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Rizzolo Orthodox Sephardic Jewish Family
My name is Ibram Idel Rizzolo, I am a Orthodox Sephardic Jew living in The greater New York Metropolitan area, who enjoys learning, museums, reading novels, writing, photography.My jewish ancestors originally were from a city named Fez in Marocco. Most of Rizzolo or Rizzolot ( or " Risolo" ) Jewish Families live in France, ( prior to 1750´s ) , Belgium, Israel, and North Italy ( mainly in Trieste city around the Riborgo ). I am 42 years old , married ,
and my wife´s name is Ann Cohen Rizzolo. We like to talk about Judaism, Torah, Halacha, Kabbalah, and specially about Sephardic Judaism traditions. .
So, let´s talk about Sephardim Jews.Sefarad is a Hebrew word meaning Spain. So, in the strictest sense of the word the Sephardim (plural of Sephardi) are the Jews who came from the Iberian peninsula. Today however the word Sephardim has taken a much wider meaning and includes Jewish Communities in North Africa, Iraq (Babylon), Syria, Greece, Turkey and most Jews who are not Ashkenazim. The word Ashkenazi has had a similar broadening of its definition. Arising from a Hebrew word meaning "german" it has taken on a broader definition that includes not only German Jews but those of Eastern Europe and Russia as well.
Today the distinction between Sephardim and Ashkenazim is primarily one of differing traditions due to their backgrounds. Differing languages (ladino and arabic vs yiddish and polish), religious melodies during the services, festival traditions, Hebrew pronunciation are among the things that differ between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
While Ashkenazim can be religiously subdivided into Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc, the Sephardim have remained largely homogeneous and more traditionally religious in what, for lack of a better term, is called Orthodox. However it is an Orthodoxy that encompasses the entire spectrum of Sephardim, with obviously some Sephardim more religious than others, and possibly due to its Moorish exposure and free thinking Jewish philosophers such as Maimonides (see later) it is usually, in practice if not in dogma, often less rigid than one would expect
Most American Jews today are Ashkenazic, descended from Jews who emigrated from Germany and Eastern Europe in the mid- to late-1800s, although most of the early Jewish settlers of this country were Sephardic. The first Jewish congregation in North America, Shearith Israel, founded in what is now New York in 1684, was Sephardic and is still active. The first Jewish congregation in the city of Philadelphia, Congregation Mikveh Israel, founded in 1740, was also a Sephardic one, and is also still active.
The beliefs of Sephardic Judaism are basically in accord with those of Orthodox Judaism, though Sephardic interpretations of halakhah (Jewish Law) are somewhat different than Ashkenazic ones. Although some individual Sephardic Jews are less observant than others, and some individuals do not agree with all of the beliefs of traditional Judaism, there is no formal, organized differentiation into movements as there is in Ashkenazic Judaism.
Historically, Sephardic Jews have been more integrated into the local non-Jewish culture than Ashkenazic Jews. In the Christian lands where Ashkenazic Judaism flourished, the tension between Christians and Jews was great, and Jews tended to be isolated from their non-Jewish neighbors, either voluntarily or involuntarily. In the Islamic lands where Sephardic Judaism developed, no such segregation existed. Sephardic Jewish thought and culture was strongly influenced by Arabic and Greek philosophy and science.
Sephardic Jews have a different pronunciation of a few Hebrew vowels and one Hebrew consonant, though most Ashkenazim are adopting Sephardic pronunciation now because it is the pronunciation used in Israel. See Hebrew Alphabet. Their prayer services are somewhat different from Ashkenazic ones, and they use different melodies in their services. Sephardic Jews also have different holiday customs and different traditional foods.
The Yiddish language, which many people think of as the international language of Judaism, is really the language of Ashkenazic Jews. Sephardic Jews have their own international language: Ladino, which was based on Spanish and Hebrew in the same way that Yiddish was based on German and Hebrew.
There are some Jews who do not fit into this Ashkenazic/Sephardic distinction. Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews (also known as Beta Israel and sometimes called Falashas), and Oriental Jews also have some distinct customs and traditions. These groups, however, are relatively small and virtually unknown in America. For more information on Ethiopian Jewry, see the Index of Ethiopian Jewry Pages. For more information on Oriental Jewry, see The Jews from Asia.
Festa della Legge [in Livorno's Antica Sinagoga], 1850
Italy is unique in Jewish history. It is home to a community dating back over two thousand years, the oldest in Europe and the only to have survived uninterrupted. For seventy generations, it has succeeded in conserving its original characteristics, patrimony and identity without conforming to a surrounding environment often hostile and oppressive, political and individual inclemency.
The community's presence is unknown and miniscule, deeply rooted in Italy's long history, a mosaic pieced from the scarce documentation available. Not only differences in religious beliefs but customs accenting these discrepancies continually aggravated the Italian Jew's already difficult situation. In spite of the extremely limited population and the overwhelming adversity surrounding them, the Jewish and Christian populations have endured in extremely close contact.
Yet both have continued to remain reciprocal strangers in a disparity which often favored (or disfavored) one legally and politically and the other economically. The Florentine Rabbi Samuel Zvi Margulies (1858-1922) compared the two people to two liquids—oil and water. Italy is emblematic of the Diaspora but within it are many Jewish worlds. Each has its own unique features, history and humanity. A name may indicate provenance from the land of exile or adoption and well understood between one Italian Jew and another. This is not the case with the language. Yiddish never existed in Italy. There is a Judaic dialect in Rome, another in Mantova, and still others in Turin and Leghorn.
Interior of the Saadon Synagogue in Fez, Marocco"
The earliest evidence of a Jewish presence in Morocco is on tombstones dated 2nd Century C.E., found in the north of the country. As early as the 6th and 7th centuries, the Moroccan Jewish community increased as a result of incursions of Spanish Jews and mass conversions of Berber tribes. There seems to have been fairly regular movement -- economic, intellectual and spiritual -- between the communities of Morocco and Spain until the period of the Inquisition. Until recent times, there was a large and developed Jewish community -- over 10,000 Jews once lived in Morocco.
Jews first appeared in Morocco more than two millennia ago, traveling there in association with Phoenician traders. The first substantial Jewish settlements developed in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. The community grew as an outpost of Palestine, maintaining close ties with the Jewish homeland even as North Africa rose in rebellion against Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. While they were not rebelling, the Jews lived in relative tranquillity, allowed to maintain their status as a distinct nation throughout the Pax Romana.
However, after Constantine made Christianity the law of the land in the 4th century A.D. the Romans started making laws against the Jews. Byzantine Emperor Justinian solidified these laws, and held Jews in contempt until the Muslims conquered the land in the 7th century.
As early as Roman times, Moroccan Jews had begun to travel inland to trade with groups of Berbers, most of whom were nomads who dwelled in remote areas of the Atlas Mountains. Jews lived side by side with Berbers, forging both economic and cultural ties; some Berbers even began to practice Judaism. In response, Berber spirituality transformed Jewish ritual, painting it with a belief in the power of demons and saints. When the Muslims swept across the North of Africa, Jews and Berbers defied them together. Across the Atlas Mountains, legendary Queen Kahina led a tribe of 7th century Jewish-Berbers in battle against encroaching Islamic warriors.
Though the Muslims defeated Kahina and converted her ancestors to Islam, many Berber communities maintained their Judaism.
As they did elsewhere, Muslims in Morocco made a clear distinction between "Believers" and "Infidels." They developed a third category for Jews and Christians, "People of the Book," who hadn’t yet accepted Mohammed. Jews in Islamic societies became dhimmis, second-class citizens, who were allowed to practice their religion but did not have equal rights under law. In the 11th century Muslim leader Al Mawardi solidified twelve laws (the Charter of Omar) that ruled Jewish life in Islamic nations – they couldn’t touch the Koran, speak of the Prophet demeaningly, touch Muslim women or do anything that would turn a Muslim against his faith.
The Muslims also forced Jewish dhimmi to wear a yellow sash, prohibited them from building synagogues taller than a Mosque and owning horses and did not allow them to drink wine in public or perform religious rituals in public. The dhimmi also had to play a head tax (djezya) and a property tax (kharaj).
Muslims forced urban Jews to live in ghettos called mellahs, a name derived from the Arabic word for salt because Muslims often forced Jews in Morocco to salt the heads of executed prisoners before their public display. These mellahs were crowded, filthy, poverty-stricken areas traversed by narrow corridors and dark, uninviting passageways. As a result of this segregation the Jews educated their own, leading to a high literacy rate, much higher than that of the Muslim community.
Some Jews were able to use their intellectual abilities to excel in business, further separating themselves from the rest of Muslim society.
The Moroccan Jewish community experienced a population explosion in the 15th and 16th centuries as Inquisition exiles fled from Spain and Portugal. The Spanish Jews were very different from the North African Jews, but they tolerated each other, sharing both customs and meager resources. Ottoman Turks tolerated the Jews but did them no special favors. When most Moroccan Jews welcomed the French declaration of the Moroccan Protectorate 1912, frustrated Muslims reacted by massacring Jews in the Fez mellah. Jews became Moroccan citizens under the Protectorate, though they were not afforded political equality. A fierce independence rebellion broke out in 1947 on the heels of subsequent Vichy French and Allied occupations of North Africa. The independence movement succeeded in 1955.
