History records that a Portuguese Marano, Diego Peres (born 1500), after being spurned by Jewish adventurist David Reuveni, circumcised himself, changed his name to Shlomo Molcho, and went on a mission to convince Maranos everywhere to return to Judaism. History records, also, that he correctly predicted a flood in Rome and an earthquake in Portugal, gaining him the respect and protection from the Inquisition from Pope Clement VII. He later fled to Turkey and Eretz Israel and was known to be a student of Rabbi Joseph Karo, among others. In 1532 he was burned at the stake by Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. See, e.g. Dimont, Max I., "Jews, God and History." Secular historians have named Molcho as a false messiah. Yet in some Hasidic circles -- especially those of Galicia and Hungary -- he is revered as a saint and Kabbalist. Which version is true?


3 Answers 3


R' Chaim Vital writes that he used "Practical Kabbalah" inappropriately, and there is a tradition that one who uses it inappropriately (like if one is ritually impure from a corpse) will either get sick (he or his descendant) or he (or his descendant) will convert out. He says that Rabbi Shlomo Molcho (emphasis mine) was an example of one who used "Practical Kabbalah" and was uprooted from the world.

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that he was a great Mekubal, he had Mesirus Nefesh to debate with the Pope, and he wanted to bring the Geula. He failed, but merited giving his life Al Kiddush Hashem (which is something the Beis Yosef wanted his whole life).

  • 3
    Is the Lubavitcher Rebbe arguing that he didn't misuse kabbalah, or just emphasizing the good he did?
    – Double AA
    Jan 23, 2013 at 20:52
  • I must say I'm rather glad the Beis Yosef never gave his life up early Al Kiddush Hashem. Seems living Al Kiddush Hashem was much more effective.
    – Double AA
    Oct 17, 2013 at 17:11
  • Interestingly enough, R. Chaim Vital himself wrote a book where he describes using practical kabbalah himself! See: seforim.blogspot.com/2010/07/…
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 28, 2015 at 2:15

In igros Ramchal of machon Ramchal, letter 8, he brings a testimony of Rav Rafael Kimchi, of Tsfas, who says that the Arizal and "The Holy Mekubal" Rav Shlomo Molcho are two examples of people who no one can deny their teachings and actions, and had revelation of angels.


The Shach mentions the way the Reb Shlomo Molcho had his Tzitzis as a true source. The Beis Yosef's Sefer, Magid Mesharim speaks of him as a Tzaddik. The Arizal, although criticizing the use of practical Kabbalah, does not speak of him as a charlatan. Rabbi Joselman of Rosheim thought his approach was rash but also not a false messiah.

  • Who is Rabbi Joselman of Rosheim? What do all the other references have to do with the question?
    – Double AA
    Aug 17, 2015 at 4:07
  • @DoubleAA en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josel_of_Rosheim Aug 28, 2015 at 16:31
  • @ShmuelBrin His diary is around. I think I recall seeing it in a biannual journal, the name of which skips my mind now.
    – HaLeiVi
    Aug 28, 2015 at 16:57
  • "had his Tzitzis as a true source"
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 20, 2015 at 1:37
  • @shmuelBrin not really sure why I said Shach, but the Magen Avraham quotes the Lechem Chamudos on this.
    – HaLeiVi
    Aug 14, 2018 at 5:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .