Luria, Isaac ben Solomon

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LURIA, ISAAC BEN SOLOMON (1534–1572), kabbalist, referred to as Ha-Ari (האר״י; "the [sacred] lion" "from the initials of האלוהי רבי יצחק; Ha-Elohi Rabbi Yiẓḥak, "the divine Rabbi"). This cognomen was in use by the end of the 16th century, apparently at first in kabbalistic circles in Italy, but Luria's contemporaries in *Safed refer to him as R. Isaac Ashkenazi (הריא״ש), R. Isaac Ashkenazi Luria (הריא״ל), also as De Luria. His father, a member of the Ashkenazi family of Luria from Germany or Poland, emigrated to *Jerusalem and apparently there married into the Sephardi Frances family. As he died while Isaac was a child, his widow took the boy to *Egypt, where he was brought up in the home of her brother Mordecai Frances, a wealthy tax-farmer. Traditions concerning Luria's youth, his stay in Egypt, and his introduction to *Kabbalah are shrouded in legend, and the true facts are difficult to distinguish. Contradicting the widely accepted belief that he went to Egypt at the age of seven is his own testimony recalling a kabbalistic tradition which he learned in Jerusalem from a Polish kabbalist, Kalonymus (see Sha'ar he-Pesukim, para. Be-Ha'alotekha).

In Egypt, Luria studied under *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra and his successor, Bezalel *Ashkenazi. Luria collaborated with the latter in writing halakhic works such as the Shitah Mekubbeẓet on tractate Zevaḥim, which according to Ḥayyim Joseph David *Azulai was burned in Izmir in 1735. Their annotations of some of Isaac *Alfasi's works were printed in Tummat Yesharim (Venice, 1622). M. Benayahu has conjectured that commentaries on passages in tractate Ḥullin and other talmudic tractates, extant in a manuscript written in Egypt not later than 1655 in the academy of a ḥakham named Mohariel, derive from notes made by pupils of Luria's yeshivah in Egypt. However, this is doubtful since the manuscript mentions Sefer Pesakim, a collection of halakhic decisions by the same author, and there is no evidence to indicate that Luria was the author of such a book, certainly not before he was 20 years old. It is certain, however, that Luria was familiar with rabbinical literature and was believed to be outstanding in the non-mystical study of the law. As well as religious study, he also engaged in commerce while in Egypt, as attested by documents in the Cairo *Genizah. A document relating to his business in pepper dating from 1559 had been published by E.J. Worman (rej, 57 (1909), 281–2), and a second, relating to grain, by S. Assaf (Mekorot u-Meḥkarim (1946), 204). Assaf connects this with Luria's sojourn in Safed, but there is no doubt that it was written in Egypt. The entire document is in Luria's handwriting, the only extant specimen to date. This material supports the evidence of Jedidiah Galante (in Leon Modena's Sefer Ari Nohem, ed. by S. Rosenthal; Leipzig, 1840) that, like many of the Safed scholars, Luria conducted business in the town; three days before his death he made up his accounts with his customers. Many of the scholars of Safed similarly engaged in business activities.

While still in Egypt, Luria began his esoteric studies and retired to a life of seclusion on the island Jazīrat al-Rawḍa on the Nile near Cairo. This island was owned by his uncle, who in the meantime had become his father-in-law. It is far from clear whether this retirement, which is reported to have lasted for seven years, took place in his youth at the beginning of the 1550s or when he was older. Legend antedates it considerably. In 1558, Luria endorsed a halakhic decision jointly with Bezalel Ashkenazi and Simeon Castellazzo. In his mystic study, he concentrated on the *Zohar and works of the earlier kabbalists, and, of the works of his contemporaries, made a particular study of Moses *Cordovero. According to evidence dating from the end of the 16th century, it was during this initial period of kabbalistic study that he wrote his single work, a commentary on the Sifra di-Ẓeni'uta ("Book of Concealment"), a short but important section of the Zohar (published in Vital's Sha'ar Ma'amrei Rashbi). The book gives no hint of the original kabbalistic system that Luria expounded at the end of his life and shows some influence of Cordovero. In Egypt he met Samuel ibn Fodeila, a kabbalist, to whom Luria wrote a lengthy letter on kabbalistic topics. Here he refers to his own book and asks him to examine it in his brother's house, evidently in Egypt. Luria may have made a pilgrimage to Meron before going to settle in Safed, since there are references to his presence at the *Lag ba-Omer festival in Meron. In 1569, or perhaps at the beginning of 1570, he settled in Safed with his family and studied Kabbalah with Cordovero for a short time. Some of his glosses on passages of the Zohar were evidently written while Cordovero was still alive and some after his death, since Luria refers to him both as "our teacher whose light may be prolonged" and "my late teacher." On the other hand, he had already begun to impart his original kabbalistic system to a number of disciples in Safed, among them distinguished scholars. After Cordovero's death at the end of 1570, Ḥayyim *Vital drew particularly close to Luria, becoming his principal and most celebrated disciple.

