[Many photos at end of article]
THE first nine days of the month of Av is the period of intense mourning
over the destruction of the two holy temples, leading up to Tisha B'Av,
the anniversary of their destruction 1940 and 2410 years ago. Exactly
in the middle, on the 5th of Av in 1572, we lost the Holy Ari, Rabbi
Yitzchak Luria, also known as the "Arizal"
and "the Lion of Safed" (Ari is both an acronym of his
name and the word for lion in Hebrew), at the young age of 38
The Arizal lived in Tzfat for only two short years. Many Tzaddikim have
lived in or near Tzfat, and for much longer periods, so what makes this
particular man's passing all so important? Because The Arizal is the most
dominant teacher of Kabbalah in the last 18-1900 years, and his teachings
are the basis on which we build our understanding of the Zohar
and Kabbalah, and are the foundation for nearly all schools of Chassidic
Over three thousand Jews arrived during the course of the night and day
of the yahrzeit of the Holy Ari, to spend minutes or hours at his gravesite
(with a prerequisite dip for the men in the famous Mikveh of the
Ari, of course). A smaller number of about twenty Jews, most for the first
time, came two full days earlier for a four day ASCENT seminar, in order
to learn and do in preparation for the special occasion.
This small group of individual Jews came to Tzfat and learned about the
Holy Ari and his teachings. They learned what happens to the soul of a
Tzaddik and why we visit the gravesite of a Tzaddik on the anniversary
of his leaving this world, and that his yahrzeit presents the opportunity
to connect to his soul and his teachings on this day of his annual soul
elevation at the place in the world where his presence is felt strongest.
Four days of classes to learn just a taste of all this, and as it was
once said, "
until you taste it you don't really know it".
This taste of Kabbalah and its connection to Chassidus was the preparation
for the day when these students would experience the deepest connection
to the Al-mighty at the gravesite of the Holy Ari.
One of the participants said, "I have been to the gravesites of
other Tzaddikim in Israel, like the Rambam and the Rashbi, but this time
I felt something different". She attributed it to the classes and
preparation for the correct way to visit a Tzaddik's gravesite. She said,
"First you need to understand who the Tzaddik was and why his teachings
are so special. Then you need to find a personal connection; mine was
the fact, new to me, that the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service that we
use today was originated by the Arizal and his associates here in Tzfat".
The learning did not stop there. With a walking tour down the same streets
that are so special in the Old City of Tzfat and a class on the miracles
that happened here during the earthquake in 1837, the connection became
revealed so when the students went to the gravesite of the Holy Ari it
was like he was not just a Tzaddik from the past, a part of history, but
"The Living Lion". The Living Lion of summer, the soul that
would help elevate our prayers to the Heavenly Throne. Then these times
when the whole Jewish world cries will end and Moshiach will come -- to
some extent in the merit of our studying the Inner Teachings as championed
by the Arizal and promised in the Zohar -- to dry our tears and help us
complete our work of making everything right in this world, and making
it into a place that G-d can call His home.
Words and pictures mostly by Daniel Posner, a computer maven and photo
journalist who recently moved to Tsfat from Crispin in the Golan. Yerachmiel
Tilles helped with the word content and Marlen Esterson added a few photos.
(for all 18 photos, go to our
in our newly completed Tea Garden
session onthe porch
director of www.kabbalaonline.org teaching about the 10 sefirot
"Big Mo" discoursing on location atthe Ari Synagogue
Leiter relating by cndlelight the history and praises of the Holy Ari
ordained Rabbi Effie Ehrenberg on "Sparks, Lights and Vessels"
midnight, in the cemetery
just yahrzeits, also "Happy Birthday!"