He dealt with Kabbalah, and what does Kabbalah have to do with us?
The Ari HaKadosh – Rabbi Yitzchak ben Shlomo Luria (1534-1572) – passed away 446 years ago this week. Here are just a few of the sublime mystical topics that he studied and taught, which we will not deal with here: exile and redemption, sanctity and impurity, this world and the next.
He taught his disciples about tza’ar HaShechinah (the pain of the Divine Presence), tikkun haneshamah (rectifying the soul), and the upper sefirot. He left behind him texts with special intentions to focus on during prayer, and piyutim in Aramaic with hidden meanings.
But each of us can learn one clear, simple thing from him. He added a phrase to the siddur and asked that it be said every morning before Shacharit: “I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment of ‘You shall love thy neighbor as thyself.'” The commandment of ahavat Yisrael, he explained, is the gateway to prayer. One who loves the Creator loves His creatures.
And for that, we do not have to be kabbalists.