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Ricchi, Raphael Immanuel ben Abraham ḥai


RICCHI, RAPHAEL IMMANUEL BEN ABRAHAM ḤAI (1688–1743), Italian rabbi, kabbalist, and poet. Ricchi was born in Ferrara, but when he was two years old his family moved to Rovigo. When he was six his father died and his mother's brother, Jedidiah Rabbino, undertook to provide for the family and the education of the children. On Rabbino's death his son took charge of the family and married Ricchi's sister. At the age of 20 Ricchi began to travel around various Italian cities, making his living as a teacher. Although his great wish was to study Kabbalah with *Benjamin b. Eliezer ha-Kohen Vitale of Reggio, he had to abandon his aim for economic reasons. In 1717 he was ordained rabbi in Trieste by R. Hillel Ashkenazi of Canea. Immigrating to Ereẓ Israel in 1718, he settled in Safed, where he devoted himself to the study of Lurianic Kabbalah. In Safed he was ordained rabbi by Ḥayyim Abulafia, the rabbi of Safed. Because of a plague that ravaged the country, in which his daughter died, Ricchi left Ereẓ Israel after two years. On his way back to Italy, his ship was captured and taken to Tripoli, but he was released after 40 days. He settled in Leghorn, but later journeyed to Smyrna, Salonika, Constantinople, and London. He spent two years in Aleppo and in 1737 he arrived in Jerusalem, where he stayed for three years. In 1741 he returned to Leghorn to settle business matters connected with his books. While on one of his trips he was murdered by robbers.

His books, in the order in which they were written, are (1) Ma'aseh Ḥoshev (Venice, 1716), a commentary on the building of the tabernacle; (2) Ḥoshev Maḥashavot (Amsterdam, 1727), on the size of a mikveh, on phylacteries, and homiletic commentaries on the Bible and Talmud; (3) Hon Ashir (Amsterdam, 1731), commentaries on the Mishnah, written in Gorizia and completed and expanded in Safed. The tractates are interspersed with poems with explanations by the author beside them; (4) Mishnat Ḥasidim (Amsterdam, 1727), an exposition of Lurianic Kabbalah according to topics. With the aim of teaching the subject in a methodical fashion, the book is modeled on the six orders of the Mishnah, with each order divided into tractates. The division into three parts (maftehot) is the author's own: (a) Mafte'aḥ ha-Olamot, consisting of the orders Zera'im, Kodashim, Tohorot, and Nezikin; (b) Mafte'aḥ ha-Neshamot, containing the order Nashim; and (c) Mafte'aḥ ha-Kavvanot, containing the order Mo'ed. Ricchi's sources were books based on the Lurianic tradition according to Ḥayyim *Vital and Israel *Sarug. A commentary on Mafte'aḥ ha-Olamot, written by Moses b. Jekuthiel Zalman of Dragichin (later dayyan in Pinsk) and entitled Maggid Mishneh, was printed in the margin of the text in Zolkiew in 1745; (5) Yosher Levav (Amsterdam, 1737), considered by the author as "the soul of the Ḥasidic tradition." Written in Jerusalem, the book deals with basic kabbalistic problems of ẓimẓum ("withdrawal"), beri'ah ("creation"), and kavvanot ("intentions"). Here Ricchi considers the problem of whether the Lurianic ẓimẓum was a real act or not. While believing that God actually withdrew into Himself in order to make room for the created worlds, he contends that this is not the main question: just as it is impossible to understand that the worlds could be created without God (who fills everything) withdrawing in order to make room for them, so it is impossible to grasp how God could withdraw into His own Being. It is beyond the power of the human intellect to decide in this matter or to comprehend the possibility of ẓimẓum. Ricchi arrives at this conclusion because the assumption that ẓimẓum was not a real act might lead to the inference that the essence of God is to be found in the lowly material world and in places unsuited to His majesty. He interprets the saying "There is no place which does not contain Him" as referring to the providence of God, which is everywhere. His discussion of the problem of ẓimẓum is intended to counteract the arguments of his contemporary, Irgas; (6) Adderet Eliyahu (Leghorn, 1742), explanations of difficult passages in the Talmud, responsa, homilies on various verses in the Bible, and riddles; and (7) Ḥozeh Ẓiyyon (Leghorn, 1742), a kabbalistic commentary on Psalms. The introduction contains Ricchi's autobiography. As Ricchi died before the printing was completed, the story of his death was added to the end of the book along with an elegy on him composed by Solomon Joseph Carpi.


M. Teitelbaum, Ha-Rav mi-Liady, 2 (1913), 48ff.; Ghirondi-Nepi, 289; Landshuth, Ammudei, 302f.

[Efraim Gottlieb]

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