The pious and well-known scholar Rabbi Moshe Galante of Tsfat (Safed) heard an account from his brother about the extraordinary holiness of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Ari), the foremost Kabbalist of the generation. He decided to seek his advice. Perhaps the Ari could help him to further perfect himself, he thought excitedly.

“Frankly, I never thought before that you were anyone special,” Rabbi Moshe said, “but now that I have heard differently, I have come to request of you a tikkun [rectification] for my soul.”

“Why ask me?” asked the Ari modestly. “I am not a prophet.”

“Why ask me?” asked the Ari modestly. “I am not a prophet.”

After several further rounds of request and denial, Rabbi Moshe pleaded: “It is said that you have the power to discern the root of a person’s soul and his previous incarnations, but I am not asking for that. I just want to know what have I done that requires rectification, from the day my soul was born into this body until now, so that I will not have to undergo any further reincarnations. I know you can see such things on a person’s forehead; please read mine!”

At this impassioned plea, the Ari gazed intently at R. Moshe for a moment and murmured, “Borderline theft.”

Instantly R. Moshe jumped up and ran off, not even saying goodbye. As soon as he reached his home, he stripped off his clothes and donned sackcloth and ashes. Throwing himself to the ground, he cried out to G‑d, weeping and slapping himself the entire time. Finally, he sent for all the employees of his textile business and demanded that if anyone felt that he or she had been shortchanged or paid unfairly in any way, to please present a claim now, even for the tiniest amount. When they all denied any wrongdoing on his part, R. Moshe exclaimed: “What are you doing to me! Don’t you see what condition I am in? The Ari has said that I am guilty of borderline theft.”

...finally one woman stepped forward and took a small sum.

He then spread out a large amount of money before them and said: “Each of you, take however much you wish. If I owe you anything, then the debt is cancelled; if not, it is a present.” Even then no one responded, until finally one woman stepped forward and took a small sum.

R. Moshe then hurried back to the Ari, who assured him that his forehead no longer revealed any trace of sin. He went on to explain that the woman who had taken the money did a delicate kind of weaving, and it could be considered that she deserved a slightly higher wage than the other workers.

Needless to say, after this episode R. Moshe always acted towards the Ari with the greatest of respect.

Connection to Weekly Reading: skilled craftsmanship by women (35:25–26).

Translated and freely adapted from Shivchei HaAri.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Moshe Galante was one of four (along with Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of Shulchan Aruch) to receive semichah from Rabbi Yaakov Beirav in the “renewal of semichah” controversy. He and his brother R. Avraham (1540–1588), who subsequently became the city’s chief rabbi, lived in Tsfat in the 1500s.

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