To understand the passage in Pri Etz Chayim, that in the contemporary period the primary purification is only through worship, though Torah study is superior to worship. The explanation is:

Through Torah and mitzvot additional Light is drawn forth into Atzilut... This means that through Torah study the blessed Infinite Light is drawn into the vessels of Atzilut, into the inner aspect of the vessels. This Light is an extension and revelation of the Divine Intellect. Through mitzvah observance the Light is drawn into the external aspect of the vessels, meaning netzach-hod-yesod of the Ten Sefirot of the Minor Visage of Atzilut. Subsequently they clothe themselves in Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, in the physical Torah and mitzvot in This World.

However, worship calls forth the blessed Infinite Light, specifically into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, not merely through "garbs," but the Light itself, to modify the state of creatures. The ill will be cured, for example, the rain will fall earthward that vegetation may sprout forth.

On the other hand, through Torah and mitzvot there is no modification in the parchment of the tefillin through donning them on head and arm. Even those mitzvot that are fulfilled through making the object— that change is effected by man, and not by Heaven, as is the case with worship. The latter calls forth the vivifying power from the Infinite, blessed be He, Who alone is all-capable. Hence, calling forth the blessed Infinite Light into the lower world is impossible without the "Elevation of Mayim nukvin" from below specifically.

By contrast, Torah study affects Atzilut, which is united in any case with the Emanator, blessed be He. The "Elevation of mayim nukvin" in the mind and heart of man is a state of boundless flames of fire, and described as "m'odecha," to arouse the state of Infinite. This is through the Severities of Sa'g, which constitute the 288 sparks ...

For this reason worship is called "Life of the moment," for it is Malchut descending into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. Torah is called "eternal life," or the "Minor Visage," for the 248 commandments divide into the ten vessels of the Ten Sefirot of the Minor Visage ...

Now, in one place we find that the 248 positive commandments are in the Five Kindnesses and the 365 prohibitions are in the Five Severities ... Elsewhere we find that there are 613 paths from one path ... which is the pristine Whiteness (lavnunit) ...

The explanation is: all mitzvot are designed to "repair" the 248 organs of the Minor Visage through drawing the blessed Infinite Light into the Intellect as contained within the Five Kindnesses and Five Severities. The source of Intellect is the lavnunit .... the supreme delight and desire to bring the light down into the 248 organs of the Minor Visage. The Light drawn forth divides into 613 individual streams according to the respective level of the mitzvot. For instance, through charity and kindness the blessed Infinite Light is drawn into the external aspect of the vessel of the Kindness of the Minor Visage, while through observing a prohibition into the external aspect of Severity, and through mercy ...

The passage of the issuing Light is through the internality of the vessels and their Intellects, which are love and reverence, intellectual or irmate, meaning major or minor intellect.

This is the reason for Moses' fervent plea to fulfil the mitzvot of performance contingent on the Land, for these are the ultimate purpose in the gradual descent [i.e. Creation]— to call forth the blessed Infinite Light, to purify the vessels of the Minor Visage of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. These worlds are the site of the 288 sparks. The purification is effected exclusively through Torah study and mitzvot requiring action in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

To perform a mitzvah that cannot be delegated to another, one foregoes Torah study, even that of the maaseh merkava, and beyond question one forgoes worship which is the state of intellect and intellectual love and awe. The reason is as we have noted.

In addition: the magnitude of the quality of mitzvot requiring action and their study, far transcends the quality of intellect, meaning intellectual love and fear. For though the verse declares, "to cleave to Him" through His traits, still one does not cleave to the essence of the Supreme traits but only unto their state of existence, in conformity with, "I am dust and ashes."

This is all the more true in terms of the blessed Infinite Light, for no thought can apprehend Him in His radiance or the extension of the Life-force issuing from Him. One can grasp His existence, that He gives life to all, but not His essence. This applies even to the supernal beings, as we find, "Holy holy holy is the Lord of hosts ..." Only "effects," emanations, may conceive their "cause," according to the order in Etz Chayitn in the investment of the visages.

However, creatures are denied this apprehension, even the souls of Atzilut, as we find regarding Moses, "You may see my hinderpart..."

But the performance of mitzvot— "These are the works of G‑d." In the process of gradual descent from the vessels of Atzilut to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, from the very nature and essence of their external aspect, as for example within the etrog and its "kinds," the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed of the very essence of the internal Kindnesses of the Minor Visage, meaning from their outward state, as is known in the case of all mitzvot of action.

