Rabbi Yitzchak (Isaac) Luria

Rabbi Yitzchak (Isaac) Luria – The holy “Ari Zal”
The most famed kabbalist, and a great authority on Torah Law
1534 to 1572 C.E.

This great Jewish kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria (surnamed Ashkenazi), was called the Ari (Lion) Zal by his followers. (“Zal” is the acronym in Hebrew for the phrase “Of Blessed Memory”.) He was born in the Jewish community in Jerusalem. In his 20s, he spent seven years in seclusion, intensely studying the true kabbalah.

He settled (c.1570 C.E.) at Safed (Tsfat) in the north of the Holy Land. There, he became the teacher and leader of a large circle of students. This became an important school of Jewish mysticism.

View of Lake Kinneret from the direction of Safed (Tzfat), Israel.

View of Lake Kinneret from the direction of Safed (Tzfat), Israel.

The Lurianic Doctrine

Luria combined messianism with his new insights into kabbalistic doctrines from an earlier period. He sought to understand the nature and the connection of the earthly redemption and cosmic restoration. He taught that our thoughts, speech and actions are linked to the secret processes of G-d’s continuous creation. This takes place in the spiritual and physical worlds, and we are thus an integral part of the cosmic drama. Our positive deeds work toward Mankind’s redemption by aiding in the restoration of the cosmos to its original state, before the first sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

The Ari Zal taught that it is our adherence to G-d’s commandments, communicated to Moses at Mount Sinai and embodied in traditional Jewish Torah Law, which will effect this restoration and thereby bring forth the true Messiah as the consummate act of earthly redemption.

The Ari Zal’s kabbalistic doctrines were passed down through the numerous works of Rabbi Hayim Vital, his chief disciple. A foundational teaching of the Ari Zal about the apparent concealment of G-d’s Essence from the created realms was misinterpreted by some leading Rabbinical scholars in the 1600s and 1700s.

It was Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi who correctly interpreted and expounded the Ari Zal’s teaching in a logically consistent and practical way.