Sunday 18 October 2020


    ואבוא היום אל העין

                                                           VA AVO HAYOM EL HAAYIN

Woe upon the eyes that see it and the ears that hear it and those who keep silent   - R. Yechezkel Landau, the Nodah beYehuda, after reading the mystical treatise VaAvo haYom el haAyin.[1]


In 1724, the itinerant Polish-Lithuanian traveller and bookdealer, Moshe Meir Kamenker must have known about the explosive nature of one of the books he peddling. The book was entitled VaAvo haYom el haAyin (And I Came this Day unto the Fountain, Gen. 24:42) whose authorship has been traced to R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz, arguably the most respected and prestigious rabbi of that era.

R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz was embroiled in one of the most vitriolic rabbinic controversies - probably since the time of Maimonides (1135-1204) - with R. Yakov Emden, after being accused of his secret involvement in the Sabbatian messianic movement of the false messiah Shabbatai Tzvi (1626-1676).

[For more background to the controversies see The Discovery of Notarized Amulets of R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz and follow the links provided there.]

In this article, based extensively on the research of Professor Pawel Maciejko[2], we explore the story and some of the content of the book found in the satchel of this book pedlar, which shocked the rabbinic world and exposed the nature of Sabbatian ideology and R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz’s alleged connection to it.  


This article may upset sensitive readers although I have made every effort to leave out the unimaginable and extremely graphic details while still attempting to capture the essence of the work.



The bookseller Moshe Meir Kamenker was associated with the kabbalistic Beit Midrash of Żółkiew. R. Chaim Malach had taught there and it became an important centre for the dissemination of secret Sabbatian mystical literature. This was a time when Sabbatians had well infiltrated the ranks of mainstream religious Jewry and it was difficult to know who was who. It was also the time when the Chassidic movement was beginning to emerge.

In 1724, one of R. Chaim Malach’s students, R. Feishel of Złoczów (Zolotchov) caused a stir when he announced that he was a follower of Shabbatai Tzvi. This was even more surprising as R. Feishel was a prominent Torah scholar who knew the Talmud by heart. R. Feishel also happened to be the bookseller, Moshe Meir Kamenker’s brother-in-law. And Moshe Meir Kamenker’s brother was Leib Buchbinder, who two years later was to become the father of Jacob Frank (1726-1791) the founder of another messianic movement whose followers were known as the Frankists (a more radical branch of the Sabbatians).


There is no doubt of Moshe Meir Kamenker’s subversive Sabbatian credentials and leanings. Moshe Meir Kamenker’s travels led him through Prossnitz (the centre for followers of another Sabbatian, and another messianic claimant, R. Leibelle of Prossnitz) and then eventually on to Mannheim. The reason why Moshe Meir Kamenker went to Mannheim was to bring books and be associated with the Sabbatian Beit Midrash in that city, which was known as the Chassidim Schule headed by R. Isaiah ChassidR. Isaiah Chasid had been previously associated with R. Avraham Rovigo and his kabbalistic yeshiva established in Jerusalem around 1701. Moshe Meir Kamenker and R. Isaiah Chassid wanted to proclaim R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz as the Messiah.

Maciejko’s (2014:iii) research reveals that in all likelihood, on Moshe Meir Kamenker’s arrival in Mannheim, he mistakenly thought he had made contact with a Sabbatian colleague but instead, he met up with an opponent the Sabbatian movement. This person duly reported him to the community authorities who detained him, searched his bags and found a number of manuscripts which were subsequently seized.[3]


The rabbinic courts of Frankfurt and Mannheim investigated the matter and after threatening some members of the Chassidim Schulle with ex-communication, it became clear that Moshe Meir Kamenker had supplied its rabbi, Isaiah Chassid, with some Sabbatian material from R. Leibelle Prossnitz and, more damningly, with material from none other than R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz![4] These findings proved to be the first known writings of R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz to be publicised. A signed letter from R. Eibeschuetz to R. Isiah Chassid was also discovered amongst the texts in the satchel, ironically, telling him not to publicise any of these writings.[5]

Sometime later, the  Beit Din of Frankfurt ex-communicated Moshe Meir Kamenker and the entire sect of Sabbatians, who, because of their numbers, called themselves the believers (kat haMa’aminim). The mainstream opponents were labelled as deniers or Kofrim. This case highlighted the extent of the vast network of secret Sabbatians operating across Europe.


