In the sixteenth century, Eretz Yisrael, particularly the city of Tzefas, Safed, underwent a dramatic transformation to become one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the world and one of the most famous in terms of its literary output. It was in 16th century Tzefas, Safed, that Rav Yosef Caro completed his Sefer Bais Yosef and wrote the Shulchan Aruch, some of the most frequently quoted works on halacha, Jewish law. It was there that Rav Moshe Codovera wrote his famous works on Kabbalah, such as Pardes Rimonim and Sefer Alima, and it was there that the Arizal shared his Kabbalistic insights with Rav Chaim Vital who, in turn, wrote them down in the Sefer Etz Chaim. This all came about through the confluence of two seemingly unrelated events: First, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the year 1492 and second, the conquest by the Ottoman Turks of much of the entire Middle East and the Balkan states, thus creating what was known as the Ottoman empire. This lecture traces the rise of the Ottoman empire from its small beginnings in the 13th century through its conquest of the Byzantine empire and later the Mameluke empire, its policies towards the Jews and the subsequent blossoming and decline of the city of Tzefas, Safed, in the sixteenth and seventeen centuries.
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