Luria may have gathered around him in Safed an academy whose members engaged in exoteric and esoteric studies. The names of some 30 of his disciples are known. Vital confirms (in the manuscript on practical Kabbalah, holograph in the Musajoff collection, Jerusalem) that a week before his preceptor died they had been studying the tractate Yevamot. He also gives some information about Luria's system of study in the non-mystical parts of the law. Luria occasionally delivered homilies in the Ashkenazi synagogue in Safed, but generally refrained from religious teaching in public. On the other hand, he often took long walks with his closest disciples in the neighborhood of Safed pointing out to them the graves of saintly personages not hitherto known, which he discovered through his spiritual intuition and revelations. At this period, he had already become famous as a man who possessed the "holy spirit" or received the "revelations of Elijah." He taught his disciples orally, instructing them both in his original system of theoretical Kabbalah, and also in the way to communion with the souls of the righteous (ẓaddikim). This was accomplished by "unification" of the Sefirot and exercises in concentration on certain of the divine names and their combinations, and especially by means of kavvanah, i.e., mystical reflection or meditations in the act of prayer and the fulfillment of religious precepts. He himself wrote down little of his teaching, apart from an attempt to provide a detailed commentary on the first pages of the Zohar and glosses on isolated passages. These were collected from his autography by Vital and assembled in a special book, of which a number of handwritten copies are extant.

Luria acknowledges his inability to present his teachings in written form since the overflow of his ideas did not lend itself to systematization. Nor did he select the various subjects for study in his doctrine in a logical sequence but at random. He guarded the secret of his system and did not permit its propagation during his lifetime, therefore becoming celebrated at first mainly for his conduct and saintly qualities. Some who applied to study under him were rejected, including Moses *Alshekh. His relations with the scholars of Safed were friendly; a halakhic consultation addressed by him to Joseph *Caro appears in the responsa titled Avkat Rokhel (no. 136). Luria undoubtedly regarded himself as an innovator, preeminent among contemporary kabbalists. Certain allusions made to his disciples suggest that he believed himself to be "the Messiah, the son of Joseph," destined to die in the fulfillment of his mission. The period of his activity in Safed was brief, for he died in an epidemic on July 15, 1572. His grave in Safed was and remains a place of pilgrimage for successive generations.

Both in enthusiastic descriptions by his disciples and their pupils, written in the decade after his death, and in their careful preservation and collection of his teachings and faithful rendering of his personal traits, Luria's striking personality is attested. The relevant details are scattered in the writings of his disciples, particularly those of Vital. Some have been assembled in book form, such as the Shulḥan Arukh shel R. Yiẓḥak Luria, compiled from the writings of Jacob Ẓemaḥ and published a number of times (first in Poland, 1660–70), the Orḥot Ẓaddikim, on the precepts of Luria from the writings of Vital (vol. 2, Salonika, 1770), and in Patora de Abba (Jerusalem, 1905). In addition, a wealth of legend accumulated around his personality, with historical recollection and authentic fact being mingled with visionary pronouncements and anecdotes of other holy men. Such mythical elements already appear in works written 20 years after Luria's death, such as the Sefer Ḥaredim of Eliezer *Azikri, Sefer Reshit Ḥokhmah by Elijah de *Vidas, and the books of Abraham *Galante. The legend is crystallized in two important documents, whose sequence of publication is a matter of controversy. One is the collection of three letters written in Safed between 1602 and 1609 by Solomon (Shlomel) Dresnitz, an immigrant from Moravia, to his friend in Cracow. The letters were first published in 1629 in Ta'alumot Ḥokhmah by Joseph Solomon *Delmedigo, and circulated from the end of the 18th century under the title Shivḥei ha-Ari ("The Tributes of Ha-Ari"). The second document, *Toledot ha-Ari ("Biography of Ha-Ari"), appears in numerous manuscripts from the 17th century; one version is published under the title Ma'asei Nissim ("Miracles"), although inside it is called Shivḥei ha-Ari; it appeared at the beginning of Sefer ha-Kavannot (Constantinople, 1720). This version of the legend was generally regarded as the later one, based on the Safed letters. However, M. Benayahu has published a complete edition of this recension (1967) and argued that it served as the basis for the source of Dresnitz' letters. Benayahu considers that the book was compiled between 1590 and 1600 by one of the scholars of Safed, and its various recensions circulated widely in the Orient and Italy. This, the first kabbalistic hagiography, compounds fact and imagination in its biographical account of the life of the saintly man.

