Even though the particular aspects of the nature of the occultation and concealment of the light of the blessed En Sof in the descent of the worlds— until this material world was created— are too numerous to and are of many diverse kinds, as is known to those who have tasted of the Tree of Life, yet in general there are three levels of powerful and comprehensive "contractions," giving rise to three comprehensive worlds, each category consisting of myriads upon myriads of particulars. These are the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for the world of Atzilut is G‑dliness itself.

In order to create the world of Beriah, which consists of the higher souls and angels, whose service to G‑d is in the sphere of ChaBaD [the intellectual faculties] which are clothed in them and are apprehended by them and from which they receive influence, there preceded a powerful "contraction," as mentioned above.

So, too, from Beriah to Yetzirah. For the minute portion of light which clothes itself in the world of Beriah is still in a category of infinity in relation to the world of Yetzirah, and is unable to clothe itself in the latter except through a contraction and occulation. So, too, from Yetzirah to Asiyah .

(An elaborate explanation of these three "contractions," in order to make them more accessible to our poor intellect is given elsewhere. )

The purpose of all the "contractions" is the creation of the material human body and the subjugation of the sitra achra, to bring about the preeminence of light supplanting darkness— when a person elevates his divine soul and his vivifying soul together with their garments and all the powers of the body, to G‑d alone, as has been discussed earlier at length, for this is the purpose of the descent of the worlds.

To quote [again] "As water mirrors the reflection of a face": As the Holy One, blessed be He, has, as it were, laid down and set aside, figuratively speaking, His great infinite light, and has stored it away and concealed it by means of three different kinds of "contractions"— and all this because of His love for lowly man, in order to raise him up to G‑d, for "Love impels the flesh," how much more, and an infinite number of times more, is it fitting that a man also should relinquish and set aside all he possesses, both spiritually and physically, and renounce everything in order to cleave to Him, may He be blessed, with attachment, desire and longing, without any hindrance, within or without, neither of body nor soul, nor money, nor wife and children.

Thereby will be understood the true reason and meaning of the Rabbinical enactment, ordaining the recitations of the blessings of the Shema: two preceding it.... For it would appear, at first glance, that they have no connection whatever with the recital of the Shema, as "Rashba" and other codifiers have stated. Why, then, were they termed "Blessings of the Shema?" And why were they ordained to to be recited specifically before it?

But the reason is that the essence of the recital of the Shema is to fulfil the injunction "With all thine heart,..." to wit, "With both thy natures,..." that is to say, to overcome anything that deters from the love of G‑d. For "thine heart" alludes to the wife and children, to whom a man's heart is, by his very nature, bound. So have the Rabbis, of blessed memory, commented on the verses: "For He spake, and it came to pass," that this refers to the wife; "He commanded, and it stood fast," that this refers to the children; and by "Thy soul and thy might" is understood, literally, your life and sustenance— renouncing everything for the love of G‑d.

But how can physical man attain to this level? It is, therefore, to this end that the blessing of yotzer or was introduced first, for [in this blessing] there is said and repeated at length the account and order of the angels "standing at the world's summit" in order to proclaim the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He— how all of them are nullified in His blessed light and "Pronounce in fear,..." "and sanctify, . . ." and "Declare in fear, 'Holy,'..." meaning that He is apart from them, and He does not clothe Himself in diem in a "revealed" state, but "The whole earth is full of His glory," namely, the community of Israel above and Israel below, as has been explained earlier.

So, too, "The Ofanim and holy Chayyot with great thunder ... [declare] 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place,' " for they neither know, nor do they apprehend His place, as we say, "For He alone is exalted and holy."

Then follows the second blessing, "With an everlasting love hast Thou loved us, O Lord, our G‑d." That is to say, that He set aside all the supernal, holy hosts and caused His Shechinah to dwell upon us, so that He be called "Our G‑d," in the same sense that He is called "The G‑d of Abraham," as explained earlier. This is because "love impels the flesh." Therefore it is called ahavat olam ("worldly love"), for this is the so-called "contraction" of His great and infinite light, taking on the garb of finitude, which is called olam ("world"), for the sake of the love of His people Israel, in order to bring them near to Him, that they might be absorbed into His blessed Unity and Oneness.

This is also the meaning of "With great and exceeding pity [hast Thou pitied us]," namely, exceeding the nearness of G‑d towards all the hosts above; "... and us hast Thou chosen from every people and tongue," which refers to the material body which, in its corporeal aspects, is similar to the bodies of the gentiles of the world; "And Thou hast brought us near... to give thanks,..."— the interpretation of "thanks" will be given elsewhere;"... and proclaim Thy Unity,.. ."— to be absorbed into His blessed Unity, as has been explained above.

When the intelligent person will reflect on these matters in the depths of his heart and brain, then— as [surely as] water mirrors the image of a face— his soul will spontaneously be kindled and it will clothe itself in a spirit of benevolence, willingly to lay down and resolutely to abandon all he possesses, in order only to cleave unto Him, may He be blessed, and to be absorbed into His light with an attachment and longing, and so forth, in a manner of "osculation" (נשיקין ) and the attachment of spirit to spirit, as has been explained earlier.

But how does the attachment of spirit to spirit take place? To this end it is stated [further on]: "And these words shall be ... upon thine heart. And thou shalt speak of them...." As is explained in Etz Chayim that the union of "osculation" is essentially the union of ChaBaD with ChaBaD, that is, concentration in the Torah; while the mouth, as the outlet of the breath and its emergence into a revealed state, represents the category of speech engaged in words of the Torah,

for "By the word that proceedeth out of the mouth of G‑d doth man live." However, one does not fulfil one's duty by meditation and deliberation alone, until one expresses the words with his lips, in order to draw the light of the blessed En Sof downwards [even] unto the vivifying soul which dwells in the blood of man— which is produced by [the intake of food from] the mineral, vegetable and animal [worlds]— thus to raise them all to G‑d, together with the entire Universe and to cause them to be absorbed in His blessed Unity and Light, which will illumine the world and its inhabitants in a revealed manner— "And the glory of G‑d shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together...." For this is the purpose of the descent of all the worlds, that the glory of the Lord may pervade this world especially, in a revealed manner, to "change darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness," as has been explained above at length. And this is the essence of man's kavanah in his service: to draw the light of the blessed En Sof down below. However, the initiative must come through the elevation of the מ"ן to surrender to Him his soul and possessions, as has been explained above.