Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri
Rabbi Kaduri's yartzheit (date of passing) is 28th of Tevet (Shabbat). He is considered the last of the great Sefardi Kabalists.
Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, of saintly and blessed memory (1898-2006)
Rabbi Kaduri was born in Baghdad in 1898. At that time, Baghdad was part of the Ottoman Empire. As a young child, he excelled in his studies to the point of studying Kabbalah in his teens. Rabbi Kaduri moved to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1923.
In Eretz Yisrael, he continued learning from the leading kabbalists. He immersed himself in the study of the Talmud and halachot (religious laws) in Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In 1934, Rabbi Kaduri and his family moved to the Old City of Jerusalem. He worked at Porat Yosef Yeshiva binding books and copying rare manuscripts in the yeshiva’s library. Rabbi Kaduri had a photographic memory and reported knew the entire Talmud by heart, including Rashi and Tosofot commentaries.
In the 1948 War of Independence, the Jewish quarter of the Old City fell to Jordanian forces. Porat Yosef Yeshiva and surrounding homes were destroyed. All the books and manuscripts that Rabbi Kaduri did not smuggle to Yeshivat HaMekubalim in Jerusalem were also destroyed.
In 1989, after the passing of the leading Kabbalist Rabbi Efraim Hakohen, the remaining Kabbalists appointed Rabbi Kaduri as their head. He is considered the last of the great Sephardi kabbalists.
There were thousands of eyewitness accounts which showed he possessed clairvoyant powers. For example, a wealthy man once came to him and asked him to bless his silver kiddush goblet. Years later, at his daughter’s wedding in America, the wealthy man wanted to use the goblet but at the last moment, he couldn’t find it. He panicked and eventually called Rav Kaduri in Israel and asked him what he should do. Rav Kaduri paused for a moment, then gave him the name of the man at the wedding party who had stolen the goblet. (From the book “HaRav Kaduri”)
Rabbi Kaduri lived a very simple life in poverty. His first wife, Rabbanit Sara, died in 1989. He remarried in 1993 to Rabbanit Dorit. In 2006, Rabbi Kaduri became ill with pneumonia. He passed away on 28-Jan-2006 (29 Tevet 5766), lucid and alert until his final moments. About 500,000 people came for his funeral. His resting place is in Har Menuchot, Jerusalem.
Some quotes from the book HaRav Kaduri compiled by his students:
* His daily learning schedule consisted of much learning of Gemora and Shulchan Aruch (Talmud and Jewish law), and he would permit the study of Kabbalah ONLY to those who demonstrated broad knowledge in the revealed portion of Torah (Talmud and Shulchan Aruch). He would often say, “It is forbidden to study Kabbalah before learning Halachah and Gemora.” His helpers would testify that most of his learning was in Talmud Bavli, tractate after tractate, in order.
* His student, Rav Beniyahu Shmueli would say, “It is important to emphasize very clearly that he did not just study Kabbalah. He would also learn much Shas U’Poskim (Talmud and Halacha). Every time we would visit him, we would see him sitting and learning the Talmud in depth in the way he received from his teacher, the Sages of Yeshivas Porat Yosef…. Twenty-six students were in his inner circle of talmidim of which he was the head. And only a person who was married could sit with them (pg.16) …
* Rav Kaduri would say, “Whoever did not fill his stomach with Shas U’Poskim (Talmud and Halacha), Gemora and Shulchan Aruch (Talmud and Jewish law), is not fit to learn Kabbalah.” (pg104)
* In the early Yeshiva (about 50 years ago) there were 60 kabbalists who studied Kabbalah according to the way of the holy Arizal. And in that time, only those who were sharp scholars who had already “filled their stomachs” with Shas U’Poskim (Talmud and Halacha) were admitted. The title “Mekubal” (kabbalist) was given only to one who studied Kabbalah for at least 15 years and prayed with the kavanot of the Rashash (special kabbalistic permutations and combinations of divine names and attributes of G-d).
* A higher level than “Mekubal” was “Mekaven” (more advanced kavanot). Each level had its conditions. Rav Kaduri was a “Mekaven”.
Proficiency in the Kabbalah without proficiency in the Talmud first is like a child reading an advanced physics book. Talmudic study, among other things, teaches one to think clearly and discern the absolute truth in a matter which is the foundation of a man. The Kabbalah is written in hidden, allegoric form. Only one who has developed his intellect through years of in-depth Talmudic study is capable of even beginning to decipher the meaning from the allegory. One who has not reached this level will take the allegories too literally and will get at best, nowhere.