עיין עץ חיים, שער הנקודות, שער ה׳, פרק ו׳
Examine the statement in Etz Chayim, Shaar HaNekudot, Shaar 8, ch. 6,
שאין החזרת פנים בפנים, כי אם על ידי מצות מעשיות דוקא
that there can be no “turning of face to face” except through mitzvot requiring action.
The text cited had previously discussed the stage of creation at which (i) the bracket of six Sefirot known collectively as Za (ז״א; Z’eir Anpin), and (ii) the Sefirah of Malchut, were first emanated and revealed (in the World of Atzilut) from Chochmah and Binah, their spiritual parents. Adam had not yet been created and hence the avodah of fulfilling mitzvot did not yet exist. At this stage, if Za and Malchut had united “face to face,” there would be an effusion of Divine energy from the innermost aspect of Za to the innermost aspect of Malchut. This, however, would enable the kelipot to receive more than their due share of life-giving influence from the source of holiness. The union was therefore merely “back to back,” i.e., only the external aspect of Za was drawn down to Malchut.
Only after Adam was created and performed mitzvot, effectively “trimming and hacking off the thorns,” i.e., limiting the nurture of kelipot, could Za and Malchut be united “face to face.”
In other words, Divinity can be revealed within this world (without any nurture being illegitimately diverted to the kelipot) only by means of mitzvot whose performance entails an actual deed.
The reason for this, as given there in Etz Chayim,
כי על ידי מעשים טובים גורם זיווג העליון וכו׳
is that by means of good deeds one brings about a Supernal Union, causing Za and Malchut to turn “face to face.”
ולהבין אמאי מעשיות דוקא
Now, why only mitzvot involving action?
Why can the same result not be brought about by mitzvot fulfilled by thought and speech?
יובן ממה שכתוב בשער מ״ן ומ״ד
This may be understood in the light of what is written in [Etz Chayim,] Shaar Ma’n Uma’d,
כי צריך תחלה להעלות מ״ן דנוקבא דז״א
that first, before the Supernal Union takes place, there must be an elevation of mayin nukvin (i.e., an arousal initiated by the recipient) from the nukva (i.e., the feminine element) of Za, viz., Malchut,
ומ״ן דנוקבא הן בחינת עשיה, כמו שכתוב שם, פרק א׳
and the mayin nukvin of nukva is the state of action, as explained there, in ch. 1.
In other words: The things of this world, whose source is the Sefirah of Malchut (which is the nukva of Za) must be elevated to their source in holiness. This can be accomplished only through mitzvot whose fulfillment requires actions performed with the material components of the world. This alone makes possible the Supernal Union which reveals Divinity within this world.
But how can it be ensured that no part of this revelation will leak to the kelipot (which are also known as chitzonim — lit., “extraneous forces”)?
והנה, המעשים טובים נקראים כסוח וקיצוץ הקוצים הנאחזים באחוריים
Good deeds are described as trimming and hacking off the thistles that attach themselves to the hinderpart,
שהן בחינת עשיה
which is the state of deed,
כמו שכתוב בשער מ״ז, פרק ה׳
as is written in [Etz Chayim,] Shaar 47, ch. 5.
It is the performance of specifically these commandments that hacks away the kelipot which, like the unchecked roots of thistles or weeds in a vineyard, would otherwise encroach on the life-giving waters and divert them from their intended destination.
והיינו, על ידי העלאת הטוב הגנוז בהם, המלובש במצות מעשיות
This [pruning is effected] by elevating the element of good that is concealed in them (i.e., in things of this world that are related to Asiyah) and that is enclothed in mitzvot of action,
למקורו, לקדושת האצילות שכבר הובררה
[elevating this element of good] to its source, to the sanctity of Atzilut that has already been refined.
The performance of practical mitzvot thus makes possible the purification and elevation of those physical things that are in need of this, by extracting the element of good that is within them and elevating it to holiness.
ומה שכתוב שם, שאדם הראשון תיקן גם כן על ידי תפלה
As to the statement there that Adam effected rectification (tikkun) through prayer as well, which would not appear to be a mitzvah requiring action,
היינו, על ידי אותיות הדבור, דעקימת שפתיו הוי מעשה
this means [that he did so] through uttering the letters of speech, i.e., not through the intent of prayer, but by the actual deed involved, for the movement of one’s lips is also deemed a deed.
