Doing [mitzvahs] unites one with the body of the king

Man is a microcosm of the universe (Zohar). He is modeled after the Divine image. By way of anthropomorphosis and spiritual parable, the mitzvahs are called as if "limbs of the king" (Zohar). Doing them unites one with the body of the king (Tanya). Each limb of the soul is modeled after a Divine limb, so to speak, i.e., a mitzvah. Doing the mitzvahs connects every limb with its source. This enlivens the soul and makes it shine. A person must somehow or another fulfill all the mitzvahs in order to have the complete connection to G‑d through all the channels of the self that he was created to attain.

However, someone whose soul is not new, but one that has reincarnated and returned to this world, only has to complete those mitzvahs it has yet to fulfill in previous gilgulim.

Thus, the fulfillment of the 613 Mitzvahs may take place over the course of all the gilgulim.

With this we can understand why in the Talmud we learn of certain Torah scholars who were careful with respect to a particular mitzvah more than other mitzvahs, while another scholar was careful regarding a different mitzvah (Megillah 28a). For example, one Talmudic rabbi asked his colleague, "In what mitzvah was your father most careful?"…

The one who this posed question was interested in determining the tzadik's soul root and the focal point of its rectification. The more we understand about the tzadik's angle in spirituality, the more we have a handle to learn from him and to emulate his ways.

…and he answered, the mitzvah of tzitzit, or tefillin, or something of that nature.

Why does the Ari mention this? It must be that he is hinting to us the general principles upon which understanding about being careful with a certain mitzvah relative to one's tailor-made tikun has to do with.

The commandments were given to refine and heal the soul.

The commandments were given to refine and heal the soul. They do this by connecting the self to varied channels of G‑d's light. The mitzvah of tefillin draws to the soul primarily an internal light, as opposed to tzitzit, which brings a surrounding light. (Shaar Hakedusha - Tefillin & Tzitzit) Internal light affects and expands the consciousness awareness. Surrounding light affects the sub-consciousness more. Depending upon the soul-root and its specific need of rectification, it will accordingly require being careful with a certain mitzvah. The mentioning of "tzitzit or tefillin, or something of that nature" comes to teach that the general principle underneath determining what one needs is either a mitzvah that brings internal light or surrounding light.

However, this would seem to contradict the mishna that says, "Be [as] careful with a light mitzvah as you would be with a serious one!" (Pirkei Avot 2:1). The sod is that every scholar is careful with the particular mitzvah that is missing from his previous gilgulim, either all of it, or part of it.

This means to say that even though some mitzvahs are intrinsically less important, a person may still have to give special attention to their fulfillment, more than others that are usually more important, because they may be necessary for his specific rectification.

This is also the sod of what we find in the Talmud where one person focused on a particular character trait, while another focused on a different one. For example, they asked one person, "To what do you owe your long life?" and he answered, "All of my life I was never particular about my honor."

There are many Rabbis who were asked this and gave varied responses. The Ari brings this answer out of all of them. He also leaves out the name of the one who said it. This comes to teach that even though a certain rabbi was extra careful with this, it is something that is necessary for everyone to be especially careful about.

Honor belongs to G‑d, as it says "G‑d reigns, He clothed Himself in honor" (Psalms 92:1), and "…for My honor I created it" (Isaiah 43:7). The job of man is to do everything for the Divine honor. If a person tries to take honor for himself, this destroys the world and causes the Shechina to depart. As the sages teach "Anyone who is proud, G‑d (then) says, "I am not able to live in the world with him'" (Talmud).

All negative qualities are rooted in some type of ego. From it comes a person's will to be exacting about his honor. One who can get past this hurdle will have a much easier time conquering all other bad qualities.

Hence, each one worked on a certain trait that remained lacking from his previous gilgulim.

Personality qualities are from the deepest expressions of the soul.

Personality qualities are from the deepest expressions of the soul. Therefore is it of paramount importance to fix them. The entire person is made up of traits. Therefore did Rabbi Nachman write his "Book of Qualities": Most people decide most of what they do from traits, more than from logic. This leaves room to rationalize. In order to be truly righteous, one must cleanse and refine the qualities. This is like polishing the soul, and makes it to shine.

There is a major difference between one whose previous soul-sparks from his soul-root fulfilled all the 613 Mitzvahs to one whose soul-sparks did not as well. We will explain this further on.

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]