The holy city of Safed, perched on a mountain top in the upper Galilee, conjures many images to all lovers of the city. The romantic flavor of narrow cobblestone lanes and ancient synagogues fills one’s lungs with a new spirit. The rusty old houses with there domed roofs clearly identifies the city with the mysterious past of the Holy Land.
The history of Safed, in real terms, dates back only five hundred years to the beginning of the 16th century. As if out of nowhere, Jews from near and far settled there – as if answering a divine call – and built the largest Jewish settlement in Palestine. Furthermore, great scholars and mystics opened yeshivos in Safed, being an added incentive to other young men of wisdom to settle there. In one sense, the last half of the 16th century was the pinnacle of Torah grandeur which the city experienced. The author of the Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Code of Laws), Rabbi Joseph Karo, sat at the head of the rabbinical court while compiling his compendium of Jewish Law. At the same time, another saintly man by the name of Rabbi Isaac Luria revealed the mystical side of the Torah, called Kabalah. Together these men and their disciples opened new pathways to the Torah which embedded an invisible holiness in the very rocks of the city.
Today everyone who strolls through the city is caught off guard by the hidden spirit of Safed which vibrates full of life after so many generations. Not only newcomers are surprised, but even weathered old comers as well.