Kitvei Arizal - the Writings of the Holy Ari

Without doubt, Rabbi Chaim Vital is most famous for his voluminous codification of the teachings of the Arizal. The process of codification entailed a substantial number of revisions, refinements and reorganizations by Rabbi Chaim himself, producing several versions. Around 5347 (1587 CE), Rabbi Chaim was in Safed where he fell gravely ill. His brother, Moshe, allowed R. Joshua ben Nun, a good friend of Rabbi Chaim, to borrow 600 pages of his manuscripts for a few days. The enterprising fellow hired 100 scribes and had them copy the manuscripts within three days. The copy was then further circulated among a select group of kabbalists. Understandably, these were filled with errors.

Subsequently his son, Rabbi Shmuel Vital, edited and re-arranged these copies in eight sections, known as the Shemoneh She'arim. He began circulating them in manuscript form only from around the year 5420 (1660 CE). It was eventually printed in seven volumes in Jerusalem 5623-5658 (1863-98 CE) with the support of the kabbalists of the Bet-El Yeshiva. Many kabbalists are of the opinion that this version, known as the mehadura kamma (the first version) is the most reliable version of Rabbi Chaim's writings.

The Shemoneh She'arim, known collectively as Etz HaChaim, are:
1) Shaar HaHakdamot - on the emanation and creation of the worlds.
2) Shaar Mamarei Rashbi - a commentary on some passages in Zohar.
3) Shaar Mamarei Razal - a kabbalistic explanation of various Talmudic dicta.
4) Shaar HaPesukim - a commentary on the verses of Tanach.
5) Shaar HaKavanot - mystical customs and meditations on the prayers. (Not to be confused with Sefer HaKavanot, see below).
6) Shaar HaMitzvot - a kabbalistic explanation of the mitzvot.
7) Shaar Ruach HaKodesh - meditations, kabbalistic customs and yichudim-meditations.
8) Shaar HaGilgulim - explaining and describing the doctrine of transmigration and metempsychosis. (Not to be confused with Sefer HaGilgulim, see below).

>Before he died in 5380 (1620 CE) Rabbi Chaim ordered that all his manuscripts be buried with him. Several years later, after asking his permission in a kabbalistic rite known as sh'eilat shalom, Rabbi Abraham Azulai and Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach, colleagues and disciples of Rabbi Chaim, extracted the writings from Rabbi Chaim's grave and published them. This version is known as the mehadura batra (the later version).

> Rabbi Meir Poppers, a disciple of Tzemach, combined both versions, as well as others that were found elsewhere (apparently in Hebron and Italy) in the final edition that was completed in 5413 (1653 CE). A recent study by Yosef Avivi, entitled Binyan Ariel (Jerusalem 5747 / 1987 CE) has attempted to sort through the plethora of editions that appeared in the first hundred years after the passing of Rabbi Chaim Vital.

>In addition to the works mentioned above, there are several more of note:

>Sefer HaKavanot, divided into two parts. The first deals with matters pertaining to blessing and prayers; the second with matters pertaining to Shabbat and the Festivals (Venice 5384 / 1624 CE)
Dodi Yarad l'Gano, a poem printed in Shaarei Tzion (Amsterdam, 5431 / 1671 CE).
Sefer HaGilgulim, explaining and describing the doctrine of transmigration and metempsychosis (Frankfort on Maine 5444 / 1684 CE).
Nof Etz Chaim (Frankfort on Maine 5444 / 1684 CE).
Likutei Torah u'Taamei HaMitzvot, a kabbalistic analysis of the mitzvot (Zolkove 5535 / 1775 CE).
Otzrot Chaim, containing kabbalistic doctrines similar in content to Etz Chaim (Koritz 5543 / 1783).
Likutei Shas, a kabbalistic analysis of Talmudic statements (Livorno 5544 / 1794).
Arba Me'ot Shekel Kessef, an examination of various kabbalistic doctrines and ideas (Koritz 5543 / 1783 CE).
Olat Tamid, meditations on the prayers, 5610 (1850 CE).
Sefer HaChizyonot, a semi-autobiography explaining what he had heard from the Arizal regarding his soul and powers, and revelations that he had experienced during dreams (Jerusalem 5626 / 1866 CE. Earlier versions were incomplete).

>Sources: Shem HaGedolim; Encyclopedia l'Gedolei Yisrael; Encyclopedia Judaica.

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