Q: How does Kabbalah relate to customs and rituals of Judaism?
A: Before the soul is revealed, man doesn’t feel any inner need for spiritual development. At that stage, man must only obey laws and customs, but does not belong to spirituality. The part that does belong to spirituality is our effort to correct self from the aim “for ourselves” to the aim “for the Creator.”
Corrected aims are hidden because no one can see what is corrected in man. These corrections do not bear any external manifestation, but rather change our personal relationship with the Creator. Hence, the concealment.
We perform the acts that concern morality and customs while under the influence of corporeal pleasures, such as sex, money, control, fame, respect, and education, until we develop the aspiration toward the Creator.
When that yearning first appears, the technical acts that belong to the ritual and moral part become less important, and we establish a personal contact with the Creator. That becomes the most important thing in our lives, and we are then changed from an ordinary person into a Kabbalist.
However, even when one becomes a great Kabbalist, the person continues to perform the same mechanical Mitzvot as an ordinary believer would. These two are not connected. You can ask great experts in Mitzvot, great rabbis, and they will tell you that they don’t know Kabbalah. You don’t have to know Kabbalah in order to keep Mitzvot.