יום רביעי כ' באב תשפ"ב 17/08/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Rav Moshe Cordovero – the Ramak

The Ari haKadosh testified that the Ramak never tasted sin his entire life; he died with a pure and untainted soul. In his 48 years he became the greatest master of the mystical world of Kabbalah

Barak Sarig 15/07/2009 11:39

Rav Moshe Cordovero – the Ramak, was born in the year 5262 (1502), thirty years after the Spanish Expulsion. His birthplace remains unknown, but by his family name we can assume that the family originated from the city Cordova, Spain. Much of the details of his life too, are clouded in anonymity.

He grew up and lived in Tzefat, although we do not know when he arrived there. Tzefat was a quiet and peaceful city in those days, and became a center for Kabbalists who spent their days delving into the mystical fountains of Torah. His boundless Torah knowledge he gleaned from the great master Rav Yosef Karo, who lived then in Tzefat. He was ordained for Dayanus by Rav Yaakov Berav and appointed as Dayan in the city; in addition, he led a Yeshiva in Tzefat where he expounded his teachings in public.

At the age of twenty he branched out in his studies to taste the hidden portions of the Torah, and began to study Kabbalah under the guidance of the great composer and Kabbalist, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz – author of ‘Lecha Dodi’. He became Rav Shlomo’s brother-in-law when he married the latter’s sister. It was due to his influence that Rav Moshe was inspired to enter the study-halls of Kabbalah and dive into the deep waters of the Zohar. With time he acquired the tools to understand the secrets of the Torah.

In those days there was a custom amongst the Kabbalists to gather each Erev Shabbos and recite Viduy and expound on the hidden Torah and portions of the Zohar – a Sefer which drew all Kabbalists together like flies. Of interesting note is the fact that the Zohar had just been printed for the first time, at the beginning of the period of the Acharonim. It was during this time that the printing of Sefarim accelerated at an astounding pace, enriching the world of Torah to a profound extent.
Already at this young age the Ramak became renowned for his greatness in Torah; he spearheaded the study of Kabbalah in his time. In his Yeshiva he disseminated his teachings and guided his illustrious students – amongst them the holy Rav Chaim Vital, Rav Avraham Galanti (author of ‘Kol Bochim’) and Rav Eliyahu Vidash (author of ‘Reishis Chachma’).

In his ‘Sefer Gerushin’ we find remarkable descriptions of how Rav Shlomo Alkabetz and his students studied. Together they would take trips to nearby fields (in his words – ‘mitgarshim l’sadeh’), and pray by the graves of Tzaddikim – in particular those of Rav Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rebbe Elazar. He wrote of the original Chidushim they came up with on these trips.

“What I experienced (the Ramak) in these trips that we took with our master Rav Shlomo haLevi Alkabetz… to delve into the Torah, suddenly, we would discover original thoughts, things that you would never believe unless you saw it or attempted it many times.”

In his later years, the great Ari haKadosh – Rav Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi, arrived in Tzefat. He was to be the teacher and mentor of all Kabbalists; a spark of Moshe Rabbenu himself, and with his arrival Rav Moshe would converse with him for long hours in the mystical realms of Kabbalah, with each one imparting crystals of wisdom to the other.

The Ramak spent a large portion of his life writing, leaving behind him monumental works that were to become the turning point in the study of Kabbalah. He began with his famous Sefer ‘Pardes Rimonim’, but before he even completed it he had already begun compiling another tremendous work which included a comprehensive commentary on the Zohar – ‘Or Yakar’. A task of such mammoth proportions required untold stamina, and he struggled over it for most of his life.

