# #350 (s5764-44) 3 Menachem-Av 5764

The Match of "Revealed" and "Concealed"

"My dear wife," Rabbi Yosef Caro said excitedly. "Even an angel does not know what Rabbi Yitzchak Luria knows!"

The Match of"Revealed" and "Concealed"

In 1570, Rabbi Yosef Karo was over eighty years old when he arranged the engagement of his oldest surviving son, Shlomo, who was fifteen years old at the time.

His first wife and their three children had passed away in 1535 during a plague in Salonika. Rabbi Karo's second wife bore him a son, Shlomo, in 1555, while he was completing the Shulchan Aruch. After his second wife passed away, Rabbi Yosef married the daughter of one of the sages of Jerusalem, who bore him a son whom he named Yehuda.

Safed was full of respectable families, fathered by wise Torah sages and nurtured by righteous women, some with eligible daughters. Who would not be eager to marry his daughter to the son of the revered author of the Beis Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch?

As Rabbi Karo considered the potential matches, he learned of a new family who had recently arrived from Egypt with a virtuous daughter of the appropriate age. The girl's father was a seemingly eccentric young Torah giant who sought to hide his greatness from the world. However, in the course of a few months in Safed, his name and deeds had spread rapidly from mouth to mouth. The eminence of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the "Holy Ari," lay in the realm of mysticism. His insights into the souls of the living and the dead captivated many, while his saintly personality made him a vessel of light, humble at all times, a true Torah sage.

The Luria family was a paragon of righteousness, and Rabbi Karo felt confident that this was the right match for his son. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria's respect for the revered head of the rabbinical court of Saged and author of the Shulchan Aruch was no less than Rabbi Yosef's for the Ari. Connections were soon made between the two Torah giants, and the city of Safed buzzed with the news of this exceptional shidduch.

The engagement party was held at the Luria home. The great rabbis of Safed gathered to rejoice with the two revered leaders. Among the many speeches, the words of the kallah's father, the Ari, were the most elevated. Rabbi Karo returned home late that night and told his wife, who had been unable to attend, what had happened.

"My dear wife," he told her excitedly. "What can I tell you! What can I say about what was revealed of the inner dimensions of Torah and the commandments! How shall I describe the profundity of the secrets of the Torah which I heard today from the bride's father! How much knowledge and understanding I gained from his talk! It is absolutely unimaginable that a human being has such depth of perception. Even an angel does not know what he knows.…"

Rabbi Karo stopped to catch his breath, his face glowing with excitement. "Truly," he continued, his eyes aglow, "his soul must be descended from one of the early prophets, for even the greatest of Talmudic Sages could not attain that which he has.

"And yet, my beloved wife, on that very account I am greatly afraid for him. Our generation has fallen too low to absorb the radiance of his holiness, and I fear that because of our sins we will lose all too soon this priceless pearl. If only he would live out a full life and not die young!"

* * *

After that, Rabbi Yosef Karo sought to study Kabbala with Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, even though the latter was more than forty years his junior. Although Rabbi Luria was not altogether in favor of it, they did study together a few times. Rabbi Karo, a truly humble man, never let his seniority interfere with his goal of acquiring ever greater Torah wisdom.

"Your soul," Rabbi Luria finally disclosed to him, "is not capable of comprehending this wisdom through my system. You will succeed best by studying the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak).

"As a sign that what I say is true," continued the Arizal, "as soon as I begin revealing mystical secrets you shall begin to doze off."

And so it happened. Every time Rabbi Luria divulged a Kabbalistic thought, Rabbi Karo's head nodded and his eyes closed.

* * *

The marriage between the two illustrious families took place in 1570, with the whole city participating in the festivities.

It was a memorable wedding. Not only was it the joyous beginning of the formation of a new home in Israel, but in a less tangible way, it was almost as if the two aspects of our One Torah, the hidden and the revealed, were united. Rabbi Yosef Karo, blessed with secrets of the Torah which an angel of the Mishna had revealed to him, was the paragon of the revealed Torah. He succeeded in uniting the Jewish people through codifying the law in a way that had not been achieved since the time of the Rambam. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, for his part, gave the esoteric, mystical side of Torah a new direction and dimension that it had not known since the Mishnaic sage of the Zohar, Rabbi Simon bar Yochai.

Together, the two different, yet inseparable aspects of Torah were revealed to the world by these two Torah personages, and symbolized by the marriage of their children. Safed, in turn, reached a pinnacle of grandeur that would endear it forever to the heart of every Jew.


[Compiled by Yrachmiel Tilles from Safed the Mystical City (Dovid Rossoff - Shaar Books), Shivchei HaAri, and other written and oral sources.]


Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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