A report on Kabbalah and Joseph Karo

Jewish Kabbalists portrayed in 1641; woodcut on paper. Saxon University Library, Dresden.
Artistic conception of Karo's appearance. Painting of 19th century
Kabbalistic prayer book from Italy, 1803. Jewish Museum of Switzerland, Basel.
Synagogue of Maran, R. Joseph Karo, in Safed
Latin translation of Gikatilla's Shaarei Ora
Karo's grave in Safed
The Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple was the seat for God's presence. Ezekiel and Isaiah had prophetic visions of the angelic heavenly Chariot and Divine Throne
Title page of Karo's Shulchan Aruch
Grave of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias. He features in Hekhalot mystical literature, and as one of the four who entered the Pardes
The grave of Shimon bar Yochai in Meron before 1899. A Talmudic Tanna, he is the mystical teacher in the central Kabbalistic work, the Zohar
The 13th-century eminence of Nachmanides, a classic rabbinic figure, gave Kabbalah mainstream acceptance through his Torah commentary
The leading scholars of Safed in 16th-century invigorated mainstream Judaism through new legal, liturgical, exegetical and Lurianic-mythological developments.
Synagogue Beit El Jerusalem. Oriental Judaism has its own chain of Kabbalah
The 16th-century Maharal of Prague articulated a mystical exegesis in philosophical language
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a leading Italian kabbalist, also wrote secular works, which the Haskalah see as the start of modern Hebrew literature
The Vilna Gaon, 18th-century leader of rabbinic opposition to Hasidism—a Kabbalist who opposed Hasidic doctrinal and practical innovations
Synagogue of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, in Medzhybizh (Ukraine). It gave a new phase to Jewish mysticism, seeking its popularisation through internal correspondence.
The Kabbalist (c. 1910–1920), portrait of an Hasidic man in Jewish religious clothing performed by the Austro-Hungarian Jewish painter Isidor Kaufmann (Jewish Museum, New York)
Metaphorical scheme of emanated spiritual worlds within the Ein Sof
Scheme of descending Sephirot in three columns, as a tree with roots above and branches below
In the 16–17th centuries Kabbalah was popularised through a new genre of ethical literature, related to Kabbalistic meditation
Amulet from the 15th century. Theosophical kabbalists, especially Luria, censored contemporary Practical Kabbalah, but allowed amulets by Sages
Joseph Karo's role as both legalist and mystic underscores Kabbalah's spiritualisation of normative Jewish observance
Building on Kabbalah's conception of the soul, Abraham Abulafia's meditations included the "inner illumination of" the human form
16th-century graves of Safed, Galilee. The messianic focus of its mystical renaissance culminated in Lurianic thought.
Title page of first printed edition of the Zohar, main sourcebook of Kabbalah, from Mantua, Italy in 1558
Golden age of Spanish Judaism on the Knesset Menorah, Maimonides holding Aristotle's work
Kabbalah mysticism on the Knesset Menorah, which shared some similarities of theory with Jewish Neoplatonists
Tikkun for reading through the night of Shavuot, a popular Jewish custom from the Safed Kabbalists
A version of Lekhah Dodi song to welcome the Shabbat, a cross denomination Jewish custom from Kabbalah

Passing through Salonica, he met the great kabbalist Joseph Taitazak.

- Joseph Karo

The author of the Shulkhan Arukh (the normative Jewish "Code of Law"), Yosef Karo (1488–1575), was also a scholar of Kabbalah who kept a personal mystical diary.

- Kabbalah
Jewish Kabbalists portrayed in 1641; woodcut on paper. Saxon University Library, Dresden.

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Hayyim ben Joseph Vital

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Rabbi in Safed and the foremost disciple of Isaac Luria.

Rabbi in Safed and the foremost disciple of Isaac Luria.

Joseph Karo is said to have paid special attention to Vital's early talents and in 1557 requested that Alshich 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 Isaac Luria, who would have a lasting influence on him.

