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21****Rabbi Moshe Galante II of Yerushalayim (HaMagen)

Rabbi Moshe Galante II of Yerushalayim (HaMagen) 

Born: 1620

Died: Yerushalayim, Eretz Yisrael, 1689        

Kabbalist and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem during the second half of the 17th century.

R' Moshe Galante II was the son of Rabbi Yehonatan son of Rabbi Moshe Galante the elder who studied with Rabbi Yosef Karo. Rabbi Moshe Galante II studied with Rabbi Baruch Barzilai of Tzfat. Rabbi Galante was the greatest in his generation, in Torah wisdom and yirah. Eighty seven chachamim decided to appoint him as the head of the Jewish court in Jerusalem. The grandson of R' Moshe was the famous Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger - The Sefat Emet. The Sefat Emet praised his granfather and the spiritual levels he attained.

Rabbi Moshe Galante wrote two halachic works Elef HaMagen and Korban Chagigah.

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Rabbi Moshe Galante, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, left his beloved city for Damascus on a mission for the community. While it is not known conclusively when he departed on this journey - since he traveled to Damascus several times - it might have been the one he is recorded as having taken in 1667.

While in Damascus, Rabbi Galante - known as the Rabbi HaMagen - heard of an Arab sheik who was said to possess miraculous healing powers. Like Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa, the sheik would say, "This one will live, this one will die," and his words came true. More than this, the sheik was said to be proficient in the so-called seven branches of worldly wisdom. Rabbi HaMagen, who was also well versed in the known branches of wisdom, was not phased by the sheik's grasp of worldly knowledge. However, he was intrigued by the sheik's seeming ability to decree something which was not in the realm of human hands with such certainty. Our Sages tell us that the key of life and death is not handed over to anyone - not even an angel; God retains that key for Himself alone. Even Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa could merely sense whether or not an ill person would recover, but the actual key always remained in God's hands.

"Is this gentile so holy," Rabbi Moshe pondered, "that he is privileged to have the Book of Life and Death revealed to him? I serve God, study Torah, and fulfill mitzvot all the time; why am I not granted this same privilege?"

Rabbi HaMagen's curiosity grew and grew. Determined to arrange a meeting, he sent the most influential Jew in Damascus, called the parnas, to tell the sheik that a very wise Jew from Jerusalem would like to meet with him. The sheik, having previously heard of Rabbi Galante, was delighted to grant him an audience. They met in the sheik's villa. Known throughout the city as a virtuous and pious man, the sheik rarely left the confines of his sumptuous residence. It comprised several courtyards, myriad rooms, and magnificent gardens.

The Rabbi 's host quickly turned the conversation to the central issue. "I have heard that you are a wise man," said the sheik. "Is it true that you are knowledgeable in such-and-such a wisdom?" "Yes, the Lord has granted me a little knowledge of this wisdom," Rabbi Galante answered.

In order to test him, the sheik commenced to ask Rabbi Galante a series of difficult questions. Rabbi Moshe answered each query in depth and to the point. The sheik was amazed to find him in complete command of such wisdom. Until now, the sheik had assumed that he alone had total grasp of this knowledge. Now he had found a comrade with whom he could relate as an equal.

"My beloved friend," smiled the sheik. "I have enjoyed your company immensely. I would be very pleased if you could come again, say once a week. I see that we have much to discuss." Two days later, the sheik sent two of his servants to the Rabbi's residence, with an invitation for another audience with him. They escorted the Rabbi on horseback to the sheik's mansion.

"Peace be with you!" said the sheik, embracing his dear friend. "Since you left here, I have been thinking a lot about our conversation. I could not wait any longer to see you again and therefore I sent for you now."

They sat down on cushioned pillows in one of the sheik's opulent lounge rooms. Again the sheik asked Rabbi Galante if he was versed in another one of the seven branches of worldly wisdom. And again he began to ask Rabbi Galante questions. Once again, he was astonished by the Rabbi 's breadth of knowledge. As the conversation drew to a close, the sheik asked his friend, "If I have found favor in your eyes, would you please come every other day to me?" Rabbi Galante agreed to his request.

With each new meeting, they discussed another one of the seven branches of wisdom. Each time, the sheik felt a greater bond with the Rabbi . He had never met any other person who possessed as much understanding as Rabbi Galante. At last, the sheik confided in his companion. "To be truthful, my friend, I am lacking certain preparatory details concerning the last branch of wisdom. Without these, I am unable to fully grasp and use this branch. Do you have a comprehensive understanding of it?"

"Yes."

Falling at his feet, the sheik pleaded with Rabbi Galante to teach him everything he knew. He would pay any price to have Rabbi Moshe reveal to him this wisdom. "Heaven forbid," Rabbi Galante responded. "This is not a salable item. However, I am willing to teach you, on condition that you teach me concerning another body of wisdom."

The sheik was dumbfounded. "What do you mean? You are wiser than me. How can there be a branch of wisdom that you are not proficient in?"

"There is a wondrous body of wisdom that you know, of which I am wholly ignorant: you can pray for a sick person and see into the Book of Life and Death. I lack this wisdom.

