Rav Yochanan Luria was born in the middle of the15th century, and died in 1514, placing him in the period of time often referred to as that of the “poskim.” In fact his father, R. Aharon, the first to bear the Luria family name, was a friend of some of the most important poskim: Maharam Mintz, the Maharik, and the Terumas HaDeshen.
Born in Alsace, he studied primarily in Germany. Returning to Alsace, he paid off the authorities well enough that he was given official sanction for the yeshiva he founded and led.
R. Yochanan’s brother R. Yechiel was the great-grandfather of R. Shlomo Luria, the Maharshal.
Meshivas Nafesh shows great fidelity to Chazal and to Rashi (to whom R. Luria was related), but also the kind of inventive creativity that gained strength after the period of the rishonim. R. Luria often cites the derashos that he gave on important occasions, particularly at weddings. Many of these offer a window into practices of Ashkenazic Jewry that were not perfectly understood in his day, for which he offers fascinating explanations.
R. Luria also composed a refutation to the Dominicans, who excelled in stirring up hatred against Jews and Judaism.
[Author’s note: Most of the pieces in this year’s series will be shorter than in previous years. In some cases, I could not find material in a parshah that would be stimulating to the contemporary reader. It is likely that I will, from time to time, substitute material from the subject of next year’s sefer for this column, b’ezras Hashem: Chidushei Rav Yosef Nechemiah Kornitzer.]