Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 9 November 2019 / 11 Heshvan 5780

Safed, Tsfas and Zefat

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Peter wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is so significant about the city of Safed in Israel, and what major events took place there?

Dear Peter,

In Hebrew, the name “Safed” relates to the word for “view” (tzuf), a “mountaintop.” Safed offers a view both awe-inspiring and strategic.

On a deeper level, it is a city where a person can gain 'panoramic' insight into the Torah. Rabbi Avraham Azulai, the 17th century Kabbalist, writes that its refined air predestined Safed as the best place in Israel (excluding Jerusalem) for delving into the depths of Torah.

This allure could account for the many Torah giants, tzaddikim and Kabbalists who settled there: Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch), the Arizal, Rabbi Yisrael Najara (author of Shabbat song "Ka Ribbon Olam"), Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (author of the Friday night prayer “Lecha Dodi”), Shita MeKubetzet, Rabbi Chaim Vital and many others.

During one 50-year period in the 16th century, Safed's Sages reinstituted what is historically known as “Smicha” — the official Rabbinic ordination that began with Moses and disappeared during the exile that occurred with the destruction of the Second Temple. Rabbi Yosef Karo and Rabbi Chaim Vital were among those who received this Smicha.

Besides its past, Safed has an illustrious future. According to the Zohar, the dead will rise and gather in Safed, there the Mashiach will reveal himself to the world, and together they will march to Jerusalem!

Sources: Safed the Mystical City, Dovid Rossoff pp. 22-35

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