As Morocco’s new Muslim government became more friendly with the Arab League, the Jewish position grew more uncertain; Jews tried to escape from Morocco but government troops captured and jailed them. In 1961 King Hassan II gave the Jews the right to emigrate, and a substantial percentage did.
Today there are several thousand Jews in Morocco, most of whom live in Casablanca. There are pockets of Jews in cities like Fez, Rabat and Marrakesh, and a continued Berber-Jewish remnants in small villages like Inezgane. Contemporary Moroccan Judaism is a blend of Oriental, Berber, Arab, Spanish customs, resulting in a variety of practices that combine Rabbinical teachings with a devotion to spiritualism unfamiliar to most Western Jews.
The Jews of Morocco have preserved the widest variety of styles in costume compared to other Jewish groups. Urban dress is characterized by the use of velvets, brocades and silks. The most distinctive Moroccan Jewish costume is the "Great Dress" or Kswat el Kebira, which was worn by Jewish women in northern Spanish Morocco, in the city of Tetuan in particular. Jewish needlewomen of Tetuan were renowned for these ornately embroidered wedding dresses.
The origins of the Great Dress are traced to the costume worn by Jews in Spain at the time of the Expulsion (15th century). It exists in several colors, with evidence of regional variation. It is given to a bride by her father for wear at the wedding activities and other festive occasions. It is first worn at a pre-nuptial ceremony, the henna ceremony. The Great Dress has five parts. They are: 1) jeltita, a velvet wrap skirt, with bands of gold embroidery; 2) gonbaiz, an open top with short sleeves; 3) punta/ktel, a plastron worn inside the gonbaiz; 4) kmam, wide muslin sleeves worn over the shoulders like a shawl and 5) hezam, a girdle/belt of gold lame
THE GREAT SEPHARDIC SAGE MAIMONIDES, MOSES (Biography)
(Moses ben; known in rabbinical literature as "Rambam"; from the acronym Rabbi Moses ben Maimon; 1135-1204)
Rabbinic authority, codifier, philosopher, and royal physician; the most illustrious figure in Judaism in the post-talmudic era. Maimonides was born in Cordoba, Spain, but left with his family in the wake of the Almohad conquest and subsequent religious persecution. After years of wandering from place to place, they settled in Fez in 1160. During the years of wandering, Maimonides laid the foundations of his vast and varied learning and even began his literary work. In 1165, the family escaped from Fez with the advent of a new Almohad monarch and a month later landed at Acre. They remained in Acre for some five months, making a tour of the Holy Land that included Jerusalem and the Cave of the Machpelah in Hebron, and then left for Egypt. After a short stay at Alexandria they took up residence in Fostat, the Old City of Cairo.
For eight years, Maimonides lived a life free from care. Supported by his brother David, who dealt in precious stones, he was able to devote himself entirely to preparing his writings for publication and to his onerous but honorary work as both religious and lay leader of the community. His Siraj, the commentary to the Mishnah, was completed in 1168. The following year he suffered a crushing blow. His brother David drowned in the Indian Ocean while on a business trip, leaving a wife and two children, and with him were lost not only the family fortune but moneys belonging to others. Maimonides took the blow badly. For a full year he lay almost prostrate, and then he had to seek a means of livelihood. Rejecting the thought of earning a living from Torah, he decided to make the medical profession his livelihood.
Fame in his calling did not come at once. It was only after 1185, when he was appointed one of the physicians to al-Fadil, who had been appointed vizier by Saladin and was virtual ruler of Egypt after Saladin's departure from that country in 1174, that his fame began to spread. As a physician, Maimonides was a strict rationalist, producing numerous treatises that were translated from the Arabic into Hebrew and Latin and helped spread his fame in the West. This is reflected, perhaps, in the legend that he was invited to become royal physician of England by King Richard the Lion-Hearted during the Second Crusade.
These were the most fruitful and busy years of his life. His first wife had died young, and in Egypt he remarried, taking as his wife the sister of Ibn Almali, one of the royal secretaries, who himself married Maimonides' only sister. To them was born their only son Abraham, to whose education he lovingly devoted himself. It was during those years, busy as he was with the heavy burden of his practice and occupied with the affairs of the community, writing his extensive correspondence to every part of the Jewish world (apart from the Franco-German area), that he wrote the two monumental works upon which his fame chiefly rests, the Mishneh Torah (compiled 1180) and the Guide of the Perplexed (1190).
