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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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 .

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

Rabbi Moshe Dayan was a controversial figure. Rabbi Yishmael expounded in public. and did not agree to change his opinion.5 Moshe Dayan"s yeshivah were freed from paying taxes. and did not engage in any business. Some said that he had assumed this position dishonestly. but he could not help them. but he held the keys to the community"s affairs. occupied himself only with Torah. as was the practice regarding scholars. Rabbi Moshe Dayan assumed the leadership of the Safed community. and some of them left the city due to his rule. and oil presses in the vicinity of Safed. for Rabbi Moshe Dayan had ties with the authorities. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni. His customs and practices were oppressive to the Torah scholars in Safed. Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni sent a letter to the Nagid. full of students. a renowned judge from Damascus. Rabbi Moshe Dayan attempted to supplant Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni. came to Safed to live in the city and spread his teachings. but no one dared oppose him. Rabbi Yishmael. who was known as a great Torah scholar and who had a large yeshivah. He owned vineyards. and his teachings were accepted. 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. On his return he would bring with him various foodstuffs to sell. for fear of arousing the ire of the authorities. in which he cried out against Rabbi Moshe Dayan"s discrimination against him and against his yeshivah. 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. however. fields. Scholars in the city complained against him. When he saw this. Rabbi Moshe Dayan did not exempt Rabbi Yosef Alexandroni and his students from the tax. There was tension between the Torah scholars in Safed and the yeshivah students. 1 . with the help of government officials. At times he would go to the villages to deal in honey and other items. But his words were of no avail. Rabbi Moshe Dayan 's protectors.

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

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

Safed .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safed .

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

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

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

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

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

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

. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This is only a matter of time. . Some of these Jews had made their mark on the local community. Therefore only people who were well known to the other Jews were permitted to join the minyan for prayers held in a basement. "It is impossible to secretly observe Judaism over the course of many years. They tried to avoid conversion. This will be discovered. 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. and did not let them continue living their lives as normal. The ship neared the shores of Constantinople. They will not permit the Jews to maintain their Judaism in secret. receiving a proper reception in every city. Most of them lived in towns and villages. Torah scholars did not remain in Portugal." Rabbi Ephraim continued. They feared informers. In many cities of the Ottoman Empire there were communities of those who had come from Spain." Rabbi Yitzhak agreed. But the priests in these places knew about them. following their version of the prayers. establishing synagogues and study halls of their own. not to accept Christianity even outwardly. 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. "The Inquisition will come to Portugal as well. because they lived in such isolated locations.47 example to others. especially in remote areas. Yosef listened intently to the discussion of the two brothers. They took them to their homes until they could find a place to live." Rabbi Ephraim said. for among the converted Jews there were those who were ordered to inform on their brethren. Only the common people remained. especially when the young people refuse to marry Christians of their own age. The exiles from Spain and Portugal would go from community to community. They spoke the language of the new arrivals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

121 Salonika port .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When this moment came he was all excited. "There must be an important person on the ship who is being greeted by the storm. The storm accompanied the ship until it finally abated. Rabbi Yosef was studying his books. And so it was. He waited for the moment when the ship would drop anchor and he could go ashore. During the voyage he was sorry that he had not taken the land route. He had thought hat the land route was dangerous. Even when the storm was at its worst. Rabbi Yosef came up on the deck and looked around him. The sailors told the passengers they could not remember such a storm in all their years on the sea. ." they said. because of the robbers in the Sinai Desert. He walked back and forth on the deck. They told her about the customs of Safed and about its markets and streets. The ship was supposed to dock in either Acco or Haifa. The passengers looked at the shore the entire day. *** Once again the waves battered the ship. because of the storm.161 Some of them had already lived in Safed and were returning to their families there. and from afar they could see the misty. Due to the storm. He had not had enough time to read all the books he had found in Cairo and he learned many new things now. including his books. Rabbi Yosef left the ship with his bundles in his hands. The ship tied up at the dock in Acco. trying to identify the place. he thought of new ideas about the laws regarding sailing in a ship and disembarking on the land. the passengers had to leave the ship one at a time. he had not abandoned his books. As he gazed at the water and the shore. 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. golden shores. He looked at the shore and the hills. All the while he held a book in his hand. The sea quieted down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