There is no doubt that the legend of the Ari was widespread and circulated earlier than the written sources treating his kabbalistic teaching. These compositions form an extensive literature. Although frequently described by kabbalists as Kitvei ha-Ari, "the writings of Luria," they are in fact the works of his disciples and their own disciples, edited and sometimes condensed. While most remained in manuscript, a few were published between 1572 and 1650. Moved by mystical inspiration, Luria expounded his ideas with many variants. His hearers seem to have noted down some of his teachings during his lifetime but mainly transmitted them from memory after his death, frequently superimposing their own interpretation. The conventicle of Luria's disciples included some important kabbalists who rated themselves highly and considered themselves faithful recorders of their master's doctrine. Personal friction and rivalry were not unknown. In the annals of the Kabbalah Ḥayyim Vital has won the laurels as Luria's chief disciple; the works of his associates and rivals have been passed over or erroneously attributed to Vital himself, in which case they acquired the reputation of authoritative sources of Luria's teachings. In fact, a number of variants of these are extant which, in the main, are not interdependent but represent independent traditions recorded by his disciples, including one which must be considered spurious. There are four such principal traditions:

(1) That of Moses *Jonah of Safed, crystallized in Sefer Kanfei Yonah. The complete authentic text is extant in numerous manuscripts, particularly in Ms. Sasson 993, copied by the author himself in Constantinople in 1582. A defective edition was compiled by Menahem Azariah *Fano in Mantua (first printed in Korzec, 1786). This is an important source for the study of Lurianic Kabbalah, and as yet no satisfactory evaluation of it has been attempted. The author has omitted some of Luria's teachings, such as the doctrine of ẓimẓum ("withdrawal"), although, compared with Vital's rendering, his exposition of other teachings of Luria excels in clarity.

(2) That of *Joseph ibn Tabul who, after Luria's death, taught Lurianic Kabbalah to several pupils, among them Samson Bacchi, an Italian kabbalist. Ibn Tabul compiled a systematic exposition of Lurianic Kabbalah divided into derushim ("homilies"), with a number of supplements. The homilies are extant in manuscript and for a long time were attributed to Vital under the title Derush Ḥefẓi-Bah and were also published in his name (1921, at the beginning of Simḥat Kohen by Masʿūd ha-Kohen al-Ḥaddād). This text is most important for the version of the doctrine of ẓimẓum that it includes, parts of which were omitted by Vital.