With the completion of the Guide, Maimonides' literary work, apart from his extensive correspondence, came to an end. In failing health he nevertheless continued his work as head of the Jewish community and as court physician. He died on December 13, 1204. There were almost universal expressions of grief. Public mourning was ordained in all parts of the Jewish world. In Fostat, mourning was ordained for three days, and in Jerusalem a public fast, and the Scriptural readings instituted concluded with the verse "the glory is departed from Israel, for the Ark of the Lord is taken" (I Sam. 4:22). His remains were taken to Tiberias for burial, and his grave is still an object of pilgrimage.
Maimonides is regarded as the supreme rationalist, and this is amply illustrated in his three great works, the commentary on the Mishnah, the Mishneh Torah (see Maimonides, Moses - Halakhist), and the Guide of the Perplexed (see Maimonides, Moses - Philosophy), as well as in his extensive and very important medical writings. In his letters he emerges as a warm human being, his heart open to the suffering of his people, and expressing and responding to both affection and hostility.
No praise can be too high for Maimonides' works, both in language and logical method. The Mishneh Torah was the only one which he wrote in Hebrew (the others are in Judeo-Arabic), and the language is superb, clear, and succinct. The Mishneh Torah is a model of logical sequence and studied method, each chapter and each paragraph coming in natural sequence to the preceding one. The seeds of his later writings are clearly discernible in his earliest writings, so that it can be stated that his whole subsequent system and ideas were already formulated in his mind. His influence on subsequent Jewish philosophers and on the development of Judaism, as well as on Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart, makes him one of the great figures of Western thought. He played an incalculable role in shaping the future development of Judaism. No spiritual leader of the Jewish people in the post-talmudic period has exercised such an influence both in his own and subsequent generations.
Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (Nachmanides) - RAMBAN
Born in Gerona, Calabria, Spain, 1195
died: Eretz Yisrael, 1270
Commentator, talmudist, kabbalist.
Popularly known as Ramban (after the initials of his name) and as Nachmanides, (Greek for "son of Nachman"). Halachist, commentator, philosopher.
The Ramban's soul was from a very high level. In Shaar HaGilgulim (hakdama 36) of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the ARI he states, "The Rambam (1135-1204) is from the left sideburn, therefore he did not merit to know the wisdom of the Zohar, but the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman) is from the right sideburn and therefore he merited to know the wisdom of the Zohar. The Ari also testifies to the depth and reliability of the mystical portion of Ramban's Torah commentary, and considers Ramban the last of the ancient Kabbalistic school, who received direct transmission of the mystical secrets that were later concealed.
Scion of a renowned rabbinical family, a relative of Rabbi Yonah of Gerona, Ramban studied under R' Yehudah ben Yakar and R' Natan ben Meir. His mentors in Kabbalah were were R' Ezra and R' Ezriel, both of Gerona. He also studied medicine, which he practiced professionally, languages and physics.
Ramban personifies the best and noblest in Spanish Jewry. Most of the Ramban's life was spent in Gerona disseminating Torah to his many disciples. He was acknowledged as the foremost halachic authority in all of Spain, and his decisions were respected in other countries as well.
In 1238, Ramban was called upon to voice his opinion concerning the great controversy regarding Rambam's works. In response, he praised the scholarship of Rabbi Shlomo of Montpellier, who headed the opposition to Rambam, and severely chastised all who would insult this great Talmudist for his zeal. At the same time, Ramban also sought to still the vehemence of Rambam's opponents by pointing out that Misneh Torah shows no leniency in interpretating Halachah, and is sometimes quite strict.
As to Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim ("Guide of the Perplexed"), Ramban explains that it was not intended for public use, but only for those who had been led astray by philosophy. He also pointed out that while Moreh Nevuchim might be unnecessary and even injurious to the Jews of France and Germany, it was of vital necessity to the philosophical oriented Sephardic community of Spain.
Accordingly, he beseeched the promulgators of the ban to revoke it, permitting the study of the Moreh Nevuchim and the philosophical sections of Sefer MaMada in the Misneh Torah.
Ramban wrote novellae (chidushim) on most of the Talmud in the style of the Tosafists. His other works include: Torat HaAdam, a compendium of laws of mourning climaxing with Shaar HaGemul, a treatise discussing reward and punishment and the resurrection of the dead; Iggeret Mussar, an ethical epistle addressed to his son; Sefer HaGeulah on the coming of Mashiach; a commentary on Iyov (Job); Mishpat HaCherem, on the laws of excommunication, which was printed Kol Bo; Hilchot Bedikah on laws governing the examination of the animal's lungs after ritual slaughter; Hilchot Challah; and Hilchot Niddah (printed with his chiddushim to Tractate Niddah).
