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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
A family with wide ramifications and several of whose members were distinguished for mystical tendencies and rabbinical knowledge.
Abraham b. Nissan Luria:
Russian rabbi and grammarian of the first half of the nineteenth century. He was rabbi of Skod (Shad ?) in Lithuania, and is known chiefly through his grammatical work "Nisyonot Abraham" (Wilna, 1821). It consists of two parts, of which the first is on the grammatical passages in Rashi's commentary on the Bible, and the second on similar passages occurring in the older commentaries on the Mishnah and Talmud.
- Fürst, Bibl. Jud. 2:257;
- Fuenn, Safah le-Ne'emanim, p. 149, Wilna, 1881.
David b. Aaron Luria:
Russian educator; born in Minsk about 1800; died in Königsberg, Prussia, July, 1873. The son of wealthy parents, he was given a liberal Jewish education, which he later supplemented by the acquisition of a knowledge of the secular sciences. After Lilienthal's failure (1842) to induce the Jews of Minsk to establish a school for Jewish children, Luria took up the work and succeeded beyond all expectations. At first opposed by the Orthodox, he soon overcame all opposition, and in 1843 gained control of the Talmud Torah of Minsk. As its superintendent, he transformed it into a modern institution; and his admirable management won the recognition not only of the local authorities, but even of the central government (see "Journal of the Ministry of Public Education," vol. 53, 1:40).
Luria's success not only turned his former antagonists into warm supporters, but induced the well-to-do Jewish merchants to open a school for their children so that they might be enabled to receive as good an education as was given to the orphans in the Talmud Torah. Thus a merchants' school was founded, also under Luria's management; but it failed on account of circumstances over which he had no control. The support it had received, however, encouraged him to establish the Midrash Ezraḥim or citizens' school, for children of the middle class, which proved a great success, although its fees were more than double those of the local gymnasium. But all his hopes were destroyed when his classes in the Talmud Torah and his Midrash Ezraḥim were closed by order of the government, to make room for the government schools which were then being established in Jewish communities. Greatly disappointed, "his only rewards being a gold medal from the czar and a short poem by Gottlober" ("Ha-Niẓẓanim," p. 214, Wilna, 1850), he retired to his books and his studies, and for the rest of his life took but little interest in public affairs.
Luria was the author of "'Omer ba-Sadeh" (Wilna, 1853), a book for the young, in which Biblical passages are explained in a moral and patriotic sense.
- Yevreiskaya Biblioteka, 3:360 et seq.;
- Ha-Shaḥar, 4:569;
- Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. pp. 220-221.
Enoch Zundel b. Isaiah Luria:
Russian preacher and author; died in Brest-Litovsk Feb. 13, 1847. He lived for several years in Wilna, and later became successively preacher in New Zhagory and Novogrudok, both in the government ofKovno. He wrote "Kenaf Renanim" on "Pereḳ Shirah" (Krotoschin, 1842; Presburg, 1859; Warsaw, 1888). He wrote also "Moṭot Kenafayim," sermons and addenda to his former work, but it remained in manuscript. A review of the "Kenaf Renanim" is given in "Orient, Lit." 1842, No. 26.
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 312;
- Feinberg, 'Ir Tehillah, p. 228, Warsaw, 1886.
Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria (ARI):
Lives as Hermit.
Founder of the modern Cabala; born of German parents at Jerusalem in 1534; died at Safed Aug. 5. 1572. While still a child he lost his father, and was brought up by his rich uncle Mordecai Francis, tax-farmer at Cairo, who placed him under the best Jewish teachers. Luria showed himself a diligent student of rabbinical literature; and, under the guidance of Bezaleel Ashkenazi, he, while quite young, became proficient in that branch of Jewish learning. At the age of fifteen he married his cousin, and, being amply provided for, was enabled to continue his studies undisturbed. When about twenty-two years old, becoming engrossed with the study of the Zohar, which had recently been printed for the first time, he adopted the life of a hermit. He removed to the banks of the Nile, and for seven years secluded himself in an isolated cottage, giving himself up entirely to meditation. He visited his family only on the Sabbath, speaking very seldom, and always in Hebrew. Such a mode of life could not fail to produce its effect on a man endowed by nature with a lively imagination. Luria became a visionary. He believed he had frequent interviews with the prophet Elijah, by whom he was initiated into sublime doctrines. He asserted that while asleep his soul ascended to heaven and conversed with the great teachers of the past.
