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Maran Rabbi Josef Karo Life Story - Jacov Even-Chen Hebrewbooks_org_39687

Maran Rabbi Josef Karo Life Story - Jacov Even-Chen Hebrewbooks_org_39687

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Published by: Mrc Sumendap on Aug 21, 2011
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  • The Air of the Hills of Galilee
  • The Ordination Controversy
  • The Writing of the Book Beit Yosef
  • Among the Kabbalists
  • With Don Yosef Nasi
  • The Rabbi of Safed
  • The Writing of the Shulhan Arukh
  • The Migration of the Marranos to Safed
  • Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Moshe Isserles
  • The Kessef Mishneh
  • Legal Discussions
  • The Ascent to Heaven


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Chapter One In the Mists of Safed Chapter Two Before the Arrival of Rabbi Karo Chapter Three The Bells of Toledo Chapter Four The Time in Portugal Chapter Five The Exiles from Spain in Constantinople Chapter Six The Idea of Legal Ruling Chapter Seven Searching through the Genizot Chapter Eight Leaving After an Argument Chapter Nine The Meeting with Shlomo Molcho Chapter Ten In the City of Salonika Chapter Eleven The Voice of the Maggid Chapter Twelve On the Way to Eretz Israel

Chapter Thirteen The Air of the Hills of Galilee Chapter Fourteen The Ordination Controversy Chapter Fifteen The Writing of the Book Beit Yosef Chapter Sixteen Among the Kabbalists Chapter Seventeen With Don Yosef Nasi Chapter Eighteen The Rabbi of Safed Chapter Nineteen The Writing of the Shulhan Arukh Chapter Twenty The Migration of the Marranos to Safed Chapter Twenty-One Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Moshe Isserles Chapter Twenty-Four The Ascent to Heaven Chapter Twenty-Two The Kessef Mishneh Chapter Twenty-Three Legal Discussions












Chapter One

In the Mists of Safed

The fog that arose from the hills and enveloped the houses of Safed was interlaced with silver threads carpeting the streets of the city. The fog slowly rose over the houses in a whitish mist. Dawn intruded on this pastoral scene, a dawn composed of mysterious sparklings. It spread over the olive trees around the city. The leaves of the trees were anointed with dew. Slumber had cast a spell over the streets and alleys of the city. The surrounding hills cast a look of glad tidings upon the city. They rose up, one after the other, plying their silent secrets. A few people arose with the dawn and made their way to the synagogues, to study and meditate in seclusion. Out of the fog, the voice of the crier could be heard, awakening the city dwellers: "Arise in honor of the L rd, may He be blessed! The Divine Presence is in exile, our holy Temple is in ashes, and Israel is in great distress. The dawn has arisen, the time for prayer has arrived! Within a short time the alleys were filled with people hurrying to the synagogues, talit and tefilin under their arms. The oil lamps were lit in the synagogues. The lights sprang up within the lamps, while the city was still held in the grip of the dark threads of the night, which were woven together with the bright blue of the dawn. The city was filled with the sound of mishnayot, the Zohar, Psalms, the Prophets, prayers, entreaties. When the fog dispersed and the light of day spread, the worshipers, wrapped in their talitot, stood in the synagogues and spoke with their Maker, in crying, in shouts, or in a whispered melody. The sounds of prayer rose from the synagogues and shook the houses of the city and its narrow streets.


As the sounds spread out over the hills and fields, they brought with them an atmosphere of mercy and forgiveness. When the prayers ended, the worshipers sat around their tables and engaged in study. Some of them learned from the books of Maimonides, others from the aggadah in Ein Yaakov, and others still mishnayot, law, the holy Zohar, or the Bible, all this before going off to their trades. After theyfinishedtheir prayer and study, they felt purified, ready to face their daily labors. Groups of people remained in the synagogue the entire day, occupying themselves in the study of the Zohar, after which they would go to prostrate themselves on the tombs of the holy scholars. During the winter, when the roads would be blocked by torrents of flowing water, the men of Safed felt themselves cut off from the world, as if they were living on a distant island, far away from civilization, alone with themselves, awaiting the Redemption and the Messiah. Some of them felt that the Messiah must come from Galilee. On Thursdays they would gather after the morning Shaharit prayer in the great synagogue, pray for the exiled Divine Presence, for the people of Israel, and for the destroyed Temple. The sounds of a great wailing issued forth from the synagogue, and shattered men"s hearts. When the seventeenth of Tammuz neared, the righteous would assemble in the synagogues, sit on the floor, and bewail the destruction of the Temple for half the day. When they completed the prayers for Divine mercy, the recitation of the Thirteen Attributes, and Kaddish, they would gather together in groups to recite Psalms. They would pray for mercy for those at sea, and for the Jews coming to Eretz Israel by sea or by land, lest evil befall them on the way. They prayed for the well-being of the charitable who sent money to the poor of Eretz Israel. Afterwards they would pray for all of Israel throughout the world. Some would continue to recite selihot and entreaties until sunset. On the eve of each Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the new month, they would conduct prayers as if it were Yom HaKippurim HaKatan, a "little Yom Kippur."

and fruits. The stores remained open until the night. *** The reports which reached Safed of the Expulsion from Spain aroused both horror — and the thought that the Messianic time was approaching. turning inwards. In the schoolrooms the children were bent over their books. would bring water from the spring in a jug on their shoulders. Its domed houses descended the terraces of the hills. Some traveled throughout the villages as peddlers. Smoke arose from the chimneys from the baking of bread and flat pittot. There were also marketplaces for clothes and fabrics. learning Torah from the teachers who received their wages from the community. they did not ignore their livelihoods. oil. straddling the ridges which were deep in slumber. Safed contained markets for produce. Between one purchaser and another. while the men. spices. The Jews sat in the stores in the marketplaces and were engaged in buying and selling.3 Safed was enveloped in an atmosphere of mystery. Fires glowed in the little houses towards evening. They saw in their mind"s eye how the Messiah would descend from the hills of Galilee. even the scholars among them. Others were money changers. Although they were occupied in the study of the Torah and Kabbalah. buying and selling gold and silver. all of Safed was as a single family. while the peace and tranquility of Galilee was visible on the faces of their inhabitants. grains. Sometimes they went up to the tops of the hills to await him. or descended into the caves and tombs of the righteous to pray for the coming of the Redemption and for the speedy arrival of the End of Days. . cheeses. The women prepared supper. riding on a donkey and proclaiming the End of Days. Secluded from the outside world. they would study a holy book or recite a chapter of Psalms. People waited to hear the ringing of the bells of Redemption.

Many of them were forced to wander from country to country to seek relief. Great sorrow was aroused by the reports of the weak of will who remained in Spain and outwardly accepted the Christian faith. The few emissaries who escaped from Spain and reached Safed told of the tortures of the Inquisition. it was discussed and examined. or the opposite? Was this a punishment for the Jews of Spain. They waited for the reports which slowly arrived. with emissaries and in letters. Some of these Jews proclaimed Shema Yisrael ("Hear. When a report arrived. Those expelled left behind homes. The reports were abroad in the streets and lanes of Safed. Only those who accepted the Christian faith could remain in Spain. Many of the Spanish scholars who had arrived in Turkey wanted to know whether it was possible to come to Safed and spend their remaining days in the Holy Land. The horrifying reports of the tribulations of the expelled Jews and of the Marranos continued to reach Safed and shock all who heard them. Other groups of exiles reached the shores of North Africa. businesses. or Naples. They wanted to purify themselves from . which investigated the Marranos. O Israel") as they ascended the pyre. out of fear of the Inquisition. while others abandoned their faith and totally accepted the faith of the Christians. whose rulers opened the gates of the kingdom before them. The Jews in Safed sought to understand the meaning of this mass expulsion of Jews. who had absorbed the language and culture of the country? Was this a test of their faith? The Jews gathered in the synagogues to pray for the Children of Israel among the non-Jews. Portugal. Some of them continued to observe Judaism in secret. and synagogues and yeshivot. causing sorrow and pain. they were cast into the torture chambers until they confessed that they had secretly remained Jews. Amsterdam. People went perplexed from study hall to study hall. property. When it caught them observing the commandments of Judaism.4 A few scholars from among the Jews expelled from Spain came to Safed and told of the horrors of the Expulsion. Did it signal good tidings. in order to understand its meaning. Communities journeyed to the shores of Turkey.

did not permit the exiled Jews entry to the Holy Land. they would attack Safed. to pray at the tomb of Shimon bar Yohai. neither drown at sea nor be lost in the desert. People trembled as they prayed. They just gave up. another merchant added. under the threat of the destruction of entire Jewish communities by the Christian Church. The light of the Galilee hills poured over the houses of Safed. The Jews of Safed would go to Miron. The Mamluks. when the villagers saw that the government authority had weakened. in their anxiety about the coming days. They feared attacks by the peasants and the Druze from the Galilee villages. Those seized by the Inquisition in the act of observing Judaism were doomed to be burned at the stake. Instead. they lost their Judaism. someone who had come from Europe reported. One spice merchant said that in the cities of Spain the Marranos hid in their cellars and conducted the Passover Seder in secret. The Turkish Sultan opened the gates of his land to the exiles. robbing and pillaging. who ruled in Eretz Israel. Every so often. . The people of the Safed community shivered as one person told another the evil tidings of the thousands of exiles from Spain who wandered from shore to shore in search of refuge. Some preferred to jump into the sea and drown. someone else said. They did not have the strength to resist and lose all their property. The days passed in Safed. A few managed to slip into the land. The exiles from Spain wandered over the seas to the shores of different countries. Many of the Marranos repented and found their way back to Judaism. each different from the one before. Pleasant smells filled the spice market.5 the uncleanness they had acquired in Spain. But many Jews remained in Spain and accepted Christianity. and many of the exiles would be eternally grateful. the exiles from Spain. The storekeepers stood next to their wares and talked among themselves. They prayed that their brethren. and in return the authorities imposed new burdens on their Jewish subjects. There was no protection for Jewish property.

Many of them had sent letters to the heads of the Safed community. "Peace to my master. After they finished greeting each other. "Peace for the honor of your Torah. "Where Torah is. a pious and pure person. "My Torah is with me. They also discussed the Exile from Spain and the Marranos who had returned to Judaism and wanted to come to Safed to study the secret teachings. in order to find solace for their tired souls. who would make peace between a man and his wife and between a man and his fellow. said something about the prices and the merchandise. honor is. "Since you have merited seeing Elijah the Prophet." he responded." Rabbi Peretz replied to him. It was said that Elijah the Prophet had been revealed to Rabbi Yosef Saragossi next to the tomb of the Tanna Rabbi Judah bar Ilai." Rabbi Peretz answered. the head of the community. Not for every person. was doing. "That depends. and went to his yeshivah to deliver his lesson to his students.6 "Many of the exiles from Spain will come to Safed. one of the exiles from Sicily. asking for details about the Kabbahsts of Safed and the tomb of Shimon bar Yohai. At times when Rabbi Peretz walked from his house to the study hall he would go to his store. Rabbi Yosef"s face fell. "They will want to study Kabbalah. He looked. Rabbi Peretz asked him. can you tell us something about the affairs of the world?" 5 . but not my honor. to see how his business. near Ein Zeitim. they told each other of the new Torah teachings they had heard and the latest events in the study hall." Rabbi Yosef Saragossi greeted him." said Rabbi Peretz Colombo. the secret teachings. who himself had come from Spain." one of the students in his yeshivah added. which was run by his wife. and not in every place. On the way he met the sage Rabbi Yosef Saragossi.

which they loved and whose language they adopted. Apparently the Jews became assimilated into the non-Jewish culture of the Spanish people. It seems that the Heavens had mercy on me. "Even the person who is worthy of having miracles performed for him does not know himself why he has merited this. Sometimes. I foresee years of the study of the Zohar and Kabbalah in Safed. here in Safed. Everything has become dim. the reason for which I do not yet know. Heaven has granted him this merit. enveloped in silence. and that he was a concealed Tzadik." "And about the affairs of the world and the decrees against our brethren in Spain?" "Yes. years in which there will be a great flourishing of the hidden Torah. or they might have been contemplating some hidden teachings. Before the new day arrives. day and night. It is our role. They might have been reviewing words of Torah. I don"t know why I merited this. where Elijah appeared to me. these are difficult times. Many of the exiles from Spain will come to us to aid in the atonement for the sins of the recent generations. I do not always have mastery over the things that happen around me. The surrounding Galilee hills cast their glow on the city. I requested to be buried next to the tomb of Rabbi Judah bar Ilai. new tidings come. this may be because of his deeds in this world. to atone for the sins with prayer and the study of the hidden Torah. "How do people merit miracles?" Rabbi Peretz asked out of his silence. Yes. a righteous person.7 "A person merits seeing Elijah the Prophet only once in his lifetime. The Marranos will stream to the holy Galilee. for it was said that Rabbi Yosef Saragossi had had miracles performed for him." "Is there any basis to the reports of revealed mysteries attributed to you?" " I spend all my time on Torah and Divine service. and brought me to the place where Elijah appeared to me. Since this was so." The two scholars stood. . and a new day is created. difficult decrees of expulsion and conversion. At midnight the world changes.

"Does the holy community of Sidon still want to you to be with them?" Rabbi Peretz asked. The clouds over them drew nearer. matters were left hanging in the air. Rabbi Yosef hesitated. "Yes. All this happened to me on my way here. Rabbi Yosef Saragossi saw that his friend Rabbi Peretz possessed the qualities of leadership and greatness in Torah. which was enfolded within itself." As they were talking. and spirits. The day was still ahead of them. seeing in them hidden matters. Rabbi Yosef looked at them.8 A person must study them at the midnight hour. and had provided responses to questions on Jewish law. but this was forgotten when some people passed by and greeted them. while the small chickens imitated their elders. Rabbi Peretz Colombo told Rabbi Yosef Saragossi about his yeshivah. After a period of silence and thought. It is possible that he received these on account of the merits of his forefathers. a flock of chickens went past. In this manner the two sages talked among themselves. But I preferred Galilee to Sidon. . for he was occupied with his regular classes. Rabbi Peretz wished to send his greetings to the members of Rabbi Yosef's household. *** From time to time harsh decrees would descend upon the Jewish community. while at other times. They had headed the community in Italy. their conversation was renewed. connected with the outside world only by letters and emissaries. when I passed Sidon on my way from Beirut. and offered thirty ducats a year to maintain myself and my family. Some of the newcomers stopped to ask questions of Jewish law. At times they reached a conclusion. while others did not see these things. pecking in the dirt. the Turkish governor and the community asked me to be with them. a day of study and learning. and asked him to lead a class there. but progressed slowly. Some screeched loudly. deeds.

people came running from the marketplace. Time passed. The governor will punish us severely. An emissary from the governor came to the marketplace of Safed and searched for the head of the Jewish community. for he had been absorbed in the study of the hidden teachings. Decrees such as these descended on the community quite frequently. Since the community numbered among its ranks scholars. Emissaries went forth to search for white roosters in the courtyards of Safed. The emissaries went outside and waited at the entrance to the study hall. They told the heads of the community. but they could not find a single one. the members of the community sank in their despair.9 When the governor issued a new decree. Rabbi Yosef motioned to them to leave him by himself. The emissaries came to Rabbi Yosef Saragossi. who sat in the study hall. and no unnecessary words crossed his lips. the community turned to them for counsel. The threat of the governor hung over them: if they did not bring him white roosters. wondering from where their salvation would come. It took seyeral moments until he understood what the emissaries said to him. The nervous emissaries did not know what to do. but Rabbi Yosef remained in the study hall. At the same time." Rabbi Yosef raised his eyes from the book he was studying and listened to their words as if they came from another world. and we have not found such roosters in all the marketplaces and courtyards of Safed. who were waiting outside the study hall: "Something strange has happened. Many roosters which were black or red have suddenly turned white. . some of whom were Kabbahsts who studied the hidden teachings. Our lives hang in the balance. they would come to a bitter end. the Jewish community had to supply the governor with twenty snow-white roosters. So desired the governor. This day was a fast day for Rabbi Yosef. He brought a strange message: within a short time. and did not come out to them. The emissaries stood before him and said: "May our master save us! The governor has ordered us to bring him twenty white roosters.

Rabbi Yosef has been called "Rabbi Yosef the White" by the people of Safed. These questions concerned not only the residents of Safed. They did not dare return to the study hall. we and our children will die of starvation. different. but also the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. however. methods for determining the shemitah year. One of the sages of Jerusalem disagreed with the determination of the shemitah year according to Maimonides. in which the land has to lie fallow. The ones who had fields sown with grain wanted to know whether they had to stop their work for two years. Some of the farmers came to the sages of the Court and said. The Jewish farmers who lived in the villages near Safed tended vines and orchards. saying. They purchased some of them and sent them to the governor." At the same time the sages of Jerusalem also gathered and discussed the determination of the shemitah year.10 and now we can bring the governor what he requested. there were also three other. they went to the marketplace. He brought sources and proofs for changing this method. The sages of Safed would gather every day in the study hall and discuss the questions of Jewish law that came before them. because he turned the roosters white. and all debts are cancelled)? According to Maimonides. the shemitah year fell in that year. The sages would discuss the matter and issue their ruling. "We will determine the shemitah year according to the law. and . Instead. Sabbatical. The farmers stood outside and waited for the ruling. or for only one year? The sages of Safed gathered in their meeting place in the study hall. The people would stand before the study hall and ask their questions. " I f we have to stop working the land for two years. where they found flocks of white roosters. Ever since then. year." The sages calmed them." The people understood that Rabbi Yosef Saragossi had acted in his own way to turn the red roosters into white ones. In the year 1504 the question arose: which year was the shemitah year (the seventh.

Our hands shall be slack. to ask their opinion. as the hand of the Lord rests upon us. Shmuel Mas"ud came to the sages of Safed and said. " I f there is no wisdom in Safed. "We have heard from the tellers of the truth that you are divided into groups regarding the knowledge of the shemitah year.11 made a calculation different from that of Maimonides. because of the disagreement between the different methods of determining it. whether small or big. four sages of the Mustarab community. The letter was signed by ten Sefardi sages." The sages of Safed supported the method of Maimonides for the determination of the shemitah year. and our heart shall melt i f there be dissension in the city. are not illiterate). They also wrote." . who had discussed this matter for some time. we gather together to deliver our judgement. but had not seen fit to consult the sages of Safed until they realized that they could not reach a decision. " I have been sent by the sages of Jerusalem to ask your opinion regarding the determination of the shemitah year. and one sage from North Africa. They also wanted to know what had been the custom throughout the years in Galilee. . Emissaries and letters went back and forth between Jerusalem and Safed. The sages of Jerusalem discussed his argument. and decided to send an emissary to the sages of Safed. there are at least elders here. " I n every matter. and to know what their custom had been throughout the years. The sages of Safed wrote in one letter: "We in the hills of Galilee also do not cut reeds in the meadow (that this. Messengers were sent from Safed to hear the opinion of the sages of Damascus and other communities in Syria. regarding things which are permitted or forbidden and regarding monetary matters. This mission was entrusted to the sage Shmuel Mas"ud. They sent a letter to the sages of Jerusalem regarding the disagreement that had arisen." The sages of Safed replied to the emissary of the sages of Jerusalem that they had been hurt by the attitude of the sages of Jerusalem.

a report had gone forth regarding a disagreement between the sages of Safed and those of Jerusalem. Now that they knew that the shemitah year had been determined according to the law. Since the sages of Safed had delivered their ruling. knew when the shemitah year fell. they let the land rest and sat in the study halls to study Torah. some of whom had been among the exiles from Spain. The opinion of the sages of Safed was the same as the opinion of the majority in Jerusalem. They sought peace in working the holy soil of Eretz Israel. Things were clear now. and that their opinion had to be heard. a special emissary was sent from Jerusalem. Accordingly. but merely a discussion of the legal issues involved. . and had not immediately asked the sages of Safed for their opinion. Before this.12 The letter implied that the sages of Safed were angry at the sages of Jerusalem for having discussed the issue of the shemitah year among themselves. Some of the Jewish farmers had come to Eretz Israel after experiencing the Expulsion from Spain and other sufferings. Now that a ruling had been issued. the farmers in the hills of Galilee. and when they could work their fields. but rather had waited until after a disagreement had arisen in Jerusalem. to placate them and hear their opinion. they knew that this was not a disagreement. The sages of Safed said that they were as capable of determining the law as were the sages of Jerusalem.

13 .

like the others learning Torah. The residents of the villages in Galilee who worked the land sent their sons to learn in the yeshivot of Safed. who headed a yeshivah and the rabbinical court in Safed after the death of Rabbi Yosef Saragossi. came to Safed. In addition to studying Torah. The latter were those born in the land. native to Galilee. One Jew came from a family. after the Exile. The sages disagreed on this question. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni clashed with the judge Rabbi Moshe Dayan. some also dealt in commerce. Some said that every Torah scholar should be exempted from the tax. while the students in Rabbi .14 Chapter Two Before the Arrival of Rabbi Karo The sages of Damascus and Turkey. especially those who studied Torah. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni requested that the students in his yeshivah be exempted from the tax. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni had come to Safed and established a yeshivah of the Mustarabs. or from an entire city. His request was denied. the Nagid of Egyptian Jewry. on the other hand. The yeshivot in Safed and Jerusalem received aid from Rabbi Yitzhak Sholal. while others said only those who devoted all their time and energy to Torah should be exempt. had come to Safed as individuals. who had grown up among the Arabs and knew their language and customs. He assumed the burden of supporting the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Eretz Israel). They had come to Turkey before arriving in Eretz Israel. The population consisted of Sefardim (Spanish Jews) and Mustarabs. The Sefardim. even if he also engaged in business. A question arose regarding the exemption from the city tax for Torah scholars and yeshivah students. as well as the sages of Spain. Although his pupils sat and studied Torah. they had not been granted the tax exemption given to Torah scholars.

who was known as a great Torah scholar and who had a large yeshivah. and his teachings were accepted. Rabbi Moshe Dayan assumed the leadership of the Safed community. Rabbi Moshe Dayan did not exempt Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni and his students from the tax. for fear of arousing the ire of the authorities. Rabbi Moshe Dayan 's protectors. Scholars in the city complained against him. People would come to Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni to complain about Rabbi Moshe Dayan"s behavior towards them. He was one of the richest people in the Safed community. and some of them left the city due to his rule. for Rabbi Moshe Dayan had ties with the authorities. On his return he would bring with him various foodstuffs to sell. Rabbi Moshe Dayan instituted a regulation that no one could expound in public in the study halls of Safed without having asked permission from him. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni sent a letter to the Nagid. Rabbi Yishmael. but he held the keys to the community"s affairs.5 Moshe Dayan"s yeshivah were freed from paying taxes. but he could not help them. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni. Some said that he had assumed this position dishonestly. a renowned judge from Damascus. came to Safed to live in the city and spread his teachings. His customs and practices were oppressive to the Torah scholars in Safed. Rabbi Moshe Dayan was a controversial figure. But his words were of no avail. and did not agree to change his opinion. fields. but no one dared oppose him. as was the practice regarding scholars. full of students. Rabbi Moshe Dayan attempted to supplant Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni. however. 1 . Rabbi Yishmael expounded in public. occupied himself only with Torah. When he saw this. and did not engage in any business. At times he would go to the villages to deal in honey and other items. with the help of government officials. in which he cried out against Rabbi Moshe Dayan"s discrimination against him and against his yeshivah. He owned vineyards. There was tension between the Torah scholars in Safed and the yeshivah students. and oil presses in the vicinity of Safed.

Rabbi Yitzhak Sholal. The people of Biria and Safed complained that all the animals he slaughtered were unfit. He studied ritual slaughtering. He is as fit to judge it as a rebellious elder. He is capable of doing all. A yeshivah student from the village of Alma. *** Rabbi Moshe Dayan gathered around him people from the villages and established them in his yeshivah. the latter attacked him and would not let him teach in public. But after Rabbi Yosef Saragossi"s death. Some of them were not fit to deal with holy matters. but when he came to Safed. he did as he wished. But since he was powerful. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni"s appeal went unanswered. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni wrote to his friends abroad. The Mamluk authorities were pleased with Rabbi Moshe Dayan. where he was honored by all the city"s scholars. whether rightly or not. something he would not have been able to do . Some said that he split with the authorities the taxes that he collected from the members of the community for use by the community. "Woe to the generation with such a leader. lived in Ein Zeitim. known as Hillel Alamani. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni was distressed by this. Rabbi Moshe Dayan restored him to his position as slaughterer. but he was powerless against Rabbi Moshe Dayan.6 This grieved the sage Rabbi Yishmael. and he left Safed and returned to Damascus." He ruled the community. The Mamluk authorities supported Rabbi Moshe Dayan. He was "the man whom the king wants to honor. but his slaughtering was prohibited by Rabbi Yosef Saragossi. as was the custom at the time. Rabbi Yishmael had collected money in Damascus on behalf of Rabbi Moshe Dayan"s yeshivah. but he was afraid to intervene. and others were forced to flee from him. The sages in Safed who refused to accept Rabbi Moshe Dayan" s authority were shamed by his actions against them. They turned to the Nagid in Egypt.

Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni said to Rabbi Moshe Dayan. but Rabbi Moshe evaded his responsibilities with various excuses: "The community gave to me. Rabbi Moshe Dayan was entrusted with the money. This year was a year of drought. "Now is the time to spend the money entrusted to you by the widow on behalf of the poor of the city. lest the authorities take advantage of his complaint to collect this money from the community. for he had stolen the money of the poor. Rabbi Moshe Dayan publicly quarreled with the scholars of Safed. and not from Rabbi Moshe Dayan.17 during Rabbi Yosef Saragossi"s lifetime. Rabbi Yosef wanted to turn to the authorities and complain about Rabbi Moshe"s behavior. but the Safed community did not awake to take part in the struggle against him. but no one was capable of besting him. Rabbi Moshe was occupied with the community"s affairs. and of what good would this be? Therefore Rabbi Yosef kept silent. *** . Everyone answered him that they knew nothing of the matter. because of the few members of the community who enjoyed his favors. who was close to them. A widow died and left her property for the benefit of the community." He asked the heads of the community in Safed to tell him if they knew who took the widow"s money from Rabbi Moshe Dayan." Since matters worsened. as did others. Rabbi Yosef grieved over the deeds of this judge. " I spent this on other poor people. and the poor of the city suffered terribly from hunger. and the community took from me. He was afraid to do so. Rabbi Yosef came to him once again and requested the widow"s money for them. and no one ever saw it again. but he did not ask anyone else for their advice or opinion." Rabbi Moshe Dayan replied.

Safed .

especially since the journey to Egypt was so difficult. who suffered from the rule of the Mamluks." The members of the community feared to quarrel with Rabbi Moshe Dayan. "Why do you not treat my yeshivah and my pupils as you treat the scholars who do not work. who had sent money for the support of the yeshivot and general settlement in Safed. . The Jews of Safed prayed for the arrival of the Sultan and his armies and for their victory in battle. The exiles from Spain who came to Safed after passing through Turkey related that they had been well received by the Turkish authorities. claimed that he was carrying out the wishes of the Nagid. The sage Rabbi Yishmael did not return to Safed after he had left the city because of the suffering Rabbi Moshe caused him. Public matters in Safed were conducted according to the opinion of Rabbi Moshe. Rabbi Yitzhak Sholal. "We cannot influence Rabbi Moshe Dayan. He is the one who decides. . awaited coming under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Jews of Safed. because the Mamluks had increased their burden as well. on his part. and exempt them from the taxes?" They answered him. because they did not find an audience for their teachings. Rabbi Moshe. The authorities have given him permission to free people from the taxes. because of his connections with the Mamluk authorities. who did not consult with others.9 The shadows cast by Rabbi Moshe Dayan were more numerous than the light he spread. which was merciful and in whose army Jews themselves served. Other sages who came to Safed also did not remain in the city for a long time. This was due to Rabbi Moshe' s demand that anyone wishing to teach in public had to receive his approval. The Jews of Egypt also prayed for an improvement in their condition. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni gathered the important members of the community in the study hall and presented his charges. No on dared to turn to the Nagid.

gathered around the Jewish quarter. . Houses were robbed. 5 . and sent them food and clothing. The Samaritan informers told the Mamluks: "The Jews are rebelling against you! They are praying for the arrival of the Sultan and his army!" The Jews of Cairo hid in their homes from fear of the Mamluks. The Jews of Safed were taken by surprise. . otherwise no Jewish settlement will remain in Galilee.20 During the time of the battles between the Mamluk and Ottoman armies. who favored the Mamluks. Rumors arrived from Egypt that there as well the Jews could expect to be attacked. The heads of the community sent a letter to the community in Egypt. synagogues were plundered. for they had told the Jews that after they would defeat the Sultan s army they would come to the Jews" homes to plunder them. Save the little that has remained. The mobs have attacked us in broad daylight. and pillaged their property. False rumors spread through Safed and Galilee. Every household suffered. that the Sultan"s forces had been defeated by the Mamluks. because many of the looters were their neighbors and friends. beat and murdered the Jews. After hearing this. They feared additional attacks. the Arabs of Galilee. The attacks by the Arabs on the Jews of Safed left the community impoverished. The Mamluk authorities stood by and took no action. warning that "Our property has been stolen. because they had been left without anything. because they had rejoiced at the victories of the Sultan"s army. the Jews were accused by the Samaritans of awaiting the arrival of the Sultan. came forth from their houses. We face destruction. and even of aiding him as spies. A few families who had relatives in Damascus and in Sidon went to these cities. The Jews in Egypt offered their aid to their brethren. The impoverished community in Safed faced total destruction. Neither the elderly nor infants were spared.

He extends his protection over the Jews wherever they are. who is knowledgeable in Torah. "Turkey has won. Some said that the change of government would hasten the time of the Messiah. by interpreting signs in dreams. for they hoped for an improvement in their situation.21 The ruins were rebuilt with the aid of the Egyptian Jews. A rumor reached their ears: "In the army of the Sultan there is a Rabbi Moshe Hamon. The days in Safed moved between the throes of one sinking empire and the rise of the new power conquering the East. One sage who sought to discover in a dream whether Turkey would conquer Egypt received in reply the verse: "And this shall be peace. They awaited the coming of the Redemption. The Jews of Safed pinned many hopes on the victories of the Turks." . a Jew with a merciful heart. for Turkey was favorably inclined towards the Jews and opened its gates to the exiles from Spain. and that the Ottoman Empire would come to rule the Galilee city. The battles continued. when the Assyrian shall come into our land. Some of them secretly prayed for the arrival of the Sultan and his troops. lest their neighbors fall upon them once again. the physician of the Sultan. As was their custom. and the community was saved from total annihilation. but it seemed that the end of the Mamluk rule was near. The sages of Safed sought to determine. but many left the city because of the impending danger. and is coming to Safed. The days were ones of change. The study halls of Safed buzzecj with news and rumors." "The Messiah will come from Galilee. 5 *** The war between the Mamluks and the Turks caused the Jews in Safed to expect the imminent arrival of the Messiah. whether the Sultan would succeed in conquering the Mamluk forces. the Jews of Safed continued to pray and study on behalf of their brethren in the Diaspora and their families in Galilee. anxiously following the progress of the war between the Mamluks and the Turks." someone else said.

he was answered with a verse: "And a fierce (oz) king shall rule over them. to await the Messiah with prayers and entreaties. "Then the days of the Messiah will draw near. until the Mamluks abandoned Galilee and the Turkish soldiers conquered Safed. would the Turk be victorious and conquer Eretz Israel. solved the riddle. who was masterful in his knowledge of the meanings of Biblical verses. and found the verse in the Book of Micah (5:4)." a rumor spread among the community." The sage looked for the verse. the community arose from the ashes. The sages did not understand the meaning of the verse. and found it in the Book of Isaiah (19:4). He sought interpretations for the verse.22 The sage searched.e. and labored greatly until he found the answer to his question: In the year 77 {ayin-zayin. But once the government took firm control. The anticipation of the Messiah"s coming from Galilee increased. i. a spirit of great days. 5377 [ 1517) the government of Salim will rule in Egypt. He girded himself like a lion. arriving at the gates of Egypt? These preparations by the sage aided him to receive an answer in a dream. He encloaked everything in mystical intent and sought to learn. Once again this sage was asked to discover hidden meanings in a dream. "Until the Sultan Salim will consolidate his rule over Anatolia. Time dragged on and the battles between the Mamluks and the Turks continued. fasted and afflicted himself. and mentioned esoteric allusions. a spirit of things which were about to happen. The Jews .. The city suffered looting and rebellions by the peasants. the sages were doubtful regarding the solution of the question. letters." Nevertheless. They argued over its meaning until one sage. A different spirit filled Safed. Some Jews went to seclude themselves in the hills. prayed with great devotion. and continued to discuss what was signified by the Turkish victories. Once again. and verses. which is Assyria. The war left its mark on Safed. He found great numbers of interpretations. and then there will be peace.

23 returned to the study halls to pray and study. It opened its gates to the refugees who had been expelled from Spain and who sought a safe port where their battered souls could rest and atone for the sins they had committed in Spain as Marranos. They had heard that he would come from Galilee. Under Turkish rule. People were drawing near to the Messianic era. to understand their fate and the sin which caused the Expulsion from Spain. every morning and every day. Each week new families arrived in Safed from throughout the Empire. The rumor had its effect. People searched for a remote. 5 . or from the ports of Acco or Haifa. they did not despair. The exiles came on foot via Tyre and Sidon. every day and every hour. They interpreted mystical allusions and verses. when they wandered from city to city and from country to country in search of a place of refuge. and caused a great awakening. He was only a peasant from one of the villages. They wanted to impart new meaning to their lives after the hardships they had endured. engaging in mortification. and reached the upper worlds. close to heaven. and continued to await the Messiah. and await the Messiah. to swim in a sea of sublime thoughts. They wanted to dwell with the "Sabbath angels' during the week as well. and reaching the highest levels. coming in a caravan of donkeys to Safed in the hills. isolated place where they could be alone with their Creator. the Safed community flourished. They would walk in its alleys and lanes and look out upon the hills. They were making mystical combinations of letters. They thought that in Safed they would attain the proper sublime frame of mind. when they could not observe the commandments. The roads to Safed were open. A rumor spread among the Spanish exiles in Turkey and throughout the empire that a center of Kabbalah had been established in Safed. The exiles from Spain were enchanted by Safed. they saw that their imagination had deceived them. At times they imagined that far off in the distance they saw a poor person riding on a donkey — perhaps this is the Messiah? But when he drew closer. Nevertheless.

Portugal. to announce to the masses the day in which the Jews would leave Spain. and Turkey. Sardinia. 5 . Many of the exiles went to the neighboring country. These were the Marranos. Some were ordinary people seeking a quiet life among the Jews in the Galilee hills. Algeria. The souls of some were damaged by the sins they had committed along the long path they had traversed until they returned to Judaism. Sicily. Ships set out from Spain for North Africa. Chapter Three The Bells of Toledo The church bells rang in Toledo. ' Some Jews did not have the courage to leave their homes and property. Corsica. the capital of Spain. A royal edict had been issued: "All the Jews must accept the Christian faith. Others were Torah scholars or Kabbahsts. The day of the banishment of the city"s Jews had arrived.24 Their faces were wrinkled and their memories still painful from the events of the Expulsion. Holland. The bells rang in all the cities of Spain on that day. who submitted to the decree and left the House of Israel. The majority of the Jews. The expulsion edict issued by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella listed all the countries and islands which the Spanish monarch ruled: Majorca. however. Whoever does not agree to this must leave Spain. the Ninth of Av 5252 (1492). They remained in Spain and outwardly adopted the Christian faith. became wanderers and sought places to live in other lands. and Gibraltar.

to find ships. They did not feel themselves to be humbled. Others rode on horseback. He was the son of Ephraim Karo. claiming that they owed debts to the monks. "Let me down. women. and children walked with their bundles on their shoulders. only goods. and the two walked along with the other exiles. the decree had permitted the Jews to dispose of their property as they chose." he said. Rabbi Ephraim. who had found no rest for their weary feet since they had been sent away from their land. " I " m strong enough to walk. Their homes.25 The decree did not permit the exiles to take with them silver or gold. a distinguished elderly man ascended a small hill and proclaimed in a trembling voice: "Cursed be the man of Israel who returns to the impure land of Spain. a Torah scholar. when they rested from their walking. This was a historic moment: the moment when the Children of Israel left Spain. the heart of a small child. Even those who in normal times never entered the synagogue joined in the prayers. The father. A small boy walked slowly among the long line of exiles. absorbed the crying of the exiles. but rather disappointed with the people in whose midst they had lived and whom they had loved." "Cursed! Cursed!" the exiles repeated after him. (Officially. After the afternoon Minhah prayer. 5 . His name was Yosef. they stood to pray. The father set him down and took his hand." He wanted to save his father 's strength. The king confiscated the lands of Jews. with no buyers. A great silence hung over the exiles. As the father walked he silently recited chapters of Psalms. carried his son on his shoulders. one of the leaders of the Toledo community.) The exiles set out on foot and in wagons towards the coasts. In the middle of their journey. were free for the taking. His heart. The pictures which flashed before his eyes were seared in his memory. nor coins. and had not extended aid in their hour of distress. This people had betrayed them. He saw the exiles as the children of kings going into exile. The elderly.

under the protection of the king of Naples. he died along the way.' In the meantime. Rabbi Ephraim recited verses all along the way. "Here. Yosef met young boys from other places. children. As he sat next to his father. Yosef was in pain. and ate their meals. one of the leading scholars of Toledo. His face was white from the rigors of the journey. he heard his father"s words. as well as those of his uncle Rabbi Yitzhak. Along both sides of the road there were hills and small forests in which the exiles rested from their walking. it will only be a little while until we come to the inn. He was buried properly. When they were walking. "We are going to Italy. they walked together. my son. they met people from another city. and relatives. Rabbi Yitzhak Karo. . but he ate little. who joined them.26 The child heard the verses issuing forth from his father"s mouth. Yosef. Sick and in pain. We can find a peaceful place there. and their wives. His mother hugged him. and when the camp rested he would play children"s games with them. in the shade of one of the hills.' . Tears dripped from his eyes and he burst out crying. and he looked at the world through them with a look of mercy. Next to him marched his uncle. felt a touch of sadness. despite her entreaties to him to eat more. The mother of little Yosef prepared food for him from what she had brought with her in her bag. here. He would become immersed within himself. His eyes were as blue as the sea. "Where are you going?" they asked. "To Portugal ! Rabbi Ephraim answered them. however. One old man who was going with them dropped out of the march route. The other children saw this as just a pleasant outing. as he walked alongside them the entire journey.

so that he could go to his mother." "But they don"t exile them from the country." Someone else answered him. Rabbi Ephraim held in his hand a small box containing his family tree from many generations. inflict harsh decrees upon them." "Maybe we should go to France or England?" one of the exiles asked. "Did you say Germany? They persecute the Jews there. but the Jews there are imprisoned in their own quarters. holding his hand so he would not fall." was the answer. " I want to go to Germany. . Watches of policemen accompanied the Jews. and when will we come to the inn to rest?" "Soon. but Yosef continued crying. presumably so that the villagers along the way would not attack them. soon. Yosef. The child asked to come down. who was walking along the side of the road with the other children. He did not let this box out of his grasp. The real reason was to make sure that the Jews were expelled.27 But Yosef did not stop crying. and they don"t force them to accept their religion. The father took Yosef off his shoulders and gave him to his mother." his father Rabbi Ephraim said. where are we going. He also tried to quiet him down. "These countries have forbidden the Jews entry." But the road was long. and they do not have permission to leave them. One of the exiles. You will be able to rest and eat. to find refuge? They mentioned all the countries to which they could go. and go to sleep afterwards. His father took him on his shoulders. stood up and said. "Father. and to which country could they go. There are many Jews there." "Yes. an important member of the Toledo community. The exiles talked among themselves: what was the best route to take. The child asked his father during the journey. and carried him like this all the way. and take away all their rights. "He is crying because of the Exile. who will be able to help us.

" one person said. Rabbi Ephraim was determined to go to Portugal. and the exiles were familiar with their language and customs. Everyone agreed that the king of Naples is good for the Jews. The Jews who lived in this land had done much on behalf of their exiled brethren. "Don Yitzhak Abrabanel went there and he has important standing at the royal court. but Turkey nevertheless seemed to be far away. who brought great growth to his country. and accepted them very warmly. In addition. "Turkey has opened its gates to the exiles from Spain and it receives them with open arms. He offered his land as a refuge for the exiles." These facts were known to all. and the rigors of a . and wants them to develop his land. because they had relatives there. and because the people there resembled the Spaniards. Some of them wanted to join the members of the neighboring community who were going south. Some of the exiles went to Germany. He wants their capabilities. "Yes. to Italy. This would aid them in finding a refuge and in earning their livelihood. "King Ferdinand I in Italy likes the Jews. there was a large Jewish community there. But this did not stop them from arguing all the way about the lands and peoples with whom they could find refuge. many of the other Jews followed him to Portugal. .28 Most of the exiles headed for Portugal. He though that it would be possible to find refuge in this country. beyond the sea. we have heard of this/' many of those listening agreed. the knowledge they bring with them. "The Turkish Sultan said that he does not understand how the King of Spain could expel the best of his citizens. and the port is bustling. and the energy characteristic of the Jews. Yosef s crying interfered with the discussion of the grownups. The discussion continued. yes. both because it was closeby." someone added. Once he had made his decision. so much so that they had to quiet him again. "In Naples commerce is flourishing." one of the exiles announced." others agreed with him.

" Rabbi Ephraim answered. The rock sent up a cloud of dust. holding his hand. One rock fell close to where little Yosef's mother stood. Some of them even lived in caves or in mud huts. "They are not walking like 5 . you are destined for great things. and said. they also mentioned North Africa. His mother burst out in tears. Long live the Kings who expels you!" Young boys chased after them and threw rocks at them. The farmers plowed their fields. and call out to them. "Yosef. these insolent boys almost cracked your skull!' Rabbi Ephraim hugged him. "Why did the Spanish communities receive the punishment of exile? What sin did they commit?" one of the important members of the community asked. and villagers" houses surrounded by fields with vegetables. "My little child. accepting its spirit. Some of them looked at the groups of exiles. and would not let him go. marching up to the edge of the forest. his mother and father held him. because the peoples among whom they lived also were poor." From then on. barely missing his head. speaking its language. "Their sin was intermingling with the Spanish people. The young people stood on the sides of the road and stung the exiles with their shouted insults. the landscape of their youth.29 voyage at sea were dangerous for little children. where there were many Jewish communities. Rabbi Ephraim looked at the host of exiles. You were miraculously saved from a large rock. and learning its customs. They did not stop until they left the village. When they listed the different lands. the priest would come out with a cross in his hand. Most of these communities were poor. while others continued their plowing. "Cursed are the unbelievers. Whenever they passed a church. There were hills with forests. *** The exiles looked at the landscape around them.

He read to them verses from the Torah. other children in the long line of exiles also began crying. who had accepted Christianity to attain wealth and honor. 5 . interpreting them falsely to "prove ' the truth of Christianity.30 wretched exiles. lest word of this come to the ears of the priests. but like the sons of kings. Therefore he advised all the exiles to think of words of Torah while they had to listen to his preaching." They accepted the expulsion wholeheartedly. His cries silenced the convert. He walked after them and exhorted them to accept Christianity. Most of them were simple folk. they discussed among themselves the question. just so long as they would not have to convert. The exiles asked Rabbi Ephraim Karo to answer the convert. When the exiles reached a crossroads. with their heads held high. Outwardly they accepted Christianity. Rabbi Ephraim feared to dispute with him. A converted Jew. The convert would not leave the exiles. Which way to go? Rabbi Ephraim and Rabbi Yitzhak decided to go to Portugal. until their voices drowned out the words of the convert. They were both angry and sad about their brethren who had remained in Spain and accepted the Christian religion. who would then arrest him. Upon hearing Yosef's cries. Some of the Marranos accompanied them a long part of their way into Exile. The relatives of the exiles among them received from them their property in order to guard it. When they came to a crossroads. and the Jews went along in silence. The convert walked along. Little Yosef burst out crying at the same time. who cared for their money and property. while they maintained their Judaism at home. He spoke to the exiles. His mother made no attempt to quiet him this time. stood among them with a large crucifix on his breast. Some were rich people. attempting to convince them to accept the Christian faith. they met exiles from other places. as Rabbi Ephraim had advised them. The exiles walked and remained silent.

We will go together until we cross the border and reach a safe place. They had large businesses and much property." "Yes. The children among the exiles were kept close to their parents. to live constantly with two faces. The Jews went in large groups." *** . "Will they keep their promise?" Rabbi Yitzhak asked. "The King of Portugal is liable to follow in the path of the King of Spain and expel the Jews. for the life of the Jewish communities there is a continuation of our life in Spain." Rabbi Ephraim and Rabbi Yitzhak went at the head of the column. Rabbi Ephraim said to his brother. and they will be discovered. or force them to accept Christianity. It was told that priests kidnapped Jews from among the caravans of exiles. so that they could be sold as slaves. They grieved over the Jews who had remained in Toledo and had accepted Christianity. Rabbi Yitzhak: "Let us not separate from each other. Entire generations will be lost. and whoever did not agree to accept their faith was sold into slavery. we will go to Portugal." "Great spiritual strength is needed to withstand this. There we will find our friends and acquaintances. I agree. for protection against the kidnappers. This is why they held Yosef's hand so tightly. to strengthen the weak. A gloomy spirit settled over them. Informers go about among them. Once again you will be forced to set out. and they did not have the courage to leave their property and their comfortable lives. We should always go together." "Nevertheless. but had promised to secretly keep their Judaism. followed by the community of Toledo." A rumor spread among the exiles that Jews were being kidnapped. The pressure of the Inquisition is great.31 Some of the other exiles told them to reconsider their decision. " I am afraid they will not be able to do so.

Safed .

They didn"t have the strength to continue a life of wandering. "Where are you headed?" they asked the others. They extinguished the fire. Rabbi Ephraim and Rabbi Yitzhak. Their fate will be as ours. too. and no one knew where they were. "But we have relatives there. The children fell asleep. They feared that these were the King"s cavalry. "To the shores of North Africa. They continued to walk until they came to the fire." The Jews in the caravan told of the Jews who had fallen by the wayside. or they may have returned to their homes. From afar they heard the sounds of riders on horseback." they answered." Rabbi Ephraim told them. The exiles from Toledo spent the night in the woods together with the families they found there. They might have been kidnapped. the descendents of Spanish Jewry.33 Night fell. "The army of the King of Spain will come there. These were local people going to hunt. When they came near the fire. They planned to continue on their way the following day. Here and there a baby could be heard. and asked his mother for some food. took out books and studied them after the prayers. The two brothers. and they were afraid of what the future held in store." "Where will you find a ship to take you there?" "We have sent out agents to find a ship sailing for North Africa. Yosef became friends with them and they played together. They had vanished. searching for Jews who had first converted and then returned to Judaism. "Jewish communities. they found the members of a nearby community who also had set forth. They feared that highwaymen were following them." they replied. Such Jews were handed over to the Inquisition to be tortured. The riders passed the forest without stopping. A great fire flickered in the distance. There were little children among this new community. and spread out in the forest. Yosef was hungry. . live there.

and issued a proclamation to the members of his community. for we have relatives there. I fear what will befall us in Egypt. "Yes. Nevertheless. .34 She gave him something to eat. enveloped within himself. It is a land with a different culture. but was deterred at the last minute. who was a wealthy man. the leading scholar of our time. and they warmly received the exiles. as soon as it was light. No one knew his fate. Perhaps he did this after being tortured. not to set out for exile. "Since we have decided to go to Portugal. Exiles from Spain who had come to Egypt had done well from the moment they had arrived there. has gone to Egypt. "We have heard a rumor that Rabbi Yaakov Berab. or perhaps he was weak of character. supported them and spent his money on them. They told of the head of a community who could not resist the temptation. bundled up in their clothes for warmth. Thy told about a certain Jew who was about to set out with the exiles. "Perhaps we should go to Egypt to find refuge?" Rabbi Ephraim asked his brother Rabbi Yitzhak. The Nagid of the Jews. while in Egypt we will have to start everything . He feared exile and wandering over the face of the earth. He shook with emotion. The sights of the previous day were engraved in his mind. The next day. A cloud hovered over the camp of refugees in the forest. Rabbi Yitzhak stood. they prayed Shaharit. but rather to accept Christianity. Other children also lay down between the trees. crying." " I also have heard such a rumor. while Portugal is closer to the conditions under which we lived in Spain. From time to time he woke up. It will be easier to continue our life in Portugal. "Would it not be proper to follow in his footsteps?" Rabbi Yitzhak asked. and he calmed down and fell asleep. Rabbi Yaakov Berab"s personality attracts me." Rabbi Yitzhak replied. let us continue on this way. Tears rolled down Rabbi Ephraim 's cheeks when he thought of the bitter Exile. The Jews living there were wealthy. There was a widespread rumor that there was livelihood in Egypt." Rabbi Ephraim said.

until he called to his mother to bring him a handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Emissaries they sent to Portugal returned with the report from friends that there was a place for the Karo family in the country. Ephraim. The parents of some of them went to other lands. The sand got in little Yosef s eyes and he began to cry. between the trees. 5 . would they turn to pray and cry. . why are your eyes red? He answered her." "Rumor has it that the Nagid of the Jews in Egypt has established a large yeshivah in which people. "the birth pangs of the Messiah. They looked at the caravan of exiles centered around them. Only in secret. including exiles from Spain." his brother agreed with him. lest others discover their feelings. with red eyes.' Rabbi Yitzhak hoped to be able to teach in the academy in Portugal. at the crying children. "Maybe from the wind. The pupils were devoted to Rabbi Yitzhak and did not want to leave him." said Rabbi Ephraim. at the old people. his wife asked him: "What is the matter. "The birth pangs of the Messiah." And indeed. bringing tears to the eyes of the exiles. Tears streamed from their eyes. They would be well received. . sit and study Torah under very favorable conditions. and there was a large congregation which wanted to hear their teachings. many of their pupils who had studied in Rabbi Yitzhak"s yeshivah in Castille went along with them. every so often a sandstorm sprung up between the trees. or from the sandstorm within the forest. together with his brother Rabbi Ephraim. The customs in Egypt are strange to us. "Yes. When Rabbi Ephraim returned from among the trees to his family.35 from the beginning. Since the rumor had spread that Rabbi Yitzhak and Rabbi Ephraim were going to Lisbon. but they did not show this to others.

" Rabbi Yitzhak said. The parents came and made peace between the children. peeled it. and the heads of the Castillian communities went on. if I will be able to fulfill my obligations to my parents and leave them in trustworthy hands. and it looked like new. the Karo family. "Perhaps the Expulsion is connected with the birth pangs of the Redemption. They continued walking. The pupils. They took a twig from one of them. and others discussed the last lesson of Rabbi Yitzhak that they had heard in the yeshivah. Rabbi Yitzhak told him. His pupil agreed with him. They will illuminate your path in the long Exile. Before they parted. The pupil and teacher embraced and bid a tearful farewell to each other." he said to himself. other pupils came with their families to Lisbon. remember the words of Torah you learned in Castille. Some of them recited chapters of Psalms. because his friends had taken from him the twigs he had found on the way. "When I come to our new land. because he could not leave his parents.36 while they followed their teacher. "Yes. I will immediately come to you in Lisbon. their bags on their backs. . who were elderly and sick." "My pupils are as light to my eyes. Rabbi Yitzhak meditated on the Redemption. All the way they talked about the events of the Expulsion. in the light of the sufferings we have undergone. . to continue to study where we left off." Rabbi Ephraim added to the discussion. lest he stumble on the way. with his pupils listening to his words. others studied mishnayot from memory. "My dear pupil! Wherever you are. I have learned more from them than from anyone else. because it looked nicer than the other ones. Once again little Yosef burst out crying. throughout all your wanderings. By the time Yosef took it he stopped crying. and added. The pupils gathered around him and supported him. the Redemption is fast approaching. One pupil was forced to part from Rabbi Yitzhak.

Rabbi Yitzhak spoke. Large crosses hang from them. His brother Rabbi Ephraim was together with him. Rabbi Yitzhak also had young children. many pupils. They were saddened by the news from Spain." The shadows deepened over the Spanish refugees in Portugal. but they removed all the Jewish symbols. But in Lisbon the pupils continued to study under the guidance of Rabbi Yitzhak. From time to time additional exiles from Spain arrived in Lisbon. When they arrived in Portugal. where he had established a center of Torah. and the pupils listened attentively. The priests had entered them and put up crucifixes. Synagogues had been turned into churches. Once again the sound of Torah study was heard. There were children who had fallen ill. they followed in his footsteps. where to go to find a place of refuge. They told what had happened in the places from which the Jews had been expelled. Horrifying reports came from Spain. some from Spain and some from Portugal. They too are forced . Some thought that the only sure place was in the Turkish empire. The rigors of the journey were not good for them. and some of his pupils carried them on their shoulders. No Jews are left in the city except for the converts who have secretly remained Jews. assembled in the teacher"s house. "The King of Spain is continuing to expel Jews from his land!" "It is a time of mourning for the Jews. Some of his pupils carried his bags.57 Rabbi Yitzhak"s pupils surrounded him and listened to the pearls of Torah from his lips. Rabbi Yitzhak"s pupils still debated among themselves. In the magnificent synagogues the priests left the verses from Psalms which had been written in Hebrew on the high walls. and turned them into churches. But since Rabbi Yitzhak had decided to go to Portugal. such as the Menorah and the Star of David. "In Toledo the priests have taken over all the synagogues that remained. They brought greetings from home. and their lives were in danger. and aided him in matters concerning the study hall. Many of the common people have abandoned their faith and converted.

38 to participate in the prayers held in the synagogues which have become churches. The Karo family planned to leave Portugal. The Portuguese king therefore forcibly imposed Christianity on all the Jews living in the country. The exiles from Spain felt at home here." Rabbi Ephraim told his brothers. They seek out converts who secretly maintain their Judaism. Spanish customs prevailed among Portuguese Jewry. he feared a mass exodus of the Jewish population. They cry to themselves. King Manuel of Portugal issued a decree forcing Christianity upon all the Jews living in his kingdom. Life is bitter for them. and he was liable to give in to the priests" demands that the Jews be compelled to convert. "We did not come here to live as Jews in secret. There are many informers roaming the city. while many others continued to observe Judaism in secret. The Portuguese king might be influenced by the Expulsion from Spain. They bow down before the statues of Jesus. . the king did not give the Jews the choice of converting or leaving the country. When they encounter other Marranos on the street. They bring such Jews before the torturers of the Inquisition. they turn their faces away. Since the Jews constituted twenty percent of the population of the country. but they feared what might happen in their new home. Many Jews accepted this situation. and pretend to be happy." The spirit of the Spanish refugees in Lisbon was troubled by these reports. And indeed. They don"t want to meet. Woe to the Marrano who is caught with a book in Hebrew in his hands. Woe to the Marrano woman who is caught lighting the Sabbath candles. Unlike in Spain. but outwardly they smile.

