Now in a similar fashion, we can explain sanctity in positive precepts, as it applies to the aforementioned four [manifestations of desire, viz., in the] areas of thought, speech, eating and body (which, in general, comprise the three garments of thought, speech and action).

In thought, holiness requires a person to continually reflect upon G‑dliness, especially when performing the precept of tefillin. The intent of this mitzvah is man’s subjugation of his heart and mind.1 The divine soul’s attributes of wisdom and understanding should be nullified to the wisdom and understanding of the blessed Ein Sof.2

In other words, a person should utilize his soul’s faculties of chochmah [wisdom] and binah [understanding] exclusively for divine pursuits. Similarly, his intellectual faculty of daat [knowledge], which incorporates chessed [kindness] and gevurah [severity],3 should be absorbed into the attribute of Daat Elyon [Supreme Knowledge], which also incorporates chessed and gevurah. That is, one’s intellectual faculties should spawn a love of G‑d and a fear of Him. (This way a person will automatically gain control over his animal soul’s intellect and emotions, as explained elsewhere.)

Now the vessels of cognition are man’s mind and heart, as is known. Hence a person can achieve sanctity in thought by continually immersing his thoughts and knowledge in G‑dly wisdom. This entails the intense study of Torah, in which G‑d’s blessed wisdom and will are clothed,4 and the meditation upon His greatness and exaltedness.

The most opportune time for such lengthy and profound reflection is during prayer. Then, one’s unbroken, concerted pondering will create a tight and powerful bond between himself and G‑dliness, until the [subject’s underlying concept of] G‑dliness is absorbed within his soul.

For the entire day, he will not forget his earlier reflections (or at least a digest of them), in consonance with the verse,5 “I have set the L‑rd always before me,” and the verse,6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” (This is particularly true for one who has merited to attain the level called “vision of wisdom”; such a person has achieved essential recognition of Divinity, as explained elsewhere.7)

As a matter of course, the love and fear borne of such meditation will not dissipate. At the very least, his soulful resolve to abandon his sinful behavior and to conduct himself properly in the future will be securely entrenched.

A person must also consider how the Ein Sof-light is found, in actuality, below [in this material world], as well as Above [in the spiritual worlds],8 and how there is no place devoid of Him. (No matter where he is, “G‑d stands over him,”9 since, “the whole world is full of His glory,”10 and He looks over him, and “searches his reins [innermost thoughts] and heart [emotions],”11 to see if he is serving Him as is fitting.12

With these thoughts in mind, a person will neither speak nor contemplate anything contrary to His will, out of fear of the blessed Ein Sof Who stands over him. Hence, he will be perpetually bound to G‑dliness.)

The aforementioned is also relevant to understanding the unity of the Ein Sof-light with His attribute of Malchut, the attribute through which G‑d created time and space. Although Malchut is the attribute of contraction, i.e., it condenses and conceals His light in order to allow space and time to exist, this contraction occurs only relative to created beings. Relative to G‑dliness, however, nothing can con­ceal, since Havayah and Elokim are one and the same.

Just as it is impossible, for example, to say that one can conceal himself from himself, likewise it is impossible to say that Malchut conceals the blessed Ein Sof, Who is found below, as well as Above. Accordingly, it is written,13 “I fill the heavens and the earth.”

Consequently, we can understand how, in reality, the existence of all the worlds and creatures are nullified by the blessed Ein Sof, as a ray of sunlight is nullified in the orb of the sun. This, however, is His greatness: Although He contracts and conceals Himself [i.e., His light], He is found below as well as Above.

In actuality, therefore, all creatures are nullified to G‑d, only appearing to exist physically or spiritually, as if they were distinct entities, G‑d forbid. Their apparent independent existence has been designed by G‑d for the purpose of the subsequent abnegation [of their apparent independent existence].

This is the meaning of the mitzvah “to affirm His Unity” through the recital of Kriat Shemah: it addresses lower-level Unity and higher-level Unity. Lower-level Unity consists of a person meditating on how the Ein Sof unites with His attribute of Malchut, that Havayah and Elokim are One.

This is also the import of the saying,14 “When you have made Him rule above and below and in all the four directions, nothing further is necessary.” The Ein Sof, in His Being and Essence, vitalizes and creates ex nihilo all the worlds with their inhabitants, including the very lowest of worlds. As it is written,15 “G‑d has ruled, G‑d does rule, G‑d will rule forever.” For the Ein Sof is found below as well as Above.16

Now when a person ponders this concept deeply and with concentration, he will experience a love and thirst for G‑dliness. The word Ve’Ahavtah [the first word in the second paragraph of the Kriat Shemah] alludes to this state. He longs for the Ein Sof to shine openly in the world. Et [the word following Ve’Ahavtah] alludes to fear of His blessed Kingdom, for the King of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, stands over him watching his behavior.

Consequently, he accepts upon himself the yoke of His blessed Sovereignty, nullifying his will to G‑dliness. This is the meaning of “with all your heart,” i.e., with both your inclinations; the evil inclination, too, should love G‑dliness. Such utter self-abnegation is termed self-effacement to the Non-Being.

For a person nullifies himself to the non-apparent G‑dliness in order not to be drawn after the empty desires and passions of his heart, even in permissible matters, if not intended for the sake of G‑d. Rather, one’s whole focus and desire is to perform G‑d’s will, i.e. Torah and mitzvot, in earnest—with all the faculties of his soul. (The word echad [one] in the verse Shema Yisroel, alludes to the concept of lower-level Unity as the Sages commented, “When you have made Him rule....” But the principal allusion17 [in Scripture for this level of Divine Unity] is the verse, “Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom, forever and ever.”)

