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Rabbi Moshe Cordovero
His work is called Paradise.
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Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

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.

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By Yerachmiel Tilles   More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Yerachmiel Tilles is the co-founder of Ascent-of-Safed, and was its educational director for 18 years. He is the creator of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org and currently the director of both sites. He is also a well-known storyteller, a columnist for numerous chassidic publications, and a staff rabbi on AskMoses.com, as well as and the author of "Saturday Night, Full Moon": Intriguing Stories of Kabbalah Sages, Chasidic Masters and other Jewish Heroes.
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.


Reader Comments
Latest Comments:
Posted: July 18, 2013
Tzefat, Israel, Kabbalaonline.org
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
Posted By Anonymous, USA

Posted: 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.
Posted By Webmaster, Tzefat, Israel
via kabbalaonline.org

Posted: 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.
Posted By Anonymous, USA


Biographies of Major Kabbalists
Rabbi Chaim Vital
Rabbi Yosef Caro - The Master
Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz
Rabbi Moshe Alshich
Rabbi Moshe Cordovero
The Holy Ari
Rashbi and His Circle
Rabbi Shalom Sharabi -- The Rashash