Bloch, Mattathias ben Benjamin Ze'ev (Wolf) Ashkenazi

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BLOCH, MATTATHIAS BEN BENJAMIN ZE'EV (Wolf ) ASHKENAZI (1610/1620–after 1668), preacher and one of the leaders of the Shabbatean movement. Bloch was born in Cracow. His grandfather, Feivel Bloch, was one of the leaders of the community during the first half of the 17th century and its representative at the meetings of the Council of Four Lands in Poland. He studied under the Cracow rabbis Menahem Mendel *Krochmal and Abraham Joshua *Heschel. He suffered during the persecution of the Jews under *Chmielnicki and during the Swedish occupation (1648–57) and was expelled from his town. In 1660 he was in Jassy and in 1665, on his way to Ereẓ Israel, was in Constantinople, where he published Kelal Katan, a homily on Deuteronomy 32. He relates that he had two important homiletical books in his possession: Sefer Kelal Gadol, written in the peshat ("literal"), remez ("symbolic"), and derash ("homiletic-allegoric") styles; and the second, Sefer Mattityahu, a kabbalistic commentary on all sections of the Torah. Apparently Bloch became a Shabbatean in 1665 either while he was still in Constantinople or when he arrived in Jerusalem and met Shabbetai Ẓevi before the latter had left Ereẓ Israel. When, at the end of 1665 in Smyrna, Shabbetai Ẓevi appointed kings in a similar order to that of the ancient kings of Israel and Judah, he appointed Bloch "King Asa." In 1666 Bloch was among the leaders of the Shabbatean movement in Egypt. With the failure of the messianic hopes after Shabbetai Ẓevi's apostasy, he persisted in his belief, but he left Egypt to settle in Mosul (Iraq) where he was accepted as a rabbi or dayyan. His influence spread to the communities in Kurdistan, which he encouraged in their Shabbatean belief. His activities as rabbi of the community as well as a Shabbatean leader are recorded in various letters preserved from 1668. After that year nothing is known about him. According to Jacob *Sasportas, Bloch was already elderly at the start of the Shabbatean movement.


G. Scholem, in: Zion, 7 (1942), 175–8, 193–5; Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, index; A. Yaari, in: KS, 36 (1960/61), 525–34.

[Gershom Scholem]