A remarkable affair is told regarding this holy Sefer ‘Or Yakar’. Rav Menachem Azaria (the Rama miPana) was prepared to give a huge sum of money to the widow of the Ramak, in exchange for lending him the ‘Or Yakar’ so that he could copy it over. In the words of the ‘Igeres’: “He poured a thousand red gildens from his own assets to [that of] the widow of the Ramak to induce her to lend him the Sefer ‘Or Yakar’ which her late husband authored, a commentary on the Zohar, and all this aside from the expenses of the scribes and paper… and it is told, that… he sent another twenty gilden to Rav Yosef Karo and another twenty to Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, and ten to the Maharam Alshich, so they should recommend it, and he copied the manuscript…”

Years later the Chida (Rav Chaim David Azulai) mentions that he saw a copy of the contract that was signed in Tzefat in the year 5344 (1584), and in it the widow and her son Rav Gedalia Cordovero agreed to receive Sefarim instead of money. He further testifies that he saw the Rama miPana’s copy of ‘Or Yakar’ in a library in Modina, Italy, and it consists of sixteen volumes, with 5634 folio sheets inscribed on both sides!

Despite endless obstacles that hindered his path, as the Ramak himself wrote – “Because we are young, and have already been satiated with disgrace and bitterness… and straps of poverty are tied around the walls of our homes, and millstones are strung around our necks”, he nevertheless forged ahead and continued with his extensive writings that transformed him into the quintessential teacher. Not just a teacher of his own peers and even of his illustrious mentors, but of all masters of Kabbalah for generations to come. His first Sefer ‘Pardes Rimonim’ was completed during the month of Av 5308 (1548) when the Ramak was merely twenty-six years of age. This Sefer was a wonder to the world of Kabbalah – a compilation of sources, first and foremost from the Zohar itself, and from countless manuscripts and ancient booklets written by Kabbalists over the preceding three hundred years.

An enterprise such as this for one person - who succeeded not only in collecting innumerable manuscripts from previous times, but also in wading through the ambiguity and vagueness and opposing opinions that dominated these writings – is indeed mind-boggling. The Ramak integrated all his findings into one volume, in a clear and comprehensive format. Its thirty two chapters correspond to the ‘thirty two pathways of wisdom’ - as per the Sefer haYetzirah. This Sefer is lovingly called ‘Kitzur haPardes’, and is a treasure trove of sources and opinions from centuries gone by, and as such, is a prized asset to all those who wish to plumb the depths of Kabbalah.

Aside from all this, the Ramak had his own original thoughts on Kabbalah which he wrote down in a Sefer with such wondrous clarity, it was in essence an answer to the prayers of all Kabbalists in their attempt to understand this inscrutable world. This commentary is essential for the true comprehension of the Zohar as it explains the mystical Sefer almost word for word, however because of the sheer volume of the manuscript it has not been touched for hundreds of years. Only recently in Yerushalayim has the process begun of printing this monumental work.

Amongst his other writings we find the Sefer ‘Sheor Komah’ which is also a commentary on the Zohar. ‘Sefer Aylima Rabasi’ includes explanations on Kabbalah; ‘Tomer Devorah’ is an ethical work based on the thirteen principles of behaviour; ‘Or Ne’eram’ is a short volume dealing with the merits of learning Kabbalah, and ‘Tefilla l’Moshe’ is a Siddur with a commentary according to the teachings of Kabbalah.

On the 23rd of Tammuz 5330 (1570) a dense cloud of mourning settled over the city – Rav Moshe Cordovero returned his pure and untainted soul to its Creator on High. He was merely forty-eight years old. An illustrious entourage led him to his final resting place: his brother in law, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz who, twenty-eight years earlier had introduced him to the world of Kabbalah; at his side the elderly sage Rav Yosef Karo, the greatest of all Sefardic Halachic authorities after the Rambam whose teachings reached the entire nation. In his Hesped he cried and lamented: “Here lies buried an Aron Torah”. Amidst the crowd of mourners stood a man of about thirty years old, who had arrived in Tzefat only a few months earlier and had only yet begun to taste the sweetness of the Ramak’s Torah – Rav Yitzchak Luria, the Ari haKadosh. His eyes saw what others didn’t see, and he declared that “there is a pillar of cloud (or fire) in front of the coffin”. About the Ramak’s Torah he proclaimed: “Moshe is true and his Torah is true in the nether worlds!” He continued to eulogize that in all his life, the Ramak had never sinned and only departed this world on account of the serpent who caused Adam Harishon to sin, at the beginning of time.