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Michael Laitman, PhD

Mitzvot in Kabbalah

Q: What is a precept (Mitzva) and what is a prayer in Kabbalah?

A: A prayer in Kabbalah is a precise and written instruction that was written in a Kabbalistic prayer book from instructions given by Kabbalists. It is the management of the system of creation.

Observing Mitzvot means observing spiritual laws. The Mitzvot, in and of themselves, don’t have any rational basis, because a Mitzva (singular for Mitzvot) is an action and law in the Upper World. Those are (altruistic) rules of bestowal, of giving; therefore, their reflection in an egoistic world, such as our own, appears strange and irrational.

There isn’t any natural reason to observe Mitzvot. They can be observed or not observed. You will not break any of the rules of our world if you do not observe them. However, a person who wants to become equal with the upper laws on an external level does observe them.

One should want to observe the Mitzvot in our world, too, according to one’s level of spiritual development, and not because of some fear or some anticipated reward. They should only be observed from a desire to equalize with the Creator in as many parameters as possible.

Q: How do Kabbalists relate to observing Mitzvot?

A: Many people think that, for some reason, Kabbalah slights Mitzvot. But Kabbalists refer to observing Mitzvot as any other religious person does. Kabbalah even praises Mitzvot and gives them a higher, spiritual meaning. This is because, according to Kabbalah, a “Mitzva” is a term that relates to the spiritual world and not to ours.

An ordinary person thinks that Mitzvot represent the Creator’s desire for people to observe them when they are in this world. But the wisdom of Kabbalah explains that Mitzvot denote a spiritual nature, laws of the Upper World, by which the souls and the operations of the Creator live.

Just as there are natural laws in our world (gravity, electricity, chemical laws etc.) so there are laws in the spiritual world, and they are called Mitzvot, as simple as that. We must observe the rules of the world we live in because we exist in them and cannot refrain from obeying them. By studying them, we can utilize them as efficiently as possible, because we cannot act against nature.

The natural laws of the spiritual world are sharp and crystal clear to the extent that a person can be in them, meaning in the Upper World. If a person does not observe them, that individual only feels and exists in our world.

But we can only observe Mitzvot, meaning the laws of the Upper World, if we have a “screen,” the aim “for the Creator,” by having a desire opposite to our natural one, and detachment from our egos.

Consequently, the Mitzvot can be observed to the extent that we retire from our egos, and the level of our submission to the Upper World.

Is it possible to retain the attribute of receiving for self (egoistic) in our world, while observing the laws of bestowal, of giving (altruism), of the Upper World, the spiritual Mitzvot?

No, it is impossible. The laws can only be acted out mechanically, in substance, according to how they reflect their roots.

That is why, by performing what the Torah writes about, with our attributes in this world, we are observing Mitzvot, the existence of their symbols in this world, although not observing in the spiritual sense.

Q: What is the origin of observing Mitzvot?

A: Mitzvot in our world are a replica of actions performed in the spiritual world. Those actions, which are also called Mitzvot, are performed in the spiritual world using the screen, which is the aim “for the Creator.” Only actions with the screen constitute the essence of spiritual laws.

When we rise to the spiritual world, we do not become just another resident, but our presence there stems from our observance of the laws of the degree that we belong to. For example, we can exist, walk, move, and fly, only because we learned to use the law of gravity correctly. The same principle applies to a person in the spiritual world. By observing the spiritual laws (called “observing Mitzvot”), we enter it and become a resident. When all 613 Mitzvot are observed, it means that we will follow all the laws and observe them to the fullest.

Q: What is the place of Mitzvot in Kabbalah?

A: Mitzvot are, in fact, spiritual laws and their place is above our world. In order to really observe them, one must first rise to the spiritual, Upper World. We observe the Mitzvot in our world only because we want to somehow equalize with the Upper One.

We do not affect anything by observing Mitzvot only in our world. This, however, does not negate the observance of Mitzvot in our world by those who still cannot observe them in the Upper World. All Kabbalists were as religious as everyone else, in the sense that they observed Mitzvot in our world, with their corporeal body.

We have to understand that observing Mitzvot in our world only demonstrates a desire to observe them in the Upper World, nothing more. For example: on Passover (Pessach) and on Sukkoth, Kabbalists are particularly meticulous about observing Mitzvot that relate to these holidays, and even more so than others. Passover symbolizes the rejection of leavened food (will to receive), or egoism.

On Sukkoth, the thatch symbolizes the screen, the increase of the power of faith above reason. The rejection of the will to receive and the screen are the foundations of any spiritual ascent, which is why Kabbalists especially cherish those holidays and stress their importance by observing their actions in this world.

Q: Does a person who studies Kabbalah have to observe Mitzvot?

A: No. You can begin to study without any preparation. No one will ask you anything. Afterwards, you will decide for yourself whether to observe Mitzvot or not.

Q: Can one attain spirituality simply by observing Mitzvot?

A: No one has ever attained the revelation of the Creator by merely observing physical Mitzvot. This is because one who takes the path of Pshat (literal Torah), cannot feel the necessity for spirituality. One comes to Kabbalah because of a different need.

I have already said that in our main textbook, The Study of the Ten Sefirot, which is a complex and profound composition, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag asks: “What is the meaning of my life?” Did he have to write more than two thousand pages of completely mathematical text to answer it?

Without understanding what happens in the spiritual worlds, you cannot understand what happens in our own, or answer the question, “What is the meaning of my life?”

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