PROSSNITZ, JUDAH LEIB BEN JACOB HOLLESCHAU (c. 1670–1730), Shabbatean prophet. Born in Uhersky Brod, he settled in Prossnitz (Prostejov) after his marriage. An uneducated man, he made his living as a peddler. About 1696 he underwent a spiritual awakening and began to study the Mishnah, and later the Zohar and kabbalistic writings. Believing that he was visited by the souls of deceased, he claimed that he studied Kabbalah with Isaac *Luria and *Shabbetai Ẓevi. Whether his Shabbatean awakening was connected with the movement in Moravia around *Judah Ḥasid, Heshel *Ẓoref, and Ḥayyim *Malakh is still a matter of conjecture. Possibly he was won over by Ẓevi Hirsch b. Jerahmeel *Chotsh, who spent some time in Prossnitz in 1696. Judah Leib first turned to teaching children but later his followers in Prossnitz provided for him and his family. Taking up residence in the bet midrash of Prossnitz, he led a strictly ascetic life; he became generally known as Leibele Prossnitz. Before long he started to divulge kabbalistic and Shabbatean mysteries and to preach in public in the manner of a revivalist preacher (mokhi'aḥ). He found many adherents, his most important supporter for some years being Meir *Eisenstadt, a famous rabbinic authority who served as rabbi of Prossnitz from 1702. At the same time his Shabbatean propaganda, especially since it came from an uneducated lay mystic, aroused strong hostility in many critics. Between 1703 and 1705 he traveled through Moravia and Silesia, causing considerable agitation in the communities. Along with other Shabbatean leaders of this period, he prophesied the return of Shabbetai Ẓevi in 1706. His open Shabbatean propaganda led to clashes in Glogau and Breslau, where the rabbis threatened him with excommunication unless he returned to Prossnitz and stayed there. As 1706 approached his agitation reached a pitch. He assembled a group of 10 followers who studied with him and practiced extravagant mortifications.
Judah Leib was widely credited with magical practices connected with his attempts to bring to an end the dominion of *Samael and is reported to have sacrificed a chicken as a kind of bribe to the unclean powers. The facts concerning this and his promise to reveal the Shekhinah to some of his followers, including Eisenstadt, are shrouded in legend, but they contain some kernel of historical truth. Since by then he was widely considered by his foes to be a sorcerer, Eisenstadt left him and Prossnitz was put under a ban by the rabbinical court and sentenced to exile for three years; however, he was allowed to return after several months. He persisted at the head of a secret Shabbatean group in Prossnitz, again working as a children's teacher. Maintaining connections with other Shabbateans, in
J. Emden, Torat ha-Kena'ot (Amsterdam, 1752), 34bf., 41a–42a; A. Neubauer, in: MGWJ, 36 (1887), 207–12; D. Kahana, Toledot ha-Mekubbalim ve-ha-Shabbeta'im, 2 (1914), 168–75, 184; M.A. Perlmutter (Anat), R. Yehonatan Eybeschuetz, Yaḥaso el ha-Shabbeta'ut (1947), 43–47; Chr. P. Loewe, Speculum Religionis Judaicae (1732), 80–82.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.