All traditional customs in Judaism are an imprint from spiritual, Kabbalistic actions, but only in corporeal, egoistic desire. True spiritual actions are performed in two spheres: reception and bestowal.
After we lost the connection with love of others, with bestowal and the upper world, what we have left within the framework of this world is called Judaism. This is the form in which Kabbalah exists for a person during the period of exile. However, for select few, it reveals itself in two spheres: spiritual and corporeal.
That’s why in religion there are certain customs carried out according to tradition. Instead of performing these actions inside oneself, as spiritual actions, they are performed on the outside.
The Shulchan Aruch (Set Table), the book of religious laws, describes spiritual actions, but in material form. When it says “wash your hands,” this means you have to take your spiritual vessel of reception (“hands”) and clean it by dipping or washing it in the Light of Hassadim (Mercy). It explains how to make the wedding canopy, Huppah, for connection with the Creator, how to separate the pure desire (Kosher) from the impure one, or how to slaughter an “animal,” meaning one’s own egoism, the right way.
Any action performed throughout the day is a reflection of spiritual processes. That’s why the Shulchan Aruch describes a person’s life in detail from the moment he wakes up and thanks the Creator: which foot has to come off the bed first when waking up, how to put on shoes, and how to dress, by first putting through the right hand, a symbol of the desire to bestow, and then the left one, a symbol of the desire to receive.
Everything is described down to the last detail because this follows the correction of the soul. “Body” is the soul, and the book explains how to correct it, how to clothe it, wash it, how to feed it (meaning how to fill it and with which Light, Hochma or Hassadim, and in which order), and how to bless different types of food, types of satisfaction for the desire to receive. This is what the Shulchan Aruch talks about.
Before the destruction of the Temple, the whole nation had been carrying out these actions, each one at his own level and working on his soul. Everyone knew what this meant in relation to his soul and the Light.
However, the moment we lost a connection with the spiritual world and fell down into egoistic reception, we did not have a soul anymore, so there was nothing to correct by performing all these actions. That’s why people started performing the same actions on their bodies, with this corporeal flesh, in the material world, and at the material table where they eat, instead of filling the soul with the Light.
If we open the Talmud, we will see a set of rules that we have to follow in relation to others (for example, how to pay your neighbor if your animal has harmed his), but this implies a spiritual level. The entire Talmud is talking about the actions of a person who is working on the correction of his soul, but they are described through animals or work in the field, using the language of allegory.
If you are in the spiritual world, it’s clear to you that it relates to the spiritual world, the soul. For you, it’s as though this world doesn’t exist. You understand that it’s impossible to correct anything by alternately pouring water on one hand and then on the other, and that these actions are performed only as a token of the material world’s similarity with the spiritual world.
If one exists in the spiritual world, he or she acts the same way in the corporeal world as well. However, a material action does not correct the soul. It is merely a cultural tradition, a nation’s history, a mode of life to which one is accustomed from childhood.
In reality, we perform these actions in our inner correction. In other words, we take parts of our desire and with actions such as these, we lift them from the egoistic level, filling them to the level of bestowal toward others and the Creator. This is exactly what the Shulchan Aruch and the entire Torah talk about, which teaches us how to do it.
However, when we lost our spiritual connection, we started treating this as material actions. Right hand, left hand, bull, or donkey, a person understood and studied them as if they were corporeal laws.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 5/29/2011, Shamati #40