כי הן מנפש החיונית שבגוף ודמו, אשר שרשן מנוגה
For they — these utterances — derive from the vivifying soul which is in one’s body and blood, whose root (and life-force) is in [kelipat] nogah.
As the Alter Rebbe explains in ch. 37 of Tanya, one’s G‑dly soul is incapable of uttering the words of Torah or prayer (which have to be sounded with the physical mouth, tongue and teeth), except through the agency of the vivifying soul that is invested in the body.
We see from the above that uttering the words of prayer can also elevate Ma’n from the nukva of Asiyah, just as is done by the practical mitzvot.
והנה הבירורים דעשיה עולין ליצירה על ידי שם ב״ן, ומיצירה לבריאה ולאצילות, כמו שכתוב בשער מ״ן, דרוש י״א, סימן ז׳
The acts of refinement of Asiyah that are accomplished through practical mitzvot ascend to Yetzirah by means of the Divine Name Ba’n, and from Yetzirah to Beriah and Atzilut, as noted in Shaar Ma’n, Derush 11, sec. 7.
ובזה יובן דהרהור לא עביד מידי
Thus we can understand why mere thought accomplishes nothing, as Essay 1 of Kuntres Acharon quotes above from the Zohar,
כי בלי העלאת מ״ן מהמלכים שבנוגה, אי אפשר להמשיך טיפין מלמעלה לזווג זו״ן
for unless mayin nukvin is elevated from the “kings of nogah,” it is impossible to draw forth drops from above to effect the union of Zu’n, an acronym for the above terms Za and nukva.
This elevation can be effected only through activity on the level of Asiyah, as stated above.
Za and Malchut can unite only if a degree of illumination that transcends them both, is drawn down upon them. To use a mortal analogy: Concerning the union of man and woman it is written, “Male and female did He create them, and G‑d blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.”’ I.e., in order for their union to bear fruit, a blessing must first descend upon the partners from above. And these “drops” of blessing from a source in Divinity that transcends both Za and Malchut cannot be drawn forth unless mayin nukvin is aroused and elevated by the refinement of the materiality of kelipat nogah.
כי רוצה לינק מאמו, ולא להשפיע למטה
For [Za] desires to seek its nurture from its “mother”, i.e., from the Sefirah of Binah, rather than giving forth for the lower realms,
It is only through the elevation of Ma’n of nogah that a higher degree of illumination is drawn down within Za, causing it to desire to unite with the Sefirah beneath it, viz., Malchut.
כמו שכתוב בשער מ״ן, דרוש ב׳
as is written in [Etz Chayim,] Shaar Ma’n, Derush 2.
ועיין זהר, פרשת פקודי, דף רמ״ד, עמוד ב׳, דאית סדורא כו׳ לאסתכלא כו׳
Examine Zohar, Parshat Pekudei, p. 244b, which states that there is a mode...of gazing....
Just as there is a mode of verbalized prayer, there is also a mode of prayer with kavanah by means of which one meditates and attains infinite heights, as one gazes upon the glory of the King.
והן כוונות התפלה ויחודים עליונים, ליודעים ומשיגים לאסתכלא כו׳
This refers to the intentions (kavanot) in worship, and the supernal unions, for those who know and understand how to “gaze....”
Such individuals can have an impact on this world through their unarticulated intentions alone.
כי נפש רוח נשמה שלהם עצמן הן מ״ן, במסירות נפש על התורה
For their Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah themselves constitute [the arousal initiated by the recipient which is known as] Ma’n, through their self-sacrificing devotion for the Torah,
ובנפילת אפים, כנודע
and during the Tachanun prayer, during which we say “To You, G‑d, I lift my soul,” as is known.
This ability, however, remains the province of a select few. The overwhelming majority of Jews accomplish this elevation through mitzvot of action involving an actual deed or speech. And in this manner they are able to bring about a union “face to face” between Za and Malchut — the sublime union of Kudsha Brich Hu and His Shechinah, which draws Divinity down into this world.