R. Hayyim Ben Joseph Vital was born in Safed and studied in yeshivot there, especially under R. Moses Alshekh, his teacher in exoteric subjects. In 1564 he began to study Kabbalah, at first according to the system R. Moses Cordovero, and, after R. Isaac Luria’s (Ari) arrival in Safed, under the latter, becoming the Ari’s principal disciple. After the Ari’s death, R. Vital began to arrange the Ari’s teachings in written form, elaborating on them according to his own understanding, becoming the primary transmitter of the Ari’s teachings. R. Vital later moved to Jerusalem, serving as rabbi and head of a yeshivah from late 1577 to late 1585, where he wrote the last version of his presentation of the Lurianic system. In 1586 he returned to Safed, remaining there until 1592. In 1590 R. Vital was “ordained” as rabbi by his teacher R. Moses Alshekh, and then returned to Jerusalem in 1593 remaining several years, occasionally returning to Safed. His last move was to Damascus where he died. R. Vital was a prolific writer, his works encompassing Talmud, response, homilies, and even astronomy. R. Vital assembled his major writings into two vast works Ez ha-Hayyim and Ez ha-Da’at. The former is the inclusive name for all those writings in which he elaborated on the teaching of R. Isaac Luria. These works went through several versions and adaptations, for Vital began to arrange what he had heard from R. Luria immediately after his death, remained absorbed in this task for more than 20 years.
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