Having explained that Beriah is the abode of souls that served G-d with intellectual love and fear and Yetzirah of souls that served Him with natural love and fear, the Alter Rebbe will now discuss the divine service of those souls whose abode is the World of Atzilut. The quality of their divine service, he explains, surpasses even that of intellectual love and fear. This is the level of those tzaddikim who become veritable “chariots” for G-d: they have no will save His will, and their every act testifies to their utter self-nullification before Him.

The World of Atzilut is beyond the intelligence, grasp, and understanding of a created being’s intellect. Even a spiritual being in the World of Beriah is, after all, a created being, and Atzilut is beyond its grasp as well.

וְעוֹלַם הָאֲצִילוּת שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַהַשָּׂגָה וְהַהֲבָנָה לְשֵׂכֶל נִבְרָא,

For the chochmah, binah, and daat of the Ein Sof are united with Him there (in Atzilut) in perfect unity,

כִּי חָכְמָתוֹ וּבִינָתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מְיוּחָדוֹת שָׁם בּוֹ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד,

in a profound and wonderful unity infinitely superior to that [unity] found in Beriah.

בְּיִחוּד עָצוּם וְנִפְלָא, בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז לְאֵין קֵץ מִבְּעוֹלַם הַבְּרִיאָה,

For there, they descended to illuminate [only] to a restricted (“contracted”) degree. The ChaBaD of Atzilut (referred to here as “ChaBaD of the Ein Sof”) radiate in Beriah only after their light is “contracted,”

כִּי שָׁם יָרְדוּ לְהָאִיר בִּבְחִינַת צִמְצוּם,

so as to enable the intellect of created beings (namely, the angels and souls of Beriah) to receive ChaBaDwisdom, understanding, and knowledge—from [these sefirot of Atzilut] so that they might know G-d and so that they might grasp and comprehend something of the Ein Sof-light,

כְּדֵי שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ שְׂכָלִים נִבְרָאִים לְקַבֵּל מֵהֶן חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת, לֵידַע אֶת ה', וּלְהָבִין וּלְהַשִּׂיג אֵיזוֹ הַשָּׂגָה בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

to the extent that the intellect of finite, limited, created beings is capable of understanding.

כְּפִי כֹּחַ שְׂכָלִים הַנִּבְרָאִים, שֶׁהֵם בַּעֲלֵי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

To achieve this purpose, a “contraction” of ChaBaD of Atzilut was necessary lest they (the created beings of Beriah) dissolve out of existence and lest they furthermore cease altogether to exist as created beings, reverting instead to their source and root, namely, G-dliness itself.

שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּטְּלוּ בִּמְצִיאוּתָם, וְלֹא יִהְיוּ בְּגֶדֶר נִבְרָאִים כְּלָל, רַק יַחְזְרוּ לִמְקוֹרָם וְשָׁרְשָׁם שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת אֱלֹהוּת מַמָּשׁ.

Were the ChaBaD of Atzilut to shine forth in Beriah without being “contracted,” allowing the creatures of Beriah to grasp G-dliness as it radiates in the sefirot of Atzilut, these creatures would be overwhelmed by the G-dly illumination beyond their capacity to absorb and would dissolve out of existence.

Hence, the Alter Rebbe will now continue, it is only the G-dliness in a “contracted” ChaBaD that creatures of Beriah can grasp and absorb (and even then only to the extent of their limited capacity); the light of ChaBaD in its pristine state, as in Atzilut, is beyond them.

This contraction (which ChaBaD of Atzilut undergo in order to radiate in Beriah) thus causes the souls in the World of Beriah to be illuminated by a glow of ChaBaD of the Ein Sof (i.e., ChaBaD of Atzilut); it is this contraction that enables them to have some perception of the Ein Sof-light.

וְהִנֵּה, צִמְצוּם זֶה, הִיא סִבַּת הַהֶאָרָה שֶׁמְּאִירוֹת שָׁם חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁל אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לִנְשָׁמוֹת אֵלּוּ בְּעוֹלַם הַבְּרִיאָה.

The created intellectual beings [of Beriah] cannot, however, apprehend ChaBaD as they are (i.e., in all their undimmed intensity) in the World of Atzilut, where the ChaBaD are not contracted to such a great degree as in Beriah.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בַּאֲצִילוּת, שֶׁאֵינָם בִּבְחִינַת צִמְצוּם כָּל כָּךְ, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לִשְׂכָלִים נִבְרָאִים לְקַבֵּל מֵהֶן,

“To such a great degree”—for the very fact of their being sefirot (i.e., individual, defined categories) indicates that ChaBaD are merely contracted, limited manifestations of the undefinable Ein Sof; the degree of contraction, however, is much less than that of Beriah, and therefore, the creatures of Beriah cannot receive intellectual illumination from ChaBaD of Atzilut.

Therefore, their thought cannot grasp there at all, i.e., the thought and intellect of the created beings of Beriah can in no way grasp the light radiating in Atzilut.

