As taught to Rabbi Chaim Vital by Rabbi Isaac Luria and Amended by Rabbi Chaim's Son Shemuel.
Translated from Sha'ar Hagilgulim by Yitzchok bar Chaim; commentary by Shabtai Teicher of Blessed Memory and Completed by Rabbi Perets Aurback.
Published online with commentary by Kabbala online.com
This version will not have all of the commentary.
Please note: The publisher explains that the Study of Kabbalistic Texts usually recommends that one review the material many times until they are familiar with the vocabulary at a minimum.
Also Note: Bold Text represents the translation of the original Text. Regular text represents the commentary and explanation of the translator. Chanoch's comments will be identified separately.
Translation from Sha'ar Hagilgulim by Yitzchok bar Chaim; commentary by Shabtai Teicher
Chapter 11 Section 8
There are five categories of positive mitzvot with some additional subsections, and each one has a different law concerning the requirement of gilgul when a person does not perform one of the mitzvot from that category.
The 248 positive mitzvot are divided into five categories and additional subsections...
In this section we will explain four of the five categories. Because of the length of the explanation, description of the fifth category, which is one particular mitzvah, will be left until the next section. The accompanying Table will make understanding of this section easier. The numbers in parentheses refer to it.
A person must perform all the 613 mitzvot. If he is missing even one of them, then his Nefesh is deficient by the amount of the mitzvah that is missing.
However, the 248 positive mitzvot are divided into five categories:
(1) First, there are mitzvot that may be impossible for him to do, such as the mitzvot that pertain to the time when the Holy Temple was existing. An example of these is sacrifices. For these, a person does not return in gilgul to fulfill them. What advantage would there be in gilgul?
Even when he returns in gilgul, he would still not be able to perform them.
However, when the Holy Temple is rebuilt, then he will be able to fulfill them.
When the Holy Temple is rebuilt, then he can return in gilgul to do them.
The statements above leave the question to reconcile the statement of the Sages: Prayer and Study of the Sacrifices replace the actual action of doing a sacrifice in the Temple since the Temple does not exist yet in our generation. My attempt at reconciling these two teachings that seem to be in conflict is to think that each of the resurrected bodies will need to go to the Temple and do one sacrifice. This one sacrifice will manifest all of the prayer and study that they have done in that lifetime represented by the body involveds. In effect, while the Temple does not exist the study and prayer replace it for the time being of that lifetime. When the Third Temple is built in the physical world an action of an animal or other type of sacrifice will be necessary to manifest the study for that newly resurrected body. In effect the study applies to the soul but not the body. The body requires the physical action since it is a physical being.
(2) Second, there are those mitzvot that he can perform, such as tzitzit, tefillin and the like. If he does not do them, then he must necessarily return to reincarnate [even] many times, until he fulfills all of them.
Because of his refusal…he has also blemished his soul, which requires extra purification….
It is important to note that the Ari is not talking here about a person who could have done any of these mitzvot but refused to do them. Such a person was discussed in the last section. Because of his refusal, he must not only reincarnate to do the mitzvot that he is missing, but he has also blemished his soul, which requires extra purification.
In contrast, throughout this section we are dealing with people who did not perform mitzvot because they were not able to do so. In Jewish Law, a person who is prevented by overpowering circumstances from fulfilling mitzvot is called "anous," someone who is coerced. Thus, this second category includes people who did not do mitzvot such as tzitzit or tefillin because they were prevented as an anous from doing so. They must reincarnate to complete what is missing to them.
In addition, there are different gradations of anous. The mitzvot of the first category, those pertaining to the service in the Holy Temple, are entirely impossible of performance during our days. Concerning them, an individual gilgul is totally anous. It is the exact opposite with mitzvot of the second category. They are least likely to be impeded by overriding circumstances of anous.
Throughout the rest of this section we will be dealing with milder degrees of anous.
Here is a chart that is part of the commentary from the Commentator Shabtai Teicher. In my opinion there is significant information provided about the Mitzvot from this chart. Please review it and i will comment about it below. i am presenting the chart as it is presented in the kabbalaonline website. The kabbalaonline website presents the Mitzvah Categories out of order. One possible reason for this has to do with the relationship of these categories to the worlds. The order they are presented is actually related to the degree of anous.
|Chart of Mitzvah Categories|
|Category||Definition||Examples||Law||Degree of Anous - Coerced|
|1||Impossible To Do||Temple Sacrifices||No Gilgul||High|
|4||Not up to person to attain||Redemption of the First Born; Yibum - Chalitza (Marrying Widow when Brother dies without Children); Divorce||Comes as an Ibur|
|3A||Not obligated to run after them; did run after them; did not attain||Terumah - Tithing; Shiluach Hakan - Sending Away Mother Bird; Ma'Akeh - Laws of Homeowners||Comes as an Ibur or Gilgal with a guarantee not to Sin|
|3||Not obligated to run after them;||Terumah - Tithing; Shiluach Hakan; Ma'Akeh||Gilgul with a guarantee not to Sin|
|4A||Circumstances Presented; Person did not do them||Redemption of the First Born; Yibum - Chalitza; Divorce||Gilgul with Guarantee not to Sin or Full Fledged Gilgul|
|2||Possible to Do||Tzeitzeit; Tefillin||Full Fledged Gilgul||Degree of Low|
continuing chanoch's commentary
Please remember that the Mitzvot are being numbered and eventually separated by Man. The Mitzvot are not separated - They are unified as they are all connections to HaShem. Mankind perceives the world separated - HaShem
The 5 categories that the ARI teaches relate to the 5 worlds. These levels of reincarnation also relate to the 7 Noachide Mitzvot. The 7 Noachide Mitzvot encompass the majority of the 613 Mitzvot except for the laws of Sacrifice and the Laws of the Jewish King. Here is a list of the Noachide laws:
1. The prohibition of Idolatry.
2. The prohibition of Murder.
3. The prohibition of Theft.
4. The prohibition of Sexual immorality.
5. The prohibition of Blasphemy.
6. The prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
7. The requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.
I am duplicating the chart with changes i think will help explain things better.Remember this is my opinion. It does not mean it is correct.
|Chart of Mitzvah Categories with chanoch's additions|
|Category||Definition||Examples||Law||Degree of Anous - Coerced||Noachide Category|
|1||Impossible To Do||Temple Sacrifices||No Gilgul||High||No application to the Noachide|
|4||Not up to person to attain||Redemption of the First Born; Yibum - Chalitza; Divorce||Comes as an Ibur||In the West Noachide 1 and 4 can be considered anous due to the influence of the society|
|3A||Not obligated to run after them; did run after them; did not attain||Terumah - Tithing; Shiluach Hakan - ; Ma'Akeh||Comes as an Ibur or Gilgal with a guarantee not to Sin||Depending on the society Noachide 2, 3, and 6|
|3||Not obligated to run after them;||Terumah - Tithing; Shiluach Hakan; Ma'Akeh||Gilgul with a guarantee not to Sin||Degree of Anous||Depending on the society Noachide 2, 3, and 6|
|4A||Circumstances Presented; Person did not do them||Redemption of the First Born; Yibum - Chalitza; Divorce||Gilgul with Guarantee not to Sin or Full Fledged Gilgul||Noachide 4 and 5|
|2||Possible to Do||Tzeitzeit; Tefillin||Full Fledged Gilgul||Degree of Low||Depending on the Society Noachide 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7|
Now, we go back to the case of the second category where a person did not do mitzvot, such as tzitzit or tefillin, and he must reincarnate in order to fulfill the missing mitzvot.
In this gilgul [to fulfill missing mitzvot], for someone who has already reincarnated and performed some mitzvot, it is sufficient that he fulfills those mitzvot that are missing to him, which he had never fulfilled at all.
However, a person who reincarnates for this reason can sin or bring about other transgressions.
(3) Third, there are those mitzvot that he is not obligated to perform unless the circumstances [of the mitzvah] come to him. Examples are Teruma [Donations], Tithes and Shiluach Hakan - Sending away the Mother Bird prior to taking the eggs.
He must necessarily reincarnate to fulfill them….
Shiluach Hakan is the mitzvah of chasing away the mother bird before a person takes for himself the pigeons or the eggs that are in the nest. This mitzvah is only applicable when he comes across the nest unexpectedly. If he knows the nest with pigeons or eggs is there and he goes to it, then the mitzvah does not apply. It only applies if he happens upon it.