"Therefore," concluded Rabbi Galante, "if you will reveal to me this wisdom, I shall teach you what you want to know."

The sheik returned slowly to his seat. "Your request is impossible to fulfill. It is forbidden for me to reveal it to any human being."

"Likewise," responded Rabbi Galanti, "I cannot reveal what you so much desire to know other than by an exchange of wisdom."

After a silence, the sheik spoke. "My dear friend, the reason that I cannot reveal it to you is because I have sworn to my forefathers not to divulge the secret to anyone."

"I am also sworn not to teach this wisdom I possess to anyone else," replied Rabbi Galanti. "Yet, I reckon that since it is of great benefit for me to acquire this new knowledge, it is permissible to do so and does not abrogate my oath. You should feel the same; remember, you are not selling it for money; you are exchanging and sharing wisdom. With this new knowledge you will be enlightened and have total command of all the seven branches of worldly wisdom."

Rabbi Galante's words were spoken with complete sincerity. The sheik sat quietly for several minutes, gazing out the window into the garden. "I agree," he said softly. "But I am afraid, my friend, that the risks are too great for you."

Rabbi Galante's face shone. "I am prepared to do whatever you ask of me, no matter how difficult."

"In that case, listen carefully to me. Return to your abode. When the sun is about to set, take a vow to fast for two consecutive days. At your last meal, be sure not to eat meat or drink wine. After eating, immerse in a pool of water and dress in fine garments. Throughout the two days, meditate on repentance and immerse often. Then, on the third day, return to me."

"I agree to everything you say," answered Rabbi Galante.

"Go in peace." The sheik bid him farewell.

Rabbi Galanti returned home and followed all of the conditions laid out by the sheik to the letter. At the beginning of the third night, Rabbi Galante decided to refrain from breaking his fast. He wanted to experience this secret wisdom in a true state of humility. When Rabbi Galante appeared before him the next morning, the sheik immediately noticed how weak and feeble he looked. "I see you have fulfilled everything I requested."

"Yes," answered Rabbi Galante. "I am still fasting now."

The sheik then led his guest to a locked room to which no one but he alone had the key. After they entered, the sheik locked the door behind them. From there they came to a second locked door. This one opened into a magnificent garden. In the middle of the garden was a spring of fresh water. Butterflies danced in the air. The spring flowed into a pool before continuing along a narrow channel. Next to the spring was a bench with two white cloaks on it.

"We must first immerse here before dressing in these white garments," whispered the sheik.

Silently they immersed and donned the new garments. The sheik then led the rav through the garden. Rabbi Galante's curiosity was at its peak.

Finally, hidden behind a grove, they came to an edifice of exquisite beauty. The double doors of the structure were made of pure silver, with marvelous engravings on them.

"Beware," the sheik said in a hushed voice. "Follow after me with utter fear and trepidation."

The sheik opened the doors. Upon beholding the extraordinary beauty inside, Rabbi Galante was spellbound. The fragrance was otherworldly. Before them was a chamber. In the entrance to the chamber hung a curtain with precious stones sewn in it. The sheik bowed on the floor seven times before the curtain.

Rabbi Galante froze in his place. Was there an idol inside? The sheik motioned for him to bow. His head began to swim. He closed his eyes, and as if in a stupor fell on the floor and whispered, "I shall place God before me always." He had never felt such a state of awe in his life.

"Now," whispered the sheik, "you may enter, and there you will find the secret you seek."

Rabbi Galante stood up and pushed aside the curtain and entered the chamber. On the walls hung tapestries of gold and silver. On the wall facing the curtain hung an exquisite tablet with an engraving of a candelabrum. Above the menorah were four Hebrew words: Shivity Adonai Le'Negdi Tamid - ("I shall place God before me always.") The Ineffable Name of God was spelled out in large, bold letters.

Rabbi Galante was overjoyed to see this. He had not bowed in vain! He bowed again and retraced his footsteps into the antechamber.

Outside in the garden, Rabbi Galante inquired of the sheik, "You told me that inside the chamber I would find the answer. But more than what my eyes saw was not revealed to me."

"My dear friend, let me explain. The four large letters you saw in the tablet are the name of the Creator of the world. When I am asked to pray for a sick person, I immerse in the pool and enter into the chamber. Before opening the curtain, I pray wholeheartedly. When I open it and gaze at the tablet, I see one of two things. Either the four-letter Name is glittering and sparks of light seem to emanate from it, or it is dark and unclear. If it is shining, I know the sick person will live, and if it is cloudy I know he will die.

"With this, I have now revealed to you a secret that no other human being knows."

When Rabbi HaMagen returned to his residence, he wept and cried. "Woe unto us on the Day of Judgment," he lamented. "Look at this gentile - because he honors the Name of the Creator to such an extent, he is privileged to have such Heavenly secrets revealed to him. But we, the Jewish people, what can we answer? We are even more qualified to have God reveal this to us. Yet, look at us and how we approach the Name of our Lord!"

May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Galante  protect us all, Amen.

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