In 1569 Luria removed to Palestine; and after a short sojourn at Jerusalem, where his new cabalistic system seems to have met with but little success, he settled at Safed. There he formed a circle of cabalists to whom he imparted the doctrines by means of which he hoped to establish on a new basis the moral system of the world. To this circle belonged Moses Cordovero, Solomon Alḳabiẓ, Joseph Caro, Moses Alshech, Elijah de Vidas, Joseph Ḥagiz, Elisha Galadoa, and Moses Bassola. They met every Friday, and each confessed to another his sins. Soon Luria had two classes of disciples: (1) novices, to whom he expounded the elementary Cabala, and (2) initiates, who became the depositaries of his secret teachings and his formulas of invocation and conjuration. The most renowned of the initiates was Ḥayyim Vital of Calabria, who, according to his master, possessed a soul which had not been soiled by Adam's sin. In his company Luria visited the sepulchers of Simeon ben Yoḥai and of other eminent teachers, the situation of which had been revealed to him by his constant mentor, the prophet Elijah. Luria's cabalistic circle gradually widened and became a separate congregation, in which his mystic doctrines were supreme, influencing all the religious ceremonies. On Sabbath Luria dressed himself in white and wore a fourfold garment to signify the four letters of the Ineffable Name. His followers looked upon him as a saint who had the power to perform all kinds of miracles, while he himself pretended to be Messiah ben Joseph, the forerunner of Messiah ben David.
Luria used to deliver his lectures extempore and, with the exception of some cabalistic poems in Aramaic for the Sabbath service, did not write anything. The real exponent of his cabalistic system was Ḥayyim Vital. He collected all the notes of the lectures which Luria's disciples had made; and from these notes were produced numerous works, the most important of which was the " 'Eẓ Ḥayyim," in six volumes (see below). At first this circulated in manuscript copies; and each of Luria's disciples had to pledge himself, under pain of excommunication, not to allow a copy to be made for a foreign country; so that for a time all the manuscripts remained in Palestine. At last, however, one was brought to Europe and was published at Zolkiev in 1772 by Satanow. In this work are expounded both the speculative Cabala, based on the Zohar, and the practical or miraculous Cabala (), of which Luria was the originator.
The characteristic feature of Luria's system in the speculative Cabala is his definition of the Sefirot and his theory of the intermediary agents, which he calls "parẓufim" (from πρόσωπν = "face"). Before the creation of the world, he says, the En Sof filled the infinite space. When the Creation was decided upon, in order that His attributes, which belong to other beings as well, should manifest themselves in their perfection, the En Sof retired into His own nature, or, to use the cabalistic term, concentrated Himself (). From this concentration proceeded the infinite light. When in its turn the light concentrated, there appeared in the center an empty space encompassed by ten circles or dynamic vessels ("kelim") called "Sefirot," by means of which the infinite realities, though forming an absolute unity, may appear in their diversity; for the finite has no real existence of itself. However, the infinite light did not wholly desert the center; a thin conduit () of light traversed the circles and penetrated into the center. But while the three outermost circles, being of a purer substance because of their nearness to the En Sof, were able to bear the light, the inner six were unable to do so, and burst. It was, therefore, necessary to remove them from the focus of the light. For this purpose the Sefirot were transformed into "figures" ("parẓufim"). The first Sefirah, Keter, was transformed into the potentially existing three heads of the Macroprosopon ("Erek Anfin"); the second Sefirah, Ḥokmah, into the active masculine principle called "Father" ("Abba"); the third Sefirah, Binah, into the passive, feminine principle called "Mother" ("Imma"); the six broken Sefirot, into the male child ("Ze'er"), which is the product of the masculine active and the feminine passive principles; the tenth Sefirah, Malkut, into the female child ("Bat"). This proceeding was absolutely necessary. Had God in the beginning created these figures instead of the Sefirot, there would have been no evil in theworld, and consequently no reward and punishment; for the source of evil is in the broken Sefirot or vessels, while the light of the En Sof produces only that which is good. These five figures are found in each of the four worlds; namely, in the world of emanation (); in that of creation (); in that of formation ( ); and, in that of action , which represents the material world.
