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The Arizal’s early life

The Arizal was born in the old city of Yerushalayim in the year 1534. His full name is Rabbi Yitzchok Luria and is the father of Lurianic Kabbalah.

The Arizals father died when he was very young. The Arizals mother didnt know what to do, how was she going to support herself and her young son?

She went with her young son to her brother, a rich man living in Egypt.  The Arizal’s uncle was generous with them and supported them well. In Egypt, the Arizal got the best education from the Rabbis living there.

Ascent to Greatness

Hashem opened up his heart to the Torah and he began to understand deeper and deeper secrets of the Torah. He received more and more understanding and deeper and deeper understanding of Kabbalah.

All the wisdom of the world was revealed to the Arizal. He understood all the aspects of the Torah. He knew the language of the trees and the language of the birds. Anything that was wisdom, the Arizal knew. He received this wisdom from Hashem, and it was a special gift.

At a certain point, the Arizal got a message from Heaven that he should travel to Tsfat to teach a certain soul that was there. It was revealed to him that his entire purpose of coming to this world was to teach Rabbi Chaim Vital.

The Arizal comes to Tsfat

At that time, Tsfat was already a center of Kabbalah learning. Under the venerated Ramak [Rabbi Moshe Cordovero], the growth of Kabbalah learning had flourished. Tsfat was already the capital of Kabbalah learning and was about to receive its crown jewel …the Arizal!

The Ramak was the leader of the Kabbalah school at that time. All the Rabbis of the time learned Kabbalah from him. Among his students were Rabbi Eliyahu de Vidas, the author of the Reishit Chochma, and Rabbi Chaim Vital, who was to become the main student of the Arizal.

The Arizal arrived in Tsfat shortly before the Ramak passed away.

Before the Ramak passed away, his students asked him “What will we do? Who will teach us the great and deep waters of Kabbalah?”

The Ramak answered “Whoever sees the pillar of fire as they carry my coffin to be buried will be my successor. He will be the continuation of the teaching of Kabbalah.”

At the Ramak’s funeral none of his students saw the pillar of fire.

The only one who saw it was the Arizal. He has taken over as the authority on Kabbalah.

The Arizal begins to teach

It was at this time that the Arizal began to teach Rabbi Chaim Vital.

The Arizal wanted to teach only Rabbi Chaim Vital. His entire purpose of coming into this world was only to teach Rabbi Chaim Vital.

There was some kind of agreement from Heaven that everything that Rabbi Chaim Vital wanted to know, the Arizal would teach him. As we said above, all wisdom was revealed to the Arizal.

The Arizal said that anyone who wants to learn Lurianic Kabbalah should learn it from Rabbi Chaim Vital.

Only one student

There were two slight problems with this arrangement.

The first was that Rabbi Chaim Vital didnt want to be the one special student. He didnt view himself as anything special, he was just like anyone else, most probably due to his humility. Rabbi Chaim Vital wanted the classes to be opened to all those who wanted to come.  Later in his life he laments that this was ‘Chassidut Shel Shtut’, misplaced righteousness.

Another problem with this was the complaints of the people. The Arizal was teaching such tremendous secrets of the Torah and everyone wanted to join. The Alshech, a big rabbi of the time, was one of the teachers of Rabbi Chaim Vital. He too wanted to come and learn from the Arizal, and not from his student Rabbi Chaim Vital.

So, against the Arizal’s wishes, his classes began to grow in numbers…

But why?

We need to understand someting at this point. Why didnt the Arizal want to teach publicly? Why only teach one student?

The answer is that whenever someting new is brought into the world there is an aspect of Dinim or judgement surrounding it. Every beginning has Dinim [judgement]. Anything new has this. When Hashem first created the world it was with Dinim [judgement] and then He saw that the world could not stand then Hashem mixed in Hesed [kindness]. This is the way of everything. The more important the new thing, the bigger the Dinim.

The Arizal was teaching Rabbi Chaim Vital new secrets of the Torah which were never before revealed. Deep wonderous secrets. Secrets which will revolutionize the Kabbalah. Secrets which will revolutionalize way the world is understood. After these new revelations, all of mystical thought will change.

This is a tremendous new thing in the world…

…And this comes with tremendous Dinim.

The Arizal wanted to make the revelations of these secrets private to minimize these Dinim.

But they didnt listen to the Arizal

Against the wishes of the Arizal, the classes grew. The students didnt listen and continued to bring more and more people to join.

And the judgements got stronger and stronger as the following story illustrates.

One day the Arizal was teaching his students under a tree. A bird flew across the sky and they heard the call of the bird. When the Arizal heard the call he said “Baruch Dayan Emet [blessed is the Righteous Judge], they just revealed to me from Heaven that my son will die.”

3 days later the son of the Arizal got sick and died.

The Arizal warned Rabbi Chaim Vital that if he keeps on bringing people to the classes, something bad will happen.

The Arizal’s death

During the 3 weeks of mourning the Dinim are very strong and especially during the 9 days.  During this time period is when the Arizal passed away. On the 5th of Av.

Before he died his students asked him, “Rebbi what will we do? Who will reveal the secrets of the Torah to us?

The Arizal responded “If you are worthy I will come back to teach you again.”

On July 25, 1572 the Arizal passed onto the next world and was buried in Tsfat.

His grave is a place of prayer for the entire Jewish nation and thousands upon thousands of people every year travel to his grave in Tsfat to pray.

“Mikol Beisi Neeman Hu”

The Vilna Gaon explains what we are missing now that we dont have prophecy. What we are missing is the ability to know what we are supposed to be doing in this world. In the time of a prophet, people would go to the prophet and find out what they should be doing in this world. The prophet would tell them and the person would happily go about fulfilling his or her unique task on this earth.

The Arizal had all the wisdom of the world. He could look at a person and see who he was in a past life, what he needs to fix, and what he was on the world to do.

The Pasuk says about Moshe Rabainu “Mikol Beisi Neeman Hu [He is trustworthy in all of my house]” meaning that Moshe Rabainu could enter all the chambers and gates of Hashem’s wisdom.

The same is by the Arizal “Mikol Beisi Neeman Hu”. Hashem gave him the gift to be able to enter to all the chambers of Heaven and reveal them to the world.

4 comments

    I love Rabbi Shepherd! and I love the new monogram, but what does א ל ל ל stand for?

      The logo is a deep secret and we are offering a prize for anyone who can figure it out

    good History Baruch HaShem

      Thank you

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