Rabbi Chaim Vital was unquestionably the leading disciple of the Holy Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, and his foremost interpreter. The Ari himself wrote very little and what is commonly known as the Aris writings, were in fact transcribed by Rabbi Chaim.
Divine flow experienced by the Ari was so overwhelming that he was unable to
commit it to writing. As he himself expressed it: When I begin to reveal
a Torah secret to you the flow of knowledge becomes like a mighty stream and
I look for ways to open a small channel that you will be capable of
absorbing . Rabbi Chaim Volozhin bears witness to the fact that when he
mentioned the Ari to the Vilna
Gaon the Gaons whole body trembled.
Chaim was born in Eretz Yisrael, probably in Safed. He studied nigleh (the
revealed Torah) under Rabbi Moshe Alshech and Kabbalah
under Rabbi Moshe Cordevero. However, when the
Ari arrived in Safed from Egypt in 1570 Rabbi Chaim soon became totally
devoted to him. The Ari is reported to have said that his sole reason for
departing Egypt for Safed was to transmit his Torah to Rabbi Chaim. It is an
amazing fact that the Ari who died in 1572 (at the age of 38) studied with
Rabbi Chaim for less than two years and that the extensive body of writings
transcribed by Rabbi Chaim came from that short period.
were a number of editions of the Aris writings. At one point Rabbi
Chaim decided not to publicize them. However, in 1586 he took sick and the
writings were removed from his house, copied and returned. His son, Rabbi
Shmuel prepared an edition years later. Another version was edited by Rabbi
idea of the Safed environment can be gained from Rabbi Chaims statement
in his Gates of Holiness (Shaarei Kedusha) that the holy spirit (Ruach
HaKodesh) can be attained even in our own times and that such people in fact
exist in our midst.
Chaim wrote an autobiographical work (Sefer HaChizyonot) which is extant in
his own handwriting and was published in 1954.
The impact of the Holy Ari on subsequent Jewish history was incalculable. But that influence was made possible only through the work of Rabbi Chaim Vital.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.