathaian sect in Prague, who later (1849) settled in America as a member of a group of Sabbathaian families about whose emigration we have the monograph of Miss Josephine C. Goldmark : " Pilgrims of '48 ... a family migration to America " (1930). He settled and died in New York (1881) and it is there that the will was written. According to the genealogy of the Wehle family which was compiled and published by his son, Theodore Wehle, in 1898, Gottlieb Wehle, the great-uncle of the late Justice Brandeis, and a first cousin of Zacharias Frankel, one of the founders of the modern Wissenschaft vom Judentum, was born in Prague on 27th July, 1802. Since the first part of the will was written on the testator's sixty-first birthday and the second part one year later, it was composed in 1863-64. It is, therefore, the latest document written by a Jewish Sabbathaian who obviously never abandoned the basic tenets of the doctrine which he was taught in his father's house. This, of course, points to a fundamental difference between Wehle's pro? nouncement on Sabbathaiism and the records in the memoirs of Moses Porges (von Portheim) of his experiences as a youth in the Sabbathaian milieu at Prague and Offenbach.1 It is difficult to fix the precise date of the composition of Porges' memoirs, but they must have bee^n written about the same time as Wehle's will when Porges was a very old man. He was twenty years older than Gottlieb Wehle whose father is mentioned in his narrative. Porges retained some knowledge of the darker side of the sectarian life in Offenbach, a knowledge denied to Wehle who obviously knew only about the positive and highly respect? able side of Sabbathaian life and teaching, and apparently wrote in good faith when he called the widespread tales about the sect a fabric of lies and calumnies. Moses Porges, who emphasizes both sides of the picture?the high moral standard of the last Jewish followers of Sabbathai Zewi and Jacob Frank as well as the continued practice (if in extenuated form) of objectionable rites by Jacob Frank's sons?did not sever all connection with the sect after his return to Prague in 1800, as, according to another communication to Dr. Stein, he was not altogether certain whether there was not something more

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today

£7

24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More

£40

Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More

£20

Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More

£80

Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More
0

Your Cart