Rabbi Chaim Vital’s Book Of Visions – A Fascinating Exploration On The Autobiography Of A Tzadik Yesod OIam

There’s a lot to learn from Rabbi Chaim Vital’s life, the Arizal’s chief disciple and a master Kabbalist in his own right.

To be reviewed.

The Sefer HaChezionot (Book of Visions) is a raw, vivid account of Rabbi Chaim Vital’s most important events in life, kind of like an autobiography. It is concise, easy to read and doesn’t mince words. Sadly, it is available only in printed Hebrew form, so this post could be a one-of-a-kind to bring to light some of its accounts in English for the first time.

The book starts when he was born to Rabbi Yosef Vital, through the time he was married, met the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzhak Luria) under whom he studied for only 22 months, witnessed his death and continued living in Tzfat until his death in Damascus. Like a diary, Sefer HaChezionot records some of the important days, dreams and visions Rabbi Chaim Vital throughout his life, some of which are kind of scary even.

Out of humility, he originally asked his grandson Rabbi Moshe Vital to bury the book with him. The grandson, however, saw that the book was of incredible value for future generations and printed it. Indeed, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov who lived later asked his disciple Reb Natan of Neimirov what he thought was the most striking aspect of the book. The answer was “his incredible humility”. It’s a lesson in Mussar (self-discipline) and in Kabbalah for everyone.

Rabbi Chaim Vital doesn’t hide the fact that he was rebuked by his master many times (one of which, he relates, when he almost hit his first wife), when he disregarded his words and almost died, his flaws and failings. Despite all that, he rose to become an outstanding sage – in fact – arguably the Tzadik Yesod Olam of his generation (after the passing of the Arizal), and changed forever the face of Judaism as we knew.

Contrast this to the many glorious accounts we have about many rabbis which are almost invariably depicted as impeccable angels who never sin. In fact, up until recently we had the book “Making of a Godol“, an interesting account on how many of the stories of famous rabbis are grossly exaggerated, but now it’s out of print after a huge controversy and ultimately being banned.

So, let’s get into it.

Rabbi Chaim Vital opened the doors to the wisdom of reincarnation

Selected pieces from Sefer HaChezionot by Rabbi Chaim Vital (freely translated)

Rabbi Chaim Vital was born in

The secret of reincarnation

The Arizal Rabbi Chaim Vital pivoted the system through which reincarnation works in Sha’ar HaGilgulim (Gate of Reincarnations). The topic of reincarnation is already mentioned many times in the Zohar, especially in Parshat Mishpatim where many verses that speak about the rules of courts that seem non-sensical start making perfect sense once it’s understood in this light. Before then, reincarnation was barely explored, let alone expounded upon. Yet, in the writings of the Arizal we find explanations for many stories in the Talmud via the wisdom of reincarnation.

In Maggid Meisharim, Maran Yosef Karo relates how his Maggid (an angel) explained to him that reincarnation is a natural part of the spiritual system of Creation. We also find many interesting facts in the Ramah MiPano’s Gilgulei Neshamot (Reincarnation of the souls).

It is shocking how many Rabbis reject the Torah of reincarnation as this is the ultimate problem solver to all of life’s conundrums. A

People can even be reincarnated in fish.
People can even be reincarnated as a fish.

Destroying the temple of idolatry

The last thing that should come to one’s mind when hearing about a master Kabbalist is that he is also a fearless warrior. Well, that apparently was no problem for Rabbi Chaim Vital when he heard news that a certain temple of idol worship in Damascus was so powerful it would entice everyone passing by to convert.

When he heard news of it, Rabbi Chaim Vital took 4 of his trusty disciples and went to Damascus. Not to solve the issue in a diplomatic way, because talking seldom ever works with evil (and that’s for weaklings). Instead, he stationed them at the four sides of the temple, gave them the Yichudim to perform and went inside with a sword to slaughter all its priests. He relates that some demonic dogs ran away as he was doing his job, and the temple was never rebuilt again.

Final remarks

Rabbi Chaim Vital left a legacy that transformed Judaism as we knew. The secret wisdom of Kabbalah became available to the masses. Truth be told there’s still a lot of work to do to understand it, but at least one doesn’t have to go around searching for a real teacher as more 3.000 books are now available nowadays, many of which are translated.

Though his writings are known by the name of his master, the Arizal, in Sefer HaChezionot, he writes that, close to the end of his life, he could see Eliyahu HaNavi. Without a dint of shame or arrogance, he writes that Eliyahu HaNavi rebuked him for not doing more to bring the Jews to Teshuva. This is what he

Mysteriously, he went from the holy land to Damascus to die. When asked why this was so, Rabbi Israel Najara, one of the Arizal’s close disciples explained that there was a big klippah (shell, evil) called by the name “Rimon” (pomegranate) in Damascus. When this klippah threatens to accuse the Jewish People, it sees the holy kever of Rabbi Chaim Vital and is subdued, much like when the klippah of pe’or sees the kever of Moshe Rabbenu and is immediately deflated.

Rabbi Chaim Vital passed away on the 30th of Nissan and is buried in Damascus.

May his memory be for a blessing and this article an elevation for his holy soul.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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