This service-attaining the predominance of form over matter, 1 leading away from the material towards the spiritual-is difficult indeed. It is a three-fold task for which great skill is necessary: 1) breaking away from the material, 2) coming closer to the spiritual, and 3) effecting the superiority of form over matter. It involves three ascending types of endeavor: 1) subjugation and rejection of matter, 2) cognizance of the virtue of the spiritual, and an inclination toward it, and 3) mastery of form over matter.

These three types of endeavor correspond with three disciplines: 1) concentrating on the subjugation of matter and exposing its unworthiness; 2) recognition of the qualities of the spiritual, and understanding that the spiritual is the basis of all physical existence; and 3) cultivation of the mastery of form over matter, which in turn is sub-divided into two categories: a) sublimation and purification of matter to render it compatible with form, and b) emphasis on the quality of form as embodied in matter.

These three schools are hallowed philosophies that lead to the recognition of the Creator and His service through Torah study and the fulfillment of His mitzvot. Nevertheless, they are distinct schools and stand on different levels. Each is a rung in the soul-ladder standing on earth whose top reaches Heaven. 2