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Later Messiahs (2)

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Isaac Luria

Isaac Luria, surnamed Ari, 'the Lion', was one of the greatest students of the Cabbala. His parents were from German descent, but Isaac was born in 1534 in Jerusalem. According to his biographer Hayyim Vital, the prophet Elijah had appeared to his father Solomon during his wife's pregnancy.

After receiving his formal education in Egypt, Isaac settled in the Palestinian town of Safed. Elijah, together with other biblical sages, started to talk to the young scholar and taught him the true meaning of the cabalistic interpretation of the Scriptures. Soon, Isaac and his disciple Hayyim Vital were able to converse with deceased rabbis. One of the spirits they spoke to, convinced them that he was the Messiah and that he would come soon.

According to Hayyim Vital, Isaac became a successful exorcist, talked to animals and performed other miracles. He knew that he was the 'man of sorrows' whose role was described by the famous prophet Isaiah (chapter 53); this 'suffering servant' was, in Isaac's view, the forerunner of the 'Messiah of David'. Isaac prophesied that the Messiah was a great warrior, who would change the entire universe. To hurry up his coming, all nations had to repent and do good works, but the Jews had a special responsibility to redeem all mankind.

Isaac's teachings gave Cabbala its present form. He stressed ascetism and meditation as means to enter a world of perfectness. The Messiah was to open this world for all people.

Unfortunately, Isaac Luria did not live to see the Messiah of David: in 1573 he fell victim to the plague, being only 38 years old. His mystical teachings would be extremely influential: both his disciple Hayyim Vital and Sabbathai Zwi claimed to be the Messiah whose coming Isaac had predicted.

Isaac Luria did not write much; his teachings are best known from the books of his disciple Hayyim Vital.

Asher Lämmlin (c.1500)
Isaac Luria (1534-1573)
Hayyim Vital (after 1542)
Sabbathai Zwi (1626-1676)
Jacob Frank (1726-1786)
Moses Guibbory (1899-1985)
Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)



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