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PROSSNITZ, LÖBELE (PROSṬIẒ):

Cabalistic impostor; born about the end of the seventeenth century at Brody, Galicia; died about 1750. He left his native city and went to Prossnitz, Moravia, where he married, earning a livelihood by peddling in the neighboring villages. On account of his poverty he occupied a deserted hovel, which was believed to be haunted. Suddenly he assumed the rôle of a prophet, and promised to summon the Shekinah to appear at midnight in a large gathering. Löbele had stretched across his room a perforated curtain, behind which he had secretly lighted a mixture of alcohol and turpentine. He himself, robed in white, stood behind the curtain, and the light brought out in full relief the gilt letters of the Tetragrammaton, which he had placed on his breast. The spectators were disposed to believe in a miracle, when some one present (Jacob Emden thinks the rabbi) pulled down the curtain and so exposed the fraud. The impostor was excommunicated by all the rabbis of Moravia, among them the "Landrabbiner" David Oppenheimer.

In spite of all this Löbele found many followers among the Shabbethaians. He proclaimed himself the Messiah ben Joseph, and signed his name "Joseph ben Jacob." He had relations with the Shabbethaian Mordecai Eisenstadt and with Jonathan Eybeschütz, and seems to have been especially influenced by the Shabbethaian impostor Nehemiah Ḥayyun. Löbele wandered from city to city in Austria and Germany, and succeeded in duping many persons, who supplied him with funds. In 1725 the excommunication was renewed, whereupon he betook himself to Hungary. Emden relates that he died there among non-Jews.

Löbele taught the strange doctrine that since the appearance of Shabbethai Ẓebi God had surrendered the guidance of the world to the latter, after whose ascent to heaven the mission was entrusted to Jonathan Eybeschütz and to Löbele himself.

Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. x. 349, 364 et seq., 387;
  • Jacob Emden, Torat ha-Ḳena'ot, pp. 71, 72, Lemberg, 1870;
  • Kohn (Kahana), Eben ha-To'im, Vienna, 1873;
  • Moses Ḥagiz, Leḥishat Saraf (reprinted in Emden, Torat ha-Ḳena'ot), pp. 81, 85.
D. H. M.
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