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lsaac Luria

(1534—1572)


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The foremost Kabbalist after the Zoharic authors (see ZOHAR), founder of the Lurianic Kabbalah (1534–72), known as the Ari (‘the Lion’) and his disciples as Gurey Ha-Ari (‘the Lion's Cubs’). Legendary biographies of Luria convey little reliable information about his life. It seems that he was born in Jerusalem but, orphaned from his father at an early age, he was brought up in Cairo by his mother's brother, Mordecai Francis, a wealthy tax farmer. Luria received a good Talmudic education and also studied the Zohar which had recently been printed (Mantua, 1558–60; Cremona, 1560). At the age of 15 he married his cousin, Mordecai Francis's daughter. It is said that for seven years he lived in a little cottage on the banks of the Nile, where he meditated on Kabbalistic themes, returning to his home only for the Sabbath. The Kabbalists, aware of the unconventional and in some respects radical nature of Luria's ideas, believed that he was visited by the prophet Elijah who imparted to him new Kabbalistic mysteries, linking in this way the Lurianic system to the Zoharic. In the year 1569, Luria went to Safed where he became a member of the mystic circle around Cordovero and soon after became the leading light among the Safed Kabbalists, attracting a small number of chosen disciples, of whom the chief was Hayyim Vital. Luria wrote very little himself (a few of his poems were incorporated into Kabbalistic prayer books) but his teachings were recorded by his disciples, especially Vital, and the Lurianic scheme is described in elaborate detail in the various works known as ‘the Writings of the Ari’.

Subjects: Religion.


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