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The Ramak


Rabbi Moshe Kordovero (Ramak) – (1522-1570)

Rabbi Moshe Kordovero had a monumental influence on mysticism, matched only by his contemporary, the holy Arizal. His mystical classic “Pardes Rimonim” (Garden of Pomegranates), written when he was only 27, synthesizes all the major topics of mysticism in an orderly and relatively philosophical system. In Tzfat, Israel he opened an academy for the study of mysticism, where many of the greatest mystics of the age studied. Even the great Arizal studied with him and greatly honored him. Ramak penned many influential Kabbalistic works and was one of the greatest disseminators of mysticism. His sublime personality and prolific literary output reached far and wide, changing the landscape of life everywhere.

Biographical Highlights:

– 1522: Born in Tzfat, Israel to a distinguished family of Spanish descent, originally from the town of Cordova. At the time, Israel was then under Ottoman Turkish rule.
– Studies under Rabbi Yosef Caro (author of the Shulchan Aruch)
– At age eighteen, is the youngest of four great rabbis to be ordained by Rabbi Yaakov BeRav – the others are Rabbi Yosef Karo, Rabbi Moshe of Trani, and Rabbi Moshe Galanti.
– 1542: At age twenty, becomes a student of his brother-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz (composer of the famous Friday night prayer, Lecho Dodi), with whom he studies the esoteric aspect of Torah, the Kabbalah.
-1548: Completes his classic “Pardes Rimonim” (Garden of Pomegranates)
– 550: Opens an academy for the study of mysticism. Students include Rabbi Eliyahu di Vidash (author of Reishit Chochma), Rabbi Abraham Galanti, Rabbi Chaim Vital.
– In the last year of Ramak’s life, the Arizal comes to Tzfat and becomes his student.
– 1570: Passes away at age forty-eight, on the 23rd of Tammuz. The Arizal eulogizes him and observes that the bier bearing Ramak to his burial place is preceded by a pillar of fire. Ramak’s revered teacher, Rabbi Yosef Caro exclaims, “Here lies the Ark of the Torah.”

Published Writings:

Pardes Rimonim (Orchard of Pomegranates).
Ohr Yakar (The Precious Light).
Ohr Ne’erav (Pleasant Light).
Sefer Alimah Rabti (The Great Work of ‘to Elim’)
Shiur Komah (Measurement of Height).
Sefer Gerushim (Book of Banishments).
Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Devorah)

Some Resources in English:

Moses Kordovero’s Introduction to Kabbalah: An Annotated Translation of His Or Ne’Erav, translated by Ira Robinson. New York, Ktav Pub. House, 1994
– Meditation for the10 days of Tshuvah:

Translations of Kordovero’s Tomer Devorah:
– Anthology of Jewish Mysticism, by Raphael Ben Zion (ed.), New York: Judaica Press, 1981 (includes Cordovero’s Tomer Devorah in full and 3 other texts).
– Tomer Devorah -The Palm Tree of Devorah,  by Moses Cordovero, bi-lingual edition translated & annotated by Rabbi Moshe Miller, New York: Feldheim, 1993.
– The Palm Tree of Devorah, Moses Cordovero, trans. by Louis Jacobs, London: Vallentine, Mitchell & Co., 1960.

Some Concurrent Events in History:

1492 – Jews expelled from Spain – Columbus lands in America
1520-29: Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Philippines during the first global circumnavigation – Monks burned alive for following teachings of religious reformer Martin Luther – Manhattan discovered by Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazano.
1530-49: England’s Henry VIII marries his mistress Anne Boleyn and renounces authority of the pope – Inquisition of Pope Paul III of Rome conducts trials of heretics – Protestants burned at the stake – Nikolaus Copernicus publishes theory of a sun-centered solar system – Europeans first visit Japan introducing firearms – Ivan IV becomes first czar of Russia; marries Anastasia of the Romanov family.
1550-59: French astrologer Nostradamus publishes a book of prophecies – Pope Paul IV orders Rome’s Jewish quarters to be walled in – Elizabethan age of England begins when Mary Tudor is succeeded by Elizabeth.
1560-70: John Calvin’s followers publish the Geneva Bible containing chapter and verse numbers – Italian artist Michelangelo dies – Anglican Church established in England – Gerardus Mercator develops the Mercator projection map, representing the world in terms of latitude and longitude, greatly simplifying navigation – Portuguese overrun previously established French colony and found Rio de Janeiro – Ivan the Terrible publicly executes most of his advisers.


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3 Responses to “The Ramak”

  1. Zohar Raviv

    Contrary to what is written here, RaMaKs birth place and geneology are still unknown. There is no evidence to suggest that he had decended from a distinguished family – all we know is his fathers name (Yaakov). Likewise, nowhere do we find evidence to suggest Safed as his birth place.

    July 5th, 2006 at 4:38 pm

  2. Zohar Raviv

    RaMaK was never ordained by Jacob Berav. As a whole, RaMaK was not celebrated for his legal standing and was not interested in Judicial proceedings. He was, and should be remembered as a towering mystic.

    January 31st, 2007 at 1:03 am

  3. Hillel

    In the introduction to one of the more recent publications of Sharei Kedusha, it mentions the following:

    …Rabbi Moshe Cordovero was counted amongst the great students of the Beit Yosef, and even though he was one of the youngest, he was worthy to rise to being one of his most prominent student.

    In one of the responsas in the sheelot and teshuvot of the Beit Yosef (even haezer hilchot ketubot siman bet) regarding a case concerning an almanah, regarding the great controversy between the Beit Yosef and the Mabit, we find that the psak of the Ramak was contained within this responsa even though the Ramak was only 28 years old, defending the psak of his Rav along side other great students of his Rav (the Beit Yosef): Alshich, Avraham Ben Asher, Rav Barukh, Rav Moshe Saadiah…

    Although he was not necessarily renowned for his halachic acumen, as is the case with R. Hayim Vital, this doesnt necessarily mean that he was not a giant in this regard.

    December 29th, 2008 at 3:21 pm

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