Alkabeẓ, Solomon ben Moses Ha-Levi
Alkabeẓ, Solomon ben Moses Ha-Levi
ALKABEẒ, SOLOMON BEN MOSES HA-LEVI
ALKABEẒ, SOLOMON BEN MOSES HA-LEVI (c. 1505–1584), kabbalist and mystical poet, composer of the Sabbath hymn "*Lekhah Dodi" ("Come, my Beloved"). In 1529 he decided to settle in Ereẓ Israel. In the course of his trip he stayed briefly in Adrianople. Here, a group of kabbalist ascetics asked him to instruct them in the spiritual life and in his methods of worship of God. At Nikopolis, he was probably in contact with Joseph *Caro, who greatly appreciated Alkabeẓ' knowledge of Kabbalah. Alkabeẓ states that while they were both studying the Torah on the night of Shavuot, the *maggid appeared to Caro. They therefore established the custom of staying awake on the night of Shavuot to study the Torah. The custom, which became widespread, is known as "Tikkun Leil Shavu'ot." Alkabeẓ preached wherever he went, and Samuel b. Israel de Uceda, Eleazer *Azikri, Abraham *Galante, Elisha Galileo, and Isaac Gershon were among those who listened to his preaching and quoted from his sermons. Alkabeẓ probably arrived in Safed in 1535. Very little is known of his life there. His signature on rulings and documents is rarer than that of any other important Safed scholar. Nothing is known about his attitude to Isaac *Luria. It seems that he was head of the Meron yeshivah and it is almost certain that he was an officiating rabbi in Safed. A prolific author, he wrote some works on the Bible, and others of a kabbalistic nature. Many of his manuscripts were stolen when he died. It is not clear whether this was done during persecutions, or by other authors. None of his purely kabbalistic works was printed or preserved in manuscript.
Alkabeẓ, in order to understand the secrets of the Zohar, used to go out with his students to pray and meditate on the graves of ẓaddikim. This practice was called gerushin ("banishment"). During these gerushin-peregrinations, they concentrated on rousing their contemplative powers spontaneously and without any previous preparation. Alkabeẓ had a powerful gift for stimulating spiritual revivals and mystical life. His best-known disciple was Moses *Cordovero (who married Alkabeẓ' sister). It seems, however, that the teacher became student. This is mainly apparent from Alkabeẓ' Likkutei Hakdamot le-Ḥokhmat ha-Kabbalah ("Collection of Introductions to the Doctrine of Kabbalah," Oxford Ms. 40). The structure of this work is analogous to that of Cordovero's first important book, Pardes Rimmonim, and the opinions expressed in both works are generally the same. In one matter of principle, however, Alkabeẓ took a more extreme view. According to him, the Sefirot ("Divine Emanations") are the essence of God, and he moved toward the conception of God as immanent in the world. His kabbalistic doctrine emphasized the theoretical element and attempted to endow these symbols reflecting an inner, hidden world, with a conceptual character.
As a kabbalistic commentator on the Bible, his system generally follows that of his teacher, Joseph *Taitaẓak. His manner of developing an argument by first raising a series of difficulties as a basis for the understanding of his text, is similar to that of the Sephardi commentators and homiletic authors of his time. In his opinion, the sayings of the talmudic
sages were the true Kabbalah, because they possessed authentic traditions which were handed down from generation to generation and their commentaries were not homiletical interpretations of the text. He believed that the aggadot of the sages were reliable, and that one should not be given preference over the other. His writings show that in addition to expressing purely kabbalistic opinions in unique style, he was one of the first to bring full-length quotations from the Zohar and to explain them. The work also includes esoteric aspects of the Torah which are interpreted in brief (Shoresh Yishai (1561), 77). More than any other scholar in Safed and in Turkey, he made extensive use of the kabbalistic writings of *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms, particularly Sha'arei Binah and Ma'aseh Roke'aḥ. His attitude toward the sciences was negative. He often quoted commentaries of latter-day authors, some of whom lived close to his own times, as well as his older contemporaries. Among these were the treatises on the Bible by Joseph Gakon and Joseph Jabeẓ he-Ḥasid. He also quoted from his father Moses Alkabeẓ, his uncle Joshua, Joseph Taitaẓak, and the great halakhist Jacob *Berab (c. 1474–1541).
A collection of Alkabeẓ's prayers has been preserved (Moscow, Ms. Guenzburg 694, and Paris Ms. 198). They contain supplications, confessions, admonitions, and songs of praise, both in the form of hymns and of meditations in the style of Gabirol's "Keter Malkhut." Alkabeẓ probably initiated the custom practiced by the kabbalists of Safed of going out to the fields to welcome the Sabbath with a recital of his hymns. His "Lekhah Dodi " achieved unparalleled popularity, and is sung in Jewish communities at *Kabbalat Shabbat. "Lekhah Dodi " was accepted soon after it was written and was introduced into the prayer book in 1584 (Sephardi version, Venice). The meaning of this hymn, which is permeated by a longing for redemption and the regeneration of the *Shekhinah ("Divine Presence"), was changed by the Shabbateans who contended that the Messiah had already arrived, and they adapted it to conform to their views.
His works include Ayyelet Ahavim (1552, on the Song of Songs), Shoresh Yishai (1561 or 1566 on Ruth), Manot ha-Levi (1585, two commentaries on the Scroll of Esther), Divrei Shelomo on the Minor Prophets, Ne'im Zemirot on Psalms, and Piẓei Ohev on Job. The titles of his other works on the Bible are not known. His sermons are also found in the book Or Ẓaddikim. His other writings are all kabbalistic: Oẓar Neḥmad, Amarot Tehorot, on the Sefirot and some sayings of the Zohar; Appiryon Shelomo, Beit Adohai, Beit Tefillah constitute "a comprehensive interpretation of all the prayers of the year"; Berit ha-Levi, a commentary on the Passover Haggadah in both the literal and the kabbalistic manner; Leḥem Shelomo, the devotional rules of the meals, in the kabbalistic manner; Mittato shel Shelomo on the mystical significance of sexual union; Sukkat Shalom, Avotot Ahavah, Shomer Emunim, prayers and litanies (Ms. 8° 1008, Jerusalem).
S.A. Horodezky, in: Sefer ha-Shanah shel Ereẓ Yisrael (1935); R.J.Z. Werblowsky, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 135–82; idem, Joseph Karo, Lawyer and Mystic (1962), 19–20, 51, 99–111, 119, 142; M. Benayahu, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 14–17.