וְלָכֵן, "לֵית מַחֲשַׁבְתָּא דִילְהוֹן תְּפִיסָא שָׁם כְּלָל".

For this reason, [Atzilut] is the abode of the great tzaddikim,

לָכֵן הוּא מָדוֹר לַצַּדִּיקִים הַגְּדוֹלִים,

whose service of G-d is far superior even to fear and love derived from understanding and knowing His greatness,

שֶׁעֲבוֹדָתָם הִיא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה אֲפִילוּ מִבְּחִינוֹת דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מִן הַבִּינָה וָדַעַת בִּגְדוּלָּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

just as Atzilut transcends by far the level of the understanding and knowledge of a created being’s intellect.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁעוֹלַם הָאֲצִילוּת הוּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִבְּחִינַת בִּינָה וָדַעַת לְשֵׂכֶל נִבְרָא,

Their service is, rather, on the level of an actual “chariot” of the blessed Ein Sof,

אֶלָּא עֲבוֹדָתָם הָיְתָה בִּבְחִינַת מֶרְכָּבָה מַמָּשׁ לְאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

nullifying their very existence before Him and incorporating themselves, and all that they possess, within His light,

וְלִיבָּטֵל אֵלָיו בִּמְצִיאוּת, וּלְהִכָּלֵל בְּאוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, הֵם וְכָל אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם,

through the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot.

עַל יְדֵי קִיּוּם הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת,

Our Sages applied such a description to the Patriarchs, saying that “they themselves constituted the divine chariot,”9 for this was the Patriarchs’ level of service throughout their lives.

עַל דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁאָמְרוּ: "הָאָבוֹת הֵן הֵן הַמֶּרְכָּבָה", וְהַיְינוּ, לְפִי שֶׁכָּל יְמֵיהֶם הָיְתָה זֹאת עֲבוֹדָתָם.

The Patriarchs were constantly in that state of self-nullification before G-d, denoted by the term “chariot.” Similarly in the case of the tzaddikim spoken of here: Through their Torah and mitzvot, they effect the highest degree of self-nullification before G-d in themselves and in all their affairs. The abode of their souls, therefore, is likewise in a World pervaded with this spirit of self-nullification, namely the World of Atzilut.

But he whose soul’s root is of too limited a capacity for this perfect service on the level of a “chariot,”

אַךְ מִי שֶׁשֹּׁרֶשׁ נִשְׁמָתוֹ קָטָן מֵהָכִיל עֲבוֹדָה תַמָּה זוֹ,

so that through his service of Torah and mitzvot he be constantly nullified before and absorbed in G-d’s light,

לִיבָּטֵל וְלִיכָּלֵל בְּאוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ בִּקְבִיעוּת,

[and he can therefore attain this state] only intermittently and [only] at times of divine favor on high,

רַק לִפְרָקִים וְעִתִּים שֶׁהֵם עֵת רָצוֹן לְמַעְלָה,

such as during the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, which is at the level of Atzilut,

וּכְמוֹ בִּתְפִלַּת שְׁמוֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה שֶׁהִיא בַּאֲצִילוּת,

The four rungs in the ladder of prayer correspond to the four Worlds: The prayers preceding Baruch She’amar correspond to Asiyah; the Verses of Praise to Yetzirah; the Shema to Beriah; and the Shemoneh Esrei is at the level of Atzilut.

and especially when bowing in the four designated places in this prayer, for every such act of bowing represents the level of Atzilut (10as is written in Pri Etz Chaim in the section dealing with the welcoming of Shabbat),

וּבִפְרָט בְּהִשְׁתַּחֲוָואוֹת שֶׁבָּהּ, שֶׁכָּל הִשְׁתַּחֲוָואָה הִיא בִּבְחִינַת אֲצִילוּת [כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בִּפְרִי עֵץ חַיִּים בְּקַבָּלַת שַׁבָּת],

for it embodies the idea of self-nullification in G-d’s light—to be accounted as absolutely naught before Him;

כִּי הִיא עִנְיַן בִּיטּוּל בְּאוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, לִהְיוֹת חֲשִׁיב קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ,

in the case of he who can attain the level of a “chariot” only at such propitious times, then even at these times, the principal abode of his soul is in the World of Beriah (for we are dealing here with a soul associated with the World of Beriah),

אֲזַי גַּם כֵּן עִיקַּר קְבִיעוּת נִשְׁמָתוֹ הוּא בְּעוֹלַם הַבְּרִיאָה

(11and only occasionally, at a time of divine favor, will his soul rise to Atzilut as “feminine waters, ” as is known to the students of the Kabbalah).

[רַק לִפְרָקִים בְּעֵת רָצוֹן תַּעֲלֶה נִשְׁמָתוֹ לַאֲצִילוּת בִּבְחִינַת "מַיִּין נוּקְבִין", כַּיָּדוּעַ לְיוֹדְעֵי חֵן]: