Dunner, an Orthodox rabbi who leads a Beverly Hills, California, congregation, combines an expertise in ancient Hebrew manuscripts with a command of rabbinic texts and Jewish history to bring his band of Jewish miscreants to life.
Heading Dunner’s list is the infamous Shabbatai Tzvi (1626-1676). Born in Turkey, Shabbatai attracted a large number of Jewish followers who fervently believed he was the long awaited Messiah. Dunner writes:
“…he [Shabbatai] was …joyful, exuberant, and ecstatic, while at other times he was depressed, anxious, paranoid, and passive…symptoms of acute manic depression, or bipolar syndrome…To [his] detractors his behavior was evidence he was an evil madman. To his supporters… his strange behavior attested to the fact that he was divine and a holy man.”
On May 31, 1665 Shabbatai publicly declared he was the “King of the Jews” and the “Redeemer” of Israel. His followers were delirious with joy, especially because Shabbatai Tzvi had repudiated much of the rigorous religious and moral laws of Judaism and encouraged wild sexual excesses.