Page 157 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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reflected both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic practice of the mid­
dle ages and was, therefore, accepted in Germany, Italy, and
Poland. Maimonides, who paid no attention to Ashkenazic usage
was followed only in oriental communities. Nevertheless, Caro
relied heavily on Maimonides, and much of his text draws on the
Mishneh Torah.
Indeed, in his
Kesef Mishneh
(Venice, 1574-75)
Caro offered his own commentary on Maimonides’ code.
It is not clear how Caro earned a living while he worked on his
halakhic texts. He was probably employed as a teacher rather
than as a rabbi, though he is credited with having founded a
famous academy in Adrianople and did issue many responsa
while in Turkey. It appears that for many years he lived in pov­
Beginning around 1522, Caro, like other contemporary
kabbalists likeJoseph Taitatzak, began to have conversations with
a maggid which he subsequently recorded in ajournal. Generally
these experiences took place at night while he was awake and
alone. Caro perceived the maggid as an embodiment of the Mish­
nah since it often appeared after he had been studying that text.
The maggid spoke through Caro in a type of automatic speech
which was audible to others. Solomon Alkabetz, for example,
once heard it when he and Caro were studying Torah together
the night before Shavuot. (That eventful evening may have been
the first all-night study vigil, a custom still observed by many Jews
before Shavuot and called
Tikkun LeyI Shavuot).
The conversa­
tions with the maggid reveal much about Caro’s life: his wander­
ings in Turkey, his relations with other prominent personalities,
his ascetic practices, his ethical views, his different wives, and the
loss of his children. References to the last are confirmed by tomb­
stones in Turkey, though some have questioned whether these
are those of the children of Joseph Caro rather than of a name­
sake. The maggid’s words reveal aspects of Caro’s private life, his
sexual, financial, sleeping, eating, and drinking habits, for exam­
7 R. J. Zwi Werblowsky,
Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic
(London, 1962, with a
new postscript 1977); reviewed by David Tamar,
Kiryat Sefer
40 (1964-65):