R. Yakov Emden And R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato -

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Goals: Teach about two Acharonim, Ramchal and R. Yakov Emden. Teach the history of Shabtai Zvi and how this affected Judaism in the aftermath

Matériel requis

Materials: Dice, large number of counters (buttons, poker chips, etc)

Contenu de la ressource

Noseh: Acharonim

Topic: R. Yakov Emden and R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato

Written By: Josh Skarf

Goals: Teach about two Acharonim, Ramchal and R. Yakov Emden. Teach the history of Shabtai Zvi and how this affected Judaism in the aftermath.

Materials: Dice, large number of counters (buttons, poker chips, etc)

Intro to the Noseh: This week we are beginning a new noseh, the Acharonim. Acharonim is a term used to describe rabbis who lived either following the completion of the Shulchan Aruch or after the Spanish Expulsion, dating roughly from the fifteenth century. Thousands of rabbis and hundreds of genuine Gedolim lived during this period. Furthermore, it is not as easy to recognize the greatest Acharonim as it is to pick out a number of Rishonim like Rashi and Rambam as the leaders of their time. Therefore, in the next four weeks we will look at a number of carefully selected Acharonim. These rabbis were picked both due to their greatness and because of what they stand for. Each TOPIC will cover one or two rabbis and the major trends of their time. This week we begin with R. Yakov Emden and R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato, two early Acharonim who can be used to understand the current events and prevalent thoughts of the time. In particular, we will look at the results of the false messiah Shabtai Zvi and trends that followed. I will attempt to present a great deal of background material to assist in these snifim, as they tend to cover many ideas at once and require a certain proficiency in Jewish History.

Background: In the mid 1600s, Jews in Europe were swept up in a wave of messianism provoked by a man named Shabtai Zvi who claimed to be Mashiach. Shabtai Zvi relied heavily on Kabala and mysticism to prove his authenticity, and succeeded in convincing many Jews. The false actions of Shabtai Zvi antagonized the Sultan, caused many Jews to leave Judaism, and severely demoralized the population. In the wake of his false messianism, Jews became vigilant in distancing themselves from mysticism. They felt that mysticism had played a large role in Shabtai Zvis success, and did not want it being studied anymore.

Several rabbis emerged as leading figures in ridding Judaism of mysticism. One of the major leaders was Rabbi Yakov ben Zvi of Emden, sometimes known as the Yavetz. R. Yakov Emden lived in Amsterdam and saw himself as a defender of Judaism. He himself was a scholar of Kabala, but fought against those who still believed in Shabtai Zvi, those who practiced Kabalistic rituals, and those who distributed magical amulets to the populace.

R. Yakov Emden began by attacking an unknown, young scholar called Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, the Ramchal. R. Luzzato was born in Italy in 1707 and was becoming a big scholar, but was also a student of Kabala. He claimed power to communicate with spirits and wrote many books. The most famous of these books is called Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just). Because of his love for Kabala, R. Luzzato came to the attention of those who sought to rid Judaism of too much mysticism. His contemporary rabbis tried to force him to stop learning and teaching Kabala to no avail. In 1743 he left Europe and settled in Israel in Tiveria. Later, R. Yakov Emden regretted his campaign against Ramchal, recognizing that he deserved great recognition for his writings.

Game 1: Dice Dive[1]

Ask players to sit in a circle and number off (one, two, one, two) so that every other player is on the opposite team. Place a pile of small counters (poker chips, buttons, etc) on the floor in one big mass in the center of the circle of kids. There should be about six to ten counters per player. Any player begins by throwing a pair of dice onto the floor. If the total is even, nothing happens. But if the total is odd, everyone must dive to the counters and grab as many as possible until all of them are gone. Points are totaled (one point for each counter grabbed by a team) and the counters are returned to the pile. Now a player on the opposing team throws the dice. Turns alternate between team members this way until everyone has had a chance to throw. Then the game is over, and the team with the biggest total wins. If anyone grabs the counters when the dice throw is even, all counters grabbed must be deducted from the offending teams total score. The game gets rather frantic as players try to anticipate the roll of the dice.