Higher-level Unity consists of a person contemplating the nullification of the worlds and their created beings: how their existence is nullified, and how they are utterly unified in the Ein Sof. Initially one should reflect on the unity of His blessed wisdom, understanding, knowledge and attributes [midot]: how they are all perfectly united in the Essence and Being of the Ein Sof, and are not superadded, G‑d forbid.

Similarly, the created beings of all the worlds—Briyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah—including those created things of our physical world which we see with our fleshy eyes, man as well, are all nullified and utterly united in the Essence and Being of the Ein Sof, like a ray of sunlight in the orb of the sun, but infinitely more so. This nullification and unity is the cause for their continued existence;18 they are really a veritable dimension of G‑dliness.19

At the outset, one should reflect upon this profoundly in order to grasp and comprehend the matter fully, to the point that he understands it well—at least to the extent that this concept lends itself to understanding. Afterwards, he should divest his conceptualization of physical connotations, until it is clearly recognized and felt.

This state [of sharp intellectual perception] is termed wisdom’s vision, since it is as if he actually sees with his physical eyes how everything is united in G‑dliness and how nothing exists besides Him. All this should be palpably evident to him.20 Then one can reach true nullification, actual self-effacement, as in “And what are we. . . ?”21

The essential point here is the aspect of awe [that a person experiences when contemplating the Above], a feeling that is comparable to the self-effacement one experiences when standing before a king. Due to the greatness and exaltedness of the king, a person’s [awareness of his own] existence is utterly nullified.

Similarly, since one visualizes G‑dliness through the faculty of sight referred to as, “He saw with the mind’s eye—with the heart,” he is perpetually nullified in his existence. This is “an awe evoked by one’s proximity to Divinity.”

Included in this state, too, is a love of G‑d, when one’s soul yearns for Him. This love and longing, though, are generated not by the person on his own, but by the manifestation of the blessed Ein Sof, Who, from a proximity, radiates His illumination upon him. This illumination causes the person to cleave to, and be subsumed by, the Ein Sof.

This is comparable to a person who, when standing near a king, cleaves to him and cannot bear to leave him. The love for the king and the delight he takes in being in his presence are not the source for his feelings. Such an explanation would be tenable only after leaving the presence of the king. But while standing before the king, he is utterly nullified, free of any desire or even the slightest sensation of pleasure within his soul. Yet, he attaches himself to the king.

This occurs only because the king’s essence radiates upon him in resplendent honor, greatness and exaltedness. This effects him to automatically attach himself to the king, devoid of any self-consciousness. Similarly, we can now understand the concept of cleaving to G‑dliness through [an intellectual clarity termed] vision. His soul is bound with Divinity for which he perpetually yearns on account of the G‑dliness that radiates upon him.22

The concepts of lower-level Unity and higher-level Unity are thoroughly elucidated in many places, and can be understood clearly by anyone who studies them deeply. Regarding this understanding of His Unity we are com­manded by the positive precept to recite the Kriat Shemah twice daily, morning and night.

This entails our reaffirmation of His Unity—Yichudah Ila’ah and Yichudah Tata’ah—each person relative to his abilities, and our acceptance of the yoke of His Sovereignty. This thought should remain with a person day and night, never completely removed from his mind. At least one should be conscious of the concept of His Unity in an encapsulated form. How much more so should a person’s resolve to turn away from evil and to do good be securely fixed [in his mind].

This, then, is what constitutes sanctity of thought: to continually ponder the unity of G‑dliness; how “G‑d stands over him”; the nullification of all creatures, and other similar ideas. A person should envisage all this vividly in his mind’s eye, never allowing it to escape his thoughts for even a brief moment. (Thus all his deeds will be performed for the sake of Heaven.)

To accomplish the above requires tremendous effort. And since, as explained above, the vessels of thought are a person’s mind and heart, the mind and heart must be purified.23 A person whose thoughts perpetually contemplate G‑dliness, shall indeed be deemed holy.

Sanctity of thought also encompasses the biblical24 precept of prayer, which is called “service of the heart.” Citing the verse,25 “Serve Him with all your heart,” our Sages commented,26 “What service is this that takes place in the heart? We ought to surely conclude: This is prayer.” Our Sages further taught,27 “Whence do we learn that intense concentration during prayer is considered a mitzvah? From the verse,28 Fear the L‑rd your G‑d and serve Him.” By contrast, the Rambam, of blessed memory, derived this obligation of prayer from the verse, “And you shall serve the L‑rd your G‑d. . . .”29 [To paraphrase the Rambam:30 ]

This commandment obliges each person to offer supplication and prayer every day, and to utter praises of the Holy One, blessed be He; then to petition for all his needs with requests and supplications; and finally, to give praise and thanks to G‑d for the goodness that He has bestowed upon him; each person according to his ability.

The Men of the Great Assembly established eighteen blessings in sequence. The first three are praises of G‑d and the last three are thanksgiving. The intermediate blessings contain requests for all those things that serve as general categories for the desires of each and every person, and for the needs of the community as a whole. For anything he may need, a person can thus find an appropriate place in the prayer to ask for it.

In general, then, everything mentioned in prayer is required by a person at all times. A person must pray to the Almighty, entreating Him to fill these needs. Indeed, one of the foundations of faith is that He alone possesses the power and ability to help a person in all matters. To this end, a person must pray before G‑d.