(3) That of Ḥayyim Vital. In contrast to the comparatively limited scope of the preceding disciples, Vital rendered his preceptor's teachings in detail. He augments the words which he specifically quotes as Luria's or propounded according to what he heard, with numerous additions of his own. He also wrote his first versions immediately after Luria's death, although he confirms that certain expositions were only very briefly noted after he had heard them. Luria's teachings, in a book which he calls Eẓ Ḥayyim ("The Tree of Life"), were mainly written approximately between 1573 and 1576. However, he sometimes added a different version of the chapters, so that occasionally four variants on the same theme are found. The existence of these differing recensions has introduced considerable confusion into Vital's writings. The original sequence in Eẓ Ḥayyim falls into eight parts (called "Gates"): (a) all material in Luria's hand collected by Vital; (b) Sha'ar ha-Derushim, a systematic presentation of Luria's theosophical doctrine; (c) Sha'ar ha-Pesukim, explanations of biblical passages, arranged in a sequence that follows the Bible; (d) Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim, the mystical doctrine of metempsychosis, gilgul, and its source; (e) Sha'ar ha-Kavannot, on the mystical intentions and meditations required for prayer (kavvanot ha-tefillah); (f) Sha'ar ha-Mitzvot, the reasons for the religious precepts; (g) the doctrine of amends for sins (tikkunei avonot); (h) instructions for mystical "unifications" (yiḥudim), which Luria transmitted to each disciple individually. This version of Eẓ Ḥayyim remains in manuscript. Using it, Ḥayyim Vital's son, Samuel *Vital, compiled eight further "gates" in which Luria's own literary heritage is distributed according to its contents. These are (a) Sha'ar ha-Hakdamot; (b) Sha'ar Ma'amarei ashbi; (c) Sha'ar Ma'amarei Razal; (d) Sha'ar ha-Pesukim; (e) Sha'ar ha-Mitzvot; (f) Sha'ar ha-Kavannot; (g) Sha'ar Ru'aḥ ha-Kodesh; (h) Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim. The first edition of this compilation, Shemonah She'arim, was published, without the title Eẓ Ḥayyim, in the above sequence in Jerusalem (1850–98; new ed. 1960–63). Many kabbalists, in particular among the Sephardim, recognized this version only as authoritative and rejected the rest of Luria's writings, including books which were assembled from Vital's own later recensions. Since "the eight gates" remained in the home of Vital and his son, and were only rarely copied by others before 1650, kabbalists wishing to study Lurianic Kabbalah used other recensions of Vital's books and eclectic anthologies of Lurianic kabbalism which circulated from 1586. Several of these, which were compiled in Safed itself, are extant (such as Schocken Ms. 97 of 1586 in Jerusalem), in the handwriting of Moses Jonah, and the manuscript of 1588 (Enelow collection 683, in the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York). Copies of Vital's writings that had remained in Jerusalem, where he stayed for several years in the 1590s, were also in circulation from the middle of the 17th century, and various collections have been compiled from them: Sefer ha-Derushim, Sefer ha-Kavvanot, and Sefer ha-Likkutim. It was not until the end of the 17th century that a comprehensive edition of Vital's writings relating to Luria's Kabbalah was made. This was compiled in Jerusalem by Meir *Poppers of Cracow with a few additions from Luria's other associates. Poppers divided his edition into Derekh Eẓ Ḥayyim, Peri Eẓ Ḥayyim, and Nof Eẓ Ḥayyim, which in fact includes all the subjects covered in the Shemonah She'arim. It was in this recension that Vital's writings became widely disseminated, especially in Europe, and became familiar long before the bulk of them were first published in Korzec in 1784. The printed book thereafter titled Eẓ Ḥayyim is actually the Derekh Eẓ Ḥayyim of Popper's recension. A number of books stemming from traditions compiled by Vital have been published in his name, such as Mevo She'arim, an introductory section (Korzec, 1784); Oẓerot Ḥayyim (ibid., 1783); and Arba Me'ot Shekel Kesef (ibid., 1804), part of which is indubitably a forgery.

(4) Superimposed on the tangled web of the three preceding traditions and their mutually interfused forms is a fourth deriving from the works of Israel *Sarug (Saruk), who propagated Lurianic Kabbalah in Italy and several other European countries after 1590. He is actually the author of Sefer Limmudei Aẓilut ("Doctrines on Emanation"), published in Vital's name (Munkacs, 1897), which contains an entirely different interpretation of the doctrine of ẓimẓum and the origin of divine emanation. Since Sarug was the first to spread this teaching in Italy, his version was accepted in wider circles, although there is no doubt that he added original speculations of his own to it. Sarug was not one of Luria's disciples in Safed but based his reconstruction on those works of Luria's principal disciples that reached him. He may have known Luria personally in Egypt, since there are grounds for assuming that he was born there, and his signature is appended to a kabbalistic manuscript written in Egypt in 1565 (British Museum, Almanzi 29) for Isaac Sarug (his father?). The innovations in his version in particular made a considerable impression, and for a long time it was the one accepted as authoritative, furnishing the basis for most of the earlier works on Lurianic Kabbalah; for example the Ta'alumot Ḥokhmah and NovellotHokhmah of Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (Basle, 1629–31), the Emek ha-Melekh of Naphtali *Bacharach (Amsterdam, 1648), and Ma'ayan ha-Ḥokhmah (ibid., 1652) – which is in fact Sefer Hatḥalot ha-Ḥokhmah, a treatise originating in Sarug's circle. Lurianic Kabbalah, therefore, won adherents in the 17th century through the propagation of a version far removed from his original teaching. The inconsistencies in the different versions and the contradictions in Vital's own renderings gave rise to an exegetic literature which flourished particularly among the kabbalists in Italy, North Africa, and Turkey. Throughout these metamorphoses, however, the Lurianic system remained the crucial factor for the development of later Kabbalah. Apart from these variants, there are also a number of treatises and essays extant in manuscript, written by other disciples of Luria, such as Joseph *Arzin, Judah Mish'an, *Gedaliah ha-Levi, and Moses *Najara.