Of interest, is that this ban of ex-communication stressed that Sabbatians must be identified and prosecuted no matter the status or religious scholarship exhibited by the members of this group. This was obviously a problem and great concern at that time. Many important rabbis continued to believe in Shabbatai Tzvi even after his death in 1676 and well into the next century. Furthermore, there was little trust in repentant Sabbatians as they generally remained secretive and subversive. The bans of ex-communication made it clear that they could only be rehabilitated back within the community after producing a written affidavit signed by three reliable rabbinical authorities.

The rabbinic courts were wary of repentant Sabbatians because R. Isaiah Chassid who headed the Mannheim Beit Midrash had already denounced Sabbatiansm only to openly return to it later.

In all, three bans were issued simultaneously by three prominent Jewish communities in three different countries. These bans were an attempt to present a united front against the Sabbatians.


According to R. Yakov Emden[6], when R. Isaiah Chassid read the writings which were brought by Moshe Meir Kamenker (and which were attributed to, although not all signed by, R. Yonatan Eibeschuetz) he knew they were from him and he declared that R. Eibeschuetz certainly had the holy spirit resting on him as he revealed secrets far deeper than the Ari had through his Lurianic Kabbalah during the sixteenth century.

These writings in the satchel, as we shall see, were so explosive and shocking, that R. Yechezkel Katzenellenbogen - who was the main signatory of these bans issued from the three Battei Din -wrote to the famous ‘Sabbatian hunter’, R. Moshe Chagiz, to ask for his help in eradicating these texts of the ‘sect of believers’ which were found on Moshe Meir Kamenker. Particularly, what they considered to be R. Eibeschuetz’s work, VaAvo haYom el haAyin.

While R. Moshe Chagiz identified the work as emanating from R. Eibeschuetz, R. Katzenellenbogen was not willing to single him out in person because of his prestige in the community.                             

According to R. Yakov Emden, the three courts that issued the bans, also knew that some of the manuscripts distributed by Moshe Meir Kamenker had been written by R. Eibescheutz but were reluctant to publicise the matter for fear of upsetting his wealthy supporters.[7]

Thus R. Eibeschuetz’s name does not appear on the bans, but Moshe Meir Kamenker’s name does and he unfairly bears the brunt of the attack becoming its scapegoat. This was a classical case of ‘shooting the messenger’.

R. Katzenellenbogen then requested of the rabbi of Frankfurt, Yakov Cohen Poppers to contact R. Eibeschuetz’s brother in Prague, and get him to speak to R. Yonatan to ascertain whether these allegations of Sabbatian involvement were true or not. The brother reported back stating that R. Yonatan was indeed involved with the movement, but only in the sense of infiltrating it to gather strategic information.

So far, because everyone was gently, if not fearfully, skirting around the issue, no official mention was made of the ‘elephant in the room’, the text of VaAvo haYom el haAyin.

However, Maciejko’s outstanding and meticulous research has allowed him to reconstruct the events, and from letters and other writings relating to this investigation, it became clear that various witnesses did make reference to this explosive work.

Maciejko (2014:vii) explains that during the investigations of the Batei Din, a past student of R. Eibeschuetz by the name of Binyamin Chassid, had sent a copy of VaAvo haYom el haAyin to his father R. Michael Chassid who was the rabbi of Berlin.

R. Michael Chassid was of the view that Sabbatians were not just mistaken in their beliefs (as R. Akiva was, thinking that Bar Kochba was the Messiah) but instead, they were acutely aware that their teachings were at variance with Torah values, and they were intent on subverting Judaism. When he received the copy of VaAvo haYom el haAyin it proved to be the last straw for him and he was determined to expose R. Eibeschuetz.


The problem now was that R. Eibeschuetz was protected by many leading rabbis including Chief Rabbi David Oppenheim of Prague, who it was believed had threatened to take any Jew who spoke badly of R. Eibeschuetz to the Christian authorities.

An aura of secrecy and protection thus prevailed hindering any true investigation of the Sabbatians and their ideologues who were so deeply entrenched within the mainstream community.


Amazingly, notwithstanding a golden age of rabbinic leadership, only two rabbis were prepared to speak out publically against the Sabbatians calling for their exposure, no matter their standing in rabbinic circles. They were R. Moshe Chagiz and R. Michael Chassid. R. Moshe Chagiz boldly called for the drastic step to ex-communicate all the students who had studied under R. Eibeschuetz. Even R. Yakov Emden, who was later to become the greatest Sabbatain exposer, felt that at that time it was better not to draw attention to works like VaAvo haYom el haAyin. This, even after reading the work and proclaiming that: “Nothing like this was ever seen or known from any heretic or disbeliever of this world.[8]

To confuse matters even further, the supporters of R. Eibeschuetz claimed that the three abovementioned bans of ex-communication were forgeries. This was given momentum by R. Eibeschuetz’s wealthy father-in-law, R. Yitzchak Spira who sent letters to other Jewish communities supporting the notion that the bans were fraudulent.