A kabbalistic treatise HaEmunah VeHaBitachon and Iggeret HaKodesh; on the sanctity and significance of marriage are ascribed to him, but this is disputed.
In 1263, King James of Aragon forced Ramban to hold a public religious dispute with the Jewish apostate Pablo Christiani. In the presence of King James and many dignitaries and clerics, Ramban completely demolished his opponent with the logic of his arguments. In admiration, the King rewarded the victorious Ramban with a gift of 300 coins. The fanatical Dominican priests, however began to spread the rumor that their side had won the debate. Ramban responded by publishing an exact account of the questions and answers used in the dispute, under the title Sefer HaVichuach. The clerics then charged him with humiliating the Catholic religion.
Ramban admitted the charge, but contended that he had only written what he said during the disputation in the presence of the king, who had granted him freedom of speech. Nevertheless, Sefer HaVichuach was condemned to be burnt and Ramban was expelled from Aragon.
For three years, Ramban sojourned in Castille of Provence, where he began writing his monumental Torah Commentary, unique in that it not only interprets the verses, but also analyzes the topics, presenting them in a Torah Perspective. Intermingled with aggadic and kabbalistic interpretations are careful examinations of other commentaries, especially Rambam and Ibn Ezra, whom the Ramban severely criticizes for an over rational approach which, in his opinion, deviated from the true Talmudic and kabbalistic interpretations. Ramban also frequently disagrees with Rashi's rendering, and such later authors as Mizrachi and Maharal wrote rebuttals defending Rashi.
Ramban's Commentary on the Torah is studied widely. It is printed in all editions of Mikraot Gedolot.
In 1267, at age 72, Ramban decided to settled in Eretz Yisrael. Before departing, he gave a dissertation on Ecclesiastes, lauding the Holy Land and the precept of charity. After a difficult journey and much suffering, Ramban arrived in Acco in Elul, 1267. He spent Rosh HaShanah in Jerusalem, which was is a deplorable condition as a result of the havoc wrought by the Crusaders. Ramban designated a desolate house as a synagogue, and brought in a Torah scroll from Shechem. In this synagogue he gave a drasha on the laws of Shofar, and exhorted the inhabitants of Israel to be exceedingly careful that their actions be righteous, for they are like servants in the King's palace. With Rambam's help the Jewish community in Jerusalem, which had all but ceased to exist, began its revival.
Ramban himself settled in Acco, a Torah center at the time, and gathered about him a circle of pupils. Here he completed his Torah commentary. He kept in close contact with his family in Spain, telling them of conditions in the Holy Land.
Various opinions place Ramban's burial site at Hebron, near the cave of Machpelah, Haifa, Acco, or Jerusalem. The Rivash (Rabbi Yitzchak ben Sheset Perfet), writes of him, "All his words are like sparks of fire, and the entire communities of Castille rely upon his halachic ruling as if given directly from the Almighty to Moshe Rabeinu."
"May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman protect us all, Amen".
Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto
Moses Hayyim Luzzatto was a scholar and mystic of the 18th century. He was born in Padua, Italy into a distinguished Jewish family and spent his childhood studying Bible, Talmud, and Halakhah, as well as secular literature and classical language. His knowledge was impressive and he quickly earned a reputation as a scholar of rare ability. When Luzzatto was 20 years old, he joined a Kabbalistic group and immersed himself in mystical studies. In 1727 he claimed to hear a voice which he understood to be a "maggid," a divine messenger or power which reveals heavenly secrets to human beings; this was to be the first of many messages he would receive. Luzzatto shared these messages with those in his Kabbalistic circle, a group of young men who had come to Padua to study at the university.
Luzzatto described one of his revelations this way: "I fell into a trance. When I awoke, I heard a voice saying, 'I have descended in order to reveal the hidden secrets of the Holy King.' For a while I stood there trembling but then I took hold of myself. The voice did not cease from speaking and imparted a particular secret to me. At the same time on the second day I saw to it that I was alone in the room and the voice came again to impart a further secret to me. One day he revealed to me that he was a maggid sent from heaven, and he gave me certain yichudim (unifications) that I was to perform in order for him to come to me. I never saw him but heard his voice speaking in my mouth... Then Elijah came and imparted his own secrets to me. And he said that Metatron (the angel), the great prince, will come to me. From that time onward, I came to recognize each of my visitations. Souls whose identity I do not know are also revealed to me. I write down each day the new ideas each of them imparts to me."