Before Luria's theoretical teachings became known, he won fame as a poet. A number of his liturgical hymns, only a few with mystical content, were published in the collection Yefeh Nof (Venice, 1575–80). Best known of his mystical poems are three hymns for Sabbath meals which have been included in most prayer books. Written in the language of the Zohar they describe, in kabbalistic symbolism, the meaning of the Sabbath and the special relationship between man and the world above on this day. Also published in Venice in 1595 were his Tikkunei Teshuvah, "penitence rituals" (titled Marpe le-Nefesh), and in 1620 his Sefer ha-Kavvanot, an anthology of mystical meditations on prayers and rules for behavior. There is a characteristic contradiction between Luria's theoretical Kabbalah, with its numerous bold innovations in theosophical doctrine and the concept of creation which changed the face of Kabbalah (see ẓimẓum; *Kabbalah), and his marked tendency to extreme conservatism when interpreting Jewish ritual customs and folkways. He upheld all the traditional usages, reading a mystical significance into them. He taught that each of the tribes of Israel could be regarded as having its own special entrance to heaven, which had resulted in differences in custom and liturgy, so that no particular usage could be considered superior to others. However, Luria did prefer the Sephardi liturgy, and the mystical meditations on prayer in which he instructed his disciples were based on Sephardi ritual. This was why only the Ashkenazi kabbalists and Ḥasidim accepted the Sephardi liturgy in prayer, as they adopted many of his other observances.

Luria himself attempted to clarify his position in relation to the Kabbalah of Moses Cordovero, and the question has occupied a number of other kabbalists. Answering inquiries on the difference between the two kabbalists, he replied that Cordovero treated of olam ha-tohu, "the world of confusion," while his own teaching dealt with olam ha-tikkun, "the world of restitution," – i.e., each was concerned with entirely different planes and states of being in the spiritual realm of emanation, and so Cordovero's province did not impinge on that of Luria. Most kabbalists refrained from attempting to mix or combine the two kabbalistic systems. Vital, too, who at first was Cordovero's disciple, wrote that he paved "the plain way [derekh ha-peshat] for beginners in his wisdom" while Luria traced the "inner, most important path" (stated in a dream in 1573 recorded in Vital's Sefer ha-Ḥezyonot). In reply to Vital's question (according to testimony in "Sha'ar Ru'aḥ ha-Kodesh") as to why he had penetrated more deeply into the mysteries than Cordovero, Luria said that this did not come about through reliance on divine revelation or similar phenomena but because "he took greater pains than the rest of his contemporaries."

The entire structure of Lurianic Kabbalah is permeated with messianic tension. The introduction of the eschatological element into his basic concept of Kabbalah fundamentally changed later thinking. This element is implicit in his doctrine of Tikkun, restitution or restoration of the inner and outer cosmos. In no small measure it prepared the ground for the messianic ferment of the Shabbatean movement (see Shabbetai *Ẓevi). The deeds of man are invested with mystical significance, not only because they are linked with the secret workings of creation, but also because they are integrated into a vast cosmological drama which is enacted in order to rectify the original blemish in the world and to restore everything to its proper place. It is not the role of the Messiah to accomplish the *redemption; the task of cosmological restitution is imposed on the entire Jewish people through strict observance of the precepts and prayer. When this spiritual restitution has been effected the Messiah's appearance is inevitable, for it signifies the consummation of the cosmic process. The primary concepts of Lurianic Kabbalah provide an explanation for the existence of evil and impurity in the world and relate at every stage to the Jewish national and messianic mission.

There is no justification for the theory, widely held by modern historians, that the principles Luria introduced are based on the traditions and ethical doctrine of the *Hasidei Ashkenaz. Nor should Lurianic Kabbalah be viewed as the epitome of "practical" Kabbalah in contrast to "theoretical," or speculative, Kabbalah. The theoretical and practical aspects are blended in every kabbalistic system, particularly in that practiced by the scholars of Safed. Luria's originality does not lie in his stress on the practical aspects of man's adhesion to his Creator, or on the performance of good deeds, but in his pioneer conception of the theoretical aspect of Kabbalah.

[Gershom Scholem]

The vast kabbalistic literature belonging to Lurianism has attracted the attention of many scholars over the last generation and their findings have contributed to substantial revisions of the scholarship on this kabbalistic school. Here only the main developments can be addressed. The first comprehensive surveys of the manuscripts were done by Avivi, Meroz, and Kallus, who offered different criteria for establishing the sequence of Luria's writings and their different versions, and the evolution of his thought. Detailed analyses of writings belonging to a major Lurianic school, that of R. Israel Sarug, are found in the studies of Meroz, who questioned the dominant view of the relationship between Luria and Sarug, claiming that the latter was an early – rather than a later – student of the former. Especially important are studies on material printed from other disciples of Luria such as ibn Tabul and Penzieri (see Meroz and Rubin). According to Meroz's analyses, the interactive situation involved in the relations between Luria and his disciples should be taken into consideration as a formative factor in the emergence of his teachings.

