Born in the mystical northern city of Tzfat, Israel, during its most auspicious time, Rabbi Vital distinguished himself at an early age and studied with the greatest living kabbalists. Ironically, though, he is most well known as the person who wrote down the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, his master for only two years.
Here is a quote from Vital’s famous work on how to achieve holiness, Gates of Holiness, Section One, 1st Gate: “ I will describe and explain to you the tremendous damage that’s done when a person violates one of the 365 transgressions, or when a person does not fulfill one of the 248 commandments we are commanded to do. ts known to people of understanding that the body of man is not the man himself, as the body is referred to as the “ flesh” of man, as it says in Job 10:11 “Skin and flesh have clothed me, and bones and sinews have covered me.” Its also written in Exodus 30:32 “On the flesh of man I will pour..” Therefore man is what’s inside, but the body is like clothing that covers the soul, which is the true person, while in this world. After death this clothing is shed, and new clothes are given that are pure and untarnished, and spiritual, as it says in Zachariah 3:4 “Remove the soiled garments…clothe yourself in new garments.” This is known as the “cloak of the sages.”
Just like real clothing is made by a tailor in the form of the limbs of the body, similarly God constructed the human body, which is clothing for the soul, in the form, conceptually speaking, of the soul, with 248 physical parts, and for
them, 365 connectors that connect these parts, and bring blood and energy from one part to another, like pipes. After creating this body, God infused it with a living soul which has 248 spiritual parts and 365 spiritual connectors.
These are enclothed in the 248 physical parts and 365 connectors of the body. The spiritual activates the physical like a woodchopper uses an axe. This is seen clearly since the body’s limbs only work while the soul is in them.
The eye sees, the ears hear, etc. When the soul leaves the body, darkness sets in and all the senses are nullified.
There is a pure soul which is like a “nut” made up of 613 parts and connectors enclothed in the 613 parts and connectors of an impure soul, which is like a “shell.” The 613 pure parts are enclothed in the 613 impure parts, and
they in turn are enclothed in the 613 physical parts of the body. All of the spiritual parts need spiritual nourishment to exist. The 613 pure parts are given sustenance by way of a person fulfilling the Torah’s 613 commandments which match up with the 613 parts of the body. The commandments are therefore called bread as it says in Proverbs 9:5“ Go and take bread from my bread.” Each spiritual part from the 248 parts is given nourishment from one of the 248 positive commandments that is designated for that part. When a person is lacking a particular commandment, the particular limb connected with that commandment loses its sustenance, which comes ultimately from the four letters of God’s name as it says in Nechemiah 9:6 “And You give life to all things.”
All of the commandments are somehow dependent on these four letters, and our sages have said the first two letters are the 365, and the last two are the 248.”