THE HOLY RABBI MOSHE ALSHICH HAKODOSH
5268 - 5360
(1508 - 1600)

“As he waited, Rabbi Moshe began to feel a little drowsy, and nodded off...”

Rabbi Moshe Alshich, known as the holy Alshich HaKadosh, was one of the giants of his time.

He was born in Turkey, in the city of Adrianople, in 5268 (1508 on the secular calendar), where he studied Torah under Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Bais Yosef, and the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law.

Rabbi Moshe revered his teacher, calling him his“father,” which in a spiritual sense was true. He followed the Bais Yosef to Tzefat, where he received smicha (ordination) from him, and became one of the dayanim (judges) in his court.

After Rabbi Yosef Caro passed away, the Alshich became the foremost authority on halacha (Jewish law) in the generation.

The great Torah scholar and mystic, Rabbi Chaim Vital, was one of the students of the Alshich, and received smicha from him.

He revealed that the soul of the Alshich was connected to the soul of the great Sage, Ravina, who had compiled the Babylonian Talmud, as well as to the soul of the Talmudic Sage, Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmeini, which had mystically been joined to his.

The story is told that when the Alshich was still a young man, as a result of his intense studies, one of the seventy aspects of the Torah was completely revealed to him. On the Shabbat of that week, Rabbi Yosef Caro refused to give the weekly sermon in the Beit HaKnesset as he usually did.

“Rabbi Moshe Alshich will deliver the ‘derasha’ today,” he said. At first, Rabbi Moshe refused, but in the end, he had no choice but to do as his teacher commanded. The sermon was so amazing they insisted he should delivering the ‘derasha’ (sermon) every week after that.

These sermons were all later collected under the title “Torat Moshe” (The Torah of Moshe).

Thirsty for knowledge, Rabbi Moshe longed to study the secrets of the Torah from the great mystic, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal, who also lived in Tzefat at that time.

However, the ‘Ari’ did not want to accept him as a student. He said that Rabbi Moshe’s soul was from the world of ‘derash,’ which is concerned with explaining the stories and laws of the Torah. Mystical kabbala was far too different in its approach and nature.

Nonetheless, Rabbi Moshe continued to ask for permission to learn with the Arizal. Finally the master agreed, on condition that Rabbbi Moshe pass just one test.

“Every week, as you know, we go out into the field to receive the holy Shabbat. If you join us this week, it is a sign that you can join our holy
brotherhood.”

“As the Alshich described each trick, Lavan nodded in shame...”

With great excitement, Rabbi Moshe prepared for Shabbat. He bathed, and put on his best clothes and went out to meet the Arizal. As he waited by the path, he sat down on a rock. Eventually he began to feel a little drowsy, and nodded off.

A while later the Arizal came by. One of his students noticed the Alshich and asked if he should wake him. The Arizal shook his head, as if to say,“leave him be.”

When they Returned, the Alshich was still asleep. Now the Arizal motioned to wake him, since it would be dangerous to leave him alone outside at night.

When he realized what had happened, Rabbi Moshe was terribly disappointed, for he knew this meant he could not learn kabbala from the Arizal.

* * *

One time the Arizal came to the Beit Knesset of the Alshich to hear his sermon.

That week, the Alshich was explaining about how Lavan had cheated Yaakov and changed his wages ten times. The Midrash teaches that it was not just ten times, but ten times ten, a hundred times!

In his ‘derasha,’ the Alshich proceeded to list one by one all the tricks and all the lies Lavan told, in order to cheat Yaakov.

The Arizal sat there listening with an amused smile. At one point he even laughed out loud.

Later, people asked him what was so funny. He explained that in Heaven Lavan had been punished that by being forced to come down and listen to the Alshich describing every one of his dirty tricks. Apparently, the Arizal could see him there. As the Alshich described each trick, Lavan nodded in shame as if to say,“Yes, that’s true.”

After the Alshich had described ninety-nine ways that Lavan had tried to swindle Yaakov, and then went on to describe the hundredth, Lavan jumped up and cried, “No! That’s not true! This one I did not do!” and he ran out.

“Really, he did that crime too,” the Arizal said, “but he was simply too embarrassed to admit it.”