Luria's psychological system, upon which is based his practical Cabala, is closely connected with his metaphysical doctrines. From the five figures, he says, emanated five souls, Neshamah, Ruaḥ, Nefesh, Ḥayyah, and Yeḥidah; the first of these being the highest, and the last the lowest. Man's soul is the connecting link between the infinite and the finite, and as such is of a manifold character. All the souls destined for the human race were created together with the various organs of Adam. As there are superior and inferior organs, so there are superior and inferior souls, according to the organs with which they are respectively coupled. Thus there are souls of the brain, souls of the eye, souls of the hand, etc. Each human soul is a spark ("niẓoẓ") from Adam. The first sin of the first man caused confusion among the various classes of souls: the superior intermingled with the inferior; good with evil; so that even the purest soul received an admixture of evil, or, as Luria calls it, of the element of the "shells" ("ḳelipot"). From the lowest classes of souls proceeded the pagan world, while from the higher emanated the Israelitish world. But, in consequence of the confusion, the former are not wholly deprived of the original good, and the latter are not altogether free from sin. This state of confusion, which gives a continual impulse toward evil, will cease with the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the moral system of the world upon a new basis. Until that time man's soul, because of its deficiencies, can not return to its source, and has to wander not only through the bodies of men and of animals, but even through inanimate things such as wood, rivers, and stones.
Return of the Soul.
To this doctrine of metempsychosis Luria added the theory of the impregnation ("'ibbur") of souls; that is to say, if a purified soul has neglected some religious duties on earth, it must return to the earthly life, and, attaching itself to the soul of a living man, unite with it in order to make good such neglect. Further, the departed soul of a man freed from sin appears again on earth to support a weak soul which feels unequal to its task. However, this union, which may extend to three souls at one time, can only take place between souls of homogeneous character; that is, between those which are sparks of the same Adamite organ. The dispersion of Israel has for its purpose the salvation of men's souls; and the purified souls of Israelites unite with the souls of men of other races in order to free them from demoniacal influences. According to Luria, man bears on his forehead a mark by which one may learn the nature of his soul: to which degree and class it belongs; the relation existing between it and the superior world; the wanderings it has already accomplished; the means by which it can contribute to the establishment of the new moral system of the world; how it can be freed from demoniacal influences; and to which soul it should be united in order to become purified. This union can be effected by formulas of conjuration.
Influence on Ritual.
Luria introduced his mystic system into religious observances. Every commandment had for him a mystic meaning. The Sabbath with all its ceremonies was looked upon as the embodiment of the Divinity in temporal life; and every ceremony performed on that day was considered to have an influence upon the superior world. Every word, every syllable, of the prescribed prayers contain hidden names of God upon which one should meditate devoutly while reciting. New mystic ceremonies were ordained and codified under the name of "Shulḥan 'Aruk shel Ari." This tendency to substitute a mystic Judaism for the rabbinical Judaism, against which Luria was warned by his teacher of Cabala, David ibn Abi Zimra, became still stronger after Luria's death. His disciples, who applied to him the epithets "Holy" and "Divine," sank further in mysticism and paved the way for the pseudo-Messiah Shabbethai Ẓebi.
The following are the works attributed to Luria by his disciples, given in the order of their publication:
- Marpe Nefesh, on the purification of the soul. Venice.
- Tiḳḳune ha-Teshubah, on penitence. Published by Elijah Moses de Vidas. Venice.
- Seder we-Tiḳḳun Ḳeri'at Shema', mystic explanations of the Shema'. Prague.
- Sefer ha-Kawwanot, mystic explanations of the prayers. Venice. (With corrections by Pethahiah ben Joseph, Hanau, 1624; Amsterdam, 1710; Jessnitz, 1723; abridged, under the title "Zot Ḥuḳḳat ha-Torah," by Abraham Ḥazzeḳuni, Venice, 1659.)
- Tiḳḳune Shabbat, mystic poems, for Sabbath, and explanations of the Sabbath ceremonies. Venice.
- Sefer Ma'yan ha-Ḥokmah, on Creation and on the union between the higher and lower spheres, first published by Abraham Ḳalmanḳes. Amsterdam.
- Derek Emet, annotations on the Zohar and the "Sefer ha-Tiḳḳunim." In three parts, Venice, 1663.
- Note on the "Zohar he-Ḥadash," with text. Venice.
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, mystic explanations of many religious ceremonies. Mubḥar she be-Abot, cabalistic commentary on Pirḳe Abot.
- Re'amim u-Re'ashim, prognostications. Constantinople.
- Notes on the Zohar, with text. Amsterdam.
- Perush Sefer Yeẓirah, commentary on the "Sefer Yeẓirah." Amsterdam.
- Tiḳḳun Ashmurot, midnight prayers termed "ḥaẓot." Amsterdam.
- Golel Or, on metempsychosis. Published by Meïr ben Ḥalifah Bikayim. Smyrna.
