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The four settlers arrested late last week on charges of plotting a hideous terror attack in A-Tur are innocent until proven guilty. One can only hope that pious Jews like these never actually intended to murder hundreds of children in a school yard.

But if they did, or even if they made vengeful remarks reminiscent of the handbills and flyers circulating in the settlements of Judea and Samaria, the entire settler population, and especially its rabbis, should take it as a warning sign.

The Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet say there is no connection between these four and the Haredi Nahal soldiers suspected of attacking Palestinians, nor to the inquiry in the case of the Jewish terrorists who murdered nearly 10 Palestinians last year.

And yet an invisible thread appears to link them all. Some of the suspects were students at the Od Yosef Hai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshiva in Nablus, others were influenced by the sermons of the yeshiva head, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, the author of "Baruch Hagever," ("The Blessed Man," referring to the mass killer Baruch Goldstein.)

Of course, Ginzburg did not actually coach these suspects, and some are not his students, but the links can be traced to a mysterious and ancient code that runs throughout the rabbi's sermons and writings. "It is time for the Lord to work; they have made void your law" (Psalms 119: 126).

Ginzburg's views are only one example - perhaps more radical than most - of the ill winds of messianism blowing in certain settlements. "This verse from Psalms is the acknowledged code of Shabbatean anarchism," said historian Dr. Elhanan Reiner in November 1998, in his analysis of the the inherent dangers of Ginzburg's teachings. Reiner warned of a community growing up around Ginzburg to which none of the existing labels apply. "This community, whose members come from a wide array of religious and social backgrounds, has radical, even anarchic features, and a view of authority that is very different from the norm."

Ginzburg operates far from the religious mainstream, but he has tremendous sway over certain groups of newly-observant Jews, thanks to his Hassidic-mystical charisma, wide learning and messianic fervor. Even his categorical solutions, skipping over every stage in the conventional religious hierarchy, have allure for many people, especially penitents joining leaderless Hassidic sects.

The massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein was an act of martyrdom, an act that saved lives, wrote Ginzburg. The life of a Jew takes precedence over the life of a gentile, even when the gentile is not out to harm Israel. In one of his sermons, Halakha ve'en morin kakh (lawful but inadvisable) he argued that there are times when the loftiest spiritual leaders are wrong and should be challenged.

In the Torah, he says, the community elders and Moses would not let Pinhas kill Zimri, and thus Pinhas, the one pure person, who got his orders directly from God, was forced to act on his own. After Rabin's murder, reading this text sends shivers down the spine. The rabbis of Yesha have made some feeble attempts to dissociate themselves from Ginzburg. This week they even denounced all private acts of revenge.

In recent years however, the views of this rabbi that were supposedly taboo after the Rabin assassination, have begun to seep into the national-religious discourse. The messianic idea, which has paved itself a direct line to God, crudely bypasses rabbinic and halakhic authority and is gaining momentum.

The leadership of the National Religious Party has surrendered to the forces of mindless mysticism without a fight. In 1995, a futile debate raged over the question of whether the rabbis influenced Yigal Amir or knew nothing whatsoever of his plans. Amir, like Pinhas, had no need of rabbis.

He derived his inspiration from the code in the book of Psalms - "They have made void your law" - knowing the rabbis would dissociate themselves from his act, but would not uproot the ideas that led to it. Some rabbis allowed these ideas to poison their outlook.

Even if a tragedy is averted, they are guilty of a serious offense - idly looking on as violent New-Age messianism tramples the Torah, which has shaped not only the Jewish people but Western culture.