AriZal & Chaim Vital
Isaac Luria (1534 – July 25, 1572) (Hebrew: Yitzhak Lurya ), also called Yitzhak Ben Shlomo Ashkenazi and known as "The Ari", "Ari-Hakadosh", or "Arizal," meaning "The Lion, was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah. He is known for the mysticism and interpretation of his teachings in Kabbalah known as Lurianic Kabbalah. While his direct literary contribution to the Kabbalistic school of Safed was extremely minute (he wrote only a few poems), his spiritual fame led to their veneration and the acceptance of his authority. The works of his disciples compiled his oral teachings into writing.
Lurianic Kabbalah gave a revolutionary new account of Kabbalistic thought that its followers synthesised with, and read into, the earlier Kabbalah of the Zohar that had disseminated in Medieval circles. Lurianic Kabbalah describes new doctrines of the origins of Creation, and their cosmic rectification, as well as a new descriptive paradigm of preceding Kabbalistic teaching. The main popularizer of Luria's ideas was Rabbi Hayyim ben Joseph Vital, who claimed to be the official interpreter of the Lurianic system, though this was disputed by some.
Previous interpretation of the Zohar had culminated in the first complete intellectual synthesis of Kabbalah, in the rational school of Moshe Cordovero in Safed, immediately before Isaac Luria. Both schools gave Kabbalah a philosophical depth of theology to rival earlier Medieval Jewish philosophy ("Hakira"). Under the influence of the esoteric mystical developments of Jewish thought in 16th-century Safed, Kabbalah replaced Hakira as the main Jewish theology, both in scholarly circles, and in the popular imagination. Lurianic thought, seen by its followers as harmonious with, and successively more advanced than Cordoveran, mostly superseded it, and became the mystical dimension of most Orthodox theology until today, with the later Hasidic and Mitnagdic movements differing in their interpretations of it. The Sabbatean mystical heresy would also derive its source from Lurianic messianism, but distort the Kabbalistic interdependance of mysticism with Halacha.
Hayyim ben Joseph Vital
Hayyim ben Joseph Vital (Calabria, 1543 – Damascus, 23 April 1620) was a foremost exponent of Kabbalah.
Born in Calabria, Italy, as a young boy, Hayyim Vital was educated by the scholar, Rabbi Moses Alshech. Other than that, most of his early life is full of legends. For instance, it is claimed that at the age of twelve, he was told by a chiromancer that when he reached the age of twenty-four, he would find himself standing before two roads, and would rise or fall according to his choice. Rabbi Joseph Karo is said to have paid special attention to Vital's early talents and in 1557 requested that Alshech take special care in his education as he was destined to succeed his teacher in the world of Torah study. That same year, Vital first became acquainted with the kabbalist Rabbi Lapidot Ashkenazi, who would have a lasting influence on him.
Hayyim Vital apparently married at a young age. According to one legend, his first wife was Hannah, the daughter of a certain Moses Saadia. It was an unhappy marriage, and when he left his wife, the prophet Elijah appeared to him in a dream and led him to a beautiful garden, where he saw the pious of all ages, in the form of birds, flying through the garden and studying the Mishnah. In the center of the garden was God Himself, seated on a throne that was surrounded by the pious, resting on elaborate tapestries. Convinced by this vision that he was destined to become a kabbalist, Rabbi Chaim Vital devoted the following two and a half years to the study of alchemy. Upon completing his studies, Elijah appeared to him again in a vision, and told him that he would succeed in his efforts and write a commentary on the Zohar.
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