The scholarly understanding of the phenomenological structure of Lurianism has undergone substantial changes. The variety of tendencies found in the writings of the students is understood as not reflecting a unified position, which is sometimes found on the "esoteric" level. The concept of a significant change in Luria's thought, and divergences between his disciples, is dominant in more recent scholarship. Likewise, the importance of earlier concepts of Lurianic innovations, has been placed in relief, especially with regard to the concept of Parẓufim, Ẓimẓum, or Adam Kadmon (Huss, Idel, Liebes, Sack), and in more general terms the importance of the writings of Cordovero, who was Luria's teacher, emerges as substantial; the deep gap between the two assumed as axiomatic in earlier scholarship has been emphasized, especially in Sack. New elements in Luria's thought have been put in relief, attenuating the centrality of the axis of exile-redemption: the personality of Luria (Liebes), his visions of theurgy (Kallus), greater psychological understanding of Lurianic concepts (Liebes, Pachter), the revelationary aspects (Fine, Kallus), or his hermeneutics (Liebes, Maggid). Many of those developments were published in an important collection of articles on Lurianism edited by Rachel Elior and Yehuda Liebes, Lurianic Kabbalah (Heb., 1992) and in the major monograph on Luria by L. Fine.

The dissemination of Luria's writings in the decades following the death of his main followers has been discussed in Avivi, Gries, and Idel, whose findings qualified the former assumption of a wide acceptance of his views. The tension between Lurianism and Cordovero's in 17th-century thought, showing that the latter's thought did not disappear from the speculative horizons of important Kabbalists, has been analyzed by I. Tishby.

For a generation, through to 2005, a series of new editions of many of the major Lurianic treatises has been printed, as has previously unpublished material from manuscripts, and some material has been translated into English. Likewise, the impact of Luria's thought on European thought has been highlighted in studies of Allison Coudert. (See also *Vital.)

[Moshe Idel (2nd ed.)]