In my personal experience my neighbor watched a bird build a nest under his house overhang. He waited until the bird laid the eggs and then sent the bird away and took the eggs. In the Torah it is promised long life for the person who performs the Mitzvah. In the Talmud there is a story about a man who saw his friend (who honored his father as one of his attributes) perform this Mitzvah and then he fell of the ladder to this death. The Sages explain that this Mitzvah opportunity is given only to people who have the opportunity to receive long life in the world that is coming. He was only doing this Mitzvah because his father told him to do it. The Mitzvah belonged to him not to his father. When he became an effect of his father he lost the opportunity for this Mitzvah to manifest as long life in this particular lifetime.
The mitzvah of Teruma is the giving of one percent of the agricultural produce in the Land of Israel to support the Priests. According to one rabbinical opinion this mitzvah and the mitzvah of Tithes apply in our times. Even according to the alternative opinion, many hold that when the majority of the Jewish People live in the Land of Israel, then this mitzvah will be applicable once again. However, this is only relevant if a person grows agricultural produce in the Land of Israel. If he doesn't, then the circumstances of the mitzvah do not apply to him, and he is not required to run out and become a farmer in the Land of Israel (although in these days he could do that more easily than in previous times).
Tithing is one of the principle tools that i teach as a tool of Kabbalah. i have an ex student who accepted the principle of tithing. She did this for over 2 years month in and month out. She would tell people how her life changed after following this principle. She is a women of 60 who was married twice. She had a great desire to fulfill her life through being married again. Then she met a man who studied the Talmud and Torah as a literal teaching. He told her this Rabbinical teaching from the Talmud that tithing only applies to agriculture and only in the Land of Israel. It is too early to see the physical effect since it has not been 2 years. My intuition says that she will find that tithing applies to all items including time, children, as well as money and agricultural items. One should also know that the second interpretation above applies now since the number of halachically Jewish people are now in the majority in the Land of Israel. Please do not stop tithing as we all are now obligated to tithe again even before the Temple is revealed. As it shows in the chart when we do not tithe we will need to reincarnate. Yes, it means we will not suffer any sins, but we do not know that so our experiencing discomfort from our actions still is part of the experiencing a reincarnation.
He is not obligated to run after them, but he must necessarily reincarnate to fulfill them.
In the first category are mitzvot that he could not perform at this time, under any circumstances. In the second category are mitzvot that the circumstances are right for the performance of the mitzvah, but he was prevented from doing it by some other reason. In this, the third category, are mitzvot that he could perform if the circumstances are right, and if they are, then he must perform them. However, the circumstances never present themselves, and the Halachah does not require him to run after them, to roam the fields until he comes upon a mother bird and her nest, to cross the ocean to buy land in Israel and become a farmer in order to give Teruma, etc. However, if he has not performed them in a previous gilgul, or in this one, then he must reincarnate in a new gilgul in order to fulfill them.
However, since he needs to reincarnate only for this reason [to fulfill the mitzvah], then he is assured that he will not sin in the second gilgul. (chanoch adds: the next gilgul not the second. It could be any number of gilgulim.
Since he needs to reincarnate only to fulfill a mitzvah of the third category, then he is assured that he will not sin. (chanoch adds: yet he will experience feelings of possible remorse as he works to become a Tzadik through his Torah Study and his Heshbon (calculation) Nefesh. This is his evaluating his actions each day.
(4) The fourth category consists of those mitzvot that he cannot do unless G-d forcibly puts him in a position to do one of them. Examples are Redemption of the first born son, Yibum, Chalitza….
If the circumstances of the mitzvah are presented to him, but he does not do them, then he must necessarily reincarnate….
In this category are mitzvot that he cannot perform, even if he would run after them. There is no guarantee that he will attain the circumstances of the mitzvah by running after them because it is not entirely up to him. For example, even if he were to marry one woman after another there is no guarantee that any one of them would give birth to a first born son. Similarly, if his brother dies without leaving progeny in the world, he can perform either the mitzvah of Yibum or the mitzvah of Chalitza. He cannot perform both. Furthermore, this category includes mitzvot whose circumstances no one wants to attain, or whose circumstances people normally run away from rather than towards it, like the death of his brother. This will be clear in the Ari's next example as well.
[Another example of a mitzvah from the fourth category is] giving a bill of divorcement. He is not obligated to divorce his wife unless he dislikes her, as everyone knows. [Even then] it is hard to divorce, and the altar sheds tears.