If there is a large group, have them play in two separate circles. Also, having them start sitting in chairs will help you keep them from cheating towards the middle before the dice are thrown.

Discussion: In this game people often tried to go for the counters when it was not the right time. In fact, sometimes people probably even tried to fake each other out. Just like people in the game are eagerly anticipating an odd roll, so we Jews are waiting for Mashiach. In the 1600s there was an especially strong desire for Mashiach to come, so that people were very willing to believe he had come. A man named Shabtai Zvi convinced many people that he was Mashiach, faking them out. As a result, many people sold their houses and even tried to make an army to fight the rest of the world. In the aftermath, many Jews suffered. Therefore, just like people who get points deducted for their team in this game became much more cautious, so too Jews began to be very suspicious of anyone that seemed related to Mashiach coming or to Shabtai Zvi in particular. Some of the things people associated with Shabtai Zvi were Kabala and handing out amulets for good look. These things were looked down on after these events.

Game 2: Vampire[2]

To start, everyone closes their eyes (vampires roam only at night) and begins to mill around. Madrichim make sure that you dont collide with walls or wander out of bounds. A Madrich starts the action but pulling one chanich aside and letting him or her know that s/he is the vampire. Like everyone else, the vampire keeps his or her eyes closed, but when s/he bumps into someone else, theres a difference. S/he snatches him and lets out a blood-curdling scream. The victim then becomes a vampire as well. He too is on the prowl, seeking new victims. To prevent this from quickly resulting in only vampires, the rule is that when two vampires bump into each other, they transform themselves back into mortals.

It is possible that all chanichim will end up as vampires, but its also possible that all the vampires will be neutralized. Play a few rounds, or until people lose interest. Make sure to keep the playing area small enough that collisions happen regularly.

Discussion: In this game we walk around, afraid of our fellow chanichim, because we fear one of them might be a vampire, aimed at corrupting us as well and destroying humanity. As we mentioned, following Shabtai Zvi, Jews were very cautious about believing in mystical things, and were suspicious of people who behaved in odd ways and who learnt and taught Kabala. Some rabbis even took to trying to find people who behaved this way and expose them as followers of Shabtai Zvi. One rabbi who did this was Rabbi Yakov Emden (see background info.) Rabbi Yakov Emden was a famous scholar and was very respected. He tried to find these people. One person he set out to stop was a man named Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, known as the Ramchal. The Ramchal was suspicious because he learnt kabala and claimed that voices spoke to him. Although both Rabbi Yakov Emden and Ramchal were big scholars, because of the events surrounding Shabtai Zvi they were involved in this conflict.

Game 3: Bedlam[3]

This game requires four teams of equal size. Each team takes one corner of the room. The play area can either be a square or rectangle. When the madrich says go each team attempts to move as quickly as possible to the corner diagonally across from their corner, performing an announced activity as they go. The first team to get all its members into its new corner wins that particular round. The first round can be simply running to the opposite corner, but after that you can use any number of possibilities: walking backwards, wheelbarrow racing, piggyback, rolling somersaults, hopping on one foot, skipping, crab walking, etc. There will be literally mass bedlam in the center as all four teams crisscross. Madrichim should remain alert in the middle.

If you dont have enough chanichim to play with four teams, you can try with two, although this makes things less confusing. You could also try with three, with teams simply crossing the room instead of moving to a formerly occupied spot. But this works best with four sizable teams.

Discussion: Although he was involved in this dispute, Ramchal eventually became a very famous rabbi, and is most well remembered as the author of a famous book called Mesilat Yesharim, The Path of the Just. Just as the chanichim tried to cross the room in an orderly way but had difficulty, so too we try to live our lives in an orderly way, according to Halacha. However, at times it is difficult. Mesilat Yesharim talks about ways that we can become better people and behave appropriately. It is called mussar telling us how we ought to behave. Following his death, when it became apparent that he had written books of lasting importance, people recognized the greatness of the Ramchal. Even R. Yakov Emden agreed, and regretted the actions he took against Ramchal.

[1] Lynn, David Great Games for 4th 6th Graders, p. 47

[2] The New Games Book p.123

[3] Great Games p. 31



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