. .

where the Jews are well received." "That is the main thing in life. Little Yosef would go with his father and his uncle to the study hall and listen to the legal discussions of the scholars there. Rabbi Yitzhak said to his brother Rabbi Ephraim. we shall no longer wander from one Christian land to another. they prepared to go to Turkey. In my mind' s eye I see ill winds beginning to blow in this country. The same was true for his brother Ephraim. and where many of the exiles from Spain have found refuge.' Rabbi Yitzhak said. "Is it possible to study Torah there undisturbed? "Yes. " I fear that we will have to set out once again. the scholars who have gone there spend their days peacefully in the study of the Torah. We shall go to Turkey. . while others sought new places of refuge. He spent his time among the great scholars who studied Torah. Rabbi Yitzhak Karo wanted only to sit and study Torah undisturbed. The two brothers and their families lived together. This being so." "From now on. they heard reports that the king of Portugal wanted to follow in the footsteps of the king of Spain. They waited until a group of travelers would gather. like the decrees that had been issued against the Jews of Spain. 5 5 . Some Jews rejected these rumors as being unfounded. When the Jews were sitting in the study hall. There were constant rumors of new decrees against the Jews. and the words that entered his ears remained in his mind.40 Chapter Four The Time in Portugal The time the Karo family spent in Portugal was a time of fear.

to distant lands where no one knew from where they had come. remote. they learned that the rumors about the decrees by the King of Portugal were correct. Services were held in private homes. Heavy taxes were imposed on the Jews. which opened its doors to them. Silent weeping filled their hearts. the police closed the synagogues. A mass exodus of Jews from the country began. Horrible scenes took place when these communities were forced to go on Sundays to the church to pray and to receive the blessing of the priest. The news spread throughout the homes of all the Jews. Christianity persecutes us everywhere. for fear of the oppressors. Others went to other European countries. who are deeply rooted in the entire life of the country. where there was freedom of religion. while continuing to observe the practices of Judaism in secret. communities came under heavy pressure by the priests. while the Jews who converted received favorable conditions. Ships that came to the shores of Portugal took on Jews fleeing to all the countries of the free world. Even here in Portugal. where there are large numbers of Jews. Their livelihood was harmed. with the prayers recited in a whisper." Rabbi Yitzhak said. Small. "We are given no rest. "Whoever wants to remain a Jew must leave here. The Jews cried to themselves as they watched the desecration of their holy places. even here the evil has come. Many families traveled beyond the sea.41 In the meantime. The veteran Jewish residents of Portugal also planned to leave the country. The Jews were forced to work on the Sabbath. The masses provoked them. Some went to Holland." The study halls were closed. In the villages and small towns where Jewish communities remained. Many went to Holland. but remained silent outwardly. The royal edicts were made known in public. . Jews converted in order to maintain their livelihood. while most went to Turkey. The Torah Scrolls were removed from the study halls and hidden in people"s houses. The Jews were forced to attend sermons by priests in the churches. Many immigrated to Turkey.

they had to take up the wanderer"s staff once again and go to a distant land. . crying in his heart. At times tears would roll down his cheeks. He wanted to flee from Portugal. where the Jews had permission to believe in their faith and to study their Torah. The Jews who lived in remote villages continued to observe their religion. to protect his children's future. But the priests went from house to house and forced the Jews to come out. The Torah Scrolls were hidden. Only five years had passed since they had fled from Spain. because the royal decree had not come to every place in the country. The lectures Rabbi Yitzhak gave in the study hall were cancelled. for fear of the authorities. Rabbi Ephraim saw in his mind"s eye how he and his children would be compelled to participate in such a procession. He himself felt that his soul was facing a crisis. Some avoided participating in these processions. He was seized by fear. and he was powerless to help. where they had left behind all their property and possessions. His entire body trembled. The small study hall was turned into a home. Rabbi Ephraim saw how a great Jewish community disappeared under the wheels of a machine of destruction. And now. *** It was a sad time. and now went to the church to pray there. He would pray with great intent. Escape became the main topic of conversation in the home of the Karo family.42 Rabbi Ephraim saw Jewish families which had come to pray in his study hall. The days were empty of content. threatening terrible things if the Jews did not comply. after only a few years of tranquility. He saw the sadness in their eyes. with the Jews wearing crucifixes as they went to the churches to convert. Others hid. over the great calamity that had befallen the Children of Israel in Portugal and Spain. but also acceptance of their fate. Throughout Portugal processions of Jews were organized.

" Rabbi Yitzhak replied. and will prepare a place for us. "We are waiting for a ship which will arrive shortly. "Perhaps because of assimilation? The Jews in Spain and Portugal began to love the country and the people in whose midst they dwelt. in which freedom reigned. "When will we leave?" asked Rabbi Ephraim. Proposals to go to another country in Europe were brought before the brothers. but they had had enough of all the places inhabited by Christians. Whoever thought that he could maintain his Judaism in secret was making a great mistake. There was no hope for Jewish life under the rule of the Church. packages were packed. We have already made contact with the scholars in Turkey.43 "Why has all this trouble come upon us?" he asked his brother." The Turkish empire was the shore of hope. Little Yosef listened to the conversations between his father and his uncle. The prospect of a life of wandering did not trouble the boy. When he met his friends. Ships arrived in Lisbon. Furniture was taken apart. The pressure of his surroundings would be too much for him and his children. and absorbed whatever they said. With his child s eyes and senses he understood what was happening. They wanted to flee from the terrors of the Church. with no one standing in their way. 5. they answered that the best path of action was to leave the country. Rabbi Yitzhak. They saw an entire people sinking in the impurity of conversion. The great fear which seized the family influenced him as well. Whenever anyone asked their advice. Yosef saw extensive preparations in his parent"s house for the journey. in order to preserve their Judaism. . The Jews in this empire fulfilled the commandments freely." "They wanted to be like these peoples. Great numbers of Jews embarked on a life of wandering. he discovered that the parents of some of them as well were making preparations to leave the country. The communities from Spain are awaiting our arrival. They spoke their language and learned their customs. which had imposed the yoke of exile on them. but they were helpless to stem the tide.

going from house to house. The children saw the processions of Jews with crucifixes and torches in their hands. The priests beat them with whips. Whenever they saw a priest walking in the street. or that they would be arrested by the police. It was a time of confusion for the Jewish people. where they poured water over them and converted them to Christianity. These were children whose parents had decided to remain in Portugal. because Rabbi Ephraim was widely known as a Torah sage. They took infants and children and forced them to come with their parents to the churches. . They led Jews to be baptized in the churches. The priests hoped that their going to the church would serve as an example for the common people. however. but the children did not raise their voices. Yosef saw these processions from afar. Rabbi Ephraim asked the heads of the community to send a delegation to King Manoel to cancel the decree. but the houses of the Jews were dark. so that the priests would not know where they were living. Yosef's parents were afraid that the priests would come to them too. and not to leave their homes and property. In Lisbon the priests went from house to house and hung crucifixes on the houses of the Jews. and the priests wanted to take with them the most respected members of the Jewish community. but the children were silent. This fear of priests would accompany Yosef his entire life. The leaders of the community feared. The children were terrified. because the king was under the influence of the priests. that they would not leave the palace alive.44 while others were planning to remain. The light from the torches shone in the eyes of the frightened children. Lisbon was lit up at night. Yosef knew that he and his family were waiting for a ship to come and take them away. Yosef's mother watched him. The parents took their children with them. The priests urged them to call out slogans from their Christian faith. they would hide in the house. The members of the family went into hiding. so that he did no go out into the street by himself. for fear that the priests would come in the dead of night.

lost in their thoughts. A pupil who had studied in their academy still studied Gemara by the light of a candle. assimilating among the non-Jews. observing the commandments in secret. At times the water splashed on the deck and soaked anyone in its way. They were filled with sadness as they thought of the Jewish people going up in flames. even though they had no books with them. How long could they continue. so that he would not be discovered. accompanied by his mother. Would anyone remain from them? They stood on the deck. the last spark. and he vomited the food he ate. "Should we have remained with our community and our pupils. at midnight. They remembered the faces of those dear to them. The child Yosef walked on the boat. in the great desolation that remained? The waves crashed against the side of the ship. They spoke Torah among themselves. and looked at the waves. He cried and laughed in turn until his mother comforted him. They prayed for the pupils who remained in Lisbon. In each country they had made friends. The future before them was enveloped in mystery. They had left Spain and then Portugal. or should we have fled?" Rabbi Ephraim asked his brother. Ephraim and Yitzhak stood on deck and watched the waves rocking the ship. They spoke what they knew by heart. "Soon the ship will reach the shore. The communities in which they had taught Torah had been destroyed.45 But in the meantime." The journey on the ship made him seasick. The horrible sights were engraved in his memory. The rocking of the boat made him nauseous. in the starry night. . The child also was drenched by the salty water. he watched the processions of crucifixes and torches. Before their eyes was the sight of the mass conversions of Jews in Lisbon. *** The journey on the ship from Lisbon to Constantinople lasted many days. Somewhere there a dim light flickered at night.

" Rabbi Yitzhak told him. Jews can no longer live in this country. "But we left entire communities without spiritual leaders. Rabbi Ephraim and Rabbi Yitzhak continued to talk about the responsibility of the Torah scholars for their flocks. going from home to home and converting the Jews. Jews went in the guise of Christians. The Inquisition had not been established in Portugal. but these no longer exist as communities. Families gathered on the ship and talked about the future. lest they become assimilated among the non-Jews. Our escape will lead others to follow us. What would they do in the Turkish empire? They had left behind many possessions.46 "We could not have remained. while maintaining their Judaism in secret. Some of them had been among the richest members of the community. "Yes. They have no future in Portugal. This question bothered them and gave them no respite. This question was in the air all during their voyage at sea: was it their duty to remain with the community. All of them must flee from there. But they themselves were refugees from Spain who had fled to Portugal. lest they be forced to convert. and they must not remain there. We would have endangered the lives of our children." Rabbi Ephraim answered himself with a question. but the thought of abandoning the community bothered them. there was no possibility of continuing to live there. Rabbi Ephraim thought that outstanding Torah scholars could not go about as presumed Christians. Yosef smelled the salt air and looked at the waves. They would thereby serve as an . Many of those who had come with them to Portugal had set out once again on their wanderings. when the congregation was taken to spiritual slaughter. homes. after the terrible persecutions had come to Portugal as well. or to flee? They had decided to flee. Therefore they could not remain in Portugal. They knew that the priests went from house to house demanding that the Jews convert. but had to flee. who would have been kidnapped by the priests for their idolatry." Rabbi Yitzhak replied. Their concern for their property was as nothing next to their fear of the priests. even if they would teach Torah in secret. and businesses.

47 example to others. In many cities of the Ottoman Empire there were communities of those who had come from Spain. following their version of the prayers. They spoke the language of the new arrivals." Rabbi Yitzhak agreed. Torah scholars did not remain in Portugal. especially in remote areas. "The Inquisition will come to Portugal as well. The exiles from Spain and Portugal would go from community to community. Yosef listened intently to the discussion of the two brothers. This will be discovered." Rabbi Ephraim said. They took them to their homes until they could find a place to live. Most of them lived in towns and villages. Jews who themselves were refugees from Spain and Portugal stood on the shore and waited for the arrival of their fellow Jews from these lands." Rabbi Ephraim continued. Some of these Jews had made their mark on the local community. and did not let them continue living their lives as normal. "It is impossible to secretly observe Judaism over the course of many years. receiving a proper reception in every city. especially when the young people refuse to marry Christians of their own age. because they lived in such isolated locations. But the priests in these places knew about them. They tried to avoid conversion. not to accept Christianity even outwardly. The leaders of the Church know very well who is a real Christian and who only professes Christianity for appearance"s sake. without any spiritual leadership. Only the common people remained. Therefore only people who were well known to the other Jews were permitted to join the minyan for prayers held in a basement. establishing synagogues and study halls of their own. . They feared informers. The ship neared the shores of Constantinople. "This is only a matter of time. They will not permit the Jews to maintain their Judaism in secret. for among the converted Jews there were those who were ordered to inform on their brethren.

They left the boat together with the other refugees from Portugal. The brothers were asked to serve as rabbis. These sights were to become a permanent part of his memory. the difference between East and West. They were excited by the exotic sights and sounds of the city. Yosef looked at this new world. Jews from among the refugees from Spain who knew of them came to their house to bless them and to receive their blessing. The brothers engaged in discussions of points of Jewish law with the scholars of Constantinople. A new world was revealed to the Karo family. with long clothes and red fezzes. Ships came to Constantinople bearing large numbers of Jews from Spain and Portugal. The city learned of the arrival of Rabbi Yitzhak and Rabbi Ephraim Karo of Toledo. and they did not want to accept support from others. Marketplaces extended along dark streets. Throngs of people walked in the streets. with the guttural voices of the merchants. and were swallowed up in the narrow alleys. but the burden of livelihood lay heavily on them. There were mosques with their turrets reaching up to the sky. Communities of Spanish Jews were founded in cities and towns. They wanted to live quietly and occupy themselves with the study of the Torah after all their troubles. People dressed in Oriental garb. The funds they had managed to bring with them from Portugal ran out.48 Chapter Five The Exiles from Spain in Constantinople Constantinople was an exceedingly great city. There was the atmosphere of the East. He saw new people and heard a new language. There was a vast difference between the everyday sights here and those in Spain and Portugal. He met boys wearing fezzes whose language he did not understand. Torah scholars would arise early to come and greet them. communities and synagogues sought their presence. .

Yosef found new friends.49 They engaged in Torah study in the study hall and met with the Torah scholars living in Constantinople. Yosef would get up and listen to the sound of the waves. They had to adjust to a new way of life. boys his own age. and schools in the local language. each marketplace and its special color. the waves splashed against the house. from families of Spanish Jews. He followed his father. At high tide. while trying to maintain their religion in hiding. to smuggle the children away if the priests were to come. He liked the sound. The great marketplaces and the different kinds of wares they offered mingled in his mind in a kaleidoscope of sights. spoke his language. The priesthood was too strong for them. At times they remained awake all night. going with him from study hall to study hall. and worked in their professions. new people. They opened businesses. They could only sigh upon hearing the sad reports. Some of them had property they had managed to bring with them from Spain and Portugal. Jews from among the Spanish refugees came to them. Others. In the middle of the night. They told of whole families that had been publicly converted. to hear the words of the sages. and their children were put in Church schools. . as if they had been pierced by a sword. They prepared hiding places and drilled the children in entering the hiding places when the priests appeared. who spoke only the local language. full of peace and tranquility. He remembered the fear that had seized him and his parents when they heard any noise outside their home in Lisbon. They brought reports of life among the Marranos. They moved into a house on the seashore. But this time the noise of the waves was pleasant. Entire generations were lost to Judaism. because it reminded him of the distant shores he had left behind. He still did not know the language of some of them. They were afraid that this was the sound of the priests coming to take the children for baptism. New communities were organized by the Spanish Jews. These reports struck their hearts.

among Torah scholars. These days and nights in Constantinople. or when he repeated from memory the prayers the teacher had them learn. among Jews. He was quick to understand the teacher." the criers shouted before dawn. where he learned the Alef-Bet. When the month of Elul came. Selihot. They needed time to free themselves from the terror imposed on them by the priests in Spain and Portugal. He remembered everything he learned. without fear of the non-Jews. but the two sages refused. removed from them the mantle of hiding and fear that had encloaked them.50 There were many synagogues near their house. free from fear and persecution. His teacher praised him to his father. They did this openly. for the ships which were on the way." Some of those present wanted to kiss their hands. When the Karos came to the synagogue. who beamed from joy. Money had to be sent to them. During the days they would sit in the study hall. and even told other children things they did not know. and discuss the law. even though he already knew that his son was talented. come and sit in the place worthy of you. Selihot. in the company of other scholars. in the hours when the light struggled with the last remnants of the night. Yosef s father took him to his new school. "May Rabbi Ephraim honor us and sit in the place of honor. Little Yosef accompanied his father to the synagogue. for they were known as great Torah scholars. the congregation would honor them and shake their hands. They said the same thing to Rabbi Yitzhak: "Please. They asked the heads of the community to help the Torah scholars who had remained in Portugal and had not yet found the way to leave the country. The teacher's words entered his head immediately and remained there. the criers would awaken the worshipers to come for the recitation of the Selihot prayers. His eyes flashed when he followed the teacher's explanations of the Bible." the heads of the congregation told him. Even 11 . so that they could escape from Portugal before the priests would come to their houses.

*** Rabbi Yitzhak. his children had been lost.51 as a baby. the uncle. Every day he saw before his eyes his small children walking. This cloud accompanied Rabbi Yitzhak from his house to the study hall. Constantinople extended a warm reception to the refugees from Spain and Portugal. New synagogues were founded by the exiles from Spain in the new neighborhoods in which they settled. marketplaces never ended. He was left with nothing. The cries of the bustling. Their eyes stared at him. the boy. close to the study hall. This vision accompanied him wherever he went. and who thirstily drank up all his words. who was very talented. talked. He had grown up together with his own children on their wanderings and had played with them. for no heir was left him. They left behind the burden of expulsion and fear. and educated his nephew Yosef. He absorbed himself in Torah study. on their flight from Portugal. He remembered all of them. But an atmosphere of tranquility reigned in the study hall. Time went on. Yosef studied in the Talmud Torah for little children sponsored by his father and uncle. and Yosef. Yosef had understood things said by the adults in the house. They had to rebuild their ruined lives. while the rest had succumbed to the rigors of the journey. The sufferings they had undergone left their mark on all of them. dark. going farther and farther away from him in the distance. They had been like his own brothers. On the long journey. . A dark cloud of sadness never parted from Rabbi Yitzhak. He stroked the face of little Yosef. played with him. all studied together. His entire world had been destroyed. The Turkish authorities did not interfere in the religious life of the Jews. Some of them had died from illnesses. until they had died. He remembered how the little children smiled. Rabbi Ephraim. the father. The streets of Constantinople were filled with buyers and sellers.

' I want my parents. " I was in the garden next to our house. I raised my voice. A dark-haired boy. Other Jews came from different communities. accompanied Yosef to the study hall every morning. 'Children. These were Yosefs friends. He had a pitcher of water in his hand and a big crucifix on his chest. I refused. ' I don't understand. you will love every person! Accept great love from our Messiah. The priests picked me up and put me in a horse-drawn wagon which was standing there. They took me to their house. you no longer are Jews.' They brought me to the church. They hugged the ones they had known in Spain. We clung to each other.' They told me: 'From now on. Be good Christians and believe in the Messiah. and afterwards had fled with their parents. looking for children. now I will baptize you as Christians. and told me to eat and drink. of striking appearance. They had not been able to study openly in Spain. When Yosef met boys who had come from Spain.52 Whenever they walked in the streets of the city they met people who had come from Spain. ' I love my father and mother. I don't want to be here. He told us. Let me go!' After this. Others had stayed in the monasteries until they had escaped in the dead of night.' I told them. he would talk to them and bring them to the study hall.' "The boys and girls were silent. Some of them had been taken by force to the church to be baptized. From now on. He told Yosef how he had been taken from his parents by the priests and baptized against his will. They grabbed them and . Other Jewish children I knew were there. "But the priests wouldn't let them. Its walls were painted blue and red. Some of them did not even know the letters of the Alef-Bet. but I was riveted to the ground. My friends ran away. I couldn't move. A special school was established for the children of the exiles from Spain. They told me that they want to give me a new love. A priest with a pointed cap stood in front of us. I saw the priests in black clothes coming. the other children also began to scream that they wanted to go home.

The cold penetrated into my very bones. My mother opened the window. I had used up all my energy running. They saw little children crying. . The man ran after me. They let the little children go home. Afterwards. The wind whistled through the branches. and they couldn't catch me. I saw people going about. I never saw him again. "Everything was quiet. but I fell into a deep sleep. I woke up in the morning. I heard whisperings. forcibly. so that no one would discover me. I got up and walked to the door. I went around the courtyard to make sure that there weren't any priests there. and other people too. but they took the bigger children with them. and I didn't want to wake them up. I don't know what happened to the other boy who came with me. You could hear their crying for miles. There wasn't a person in sight. When I told them what had happened. I wanted to shout to her. Some of the people stayed in the church. I slept under a tree with a lot of branches. I didn't knock on the door of my parent's house. they wanted to go home. Everyone was asleep. between the trees. They said something during the immersion and made the sign of the cross. I jumped over some fences and went into an orchard. She burst out in tears and hugged me. I ran away as fast as I could. The very same day we left our . 'Mother!' but I restrained myself. I found the way back to my parent's house. and wanted to take the children home and educate them to be Christians. Before I went in. " I went with one person who took me and another boy. The children began crying. I knocked on the door. "It was nighttime when I came to my parent's house. but when I saw that I knew the street and the area. "Even the priests were shocked by the crying of the Jewish children who had been baptized. We followed him. People who were walking in the street heard the sound of the crying and went into the church. and I saw my parents there.53 dunked them in the pool. I looked through the windows into the house. I was too fast. Her face was so clouded from worry that I didn't recognize her. they praised me and started crying again. Then the door opened and my mother saw me. because I was so tired.

I never saw Portugal again. I vomited. "Praise to the L rd." the teacher said. Afterwards we hid in a house in a remote village. and has a good memory. others had managed to evade being baptized by all kinds of stratagems. others had hidden. A great future lies ahead of him. Now they all were diligently studying in the Talmud Torah." his teacher told his father. He is talented and knows what we are studying. I know. The voyage took a long time. and talked to them in Spanish or Portuguese. When he entered the Talmud Torah. He met other children his age. we met some other Jews and they took us to their neighborhood. "Yes. Since his uncle Rabbi Yitzhak had lost his own children. We went down from the ship. even though they didn't even know my name. They were afraid that the priests would search for me. In the middle of the night we went in a small boat to the ship that we sailed on. Rabbi Yitzhak took him with him everywheres. he devoted himself to his studies. "Take good care of the boy. Some had been baptized." *** Yosef s friends told him many things about what they had undergone in Spain or Portugal. Yosef walked around in the streets of Constantinople. "You can be proud of your son." his father replied. . I was nauseous. The shore was a long way off. His teachers were pleased with him. where we found a house. He understands things quickly. who came to take him home from the Talmud Torah. with no one suspecting that they were Jews. near the seashore. He listened to what his teachers told his father. and we didn't know which way to go. Yosef listened to all of Rabbi Yitzhak's discussions of points of law with other scholars. he treated Yosef as if he were his own son. Finally. and remembered the experience as a nightmare." his father said.54 house and went to live someplace else. I couldn't eat until the ship anchored. still others had gone about openly.

he knew the answers to all the questions his teacher asked him. he devoted himself wholeheartedly to his studies. His father was afraid that he had a good memory. verse after verse. for Mishnah.55 " I teach him Torah. from memory. He would absorb his teacher's words. Since Yosef knew the Bible by heart. and sometimes would provide a new interpretation of the mishnah. He enjoyed learning mishnayot. He went with him to the fields. Yosef would answer his questions. and when they walked together. At times he would go home and recite to his father mishnayot and the commentaries. so that he will continue to advance. but we think that it would be better for him to continue in the company of boys his own age. who was a renowned Torah scholar." "We are aware of this problem." "He can continue to be with them outside school. His uncle Rabbi Yitzhak also asked him questions. You will have to transfer him to a higher class. outside the neighborhood where they lived. despite his tender age. and even though he had missed much time from his studies because of the hardships he had undergone. The logical argumentation in the Gemara attracted him. but in his studies he must advance by himself. He would test his son with questions about the content of the mishnayot. Yosef passed all these tests. The days that passed in the study hall in Constantinople . The other boy was talented. The boy who told him about his adventures in Lisbon when he had been kidnapped by the priests aroused Yosefs pity. He cannot stop just to be with boys his own age/' the teacher ruled. which surprised even his uncle. and played together. he was given a new teacher. They ran and played hide-and-seek. always providing the correct answers. When he began to study the Gemara. He enjoyed his studies and did not waste a minute that he could be studying. and they became friends. but I am afraid that he will soon outdistance the other pupils. they would discuss the mishnayot and commentaries. but was lacking in sharpness.

and nothing could tear him away from it. be most careful. the Torah exhausts a person's strength. He absorbed page after page of Gemara. He absorbed in his memory every clause and every law. He hardly saw the light of day. The taste of Torah study intoxicated him. and as the Torah says. He would read the books of the poskim. He was absorbed in his books from dawn until midnight. Once he was introduced to the Gemara.56 were filled with Torah. he was constantly in the study hall. he sought to know the pesak halakhah. The logical argumentation was not enough for him. . the deciders of the law. He eagerly read the books of Jewish law and the commentaries. He had discovered a great treasure. he spent all his time. He would not put down any book of law until he had studied it from cover to cover. and when he raised questions about the text. and he did not budge from their works. The world of Abbaye and Rava became his world. have something to eat before you leave the house. day and night. The pace of his studies exhausted him. studying it. In every subject he wanted to delve into the legal arguments and learn the law. "Yosef. You will not be able to withstand such a heavy load of studies. His diligence knew no bounds. therefore. he would ask the scholars in the study hall. He was well-known among the sages of Constantinople. His uncle Rabbi Yitzhak studied with him and enjoyed the fine points he made. the greater this treasure became in his eyes. and delved into the logical arguments they contained. His parents did not see him at home. and did not hear what his mother said to him. who would introduce him to new commentaries and books. Ever since he began studying.' " But Yosef was buried in his studies. The more he studied. and they enjoyed discussing Torah with him. the final decision of the law. At times his mother said to him. 'For your own sake.

Yosef continued to study with him only one hour each day. the give-and-take of the Talmud everything was absorbed by him. The great scholars who talked with him told him. which he polished until he arrived at the legal ruling. and he would not put a book down until he knew its contents. *** Yosef s mind absorbed details. never to be forgotten. His father. and let nothing escape him. this is a great work you are taking upon yourself. a legal ruling delivered in the study hall according to theposkim." But he could not wait.57 At first he studied with a partner. Books written after the summation of a discussion by the leading legal authorities. He found diamonds. The rest of the time he would spend alone with his books. one of the exiles from Portugal. "My son. new rulings. all inspired him to realize his idea. The great numbers of notebooks piled up in his room. however. and you are still young. my son. While still a youth. The other scholars in the study hall recognized his talent. he conceived the idea of gathering together all the legal rulings which had been delivered by the legal authorities. Wait a bit. he realized that this boy could not maintain his pace of study. new subjects which came into existence and required new rulings. When his father heard him. He thought that his generation needed this. he said to him. "Look. discussions held by Torah scholars. did not want his talents to be known by all. A Talmudic topic he learned. His days were eventful. In the study hall he found a treasure trove of ancient books. After a while. Each day he discovered something new in the Torah and found new depths in his understanding of the Torah. He wrote down new rulings and topics that had been clarified in his notebooks. They predicted a great future for him. however. you are . He wanted to know all they contained. and discussed the law with him. The boy's expertise astounded them.

The splashing of the waves could be heard in the distance. who had "adopted" him after the loss of his own children. by the depth of his understanding of the topic he had studied and by his ability to cut to the heart of any subject. He was amazed by the greatness of this youth. Save your strength. and watch the sun sinking at the end of the day. gaze at the horizon. as his parents had ordered. listen to the conversation of the passengers. Sometimes he would embark on a ship sailing between the islands in the sea. studied his books. Do not overly exert yourself. stood by him. No matter how much he studied. You have to see the light of day and breath fresh air. the more he felt the need for a new compilation of laws and rulings. even when he was on the deck of a boat at sea. all of whom were many years older than he was. and was always ready to explain any matter Yosef had difficulty in understanding. bringing .58 still young. A great fire burned in the study hall. His father praised him for this. A mighty oak is planted here. and discussed legal topics with the scholars in the study hall." Yosef heeded his father's words. descended to its depths. and at times brought Yosef to his home to study together with him until late at night. People who came near to Yosef felt the heat of this fire. He would walk on the beaches. for the sake of his health. which was the center of his life. They thought to themselves. the idea of gathering together all the laws burned within him. He explained. But his mind continued to think of Torah subjects. and look at the water. He dove into the sea of the Talmud. But the next day he would arise early and hurry to the study hall. The Torah exhausts a person's strength. breathe in the sea air with the waves washing the sand. and forget some of his daily occupations and studying. His uncle Rabbi Yitzhak. Its branches descend deep into the ground. splitting any rocks in the way. The more he learned. Ships passed between the Strait of Dardanelles. At times he would go out to the seashore. guided.

This was a great work. but this noise did not drown out the sounds of the study of the Torah. He was sorry for them and worried about them. spend his days and nights in Torah and Divine service. He discovered new things. he would meet workers who arose . he would be able to study Torah without disturbances or cares. There. but the hardships they had undergone in Spain and Portugal had done their damage. Yosef and his brothers were the center of their world. perhaps in a cabin in the Galilean hills. in the land of the Patriarchs. his thought was clear. demanding an effort of many years. and continue studying after them. He collected whatever books could be found. When he left his house for the study hall the world was at peace and his mind was fresh. gather together all the laws. He had the collections of books from his study hall. At the hour that he left his home for the study hall. He thought about the collecting of laws and rulings. how they aged from sorrows and troubles. somewheres in the distant mountains. and went from one study hall to another to discover books which he had not yet studied. He thought of a period of isolation. *** The letters stood before his eyes. and dreamed of going to Eretz Israel. During the day he would arise at dawn to study. There he would delve deeply into his books.additional exiles from Spain and Portugal. new laws and interpretations which he had not known before. He was closely tied to his parents. He saw how they were weakened by the sicknesses that struck them. They entrusted Yosefs education to the uncle Rabbi Yitzhak. before the prayers. the words penetrated into his mind. The study hall was close to the busy marketplace humming with people. At times the sounds of the buyers and sellers reached his ears.

When he saw Yosef he lifted his head from his book. they agreed to get up early and learn. When Yosef came up to Itamar.60 at dawn to hurry to their work. Yosef looked at the dawn breaking and saw a new day before him. Itamar Hakohen. He also was from a family of exiles from Spain and Portugal." "No. the dawn wrestled with the last remnants of the night." "At such an early hour. paying no attention to what was going on around him. and he was hurrying. which had split into two. The light came from an oil lamp which had been left burning all night. starting at dawn. Yosef. where are you hurrying to at this hour?" "To study Torah. Itamar did not exhibit the same tiredness . When they parted at night. Outside. giving him new insights into the Torah. a day telling him that many bright new ideas would dawn in his mind. The first light of dawn could be seen through the window. The trees on the hills were illuminated by the dawn. and tended to the flame. He trimmed the wick of the lamp." "You must be tired from studying the entire night. I am not tired. as clear and shining as the new day. he might have spent the entire night in the study hall studying. He saw a shadow sitting next to the lamp. and we'll begin to learn again where we left off yesterday. He waited for his study partner. Then he knew that Itamar had spent the night over his Gemara. At first he didn't think to look in this direction. he could see the tiredness in his partner's face. and intended to sit next to Yosef. Itamar said to him "Sit down. and it was only towards morning that I dozed off. He saw that Itamar had awakened earlier than he had. to come. moving to and fro. to repeat what we learned. They studied together the entire day. Sometimes they stopped him and asked. he found a light shining out from it. Now I have to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. when they sat down to study. when everyone is still asleep?" When he opened the door of the study hall. but when he looked. I learned many new things this night. he saw that this was a diligent scholar sitting next to his Gemara. "Young man." And indeed. They were hurrying.

"We arose at dawn to study in the study hall. Rashi. and they did not sense that the day had crept in. The colors changed outside. The black of night had faded away long ago. They found the last minyan. but with research into legal rulings. We must take this task upon ourselves. The world needs this. and not stop with an understanding of the basic principles and logic involved." *** Both of them accepted this. They studied the Gemara. because they did not deal only with extreme pilpulim (logical arguments) which sharpen a person's mind and are enjoyable. They continued to think . They remembered that they had not yet recited the morning Shaharit prayer. At times they sought but did not find a unified ruling. Yosef said to him. We will study the actual laws of each topic. "Why is today different? Why have you come to pray in our minyaril" They answered. They wanted to clarify the final law for every subject. Many of the topics they had studied remained unresolved in their minds.61 that had bothered him. but they have not been recorded. "Today we will begin to learn the rulings of the law. This new method of study was exhausting. The elderly scholars asked them. Customs have taken root and new rulings have been issued. or even concentrated in one place. and they began to study by a new method. They encountered the need to summarize the early and later poskim. They interrupted their studies and hurried to the study hall to find a minyan of ten for prayer. and Tosafot. Mounds of books piled up on their desk. consisting of elderly scholars whose time was their own. His mind functioned as if he had just now begun the day. because there were changes in the opinions of the poskim. and we were absorbed in the study of Torah." They began to pray. followed by study of the poskim. Many things which were dispersed throughout the writings of the poskim were gathered by them and written in a book.

When they finished praying. Our solution is in accordance with the opinion of the great Torah scholars. standing silently. He looked at Yosef. Itamar told Yosef that he had thought of a new idea regarding what they had learned that morning. Itamar was torn between Torah and prayer. He thought of a new interpretation of a verse. I always think about something twice before I draw my conclusions. absorbed in his prayers. which would solve the problem they had with a certain ruling. Now that you have reached the same solution. Yosef found it easy to make the transfer from his studies to prayer. They had to stop thinking about this. A long day was still ahead of them. " I thought of this when we studied the topic. but I waited. and concentrate on their prayers. it appears to me to be perfect.62 how to find the proper ruling on a certain topic. . He wondered how Yosef could so easily make the transition from the world of study to that of prayer. Yosef told him. Ideas raced through his mind." They went out from the study hall to eat breakfast. in case I had erred.

" I f we specialize in this. G-d will help us. It involved much hard work. this is a life"s work. the most 5 . Time will tell whether we will be able to continue what we have started. in comparison with the different customs of other communities. They had to study the sources. We need it. and if we acquire expertise and sharpness. "This is work for a lifetime. to learn what had been accepted. We have to see how we can form patterns for making rulings. wasn"t there?" "Yes. mainly about his philosophical works. They had to examine the customs of the various Jewish communities which had taken root over the course of centuries. to examine the topic with all its commentaries. just as the great sages did when they reached the conclusion that this task had been imposed on them." Itamar said. and what had changed as a result of the latest rulings. A great controversy arose." Yosef replied. "Yes. to review all the poskim. Since they intended to serve the L rd in holiness. their books were accepted by the majority of the Jewish people. then we will be able to determine the ruling. They took it upon themselves to deliver rulings and to organize the laws.' "Do you intend to devote your entire life to this work of study and rulings?" "This is still a test. and it needs us. and to learn what was the basis for these practices. the 'great eagle. "No one imposed this task on them.' who became a lawmaker. Mountains of commentaries. "There was a great controversy about the books of Maimonides.63 Chapter Six The Idea of Legal Ruling The idea of legal rulings filled their thoughts." "How will you dare to take upon yourself to deliver final rulings on subjects in which the rulings are scattered and on which opinions are divided?" Itamar asked.

They studied different topics. however. however. Yosef was worried by his fears that the new book in which the rulings would be organized would once again arouse controversy. Their entire world was concentrated in the four cubits of the law." his study partner suggested. 'From Moses to Moses (ben Maimon — Maimonides)." After this they continued to study. there was none like Moses. they learned just how scattered the rulings were. During this test they undertook in the study hall in Constantinople. and we still are at the beginning of the road. and from their home to the study hall. while he relied only on his memory. have been written about his books. and formulated the framework of the law. based on their study of the topic. without mentioning the sources of his rulings. He dared to undertake a task that others were afraid to do. in which he would organize all the rulings. His friend agreed with this method. They went from the study hall home. 5 . in the form of notes and interpretations. "We will base our writing as a commentary on Maimonides" Yad HaHazakah. to pile books one on top of the other.64 important of whom is the Ravad. " "Do you want to follow in his footsteps?" " I will follow in the footsteps of all the poskim who came after him. Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieres. they sifted. but not the law itself. He was the 'pillar of fire going before the camp. who follow his rulings. Perhaps we should base our book on the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides? We should think about this. This was real work: to search. At times they asked for advice from a Torah scholar who knew more than they did. Since then. revealed. Thy did not always accept his advice. He therefore decided to base his book on a book by one of the leading poskim. He is accepted so completely that it is said. This still is a trial. and that Torah scholars would disagree with him. and how great was the need to organize them. because they considered themselves to possess expertise. to find the way to decide between the different poskim. to clarify everything. They read the books of the poskim. his books have been accepted by the Jewish people.

he had to cite the sources of all the leading poskim who followed Maimonides. and wrote down their commentary. who cites the opinions of most of the poskim. This is a reasonable idea. The idea was born while he was talking to his partner Itamar. The end product of this would be too long. and the . After they studied the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. The more he delved into what was written in the Mishneh Torah. and whose advice he asked on every matter. while still including the opinions of all the poskim and providing the final ruling. he realized that Maimonides only stated the ruling. with whom he discussed everything. Finally. so as not to tire the reader. Suddenly he had a burst of inspiration. while he intended it to be as concise as possible. they formulated their conclusions on each topic. Sifrei. but studied the writings of the commentators and poskim who came after these works." "This idea appeals to me. In order to arrive at a new ruling. Sifra. " I will base my writings on the Arba Turim by Rabbi Yaakov. There were many of these. and Mekhilta. They studied together and revealed the topic. the son of the Rosh. they studied the Tosefta. For many nights he sought the way to shorten his writing. They did not stop with these. Maimonides. as the basis for a book of laws and rulings based on the writings of all the early and later poskim. notes. The two began their attempts to write commentaries on the Arba Turim. but let me think about about it. according to which sages?" "In the case of every law which was discussed by the three "pillars of the law." He began to write notes and commentaries on Maimonides" work." Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi. "Yosef. He had to swim in a sea of written material and decide between authorities who disagreed with one another.65 "Yes. and he was afraid the work would be too great for him and his abilities." Itamar agreed. and the final ruling of the law. how will we rule.

a decider of the law. engaged in Torah. Before he wrote a response he would fast. On the other hand. in accordance with the true intent of the Torah. praying that what he would produce would be correct and would not harm anyone of Israel. of two against one.66 Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher) and regarding which they agreed. then we decide following the majority opinion. He was buried away in the study hall behind a mountain of books. fasting often. acquiring expertise. they aided him to formulate the method of the rulings. The questions he was asked disturbed him and hindered his idea of writing a book of rulings. and the Ran (Rabbeinu Nissim). These are our rules. If they disagree among themselves. however. The fasts and the mortifications he engaged in left their marks on his body. the law follows their opinion. Yosef Karo lived for nineteen years in Constantinople. When there was a discussion of a point of law in the study hall. day and night. Every . The Torah was the joy of his life. then we will bring in place of them the opinions of Nahmanides (Ramban. His responses enhanced his reputation. He delved deeply into each question. He collected his writings and rulings. The person who asked would receive short responses. He lived a life of purity and abstention. in which Yosef thoroughly explained the law. Yosef cited the passages from the Talmud by tractate and page — from memory. led him to a life of abstention from the pleasures of this world. He approached the age of thirty. His devoted study of the Torah." Yosef became famous as a posek. and he was known throughout the Diaspora. Rashba (Shlomo ben Avraham Adret). and still lived a solitary life. If these poskim do not deal with this law. He received legal queries from the Jews of Constantinople as well as from more distant locations. Rabbi Moses ben Nahman). and specialized in delivering the final ruling.

He ate little and slept little. however. if he thought that this was necessary. The other people in the study hall would stare at him in amazement: how did he have the strength to sit in the study hall nonstop. . " I am still at the beginning of the Torah. His world revolved around this. At times he would not cite the sources. He learned that he could rely on his memory. as if he had studied it that very minute. Rabbi Yosef would cite the sources for his ruling in order to provide a basis for his opinion. "Rabbi Yosef. He would stay in the study hall from morning till night. He still thought of writing his great book. At other times. and this bothered him. Renowned rabbis addressed legal queries to him. he was known throughout the world. to see the world outside the study hall. not to miss a single page." was his response. Every day he wrote down legal rulings. He would wake up every morning with the fierce desire to study Torah. Whatever he had learned was at his total recall. He relied on the fact that the person sending the query was a Torah scholar and would search for the sources himself if he wanted to know them. the book of legal rulings. I have not yet managed to learn a single chapter. he had to care for his own needs. He was possessed by the wish to master the entire Talmud. out of concern for him. Although he cut himself off from his surroundings. Now that his uncle-teacher had died. day and night? Some of them came to him and said. He devoted himself entirely to the study of the Torah. He went with him to the study hall and brought him his meals. to go to the shore to swim in the ocean. not stopping his studies for a minute. He wrote down things and collected other things. so that he would not overly exert himself. He knew that this book would occupy him for many years.67 day he delved into the treasures of the Torah and revealed new things. perhaps it is time to breathe fresh air. His responses were noted for their shortness and clarity. . During his youth his uncle Rabbi Yitzhak supervised him. so that he could write his great work. His diligence knew no bounds.

He would accept these invitations only on the Sabbath. During the week. Yosef sought to free himself from the bother of all these questioners. He himself would flee to a small study hall where he could study in seclusion. and knew that he needed support. but they came back later and bothered him again. In his great humility he answered them pleasantly. They came and said to him. Many marriageable women want to meet you.68 People who saw him studying would invite him to partake of the Sabbath meals with them. ' "When the time will come I will marry a woman. many people streamed to his study hall to ask him questions. They would return after his fast and bring him his meal. He feared that the needs of a family and the need to earn a livelihood would prevent him from reaching the necessary levels of Torah study. When he gained a reputation as a posek. Sometimes they found him in the middle of a fast. They were honored by his presence. and invited him to come whenever he wished. "And when will the time come? You are not a youth. and he would direct them to other rabbis who served in the city. These women knew his family. especially since he did not emerge from the study hall. 5 *** . and did not chastise them for disturbing him." "The time has not come yet." They left him. On fastdays he would spend the entire day studying Torah until the evening. if I will find a woman who is suitable for me. he would live alone. then he would continue studying until the middle of the night. The Torah was the joy of his life. and he would return the food to them. "It is not good for a man of your age not to be married. in order to be with a family and enjoy the Sabbath. Women would bring hot meals to him in the study hall. the time has come to marry a woman. eat something. At the conclusion of the fast he would go home and eat something." he would reply to them. and not lose a minute from his studies. At times he would be bothered by relatives who sent matchmakers to him.

He wanted to touch the holy places. who had treated him as a son after the death of Yosef's father and after the death of Yitzhak"s children. more absorptive and more fertile. to go the city of Hebron. new understandings. which he did not comprehend during his regular hours of study. He settled in Safed. where he established his yeshivah and rabbinical court. He wanted to be in the company of scholars with whom he could . blessed be He. Yosef wanted to sail on a ship from Constantinople to Eretz Israel. because Torah study occupied him totally. This seemed to him to be a dream. The image of the rabbi and yeshivah head had remained with him through all the years since then. He needed time to rest. to step onto the shore and ascend to the Galilee hills. He had always wanted to be near Rabbi Yaakov Berab. It was during these minutes that he thought of new interpretations of the Torah. and their images were always before his eyes. He thought of the great teacher. He saw before him the people who had accompanied him throughout his life: his father Rabbi Ephraim and his uncle Rabbi Yitzhak. The sun was sinking in the sea. because he had gone to Eretz Israel. and it was a pity to waste even a single minute. to rest and to enjoy the world of the Holy One.69 Sometimes in the evening Yosef would go to the shore. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. the site of the Cave of Machpelah and the burial place of the'Patriarchs. a dream he hoped would be fulfilled. He owed most of his knowledge to them. He dipped his feet in the sea water. A ball of fire burned in the distance. He thought that there he would absorb some of their holiness. to go up to Jerusalem. Here he felt isolated. His long hours in the study hall caused him to lose all sense of time and space. whom he had seen in Portugal. but this had not been possible. new insights. He enjoyed these hours of solitude. to Safed and Rabbi Yaakov Berab. cut off from the centers of Torah. but he couldn"t find the hours for this. His mind was clearer and calmer.

We were afraid that the waves had swept you out to sea. but they were distant from him and he was distant from them. Yosef was immersed in his thoughts. It was as if he had returned from the upper worlds. why don"t you come to my house tonight? We looked for you throughout the entire city until someone said he saw you walking along the shore. separated between them. He sat on a log with the waves washing his feet. Suddenly someone grabbed his shoulder and shook him.70 discuss Torah all the time. for the company of Torah scholars and Kabbahsts. breathing the sea air. The sea. He did not feel hungry. so they went to the study hall to pray. He still had not freed himself from the dreams that had overcome him. "Yosef. His friend took him and they went to his house. "When I was . thinking. After Yosef had calmed down. *** The red sunset in the sea expanded into a glowing ball of fire." This was his good friend Itamar. he told his friend. He dreamed his dreams. thought of the new interpretations he had composed that day and the preceding day. looking out at the horizon. with whom he always studied. and paid no attention to his surroundings. He wanted to fulfill this dream and ascend to the holy mountains. until the crashing of the waves brought back his appetite. the great sea full of ships. Itamar took him from there to his house. where he would find his soul and where he would find worthy companions. From time to time bells pealed in the area. and boiled water. he had made it a fast day. brought him food. He longed for the atmosphere of Eretz Israel. Yosef remained silent all the time they were walking. Itamar did not disturb him. It was late and he still had not recited the Maariv prayer. Now he realized that he had been in another world. He thought of himself and his way of life. No food had touched Yosef's lips that day.

new ideas came into my mind." "It will come. and . I need a group of Torah scholars and Kabbahsts. so that they would not bother him with questions and disturb his peace. but you must not neglect yourself now. therefore. we still are only at the beginning. to compose books of legal rulings. He was blessed with a phenomenal memory. not to make do with writing responses to queries. I can"t free myself from them. He returned to the study hall. and there — on the hills and in the valleys — to write his books. but this is only preparation for the great deed. He knew that in order to fulfill the task he had set for himself." "You are right. to learn by heart every page of the Talmud. they are still ringing in my ears. Perhaps we will go together to Eretz Israel to live." "Your great deed is the very act of studying." .71 walking along the shore. and the expertise you acquire in the sea of the Talmud and its commentaries. There are not many Torah scholars in this city. you will not have the strength to do any great deeds. every comment or addition. of writing a book that would contain all the rulings and laws." Itamar responded. every book. there we will ascend to a higher spiritual level." "Yes. 'For your own sake. I feel lonely. "There is a proper time for everything. the way before us is long. " A l l the time I was alone by the shore I heard the pealing of bells. but continued to hide from people. to see himself as if he were going up to Eretz Israel. be careful. This day of wandering along the beach and looking at the horizon was a day of decisions about the path of Yosef's life: to strive for perfection. he would have to acquire expertise. and we certainly cannot find Kabbahsts who will occupy themselves with hastening the Redemption. to study together with them. it will come. Remember the verse. It is as if they are calling me to do a great deed.' I f you keep engaging in fasts and mortifications.

He postponed his visit to the cemetery to the following day. he wanted to go to the cemetery to pray at the graves of his forefathers. Many questions assailed him. and consulted with him about the ways of going about this. He wanted to ask his father and his uncle what to do. Itamar stayed at his side all that day and watched over him. He felt he needed a friend in order to withstand the fasting and prayer. After he returned from his wandering on the beach. They studied together most of the hours of the day and night. he formulated in his head the general lines for the composition of the book of rulings. concentrating on the legal rulings. because he spent most of the day with him. There were many books in the study hall in Constantinople. He asked to go with him to the cemetery. how he should conduct himself. Therefore he felt that he still could not accept the yoke of marriage. but his expertise exceeded that of Yosef. because he wanted to continue learning together with Yosef. but they were no longer with him in this world. when he would fast. He consulted with him on every matter. He wanted to recite a few chapters of Psalms at the graves of his dead relatives. Sometimes they agreed. they only drew the main lines. but they searched . and that he must immerse himself once again in study. He wanted to stand before his forefathers in fasting and prayer. they made an effort to discover the ruling pertaining to this topic. In the meantime they studied together. When they studied a Talmudic topic. They delved into many books and discussed the conclusions. Yosef was pleased by this. They needed many books. He felt that he was overcome by weakness. while other times they had differing opinions. Itamar was both his pupil and fellow scholar. They did not yet write down the rulings. Itamar learned much from Yosef. which would be a guide and way of life for every Jew. He talked with Itamar a great deal about his vision of composing the book of rulings and law.72 remembered everything that he had ever studied and everything that his eyes had seen. Little by little.

the Divine service. They would describe the issue. Yosef would fast every Monday and Thursday. Since he was renowned for his expertise in the Talmud. He would spend long periods meditating in the study hall of the Kabbahsts. for there were arguments on each side. Instead of talking to other people. so that they would be ready when he would write his book of legal rulings. seeing visions that testified to his closeness to heaven. he felt the need to rest. *** . until he wrote the correct response. When the sun was especially strong. He had to be razor-sharp in his decision. Therefore they would go from one study hall to another to find ancient books. and the secret teachings. emphasizing each and every word of the prayers. take books down from the shelves. He prayed silently. and this weakened him. and turn the matter over in his mind. But there were books which he had not yet studied. they sought his aid. bringing letters with legal queries by rabbis throughout the country who were not capable of answering them by themselves. in order to find what he needed. He would use his memory. At times when he prayed he would ascend to the upper spheres. and to the libraries of rabbis. he felt uplifted. His study of queries and responses gave him the expertise that he needed. he was confident that his decision was well-based. and queries and responsa. He would write down his thoughts on each one. and especially in the poskim. manuscripts by authors. When he prayed. which he knew discussed this topic. He would go to all the study halls in search of the books. list the sources they had examined.73 for additional books. Although it was hard to reach a decision. At times all the sources dealing with the issue passed before his eyes. and state their doubts. The queries piled up in front of him. he would spend his days and nights on Torah. which was why he prayed for so long each day. Emissaries would enter the study hall in which he was learning. Sometimes he would think about it for several days.

Why should they toil day and night over the volumes of the Talmud. Whoever wants to serve as a rabbi will need your book. they would not be able to understand the poskim. They won"t be able to understand your book without having studied the Talmud. and will make do with the study of the rulings only." Yosef answered. It might be notes on the other books by poskim.74 His great project took shape in his mind. and no one has has ever said not to write such books. "But what will prevent any common person from studying your book and saying. "You must think about the consequences of the publication of such a book. Whoever wants to study Torah will study the Talmud. or a book of rulings. He saw that his generation needed such a work. You don"t have to worry about frivolous people." A great weight was taken off him. Rabbis from important communities turned to him. that is so. His friend told him. because of the comment of a Torah scholar who saw him studying the poskim in the study hall." He was assailed by doubts. I fear that people will neglect the study of the Torah. The scholar said to him: " I f you write a short book of all the rulings and laws. He saw before him a long series of books. if they were to give this up. "You don"t have any reason to worry. or a summary of all the poskim in one book. knowing that he . ' I am expert in the Talmud. rulings. He discussed this with Itamar." "Yes. when there is a book containing all the rulings and laws open before them?" "My book will be meant for scholars who have already studied the Talmud. But he was consumed by doubts." " I have not yet decided upon the contents of the book. I have learned to deliver rulings' " " I won"t have anything to do with such frivolous people." he asserted. But you plan to write a much more detailed book than any of the others." "But there already are hundreds of books by the poskim. and laws. because of the fear that people will not study the Talmud. Many queries were directed to him. on the entire Talmud.

The sun set on Constantinople. and there would not be a uniform body of law for all Israel. every rabbi would rule for his own community. and that he would remain in good spirits. Would other scholars accept his books? Would they view his work as the basis for future rulings? After all. The queries bothered him. He would have to summarize all the poskim: was he the right person for this? Could he take this burden upon his shoulders? Even though he was thoroughly familiar with the Talmud and poskim. one focal point. He needed peace of mind in order to go on. but no one outside this circle knew of his existence. Yosef would walk to and fro in the study hall. to clarify the laws which had been discussed and finalized during his time. removing all doubts. Each decision was accompanied by an agonizing process of fully clarifying the issue. he still felt that he was not yet ready to start this work. he was an unknown scholar who spent his time in the study hall. . and who did not serve as a rabbi. casting shadows on its houses. sunken deep in his thoughts. fits of anger interrupted his thoughts. and he had to decide which was correct. so that he could study the Torah in peace. There was a need for one foundation. that no one oppose him. He asked that he not be bothered. There would be many different teachings. at his failures or delays in understanding. The queries he received could be answered in more than one way. Yes. without anger ever entering his heart. The Torah scholars of the time knew him and sent him their queries. He asked for the physical and spiritual strength to fulfill his task. At times this was personal anger. a collection of all the rulings.75 specialized in legal rulings. All this meant that there was a need for a short and clear book of the poskim. He saw the waves rushing towards him. to aid them in responding. so that every rabbi would easily be able to find what he needed. He saw before his eyes the great task of collecting all the scattered poskim into one book. Once again he went to the beach to be alone. and getting to the heart of the matter. Otherwise. instead of one Torah. and expressed a silent prayer.

the matches that were offered did not find favor in his eyes. Not every woman would want such a person as a husband.76 But at times his anger would overcome him. a set table. to be undisturbed. Some of his friends told him that it was time for him to marry. Once again. He would have to care for his family"s livelihood. This would bring stability. of study and thought: how would he begin this undertaking? He was certain of one thing: sooner or later he would do this work. but only when he found the proper way. and to adjust himself to his wife — and who knew better than he how difficult it was to find a single free hour of mental peace to study a complicated topic. It would not be easy to find such a woman. *** He sought a woman who would be both a wife and a friend. He was paralyzed then. isolated from the outside world. He rejected the matches that were suggested. but would he have the time? Would he able to bear such a life? Would he be worthy of this? He was still in the stage of preparations. and did not find one. He would no longer be free to study day and night. family life. He feared the effect of marriage on his studies. at the proper time. concern for children. so that she could understand him. hidden away with his books among the hills of Galilee. He was secluded in the study hall. He was willing to devote many years to this undertaking. preparing a shulkhan arukh. His thoughts crawled along ever so slowly. and would not be willing to ascend to the spiritual level of a husband like Yosef. Besides this. to be replaced by days of joy. He sensed . He needed to seclude himself for this task. until the time of anger would pass. He saw in his mind"s eye how he would come to Eretz Israel. He needed a wife whose thoughts would revolve around Torah study. He needed a spiritual awakening. Most women wanted normal family life. he stood on the sea shore. of rulings. But Yosef feared that marriage would disturb him.

The waves rose up. Although Yosef corresponded with the leading scholars of his time. Only his friend Itamar knew of his plans. and he had gained the necessary expertise. to see if their thoughts were similar to his. Yosef feared mental storms. smashed against the land. asked him for advice.77 that he was qualified to do this. He was alone. He kept his secret to himself. replies. he had invested tremendous spiritual forces in this. and he did not know how to deliver a ruling. which his generation so sorely needed. not relevant. but he was tied to the study hall bench and his daily studies. and if he would not undertake this labor. but his thoughts were not orderly. to see if they corresponded to his replies. as did those of Yosef. Other times he received argumentative. . their letters dealt with legal questions. His friend"s ideas helped Yosef. He wanted to examine their responses. He would respond to their queries and ask questions of his own. which he intended to include in his book. Itamar was a great scholar. It was clear from such replies that the author was a scholar. like the storm that agitated the sea before him. he doubted whether anyone else would compile such a book. He talked with him of his plans. Others would ask: How could a single person take upon himself to be the posek of the generation? Who had authorized him? But he knew that he had labored over every ruling. At times he would receive responses that excited him: their responses were similar to his. debated with him. and no bonds of friendship were struck. and retreated. He could not find the proper path. His thoughts did not seek new horizons. He wanted to share his thoughts with them.