especially the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab. the author of Menorat ha-Ma"or. of the great Torah scholars of all generations.169 Rabbi Yosef Karo had known for some time that Rabbi Yaakov Berab"s method of study would have a beneficial influence on him. telling him how happy they were that he was living in their midst. and permission was granted him. They realized that he was more knowledgeable in the subject than they were. Rabbi Yosef and his wife found an apartment in Safed. They had heard of him and his family in the Diaspora. Some invited him to their homes to discuss Torah. After a while. Rabbi Yosef became friendly with the Torah scholars in Safed. 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. Rabbi Yaakov Berab hinted to Rabbi Yosef Karo that he saw him as his successor. **• Rabbi Yaakov Berab continued the method of study of his teachers. Rabbi Yitzhak Carranton. 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 Yosef asked his permission to study the manuscripts in his house. Some wanted to fix a set time to study with him. from whose windows they could see the surrounding hills. and spent his days in the uninterrupted study of Torah. He joined his study hall. He regarded him as his teacher and master. Rabbi Yosef lovingly read the treasures he found in Rabbi Yaakov"s house. 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. The inhabitants of Safed greeted him in the street. In his house Rabbi Yaakov Berab kept hundreds of manuscripts of new interpretations of the Torah. Rabbi Yitzhak Aboab and his teacher. This would help him to write his book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not long afterwards. and he was at Chezib when she bore him" (Genesis 38:5). " I f the generation will merit it. When he finished. a plague swept through Safed. The Ari stood before the Kabbalists and said. *** His disciple Rabbi Yitzhak Kohen was near him before he died. After the funeral they gathered around him and told him they desired to be his disciples and follow his attributes. I see the pillar of cloud going before the bier. at the age of 38. and immersed itself. because you are a kohen (a member of the priestly class. awestricken.215 sinners'" (I Kings 1:21). The Ari told him. 'then you hang him on a tree' — the reason for this is due to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge." All the scholars and Kabbalists accepted his words. 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." After this he recited the verse. After the Ari"s death. he turned to his disciple and said to him. I f there is a lack of a reason to be worthy to die. The Kabbalists stood before him. and called his name Shelah. Now they knew that he was the holy man of whom Rabbi Moshe Cordovero had spoken before he died. He was buried next to Rabbi Moshe Cordovero." They wanted to bury Rabbi Moshe Cordovero in the place where the great scholars of the city were buried. The verse he had quoted as he was dying was the subject of an argument among his disciples. Just what did the Ari intend? . his soul departed. but the person nevertheless has died. The Ari fell ill and and passed away. "Go out. "This is not his place. His teachings were recorded by his disciples. "And she again bore a son. his fellows came to wash his body." After his disciple left. and it stops at a certain place. forbidden to be in the presence of a body). Immediately his head inclined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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,

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

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

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

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

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

living in Safed. Nevertheless. His friends who brought the manuscript to the printers went over the proofsheets. so that his teaching would be flawless. The scholars sat with the printers in order to understand the . omissions. he undoubtedly would have found all the printing mistakes and corrected them immediately. Some of them tried to improve the language of the book. and all his letters were well-formed. and additions to his books. Rabbi Yosef Karo could not return the proof sheets to Venice. there were many mistakes in printed books. 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. for they contained laws. how there would not be a Jewish home which would not be filled with the light of his teachings. Any mistake would be serious.258 Due to the dangers involved in sailing from Sidon to Italy. while other scholars built mountains of new laws based on these mistakes. to correct the errors. while other times they did not understand Rabbi Yosef's handwriting. The copyists also were responsible for the introduction of many mistakes. Sometimes the printers erred in interpreting the abbreviations he had used. but if Rabbi Yosef himself had stood by the printer. Bedek HaBayit. some of which were printing mistakes. Rabbi Yosef was forced to print his book. He prayed that his books would be printed without mistakes. there were instances in which the printers did not understand his handwriting. Rabbi Yosef. Rabbi Meir of Padua was the leading Torah scholar of the time in Italy. because this could lead people to violate the law. His handwriting was clear. while others were mistakes in the manuscript after additional study he had changed some of his rulings. Later. Due to the conditions prevailing in the printing houses. He undertook to deal with all the questions that would arise during the proofreading of the books. Some scholars understood the source of the mistakes. saw how his books would spread. or to correct things in the manuscript which seemed to them to be mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Some of them expressed their fears that ruling in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh. When Rabbi Yosef Karo finished writing the Shulhan Arukh. and such great authority. in which he interpreted the Rambam"s sources. enabling them to easily find sources. and Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe (the author of the Levushim). From near and far. Rabbi Meir of Lublin (the Maharam). The critics of the Shulhan Arukh included Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal). Along with the criticism of the book. because he knew that any scholar who needed a ruling would read the sources. Three sections of the book were published during his lifetime. no legal book had enjoyed such great publicity. reports reached him that the Ashkenazic sages were ruling in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh. Some of them claimed that he had "uprooted the tradition of our French and German teachers. the scholars of his time continued to . The criticisms of the Ashkenazi sages led him to review all the subjects they spoke about. he turned to the writing of his book Kessef Mishneh on the Rambam." because the book was based mainly on the rulings of the Sefardi sages. because he did not bring the reasoning behind decisions in his book.276 Yosef's books simply enriched their learning. as had the Shulhan Arukh. was liable to lead to erroneous decisions. in Venice. In this book he tried to remove all the objections the Ravad had raised against the Rambam. Despite these criticisms. *** The Ashkenazic sages sent him letters after they had received his book and studied it. Rabbi Yosef Karo did not share this fear. it became clear that since the time of the writing of the Mishneh Torah by the Rambam until then. 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. which encompassed only six of the fourteen volumes of the Mishneh Torah. and the debate surrounding it. whenever the Rama did not disagree.