According to the words of the Ari here, a person who dislikes his wife should divorce her and not transgress the mitzvah of "Love your neighbor like yourself" (Lev. 19:18). There are rabbinical opinions, however, that a person should not divorce his wife for any reason except adultery. Neither are situations that people pursue or have any desire to attain. Furthermore, even if a person has no great love for his wife, it is still hard to divorce because of children or other reasons. Finally, it has been taught (Gittin 90b, Zohar II:102b) that the altar sheds tears when a man divorces the bride of youth. We may learn from here that the circumstances of divorce are no great boon to the well being of the universe. The altar makes peace between G-d and humanity, and it laments the lack of peace among the divorcing couple. Although divorce by giving a bill of divorcement is a mitzvah of the Torah when necessary, it is nevertheless not a situation that people seek out or pursue.
There is a distinction concerning these [mizvot] and those like them. He does not return to reincarnate if the opportunity to do one of them has not presented itself. He will merely come as an ibur, temporarily, until it is fulfilled, and then he will depart immediately.
(4a) However, if the circumstances of the mitzvah are presented to him, but he does not do them, then he must necessarily reincarnate.
If the circumstances of the mitzvah are present, but he does not do them because of some other reason that prevents him, then he must reincarnate.
In this case I do not remember what my Master (The ARIzal) said, whether he is guaranteed not to sin as in the third category, or not.
Since he was not obligated, in the first place, to run after the mitzvah, as in the third category, then the law concerning him is like the law of the third category. In that case he would be guaranteed not to sin in his second gilgul. Or alternatively, since the mitzvah was before him, unlike the third category, but like the second category, and he did not do it, then the law pertaining to him will be gilgul like the second category where there is no guarantee not to sin.
(3a) I am also in doubt concerning other mitzvot, especially those where a person is not obligated to run after them, such as ma'akeh or shiluach hakan, etc.
The mitzvah of ma'akeh is the commandment to the owner of a house to build a fence around the roof of it in order that someone on the roof will not fall off. "When you build a new house, you shall make a fence around your roof; and do not bring blood into your house if someone falls from there" (Deut. 22:8). Like shiluach hakan, it is one of the mitzvot of the third category where a person is not obligated to run after it. In this case, he is not obligated to go buy a house just to put a fence around the roof.
[What is the law] if a person ran to do them, but did not succeed? For example, he was poor and could not buy a house to build a fence.
In this case he is more of an anous - coerced than in the previous examples of the third category. In those examples he did not run after the mitzvah to try to do it. Here, he did, but still he did not achieve the circumstances to enable him to perform it.
Do we say that he is called an anous and ibur is sufficient for him, or does he need an actual gilgul?
In this case, is he like a person who does not do a mitzvah of the fourth category because the full circumstances of the mitzvah never presented themselves? He is like a person who never had a first born son to redeem. This is a high level of anous. He does not need to return in a full-fledged gilgul, but it is sufficient for him to come as an ibur and fulfill the mitzvah in that way.
Or alternatively, since the mitzvah that is missing is from the third category, then its judgment remains as one from the third category and he must return in gilgul, but he is guaranteed not to sin.
In another place we wrote that it appears that he is exempt from gilgul, and ibur is enough for him. On the other hand, it is possible that he does reincarnate, but G-d arranges that the circumstances to do the mitzvah are definitely given to him.
There is a lot of valuable information in this section. It is hard to absorb all of the information. i am going to attempt to simplify the commentary so that it can be understood easily.
One of the five categories is not included in this section.
The highest level category can no longer be done in the physical world by anyone.
The internal aspect of this Mitzvah can be studied by the soul. When the body is resurrected the body will need to do the action again one more time. The soul due to its study will have the right consciousness. Therefore, the action will be complete internally and externally.
The second category is possible to do but it may not be done every day. If one misses a day in a lifetime it is not considered complete. The Heavenly Academy determines if the reincarnation that is required also includes the possibility of falling spiritually through making mistakes, or if the reincarnation is limited to the specific missing Mitzvoth and no other mistakes will impact the person. Of course, being in this physical world will cause someone studying Torah to feel from their mistakes as they do Heshbon Nefesh each night. Heshbon Nefesh is calculating and evaluating our actions from the day. This is a technique used by the students of Mussar and others who are choosing to become a Tzadik. There will be no consequences from their mistakes except their own attitudes and self deprecation if they strive to improve.
