The expulsion of the Jewish
community in Spain, the most established and wealthy of the Jewish communities
in the Middle Ages, awakened a wave of soul searching in the Diaspora. The
uprooting of thousands of families form their homes, large-scale conversion, and
the Inquisition, renewed the difficult questions with regard to the substance of
Jewish existence in exile. The terrible calamity deepened messianic hopes and
the preoccupation with kabbalah and mysticism. Against the background of these
processes in the Jewish world, which came together with the conquest of the Land
of Israel by the Turks, Safed suddenly blossomed as a Jewish center and as a
hope for redemption.
Hundreds of rabbis and sages made their way in the 16th
century to the small town in the Upper Galilee. During a short period of 80
years norms of thinking, prayer, custom and liturgy that accompany the Jewish
People to this day were created. Yosef Karo wrote Shulhan Aruch; the kabbalist
Moshe Cordovero wrote Pardes Rimonim; Ya’acov Beirav treied to renew ordination;
Moshe Alsheikh, the kabbalist and preacher, wrote the book of sermons “Halsheikh
Hakadosh”; Shlomo Alkabetz, the kabbalist and poet, wrote Lecha Dodi. And above
all – Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi – Ha’ari – created the system of kabbalah
known by his name.
Since then Safed, as a study center of the revealed and the
hidden, has been etched in Jewish memory. Sages, rabbis, yeshiva students and
pilgrims continue to come to the town in search of redemption..