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Safed and Mysticism

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..


© ERETZ Magazine 2016