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the repositories of old books. Politely. He didn"t have any peace in the study hall. as if they were on a screen. Some wanted to match him up with the daughters of respected families. Everything became much more serious. but firmly. People kept coming and disturbing him. Sometimes he was aided by other scholars who studied in the study hall. then he also was authorized to engage in this. while others wanted to study with him or to make him their rabbi. sometimes for hours. He stood on the shore. The sea relaxed him. Sometimes he would . He needed bigger and bigger bookcases to hold them all. Everything he had studied was engraved on his mind. for ancient manuscripts by scholars who had issued legal rulings. Books and manuscripts piled up in his personal library. but he knew that this would not be enough for him.79 Chapter Seven Searching through the Genizot The days passed in study. in searching through genizot. All his days he would want to write a great book of rulings. The doubts that had assailed him receded. laws. provided that he had the proper respect for the body of rulings. He prepared for the labor before him. He spent much time on each manuscript. and he still did not know how to begin or what to do. and making his annotations. until he understood it properly. and if other scholars had done so as well. he turned all of them away. He thought that if the Rambam had taken upon himself the task of compiling rulings in his generation. He sought some time to be alone. He considered once again the idea of basing himself on another posek. and now the lines ran through his head. where he was captured by his thoughts. others wanted to ask him questions. and summations of the laws. as if they were summoning him to a far-off destination. The waves called to him from afar. in order to sum up the things he had learned in the legal works he had read.

confidence necessary to write legal works and issue rulings. He would impose upon himself a ban on talking. you must maintain your strength to study Torah. and he would reply n writing or with motions. He needed great expertise for this. because he was disturbed by the queries he received. from his isolation. Sometimes people who had fled from Spain or Portugal came to the study hall. They were taken aback because he did . If anyone wished to communicate with him. They would sing the praises of the intended matches for him. and would sit in his corner of the study hall and learn. back to his fasting and lonely life. They would approach Yosef. they would write to him on a piece of paper. *** He came back from the seashore. He needed this relaxation. He searched for the self. He needed to issue final rulings. Only in this way could he collect all the material by the poskim. He had to know by heart section after section. "Young Yosef the sage! Enough of afflicting yourself! Your health will be harmed. He needed power like this to write his books. and in order to join one topic to another." the elders told him.80 come before dawn. When people asked him to clarify a law or some other Torah matter." he replied. He saw how they rolled over the top of the water and heard the crashing of the waves. he might get some peace. they would also talk to him about other matters. He did this so that he would not speak things which were not Torah. If people were to read his books. and page after page. The elders in the study hall came to him and said. Go out into the city." " I am not suffering. The waves reached his feet. and he preferred just not talking. He was tired of rejecting their offers. to tell him that they had known his father Rabbi Ephraim and his uncle Rabbi Yitzhak. "Nevertheless. in order to absorb what he had studied. to immerse himself in the soothing waters. I can withstand this.

People would implore him. "Yosef the Sage! My son is sick. She said. When the fast day ended. Yosef fulfilled his promise. with a serious illness.81 not answer them." " I will pray. He felt that he was a simple person. and promised to pray for her child. On regular days as well he did not each much: a handful of carobs was enough for him. and works of musar (ethical teachings). Many people would come to him to receive his blessing. His seclusion gave him the reputation of being a holy man. He would pray with great concentration. beaming. He did not want to accept this mantle of holiness. where no one learned during the day. May it be G-d"s will that he recover. but the masses would not let him remain anonymous. but only nodded his head in reply. On fast days he would seclude himself in the small study hall. He refrained from giving blessings. that he would eat a full meal. he did not hurry home to eat. and he could not study in peace. The fasts he imposed on himself did not bother him. He would devote long hours to praying and the recitation of Psalms." Yosef could not refuse the mother"s plea. Please pray for him. Kabbalistic books. He would remain in the study hall after the Maariv prayer. when he was invited for the Sabbath meal. "Yosef the Sage! Your prayers helped. despite his weakness. in honor of the Sabbath. The following day the mother came. It was only on the Sabbath. He thought that maybe he should move to a . My son recovered from his illness yesterday!" The stream of people coming to him increased. He feared that if his mother had been alive she certainly would have disapproved. He prayed fervently for a long time on behalf of the ill child. He would spend the entire day in studying Torah. He wondered whether his father and mother would have approved of his method of sanctifying himself by means of afflictions.

and piety. the matchmakers did not know what to think. When a scholar came and offered Yosef a match. Sometimes the matchmakers would return and say that the girl was not willing to agree to his demands. Many scholars offered their daughters to him. His senses told him that they were not offering him the wife he . who would be blessed with understanding. isolation." they said to him. He sought a wife who would appreciate his constant studying. He needed a wife who very being radiated honesty. "Yosef the Sage! It is not good for man to be alone. But he was afraid that this agreement was insincere. and who had absorbed the spirit of Torah. and suits your wisdom and piety. She is good-hearted. She will not interfere with your studies. who would be righteous. wisdom. he would tell him what he wanted how the bride would have to act and what he wanted from his life. Since he did not give a definite "No" to any of the offers. His friends came and tried to match him up. and that after the wedding it would be forgotten. the daughter of a righteous mother.62 small town. He spent his time swimming in the sea of Torah. and he asked whether she was willing to accept this. who had been educated to honesty and humility. and where he could sit by himself and study. The people who came to him with offers left empty-handed. How would he find such a wife? She would have to be the daughter of an outstanding scholar. but he was not yet convinced that the time was ripe for this. I have a distinguished girl from a good home to propose to you. where no one would know him. who had seen such a way of life at home. He was alone. who would not raise obstacles in his path. He did not accept any of the offers. abstinence. Other times they came back with the agreement of the girl and her parents to his requests. and he did not sense that he was getting older. and afflictions. sincere. They also troubled him with offers of matches. and so the neighbors invited him for Sabbath meals. but his ties with friends and relatives prevented him from taking such a step. who would allow him to continue his way of life of studying.

All his aspirations and plans would vanish into thin air. He needed a new period in his life. Now he was cleansed and purified. These were the bells announcing a new period — but he did not know what this period had in store for him. A great weight had been removed from his shoulders. Perhaps this was marriage? This would be a new way of life. The exiles from Spain had brought with them the practices of the cities and towns in which they had lived. The waves washed against the golden sands. and rulings. He realized now that he would have to chart out his life. permitting him to walk home quickly as if important news were awaiting him at home. And this was not all. He felt that bells were ringing in his ears. Not every rabbi was capable of investigating the roots of each law in the Gemara. Each community had its own practices. an end to his seclusion. Several things had become clear to him at the seashore. He undressed and immersed himself in the sea. He stood on the seashore. But how was he to find such a woman? Who would guarantee that after the wedding his wife would not let him down? His entire way of life would be harmed.83 needed. He knew that such a person had to be his companion in life. commentaries. Twilight descended. young people would participate in parties and other immoral activities. He saw a situation of anarchy in the different Jewish communities. He felt relieved on the way back to his home. There were disagreements and quarrels about the different practices of each community. because of the many works of poskim before them. All humans are forgetful. The laws of modesty had been breached. Some scholars had forgotten the law. He remembered his mother"s admiration for his father. Some of the practices of Spanish Jews were influenced by the non-Jewish world in which they had lived. . *** That evening by the sea changed his life.

He wanted to head an academy where he would lecture to his students. and impart to them everything he had learned. This is the reason why he did not accept a position as a rabbi. teach then how to think. from his home to the study hall and back. but he saw that the unrest only increased. He needed solitude to delve into the depths of the works he studied. He turned down all the offers. Due to the differing practices. Many communities of Spanish Jews asked him to serve as their rabbi. A life of modesty and physical afflictions was the best preparation for the writing of a collection of all the laws. in order to join together all the communities and prevent quarrels. All these added to his desire to collect all the laws into a single . not to be disturbed by life"s concerns. and so he continued in his daily routine. but he did not want to accept upon himself a formal position. During this period he would need rest. In the meantime. He still did not know when he would be ready to take pen and paper in hand and start to write. In some cases questions regarding these practices were directed to Yosef. according to the questions which he received. When he was sent questions about the law he would reply. who had gained a reputation as an expert in laws and practices.84 Yosef was convinced that the path he had set for himself was the right one. Being alone did not bother him. But the establishment of such an academy required time and money. The time was not ripe for this. This period of preparation would be a lengthy one. He was troubled by these arguments. He had neither of these. he sorted out the laws. the Torah was in danger of becoming many different teachings. He could not do this if he was weighed down by the burdens of a family. both intellectually and spiritually. He had to prepare himself for this mission. *** Ever-increasing numbers of reports of disagreements and quarrels about practices and laws came from different communities. He issued rulings.

but rather in a house of ordinary people. He still kept himself from thinking about establishing a family. Choose for yourself this girl. She is not the daughter of a scholar. since Torah is your sole occupation. Yosef heard this while all his time was spent in ascending to higher and higher levels of Torah scholarship. "Since you have separated yourself from the affairs of this world. while the daughter of a great rabbi must certainly have learned much and absorbed the proper values in her father"s house. and even every simple Jew. She will maintain your household honestly. because of her humility and because of her friendly character. and he could not decide. She does not have any possessions of her own. She is a proper. His friends came and told him. and she will stand by you in every thing. and you do not know how to engage in commerce. could look in this book and know what to do. making fun of a way of life and aspirations that she could not understand. obedient. She will consider herself privileged to be the wife of a great scholar. If she would agree to this. he reasoned. and was undecided. Jewish wife from a modest family. He thought that he would tell her of his thoughts and his aspiration to devote himself to study. He heard this. She will not raise her voice.85 clear and concise work. This was why he was careful. He himself could not properly evaluate the proposals. who herself is modest. without argumentation. A woman appears to possess all the proper virtues and acts respectfully. He wanted to hear of prospective matches with the daughters of rabbis. so that every scholar. Every offer that made made raised doubts in his heart. nor the daughter of a wealthy man. and who will care for your home. but might appear differently after the wedding. do not set your sights too high. She would understand him. he rejected all the . and act disrespectfully towards him. He examined every offer made to him to the finest details. Such a woman could harm all his plans in life. She will not seek to live in a palace. but she is worthy of you. she undoubtedly would understand his character and soul. without great aspirations. Once he had reached this decision.

There were many such offers. directed their studies. from his correspondence with him on legal matters. He taught them the novellae. Since he knew of her father's piety. and he was not bothered . from the community itself and from the surrounding towns. and he examined the offers. They entered under the bridal canopy. Emissaries kept going back and forth with questions and answers. drawn-out process. and regarded him as their main teacher. Such matches were indeed presented to him. He thought that her father would serve as an example to her. Both sides were hesitant. The bride was apprehensive of his righteousness and afflictions. One offer came from Adrianople. All the doubts were resolved. *** This was the daughter of Rabbi Hayim Albalag of Andrianople. regarding the daughter of the rabbi of the community. the new interpretations he composed.86 offers made to him. Rabbi Yosef was apprehensive lest his studies be disturbed. and therefore many pupils gathered around him in the study hall of the city. These discussions added much to his understanding. teaching her to be a modest wife who does as her husband wishes." He found what he had been looking for: a quiet place in which he could study in tranquility. and supervised them. he agreed. Everything was straightened out in the negotiations between the two sides. He knew this rabbi. They were devoted to him. At times the offers were too good. Since the community supported him. They included financial support for the home and family. As it is said. and they asked questions. This was a long. He postponed his decision. lest he would not have time for family matters. near his father-in-law. He lectured to them. so that he could continue his studies. and a new Jewish family came into being. "And from my pupils I have learned the most. and asked that only the daughters of renowned scholars be presented to him. He was known for ruling in accordance with the accepted law. Rabbi Yosef moved to Adrianople.

The members of the community came from Italy. one of the leading Torah scholars of the time. permitting them to light a lamp before the Shabbat. The Jews led a comfortable life in the city. The exiles from these lands had come to Adrianople to find a place of refuge. Germany. so he could maintain his strength. Ibora." The exiles from Spain built seven synagogues. and a controversy erupted over this issue. One synagogue was named "Geirush. Long caravans loaded down with goods. They dealt in commerce and trades. The Jews from Italy built three synagogues: "Italy. *** There was also a separate community of Jews from Germany in Adrianople. hidden behind his books. so that they would not have to sit in the dark. There was even a community of Karaites in Adrianople. would go out from the city to the surrounding districts. Adrianople was a crossroads and a trade center. in the attic room.87 with having to earn his livelihood. Beit Yosef. This was contrary to the practice in all the other Karaite communities. surrounded by piles of books. which they named after the cities from which they came: Arnon. he decided that the time had come to write his book. He needed a great deal of rest. Spain. as she had promised. who opposed this new ruling." and "Sicily. and leave it burning all Shabbat eve. A small room was found for him in the study hall in the city. and a place for the many books he would require while writing the book. headed by Jews or Arabs. His wife would bring his meals to the study hall. he sat and wrote. and Portugalia. Rabbi Yosef would discuss Torah with the scholars from Germany. and Italy living in the city. She stood by him and supported him. Maracai. France. There." after the Exile (geirush) from Spain. This community included Rabbi Yitzhak Zarfati. and . The members of this community were known in the city for the new ruling they had issued for themselves. Catalonia. They had come from Crimea." "Apollia. He would spend days on end there. Toledo.

establishing the Ashkenazic community of Jews from Germany. Each community maintained its own customs.. but . Although my young family is from France. return O Israel! Arise for your resting-place.. They dwell safely here. wherever they are: I . traders. to the land of Turkey. I was exiled from the land of my birth and came here. They wrote letters to Rabbi Yitzhak asking him whether this and other cities in the Turkish empire would be a safe harbor for them. How many good qualities does this place have. This is not so in Germany and in all the surrounding lands.. why do you slumber? Come and inherit the land that the L-rd gives you.88 also to distant destinations. And now do not be indolent or slack.. with its own rabbis and scholars. The great number of communities and synagogues in the city led to divisions and disagreements. They way is close and safe. like a person going with his beast to market. every man under his vine and under his fig-tree. Since many decrees had been issued against the Jews of Germany.. I was born in Germany. Every day large caravans of Arabs. Yitzhak Zarfati. And now O Israel. and Jews set out. each of which had its own practices and customs. German and French Jews. and its inhabitants are graced. my chiefs and friends.. Each community was a separate society.. The assimilated Jews who came from Spain had not abandoned their faith. based on a tradition of generations that they had brought from their land. and served them. to send me and you here to live. He replied to them: "To my brothers and masters. am your servant and little brother. making their lives bitter. where I studied under my teachers... many of them decided to leave their homes and seek a place of refuge. a land in which all good is to be found. They came to Turkey and settled in this city. The thoughts of the L rd were good. *** The Jews were centered around their individual communities." Many German Jews who had suffered from oppressors in their land heeded his words. the rabbis of Germany.

and between one community and another. after his marriage. He was certain now that he had to take upon himself the task of writing a book of laws which would be uniform for all Israel.89 the young among them adopted the customs of the non-Jews. Yosef looked at the life of the Jewish community in Adrianople. and was forbidden to go to another synagogue. He used his books. Although he found it very pleasant to be in their company. This had not been so in Europe. between one synagogue and another. Rabbi Yosef saw the differences in customs and was horrified. he was no longer troubled by worries about his livelihood. as well as the books the exiles had brought with them from wherever they had come. In Europe. At times the rabbis also were involved in these disputes. He discussed Torah with Rabbi Aaron Trani. from where they had come. This caused arguments to break out in due course. Rabbi Aaron"s nephew. . They went to parties and acted in an immodest manner. all the members of a community followed the same leaders and observed the same practices. who had come from Spain. Beit Yosef. There were several great scholars living in the city. busy writing his book. He saw that the Torah had indeed become many teachings. Each helped the other to gain a deeper understanding of the Torah. Whoever belonged to a certain synagogue regarded himself as belonging to it forever. and he discussed matters of law with them. He began to write his book. Now. He also discussed Torah with Rabbi Moshe Trani. he spent most of his time alone in his attic room.

He hated arguments. When he was asked a question. He was supported by his father-in-law. The common people would come to him with their claims against one another.90 Chapter Eight Leaving After an Argument Each community lived within itself. This gave him an even stronger reason to write his book. in order to prevent disagreement. he would turn over the pages. many years before. both inside and outside the synagogue. Sometimes this was because of their customs and their rabbis. His expertise aided him in finding the right sources. the commentaries. At times he discovered that the things he remembered by heart were written exactly as he remembered them. of the Gemara. ready for use. but he hesitated. and the poskim. Each community appointed its own rabbis and scholars. other times. and other times these disagreements were due to monetary matters or the honor each community thought it deserved. while others did not leave him anything. At times a man would bring his son to him and asked that he be accepted into Rabbi Yosef's . He was occupied in writing responses to the legal questions addressed to him. The quarrels which were brought before him for his decision distressed Rabbi Yosef. until he found what he needed. and wanted to unite the communities and their customs. to collect the laws and practices and decide between them. They knew that he was expert in the laws and rulings. Whatever he had learned remained engraved in his mind. He knew what to respond. they were written differently from what had been concealed in his memory. Some gave him money for the time he spent on their matters.and clashed — with each other. but he spent most of his time in the study hall. They competed . He had a phenomenal memory. in his mind. where pupils from the city and the surrounding area came to hear him teach.

He still considered which author was the most suitable for this. the Arba Turim. because one side did not want to accept his verdict. one who was more gentle and who discussed things in greater length. He collected sources. He needed a lot of time. because he was asked to issue a ruling. but it seemed to him that the Rambam was too sharp a posek. arranged them. At times he would remain in the study hall for days on end until the topic he was working on was ready. His contacts with the people of the city showed him once again the differences between their customs and laws. At first he wanted to append his work to the Rambam. He needed another posek. "Our practice is different. even though it was based on the legal sources discussing this topic. Other times. the quarrel continued even after he had issued his ruling. which he did not always have. he would append his work. It was clear that he had to append his work to one of the leading poskim. *** A quarrel among members of the Catalonian community led to a disagreement among the scholars in Adrianople. But things stretched out. One of the scholars in the city. asked that .91 academy. read other books. he chose Rabbi Yaakov Baal HaTurim as the author to whose book. After thinking the matter over and discussing it with other scholars. . In some instances he resolved the disagreement. Rabbi Yom Tov. They said. He devoted time to the writing of his book. and took what he needed from them. in the form of annotations. because he was bothered by legal questions. The man would promise to participate in the expenses of the study hall. Beit Yosef. This is the practice we brought with us from our community. all of whom came and asked his opinion. Rabbi Yosef was involved in this dispute. His brain absorbed everything and produced what he wrote down. Rabbi Yosef was accepted by all the members of the different communities.

A year later the Hakham died. His words were accepted and the dispute died down. Since this was so. The Hakham (sage) of the community did not agree with this. The honor due the Hakham reflected upon the honor of the entire community. With the consent of those present. He went up on the bimah in the synagogue before the entire congregation and opened the Ark. The heads of the community also opposed it. The matter was publicized throughout all the communities in the city. as long as the present Hakham would be alive. because the heads of the community and the sages opposed him. Rabbi Yom Tov was asked to end the dispute. They were afraid that this was an attempt to establish Rabbi Yom Tov as the Hakham. This dispute became stronger and stronger. and by the force of a herem (a vow not to do something). He asked the heads of the community and its judges for permission to teach his circle of students in the synagogue. They said that no change should be instituted until a year following the death of the Hakham. in place of the current one. that he would not teach in the synagogue and that he would not assume the position of Hakham of the community. on their own. to come to the synagogue and study. They also said that the appointment of a new judge in his court should be postponed for a year.92 several members of the Catalonian community study Torah with him on Shabbatot. until the entire community was aflame. by all the curses and oaths written in the Torah. After the Minhah prayer on Shabbat. His followers said. After some time had passed. he and his followers remained in the synagogue and studied. Rabbi Yom Tov wanted to teach his followers within the synagogue. The judges and the communal leaders were opposed to this. even though the heads of the community had warned him not to do so. because the number of people accepting Rabbi Yom Tov"s teachings had decreased. claiming that this was disrespectful to the established Hakham. The heads of the community opposed this. he accepted upon himself. but the members of Rabbi Yom Tov"s circle were faithful to him and continued this custom. " I f anyone bothers . Rabbi Yom Tov saw himself as freed from his oath. But Rabbi Yom Tov and his followers decided.

even if we have to strike him. who found legal reasons to back his opinion. The controversy spread. . He ruled that Rabbi Yom Tov acted improperly. and that he was subject to the ban. He was supported by Rabbi Aaron Trani. *** The Hakhamim of the other communities arose and said. the head of the community. More and more people were drawn into the dispute. In their opinion. until it engulfed all the Jews in the city. who agreed with his ruling. but also between all the scholars in the city. Some supported Rabbi Yom Tov. I am the Hakham. which was not to institute any change until the judges would issue their ruling. Some scholars wrote rulings in favor of Rabbi Yom Tov. Rabbi Yom Tov"s followers refused to heed the opinion of the heads of the community." Rabbi Yosef was asked to give his opinion regarding the dispute. the son of the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi. ' Since Rabbi Yom Tov and his followers are conducting themselves within the synagogue against the opinion of the Hakhamim. . not only between the members of the community." He was accepted by his followers as the Hakham and rosh kahal. whether you agree or not. Rabbi Yom Tov declared: " I do not agree with this ruling. let us impose a ban on him.93 us. while others supported Rabbi Yosef's ruling. we will stand against him. Rabbi Yosef refuted all the proofs that Rabbi Yisrael had brought. this constituted a violation of his herem and oath. This ruling swept Rabbi Yosef into the dispute that raged. while others supported the heads of the community." The heads of the community assembled the representatives of the other communities in the city and asked for their support. including Rabbi Yisrael. lest all the barriers against lawless conduct be breached. so that Rabbi Yom Tov and his followers would not go against their decision. Some supported Rabbi Yom Tov.

with whom he had discussed legal matters. Finally Rabbi Aaron Trani. He left the attic only to go tp the study hall for prayers three times a day. "Maybe you too should deal with merchandise. He secluded himself in his attic. Some dealt with merchandise.94 There was no end in sight to the dispute. between one rabbi and the other rabbis. He began to think that perhaps he should flee from this controversy and leave the city. and they certainly were not worthy of his company. including his friend Rabbi Aaron Trani. agreeing instead that Rabbi Yom Tov should serve as rabbi. "We will have to leave the city and move to another community. and others were partners in business ventures while he devoted all his time to Torah. He knew he could no longer remain in this city. He found himself in the center of the controversy. The Torah is my only merchandise. But Rabbi Yosef would not budge from his ruling. He was shocked by their action. He saw the other sages of the city engaged in worldly matters. Beit Yosef. He broke his ties with the sages who cancelled the ban on Rabbi Yom Tov. as he had clarified it. under pressure from all sides. going against his ruling. His wife said to him. He was saddened by the fact that the sages of the city. to escape the controversy. softened his position and became the defender of Rabbi Yom Tov. They were not being honest with themselves. One disagreement led to another: between a congregation and its rabbi. and bring us some livelihood." " I am shocked by this. He saw scholars who did not defend their position. Rabbi Yosef regarded this as a slight to the honor of the Torah. This dispute saddened him." " I am not suited for this. against Rabbi Yosef's ruling. which was based on the halakhah. when all . saying that his intentions were good. and wrote his work. who was one of the leading scholars of the time. ignored his decision. How have we come to this." he replied. More and more scholars supported one or the other of the sides. like the other scholars. with the fire of disagreement rising and enveloping all the Torah sages.

but act according to other considerations." he replied. women do not have to become involved in this. that Rabbi Yom Tov had acted improperly. and not just the common people. You aren"t responsible for what happens after you write your decision. from being your supporter to being your opponent?" "That"s just it. I must escape from controversy and those who are not honest with themselves. after having agreed with it in the beginning? How could he change his position. and many people gathered around him. How can we go someplace new?" "We will make new friends wherever we go. The controversy will die down. Rabbi Yom Tov Hakohen attracted people by the power of his words." " I cannot live among those who cause controversy and among scholars who do not want to know the law.'' "But my family is here. *** It was difficult to leave and start anew." "No. Rabbi Yosef saw this and his blood boiled. He searched for a city in which he could engage in Torah in peace. between the synagogues. They had friends in this city." . "Let our master remain with us. Why did he come out against your ruling. my friends. his wife and I are friends." "Perhaps I should talk with him and reproach him for what he has done? After all. despite Rabbi Yosef's ruling. He was certain of the correctness of his ruling. It is bad enough that the men disagree.95 you do is sit and write legal decisions. you shall be as a pillar of fire for us. The sages also were involved in the controversy. . People from the city of Adrianople came and asked him. I can"t have anything to do with people like this. but the flames of disagreement were as a wall between the communities. "But Rabbi Aaron Trani was your friend and admirer. The controversy affected him so strongly that he could not concentrate on his books.

rejecting a decision they had accepted. Rabbi Yosef remained alone. At that time emissaries from the city of Nikopol. one of the sages of the city. Then his wife succumbed to an illness and died. He closely studied the opinion of the sages who opposed him. and rejected all his proofs. but he postponed his decision. Rabbi Yosef studied this decision. and act insolently towards him. Some of them knew little of the Torah. The transition would be difficult for him. Now he would have to build his home from anew and establish a new daily schedule.96 He replied to them: " I cannot remain in a city in which the sages act against the law. Rabbi Yosef saw this as a sign that the time had come to leave Adrianople. He was accustomed to his study hall and home. mock his words. He was of the opinion that they ignored the sources and distorted the law. urging him to come. defended Rabbi Yom Tov." The controversy spread to all the study halls. **• The emissaries from the Nikopol community kept coming. came and invited Rabbi Yosef to live in their city and serve as their rabbi. He was afraid that moving from place to place would make it difficult for him to write . Rabbi Yisrael Mizrahi. They would angrily argue with him. and this was what Rabbi Yosef sought. He did not know what to decide. The contradicted one another. on the Danube River. His father Rabbi Ephraim Karo had served as rabbi in this city. Rabbi Yosef destroyed all of Rabbi Yisrael Mizrahi"s arguments. while still young. and sat down to write a response. Supporters of Rabbi Yom Tov would burst into the study hall where Rabbi Yosef prayed. bringing proof for their stand from different sources. Sages delivered sermons in favor of one side or the other. and wrote a decision justifying his actions. He had fond memories of the river and the many trees in the city. Many people came to Nikopol to rest in its tranquil atmosphere.

I and all the students will receive you warmly. building a great structure whose light would shine upon them. they would ask questions. to study with him. He went with the emissaries to Nikopol." he told them. and deal with the synagogue officials — these were not matters drawing him to another city." "We will see each other soon. because their community needed him. The caravan moved slowly. Several of the prominent members of the community volunteered to support these scholars with a monthly allocation of money. Some said they would follow him to Nikopol. we will be orphans without you!" one of his students cried out. in a great caravan of wagons. . before Rabbi Yosef joined the caravan. conduct marriages and divorces. They saw how the city"s splendor and brilliance were leaving. He took many books with him. even at a distance. First he had taken his leave of his friends in Adrianople. drawing from the great sea of the Talmud. "We will be together. They even promised him that they would help him to maintain a community of scholars around him. He feared that his mental peace. He saw before him a study hall filled with scholars listening to his words. He would have to deal with the routine affairs of the community." "We shall not stay here alone. This promise brought by the emissaries encouraged him. and of the students with whom he had studied for so long. "Our master! Do not leave us. The emissaries returned and urged him to make up his mind. I will remember you. without which he could not write. The emissaries told him of the community. Many people came to bid farewell to him. they did not want to part from him. and his life would have no purpose. This was a sad day for Adrianople. and if you come to my study hall in Nikopol.97 his book. who would sit in the study hall and study with him. and he would respond. He would lecture to them in the morning and the evening. would be disturbed. Sad at heart. our master! We will come after you. to study on the journey.

and will not trouble you. In an inn on the way he met Jews traveling from one city to the other. these are good tidings. . The escape from the controversy was all for the good. and responded. "Our master! A rumor has reached us that you are writing a book. he was met by a delegation of prominent Jews and scholars from Nikopol who came to greet him. The emissaries from the city of Nikopol surrounded him and took care of his meals." "Yes. His spirits lifted on the journey. There were green fields. synagogue officials. He had come to this city as a young man after his wedding. even though Nikopol was not a very large city. Now that his wife had died. Some of them came to greet him and receive his blessing. his world had come crashing down. as if he had just now learned the law and his books were open before him. This controversy had crushed him. He saw his colleagues who shared his opinions — and who had abandoned him. The journey was accompanied by breathtaking scenery. He discussed them. The wagon rolled along. white and blue flowers. and sages who traveled with it sensed that they were bringing to their city the greatest of the sages. the days he had spent in Adrianople passed before him. red roses. The members of our community are not involved in controversies. In our city you will find the tranquility you need to write. He did not find his place in the city due to it. Halfway there. while he was satisfied with little. ancient forests. They raised questions which they had not been able to resolve. I have undergone many troubles. The emissaries.98 As he sat in the wagon of the caravan which would bring him to Nikopol. the disagreeing parties would no longer trouble him. Every once in a while he would lift his eyes from his book to see the way before him. The entire trip he studied his books. I sorely need rest." The caravan slowly made its way towards Nikopol. They sat and talked of Torah matters with him. and felt the pressure lifting from him. or had not honored his decision.

provided that our master. and children came out to greet their new rabbi. in turn. with pupils coming here from all over the world." The heads of the community responded to his request. The city brought tranquility to the city. Rabbi Yosef looked at his surroundings and thought to himself. they sat him on a velvet chair and carried them on their shoulders to his place in the study hall. and other sages and Kabbahsts. and every member will be obligated to maintain a yeshivah student. to a center of Torah study. will stay with us for many years. He sat on the padded chair." " I will stay with you. *** He could smell the water of the Danube. will be obligated to teach the members of the family. We want to see here Torah scholars who will enrich the life of the community. He told them.99 When the caravan reached Nikopol. After a short rest. men." He was still apprehensive. As soon as Rabbi Yosef stepped down from the carriage in which he had been riding. and they discussed current events. women. as he had in Adrianople. where he had discussed points of law with Rabbi Avraham Trevis HaZarfati. the tranquility of slowly moving water. The great river encircled the city. "This is a fit place to gather pupils and teach Torah. Its waters flooded the surrounding fields. Scholars will reside in the houses of the members of the community. " I want to turn Nikopol into a place of Torah. "We have been waiting for this moment. the author of Birkat Avraham. He. and I will lead your congregation to . Rabbi Yosef. on which they young people had carried him through all the streets of the city. the heads of the community came to him. We will support them and the yeshivah. The community will be part of this center. ships sailed on the river and brought goods from Nikopol to other cities. He did not know whether he would find such Torah scholars in Nikopol. whether he would find here a group of scholars with whom he could engage in discussions of the law.

They brought her gifts and filled the house with delicacies. This was due solely to the presence of their rabbi. the author of Tier or HaMor on the Torah. Things which the young students had not understood would be explained by the older ones. Questions on points of law reached him from far away. They would discuss Torah. The veteran students came to met the new arrivals. They were received with cheers at the entrance. Without Torah. in poring over his books in order to complete his book. He was busy day and night. Towards evening the students would go from the study hall to the riverbank. in the morning and in the afternoon. in honor of the rabbi"s arrival. in responding to queries. walked with him. to breathe in the smell of the water and to look at the ships sailing in the river. I will also accept pupils from Nikopol into the yeshivah. . went to the synagogue to pray.100 the wellsprings of Torah. The heads of the community." It was the time for the Minhah prayer. attracting many Torah scholars. and since then the synagogue was known as the "Rabbi Yosef Karo Study Hall. looked at his actions and learned from from. Rabbi Yosef would lecture to them twice a day. We must raise a generation of Torah scholars who will be capable of leading the congregation in matters of law. the son of Rabbi Avraham Saba. led by the rabbi. He established his place for prayer. since he was known as a leading posek. Students began to come to Nikopol from throughout the world. and with sessions of the rabbinical court. His wife was warmly accepted by the women of the community. New students came to the city in these ships. Nikopol became a magnet.'' Since his wife had died. without Torah scholars from within the community. but a large portion of my time I will devote to teaching in the yeshivah. to the daughter of Rabbi Yitzhak Saba. Only at midnight could he stop to take a breath of fresh air. to study in the academy. with the needs of the community. His students surrounded him. showing them where to go and where to receive lodgings. he remarried. you will not be able to exist. Rabbi Yosef. reviewing what they had heard that day from their teacher.

returning to it when they grew up. and to accustom them to make decisions on points of law. Some of them secretly remained Jews. Rumors reached Nikopol of a youth. Therefore his lesson included all the poskim. other times he could easily answer the question. who would decide the law. while they sent their children abroad. while others had drawn away from it. The sound of Torah came forth from the study hall day and night. to guard their property. and in the fields. he brought to his pupils. Everything he had absorbed during the years he sat and studied. Rabbi Yosef knew that the community needed poskim. who was close to the royal circles. These young people were accepted in Rabbi Yosef's yeshivah. Their relatives kept in contact with the Marranos who had remained in these countries. The children of the Marranos continued to arrive from Spain and Portugal. he himself learned how the things he taught were understood by his pupils. He traveled . Some students would ask questions and bring proofs of their own during the lesson. and not only Torah scholars who could discuss the fine points of Talmudic arguments.101 Rabbi Yosef's lessons were intended to impart expertise to his students. Reports came from Spain and Portugal of Marranos who had been tortured and thrown into the sea. from the Marranos in Portugal. to learn what they had missed in their childhood. Their families had remained in these countries. Some of them adhered to their faith. hard study. all the disagreements. *** The days passed calmly in Nikopol. so that they would grow up as Jews. He stressed that all this did not come to him easily. because it was based on faulty reasoning. At times Rabbi Yosef was surprised by the questions which contained a proof he had not considered. holding prayers in basements. From the questions that were asked. but only after long. where they studied day and night. in forests. and who had returned to Judaism and called for the Redemption and the reestablishment of the royal House of David. until they arrived at the final deciding of the law.

. who wanted to meet him and offer him support. Rabbi Yosef wanted to meet this group and go to Salonika to join it. for the good of his people. going up to live in Eretz Israel. This young man. He had been brought up as a Marrano. whose name was Shlomo Molcho. inflamed the imagination of the yeshivah students. of groups of Kabbahsts who had gathered in this city in anticipation of the Redemption. He agreed to meet him. At this time Rabbi Yosef thought of aliyah. and they invited him to come to Nikopol. for he saw in him a spark of the renewed Jewish kingdom. but the spark of Judaism had awakened in him. distant from the Torah. They saw the persecutions of the Jews in these countries as preparation for the Redemption. looking like a nobleman. and devoted himself to the idea of Redemption and the reestablishment of the Jewish kingdom in Eretz Israel. met with kings and rulers. whom they described as handsome. The students asked their teacher whether to invite Molcho to Nikopol. and asked that they help the People of Israel to return to its land. Tidings had come from the city of Safed. in order to delve deeply into the Kabbalah and the teachings of Redemption. Students from the yeshivah went to meet him in the cities which he visited. They brought greetings from the young man. Some of them were Marranos who had fled from Spain and Portugal and returned to Judaism. Rabbi Yosef admired his devotion to the idea of Redemption.102 throughout the world. He had returned to his religion. Reports came from Salonika of a group of Kabbahsts who were planning to go to Eretz Israel and settle in Safed.

caring for his people. a mysterious figure who dealt with the teachings of the Kabbalah.. and could talk with kings in their own language. demanding that it be returned to its land and redeemed from its sufferings among the non-Jews. descended from the House of David. who met with government ministers and noblemen. masses of people streamed to hear his message and ask for his blessing. They asked their master. They saw him as a royal figure. He came to the royal palaces and proudly spoke with them in the name of the People of Israel. He knew many languages. as a person possessing the Messianic vision. if he had heard anything about Shlomo Molcho. and what he thought of his appearance? He thought. Wherever he went. told each other what they had heard about Shlomo Molcho. searching their way. The students who had heard him speak in the study halls and in the marketplaces related that his appearance was regal. . Groups of pupils. with the rulers of countries. He cited by heart passages from the hidden teachings. who wanted to hasten the Messianic era. arguing the right of the People of Israel to its land. He mingled with the great ones.103 Chapter Nine The Meeting with Shlomo Molcho The image of Shlomo Molcho. and that their teacher saw in him a person who had been chosen to sanctify the Name of G-d. He was a person who in his youth had known all the pleasures of the royal house in Portugal. Rabbi Yosef. Shlomo is my chosen one. This . and who had left everything and returned to being a Jew. His clothing was as that of kings. captivated many of the yeshivah students in Nikopol. and then replied: "Yes. His students understood from this that Shlomo Molcho s way was desirable.

They know of my arrival. "Long live our lord Shlomo Molcho. The city"s inhabitants gathered at the entrance to the city to greet him. to appear before Rabbi Yosef Karo. and announced to the residents of the city: "Shlomo Molcho will come to our city. people await. "You are wanted. protecting him. with flowers embroidered on the back and military medals and decorations on his chest. where the yeshivah students came out to greet him. The day on which Shlomo Molcho appeared in Nikopol was a day of great joy. They lifted him up on a chair and brought him to the synagogue. All I am capable of doing is to talk to the masses. dazzling fringes. They brought him to the synagogue. and which had not faded: buttons of gold and silver. " I am willing. Some cheered in his honor. The yeshivah students awaited the time when he would appear in the royal garments which had been sewn for him in the palace in Portugal where he had grown up.104 being the case. They found him on the dusty road. He sees in you his chosen one. They said to him. Alongside him youth were riding on noble horses. singing and dancing around him. as did royalty. Rabbi Yosef!" The inhabitants of Nikopol waited for the appointed hour. He appeared riding on a white horse. and meet with our master. You have nothing to fear. the leading posek of our time." He replied. clean and polished despite the dirt and dust of the journey." " I will come to your city after I complete my route as planned. our redeemer!" . In many places. a group of students went to seek him in the cities and towns in which he went about. "You must come to Nikopol. He will show you the proper path. but I am ignorant and not worthy to be in his presence." The students returned to Nikopol. carefully. but dressed properly.

They denied their Judaism. while others maintained their religion in secret. the crown gathered around him. After he finished talking. in light of the sufferings and tortures of the generation. but Judaism did not deny them. He was dressed in a gold robe. who converted to Christianity. He told of the tortures of the Inquisition. *** The members of the entourage. "Long live Shlomo Molcho. His entire appearance was that of regal splendor. He spoke of the need to prepare for the Redemption. as was the custom of the nobles in the court of the king of Portugal. meeting in caves and cellars to pray. At the same time. Some people kissed the hem of his garments. preferring an easy life. with Shlomo Molcho at their head. with his students listening to his every word. poring over his books. "Long live Shlomo Molcho!" the crowd roared back. wandering the face of the earth. . Rabbi Yosef was bent over his books. Their children and their children"s children would remember their roots and return to renew the kingdom of Israel in Eretz Israel. He still possessed the customs of the royal court. From a distance he heard the beating of hooves. with thousands of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal because of their faith. He lifted his eyes and saw Shlomo Molcho standing before him. entered his house.105 Others expressed their doubts and opposition: "Beware of false Messiahs!" they shouted. He condemned the heads of communities who gave in. Shlomo Molcho ascended the bimah (platform) in the synagogue and told the audience of the suffering of the Marranos in Spain and in Portugal. He responded to them with noble words. The people admired him. A group of riders stopped in front of his house. They saw him as a descendent of the House of David who had been lost among the non-Jews and saved from them. our leader!" the cry went up. Rabbi Yosef sat in his house. to find a refuge for those tortured and expelled. Some cut themselves off from Judaism.

the coming of the Messiah. with the study of Torah." "Awakening the People of Israel for the Redemption is undoubtedly worthwhile. will come the sign of the Redemption. " I see that you are prepared to sanctify the Name of G-d. is my . who are awaiting it every day." " I need a blessing from our master. with prayer." "The sanctification of His Name. but there is the fear of hastening the End of Days. " I have heard much about you." " I feel that I have not learned enough Torah. You have taken upon yourself a great task." "May your vision be blessed. Rabbi Yosef thanked him and said he would read the book." Shlomo Molcho said. The Redemption will come slowly. HaMefo"ar." "Whenever you want. The People of Israel needs to be rescued. the way before me is difficult and full of dangers. you are welcome to come to the study hall and become one of my students. Go with your strength and redeem Israel. may He be blessed.106 " I have come to hear words of Torah from our master." Shlomo Molcho gave him his book. " I have included in this book many allusions to what I have found about the time of the Redemption." Rabbi Yosef looked at him for a long time. They cannot wait a long time. who are hiding until the coming of the Redemption." "The People of Israel has been abandoned among the nations who mistreat it. with sermons on the Redemption. How it to be saved from those who oppress it? How is it to be brought back to its land? Who will give the sign?" "With self-sacrifice. We await salvation. but I must fulfill my mission to save the people. especially the Marranos who are awaiting the sign. May your reward be great in this world and in the World to Come. You left the royal court and returned to Judaism. I need to study Torah as it is done in your yeshivah." " I will bless you with all the praises of Israel." " I want to awaken the People of Israel.

for they are cruel. Who knows the non-Jewish world as I do? I was raised among them." "This is the light of the fire of my martyrdom for the Sanctification of the Name. One of them. " I do not fear them.107 aspiration in life." "They view them as traitors. who lived among them.' "Take care when you go among the princes and noblemen of the non-Jews lest you be caught by them." "They are especially cruel to those who converted to Christianity and returned to Judaism. surrounded by young men on horses. Be careful on your way to the summit. Rabbi Yosef also was in contact with this group." "Therefore I need a legal decision about the limits to which I can endanger myself. The greatest among them are liable to receive you in their palaces. you will receive an answer. Shlomo Molcho told them of his life. Take care. who spent years at the court of the King of Portugal?" " I see danger around you." The conversation drew to a close. and ready for any danger. cleared the way for the riders. because I have no limits. I always await this. at peace with myself. waving a banner reserved for the nobility. Shlomo Molcho left Rabbi Yosef's house. Shlomo Molcho said that he was in contact by letters with a group of Kabbahsts in Salonika wh o sought to hasten the Redemption by fasts and self. and use the Inquisition against them" "This is why you must be extremely careful. and sought to live among them in order to learn with them and go to Eretz Israel together with them.mortification." "Who knows them better than I . Shlomo Molcho entered one of the houses with a group of yeshivah students and youth." " I see a great light around you. I am strong of spirit. . as one of them. A night of longings descended. danger which draws near when you go among the non-Jews. and afterwards to order your arrest. "When you ask a concrete question. until I came to know my Jewishness once again. How he was one of the .

How he suddenly revealed the roots of his Jewishness. They seek only a sign to free themselves from the Christianity which was forced upon them. It learned about this only from the infrequent visits to the secret underground synagogues. They will exist as long as the generation of fathers. We must redeem them from the Exile. ' He are ready to go after you anywheres. This rescue will come about through the Redemption. and nothing will remain of them. The Marranos search for the Redemption." . but the Inquisition pursues them. *** His words created tension among his listeners. He left Portugal and went to Italy. in cellars. and even forgot his Jewishness. Some of them accepted his message enthusiastically. they will be lost to the People of Israel. who knew what Judaism is. "Perhaps we should send an emissary to the lands of the Inquisition. The Pope listened. for assimilation consumes them. to arouse himself on behalf of the people and the land. as an emissary of the Jews. Only the Redemption will cause them to want to go to other countries. to arouse the Jews there." "There is a great awakening among the Marranos. Some of them remove the mask from their faces. but promised nothing. where they can observe Judaism." One of the yeshivah students said to him. The power of this hope will awaken them. and how he was influenced by Reuveni. . He began to study Judaism.108 scribes of the King of Portugal. He asked for an end to the persecutions and expulsions of the Jews. this generation passes away. " I f we are too late. to teach them Torah. and to lead them to Redemption and repentance. One yeshivah student said. But as time passes. which can awaken them from their slumber. who awakened the Jewish people to Redemption. The new generation does not know its Jewishness. We must save them no matter what. until we arrive in Eretz Israel. is still alive. He told them about David Reuveni. where he was received by the Pope.

They think that the troubles that have come upon them are the birth pangs of the Messiah. They were charged with posing as Christians. and many followed him. By explaining the role of the People of Israel in the world — until they realize that it is impossible to destroy it or cause it to assimilate." "Is there an awakening among the people and among the Marranos?" one student asked. Informing is common there." " I am willing to go to Spain and Portugal to arouse the Marranos. Such an emissary could harm the Marranos with whom he comes in contact." they responded. But we must act carefully here. created a great awakening. "Yes." "How is this to be done?" they asked him. I have always preached this. even if he goes disguised as a Christian.109 "Great danger awaits such an emissary. and that they had come to arouse the Marranos to return to Judaism/' "This is a question of the Sanctification of the Name of G d. and never returned. "There is indeed a great awakening. Thousands of them will come to our holy land and renew their lives as Jews in it. The Jews await the Messiah. It is doubtful whether he would be of use. including the Marranos. David Reuveni. who would know how to disguise himself. without endangering the position of the Marranos. and the receiving of the righteous Messiah. but the contrary. I sent such e missaries to Spain and Portugal. We must act to open the gates for the Marranos. Some of them were caught by the Inquisition. "Through negotiations with the rulers of the nations. that it must be returned to its land!" *** . the return to our holy land. But this is not a matter for individuals. I am ready to die a martyr"s death. The priests rule all. I will call upon you when necessary. This is the way to save them. who called for the Redemption." one yeshivah student shouted out. "May you be blessed for your daring. We must save the entire nation. We need an exceedingly wise person. This rescue will be brought about by the Redemption.

" "You are wrong. about the Messiah. where he was to meet with the greatest of the Kabbahsts. I stood upright . learning from his noble speech. especially someone who heads a Jewish undertaking and is regarded as a leader. in order to raise up the sparks of the coming of the Messiah. his public appearance." " I do not fear them. as an honor guard. and his deeds. "The Inquisition does not forgive those who return to Judaism. to spend some time in the company of the great Kabbahsts to be found there. about the allusions and secrets regarding the coming of the Messiah." he told him. watching his every action. When Shlomo Molcho parted from Rabbi Yosef and told him he was headed for Salonika. along with a band of Kabbahsts who spent their days and nights delving into the mysteries of the Kabbalah. by preparing the collection of poskim. the greatest of the scholars and poskim. They pursue the Marranos all their life. They told him that they were willing to follow him wherever he went. The yeshivah students crowded around Shlomo Molcho. the city of the Kabbahsts. a center of Jewish life. in order to hasten the Redemption by Torah study. and to find the way to go to Eretz Israel together with them. The students accompanied him on his way to Salonika. lest he stray from the path of reason. because I returned to Judaism a long time ago.110 The students and Shlomo Molcho talked throughout the night. " I hope that I am not included among them. some of them were about to go to Eretz Israel and settle in Safed. They searched for signs of kingship in him. Rabbi Yosef told him that he too would go to Salonika. I have always been ready to die a martyr"s death for my faith. He replied that instead they should study Torah with Rabbi Yosef. Even when I shook myself free of them in the court of the King of Portugal. Once again Rabbi Yosef warned Shlomo Molcho to take care in his meetings with the rulers of the nations. about the troubles of their time. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. and about his activity among the rulers of the nations on behalf of the Jews.

They passed over the bridges over the river and encountered caravans of merchants. *** After Shlomo Molcho"s departure from Nikopol. He knew about the group of Kabbahsts in Salonika. He summoned the heads of the community in Nikopol and told them: " I thank you for having called me to serve as your . and he continued on the route of the caravans. while others bowed down to Shlomo Molcho and kissed his hand. and how he decided the law. The day-to-day matters of the community. disagreements . "be strong and resolute!" He was dressed in magnificent clothes. reaching the upper worlds." they called to him.all these disturbed his studies and prevented him from delving into the depths of law and Torah all the day. and draw forth legal decisions for his book. marriages and divorces. He thought perhaps he would go to them. bringing goods. and they did not harm me. set out from Rabbi Yosef's home towards the gates of the city. immersed in the hidden Torah. They would follow the method of his learning. with a princely hat on his head. Some of them waved to them. how he formulated his book. Between one lecture and the next he would sit at his lectern. wills and inheritances.111 against them. . and together they would go to Eretz Israel. At times he was aided by students who learned from him the way in which the law was decided. The group of horsemen. after having collected all the sources he found on the topic. to find there the remnants of holiness. some of them Jews. Rabbi Yosef came to the study hall twice every day to give his lectures to the yeshivah students. pore over books and ancient manuscripts. matters between husband and wife. "The emissary of the righteous Messiah. as he had hoped to do since his youth. The students accompanied him for a long way before they parted from him. headed by Shlomo Molcho. life continued normally.

The welfare of the people is more important than that of the Land. he told all this to his wife. however. to go live in Eretz Israel. Therefore. She said to him. to go up to Eretz Israel. do not leave us. " I am willing to go with you to Salonika. and allow me to fulfill my aspiration. and you are suitable for the community. for their rabbi had glorified the name of the community throughout the entire region. At certain times he would return to the city. The community would support his family. I am will ing to help you find a new rabbi. a scholar of whom you are worthy." The heads of the community were alarmed by his announcement. and leadership." "You need not worry. But we also know that no one can take your place in expertise. I am not the only one capable of serving as your rabbi. is to go to our holy land. Most of his time he could devote to writing his book. You helped me to found the yeshivah." After a lengthy discussion. The community is suitable for you. We entreat you. to live in the company of the Kabbalists. You will find good rabbis. "How can our master Rabbi Yosef leave our city. The community takes pride in you. so that we will be able to provide . from among the students in our yeshivah or elsewheres. I f he would want to return to Nikopol to serve as its rabbi. understanding. in a pleading voice. Since his arrival life in the city had taken on a new hue. and learn with them. his position would be held for hitti. But you must save money.112 spiritual leader. outstanding scholars. I want you to choose another rabbi." "Our precious master! We know that there are great rabbis in Israel. The head of the community said to him. it was agreed that Rabbi Yosef could go to Salonika. which needs him? We received your words as if they had come from Heaven. The spiritual guidance of the city"s Jews is of great importance. to give lessons to the students. When he returned home. and to decide on serious matters facing the community. We will not find another rabbi of your standing. to stay with the great Kabbalists to be found there. There are rabbis and Torah scholars who will fill my place. My aspiration.

Rabbi Yosef said to his wife. and there even were medical facilities if needed. The way to Eretz Israel is long. He will instruct me what to do in this world. who withdraw from this world and are worthy of hearing the words of the Maggid." "You and your dreams. for its schools were not on a high level.'' "Don"t worry. This was an advantage Salonika had over Nikopol. and come back and give them lessons. The teachers were superb. along with their utensils and beddings.113 for our livelihood." They packed their possessions before setting out for Salonika. and traveled to Salonika. His students accompanied Rabbi Yosef. who promised to care for them. "Will you also reach such a level?" she asked. There were excellent schools in Salonika. who had served him for many years and learned Torah from him. Rabbi Yosef told her about the Kabbalists in Salonika who met in the study hall. one of his outstanding pupils. "You should know. we are on the way to Eretz Israel. telling them what to do. I will hear the Maggid. and the children are young. O L-rd. If I am accepted as one of them. They heard the words of the Maggid at midnight. This is the goal of the Kabbalists in Salonika. "Together with the other Kabbalists. . our livelihood will be taken care of." They talked about the proper school for their children." They lifted the children onto the wagon. I wait for your salvation. He left in the yeshivah a replacement.


Chapter Ten

In the City of Salonika
Sages and scribes filled the entire city of Salonika. There were dozens of synagogues. Each synagogue belonged to those who had come from a certain community in Spain and maintained their customs in Salonika. The synagogues were filled with worshipers and those studying Torah. Scholars delivered sermons to the public in them. From time to time Marranos who had secretly fled from Spain and Portugal came to the city, seeking refuge among the members of the community. The Turkish government was tolerant of the Jews. Under its protection the Jews engaged in commerce, importing and exporting goods through the port. The Jews were at the heart of the city"s economic life. The Turkish authorities viewed the Jews as a loyal element, as opposed to the Greeks who were in constant revolt against the authorities, demanding freedom for themselves. The sages who sat in the study halls received a stipend from the Vaad (committee) of the community, leaving them free to study Torah. Some were outstanding sages. There were also Kabbalists among them. They occupied themselves with the hidden Torah, and engaged in fasting and self-mortification. Rabbi Yosef sought to live among this company, and draw wisdom from them. The day that he arrived in Salonika with his family, he joined this band of Kabbalists, spending his days and his nights with them. He could feel holiness and spiritual elevation in the air. He heard that the Kabbalists were about to go up to Eretz Israel, to live in the holy city of Safed in Upper Galilee with its Kabbalistic center, close to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, the author of the Zohar, and his son. He wanted to be among them, to go to Eretz Israel together with them, and to be nourished by the holiness of Eretz Israel. This was the reason why he had left his community, which had provided for his every want.


When it became known that Rabbi Yosef Karo had arrived in Salonika, the heads of the community came to his house and asked him to serve as their spiritual leader. He said to them: " I left my city and my community, not in order to remain in Salonika, but in order to go to Eretz Israel. They replied, "We will pay our master, Rabbi Yosefs expenses of traveling to Eretz Israel if you will agree to remain with us for a number of years and serve as our posek" "No! The ci^y is full of sages and authors. Why have you chosen me?" "Because we need someone who is a great authority in Torah. We want to educate our children to follow the path of the great Torah sages, so that they will not follow the paths of others." He mentioned the other important sages living in the city who were suited to serve as the city"s rabbi. He, however, did not want to stray from the path he had set for himself. Having suffered from serving as rabbi, he wanted to devote his time to his books. He thought that only in Galilee could he sit in peace and quiet and write his books. The leading Kabbalists in the city came and invited him to be among them. He accepted their invitation — this was what he had sought for such a long time, to seclude himself and delve into the hidden Torah, in the company of Kabbalists who knew the secrets of the Torah. Now he had found the company suitable for this. He joined the study hall in Salonika in which the Kabbalists learned, and studied while observing many fastdays.


He sat and studied the Mishnah, day and night. He wrote explanations on the Mishnah and on the commentary of Rashi and the Ramban. The Mishnah did not leave his hands, because it contains the roots of the Torah and the commandments. When he sat among the Kabbalists in Salonika he continued to write his books. He wrote an explanation of the Mishneh Torah by Rambam, which he called Kesef Mishneh, in which


he revealed the sources of the laws taught by the Rambam, defending him against the criticisms of the Ravad. He spent much time in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak, the leading sage of the time. He led a life of abstention and sanctity. He spent eighteen hours a day studying, and devoted only six hours to the needs of his body. For forty years he had not slept in a regular bed. He would sleep on a box, with his feet hanging in the air. At midnight he would get up and continue to study. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak was a master of both the revealed and the hidden Torah. It was said that there was an angel who taught him hidden secrets of the Torah. He was renowned for his piety, sanctity, and character. He had been born in Castille, moving from there to Portugal. He had fled from there to Italy. In addition to his knowledge of the Torah, he dealt with astronomy and was expert in geometry and mathematics. He came with those expelled from Spain and Portugal to Greece, established his home in Salonika, and served as the rabbi of the Lisbon community, the most important of those who had come from Portugal. His decisions were accepted by all; if any case were brought before him, no other rabbi could deal with it. His yeshivah in Salonika was the largest of all the Turkish yeshivot. In all the history of Salonika, none could compare with its sages and students and their writings. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak wanted to place it at the head of all the yeshivot, and give it the authority which the yeshivot of Castille had had. In Rabbi Yosef Karo"s eyes, Rabbi Yosef Taitazak was an exalted figure. He called him, "The light of Israel and its holy one, the crown of the Diaspora." Rabbi Yosef Karo wished to learn Torah from him, and to study his holy ways and follow in his footsteps. The leading poskim and rabbis of communities came from his yeshivah. The two discussed points of law and delved into the secret Torah. Rabbi Yosef Karo spent many days in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak, listening to his lectures to his pupils and watching his practices. He learned much from him. In the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak, Rabbi Shlomo


Alkabez also studied. Rabbi Yosef Karo had met him in Adrianople. A leading Kabbalist, who wrote many Kabbalistic works, he was consumed by longings for the Redemption. The two of them would shut themselves up for long hours in a room in the study hall and study the secrets of the Kabbalah. After they could not find the secret they had been seeking, Rabbi Shlomo told Rabbi Yosef, "You must know that only Eretz Israel is suitable for the revelation of the secrets of the Kabbalah." " I know. I left my community, and I am on the way to Eretz Israel." " I also am about to go to Eretz Israel, to settle in Safed." "We will go together and devote our days to Torah and prayer." "The person who lives in Eretz Israel breathes pure air, and is surrounded by holy things, day and night. " I can already feel this, even from far away." They stood in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and saw Eretz Israel welcoming them. They saw themselves sitting in the hills of Galilee. Secrets were revealed to them all the hours of the day and night. Wherever they went, they went to Eretz Israel.


