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Observance of the mitzvot is primary…to eliminate the thorns…

Above and Before Kabbalah Study

Above and Before Kabbalah Study

Above and Before Kabbalah Study
Observance of the mitzvot is primary…to eliminate the thorns…

I the author, adjure on the great name of G‑d, anyone into whose hands these [kabbalistic] pamphlets fall, that he should read this introduction. If his soul desires to enter the chamber of this wisdom, he should accept upon himself to complete and fulfill all that I write, and the Creator will testify upon him that to no damage will come to his body and soul and to all that is his, and not to others, because of his running after good. One who comes to purify [himself] and come close first must fear G‑d's punishment. (The more internal fear, awe of G‑d's greatness, he will not attain except from the maturation of wisdom.)

His essential involvement in this knowledge should be to eliminate the thorns from the vineyard, for those who engage in this wisdom are called tenders of the field. …he needs [to heed] the admonition: turn from evil and do good; and pursue peace

And certainly the evil shells will be aroused against him to seduce him and to cause him to sin; therefore, he should be watchful that he not come to sin even unintentionally so that they will have no relation to him. Accordingly, it is necessary to guard against [adopting] leniencies [in Torah Law], for G‑d is exacting with the righteous like a thread of hair. For this reason, he needs to abstain from meat and wine during weekdays and he needs [to heed] the admonition of "turn from evil and do good; and pursue peace."

Pursue peace:

  • It is necessary to seek peace, and not to be demanding in one's home, whether for an insignificant or a significant matter and certainly a person should not succumb to anger, G‑d forbid!

Turn from Evil:

  • To be cautious in all the details of the commandments, even the words of the Sages, for these are included in [the negative commandment]:"do not stray [from the word that I [G‑d] command you]".

  • To rectify all damage [one has done]. To be cautious in all the details of the command- ments, even the words of the Sages

  • To be careful not to get angry even when disciplining his children; in principle, he should not get angry at all.

  • In addition, he needs to be watchful of arrogance, specifically in matters pertaining [to his observance] of Halacha, for the power [of arrogance] is great, and in this regard arrogance is a terrible sin.

  • With every pain he suffers, he should examine his deeds and [then] return to G‑d.

  • He should also immerse [in a mikva] at the necessary time [as soon as possible after any seminal emission].

  • He should also sanctify himself during marital relations so that he should not [egoistically/sensually] benefit.

  • There should not pass any night [where he does not] think what he did during the day and [he should] confess [and repent].

  • he should refrain from any speech that is not of a mitzva and necessary
  • He should also minimize his business dealings and if he has no livelihood, except through business, he should intend that Tuesday and Wednesday from noon and on [that these times are set aside] to the service of his creator.

  • Any speech that is not of a mitzva and necessary, he should refrain from, and even in a matter of a mitzva he should desist [from speaking] during prayer.

And do good:

  • To awaken at midnight to recite the order [of the Tikun Chatzot] in sackcloth and ashes and great crying and with intention [of fulfilling] all that comes out of his mouth. Afterwards he should immerse in Torah for whatever time he can be without sleep and at least a half hour before dawn he should awaken to immerse in Torah study.

  • He should go to the synagogue before dawn, before the obligation of talit and tefillin, to be watchful that he should be one of the first of the ten [men that make a minyan].

  • Before entering [the synagogue], he should accept upon himself the positive commandment "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself" and only then enter.

  • To complete the hint [alluded to in the word] tzadik [tzadi = 90 - dalet = 4 - yud = 10 - kof = 100] every day, that is [comprised of] 90 amen's, 4 Kedushot, 10 Kadishes, 100 Blessings.

  • Not to interrupt his awareness from [the sensations of holiness and consciousness emanating from] his tefillin during prayer, except for Amida and while engaged in Torah study.

  • It is necessary to be wrapped in talit and tefillin when he immerses himself in Torah study [during the day and afternoon].

  • To meditate during prayer on the [kabbalistic] intentions, as it is written in Etz Chaim.

  • That he always places before his eyes the [Divine] Name, a product of four [letters] Havaya(h) [Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei], and he should never veer from it, as it is written I have placed G‑d before me always.

  • That he meditatively focus while reciting all the blessings and specifically the blessings before enjoyment [including those made over eating].

  • His labor in Torah needs to be Pardes and do not think that they will reveal to him secrets of Torah when he is empty of knowledge, as it is written [in Scripture that] [G‑d] gives wisdom to the wise. One needs to be cautious that he not let escape from his mouth anything of this wisdom that he has not heard from a man who is not worthy to depend on, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his colleagues have warned.

[Etz Chaim, Introduction, p. 22-23]

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Eloki [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Zechariah Goldman is the founder of and is the author of 15 works on Torah spirituality. He lives with his wife and children in Los Angeles, California. He can be contacted at:
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