Rabbi Luria's Influence
One of the most influential thinkers of the 16th century in Safed was Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria. His understanding of Jewish mysticism, and the knowledge that he imparted to his disciples are the entire basis of the Lurianic Kabbalah that many people follow today and that influences many modern day Kabbalistic traditions. He was called "The Ari" by his followers, which stood for, "The Holy Lion."
Rabbi Luria's Beginnings
Luria was born in Jerusalem in 1534 to German parents. His father died while he was still young, and he was raised by his mother. Luria studied for awhile in Egypt, learning Jewish law and rabbinic literature and he earned a living through commerce. At 15, he married his cousin and eventually moved to a secluded island on the Nile that was owned by his father-in-law. He concentrated intensely for 13 years on his study of the Zohar and the works of earlier Kabbalists. He barely left the island, and spoke to his wife in Hebrew, when he spoke.
Luria Moves to Safed
In 1569, he moved to Safed where he studied Kabbalah with Rabbi Cordovero until Rabbi Cordovero died in 1570. Luria gained fame, first, as a mystical poet. Later, he started teaching Kabbalah and was friendly with many other scholars in Safed. He created a group of Kabbalists who would meet on Fridays to confess their sins to each other. He taught students orally and never wrote down his teachings. He had many innovative ideas about creation and about other metaphysical concepts.
Luria's Many Teachings
The Ari revealed many remarkable findings from Kabbalah. He explained that the spiritual energy of the Messiah would express itself in our physical world in the year 1948 on a Friday. Over 500 years later, the state of Israel was born in 1948, and the statehood was ratified by the U.N. on a Friday. His greatest legacy was The Writings of the Ari, which was compiled by his most loyal student, Rabbi Hayyim Vital. This work game birth to what is today known as Lurianic Kabbalah.
Rabbi Luria's Legacy
Luria died at only 38, in an epidemic in the summer of 1572, and he was buried in Safed. It is amazing to see what he was able to accomplish in such a short lifetime. Books on his work and his understanding of the Kabbalah include: Ez Hayyim, Shulhan Aruch Shel R. Yizhak Luria, Orhot Zaddikim and Patora de Abba, and he is still, to this day, regarded as one of the greatest Kabbalistic thinkers of all time.