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His work is called Paradise.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

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Rabbi Moshe Cordovero
His work is called Paradise.

Among the great luminaries of Kabbala, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero holds a particularly important place as one of the most prolific and systematic exponents of the teachings of the Zohar as well as the writings of almost all the early Kabbalists.

Moshe Cordovero — or Ramak (an acronym taken from the first letters of his title and name — Rabbi Moshe Cordovero), as he is commonly known — was born about (the precise year of his birth is not known) 5282 (1522 CE) to a distinguished family of Spanish descent, apparently originally from the town of Cordova. Although it is not certain that Ramak himself was born in Safed, he spent most of his life in that holy city, the home of Kabbala.

In the revealed aspects of Torah — the Talmud and associated works — Ramak was a student of the renowned Rabbi Yosef Caro (circa 5248-5335 / 1488-1575), author of Shulchan Aruch. The latter highly praised the acumen and vast knowledge of his young student. His greatness in Talmudic law is further confirmed by the fact that at the tender age of eighteen, Ramak was ordained by Rabbi Yaakov BeRav. Of the four men accorded semicha (rabbinic ordination) by Rabbi Yaakov — the others were Rabbi Yosef Caro, Rabbi Moshe of Trani, and Rabbi Moshe Galanti — Ramak was by far the youngest. According to the testimony of Rabbi Menachem Azariah deFano, Ramak served in Safed as a Talmud teacher and legal authority. ...until he began learning Kabbala, he was as if asleep and pursuing idle thoughts

At age twenty, Ramak became a student of his brother-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz (author of the Lecha Dodi hymn), in the esoteric aspect of Torah — the Kabbala. Despite Ramak's formidable achievements in Talmud, he states that until he began learning Kabbala, he was as if asleep and pursuing idle thoughts (Pardes Rimonim, Intro.)

Ramak became one of the leading Kabbalists in Safed. He acted as spokesman for the group of Kabbalists headed by Rabbi Alkabetz, and he wrote several treatises explaining the fallacies of philosophy. In addition, he exhorted Torah students everywhere to study Kabbala.

Ramak led an ascetic life, part of it in self-imposed exile. These exiles are detailed in his Sefer Gerushin (Venice, 1543). Through such self-purification and penances, Ramak became worthy of the revelation of Eliyahu (Shem HaGedolim).

Among Ramak's most famous students were Rabbi Eliyahu DaVidas, author of Reishit Chochma; Rabbi Chaim Vital, later a student of the renowned Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal); Rabbi Avraham Galanti, author of Yerech Yakar on the Zohar; Rabbi Eliezer Azikri, author of Sefer Chareidim; and Rabbi Menachem Azariah DeFano (Maharam MiPano), author of many works including Asarah Maamarot, Kanfei Yonah, and Responsa of Maharam MiPano. Rabbi Menachem Azaria DeFano was one of Europe's leading Kabbalists, and he taught from Ramak's Pardes Rimonim regularly. Similarly, Rabbi Yeshayahu Hurwitz, author of Shnei Luchot HaBrit (Shelah), considered himself a student of Ramak and quoted extensively form his works. In the last year of Ramak's life, the Arizal came to Safed. He too studies under Ramak, whom he refers to as "our teacher.

At the young age of forty-eight, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero passed away in Safed on 23rd of Tammuz, 5330 (1570). In his eulogy, the Arizal declared that Rabbi Moshe was so pure and saintly that his death could only be attributed to the sin of Adam. According to the Arizal's testimony, the bier bearing Ramak to his burial place in Safed was preceded by a pillar of fire.

Click here to send your own personal prayer to his gravesite.

Rabbi Moshe Miller was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including an authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He has developed a coaching-type approach to dealing with life's issues based on Chassidism and Kabbalah—a tool for dealing with normal issues that everyone faces as well as issues psychologists usually address, often ineffectively. He also gives free live classes over the Internet.
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Yaacov Aston, PA/USA via January 9, 2017

Semicha chain from Rabbi Avraham BeRav Hello Rabbi Miller.
I recently read in the introduction to Sefer Ma'avar Yabok by Rabbi Avraham Berachia of Modena that he received some sort of semicha certificate from the Jewish community in Tzfat at the time. He was a student of Rabbi Menachem Azarya of Fano. This occurred when the kabbalists of Tzfat accepted Ma'avar Yabok as what they would follow in practice. What is the tradition in regard to the continuation of that semicha? Does it still exist today? Reply

Rabbi Moshe Miller USA via March 30, 2017
in response to Yaacov:

Without looking into it in depth, I assume that this was the smichah reinstated by Rabbi Yaakov Beirav (1475-1546) in Tzfat. Among the Torah luminaries he ordained were Rabbi Yosef Karo,Rabbi Moshe di Trani, Rabbi Moshe Cardovero and Rabbi Yosef Sagis. Although the effort to re-establish smicha was partially successful, due to strong opposition from Rabbi Levi ben Chaviv, Rabbi Yakov Beirav was eventually forced to leave Tzfat and his initiated slowly petered out. Reply

Anonymous USA July 18, 2013

Tzefat, Israel, Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate it. Your explanation brings me to a situation in my life similar as to that awaken from a sad dream. I grew up in another religion. My ancestor were Sephardic, as per my research. All my life I had a feeling deep in my soul of something missing. 30 years ago I change from one religion to the other, but with the same basic. Except no so much idol worship. When started to read Bible, my life started to change. One day I pleaded to Hashe, blessed be He, to teach me His ways with all heart and soul. I wanted to make commitment to serve Him. Prayed with Psalm 119. That is when the revelations started. Then finally, three yrs ago, He revealed to me who I was in Him. My ancestry. Ever since then, I have been transformed. Many attacks, but He is with me. Lost practically everything/everyone. But my relationship with Him is stronger. I was "Idle" now I am alive. He is navigating with me. Thank you so much. What a blessing! B''H Reply

Webmaster Tzefat, Israel via July 18, 2013

Re: for Rabbi Moshe Miller: Rabbi Moshe Miller responds:
He had a spiritual awakening so that he saw his life until then as having been more-or-less aimless and without an overarching purpose (=asleep). Perhaps the awakening experience could be compared to one who has seen photographs of the Grand Canyon but when he visits it for the first time its majesty and grandeur takes his breath away.

Similarly, the knowledge and skills that it takes to sail a ship across the ocean are no doubt lost on a passenger who is just along to enjoy the cruise (=idle thoughts). Although he was sailing along just fine until then, when he was given the destination, the map, the compass and the control of the rudder it was a completely different experience. Reply

Anonymous USA July 1, 2013

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero Dear Rabbi Moshe Miller,
What is the meaning of the phrase in the fourth paragraph in this article: " Until he began learning Kabbalah, he was as if asleep and pursuing idle thoughts." He was so young, and conscientious in learning the Sacred books. How, then, could he have been idle? Thank you for your teachings. Reply

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