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 kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria (surnamed Ashkenazi), was called the Ari (the Lion) 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 kabbalistic studies.

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 his striving for the Messianic Era 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 of the physical and spiritual realms.

We are all thus an integral part of the purpose and development of the entire creation. Our positive deeds work toward mankind’s redemption by aiding in the restoration of the creation to its original state of holiness, before the first sin of Adam and Hava (Eve) in the Garden of Eden. The creation will not only be restored, but also elevated to an even higher spiritual level.

The Ari Zal taught that it is adherence to G-d’s commandments, communicated to Moses at Mount Sinai and embodied in traditional Jewish Torah Law (which are the 613 specific commandments for Jews, and the 7 general commandments for Gentiles), that will effect this restoration, and thereby bring about the coming of the true Messiah as the completion 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 physical and Heavenly 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.


One-minute audio lesson about the AriZal from Rabbi Nachman Simon: