December 9, 1666, is the date on which the rabbis of Constantinople excommunicated all the followers of Shabbetai Zvi, with the exception of Nathan of Gaza -- the man most responsible for spreading messianic fervor across the Jewish world. A mere year and a half earlier, Nathan, a learned man who was a student of Lurianic kabbala, had had the vision informing him that Shabbetai Zvi (1626-1676) was the agent who...