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Frankism, a Jewish religious movement of the 18th and 19th centuries,[1] centered on the leadership of the Jewish Messiah claimant Jacob Frank, who lived from 1726 to 1791. At its height it claimed perhaps 50,000 followers, primarily Jews living in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.[1][2][3] Unlike traditional Judaism, which provides a set of detailed guidelines called halakha that are scrupulously followed by observant Jews and regulate many aspects of life,[4] Frank claimed that "all laws and teachings will fall"[5] and following antinomianism asserted that one's most important personal obligation of every person was the transgression of every boundary.[6]

Frankism is commonly associated[by whom?] with Sabbateanism, a religious movement that formed around the identification of the 17th-century Jewish rabbi Sabbatai Zevi as the Jewish messiah.[1][3] Like Frankism, the earlier forms of Sabbateanism believed that at least in some circumstances, antinomianism[1] was the correct path.[7] Zevi himself would perform actions that violated traditional Jewish taboos, such as eating fats that were forbidden by Jewish dietary laws and celebrating former fast days as feast days.[8] Especially after Zevi's death, a number of branches of Sabbateanism evolved, which disagreed among themselves over which aspects of traditional Judaism should be preserved and which discarded. Some branches of Sabbateans actually converted to Islam, in emulation of Zevi—in 1666, the Ottoman Sultan had forced Zevi to become a Muslim.[8][9] The more radical branches even engaged in orgies.[10] In Frankism, orgies featured prominently in ritual.[2]

Several authorities on Sabbateanism, including Heinrich Graetz and Aleksander Kraushar, were skeptical of the existence of such a thing as a distinctive "Frankist" doctrine. According to Gershom Scholem, another authority on Sabbateanism, Kraushar had described Frank's sayings as "grotesque, comical and incomprehensible". In his classic essay "Redemption Through Sin", Scholem argued a different position, seeing Frankism as a later and more radical outgrowth of Sabbateanism.[9] In contrast, Jay Michaelson argues that Frankism was "an original theology that was innovative, if sinister" and was in many respects a departure from the earlier formulations of Sabbateanism. In traditional Sabbatean doctrine, Zevi and often his followers claimed to be able to liberate the sparks of holiness hidden within what seemed to be evil. According to Michaelson, Frank's theology asserted that the attempt to liberate the sparks of holiness was the problem, not the solution. Rather, Frank claimed that the mixing between holy and unholy was virtuous.[6] Netanel Lederberg claims that Frank had a Gnostic philosophy wherein there was a "true God" whose existence was hidden by a "false God". This "true God" could allegedly only be revealed through a total destruction of the social and religious structures created by the "false God", thus leading to a thorough antinomianism. For Frank, the very distinction between good and evil is a product of a world governed by the "false God". Lederberg compares Frank's position to that of Friedrich Nietzsche.[11]

Eminent descendants of Frankists include former United States Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Frankism. In The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
  2. 2.0 2.1 Heretic of the Month: Jacob Frank. American Jewish Life magazine
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Jacob Frank". Retrieved 24 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Judaism 101: What is Halakhah?
  5. The Collection of the Words of the Lord by Jacob Frank, translated by Harris Lenowitz. Saying 103.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Learn Kabbalah: Jacob Frank. By Jay Michaelson.
  7. page on Kabbalah
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jewish Encyclopedia article on Sabbatai Zevi
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Redemption Through Sin" by Gershom Scholem. In The Messianic Idea in Judaism and Other Essays, pp. 78–141.
  10. Why I Study Sabbateanism, by Jay Michaelson. ZEEK: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, June 07.
  11. Lederberg, Netanel (2007). Sod HaDa'at: Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, His Spiritual Character and Social Leadership. Jerusalem,Israel: Rubin Mass. ISBN 978-965-09-0206-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Frank, Yakov (1978). Sayings of Yakov Frank. Harris Lenowitz (trans.). Oakland, CA: Tzaddikim. ISBN 0-917246-05-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Maciejko, Pawel (2011). The Mixed Multitude:Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-4315-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Maciejko, Pawel (2003). The Frankist Movement in Poland, the Czech Lands, and Germany (1755–1816). University of Oxford.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Maciejko, Pawel (2005). "Frankism" (PDF). The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Yale University Press. Retrieved 2009-05-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Maciejko, Pawel (2005). "'Baruch Yavan and the Frankist movement : intercession in an age of upheaval", Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts 4 (2005) pp. 333–354.
  • Maciejko, Pawel (2006). "'Christian elements in early Frankist doctrine", Gal-Ed 20 (2006) pp. 13–41.
  • Mandel, Arthur (1979). The Militant Messiah: The Story of Jacob Frank and the Frankists. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. ISBN 0-391-00973-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mieses, Mateusz (1938). Polacy–Chrześcijanie pochodzenia żydowskiego. Warsaw: Wydawn.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scholem, Gershom. "'Shabtai Zvi' and 'Jacob Frank and the Frankists'". Encyclopaedia Judaica (CD-ROM ed.). Retrieved 2009-05-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Emeliantseva, Ekaterina, "Zwischen jüdischer Tradition und frankistischer Mystik. Zur Geschichte der Prager Frankistenfamilie Wehle: 1760–1800," Jewish History Quarterly/Kwartalnik Historii Żydów 4 (2001), pp. 549–565.
  • Emeliantseva Koller, Ekaterina, "Der fremde Nachbar: Warschauer Frankisten in der Pamphletliteratur des Vierjährigen Sejms: 1788–1792," in: A. Binnenkade, E. Emeliantseva, S. Pacholkiv (eds.), Vertraut und fremd zugleich. Jüdisch-christliche Nachbarschaften in Warschau – Lengnau – Lemberg (= Jüdische Moderne 8), Köln-Weimar: Böhlau 2009, pp. 21–94.
  • Emeliantseva Koller, Ekaterina, "Situative Religiosität – situative Identität: Neue Zugänge zur Geschichte des Frankismus in Prag (1750–1860)," in: P. Ernst, G. Lamprecht (eds.), Konzeptionen des Jüdischen – Kollektive Entwürfe im Wandel (= Schriften des Centrums für Jüdische Studien 11), Innsbruck 2009, pp. 38–62.

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