of oyaiuscKipcs ,And ponced tuonks p.o.k. 604a xia^em, ^
894317 :

r 7A /

- 1
• win. ^


02-280-735 :

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

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












Chapter One

In the Mists of Safed

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safed .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safed .

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

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

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

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

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

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

. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

78 ^ nvuuvrnnuyoi ppv 1 * p ^ 60 oSrn 0 / : ^ »0 tr-no wya 03 ' » : : re # 1» . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

121 Salonika port .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

304 The Tombstone of rabbi josef karro (1932) .

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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful