Rav Dror Moshe Cassouto-Praises of Rav Chaim Vital-23December2014

Rabbi Chaim Vital (sometimes referred to as Rabbi Chaim Vital Calabrese, since his family was from Calabria, Italy) was born c. 5303 (1543 CE). Rabbi Chaim is renowned primarily as the recorder and editor of the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, although he himself was also an accomplished kabbalist and writer.

Rabbi Chaim’s father, Rabbi Yosef was famed as an expert scribe whose tefillin were much sought after, having been written in holiness and purity, and with special kabbalistic intentions. Rabbi Yosef Caro said in the name of his maggid (an angelic teacher) that half the world existed by virtue of Rabbi Yosef Vital’s tefillin.

Rabbi Chaim studied the revealed aspects of Torah under Rabbi Moshe Alshich, one of the foremost rabbis in Safed. Rabbi Yosef Caro, at the behest of his maggid, advised Rabbi Alshich to invest as much effort in his young student as possible, for he would be Rabbi Caro’s successor. Rabbi Chaim studied Kabbala under the leading kabbalistic luminary in the world at that time, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Ramak). One of the senior kabbalists living in Safed, Rabbi Shabtai Lapidot, recognizing that Rabbi Chaim was destined for greatness, urged the young man to extract himself from all worldly matters and devote himself to the study of Kabbala, promising him that he would reach unimaginably lofty levels.

Indeed, in the year 5329 (1569 CE), at the relatively young age of 26, Rabbi Chaim began writing a commentary on Zohar, the primary text of Kabbala, according to the teachings of Ramak. However, by the following year Rabbi Chaim’s life took a completely different direction.

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