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Sarug (Saruk), Israel

SARUG (Saruk), ISRAEL (fl. 1590–1610), Egyptian kabbalist. Sarug probably belonged to an Egyptian family of rabbinic scholars with kabbalistic leanings. A manuscript written in 1565 in *Cairo (British Museum 759) was copied for Isaac Sarug; Israel Sarug, whose signature as owner appears on the manuscript, was probably his son. Sarug may have known Isaac *Luria while the latter was in *Egypt and have become acquainted then with some of his early teaching and kabbalistic behavior. Although he was not one of Luria's pupils in Safed, he later claimed to have been one of his main disciples. He had access to some of the writings of Luria's disciples (Ḥayyim*Vital, Moses *Jonah, *Joseph ibn Tabul) and from them constructed his own version of Luria's doctrine, adding important speculations of his own. His whereabouts between 1570 and 1593 are unknown, but he must have spent some time during the 1580s in Safed. Between 1594 and 1600 he disseminated his version of Lurianic Kabbalah in Italy, founding a whole school of kabbalists who accepted his teaching as authentic. Among them were the most distinguished kabbalists of that time, such as Menahem Azariah *Fano, Isaac Fano, and *Aaron Berechiah b. Moses of Modena. Several manuscripts written between 1597 and 1604 contain summaries of his oral teachings and copies of writings which he had brought with him. According to Leone *Modena, Sarug's teachings in Venice were strongly tinged with philosophic ideas; he also claimed that he could recognize the transmigrations of the souls of the people he met. After he left Italy, he taught Abraham *Herrera in Ragusa and spent some time in Salonika (before 1604). It seems improbable that Sarug is identical with the "famous Ḥasid" Israel Saruk who died in Safed in 1602, leaving his manuscripts with his daughter, who several years later became the wife of the immigrant kabbalist from Moravia, Shlimel (Solomon) Dres nitz. There is evidence that Sarug spent some time in Poland after 1600, but later legend put his stay earlier and made him the kabbalistic teacher of Solomon *Luria in krakow.

Only four of Sarug's works have been printed. The book Limmudei Aẓilut, published erroneously under the name of Ḥayyim Vital (1897), contains two of these: an exposition of his version of Luria's teachings on ẓimẓum, which differs widely from all other known versions, and his commentary on the portion of the *Zohar called Sifra di-Ẓeni'uta. The book also contains a description of the world of Beri'ah, the angelological realm next to the world of divine emanation, Aẓilut. His traditions concerning specific transmigrations of biblical and talmudic personalities were published in part under the name of Menahem Azariah Fano (Prague, 1688; with a commentary by J.M. Leiner, Lublin, 1907). Sarug's commentary on the three hymns for Sabbath composed by Luria was first published in Nowy Oleksiniec in 1767. In all his writings Sarug refers to Luria as "the master" but never as "my master." Most of the first published presentations of Lurianic Kabbalah were according to Sarug's version, which exerted a profound influence, although it was attacked as inauthentic by *Ḥayyim b. Abraham ha-Kohen of Aleppo and other kabbalists.


G. Scholem, in: Zion, 5 (1940), 214–43; S.A. Horodezky, Torat ha-Kabbalah shel Rabbi Yiẓḥak Ashkenazi-Ari ve-Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital-Raḥu (1947), 79–82; G. Scholem, in: RHR, 143 (1953), 33; D. Tamar, in: Zion, 19 (1954), 173.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.