Many people associate practical Kabbalah with miracles and some kind of special effects, while in reality practical Kabbalah is being used on daily basis! The 613 mitzvos (commandments) are all Kabalistic in nature, and while on the surface they might seem as unusual physical actions, each of one them if performed properly triggers major spiritual changes in the upper worlds.This is why all Kabbalists where so careful to observe the mitzvos to the tiniest detail. As with any complex thing, minor deviation from the guidelines and the outcome won’t be the precise one that a person tries to achieve. I vividly remember the story that I read about ARIZAL – Once, on Friday night while sitting in beis-medrash, he unintentionally scratched his beard, and while doing this, realized that it was Shabbos. Since a person isn’t allowed to destroy anything on Shabbos, pulling his hand from the beard might cause him to pull a hair from his beard. What do you think he did? He kept his hand in his beard and didn’t move it till the end of Shabbos!
While this is still hard to understand, I would like to bring a highly simplified Kabalistic explanation of a mitzvah that is relatively easy to perform: The Mitzvah of Tzizis.
A lot can be said about this commandment and therefore I’ll have to focus on bare minimum.
Background: ARIZAL writes that when the first man (Adam HaRishon) was created, his body was surrounded by Light (Ohr – spelled as Aleph, Vav Reish and means “Light” in Hebrew). The Kabalistic term for the levush (garment) that surrounded his body is also referred to in many books as “Hashmal” – interestingly enough this word is used in modern Hebrew for “electricity”. The scripture also points out that the Serpent was envy of this Divine garment as the garment didn’t allow Klipot (forces of Tuma [impurity]) to attach themselves to the Adam HaRishon. Once the Serpent found a way to convince Adam to sin, Adam fell miserably from his spiritual level and Creator changed Adam’s garment from Ohr (Aleph, Vav, Reish – Light) to Ohr spelled as Ain, Vav, Reish – also means “skin” in Hebrew. In “Shaar Noga”, ARIZAL writes that the new garment was made from Klipat Noga.
Now days: ARIZAL writes that when a person is born into this world, he is enveloped in Ohr Makif (surrounding light) that protects the person’s body which contains in it Ohr Pnimi (inner light). With each sin, the power of Ohr Makif wears out, which allows Klipot (forces of impurity) to attach themselves to us and thus push us out from Kedusha (holiness) into Tuma (impurity).
Solution: We therefore were given the mitzva of Tzizit, which protects us from Klipot. Ben Yish Chai (famous Sephardic Kabbalist) writes based on manuscripts of ARIZAL that when a person puts a Tzitzis, he envelopes his body (spiritual body of course!) with additional layer of Ohr Makif, which provides protection from the forces of impurity. In his famous guide to Halacha, Ben Yish Chai writes that when a person recites a blessing on tzitzis he brings up MAN (mei nukvin) to Mohin, and once the Tzitzis is on him, his body is enveloped in Ohr Makif. Ben Yish Chai also points out that the gematria of Tzitzis (600) is also equal to the word “nesharim” – eagles, as it is written:
“Hashem said to Moses: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make for themselves tzitzit on kanfei bigdeihem – the corners of their garments” (Numbers 15:37-38). Rashi, the fundamental commentator on the Torah, explains that the Hebrew word “kanfei – corners” can also be translated as “wings”, corresponding to the description of the way that the Jewish people left Egypt “on kanfei nesharim – the wings of eagles” (Exodus 19:4). Rashi, commenting on that verse, elaborates that most birds carry their young beneath them in their feet so that they can protect them from the attack of birds swooping down from above. However, the eagle flies higher than all other birds, enabling it to carry its young on its back, since it does not have to fear an attack from above.
Ben Yish Chai writes that while we know that knots and strings of tzitis are the wings that essentially provide the Ohr Makif, the secret of the garments itself will be only known to us at the end of Correction (i.e. Gmar Tikun).
I tried to provide the most basic explanation of the mitzva to demonstrate how a “simple” physical action can have major spiritual impact. There are many Kabalistic books that describe the inner workings of each of the 613 commandments and with G-d help I’ll try to bring other examples. Yet it’s important to understand that these commandments even while performed without understanding of their inner meanings provide major spiritual benefit!