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I can understand the appeal of a messiah in 1600s Eastern Europe. I can understand that we want a messiah and we're willing to accept one, whether it be Bar Kochva or Shabbtai Tsvi.

But on what sources could people possibly have held that Shabbtai Tsvi was the messiah:

  1. after he broke most of halakha?
  2. even after he converted to Islam?
  3. even after he died?
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Desperation, I think. – Seth J Jun 26 '13 at 2:31
re: after he died--one position I've seen mentioned is that he was 'Mashiach be Yosef' who according to tradition can (will?) die. – paquda Jun 26 '13 at 3:59
Unwillingness to move on and recognize the opportunity has been missed. כי עם קשה עורף הוא – Double AA Jun 26 '13 at 4:27
The 3rd point is (IIHO) the weakest. While there are sources for a dead moshiach, there are no sources for an Idol worshiping one!! – Shmuel Brin Jun 26 '13 at 5:35
@ShmuelBrin Where are the sources for a dead moshiach? Where does it say Shabbtai Tsvi worshiped Idols? Most importantly, why does "weakest" make it insufficient?? – Double AA Jun 26 '13 at 6:38

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