Jekuthiel Gordon, a member of Luzzatto's Kabbalistic circle, wrote this account in a letter: 'There is here a holy man, my master and teacher, the holy lamp, the lamp of God, his honor Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto. For these past two and a half years a "maggid" has been revealed to him, a holy and tremendous angel who reveals wondrous mysteries to him... The angel speaks out of his mouth but we, his disciples, hear nothing. The angel begins to reveal to him great mysteries. Then my master orders Elijah to come to him and he comes to impart mysteries of his own. Sometimes Metatron, the great prince [and angel], also comes to him as well as the Faithful Shepherd [Moss], the patriarch Abraham, Rabbi Hamnuna the Elder, and That Old Man and sometimes King Messiah and Adam... To sum up, nothing is hidden from him. At first permission was only granted to reveal to him the mysteries of the Torah but now all things are revealed to him."
Luzzatto and his followers were concerned with issues of redemption and messianism. In fact, it seems that they believed that the process of redemption had begun in their day and they sought to promote its unfolding. As a group, Luzzatto and his followers formulated a "code" for the group which included laws dealing with methods of study, relationships between group members and Luzzatto, and a declaration of their purpose as a Kabbalistic group, to bring about the redemption of all Israel, not just the individual members of the group. They did not envision their activities and efforts as personal or private attempts at redemption or atonement, but rather intended their studies and activities to inaugurate the "tikkun" (restoration) of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) and Am Yisrael (the people Israel). Luzzatto believed himself to be a reincarnation of Moses and ascribed to himself the role of redeeming Israel. Another member of the group, Moses David Valle, seemed to have thought of himself as the Messiah, son of David, while yet another member took on the role of Serayah, who was to be the commander of Israel's army in the messianic era.
When word got out of Luzzatto's messages, the rabbis of Venice became alarmed, considering such mystical activities dangerous. They thought that Luzzatto and his followers might be a Shabbatean heretical group, one of many who followed the teachings of the false messiah, Shabbatai Tzvi. Luzzatto admitted to being influenced by the writings of Nathan of Gaza, Shabbatai Tzvi's "prophet." He claimed that the positive elements of Shabbatai Tzvi's teachings could be separated from the heretical elements, but few rabbinic authorities agreed with this opinion, since Shabbateanism was a powerful wave sweeping over the Jewish community. A bitter controversy ensued concerning the verity and propriety of Luzzatto's activities and claims. Some authorities in the Jewish community claimed that Luzzatto was not a proper recipient of such revelations, since he was young and unmarried. Tradition has long held that one ought to be married and over the age of 40 to engaged in mystical speculation. Luzzatto's house was searched and evidence that he engaged in magical practices was found. He was compelled to cease and desist from teaching Kabbalah and disclosing messages from the "maggid." However, Luzzatto continued to write about Kabbalah. His marriage, in 1731, was seen as symbolic of the union of the Shechinah and her divine husband. Despite his marriage, the controversy continued and, under pressure, Luzzatto left for Amsterdam in 1735, where he lived until 1734 writing about Kabbalah but not teaching mystical practices any longer.
In 1743 Luzzatto and his family traveled to Acco, where they settled. Luzzatto died along with his family, shortly thereafter in 1746 in a plague. He was 39 at the time of his death. He left several Kabbalistic writings ("Pitchei Chochmah" is a systematic theosophical explanation of Lurianic Kabbalah and "Zohar Tinyana," which exists today only in parts that are printed in other works, discusses redemption), as well as ethical treatises (most notably "Mesillat Yesharim: The Path of the Upright") and some poetry.
MIDRASH BEN ISH HAI
Hakham Ribbi Yoseph Hayyim (Ashk. Yosef Chaim} o.b.m.
5594 - 5669 (1834 - 1909) born in Baghdad on 27 Ab, 5594 (September 1st, 1834).
The greatest of Jewish Babylonian Hakhamim in recent times. Rabbi and Qabbalist whose teachings were followed in numerous countries and continue to be followed by Sepharadim world-wide
From early childhood his rare talents and noble traits were apparent. He studied in a Torah school as a child and then with his uncle. By the age of 14 he started at Midrash Beth Zilkha. He studied Torah with the head of the Midrash, Hakham 'Abdallah Somekh, 'alaw hashalom, and excelled using his sharpness and exceptional memory.
A few years later he left the Beth Midrash and learned Torah day and night in his attic.
In 1851, he married and had a son and daughter.
His knowledge covered all aspects of Judaism, the hidden and the revealed, Qabbalah, Talmud, Mishna, Halakha and so on. He wrote numerous books on all aspects of Judaism. He received questions in Halakha from all over the world and was in close contact with Sephardi and Ashkenazi Hakhamim alike.
He was a very pure and holy man. He was said to possess Ruwah Haqodesh, even though he himself denied this.
