Rabbi Isaac Luria (Arizal) – (1534-1572)
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi ben Shlomo, known as the “Ari,” acronym for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac
Rabbi Isaac Luria revealed a powerfully elegant mystical structure which deciphers the secrets of Kabbalah from the beginning of time. The 25 volumes based on his teachings cover every mystical concept from reincarnation to kavanah (intention) of prayer; from the elevation of sparks to outlining the cosmic order of four worlds and ten sefirot. His doctrine of tzimtzum revolutionized the understanding of Divine unity, good and evil, and the human ability to touch the Divine.
~ 1534: Born in the Old City of Jerusalem.
~ 1541: Moves to Egypt with his mother after his father, Rabbi Shlomo Luria, passed away. Lives with his uncle, Mordechai Frances, a wealthy tax agent.
~ Teachers: Rabbi David ben Zimra (Radbaz), Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi (author of Shittah Mekubetzet).
~ 1549 (Approx.): Marries his uncle’s daughter.
~ Spends seven years in almost total self-seclusion with Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi. Around this time a copy of one volume of the Zohar comes into his hands. With this Zohar, he studies alone for another six years.
~ 1570: Travels to and settled in Tzfat in northern Israel. Becomes recognized unanimously by all the great masters as the greatest master of all.
~ R’ Chaim Vital (1542-1620) documents all the Ari’s teachings.
~ 1572: Passes away 5th of Av, at age thirty-eight. Thousands of people visit his gravesite in the Old Cemetery of Sfat as well as his mikvah.
~ 1782: First printing of the Ari’s teachings under the name “Eitz Chaim” – The Tree of Life
Some Concurrent Events in History:
1450-1600 Renaissance Period of art, literature and music. Artists include Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci.
1457: Johannes Gutenberg prints first book.
1492: Expulsion of Jews from Spain ~ Columbus lands in America.
1530-39: Ivan the Terrible takes power in Russia ~ OttomanTurks gain key control of the Mediterranean.
1540-49: Inquisition of Pope Paul III of Rome conducts trials of heretics in attempt to waylay the Reformation ~ Protestants burned at the stake ~ Copernicus defies church doctrine by publishing his theory of a sun-centered solar system ~ Colorado River discovered by Hernando de Alarcon, and Lopez de Cardenas discovers the Grand Canyon.
1550-59: The Elizabethan age of England begins with Queen Elizabeth ~ French astrologer Nostradamus publishes a book of prophecies ~ Pope Paul IV orders Rome’s Jewish quarters to be walled in.
1560-69: Anglican Church established in England ~ Portuguese overrun previously established French colonies in South America ~ England’s Queen Elizabeth gives license to Sir Gilbert to possess all
un-Christian lands in the New World.
Concepts: Primary contributions:
Tzimtzum – G-d’s “self-contraction” – the concealment of the Divine light of the Ein Sof .
Shevirat hakeilim – the shattering of the vessels in the world of Tohu.
Birur hanitzutzot – elevating the sparks – the Tikkun (rectification) of the shattering of the vessels.
Partzufim – literally, “visages” – compound structures of the sefirot in arrays that interact with each other.
Published Writings (documented by R’ Chaim Vital):
Etz Chaim (Tree of Life)
Pri Eitz Chaim (Fruit of the Tree of Life)
Mavoah She’arim (Entrance to the Gates)
Otzrot Chaim (Treasures of Chaim)
The Eight Gates: Sha’ar (The Gate of )… haHakdamot (Introductions); haPesukim (Verses); haMitzvot (Commandments); haKavanot (Meditations); Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit); haGilgulim (Reincarnations); Ma’amorei R’ Shimeon bar Yochai (Sayings of Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai); Ma’amorei Chazal (Sayings of the Sages).
Sha’arei Kedusha (Gates of Holiness)
Sha’ar HaYichudim (Gate of Unifications)
Likutei Torah (Torah Selections)
Ta’amei haMitzvot (Reasons for the Commandments).
Sefer HaLikkutim (Book of Selections)
400 Shekalim Kesef (Discourse on the “Four Hundred Shekels of Silver”)
Likkutei HaShas (Selections on Talmud)
Resources in English:
R’ Chaim Vital. The Tree of Life, Jason Aronson Inc., 1999
Kaplan, Aryeh. Inner Space, New York: Moznaim Publishing, 1990
Steinsaltz, Adin. The Thirteen Petalled Rose, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1992
www.kabbalahonline.org – a good, authentic resource.