Through The Smoked Glass
Frank sowed the seeds of the Jewish 19th century Hascalah (Enlightenment) movement, Zionism, Chasidic movement, modern secular thinking and of Feminism. He changed the way we perceive religion and our life. The famous 20th century philosopher, Martin Buber, imprinted the expression "The Secret History" referring to, outwardly "small" events that shaped the evolution of the human consciousness. Undoubtedly Frank's life story is a breathtaking example for such a human event. Jacob Frank was considered by his followers to be a Jewish Messiah. The main provocative idea exposed in the course of the plot is "redemption through the sewers", which creates uncertainty in Judeo-Christian morals, and poses penetrating questions as regards human nature and essence.
The plot begins in 1752 when three believers in the previous Jewish Messiah, Sabbatai Zvi, are sent to Saloniki by their congregations in Podolia Ukraine (then south Poland), hopefully to find a religious leader who will rescue their congregations from extinction. Ninety years previously, when Sabbatai Zvi was still living, the messianic movement was at the height of its powers and encompassed about half of Podolia's Jewish population, but in the middle of 18th century only a few hundred believers remained in Podolia. The secret delegation comprised of: Mordechai, the representative of the elders of the congregation; Nachman, a young Jewish Rabbi who belonged secretly to the congregation of Sabbatai Zvi's believers; and Nathan, a blind man, who was considered to be gifted with special powers, and was expected to identify the holy candidate.
Lea, Nachman's young and attractive wife, stayed behind in anticipation of the outcome of the secret mission. She is the storyteller of this intriguing film. In voice over, she comments (with words which are full of wisdom and irony) on the essence of her world, and on the aftermath of the scenes which she saw and participated in:
"For my dreams I was real.
For my time I was afraid.
For myself I was a riddle:
Who am I when I'm dead?
(Pause) Don't judge me. You may say that I am a sinful woman,
but please bear with me and hear my chilling story; it's for the purity of my
soul. I took part in horrendous acts. We shattered God's kingdom. For the
first time since Babylon, there was a new belief and there was no flood.
Nothing occurs without reason. There are no coincidences in God's Garden. In a
few generations maybe they will discover completely new paths of belief.
People will live, for the first time, in secular sacredness - not knowing whom
delegation did not find a Messiah, but they encountered Jacob Laib Yakobovich,
an eccentric young man who called himself Jacob Frank; a Jew from Polish
origins who lived in Turkey. He was deeply immersed in Kabala learning, and in
the course of the meeting Mordechai reveals to Frank that Sabbatai Zvi
discovered that divinity could be found also in uncleanness. Arrival at the
deity is achieved more easily through total sin, therefore all taboos and
restrictions are abolished, everything is permissible. The one that recognizes
this secret belief is beyond "Good and Evil". Human consciousness is like a
ripening fruit. The extraction of holiness from the "outer skin of the fruit"
is the rectification of human belief. With Sabbatai Zvi's coming to our world,
the primal sin was erased, and the prohibitions of the Bible became
commandments to be executed by daring and audacious believers. Suddenly Frank
falls on the floor in a spasm. His mouth sheds white saliva. Immediately
Nathan the blind proclaims that Frank is a great and holy person worthy to
lead the congregation of followers of Sabbatai Zvi.
short time later Frank bursts into a synagogue, ascends the stage with an iron
bar in his hands, and threatens to murder those who dare approach him. He
rolls down his pants and puts his behind on the Bible. No one dares touch him.
This is his first daring and provocative act and will be followed by many
In the city market Frank performs several small tricks and miracles: discovers a fake coin in the pocket of a peddler, catches a robber in the course of an attempt to pick his pocket. Later he becomes fatally ill. A godly voice commands him to respond to the delegation's appeal and travel to Podolia, or to die. Frank repents and the delegation departs on its way to Ukraine. On the way a gang of robbers attacks them. The gang's leader is startled by Frank's firm courage, and doesn't venture to search him, and so their money, hidden in Frank's boots, was saved.
When they arrive at Podolia, Frank succeeds in "driving away" the black plague, and no one from among his followers becomes sick. Nothing could stop the wave of admiration for Frank. More and more followers joined his flock. He preaches to them of the burning need to cancel all old religions and customs. Frank starts to act as a cult leader and sleeps with the women in his entourage. He ceases to put on his Tefillin, and claims that he is exempt from religious obligations. He proclaims the establishment of a mutual fund, and exploits it for his own private and luxurious needs. On a winter night in 1756, Frank organizes an orgy, in the course of which he ties the Tefillin on the arms of a naked young woman. Two kids passing by peek through the window and call the local Rabbi, who calls soldiers who brutally arrest the orgy participants.
prisoners are brought to Jewish court and claim that they did not prostitute
but rather maintained their belief. The Jewish rabbis excommunicate them.
Nachman is invited to participate in a theological debate between Christians
and Jews. He refuses to sign a declaration admitting the Jews butcher
Christian children at Passover. On October 17, 1757 the debate's first session
took place in Kaminitz. The Frankists proved that in the Talmud there are
segments that curse Christians. In the aftermath of the debate Talmud books
are burnt in the town plaza.
Frank, who fled to Dziurdziow in Bulgaria, orders his believers to convert
their religion to Islam in the framework of his contempt for all religions.
Inwardly they continue to stick to their beliefs. The religious conversion
improves their economic situation, and Frank becomes increasingly wealthy. He
rents a big house and Turkish servants.
Frank returns triumphant to Podolia and, demanding from his followers proof of
the strength of their belief, insists they stand in a circle for three
consecutive days. No one dares leave the circle. Lea reflects on those fateful
days as the happiest days of her life. Frank gave her life meaning. …and after
she spent an inspiring night in Frank's bed, Lea remarks:
"With FRANK I felt so safe that I allowed myself to lose control. I heard my throat utter sounds I had never heard before. I felt he freed the Shchinah from the shackles of centuries… I felt that he had an evergreen soul…
Like that cucumber I used to cut into very tiny slices
Nevertheless the green color still stuck To the tiniest
slice of my soul…"