At the age of 25, his father, Hakham Eliyahu Hayyim, passed away. Hakham Yosef Hayyim replaced his father, becoming the only Hakham in Baghdad to give a Derasha (sermon) in Baghdad on five very important Shabbthoth in the year. He continued in his father's position for 50 years.
He was known for his love of Eres Yisrael and supported messengers who came to collect money for the poor there. In 1869, he made a trip to Eres Yisrael and received a very warm and important welcome by all the Hakhamim.On the 8th of Elul 5669, he went on a pilgrimage to to the tomb of the Prophet Yehezqel Hannabi. He became sick and on the 13th of Elul he passed away.
He was returned to Baghdad, arriving at night to very great sorrow. That very night he was buried. The turnout was huge, comprising Jews and non-Jews alike. All came to pay their respects to this very great man.
The list of his many great works includes:
Ben Ish Hai
'Od Yoseph Hai
Issac Luria (Yitzhak ben Solomon Ashkenazi), also known as the Ari, was a famed Jewish mystic who had messianic pretentions. In many ways he is the founder of Kabbalah in its modern form.
He was born of German parents at Jerusalem in 1534; died at Safed, Israel Aug. 5. 1572. While still a child he lost his father, and was brought up by his rich uncle Mordecai Francis, tax-farmer at Cairo, who placed him under the best Jewish teachers. Luria showed himself a diligent student of rabbinical literature; and, under the guidance of Bezaleel Ashkenazi, he, while quite young, became proficient in that branch of Jewish learning.
At the age of fifteen he married his cousin, and, being amply provided for, was enabled to continue his studies undisturbed. When about twenty-two years old, becoming engrossed with the study of the Zohar, which had recently been printed for the first time, he adopted the life of a hermit. He removed to the banks of the Nile, and for seven years secluded himself in an isolated cottage, giving himself up entirely to meditation. He visited his family only on the Sabbath, speaking very seldom, and always in Hebrew. Such a mode of life could not fail to produce its effect on a man endowed by nature with a lively imagination. Luria became a visionary. He believed he had frequent interviews with the prophet Elijah, by whom he was initiated into sublime doctrines. He asserted that while asleep his soul ascended to heaven and conversed with the great teachers of the past.
In 1569 Luria removed to Palestine; and after a short sojourn at Jerusalem, where his new cabalistic system seems to have met with but little success, he settled at Safed. There he formed a circle of cabalists to whom he imparted the doctrines by means of which he hoped to establish on a new basis the moral system of the world. To this circle belonged Moses Cordovero, Solomon Alḳabiẓ, Joseph Caro, Moses Alshech, Elijah de Vidas, Joseph Ḥagiz, Elisha Galadoa, and Moses Bassola. They met every Friday, and each confessed to another his sins. Soon Luria had two classes of disciples: (1) novices, to whom he expounded the elementary Cabala, and (2) initiates, who became the depositaries of his secret teachings and his formulas of invocation and conjuration. The most renowned of the initiates was Ḥayyim Vital of Calabria, who, according to his master, possessed a soul which had not been soiled by Adam's sin. In his company Luria visited the sepulchers of Simeon ben Yoḥai and of other eminent teachers, the situation of which had been revealed to him by his constant mentor, the prophet Elijah. Luria's cabalistic circle gradually widened and became a separate congregation, in which his mystic doctrines were supreme, influencing all the religious ceremonies. On Sabbath Luria dressed himself in white and wore a fourfold garment to signify the four letters of the Ineffable Name. His followers looked upon him as a saint who had the power to perform all kinds of miracles, while he himself pretended to be Messiah ben Joseph, the forerunner of Messiah ben David.
Luria used to deliver his lectures extempore and, with the exception of some cabalistic poems in Aramaic for the Sabbath service, did not write anything. The real exponent of his cabalistic system was Hayyim Vital. He collected all the notes of the lectures which Luria's disciples had made; and from these notes were produced numerous works, the most important of which was the " 'Eẓ Hayyim," in six volumes (see below). At first this circulated in manuscript copies; and each of Luria's disciples had to pledge himself, under pain of excommunication, not to allow a copy to be made for a foreign country; so that for a time all the manuscripts remained in Palestine. At last, however, one was brought to Europe and was published at Zolkiev in 1772 by Satanow. In this work are expounded both the speculative Cabala, based on the Zohar, and the practical or miraculous Cabala, of which Luria was the originator.
