Getting to Know Four Holy Men

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Rabb Isaac Luria

I enjoy learning about the lives of the Jewish bible commentators.  This week I read about four rabbis who were given the title “the holy” after their names.


In Hebrew, the title “the Holy” is HaKodesh or Hakadosh.  Here is a little information about each of these four rabbis.


Rabbi Moshe Alshich HaKodesh, aka Alshich


Born in 1508 in Morocco, he died in 1593 in Safed, Israel. He was a student of the famous Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, 1563, also known as The Code of Jewish Law. Rabbi Alshich became a prominent sermonist.  His most famous work, Torat Moshe (Moses’ Torah), is a commentary on the Torah. Rabbi Alshich spoke and wrote of the benefits of leading a virtuous life.


Rabbi Isaac Luria, aka Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria Ashkenazi, Ha Ari (the lion), Ha Ari Hakadosh, Arizal (the Ari of Blessed Memory), and Arizal Hakadosh.

Rabbi Luria was born in 1534 in Jerusalem, and died at only 38 in 1572 in Safed, Israel.  Considered the father of worldwide mystical movement of Kabbalah, Rabbi Luria was a student of the famous Rabbi David ben Zimra, author of Metzudat David, and of Rabbi Luria’s uncle, Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi, author of the Shittah Mekubetzet. Rabbi Luria did not write down his teachings. But they were published by his follower, Rabbi Chaim Vital, who collected notes of the Kabbalah lectures which Luria’s disciples made and, based on these notes, Rabbi Vital wrote Etz Chayim (Tree of Life).


Rabbi Isaiah ben Abraham Horowitz, aka Shelah HaKodesh

Rabbi Horowitz was born around 1555 in Prague, and died in 1630 in Tiberias, Israel. His father was a student of the famous Rabbi Moses Isserles, known by his acronym, the REMA.  Rabbi Horowitz’s most famous work was Shenei Luchot HaBrit (Two Tablets of the Covenant). The Hebrew acronym is Shelah, hence, Rabbi Horowitz’s title as the Shelah HaKodesh.  In 1602, Rabbi Horowitz became the Av Beit Din (Chief of the Jewish Court) in Austria.  Av Beit Din is considered the most important of the members of the Sanhedrin (23- to 71-member court of judges).  In 1606, Rabbi Horowitz became the rabbi of Frankfurt. In 1621, he moved to Jerusalem and became rabbi of the Ashkenazi community there.  Rabbi Horowitz wrote about the joy in every action, and how one should convert evil into good.  These ideas greatly influenced the Hasidic movement.  In fact, Shneur Zalman of Liadi was described as a “Shelah Yid,” and the influence of the Shelah can be seen in Rabbi Zalman’s best known work, the Tanya.


Chaim ibn Moshe ibn Attar, aka Or HaChaim (Light of Life), and Or HaChaim HaKadosh


Rabbi Attar was born in 1696 in Morocco, and died in 1743 in Jerusalem. He is buried in the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery. Rabbi Attar’s major work was Or HaChaim, a popular commentary on the Pentateuch, or five books of the bible. Rabbi Attar was a Talmudist and kabbalist. In 1733 he left Morocco. On the way to Israel, he was detained in Livorno, Italy, by rich members of the Jewish community who established a yeshiva for him. After nine years with the yeshiva, he  finally arrived in Jerusalem in 1742. But he only lived one more year, dying at age 47.


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