Then on September 16, 1725, in what many believe was a disingenuous strategic move, R. Eibeschuetz issued a ban against the Sabbatians. The ban also called on all to distance themselves from the book dealer Moshe Meir Kamenker and his ‘false writings’, who had again become a scapegoat, this time for the (alleged) Sabbatians.[9]

Most rabbis were prepared to accept and believe that R. Eibeschuetz’s ban was genuine, and for the next twenty-five years, he remained vindicated until the issues of the Sabbatian amulets surfaced around 1750.


Maciejko (2014:xi) draws our attention to the fact that most rabbinic bans of ex-communication use a relatively standard form of verbiage, especially when their target is the same entity. However, R. Eibescheutz’s ban against the Sabbatians did not follow the template of the three earlier West European anti-Sabbatian bans.

R. Eibeschuetz’s ban referred Shabbatai Tzvi who had “raised his hand against the Torah of Moshe”, “descended into the abyss of the Sheol”  and “took upon himself everlasting infamy”.

While on a cursory reading of this ban it would appear that R. Eibeschuetz was sharply condemning the evil Sabbatians, a deeper reading reveals something most unusual: 

No self-respecting Sabbatian wold have found these expressions offensive in the least. After all, their leader Shabbatai Tzvi proudly abolished Torat Moshe and replaced it with a Torah Chadasha, or new Torah which was to be relevant to the messianic era. 

Similarly, he did indeed descend into the depths of evil Kelipot, or husks in order to ‘elevate’ them in mystical preparation for messianic redemption. 

Furthermore, he took on “everlasting infamy” as a badge of honour as he suffered in his cosmic and messianic mission.

And even when R. Eibeschuetz wrote: “…everyone who believes in Shabbatai Tzvi denies the God of Israel and His Torah”, that too didn’t bother Sabbatians because Sabbatian Kabbalah, with its roots in Lurianic Kabbalah [see Root Causes of the Sabbatian Movement] distinguished between Ein Sof and Elokei Yisrael (see How are we Supposed to Pray?]. According to some models of Kabbalah and certainly according to Sabbatain Kabbalah, Ein Sof is so removed from the “God of Israel and His Torah” that they found justification to reject that lower level of Elokei Yisrael, as their aim was to reach a 'higher' level of G-d.

Accordingly, seasoned Sabbatain kabbalists would not have found R. Eibeschuetz’s ban objectionable. On the contrary, it would have resonated with them as if it were some form of code. Sabbatians were known to have used codes similar to this - hidden within seemingly benign writings - in their communications with each other.

And even when R. Eibeschuetz wrote what seemed to be an insulting phrase referring to Shabbatai Tzvi as a “dead dog”, a Sabbatian well-versed in his Kabbalah would know that the Zohar (Raya Mehemna)[10] has Moshe Rabbeinu speaking of the Messiah as a “dead dog”.

Another suspicious element evident in R. Eibeschuetz’s ban is the matter of the signatories. For example, while it claims to represent the elders of the Prague community, two elders out of four are missing. The Chief Rabbi of Prague, R. David Oppenheim did not sign the ban but R. Simcha Poppers signed the ban and he was a known Sabbatian.[11] Another rabbi who signed the ban was Avraham Fesseburg and he is known to have made the statement that if R. Eibeschuetz believed in Shabbatai Tzvi, so would he.[12] And yet another rabbi, Yakov Hamburger would go on to support R. Eibeschuetz twenty-five years later during the amulet controversy.


R. Eibeschutz’s ban against the Sabbatians in 1725, nevertheless, proved to be effective as it put paid to any real discussion on his suspected authorship of
VaAvo haYom el haAyin.

However, Maciejko’s (2014:xvi) research reveals that:

All the testimonies from the 1720s that do attribute the work to a concrete author, without a single exception, identify this author as Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz.

Contemporary scholarship[13] also concurs the R. Eibeschutz was the author.

Maciejko continues:

Doubts concerning the attribution of Va-Avo to Jonathan Eibeschütz arose for the first time only during the amulet controversy of the 1750s, when the purported author made a halfhearted and highly ambiguous statement which was interpreted by some as a denial of his authorship.[14]

However, based on the earlier evidence from 1725:

Some of the testimonies allow us to trace the paths of dissemination of concrete copies of the manuscript that originated from Eibeschütz’s yeshivah in Prague and were brought to Mannheim (by Moses Meir Kamenker), Berlin (by Binyamin Hasid), or Lissa (by an anonymous former student of Rabbi Jonathan)…. and no attempt to attribute the book to someone else was made.

