This week, we commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the great kabbalist Isaac Luria, known as the Holy ARI. It is therefore a good time to reflect on an odd synchrony between his arrival and the global events of his time. However, before we speak of the ARI, we should speak of the founder of the wisdom of Kabbalah, as such, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also known as Rashbi.
Rashbi, author of The Book of Zohar, the seminal book of Kabbalah, lived at a critical junction in the history of humankind. He lived in the 2nd century CE, not long after the ruin of the Second Temple and the exile of the people of Israel from Jerusalem and dispersion throughout the world.
That period, the first CE centuries, was a time of radical global transformations. The world was shifting from paganism to monotheism. Rome was gradually declining, along with its pantheon of gods, and a fledgling religion that became known as Christianity was accelerating its expansion. That time also saw the dimming of the Greek culture and the beginning of a darker epoch in the history of humankind: the Middle Ages.
When the Middle Ages had ended and a revival known as the Renaissance began, a new kabbalist with revolutionary teachings emerged, as well. Isaac Luria, The ARI, lived in the mid-16th century. That was also when the Renaissance was beginning to spread throughout Europe. It was also the time when Martin Luther lived and spread his ideas. These two revolutionary movements, Renaissance and Protestantism, had changed the world forever. Lurianic Kabbalah, named after Isaac Luria, The ARI, was equally revolutionary; it changed the way Kabbalists studied and taught Kabbalah, and paved the way for explaining it in a manner that the world can understand.
The third great kabbalist who lived at a pivotal time in history was Rav Yehuda Ashlag, known as Baal HaSulam. He lived through both world wars and warned of an impending genocide of the Jews years before it happened. He also lived to see the establishment of the State of Israel and the emergence of the Soviet and American blocs.
In his writings, Baal HaSulam wrote extensive and clear commentaries on the writings of his two predecessors, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s The Book of Zohar, and the writings of The ARI. He is the one who truly made Kabbalah accessible to everyone, and who pioneered the spreading of the wisdom of Kabbalah to the entire world.
While I do not see a direct connection between the arrival of revolutionary kabbalists and the advent of ideological, religious, and cultural transformations in the world, there is still a connection between the two in the sense that they both express the appearance of an evolutionary change in humanity. The world changes in its physical expression, and Kabbalah changes in its spiritual expression, but both processes demonstrate the advent of a new phase in the evolution of humanity. Therefore, while they happen simultaneously, they are not derived from one another.
The odd synchrony between the arrival of new eras and the appearance of revolutionary kabbalists is therefore created not because they are connected to each other, but because both are connected to the same source, the engine of reality, the creative force of giving that engenders everything, sustains everything, and develops everything to its ultimate goal: complete unity of all things, bound together by threats of mutual giving and love, in utter oneness.