The ARI is a great soul which descended into our world in order to open the gates of wisdom for us. Therefore, as Baal HaSulam writes, from the time of the ARI and onward, everything depends on a person: He has to correct himself and thereby reveal the Creator, come to adhesion with Him, and achieve the purpose of creation. Before the ARI, this door was closed altogether because the souls were not yet ready. They still needed to undergo a certain path of development and to mix together.
The ARI symbolizes the period of the Messiah which is why he is called Messiah son of Joseph. From his time forward, the science of Kabbalah began to acquire the form of a method of correction. Before then, it was intended only for a chosen few and was presented in a special form.
We ought to respect the Kabbalists who were living in Safed at the same time as the ARI as they recognized his greatness and appreciated him. The Ramak was already old, famous, and esteemed, but he went to the ARI’s lessons. He sat there as a student despite the fact that he was twice the ARI’s age and recognized as a great Kabbalist.
Thanks to the Ramak and several other Kabbalists who recognized the ARI’s attainment, the ARI was protected from the opponents of Kabbalah. After all, he had several young (26 year old) students, and the attitude toward Kabbalah at the time was far from positive. We may think that everything was allowed as some people tend to write nowadays, but this was not the case.
In this sense, the ARI’s life is similar to that of the Ramchal who was persecuted for studying Kabbalah and exiled from the ghetto of Padua, Italy where he lived. However, the Gaon of Vilna (Agra) testified to his greatness, and the Ramchal was left alone.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 8/8/10, “Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot”
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