Today, the fifth day of Av, is the Yahrzeit of Rabbenu Ha'ari, Rabbi Yishak Luria (1534-1572, Tsfat). Last night in Tsfat, thousands of people came to his grave to pray and perform Tikunim. Therefore, it is appropriate today to study a teaching of the Ari. When one learns the Torah of the Sadikim on the day they passed away, the lips of that Sadik move in his grave. It is a Zechut to activate the Sadikim from the grave to extend their influence over those who study their teachings.
Until the Ari, the teachings of the Kabbala were hidden from most of the world. He was the one who revealed these secrets of the Torah. The Gaon of Vilna said that at the end of time, these secrets will be revealed on an even broader scale. Today, Baruch Hashem, there is a greater awareness of these concepts.
Today, we will study one subject that even regular people like ourselves can undertake. It is not only for Kabbalists. We will uncover one of the "Kavanot"(esoteric intents) taught by the Ari. Performing a Misva with these Kavanot adds new "flavor" to the Misva and prevents it from becoming a mechanical act, performed by rote. Even if a person can only achieve one out of ten Kavanot, he should not feel that it is "all or nothing." Every additional Kavana transforms the Misva exponentially. Furthermore, doing so opens the heavenly gates to bring down a Shefa (Heavenly abundance) for our Neshama. The Kavanot unlock hidden treasures, and we are the beneficiaries.
In Sha'ar HaKavanot, the Ari discusses the mystical intents of immersing in the Mikveh on Ereb Shabbat. Going to the Mikveh on Ereb Shabbat is a very important and powerful practice. It may sound like a difficult undertaking, however, it is really quite fast and simple. Anyway, we tend to waste time on Friday. We should utilize a few minutes and go to the Mikveh.
When a person immerses on Ereb Shabbat, the Kedusha of Shabbat can already be seen on his forehead. While a layman can't detect it, Sadikim like the Baba Sali, could see one thousand lights radiating from him.
The Ari reveals the Kavana to be used before immersing, while immersing and after immersing.
While standing in the water, before immersing, one should focus on the Divine Name "EHYH," which has the numerical equivalent of 151, the same as the word "Mikveh." This has the Segula to help a person control his anger, as the Hebrew word KaAS (anger) also has the numerical equivalent of 151, the same as Mikveh and the Divine Name.
There is a deep connection between this specific Divine name and the Mikveh. The word "EHYH" literally means, "I will become." The Mikveh is the gateway for a person to become a new person by purifying himself of his past transgressions and leaving his old self behind.
Also, the name "EHYH" is associated with a certain spiritual realm known as "Ima" (mother). Just as the mother cleans and diapers the soiled baby, while the father generally plays with the child after he is already clean, so too the purifying power of the Mikveh draws on this spiritual force of "Ima."
The next step is to spiritually prepare the waters of the Mikveh for immersion. The Ari reveals that one should have Kavana to immerse in the "NaCHaL Elyon" (the supernal river), which refers to the heavenly Mikveh capable of purging the soul of its impurities. The details of the Kavana consist of focusing on the four configurations of the divine name YHVH and the three configurations of the divine name EHYH, in addition to the name YH, which represents the "secret of Shabbat." Through a sequence of combinations and permutations, these names form the numeric equivalent of the word "NaCHaL," (river) which is 88, and the word MaYiM (water), which is 90. This Kavana actually fills the earthly Mikveh with the Heavenly water of the Nachal Elyon.
After that, one should have intention that all of this is "L'ChVOD Shabbat", in honor of Shabbat. Each part of this phrase has mystical significance and is connected to the divine names associated with the Mikveh.
Upon emerging from the water, the Ari teaches not to dry oneself with a towel. The Mikveh water remaining on the body is "holy water of the Shabbat." Let the body absorb them, and the holiness of the water will remain with him. The Ben Ish Hai says that if this is too difficult, because of the cold or because it is uncomfortable, one may dry his body, but leave one area undried, preferably his arms, to absorb the water.
When he leaves the Mikve, he should say the Pasuk "Im Tashiv M'shabbat Raglecha, Asot Hefsecha B'Yom Kadshi etc." It is not proper to recite the Pasuk while still in the dressing room in the presence of undressed men and without a head covering. Therefore, he should wait until he actually exits the Mikveh room.
The proper time for using the Mikveh on Ereb Shabbat, according to the Ari, is from the fifth hour of the day, one hour before Hasot, after reading "Shnayim Mikra V'Echad Targum" (The weekly Torah portion twice, with one reading of the translation). Of course, if a person cannot go at this time, it is better to go earlier than not to go at all.
One who practices the Kavanot for immersion on Ereb Shabbat experiences a qualitatively different level of immersion than everyone else. It's a different Shabbat.