Interestingly, in trying to deflect authorship of the explosive document away from R. Eibeschutz, it was purported that Jacob Frank was the true author. This was clearly not possible as Frank, born in 1726, would have been just one year old at the time.


Like much Kabalistic literature, VaAvo haYom el haAyin calls G-d the Ein Sof, the Infinite or literally the One with no End. The work begins with a question: If G-d is Infinite, then why is He called the One with no End, and not the Ein Reshit or the One with no Beginning?

The answer is that it all depends on the perspective. From G-d’s perspective, He is conscious of beginnings. In the beginning, G-d created. From our perspective, we are conscious of endings.

We can only know G-d by working from the end or the bottom upwards.

This type of theology led the Sabbatians to indulge in sin and promiscuous activity as they wanted to know G-d from the ‘End’ in order to get closer to the ‘Beginning’. And because He is Ein Sof, there is no place devoid of G-d.  G-d, according to them (and other mystics), can be found even (or especially) in sin.

The author of VaAvo haYom el haAyin writes:

[E]verything that is prohibited in the lower worlds… is the force of unification and construction in the upper realms.[15]

This is similar to the concept of ‘veNahfoch hu’ where the physical and spiritual realms are said to be inverted relative to each other.

For us, it seems as if the cosmos is the most important thing, but instead, VaAvo haYom el haAyin describes it as insignificant and as a G-ldy ‘waste product’ (to use a euphemism). I have seen similar descriptions even within the writings of later Chassidut.

But in VaAvo haYom el haAyin, G-d’s ‘physiology’ is depicted very graphically to the extent that it would be considered blasphemous. It takes the well-known concept of corporeality (that G-d has some form of body - a popular mystical concept that Rambam was opposed to) [see The Notion that G-d has a ‘Body’ - In Early and Modern Rabbinical writings] to the next unimaginable level.

Earlier works like the Shiur Komah, depict G-d as having sexual organs, and later mystical works like Lurianic Kabbalah describe dynamic relationships between various aspects of the Godhead. Although there is a large body of apologetic literature, both written and oral, that explains that these images are not to be taken literally, some depictions are so graphic that they transcend the boundaries of poetic licence or descriptive analogies. In VaAvo haYom el haAyin, the imagery has gone too far for a theological discussion to remain within respectable parameters.

Maciejko (2014:xxvi) describes how VaAvo haYom el haAyin depicts:

the various stages of creation as a series of sexual acts, but it argues that the exploration (in thought and deed) of various aspects of sexuality is in itself a redemptive act of mending the world (tikkun olam).

During the act of creation, VaAvo haYom el haAyin describes G-d losing consciousness (a state known as tardema) and it is the duty of the Jewish people, and humanity in general, to restore that G-dly consciousness, through the kabbalistic notion of tikkun (Maciejko 2014:xxix).

Maciejko (2014:xxxiv) writes that in VaAvo haYom el haAyin:

Eibeschütz draws upon the Lurianic teachings, yet he strips the myth of all of its pathos and grandeur…

[After the act of creation t]he Holy Ancient One…has removed himself from the lower worlds and folded into himself. The God of Israel…loses both his virile powers and any interest in his creations.

According to this, G-d is now in exile. Exile is a central theme of Lurianic Kabbalah and seized upon by Sabbatianism - and because G-d is in exile, He is alienated from His creation. The Messiah is the only being who can redeem and restore both G-d and creation.

I have only shared, in the broadest terms, a minuscule amount of the content and lewd imagery of VaAvo haYom el haAyin as I am unable to repeat or write further about such matters.


Whoever read VaAvo haYom el haAyin, whether they were for it or against it, agreed that it was unlike anything they had ever seen before.

The Sabbatian kabbalists believed that VaAvo haYom el haAyin revealed deeper secrets than both the Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah. But the mainstream readers like R. Moshe Charif of Pressburg referred to it as “bizarre and appalling[16] and R. Yakov Emden said it was  obscene[17].  R. Moshe Chagiz said that such vile ideas had not ever even come into the minds of the “ancient idolaters[18]. R. Yechezkel Landau, also known as the Nodah beYehuda, wrote:

This book is that of a complete heretic, who does not merely deny a particular tenet of belief [kotsets be-neti’ot], but who uproots and destroys the very fundaments of Jewish faith… I did not find such heresy even among all the religions of the Gentiles that ever existed…and [it] denie[s] the providence of the Ein Sof.[19]

The work VaAvo haYom el haAyin shocked everyone one way or another. For some Sabbatians, it was a masterful mystical work that surpassed any previous Kabbalah, while for the opponents it was just vile, appalling and basely pornographic. It was felt that a line had been crossed, even for those who follow the mystical tradition.

