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Rabbi Isaac ben Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi aka Ha’ARI Hakadosh / Arizal passes away

On This Day in Jewish History: Av 5, 5332 / July 25th , 1572


On this day, Av 5, 5332 Rabbi Isaac ben Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi Z”L or better known as Ha’ARI Hakadosh / Arizal passes away in Tzfat at the incredibly young age of 37-38 – marking yesterday on the Hebrew calendar as his Yahrtzeit.


The Arizal, meaning The Lion, was a major rabbi and Jewish mystic of the mid 1500’s who lived in the Galilee, modern day Israel, at the time under Ottoman control as “Ottoman Syria”. According to many, the ARI is known to be the “father” of modern Kabbalah study (Jewish mysticism) and is credited with being the primary source for the school of Kabbalah called “Lurianic Kabbalah”


In the 16th century, following his death, the Ari Ashkenazi Synagouge in Tzfat, Israel was built in his memory and continues to function with daily services and an active community to this day.


The Arizal was born in 1534 Jerusalem to an Ashkenazi father and Sephardic mother. He would be raised by family members and by his early 20’s be fully engrossed in the study of the Zohar – the compiled writings of Kabbalah which had been published recently for the first time.


It was in Tzfat where the Arizal first had success in sharing his love for Kabbalah with other Torah-learning individuals. This was mostly due to the fact that Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak) had been leading the cause in Tzfat to spread the teachings of Kabbalah. Following the Ramak’s death, the Arizal filled the void in leadership for the remaining 2 years of his life.


It was in these final years where the ARI met his primary disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital to whom he related the deepest teachings of Kabbalah to be passed on. It should be noted that the Arizal did not write any of his teachings during his life himself and Rabbi Chaim Vital is credited with being the one who took on this task compiling them in “Kitvei Ari”, the “writings of the Arizal”


Within these writings is “Etz Chaim” – “Tree of Life” which expounds on the theoretical foundations found in Lurianic Kabbalah. Stemming from this work is “Pri Etz Chaim” – “Fruit of the Tree of Life” and “Shaar HaKavanot” – “Gate of Meditations” which both serve to show the reader how to apply the teachings found in Etz Chaim for many daily Jewish situations of meditation such as praying, when putting on teffilin, tzitzit, or when eating matzah. Aside from these works, the primary teaching of the Arizal that were compiled is one called “Shemonah Shearim” – “Eight Gates” corresponding to the various “gates” present in Jewish life to tap into a closer connection to God in practical terms.


Thanks to the Arizal and his student Rabbi Chaim Vital, Kabbalah went from a deeply meaningful secret to a deeply meaningful school of thought. In fact, R’ Chaim Vital writes in the ARI’s name that “it is a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom”. In the years and generations that followed, Lurianic Kabbalah would become widespread and without exaggerating, revolutionized the Jewish world.


 

Sources:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Luria

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lurianic_Kabbalah

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayyim_ben_Joseph_Vital

- https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/361878/jewish/The-Arizal.htm

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