Shlomo Molcho declared that this was the hour intended for the Messiah the son of Joseph to take IsraeF's vengeance against the Christian world, to destroy the Holy See in Rome and thereby remove the obstacle to the Redemption of Israel. At that time Charles V invaded Rome with his armies and wreaked havoc, forcing the Pope Clement VII to flee. Shlomo Molcho foresaw the final defeat of the Pope at the hands of the Ottomans, the defeat of the prince of Edom. He wrote in his book, HaMefo"ar: "And from the side that the Holy One, blessed be He, will remove the prince"s power, the evil will come to Edom, as it is written, 'For My sword has drunk its fill in heaven; behold, it shall come down upon Edom. And what is written, 'And a great slaughter in the land

118 of Edom,' alludes to the great Sabbath, as we have said. And what is written, 'And the wild oxen shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls,' is an allusion to the Messiah son of Joseph, as it is written about him, 'Like a firstborn bull is his majesty, he has horns like the horns of the wild ox.' Besides the reason we gave above why the vengeance of Rome is done by the seed of Joseph, there is also another reason, which is that the evil is drawn to the Ten Martyrs because of the sale of Joseph ... therefore it is fitting that the vengeance be by the hands of the seed of Joseph, since because of him all the evil was drawn to them." Molcho"s sermons on Torah and Kabbalah, a few years after his escape from Portugal, was regarded as a miracle by those listening to him. Some of them talked about not understanding him. Molcho viewed this as a lack of comprehension. His heart burned like fire to state his ideas. He saw himself as the revealer of secrets. His central idea was that before the Redemption there would be a separation between the impure and the pure, between Sammael and the People of Israel. We are close to the Redemption. The Kabbalist and seer of Messianic visions Shlomo Molcho sat in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and occupied himself with the Kabbalah and the teachings of his rabbi. In his vision he saw the Redemption at hand. He could hardly be recognized as the Marrano Diogo Pyres, an official in the court of King John I I I of Portugal in Lisbon. When David Reuveni came to Portugal in 1525, the young Marrano was aroused to return to Judaism, and he secretly circumcised himself. Reuveni was afraid that this would become known in the royal court. He advised him to leave Lisbon and go to Turkey. His wanderings took him to Salonika, where he studied in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and immersed himself in the study of Kabbalah. He prepared himself for the Sanctification of the Name of G d in anticipation of the Redemption. He would go from city to city and speak of the Redemption. Rabbi Yosef Karo looked at his fiery and noble face, and saw that he would publicly sanctify the Name of G d. He


remembered his meeting with him in Nikopol. Rabbi Yosef sat in a corner in the study hall, close to the place of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. When the head of the yeshivah, Rabbi Yosef Taitazak, entered, he rose in his honor. That same time Shlomo Molcho saw him and approached him. "Greetings upon your arrival, our master Yosef!" " I have come here on my way to Eretz Israel." " I told you in Nikopol that you should go to Eretz Israel, to hasten the Redemption. You are mighty in both the revealed and secret Torah, and it is proper that you be at the head of those who are hastening the Redemption." "Yes, I have accepted upon myself the rigors of the journey and the hardships of going up to Eretz Israel." " I wander from city to city, speak to the masses, and arouse the people for Redemption. The masses are willing to come after me and go to Eretz Israel, but the way is blocked for them. Only individuals can go to Eretz Israel. Informers threaten and oppose me." "You are meant for great things. I will never reach your level." "My way is strewn with obstacles, which have been placed there by our fellow Jews. They are afraid of the Redemption, lest it come not at the proper time, lest harm will come to them if they awaken now and hasten the Redemption. I fear lest they cause me to fail." "Do not be deterred by their threats. I see you as publicly sanctifying the Name of G-d." " I also will come to Eretz Israel, after my master Yosef has gone up to the land. I will come after you to Safed, to see the goodness of the land, to build it. I see you as the leader." "When I come to Safed I will devote myself to Torah and prayer, together with all the oth^r Jews gathered there. We will learn the mystical kavanot to hasten the Redemption." " I see you in my vision sitting in the hills of Galilee studying Torah, with me at your side. This will be a great day. Together we will carry the crown of the Torah and the crown of the Redemption." " I need rest in order to write my book." "There is no

speaking of the Redemption. His listeners included Christian priests. They admired him for his modesty and integrity. Shlomo Molcho went forth. This will be a sort of kingdom in writing. and gave him a writ permitting him to return openly to Judaism and to print his books. The entire Talmud was open before him. His words were carefully chosen. Torah and Redemption go together. I know. They sent their agents to him. who were impressed by his visions. of the beginning of the Redemption. These great scholars sat before him and listened to him. In his speeches he foresaw a flood in Rome and an earthquake in Portugal. and Rome.120 contradiction here. "Take care. Safed will be the base of this written Sanhedrin. when you go among the rulers of the nations. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. my son." In the meantime the head of the yeshivah. he was renowned as a seer of visions. *** . "He is the son of Marranos who returned to Judaism. They saw themselves as participating in the Messianic era. Your book will be like a new Sanhedrin in writing. going from city to city in Italy. with the enthusiastic masses surrounding him. He was received by Pope Clement VII. People started dancing in the middle of his sermons." " I know. never leaving the study hall. He admitted to them that he was the son of Marranos who returned to Judaism. . in which all the legal decisions of all the generations will be collected. During his trip. but I am prepared for a martyr"s death. Pesaro. the kingdom of Israel. for they are cruel. The Pope was amazed by his wise words. This is what I see in my vision. adhering to him as the messenger of the Redemption." This reached the ears of the Inquisition. They followed him wherever he went. and took him to their torture chambers. When these came to pass. He went to Ancona. informers told the authorities about him. ascended the podium and began to give his lesson. for his being totally immersed in the world of Torah. He spoke to him of his vision of the Redemption.

121 Salonika port .

"Even you. but he did not receive a clear answer. and the three discussed the ways of going up to Eretz Israel. but this was not forthcoming. . talking of philosophy. "You will go to Eretz Israel." From time to time Rabbi Yosef Karo would enter the room and take part in the conversation. but there are many obstacles on the way. They wanted to know whether we are standing on the brink of the Redemption. He asked his teacher Rabbi Yosef whether to go on these journeys. the closer will be the End of Days. Rabbi Yosef wanted to ask the Maggid how and when the Redemption would come. cannot reach this element?" " I awaited the message. one of the truly righteous people in the world." "When will the revelation come to the righteous of the generation?' "It is doubtful whether they are worthy of this. but it did not come. "The more Jews there are in Eretz Israel. and how to hasten the Redemption. searching in the writings for hints of the approaching Redemption. Shlomo Molcho would wait by the door: perhaps the Maggid would tell him something which would be a revelation. " I will set out. "The Redemption is connected with elements which we cannot reach." Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez joined them.122 Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and Shlomo Molcho would spend hours together in a small room next to the synagogue." Rabbi Yosef said. Shlomo Molcho made himself ready for his journeys among the Jewish communities." Shlomo Molcho said. The Maggid had not told him. to live there for the rest of your life. and answer their questions regarding the commandment of going up to Eretz Israel at this time. when there is no Jewish kingdom. to speak to them of the Redemption. but not about the Redemption. He would listen to their conversation. In the nights the Maggid would come and talk with him about many things. and what they must do to hasten it." "The secrets and hints have been concealed?" "They have not been revealed." Shlomo Molcho said to Rabbi Yosef Karo.

Together they would travel from community to community. Reports reached his ears that informers had told the authorities that he was from Marrano stock. The People of Israel awaits Redemption. Shlomo Molcho stood on the coast. Thousands of youth awaited him in the Italian communities. Ships anchored in the port. "The matter of Redemption is beyond our powers. and therefore he was not afraid of going from place to place and preaching openly. surrounded by a group of his admirers. who has been given the task of redeeming the people from its troubles and bringing it to the Redemption. which burned at the stake the heretics who secretly observed Judaism. drawn-out whistle of a ship could be heard. He was about to go to Italy. in city plazas and in the synagogues. It sees in every person of great stature the personification of the Messiah." said Shlomo Molcho. who are willing to join him and march on foot from city to city until they arrive in Eretz Israel. David Reuveni. . and that he had abandoned his Christian faith and returned to Judaism. " I will go up at the head of the masses. From time to time the long." Shlomo Molcho added. to visit its cities and meet with people who were important in connection with the Redemption." Rabbi Yosef Taitazak said. to arouse the masses. Shlomo Molcho told how his sermons arouse the masses. Shlomo Molcho had a safe conduct pass from the Pope. of the need for repentance as the way to Redemption. His name was written in the lists of the Inquisition. also was about to go to Italy. after the way has been paved by the righteous. *** The waves pounded against the coast. who had redeemed him from the palace of the King of Portugal and returned him to Judaism.123 " I f there will be more righteous people among them. they will have the power to hasten the Redemption. It seeks the Messiah everywheres.

Rabbi Yosef Karo. Other people looked at this scene in amazement. a cure for the sick. profound soul. which he had used when writing his sermons. people would stream to his door. Rabbi Yosef Karo looked at him fondly. asking help for a barren woman. They saw him as a regal figure. He would read the paper. Shlomo stood on the deck and waved goodbye to those who had accompanied him. A soul that returned from the world of chaos. He left in Salonika his books and manuscripts on philosophy and Kabbalah. They gave him a piece of paper with the names of the suffering and the unfortunate. They viewed him as a prophet who could reveal the secrets of the future. leaving the port. happy. When the ship slowly set sail. He knew their manners and ways. and therefore was not deterred from coming to their courts. *** . sailors.124 He left the port and boarded the ship. He will lead us to the Holy Land. left the port and returned to the study hall." This group included Jewish port workers. His smile was worth the world to them. porters. He hoped that in Italy he would be able to purchase new books from the large publishing houses in Venice. seclude himself. He would prophesy to them about the future. and they returned home. On the shore. and customs officials. who cares for the general welfare. He smiled at them. He was accustomed to speak with kings and princes about the coming Redemption. and which would return to heaven. solace for a widow. sensitive. Sometimes when his arrival was known beforehand. together with a few pupils. because he must have smiled with the knowledge that his prayer was accepted. He saw in him a great. after publicly sanctifying the Name of G d. He interrupted his studies to accompany him to the ship. they stood and cried out: "Molcho is a harbinger of good tidings. and return to the relatives waiting outside.

and secretly sent him from Rome to a place which would serve as a hiding place for him. when most of the members of the royal court were not present. In this hiding place he met with David Reuveni. the Pope had sent emissaries who took him out of prison. for the Pope admired him. Molcho and the emperor talked with each other: "Accept the Jewish faith. They feared informers who would tell the Inquisition of Molcho' s whereabouts. He saw him as a teller of the future. One bunch of letters arrived from Munster. where they sought to meet with Emperor Charles V and offer him a secret plan. although you have persuaded me with your arguments. they reached the city of Regensburg." "There is no absolute truth. true faith. a person of burning faith. a person must be courageous. The emperor was influenced by Shlomo Molcho"s personality." . all the rest is vain words. . " I cannot abandon my faith. so that no one would recognize them. The Emperor received them in his palace in the evening." "For the truth. They sought meetings with the rulers of the land.'' "The faith of Israel is the absolute truth. They went in secret. After he arrived in Italy. The two of them discussed how to advance the Redemption. he was placed on trial by the Inquisition. They proposed to him to mobilize the Jews for a war against the Turks and to conquer Eretz Israel. Everywheres he spoke of the Redemption and his visions. The letters arrived from different places. which is the perfect. After much wandering. Rabbi Yosef would study them and make his comments." Molcho urged him. Reports reached the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak that despite his having been sentenced to death by the Inquisition. after having defeated the Turks.125 During his journey Shlomo Molcho sent letters to Rabbi Yosef Taitazak in Salonika. Their chief message was expositions and visions of the Redemption. where he stayed on his way to gather the masses.

" " A l l the more reason for man to make use of his life on earth to live with the truth. They sensed that people were indeed following them. until we pass over land and sea to Eretz Israel. and too daring. Be careful for your life. They looked at him with pity — such a young man. He spoke with them of faith and philosophy. David Reuveni said to Molcho." " I have already accepted the fact that I will die a martyr"s death. When he stood before the court of the Inquisition. like a shadow that passes. ." "Your plan is imaginary and daring. On the way he sent manuscripts to Rabbi Yosef Taitazak in Salonika." "We want to get back Eretz Israel. and the Inquisition is searching for you. You can help us. You go ahead too fast.'' "You are a young man." the Emperor said. "You are too daring. His guards ignored this. "Take care. they were surrounded by people who did not identify themselves. There are people who watch your every step. take care. These were days of fear and repression. while the identity of the others remained a secret." He bade them goodbye and they continued on their way. He feared lest they were planning a revolution. Some were soldiers. The Emperor received them politely. He stood upright before them. They were taken to prison. full of life. to be burned on the pyre. because you were a Marrano. Shlomo Molcho knew that his way led straight to the pyre.126 "Man"s life is vanity. He viewed them as mysterious agents. of government policy and wisdom. He stood before his judges and spoke at length of the philosophy of Judaism. without fear. The world is full of cruel people. they demanded that he return to the Christian faith. We shall enlist in your army to fight. The Jews received these manuscripts and guarded them. The Inquisition ruled all." Molcho was sent to the city of Mantova. When they came to a small inn on the road.

because of his sorrow. " I wish that I could sanctify the Name of G d as did Shlomo Molcho. Life is more important than all beliefs. and you will go free. He mourned his friend Shlomo. Rabbi Yosef Karo declared.127 They said to him. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak brought with him the letters that Shlomo Molcho had sent him after he had left Salonika. The report spread among the students. young man. There is no reason to live such a life. in which he stated concepts from the secret Torah. and we will give you back your life. 5 Reports of what had happened to Shlomo Molcho reached the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. just say that you agree." He replied. " I will joyfully ascend the pyre for the sanctity of Judaism. "Return to your faith. He could not utter a sound. in whom a great fire burned to arouse the People of Israel to Redemption. We need a passionate person like you. "Shlomo Molcho died a martyr"s death. The Jews who stood in the square cried out Shma Yisrael with him. They sentenced him to death. He saw him as an exemplary figure. deciding between differing opinions. following the three pillars of the . In the city square he was tied to the pyre." The entire community was shocked. as he shouted out Shema Yisrael. He collected the opinions of all the poskim on each law. He secluded himself within the walls of the study hall and continued to write his work on the Turim." " I cannot agree to a lie." "Look here. Your religion is one of vanity. He loved him for his majestic character. as Shlomo Molcho sanctified the Name of G-d before the multitude. mentioning and explaining the words of the author of the Turim. Rabbi Yosef wrapped himself in silence.

"My life would be complete. He raised a tombstone over their grave. the Rif (Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi). perhaps there he would find solace from the disasters that had befallen him. Overwhelmed by the tragedy that had befallen him. Rabbi Yosef Karo. He felt good to be in their company. He thought once again of going to Eretz Israel.128 law. The plague reached Rabbi Yosef Karo's house. even if I had done nothing more than come to Salonika and meet them. They gathered around him and asked that he continue to teach them. along with the students. A deadly plague broke out in Salonika and claimed many victims. Many of his pupils had followed him from Nikopol to Salonika. He discussed Torah with them and prayed with them. with curly hair." He spent much of each day together with them in the study hall.'' Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and Rabbi Shmuel Taitazak were his friends. He agreed and opened a yeshivah for them. and his three children succumbed. He did not set foot outside the study hall. and to receive from them their teaching on the revealed and the secret Torah. They were more precious than gold. He said to himself. the rambam (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) and the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher). His wife mourned day and night and could not recover from this blow. Every day heart-rending cries were heard from a different house. All day they played — and in the night they fell victim to the plague. This yeshivah was called "the Study Hall of the Perfect Sage. and he did not exchange a word with anyone. he sought refuge in the study hall with his books. The tombstone of Rabbi Shlomo Taitazak (from Sefer Saloniki) .

Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Shmuel were there. greetings to you. and happy are you in the World to Come. Be strong. happy are you and happy is the one who has given birth to you. hears your voice. the last verses from the Book of Chronicles. the haftarot. and have split several heavens and several open spaces until it rose. who have taken upon yourselves to adorn me this night. the finest of the fine. You have merited to be in the castle of the King. and the sound of your Torah and your speech has risen before the Holy One. and other scholars. my friends and lovers. be of good courage.129 Chapter Eleven The Voice of th Maggid On Shavuot the sages gathered in the study hall of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. and all the heavenly host and the Holy One. blessed be He. the Mishnah. the Song of Songs. along with Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. After they completed two tractates of the Mishnah. The words of the voice were perfectly clear. and the serqfim were quiet. and the angels were silent. The greatest scholars of the generation were studying together. the air resounded. and embrace refuse heaps. For many years my head has fallen and there is no solace for me. The voice became stronger. and a great fear fell upon those in the study hall. Be joyous and glad. as if the very letters were breaking open. and I . and the light dimmed. They learned with a special melody. A great sound was heard in the study hall. Happy are you in this world. Psalms. my friends. An atmosphere of holiness filled the air. and the hayot stood still. the Book of Ruth. This is what it said to them: "My friends. blessed be He. They read from the Torah. and now you have returned my former glory. my lovers. planning to study the entire night. the mother who . Rabbi Yosef Karo. know that you are the very best of humans. I am cast in the dust. They studied the entire Order of Zeraim in the Mishnah.

and there is no hindrance to saving. with your homes. return to your studies and do not stop for a single moment. silence reigned. *** They continued to study Torah until the light of dawn. and then all those assembled burst into tears of joy. They included some of the leading Kabbalists in the study hall. Some of them spent all their days in fasts and in mortification. Before they prayed Shaharit." The members of the group called aloud." They continued to study the Mishnah. In the mikveh they met the other scholars who had not been with them during the night. the voice told them: "Happy are you. you would have ascended further. . and all will be well with you. because not all times are equal. they went to immerse themselves in a mikveh. because you will eat of the bounty of the upper earth. just as they had immersed themselves two days earlier.130 chastises man. Hhappy are you and happy are your children. whether many or few. and once again they heard the voice speaking to them: "Go up to Eretz Israel. and through the friends in this great city. have come to speak to you. great scholars who knew the secrets of the hidden Torah. But for all this you have ascended. They told them of the night' s voices. "How did you manage to withstand such an experience?" they asked. who have ascended and kept sleep from your eyes. and with all that is yours." When the voice ceased speaking. The others were astounded to hear this. . Therefore make haste and go up. I f you had been ten together. Do not care for your possessions. a mother of Jewish communities. my friends. in exultation and trembling." The voice continued to speak until it called on all those present to stand up and call aloud. "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever. and through you I have ascended this night. for I provide your livelihood and I will continue to provide your livelihood. and when they finished reciting this.

which had lasted for hours. the finest of the fine. They could clearly hear each word. amazed. It spoke many words of wisdom to them.calling in a loud voice. and a voice began to speak. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. They agreed among themselves to gather again at night in a minyan of ten and study together. they heard a loud knocking. Know that you are among the chosen ones. clear voice. nor recoil from their scorn. they agreed to assemble an additional night. in a loud. friends. a sufficient number for any holy thing. They began by reading the commandments in the Book of Deuteronomy. happy are you that you bring me up. and do not break the link raising me up . If permission had been given your eyes. since they had gone to the sermon delivered by the head of the yeshivah. until it ceased. When midnight arrived. Nevertheless. For you are the ones ascending to the oneness of Israel. The ten scholars returned to their studies until midnight. happy are you and happy is the one who has given birth to you. The scholars sat. the voice returned and began to speak in the chamber of the study hall. The books remained open before them. "Listen. as if the speaker were standing before them.131 having abandoned all the affairs of this world. . They stood agape. You who adhere to me. Therefore be strong and be of good courage. glory covers your heads and a thread of lovingkindness is drawn over you. nor had they had time to sleep during the day. How much have I risen! Now that you are ten. you would see the line of fire which surrounds this house. 'Shema YisraeT and 'Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever. It spread throughout the study hall. friends. How sorry they were that they had been absent from the study hall on Shavuot night.' " The ten scholars in the study hall listened to the words of the voice and did not utter a sound. and then it called to them: "Happy are you. and they determined the order of study for the night." the voice began. When they came to Shema Yisrael. even though they had not closed their eyes all the previous night. The voice spoke to them for about half an hour. Do not fear the reproach of men. They beat themselves for having missed this great night.

' I am strong. and to his brother he shall say. This was known only to a very few Jews in Salonika. and see that I speak to you. my sons. without leaving the vestibule. But when midnight approached. It said: "Those who have entered the vestibule must try to . and gave signs about the mystical meanings of words." The voice continued to speak of moral instruction and knowledge and about returning to the L-rd with all one"s heart and all one"s soul. you intoxicated ones. your elder. Awaken. 'Be strong!' and the weak will say. Since then the voice returned and spoke to those who occupy themselves with mystical kavanot in the yeshivah of the Kabbalists. They did not expect the appearance of the voice this night. Attempt to enter the banquet hall. and whoever leaves you does so at his own risk. A new spirit filled the band of scholars and Kabbalists ever since they had heard the words of the spirit of the Mishnah which had appeared at midnight. who kept this secret. You will see that you are intoxicated from the delights of the world. and they will say to you. strengthen yourselves and rejoice. which others have not merited. From now on let your eyes be open to your way. On Shabbat eve they gathered once again to study. because whoever leaves the entrance of the vestibule does so at his own risk. and go up to Eretz Israel. my friends. and it grew louder and louder. because behold. because you are dwellers of the castle of the King. And now do not make light. "Ask your father and he will tell you. and each man will help his fellow. a day is coming when man will remove the idols of his money and the delight in the pleasures of this world and the idols of his gold. be of good courage and be men of valor.' Account yourselves as great ones. for it is within your power. the joy of money. Awaken.132 The voice began to speak. Awaken. once again the vofce was heard. See what you have merited. only you are stamped with the clay of the joy of the world and its vanities. a thread of lovingkindness is drawn about you every day. They intended to do as it had commanded and go up to Eretz Israel. who has caused you to enter the vestibule.

From the first night that the Maggid had appeared in the study hall before all those assembled there. and at the concluding meal before the fast they should eat dry bread and a cup of water." The words of the Maggid accompanied them day and night." and not all times are equally right. The voice praised what the members of the group had studied and done on the other nights. *** The Maggid continued to speak to those in the study hall at nights. while we shall not be accountable. When he began speaking silence reigned in the study hall. . One of them was to sanctify every Wednesday in memory of the destruction of the Temple. for "the time of singing has come." it told them. Whoever goes outside does so at his own risk. "Have consideration for the honor of your Creator. they expected the Maggid to come through the door. that the weak will say that he is strong. "We will do and heed. Amen. and take care not to be consoled. on the entire day before Tisha BeAv. he continued to appear to Rabbi Yosef Taitazak and Rabbi Yosef Karo. Mishnah. "May I merit to be united with you on the Holy Land. After the morning Shaharit prayer. before they went to eat breakfast. not even of lentils. the head of the study hall. . The members of the group gathered and established many regulations. He repeated his message to open their eyes. Each night that they gathered to study Torah. The Maggid instructed them that they should not eat any cooked food. It was forbidden to eat meat or drink wine on Wednesdays. Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. gathered them and ordered them to accept upon themselves whatever they had heard from the Maggid these past nights. except at a religious celebration or if one were traveling. They accepted these regulations and observed them. "give him honor." they responded after him. to serve Him together with you. and Gemara.133 enter the banquet hall. that man must help his fellow. He warned them lest the pleasures of the world blind them. It concluded by saying.

Once again slumber fell upon him as a result of his weakness and tiredness. and then he will able to ascend to great heights. He began to study mishnayot once again. When he awoke. The words of the Maggid caused the members of the group of scholars to draw even closer to each other. "By merit of the six Orders of the Mishnah that you know by heart. He did not have time to complete even two chapters before the Maggid returned and told him that all the members of the heavenly yeshivah sent him greetings. and about what he had to do. I speak to you now as one person speaks to another. He would warn him about his conduct and way of life. the Heavenly Court has agreed that I return to speak with you as before. not even for a moment. which is reserved for only very special individuals. when suddenly there was a knocking at the door. he would appear to Rabbi Yosef Karo when he sat by himself and studied mishnayot. The Maggid spoke with him about his having taught Torah in several communities. After the Maggid had appeared to the entire group on Shavuot. . He told him. The Maggid praised the book he was writing. Rabbi Yosef Karo fell asleep while the Maggid was speaking. and by merit of the afflictions which you have imposed upon yourself. You see that for several generations no person has attained this. and not abandon you. At times he rebuked him for falling asleep and not waking to study. and so I have done. he began to study mishnayot once again.134 He would talk with Rabbi Yosef Karo about the interpretation of verses. When he awoke." Due to his great tiredness. They realized that they possessed a spiritual bond which brought them the words of the Maggid. he was saddened that the voice of the Maggid had stopped. As you see. and that he must not part from the Torah. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez heard the words of the Maggid and memorized them. about things which would take place in the future.

From there he sent letters to his fellow scholars in Salonika that Safed was the right place for spiritual ascension. Since Rabbi Yosef longed to die a martyr"s death as had Shlomo Molcho." His friend the Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez had gone before him. and the hidden Torah. will draw upon your work. This is what the Maggid told him in the middle of his studying of Toledot: "You will merit to go up to Eretz Israel this year. the Maggid promised him once again: "And I will cause you to complete your work. "But where will we get the money for the trip?" " I am certain that the L rd will be my help. Because you have cleaved to Me you will merit sanctifying My name in public. He went home from the study hall. Beit Yosef." When he came to the portion of VeZot HaBrachah. the Maggid spoke with him about the sanctification of the Name of G d. I will cause you to be burned in Eretz Israel for My Name. When Rabbi Yosef studied the portion of Toledot. to enlighten the eyes of all Israel. who is called Molcho. as did Shlomo My chosen one." It was then that Rabbi Yosef knew that the hour had come to go up to Eretz Israel. All the peoples. and afterwards you will merit to be burned for the Sanctification of the Name of G d. he told his wife. *** . and that he would have to ascend the pyre as an unblemished burnt offering. . the Maggid appeared to him and told him many things about the portion. the Mishnah. "We will pack our clothes and take with us some of my holy books. and had already arrived in Safed. with the Maggid"s words still ringing in his ears: "You will merit to go up to Eretz Israel this year!" When he arrived home. and you will ascend My altar. revealing to him secrets and allusions. and we will set out for Eretz Israel.135 The Maggid would speak to him about each weekly portion in the Torah. for the special kavanot for the sanctification of the Name. about the fast lasting for three consecutive days. sages and scholars.

with its commentaries and decisions. who will become a great scholar. the rabbi of Cairo. and sanctify yourself while with your wife.136 Rabbi Yosef was in contact with the holy Ari and with Rabbi Yaakov Berab in Safed. in the hills of Galilee. and to publish it. you will merit to complete your entire work. that it was as if a demon had compelled him. for of what benefit are the joys of this world? He continued to talk with him about his going up to Eretz Israel: " I f you will conduct yourself as I have instructed you. He saw in his mind"s eye a large study hall in Eretz Israel. I will greatly build up your yeshivah there. as I have instructed you. as it was said of Rabbi Eliezer. 'This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth. Every Shabbat eve the Maggid appeared to him and warned him not to leave the study of Mishnah for a single moment. for you and your family. Because you will separate yourself from the pleasures of this world. They all encouraged him to go to Eretz Israel and settle in Safed. He had still not freed . filled with students. He also was in contact with the Radbaz (Rabbi David ben Shlomo ibn Abi Zimra) and Avraham Ashkenazi. in order to complete his book. Everything that you have asked from the L rd will be granted. and he assured him that he would complete his work there. not even to eat and drink for pleasure. and they will bear you wise sons. He spoke with him about his going to Eretz Israel. The Maggid continued to appear to him at night when he sat in the study hall to learn." Rabbi Yosef took the words of the Maggid to heart. one after the other. I will merit you so that the verse will be fulfilled.' I will give you from your modest wife a pious and wise son. This put pressure on him to go soon to Eretz Israel. After your wife dies you will marry two women. who will know the L rd and His Torah. you will thereby merit to draw down from Gan Eden a pure and holy soul. without errors. for you are deserving of this because of the troubles you have undergone. while he delivered his lesson before them. so that it will spread throughout all Israel.

He says. but he knew that this was only a stopping place on the way to Eretz Israel." until he would finally reveal the secret itself. the secret of the matter is. Thus is his diligence in his studies. saying.' And I . and write it down in a book. The Maggid possessed great secrets. so that the people of your generation will know that there is G d in Israel. have seen the place that has been prepared for you in Paradise. he knew that the air of Eretz Israel would help him. and for a long time he would repeat his introduction. The Maggid did not leave him. How proud of you is the Holy One. I have come forth to teach you wisdom. At times the Maggid would speak at length. Since the Maggid had promised him children. so much so that Rabbi Yosef would tremble upon hearing his words. *** The students would hear the voice of the Maggid through the door. blessed be He." . thus and thus are his ways. The Maggid promised him that "Miracles will be performed by you. The controversy in the communities from which he had fled still troubled him. He spoke with him every time that Rabbi Yosef studied Mishnah by himself in the study hall. He would listen to it every night. giving moral instruction. "The secret of the matter is. thus and thus are his deeds. How many comforts and delicacies are appointed for you." Rabbi Yosef would be frightened at the sound of the voice. just as by the Tannaim. He craved children. Be strong and of good courage in fearing the L rd. penetrating voice. understand what was said. the Mishnah. in the Heavenly Court.137 himself from the depression that had stricken him after the death of his children. There he would rest after the distress that had struck him after the death of his children in the plague. I am the Mishnah that you have learned. His living in Salonika was pleasant. They were astonished by the powerful. This is how the voice began: "Greetings to you. but he was hesitant to reveal them. Rabbi Yosef Karo. 'My son Yosef.

" Each time. is . and spoke to him about things he wrote. At times he even gave him a charm to prevent drought: to circle the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and Rabbi Eliezer his son. *** The Maggid revealed to him secrets concealed in each letter in the Torah." Sometimes the Maggid would reply to the questions Rabbi Yosef asked him about points of law. The voice of the Maggid could be heard from beyond the door: You will merit seeing Elijah the Prophet face to face . Elijah will speak only to you. Rabbi Yosef toiled over his interpretation of one mishnah until he found the solution. . Suddenly the rain stopped and the wind died down.138 On a rainy night.. A night of mystery passed over the study hall in Salonika. and commanded him to call it "Beit Yosef" The Maggid revealed to him that he was the only person in his generation to whom an angel would be revealed.. The Maggid informed him. as I promised you. to teach you all the secrets of the Torah. when gusts of wind struck the doors of the study hall. argued with him. You will see him. for he will be your teacher. The Maggid informed him that the Rambam and the author of the Turim were happy that he interpreted their statements in his book. the Maggid would repeat his promise that he would go to Eretz Israel. You will teach Torah to the masses and you will sanctify My Name. refuted and contradicted his writings. His voice will sound to them as if it were your voice. the Maggid would tell him that what he had written contained an error: "The Holy One. The Maggid watched his actions every day. blessed be He. but they will not see him. and you will be the Nagid over all the Jewish communities. "You will go up to Eretz Israel. "What you have written is correct!" Other times. Rabbi Yosef was sitting by his stand and studying the Mishnah. This was due to "the Mishnah that you constantly learn". And even though your wife and other people will be in the house..

nor should he be distressed at those who arise against him. The Maggid added that he should not give any thought to his needs in this world. the Divine Presence. The Maggid added that Rabbi Yosef would cause many people to repent. this would be good. and all the worlds would be destroyed. blessed be He. The Maggid warned him to not to stop his studying for even a single moment.139 pleased that you examine everything so minutely. for then the Shekhinah." The Maggid informed him that a son would be born to him whose eyes would be blind and who would be poor. The Maggid told him about his prayers: " I f it is possible for you cry while praying. would fall. the Rambam is happy that you have explained his views. has not been interpreted until now. after he had written a new interpretation of a law of Rambam.'' Later." Another time. *** When Sukkot arrived and Rabbi Yosef sat in the sukkah to study Torah. the Maggid informed Rabbi Yosef that he had three advocates before the Holy One. "because this is my house in this world and in the World to Come. the Maggid came to him and talked with him ." The Maggid promised him that he would help him to write his book without any mistakes. because they would not harm him. because anyone who slanders his fellow has this detracted from his own merits. the Maggid told him: "The Ramban is happy at what you have discovered. at least on Mondays and Thursdays. And also in other places where you have written an interpretation. who would come forth to receive his soul with three bands of ministering angels. and that Beit Yosef ("the House of Yosef) was a fitting name for it. but themselves. but what you have written is not what He intended. but whose heart would be so open to Torah and the teachings of the Kabbalah that the entire world would be amazed at his wisdom. What you wrote on the Tur 199. for all his needs would be provided.

' The Maggid continued to speak about the spheres. once on Tuesday and once on Shabbat." The Maggid praised him for his study of mishnayot: "Happy are you for having brought down the Divine plenty and for having built several worlds. and how many good spiritual . If you do not finish.140 about the skhakh covering the sukkah. Read the Order of Taharot twice each week. Read the Order of Kodashim twice each week. The Maggid would warn and instruct him how to conduct himself. and gave different reasons for the height of the skhakh. The reading of mishnayot for their own sake is the cause. The Maggid then proceeded to talk at length about the etrog and lulav and the secrets the Four Species contain. take some of the day and read all of it before breakfast. "The requirement that the skhakh be from something that grows in the earth alludes to the sukkah being from the land of the living. before it continued with the answer: "The reason is because something that is attached to the ground is nourished from the bottom up. in this manner: once on Tuesday. when to study and how much to study. He warned him that his heart should not be too high. while the opposite is true for something that is nourished from the Divine spheres. Do not leave out the weekly Torah portion — twice Torah and once the Targum — every Friday. But why is something that is still connected to the ground unfit? You would think that this is an even stronger allusion to it being from the world of the living! The voice of the Maggid stopped after asking this question. 5 . You do not know how many worlds you build in one hour of reading. The Maggid determined his entire daily schedule. Follow the same schedule for the other Orders. and the second time on Friday. "The schedule that you must follow: study mishnayot so that you will always be fluent in them. Do this for at least one year. The requirement that the sukkah not be lower than ten tefahim (handbreadths) alludes to it being surrounded by the Ten Spheres. and other laws regarding the sukkah. and that he should take care not to become angry at anything. Go over the order of Zeraim on Shabbat eve.

As long as he would adhere to the Torah. but the Evil Urge satisfies itself by the drinking of much water. He warned him against eating meat and drinking wine. "You shall have many pupils. The Maggid would reveal secret teachings to him. He had almost become accustomed to his words. The Maggid told Rabbi Yosef that he had to afflict himself as much as possible. and awaited Elijah to reveal himself. more than any other sage . and would teach him the secret meanings of each letter in the Torah." When he heard this from the Maggid." The Maggid advised him to read a chapter of the book Hovot HaLevavot each day. but he does not return your greeting. Happy are you in this world. The third is that you see him in your sleep. Rabbi Yosef was occupied with the Tikun Hatzot recited at midnight. you greet him. "for they are the cause of many lost souls. He told him of the three levels of a revelation of Elijah: "The first is seeing Elijah"s face in a dream. things which Rabbi Yosef had never before heard. Happy are you that you have merited this.141 levels you establish. in order to overcome the Evil Urge. and it will be good for you in the World to Come. always speaking as the Mishnah. He repeatedly spoke to Rabbi Yosef of his going up to Eretz Israel. and was not startled when the Maggid began speaking from behind the door." The words of the Maggid to Rabbi Yosef were always clear. and not to drink a lot of water. The Maggid would tell him promises for the future. The second is seeing him in your sleep and greeting him. But he will not come to you except when you do not think of him. Once again he told him that Elijah would reveal himself to him. and he returns your greeting. the L-rd would watch over him.

Once again. the most hidden mysteries. and no worms or corruption touched their bodies. merited having their limbs and bodies in the camp of the Shekhinah. he revealed to him that "all the members of the Heavenly Court have sent me to you. and about the living and the dead. listen to My voice. The L-rd has created one against the other." The Maggid told him about the portions of the Torah." When the Maggid spoke with him about the portion of Miketz. My son. 'My flesh dwells in safety/ You will also merit to be sacrificed for the sanctification of My Name. as was the case with Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Shimon. and whoever occupied himself with the Torah was mentioned favorably. After the Sabbath went out. and Sammael. the Maggid promised him once again that he would merit a vision of Elijah. Only to you have these secrets been revealed. who all pursued him. As King David said. Your pupils will glow with the brilliance of the skies. did not remove His grace from him. and Rabbi Ahai the son of Yashiya. and let all the organs and limbs of your body be devoted to Me. heed what I command you. after Havdalah." Once again the Maggid warned him against food and drink. he told him that he had been sent by the Heavenly Court to reveal to him the deepest of secrets. to tell you the most hidden of secrets on the portion. "and then he will be revealed to you in the place known to you. Therefore. In those years the study of the Torah had decreased. the serpent. The seven good cows and the seven bad sheaves are an allusion to the seven heavenly spheres. . But Rabbi Yosef would have to fast for three days. Even though he ate and drank. The early ones.42 today. Your ashes will be piled up as a pleasing sacrifice on My altar. the Holy One. Do not fear or be afraid. Adhere to Me always. thanks to his study of the Mishnah. as if the prophet were standing before him. blessed be He. to glorify Me. Nothing harmed them. seven times. and to guard himself against the Evil Urge. which are capable of destroying the entire world. and any pupil who has not studied in your yeshivah will not be regarded as possessing any knowledge. who totally adhered to Me.

He investigated the ways of sailing on the sea. She felt she could not live with such sorrow. He made preparations to go up to Eretz Israel. Ships left Salonika for all parts of the world. In his dreams he saw himself already dwelling in the hills of Galilee. and now he would have to wait for the second . Tender children. every day. she was accompanied by her children. which was empty when he arrived. surrounded by the graves of many other children. He loved these moments when he was alone with the waves. Rabbi Yosef would arise early and go the the study hall. When Rabbi Yosef took his leave of him. among Kabbalists and Torah scholars. as if a long night had fallen. Now her life was empty. Since the death of the children the house had been in a deep sleep. His wife sank into deep depression and did not recover. The crashing of the waves soothed him. Many children had died in the city from the plague. He thought that his wife would recover from the tragedy that had befallen them.145 The sorrow that had overcome Rabbi Yosef at the death of his children had still not passed. he asked him to pray for him on the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai in Miron. to the writing of his book. She had visions of her children. The Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez was already on his way to the Holy Land. Therefore he devoted himself totally to the study of Torah. leaving a red trail on the sea. to be in the company of the Kabbalists. The children had filled her entire life. Wherever she went. with the Divine Presence dwelling in their midst. She would visit their graves in the cemetery. Her heart was filled with suffering. He had visions of the day in which he too would board a ship to sail to Eretz Israel. The Maariv prayer had ended. He dreaded returning home and seeing his embittered wife. who used to run and jump — and suddenly the candle of their lives had been snuffed out. He preferred to return to the study hall. The walls were bare of any picture or drawing. as if they were still standing before her. At times he would stand on the shore and watch the ships as they sailed away. The sun slowly sank. and to the study of the Kabbalah. and had not ended. that he also would go to Eretz Israel.

my son. and do not stop thinking about them for a single second. He could only overcome it by immersing himself in the study of the Torah. Wisdom. for all service is directed to it and all the Spheres are united in it. he began to stutter. the Temple Service represents Keter. telling him things about the Torah portion of the week." The Maggid stopped stuttering after this explanation and continued telling him things about Pirkei Avot. ." One time Rabbi Yosef went to the marketplace to buy meat for his home. and about things to be seen in a vision. Understanding.144 minyan. You do not have the proper intent. "All my life I have grown up among the Sages" (1:17). He walked around in the stalls. " 'On three things the world stands' is an allusion to the three upper spheres: Torah represents Hokhmah. but could not find any meat. The Maggid explained to him chapters from Pirkei Avot. but did not find any meat. Chickens also had vanished from the sellers" stands. He asked the meat sellers why meat was not to be had. therefore devote all your thoughts to My Torah. Then the Maggid came knocking on the door of the study hall. be strengthened and drive out all these thoughts from your heart. Then I will ascend the levels of the mysteries of Israel. when the port workers would finish their work for the day. because of the thoughts you have while praying. the Teachings of the Fathers. which is the place of lovingkindness and all the worlds which issued forth from it. His wife"s sorrow distressed him as well. Always contemplate the mishnayot. . the Crown. but even they told him they did not understand why there was no meat in their stores. When he came to the mishnah. He wasted half a day in the marketplace. things of the future. ' Why do you stutter? What has happened to you?" "You cause me to stutter. and Lovingkindness represents Binah. Rabbi Yosef interrupted him and asked him. Therefore.

They are not to be pursued. and so you must take care. Sanctify yourself with what is permitted to you. This was to teach you that meat and wine are the dwelling place of the Evil Urge. The Maggid came and told him. for man can live without them. When he talked with him about the portion of Shemot he promised him that miracles would be performed through him. At times the maggid would tell him to arise early. was all My doing. because you are carefully watched in all your deeds." The MaggicFs warning came more and more frequently. "Your going yesterday in search of meat. he would merit to complete his book. when he was alone there. At times he would warn him "Sammael is pursuing you with evil thoughts. He warned him not to become angry. and concentrate on the Torah of the L-rd the entire day. because the Maggid spoke at length with him and the hour was late. Rabbi Yosef would awaken and study mishnayot until after sunrise." *** The MaggicT's words came to him through the door of the study hall. "Do not let your thoughts depart for even a moment from My Torah and from My awe. and then the maggid would knock on the door. wasting half a day and not finding any. His commentaries and legal decisions would be free from errors. destroy . and they would be printed and would spread throughout all Israel. Take great care against him.145 That night the Maggid came to him and explained the matter to him. but to accept everything submissively. nor even a single chicken. He would find himself sitting and studying mishnayot. At times he would be overcome by slumber. just as you honored the Shabbat without meat. to come to the synagogue for the Shaharit prayer. The Maggid assured Rabbi Yosef that if he would conduct himself as he told him. Strike the thoughts the Evil Urge puts in your heart. Therefore cease your impure thoughts. and his voice would be as music in his mouth.

The Maggid would begin to speak in different ways. the Queen. It is these thoughts which prevent Me from telling you everything." *** After telling him the meaning of the portion of Vayeshev. for they are your desire. the brain is an allusion to Wisdom and the upper Crown. You eat too much.' " *** ." He warned him against excessive eating: "You eat even though you are not excessively hungry.146 them. in which he spoke of the future of the royal House of David. Sandalphon. the redeeming angel. and the straps are an allusion to the heavenly abundance which provides for the world. the twentieth of Adar: "May the L rd be with you! I am the Mishnah speaking to you. because man should not enjoy this world at all. the Maggid warned him not to write down the secrets he revealed to him. but you shall rule them. the creation of Jacob who said. and you should refrain from this. The tying of the tefilin of the hand with the strap is an allusion to the connection of the Matrona. I am the dryer of the sea. the tortured mother. On Sabbath eve. with the upper Spheres. Devote your mind to My prayer and service. even when you feel hungry and weak. "The tefilin of the head are an allusion to the upper Spheres. and the wrapping of the strap around the finger is an allusion to Metatron. 'The angel who redeems me. and do not divert your mind from this at all. The less you eat the better. Be especially careful of them at the time of prayer.' *** The Maggid spoke with him about tefilin and their meaning. and angels required for the conduct of the world.

then. because this was a fit name for it." Suddenly. "for it is My house in this world and in the World to Come. the Shekhinah will fall. He also revealed to him that the Rambam was pleased with his interpretations of his opinions. He promised Rabbi Yosef that he would help him to complete his book without a single error. He also mentioned some things which Rabbi Yosef had written. knowing that the moment you cease to contemplate the words of the Torah you will cause the . his spirit. At times the Maggid would reveal to him things about other people in Salonika. and they became close to each other. He revealed this in the face of the dangers which drew near as a result of the war. causing Rabbi Yosef to wonder what had happened. but with whom heaven did not speak. He advised him to call the work "Beit Yosef (the House of Yosef). The Maggid revealed to Rabbi Yosef that Turkey would be victorious over Edom. How much more so should you be worried. which the Rambam had not intended. He explained that this interruption was meant to warn Rabbi Yosef not to interrupt his connection with the L-rd and the contemplation of His Torah. He revealed to Rabbi Yosef that his fasts were accepted in heaven. G d forbid.147 The Maggid appeared more and more frequently. and his very being will surely be destroyed. and the accusations raised against Rabbi Yosef. But this break was for only one day. These were the wars between the Turk and Edom (Europe). The following day the voice of the Maggid was heard once again. At times the Maggid would appear while the Torah was read in the synagogue and tell him things about the wars that were being waged in the world. things which had not been interpreted beforehand. and your prayer fell to the ground. not even for a single moment. because he had surrounded himself with his money. See how shocked you were when the connection was interrupted. He told him about a certain person who was regarded as a Torah scholar. Woe to him who causes the destruction of all the worlds: his soul. the connection with the maggid was broken. " I f you will stop. revealing to him who was winning and who was losing. He would come to Rabbi Yosef every night. for even a moment.

" *** . every Friday and Shabbat. and so too for the other Orders. so that they will always be fluent on your lips and in your heart. read ten chapters. once on Sunday and once on Shabbat. that is. take some time from the day. and this will be sufficient. "Thus a person merits to receive the cloak of the Rabbis. Before you go to sleep. wherever you are. except when you see some unclean thing. read one chapter of the Mishnah. twice the text of the Torah and once the Targum. Do this for at least one year. Read the Order of Kodashim twice. And similarly after you eat.148 fall of Knesset Yisrael. think on them.. in the following manner: once on Tuesday. for each is beneficial by itself: the study of Torah. In this manner your soul will ascend to the heights. After this you will be able to study them all as the Order of Zeraim. and prayer." The Maggid taught him: "This is the order that you must institute in the study of mishnayot. for both occupations were beneficial. Then you must go away from it. Always when you are walking on the way or sailing in the sea. and complete it before breakfast. your eating and drinking will be regarded as sacrifices and libations before the Holy One. and then continue to think on them. blessed be He. The Maggid told him not to be grieved that his occupying himself with the concerns of the community would detract from the time he spent studying Torah. once a week." The Maggid also instructed him to study while eating: 'Before you eat. and once on Friday. attaining several spiritual levels and good traits. read one chapter after the mayim ahronim and before the Grace after Meals. If you contemplate the mishnayot while you are eating. Do not omit the weekly Torah portion." *** The Maggid asked him to devote a portion of each week to the study of the Kabbalah. the entire community of Israel. and concern for the needs of the public. Learn the Order of Zeraim each Friday night. Read the Order of Taharot twice a week. and if you do not complete it.

but they departed from him when he had a sinful thought. The Maggid told Rabbi Yosef that seven clouds of glory accompanied him. who pursued him and sought to snare him in their net. until Rabbi . all in connection with the Torah portion of the week. he just listened and remembered. of the upper waters and the lower waters. but the members of the Heavenly Court prayed to the One who dwells in the heights that they not leave him. of impurity and of purity. He would warn him of the serpent and Sammael. he will not come to have sinful thoughts. of the beginning of the Staircase." The Maggid said that he would reveal secrets and hidden mysteries to him. and then they returned to accompany him once again. alacrity leads to purity. The Maggid would regularly appear to him at the entrance to the study hall. This is the meaning of what Rabbi Pinhas the son of Yair said: 'Alacrity leads to cleanliness. "A person must always be filled with words of Torah and the fear of G-d. of the external forces and the inner forces. of the element of Malkhut. and discovered thoughts which contained the seed of sin. The Maggid concluded his words with "Peace be with you" when he had finished his discourse. or when things which disturbed him made their appearance. and of the mysteries of time. and so they waited until the sinful thought left.149 There were days in which the Maggid followed Rabbi Yosef's actions and thoughts. of the Sitra Ahra. The Maggid continued to speak to him of the upper Spheres. Rabbi Yosef did not answer him and did not argue with him. The he would warn him to distance himself from such things. when he sat to study Mishnah. 'Then you shall keep away from every evil thing' that you shall not have sinful thoughts. so that if the Evil Urge strikes him. and that Rabbi Yosef should not say that he was incapable of absorbing them. or when he sat alone at home. The Maggid appeared more and more frequently. with great alacrity. the Other Side.' This is the meaning of the verse. They wanted to depart from him completely. At times the Maggid would also appear to him when he was walking. Kingship.

he could no longer change his mind. he had agreed to listen to the words of the Maggid. and not for him. The allusions he revealed to him were not deep mysteries. He thought to himself. who devoted himself completely to Torah. . Perhaps it would have been better if he had told the Maggid from the beginning that he did not want him. even though they caused him to tremble at times. perhaps he would reveal to him something he did not know regarding the Torah. The Maggid"s voice was tremendous. however. like a hammer blow. because the Maggid"s words frightened him.150 Yosef could not free himself from him. The words of chastisement which he told him were suitable for a common person. Since. Every night he awaited the Maggid.

His friend Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez already was in Safed. Since the Venetian wars increased the danger of sailing. in the hills of Galilee. for the day has come. He wanted to settle in Safed. The Maggid had told him: "Awaken. going via Salonika. On the way to Eretz Israel he desired to stop in Egypt. and had encouraged him to come live in Eretz Israel. Rabbi Yosef Karo sat in the study hall of the Kabbalists with Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Shmuel Taitazak and studied Torah and the secrets of the Kabbalah. the holy Ari. and Rabbi Avraham Ashkenazi. coveting money. but he trusted in the promise of the Maggid that he would arrive in Eretz Israel.51 Chapter Twelve On the Way to Eretz Israel The sky over Salonika was bright blue. to meet with the Torah scholars there. the chief rabbi of Cairo. In the study halls in Salonika he had studied all the books he needed for the writing of his own work. In the year 5291 (1531) Rabbi Yosef set out for Eretz Israel. who already lived in Safed. because it is in your power. Rabbi Shlomo had visited him in Nikopol. He conducted correspondence with the leading Torah scholars of the time. You are sunken in the clay of the desire for the world and its vanities. he had difficulties on the way and he returned to his home in Nikopol. which he did. Whoever leaves you and retreats backwards his blood shall be on his head. and let him go up to Eretz Israel. the Radbaz. Rabbi Jacob Berab. and to visit the graves of his relatives." . He feared the trials and tribulations of the journey. together with the Kabbalists and Torah scholars among the exiles from Spain. Now he hoped to fulfill his ambition of going up to Eretz Israel. Beit Yosef. you drunkards. let man remove the idols of his money and his joy at the pleasures of this world and the idols of his gold. The rabbis of the city asked him to add his signature to their writs of approval. and he hoped to meet him.

It was there that he would complete his Beit Yosef and other books. He chose to settle in the city of Safed. He visited the study halls in which he had learned and studied the books he found. looking for sources for his book. a city of scholars and scribes. but the vision of the lofty hills in Galilee and the air of Eretz Israel drew him with invisible strings to set out on the long journey. and because of the rare books he found. His ties with the leading rabbis in Salonika were very close. When he arrived in Cairo he went to the home of Rabbi Avraham Ashkenazi. and it was difficult for him to take his leave of them.152 After many warnings by the Maggid. where he met with the rabbis and friends he had known from the time of his stay in the city. Several laws became clear to him from these meetings. He took his manuscripts with him wherever he went. He conducted legal discussions with several of the city"s scholars. who were in Cairo. the chief rabbi of the city. Now that he was in Cairo. and go to Eretz Israel. He would have to spend much time in Cairo. which were not to be found in the other study halls in which he had spent his days and nights. When he was still in Salonika he had heard of the holy Ari who dealt with the secret Torah. the center of the Upper Galilee. and arrived in Constantinople. to search through the abundance of books he found there. He had also corresponded with the Radbaz and the holy Ari. where he searched for ancient manuscripts that would aid him in writing his book. but he was hurrying to reach Eretz Israel. and discussed points of law with them. All the time he spent in Cairo was of great benefit to him. He spent his days in the study hall and perused the books and manuscripts there. *** He left Salonika after much preparation. From Constantinople he went to Egypt. In Cairo he met the leading scholars of his time. and doubts he had how to decide the law were removed. with whom he had corresponded. both because of his meetings with other scholars. the time came for him to carry out his ambition. .

and as soon as the Sabbath was out.153 he wanted to meet the holy Ari. but Elijah was not there. As he was sitting and crying. After more time had passed and Elijah had still not come. He also studied with Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi. and once to the yeshivah of Rabbi Akiva. in the year 5694. Sit on the chair and I will circumcise the infant. They also said that the Ari"s soul had ascended to the yeshivah of the Tannaim. but no one was aware of his presence. all those assembled urged the father. perhaps his sins were the cause for Elijah"s not coming. It was told that the Ari learned Torah from Rabbi David ben Zimra. But the father replied that he was awaiting the arrival of several relatives. "Do not cry. where he spent all his time studying Torah. once to the yeshivah of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. to make haste and circumcise his son. Rabbi Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi. the author of the Shitah Mekubetzet on the Talmud. My appearance was delayed so that I could learn whether you will keep my commandments and heed me" Elijah took the child from hands of the mother and circumcised him. Many stories were told in Cairo about the holy Ari. but the manuscript was burned in a fire. he would return to his secluded hut. Rabbi Yosef also heard from the elders in the study hall of Cairo that the Ari merited to see Elijah. because he wanted to circumcise him himself. the father thought to himself bitterly. Elijah appeared and said to him. Most of his studies he devoted to the Zohar and the secret Torah in general. but he was told that the Ari secluded himself all the days of the week in a little house on the bank of the Nile River. On the eighth day they brought the infant to the synagogue to be circumcised. After waiting a long time. He went into another room and burst into tears. he returned home only on Sabbath eves. Together with him he wrote the Shitah on the tractate of Zevahim. . telling him that a son would be born to him who would illuminate the entire world with his teachings and his sanctity. It was told that on the day that the Ari was born in Jerusalem. Elijah the prophet appeared to his father. Elijah commanded him to wait for him at the time of the brit milah.

154 It was said that the Ari was blessed with Ruah HaKodesh. In this meeting the Ari told him that after having secluded himself for six years. but. on the Sabbath he spoke only in Hebrew. in return for which the taxes on goods the visitor had brought with him to Egypt were cancelled. The emissary returned and told him that the Ari was excited to hear of his arrival in Egypt.law was a tax collector. entering the orchard of the Kabbalah. some of which they possessed. When he was shown in a dream that these mortifications were not sufficient. On Sabbath eve Rabbi Yosef sent an emissary to the house of the Ari. Both of them were planning to go to Eretz Israel and settle in Safed. By chance he learned of its existence. and that he intended to leave Egypt and go to Eretz Israel. . He received it from the visitor who sat next to him. (The Ari' s father-in. he heard a voice in his soul telling him to go up to Safed. they had felt a spiritual closeness all the years they had written to each other. He spent days and nights studying the Zohar. This book was not known to many people. the spirit of Divine inspiration. *•* The meeting between Rabbi Yosef and the Ari was held in a room next to the study hall. to inform him that he was in Cairo and wanted to meet him. He also invited him to his home for the Sabbath meal. and engaged in fasts and mortifications. They met as if they were old friends. while others they had seen in the large library which Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi . he added. Although this was the first time they met each other. They talked about meeting there and studying the Zohar together. he went and secluded himself in Old Egypt. and he was ready to meet him in the study hall after prayers. The Ari revealed to him secrets he had learned from an unknown Kabbalistic book which he had found with a Marrano who prayed in the study hall.) The Ari and Rabbi Yosef talked about the books of Kabbalah they had studied.