Alshich's grave in Safed

Moshe Alshich

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Prominent rabbi, preacher, and biblical commentator in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

Prominent rabbi, preacher, and biblical commentator in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

Alshich's grave in Safed

He later moved to Safed where he became a student of Rabbi Joseph Caro.

Although the Alshich belonged to the circle of the Kabbalists who lived at Safed, his works rarely betray any traces of the Kabbalah.

Safed

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City in the Northern District of Israel.

City in the Northern District of Israel.

The Red Mosque in Safed, 2001. It was originally built by the Mamluk sultan Baybars in 1275, and renovated or expanded by the Ottomans in 1671/72
The Mamluk mausoleum of Zawiyat Banat Hamid, originally built in 1372
The Red Mosque
Hebrew book printed by Eliezer Ashkenazi in 1579
Originally built as a caravanserai by the Ottomans in the mid-1700s, the "Saraya" (house of the governor) currently serves as a community centre
Safed in the 19th century
Muslim quarter of Safed circa 1908
Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Safed
Beit Knesset Abuhav, one of the city's historic synagogues
Street art in Safed
Beit Castel gallery in the artists' colony
Scottish church in Safed
Panorama Safed and Mount Meron
View to the east and Lake of Kinneret
Safad 1937
Mandate Police station at Mount Canaan, above Safed (1948)
Safed (1948)
Safed Citadel (1948)
Safad Municipal Police Station after the battle (1948)
Bussel House, Safad, 11 April 1948: Yiftach Brigade headquarters
View of Safed from Mount Canaan (1948)
Mandate administration building on the eastern outskirts of Safed (1948)
Yiftach Brigade, with their Hotchkiss machine guns, based at Bussel House, 1948
Druze parading in Safed after the Palmach victory in 1948
Monument to the Israeli soldiers who fought in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War
Safed in 2009
View of Safed
View of Safed
Houses in Safed
Doorway in Beit Castel gallery, Safed

After a century of general decline, the stability brought by the Ottoman conquest in 1517 ushered in nearly a century of growth and prosperity in Safed, during which time Jewish immigrants from across Europe developed the city into a center for wool and textile production and the mystical Kabbalah movement.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, many prominent rabbis found their way to Safed, among them the Kabbalists Isaac Luria and Moshe Kordovero; Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulchan Aruch and Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, composer of the Sabbath hymn "Lecha Dodi".

Alkabetz's grave in Safed

Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz

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Shlomo ha-Levi Alkabetz, also spelt Alqabitz, Alqabes; (שלמה אלקבץ) (c.

Shlomo ha-Levi Alkabetz, also spelt Alqabitz, Alqabes; (שלמה אלקבץ) (c.

Alkabetz's grave in Safed

1500 – 1576) was a rabbi, kabbalist and poet perhaps best known for his composition of the song Lecha Dodi.

His circle included Moshe Alsheich and Yosef Karo, as well as his famous brother-in-law Moshe Cordovero.

Imaginary 18th-century depiction of Maimonides

Maimonides

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Medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages.

Medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages.

Imaginary 18th-century depiction of Maimonides
The dominion of the Almohad Caliphate at its greatest extent, c. 1200
Maimonides' house in Fez, Morocco
Monument in Córdoba
Bas relief of Maimonides in the United States House of Representatives.
The Tomb of Maimonides in Tiberias
Depiction of Maimonides teaching students about the 'measure of man' in an illuminated manuscript.
The title page of The Guide for the Perplexed
Plaque of Maimonides at Rambam Medical Center, Haifa
Manuscript page by Maimonides. Judeo-Arabic language in Hebrew letters.
The original manuscript of the Commentary on the Mishnah, handwritten by Musa bin Maymun in Judeo-Arabic in a Rashi script.

Maimonides was not known as a supporter of Kabbalah, although a strong intellectual type of mysticism has been discerned in his philosophy.

Joseph Karo later praised Maimonides, writing of him, "Maimonides is the greatest of the decisors [of Jewish law], and all communities of the Land of Israel and of Arabia and of the Maghreb base their practices after him, and have taken him upon themselves as their rabbi."