As Maciejko puts it:

[I]t is blatantly fact, it is possibly the only truly pornographic text ever written in the rabbinic idiom.[20]


Granted, VaAvo haYom el haAyin is an extreme example of an otherwise common mystical theology that was prevalent during the eighteenth century. While the content of the treatise is unimaginable, what strikes one even more so is the respected personalities who were involved and implicated in perpetuating such ideas.

It also shows that the common distinction made between ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’ Kabbalah - where it is said that the former is dangerous while the latter is just theosophy at best, or theurgy at worst - is not entirely true. Theoretical Kabbalah is not always just inspirational and benign.

[1] Quoted in Yakov Emden, Petach Einayim, 8v . 

[2] Coitus interruptus in And I Came this Day unto the Fountain, by Pawel Maciejko (2014). There was a revised edition in 2016.

[3] Yakov Emden, Torat haKenaot, p. 74.

[4] Yakov Emden, Edut beYakov, fol. 66r ; see Me’ir Benayahu, Ha-Havurah ha-Kedoshah shel Rabbi Yehudah Hasid ve-Aliyata le-Erets Yisra’el, Sefunot 3-4 (1960), pp. 131- 179.

[5] [Prager] Gachalei Eish, Vol. I, fol. 67r.

[6] Yakov Emden, Beit Yehonatan haSofer, fol. 4v.

[7] Yakov Emden, Sefer Hitabbkut, fos. 1v-2r .

[8]Yakov Emden, Megillat Sefer, p. 89.

[9] [Prager] Gachalei Eish, fol. 121v .

[10] Zohar III, 125b.

[11] Yakov Emden, Torat haKena’ot, p. 121.

[12] Yakov Emden, Beit Yehonatan haSofer, 3r.

[13] See Moshe Aryeh Perlmuter, Rabbi Yehonatan Aybeshits, pp. 131-146, and Yehudah Liebes Sod ha-Emunah ha-Shabbeta’it, Jerusalem 1995, p. 344 n. 85.

[14] See R. Eibescutz’s Luhot Edut, Altona 1755, fos. 3r -4v.

[15] VaAvo haYom el haAyin, 5r.

[16] Yakov Emden, Megillat Sefer, p. 89.

[17] Yakov Emden, Torat haKena’ot, p. 85.

[18] [Prager] Gachalei Eish, Vol. I, fol. 60v.

[19] Yakov Emden, Petach Einayim, 8v . 

[20] See Yehudah Liebes, ‘Ketavim Hadashim beKabbalah ha-Shabbeta’it mi-Hugo shel Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschits’ in: Sod haEmunah, pp. 103-237.


  1. Truly a bizarre story. This is far worse than the Emden controversy. The key players in the Emden controversy all knew about this book. It seems that authorship was beyond dispute. So why does one never hear about Eibeschutz' prior involvement in the Sabbatian movement when the amulet controversy arose? It would have been a no-brainer to raise it.

  2. אמנם נפגמת היא האמונה על ידי בטולה של תורה העליונה, המביאה להכרת גדולת אלהים, השלמות העליונה שאין לה סוף וערך, ואינה נותנת את הפרי הטוב שהיא צריכה לתת, אינה מרוממת את הנשמות בגלוי משפלותן, ובוזיה ומחלליה מתרבים. אבל אמונת ישראל נעוצה היא באין סוף, שהוא למעלה מכל תוכן של אמונה, ומתוך כך נחשבת באמת אמונת ישראל לאידיאל של האמונה, ואמונת העתיד, "אהיה אשר אהיה", הגבוה באין ערוך מתוכן של אמונה בהוה.

    Our religion has become damaged because of the cancellation of the higher Torah, which leads to understanding the greatness of God, the upper perfection, which is infinite. Religion has not produced the sweet fruit it ought to have produced. It has not lifted up souls from their lower levels. And the numbers of those who disparage it, and dishonor it, have increased. However, our faith is essentially rooted in infinity, and is above the minutiae of common religion, and hence the faith of Israel is in truth the ideal of faith, the faith of the future, “I will be what I will be,” transcending immeasurably above its current form.

    הרב קוק, אורות, זרעונים, ה (יסורים ממרקים)

  3. Can you post the text of R' Yonasan's cherem?

  4. See: Gachalei Eish, Vol. I, 121v-122v.

  5. I cannot find it, can you post it?