The third category are Mitzvoth that can be done but there may not be able to do due to the circumstances of this life. The result is they may become an Ibur or may reincarnate but will not suffer any negative impacts from their mistakes during this lifetime.
The fourth category are Mitzvoth that can be performed unless circumstances allow for it. An example is a Pidyan HaBen (Redemption of the first born son). The person can not control if his wife has a first born son and while he may divorce her for not having this first born son this usually does not happen. Even if he divorces 100 women there is no guarantee that any one of them will have a first born son. This soul must reincarnate in order to perform the Mitzvah but is not effected by any mistakes it makes while in this reincarnated body.
In my opinion these spiritual laws truly demonstrate HaShem's love for us.
[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]
Chapter 11 Section 9
Translation from Sha'ar Hagilgulim by Yitzchok bar Chaim; commentary by Shabtai Teicher
The mitzvah of procreation has a special status and it is a category in itself.
The fifth category is one particular mitzvah, the mitzvah of procreation.
This is the mitzvah to father children, as it is written, "…Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28).
It is a mitzvah that a person is obligated to run after it to fulfill it, and he is also capable of fulfilling it.
It may happen that a person marries, but the couple does not succeed in giving birth to children. According to Benei Aharon, the judgment described here applies to that person because most men are capable of fathering children. It also applies to men whose children have all died and they do not have any other surviving progeny in the world.
On the other hand, someone who does not marry at all is not included within this category, but his fate is worse, according to the Benei Aharon. He cites proof from the explanation of the Talmud (Berachot 10a) on the verse "In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death, and Isaiah the son of Amotz came to him and said, 'Thus said the Lord… you will die, and not live.'" (Isaiah 38:1)
The Talmud asks the following question. If he said to him that "you will die," why does he also say that he will "not live"? It answers that Isaiah said to him, "you will die" in this world and you will "not live" in the next world.
Hezekiah asks why his punishment is so severe.
Isaiah answers that it is because Hezekiah never married and never fulfilled the mitzvah of procreation, and although Hezekiah foresaw that his children would turn out bad, it was no excuse. "What have you to do with the secrets of G-d? What you have been commanded, you need to do, and G-d will do what pleases Him."
The verse Isaiah 38:1 comes from the Torah. The rest of the communication between Isaiah and Heskiahu comes from the Midrash which has religious bent to it. The meaning of the Torah verse is accurate. There is no excuse for not having children. It is a Mitzvah that requires one to pursue the connection by getting married and having children. It is not a command it is a connection to HaShem that facilitates getting closer to HaShem. Please do not become immune to the word command. Always know that command is idol worship and strongly recommended that one do not do these things because someone - even HaShem himself commands you. Do things from your choice. This is becomming a cause.
This one has stringency beyond all the other mitzvot, as will be explained. Gilgul does not satisfy the deficiency of someone who dies without children, and he did not fulfill it [the mitzvah].
Gilgul of one sort or another, or even ibur, does satisfy the need of someone who dies while he is missing any of the other mitzvot, as it was taught in the last section. This is not the case for "someone who dies without children, and he did not fulfill it."
The repeated phrase, "and he did not fulfill it", seems to exclude those who fulfilled the mitzvah in a previous gilgul, as we learned concerning Ben Azai in Gate of Reincarnations 5:8.
The sparks of the soul of the one who dies without children will enter into the body of the second gilgul….
Concerning all the others that reincarnate because they are missing some mitzvah, each and every one of their bodies will arise and come back to life in the time of the Resurrection. The sparks of his soul that will enter within [each body at the time of Resurrection of the Dead] will correspond to the amount of mitzvot that were done in the lifetime of that body. However, the sparks of the soul of the one who dies without children will enter into the body of the second gilgul, and this is esoteric yibum.
In other words, the body will not gain any merit from any of the other mitzvot done in its lifetime. All the merit and rectified soul sparks will go to the body of the next gilgul.
Then he will fulfill the mitzvah of procreation. Concerning the first body that did not fulfill it, there will be nothing to enter into it except that first spirit that was left within his wife from their first intimate relationship when he married her.
