Sunday, September 25, 2005

Something to do before Rosh Hashana

Over Shabbat I read an article by Moshe Idel on Abraham Abulafia. Yes, I know, there are lots of those. This one was published in AJS Review 7-8 (1983) and deals with Abulafia's attempt to convert the Pope to Judaism.

Abulafia (who refers to himself as, among other names, Raziel) had been travelling Italy and preparing those willing to listen for the imminent arrival of Mashiach since a revelation he received in 1270, while still in Barcelona. He reached Rome right after Tisha b'Av, but found that the Pope had retired to his country house in Soriano. When word got out that Abulafia was there to convert him, Nicholas III gave orders to burn the Jew as soon as he entered the town.

Abulafia had decided that this particular Pope would be particularly receptive to his particular brand of mysticism. He was also familiar with a Jewish tradition that Mashiach would convert the Pope. And his calculations had led him to conclude that this had to happen in the year 40, i.e. 1280. His very last opportunity was during the last days of that year, just before Rosh Hashana.

So he risked his life, and set off for Soriano, knowing full well that the wood for his burning was already set out in the courtyard of the papal villa. On his arrival, probably August 23rd 1280, he discovered that the Pope had died suddenly the day before. And so his plan, as well as his execution, came to nothing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Scriptboy.

That's a very misunderstood history. The tradition say that his attemp was not convertion but prevent the massacre of 'Holy' Inquisiton that was about to start. That was the last hope for changing that fate. He knew that the Pope was about to die. He was a real profet! But the decision on getting Inquisition a reality was on that pope's hand. But he died before he could decide.

11:02 PM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

I have tried to make it clear that anonymous comments are strongly discouraged here.
I am not aware of any "massacre of Holy Inquisition", ever. All Abulafia says about his motives was that the Pope declared that if "Raziel" presented himself in order to speak to the Pope about Judaism ("be-shem Yahadut" - Idel understands that to hint to the kabbalistic permutations of the Divine name), then he should be executed. What that has to do with the Inquisition (in 1280?!) I don't know.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I've always been fascinated by Abulafia's attempt to convert the Pope -- especially now that I work in a Christian context. A few years back, I wrote a play based on his trip to Italy that I based on Abulafia/Idel on Abulafia. I'd be happy to send it to you if you like.

10:09 PM  

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