In the light of all that has been said above, one will clearly understand the decision of the Halachah, that has been laid down in the Talmud and Codes that meditation is not valid in lieu of verbal articulation, so that if one has recited the Shema only in his mind and heart, even with the full force of his concentration (kavanah), he has not fulfilled his obligation, and he is required to recite it again [orally]. Similarly with grace after meals, which is ordained by the Torah, and with other benedictions ordained by the Rabbis, and with prayer. On the other hand, if he has uttered them with his lips but did not intend with his heart, he has fulfilled his obligation ex post facto, and he is not required to repeat them, except for the first verse of the Shema and the first benediction of the Amidah* Thus it is stated (at the beginning of ch. II of Berachot) : "Up to here the commandment of intention (kavanah) applies; from here, on comes, the commandment of recitation," and so on.

The reason is that the neshamah needs no tikun (mending) for herself by means of the commandments, but has only to draw forth light to perfect the vivifying soul and body by means of the letters of speech which the nefesh pronounces with the aid of the five organs of verbal articulation. Similarly with the active commandments which the nefesh performs with the [aid of the] other bodily organs.

Nevertheless, it has been said that "Prayer or other benediction [recited] without kavanah is like a body without a neshamah" This means that, just as in all creatures in this world, possessing a body and a soul, namely the nefesh of all living, and the ruach of all human flesh, and the neshamah of all that has the spirit of life in its nostrils among all living creatures, all of which G‑d animates and brings into existence ex nihilo, constantly, by the light and vitality which He imbues into them, for also the material body, and even the very inanimate stones and earth, have within them light and vitality from His blessed Self, so that they do not revert to naught and nothingness as they were before— there is, nevertheless, no comparison or similarity whatever between the quality of the light and vitality that illumine the body, and the quality of the light and vitality that illumine the neshamah, which is the soul of all living.

To be sure, in both there is an identical light, in terms of concealment of the Countenance, and [in terms of] the identical garments wherein the light hides, conceals, and clothes itself, for both [body and soul] are of this world wherein the light and vitality [issuing] from the breath of His blessed mouth is equally concealed in a general way, by virtue of the concealment of the Countenance and graded descent, in the progressive lowering of the worlds, by means of numerous and profound tzimtzumim (contractions) until [the light] has clothed itself in the kelipat nogah, in order to animate the totality of this material world, that is, all things which are permissible and clean in this world; and from it and through it, all things that are impure receive their sustenance, for it is the mediating agent, as it were, as has been explained above.

Nevertheless, the illumination, i.e., the flow of vitality wherewith G‑d illumines and animates by way of this garment, is not the same for all of them in the manner of contraction and expansion.

For in the corporeal body and in the actually inanimate object, like stones and earth, the illumination is one of greatest contraction which has no parallel,, where the vitality is so minute as not to have even the power of vegetation. In plants the illumination is not so greatly contracted. In general, all things are subdivided into four grades— mineral, vegetable, animal and man ("speaker")— corresponding with the four letters of the blessed Name [Tetragrammaton], from which they receive their influence.

And just as the illumination and flow of vitality in the inanimate and vegetable bear no comparison or parallel with the illumination and flow of vitality which is clothed in animals and man, although in all there is one equal light in the category of concealed Countenance, which is clothed in the same garment in all of them, namely, the garment of nogah,— so, too, there is no comparison or parallel between the illumination and flow of the light of the blessed En Sof— the inwardness of His blessed will, without concealment of the Countenance and without any garment whatever— which irradiates and pervades the active precepts; likewise in the case of precepts that depend on verbal articulation and utterance of the lips without kavanah, which [articulation] is regarded as real action, as mentioned above, by comparison with the illumination and flow of the light of the blessed En Sof which irradiates and pervades the kavanah of the active precepts that a person intends, whilst engaged in performing them, to cleave to Him, blessed be He, through fulfilling His will, inasmuch as He and His will are one and the same. Similarly in the case of kavanah in prayer, the recital of Shema with its benedictions, and all other benedictions, wherein through his intention (kavanah) he attaches his thought and intellect to Him, may He be blessed.

Not that an attachment (devekut) of the human thought and intellect to Him, blessed be He, is intrinsically superior to the attachment through the performance of the active precepts in actual practice, as will be explained further on. Rather it is also His blessed will that one should cleave to Him with one's intelligence, thought and intention in the active commandments, and with intention during the recital of Shema, prayer and other benedictions. And the illumination of this Supreme Will (Ratzon Elyon) which irradiates and pervades this kavanah is infinitely greater and more sublime than the illumination of the Supreme Will which irradiates and pervades the performance of the commandments themselves in action and speech but without kavanah. It is comparable to the superiority of the light of the soul over the body, which is a vessel and garb for the soul, as the body of the commandment itself is a vessel and garb for its kavanah.

And although in both of them, in the commandment and in its kavanah, there is the same Will which is perfectly simple, without any change or multiplicity, G‑d forbid, which is united with His blessed Essence and Being in perfect unity, nevertheless the illumination is not the same in respect of contraction and extension, and

Note: It is also so explained in Etz Chayim, that the kavanah of the commandments and of Torah study is in the category of "light" while the commandments themselves are grades and categories of "vessels" that constitute tzimtzum of the light, for through the contraction of the light the vessels came into being, as is known to those who are familiar with the Esoteric Discipline.

it, too, is differentiated into four grades. For the "body" of the commandments themselves constitute two grades, namely, the commandments involving real action and those which are performed verbally and mentally, such as the study of the Torah, reciting the Shema, praying, saying Grace after meals, and other benedictions. The kavanah of the commandments [i.e. the intention] to cleave to His blessed Self, being like the soul to the body [of the commandments], is likewise subdivided into two grades, corresponding to the two categories of soul which are present in corporeal bodies, namely in animals and in man [respectively].

In the case of a person who is intelligent enough to know G‑d and to reflect on His blessed greatness, and to beget out of his understanding a lofty fear in his brain and a love of G‑d in the right part of his heart, so that his soul will thirst for G‑d, [seeking] to cleave unto Him through the fulfillment of the Torah and commandments, which are an extension and reflection of the light of the blessed En Sof onto his soul thereby to cleave to Him; and with this intention he studies [the Torah] and performs the commandments, and likewise with this intention he prays and recites the blessings— then this kavanah is, by way of simile, like the soul of a human being, who possesses intelligence and freedom of choice and speaks from knowledge.

But he whose intelligence is too limited to know and reflect on the greatness of the blessed En Sof so as to beget out of this understanding a conscious love in his heart, and also awe in his mind, and dread of G‑d in his heart, yet he recalls and awakens the natural love that is hidden in his heart, bringing it out of the hidden recesses of the heart into the conscious mind, at least, so that his will which is in his mind and which is latent also in his heart should approve, and favour, with complete 'willingness and truthful sincerity, that he suffer martyrdom in actual fact for the Unity of G‑d, in order to attach to Him his divine soul and her garments and unite them with His Unity and Oneness, namely, the Supernal Will that is clothed in Torah study and in the performance of the commandments, as explained above; and in this [natural love] is contained also fear [wherewith] to accept His reign and not rebel against Him, G‑d forbid— and with this kavanah he turns away from evil and does good, and studies and prays and recites benedictions, following only the plain meaning of the words without conscious fear and love in his heart and mind— this kavanah is, by way of the simile, like the soul of a living creature that has no intelligence and freedom of will, whose middot, namely its fear of harmful things and its love of pleasing things, are only natural to it, and do not originate in its understanding and knowledge. So, by way of example, are the natural love and fear which are latent in the heart of every Jew, since they are our heritage from our Patriarchs and like a natural instinct in our souls, as has been mentioned above.