The Holy Alsheich & RemezJan 25, 2024
By Rabbi Amichai Cohen
For a nation that boasts many incredible personalities, only three were called Kadosh"- holy.
They are the Alsheich, the Ohr Hachayim and the Shela. All wrote books that are grandiose in their name. The Alsheich wrote the “Torat Moshe” (Torah of Moshe).
The Ohr Hachayim wrote the “Shnei Luchot Habrit” (The Two Tablets) and the Ohr Hachayim wrote the “Light of Life.”
Who was the Holy Alsheich and what made him one of his generation's greatest scholars and master of Remez, the allegorical part of the Torah?
The Alshich was a disciple of the rabbis Yosef Taitazak and Yosef Caro, and he later became the teacher of Rabbi Chaim Vital.
Born in Turkey and immigrating to the Land of Israel in 1535, he settled in Safed and established two yeshivas. Throughout his life, he was renowned as a halachic authority, and many of his responsa were compiled in the book "HaRav Moshe." He gained worldwide recognition for his profound commentary on the Torah. He received ordination from Rabbi Yosef Caro and continued the tradition of semicha (rabbinic ordination).
He was a judge and ordained by the Beit Yosef- Rabbi Yosef Karo. He is mentioned among the rabbis of Safed (Responsa "Avkat Rochel" Siman 124).
In the introduction to "Torat Moshe," he stated:
"From my youth, I toiled in Talmudic study, immersing myself in nighttime analysis and daytime halachic rulings... and my heart did not incline to establish regular sessions for teachings and expositions, except for finding rest from halachic discussions on Friday. For on Shabbat, the people would come to me to seek Torah insights from the holy scriptures that they would read at their appointed times, portion by portion, on Friday evening."
The teachings were written when he was young, and he wanted to publish them in a new edition. However, many troubles befell him, "disturbances, torments, and unfortunate events," and when he matured, he decided to print them as they were. Some scribes who listened to his teachings published his words anonymously, and this was also a reason for the book's publication:
"For who can stand among the congregation in every city and province to address them with words above them, proclaiming that what is mine is mine, and there is a butcher and a seller to everyone who passes with his silver, making merchandise of his friend's property without toiling for it.”
In his later years, Rabbi Moshe Alshich was sent as a Shadar (Shaliach D'Rabbanan - emissary of the rabbis) to Syria, Turkey, and Persia. He passed away in Safed and earned great admiration, posthumously receiving the title "The Holy."
After the passing of Rabbi Yosef Karo in the year 5235 (1475 CE), he was appointed as the rabbi of the city of Safed and was designated as "The Holy Alshich."
In response to an epidemic that broke out in the Safed region, he traveled to Constantinople (Turkey) to secure financial assistance for the residents of Safed. He was the first to establish the Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess Charity Fund for the benefit of the needy in the Land of Israel.
In the year 5247 (1487 CE), he arrived in Damascus (Syria), and in the year 5250 (1490 CE), he ordained his student, Rabbi Chaim Vital, as a rabbi. In the year 5254 (1494 CE), he arrived in Constantinople and printed his book "Torat Moshe."
He returned to the Land of Israel, and in the year 5257 (1497 CE), approximately, he returned his soul to its Creator.
After his passing, Rabbi Chaim Vital revealed that his soul was a reincarnation of Ravina, who, together with Rav Ashi, complied with the Talmud.
What is Remez?
What is the "Torat HaRemez" (Torah of Hint), and what is gematriot?
Due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the essence and importance of the "Torat HaRemez," especially in gematriot, some explanations are presented here to clarify the matter.
As is known, our holy Torah has endless interpretations. This is because the Almighty is infinite, and so is the Torah, which is His wisdom.
It is known that there are 70 faces to the Torah, and within them, there are various and numerous dimensions.
However, there are four main and important dimensions known as "PaRDeS":
P - Peshat (literal meaning).
R - Remez (hint).
D - Drash (homiletic interpretation).
S - Sod (secret/mystical interpretation).
Almost everyone is familiar with and recognizes "Peshat," "Drash," and "Sod."
However, "Torat HaRemez" is less known and sometimes even somewhat neglected, both due to lack of knowledge and basic understanding.
Also, it does not have a "systematized Torah" and does not have foundational books like the three other dimensions of the Torah.
Gematriot are a chapter in the "Torat HaRemez," an important chapter, but they are not everything.
Torat HaRemez is not limited to a specific realm of the Torah, and it is found in every aspect, including all the aforementioned dimensions.
