The Kabbalistic Miracle-Worker Who Could See the Unseen, but Not Change It

In the 16th century, the Galilean city of Safed became a major center of kabbalistic study, attracting such important rabbis as Moses Cordovero, Joseph Karo, and, above all, Isaac Luria—whose teachings would become the basis for future understanding of Jewish mysticism. The Jerusalem-born Luria (1534-1572) developed a reputation as a wonderworker, which enhanced Safed’s mythic reputation, but, notes Eli Yassif, his miracles were of a very specific type:

[A]t the foundation of the Lurianic myth lies a highly significant contrast between the claim that Luria performed awe-inspiring deeds that elicited the veneration of his contemporaries and the actual accounts of his deeds, which demonstrate that they involved no more than recognition or knowledge of a world hidden to others.

This is exceptional even from the point of view of comparative folklore. The trademark of saints’ legends, [Jewish and non-Jewish], from the end of antiquity to the modern age is that holy men and women perform supernatural acts. They cure the sick, abrogate the laws of nature, rescue individuals and communities from various dangers, and make intensive use of magical powers (such as the use of the Tetragrammaton). Even the figure with whom Luria’s students, as well as later generations, compared him, Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai, stands out in the talmudic corpus for his magical powers and supernatural deeds.

[Yet] not most, [but] all of the original legends about Luria involve his knowledge or recognition of something. . . . Not a single legend told about Luria during his sojourn in Safed, or [in the decades following his death], recounts a miraculous deed. There are no stories of sick people lining up in front of his door so that he could cure them, or stories of threats to the Safed Jewish community that he averted or undid.

Consider a famous legend about a calf that enters the study room of Luria’s circle and places his forefeet on the table. Luria tells his disciples that they must purchase the calf at any price, slaughter it ritually, and eat its meat communally. The calf, he informs them, houses the soul of a kosher slaughterer who had caused the Jews of Safed to sin. Here . . . Luria does not do anything. He only knows something. As a result of this knowledge, he tells his students what to do, but his instruction does not include any act that takes it out of the realm of everyday life. In other words, Luria . . . does not act like other saints.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Isaac Luria, Kabbalah, Safed

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict