Rabbi Dovber cites another verse from Ashrei (Psalm 145) that helps explain the power of Torah and mitzvot in connecting the person to the Divine Essence: "G‑d is close to all who call Him, to all who call Him in truth." 

"Truth" refers to the Divine Essence, vested in Torah and mitzvot. Through Torah and mitzvot, G‑d is equally near to every Jew. With prayer, however, in which one comes close to G‑d, many different levels exist, varying according to the spiritual root of one's soul.

Thus one can understand the verse "Let us make Man in our Form and in our Image." Through Torah the Jew attains the Divine Form, and through mitzvot, the Divine Image.  This also relates to the theme of a lamp, through the verse "For the mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light."


G‑d is Close to All (through Torah and Mitzvot)

Hence [the verse in Ashrei], "G‑d is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." The word "close" means that He is close to all, equally, whether small or great, without any distinction of levels at all. Thus it says "to all who call Him" — whoever they may be, as long as they call upon Him "in truth."

This means calling upon Him as He is in the truth of His essence, the ultimate sovev kol almin described above, which is utterly beyond the realm of histalshelut ilah and alul. The only way this level of the Essence is expressed is by being vested in Torah and mitzvot in the "final realm" of actual performance. This is how He is close to all who call upon Him, meaning to the one who reads1 the Torah, as the verse [in the Shema], "and these words... shall be [on your heart]... and you shall speak of them."

By studying Torah one calls upon the very Essence of the Divine, which is far beyond the entire histalshelut of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. This is calling "in truth": "There is no truth but Torah,"2 for this refers to the truth of the Divine Essence, before Whom small and great are equal, and Who is close to all without any distinction whatsoever.

Distinctions in Prayer

Quite different is the calling and crying [to G‑d] in prayer. Although the verse states, "who is like the L-rd our G‑d, in all our calling to Him"3 — specifically [to His Essence], as in the verse "to You O G‑d, I lift my soul," to His very Essence — nonetheless, through this He does not come totally close to everyone equally. Rather, [G‑d comes close] to each person according to his measure of preparation in his heart, mind and will, as the verse says "focusing one's heart [on G‑d]."4 And even then, "from a distance G‑d appears to me,"5 and not truly close.

All this is because even the Supernal Radiance of sovev kol almin, which is elicited through the contemplation of Shema Yisrael and the ecstasy of the words "and you should love [G‑d]... with all your heart and with all your soul," has to come by way of an influence from above to below. It comes in a way of hishtalshelut, reaching each person according to his root in the ten sefirot of By'a, according to the different levels of his nefesh, ruach or neshamah,6 which are rooted in the externality of the vessels of Atzilut as is known.7 This flow dwells on each person, encompassing him from a distance; hence the verse, "from a distance G‑d appears to me."

This applies to every [level of] radiance, even the highest, when it descends step-by-step through stages — named histalshelut. However, when the very same level of supernal radiance is expressed through being vested in Torah and mitzvot, then it is truly "close" to all, small as well as great equally, as the verse, "call upon Him when He is close"8 — by means of Torah and mitzvot. ["Close" is related to Torah and mitzvot] as it is written "for the thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart to perform it"9 — specifically, and it is not in Heaven.10 And this [observance of Torah and mitzvot] is "what I command you," as was explained above.11

"Form" and "Image"

This explains the verse, "let us make man in our form and our image"12 — referring specifically to Torah and mitzvot: As is known, the explanation of the verse "a lamp is the mitzvah, and the Torah is light"13 is, that the root of Torah is the radiance [of the sefirot] and that of the mitzvah is the vessel,14 and in several places the verse states, "the Torah and the mitzvah"15 — meaning the "form" and "image." "Form" signifies the male, and "image" signifies the female. These two levels correspond to sovev kol almin and memale kol almin, respectively, in the [general kabbalistic depiction] of hishtalshelut.

And just as the "form" is the essential shape [of all existence], all the ten sefirot of Atzilut consist of ohr and keli [i.e. form and image], like "chesed, the right arm,16 and chochmah...the brain."17

This [pattern of the sefirot] is actually "in Our [i.e. in G‑d's] form" — Havaya of Atzilut,18 and emerges through the light of Torah, as the verses, "these words [which I command you],"19 and, "This is the Torah of Man,"20 implying the inwardness of the orot and keilim of the Supernal Man [ — the sefirot]. Hence the Torah is termed "the Torah of Havaya," literally.21

The term "in our image" expresses the feminine.22 This is the aspect of malchut, which is called "the  appearance of the image of the Glory of G‑d"23 of Ein Sof, as in the verse "I [G‑d] shall make myself known to him in a vision"24; and as in "the prophets will conceive images for Me."25 This is like an image which bears the impression of the essential form, the tzelem. The image constitutes the practical mitzvot which descend to this world, and are called mitzvot of the king, and they receive [the imprint of the form].

This "image" is termed the lamp of the mitzvah — and although it is also called the mitzvah of Havaya26 — yet, [the "image"] is manifested in a variety of vessels,27 and is [more generally] called the "lamp of the mitzvah." Nonetheless, [the lamp of the mitzvah] bears the imprinted image of the Glory of Havaya of Atzilut itself.28 This is the theme of Adam, [as] "I will be in the image of the Supernal One,"29 and as the verse, [that he was created] "in Our [G‑d's] image."

This is what is meant by "and you shall bind [the tefillin] for a sign,"30 thus including all the mitzvot, for [the Essence] is expressed by being vested in their actual performance.

This is how G‑d is close to everyone equally, for they call upon Him "in truth," meaning with the truth of the inwardness of His Essence, as this is expressed in the 248 [Positive] mitzvot, relating to the 248 limbs, etc. The beginning is lodged specifically in the end.31

And the proof: the World to Come is gained only by actually performing mitzvot in the physical realm (and as was explained above,32 that the lamp of the mitzvah is the vessel, in particular, which contains the light, the oil and the wick).33


Hence, G‑d is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.

The truth of Havaya, the Essence, is close through being vested in Torah and mitzvot. In contrast to prayer — in which there are many different levels depending on the spiritual root of one's soul — G‑d's Essence is vested in Torah and mitzvot and is close to everyone equally.

Hence the verse Let us make Man in our Form and in our Image: Through Torah one attains the Essential Form of Havayaz'a of Atzilut, and through mitzvot, one attains the Divine Image — malchut, the recipient. Nonetheless, the Essential Form is engraved in the Image as well, for here too, He is close, for one calls upon Him in truth.

This also relates to the theme of a lamp, as in the verse for the mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light (Proverbs 6:23).

Indeed, it is specifically the mitzvot — in contrast to prayer — that cause one to reach contemplation of yichuda ila'ah, which in turn acts as oil with which one can consume any negative emotions (i.e. dark radiance) and also be divinely inspired (i.e. illuminating radiance).