Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, of saintly and blessed memory
Rav Kaduri was considered the last of the great Sefardi Kabalists. There were thousands of eyewitness accounts which showed he possessed clairvoyant powers. For example, a wealthy man once came to him and asked him to bless his silver kiddush goblet. Years later, at his daughter's wedding in America, the wealthy man wanted to use the goblet but at the last moment, he couldn't find it. He panicked and eventually called Rav Kaduri in Israel and asked him what he should do. Rav Kaduri paused for a moment, then gave him the name of the man at the wedding party who had stolen the goblet. (from the book "HaRav Kaduri")
Some quotes from the book:"HaRav Kaduri" compiled by his students.
* His daily learning schedule consisted of much learning of gemora and shulchan aruch (talmud and Jewish law), and he would permit the study of kabala ONLY to those who demonstrated bekius (broad knowledge) in the revealed portion of torah (talmud and shulchan aruch). He would often say 'It is forbidden to study kabala before learning halacha and gemora (talmud)'. His helpers would testify that most of his learning was in Talmud Bavli, tractate after tractate in order.
* His student, Rav Beniyahu Shmueli would say, "it is important to emphasize very clearly that he did not just study kabala. He would also learn much Shas U'Poskim (talmud and halacha). Every time we would visit him, we would see him sitting and learning gemora b'iyun (talmud in depth) in the way he received from his teacher, the Sages of Yeshivas Porat Yosef.... Twenty six students were in his inner circle of talmidim of which he was the head. And only a person who was married could sit with them (pg.16)....
* (Rav Kaduri:)"Whoever did not fill his stomach with shas and poskim, gemora and shulchan aruch (talmud and Jewish law), is not fit to learn kabala." (pg104)
* In the early Yeshiva (~50 years ago) there were 60 kabalists, who studied kabala according to the way of the holy Arizal. And in that time, only those who were lamdanim (sharp scholars) who had aleady filled their stomachs with shas and poskim. The title "Mekubal" (kabalist) was given only to one who studied kabala for at least 15 years and prayed with the kavanos of the Rashash (special kabalistic permutations and combinations of divine names and attributes of G-d).
* A higher level than "Mekubal" was "Mekaven" (more advanced kavanos). Each level had its conditions. Rav Kaduri was a "Mekaven".
Some quotes from the book Etz Chaim by Rabbi Chaim Vital zt'l
(from Etz Chaim Introduction)
1. Reishit HaKol Yirat H' (beginning of everything is the fear of G-d), to reach Yirat HaOnesh (fear of punishment, in order not to come to any sin). Yirat Haromemut (fear from awe) comes only from great wisdom.
2. Ikar (main) desire to destroy kotzim from kerem (thorns from the vineyard). And certainly the klipos (impure forces) will come to fight him to make him sin. Therefore do not come to any sin, even shogeg (unintentional) so that they will not have any shaychus (connection) with you.
3. Lifrosh from basar and yayin (to not eat meat nor drink wine) during week (except Shabbat). Seek Peace and don't be makpid (irritated) on anything small or big, and all the more so to not to get angry.
4. to guard all details of mitzvos, even rabbinic decrees.
5. to guard from anger even when rebuking sons. no anger whatsoever.
6. guard from gayva (arrogance)
7. Every tzar (suffering) that comes yefashpesh bmasav and teshuva (examine your ways and repent)
8. immerse in a mikve when needed
9. not to have a night go by without cheshbon hanefesh and vidui (examining your ways and repenting on any sins, i.e. to not go to sleep without a clean record).
10. Minimize business. if no money, prepare day 3 and 4 from noon and above with kavana that it is for service of Creator.
11. every word which is not mitzva or necessary - guard from it. and even for mitzva guard during tefila.
12. before entering synagogue - put to heart "love your fellow as yourself"
13. to put G-d's (Y-H-V-H) name before oneself always and tremble from Him - (see first halacha in Shulchan Aruch- Rama and "Shaarei Kedusha" part 4 gate 3)
14. Toil in torah pardes (all four levels). No secrets are given to those empty of wisdom.
15. Keep quiet (i.e. don't speak unnecessary words) as much as possible and for everything you don't understand - cry on it (i.e. in prayer to G-d) as much as possible...
* * *
"At first one must learn halachos (talmud) and fulfill them because they are like bread which satiate and only afterwards to toil in the secrets which are compared to wine and oil. Whoever switches around the order, will not succeed and he will lose everything
." (Vilna Gaon
on Mishlei/Proverbs 21:17)
Proficiency in the Kabala without proficiency in the talmud first is like a child reading an advanced physics books. Talmud study (among other things) teaches one to think clearly and discern the absolute truth in a matter which is the foundation of a man. The kabala is written in hidden, allegoric form. Only one who has developed his intellect through years of in-depth talmud study is capable of even beginning to decipher the meaning from the allegory. One who has not reached this level will take the allegories too literally and will get at best, nowhere.