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Malakh, Ḥayim ben Shelomoh

(d. ca. 1717), Sabbatian preacher. Ḥayim ben Shelomoh was born in Kalisz in the 1650s. Little is known about his background, but it is certain that he acquired an extensive Jewish education. During his youth he was associated with the Sabbatian prophet Yehoshu‘a Heshel Tsoref of Vilna. In 1690, Ḥayim went to Italy, where he studied with the leaders of the Italian Sabbatians, Avraham Rovigo and Binyamin Kohen, and was introduced to the doctrines of Natan of Gaza. Returning to Poland in 1692, Ḥayim was largely responsible for spreading Rovigo and Kohen’s version of Sabbatianism among Polish followers of the movement.

Around 1694, Malakh went to Turkey and stayed with Shemu’el Primo in Adrianople, where he received the secret traditions of Shabetai Tsevi’s direct disciples. In that same year he came to Podolia—the Polish province that in the years 1672–1699 was part of the Ottoman Empire—and spread radical Sabbatian teaching. Some two years later, Malakh had a vision that caused him to return to Poland, where he transformed the Żółkiew bet midrash into a center of radical Sabbatianism. He joined the ḥavurah kedoshah (“holy society”) of Yehudah Ḥasid and became one of the leaders of the movement.

Along with Yehudah Ḥasid and Heshel Tsoref, among others, Malakh attended the secret council of Sabbatian leaders in Nikolsburg (Mikulov) in late 1698 or early 1699. Shortly after the council, he challenged rabbis and kabbalists to a disputation on the claim that Shabetai Tsevi was the messiah. The debate took place in Vienna and set a precedent for the public disputation between Frankists and rabbis in Kamenets Podolski in 1757. Avraham Broda of Prague sent two of his pupils—Yonah Landsofer and Mosheh Ḥasid—for the disputation, which, according to some sources ended inconclusively and according to others was a total failure on the part of Malakh’s opponents.

In 1700, Malakh moved to Jerusalem to lead one of the two principal groups of the holy society of Yehudah Ḥasid. After the latter’s death, Malakh was initially accepted as his successor, but became involved in bitter factional struggles and was expelled from the Land of Israel. He went first to Salonika—where he met the leader of the Dönmeh (the Sabbatian sect of that city), Barukhyah Russo—and then Constantinople. After returning from the Ottoman Empire to Poland, he reportedly established Sabbatian communities in the Podolian towns of Buczacz, Nadwórna, and Rohatyn. As his Sabbatianism became a matter of public record, Malakh was persecuted by rabbis and was expelled from Poland; he thereupon went to Amsterdam via Frankfurt am Main. Toward the end of his life he returned to Poland, where he died around 1717.

Ḥayim Malakh’s nickname (“Angel”) has been variously interpreted as referring to his unusual piety, his talents as a preacher and disputant, or the itinerant character of his life. It seems that most of his journeys were not undertaken on his own initiative; rather, he served as an emissary and a link between different Sabbatian factions. The pattern of his travels reveals the existence of a clandestine Sabbatian network spanning Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Malakh was initiated into all major branches of Sabbatian theology; after his initial flirtation with the moderate Sabbatianism of Rovigo and Kohen, he accepted the much more radical doctrines of Primo (advocating the deification of the messiah) and Barukhyah (calling for annulment of the commandments). In Adrianople he also studied the teachings of Avraham Cardozo, but rejected them and stuck to the teachings of Primo. Malakh’s main impact was in transmitting the teachings of the Turkish Sabbatians to Europe, especially to Podolia. It is likely that many of Jakub Frank’s early disciples came from the communities established by Malakh.

Suggested Reading

Me’ir Benayahu, “‘Ha-Ḥavurah ha-kedoshah’ shel Rabi Yehudah Ḥasid ve-‘aliyata le-Erets Yisra’el,” Sefunot 3–4 (1960): 131–179; Samuel Krauss, “Die Palästinasiedlung der polnishen Hasidim und die Wiener Kreise im Jahre 1700,” in Abhandlungen zur Erinnerung an Hirsch Perez Chajes, pp. 51–94 (1933; rpt., New York, 1980); Gershom Scholem, “Ha-Tenu‘ah ha-shabta’it be-Polin,” in Meḥkarim u-mekorot le-toldot ha-shabta’ut ve-gilguleha, pp. 100–116, 579–590 (Jerusalem, 1974); Gershom Scholem, “Hayyim Malakh,” in Kabbalah, pp. 429–431 (Jerusalem, 1974); Gershom Scholem, “Igeret me’et R. Ḥayim Malakh,” in Meḥkere shabta’ut, pp. 579–590 (Tel Aviv, 1991).