On Friday afternoon Isaac Luria would go with his students into the fields around Safed to welcome the Shabbat. Known as the Ari (Lion) he was well versed in the studies of the Zohar and the Kabala (the esoteric side of Judaism). He himself never wrote anything but is students kept records of his teachings many of which were spoken when he was in a spiritual trance.
Legend has it that he studied with the prophet Elijah and a small room in the Sepharadi Ari synagogue commemorates the place. The ark is hand carved.
Round about Safed are many burial places of sages who died in the first and second centuries. They were discovered by the Ari as he wandered about the fields while in a divine trance. They have been restored and together with ancient graves in the old cemetery of Safed are a magnet for visitors to the area. Also buried in the cemetery is Shlomo Alkabetz, author of the Shabbat hymn L’cha Dodi.
Not to be missed while strolling through the alleys of the old city of Safed is the Abuhav synagogue. Tradition holds that the synagogue was designed by Rabbi Yitzhak Abuhav in Spain before the expulsion and built by his disciples. Destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt there are three Holy Arks.
The Torah scrolls which are used regularly are in the center Ark. The Ark on the right has a Torah written in Spain by Abuhav himself and another by one of his students. These scrolls are rarely used but are in perfect condition. Tradition holds that the Ark on the left housed a Koran as directed by the Moslem authorities. Today it serves as a genizah, a storage place for worn out Holy books which are usually buried.
Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)
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