Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz

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Alkabetz's grave in Safed

Shlomo ha-Levi Alkabetz, also spelt Alqabitz, Alqabes; (Hebrew: שלמה אלקבץ) (c.1500, Salonica– 1580, Safed ) was a rabbi, kabbalist and poet perhaps best known for his composition of the song Lecha Dodi; sources differ as to when he wrote it (1529, 1540 and 1571 have all been suggested).

Biography[edit]

Alkabetz studied Torah under Rabbi Yosef Taitatzak. In 1529, he married the daughter of Yitzhak Cohen, a wealthy householder living in Salonica. Alkabetz gave his father-in-law a copy of his newly completed work Manot ha-Levi.[1] He settled in Adrianople, Turkey where he wrote Beit Hashem, Avotot Ahava, Ayelet Ahavim and Brit ha-Levi. This latter work he dedicated to his admirers in Adrianople. His students included Rabbi Shmuel Ozida, author of Midrash Shmuel on Avot, and Rabbi Avraham Galante, author of Yareach Yakar on Zohar. His circle included Moshe Alsheich and Yosef Karo, as well as his famous brother-in-law Moshe Cordovero.

Move to Safed[edit]

Following the practice described in the Zohar, the circle stayed up on Shavuot night. During the recitation of the required texts, Rabbi Karo had a mystical experience: The Shekhinah appeared as a maggid, praising the circle and telling them to move to the Land of Israel. When they stayed up again the second night of Shavuot, the Shechinah was adamant about their moving to the land of Israel. The account was recorded by Alkabetz. He settled in Safed in 1535.

Thought[edit]

His works written in Adrianople center on the holiness of the people Israel, the Land of Israel, and the specialness of the mitzvot. Alkabetz accepts the tradition that Esther was married to Mordechai before being taken to the king's palace and becoming queen, and even continued her relationship with Mordechai after taking up her royal post. The view of midrash articulated by Alkabetz and other members of the school of Joseph Taitatsak represents an extension of the view of the authority of the oral law and halachic midrash to aggadic midrash and thus leads to the sanctification and near canonization of aggadic expansions of biblical narrative [2]

Works[edit]

Among his printed works:

  • Lecha Dodi (1579), a mystical hymn to inaugurate the Shabbat
  • Manot HaLevi (completed 1529, published 1585) on the Book of Esther
  • Ayalet Ahavim (completed 1532, published 1552) on Song of Songs
  • Shoresh Yishai (completed 1552, published 1561) on the Book of Ruth
  • Brit HaLevi (1563), a kabbalistic commentary on the Passover Haggada
  • Or Tzadikim, a book of sermons

Among those existing in manuscript are:

  • Divrei Shlomo, on the section of Scripture known as Writings
  • Naim Zemirot, on Psalms
  • Sukkat Shalom, Avotot Ahavah, on the Torah
  • Pitzei Ohev, on the Book of Job
  • Apiryon Shlomo, Beit Hashem, Beit Tefilla, interpretations of the prayers
  • Lechem Shlomo, on the guidelines for the sanctification of meals, according to kabbalah
  • Mittato shel Shlomo, on the mystical significance of sexual union
  • Shomer Emunim, on the fundamental principles of faith

References[edit]

  1. ^ Introduction to Manot HaLevi
  2. ^ Barry Walfish, Kosher Adultery? The Mordecai-Esther-Ahasuerus Triangle, Prooftexts, Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 2002

Bibliography[edit]

  • Joseph Yahalom, "Hebrew mystical poetry and its Turkish background," in Andreas Tietze and Joseph Yahalom, Ottoman Melodies Hebrew Hymns: a 16th century cross-cultural adventure (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1995), pp. 9–43.
  • Bracha Sack, The Secret Teaching of R. Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz (Ph. D., Brandeis University, 1977)