Vital, Samuel ben Ḥayyim

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VITAL, SAMUEL BEN ḤAYYIM (1598–c. 1678), kabbalist, youngest son of Ḥayyim *Vital. Vital grew up in Damascus where he studied under his father and other rabbis. He married a daughter of Josiah *Pinto. Vital was considered among the important talmudic authorities of Damascus. For many years he reedited his father's writings and added many of his own annotations (which begin Amar Shemu'el: "Samuel said"). Many kabbalists went to Damascus to study these writings at his home, but they were not given permission to copy them. From 1650 on Samuel prepared copies, some of which have been preserved. Around 1664 he went to Cairo where he served as rabbi. He was in close contact with the wealthy Raphael Joseph Chelebi. During the heyday of the Shabbatean movement (in 1666), he was responsible for the tikkun of repentance of the faithful in Egypt, "going about fasting, praying, and practicing flagellation from the beginning of these events." A protocol on his exorcism of an evil spirit (*dibbuk) in the summer of 1666 was published at the end of Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim (1903), fol. 77–78.

Samuel's writings include: Ḥayyim Shenayim Yeshalem (Ms. Guenzburg 283), his own and his father's novellae on the Talmud, the Shulḥan Arukh, Sifrei ha-Levush, and *Maimonides. The novellae appear in the Vilna edition of the Talmud, published in Jerusalem; Be'er Mayim Ḥayyim, responsa, is arranged according to the dates of the replies, in the handwriting of the author (ms. Oxford 832; Ha-Maggid, 15 (1871), 45). In his introduction to the responsa Samuel also mentions Sha'ar ha-Shamayim, a collection on astronomy and astrology, and Ta'alumot Ḥokhmah, amulets, practical Kabbalah, and incantations – which have been lost; Toẓe'ot Ḥayyim, sermons on the Torah, was written between 1630 and 1648. The author's own manuscript copy from 1674 is found in the Alliance Israélite Universelle Library, Paris, 128. The author's copies from previous years were in the library of the rabbi of Gur, 284 and 285; Mekor Ḥayyim (Leghorn, 1792), sermons for the new moon (Rosh Ḥodesh), was completed in 1649; Ḥokhmat Nashim (Badhab ms. 112, Jerusalem), on the laws of divorce, was completed in 1659; Ḥemdat Yisrael (Munkacs, 1901), on the kavvanot ("intentions of prayers") according to Isaac *Luria, was completed in 1663, apparently still in Damascus; another part of Ḥemdat Yisrael, still in manuscript (in the library of the rabbi of Gur), contains special prayers for epidemics and locust plague, and also piyyutim.


Scholem, Shabbetai Ẓevi, 1 (1957), 224, 227; 2 (1957), 539 and index.

[Gershom Scholem]