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Malakh, Ḥayyim ben Solomon

MALAKH, ḤAYYIM BEN SOLOMON (between 1650 and 1660–1716 or 1717), leader of the Shabbatean sect. Malakh was born in Kalish. Nothing is known about his early career, but he became a highly respected rabbinic scholar, kabbalist, and preacher. He was soon attracted by the Shabbatean movement and became closely associated with the Shabbatean prophet Heshel *Ẓoref in Vilna. In 1690 he went to Italy, probably on a mission on behalf of the movement, staying there several months with Abraham *Rovigo and Benjamin *Cohen, the heads of the Italian Shabbateans. They studied the writings of Isaac *Luria and *Nathan of Gaza, and Ḥayyim Malakh received their secret traditions concerning Shabbetai Ẓevi. From 1692 to 1694 he was back in Poland, active as a Shabbatean missionary among rabbinic circles. One of his students (about 1693) was the famous talmudist Mordecai Suskind Rotenburg, rabbi of Lublin. During this period he attracted the attention of R. Ẓevi *Ashkenazi, the father of Jacob *Emden, who became Malakh's bitter foe. Possibly because of a ban due to his heretical activity or possibly because of his own doubts concerning the Shabbatean theology, he went to Turkey. He stayed for two to three years with Samuel *Primo in Adrianople, becoming his fervent follower and receiving the traditions and secrets of the circle of Shabbetai Ẓevi's personal pupils. He went to Bursa (Turkey) where some outstanding Shabbateans lived, and toward the end of his stay, had a vision which caused him to return to Poland and join another Shabbatean leader, *Judah he-Ḥasid. He arrived in Zolkiew, late in 1696, and stayed for some time, finding many influential followers. From Zolkiew he sent a letter to his Italian masters informing them that he was leaving their camp since he had found the authentic spring of Shabbatean teaching in Turkey. It is quite possible that he went back to Turkey in 1697 where he seems to have met Abraham *Cardozo in Adrianople. Malakh took Primo's side in the discussions with Cardozo whose speculative dissertations he refused to read. It is not clear whether at this time or later he came into contact with the young leader of the most radical wing of the *Doenmeh sect in Salonika, Baruchiah Russo (Osman Baba), several of whose sayings were quoted by Malakh to one of his pupils (in a Shabbatean notebook, probably written in Damascus, now in Columbia University Library).

After his return he became one of the founders of the new "Association of the Ḥasidim" which advocated an immigration of ascetic scholars to Jerusalem to await the imminent coming of the Messiah. Privately this Messiah was understood to be Shabbetai Ẓevi whose return in 1706, forty years after his apostasy, had been predicted by Malakh. Apparently during these years, Malakh acquired the surname Malakh, "the angel." He became generally known by this title from the late 1690s on: whether this was because of his gifts as a preacher or because of his asceticism is unknown. Certainly he was considered the chief kabbalist of the group. In connection with the "ḥasidic" propaganda which attracted many secret Shabbateans in Poland, Germany, and the Hapsburg Empire, he spent some time in Germany and Moravia, where, at the end of 1698, he attended a council of the Shabbatean leaders of the Ḥasidim in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), an eyewitness report of which has survived. He also went to Vienna and announced that he would discuss the Shabbatean belief and teachings with any duly initiated kabbalist. Abraham *Broda, the rabbi of Prague, sent his pupils, Moses Ḥasid and Jonah Landsofer, but the dispute, which lasted two weeks, ended inconclusively. Malakh then went to Ereẓ Israel where, after the sudden death of Judah he-Ḥasid in October 1700, one faction of the Ḥasidim chose him as its leader. What exactly happened in the Shabbatean circle in Jerusalem is unknown or blurred by biased and half-legendary reports. At any rate, internal dissensions between moderate and radical Shabbateans contributed to the break-up of the group, but the precise date of Malakh's expulsion from Ereẓ Israel is unknown. It is probable that he went to Constantinople and again to Salonika, meeting with Baruchiah. Since that meeting Malakh acquired the reputation of being an emissary of the antinomian wing of Shabbateanism. This led to his prolonged persecution by the rabbinical authorities. A circular letter of the Constantinople rabbis, written in 1710, denounced him vehemently. He returned to Poland where he founded the radical sect in Podolia from which the Frankist movement sprang (see Jacob *Frank), but he also served as an emissary for some Ashkenazi groups in Ereẓ Israel. As such he is mentioned in the records of the community of *Tiktin (Tykocin) in 1708. In public he denied any Shabbatean connections, preferring to divulge his doctrine in private. Forced to leave Poland, he wandered through Germany and Holland. In 1715 he was in Amsterdam where a letter from Abraham Broda, then rabbi of Frankfurt, urging Malakh's immediate expulsion arrived soon after his departure. He died shortly after his return to Poland in 1716 or 1717. He was generally considered an expert in Kabbalah and a persuasive spokesman for the Shabbatean movement after it was forced to go underground. None of his writings has survived.


J. Emden, Torat ha-Kena'ot (1871), 50, 70–71; D. Kahane, Toledot ha-Mekubbalim, ha-Shabbeta'im ve-ha-Ḥasidim, 2 (1913), 175–80; C. Bernheimer, in: JQR, 18 (1927/28), 125; G. Scholem, in: Zion, 6 (1941), 123–4; 11 (1946), 168–74; idem, in: RHR, 143 (1953), 209–20; M. Benayahu, in: Sefer Ḥida (1957), 73–74; idem, in: Sefunot, 3–4 (1960), 136–8; idem, in: Eretz-Israel, 10 (1971).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.