||The great dramatic poem of the kabbalist R. Moses ben Mordecai Zacuto, with an introduction by D. A. Friedman and notes at the end. Tofteh Arukh appears to have been inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, as the subject matter is the afflictions of the soul in hell. In the opening verses, the dead man recounts his last illness and the arrangements for his burial. Afterward follows the episode of hibbut ha-kever ("tribulations in the grave"). The angel Duna commences the judgment and trial and with the aid of his angels drags the dead man through the seven sections of hell, showing the terrible punishments suffered by sinners. The conclusion is a description of the difference between the fate of sinners and that of the righteous, and toward the end the angel and the dead man praise God as the true judge. The poem consists of 185 rhymed stanzas of five verses each. The author employs many homonyms, assonances, and word plays, to an extent that becomes tedious. The work attained great popularity, especially among groups of kabbalists, such as Hadashim la-Bekarim.
R. Moses ben Mordecai Zacuto (c. 1620–1697), kabbalist and poet. Zacuto, who was born into a Portuguese Marrano family in Amsterdam, studied Jewish subjects under R. Saul Levi Morteira (an elegy on the latter's death by Zacuto was published by D. Kaufmann in REJ 37 (1898), 115). He also studied secular subjects. According to tradition, he later fasted 40 days "in order to forget the Latin language." He was a student in the bet midrash of Amsterdam and in his youth traveled to Poland to study in the yeshivot there. Zacuto was attracted by Kabbalah and refers in his letters to his teacher R. Elhanan, perhaps "Elhanan the kabbalist," who died in Vienna in 1651. He moved to Italy, remaining for some time in Verona. From 1645 he lived in Venice and served for a time as a preacher under R. Azariah Figo. Afterward, he became one of the rabbis of the city and a member of the Venetian yeshivah. Between 1649 and 1670 he was proofreader of many books printed in Venice, especially works on Kabbalah. He edited the Zohar Hadash in 1658, and also wrote many poems for celebrations and special occasions. Zacuto tried to acquire the manuscripts of the Safed kabbalists, especially those of R. Moses Cordovero and the different versions of the works of R. Hayyim Vital. He befriended the kabbalist R. Nathan Shapiro of Jerusalem and the old kabbalist R. Benjamin ha-Levi, who served as an emissary from Safed in Venice for two years (1658–59).
At the outset of the Shabbatean movement, Zacuto tended to give credence to the messianic tidings, but he was opposed to innovations such as abolition of tikkun hazot ("midnight prayers") and other customs. In the spring of 1666, in a letter to Samson Bachi, he took a positive but cautious stand in favor of the movement, mainly supporting its advocacy of repentance. After the apostasy of Shabbetai Zevi he turned his back on the movement and joined the other Venetian rabbis in their action against Nathan of Gaza when he came to Venice in the spring of 1668. Zacuto's published exoteric works include his commentary on the Mishnah, Kol ha-Re-Me-Z; he was known throughout his life as Re-Me-Z, from his initials (Rabbi Moses Zacuto). Part of the work was published in Amsterdam in 1719. His major activity, however, was in Kabbalah. R. Zacuto opposed the mingling of the kabbalistic system of R. Cordovero with that of R. Isaac Luria which was then current in some circles and for this reason he criticized R. Solomon Rocca's Sefer Kavvanat Shelomo (Venice, 1670) even though he composed a poem honoring the author. He went over the entire corpus of R. Luria's and R. Vital's writings and added many annotations under the name Kol ha-Re-Me-Z or the abbreviation Ma-Za-La-N (Moshe Zakkut Li Nireh, "It seems to me, Moses Zacuto"). R. Zacuto wrote at least two commentaries on the Zohar. A long kabbalistic responsum to the rabbis of Cracow on the copying of Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot was published several times, in Mekom Binah, in Kiray Sefer by Menahem Meiri (pt. 2, 1881, 100–8; separately, Berdichev, 1890). Zacuto arranged tikkunim ("special prayers") for several religious ceremonies according to Kabbalah. These were often reprinted and had great influence, especially on the religious life in Italy. They include Sefer ha-Tikkunim (a tikkun for the eve of Shavuot and Hoshana Rabba; Venice, 1659), Mishmeret ha-Hodesh (ibid., 1660), Tikkun Shovavim (the initials of the first six sections of Exodus), i.e., a tikkun for fasts undertaken in expiation for nocturnal ejaculations (ibid., 1673), and Tikkun Hazot (ibid., 1704). All these were arranged under the influence of Benjamin ha-Levi and Nathan Shapiro.
A major part of Zacuto's poetry is devoted to kabbalistic subjects, such as his poems in the book Hen Kol Hadash (Amsterdam, 1712), in Tofteh Arukh (a description of hell; Venice, 1715; see below). Besides this he arranged voluminous collectanea on kabbalistic subjects. The first was Shibbolet shel Leket, on all the books of the Bible (Scholem, Kitvei Yad be-Kabbalah, 1930, p. 153, para. 107). This was followed by Remez ha-Romez on numbers, gematria, and explanations of Holy Names according to numerology; Erkhei Kinnuyim, selections from the Lurianic Kabbalah in alphabetical order (complete in Ms. Jerusalem 110). Parts of this work were published at the end of Golel Or by Meir Bikayam (1737) and at the end of Bikayam's Me'ir Bat Ayin (1755). Another anthology, in alphabetical order, was published as Em la-Binah, part of his Sha'arei Binah (1813). Shorshei ha-Shemot, also called Mekor ha-Shemot, is a collection of practical Kabbalah according to the order of the magical "names." This work was widely circulated in manuscript and went through several versions by North African kabbalists.