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Schechter, Studies in Judaism, 2nd series (1908), 202–306, 317–28; Rosanes, Togarmah, 2 (1938), 198–203. Add. Bibliography: J. Avivi, Binyan Ariel, Introduction to the Homilies of R. Isaac Luria (Heb., 1987), idem, "The Writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria in Italy before 1620," in: Alei Sefer, 11 (1984), 91–134 (Heb.); idem, "R. Ḥayyim Vital's Lurianic Writings," in: Moriah, 115/116 (1981), 79–91 (Heb.); M. Benayahu, "Rabbi Moshe Yonah, A Disciple of Luria and the First of Those Who Copied His Doctrine," in: Studies in Memory of the Rishon le-Zion R. Yitzhak Nissim, vol. 4 (1995), 7–74 (Heb.); idem, "Shitrei Hikasherut she-le-Mekubbalei Ẓefat u-Miẓrayim," in: Assufot, 9 (1995), 133–34 (Heb.); A.P. Coudert, The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century, The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury van Helmont (16141698) (1999); idem, Leibniz and the Kabbalah (1995); A. David, "Halakhah and Commerce in the Biography of Isaac Luria," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 287–97 (Heb.); L. Fine, Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos, Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship (2003), with an important bibliography; idem, "Maggidic Revelation in the Teachings of Isaac Luria," in: J. Reinharz and D. Swetschinski (eds.), Mystics, Philosophers and PoliticiansEssays in Jewish Intellectual History in Honor of Alexander Altmann, (1982), 141–52; D. Gamlieli, "Stages of 'Becoming' in the Creation: Parallelism with Philosophical and Psychological Terminology," in: Kabbalah, 12 (2004), 233–320 (Heb.); Z. Gries, Conduct Literature (Regimen Vitae), Its History and Place in the Life of the Beshtian Ḥasidism (1989) (Heb); M. Hallamish, "Luria's Affinity to Ashkenazi Custom," in: Daat, 50–52 (2003), 243–54 (Heb.), idem, "Luria's Status as an Halakhic Authority," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 259–86 (Heb.); B. Huss, "Genizat ha-Or in Simeon Lavi's Ketem Paz and the Lurianic Doctrine of Ẓimẓum," in Lurianic Kabbalah, 341–61 (Heb.); M. Idel, Messianic Mystics (2002), 154–182, idem, "On the Concept of Ẓimẓum in Kabbalah and Its Research," in: Lurianic Kabbalah (1992), 59–112 (Heb.); idem, "'One from a Town, Two from a Clan' – The Diffusion of Lurianic Kabbalah and Shabbateanism: A Re-examination," in: Pe'amim, 44 (1990), 5–30 (Heb.); English Version, Jewish History, 7:2 (1993), 79–104, idem, "The Image of Man Above the Sefirot: R. David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid's Doctrine of the Supernal Sefirot (Ẓaḥẓaḥot) and Its Evolution," in: Daat, 4 (1980), 41–55 (Heb.); Y. Jacobson, "The Aspect of the 'Feminine' in the Lurianic Kabbalah," in: P. Schaefer and J. Dan (eds.), Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 50 Years After (1993), 239–55; M. Kallus, "The Theurgy of Prayer and the Eschatology of the Lurianic Kabbalah" (doct. diss., Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2002); idem, "Pneumatic Mystical Possession and the Eschatology of the Soul in Lurianic Kabbalah," in: M. Goldish (ed.), Spirit Possession in Judaism (2003), 159–85, 385–413; Y. Liebes, "Myth vs. Symbol in the Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah," in L. Fine (ed.), Essential Papers on Kabbalah (1995), 212–42; idem, "The Songs for the Sabbath-Meals by R. Isaac Luria," in: Molad, 4 (1972), 540–55 (Heb.); idem, Studies in the Zohar (1993), 44–47, 60–63; idem, "'Two Young Roes of a Doe': The Secret Sermon of Isaac Luria before His Death," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 113–70 (Heb.); S. Magid, "Conjugal Union, Mourning and Talmud Torah in R. Isaac Luria's Tikkun Hazot," in: Daat, 36 (1996), xvii–xlv; idem, "From Theosophy to Midrash; Lurianic Exegesis and the Garden of Eden," in: ajs Review, 22:1 (1997), 37–75; R. Meroz, "R. Israel Sarug, the Student of Luria? – A Reconsideration of the Question," in: Daat, 28 (1992), 41–50 (Heb.), idem, "Faithful Transmission versus Innovation: Luria and His Disciples," in P. Schaefer and J. Dan (eds.), Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 50 Years After (1993), 257–75; idem, "The School of Sarug, A New History," in: J. Hacker (ed.), Shalem, 7 (2001), 151–93 (Heb.); idem, "Two Early Lurianic Treatises," in: M. Oron and A. Goldreich (eds.), Massu'ot, Studies in Kabbalistic Literature and Jewish Philosophy in Memory of Prof. Ephraim Gottlieb (1994), 311–29 (Heb.); idem, "Selections from Ephraim Penzieri: Luria's Sermon in Jerusalem," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 211–57 (Heb.); idem, "'Zelem' (Image) and Medicine in the Lurianic Teaching (according to the writing of R. Hayim Vital)," in: Koroth, 8:5/6 (1982), 170–77; M. Pachter, "Katnut ('Smallness') and Gadlut ('Greatness') in Lurianic Kabbalah," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 171–210 (Heb.); idem, "The Image of Luria in the Eulogy of R. Samuel Uzeida," in: Zion, 37 (1972), 22–40 (Heb.); Z. Rubin, "The Zoharic Commentaries of Joseph ibn Tabul," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 363–87 (Heb.); B. Sack, "Moshe Cordovero and Isaac Luria," in: Lurianic Kabbalah, 311–40 (Heb.); E. Starobinski-Safran, "Exode 3,14 dans l'interprétation de Rabbi Isaac Luria et chez quelques maîtres hassidiques," in: Celui qui est (1986), 205–16; D. Tamar, "The Image of Luria in the Eyes of Vital and Vital's Image in Luria's Eyes," in: Sinai, 108 (1991), 238–47 (Heb.); I. Tishby, Studies in Kabbalah and Its Branches (1982), 177–267 (Heb.); Evgeny A. Torchinov, "The Doctrine of the Origin of Evil in Lurianic and Sabbatean Kabbalah and in the 'Awakening of Faith' in Mahayana Buddhism," in: Kabbalah, 5 (2000), 183–98; E.R. Wolfson, "Divine Suffering and the Hermeneutics of Reading; Philosophical Reflections on Lurianic Mythology," in: R. Gibbs and E.R., Wolfson (eds.), Suffering Religion (2002), 101–62; N. Yosha, "Lurianic Kabbalah as a Metaphor in the Homilies of Abraham Miquel Cardozo," in: Kabbalah, vol. 8 (2003), 121–43 (Heb.).

Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria

views updated Jun 27 2018

Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria

The Jewish mystic Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria (1534-1572) founded a Cabala which profoundly influenced central European Judaism of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria was born in Jerusalem. His parents were German, hence the title Ashkenazi (German) in his name. He was called Ari Haqodesh (The Holy Lion) or simply Ari (Lion) by his followers. After his father's death, he lived with an aunt in Cairo. After several years of rabbinic studies, at the age of 17 he found a Cabalistic manuscript and was fascinated by its contents. He retired from all his friends for 6 years to study Cabala and to concentrate especially on the Book of Zohar. After this period he retired to a hut on the Nile where he underwent further study and practiced extreme asceticism. In 1570 he returned to Palestine and settled at the Palestinian center of Cabala at Safed. He drew a large and enthusiastic group of followers and students. But he spent only a year and a half there; a plague broke out, and he died on Aug. 5, 1572, at the early age of 38.

Luria is best known as the founder of the Lurianic Cabala. He wrote only a commentary on certain parts of the Book of Zohar, but his doctrine became known through the works of his disciples, particularly Joseph in Tabal and Hayyim Vital, and through the letters of a certain Shlomel Dresnitz of Moravia, which were published under the title Shivhe Ha-Ari (The Praises of the Lion).

Luria had mystic experiences of visions and communications, and he expressed his thought in complex imagery. He taught three basic tenets. First, creation came about through tzimtum. Tzimtum was a withdrawal or retraction of God from Himself, thereby making existence outside Himself possible. Second, evil was created through shevirat ha-kelim (breaking of the vessels); once the divine spilled over into creation, some sparks of being fell into demonic spheres, and thereby evil was produced. Third, he preached the tikkun (restoration of God's unity). This restoration was to be effected by the life of holy men and their observance of the commandments. This doctrine of redemption of the world by men had never before been prominent in Jewish thought.

The teaching of the 15th-century Jewish mystic Joseph Alkastiel of Játiva, Spain, deeply impressed Luria. He also used themes and motifs drawn from earlier rabbinic sources. His genius, however, lay in the synthesis he made of traditional Jewish teaching with a mystical outlook.

Luria provided consolation for those who had lost loved ones or had misspent their lives. He did this by his doctrine of gilgul (transmigration of souls). For Luria this was not a mode of punishment but a chance to cleanse and perfect oneself. Lurianic teaching heightened the ethical value of each individual action because he taught that each action helped to redeem the world. His doctrines greatly influenced Jewish piety and ritual and provided the Hasidic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries with its main tenets.

Further Reading

Studies of Luria are found in Solomon Schechter, Studies in Judaism: Second Series (1908), and Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941; 3d rev. ed. 1954). □

Luria, Isaac ben Solomon, Ha-Ari

views updated Jun 27 2018

Luria, Isaac ben Solomon, Ha-Ari (1534–72). Jewish kabbalist. Luria was brought up in Egypt and studied under David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimri. His early life is shrouded in legend, but he seems to have retired from communal life while a young man to study the Zohar and other mystical works, and during this time he wrote his commentary on the Sifra Di-Zeniuta (The Book of Concealment), a section of the Zohar. In c.1570 Luria settled in Safed and studied with Moses Cordovero. In Safed, Luria drew round himself a group of disciples whom he instructed orally in the mysteries of the kabbalah. These teachings are preserved only in the descriptions of his students. He envisaged a ‘contraction’ (tsimtsum) in God to make space for creation in relation to himself. The term had formerly been used to account for God's presence in the Holy of Holies, but Luria gave it a novel sense. There then followed, according to Luria, the process of emanation (sefirot), but the vessels containing the emanation of light could not bear the weight of glory (or perhaps resisted: for surely, Luria's pupils asked, God could have created vessels strong enough for the task?) and disintegrated. This catastrophe is called shevirah or shevirat ha-kelim. Luria did not hesitate to accept that God is the source of both good and evil, since without his creative act, the manifestation of evil could not have occurred. However, set against shevirah is the work of repair, called tikkun, which was a particular responsibility for Adam. His fall reinforced the powers of evil and weakened those of good. In consequence, God chose a people, the Jews, to shoulder the responsibility once more. Jewish history is the history of this struggle; and the detail of each biography is a contribution to it. In particular, the keeping of the law is essential, since even one failure delays the coming of the messiah when alone the final victory will have been won.

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Isaac ben Solomon Luria

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