' said the Ari. This sage would fill his place. because of the many different rulings. for he possessed a precious soul which the Ari had to make perfect. They discussed the secret teachings and the revelations they had found in books and ancient manuscripts. He also told him that Elijah had been revealed to him. Rabbi Yosef asked him where he had learned the secret and the revealed Torah. Rabbi Yosef told him that he was occupied in the writing of Beit Yosef. so that there will not be many different teachings. and had told him that his death was near. but through my own spiritual labors. Rabbi Yosef agreed with him. The Ari answered. They spoke of the secrets they had found in ancient books of Kabbalah. I also learned from the books I found in the attics in Cairo.155 had in Cairo. attributed to Rabbi Avraham the son of Rabbi Yitzhak from Granada. "From Rabbi David ben Zimra. such as the book by the Ramban and the book Brit Menuhah. which contained a summary of the law. with sufficient space for all his books. "These are the only books which are directed towards the real truth of the Torah. There he would find a sage to whom he would give over his knowledge of the secret Torah. The Ari told him. to whom I was both a pupil and fellow. who was a master of both the revealed and the secret teachings. but also told him of things he had found in other books and manuscripts dealing with the hidden Torah. "Most of my knowledge of the hidden Torah did not come to me from teachers. and from Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi. and that he must go to Safed. I 5 . "Our generation needs such a book. He told Rabbi Yosef that he would come after him. and I study the Zohar day and night. the rabbi of Egypt. therefore he wanted to go to live in Safed. They continued talking for a long time. The Ari gave Rabbi Yosef the task of preparing a place for him in Safed where he could live. to be near the grave of the Tanna in Miron." The Ari revealed to him that it had been told to him that his soul was the reincarnation of the soul of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai.

he still doubted whether he had written it correctly. Rabbi Yosef saw the greatness of the Ari. I intend to establish a yeshivah in Safed. Sometimes the scholar would raise new points that he had not thought of. for the disturbances caused by people bother me in the labor of writing. *** Rabbi Yosef would roam from one study hall to another in Cairo. to complete my book and other books I plan to write. In the meantime. both the revealed and the hidden Torah.156 struggled greatly to arrive at the truth and the Torah of truth. which is a difficult work. whose entire essence was devoted to the upper worlds. and told him: "When you come to live in Safed we will sit together and learn." When they parted. but he also needed to discuss the law with the other scholars in the study hall. to find the essence of the law. for select students who will study law and Kabbalah. He thought. and then he would have to review the entire topic: to reopen the books. . They would meet in the future in Safed. In order to write a single law. to study all the commentators. He found that Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi had a large library. Seclusion would help him to devote himself to his writing. He knew that many generations would rely on his rulings." During their conversation the Ari revealed to Rabbi Yosef several concepts in the hidden Torah which he had thought of during his last week in seclusion. Rabbi Yosef thought of the person he had discovered in Cairo. Rabbi Yosef told him several new points of law. He would consult with another scholar in the study hall in order to remove all his doubts. he had to study many books. and the Ari went back to seclusion in the hut on the bank of the Nile. Perhaps I too must find a place of seclusion. looking for rare books and manuscripts in the attics. and a heavy responsibility rested on his shoulders. taking care not to make any errors — and after he had written the law. based on the books he had found in the libraries and study halls in Cairo. Rabbi Yosef returned to his lodgings.

The Maggid had not abandoned him ever since he had left Salonika. and who had much experience from sitting on the rabbinical courts. He longed to be among the scholars and the Kabbalists in Safed. and most of all. from the scholars he met. carrying passengers and cargo. and the nearer the day of departure drew. He took his leave of the many friends he had made in Cairo. Between studying the books he found and conversations with the leaders of camel caravans. He needed criticism by rabbis who possessed wide knowledge of the law. and urging him to make haste and go to Eretz Israel. he showed his rulings to the leading rabbis in Cairo. as a judge on the rabbinical court. but he would not tarry in Egypt on his way to Eretz Israel. so that they could travel together. Ships also set sail from Alexandria for the shores of Eretz Israel. But he would not let them divert him from his goal. He knew that he would need much time to read all the ancient books he found. When he sat in the study halls in Cairo. Some said that they too would go up to Eretz Israel and settle in Safed. Caravans set out for the desert on camels. This was better than going on camelback through the desert. telling him things about the Torah portion of the week. People in Cairo advised him to go on the ship which went between Egypt and Eretz Israel. the higher his spirits rose. . Some of them praised his legal method. while others made critical comments. but they faced the danger of storms. the Maggid would appear to him. from his meeting with the Ari. They traveled for many days and nights until they crossed the Sinai Desert and came to Eretz Israel. Robbers lay in wait for travelers. He sought out other Jews who were going to Eretz Israel. The scholars in Cairo asked him to stay there. He copied some passages from these books. The roads from Egypt to Eretz Israel were difficult. but their livelihood kept them in Egypt.157 containing many books he had not read previously. He saw the ascent to Eretz Israel as a command which he could not refuse. He was happy to hear these comments. He gained much from his stay in Cairo — from the books he read.

This person came from Toledo. but the Jews dug under their homes and built synagogues under the earth. and Syria. He told the other passengers that there was a scholar among them. who was known in Salonika for his holiness. Some of them were going to pray at the tombs of their forefathers for relatives who were gravely ill. Many of these Jews were forced to participate in the prayers in the churches on Sunday (after they had finished praying in their secret synagogues). to be cured of illness. Jews had gathered from all the ends of the earth in Egypt. . living in fear of the Inquisition. One of the Marranos who had returned to Judaism came to Rabbi Yosef and told him of the trials and tribulations he had undergone in Spain when he tried to preserve his Judaism in secret." Since he did not know the nature of the man. while in their hearts they mocked these acts. They bowed down to the images in the church with all the other worshipers. On board the boat. and Marranos who wished to live in Eretz Israel. Lebanon. and boarded the ship which went from Egypt to Eretz Israel. he would learn the past of this person. come to me and I will tell you what you must do. and he would be able to guide him properly in his new life. but stayed in the city. he was suspicious of him. This Marrano asked. If he would live in Safed.158 and running the risk of meeting the robbers who waited in the desert. Many of the Jews among the passengers came to him with their questions. what penitance must a person do who has worshipped in a church and crossed himself? Rabbi Yosef told him: "When you arrive in Safed. Secret staircases led to these synagogues. One of the passengers knew Rabbi Yosef from Salonika. He took with him food for the journey. to atone with a life of holiness for their sins in Christian Spain. There were merchants. he met other passengers who also were going to Eretz Israel. He told Rabbi Yosef that the synagogues were confiscated and turned into churches. He did not leave Spain with the other exiles. scholars. Some asked for his blessing: for a safe journey. The Jews prayed in them three times a day.

He also told them about the Kinneret. He ate dry bread and drank water. He told them that there was an abundance of water in Galilee. but he did not know if he could rely on their kashrut. which flowed from the hills and the snow covered Hermon to the valleys. She always saw them before her eyes. and they hoped to establish themselves in this trade in Safed. and asked him if there were springs of fresh water near Safed. The sailors pointed out Mount Hermon and Mount Miron. The passengers saw another ship sailing close to theirs. His wife was with him. they could ask for assistance from the other ship. and they were respected people from Alexandria. The other Jews on the ship offered to share their food with him. . His eyes were fixed on the golden shores. using the knowledge they brought with them. Women cooked on the deck in pots they had brought with them. so that the ship would not be smashed to smithereens by the waves and the winds. but she was too ill with seasickness to stand on her feet and cook. who reassured them. He knew the owners of this ship which sailed on the same route. the Sea of Galilee. and they would have to put in at the nearest shore. The boat was not far from the shores of Eretz Israel. He hinted at the fact that a storm might be brewing. They talked with him about their trade. next to Tiberias. He saw from afar the mountains towering above. The peak of Mount Hermon was covered with snow. the more excited he became. Rabbi Yosef would bring her water he had heated on the fire. but he refused to accept this. She was still under the influence of the death of her children in the plague. The ship undoubtedly sailed close to theirs so that in case a storm came up. which they needed to make cloth. The closer the ship came to the shore. The ship was supposed to anchor off the shores of Acco or of Haifa. They had been weavers in Spain. Jews from Spain who had come on the boat with him brought their looms with them. They feared that it was a pirate ship! They turned to the captain of their ship.159 Rabbi Yosef's friends in Egypt had given him provisions for the way. Most of the time she sat and mourned her children.

I"m very weak. to guard his manuscripts." " I don"t know if I can last until then. These women also intended to live in Safed. "Very soon we will reach Eretz Israel. I will never recover. but even they said that they could not recall such a mighty storm that was rocking the ship back and forth.160 Slowly the wind increased until the storm broke. He also had brought with him several rare books which he had found in the attics in Cairo. this is where people recover from all their sicknesses. Mighty waves smashed against the ship"s hull. the mountain air is clear." Women passengers came to her cabin and brought her food and drink that they had brought with them. He was afraid that water would leak into his cabin and ruin the books. where we will live. The passengers came to Rabbi Yosef and asked him to pray for them. and so he remained in his place on the ship. and its air will revive you. He told them that the merit of their coming up to Eretz Israel would cause the seas to calm down. . And so it was: after a day of stormy weather. He stood by her to serve her and encourage her. the skies lightened and the waves abated. so that if the storm were to worsen they would be able to pull in and let the passengers off. Once again the ship sailed on the smooth sea. The manuscripts of Rabbi Yosef's books were with him. Her strength still had not returned to her. *** The ship sailed close to the shore. The sailors were accustomed to stormy seas. He kept his packages above the floor. The heavy waves caused her to vomit. on a shelf." " I am so sick. and he guarded them with his very life. His wife lay in her bed. but she could not touch anything because of her seasickness." "In Safed. the winds blow. They promised her that they would help her to set up her new house in the city.

. golden shores. including his books. The sailors told the passengers they could not remember such a storm in all their years on the sea. because of the storm. Rabbi Yosef was studying his books. During the voyage he was sorry that he had not taken the land route. He had thought hat the land route was dangerous. trying to identify the place. Rabbi Yosef came up on the deck and looked around him. Even when the storm was at its worst. because of the robbers in the Sinai Desert. He looked at the shore and the hills. and from afar they could see the misty. The sea quieted down. Rabbi Yosef left the ship with his bundles in his hands. he had not abandoned his books. The passengers looked at the shore the entire day. They told her about the customs of Safed and about its markets and streets. He had not had enough time to read all the books he had found in Cairo and he learned many new things now. he thought of new ideas about the laws regarding sailing in a ship and disembarking on the land. As he gazed at the water and the shore. "There must be an important person on the ship who is being greeted by the storm. And so it was. The storm accompanied the ship until it finally abated. Due to the storm.161 Some of them had already lived in Safed and were returning to their families there. *** Once again the waves battered the ship. The ship tied up at the dock in Acco. the passengers had to leave the ship one at a time. He waited for the moment when the ship would drop anchor and he could go ashore. The ship was supposed to dock in either Acco or Haifa. When this moment came he was all excited. He walked back and forth on the deck." they said. All the while he held a book in his hand. It seemed to him that all the passages in the Talmud dealing with Eretz Israel and its sanctity stood before him and demanded that he study them. but the sea route was no less dangerous.

after they had fled from Paris when the Talmud was burned there. they had time to walk through Acco. On the way they met Jews who had come from Safed to meet their relatives who had come on the ship. . Rabbi Yosef walked through the streets and marketplaces with his wife. and afterwards he kissed its soil. The sages of France. All the time he thought about the commandment to settle Eretz Israel and what he was commanded to do. They searched for the remains of the ancient yeshivah in Acco. the Baalei HaTosafot. They searched for a horse-drawn carriage to take them to Safed. He would not part with them for a moment. Until the carriage set out. They showed them the way to the drivers who would take them to Safed.162 They were more precious than all his other belongings. They were accompanied by the other Jews who had come on the ship. The townspeople showed them another house where the scholars from France had studied. had studied here. When he set foot on the land. They could not find the yeshivah. he bowed to the land of Eretz Israel.

All his life Rabbi Yosef had dreamed of coming to this place in Galilee where he could study Torah undisturbed. All these thoughts passed through his mind as he waited in the center of Acco for the caravan of carriages that would set out for Safed. The time had come for the caravan to set out. Now his dream was coming true. He was concerned with the settlement of Eretz Israel and the laws connected with this. others with whom he had corresponded. He knew that there were many Torah scholars and Kabbalists in Safed. He interrupted his thoughts and looked around him. He kept them in a bundle as he went around on a donkey. the Maggid would return to him and deliver his message.163 Chapter Thirteen The Air of the Hills of Galilee Wherever Rabbi Yosef went. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. He was fulfilling the words of the Maggid. and he wondered how they would greet him and how he would fit into their company. He was occupied with his thoughts on how to formulate the law on this topic. until the caravan to Safed was organized. Since he had started traveling. the final authority in everything. The rabbi of Safed. He and his wife got into a carriage. Now that he would be in Safed and would once more study the Mishnah. in the company of Torah scholars. the Maggid had left him. He would certainly bring him into the community when he would arrive in Safed. some of whom he had met before. while other people in the caravan sat on donkeys. Many of the people in the caravan had come with them on the ship. already knew him. The sights of the land changed his line of thought. He saw the hills of . He was the pillar of the community in Safed. he took his books with him. living in its atmosphere of holiness. He anticipated meeting the great scholars of Safed.

his book would not be accepted by the people of Israel. Scholars would write their evaluations of his book. while others were covered by forests. with our fine furniture?' "Just as the other newcomers have become accustomed to life in Eretz Israel. He wanted the Jewish people to regard his book as the authority by which they would conduct themselves in daily life. She said. thereby causing many people to err. to act with the utmost care. He wanted to bring the Redemption closer. considering all aspects of what he was writing. for an entire year. "But we are no longer young. if his sources were not clear.164 Galilee approaching him. He feared lest a minor error would creep into his work. Rabbi Yosef thought that in a secluded house in these hills he would find the seclusion and peace of mind he needed. He needed to be free from communal or family concerns. for he would determine the law for many generations. His wife was apprehensive of the living conditions ahead of them. Some were bare rock. This book summarized the law of generations. after the spacious. we need suitable living conditions. to study many books. "How will we become accustomed to living in these little houses." "The merit of Eretz Israel will protect us." he answered her. For each law he had to conduct a thorough investigation. and thought that the company of Kabbalists in Safed had the power to do this. Many of them had come to Safed for just this purpose — to bring Redemption to the world and to return the Divine Presence to Eretz Israel. I f they would not find what they were looking for. and if the foundations of his decision were shaky. The task of writing was difficult. so too we will become accustomed to life here." Their spirits were lifted by the scenery around them as they entered the hills of Galilee. so that he could devote his time entirely to his book. and it was meant 5 . They would search for his sources. He saw the desolation that had spread through the land since the Destruction of the Temple. clean houses we had. to finish his book.

In the distance. and they were covered with greenery. and they smote the Canaanites who inhabited Safed ' (1:17). People from the caravan told him that the Jews of Safed would go to the graves in Galilee every Monday and Thursday to pray. But that "Safed" had been located in the south. up and down the hills and valleys. he searched through his mind for what these scholars had said on points of law or as ethical teachings. He raised from his memory the verse in the Book of Judges. Since they mentioned the names of famous scholars and he stood at their graves. The caravan of riders passed along the winding paths. in the portion of the tribe of Judah. the graves of Tannaim and other holy scholars. the books he still lacked. the houses of Safed were spread over the ridges of the mountain. Rabbi Yosef also went down to pray. went to the springs for water. their faces covered with veils. until the caravan started up once again. There were no cities. He hoped that he would find in the study halls of Safed. The women. Trees grew on their peaks. carrying jugs on their heads. all the basic books and everything deriving from them. Therefore Rabbi Yosef had to surround himself with all the books he needed. He wondered whether the city of Safed was mentioned in the Bible. "And Judah went with Simeon his brother. *** He looked at the summits of the hills. He also remembered that Safed is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as the place from where they would bear the signal-lights to announce the new 5 . and in the homes of its scholars. Their statements raced through his mind when he stood near their graves and prayed. scattered villages. Some of the travelers descended from their carriages or donkeys to pray at these graves. They passed near villages in which the Arabs covered their heads with kaffiyas. only small.165 to last for generations. poor. The members of the caravan who came from Safed pointed out to the newcomers the ancient graves along the way.

"All I want to do is to devote myself to Torah.166 month. by the name of Rabbi Yosef Karo. He went to the home of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. and only you were missing. He danced around him. "All my days I desired to be among such holy people. And the priest of Safed was destroyed and fell. Now that you have come. but you will be our leader and the decider of law for us. Safed was the place of the guard of priests of Pashhur. ordering them to "Go up to Eretz Israel. and began to wind its way into the city." In the meantime the caravan neared the approaches of Safed. on Shavuot eve. his longtime friend. whether many or few. and there is no hindrance to saving. and gave Rabbi Yosef and his wife some refreshments. because you will . because not all times are equal. and about a suitable apartment in one of the neighborhoods of the city. Rabbi Alkabez greeted him with cries of joy. But moral instruction diminished. who was mourned by Eleazar Kallir: "Not to the heights of the face of Safed With silver covering the grove. Rabbi Yosef got out of the carriage in the plaza where all the caravans stopped. you will enter this holy company." While Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez and Rabbi Yosef Karo talked together. about rent. and now my wish has been fulfilled. A great band of Torah scholars and Kabbalists has assembled here. While they were having their first meal in the home of Rabbi Alkabez. He said to him. Do not care for your possessions. "Now that you have come to Safed a new era has begun. The two rabbis continued to talk about the words of the Maggid that they had heard in Salonika. you will continue to write your great work. the women talked about a place where they could stay during their first days in the city. had come to Safed. It is for you that we have been waiting. the report had already spread through the city that a great sage." "Yes.

a trade they had brought with them from Spain. The conversation turned to Torah." added Rabbi Shlomo. They walked through the alleys of Safed. The two embraced. A cool breeze came from the hills. He thought to himself that in such a climate it would very convenient to sit and continue to write his books." "We have waited a long time for you. that he had merited to ascend to Safed. They left the house and went towards the study hall." " I also had been delayed. the city"s yeshivot. He looked around him. When he entered.' Now they had fulfilled the Maggid"s command. Rabbi Yosef could not contain himself for joy. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. When they came to the study hall." " I am glad to be with you. the head of the scholars in Safed. 5 *** Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez told him a new teaching that he had delivered that day to the pupils in the study hall. while others did not leave the study hall the entire day. Rabbi Yosef said. they found it full of scholars. "Welcome to our city! A sage has come to the city. We need you here.167 eat of the bounty of the upper earth. but you did not delay long after me. The time for the afternoon Minhah prayer had arrived. they began Minhah. They waited for the arrival of the head of the rabbinical court. I underwent many tribulations until I arrived here. which were the center of his life." . the rabbi of Safed." "Many things delayed me. Rabbi Shlomo told him of the group of Kabbalists in Safed. but the air of Safed compensates for all the troubles I suffered. Some of them earned their livelihood by weaving. " I came first. and enjoyed the clear air of the city. and the Torah scholars who devoted their time to study. After the prayer Rabbi Alkabez brought him before Rabbi Berab. but finally I arrived. Their livelihood came from the stipends of the community. Rabbi Yosef listened to his words and nodded his head in agreement.

168 Rabbi Yaakov Berab asked him about his family. after wandering through many countries. He had known them for a long time. They did not learn according to the order of the Talmud. They talked about his father. Rabbi Yosef could sense the traces of the method of study in the yeshivot in Spain before the Expulsion. It is prepared to absorb the mystic depths of the Torah. They examined the topic according to the system of rules governing the entire Talmud. Rabbi Yitzhak. but rather selected topics." "The name Safed (Tzefat) alludes to netzah." "You will be among the leading scholars in the study hall. I feel that I am at home. at long last. . The pupils asked questions. and closely examined any changes in language." Rabbi Yaakov Berab had come to Safed from Egypt. The visitor agreed and remained in the study hall until after the lecture was finished. He brought with him great authority in legal matters. Rabbi Yaakov Berab invited him to hear his lecture to his pupils in the study hall. from when Yosef was still a child and had listened to the words of Torah of Rabbi Yaakov in Lisbon." Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez said. ." "Yes. Rabbi Ephraim. After the lecture Rabbi Yosef said to Rabbi Yaakov Berab. It will be enough if I sit and study here. " I am not worthy of this. the Eternal. As he listened to the lecture. He would sit on the side and guide his pupils as they clarified serious points in these topics. The way of study established by Rabbi Yaakov Berab influenced his pupils." "You have a great future ahead of you. and not like a visitor. "You will undoubtedly feel that you are among friends here. and you will produce an entire generation of pupils. and about his uncle. where he had lived after the Expulsion from Spain. you will be a full member of the study hall. which was recognized by the leading scholars of his time. He sensed that he was witness to the profound study of the Torah here. while he just listened. " I want to join those in the study hall. Do not make light of yourself.

**• Rabbi Yaakov Berab continued the method of study of his teachers. Rabbi Yosef asked his permission to study the manuscripts in his house. of the great Torah scholars of all generations. The inhabitants of Safed greeted him in the street. Some wanted to fix a set time to study with him. This would help him to write his book. They realized that he was more knowledgeable in the subject than they were. In his house Rabbi Yaakov Berab kept hundreds of manuscripts of new interpretations of the Torah. Rabbi Yaakov Berab hinted to Rabbi Yosef Karo that he saw him as his successor. They had heard of him and his family in the Diaspora.169 Rabbi Yosef Karo had known for some time that Rabbi Yaakov Berab"s method of study would have a beneficial influence on him. the author of Menorat ha-Ma"or. Some invited him to their homes to discuss Torah. He replied politely to all of them that he was busy with the manuscript he had brought with him and which he intended to complete in Safed. Some of them invited him to visit them and choose for himself clothes . The troubles he encountered in his travels and wanderings had prevented him from completing it earlier. especially the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab. Rabbi Yosef became friendly with the Torah scholars in Safed. Rabbi Yosef and his wife found an apartment in Safed. Rabbi Yosef lovingly read the treasures he found in Rabbi Yaakov"s house. from whose windows they could see the surrounding hills. He joined his study hall. Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab and his teacher. and spent his days in the uninterrupted study of Torah. Rabbi Yosef showed such expertise and profound thought that at times the other students asked him to continue the lesson that had just started. Rabbi Yitzhak Carranton. After a while. and permission was granted him. He regarded him as his teacher and master. telling him how happy they were that he was living in their midst.

The Jews had brought the craft of weaving with them from Spain to the Turkish empire. they looked for a suitable place for the weaving industry. and children were employed in this industry. so that you will have new clothes sewn for yourself. Yakim.170 from the wool they produced. of as good quality as that from the best mills in the entire Mediterranean area — the mills of Venice. They found pure. in honor of Eretz Israel? ' they asked him. There were five hundred looms in the city. The water turbines that powered the fulling mills were surrounded by orchards of fruit trees and vegetable gardens which also were irrigated by water from the turbines. but whose clothing industry was very backwards. A large portion of the income from the fulling mills was devoted to the upkeep of the yeshivot in Safed. "Thank you. Fabric is expensive. There were also springs of fresh water in the village of Ein Zeitim." "Perhaps we could honor you with a choice fabric. women. They needed flowing water. fresh water in the springs in the vicinity of Safed: Ein Po"em. Nahal Amud. and no less than three fulling mills. as well as Jews coming to Eretz Israel. or from the Ottoman government. Rabbi Yosef Karo of Toledo!" they greeted him. all operated by the power of the water flowing in Nahal Amud. but I do not need new clothes. Millions of yards of cloth were produced in Safed. six large dying plants. Miron. for fulling and dying. When the exiles from Spain came to Safed. "Welcome. More than seven thousand men. The cost of living was not high in Safed. " I am happy to be here in the holy city of Safed. and I cannot pay for this. The Jews leased the mills from the Wakf. Ships sailing to and from the port of Sidon carried wool and cloth. The craft of weaving had been entirely in Jewish hands in Spain. The Jews who came to Safed had turned the city into an important center for the sale of expensive cloth and fabrics." 5 . the Moslem religious trust. Nahal ha-Tahanot. where good clothing was needed.

and choose fabric for you and your wife?" He did not give them a clear answer. you must earn your livelihood from weaving/' "We have more than enough fabric for our livelihood. Every Jewish inhabitant of the city was very friendly. It would be an honor for us if you would accept the fabrics as a gift. It would be an honor for us if you were to wear our fabrics. He wanted to consult with the other sages in the city. to sit and study Torah. and all of them were filled with scholars who had gathered there from the entire world. He did not know which to choose. Some Jews were farmers. olives. Some of them he had . for you and your wife. and for gifts. which they exported via Beirut and Sidon. Jews continued to come to Safed to live. for our trade. grapes. and willing to help in any matter. There were eighteen yeshivot in Safed. The Torah scholars were especially friendly. because he was not sure whether he could accept a gift from the people of Safed. and that the weary could find rest there. and etrogim for the holiday of Sukkot. He and his wife were offered small apartments. *** The Jewish merchants in Safed dealt with the sale of fabrics. Rabbi Yosef was kept busy with visits to the other scholars in Safed. and the textile industry expanded.' " I am not worthy to accept gifts of fabric from you. Other Jewish merchants dealt in sesame oil. even if they wanted to honor him. He learned that the atmosphere of the city was comfortable. raising grain. During his first days in Safed. not even if they had fabric for which they had no use. and ask them how they acted.171 "We do not intend to sell them for money. He walked through the alleys of Safed and looked for a peaceful apartment. Will you please come to our mill. in the city"s old stone houses. Scholars devoted themselves to the revealed and hidden Torah.

while others took care not to go too far in their study of the hidden wisdom. Rabbi Yosef Sagis. Rabbi Moshe Trani. He told them of the work before him. who studied the Torah profoundly. They came to meet him because they had heard of him and of the decisions he had delivered in the cities in which he had served as rabbi. the writing of his book. and with other scholars. who had come from Spain after the Expulsion. and the difficulties he encountered. He asked them the questions he had encountered to which he had not been able to provide a clear answer. The first scholar he visited was his old friend. while he had only heard of others. Afterwards he met with Rabbi David ben Zimra. Wherever he went he was accompanied by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez.72 met during his years of wandering. Beit Yosef. Now that their plans had been fulfilled and they were reunited. and with whom he had corresponded from the time he had been in Salonika. Some of them raised sparks. and there were many books to which he could refer. They discussed the law as they tasted of the refreshments before them. . Ha-Mabit. Together they had had marvelous visions and made plans that stirred their very souls regarding their going to Eretz Israel. they did not part for a moment. due to the troubles that had befallen them. The books he needed were not to be found in every city. he found in them a large company of young Kabbalists. and in coming to Safed they sought the Redemption. He thought that the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain had shaken the thoughts of this generation. When Rabbi Yosef came to the study hall. His talks with them reinforced his opinion that Safed was the most suitable place for him to complete his books. the Radbaz. with whom he had discussed the law when he lived in Constantinople and Adrianople. for there were many scholars in the city who could aid him with advice and guidance. who had come to Safed before him and knew its people and places.

thus leaving less for the truly needy. cheeses. that scholars who did not need contributions were forbidden to take from these monies. After their trip they would hurry to the study hall. in order to collect money for their yeshivot. Some time later the scholars of Safed instituted regulations regarding the contributions which came from abroad for the scholars in the city. Each synagogue in the city had its own rabbi. As the days passed. Rabbi Yosef wrote a ruling on this matter. and fruit. grains. They did all the household labors. some of them had stores for spices. Rabbi Moshe Alshekh. "Love labor and hate the rabbinate. Jews in the Diaspora sent contributions to the heads of the study halls in Safed for this purpose." and did not want to live at the expense of the community. to complete their daily amount of studies. and for the maintenance of their students. or went to the marketplace to buy bread. From time to time the scholars in Safed would go to the nearby villages to purchase goods for their stores. and other renowned scholars who frequently came to Safed from where they lived. and vegetables for their families. so that the poor scholars would receive more and the rich scholars less. Many of them fulfilled the dictum. oil. and very humbly. the pay tan (writer of religious poetry) Rabbi Yisrael Najara. Rabbi Yosef met additional scholars who lived in Safed. Rabbi Shmuel D i Uzira. without servants. Already during his first days in the city. to draw water from the well.173 The Torah scholars in Safed lived simply. who headed the community of Jews who came from a certain land. with their jugs on their shoulders. In the evenings they went. where they had headed large communities. The Jews . oil. the author of the book Midrash Shmuel on Pirkei Avot. At times the heads of the yeshivot in Safed would go abroad. including the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. in order to stay in the refreshing atmosphere of the Galilee city. Even though they had not been accustomed to this in their original countries. scholars had turned to him and asked him to put some order into the distribution of contributions among the scholars in the city.

or because of neighbors" quarrels or business disputes. As soon as he came to Safed. Since he specialized in the formulation of legal decisions and in the thorough investigation of the commentaries. was chosen to head the Committee. whose legal decisions were accepted with great respect. and each of these communities had its own synagogue and order of prayer and study. When several members of the Beit Vaad passed away. Rabbi Moshe Trani. listened to the claims of the parties to the dispute. whether because of the contributions which were sent from abroad (and it was not clear to which synagogue they were sent). The other members of the Committee were Rabbi David ben Zimra. Rabbi Yosef. at times disagreements broke out between one community and another. They established two synagogues. his name was the first on any legal decision issued by the rabbinical judges of the city. established regulations. Rabbi Yosef established his place of study in the yeshivah of Rabbi Yaakov Berab. *** He was asked by Rabbi Yaakov Berab to sit on his rabbinical court. including Rabbi Yitzhak Masud and Rabbi Yisrael Di Corial. other rabbis were appointed to it. and his opinion was accepted. and Rabbi Yosef Sagis. . and he agreed. A Beit Vaad (a standing committee) of the city"s rabbis was established to deal with these problems. as a result of his writing his book. He turned this court into a beacon light of Torah. the other members of the rabbinical court relied upon him. and made peace between individuals and between communities. This committee met from time to time. Rabbi Avraham Shalom. and many cities in the Diaspora turned to him to receive replies to serious questions that had arisen in their communities. even though the gabbaim (officials) of several other communities asked him to join their communities. Since the residents of Safed were organized in eighteen different communities. Kahal Gadol and Kahal Beit Yaakov.174 from Spain constituted a majority among the Jews of Safed.

and the Rosh agree. while others would disagree. They would come before the Beit Vaad and tell what they and the other Marranos had suffered. *** When Rabbi Yosef sat together with his colleagues on the rabbinical court. established regulations for the welfare of the community. " I f the Rif. Some families had come from Spain or Portugal after years of living secretly as Jews. what they had to do to atone for the years in which they could not fulfill the Torah and its commandments. and the Semag. Mordekhai. "This will be the final word in all the legal books in Israel. The Beit Vaad served as a meeting place for the scholars of Safed. whenever matters came up which it had to decide. the Rashba. and replied to the many questions they received regarding the law and proper conduct. Each scholar would relate the new things he had learned out. Only afterwards would they listen to matters concerning the public. They wanted to return to Judaism. the Rambam. and the arguments of the opposing parties. the scholars would conduct discussions on points of the law. During its deliberations. Each week more Jews came to live in Safed. I also draw upon the opinions of the Ramban." they said. "What are the rules by which you decide between poskimV they asked him.175 The Beit Vaad would meet frequently. in which he had engaged for many years. I f these three authorities disagree. Some would agree with his interpretation. he told them about his work of writing the Beit Yosef on the Arba Turim. discussed issues that come up. then I determine the law in accordance with their opinion. the Ran. and the Beit Vaad would rule. then I adopt the majority opinion." . where they clarified the new interpretations they had learned and questions that had arisen. and the others would comment on this. The Beit Vaad began its meetings with Torah study. of two against one. by each scholar in turn.

as he understood the law. while I ruled the opposite. Their opinions and great knowledge aided him in deciding the law. but I changed my mind. because there were many books and manuscripts available to him. and he had to decide between the opinions and formulate this section of his book. the son of the Rosh." "Yes. because Rambam brings only one opinion." the members of the court told him. and I would have had to cite the opinions of the other poskim and their arguments. Rabbi Yaakov Berab." " I ask that you help me in this labor. they should continue their practice." answered the head of the court." "Of course we will help you. because they have accepted the opinion of a scholar who prohibits them from acting otherwise. 'In a place where they were accustomed. "We will be by your side in this work." "There are lands in which the law was decided in accordance with the opinion of the poskim in those lands. I have devoted the best years of my life to this work. however. At first I thought to follow the text of the Mishneh Torah. They entered into a legal discussion with him. and whenever he had a doubt about a certain matter. as is learned in the chapter of Pesahim. and about which he was unsure how to decide the law. There are times when I need the advice of Torah scholars in order to clarify and decide the law. This is a great task you have taken upon yourself.176 "You have spoken well.' " "We accept your words. he could come to the Torah scholars in the city and discuss the ." added Rabbi Moshe Trani. because he includes the opinions of the majority of the poskim. Therefore I decided to have it follow the text of the Arba Turim of Rabbi Yaakov. Differences of opinion also arose. He found that he had chosen a good place to complete his book. He told the members of the court the topics about which he was writing at the time. " I f in some lands they ruled that something is prohibited.

"And when you read the Shema and stand for the Shemoneh Esreh. and included him in their lessons in the hidden Torah. The Maggid continued to appear to him in the study hall at midnight. He would frequently hear the sound of his knocking on the door of the study hall at midnight. He studied and prayed with the Kabbalists in Safed. *** The Maggid who had come to him when he studied the Mishnah in the study hall in Salonika returned to him when he was studying in the study hall in Safed. the serpent. He would not have the total responsibility for deciding the law in these cases. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. If you will delve into the wisdom of the Kabbalah. and go at daybreak to the synagogue. but he did forbid him to engage in such matters. and the other Kabbalists in Safed. and the Evil Urge who pursue you. I will give you a fine portion in it. He went with them to pray at the graves of the holy men in Galilee. And indeed.177 law with them. Rabbi Yosef did not forget the study of the Kabbalah. . When you read the Shema devote your mind to My service. Let your thoughts always be on My teachings and the fear and love of Me. and he studied their holy books. together with Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. The Maggid warned him to awaken early. so that he could read the Shema at the proper time. Let nothing separate your thoughts from Me." The Maggid informed him that he would finish his book and would not need to deal with public matters which would take time away from the study of Torah. beware of Sammael." the Maggid told him. The words of the Maggid were clearer than they had been in Salonika. The Kabbalists considered Rabbi Yosef to be one of their company. "Remove evil thoughts from your heart.

178 He felt that he had sprouted wings in the atmosphere of Safed. Many students streamed to the yeshivah he had founded. The Kabbalists went around in the middle of the night as if it were the middle of the day. When he finished talking. the students felt that they were above time and place. Rabbi Yosef praised him for his clear speech and thought. When he permitted a student to speak. In this manner new interpretations of the Torah were produced in the interplay between the teacher and his students. The streets of Safed were filled with people reciting Tikkun Hatzot for the restoration of the Temple. When the student finished speaking about the ten spiritual forces. . he motioned to one of his students to talk about the the powers of the soul and its purpose. They sat riveted to their benches as they listened to his wisdom. Their number quickly reached two hundred. When he delivered his lecture in the yeshivah. The study halls were always full. this also constituted a test of the student"s spiritual standing. His coming to Safed was known throughout the entire world. both according to the simple meaning of the text and the Kabbalistic interpretation.

and the evening hours to writing responses to legal queries. To this end he collected legal decisions. Since the scholars in Safed knew of his work. The work he had taken upon himself began to go faster. in order to hear his opinion. he would have to write a second book. and dealt with them every day. H£ sat in the rabbinical court of Rabbi Yaakov Berab. to make the transition from one topic to another in a clear manner. Some scholars would come to consult with him on legal questions which arose. old and new books which would be of aid to him in writing this new book. and discussed the issues before them with the other members of the court. The many books he found in the study hall and in the library of Rabbi Yaakov Berab aided him in finding the sources he needed. His everyday occupations interfered with his writing and prevented him from completing it. a "set table" of all the laws as they had been formed until his generation in all the books of the poskim. they would tell him of every new interpretation they had taught. He had the ability to formulate and edit. collections of responsa.179 Chapter Fourteen The Ordination Controversy Rabbi Yosef allocated the morning hours to writing his book Beit Yosef. for they knew that he was an expert in the laws. He listened to the arguments of the sides. and they would agree with his opinion. and would bring him every new book that reached them which could help him in his work. He could always rely upon his memory to cite the source upon which their decision should be based. to collect detail after detail. This would be a Shulhan Arukh. This being the case. He was occupied with . He methodically sorted the material and edited it. He already thought then that after he finished the Beit Yosef. to place each item in its proper place. the other judges would have him write the decision.

Therefore he considered the idea of leaving Safed and going to one of the nearby villages. The study hall was filled with pupils who desired to learn from him. and they enjoyed his words of Torah. he would fulfill his dream and go to one of the villages to complete his book. that they would not disturb him. *** The idea of going into seclusion in a village remained with him. He would come to them. Rabbi Yosef still had sufficient time to devote to the writing of his books. Slowly. and Rabbi Yosef Sagis. Some had trades. Beit Yosef. he collected in his library the works of the poskim and the commentators. so that he would be alone with his writing. Although he had been appointed to the rabbinical court of Rabbi Yaakov Berab. which he needed to write his book. Rabbi David ben Zimra. the Jews in each village he visited invited him to stay in their village. who headed yeshivot in Safed and who . Rabbi Moshe Trani.180 community affairs. There were still many obstacles in the way. but the time had not come to carry it out. both in manuscripts and in printed books. They sent their sons to learn in the yeshivot in Safed. but he knew that when the time would come. At times they would invite Rabbi Yosef to spend the Sabbath in their village and teach them. People would come to his door from early in the morning to ask him questions on points of law. who served as a shining light to all the Jews of Galilee. He was still occupied with the writing of Beit Yosef which would be the key to studying the law and to the issuing of decisions. Jews lived in the villages in Galilee. The scholars in Safed would listen to the lectures of Rabbi Yosef Karo. His pupils clung to him and would not leave the benches of the yeshivah until they had become his disciples and followers. while others tilled the soil. and that they would prepare his food for him every day. They promised that he would have a quiet place in which to study. As soon as he told them of his idea of staying in a village for a long period of time. as well as to the Jews in the Diaspora.

which had been composed by the Kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. . The students who preferred ethical teachings and the interpretation of the Bible would take part in the sermons of Rabbi Moshe Alshikh. my beloved"). to meet the bride. The L-rd is One and His Name is One. Some of them. Come. they all sang it with him on Sabbath eve. among the hills. On Sabbath eve the Kabbalists in Safed would go forth to the hills to receive the Sabbath. Zemirot Yisrael. Others secluded themselves in an attic the entire week. Others had fasted on Monday and Thursday. Those who wanted to study the hidden Torah would come to the lectures of Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabez and those of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. and with their voices resounding between the hills and the valleys. when they went forth together to receive the Sabbath with the love between bride and groom. my beloved. After this. casting shades of purple over the hills of Galilee. sunken in their thoughts. and for praise. Let us greet the Sabbath. or listened to the speeches of Rabbi Shmuel. for glory. They sang with uplifted spirit. The Kabbalists sought to greet the Sabbath Queen with the same joy that a groom receives his bride. which he had sung for the first time to the Kabbalists on Sabbath eve. dressed in white for the Sabbath. "Observe" and "Remember" in a single command. the author of the book of piyutim. had engaged in mortifications the entire week. The One G-d declared to us. The sun was about to set. For renown. singing Lekha Dodi ("Come.181 attracted many pupils. the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Di Ivida. The group of Kabbalists was hidden among the hills. They would come to listen to the readings of the paytan Rabbi Yisrael Najara. on Pirkei Avot. with pale faces. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez had composed the song Lekha Dodi. with a distant echo answering them. Some of them liked poetry and piyutim (religious hymns).

182 They would sing with a melody. waving their arms. "Come. and every line of his face was transformed. The final act began with the thought. swaying their bodies. and dance with their arms interlinked. He opened and closed his eyes. Arise. The mountain tops answered them with an echo. spreading forth his hands to receive the Sabbath descending from the tops of the hills. from week to week. come forth from your ruins. The sanctuary of the King. Now that they were out in the fresh air of the hills. alert. To greet the Sabbath let us go. and sang this song together with the other Kabbalists. they rose in holiness. my beloved. when they were deep in the world of the hidden Torah. Ascending to ever-higher levels. let us greet the Sabbath. For it is he source of blessing. excited and thrilled. He will shower abundant mercy on you. At times they concentrated on themselves. singing with great fervor. The Kabbalists were deep within their emotions. Surrounded by their song. Rabbi Yosef Karo stood next to him. hidden in another world. From the beginning it was ordained." *** Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez would dance between the mountains. the royal city. between the walls of the study hall and attic. they were enveloped by the holy sounds that burst forth from the word of the song. The hills stood before them like giants looking down upon their actions and absorbing the clarity of their singing. his entire body shook. filled . He sensed that he was in the upper worlds. while at other times they were excited. You have dwelled long enough in the valley of tears.

Among the faithful of the Chosen People. the crown of her husband. from the sunset. Why are you cast down and why do you moan? The poor of my people shall find shelter in you.183 with holy thoughts. as he listened to the pearls of song by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. Come. my beloved. When Rabbi Yosef stood within the band of Kabbalists. Rabbi Alkabez concluded his poem with the verse: Come in peace. The sounds of the Kabbalists resounded from the tops of the hills and reached the ears of the inhabitants of Safed. responding after him. which he would spread in the ears of those gathered. Also with happiness and rejoicing. revealing mighty secrets that he had discovered in the attic of the study hall when he studied the Zohar. more and more people joined the Kabbalists each Sabbath eve. The mountains danced with them. they saw in a dream a bride dressed in white. he would drink his fill from the air of the hills. Slowly. descending from the summits of the hills. the hills arose in front of them. And the city will be rebuilt on its ruins. A great spirit came to them from the hills." Rabbi Shlomo continued to sing with great devotion: Do not be embarrassed or shamed. They went with them down the stairs of the alleys of Safed and joined in the song of Rabbi Alkabez. come. "Come. . When they finished singing. O bride. and from the changing of the colors of the sky. a spirit of sanctity and purity. The song was adopted by all the people of Safed. One of the Kabbalists would bring with him sayings and secret knowledge. next to Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. O bride. and eventually became part of the prayers recited every Sabbath eve.

" and to the Land to arouse itself and wear the magnificent garments of its people. the law has changed. They thought that the time was ripe. to return to the original sources. of the beginnings of a new era in the world.. day after day. The destruction of the Spanish diaspora and its dispersion throughout many countries increased the longing for Zion. excited the company of scholars and Kabbalists who had gathered in Safed. The discovery of a new continent called "America. His wrath has been . and the invention of gunpowder and new instruments of war. high in the hills of Galilee. Reports reached Safed. which calls to the Diaspora. "You have dwelled long enough in the valley of tears." changes in man"s conception of the shape of the Earth. and opened workshops and shops. bearing on its wings the Redemption.184 coming towards them with slow steps — the Sabbath Queen is coming! This poem.. Every day people went to work in the textile workshops. The scholars of Safed sent a letter to the rabbis of the Jewish communities about the need in their time to renew Semikhah. They wrote: "Behold. the invention of the printing press. and now teachings have been exchanged. who saw before them a new era. *** Jews arrived in Safed in caravans. after such a long interruption. there is one people. The Safed community was extremely active. until there was a small Jewish kingdom in the Galilee. The scholars assembled and declared that the time had come to renew Semikhah (ordination) in Israel. for the great awakening of the spirit which would bring on its wings the Redemption. a kingdom of priests and a holy nation . They waited. All these aroused the spirits of the scholars in Safed. which had ceased with the cancellation of the office of Nasi in Tiberias. In Tiberias it had ceased. The idea arose among the scholars of Safed that it was necessary to renew things. with a full Torah life. built houses and courtyards for themselves. the people of the Lrd. or loaded the fabrics on carriages and sent them to the ports in Tyre and Sidon. and in Safed it would be renewed.

He raised us up from the tumultuous pit of exiles and destructions which have been woven around our necks in the lands of the non-Jews. for how should it be profaned? . and my shame will not be blotted out. we. who in the name of Israel will be ready and who will rely upon the G-d of Israel to say. I am for the L-rd. to judge us for punishments.. be strong and of good fortitude.. why should I go downcast and receive the forty lashes. to be ordained and head of the yeshivah. The sages among us will be called 'Rabbi and will be ordained forever. and which is the one. to reproach the wicked for his fault. "This was in our people for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense..... hero of war.. "Therefore. there is no king and no prince. that we have a foundation in His holy place. the true teacher. there no longer is a prophet. the perfect sage. Who is the one.. The sage of the silent has been utterly consumed . the great rabbi. doing in truth and honesty the law of the Torah. that man will soon return to the L rd and say in his heart. for our people and for the cities of our L-rd. "Therefore we have chosen the greatest among us in wisdom and numbers.185 kindled against His people.. Rabbi Berab.. and I have sinned against it always. what profit is there that I fast.. and has brought us to this place which He has chosen. There will be none to save me from the hands of my excision. and the entire people will come to its place in peace. the young lambs on the holy soil. have arisen and been encouraged to be zealous for the honor of the L-rd.. to judge the one who was wronged. and to be called 'Rabbi. and to cleave to folly and the way of rebellion.. our master and teacher. The evil Cuthean will be brought before you and smitten according to the Torah . The L-rd was merciful to leave for us a remnant and to revive us this day. to lock the doors of repentance. He has broken them with breach upon breach. 5 5 . Man shall say to his fellow.. 'Why do I labor in vain. and to the city named after His name. in regard of everything written in this holy letter.. to never return to the L-rd. We shall raise the banner of the Torah which has been thrown to the ground.

and he would ordain the other scholars. " I f all the scholars in Eretz Israel agree to appoint judges and ordain them. were ordained one after the other by Rabbi Yaakov Berab. who had wandered among the non-Jews and who requested the sages to absolve them of their sin." The ceremony of Semikhah in Safed took place in the study hall. the rabbi of Safed. first and foremost Rabbi Yosef Karo. He told them all the details of the renewal of Semikhah which was about to take place in Safed. who wrote. But there was no ordained court which could sit and judge matters such as these. The scholars in Safed were not the first to renew Semikhah. among other reasons. a scholar in Jerusalem attempted to renew Semikhah. The ceremony of Semikhah was to turn Safed into a center of learning. There were many repentents in Safed. after they had accepted upon themselves fasts and mortifications. The scholars in Safed and in the rest of Eretz Israel agreed to ordain first Rabbi Berab. *** . then they are ordained. He in His mercy will impart His Divine Presence on the work of our hands and will fulfill the words of His servant. Rabbi Yaakov Berab assembled all the communities in Safed. 'And I will restore your judges as at first. dressed in robes.186 "And this act of righteousness and peace will be the beginning of the redemption of our souls. On the Sabbath before the renewal of Semikhah. The scholars relied upon the words of the Rambam.' " The letter was signed by twenty-five of the leading scholars in Safed. from which Torah and ordination would go out to the entire world. to resolve their problem. from the exiles from Spain. before the entire community. Many years the sages in Safed did so in the year 5298 (1538). but the hour had not been right for this. The scholars. The renewal of Semikhah was intended. Each of the scholars received a writ of ordination.

from one of the first editions . & Title page of the book Beit Yosef.187 * Sri? . 1 ! f ) f ! t L4J .

In our times. He did not see any importance in the renewal of Semikhah. in their goodness and mercy. In the name of all who have given their agreement . which was in practice when the Sanhedrin was in existence." An emissary. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv." Rabbi Levi ben Haviv refused to receive the writ of Semikhah. involving the death penalty. may his Creator guard and preserve him. have brought down upon us. Yaakov Berab. that is. I . if the first person with Semikhah received this from the Sanhedrin. He shall be called an ordained rabbi.' this applies if the chain of Semikhah is unbroken. Rabbi Yosef Karo. The scholars in Safed constitute the majority of the scholars in Eretz Israel." "In early times Semikhah was given by the Nasi or the head of the Sanhedrin. however. How will it be renewed? ' "Rabbi Yaakov Berab must have authoritative support for this. in which it was written: "From the abundance of goodness which the scholars of Eretz Israel. to bring the letter to the rabbi of Jerusalem. 'Whoever is ordained may ordain. Shlomo Hazan. the people of Safed said to each other: "The establishment of the institution of Semikhah. and they have agreed to ordain the perfect scholar. The emissary also brought him a writ of Semikhah.. The Sanhedrin will be renewed.188 Four scholars were ordained by Rabbi Yaakov Berab: Rabbi Moshe Trani. Although it is said. During the ceremony. even in criminal law. that he be authorized to judge and rule for the Children of Israel regarding all the laws of the Torah. and Rabbi Yosef Sagis. will hasten the coming of the Redemption. that "There is no Semikhah until the arrival of the righteous teacher. He relied upon the words of the Ramban. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero." "The return of Semikhah will be a means to hasten the coming of the Messiah. may their Creator guard and preserve them.. the Sanhedrin has been cancelled and with it Semikhah." "Semikhah authorizes the person who has received it to judge in all cases." In 5 . even in the most severe cases. not due to any excess wisdom in me. went forth from Safed to Jerusalem.

Semikhah in their time could only be granted by someone who himself had received Semikhah." He refuted all of Rabbi Levi ben Haviv"s arguments. in the middle of two disagreements." to assemble the rabbis of Eretz Israel in one place to discuss the matter.' Rabbi Levi ben Haviv proposed to the scholars of Safed that if they have proof "for the existence of their agreement. 5 *** Rabbi Levi ben Haviv wrote in his letter to the scholars of Safed that they had placed themselves between the two great mountains." Rabbi Yaakov Berab rejected Rabbi Levi ben Haviv"s criticisms in strong language. the Rambam and the Ramban. if he would attempt to fulfill all its principles. viewing them as "weak proofs. while the scholars of Safed had written. planted on a void. This applied only to judgements involving punishments and other matters which could be judged by a court of three. for every time from then until the arrival of the true teacher (that is. Regarding the declaration of the new month. the Messiah. "and he shall be called Rav. In his opinion. Regarding the repentent Jews who needed a rabbinical court to impose lashes upon them as penance for their sins. and built of stones of emptiness. he thought that such a repentent Jew could attain the level of the righteous by repentence itself. he wrote: "For Hillel determined the New Moon. and repentence. and not to the sanctification of the new month. the calendar dates. "Before the building of the Temple they do not have the authority and power of the Sanhedrin. since most or all of their actions are dependent upon the place. lashes. He wrote at length to remove the objections raised about the declaration of new months. and therfore this would not pose . for all those who had received Semikhah in Eretz Israel during the time of the Sages were called Rabbi. and the leap years. regarding cases involving punishments and the determination of the calendar. He also asked why they had not written Rabbi instead of Rav.189 his opinion.

" He explained and interpreted the words of the Rambam: "And now it is left for us to explain whether those who are ordained in this time are capable of determining the new month and establishing the calendar on the basis of vision (of the new moon)." The act of Semikhah led to a controversy and to informing to the authorities. that the matter must be decided. . everything we have struggled for here would be in vain.190 a problem for those with Semikhah). G-d knows that my intent was solely in the name of Heaven. And in the year 5398 after the Creation. according to the tradition. he ordained four scholars. For the obvious plain meaning is that they cannot cancel what Hillel and his court did. Rabbi Yosef Karo. I thought to myself that if I were to go abroad. The dispute between Rabbi Yaakov Berab and Rabbi Levi ben Haviv continued.. It is only one place in our time. for no sin of mine. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv responded in an additional pamphlet." Rabbi Yaakov Berab continued in his letter. what happened to Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba almost happened to me. almost none of whom have remained in all Eretz Israel except for one or two. where I have no authority to ordain anyone. the choicest of those to be found there. Before he fled. the L-rd aroused the spirit of the sages of Eretz Israel." Rabbi Yaakov Berab viewed Safed as the center of the Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. Rabbi Moshe Trani. and I was forced to go abroad. ' And after some two or three months passed. Therefore we granted Semikhah to four elders in wisdom. "Only a small number of Jews live in Eretz Israel.. In this booklet he implied that "several of the elders" changed their minds" and rejected the act of . Rabbi Avraham Shalom. Rabbi Yaakov Berab was forced to flee Safed and go to Damascus. and they are an insignificant minority in wisdom and in number. we have already seen how difficult it is to bring differing opinions to agreement. that two informers arose against me. of which Safed is the main settlement. They were. and therefore there was no need for the agreement of the Jerusalem scholars to Semikhah. and Rabbi Yisrael Di Corial.. because they doubted and confused the wording of the Rambam.

Regarding Rabbi Yaakov Berab"s denigrating the other scholars in Eretz Israel. without even leaving a minyan in it. He also said. that there were more elder scholars in the city. Otherwise. if they will judge with the authority of those possessing Semikhah. and the rabbi of five . Jerusalem "would be desolate of all the Jews living in it. "since according to the law we do not have the authority to renew it. by saying that Hillel had established the calendar until the coming of the Messiah. Strong words were exchanged. Each one brought new proofs. saying that most of the scholars lived in Safed. so he thought. *** Pamphlet followed pamphlet. they would also be authorized to establish leap years and determine the calendar. refuted his argument. Rabbi Di Castro also intervened. He rejected the charge that he was responsible for the concept of Semikhah not coming into being. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. but they had refused to accept it. after they learned that the scholars of Jerusalem did not agree to this. He saw great value in his living in Jerusalem." Rabbi Levi ben Haviv wanted thereby to stress the importance of his living in Jerusalem and reinforcing the Jewish community there.'''' In response to Rabbi Levi ben Haviv"s statement that the person receiving Semikhah "had to be extremely knowledgeable and holy to the L-rd." Rabbi Yaakov expressed his surprise and listed the details of his past: "From the time of the Expulsion and conversions in Spain I always was a moreh hora'ah (rabbi authorized to issue decisions) in Israel. He came there from Salonika. and some of the elders who supported it reversed their opinion. regarding the scholars who had received Semikhah. He said that if the scholars of their time were authorized to grant Semikhah. who viewed him as one of his disciples. He said that the scholars who did accept Semikhah "will certainly be called to judgement for it. and therefore they did not need the consent of the others.91 Semikhah. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv said that he had been living in Jerusalem for fourteen years.

may He be blessed. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv was still a child. my heart trembles within me. and if I have not merited to die a martyr"s death. he had changed his Jewish name and had been influenced by Christianity.' Rabbi Yaakov Berab continued in his reply to Rabbi Levi ben Haviv." Rabbi Levi ben Haviv testified about himself that " I have always feared Him (the L-rd). continued to write pamphlets regarding the authority to grant Semikhah in our time. and although I was hungry and thirsty. During the time of the Inquisition in Portugal. The accusation was raised that when Rabbi Levi ben Haviv was in Portugal. Then I was eighteen years old. that I am a rabbi. thought. "Who could possibly think that even every blind person will come from his place to sign with music and dance something which prevents the Redemption. even though I have done nothing to deserve punishment. had been a Marrano in 5 . There were great scholars there. but because his son did not want to accept the judgement by the scholars of Safed who ruled against him in a dispute he had with a neighbor over a courtyard. everyone listening will say. Therefore I know that. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv and Rabbi Yaakov Berab. as regards holiness. and occupied myself with His Torah. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv rejected the charge that because of him Rabbi Yaakov Berab had been forced to flee to Damascus. My title never changes: I was called rabbi. I went in the way of the L-rd. The controversy deepened. the Rambam. Rabbi Shlomo Hazan. lacking all." The two leading Torah scholars of their generation. The emissary who brought the writ of Semikhah from Safed to Jerusalem. which he called "the accusation of Sammael. as a Marrano." He did not dignify with an answer the charge that he had come under the influence of Christianity. living with his family as a Marrano. and thus I will be called forever. "And his arguments are those of the believers in the Trinity. He expressed the opinion that this flight had not been caused by the controversy over Semikhah.192 thousand households in Fez. I am called rabbi. as is known throughout the entire world. still beardless. as the great person.