- Ḥadrat Melek, commentary on the Zohar. Published by Shalom ben Moses Buzaglio. Amsterdam.
- Seder ha-Tefillah, a book of prayer. Published by Aryeh ben Abraham. Zolkiev.
- Liḳḳuṭe Shas, cabalistic dissertations on several Talmudic treatises. Korzec.
- Zohar ha-Raḳia', commentaries on the Zohar, with the text. Korzec.
- Ḳol be-Ramah, on the Idra Rabba, with additions by Jacob ben Ḥayyim Ẓemaḥ. Korzee.
- Kelalot Tiḳḳunim we-'Aliyyot ha-'Olamot, on the ascension of the soul. Lemberg.
- Ma'or we-Shemesh, cabalistic collectanea. Published by Judah ben Abraham Raphael Koriat. Leghorn.
Ḥayyim Vital, as stated above, produced from the notes of Luria's lectures a work entitled "'Eẓ Ḥayyim" (Korzec, 1784), in six volumes:
- "Oẓerot Ḥayyim," containing twenty-one cabalistic essays;
- "Sefer Derushim," cabalistic explanations of the Bible;
- "Sefer Kawwanot," mystic explanationsof the prayers;
- "Ṭa'ame ha-Miẓwot," on the precepts;
- "Sefer ha-Gilgulim," on metempsychosis;
- "Sefer Liḳḳuṭim," miscellanea.
According to Azulai, Luria wrote in the earlier part of his life novellæ on Zebaḥim and Beẓah. A halakic consultation addressed by Luria to Joseph Caro is inserted in "Abḳat Rokel," (§ 136).
- Solomon Shelemiel ben Ḥayyim, Shibḥe ha-Ari, Korzee, 1785;
- Orḥot Ẓaddiḳim, Leghorn, 1785;
- Naphtali Herz ben Jacob Elhanan, Toledot ha-Ari, published with the 'Emeḳ ha-Melek, Amsterdam, 1648;
- Ḥayyim Cohen, Ma'aseh ha-Ari, in the introduction to his Meḳor Ḥayyim, ib. 1655;
- Sefer Sedah ha-Ari, ib. 1720;
- Ma'aseh Nissim shel ha-Ari, ib. 1720;
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, 1:104;
- Conforte, Ḳore ha-Dorot, p. 40b;
- Rossi, Dizionario, p. 186;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1133;
- idem, Jewish Literature, p. 456;
- D. Ch. Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, p. 134, London, 1865;
- Grätz, Gesch. 9:436 et seq.;
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 630.
Johanan ben Aaron ben Nathanael Luria:
Alsatian Talmudist; lived successively at Niedernheim and Strasburg at the end of the fifteenth century and in the beginning of the sixteenth. After having studied for many years in German yeshibot, he returned to Alsace and settled in Strasburg, where he founded a yeshibah by permission of the government. Luria was the author of an ethical work entitled "Hadrakah" (Cracow, c. 1579) and of "Meshibat Nefesh" (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 257), a haggadic and mystical commentary on the Pentateuch, founded on Rashi. To this commentary was appended a dissertation in which Luria refuted the arguments advanced by Christians against Judaism.
- Carmoly, Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte, p. 345;
- Zunz, Z. G. pp. 106-130;
- Orient, Lit. 11:546;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1398.
Solomon b. Jehiel Luria:
Rabbi and author; born in Brest-Litovsk, Lithuania, 1510; died at Lublin Nov. 7, 1573. When still a youth his parents sent him to Posen, where he studied under the guidance of his grandfather Rabbi Isaac Klauberia. He left Posen in 1535, owing to an extensive fire which destroyed his grandfather's property. On his return to his native place he assiduously continued his studies. Here he married Lipka, daughter of Rabbi Kalonymus. After some time he was elected rabbi of Brest, and established a yeshibah there. About 1550 he received the appointment of rabbi and head of the yeshibah at Ostrog, and in 1555 he moved to Lublin, where he became head of the famous yeshibah.
His Method of Study.
