R. Moshe Alshikh – Intellectual Profile
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Background Life Name – ר' משה בן ר' חיים אלשיך 1 Dates – c. 1520 – c. 1593 2 Locations – R. Moshe was born in Adrianople, studied in Salonika as a youth, and moved to Zefat, where he lived the rest of his life. He also visited the Jewish communities of Syria and Turkey. Occupation – R. Moshe's main area of activity was as a halakhist. Accordingly, after arriving in Zefat, R. Yosef Karo appointed him to serve on his rabbinical court. In Zefat, R. Moshe also became known for his popular weekly sermons, which served as the basis for his Biblical commentaries. 3 R. Moshe founded two yeshivot in Zefat and was intimately involved in communal affairs. 4 Family – R. Moshe had a son R. Chayyim. 5 Teachers – R. Yosef Taitazak, R. Yosef Karo. Contemporaries – R. Eliezer Ashkenazi, the circle of scholars in Zefat, including R. Yitzchak Luria (the "Ari"), R. Shelomo Alkabetz, and R. Moshe Cordovero, among others. 6 Students – R. Chayyim Vital 7 Time period – R. Moshe lived in Zefat during a time of great spiritual ferment which saw, among other things, the advent of Lurianic Kabbalah, the publication of Shulchan Arukh, and the great controversy over renewal of semikhah. During this controversy, which began in 1538, R. Yaakov Berav conferred semikhah upon R. Moshe's teacher, R. Yosef Karo. R. Karo later ordained R. Moshe with this controversial renewed semikhah. 8 Works Biblical commentaries – R. Moshe authored commentaries on most books of the Bible. This includes commentaries on the Torah, 9 Earlier and Later Prophets (excluding Yechezkel), 10 Tehillim, 11 Mishlei, 12 Iyyov, 13 Shir HaShirim, 14 Rut, 15 Eikhah, 16 Kohelet, 17 Esther, 18 Daniel, 19 20 Rabbinics and Jewish thought – Responsa. 21 Other works – A dirge that became part of the Tikkun Chatzot service. Lost works – She'arim, 22 commentary to Midrash Rabbah, 23 novellae on Talmudic topics. 24 Characteristics Verse by verse / Topical – Genre – Structure – Language – Methods Themes Textual Issues Manuscripts – Printings – Textual layers – Sources Significant Influences Earlier Sources – Teachers – Foils – Occasional Usage Possible Relationship Impact
1 Often refered to as "האלשיך הקדוש". 2 Various encyclopedias report an earlier date of birth based on an assumption that R. Yosef Karo appointed R. Moshe to be a rabbinical judge in 1536. See, however, S. Shalem, "לחקר חיבוריו של רבי משה אלשיך", Sefunot 7 (1963) (hereafter: Shalem, Works): 181 n.2, where he explains that such an assumption is unfounded. 3 He also, however, studied Kabbalah, which served as a basis for his world-view, and significantly impacted his Biblical commentaries. See Shalem, Works: 182, 190-197. 4 Although the content was edited into the form of a Biblical commentary, there are places where traces of the content's oral origins remain. In many parshiyot in Vayikra, for example, extensive sections of Pirkei Avot are expounded because during those weeks R. Moshe spoke about Avot, as it was customary to be studied at that time of year. There are also sections that offer direct rebuke to R. Moshe's generation (see for example Torat Moshe on Bo, Vayakhel, and Naso). For issues regarding the sermons' precise relationship to the commentary, see Shalem, Works: 185-187. 5 R. Chayyim was charged by his father with the publication of his works, most of which R. Chayyim had published in Venice in the years 1600-1607. 6 R. Eliezer was the author of the Torah commentary Maasei Hashem. As youths, R. Moshe and R. Eliezer studied together in Salonika. 7 R. Moshe was R. Chayyim's main teacher in Halakhah, while R. Yitzchak Luria was his teacher for Kabbalah. R. Chayyim Vital relates that R. Yosef Karo – in the name of the angelic maggid that spoke with him - instructed R. Moshe to teach R. Chayyim (who was destined to be R. Moshe's successor). See ספר החזיונות (Jerusalem, 1954): 2, and M. Benayahu, "רבי חיים ויטאל בירושלים", Sinai 30 (1952): 68. 8 R. Moshe subsequently ordained his student R. Chayyim Vital. See M. Benayahu, "חידושה של הסמיכה בצפת", in S. Baron (ed.) Yitzhak Baer Jubilee Volume (1960): 256. 9 R. Moshe gave each commentary its own name. These names, however, were never commonly used, and the commentaries are instead usually referred to simply as 'the Alshikh'. 10 Torat Moshe was the name R. Moshe gave to his Torah commentary. The first edition of Bereshit was published in Constantinople c. 1593, and the first edition of the entire Torah commentary was published in Venice, 1600. 11 Marot HaTzoveot, Venice 1603-1607. S. Shalem posits, based on testimony from R. Moshe's son, that no commentary was authored on Yechezkel because it would have required the revelation of esoteric details about the messianic age. See Shalem, Works: 184. The commentary on Yirmeyahu was published only up to Chapter 37. R. Chayyim Alshikh notes in this edition that the manuscript of the rest of this commentary was left in Zefat, and thus could not be published. 12 Tapuchei Zahav or Romemot El, originally published in Constantinople c. 1597 under the name Tapuchei Zahav. R. Moshe's son, R. Chayyim, claimed that this edition was only a first draft of the commentary that was published from a stolen manuscript. R. Chayyim himself published R. Moshe's commentary on Tehillim in Venice, 1605, under the name Romemot El. 13 Rav Peninim, Venice, 1592, and reissued posthumously in 1601. 14 Chelkat Mechokek, Venice, 1603. 15 Shoshanat HaAmakim, Venice, 1591 and 1601. 16 Einei Moshe, Venice, 1601. 17 Devarim Nechumim, Venice, 1601. 18 Devarim Tovim, Venice, 1601. 19 Masat Moshe, Venice, 1601. 20 Chavatzelet Hasharon, published in Constantinople in 1563 or 1568, this was the first of his works to be published. 22 See Shalem, Works: 183, 187-190. 23 This work consisted of chapters on various religious-philosophical topics. Some of the material from this work was incorporated into R. Moshe's Torah commentary. 24 R. Moshe incorporated some material from this commentary into his Torah commentary.