There is a minor spirit that is transmitted from the man to the woman at the time of her first intimate relationship with her husband. This minor spirit is a derivation from the soul of the man. Some of its "adventures" have already been discussed in the introduction to Chapter Nine, in the subsection called "The Sabba Enters Into the Place of the 400 Questions." As we learned there also, at the time of Resurrection of the Dead it is only this minor spirit that is available to vitalize and enter the body of the person who did not fulfill the mitzvah of procreation. All the other soul sparks that may have been rectified in that gilgul go the body of the next gilgul that did fulfill the mitzvah.
In previous generations it has been taught in Kabbalah that the Mitzvah to procreate applied only to the man. Women did not have to procreate since they are totally cleansed in Gehinom when they die. If they agree to return in Gilgul they accept some of the Tikune of the male half of their soul so that there will be some affinity between the two halves.
In our generation in my opinion that is not always true. This is because the female is growing to the level of the male in our generation. As such this obligation applies to her. This is why there is an increase in women choosing to become "single parents" through various means including artificial insemination. They feel this imperative to procreate. When they do this they avoid lengthening their process.
Also, in my opinion the leniency attributed by some Rabbis applies to certain individuals to be given credit for children from a previous incarnation. I am of the opinion that a man needs to have children in each lifetime. Those women who feel this extremely strong desire to have a child or especially a second child even when they are not married also are demonstrating this need to have children in this lifetime.
[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]
Chapter 11 Section 10
Translation from Sha'ar Hagilgulim by Yitzchok bar Chaim; commentary by Shabtai Teicher
The levels involved in the study of Torah called PaRDeS, and the levels of Action, Speech and Thought concerning all the 613 mitzvot and the general distribution of the mitzvot will be explained.
The sixth category is [also] a particular mitzvah. It is occupation with the Torah.
The mitzvah of studying Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvot….
In the beginning of the previous section when the Ari began his discourse on the positive mitzvot he wrote that they were divided into five categories. He did not include this sixth category of studying Torah and being occupied with it. Previously he had described the laws of gilgulim relevant to the five categories of mitzvot when they are not fulfilled. Here, however, he is only going to tell us that the mitzvah of studying Torah is equivalent to all the other mitzvot and it must be accomplished on four levels, as if they were four separate mitzvot. If any one of the levels is missing, then the person must reincarnate in order to fulfill it. He does not tell us what will be the law of the gilgul since that has already been explained beforehand.
It is equal weight with all the others, as the Sages have said "The study of Torah is equivalent to all of them." (Kedushin 39b)
It has four ways whose mnemonic device is PaRDeS: Peshat, Remez, Derush, and Sod.
In other words, the Torah must be studied and understood on four different levels. It is worthwhile to note that it is said that each one of these four levels also has four levels of "PaRDeS" understanding.
A person must go out of his way to occupy himself with all of them as much as his intellect is capable of grasping. He must seek out a rabbi to teach it to him, and if he is missing any one of them relative to what he could have beheld, then he will have to reincarnate because of it.
Everyone's ability to understand PaRDeS is different, but there is an aspect of PaRDeS relevant to every level of soul.
…a person must fulfill all the 613 mitzvot in Action and in Speech, as well.
Furthermore, it is necessary to know that a person must fulfill all the 613 mitzvot in Action and in Speech, as well. This is similar to what the Sages said: "Anyone involved with [reading] the section of Olah is considered as if he actually sacrificed an Olah" (Menachot 110a). It is the same with Thought.
An Olah is a "free-will offering". This was one of the types of sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple. The simple meaning of the Sages' remark is that reading and studying of the Torah, especially its relevant sections, has been substituted for the Temple sacrifices which can no longer be performed in Action since the Destruction of the Temple.
However, if Torah Study and prayer were a complete substitute for the Temple sacrifices, then the practice of sacrifices would never have had to be prevalent. Instead of the Temple and the activities performed in the Temple, reading of Torah would have been sufficient. Since this was not the case, it must be that each period was characterized by concentration on a different tikun - according to our example, the Olah in Action during the time of the Holy Temple, and the Olah in Speech during our times. And may the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.
Now, there are three levels of Torah, and all the 613 mitzvot exist on all three of these levels. They are Action, Speech and Thought. They are like three parallel and equal partzufim, and each partzuf consists of 613 limbs corresponding to the 613 mitzvot of that level. Needless to say, the level of Thought is the most internal of the three, and the level of Action is the most external.
