Rabbi Nathan Schapira published this holy book in 1655. Rabbi Schapira made the arduous journey to Eretz Yisrael from Cracow during the second quarter of the 17th century. He was the son of one of the most prominent leaders of the community of Cracow. He himself was one of the rabbinical leaders of that city as well. His uncle was a famed kabbalist of the same name who is famous for his Magnus Opus, the "Megale Amukot".

According to testimonial writings of the times, we find that Rabbi Schapira was considered a venerable scholar upon his arrival in Eretz Yisrael. He learned together with two other rabbis who themselves were deeply involved with disseminating the writings of the Arizal, namely, Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach and Rabbi Meir Paparush. Through them he had free access to a vast array of manuscripts of the Arizal that they had been safeguarding.

Rabbi Schapira became the chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Jerusalem, shortly after his arrival. He assumed the responsibility of providing for his constituents both spiritually and materially. Therefore, when the health and finances of the community deteriorated to an overwhelming level, he took upon himself the onerous burden of travelling throughout Europe to raise the funds necessary to rehabilitate the city.

The financial straits were caused by a lack of donations from Eastern Europe. This was due to the mass destruction and annihilation of Jewry throughout the Polish and Russian communities in 1648-1650, by Bogdan Chmielnetsky and his revolution. Therefore, he traveled to Italy, France, Germany, The Netherlands and possibly England to raise the funds.

It appears that this holy book was written during his first journey to Italy. There he was encouraged and assisted by the Ramaz (Rabbi Moshe Zaccuto) to print this treatise. The Ramaz not only edited the book but raised the finances as well. It stands to reason that the Ramaz felt that this very book would encourage people to contribute generously to allay the difficulties in Eretz Yisrael.

Our translation and commentary is by R. David Slavin.

To continue on to the first article in this series on the Land of Israel, The Goodness of the Land, click here