FALK, SAMUEL JACOB ḤAYYIM
FALK, SAMUEL JACOB ḤAYYIM (c. 1710–1782), kabbalist and adventurer, known as the "Ba'al Shem of London." Falk, who was born in Galicia, was intimately connected with leaders of the Shabbatean sectarians for many years, e.g., Moses David of Podhajce. He became known early as a magician, escaped burning as a sorcerer in Westphalia, was banished by the archbishop elector of Cologne, and about 1742 made his way to England. Here he achieved notoriety in both Jewish and non-Jewish circles for his kabbalistic practices based on the use of the mysterious Name of God, hence becoming known as a *Ba'al Shem ("Master of the [Divine] Name"). He had a private synagogue in his house in Wellclose Square, and also established a kabbalistic laboratory on London Bridge where he carried out alchemical experiments which aroused some notice. Among those who were attracted to him, was the international adventurer Theodore De Stein, who claimed to be king of Corsica and hoped to obtain through Falk's alchemical experiments sufficient gold to enable him to "regain" his throne. He was also in touch with, among others, the Duke of Orleans, the Polish Prince Czartoryski, and the Marquise de la Croix. On one occasion, Falk is said to have saved the Great Synagogue from destruction by fire by means of a magical inscription which he inscribed on the doorposts. On the other hand, he was denounced as a Shabbatean heretic and fraud by his embittered contemporary Jacob *Emden. He was, at the outset, on the worst possible terms with the official London community. However, in the end he became reconciled with
C. Roth, Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History (1962), 139–64; idem., Mag Bibl, 124–5; Wirszubski, in: Zion, 7 (1942), 73–93.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.