Each one of the 613 mitzvot can be classified into one of these three levels….
In addition, each one of the 613 mitzvot can be classified into one of these three levels. Some or most mitzvot, like tefillin or charity primarily exist in the realm of Action. Some, like the study of Torah or prayer, primarily exist in the realm of Speech. Some, like the fear of G-d or the love of G-d, primarily exist in the realm of Thought. Nevertheless, each one also pertains to the other two realms as well. For example, the mitzvot of tefillin or charity have to be studied in the Torah. Thus, they also exist in the realm of Speech. Similarly, a person should come at some point in his life to think about these mitzvot before he does them, or while he is doing them, or while he is studying them, etc. Thus, these mitzvot also exist in the realm of Thought.
It is the same with the mitzvot like study of Torah and prayer that exist primarily in the realm of Speech. A person needs to physically go to the Study Hall or the Synagogue, he needs to turn the pages of the book or make specified genuflections and other movements during prayer. Even the movement of his speech organs is a physical act.
Similarly, a person who fears G-d and loves Him will do things and say things, over and beyond the physical shapes of the mitzvot, that reflect his attitudes towards the Almighty and His creation. Thus, all the 613 mitzvot exist on all three levels of Action, Speech and Thought at the same time.
Furthermore, it must be known that there are 613 mitzvot distributed among the 613 limbs and sinews of Adam. These are called the 613 Major Roots. Each limb has particular mitzvot that pertain to it.
This is like the sayings of the Sages listed in Talmud Shabbat 118b, from which we learn that the rabbis each had mitzvot that were especially dear to them from among all the others, and which they were especially strict and diligent to perform. The following is one example:
In the Left Shoulder there are 11 positive mitzvot and 15 negative mitzvot….
Rabbi Yosef asked Rabbi Yosef the son of Rabbah, "Which is the mitzvah that your father was especially careful in its performance?"
"In tzitzit…" he answered him. "One day [my father] was ascending a staircase and a thread of his tzitzit was torn off. He did not move from the place until the thread was replaced."
Nevertheless, we shall see that Rabbi Chaim Vital does not necessarily accept this easy explanation to the words of the Holy Ari.
In the Left Shoulder there are 11 positive mitzvot and 15 negative mitzvot that pertain to it. Everyone who is from this shoulder is obligated to fulfill these mitzvot more than all the other 613.
There is an obvious problem here. If more than one mitzvah pertain to one limb, then there will not be enough to go around!
First, it should be known that there is a Mishna (Ohalot 1:8) that lists the 248 limbs of the body. There the Left Shoulder, by the way, consists of 4 limbs. Nevertheless, the Ari has already written in another place that the distribution of the mitzvot is not like the divisions of the limbs in Ohalot. The mitzvot correspond to a different aspect of the limbs and not to their actual structure per se.
It is not entirely clear to me what is this special obligation concerning the particular mitzvot of the limb in opposition to all the rest of the 613, since everyone is obligated to fulfill all the 613 mitzvot.
Moreover, I heard from my Teacher, may he rest in peace, that there are sparks that have been preceded by [other] sparks from the Root of his soul who fulfilled all the mitzvot. In contrast, there are sparks that have been preceded by sparks [from the Root of his soul] who did not fulfill the mitzvot that he also has not yet fulfilled.
The first type consists of sparks that are preceded by other sparks from the same Root. Those that preceded already fulfilled the mitzvot that the new one has to fulfill. It seems obvious that he will have an easier tikun because of the accomplishments of those that preceded him.
In contrast, the second type consists of sparks that have also been preceded by other sparks from the same Root. However, here the preceding sparks did not fulfill the mitzvot that the new one has come to do. It seems obvious that he will have a harder tikun than those of the first type because he is like someone who is breaking new ground.
Nevertheless, here too, it seems that Rabbi Chaim does not accept this seemingly obvious explanation.
However, I do not know what the difference between them is.
In the last section of this chapter, the Benei Aharon will suggest a solution to this difficulty.
Performance of the positive mitzvot has now been explained.
Each of my teachers have chosen or received information regarding a particular Mitzvah that they are careful to perform properly each time they do this.
Also, it is important to realize that study usually means memorization of the particular verses involved. That is why Torah Study refers to speech since memorization usually is achieved through repeatedly saying a particular verse.
[Commentary by Shabtai Teicher.]
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