In the holy city of Tsfat (Safed) four and a third centuries ago, the disciples of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the holy Ari of blessed memory, once asked him why he did not record in writing his extraordinary Kabbalah teachings.

"Were all seawater ink," Rabbi Luria answered, "and all the vast firmament paper, and all stalks quills, it would still not be enough for me to write down the wisdom I have acquired.

"I feel a downpour of divine influence like the gushing rapids of a waterfall..."

"When I start to reveal to you a single secret," he confessed, "I feel a downpour of divine influence like the gushing rapids of a waterfall. At first I am at a loss how to pass on even the smallest amount of this wisdom to you. Then I devise a way to channel it in such a manner that I can divulge to you a minute part of that secret.

"It would be dangerous," he cautioned, "were you to receive too much at one time — like a nursing infant who could strangle to death were his mother's milk to flow too quickly into his mouth."

One summer afternoon a disciple of the Ari, Rabbi Avraham HaLevi, entered his master's house. It was Shabbat afternoon, and he found Rabbi Luria napping on his bed.

Upon looking more closely, R. Avraham noticed the Arizal's lips moving, murmuring. He was intrigued and bent over to listen. Rabbi Luria awakened.

"What are you doing?" asked Rabbi Luria.

"Please forgive me," apologized his disciple. "I noticed your lips moving and wanted to hear what you were saying."

"When I sleep, my soul ascends heavenward via clearly defined pathways..."

"Let me explain," the Arizal said as he sat up. "When I sleep, my soul ascends heavenward via clearly defined pathways. Ministering angels meet me and escort my soul to the highest angel. He asks me which heavenly yeshiva do I desire to attend that day. I choose one and am immediately brought there. There in the yeshiva I study mysteries of the Torah that have never before been taught on earth."

R. Avraham HaLevi listened breathlessly. "Please, could you tell me what you were learning now while you were napping?"

His mentor laughed. "I call the heavens and earth as witnesses that were I to expound for eighty consecutive years what I learned today, I would be unable to finish explaining the secrets that I heard about the Bileam section in parshat Balak. Believe me, this is no exaggeration."

Adapted from "Safed - The Mystical City" by Dovid Rossoff.

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