In a letter to Rabbi Yosef Karo. The act of Semikhah was halted. He sought to flee from it. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. that he had to ask the opinion of the scholars of Jerusalem before they decided upon the renewal of Semikhah. In this controversy Rabbi Yosef Karo supported his teacher. and there were periods of disagreement. The controversy weakened the efforts to hasten the Redemption. and studied his commentaries while writing his book. and if they found that he had sinned. Only four scholars received Semikhah. The controversy between these two sages saddened him. He saw this as a sign of the Redemption. He requested of Rabbi Levi ben Haviv. especially because of the deprecatory remarks that accompanied the legal dispute. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv suggested that the dispute be brought before the judges in Egypt. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv repeated his stand. The honor of the Torah was trampled underfoot. as someone who had received Semikhah. regarding legal issues connected with marriage and divorce. and this institution did not regain its . There were periods in which they were friendly to each other. but Rabbi Levi ben Haviv refused to fulfill his request.193 Spain. He also regarded Rabbi Levi ben Haviv as the leading Torah scholar of the time. *** Rabbi Yosef Karo was not pleased with this controversy. he would accept the punishment for this. But because of the honor he gave to Rabbi Yaakov Berab and his teachings. to sentence him to lashes for his sins during the time of forced conversions in Spain. and did not lead to the renewal of the Sanhedrin. This was a controversy between Jerusalem and Safed: the scholars of Jerusalem did not accept the opinion of the scholars in Safed. Rabbi Levi ben Haviv and Rabbi Yaakov Berab had had disagreements before this. Rabbi Yosef Karo also was hurt by the controversy. so much so that they wrote deprecating remarks about each other. The disagreement over Semikhah worsened the relations between them. he agreed to be among those receiving Semikhah.

They are actually delaying the Redemption. with only one or two scholars. The exiles from Spain continued to come to Safed." 5 *** .194 former standing. Their intention was to draw near to the Redemption. and presented him with an accomplished fact. The pupils in the yeshivot in Safed continued to discuss the issue of Semikhah. when he spoke before the granting of Semikhah. Their intent was only to judge cases involving penalties or lashes. where the leading scholars are. finding a safe haven after their tribulations and wanderings. where the communities are headed by scholars? ' "They do not have the same standing as the scholars of Safed. with the commentaries. This was too hasty an act. Rabbi Yaakov Berab did not say this in his sermons to all the communities in Safed. The scholars sat in the study halls and spent their days in study. in Hebron and in Gaza." It is possible that he feared informers and the government." "This should have been stated publicly. Rabbi Yaakov Berab ordered that no one else receive Semikhah until it became clear that the person with Semikhah was expert in the entire Rif. as a stage in the renewal of the Sanhedrin. They are afraid to deal with this." "This is an affront to their honor." "There is no connection between Semikhah and Redemption. "Rabbi Levi ben Haviv was hurt because they did not ask his opinion before the granting of Semikhah. while Jerusalem is in ruins. and that he possessed full understanding." "Why didn"t they consult the rabbis in other cities." "Safed is the center. All the rabbis of Eretz Israel should have been invited to a gathering." "The scholars who oppose Semikhah do not want to hasten the Redemption." "That is wrong. The four who had received Semikhah ordained their disciples. The days of the Torah"s splendor continued in Safed. They said to each other.

' Rabbi Yaakov Berab asked Rabbi Yosef Karo. The reason why he left is because his son refused to obey the decision of the rabbinical court in Safed regarding the disagreement he had with a neighbor of his. but did not impose lashes.195 Rabbi Yaakov Berab left Safed and went to Damascus. Each of the Marranos told the court what he and his family had undergone. Repentents also came to the court." "The two reasons together caused him to leave Safed. whom he saw as his disciple. to collect material he needed for his book. before they came to the court. The students in the yeshivot in Safed discussed the reasons for his leaving. He said that he would soon return to Safed. When Rabbi Yosef could free himself from the court and the yoke of his public responsibilities. They asked to be accepted back into Judaism. Some had been tortured in the cellars of the Inquisition. he would spend his time in the library of Rabbi Yaakov Berab. to fill his position during his absence from the city. but at home they took care to pray Shaharit. "Informers told the authorities that he wanted to renew the Jewish royal line by means of Semikhah. Some had gone about disguised as Christians. This hurt him deeply. But the pamphlets dealing with the controversy continued to be printed." "This is not so. The court ruled. In the many ancient manuscripts he . He was afraid that government agents would harm him. They were sent from Jerusalem to Safed. so that he could rest from all the controversy and from bearing the responsibility of leading the community. People came to the rabbinical court of Safed to try cases involving money or communal affairs. and Maariv. and from Safed to other places. Minhah. The affairs of the community were tiring. and to determine what they had to do to atone for their sin of being Christians in Spain or Portugal. others had been imprisoned for long periods and had been forced to bow down to the cross. Some of the Marranos had engaged in mortifications and fasts on their own. They had gone to church. During his absence the controversy ebbed. and he feared that his standing would be harmed.

Chapter Fifteen The Writing of the Book Beit Yosef Torches were lit on the summits of the Galilee hills. even in places lacking a rabbinical court or scholars. He thought that rabbinical courts also needed a concise collection of laws. then it was necessary to write a book of legal decisions. which would collect all the laws pertaining to everyday life. The controversy about Semikhah strengthened his opinion that if it was not possible to grant Semikhah at the present time. He had thought the Semikhah given by Rabbi Yaakov Berab would be the beginning of such a torch. a guide in the darkness of the Diaspora. a "set table" to enable the people to find its way in the thicket of laws and customs. so that it would not be divided by differences of opinion regarding the observance of the law. The courts needed a book in which everything was stated concisely and clearly. but the controversy that had erupted saddened him. He wanted to light a torch for the entire Diaspora. which would be the foundation for every decision. so that they could rule without having to peruse many books. a linchpin for the unity of the people. Rabbi Yosef stood at the entrance to his house and looked at the hills around him.196 found responsa on the subjects with which he was dealing. This would enable the public to know how to conduct itself. . Therefore his resolve was strengthened to write a Shulhan Arukh. a torch that could not be extinguished. This would be a new torch for the people. The generation was not ready for this.

the main reason for his coming to Safed had been so that he could be alone to complete his book. but he knew that afterwards he would have to collect all the laws." " I will go with you wherever you choose. when he returned from a session of the court. and even though sparks from this controversy landed on his garments. so that you will be able to complete your book. even though letters on this were sent to him from Jerusalem. and the yeshivah took time from his writing. Therefore he did not express himself in the disagreement between Rabbi Yaakov Berab and Rabbi Levi ben Haviv. and that the number of his disciples . into one book." He felt that he possessed a great torch for all the coming generations. he told his wife. It would have to be lit in seclusion. One day. They were sad that he would be absent from the city. communal affairs. but it had not yet been lit. not bothering you with household matters. " I will have to go to one of the nearby villages. and from there it would spread throughout all Israel. I will stand by you. in concise form. but the court. but they strengthened his resolve. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. He tried to avoid controversy and disagreements. He remembered the words of the Maggid that his books would spread throughout all the Jewish communities. worthy of the wife of a scholar. and after this he revealed his idea to his pupils in the yeshivah. He told this to his teacher." "That is a fine answer. Rabbi Yosef still toiled on his commentary Beit Yosef on the Tur. The senior students said that they would repeat his lectures to the new students. After all. not to be involved in any public affairs. of the daughter of a sage. He knew that disagreement was liable to keep him away from his goal. He promised them that he would come from his place of seclusion every week to give his lecture in the yeshivah.197 He needed time for this. in order to complete my book.


would be greater than that of all the yeshivah students over the course of hundreds of years. He would achieve this through his books. While he studied the Mishnah, he also wrote a commentary on it. He also wrote supercommentaries on the commentaries of Rashi and the Ramban on the Torah, as well as the book, Klalei HaGemara (Rules of the Gemara). When he studied the portions of the Torah, or the Mishnah, he sensed a spring within him revealing new insights in the text he was studying. These insights were stored up within him until he wrote them down. Sometimes he would write down his new commentary while he was studying, so that it would not be forgotten. All his life he had yearned to interpret the greatest of the poskim, the Rambam. He felt that he had to write a book of his interpretations of the Mishneh Torah, making use of his knowledge of all the Talmudic literature and the laws issued after the Talmud. He wanted to defend the Rambam against his critics, to see his sources, which would enable him to clarify unexplained things in his decisions, and to reveal the Rambam"s greatness and his expertise and through understanding of the Talmud and the legal books which were composed after it, thereby cancelling all the criticisms raised against the Rambam. He had already thought of writing this book when a youth, when he studied the Rambam"s books. When he finished writing the manuscript of his book on the Rambam, he wrote in the introduction, " I saw how Moshe the great illuminary wrote his work, the great Yad, on the laws, rules, and interpretation of the Torah. Who like him teaches in a concise and clear language, like the Mishnah? But the following generations were incapable of understanding his words, due to the profundity of his pure statements. Similarly, they did not know the origin of each law. In addition, Rabbi Avraham ben David wrote critical comments on him. Indeed, one holy person arose, Don Vidal of Toulouse, who wrote the commentary, Maggid Mishneh, in which he reveals the sources, and gives the reasons for his rulings, but we have merited to receive his light only on the books of Zemanim, Nashim and Kedushah, Nezikin and Kinyan (except for the laws of emissaries, partners, and slaves),


and Mishpatim. Therefore I , the young person, have arisen, strengthened by the mercies of Heaven, and I agreed to write on the other books of the Rambam, and the sources of each law, and to respond to the critical comments of Rabbi Avraham ben David, to the extent of my ability."

He opened the gate to understanding of the great work of the Rambam to every student and scholar, and responded to some of the critical comments of Rabbi Avraham ben David. His phenomenal memory enabled him to discover the sources of the Rambam. Rabbi Yosef also revealed his ability to explain and interpret in a logical, easily understood, manner. He called his book Kessef Mishneh, because of his great desire (kussaf) to understand this great book. The main reason for his selecting this title, however, comes from the Book of Genesis: the gift Yosef gave his brothers was kessef mishneh ("double money"). Since his name was Yosef, he used this title to imply that he too was giving a present to his brothers ~ help in understanding the Rambam"s important book. The book Beit Yosef still took most of time, even though he was already planning his concise collection of laws, the Shulhan Arukh. He labored to find the source of every law written by the author of the Turim, whether in the Mishnah, a beraita, the Tosefta, or any other source. He also struggled to give a reason for each of the decisions in the Turim. He wanted to reveal whether the law was agreed upon by all authorities, or whether it was based in a disagreement of the Tannaim, Amoraim, or other poskim, and which opinion was followed by the author of the Turim. If the author of the Turim left out the reasoning of one or more of the poskim, Rabbi Yosef collected these arguments and explained the position of the poskim. He explained the statements in the Zohar and learned out laws from them. His living among the Torah scholars in Safed made this work easier, for matters would be clarified during his discussions with


the leading scholars in Safed or with his pupils in the study hall. If he had studied them by himself, he would not have found their sources or the reason behind the law. At times he would bring to the study hall what he had written that day and lecture to the scholars. They would ask questions, and bring sources of their own, thereby further clarifying the law. He was very grateful to the scholars and his students for their support during the writing of his Beit Yosef.

He remembered what the Maggid had told him on the eve of the fourteenth of Nissan: "Your book, in addition to its name Beit Yosef will also be called Shulhan Arukh." This meant that the Beit Yosef would serve as the foundation for a second book, which would be a shorter version of the first. While he was occupied in writing his books on the law, he continued to study the Zohar with his friend Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. They discussed the more difficult passages of the book, and Rabbi Yosef wrote new interpretations of passages in the Zohar. Questions on the law arrived from throughout the world, both from communities and from individuals. They were brought before the rabbinical court in Safed, where Rabbi Yosef's opinion was accepted as the law. He was asked to issue written replies to these queries, in the name of the court. Disputes between individuals or communities were brought before him for his decision, although he devoted himself mainly to the writing of his book. He spent thirty years on this work, arranging, editing, clarifying, analyzing, and formulating his book, the Beit Yosef. His tiredness did not bother him. He spent seven years, secluded in his room, writing his book. He read all the books, both of the Rishonim, the early sages, and the Ahronim, the later sages, and the books written in his time. This was difficult work. He searched for these books for many years. There were manuscripts of which he had heard,


but could not find. He was sorry about this, perhaps he missed something that they had written. He lacked many of the books written by the sages of Ashkenaz. The queries that were directed to him, which he had to answer, took much of his precious time. In order to devote himself solely to the writing of his book, he left Safed and went to the nearby village of Biria, where he could work in peace and quiet on his book. The days in Biria passed pleasantly. Every day he saw the majestic beauty of the surrounding Galilee hills. The sun set, casting a purple glow over everything. The flowers grew in a profusion of colors. His seclusion made it easier for him to work. The formulation of each law required great care, and the thorough study of all the sources.

The difficulty of formulating the laws troubled him. He was responsible for each law he wrote. This required the study of books, the application of judgement, seeing the intent of the various authors, deciding disagreements. At times he had difficulty in deciding how to rule. He would spend long lights on a single law. There were arguments in favor of each side of the issue. He would follow the view of the majority of the poskim. Sometimes, however, he himself would decide the law, when he was certain that he had arrived at the truth. At times he would have difficulty in studying something or in arriving at a decision. He would go to Safed to discuss this with the scholars in the city. Sometimes he would accept their opinion, while in other cases he maintained his own opinion. The many books and manuscripts which were available to him aided him in understanding the development of the law. Many of the other scholars were unaware of these sources. The tranquility of Biria aided him in his task. On occasion emissaries would come from Safed with an urgent letter with a question of law. He would have to answer the question on the spot, so that the emissary could return with the response. Since he dealt with these matters in the writing of his book,


he found it easy to remember the law and to quickly respond to the query. At times he longed to return to Safed, to be with his fellow scholars. The daily meeting with them had added vitality to his life. He missed the circle of Kabbalists in Safed. In their company, he felt that he was in spiritual ascent. The sessions of the Safed rabbinical court headed by Rabbi Yaakov Berab had provided him wit an opportunity to discuss points of Torah at length, and to meet the other outstanding scholars. But all these were overshadowed by his command to himself to seclude himself in Biria until he would finish his manuscript. The disturbances caused by his public responsibilities prevented him from completing it. There was a minyan of Jews in Biria. They were farmers; some were merchants, buying and selling fruits and vegetables. They helped him — by not bothering him. At times they would come with questions of law, regarding everyday matters. He would answer them on the spot. When he had to go to Safed, to study a certain book or to participate in an urgent session of the court, they would loan him their donkeys or horses for transportation. They held him in great respect. They wanted to serve him, but he rejected their offers of help. All he wanted was not to be disturbed. At times they would bring him gifts from their homes, such as a chicken or fruits that they had picked from their orchards. They brought the gifts to his wife, who cooked their meals. She would tell him about this, but he would remain silent. He told her to pay them for what they had brought.

Morning came in Biria with a sound all its own. The birds chirped, the donkeys brayed, the stalks swayed in the wind. The villagers went out with their donkeys to work the fields. Only a few would remain in the village. Every day Rabbi Yosef would walk in the fields, to breath the fresh air, and to gather strength for the labors of the day. He would sit, hidden away in his room, with piles of books and manuscripts. Undecided, he would struggle with himself over each sentence he wrote.


At times he would wonder, which was more difficult: working the land like the inhabitants of Biria, or his spiritual work, as he struggled over his commentary on the Tur, sentence after sentence. One day he began to write the first sentence in his commentary Beit Yosef, after much thinking. He wrote: "Yehudah ben Teima says, 'Be as fierce as a panther... in the service of the Creator, may He be blessed.' " He listed four things relating to the service of the Creator. Afterwards he explained the double language, why four things, which seemed to be only two, were written (to be light as an eagle is to be fleet as a deer, and to be fierce as a panther is to be mighty as a lion). He explained why the Tur stated "in the service of the Creator," because these traits appear to be the opposite of serving the L-rd: regarding fierceness (azut) — it is written, "the insolent (azei panim) go to Gehennom"; about lightness — it is written that "lightheadedness accustoms a person to lewdness"; and speed and might seem to be good for this world, but not for the person who serves the L-rd. His writings multiplied, commentary after commentary. At times he thought that he should shorten his commentary, including only the important points, and not to discuss everything at length. But since he had something to say about every section in the Tur, he continued to explain and write everything he thought about. He knew then that he would have to shorten his commentary. Others would undoubtedly write supercommentaries on his commentary, and people would have a lot of work to arrive at the actual law. He would have to go over many books and commentaries in order to give the reader a concise explanation of the law. In the meantime, he continued with his commentaries. His knowledge of many books stood him in good stead. He knew by heart entire pages, comments, sections, and sections of sections. He knew where to look when he was in doubt regarding a section or comment. When he was involved with a certain section, all that had been written on this in books and in legal decisions passed before his eyes. The Galilee hills stood facing his window, enveloped in a

Rabbi Yosef saw himself as a part of this group. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. Now that the Ari had come from Egypt. The emissary told him what he had heard from the Jews in Safed who had welcomed the Ari." "You have spoken well. Rabbi Eleazar Azikri. Rabbi Moshe Galanti." the emissary told him. The letter contained a number of questions on points of law from a Jewish community. The Ari joined the band of Hassidim and Kabbalists who conducted themselves with special piety and asceticism. taking care to observe all the commandments between man and G d . and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. and was happy that he had come to Safed. He remembered the Ari from their meeting in Egypt. but when he resolved the problem. Rabbi Moshe Trani (the Mabit). had come to Safed from Egypt. He saw before him a large group of Torah scholars in Safed who were capable of leading the people. Now the Ari had joined this group. In his letter he mentioned some of the things they had said to each other in their meeting in Egypt. He sent with the emissary a letter congratulating the Ari on his coming up to Eretz Israel. for the Messiah will first reveal himself in Galilee. He walked on them when he needed to be alone with himself. therefore the Ari has come to Safed. "The days of the Messiah are approaching. when he wrestled with the formulation of an interpretation. Rabbi Moshe Alshikh. the group had gained added strength. in anticipation of the Messiah. Rabbi David ben Zimra (the Ridbaz). At times he could not sleep because of these difficulties.204 light mist. This emissary told him that the Ari. Rabbeinu Yitzhak Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi. An emissary came with a letter that had arrived in Safed. Rabbi Eliyahu Di Vidash. He asked the emissary to wait there until he wrote his reply to the questions. it was if a fresh wind blew from the mountains.

He replied. where he would wrap himself in his tzitzit and recite the blessing for the fulfillment of this commandment. It was said that when the Ari saw a person before him. At that moment. The group of Kabbalists in Safed. but to begin the repetition. the Reader would wait for them before beginning the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh. a few days before Passover. the Divine Presence. Some people would run away when he passed by them on the street. When the Ari and Rabbi Yosef Karo prayed in the study hall. it was impossible to stand near the Ari and look at him. received the Ari. . He would pray in a whisper. he would tell them all the sins they had committed during the past fifty years. the Reader must wait for him to conclude his prayer. After Tikkun Hatzot he would immerse in the mikveh. When he prayed. due to the sweat of the donkey? Does the sweat of a donkey cause grain to ferment? As long as Rabbi Yosef is occupied in prayer. he opened his eyes and saw through the window an Arab leading grain on his donkey. he would read the passage of the Binding of Yitzhak and then he would go to the synagogue.205 and between man and his fellow. He was accustomed to recite Tikkun Hatzot and mourn for the exile of the Shekhinah. Reports of the Ari"s conduct reached the ears of Rabbi Yosef. "When Rabbi Yosef Karo prayed. His customs and practices were accepted by all of them. What is the law if the grain were to ferment and become hametz. When he saw before him people who were sinners. that the Ari told the Reader not to wait for Rabbi Yosef. headed by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. The character of the Ari began to shine over the entire group. and the Shekhinah would rest upon him. But if he thinks about words of Torah which are not part of the prayer. After putting on his talit and tefilin at home. On the Sabbath he would raise his voice while praying. They asked the Ari why he did this. in honor of the Sabbath. after they had heard so much about him. he could read his thoughts at the time. the thought entered his head. then the congregation need not wait for him. . It once happened. He would pray with great intent. The other worshipers found this surprising.

( ." Since he had become known as a profound Kabbalist. On Friday. He said that this was the meaning of the verse." He immersed only at the fourth hour of Friday. "And it shall come to pass on the sixth day that they shall prepare that which they bring i n " (Exodus 16:5). the Kabbalists in Safed followed his actions and thoughts. "The additional portion of the Sabbath is visible on the forehead of the person who immerses immediately after the immersion. and not before. He told those close to him. He said about this. They even watched how he cut his fingernails and toenails. After reading the Torah portion he immersed in the mikveh. would he read the weekly portion on the Sabbath. but the main signs of the Sabbath 0n a person"s forehead are visible only in the afternoon. Only if he could not read it on the eve of the Sabbath. " I t is preferable that the water which purifies in honor of the Sabbath be absorbed by the entire body. After he immersed on the eve of the Sabbath he would not dry himself with a towel.206 Chapter Sixteen Among the Kabbalists The Ari was accepted among the group of Kabbalists in Safed with honor and respect. 'Once the Torah text and twice the Targum. He explained to the Kabbalists standing around him. Kabbalists would come to him to watch his preparations for greeting the Sabbath Queen. due to some reason beyond his control. he was not particular in which order he did this. he would read the Torah portion for the week. after prayer and before Kiddush. "In the reading of the portion. after the morning Shaharit prayer. He said about . As he cut them. His manners aroused their awe. in honor of the Sabbath. the shell is separated from the holiness. "After immersion the soul is capable of receiving an additional portion of the Sabbath.

on the Sabbath. In honor of the Sabbath he wore four white garments. Bnai Heikhala Dikhsifin. which exerts an influence on the Sabbath. They brought him letters and told him about the Ari"s special practices. *** On the Sabbath in Biria. but would not touch the hair of his beard. during the week." He would cut his hair on Friday before noon. and would extend the meal. "Those who come to the synagogue on the Sabbath and do not change their everyday clothes for Sabbath clothes do not have Sabbath rest in their souls." On the Sabbath he would speak only in Hebrew. Rabbi Yosef longed to meet the Ari. for there are no shells in the world of Atzilut.207 this." During the third Sabbath meal he would sing the song. the nails shine a bit from the aspect of shell in them. . When the Kabbalists asked him about this. because the Kabbalah is from the world of Atzilut (the world of creation). and would take care not to speak of weekday matters. not even in Hebrew. then on the eve of the Sabbath they shine from the aspect of holiness in them. the Ineffable Name of G d. even though they were mourners who did not change their clothes. which were renowned among the Kabbalists and the other inhabitants of the city. He told them. "The color of the garments which a person wears on the Sabbath in the world of souls is the same as the color of the garments he wears on the Sabbath in this world. to extend for himself the holiness of the Sabbath. Only on winter Sabbaths would he wear an extra garment. before the departure of the extra Sabbath soul. "Spend much time in the study of the Kabbalah on the Sabbath. corresponding to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton. he said to them. "If. concealed within his house and courtyard. he said." When he came to the synagogue and he saw people coming in weekday clothes. for every day emissaries came to him from Safed. because of the cold.

and therefore it is necessary to immerse on the eve of the Sabbath." When the emissaries told Rabbi Yosef of the practices of the Ari. the anointed King. They also told him that at Motzei Shabbat. when the Sabbath went out. lemaial go pithin. he can know in which part of his body his soul is located.208 They told him that when the Ari came to his home on Sabbath eve. six on the right and six on the left. like the table in the Temple. he would smell a bunch of myrtles containing three sprigs of myrtle tied together with a single knot. for at times the soul descends. He told his followers. the Messiah. "The additional soul does not leave the Israelite until after the Melavah Malkah meal. including the song he himself had composed. He would put twelve hallot (Sabbath loaves) on the table. On the Sabbath in the morning he would immerse in the mikveh and say: "Just as there is a difference between the holiness of the Sabbath and the weekday. this is a sign that the soul is close to his nostrils. marking the end of the Sabbath. during Havdalah. . ruah (spirit) and neshamah (soul)." Rabbi Yosef studied the practices and the Ari and found their sources. he immediately searched for sources for these practices. Therefore it is not proper to engage in work which is not for the preparation of food until after this meal. During the meal he would sing Sabbath songs. Azamer bishvahin. which is the meal of David. If he smells this immediately. he would arrange the Sabbath meal on a fourlegged table. He told them about this. for he knew that the Ari undoubtedly based them on sources. which is a strict holiness. If he smells it only after some time has elapsed. this is a sign that the soul is distant from his nostrils. so too there is a difference between the holiness of the Sabbath night and the holiness of the Sabbath day." He would extend the Melavah Malkah meal after the conclusion of the Sabbath with joy and excitement. for the three sprigs represented nefesh (usually translated "soul"). below his feet. "When any Jew smells the spices on Motzei Shabbat.

A rumor spread through the city that the Ari had come from Egypt to Safed in order to give over his teachings to Rabbi Hayim Vital. He could not contain himself within the confines of writings and books. the Kabbalists accepted his authority. how will I open to you a thin. They saw in him a great soul. He especially would go out with the Kabbalists to receive the Sabbath. small channel." Among the disciples who gathered around him. The Divine abundance would burst forth from him as a flowing spring. Rabbi Yosef Karo saw his light pouring out from the alleys and houses of Safed and reaching the hills. even though he was Hayim Vidal"s teacher of the . like a flowing stream. Rumors spread throughout Safed that in the study hall of the Ari he taught to his disciples secrets which were to be revealed only to the select few among his disciples. "When I begin to reveal to you one secret from the Torah. When the Ari came to Safed. to tell you only one secret from the Torah.209 He was in the habit of frequently going out to the fields and the hills to be alone. he testified about himself. and with their true intent. to learn how to conduct themselves. He wrote down his master"s words exactly as they were spoken. The Ari refused to teach the Kabbalah to Rabbi Moshe Alshikh. a great light which reached Safed and was not extinguished. as he sang with fervor the poem Lekha Dodi composed by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. only his disciple Rabbi Hayim Vital fully understood him. and I seek stratagems. I will not reveal to you too much lest you lose everything. for his teaching could be revealed only through this disciple of his. a small thing as you are capable of bearing. His disciples saw him. so much wisdom descends upon me. with his head enveloped in splendor. like the infant who chokes if too much milk comes to his throat. and they followed his every motion. His practices were law for them. *** The disciples of the Ari would record what he said.

He even began to write a commentary on the Zohar following the method of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. covering his head like a mourner. Rabbi Yosef Karo said of him. His teacher in the hidden Torah was Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. The Ari waited five months until Rabbi Hayim Vital came to him.210 revealed Torah. His father." His son inherited from him his good traits and followed in his footsteps. and then the Ari immediately began to teach him the secrets that Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai had written in the Zohar. Rabbi Moshe Alshikh asked the Ari. "How is it possible that the teacher will learn from his student?" The Ari replied. directing his thoughts to the destruction of the Temple. which had been written in purity and in holiness. eight years after the birth of the Ari. until he met the Ari. When he arose from his sleep to recite Tikkun Hatzot. "Half the world exists by the merit of the magnificent tefilin that he writes. and sit in the total darkness. except your son and your disciple. for if it were not for the saying of the Sages. 'Be jealous of every man. *** The Ari was precise in every word and every letter of his prayers. Next he would recite " A Psalm ." Rabbi Hayim Vital was born in Eretz Israel. his soul almost departed from him. which is immeasurable. Once Rabbi Hayim Vital heard these secrets from the upper spheres. He found great mystical intents in them. was a renowned religious scribe. Rabbi Yosef Vital had a friendly relationship with Rabbi Yosef Karo. to ask him about one teaching in the Zohar. he would wash his hands and face. He joined the group of Kabbalists in Safed. " I hope that you will merit to be his pupil. There were many people eager to purchase his tefilin.' I myself would be jealous of him because of the greatness of the level to which he will rise. Rabbi Yosef Karo appreciated Rabbi Yosef VitaF's profound righteousness and his true faith. He would begin by reciting Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon we wept"). Rabbi Yosef Vital. in spite of the large sums of money these commanded.

Instead. he kept to himself. . he told them. and did not share them with others. 'My children. together with his disciples. filling their prayers with mystical intents. know that Shemaya and Avtalyon have commanded me to tell you to pray for the Messiah son of Joseph. Rabbi Yosef Karo was asked to succeed him as head of the rabbinical court of Safed. our master. He felt himself elevated by the prayer in their company. with the Ari at their center. He enjoyed friendly relations with all the Kabbalists. as the light faded on the surrounding hills. "When the Ari stood at the grave of Shemaya and Avtalyon. He enveloped himself in a veil of silence. Rabbi Yosef would participate from time to time in the gatherings of the group of Kabbalists. The emotions he felt during these prayers. "Teach us. He sensed the Sabbath Queen descending in all her holiness from the hills. that he not die. while he participated in their study of the hidden Torah. At times they would reach a level of pure ecstasy. Reports of all these practices reached the ears of Rabbi Yosef Karo in Biria. and would remain with them the entire time they spent in the hills. The Kabbalists. he would dismiss them with a simple answer. When they pressed him to give his opinion. he went to immerse himself in the mikveh. prayed with devotion. He would sing Lekha Dodi together with them." After he returned to Safed from Biria. After he finished Tikkun Hatzot he did not go back to sleep. Some of them attended his lectures to the students in the study hall. They told him. when they went forth to the hills to greet the Sabbath Queen. the visions he saw when he was with the other Kabbalists. for after the death of Rabbi Yaakov Berab. such as: "The Ari must have sources in the Kabbalistic books for all his practices. spreading her wings over the entire universe. His pupils asked him. where he would put on his tzitzit and recite the blessing for the fulfillment of this commandment. The Kabbalists unquestionably accepted all of Rabbi Yosef's rulings." directing his thoughts to the killing of the righteous.' " Rabbi Yosef Karo did not react to these reports of the Ari"s practices.211 of Asaf. what is your opinion of these practices?" He did not answer.

and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree' (Deuteronomy 21:22) — 'And if a person has a sin worthy of death' is language that is lacking." "How will we know who this man is?" his disciples asked. he would cite passages from the Zohar as sources for the law. and the man will not be revealed. opinions and ideas — all were brought to Rabbi Yosef's attention. his main interest was the halakhah." he replied. and went to the graves of the righteous with them. "You should know that there is a person dwelling here who will arise after me and illuminate the eyes of the generation with the wisdom of the Kabbalah. Close to his death. Although he studied with them. You should know that he is a great man. " I do not have permission to reveal this to you. He said in his eulogy. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero gave him his book on the Kabbalah for his comments. allusions in the Torah." "This shall be a sign for you: whoever will merit to see the pillar of cloud going before my bier. When he was in Safed he discussed interpretations of the Zohar with the Ari." All the leading scholars of the city. When Rabbi Moshe Cordovero died. *** Matters which were discussed by the Kabbalists — secret teachings. he is the holy man chosen by the L-rd." 'And if a person has (committed) a sin worthy of death. the law. In his lectures. participated in the funeral. which had spread throughout the world. headed by Rabbi Yosef Karo.212 The Kabbalists viewed him as one of their holy company. In my time the channels were sealed. They knew that he was a master of the Zohar and its commentaries. like 'Then I and my son Solomon (shall be counted) . a spark of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. we will err. but in his time they will be opened. he delivered the main eulogy at his funeral. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero said to his disciples. He said that he had seen the fading of the great light that had illuminated Galilee with his teachings. "But without any sign.

a plague swept through Safed. at the age of 38.215 sinners'" (I Kings 1:21)." They wanted to bury Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in the place where the great scholars of the city were buried. and immersed itself. and called his name Shelah. The Ari fell ill and and passed away. "Go out. " I f the generation will merit it. 'then you hang him on a tree' — the reason for this is due to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. I see the pillar of cloud going before the bier. Now they knew that he was the holy man of whom Rabbi Moshe Cordovero had spoken before he died. Not long afterwards. his fellows came to wash his body. I f there is a lack of a reason to be worthy to die. "This is not his place. and he was at Chezib when she bore him" (Genesis 38:5)." After his disciple left. He was buried next to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. After the funeral they gathered around him and told him they desired to be his disciples and follow his attributes. *** His disciple Rabbi Yitzhak Kohen was near him before he died. Immediately his head inclined. The Kabbalists stood before him. The Ari stood before the Kabbalists and said. The verse he had quoted as he was dying was the subject of an argument among his disciples. When he finished. and it stops at a certain place. His teachings were recorded by his disciples. because you are a kohen (a member of the priestly class. his soul departed. awestricken. The Ari told him. After the Ari"s death. forbidden to be in the presence of a body). he turned to his disciple and said to him." After this he recited the verse. Just what did the Ari intend? . this will be a year of redemption and the true End of Days such as has not been seen since the days of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. "And she again bore a son." All the scholars and Kabbalists accepted his words. but the person nevertheless has died.

he died and was called to the Heavenly Court. to whom he gave over the secret wisdom.214 They came to ask Rabbi Yosef Karo the meaning of this. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and the Ari. *** The two Kabbalists. he asked us to pray that the Messiah son of Yosef not die. The schools in Safed were full. His disciple Rabbi Yitzhak Kohen said. This is why he came up to Safed during his lifetime. 'One thousand. even though these two great illuminaries had been extinguished. Emissaries from Safed went to the communities in the Diaspora to collect funds to maintain those studying Torah. to transmit his teachings to his disciple and to amend his soul. He said that it was proper to ask the Ari"s closest disciples. and thirty-five (shelah)." Another disciple said. The complaint was raised that the treasurers were not distributing these monies properly. The moneys from the Diaspora enabled them to fill their needs. while Torah went forth from Safed to all the Jewish communities. which will be the year of the Redemption. had passed away. But the sun continued to shine. Due to his great modesty. and preferred those close to them. "He intended to bring the Redemption in his days. Who is the Messiah son of Yosef? A few days later. Jews in the Diaspora sent their contributions to Safed. Even the poorest among them sent their coins for charity in Eretz Israel. who were not . In our foolishness. three hundred. perhaps they had heard some allusions to this during his lifetime.' " He appointed as his successor his disciple Rabbi Hayim Vital. "When he stood near the tomb of Shemaya and Avtalyon. in the time mentioned in the Book of Daniel." His disciple Rabbi Hayim Vital said. we did not think to ask him. to maintain the yeshivot and study halls. he did not want to reveal to us that he was the Messiah son of Yosef. "He wanted to hint that the Messiah will be revealed in the year 5335 (shelah in Hebrew). Treasurers and administrators dealt with the distribution of the funds which had arrived as contributions.

He established peaceful relations between the communities. thereby leading to disputes before the eyes of the visitors and a public disgrace. Whoever received a stipend as a student of Torah must come to the study hall every day and study as is fitting for him. Some of the scholars attempted to change the regulations. The regulations which had been instituted for the distribution of the monies arriving from abroad aroused conflicts at times. Disputes between the communities and differences of opinion were brought before Rabbi Yosef Karo and his court. If moneys come from abroad from contributors. They also instituted a regulation that if a visitor from abroad came to Safed. refused to pay the taxes. he must turn them over to the gabbai (communal official). with Rabbi Yosef Karo heading the rabbis of all the communities. He claimed that according to the regulations. which exempted scholars from paying these taxes. he did not have to pay. This last regulation was instituted in order to prevent each synagogue from trying to "kidnap" the visitor and bring him to it. a distinguished member of the Safed community. The leaders of the community assembled and established regulations: An individual may not appeal to Jews abroad to support him.215 necessarily Torah scholars. the monies are not to be given over to him unless he comes every day to study in the synagogue. who was both very rich and a scholar. The matter was brought before Rabbi Yosef. unless this causes no harm to the general Safed community. and they request that the money be given to one of those studying Torah. and it is forbidden to pray outside the synagogue. In one instance. If monies come to the hands of an individual. who . the gabbayim must bring him to the synagogue in which his friends and the people from his city pray. Study arrangements in the synagogue are to be made only with the permission of the gabbayim. Each community in Safed chose its own rabbi. He brought about love and friendship between the different communities. who relied on his rulings.

. He also used the statements of the Zohar to decide differences of opinion regarding other laws. They studied the revealed and the hidden Torah. In the introduction to the Beit Yosef. In this case he had to study the Zohar. which deals with washing the hands upon arising. . the intermediary days of the Festivals. "and in some places. "Since in the Talmud this law has not been stated explicitly. He wrote. Exiled Jews from Spain continued to come to Safed. who is buried in Miron. Rabbi Yosef Karo ends the list of books he consulted with the words. for according to the Zohar. the Zohar. writings from the Zohar. the Jerusalem Talmud explicitly states that wearing them is obligatory. who strictly forbids their wearing?'' The opinion of the Zohar overrode that of the Jerusalem Talmud. in order to find the Kabbalistic significance of the law. In Chapter 4 of the Beit Yosef. and resumed paying as he had been assessed." . which is close to Safed. he brings a passage from the Zohar to decide a question of law. which is attributed to Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. who will dare to do an act which contradicts the words of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. ." He faced a serious problem when he wanted to rule regarding the issue of wearing tefilin on Hoi Hamoed.216 wrote a decision obligating him to pay. the Messiah "will awaken (will be revealed first) in Galilee. The rumor spread that the days of the Messiah were approaching. The person accepted this decision. While the Babylonian Talmud could be interpreted to support either opinion. reading the supreme Kabbalistic work.

the Nasi family. where they engaged extensively in business and banking. he initiated the imposition of a ban on the port of Ancona. Italy. who had sentenced several Spanish Morranos to be burned. The declaration was also signed by Rabbi Moshe Trani. who granted him the title of Duke of the island of Naxos. despite the . who stopped sending their goods through the port of Ancona. When Don Yosef Nasi came to Turkey. in order to cause damage to the kingdom of the Pope who had harmed the Jews.217 Chapter Seventeen With Don Yosef Nasi An appeal came to Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed from Don Yosef Nasi and his mother-in-law Dona Mendez Gracia. and the other rabbis consented. Don Yosef Nasi wanted the Jewish merchants to transfer their dealings to the city of Pesaro. After the Expulsion from Spain. he returned to Judaism. This ban helped Don Yosef Nasi in forcing the Jewish merchants not to send their goods to the port ruled by the Pope. who lived in Constantinople. They wanted him to help them to forbid Jews from engaging in commerce with the city of Ancona. in the court of his successor the Sultan Salim. He assumed an important position in the court of the Sultan Suleiman I I . to show that the Jews could not be attacked at will. and from there to Antwerp. Rabbi Yosef convened the rabbis of Safed to discuss the request. and after him. moved to Portugal. The ruling by Rabbi Yosef and the other rabbis of Safed had an effect upon the Jewish merchants in the world. and Turkey. He recommended agreeing to the request. Saddened by the persecution of the Jews and Marranos by the Pope. a city under the rule of Pope Paul IV. Not all the Jewish merchants agreed to sever their ties with Ancona. which had been very influential in Spain. Rabbi Yosef signed the declaration of the ban on the port of Ancona.

even though he needed it to publish them. in order to found a small Jewish kingdom there. and to send their sons to study Torah with the great scholars in the city. while others were afraid to leave their homes. and requested the support of the scholars and Kabbalists of Safed. in which he listed his deeds on behalf of the Jews. but had betrayed him and informed on him to the Sultan Salim. Don Yosef Nasi wanted to provide Rabbi Yosef with large sums of money to print his books. but he refused to accept the money. accompanied by Dona Mendez Gracia. The city was filled with Jews.218 financial losses they suffered. The report spread through the Jewish communities in the Diaspora that Tiberias was open to the Jews. This had caused him great personal harm. The Sultan Salim offered the city of Tiberias to Dona Mendez Gracia and Don Yosef Nasi. They encouraged him. Some Jews came and settled in the city. Rabbi Yosef watched the gathering of the Jews in Tiberias under the protection of the Jewish Duke. He and his mother-in-law founded synagogues and study halls throughout the Turkish empire. Rabbi Yosef agreed to his request and signed the ban. and Dona Mendez Gracia. The heads of the community in Safed heard of this. and the report caused them great joy. Don Yosef Nasi sent him an additional request. . He saw this as a sign of the approaching Redemption. Jews came and settled in Tiberias. sailed on the Kinneret. as well as damaging his ability to intercede for the Jews at the court of the Sultan. in her charitable acts of building the city of Tiberias. They built houses. Don Yosef Nasi. Some of them came to Safed to breath the atmosphere of its study hall. Don Yosef Nasi sent emissaries to Safed with letters for Rabbi Yosef Karo. to place a ban on the Jewish physician who served as his aide. The scholars of Safed agreed with Don Yosef Nasi"s policy of causing financial damage to the anti-Jewish Pope. divided his time between the island of Naxos and the city of Tiberias. and was ready to receive them with open arms. opened study halls. and awaited the final Redemption.

The bans issued by the rabbis of Safed had an effect on all the communities. The wickedness of Pope Paul IV. which had opened its gates to the refugee Marranos. The rabbis of Salonika joined the ban. Some Jewish merchants broke the ban. But the Jewish merchants found that the ban could not be maintained. They resounded through the entire Ottoman Empire. to bid his tongue to give over the most exalted prince. and continued trading with Ancona.. Jews did nor come in contact with him. gave him no rest. and when they saw him on the street they would not greet him. because the port of Pesaro was not sufficiently large to receive the merchant ships.5 . benefited economically from the ban. The ban placed on the Jewish informer stated: "Our ears burn upon hearing of the wickedness of Reuben. The city of Pesaro. but it was too late. The ban imposed on Ancona seriously damaged the city s standing as a port.219 The ban imposed on the Jew who had informed against Safed bore fruit. The physician was shocked by the act he had done and wanted to change it. because of the heavy financial losses it had caused them. who had had many Jews burned at the stake. The damage to Don Yosef Nasi s standing had been done. she appealed once again to all the Jewish communities to reinforce the ban on Ancona. When Dona Mendez Gracia saw that the ban was not effective. The Sultan heeded his advice in all the affairs of the kingdom. Government ministers and princes treated him with great respect and honor. The rabbis there advised him to turn to the rabbis in Safed. as well as all the . . *** Don Yosef Nasi had enjoyed great influence at the court of the Sultan Suleiman. Don Yosef Nasi and Dona Mendez Gracia appealed to the rabbis of Constantinople to issue a total prohibition against trading with the Papal cities. This was how Don Yosef Nasi asked Rabbi Yosef for the ban. who were the leading rabbis of their generation.

Yitzhak. neither an individual nor the many. Moshe the son of Yosef Trani." *** The words of the scholars of Safed and their joining the ban of the informer had their effect. the son of our master. Hayim HeHaver. in his commentary on the beginning of Hullin. the sage Rabbi Avraham Arha. placed under a ban with a Torah scroll. Shlomo Absaban. the ban may never be annulled. are permitted to assemble near the person who has been banned and excommunicated. forever. by speaking against the community and the individual. Moshe Di Corial. in which he wished to uproot all.. And now no Israelite. they also banned and excommunicated him. Avraham Eroiti. they assembled and stood for their lives. I f it had not been for the L-rd who is for us. Shmuel Virga. In the case before us. for this ban and excommunication were issued because he thought to bring down the wall of Zion. They banned and excommunicated him with a Torah scroll. The Rambam. since . and repaid him and his band somewhat by gathering all the rabbis of the city... When the sages and rabbis of Constantinople revealed the wickedness of his thought against the Jews. David Nakharo. at the present time. Those present will hear and see. all the renowned communities in the entire kingdom. Every person will follow them.220 people of the L-rd dwelling in all the kingdom. he would be liable the death penalty. I f this is so regarding the person who commits a transgression between man and G-d. wrote that the person who transgresses something punishable by death is. Elisha Galiki. for repentance is of no avail here. 5431 (1570). Yosef Karo. No one would dare cancel this ban. to destroy them. how much more so does this hold for the one who commits a transgression which is bad for people. "Signed on the 24th day of Tishrei. Yaakov Berab. Yisrael the son of Meir. The Sultan was convinced that the informer who had spoken against Don Yosef Nasi was not worthy of an audience. It can not be said in this instance that if he will repent the ban will be lifted. and this entire people will come to its place in peace.

Hanna demanded her money from the sister who had caused her so much harm. where there was a Hebrew printing press. Since he did not want to receive a gift from Don Yosef Nasi and Dona Mendez Gracia. who had taken money from the family s funds. in order to discover the sources and the law. At times he was faced with a serious dilemma. He was harsh with himself: what did it mean to disagree with one"s teacher? He read what the author of the Turim had written: "Who is the one who disagrees with his teacher? The one who establishes for himself a study hall and who sits and expounds and teaches. he thought that he should turn to rabbis and donors who recognized the worth of his books. Rivka had informed on her sister. He had to send the manuscript far away.' Then he discussed what the Rambam wrote on this. Don Yosef Nasi resumed his former exalted status at the Sultan"s court. At this time he was writing the section in the Beit Yosef dealing with the honor due to one"s teacher and to Torah scholars. Rabbi Yosef received a letter in which he was asked to rule in a dispute between Hanna (Dona Mendez Gracia) and her sister Rivka. of disciples who disagreed with their teachers and established study halls close to the study halls of their teachers. between disciples and their disciples. Until he wrote this section he had to study all the books dealing with this topic.221 the majority of the people and their sages supported Don Yosef Nasi and his mother-in-law. But he needed a great deal of money for this. when his teacher is alive. Rabbi Yosef Karo continued to write his books. even in another land. When they were still in Christian lands. when he realized that his teachers had erred in their legal decisions. There were cases in which they brought each other before the court. While dealing with it he came across the issues of a controversy between scholars. when it became clear that this was an instance of a 5. She said that she planned to escape to Turkey and return to the religion of her forefathers. The teachers from whom he had learned Torah stood before his eyes in all their glory. to Venice. . He thought how he would find generous Jews who would aid him in publishing them.

for they did so without obtaining their teacher"s permission. The Tombstone of rabbi shlomo elkaves . He continued to reread and edit his book. and to flee from quarrels. which he had begun at the age of thirty-four. to take care not to start a controversy. He was about to complete the writing of his Beit Yosef. In his lectures to his pupils he emphasized the need to act respectfully towards one"s teachers. to serve Torah scholars. *** .222 pupil who disagrees with his teacher.

Elijah would speak to him. The Maggid"s words still rang in his ears. the Maggid came and spoke to him. The Maggid told him how to prevent drought. by encircling the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and his son Eliezer. because of your sharp reasoning. Yitzhak Abuhab. together with the other Kabbalists. and the Heavenly Court have sent me to give you greetings. and Elijah"s voice would sound to them as Rabbi Yosef's voice. and you will see them teaching the laws of kamitzah (one of the priestly functions in the Temple). He was near the completion of the Beit Yosef. while he was writing.. but only Rabbi Yosef would see him. You will teach Talmud. it would seem that it was easy for Rabbi Yosef to decide the law. He was hesitant to decide laws if there was some doubt. " I will set you as a prince over My people Israel. He had to labor strenuously until he decided in such cases. "You will merit seeing Elijah face to face . He told him that it was announced about him in Heaven to "take care about this one and his teachings." He told him that even if he were to be at home with his wife and other people. Behind the simple formulation were long days and nights of concentrated . for he will be your teacher and master to teach you all the secrets of the Torah." The Maggid informed him. The Maggid also told him. but to the reader. and they will be published and spread throughout all the bounds of Israel. Rabbi Yosef would go to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. and he already thought about shortening it and writing the laws in a separate book. he is the one whom the King of Kings desires to honor" and "The Holy One. blessed be He. And you will complete all your works.. and your yeshivah shall be greater than that of My elected one." Once again. your decisions will be free of any blemish or error.223 During the night hours. the Maggid revealed to him hidden teachings in the weekly Torah portion. your sons will be the Sanhedrin in the Gazit Chamber.

Now when he went with the other Kabbalists to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. He attempted to interpret the opinion of the Rambam. he prayed that he not err in his language. If. *** The Tombstone of rabbi moshe korduvero . and indicated omissions in its language and corrected them. according to other poskim. If the Rambam excluded a law which was based. and found that he had not erred. even though there would be authorities who would disagree with him. The Tur followed the opinion of the Rosh to a large degree. however. and preached to maintain them. but he did not attempt to defend the Tur against opposing opinions. he would explain why the Rambam omitted the law.224 effort. He provided indexes for the Tur. on the Gemara. and if the Rambam and the Rif disagreed with him. then the Rosh would be the minority opinion. he did not view the Tur as the decisive posek. and he often followed the other opinions. the Rosh and the Rif ruled differently. according to the rules he had set for himself. he would rule as they did. He studied all the books and manuscripts. and Rabbi Yosef would follow the majority opinion of the other two poskim. He wondered whether in his final editing he should change the rules he had set for himself. Although his book followed the format of the Tur. and that his writings would be accepted by all Israel. He examined them thoroughly. perhaps he would find something leading to a different decision. Rabbi Yosef Karo had a special liking for customs. even if the early sages had not mentioned them.

" After his wife"s death. our master and teacher. he devoted himself even more intensely to the completion of the Beit Yosef. The plague struck everywhere. ' They replied. They were his medicine. " I have saved myself." his students told him. They lay in their beds. 5 *** . There was no house without its dead. He said to them. Not many days passed and Rabbi Yosef also fell ill and lay in bed. moaning from pain and high fever." The arrangements were made for the funeral. and he studied them. Rabbi Yosef ran about to bring her medicines. Rabbi Yosef exerted himself and got up for the funeral of his wife. The sun rose as usual the next morning." "Now we must save you from the plague. but his strength gave way after only a few steps. His sons supported him. your wife has passed away. Even during the time of his illness he did not stop his Torah study. and gave Rabbi Yosef and his wife food and drink. The plague did not pass over the house of Rabbi Yosef Karo. "Yes. In the middle of the night. "Blessed be the true Judge. "You must have terrible tidings. When the pallbearers moved away he said. People stopped working. even though he too suffered from the plague. he heard terrible cries from his wife"s room. "She was with me through all the tribulations I endured. and there was no cure to he had. Every day another of the students would fall ill." He closed his eyes and recited. His books were next to his bed. and was bedridden. My books are my medicine. From all the surrounding houses could be heard the wailing of the sick. His mind was clear. Her face was pale and her entire body shook. and also when I came to Eretz Israel. His students stood by him. He brought her a doctor. His wife was stricken. His students entered and stood by his bed. weeping silently.225 A plague broke out in Galilee. There were many deaths from the plague every day.

The Mabit was Rabbi Aaron"s nephew. "the opponent of Rabbi Yosef. he was troubled by these disagreements. These disagreements created echoes in the public and in their books." But they did not always quarrel. the disagreements between them were even more conspicuous. Sometimes they agreed with each other. Rabbi Yosef wrote a decision in which he contradicted all of Rabbi Aaron"s arguments and cancelled his decisions. while at other times they challenged the other"s position. and they argued orally or in writing. leaving their mark for many years. and defended his teacher"s honor in the controversy with Rabbi Levi ben Haviv over the renewal of Semikhah. Rabbi Aaron had come to the defense of a member of the community who had been banned. the Sabbatical year. whom he accepted as his teacher and master.226 The disagreements Rabbi Yosef had with Rabbi Moshe Trani. He fought Rabbi Yaakov"s battles. regarding the laws of Shemittah. Rabbi Aaron was forced to leave Adrianople. Rabbi Moshe Trani served as the rabbi of the "Beit Yaakov" community of Jews from Spain. Most of the time they worked together to strengthen the Torah in Safed and its environs. They had met for the first time in Adrianople. Every seven years. Rabbi Yosef and the Mabit conducted their legal discussions while sitting on the Beit Vaad. At times they adopted contradictory positions. He went from there to Safed. The two sat together on the Beit Vaad in Safed. An essay written by the Mabit about the setting aside of terumot and ma"aserot from the fruits growing in the . the Mabit. where he studied under Rabbi Yaakov Berab. The scholars of the community attacked him for having cancelled the ban the scholars had imposed on this man. Nevertheless. but rather were on points of law. where he had served as rabbi for fiftyfive years. Rabbi Aaron. He had learned Torah from him and in the yeshivah of Rabbi Yosef Fasi. were not personal. He was respected by the inhabitants of Safed. where there had been a falling out between Rabbi Yosef Karo and his uncle. Those with loose tongues called the Mabit. and to sit in judgement together.

By the time a declaration by the scholars of Safed against the permission was issued. on the other hand. The Mabit responded by saying. Suddenly a terrible storm blew up. Rabbi Yosef wrote in his opinion about the words of the Mabit. Eventually someone was found who was willing to marry the widow. He came to the Mabit and asked for the writ of permission. He told him. "Go and seek two Torah scholars who will add their names to it. A woman in Safed whose husband was among the missing remained as an agunah." He turned to the scholars of Safed. But one person in Safed married the woman. who had already stated earlier that one had to be strict in this case. relying on the permission granted by the Mabit. while he affronts me within his community. " I honored him within my community. Only one scholar. The ship overturned and all those on board were thrown into the sea. The Mabit permitted this woman to remarry. while all trace was lost of those who remained in the sea. Rabbi Yosef Karo ordered that the woman be declared as not listening to the voice of the Torah.227 land of a non-Jew. scholars outside Safed also added their names to the prohibition. " I remember that in better times than these. 5 . ' A major controversy broke out between them over permission to remarry that had been granted to a woman whose husband had drowned in the sea. but he could not find a major posek who would sign the ruling with him. called these "objections of straw. with which a Jew deals. joined him. The Mabit. It happened that a group of Jews were traveling on a ship at sea. and they did not agree to it. Rabbi Yosef Karo"s ruling was agreed to by Rabbi Avraham Zarfati and Rabbi Yitzhak Hakohen. who wrote objections to the Mabit"s proofs. The scholars of Safed assembled several times to discuss the permission. A few individuals swam ashore and saved themselves. He turned to Rabbi Yosef. and had written a pamphlet against the permission granted by the Mabit. but none of them was willing to add their names to it. Rabbi Avraham Shalom. and he wrote explicitly that he was not authorized as a posek." In response. was rejected by Rabbi Yosef.

It once happened that they sat on a court of three members: Rabbi Yosef Karo." Additional scholars. and Rabbi Yaakov Alhami. where he rejected the position of the Mabit and destroyed his arguments. "They spoke truly that one error at the beginning leads to many errors. This was so in a case concerning a get. It would be for the good if he were to return to his former ways.Rabbi Shem Tov Alfani. Rabbi Yosef would conceal his statements disagreeing with the Mabit. At times the rabbi of the city. from Safed and from outside the city. and Rabbi Yisrael ben Meir. agreed with Rabbi Yosef Karo"s ruling.228 he would not decide something by analogy. a writ of divorce. nor would he allow a scribe to copy them. rather he would heed my words and the words of his fellow scholars. Now see. he has left his good way and followed another path. The disputes between them would start and stop. Another of their disagreements concerned cows in whose . he spoke at length against all the scholars of the city who disagree with him. the Mabit. They disagreed on many cases which were discussed in the Safed rabbinical court or which were brought before the scholars of the city. would decide between them. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. In one place Rabbi Yosef wrote. Furthermore. The Mabit did not agree with the majority opinion of the other two. while ignoring the opinion of greater authorities. Rabbi Yosef spoke harshly with him. In some instances Rabbi Yosef Karo included these disagreements in his books. and demanded that he accept the majority opinion and sign the decision." Even though a great chasm separated Rabbi Yosef Karo and the Mabit on points of law. including Rabbi Yom Tov Bibas. they were united by a strong bond of friendship. He would not show them to anyone." In order that this disagreement would not spread outside the community. At times he would end his words about the Mabit with the sentence. "Love covers a multitude of sins.

