THE Jews were being driven from country to country. In no land were they welcome. In no land could they feel safe. Because of this, many Jews began to hope and yearn for a redeemer to take them out of their trouble. Many longed for this redeemer so much that they began to think that they themselves were sent down to redeem Israel! Others, seeing how anxious the Jews were for a savior, thought it a good chance for them to act as such. Just what Abraham Abulafia believed we cannot tell, but this is what he did. Abulafia went about preaching thus:
"All of you who want to be saved, all you who wish to. be happy, shut yourselves up in a quiet room. Shut yourselves away from the world. Clothe yourselves in white garments. Wrap yourselves in a talith and tefillin, and in that way prepare yourselves for the Lord.
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"Besides, if you would indeed have the Lord come to you then pronounce the name of God every few minutes, 'Je-ho-vah, Je-ho-vah,' and keep changing your voice as you do so. And as you do all these things, sway, sway back and forth. Then your head will become dizzy, and your heart filled with a glow. Suddenly, sleep will come over you, and you will feel as if the soul were going out of your body. In this way will the Lord come to you."
Abulafia traveled from country to country preaching his strange idea to all whom he met. Little by little he began to believe that he himself was the Messiah. And many people believed him also. He wrote books explaining just when and how the Messiah would arrive. He also set the date when the Messiah would come.
The people prepared for the great day. To make sure that they would be allowed to go along with the Messiah, they gave a great deal to the poor and they fasted. On the day set, the people dressed themselves in long white garments, as on the Day of Atonement, ran to the synagogue and waited there for the long, loud note of the Shofar, the trumpet blast by which the Messiah would be announced.
They waited and waited, but no blast was heard. Suddenly they looked about. What do you think they
saw? Some fainted at the sight that met their eyes. On their garments were little, tiny crosses. What could this mean? How did these crosses get there?
At first, great fear and alarm came over the people. Little by little, however, they began to see how foolish they had been. To believe in such silly things, to imagine that such stupid fasting and almost crazy screeching would call down the Messiah! Of course, some one had played a trick on them. When they had not been looking, the crosses had been pinned on to their hems to frighten them. Though still disappointed that the Messiah had not arrived, they returned home with clearer heads. No one would again deceive them about the Messiah. But would no one?