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Synagogues of Safed

The Synagogue was built in the sixteenth century

The Ashkenazi HaAri

The Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue was built in the sixteenth century on the northern fringes of the Sephardic neighborhood in the Old City of Safed. It was originally founded by Spanish exiles who had settled in Greece and then immigrated to Safed, earning it the name "Gerigos". Its congregation were Kabbalists, mostly followers of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and they were joined in 1570 by Rabbi Isaac Luria (known by his acronym "Ari"). His custom was to pray in the synagogue on the Eve of Sabbath, proceeding from there with his disciples to a nearby field (Hakal Tapuchin) to welcome the Sabbath. It is said that it was during these sessions that popular Shabbat melody, Lecha Dodi, was created.

The Ari's tradition of welcoming the Sabbath outside is still echoed in every Kabbalat Shabbat

"the crown of impending redemption."

Abuhav Synagogue

It is not clear which of the two rabbis named Yitzhak Abuhav inspired the naming of this synagogue and that of the famous Torah scroll attributed to one of them. Popular tradition links the synagogue with the author of Menorat Hama'or, a well-known work on ethics. But it is more likely that the synagogue is named after the fifteenth-century rabbi who is considered one of the gaonim - great sages - of Castile. He served in the rabbinate in Toledo and headed a yeshiva for the study of Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah. Among his pupils was Rabbi Ya'acov Beirav, who later moved to Safed and became one of its foremost sages. It may have been Beirav who brought the Torah scroll attributed to Abuhav to the synagogue.

The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century

The Maggid And The Set Table

Yosef Caro Synagogue

This synagogue is named after Rabbi Joseph Caro, scholar and Kabbalist, author of the "Shulchan Aruch" (the codification of Jewish laws). It was built in the 16th century as a large and magnificent synagogue and house of learning, using marble and carved stone. The building was destroyed in the 1759 earthquake but was later rebuilt in a more modest style. The Hassidim who came to Safed in 1777 began praying here, and also took part in its reconstruction after it was destroyed again in the Great Earthquake of 1837. Three men, headed by the Italian philanthropist Yitzhak Guetta, contributed jointly towards its rebuilding over a period of a decade. Yitzhak Guetta heard about the destruction of Safed while in Italy and decided to use his fortune to help rebuild the ruined city. If you look to the floor of this synagogue you will see an Italian marble floor imported from Italy by Guetta. Legend has it that Guetta used only half the budget he set aside for this structure's reconstruction and that he buried the other half in the ground for when the messiah comes.

His visions were put to writing in his book "Maggid Meisharim."

The Yosef Caro Synagogue

HaAri's Favorite Place

The Ari Sephardic Synagogue

The Ari Sephardic Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Safed. Historical sources refer to this building as early as 1522, and tell us that the synagogue was used by North African Jews and was known at the time as the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue. During his time in Safed during the 16th century, the Ari frequently prayed in this synagogue, preferring this location over others mainly due to the fact that its windows looked out onto Mt. Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai.

It is said that the Ari liked to sit in a little alcove on the eastern side of the synagogue, studying Kabbalah, and that while he was absorbed in his studies, the prophet Elijah, his personal Maggid, appeared. The synagogue was apparently given its present name in the seventeenth century in order to honor the Ari.

At present, this beautiful synagogue is open only a few hours daily for Torah lessons