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Safed

Safed, in Hebrew is “Safed,” from the word “tsofeh,” “scout.” It refers to the city’s unique place perched on a steep slope high in the Galilean hills. One of the four holy cities in Israel, Safed represents the element of air. (Hebron represents earth, Jerusalem fire, and Tiberias water.) According to the Zohar, its pure mountain air is also the holiest in Israel.

Sources date the city back to the time of Joshua ben Nun (1355- 1245 BCE) and archeological findings confirm dwellings back to the Second Temple era.

Safed grew with an influx of refugees from the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th-century, when it reached its zenith as a center of study of Torah and Kabbalah. After a massive earthquake in 1834 that killed thousands of Safed’s inhabitants and destroyed many of the buildings, only a small community remained. But the city was soon rejuvenated by early Chassidim who settled in its holy environs.

Simply Safed Klezmer Band

The chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, said that music comes from the same spiritual level as prophecy. The beautiful melodies of “Simply Safed” do indeed have the ability to stir the soul.

Three Breslov chasidim, acoustic guitarist and vocalist Elyahu Reiter, violinist Yehonason Lipshutz, and classical guitarist Yonatan Tzarum, make up the band. They play beautiful renditions of classic chassidic melodies, as well as original compositions. Elyahu’s beautiful stories complement the music and create a warm and wonderful concert experience. All three musicians live and raise families in the holy city of Safed, home to many Breslov chasidim. Their most recent album, “Fresh Air,” is a tribute to the mountainside city’s endless capacity to invigorate.

The Ari’s Mikveh

An estimated 500,000 visitors each year immerse in this legendary mikveh (ritual pool), dating back to Safed’s golden era of Kabbalah in the 1500s.

The water flows directly into the 51-inch-deep pool from a fresh underground spring. An exit hole at the opposite side of the pool allows the water to continue its underground passage. The mikveh was frequented by the holy Ari as well as his contemporaries, including Rabbi Yosef Caro (1488-1575).

It is said that one who immerses in this mikveh is certain to repent in his lifetime.

The Holy Ari Zal

The Holy Ari Zal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572), is perhaps the most famous historical figure of all of mystical Safed.

Though he lived only thirty-eight years, his elucidation of the divine emanations and levels of G-d, known as the Lurianic Kabbalah, make up the basis of the Kabbalah we study today. (The initials of “Adoneinu [our master] Rabbi Yitzchak” spell “Ari”—“lion” in Hebrew, and “Zal” is an acronym for “Zichrono LiVrachah—his memory is a blessing”.)

Told by Elijah the Prophet to move to the Holy Land of Israel, the Ari emigrated to Safed in 1570, after having lived as an ascetic on a small island on the Nile.

In Safed he assembled several of the generation’s greatest mystics, including the holy Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570) and his most celebrated disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620), who recorded his teachings.

The Chabad Lubavitch prayer book is compiled according to the order set down by the Ari Zal in accordance with the deepest kabbalistic teachings, as edited by the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812).

The “Suffering” Reb Leib

One of the greatest chasidim of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, was Reb Leib “Baal HaYesurim” (the suffering one). Reb Leib once declared of himself that he was “far removed from this world.” Born in Russia, he settled in Hebron and, towards the end of his life, in Safed. He passed away in 1837. The origin of his title is unknown; However, according to legend he promised that all who prayed at his grave would be saved from their troubles. It has become customary to visit his gravesite after noon on Friday.

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