Page 159 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Around 1535 Caro left Turkey for Safed, arriving there in
1536. At that time about one thousand Jewish families lived in
that town. Jewish communities around the world were repre­
sented in Safed, although refugees from Spain were becoming
the majority.
Soon after his arrival in Safed, in 1538, Caro became one of
four men ordained byJacob Berab as part of a famous attempt to
reintroduce the ancient formula for rabbinic ordination in the
Land of Israel and thereby revive the Sanhedrin. After Caro’s
ordination, Berab left Safed, and Caro came to be viewed as the
leader of the rabbis there, signing his name first among all the
rabbis of the city. He headed a large yeshivah with as many as
seven hundred students and wrote hundreds of responsa to
questions sent him from around the Sephardic world. Some of
his most controversial positions included his support for the boy­
cott byJewish merchants of the Italian port of Ancona after some
marranos were burned at the stake there and, later in life, his ban
Meor Eynayim
of Azariah de Rossi, the same Azariah de
Rossi who had earlier helped raise money for the publication of
In order to give a complete picture of the
circumstances surrounding his views, Caro’s collection of
responsa includes opinions by contemporaries, including even
those with whom he did not agree, such as Moses di Trani
(1500-1580) and David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz,
One of Caro’s most prominent students was Moses Cordovero
(1522-1570), who was also a student under Solomon Alkabetz,
whose sister he married. Cordovero went on to establsh his own
academy and to become the leading kabbalist of his generation.
His magnum opus,
Pardes Rimmonim
(Cracow, 1592), is consid­
ered one of most methodical expositions of Kabbalah. Other stu­
dents whom Caro ordained included Moses Alsheikh (d. c. 1593),
famous for his Bible commentaries, and Moses Galante, a promi­
nent kabbalist and rabbi. On the Sabbath as many as two hundred
attended Caro’s sermons, some of which have been preserved in
9 The text o f Caro’s edict has recently been rediscovered,
Sotheby’s Highly Impor­
tant Hebrew Books and Manuscripts
(New York, 1984), #9.
She’lot u ’Teshuvot Even ha-Ezer
(Salonika, 1598);
Akvat Rokhel
(Salonika, 1791;
Leipzig, 1859; New York, 1959).