He received legal queries there.229 stomachs bright red spots were found. had gone there after being expelled from Castile together with his brother Aaron. because prohibiting it would involve a financial loss for Jews. At the age of fourteen. however. In the interests of peace. while the Mabit viewed this as a severity beyond the demands of the law. but he did not have his books with him. He watched over them so . He stayed for a while in Damascus to escape the plague. the Mabit left Salonika to study Torah in Adrianople under his uncle. Rabbi Yosef. and this was accepted by the public. They slaughtered the animals and sold the meat on the basis of this permission. Rabbi Yosefs disciples would agree with the decisions he issued. He accepted the opinion of Rabbi Yosef. because they ate a herb called taltit. as he had done all his life. When a plague broke out in Safed. He enjoyed his days in the yeshivah of Rabbi Yosef Fasi. The Mabit saw that he had erred. the Mabit fled from the city to the villages. Rabbi Yosef prohibited eating from the meat of these cows. to escape the plague area. The butchers knew of the Mabit"s lenient opinion. but he prayed to return to his place in Safed to serve the L-rd. He was a fervent admirer of his chief teacher. The Mabit remained as a minority opinion. The disagreements continued. He was one of the builders of the community of Safed and a legal guide for his community. he did not oppose the decision. At times Rabbi Yosef complained that the Mabit exceeded his authority and ruled for people who were not members of his community. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. His father. Several of the people who ate this meat fell ill with the same illness of bright red spots. The Mabit was born in Salonika. and the two of them agreed to prohibit the animals whose lungs were afflicted. and so they continued to feed the animals this herb. as did the other scholars in Safed. and ten people even died from this. he saw the customs of the Jews in the city and learned from them.

and supervised the business dealings of its members. After he gave his lecture. he would prepare one of the pupils to lecture after him. Chapter Eighteen The Rabbi of Safed When the rabbi of Safed. At that time there were no printers in Safed. The authors of books had to cross continents and oceans to have their books printed. They found Rabbi Yosef's house always open to them. Rabbi Berab"s outstanding disciple was Rabbi Moshe Trani. for he had already sat on the court and delivered decisions during Rabbi Yaakov Berab"s lifetime. the scholars of the city regarded Rabbi Yosef Karo as his successor. and everyone regarded Rabbi Yosef as the head of the Beit Vaad. and at times would even give the emissaries letters to the printers in the countries of Europe. His pupils in his yeshivah in Safed would come to hear his lectures with awe and reverance. who had defended his teacher in disagreements among scholars. he searched for printers who would publish the book. They came from great distances to learn Torah from him. . Emissaries came to Safed from all over the world. He would ask them about printing houses. because the center for printing was in Venice. Rabbi Yaakov Berab.230 that one person should not cause any harm to his fellow. died. Since many manuscripts of the Beit Yosef had accumulated in his home. He established regulations for his community. but Rabbi Yosef Karo was his superior.

The many manuscripts demanded his attention. needed in order to explain the source of the laws. until he would see how the first volume would be printed. He entrusted a reliable person with the manuscript. among the rabbis. and sent him to Italy. who drew the sources for their decisions from them. . He kept the rest of the volumes with him.231 inquiring about their prices and the quality of their work. and judges. It took some time until the first volume was printed. Rabbi Yosef gave the emissary only one volume of the book. Traveling to the printers in Venice would take many months. He exhorted him to supervise the printing. *** Rabbi Hayim Sarok and Rabbi Moshe ben Sasson dealt with the publication of the book. scholars. the second part had been given to the printer Bragadin. but also as a treasury of the passages from the Talmud scattered throughout it and of the sources for the statements of the Tur. Many people sent legal queries to him and to his rabbinical court in Safed. The scholars in Italy were the first to read the book. the collection of laws for all Israel. He corresponded with the printers about publishing his book. After it appeared in print and was distributed among the communities. His books were highly influential. While the first section of Orah Hayim had been given over to the printer Mark Anthony Justinian in Venice. They quickly became basic books. They saw it not only as a book of law. His pupils awaited him every day. and gave him a sum of money. The volume of the Beit Yosef on the Orah Hayim was printed in Venice in the year 5310 (1550). Rabbi Yosef could not leave his place in Safed. so that mistakes would not enter the printed text. They appeared on the desks of rabbinical judges. Rabbi Yosef Karo was acknowledged as the leading posek of his generation.

the Beit Yosef spread. becoming intoxicated by its content.' But one day they were studying a certain law in the study hall. however. and he would provide the sources for every law from the Talmud. He invited his friends to celebrate with him the appearance of the book. Rabbi Yitzhak bar Lev. His expertise had failed him. People from Safed would come to study the book. said that the book revealed little expertise. when he read the books and found many printing mistakes. Go and look in it. The printing presses in Venice were closed. His expertise was legendary. Rabbi Yitzhak bar Lev permitted his students to study the Beit Yosef *** . and copies of it were burned. were printed by Tobias Foa. " I t seems that it has been decreed from heaven that the book Beit Yosef will spread throughout the world. it is just a collection. not a single source escaped his memory.232 It was at this time that it was forbidden to possess the Talmud in Italy. "He emphasizes the practices of his land. and appeared in the year 5313 (1543) in Sabbioneta. Other scholars had to write their commentaries on it and explain their sources for decisions contrary to those of Rabbi Yosef." "He relies on only three poskim" One of the leading scholars of the time. Rabbi Yosef Karo"s name was known throughout the Diaspora. and forbade his students to study it. and he did not know the source. but he could not find it. In the meantime. "After all." They opened the book. he was extremely happy. and was to be found in every study hall. The books also aroused opposition and differences of opinion." people claimed about the book. He was saddened. The last two sections. For many long hours he searched for the source among all the volumes of the Talmud. When Rabbi Yosef received the first copies to arrive in Safed. After this. His pupils would study the Turim. Even HaEzer and Hoshen Mishpat. and immediately found the source. Rabbi Yitzhak bar Lev told his students.

/ # # 1 /# */ wifely From the original manuscript of Rabbi Yosef Karo (in the Cairo Genizah collection at Cambridge University) .233 .] / .

. And if they deem it fit to prohibit gambling as well. one from a city and two from a family. and they walk in darkness. he he made haste to write letters and publish declarations against customs which were contrary to the Torah which had spread among the communities. the cries of the masses arise with the sound of the war against us. headed by Rabbi Yosef. Questions on points of law streamed to him from communities and rabbis.... I tore my garment. in which he wrote: " I have heard a report that some Jewish communities. the young and worthless Yosef Karo. which possess wisdom. the L-rd will grant them success. A report reached Safed that in Italy some Jews were lenient regarding the drinking of yein nesekh (wine blessed by non-Jews). there are those who are not careful regarding stam yayin (wine touched by non-Jews). fell on my face. Many of the ignorant are overbearing with the educated of the people to teach them that the idolators of this time do not engage in libations (to idol worship). He immediately sent them a letter. The addition of the scholars of Safed. They do not understand. pulled out my hair. and to ban the person who would not heed the verdict. Especially in this generation. a bitter inheritance has passed over us — expulsions and forced conversions. persecutions. and as recompense for this..499 years we have gone in the Exile . and the fear of G-d. are following the masses to be lenient with some of the prohibitions. "The words of the one who wishes all the communities of Israel peace. "As regards wine. asked Rabbi Yosef to strengthen their rulings by having the Safed court add its name to their rulings. which is the basis for several types of damages. however.234 Rabbi Yosef Karo was renowned as a posek throughout all the Jewish communities. and I am amazed at the evil report. and wept for this problem with the Children of Israel. knowledge. imparted great authority to every decision. riots. At times. He will gather in the exiles. Since the court learned that this referred to ... For 1. few from many have been left. The rabbinical courts in the Diaspora which ruled in accordance with what was written in Rabbi Yosef Karo"s books (there were some that did not follow his rulings)..

There was such a case of a person who did not obey the ruling of the court in the city of Carpentras. *** There was a holiday atmosphere in the yeshivah in Safed in which two hundred students learned under Rabbi Yosef Karo. Crowds of people came to hear his discourses in the study halls in Safed.235 a refusal to obey a ruling. He had many . After receiving Semikhah from Rabbi Yosef Karo. going from there to study in the yeshivah of Rabbi Yosef Taitazak in Salonika. He delivered brilliant discourses. in the Venaissin district. it immediately joined the ban on the person. The Safed court joined the ban on the man. and ordered not to include him in any religious ceremony: his son could not be circumcised. Rabbi Moshe Alshikh stood and delivered a discourse to the other pupils on law and aggadah. he served as a judge on the court of Rabbi Yosef in Safed. in what is now France. He came to Eretz Israel as a young man and settled in Safed. many crowded around him. Rabbi Moshe Alshikh. In his youth Rabbi Moshe had learned in the yeshivah of Rabbi Yosef Karo in Adrianople. Rabbi Yosef ascended the platform together with Rabbi Moshe Alshikh. and he could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. That day the students gathered in the study hall dressed in their holiday attire. Rabbi Yosef now ordained his disciples. and he died a month later. After his discourse. By the authority of that Semikhah. The scholars of Safed viewed this as the continuation of the act of Semikhah initiated by Rabbi Yaakov Berab. a master of Midrash and aggadah. who had imparted Semikhah to Rabbi Yosef and three other scholars. and the wine he touched was the wine of a non-Jew. He read the writ of Semikhah and handed it to Rabbi Moshe. the bread he baked was the bread of a non-Jew. This day Rabbi Yosef had imparted Semikhah to one of his leading disciples. They hugged him and clapped him on the back as a sign of their appreciation.

The last two parts of the Beit Yosef. People wore their festive clothes. His interpretations are also based on the hidden Torah. but also bother. commentaries on the Torah portion of the week. several rabbis placed a ban on Rabbi Moshe ben Sasson. and greeted each other with holiday greetings as they walked in the streets of the city. Ecclesiastes. In the verses of the Torah he found ethical principles and ideas for the improvement of one"s character. and books of responsa. *** The printing of his Beit Yosef in Venice caused Rabbi Yosef Karo much satisfaction. all the children of Yaakov) was accepted in some communities as a lament to be recited as part of Tikkun Hatzot. had been given by Rabbi Moshe ben Sasson to the printer Tobias Foa. At long last. lamentations on the troubles of Israel in the Exile. He printed his book Torat Moshe. He would eventually print other books. Job. the Song of Songs. and the disagreement that broke out between his emissary and the sages. Ruth. Even HaEzer and Hoshen Mishpat. His commentaries on the Torah are summaries of the discourses he delivered before the public. The problems raised by the printing. Rabbi Hayim Vital was his outstanding student. commentaries on the Early and Later Prophets entitled Marot HaTzovot. This book would be of great use to preachers. caused Rabbi Yosef much sadness. Proverbs. he merited seeing the printing of his book. and were printed in 5313 (1553) in Sabbioneta. He also wrote piyutim. in Constantinople. Esther.236 disciples. Rabbi Hayim Vital said that his teacher possessed the soul of Ravina. over which he had labored for so long. The day that he received Semikhah from Rabbi Yosef Karo was a holiday in Safed. He engaged extensively in the Kabbalah. Due to the quarrel over the printing of the book. The hymn Hikbetzu VeShimu Benei Yaakov Kulkhem (Gather and hear. Lamentations. and Daniel. . commentaries on Palms. and received Semikhah from him.

was not accepted by the sages of Ashkenazic Jewry. He wrote in his introduction: "The Sages have already said that we do not learn from general rules. The Rama wrote his book. as determined by the sages whom we follow." Several Sefardi sages also objected to the book. and certainly not from the rule this genius has set for himself. the Rif. as a commentary on the Tur. giving the rulings of the Ashkenazic sages. the Rambam. thought little of the book. stating that it was only a "collection. after the printing presses in Venice had been closed. who are the famous sages of Ashkenaz (Germany) and France. was about to rescue the honor of the sages of Ashkenaz and write a book complementing the Beit Yosef. whose descendants we are. The sages in Italy used the book not only as a legal work. our master. A report reached him from Poland that the greatest of the sages in Cracow. many things have spread through his books which are not according to the law. including Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab and Rabbi Moshe . which had been based on the decisions of three poskim. and Italian Jews were forbidden to possess it.237 The first responses to the book began to arrive from different communities and sages.'* Several sages in Eretz Israel. and the Rosh. The letters that arrived from scholars and rabbis testified to the importance of the book. to rule in accordance with the Rif and the Rambam. and how favorably it had been received in the Torah world. The leading scholars of the generation wrote essays on the book. highly praised the book. to explain the sources of the laws. however. Rabbi Yosef Karo"s method of deciding the law. Rabbi Moshe Isserles. at the same time that the Talmud was burned. Rabbi Yosef Karo became widely known as Maran. the Rama. They claimed that he generally emphasized the customs of Sefardic Jewry. in places where most of the Ahronim disagree with them. although it actually was a book complementing the Beit Yosef. Therefore. including Rabbi Yitzhak Taitazak and Rabbi Yitzhak bar Lev. They feared that students would use it instead of studying to increase their general knowledge. but also as a treasury of Talmudic passages and sources for the Tur. Darkhei Moshe. Many sages.

great and minor. Rabbi Yosef's emissary. Pesikta and Mekhilta. and the other poskim. and the rulings of the Rif." After the printing of the Even HaEzer section of the Beit Yosef. Rabbi Moshe ben Sasson. the Rambam. Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote Bedek HaBayit. especially the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.238 Alashkar. *** The book on Orah Hayim was printed in Venice in 5310. which was meant to complement the Beit Yosef. but took a long time until it reached Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed. a delay suddenly occurred. The critical comments of those who objected to the book also reached him. the revealed and the hidden. when the scholars of the time waited for the last volume. They all reside in the Beit Yosef. and tried to take the book back from the printers. postponed the printing. Sifrah and Sifrei. It was written on the second page of the book that it contained "the statements of the early and later poskim. . To answer these.

Therefore he ordered" a "Table" (Shulhan Arukh means "ordered table") including all the necessary laws and the customs practiced by the Jewish people. he will not stutter. Some of them read his writings and offered their comments. easily understood by any reader. His students aided him in his work. for "great is study that leads to practice. Since he wanted the book to be accessible to all. In the introduction to the book he wrote. and he replied to them. whether it was accepted by all or whether there were those who disagreed with it. He kept these questions and responses for his book the Shulhan Arukh." Rabbi Yosef wanted to provide Israel with a practical book. . The language would have to be clear and simple. He saw that the generation needed a book in which it could easily find any law. .. Just as it is clear to him that his sister is forbidden to him. Rabbi Yosef Karo was in the middle of writing his Shulhan Arukh. "So that the Torah of the L-rd will be perfect. They brought him manuscripts and debated each law. but rather say to wisdom. because it will be fluent in his mouth. fluent in the mouth of every man in Israel.. Questions that came to him from all over the world spurred him on to write a short summary of the laws about which he had written in Beit Yosef. Rabbi Yosef Karo established rules for the writing of the Shulhan Arukh.so too every matter for which he wants to know the law as practiced will be clear to him. He received comments about and criticisms of his book Beit Yosef from the greatest legal experts. both to the . listing the actual law and stating the final ruling. 'You are my sister. So that when they ask a Torah scholar about a point of law. writing a book that would serve as a guide to the total Torah life. It would have to be short.239 Chapter Nineteen The Writing of the Shulhan Arukh At this time.

after they have filled their stomachs with the Talmud and the poskim. look at other poskim. . perhaps at night he would think of a new and even shorter formulation." When he showed the first draft of his work to his students. He answered them. and will not study and labor in the Talmud and its commentaries? For this is a summary of all the actual law. even when he had written the law. He refrained from writing a lengthy introduction at the beginning of each volume. and then begin to formulate the law. Torah will not be forgotten in Israel. learning its language by heart. *** . for everyday use. since he had already stated their names and explained all their arguments in the Beit Yosef. If he had new thoughts. Deciding the law was difficult. he would immediately write them down. Instead. " I am certain that the House of Israel will study the Torah as always. He had to be completely impartial. Only afterwards. so as not to loose the thought. he wrote in his introduction: "Young pupils will study it always. directly from Sinai. will they study the Shulhan Arukh. He was extremely careful with the language he used. Each word was considered. consider everything. His goal in this book was to decide the actual law as practiced. some of them commented. so that they will have acquired the law from early childhood. At times." He was faced with the problem of writing concisely.240 scholar and to the simple person. He did not mention the names of the poskim. he would let the final formulation remain for the following day. conduct a discussion with himself. At times he would walk back and forth in his room. turn to the Tur. "Our master! Perhaps students will make do with this book. he wrote as if he determined the law. look in books. He would copy from the Rambam.

) . .» ! 1 0 f**r : ( . < . • : . ^ : < 0 I «» <^7 vmvlb ** < ** Title page of the Shulhan Arukh. . Venice 1577-78 .

(The greatest 5 . He could not decide. like an ordered table. studying one part each day. When he searched for a name for his book.242 "The decided law." The Mekhilta asks. immediately and without any trouble or searching. Rashi states in his commentary: "Like an ordered table. The source of the name Shulhan Arukh is in the Mekhilta on the portion of Mishpatim." Here he could bring the laws in different forms. when the law was not clear to him because of a disagreement between Tannaim and Amoraim." The name Shulhan Arukh also appears in other sources. and thus he intended when he set out to write the book. 'These are the ordinances which you shall set before them. he thought of Shulhan Arukh.. on the verse "These are the ordinances which you shall set before them. He wrote the chapters so that anyone studying them could divide each chapter into thirty parts. There were good arguments for deciding one way or the other. before a person. and completing the entire chapter in a month. ready for eating. Everything would be before him. the ordered table. This would be a book of laws. after a long search. or between the Rishonim. without speech or words" — thus he wrote in the introduction to the Shulhan Arukh. without mention of the sources." leaving no room for arguments or disagreements. Finally. to teach that you shall order them before them like an ordered table. Sometimes when he wrote the laws he encountered problems which were difficult to decide." "There is someone who says. "There are those who say. so that he would not have to search through hundreds of books. Rabbi Yosef Karo intended to prepare this book as "a table upon which are all kinds of foods." or "There is someone who writes. He lost sleep thinking about these laws. "Is it possible to teach them without their understanding them? The verse states. He was relieved by this solution. he found a new way of writing. which expresses what he intended: a collection of legal decisions ordered for every person. and anyone who approaches this table would be able to eat what his heart desires. He would write.

which grew larger and larger the further he progressed with the book. *** All the time he was writing his book. without being afraid of any possible critics. all aided him to write the book. He feared that there would be fierce opposition to his book. He also conducted himself in this manner in the synagogue: he read all the four sections of the Shulhan Arukh every month. who also undertook to write the Yad HaHazakah. because of his separating the law from its sources in the Talmud. so that it would be well-founded. Therefore he made certain that every law which he wrote was formulated precisely.243 Amoraim would review their entire knowledge every thirty days. He was hesitant to write a book of laws without sources and without the discussions leading to the final law. with no one able to undermine it. The difference in circumstances between the Rambam"s period and the time of . When he wrote the chapters he would bring them in this order before those studying in the study hall in Safed. which would contain nothing besides true study. he was accompanied by his initial doubts. and that pupils would not make do with only the final ruling. these doubts nevertheless remained with him and made his work harder. the errors they found. so that they would be familiar with its contents. The Rambam stated as his goal. "And I saw the nation without a law of legislation. Even though he knew in his heart that his book would not harm the traditional methods of studying Torah.) He did this because he saw the legal authorities who would rely upon his book —it would be preferable if they reviewed it every thirty days. The comments they made. and the matters which had been hidden from him and which they discovered. without disagreement or errors. His method followed that of the Rambam. but he expanded his discussion of new topics." Rabbi Yosef Karo followed in the Rambam"s footsteps.

in other places he added a complete chapter to the Shulhan Arukh which was not in the Tur. and not from the Tur. as usual. Miron. When they were wed. This is the joy of my life. *** His friends said to him that he should remarry after the death of his second wife. Therefore we must go to the villages Ein Zeitim. When Rabbi Yosef met his father-in-law. The Maggid also talked to him about this. I have taken upon myself this task. His work was his entire life. and would bear him a son. he comforted himself with the knowledge that he was following in the path of the Rambam. In some places he changed the Rambam"s wording in the interests of brevity. The Maggid assured him that she would bring him riches. Rabbi Yosef told her. then he digressed from his usual order and wrote according to the order of the Rambam. a Jerusalem scholar. When he was overcome by doubts. After his wife died. or Biria. although these laws were to be found in the Talmud and in the Rambam. If he took laws from the Rambam. they discussed points of law. At times he would add to the words of the Rambam. and I will not forsake it. so that I will not be disturbed in my work. I will . The wedding was held in the company of eighty scholars. to complete what was missing. The Maggid told Rabbi Yosef that the Rambam was pleased with his interpreting things in the Tur which had not been explained until then.244 Rabbi Yosef is what impelled Rabbi Yosef to write his book. bringing him his meals. The things he had heard about her and about her father's house convinced him that she was fit to be his wife. and that he was correctly explaining the Rambam"s opinion in other places. the mother of his son Shlomo." She replied. "My wife! I am devoted to the writing of my book. in order to end on a happy note. The woman in question was the daughter of Rabbi Zechariah the son of Shlomo Zechshil Ashkenazi. his pupils cared for him. "My lot will be with you in your book.

When he cried at night. The child grew and developed. or at length? To begin each chapter with an introduction. as much as I can. the . who was deep in his study of Torah. he married the daughter of the Ari. Yehudah would listen to the conversation of the two scholars.245 help you. or to Torah scholars who wanted to know the final ruling? How should he write the laws? In great brevity. They would search for the sources. you are right. My spiritual inheritance will be passed on to him. Some of them told him to be brief. who will insure that they are published. his mother ran to quiet him. At times his grandfather Rabbi Zechariah would come and play with his grandson. He would seclude himself in his room. Some were in favor of introductions. When his son Yehudah was born. He decided to write his Shulhan Arukh for all of Israel. "Now there will be an heir for my books. who needed to know the law without involved study. Your portion in my book will be great. I have made the right choice. The two scholars would delve into the matter. and quote passages from memory. while others told him to write at length. the Shulhan Arukh. as he pondered the question: For whom was the book intended? To the simple people. he was very happy. 5 *** Rabbi Yosef continued to be occupied with his book. so that you will not be disturbed by the worries of the house. Rabbi Yosef would ask him questions which had come up during the writing of his book." After the wedding. He prayed that Yehudah would marry the daughter of a Torah scholar. Rabbi Yosef would hold the child in his arms and look into his face. while others opposed them. or to write without an introduction? He consulted his pupils. he went to the village of Biria to complete his book. so that he would not bother his father. He was under his father''s feet. "Yes. When he grew up.

formulate and change. so that the scholars of Ashkenazic Jewry would not say that the book had been written for Sefardim. to select the final decision of the law. and one ruling with another. to unite the different positions. He wanted to write all the legal decisions which he accepted. so that it would be a book of binding legislation. and to write it in a manner suitable for everyone. Anyone who disturbed him while he was working on his book stole Torah from him. all the poskim who had dealt with it were before him. correct and eliminate. to summarize the law — so that the reader could easily find the law. in order to learn their rulings. In a closed room in Ein Zeitim. He wanted to write the book for all Israel. He struggled to understand the Ashkenazic customs. strove to understand. with silence all around. all the laws that had accumulated . In his mind"s eye. Rabbi Yosef would read his books. He sent emissaries to the Diaspora. When he wrote a law. whether they had been written by Sefardi or Ashkenazic scholars. in order to build the entire structure. for he was familiar with Sefardi practice. including all the different communities. He knew that he had accurately written all the laws. *** Cool winds blew in the Galilee hills. select and clarify. because he had worked hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. to draw conclusions. after he had collected everything he needed from the books of the Sefardi scholars. He reviewed their opinions and the arguments and positions they had taken. to bring him the books of the scholars of Ashkenazic Jewry. From all these he had to fire bricks in the furnace and place them one on top of the other. He read them. Dozens of books lay on his desk when he wrote the laws. consider and study. and to compare one book with another. he saw Ashkenazi scholars studying his book and accepting it as their code of laws.246 learned and the uneducated.


in the mountains of books, in order to write a single book of law for the People of Israel. He would walk to and fro in his little room and look through the window at the Galilee hills, thrusting upwards. So he envisaged his book: the mountains, packed closely together, rose up one after the other, but he had to straighten them to form a single structure out of them. At times he would go to Safed, to give his lectures to the students, to hear their comments, and to participate in the sessions of the rabbinical court. When he sat on the court to deal with public issues, he would meet privately with the other members of the court and tell them his doubts about his book. Although he had set for himself rules for the writing of the book, matters arose which required clarification in conversations with other scholars. He worked strenuously so that the rulings would be clear. He knew that scholars throughout the world would examine his method of ruling and would argue with it. Therefore he attempted to be precise, as sharp as the point of a needle, so that disagreements would not arise because of an unclear ruling. His students aided him. They brought him the books, ordered the laws and the commentaries, and added their comments. But it was Rabbi Yosef who formulated the law, in a manner that would stand unshaken.

When he was staying in the village of Ein Zeitim to work on his book, Rabbi Hayim Vital came to see him. He showed Rabbi Yosef what he had written down from the teachings of the Ari. Rabbi Hayim Vital had been born in Safed. His father, Rabbi Yosef Kalvarisi, was a scribe. His tefilin, written in sanctity and purity after immersions and with special Kabbalistic intents, were renowned for their beauty and precision and were sold for large sums of money. Rabbi Yosef said about these tefilin, in the name of the Maggid, that half of the world exists by their merit. Rabbi Hayim Vital had learned the revealed Torah from Rabbi


Moshe Alshikh, who had received Semikhah from Rabbi Yosef Karo, and the hidden Torah from Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, who had seen in Hayim s youth that he was destined for great things. Rabbi Yosef related to Rabbi Hayim what he had been told about him by the Maggid, and what the Maggid had told Rabbi Moshe Alshikh, that he should take care to teach him as much as he could, because he would succeed Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in the following generation. Ever since the Ari came to Safed, Rabbi Hayim Vital did not leave his side, and wrote down everything he heard from the Ari. The Ari was not capable of writing down his method and his Kabbalistic teachings. His disciples wrote down his teachings, but not in a complete manner. Eventually the other disciples burned what they had written down, and only the writings of Rabbi Hayim Vital remained. The disciples of the Ari accepted Rabbi Hayim Vital as their leader and teacher. Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Hayim Vital talked about Rabbi Moshe Cordovero"s Kabbalistic method and that of the Ari. Rabbi Hayim Vital revealed to him that three months after his teacher"s death, he saw in a dream Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in front of the company of Torah scholars in Safed. He had him take an oath to tell him the truth regarding the method of studying the Kabbalah in the World to Come: was it according to his method, or according to the method of the Ari? He told him, "Both methods are true. My way is the literal interpretation, for those who are beginning to study the Kabbalah, while the way of your teacher (the Ari) is the innermost, main, method. Now that I am in the world above, I too learn according to the method of your teacher." Rabbi Hayim Vital showed Rabbi Yosef his commentary on the Zohar, which he had written according to the method of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. He lectured on the difference between the two Kabbalistic methods. Rabbi Hayim Vital explained why he regarded the way of the Ari above that of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, and why he did not
5 ,


have a high opinion of the books of the Kabbalists who lived after the Ramban. He told Rabbi Yosef that the method of the Ari was built on sublime revelations that had come to the Ari by Divine inspiration, and he revealed to him some of the Kabbalistic secrets he had learned from the Ari. Rabbi Yosef mentioned that he had been among those listening to the discourses given by the Ari in the study hall in Safed. He repeated some of the things he had heard from the Ari. He told Rabbi Hayim Vital that he relied on the Kabbalah in his legal decisions, when this was proper. It was at this time that Rabbi Hayim Vital began to give lectures in Kabbalah to his pupils. To some of them he revealed special secrets. He revealed to them that within him was the soul of the Messiah son of Yosef. The Ari had regarded himself as the Messiah son of Yosef, but this had not been fulfilled. He thought that the holy soul of the Messiah son of Yosef had been transferred to him. This soul exists in each generation, in one of the holy bodies. People stood near his door and requested his help to relieve their suffering, for he was renowned as a worker of miracles. They asked him to use the holy names, according to the practical Kabbalah, to drive out the evil spirits from people who had been possessed by a dibbuk. He fulfilled their requests, and drove out the evil spirits. When Rabbi Hayim Vital stayed with him in Ein Zeitim, they saw in their mind"s eye how Rabbi Yosef's son Yehudah would marry the daughter of the Ari, but they did not speak of this. The child Yehudah ran about in the room and played while the two of them discussed the teachings of the Ari. Rabbi Yosef inquired after his disciple Rabbi Moshe Alshikh, for as a result of his seclusion he had not seen him for some time. He had appointed Rabbi Moshe to sit on the rabbinical court after he had given him Semikhah. Rabbi Hayim Vital said, "He is working on his commentary on the Torah." Rabbi Moshe Alshikh would eventually give Semikhah to Rabbi Hayim Vital and appoint him as a judge. Rabbi Hayim Vital left Ein Zeitim with his writings of the Ari"s teachings, after Rabbi Yosef Karo had read them.


The Jewish farmers from the villages of Ein Zeitim, Kfar Yasif, Kfar Alma, and Kfar Hanania worked their fields and brought their produce to the marketplace of Safed. They brought fruits and vegetables, milk products, and cows and sheep to be slaughtered. Their sons learned in the yeshivot in Safed, while the scholars in the city would go to the villages on Sabbaths and holidays, to be with the villagers and answer their questions on the law. Teachers from Safed went to live in the villages to teach Torah to the children of the villagers. The heads of the Safed yeshivot would spend the summer in the villages, to enjoy the invigorating country air. The Jews who tilled the soil or raised cattle and chickens would supply them with their needs. They also brought their produce to the house of Rabbi Yosef Karo. Some of them had been his pupils in the yeshivah in Safed. Yehudah, Rabbi Yosef's son, would run about in the fields and orchards, among the rocks and stones. The wide open fields attracted him. At times his mother would chase after him to find him, calling in a loud voice, "Yehudah, where are you?" Little Yehudah would hide among the bushes and would not answer her. In the end, the villagers would join her searching, until they found him hiding, laughing and crying at the same time. At times Rabbi Yosef would join those searching for his missing child, for he could not concentrate when the child was not home. The boy got up on his father"s lap, clung to him, and said, "Father, I want to write too, just like you." "When you grow up, you too will write books, or deal with the printing of my books," he replied. " I want to be big and study Torah all day long." "You will, my son. Just be good and don"t disappear among the bushes." He was drawn to the bushes as if they were charmed. Snakes and scorpions were to be found there, and his parents were very worried whenever their only child was missing. His father would go for walks with the boy in the fields of Galilee. They would touch the wild flowers. Rabbi Yosef


would tell him stories, go with him from tree to tree and explain to his son the nature of each tree and the flavor of each fruit. It was summertime in Galilee. The orchards were in full blossom. The Jews in the villages would come to Rabbi Yosef with the legal questions that had arisen. At times many of them would stand by his house, waiting for his clear answers. Yehudah studied in a Talmud Torah. At the age of three the child learned the letters of the Alef-Bet. At the age of five they began to teach him Bible. When he was eleven, they began to teach him Mishnah, and at the age of fifteen, Gemara. The schools in Safed had different methods of teaching. Some taught Bible with the Targum. Others translated everything into Ladino, while the Mustarabs taught the Bible with a translation into Arabic. The teachers who came from Spain emphasized the meaning of the words in the Bible text.


Chapter Twenty

The Migration of the Marranos to Safed

More of the scholars among the Marranos, dressed in Spanish embroidered garments, came to Safed every week. Rumors had spread through the Jewish world of the approaching Messianic era. Many engaged in calculations of the arrival of the End of Days. According to their calculations, the Expulsion from Spain was part of the revealing of the End of Days. Safed became a center for the study of Kabbalah. The sages of the time limited the study of the Zohar to limited circles. Many of the exiles from Spain, who had wandered from country to country, came to Safed. The Jews of Spain sought to know the meaning of the tragedy that had befallen them. Some of them had studied philosophy, but had found no solace in it. They sought to study the teachings of the Kabbalah. Many of them, the young among the Marranos, had left Spain after the Expulsion and searched for a strong spiritual support for their lives, after having been defiled in the churches. In the atmosphere of Safed, laden with mystery and the anticipation of the Messiah, they found their place. They wanted to purify themselves from their sins, for they had been sunken in the depths of impurity when they masqueraded as Christians in Spain. Even the simple folk and the uneducated wished to study the hidden teachings of the Kabbalah. The Marranos walked about in the lanes of Safed, some of them still dressed in Spanish garb, and their faces shone from happiness. They would mingle with the students in the city"s study halls and listen to the lectures in the yeshivot. They would hurry to the discourses of Rabbi Moshe Alshikh and the lessons of Rabbi Hayim Vital, together with the band of Kabbalists who had come to live next to the study hall. The young Marranos who had repented and sought their path in life would come to the house of Rabbi Yosef Karo and ask him legal questions. How should they conduct themselves,

he could not include all the laws and customs. because they dealt with contemporary issues. although he did include their major points. were anguished by the sins they had committed. Some of them had left Spain after many years of living as Christians. how rulings and customs would be added. so that they would be crystal-clear.253 after having taken on the customs of the non-Jews? Some of them had produced wine. While he was writing he felt that goodness was being showered on him from Heaven. Their question was. listening to every lecture on the hidden Torah. the Kabbalists would direct them to the court of Rabbi Yosef Karo. When he was disturbed while writing. was not their wine yein nesekh. formulating his laws in as short a form as possible. He hoped that his book w|ould prevent disagreements. who sat in the court chamber on certain days. Now they would have before them a single. then their wine was not yein nesekh. when they had lived in the guise of Christians. he felt as if he had been . especially the scholars among them. The spent all their days in the study halls. for there were different practices and rulings in many communities. Due to the shortness of the book. he saw in his mind"s eye how commentators would interpret his writings. being ordered to pray every day in church and do the bidding of the priests. to properly write the rulings and the laws. The Marranos. He ruled that since they had acted as Jews within their family. and they affected many Jews at the time. He asked them about their practices within the family and outside. and now they wanted to begin to manufacture wine once again. He would later include these questions in the Shulhan Arukh. ridding them of awkwardness and lengthiness. clear book of laws. so that his mind would be clear all the time. *** As Rabbi Yosef sat. non-Jewish wine? Rabbi Yosef considered their question. When they encountered a legal problem. The Marranos were scattered throughout many lands. and learning from the great Kabbalists.

Books and manuscripts were heaped up on his desk. At times he would request his students to search in his books for what he needed. Yosef my husband. *** These were great days. His wife would come to him. you must rest in the afternoon. my husband. At times she would awaken him from his thoughts with a question. and not always did he have the strength to search through them. "At your age. After additional study. Why. of wrestling with the proper formulation. to look once again at the books on his desk and complete the ruling. because he was so absorbed in what he was doing that he was totally unaware of his surroundings. From his window he could see the Galilee hills in all their splendor. of intensive study. You exert yourself so greatly. but I am afraid to stop working. he found that his formulation was faulty. The structure of the Shulhan Arukh began to arise and take shape. You will be able to return to your work with renewed energy after having eaten. At times he would formulate a law. and it could be misinterpreted. The olive trees stood silent and humble. of creative work. the entire Torah is spread before you like an open book. the time ha come to eat something." He gave in to her entreaties and came to eat the midday meal. After eating he would immediately return to his room. knock on his door." " I know. and say." "You are right. But he felt that the spirit was carrying him to great distances.. that you will be able to return to your line of thought." she told him every day. lest I sever the train of thought leading me to the formulation of the ruling.254 awakened from a distant dream. but his thoughts were still on his book. It was as if he had suddenly came down from the heights. You will not be able to go on without eating. . He saw in his mind"s eye the scholars of the following generations . and the next day he would change the formulation.

so that the Shulhan Arukh would have a complete index. . because only he knew where to find the laws and in what order they had been written. it is as if he sheds blood and lessens the Divine image. questions. he began this work. without having to look through many books. and causes the Shekhinah the Divine Presence to depart from Israel. He devoted himself to composing the index. After further thought. because there was no joy of creativity here." He stopped writing and thought: perhaps he should write at length here. At this time he was at the beginning of the Even HaEzer volume. he wrote slowly and carefully. " A man is obligated to marry a wife in order to be fruitful and multiply. he thought of the need for an index to his books.. Nevertheless. in the manner of sages." Each law that he wrote was accompanied by doubts. about both the formulation and the ruling itself. and none of the feeling of accomplishment he felt after ordering and formulating the laws. After all. arguments and rebuttals. Whoever does not take part in being fruitful and multiplying. Holding the pen in his hand. about how a man should conduct himself with his wife after marriage. taking care to avoid any possible mistake.. he decided to leave this for the commentators. This was an even harder task than that of writing the laws. *** When Rabbi Yosef wrote the laws. but now the law was clear. But in the end he decided.. He had to be precise in the formulation of each word and letter. he was calm.255 discussing his rulings. He was formulating the law beginning with the obligation to be fruitful and multiply. He continued: " A Torah scroll may be sold only in order to study Torah or to marry a wife. the book was intended to make it easier for a person to learn the law. and they began to pile up one on top of the other. so that the reader would be able to find the law he seeks. He knew that it had been difficult. without an index. no discovery of the law. After he had decided the law. the reader would not be able to find the law.

and he would not attain the goal for which he had labored so strenuously. He would then learn of the content of the book. Rabbi Yosef worried. wisdom. He told the emissary. People talked about "the thousand of Shlomo. the book would not find its way to the public. and ask him to pay for the cost of printing the book. I will also send an agent of mine to supervise the printing. He could evaluate the manuscript. for Torah or for charity. but printing was expensive. . "Return to Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed. It would lie for years among other manuscripts. and maintained apartments for the children who learned in the Talmud Torah. Since Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar was a scholar. Rabbi Yosef asked one of the emissaries. where would he find the money needed to print his book? He had to send the manuscript with an emissary to Venice to be printed. to approach the philanthropist Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar. and piety. He would surely take an interest in such a book. Emissaries went from Safed to the Diaspora to collect money to maintain the yeshivot. who was going to Egypt." Rabbi Yosef's eyes lit up from satisfaction when the emissary returned with the good tidings. which would spread the light of Torah throughout the world. He also supported Torah scholars in Egypt." since he would devote a thousand riyals to every cause. he understood the nature of the work. He built a Talmud Torah in Egypt. Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar was known for his generosity. to show to Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar. *** Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar maintained yeshivot in Eretz Israel.256 The book was almost finished. and the influence the book would have when it appeared in print.and tell him that I will pay for the expenses of printing. Rabbi Yosef gave the emissary several pages from his book. I f he would not find the money to have the book printed. The emissary came to Egypt and showed the pages from the manuscript to the philanthropist. and understand the request.

to provide the final law. He wondered how his book would be received by the Torah scholars of the time. He wanted to include all the subjects covered by the halakhah. and was about to be put to death. He told Rabbi Shlomo that he had nothing to fear. Rabbi Yosef Karo was known as the leading scholar of the time. to complete the series of books. he saw this as a great honor — thanks to him. Sometimes he thought that he should have included the sources of the laws. His friend took him out of the prison and restored him to his position. The king appointed in his place another official. Shlomo Alshakar sent the money needed for printing the book to Venice with a trusted emissary. not at length. But his goal in writing the Shulhan Arukh was to write in short. He was a tax collector. and its printing would be for the general welfare of the entire world. Rabbi Yosef still had a great deal of work before him. and therefore he knew that the book would be flawless. Since he took upon himself the printing of the Shulhan Arukh. and he owed large sums of money to the king. Torah would spread throughout the world. People said that the merit of the charity that he had given stood him in good stead in his time of peril. Jewish law. *** . His fears rose within him. in his regal clothes. he ordered his servants to take him to the prison. A special emissary took the manuscript with him. in the afternoon. One of the royal ministers gave the order to the hangman. but he did not have the means to pay this debt. The day that the first proofcopies of the text arrived from Venice was a festive occasion. When he heard that Rabbi Shlomo Alshakar was imprisoned. guarding it with his life. for each law had been written after a great deal of exhausting labor.257 It happened that he lost all his possessions and was arrested by the authorities. At the same time Rabbi Yosef Karo sent to Venice the first parts of the manuscript. but he was sure of his editing and the work he had invested in the books. who was a friend of Rabbi Shlomo. The king ordered that he be killed on a Friday.

Rabbi Yosef was forced to print his book. he undoubtedly would have found all the printing mistakes and corrected them immediately. Some of them tried to improve the language of the book. Some scholars understood the source of the mistakes. Nor could he go to live in Venice for a year or two to personally supervise the printers and correct the mistakes in the printed text. or to correct things in the manuscript which seemed to them to be mistakes. His handwriting was clear. Later. saw how his books would spread. to correct the errors. His friends who brought the manuscript to the printers went over the proofsheets. there were instances in which the printers did not understand his handwriting. Rabbi Yosef. while other scholars built mountains of new laws based on these mistakes. and all his letters were well-formed. He prayed that his books would be printed without mistakes. there were many mistakes in printed books. Sometimes the printers erred in interpreting the abbreviations he had used. because this could lead people to violate the law. while others were mistakes in the manuscript after additional study he had changed some of his rulings. and additions to his books. Rabbi Meir of Padua was the leading Torah scholar of the time in Italy. Due to the conditions prevailing in the printing houses. so that his teaching would be flawless. omissions. living in Safed.258 Due to the dangers involved in sailing from Sidon to Italy. Bedek HaBayit. Nevertheless. The copyists also were responsible for the introduction of many mistakes. He undertook to deal with all the questions that would arise during the proofreading of the books. but if Rabbi Yosef himself had stood by the printer. how there would not be a Jewish home which would not be filled with the light of his teachings. Any mistake would be serious. while other times they did not understand Rabbi Yosef's handwriting. Rabbi Yosef Karo could not return the proof sheets to Venice. for they contained laws. some of which were printing mistakes. The scholars sat with the printers in order to understand the .

from all parts of the Diaspora. Rabbi Yosef sat and replied to all the letters. He struggled to understand the customs of Ashkenazic .259 intention of the author. and between Biria and Ein Zeitim. carefully packed. looking through many books before he replied to a letter. Chapter Twenty-One Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Moshe Isserles Rabbi Yosef went between Safed and Biria. Although the proofreaders were knowledgeable in the Torah. and made critical comments. When the printed book appeared and was distributed. bringing with him many books and manuscripts. Sometimes the printers omitted lines or parts of a page. and he had to decide the final law. He was overcome by trembling whenever he formulated a law on which the authorities disagreed. He tried to clarify the true meaning of the Torah. He wanted to write his book for the entire nation. They made comments. At times he needed to be in seclusion. through the depth of his study and his broad and logical knowledge of the legal decisions. raised questions. to find the source of a decision about which he was undecided. They were loaded on the backs of donkeys. the book still contained errors. Some of the comments were accepted by Rabbi Yosef. Some of the critical comments were due to printing mistakes. At times this required tiring work. others to the scholars" lack of understanding. Rabbi Yosef received letters from the leading scholars of the time.

even though he had been raised on the Spanish practices. one of the scholars of France. the Semak (Sefer Mitzvot Katari). Sefer HaAgur. Sefer Mitzvot Gadol. the Semag. one of the greatest legal authorities in France. the author of the Tosafot. His books began to leave the printers and to spread through the study halls in all the different lands of the Diaspora. . removing. Cool winds blew in the Galilee hills. written by Rabbi Yitzhak ben Abba Mari of Marseilles. written by Rabbi Yaakov Landau Ashkenazi. who lived towards the end of the fifteenth century. correcting. the disciple of Rabbi Yitzhak the Elder. the Mordekhai. even though he had been accustomed to study the books of the Sefardic sages. one of the last Tosafists. adding. He needed the books of the sages of Ashkenaz. Rabbeinu Yeruham. written by Rabbi Yitzhak of Corbeil.260 Jewry and the opinions of the Ashkenazic sages. Sefer HaTerumah by Rabbi Baruch of Worms. and several other legal works by the leading scholars of France and Germany. A few copies were also brought to Safed by an emissary. He saw in his mind"s eye that his books would be used in the Ashkenazic communities. who in the book Maggid Meisharim is called Yerucham Temiri. when he sat in the mornings and evenings over his writings. even though he lived in the Sefardic Diaspora. Sefer Haltur. He cited the words of the sages of France and Germany. In his books he made much mention of the Ashkenazic practices. written by Rabbi Mordekhai ben Hillel Ashkenazi. He was in contact with the leading Ashkenazic Torah scholars. The days passed and the summer died. authored by Rabbi Moshe of Coucy. Winter drew near. whenever he had to summarize a law: the book. who lived in the first half of the fourteenth century. and that the Ashkenazic scholars would study his book and argue about it. who was one of the 740 martyrs who died in Nuremberg. who lived in Provence in the fifteenth century and who wrote Toledot Adam VeHavah and Maggid Meisharim'. because he appreciated their worth.

" He received letters from throughout the entire world.. At times he had to review many books in order to reply to one of the critics. I broadened the light for it. saw the magnificence. the author. The blessing of the living L-rd to the Gaon Karo. Rabbi Yosef Karo. with three columns per page. from the East and from the West. while others were from rabbis who supported him. They were ready to come from great distances to meet the author and discuss Torah with him (at the same time coming to Eretz Israel and praying at the graves of great scholars). may the L-rd protect him. who excelled with words in his studies. splendor. He looked at the title page of the book: "Shulhan Arukh.261 He was exceedingly happy when he received the books. Each received a proper reply. Therefore I have opened my mouth in song. which is called the Beit Yosef. . Rabbi Ephraim Karo. His happiness was tempered. our master and teacher. and beauty of this book. his soul was with that of the sublime Gaon. from the Tur Orah Hayim. however. Long live the man whose understanding is the most precious. He was certain that the Torah scholars who read the book would realize that these were errors. The author of the poem introduced his poem as follows: When the young man Shmuel. Some were from Torah scholars who questioned his rulings. and would not build entire structures of law upon them. the son of our master and teacher. A year after the first printing of the Shulhan Arukh was completed.. because he viewed this as his life"s work. One of the editions included a poem at the end of the book dedicated to the author. by the printing errors that had crept into the books. at times he found that there was some truth in the criticism. ordered and preserved.. the son of the honored rabbi Elhanan Yaakov from the Arcavaletti. the printing began in Venice of two new editions. and ordered it and bound it. He concluded the poem with the words. Written by the exemplary Gaon of the generation. Torah scholars wrote to him and even requested to come to Safed to meet with him. in a large folio format. playing on the sheminit. the perfect sage.

based on further study or on the responses he had received to his book. and some of them even ordered their pupils not to use it. Additional editions of the Shulhan Arukh. when they could not find a certain law. When he walked about in the streets of the city. otherwise. Despite Rabbi Yosef Karo"s other concerns.262 As his book spread. both to correct printing errors or to make corrections in the contents of his book. and that they used it during discussions in their courts. so did his name — as a Gaon. except for the days when he left the city to go into seclusion in the villages of Biria or Ein Zeitim. How would the book be received? Would it have a good or bad influence? These doubts vanished with the distribution of the book. Criticisms of the book continued to come from near and far. he would go every day from his house to the court in Safed and sit with the other judges to hear the cases that came before them. All in all. There were scholars who were critical of the book. as he was walking. while others revealed to him the need for corrections to the book. and with the responses he received. he could conclude from the letters and comments he had received that the book had been well received by the public. lest their expertise in the Talmud be harmed. people would come up to him and ask him to answer their questions on points of law. His writing of the book was accompanied by many doubts. Some of the criticisms saddened him. He came to the conclusion that he had to write a book of corrections. reached Safed. the outstanding scholar of his time. that it was only thanks to the Shulhan Arukh that they were able to solve their problem. they would have to spend long hours each day studying many books in order to issue legal decisions. in order to finish his work on the book. which had been published in different printing houses. Rabbi . But even these scholars admitted. They said that the Shulhan Arukh was to be found in their homes. Visitors who came to Safed would come to his home and bring him greetings from the rabbis of their communities. however. They perused it every day.

Some claimed that the Ashkenazic customs were lacking in the book. His resolve to publish a book of corrections was strengthened. .. who lives in Cracow. began to spread a "tablecloth" over the set table. *** Letters and reports reached him from Poland that his book had aroused much excitement there. There were bonds of friendship between Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Moshe Isserles. and rabbinical judges had gathered together to study the Shulhan Arukh. "The Nasi (prince) of G d among us . They sent letters to each other and discussed questions of law. to his father . so that another. in which they read on Yom Kippur. in order to send it to Rabbi Moshe Isserles. would not precede him. similar to the book which Rabbi Yosef Karo was about to write. paying for it one hundred gold coins. He claimed that Rabbi Yosef Karo did not know the customs as they had been formulated by the scholars of this diaspora. it is as if he disagrees with the Shekhinah" Rabbi Moshe Isserles had intended to write his book Darkhei Moshe on the Tur by Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher. In general. Rabbi Moshe himself wrote a Torah Scroll. Rabbi Moshe Isserles. In his book of responsa. who lived in Cracow and who was known for his knowledge and teachings. Rabbi Yosef purchased in Safed a handwritten copy of a Tikkun Soferim. arguing over each and every law in the book. but the Maggid came to Rabbi Yosef and told him to make haste and publish his book Beit Yosef. from this Tikkun. If anyone disagrees with him.." adorning it with the Ashkenazic customs. Rabbi Moshe wrote about Rabbi Yosef Karo. the Ashkenazic scholars were the first to have properly appreciated the great value of the Shulhan Arukh. scholars. Rabbis. People explained to him that it was not possible to print a book without mistakes..263 Yosef examined the copies and found printing mistakes. Rabbi Moshe Isserles was born in Cracow. The leading scholar of the Jewish community in Poland.

but from an early age all that Moshe desired was Torah and wisdom. but I have not yet found the right person. He asked logical questions until he understood the matter totally. Rabbi Isserel had two sons and a daughter. after the rabbis of the city persuaded her that she must sacrifice her . to fashion his personality and his method of thinking. His opinion decided every communal matter. At times he embarrassed his teachers. but his mother does not want to part from him. It was said of the son Moshe. "From Moshe to Moshe. she should be willing to give him up for a few years. whom he named after the children of Amram and Yoheved: Aaron. They called him "the ruler" — the ruler of the capital of Polish Jewry. You should send your son there to learn from him. Rabbi Yaakov Falk. there was none like Moshe. He wanted to understand everything." they told his father." His parents spared him nothing. who had come from Germany." the father answered. Dina Malka. "The leading scholar of the generation is Rabbi Shalom Shakhna of Lublin. "You should send him to a teacher who is a great scholar. His teachers realized that they had a genius before them. Moshe. He always asked his teachers questions. she is very attached to him. " I am considering this.* " I also think so. and Miriam. in the year 1520. His mother. the disciple of the creator of the pilpul method of study. He had served for a period of time as the parnas (head) of the community. was the daughter of the parnas Rabbi Eleazar. and he would not accept incomplete answers. Rabbi Isserel was one of the leading Jews in the community. He was known for his generosity and influence with King Sigmund." The mother Malka agreed to part from her son.264 Yisrael ("Rabbi Isserel"). who were not capable of answering his questions." "For his education and development. He was both a wealthy man and a scholar. They said to his father.

" A pupil such as you is deserving of the daughter of a Torah scholar — one suits the other. Rabbi Meir Katzenelbogen of Padua. His wife Golda bore him three daughters. A magnificent wedding was held in Lublin. Rabbi Shalom Shakhna offered him his daughter Golda as a wife. The people of Lublin and Cracow said that this was a case of Torah and worldly riches together in one person. He studied night and day. His parents cared for his livelihood. . to determine whether the youth was suitable to join his yeshivah.265 love for her son in favor of his education to become a leading Torah scholar. with all the leading Torah scholars. Rabbi Moshe was absorbed in the study of Torah. He was known for his sharpness and great knowledge. Rabbi Shalom Shakhna regarded him as his outstanding pupil. Rabbi Shalom Shakhna also saw the genius he possessed. The father went with him to Lublin and brought him before Rabbi Shalom Shakhna. His diligence was phenomenal. Both the son and the father agreed. He placed him among his pupils in the yeshivah and kept his eye on him. his wife died while still a young woman. Soon afterwards. and Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed. He provided for himself from his father"s funds. Moshe successfully passed the examination. however. When he reached marriageable age." he told him. He corresponded with the leading scholars of the time — Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal). The great scholar examined him. a faithful disciple who learned his method of study. The boy grew up and became a man. His father sadly took his leave of him and went back to Cracow. where he founded a yeshivah. communal leaders. Rabbi Moshe was only thirty years old at the time. and wealthy merchants in attendance. He returned to Cracow.


Scholars directed legal questions to him. The poor also turned to him, asking that he help them support their families. To all he gave generously. When his mother died, Rabbi Moshe built in her memory a synagogue, in which the yeshivah students gathered to study. Students streamed to him from throughout the land. His study hall became a beacon, spreading the light of Torah. The Cracow community appointed him as a judge on the rabbinical court, even though he was still young. Rabbi Moshe mourned his young wife, the daughter of the teacher he so admired. He immersed himself in the writing of his books, to console himself during his time of mourning. He would later marry for the second time, to the daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Gershon. She was the sister of his fellow judge on the Cracow court, Rabbi Yosef Katz. When a plague broke out in Cracow and claimed many victims, he temporarily moved to the town of Shidlow. The townspeople dealt with hides, which gave off a bad smell. He suffered greatly from the poisoned air. He closed himself up in his house and studied. He was occupied with writing his book Mehir HaYayin on the Book of Esther. He finished writing it on the eve of Purim and sent it as a present to his father — "mishlo"ah manot" for Purim. When the plague abated, he returned to Cracow, where he devoted himself totally to providing aid to families in which the husband had died during the plague. His good deeds were praised by all. He became known as an outstanding posek. Queries came to him from all Poland. He sat late at night, surrounded by piles of books, to answer each one. His rulings spread throughout the entire Jewish world. His clearly-worded responses plumbed the depths of the law. Cracow became known as a center of Torah.

He learned the science of astronomy and wrote a book about the movements of the stars, a commentary on a book written


by Ephraim Mizrahi, including diagrams of the paths of the stars. This commentary was not printed. He took an interest in Jewish history and copied the order in which the Torah was received and passed down through the generations. He also studied philosophy, especially the books of the Rambam, whom he called "the great sage, encompassing all forms of wisdom. He also was fluent in the literature of the Middle Ages. He considered every matter, absorbing its contents and rejecting the husk. He discussed philosophical issues in his book Torat HaOlah. In this book he explained and interpreted the laws of the Temple and its vessels, the sacrifices and incense, while providing a philosophical commentary. At the same time he wrote an additional book, Torat Hatat, on the laws of prohibited and permitted foods, following the book of measures of Rabbi Yitzhak of Dura. While Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed was writing his books, Rabbi Moshe Isserles in Cracow thought of writing the same type of work. The appearance of Rabbi Yosef Karo"s books caused him to write his work as hagahot (annotations) on Rabbi Yosef's books. He emphasized the Ashkenazic practices, following the rulings of the Ashkenazic sages through the ages, which were not stressed in the books of Rabbi Yosef Karo. Therefore he wrote his Darkhei Moshe on the Tur, to raise the banner of Ashkenazic practice. In this book he was critical of the Beit Yosef, and in many places he wrote, "The statement of the Beit Yosef is not to be relied upon," or "His statement is not correct." He tried to reinforce the opinions of the later poskim, if the Tosafists agreed with them, as opposed to the Beit Yosef, who relied only on the Rif, the Rambam, and the Rosh. He tended to follow the Tur when the Beit Yosef disagrees, because in many instances the decision of the Tur follows the opinion of the Rosh, who had absorbed the spirit of the sages of Germany and France. When the Shulhan Arukh arrived in Cracow, he spent much time studying it, until he decided to cover it with his "tablecloth," which would include hundreds of additions to the book, in order to prevent confusion regarding Ashkenazic practice. He retired for many days to an inner room, which was


filled with books, and wrote his annotations on the Shulhan Arukh. He wrote annotations and additions on each section of the Shulhan Arukh, relying on the rulings of the Tosafists and the other Ashkenazic sages, as he prepared the Shulhan Arukh to be accepted by the entire People of Israel.

Rabbi Moshe Isserles regarded his relationship with Rabbi Yosef Karo as that of pupil to teacher, but when he saw it necessary, he would correct Rabbi Yosef's statements. And thus he wrote in the introduction to his hagahot on the Shulhan Arukh: "This is not the table set before the L-rd, and has not yet been given to the people in these lands, most of whom do not follow these practices. The Sages have already said that we do not learn out from general rules, and certainly not from the rule which this Gaon has established for himself to rule in accordance with the Rif and the Rambam in an instance in which the majority of the Ahronim disagree with them. In this manner things have spread through his book which are not according to the law, as determined by the sages whom we follow, the renowned poskim of Germany and France, from whose descendants we are descended. I have seen that his words in the Shulhan Arukh are written as if they have been given by Moshe from the L-rd. Students will come and drink in his words without disagreement, thereby upsetting all the practices of the Ashkenazic lands. Therefore I have seen fit to write the opinions of the Ahronim in the place where his words do not appear to me to be correct. In the place where I know that the practice is not as he says, I will investigate and discover it, and I will write, Thus is the accepted practice." Rabbi Moshe Isserles set two goals for himself in the writing of his hagahot. The first, to bring the opinions of other poskim, so that the student and rabbi would see that there are opinions other than those of the Beit Yosef, and that they would have to accept one opinion or the other. The second, to preserve the practices of Ashkenaz (France


and Germany) and Poland. In an instance in which he knew that what was written was the Ashkenazic practice, he would write, "Thus is the practice." In other words, this is how a person should act. In a place where it seemed to him that there was also another opinion which had to be taken into account, he wrote, "And we must take this opinion into consideration." His hagahot were not intended only to correct or to oppose Rabbi Yosef Karo"s rulings, but also to interpret his formulation or the subject. In many sections he brings the reason for Rabbi Karo"s ruling, or he explains terms which Rabbi Karo mentions in an abbreviated fashion, to facilitate matters for the student. At times he also attempts to resolve a contradiction between rulings in two different places. He hints at this in the wording, "It is possible that this is a contradiction, and it is possible that a concept is lacking here," and then he brings the concept.

Rabbi Moshe Isserles tended to take into account the practices which were accepted in Poland, even if these contradicted the practices in other countries. He placed great emphasis on local practice. Thus he wrote in the hagahah on Orah Hayim 690:17: "No practice is to be cancelled, or denigrated." But in one response in his book of responsa, he writes: " I f circumstances have changed from what was the case during the time of the Rishonim, we are permitted to change the practice." In addition to his hagahot on the Shulhan Arukh, he also wrote additional books: collections of responsa to the many queries
he received; Karnei R"am; hagahot on the Mizrahi; hagahot on

Sefer HaYuhasin; a commentary on the nonlegal portions of the Talmud; a commentary on the Zohar; a commentary on the tractates of Shabbat, Sukkah, and Sanhedrin; an explanation of the Song of Songs; the fundamentals of the Kabbalah; hagahot on the laws of ritual slaughtering. His books spread throughout the Jewish world. He became the central Torah scholar of his time, becoming the final


posek for future generations. For Ashkenazic Jewry, his opinion is decisive, rather than that of the Beit Yosef and the other scholars of his time. He was also capable of maintaining his own opinion, even against many scholars holding an opposing view. Once the Shulhan Arukh was printed together with the hagahot of Rabbi Moshe Isserles, the book spread throughout the different Jewish communities as the book of law of the people, a mandatory book for all legal authorities. Letters traveled between Safed and Cracow. Rabbi Moshe Isserles'* hagahot on the Shulhan Arukh arrived in Safed and aroused the interest of the scholars in the Galilee city. They argued about them, and saw them as an addition to the Shulhan Arukh, without which it would be impossible to study it.

The days passed calmly in Safed. Scholars and Kabbalists arose early for prayers. In the yeshivot and study halls the pupils began to study the Shulhan Arukh. Whenever an authority needed to issue a ruling, he would make use of the Shulhan Arukh, in which the law was formulated clearly and concisely. The hagahot of Rabbi Moshe Isserles brought about a fertile period of legal thought. When Rabbi Isserles" book Darkhei Moshe, in which he included several laws not cited in the Beit Yosef, arrived in Safed from Cracow, the students crowded in the yeshivah to study it. They would discuss each section in the book. The brought the book to Rabbi Yosef Karo. He found that the Rama"s comments contained both sharpness and great knowledge. Some points he agreed with, while with others he disagreed. The students who studied the new book said, "The Rama is the Rambam of Poland." They added that he was both interpreter and critic of the Shulhan Arukh. The Rama"s other books also arrived in Safed and aroused the interest of the Kabbalists. His book Torat HaOlah, the philosophical work on the Temple and its services and vessels,


aroused arguments among the Kabbalists. "The Rama believes in the ancient origin of the Kabbalah and its Divine nature,' they said. "He emphasizes the principle of the renewal of the world. He sees it as very basis of Judaism," others added. "He identified the teaching of the Sefirot, which is at the center of the Kabbalah, with the philosophical concept of attributes," the Kabbalistic scholars explained. Some Kabbalists did not agree with his philosophical method, while others did agree, adding comments of their own. Some Kabbalists disagreed with his argument that the Kabbalah and philosophy are identical, but merely are expressed in two different languages. The Kabbalists in Safed studied only the Kabbalah, and did not occupy themselves with philosophy. They regarded this as a separate realm which has no place in the Kabbalistic study hall. In their letters to each other, Rabbi Yosef Karo and the Rama discussed legal questions and current affairs. The first letter of the Rama to Rabbi Yosef did not attract any special attention. As he received more letters, however, he realized that the writer was an outstanding personality. As their correspondence continued, they became friends. They evaluated each other in the context of commentaries and books. A spiritual closeness was formed between them.

Rabbi Moshe isserles sinaguge in krakov

overcoming the wind and the sound of the rain. "May the L-rd be with you! Only if you will adhere to Me. only with every bite think of words of Torah. the fear of Me. to complete his daily study regimen. coming from beyond the door.' that is. The voice grew louder and louder. This means. as usual.272 Chapter Twenty-Two The Kessef Mishneh It was the height of winter in Galilee. Take care only to eat what you need to live. due to the past years of drought. the Shekhinah. My Torah. The rivers were glutted with rainwater." The voice of the Maggid continued in the study hall without interruption. The wind shrieked threateningly. which stands above you. This is an allusion: 'When you sit down to dine with a ruler. Rabbi Yosef studied the mishnayot without stopping. Another drought year was in the offing. 'When you sit down to eat' — to eat bread with the Evil Urge. then your food will be as a sacrifice. and do not separate your thought — even for a moment — from My Torah. Wet from the rain. The farmers in Galilee prayed for rain. 'consider well who is before you. And then he heard the voice of the Maggid breaking through the thunderclaps. A cold draft came through the windows. Streams of water ran down from Mount Hermon to the Kinneret. There were rainstorms and winds. and My service. He opened the Mishnah. and do not follow the path of pleasure at all. Thunder and lightning split the skies. water still dripped from his beard and peyot. Now the lake filled up with water. On a rainy night Rabbi Yosef Karo left his house in Safed to go to the study hall. The other scholars stayed in their homes. The chill penetrated his bones. He was alone in the study hall. The person who eats alone is not the same as the one who eats before a king. He was waiting for a student-fellow scholar to come . who rules man. consider well who is before you* (Proverbs 23:1). because of the rain. and My mishnayot. It had shrunken. Eat only the smallest amount of fresh vegetables.

But the student did not come. He continued to study mishnayot. for excessive drinking weakens the body. This student-fellow was a pleasant person. especially when you eat. Remember the righteous who came before you and did not enjoy the world. It was good for Rabbi Yosef to be in his company. he waited for him. He always had a smile on his face. The Maggid did not stop speaking all that night. for the water had risen in the alleys of Safed. The voice of the Maggid continued to resound throughout the study hall: "Remember the generations that came before you. How great was their level. Do not depart from it for even one moment. The student did not come to study as they had agreed. for if you slacken your strength will lessen." *** In the distance water gushed forth. It was a night of study. because his solitude bothered him. "You started this week well. Nevertheless. filling them with streams and pools. He wanted to be with him. Perhaps he was afraid of the strong wind. as I have instructed you. Once again he heard the voice of the Maggid. to warm himself by his joy in life. although at the end you slackened a little. Let the Shekhinah always be before you. Rabbi Yosef feared that he would not be able to return home at midnight. I have already informed you that a healthy body is a prelude to the service of the L-rd. Therefore be careful. from now on. and you will merit to have many pupils. as the sound of a hammer beating. You have not done well by drinking a lot this evening. that your thoughts be always on the Torah.273 study with him. You must take great care not to derive any pleasure at all. my brother and friend. He could not go home. See. Perhaps he would take a nap on one of the benches in the study hall. I f you will do . what the L-rd asks of you. and you should not do so. moving rocks and carving out new channels. He wondered whether the Maggid would continue speaking when this student would come. for he lived far from the study hall.

the student-fellow knocked on the door. Rabbis wrote to him that the book made their task easier. or at the first light." Between the things the Maggid told him and his learning of mishnayot. They greeted each other. and he was soaking wet. He received letters from many communities. The Maggid ceased talking. Letters written to him by Rabbi Moshe Isserles in faraway Cracow drew his attention to rulings he had made: perhaps he had not studied all the sources? There was truth in several of the comments the Rama made. he thought of the corrections he would have to make in the Shulhan Arukh. Practices that had been determined in Ashkenaz had not come to his attention. you will be happy in this world and it will be well for you in the World to Come.274 so. he did not take them into account. without interruption. but these comments meant that things were not so clear. As he was thinking these thoughts. He did not seem to be aware of the voice. for there will be a dwelling place for the Torah. warning him not to let his thoughts stray. . people walked about with the Shulhan Arukh under their arms. He came from a distance. and always take care with wine. Rabbi Yosef wondered whether the studentfellow heard the Maggid"s words. because he did not know their sources. *** Reports reached Rabbi Yosef of the printing of new editions of the Shulhan Arukh in Venice. so as not to provide an opportunity for drink to rule you at all. but Rabbi Yosef knew that he would renew his speaking at midnight. Cleave to it always. criticized it. and if he had learned of them. Just then the Maggid resumed talking. They read it. He had doubts about laws and sections that he had written. for he remembered what was written in all the essential books. argued about each and every section. requesting that he serve as their rabbi. and planned to study until dawn would break. In Safed. He was almost certain that he had examined all the sources when he wrote the laws. in which he relied on the rulings of the scholars of Ashkenaz.

They told him of the learned discussions that had been conducted about what he had written in his books. Every day he had fixed hours for writing. who would whisper in his ear Kabbalistic teachings he had just discovered. but he was not involved in their affairs. Nor did the fears that his books would lessen study for the sake of general knowledge materialize. and discussed the hidden teachings with them. Visitors to Safed wanted to meet Rabbi Yosef. His fears that his books would not be properly accepted proved to be groundless. Rabbi Yosef also went out with them. and of things that had led to disagreements within the community. Every month more Jews came to live in Safed.275 Every day Rabbi Yosef would go from his home to the rabbinical court. In the study halls and yeshivot they continued to study Torah as always. and bring proofs and sources to either support or refute the teaching. They would come to the court to ask for recommendations. These teachings entered his heart. Rabbi Yosef learned from this that his books had reached every Jewish community and served as a basis for issuing legal decisions. They spoke of things that they had learned. discussing the cases that came before them. others were famous scholars. He would comment on these teachings. The study of Rabbi . Some were heads of communities. and searched for houses to live in. Some of them informed Rabbi Yosef that his books had reached their community and that they had studied them. Those who came with funds could easily find a home. Life in Safed revolved around its study halls. aided by Rabbi Yosef's books. Those holding opposing positions would bring proof for their position. At times they went out to the fields to be alone with their thoughts. and that his formulation of the law was unshakable. At times on his way to the synagogue he would meet one of the Kabbalists. At times Rabbi Yosef was asked to explain something that he had written. but they discovered that Rabbi Yosef had studied all the books before he wrote. He enjoyed the company of the Kabbalists. Those who married penniless needed assistance. Scholars and Kabbalists occupied themselves with the revealed and hidden Torah. He did not stop writing. The judges would sit in judgement.

The criticisms of the Ashkenazi sages led him to review all the subjects they spoke about. the scholars of his time continued to . in Venice. which encompassed only six of the fourteen volumes of the Mishneh Torah. and the debate surrounding it. Some of them claimed that he had "uprooted the tradition of our French and German teachers. and such great authority. reports reached him that the Ashkenazic sages were ruling in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh. When Rabbi Yosef Karo finished writing the Shulhan Arukh. From near and far. Three sections of the book were published during his lifetime. whenever the Rama did not disagree. In this book he tried to remove all the objections the Ravad had raised against the Rambam. because he knew that any scholar who needed a ruling would read the sources. because he did not bring the reasoning behind decisions in his book. Despite these criticisms. in which he interpreted the Rambam"s sources. He also wrote notes on the commentary Maggid Mishneh by Rabbi Yom Tov Vidal. without looking in the sources in the Talmud and in the Rishonim. Some of them expressed their fears that ruling in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh. enabling them to easily find sources. no legal book had enjoyed such great publicity. Rabbi Yosef Karo did not share this fear. was liable to lead to erroneous decisions. Rabbi Meir of Lublin (the Maharam). it became clear that since the time of the writing of the Mishneh Torah by the Rambam until then." because the book was based mainly on the rulings of the Sefardi sages.276 Yosef's books simply enriched their learning. and Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe (the author of the Levushim). he turned to the writing of his book Kessef Mishneh on the Rambam. The critics of the Shulhan Arukh included Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal). *** The Ashkenazic sages sent him letters after they had received his book and studied it. as had the Shulhan Arukh. Along with the criticism of the book.

He received legal queries even from distant lands. The Maharshal sharply criticized his contemporaries who followed the poskim without examining whether their decisions are in accordance with the sources. His responsa excelled in their simplicity and clarity. His method. was to bring all the opinions. . His responsa would eventually be published in the book Avkat Rokhel Rabbi Yosef wrote additions to the Beit Yosef in order to improve and correct it. entitled Bedek HaBayit. He could trace his lineage back to Rashi.277 sent him legal queries. In the introduction to his book Yam shel Shlomo he clearly states his opinion. were published in Salonika in the year 1605. Jewish law. it has been accepted as the sole source of halakhah. The additions. that since the conclusion of the Talmud. authors. and to clarify all their opinions in light of the words of the Talmud. When the Beit Yosef was published. He continued to write his book Klalei HaGemara (Rules of the Gemara) on the study of the Talmud. legal practices. if it in opposition to the opinion of the Talmud. in which he included comments and additions to the book Halikhot Olam by Rabbi Yehoshua Halevi. and the Song of Songs. Rabbi Shlomo ben Yehiel Luria. Pirkei Avot. Every Sabbath he would deliver discourses on the Torah. His decisions were accepted by the scholars. was one of the greatest Torah scholars in Poland. and no posek is authorized to decide the law according to his opinion. it received his praise because of the tremendous amount of material it contained. the authors of responsa. He also wrote a commentary on the Book of Proverbs and supercommentaries on the commentaries of Rashi and the Ramban. This book was published together with Halikhot Olam in Salonika in 1598. he stated. Study and writing took all his time. whether early or recent: poskim. letters and collections. He kept the manuscripts of these discourses in order to publish them as a book. the Maharshal.

concisely." Furthermore. He realized then that excessive lengthiness is a disadvantage. but dealt with only half of the tractate. The Maharshal engaged in a fierce debate with the other scholars of his time. without paying attention to other opinions. The first tractate he began was Bava Kamma.278 leaving almost no opportunity for anyone else to distinguish himself. following the majority opinion. and at times he built the law on the basis of errors in the copies available to him. The appearance of the Beit Yosef caused him to change his mind and return to his original practice. for it would be impossible for him to complete a work of this scope. even against the majority view. He labored on the tractate of Yevamot for two years. The Maharshal had many rich sources before him. so that the pupils would not be drawn along by the Beit Yosef He wrote this work on sixteen tractates. to discuss each law at length. to the full dimensions of the great work he assumed. followed by Yevamot. especially that of the Tosafot." for it decided between the Rif. but only his own opinion. He strongly defended his opinions. errorless. and Rosh. "and did not descend to the depth of the halakhah. the scholars realized its tremendous importance for learning the history of the halakhah and its development down through the generations." It also aroused his displeasure. copies of books. He therefore decided to be as brief as possible. but also many . . The Maharshal began his great work on the tractates of the Talmud.. and covered only two chapters. no longer citing all the opinions. Not even the Rama was spared his totally objective criticism. He spent an entire year on the tractate of Ketubot. Rambam. but only his work on seven tractates has been published. because it "made compromises in matters of legal decisions. he said that Rabbi Yosef Karo did not have before him corrected. *** When the book Yam shel Shlomo arrived in Safed. His library included not only printed books.

In contrast with the method of study in practice in his time in Poland. after a fire in Lublin. With amazing precision he compared the text of the edition printed in Venice with ancient manuscripts of the Talmud. when he received a sign from heaven to write his book: "And once there came to me. writing a special version from ancient manuscripts. the Rosh. In his introduction to the tractate of Hullin. Many stories were told about his piety and the miracles that happened to him. Engage in Torah. Rashi and Tosafot. that of pilpul (logical argumentation of fine points) and sharpness. He also had the early. Rashi. He wrote hagahot on the Rif. only half a fingerlength tall. as if I was shown by heaven." Another time. the Maharshal"s method of study was based on the literal meaning of the source: his first step was to determine the correct text of the topic of the Talmud and commentaries. Hokhmat Shlomo. and where he died on the 12th of Kislev. the Maharshal was sitting at night and writing his book. He also did the same for other books. The Maharshal initially served as rabbi in the city of Brisk. the Semag. 5334 (1573). Many of his hagahot were incorporated in the body of the Talmud text itself. He also wrote hagahot on the prayerbook. The book was printed many times as a separate book. He also proposed many hagahot based on the logical arguments he derived from his penetration into the depths of the Talmudical topics. afterwards in Ostraha. And they opened for me the gates of light to say. The Maharshal was sorry that he could not continue to study and write his book in the . All he had for light was a small tallow candle. In his second book. accurate versions of the sources. This candle would last for only half an hour. where he headed a large yeshivah. by the commandment which is a lamp and the Torah which is light. and finally in Lublin. and Tosafot. and other books. he wrote hagahot on the Talmud and the commentaries. there is a hint of a miracle.279 manuscripts by the early poskim. the Tur. the Rambam. especially those from France and Germany. until it finally was printed together with all the major editions of the Talmud.

He expected that Shlomo Molcho would arouse a passionate Messianic movement. he thought that the image of Molcho was walking through the streets of Safed. together with Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. and Rome. He saw people walking back and forth. Molcho would have led the Redemption — the leader of the generation . But how could Shlomo Molcho have come to Safed without his knowing this? In his mind"s eye he saw visions of Molcho"s burning in the city of Mantua. Rabbi Yosef stood in his room in the rabbinical court in Safed and looked out the window. Suddenly the figure of Shlomo Molcho stood before him. Somehow. because he did not have another candle. There was not a single scholar in Safed who did not accept the book. All his days he had envied him for his martyrdom. until morning. It was due to them that Shlomo Molcho had been tried by the Inquisition. Rabbi Yosef silently cursed these informers. for they had found sources which would lead to a change in the law as it had been written by Rabbi Yosef. He saw him ascending heavenwards in the flames. and even informed on him. Thoughts about Shlomo Molcho passed through his mind when he found himself alone. *** The scholars and Kabbalists in Safed talked among themselves about the influence and distribution of the Shulhan Arukh. when he was stricken by longings for renewal and awakening. I f we had only merited it. But then a miracle occurred: the candle continued to burn and give light the entire night. preaching about the approaching Redemption: in Ancona. His audiences also included priests who were impressed by his visions. He saw Shlomo Molcho going from city to city. Rabbi Yosef remembered their conversations in Salonika. Pesaro.280 darkness. At times. but this did not come about. There were opponents who undermined his efforts. scholars would come to Rabbi Yosef s home to argue with him over some section in the book. .

I was thinking about that just now. read the letters he knew. The son found him deep in thought. where he crawled around. and went outside with him. Life is full of obstacles." *** The boy would play his childish games next to his father. May it be His will that you follow the true path. and not encounter any obstacles during your life which will cause you to fail. and from there to the table. about great people. The day was Friday. and you must be careful." " I want to be a king in Israel. Now he had to correct and edit it. "Yes. my son. my son. The father saw that the boy wanted to play. By the time the child stopped playing. his father had completed writing an entire page. his father"s inheritance. He had to pray that the child . and spotted worms and threw them up in the air. His little son Yehudah came to him. ran after birds. and wrapped himself in his father"s talit and pretended to pray. "When you grow up. gathered his books. next to the window. as children do. He stopped his writing. Sometimes he would ask his father a question. the eve of the Sabbath. but the child bothered him. All the pages were scattered. His mother had sent him to tell Rabbi Yosef to come home and prepare for the Sabbath. He was the only one who could deal with the manuscripts that Rabbi Yosef would leave. and Rabbi Yosef had to collect them and put them in order again. The father thought of his son"s future. such as: "Why do you sit and write books your entire life?" His father answered him. He asked him. The boy went to the courtyard where he pulled up weeds. why are you alone in the courtroom?" " I was thinking about things that have been. He climbed up on his knees." Yehudah declared. royal personalities. you will be busy with the books I write/' The boy looked at his father"s writings. "Father.281 who went with him to Redemption.

it is time to eat lunch. so that he would know where the manuscripts are located. The father prayed that his son would live a long life and continue his tradition. But little Yehudah did not want to come. Kabbalists in Safed by the artist S. "Yehudah! Come home. He was old. especially when his father could see him. his mother called from the window. learning them by heart. At times he would go out to the fields with the Kabbalists. he liked being outside.282 would grow up and study Torah. The boy learned to be in the company of the Kabbalists. Rabbi Yosef told himself that he should make a list of all the manuscripts that he would leave. and keep him from stumbling and falling on some obstacle. He must leave written instructions for him. He loved playing games. so that when the time came his son would know that these manuscripts were lying in the drawers in his room. knowing what to do and how to take care of the manuscripts. He listened to their prayers. the boy repeated the words of the prayers. The mother also prayed for her only son. the singing coming from an overflowing of the soul. and his son had not yet reached his Bar Mitzvah. . On the Sabbath the father would take his son with him to the synagogue. for she knew that her husband was already an old man. and enjoyed the singing with which the Kabbalists received the Sabbath in the fields. Moskowitz (the Zeigermacher") . taking his son there as well. When they returned.

He found in it sections which needed to be corrected. Now that he had come to Safed. He regarded himself as putting bread (lehem) on the table which had been set by Rabbi Yosef Karo. He thought that Rabbi Yosef Karo had wrote it at the end of his days. Rabbi Yaakov had been born in Egypt to a rich. He taught many students in the yeshivah and established regulations and religious practices in the Jewish community in Egypt. He found sources in the poskim which had not been cited in the Shulhan Arukh. where he was received with great honor. he wrote things in one place. the rabbi of Egypt. Some of them he had told Rabbi Yosef in person. He had become acquainted with Rabbi Yosef Karo through their correspondence with each other on legal matters. and due to his weakness. unaware of what he had written in another section. While still a young man he had begun to write legal decisions. Rabbi Yaakov saw the practices in the Karo house and wrote them down. They stood facing each other with collections of responsa in their hands. Rabbi Yosef asked him to stay in his house. illustrious family which had been expelled from the city of Castro in Andalusia. and engaged in pilpul and discussions. as .285 Chapter Twenty-Three Legal Discussions Rabbi Yaakov Castro. He had also studied under the Radbaz. He was recognized as the leading authority in Egypt. and he conducted legal discussions with the leading Torah scholars of his time. traveled to Safed. When he obtained a copy of the Shulhan Arukh. on the four sections of the Shulhan Arukh. while others he had written in letters. Rabbi Castro had comments on the Shulhan Arukh. He had come to Eretz Israel at a young age and studied in the yeshivah of Rabbi Levi ben Haviv in Jerusalem. He was known for his profundity and sharpness. Rabbi Castro therefore wrote a book entitled Orakh Lehem. He served as a rabbi and judge in Egypt. he devoted many days to reading it. to the graves of the righteous.

Kol Yaakov. There were those who claimed that Rabbi Yosef had done the work of a "collector. This book served as the most authoritative source of decisions for the sages of Eretz Israel and Egypt. without knowing that the other had also written this. discussing lofty matters. as he remembered him from their meeting in Safed.284 well as bringing many sources from the responsa of his teacher. He also . which he possessed but which were not available to Rabbi Yosef Karo in Safed. Others based themselves on the criticism of the Ashkenazic scholars. the image of Rabbi Yosef Karo. and they would discuss the criticism among themselves. that the works by Ashkenazic sages had not been before him when he wrote the Shulhan Arukh. *** Scholars and Kabbalists walked about in Safed. He also responded to the hundreds of questioners throughout the world who sent sent him legal queries based on what they had read in his books. the Radbaz. Rabbi Castro also wrote novellae on several tractates of the Talmud. When he wrote his book Arakh Shulhan on the Shulhan Arukh. The arguments lasted through the night. and in several places each wrote the same thing. and were renewed during the day. Although Rabbi Yosef Karo was respected by the entire community. They received the books written on the Shulhan Arukh. Rabbi Yosef Karo was occupied with correcting the manuscripts he had. He left a collection of discourses which he delivered in Egypt. The book was written before the Rama"s hagahot on the Shulhan Arukh were published. Rabbi Yaakov Castro"s method was to add laws which were brought in the Beit Yosef and the Kessef Mishneh. which has been lost. in accordance with his book Bedek HaBayit. some of them were critical of his book. stood before him." and had not produced anything new. At times he would correct Rabbi Yosef Karo" statements. His rulings spread throughout the entire Diaspora. In his book he mentioned the scholars of his time who wrote responsa.

and he had to reconsider his ruling. they even came to him with questions and refutations. He had labored so greatly over the formulation of each section that he remembered the doubts that had accompanied this section and the sources which he had based himself upon. When he found that the questioner had delved into the depths of the Torah. Visitors from the Diaspora who came to Safed and visited Rabbi Yosef told him that they had read his boos. he remembered the material by heart. they would look in Rabbi Yosef's books. he praised their insight. they would not receive ordination. Some of them disagreed with him. Although he was certain that his rulings were well-founded and correct. after he received logical and correct comments which criticized some of his rulings. while others raised their voices as they argued that he had erred in his ruling. He kept a copy of each response that he sent. however. accepting the opinion of those who disagreed with him. . he was forced to admit that the questions which he received were well-founded. if they had brought correct proofs and sources. finding what he had not. and without a thorough knowledge of Rabbi Yosef's books.285 received letters from the leading rabbis who ordained young rabbis. They ordered the candidates for ordination to learn the Yoreh Deah. and to state the sources. Therefore it was easy for him to respond to these questions. but in a polite manner. At times. after he had reviewed the sources. however. and there may be books whose authors did not hold the same opinion as he did. he would change his rulings. without hesitation. In every case they mentioned. Therefore he took pains to give every questioner a detailed answer. containing responses to those sending queries and critics. Rabbi Yosef knew that not everything was available to him. to see how he had ruled. and thoroughly reviewed the entire topic. Although he was certain of his rulings. The judges with whom he sat on the rabbinical court in Safed had no need of his book. so that he could include it in his book. because they knew all the sources by heart. He wrote a book of addenda to the Shulhan Arukh. At times.

You are my sister. step after step. He stopped Rabbi Yosef and said to him.286 But he also was happy when one of the Kabbalists in Safed met him on a hilly path in the city." *** . He wanted to go with them." he replied. Before they parted. He wanted to be a person whose name was connected with his books. no book of laws has been written in Eretz Israel which has been so accepted as your book/' "Each generation has its own interpreters. He saw a group of Kabbalists walking along in the hills." " I f so. "Your books are a beacon in the dark." he answered. He saw thousands of scholars studying his book every day ~ he hoped that this vision would become a reality." His spirits were lifted by what the Kabbalist had told him in this chance encounter. he found that two letters from faraway had come for him. This is what I do. "From the Mishnah to the Shulhan Arukh." and the other was simply addressed to "HaMehaber" (the author).' " He saw the Kabbalist walking along the hilly paths. When he arrived at the court." "The Torah of the L-rd is perfect. which is written in the book of the records of his creation. "Your book is divided into thirty sections. One was addressed to the "Beit Yosef. and the third is what he has acquired for himself. in order to be alone. He: thought of the teaching by the Sages regarding this: " A man is called by three names. " 'Say to wisdom. the second is the name by which others call him. reciting Psalms as they went. when he was wearing his tefilin. so that one section may be studied each day of the month. but he was hurrying to his duties in the court. taking only books with him. the Kabbalist told him. One is the name given him by his father and mother. then you complete it once every month.

He therefore added. his teacher allowed him to forgo the first two conditions. The pupil. the head of the Safed rabbinical court. without his teacher"s permission. did not want to continue studying. with whose method of study and style of writing he did not agree. Because of a certain reason. He is obligated to fulfill his vow and oath. If you continue to write. give any honor to a rabbi or teacher who caused the desecration of the Name of G d. by the oath taken by Shimshon (the husband of Delilah. . The ruling of the head of the rabbinical court: It is clear that there is no basis to the pupil"s argument.287 The questions he received did not interfere with his writing. One rabbi had his pupil take an oath that he would not. do not hope that I will continue to respond to you. he wrote: "In my eyes this is timewasting labor to go in the path you have chosen. Once. including not to leave off studying before reaching the age of twenty. however... if he would transgress what his rabbi had sworn him to. because he was so familiar with the sources that he could immediately respond to the questions. he had to rule in a matter concerning a teacher and his pupil. In a response to one of the leading scholars of his time. " I beg of you. He cited the sources in the Talmud and the poskim for his ruling. however. not to stop studying until he reaches the age of twenty. He did not.' After Rabbi Yosef finished writing these sharp words. if this letter contains anything which is not to your liking. study with another teacher and in another study hall anything other than what this teacher had determined for him. The teacher and the pupil agreed to bring the matter before Rabbi Yosef Karo. but he did not let him forgo the third condition (not to stop studying before the age of twenty). who uprooted the doors in Gaza after the Philistines had blinded him). His reason was that a vow that has been partially released is totally released. for this is only a childish act and loss of time to argue with the person who denies things which are clear to those who see the sun.. he feared lest they be insulting. The pupil also took upon himself.

" I was occupied with study in the yeshivah. He would stand next to his bookshelves. and for the reason which you ruled.. it would lead to a reconsideration of the problem. to quiet the words of dissent. perhaps they would have a new idea which he had not found. he would heap praise upon the author. and you have been caught up in the storm. Whoever disagrees with this has not seen the lights of the Torah." Every response that he composed demanded much study on his part. take down books and manuscripts. he would hasten to enter into the details of the disagreement and to properly resolve it. there were times when the question did not fit exactly into the existing cases. *** . the desire of heaven. " I have seen your good words. in addition to several occupations under the yoke of my communal responsibilities. Sometimes one of them would cite a source which Rabbi Yosef had not studied." When. and your pupils will flourish exceedingly.. consider the matter. In one instance. review what was written. which cast a new light on the subject. He wrote in a response to the people from one community. and the One whose seal is truth will expand your realm in the Torah. however." When Rabbi Yosef received. and the law (you have stated) is true. by letter or by emissary. he wrote to his pupil Rabbi Alshikh.288 do not pay attention to it. and raise arguments in favor of one side or the other. At times he would also bring the matter before his pupils. and may the L-rd grant that you heed these words of your fellow. and he would have to break new ground. and would await their comments. Even if this was not the decisive factor. a request from a community to resolve a controversy that had broken out between its members.. because this is inherent in the nature of argumentation. as the days of heaven on earth. He wanted to thereby accustom them to issue responses to queries. but I freed myself from all my occupations to fill your desire. Even a father and son become enemies due to a reproach. He would bring before them his sources and his considerations. who advises you for your benefit and good. Rabbi Yosef received a legal opinion that was correct. But heed the reproof at the end of this letter. Even though he was fluent in all the laws.

" "Only select individuals do this now. beginning the service with Lekhu Nerananah ("Come let us sing" — Psalms 95). Rabbi Yosef went to pray in his yeshivah. He saw the pupils from the study hall of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero gathering to greet the Sabbath. (This was also the practice of Rabbi Moshe ben Makir of Ein Ziton. this practice will spread. the Rama speaks of this in his book Darkhei Moshe" "The practice of the Kabbalists to sing Lekha Dodi during Kabbalat Shabbat is spreading throughout Jewish communities in the East and in the West. while the Kabbalists add kavanot (mystical intents). Their faces beamed." . and they accompanied him to his place. They looked at Rabbi Yosef. they would go forth to greet the Sabbath as Rabbi Moshe Cordovero had instituted. with books in their hand. a song for the Sabbath day" (Psalms 92)? He told them." " I know of the practice in the Ashkenazic communities. and dressed in fine garments. but in the future. they asked Rabbi Yosef why he did not mention in the Shulhan Arukh the practice of Kabbalat Shabbat. Rabbi Yosef prepared himself for the Sabbath. Rabbi Yosef was totally absorbed in his prayers and his thoughts. except for " A Psalm. so that they could learn how he prayed. When he entered the pupils greeted him with the Sabbath blessing.) They went forth singing to the synagogue. the hazan began the prayers. Now that he had come. in which two hundred pupils studied." "There are countries in which they do not recite a single chapter of Psalms when the Sabbath enters. They want to ascend in the greeting of the Sabbath by the recitation of chapters from the Book of Psalms. " I deal with the laws. immersed themselves in the mikveh." "Some of them receive the Sabbath by singing Lekha Dodi by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez.289 The time of Kabbalat Shabbat drew near. From the other side of the street burst forth the sounds of the Kabbalists praying in their study hall. When his students saw the Kabbalists receiving the Sabbath in the courtyard of their study hall. for all the students had waited for him. After having bathed.

When hefinishedpraying. The Kabbalists received the Sabbath in song. Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez would sing it with great inspiration on the Sabbath eve. with his little son Yehudah by his side. were on the sources for the decisions of the Rambam. The Sabbath was all light. with no evening or night. and the trees all sang with them. his students stood before him and greeted him with the Sabbath blessing.290 " I am familiar with the piyutim of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabez. while others were connected with the greeting of the Sabbath. and devoted himself to prayer to the Creator of the Universe. the courtyards. greeting the Sabbath Queen as they awaited the arrival of the Messiah and the final Redemption. and the houses. and his thoughts were still on several topics which he had not yet decided. He wondered whether he should have formulated them differently. but these thoughts were pushed aside by the evening Maariv prayer. accompanied the discussion between Rabbi Yosef and his students about the piyutim in Kabbalat Shabbat. Rabbi Yosef walked step by step to the yeshivah. but he was responsible for his yeshivah. He set aside these considerations. Some of these meanings were connected with the chapters from the Book of Psalms. That day he had been occupied in writing his book Kessef Mishneh. They bring joy and happiness into the heart during Kabbalat Shabbat" "The Ari would sing Lekha Dodi during Kabbalat Shabbat" " I heard this. which . rather with the law. His thoughts. *** The singing of the Kabbalists spread over the houses and hills of Safed. however. But I do not deal with songs. The light of the Kabbalah shines on this piyut. Between one chapter of Psalms and the next." The singing of the Kabbalists. the head of the Kabbalists would mention special kavanot. they were waiting for him there to start the prayer. He wanted to pray with them. at peace with himself. The prayers of the Kabbalists filled his ears.

He occupied himself with the sources in order to reply to the critics of the Rambam who claimed that the Mishneh Torah lacked sources and the reasons for deciding between the different opinions. accompanied by his students. Students came up to him after the lesson and suggested new ideas in order to resolve the Rambam"s statements. who also were returning home after praying. Afterwards they asked him about the connection between Kabbalah and the law. thirstily drinking in the Torah. but his physical powers failed him. Some of these ideas were quite original. He listened to them. and hoped that he would study . He saw how he grew. He saw the light of the Kabbalah on their faces. He thought how to resolve unclear formulations in the books of the Rambam. Their words and ideas were as sharp and glittering as diamonds. He was totally absorbed in the Torah. when he secluded himself for days and nights in the study hall. he met the Kabbalists. Some of them had gone out to the fields to greet the Sabbath. When they saw Rabbi Yosef passing by them. and he had to decide. He was not as before. they greeted him warmly. He also spoke about this during his lessons on the Rambam in his yeshivah. When he returned home after praying. His students aided him in taking books down from the shelves. He put aside works that he had written.29 he rediscovered while writing the Kessef Mishneh. He thought of his youth in Constantinople. He was happy for these meetings. except for only the few hours he slept each night. with whom he had conducted a discussion on the law while walking. Rabbi Yosef looked at him. and could be used to help correct the formulation of the text. There were arguments on either side. Little Yehudah ran about in the room. and he answered them. *** His old age bothered him. Others had spent much time in meditation after the prayers. because the effort was too great for him. His mind was clear. Some of them came over to share with him new ideas. His pupils stood by his side and listened.

Groups of people walked about in the lanes of Safed. Would he be capable of filfilling this task? The many questions he received were a burden upon him. and he would complete it. letting his thoughts blossom forth in his solitude. His pupils accompanied him the entire distance. hidden under layers of earth. He had to reply to each one. and they entered his memory. A never-ending stream of letters connected with Rabbi Yosef's book continued to arrive in Safed. Illnesses left their mark on him. coming down from the hills. and he would complete the verse. Others would start some well-known saying. The sound of Torah could be heard in his yeshivah. They would say the beginning of a verse from the Bible. He was no longer able to walk the mountain paths of Galilee. These were the fruits of his labors. dazzlingly blue. going from stone to stone and from tomb to tomb. From time to time they would come to Rabbi Yosef and tell him of the tombs of Tannaim that they had discovered. He was surrounded by students and admirers. . This child would have to deal with the publication of his father"s writings. He needed rest in his old age. Yehudah ran about in the study hall among the students. but communal affairs troubled him. They were searching for the graves of the early sages. Rabbi Yosef did not have the strength to give his regular lessons. He was no longer the industrious. The days came and went. going up to the graves of the righteous. Rabbi Yosef Karo sensed that he had to prepare for the final judgement. He heard these from the students who came to his father. He had not thought that after the publication of his books he would become a magnet.292 Torah. but he did not know if this would come about. The Kinneret. attracting questions on points of law from the entire world. Leading Torah scholars embroiled in disagreements on points of law also turned to him as the final decider of the law. The walk between his house and the study hall became difficult for him. diligent scholar he had been in his prime. spread out before the group of Jews coming down to Tiberias to pray at the graves of the righteous there.

293 His pupils stood by him and aided him throughout the day. He had difficulty in writing. " I want to merit seeing my son Yehudah studying in the study hall together with my pupils. At times he would ask his pupils to write what he dictated to them. and that they keep a copy of the reply. but many things were difficult for him. after. They held his arm and led him. Walking was difficult for him. acknowledging that the writer was correct. with the help of his students. When a questioner mentioned additional sources that changed the ruling. so that he would not stumble. > > & rivals?*MH'/jLtfbM A " t J> r Hi(fM•****' •fa-¥ ^ The handwriting and signature of Rabbi Yosef Karo. Each response was written clearly. from the end of a responsum . His students accompanied him to the study hall. he had studied the sources. because he did not seek the help of others. Rabbi Yosef requested that they reply. and his pupils completed them as they wrote. because they knew his intent. so that in the future the ruling would be corrected. in a new edition of the book. He continued to send responses to the queries that arrived from all the communities. accompanied by his pupils. or in a collection of responsa. He left his house only to go to the study hall. fJ>J>J ^^y^ADCuJ r& 4 ^ yjJ > J 0 * '•?*" ' c> (k^j/Wiu'i'/h •'V }Zj-d oVAsfW t» . Rabbi Yosef saw that he was growing old. This pained him." he said. He continued his daily schedule. Sometimes his thoughts were not complete.

while the fourth remained as a manuscript. When they finished studying. They had difficulty in understanding a hard topic. This had enabled him to come to Eretz Israel and to print his books. His partner reproached Rabbi Yosef the entire day. He wanted to earn his livelihood by his own labor. . Rabbi Yosef went home and told his wife. so he could consult with his wife. he would only arrive at the shop in the middle of the day. and which turned out to be filled with gold. Rabbi Yosef went to the marketplace. After we calculate how much is coming to you. One day after he finished praying. Three sections of the book Kessef Mishneh had been published during his lifetime. This had all begun when he lived in the city of Nikopol. What do you think I should do?" "Tell him that you agree to dissolve the partnership." Rabbi Yosef asked his partner to wait until the following day. to open a shop in the marketplace of the city. but he did not respond. "We must separate. he sat to study with the other scholars. When he came to his store. and what would become of them after his death." his wife answered. will help us. but his partner would not agree to this. and he said to Rabbi Yosef. and the Holy One. "My partner wants to part company from me. as usual. and they continued to study until midday. and his partner was angry at him for coming so late. He thought about the golden mortar he had purchased cheaply.294 Chapter Twenty-Four The Ascent to Heaven Rabbi Yosef stood at the window of his house and thought about the manuscripts he had left. and he went into partnership with another Jew. But because he studied Torah until late at night. his partner was extremely angry at his lateness. blessed be He. because of my fixed study session with the other scholars after the morning prayers. take your share.

He told her that the seller was a tall person. and why did you buy it?" Rabbi Yosef did not answer her question." The seller agreed to his proposal.*' Rabbi Yosef left his house. Rabbi Yosef returned home and showed his wife the mortar he had purchased. his wife asked him. " I am not expert in matters of buying and selling. "How can anyone offer for sale such a rusty mortar. and I didn"t engage in commerce at all. When he returned home. I will give you what I have in my pocket. The following day. Rabbi Yosef took the money and brought it to his wife. and the L-rd will help me. His wife said to him. "What did the L-rd prepare for you today?" " I went to study. and the partner paid Rabbi Yosef what was coming to him. Rabbi Yosef saw that the mortar was rusty." "We are liable to remain without a penny if you just leave the money without making use of it. where he sat with the other scholars until the evening." He promised her that the following day he would go to the marketplace to seek livelihood. He was worried about their livelihood and did not know how he would come to his wife without a single penny. and I do not know the worth of the mortar. and that he would use the money to make a good transaction. They settled their accounts. He offered to sell it to Rabbi Yosef for a certain price. but instead of going to the marketplace he went to the yeshivah. He said to the seller. In his hand this man had a mortar. when he entered the marketplace. and sold him the mortar for the money he had in his pocket. The next day Rabbi Yosef returned to the yeshivah. She said to him. When he came to the . and gave the impression of being trustworthy. His wife took the mortar from him and hid it in the closet. He did not know how much it was worth. he met a person taller than any he had ever seen. "Take the money and go to the marketplace. perhaps the L-rd will help us to purchase merchandise from which you will make a good profit.295 Rabbi Yosef went back to his partner.

In his dream. it is worth a fortune!" Rabbi Yosef s wife was gladdened by his words. without telling her husband anything about what she heard from the goldsmith. The mortar which I brought you is made of pure gold. leave here and go to Safed. He said. We will live in the city of Safed. And this is what happened. he thought to himself as he remembered this incident. I waited a long time for you.'* In the morning Rabbi Yosef told his wife of the dream he had had about the gold mortar. from the goldsmith whom I asked to examine the rusty mortar. His wife sent for one of the expert goldsmiths. She took the mortar and returned it to the closet. That night Rabbi Yosef had a dream. His wife replied. This mortar is made of pure gold. . Guard it carefully. he sat down to study and forgot all the cares of this world. There the L-rd will send you blessing and success in everything you do. one who was trustworthy. to bring you your property. and your teachings will spread throughout the entire world. When the goldsmith saw the mortar he was stunned. After you sell it. . . " I already knew this.296 yeshivah. The money he received for the mortar sufficed for the trip to Eretz Israel and for the printing of the books he wrote in Safed. He said to himself. A person' s sustenance is decreed for hifri from Tishrei to Tishrei. the holy city in Eretz Israel. . She showed him the mortar and asked him if it could be sold. Now that he remembered this. he understood that it was the merit of his Torah study which had enabled him to receive this money. You must know its true value. His meeting the tall man in the marketplace was not a chance encounter. until you would separate from your partner. With this sum of money we will go up to Eretz Israel." Rabbi Yosef put the mortar up for sale and received a huge sum of money for it. and how much it was worth. the tall man who had sold him the mortar came and told him. where I will write my books. "Know that I am your good fortune.

" Now that he was an old man and he found it difficult to study at night. I f you do so. How could these two things come to his mind together? It had been a long time since the Maggid came to him at night when he studied. the two would be able to sit and study Torah together. He did not understand why the Maggid had told him that he would be Nagid over the Israelites dwelling in the cities of Arabistan. He thought of Shlomo Molcho who died a martyr"s death on the pyre. Take care not to cease for a single minute the attachment between you and your Maker. because whoever studied Torah at night is surrounded by a thread of grace during the day. *** Rabbi Yosef knew that his days were drawing to a close. He saw in his mind"s eye how the fire rose from the pyre and how the body of his friend Shlomo was burned in the flames. The golden mortar also entered his thoughts. . He thought that Shlomo Molcho"s merit was greater than his. but he had not lived to realize his wish. His image had been before him all these years. from heaven the attachment to your Maker is strengthened. His strength was failing. the Maggid had parted from him. All his days he had been jealous of the great privilege of ascending the pyre for the Torah of Israel.297 The sale of the mortar was the key to everything that happened to him and to all the books that he wrote. and only the person who studies Torah maintains the attachment between him and his Maker. Once again. He had been too weak to go to the study hall at night. He remembered what the Maggid had said to him the last time he had appeared: "Behold. I have set you as Nagid over the Israelites dwelling in the cities of Arabistan. he would meet Shlomo Molcho. His thoughts of the golden mortar and Shlomo Molcho vanishing in the smoke of the pyre mingled with each other. When he would enter the World to Come. Shlomo Molcho had wanted to come to Safed to live among the Kabbalists. The books that he wrote were a substitute for ascending the pyre.

298 Perhaps he meant that due to his books he would become the posek of this people. Some of them raised questions about what he had written in his books. he continued to write down his ideas. remained untouched. because he had to study them before he could compose a reply. When Rabbi Yosef felt a bit better. A fabric merchant from Safed came from Sidon and brought with him a bundle of letters that had come from the four corners of the earth. He told his faithful student to take the . She gave him hot water to revive him. but he did not bother putting it in his mouth. while others he had memorized and had not yet put down on paper. He thought that his pupils would do this. but only a scholar who responded to questions — questions which came to him from whenever the people of Israel lived. and with his mouth he recited mishnayot which he knew by heart. where his pupils had assembled to recite Psalms for him. His wife stood next to him. Many thoughts passed through his mind about what the Maggid had told him that last time. but he could not understand the Maggid"s words. He saw his last days approaching. for his condition was serious and his strength was failing. He was grieved that he could not reply to the questions. Most of the letters contained questions on points of law. whether matters concerning money or matters concerning the study hall. A doctor who was summoned ordered him to drink medicines. They had come in ships that had set anchor in the port of Sidon. He wanted to speak with his pupils. but he was too weak to call them. His wife sent a messenger to the study hall. but he did not have the strength to do so properly. These had to be formulated. She asked that one of them come and stand by him. His drawers were filled with manuscripts that he had not been able to prepare for publication. When people left the room he heard the voice of the Maggid from a distance. he asked his pupil to read the letters to him. for he was not a Nagid to command them. He was deep in his thoughts. Matters that he had wanted to set in order. Using his last strength. Some of them he had written down immediately.

on the other hand. and aimed at their goal. each detail was to be found in its proper place. She found him standing in his talit and tefilin. but his physical weakness interfered with his thoughts. with his lips whispering the words of the prayers. Wrapped in his talit and tefilin. They came from the great Ashkenazic scholars who presented sharp logical arguments. At times the manner of their speech was blocked by the depths of their emotion. His wife entered to arrange his bed and to bring him his breakfast. and the transition from one matter to the next was clear and simple. These questions demanded profound thought.299 letters and reply in his name. He . They were capable of classifying it in the proper order. The hills stood facing him. He took small steps. and he did not have the strength for this now. He prayed Shaharit facing the towering hills an inspired prayer. Rabbi Yosef got up from his bed. not clarity. The outline of their thoughts was not as clear. profundity was the main thing. He knew the topics by heart. He motioned to her that he did not feel well. He had undergone a difficult night. keeping guard. Other queries required profound study. and the intensity of their excitement. For the Ashkenazi scholars. and he told the student which sources he should review in order to write the response. Once again a doctor was summoned. He hoped that the new day would bring him renewed strength. He was extremely weak. The Sefardi scholars would methodically arrange the material. The style of the question would immediately tell Rabbi Yosef from where it had come. The strength of the Ashkenazim lay in what they did not say. he prayed Shaharit. Questions which came from Sefardi scholars were arranged according to a clear format. the fervor of their ideas. They descended to the depths of matters and were full of allusions and new lines of argument. Their thoughts were flexible.

He did not have pen and ink near his bed. "Blessed be the true Judge. he had difficulty in speaking. A vision of Rabbi Yaakov Berab passed before his eyes then. how do you feel today?" "Bad. 5 *** . They wanted to arouse him by asking him questions on the law. The young boy Yehudah entered and asked. the pillar of the law." It was the thirteenth day of Nissan." "Be strong. His wife told him to stay in bed. He pointed to the manuscripts that were lying on his desk. I am enveloped by a great weakness. Now the matter had become clear to him. One problem had been resolved. He knew his duty. Father. but which he had difficulty in answering. and asked her to put them in the drawer together with the other manuscripts. His pupils entered to greet him. But his weakness troubled him. while she brought him something hot to drink. You will continue to publish my books. He was 87 years old. The members of the household sensed that Rabbi Yosef's time was drawing near. "Father.300 examined Rabbi Yosef and left medications for him. but their questions went unanswered. had ascended to heaven. At the same time he thought of how he would reply to a legal question he had been asked. very bad. He was in the middle of the idea which was taking form in his mind. but his strength failed him. She did as he requested. The Ark of the L-rd. 5335 (1575). "You will grow up and become a man. It was he who had sated his thirst for Torah. who had ordered him to succeed him after his death. Rabbi Yosef Karo. His body was weak and not functioning properly. He said that his age was taking its toll. He wanted to sit up to write. another problem took on additional dimensions." he said. The boy heard his father"s words and they entered his heart.

expressing their sadness at the . They cried. It was in these villages — Biria and Ein Zeitim — that Rabbi Yosef Karo had secluded himself to write his books. eulogies were delivered in his study hall.301 The news of Rabbi Yosef's passing spread throughout the study halls and yeshivot in Safed and the entire Galilee. They came to the funeral on foot or riding on their horses and donkeys. When the corpse was lowered into the ground. throughout the world. The villagers knew and admired him. His little son Yehudah said the Kaddish. "The master of Eretz Israel and the teacher of all Israel has died!" "Sanctify and purify yourselves for the funeral!" "The greatest of the poskim has passed away. "Our teacher and master has left us! Who will show us the way?" This was the largest funeral procession that Safed had ever known. Criers went through the streets and lanes of Safed announcing the time of the funeral. a great crying was heard that shattered the heavens. Jews who lived in the surrounding villages also came to participate. arms linked together. People burst out in tears. He was their guide in all. The heads of the Kabbalists in Safed came out of seclusion to accompany Rabbi Yosef on his last way. lamenting their rabbi who was no more. Hundreds of letters arrived from rabbis and sages. The report of the death of Maran spread throughout the House of Israel. All the seven days of mourning. The heads of the yeshivot and his pupils from his study hall carried the bier. word by word. The bier was carried to the Safed cemetery. Every difficult matter had been brought before him. The inhabitants of the city walked along. The rabbi of Safed is no longer with us!" As the time of the funeral approached. all the inhabitants of Safed left their homes to participate in the funeral procession. The students from his yeshivah surrounded the bier.

Now they stood before him in white. People walked about. His books marched before him and opened the way for him. Rabbi Yosef Karo. that Rabbi Yosef Karo — "Maran" — wrote the . he had belonged to this upper one. The leading Torah scholars of the time eulogized him in their communities. The upper spheres received him from the lower ones and bore him to the highest heights. Now he had come to the place where he had been expected all the years that he had been on the earth. the final formulation of the law. the 500th anniversary of Rabbi Yosef Karo"s birth. in darkness as deep as if the sun had been hidden at noon. in 1488. The holy ones blessed him and received him in their company. where he lived in different cities. and the Kessef MishnehV the holy angels proclaimed before him. They said. "Behold. also was among them. The book tells the story of his life. The Maggid. Maran: Rabbi Yosef Karo was published in Hebrew in 1988. It was in this city. and continuing with his stay in the Ottoman Empire.302 great loss. here comes Maran. who guided all Israel. in the upper world. a spirit of holiness encompassed all. The worlds were sanctified. When Rabbi Yosef Karo"s soul ascended to heaven. has left us. The greatest of the poskim. which became the spiritual center of the Jewish world. the author of the Beit Yosef. he was received by the angels. for even when he had been in the lower world. was born in Toledo. in mourning for the rabbi who had departed from them. who had spoken to him in the lower world. Fountains of holiness opened up and the worlds were blessed by his arrival. and his ascent to Eretz Israel and his arrival in Safed. the Shulhan Arukh. Spain. All Safed was in mourning. serving as a rabbi and conceiving of the idea of pesikah. the author of the Shulhan Arukh. beginning with the Expulsion from Spain and his family"s wanderings in Portugal. singing. who came forth to greet him. Three bands of angels came forth to greet him.

of the Jewish people. and the controversy over Semikhah (ordination). the appearance of the Maggid. appear all the other leading Torah scholars of the period: the holy Ari. and many other giants of Torah and Kabbalah. the code of law by which the People of Israel lives to the present day. such as his meeting with Shlomo Molcho who would later die a martyr"s death. who gave Maran moral instruction and foretold the future. such as Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Nahmanides). Yaakov Even-Chen is the author of many other historical dramatizations of outstanding periods and individuals in Jewish history. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov. Rabbi Moshe Isserles. by Bilhah Kreiger-Barzel All rights reserved to the artist . and the disciples of the Vilna Gaon who came to Eretz Israel. Rabbi Yaakov Berab. This book tells the story of one of the greatest periods in the history of halakhah (Jewish law).303 Shulhan Arukh. On the front cover: Kabbalat Shabbat by the Kabbalists in Safed. The life of Maran includes exciting episodes. The book describes the life of the Kabbalists and Torah scholars in Safed during the city"s golden era. and of the Galilee city of Safed. Along with Rabbi Karo. the rabbi of Safed.

304 The Tombstone of rabbi josef karro (1932) .

305 Title page of the first edition of the Shulhan Arukh in Cracow .

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