Does there exist a commentary that explains the basic (if it weren't kabbalah i would say "peshat") of Chaim Vital's Etz Chayim (as opposed to a commentary "al derech ha-derush" which expands or embellishes beyond the simple meaning of the words.) To clarify I'm not talking about a general summary of Kabbalas ha-Ari (e.g. Kelah Pischei Chochma of the Ramchal) but rather a commentary on the actual text of Etz Chayim. (e.g. like the Sulam or Masok m'Dvash on the Zohar).

  • I prefer the Masok to the Sulam.
    – preferred
    May 5, 2014 at 16:59
  • I read in the name of the Vilna Gaon (in the preword of the masoret edition of chovos halevavos) that kabala starts where chakira (philosophy) ends. so the first step should be to study in depth the shaar yichud or the moreh nevuchim with the commentaries. At least from there you will see what God is not and will be saved from all types of hagshama.
    – ray
    May 5, 2014 at 17:37
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    it pains me to see how far we are deviating from the truth, and are getting into serious trouble. anyone who thinks the vilna goen meant that one should learn chakira doesn't know anything about the vilna goen. see his commentary on shulchon Oruch hilchos Talmud torah
    – rabbi
    May 5, 2014 at 17:50
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    regarding shaar hayichud the vilna goen explicitly said that it should not be learnt see tosefes maseh rav 61. he says that the sefer kuzari should be learnt first.
    – rabbi
    May 5, 2014 at 17:51
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    but rebbi chaim vital assured - prohibited - learning kabalah unless a person has reached great levels. he lists (in his hakdamah) 20 basic conditions. the seforim write at great length that the general public should not be encouraged to learn these seforim. see sefer sherai zohar from the author of mosok midvash. whoever introduces this limud to the public is taking a huge risk.
    – rabbi
    May 5, 2014 at 18:09

2 Answers 2


I think the commentary Beit Lehem Yehuda by Rabbi Yehudah Fetayah fits that description. The author says in the introduction that he wants to provide something like what Rashi provides for people learning Talmud. The commentary aims to be an aid to understanding the words of the text as directly as possible.

  • You could also try the commentaries on Otzrot Hayyim (which is made up of all the sections in Mahadura Tinyana of Etz Hayyim), for which there are several commentaries like that, including one by the author of Matok Mi-Dvash himself (his commentary on otzrot hayyim is also titled Matok Mi-dvash).
    – paquda
    May 5, 2014 at 16:46
  • I didnt see this comment before I wrote my own later. I do agree though that this BLY is very good. His other seforim about gilgulim are a very good read.
    – preferred
    May 5, 2014 at 16:55

A pshat-style commentary on Etz Chaim cannot exist any more than a pshat-style commentary on DNA or on E=mc^2 can: one needs to know more rudimentary aspects of the field before progressing to such advanced material.

[I'm commenting only since I have spent almost two decades learning and teaching Etz Chaim.]

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    As you can see above, there is such a book.
    – Yitzchak
    May 5, 2014 at 16:16
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    There are many such seforim. Ones I possess include kerem shlomo by R Salaman Eliyahu. in many volumes but he only covers half of it.
    – preferred
    May 5, 2014 at 16:47
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    Another one is 'otsros chaim hamvuor' by Y Schischa. If you get stuck come back on here for help!
    – preferred
    May 5, 2014 at 16:49
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    @rabbi ''I'm commenting only since I have spent almost two decades learning and teaching Etz Chaim]'' If thats the case why cant you be helpful and give us your opinion of what pirush to use. Or have you managed these two decades without one
    – preferred
    May 6, 2014 at 19:31
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    This answer conflates "p'shat-style commentary" with "commentary for people who don't know more basic material", which is fallacious.
    – msh210
    May 6, 2014 at 22:08

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