Teachings about the Sefirot
The characteristic feature of Luria's system in the speculative Cabala is his definition of the Sefirot and his theory of the intermediary agents, which he calls "partzufim" (from πρόσωπν = "face"). Before the creation of the world, he says, the En Sof filled the infinite space. When the Creation was decided upon, in order that His attributes, which belong to other beings as well, should manifest themselves in their perfection, the En Sof retired into His own nature, or, to use the cabalistic term, concentrated Himself. From this concentration proceeded the infinite light. When in its turn the light concentrated, there appeared in the center an empty space encompassed by ten circles or dynamic vessels ("kelim") called "Sefirot," by means of which the infinite realities, though forming an absolute unity, may appear in their diversity; for the finite has no real existence of itself.
However, the infinite light did not wholly desert the center; a thin conduit () of light traversed the circles and penetrated into the center. But while the three outermost circles, being of a purer substance because of their nearness to the En Sof, were able to bear the light, the inner six were unable to do so, and burst. It was, therefore, necessary to remove them from the focus of the light. For this purpose the Sefirot were transformed into "figures" ("parẓufim").
The first Sefirah, Keter, was transformed into the potentially existing three heads of the Macroprosopon ("Erek Anfin"); the second Sefirah, Ḥokmah, into the active masculine principle called "Father" ("Abba"); the third Sefirah, Binah, into the passive, feminine principle called "Mother" ("Imma"); the six broken Sefirot, into the male child ("Ze'er"), which is the product of the masculine active and the feminine passive principles; the tenth Sefirah, Malkut, into the female child ("Bat"). This proceeding was absolutely necessary. Had God in the beginning created these figures instead of the Sefirot, there would have been no evil in theworld, and consequently no reward and punishment; for the source of evil is in the broken Sefirot or vessels, while the light of the En Sof produces only that which is good. These five figures are found in each of the four worlds; namely, in the world of emanation (); in that of creation (); in that of formation ( ); and, in that of action , which represents the material world.
Luria's psychological system, upon which is based his practical Cabala, is closely connected with his metaphysical doctrines. From the five figures, he says, emanated five souls, Neshamah, Ruaḥ, Nefesh, Ḥayyah, and Yeḥidah; the first of these being the highest, and the last the lowest. Man's soul is the connecting link between the infinite and the finite, and as such is of a manifold character. All the souls destined for the human race were created together with the various organs of Adam. As there are superior and inferior organs, so there are superior and inferior souls, according to the organs with which they are respectively coupled. Thus there are souls of the brain, souls of the eye, souls of the hand, etc. Each human soul is a spark ("niẓoẓ") from Adam. The first sin of the first man caused confusion among the various classes of souls: the superior intermingled with the inferior; good with evil; so that even the purest soul received an admixture of evil, or, as Luria calls it, of the element of the "shells" ("ḳelipot"). From the lowest classes of souls proceeded the pagan world, while from the higher emanated the Israelitish world. But, in consequence of the confusion, the former are not wholly deprived of the original good, and the latter are not altogether free from sin. This state of confusion, which gives a continual impulse toward evil, will cease with the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the moral system of the world upon a new basis. Until that time man's soul, because of its deficiencies, can not return to its source, and has to wander not only through the bodies of men and of animals, but even through inanimate things such as wood, rivers, and stones.
Return of the Soul
To this doctrine of metempsychosis Luria added the theory of the impregnation ("ibbur") of souls; that is to say, if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and, attaching itself to the soul of a living man, unite with it in order to make good such neglect.
Further, the departed soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul which feels unequal to its task. However, this union, which may extend to three souls at one time, can only take place between souls of homogeneous character; that is, between those which are sparks of the same Adamite organ. The dispersion of Israel has for its purpose the salvation of men's souls; and the purified souls of Israelites unite with the souls of men of other races in order to free them from demoniacal influences.
According to Luria, man bears on his forehead a mark by which one may learn the nature of his soul: to which degree and class it belongs; the relation existing between it and the superior world; the wanderings it has already accomplished; the means by which it can contribute to the establishment of the new moral system of the world; how it can be freed from demoniacal influences; and to which soul it should be united in order to become purified. This union can be effected by formulas of conjuration.
Influence on Ritua
Luria introduced his mystic system into religious observances. Every commandment had for him a mystic meaning. The Sabbath with all its ceremonies was looked upon as the embodiment of the Divinity in temporal life; and every ceremony performed on that day was considered to have an influence upon the superior world. Every word, every syllable, of the prescribed prayers contain hidden names of God upon which one should meditate devoutly while reciting. New mystic ceremonies were ordained and codified under the name of "Shulkhan Arukh shel Ari."
This tendency to substitute a mystic Judaism for rabbinical Judaism, against which Luria was warned by his teacher of Cabala, David ibn Abi Zimra, became still stronger after Luria's death. His disciples, who applied to him the epithets "Holy" and "Divine," sank further in mysticism and paved the way for the pseudo-Messiah Shabbethai Tzevi.
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