Kore’ ha-dorot (Reader for the Generations)

David Conforte


And after the rabbi [Joseph Karo] went to Safed he studied in the study house of the rabbi, our master, Jacob Berab, and became a disciple of our master R. Berab, as is written in several places. The rabbi became a master of Torah learning in Safed, and in his greatness he spread much Torah there, and established many students, who were mighty in wisdom and good deeds. It is already known and famous how the great rabbi, our master R. Joseph Karo, was wonderful in counsel and great in insight [see Isaiah 28:29]. We have presented the marvels of his teaching in his great work, Bet Yosef, which he composed on the book of the Arba‘ah turim. [ . . . ] And in addition, his book the Shulḥan ‘arukh, which has spread out through the entire world, as well as his commentary Kesef mishneh on the work of Maimonides of blessed memory. He also wrote a book of responsa [about Jewish law] dealing with the Even ha-‘ezer section of the Arba‘ah turim [on laws of marriage and divorce]. I, the author, when I was there in the city of Salonika, heard directly from elders that he wrote responsa on the three other sections, but they were not [yet] printed. [ . . . ] And he also wrote the work Bedek ha-bayit, which consists of emendations of the Bet Yosef, and a book Klale ha-talmud as well as a commentary on the works Halikhot ‘olam and Magid mesharim. These involve great secrets and mysteries of the Torah, which the magid [a mystical speaker], who would reveal himself to him, would tell him, as one who peruses that book can see. [ . . . ]

And I the author, one day I was in the city of my birth Salonika, with my companions in the yeshiva, and there was a righteous rabbi there, our master the late R. Yedidyah Karo, son of the sage and rabbi, the late master Judah Karo, who was the son of the great rabbi our late master Joseph Karo, and the conversation rolled along among us. Among other things, he told us a little in praise of the late rabbi, his grandfather. [ . . . ]

At that time, too, there was in Safed the kabbalist, our master R. Moses Cordovero, who wrote several works about the wisdom of the kabbalah: the book Pardes rimonim and Or ne’erav [ . . . ] which were printed, and he also wrote the book Elima, which is in manuscript. [ . . . ] I the author saw this book in Jerusalem, in the house of study of that perfect sage, the kabbalist, our master R. Jacob Tsemaḥ of blessed memory, when I was studying the book of the Zohar there with him. That book is very large, both in quantity and quality. In the introduction to Or ne’erav, written by the sage R. Gedaliah Cordovero, son of the aforementioned rabbi, he said that his mother, the rabbi’s wife, was the sister of R. Solomon ha-Levi Alkabetz. He also noted there at the end of the book that his father died in the year 5330 [1570]. I also heard from the sages of Safed, may it be rebuilt and established speedily in our days, that when they were bearing him to the cemetery a pillar of fire went before them, and the only one who saw it was R. Isaac Luria Ashkenazi. This R. Gedaliah, his son, was a student of R. Solomon Sagis as mentioned in that book. That generation of sages in Safed included R. Joseph Ashkenazi, who is known as the Great Tanna [Mishnaic sage], as he would constantly chant passages from the Mishnah.

At that time in Egypt, the great rabbi our master, the Radbaz, that is R. David Ibn Abi Zimra, of blessed memory, was in Egypt, and he spread much Torah among the Jews, while establishing numerous students, all of whom became great sages. He wrote more than two thousand legal decisions, only three hundred of which were printed, and that, too, for a reason not fitting to reveal in a book. I have heard from men who speak the truth, that this rabbi found a great treasure in his house, several thousand gold dinars. He distributed the money to Torah scholars. One part he gave to Torah scholars studying in Egypt, and another part he sent to Hebron, a third part to Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt and established speedily in our days, and the final part he sent to Safed. In his later years, he left Egypt and moved to the city of Safed. It is said that our master R. Joseph Karo, of blessed memory, honored him and raised his status with great honor, and he positioned him above himself in all matters, both regarding seating and for the signing of writings and bills, because he was extremely old, older than our master R. Joseph Karo. They say that he was 110 years old when he died there in Safed. At that time, R. Issachar ben Shushan was also in Safed, the author of the book, Tikun Yisakhar, as can be seen in his book, fols. 56, 61, and 64. He was a student of R. ḥabib, as indicated there on fols. 29 and 56. On fol. 70 of that work, he cites R. David ben Zimra.

Translated by
Jeffrey M.


David Conforte, Kore’ ha-dorot (Reader for the Generations) (Venice: Bi-defus me’ir da Zara, 1746). Republished as: David Conforte, Sefer kore’ ha-dorot, ed. David Cassel (Berlin: A. Asher, 1846), pp. 31a–33a, 35a–36b, 41a–41b.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

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