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

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

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

His audiences also included priests who were impressed by his visions. he thought that the image of Molcho was walking through the streets of Safed. There were opponents who undermined his efforts. preaching about the approaching Redemption: in Ancona. At times. Pesaro. But then a miracle occurred: the candle continued to burn and give light the entire night. He saw Shlomo Molcho going from city to city. and even informed on him. but this did not come about. Suddenly the figure of Shlomo Molcho stood before him. together with Rabbi Yosef Taitazak. He expected that Shlomo Molcho would arouse a passionate Messianic movement. 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 silently cursed these informers. He saw people walking back and forth. because he did not have another candle. scholars would come to Rabbi Yosef s home to argue with him over some section in the book. I f we had only merited it. Thoughts about Shlomo Molcho passed through his mind when he found himself alone. and Rome. . All his days he had envied him for his martyrdom. Rabbi Yosef remembered their conversations in Salonika.280 darkness. Molcho would have led the Redemption — the leader of the generation . when he was stricken by longings for renewal and awakening. It was due to them that Shlomo Molcho had been tried by the Inquisition. There was not a single scholar in Safed who did not accept the book. for they had found sources which would lead to a change in the law as it had been written by Rabbi Yosef. Rabbi Yosef stood in his room in the rabbinical court in Safed and looked out the window. until morning. He saw him ascending heavenwards in the flames. *** The scholars and Kabbalists in Safed talked among themselves about the influence and distribution of the Shulhan Arukh. Somehow.

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

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

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

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

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

He saw a group of Kabbalists walking along in the hills. in order to be alone. step after step." " I f so." His spirits were lifted by what the Kabbalist had told him in this chance encounter." *** . the Kabbalist told him. the second is the name by which others call him. 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: thought of the teaching by the Sages regarding this: " A man is called by three names.' " He saw the Kabbalist walking along the hilly paths. and the third is what he has acquired for himself. but he was hurrying to his duties in the court." he replied. "Your books are a beacon in the dark. One is the name given him by his father and mother." and the other was simply addressed to "HaMehaber" (the author). He wanted to be a person whose name was connected with his books. when he was wearing his tefilin. then you complete it once every month. You are my sister. which is written in the book of the records of his creation." he answered. " 'Say to wisdom. taking only books with him. "Your book is divided into thirty sections. so that one section may be studied each day of the month. This is what I do. Before they parted." "The Torah of the L-rd is perfect. When he arrived at the court. he found that two letters from faraway had come for him. One was addressed to the "Beit Yosef. He stopped Rabbi Yosef and said to him. reciting Psalms as they went. He saw thousands of scholars studying his book every day ~ he hoped that this vision would become a reality. He wanted to go with them. "From the Mishnah to the Shulhan Arukh.286 But he also was happy when one of the Kabbalists in Safed met him on a hilly path in the city.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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