Concerning his method of study and teaching he says: "I was painstaking always to trace the last source of the Halakah, which I used to discuss with my friends and pupils, spending sometimes a week in research and close reasoning till I came upon the root of the matter; then I used to put it down in my book. And it was always my habit to quote all the opinions of my predecessors, according to their rank of authority, also the decisions and rulings of those who compiled the responsa, in order to avoid the suspicion of plagiarism or the reproach that I had overlooked the opinion of some great authority. In two years I did not reach in my studies further than half of the tractate Yebamot. I spent a whole year on two chapters of the tractate Ketubot; and the chapter 'Miẓwat Ḥaliẓah' Yebamot] took me half a year." It is therefore not surprising that Luria was very independent, and was not afraid to say in public: "Do not take any notice of what people have been accustomed till now to consider as permitted; for most of them used to read only the 'Ṭur. Oraḥ Ḥayyim' by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. He gave permission in the name of his father, Rabbi Asher; and in his introduction he even asserts that whenever he quotes the ruling of his father, it should be considered as decisive for practise. And, indeed, many people took it for granted that it is to be looked upon as the last and absolute decision, as though it were handed down to us as a tradition of Moses from Mount Sinai. The fact that he agrees with his father does not pledge us to agree with him; indeed, so it is in many ritual matters that the general usage is against him." Nor does he spare even Joseph Caro, whom he accuses of having occasionally expressed merely superficial views in his effort to harmonize conflicting laws, as well as of having sometimes based his decisions on the reading of corrupt texts.
With even more asperity he speaks of Benjamin Zeeb and his responsa, "Binyamin Ze'eb," which he warns the public are worthless and full of plagiarisms. Of some of the rabbis of his time he says as follows: "The ordained are many; but those who know something are few. The number of overbearing ones is steadily increasing, none of whom knows his place. As soon as they are ordained they begin to domineer and, by means of their wealth, to gather about themselves disciples, just as lords hire slaves to run before them. They rule over the scholars and the congregation. They excommunicate and anathematize, and they ordain pupils who did not study under them, and receive therefor money and reward. They are always seeking their own interests."
Friendship with Isserles.
Though Luria was not on very good terms with most of his contemporaries, yet he formed an intimate friendship with Rabbi Moses Isserles of Cracow, as may be seen from their correspondence. But this friendship did not prevent Luria from remonstrating with Isserles when he learned that the latter was devoted to the study of philosophy, for he exhorted him with the words: "Thou art turning to the wisdom of the uncircumcised Aristotle. Wo unto my eyes that they have seen such a thing! This is a sin for such a prince in Israel." The adherents of the Cabala he censured severely, saying: "These modern ones pretend to belong to the sect of the cabalists. . . . They can not see in the light of the Zohar, which they do not understand. . . . Therefore, do not go in their ways. Have nothing to do with things secret."
Luria's works include: (1) "Ḥokmat Shelomoh" (Cracow, 1582), critical notes on the Talmud and its earlier commentaries; it has been appended to the later editions of the Talmud; (2) Responsa (Lublin, 1574); (3) "Yam shel Shelomoh" (Prague, 1615, and later), novellæ on different treatises of the Talmud: on Baba Ḳamma; on Ḥullin (Cracow, 1646); on Yebamot (Altona, 1740); on Beẓah (Lublin, 1636); on Ḳiddushin (Berlin, 1766); and on Giṭṭin (ib. 1766); (4) "Yeri'ot Shelomoh," supercommentary on the commentary of Elijah Mizraḥi on Rashi, prepared for print by his pupil Jehiel ben Meshullam;(5) "'Ammude Shelomoh" (Basel, 1600), commentary on the book of precepts by Rabbi Moses of Coucy; (6) "'Aṭeret Shelomoh"; (7) "Zemirot" (Venice, 1602), commentary on the "Sha'are Dura" of Isaac of Düren (Lublin, 1598), liturgical songs; and others. Many of Luria's works are still extant in manuscript.
- Pascheles Israelitischer Volkskalender, 10:49;
- Der Orient, 9:568;
- Ha-Maggid, p. 27, Lyck, 1858;
- Horodezky, in Ha-Goren, 1:95;
- idem, Kerem Shelomoh (1896);
- Rabbinowicz, Ma'amar, p. 56, Munich, 1877;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 23-65;
- Nissenbaum, Le-Ḳorot ha-Yehudim be-Lublin, p. 20, Lublin, 1899;
- Epstein, Die Familie Lurie, p. 14, Vienna, 1901;
- Feinstein, 'Ir Tehillah, p. 198, Warsaw, 1886;
- Kohn-Ẓedeḳ, Shem u-She'erit, p. 21, Cracow, 1895;
- Güdemann, Quellenschriften zur Gesch. des Unterrichts, p. 59, Berlin, 1891;
- Grätz, Gesch. 9:436;
- Ha-Asif (Warsaw), 5:127;
- Isr. Letterbode, 11:165.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Luria'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/l/luria.html. 1901.