What does Torat HaRemez include?
Letter forms, letter numerology (gematriot), letter substitutions (Aleph for Bet, Aleph for Mem, Aleph for Kuf, etc.), acronyms, word endings, notarikon, letter fillings, preceding letters, succeeding letters, hidden number, letter points, reversed light (for punishment), conversion of numbers to letters, twisted letters, letter positions, small gematriot, large gematriot, and more.
Torat HaRemez is so elevated that "The Holy Zohar" compares it to the secret and even calls it "Ra'ayah" (vision, instead of a hint), as written in the Zohar: "Come and see."
Torat HaRemez is the Torah that will be revealed to the public just before the revelation of the Messiah, in the form of "Vayikbor oto b'Gai" (in gematria), which is a secret and in the form of "Kol Gai Yinas'ah" - that Torat HaRemez will be elevated above the other dimensions soon.
The Alshech and Kabbalah
The city of Safed in the fifteenth century was a spiritually vibrant place. Many studied the Kabbalah and the Zohar, all under the leadership of the head of the group - the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria).
When the Arizal taught the secrets of Kabbalah, the students gathered around him, thirstily absorbing his words and delving into the mysteries of the Torah. Once, Rabbi Moshe Alshich asked to join the group.
"Can I also learn the secrets of Kabbalah with you?" he requested, but the Arizal refused. "The secrets of Kabbalah are not suited to your soul. Your unique talents are expressed specifically in the interpretation of the Torah, where you excel."
Alshich persisted and approached the Arizal several times until he agreed to his request. "Come to me at dawn, and I will teach you the secrets of the Torah," he said.
Alshich, who used to rise early every day, went to sleep with joy, but to his surprise, he woke up later than usual. He hurried to the study hall, but the Arizal told him, "It's late. We will sit tomorrow."
On the second occasion, Alshich made extensive preparations; he went to sleep early and even asked the sun to wake him up early. However, once again, he woke up late. Rabbi Alshich rushed to the Arizal and still asked to learn, but again, the Arizal refused due to the late hour and postponed it to the next day.
On the third attempt, Rabbi Moshe Alshich decided not to sleep at all to ensure he arrived on time for the lesson. However, just before dawn, he fell asleep and once again did not wake up in time. When he woke up, feeling the sun's rays on his face, he walked slowly to the study hall, turned to the Arizal, and said, "Indeed, the secrets of Kabbalah do not suit my soul."
The next day, Rabbi Moshe Alshich woke up already at dawn…
A Lesson On Trust- Bitachon
The Alshech once delivered a powerful discourse on the significance of bitachon (trust in God). He stressed that if an individual places complete trust and reliance on Hashem for all their needs, they need not exert any effort to earn a livelihood; Hashem will ensure their provision.
Among his audience were not only his students but also a simple Jew who listened attentively. This man, engaged in strenuous physical labor from morning till night to support his family, was captivated by the Alshech's words. He immediately grasped that his extensive labor might be unnecessary. He thought, "Why should I exhaust myself daily trying to provide for my family? No matter how hard I work, there's no guarantee of a substantial profit. Moreover, I'll only receive what Hashem has decreed for me. I can eliminate all my toil and worries by placing trust in Hashem for my sustenance."
Fully convinced, instead of going to work the next day, he chose to sit in the study hall and recite Psalms. When his family implored him to return to work, he responded emphatically, "I heard directly from Rabbi Alshech that one with bitachon will receive everything they need without exerting effort. I've always toiled so hard because I didn't know we could receive everything we need with bitachon. Now that I know, am I foolish enough to strain myself working?" True to his newfound trust, a series of unusual events led to miraculous wealth in his home, providing for him and his family.
Upon witnessing this story unfold, the Alshech's students asked why they hadn't experienced a similar salvation despite their continuous efforts to strengthen their bitachon. The Alshech explained that the simple man had embraced the concept of bitachon without hesitation. He heard the Alshech proclaim that with bitachon, he was sure to receive everything he needed, and he promptly took the logical step of ceasing work, firmly believing that Hashem would provide.
The Alshech pointed out to his students that their bitachon was flawed. While they indeed strived to cultivate trust in Hashem, their approach was more intricate, introducing worries and concerns. They pondered whether they were worthy of miracles or if Hashem had a different plan. Lacking the straightforward, unwavering faith of the simple laborer, they did not experience the miraculous provision that befell the individual in question.
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