In contrast, man, even possessing a soul of Atzilut, since it is clothed in a body, cannot detect and apprehend within his soul the character and essence of the inward Kindnesses of the Minor Visage of Atzilut. (For Atzilut is the state of Chaya in the general Four Worlds, an encompassing state from above, and does not clothe itself within any vessel at all.) Man's capacity for apprehension is limited to their existence through intellectual love and fear. The statement, "You shall see my hinderpart," is by means of prophecy only. (Prophecy entails divestment of the physical, as explained in Raya Mehemna, parshat Mishpatim.)

This then is the reason. No creature is capable of grasping anything whatsoever of the essence of G‑dliness, the Creator. Without comprehension there is no investing, or grasp, or cleaving in the true sense. However, the etrog by way of example, its life is drawn and descends from the very essence of the outer aspect of the vessels of nukva of the Minor Visage of Atzilut, which is a state of G‑dliness, as stated in Etz Chayitn that all the fruits are in Atzilut. For the thirty vessels of Atzilut descended into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah (they are the Ten Utterances by which the world was created) through enclothement in nukva of Asiyah, essence in essence. For the vessels of Atzilut became the soul of Asiyah, which is actually a state of G‑dliness. In Atzilut "He and the vessels are one," Emanator and Emanation. Through clothing the essence of soul in the essence of the vessels of nukva of Asiyah the etrog came into being. The result is that in seizing the etrog and waving it as the Halacha requires, he is actually seizing the life-force clothed within it of the nukva of Atzilut which is united with the Infinite Light, the Emanator, blessed be He.

The reverse is true concerning his kavana, intention. Here he does not grasp and seize essence even though initiated into the esoteric. Only the existence aspect is within reach.

However, by learning the laws of etrog he does attain and grasp the etrog proper and its mitzvah appropriately, by speech and thought. Even more so he who learns the sod aspect of the law.

Here we speak of studying the sod aspect of the mitzvah specifically, which is not inferior to the study of its laws proper— quite the contrary ...— though he does not apprehend the essence.

This does not apply to study of the order of hishtal'sh'lut, the orderly downward progression. Even if he does comprehend the existence state, it is not intrinsically as worthy as study of the mitzvot, where he comprehends and grasps the essential nature. This is considered the equivalent of actual performance, as we find "This is the Torah ..." Be it noted that knowledge of existence aspects of hishtal'sh'lut is also a lofty mitzvah and an exalted one. On the contrary it outweighs them all, as we find, "Know this day ..." and "Know the G‑d of your fathers ..." and it develops into a "whole heart ..." which is the essential thing. Comprehension of existence is to divest the physical ... However, this is but one mitzvah of the 613, and man must fulfil all 613, for they descend from the essence of the external aspect of the vessels of Atzilut. Hence one must abundantly learn all 613 and fulfil them fully in practice in thought, speech, and deed. These are parallel to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, to purify whatever needs purification within those worlds.

In addition: the truth is that the purifi­cations in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah of the 288 sparks9 through Torah and mitzvot in thought speech, and deed, are superior in their source to the nefesh-ruach-neshamah34 of man. They are of sa'g8 of the internal aspect of Adam Kadmon,48 while nara'n34 that has already been corrected through ma'h8 issues from the "forehead" in the form of a mere reflection. Hence the verse, "Before a king ruled ..."49 For this reason man sustains himself on foods of the inorganic, vegetative, and living classes, and purifies them by the ma'h8 within him, and lives through them because they are of sa'g.8 Furthermore, as we find, "My face shall not be seen,"50 meaning that the inward­ness of the Most High cannot descend be­low, only the external and the hinderpart, which are shades51 of the Supreme Wisdom. Another point:52 Verbalising any phrase of the Supreme Wisdom does not cause birth. The drop drawn from the vessel of the Supreme Wisdom has the power to cause birth and bring about existence ex nihilo. Besides, something of the Supreme Wisdom is included within it. The reason is that into it is drawn something of the essence18 and nature23 of the Supreme Wisdom. In contrast, in thought and speech, even in intellectual conception53 in any field of wisdom, the thought is a mere reflection, an extension54 of the essence of intellect of the soul. Then, too, this radiance is a mere garment for the essence of the intel­lect. In turn the intellect is a radiance and a garment for the soul proper. However, the drop has drawn into it also of the very essence of the soul which is clothed within the brain. Hence it gives birth to offspring precisely similar to itself. This is the difference between the service of angels who are produced by "oscula­tion"55 and that of souls who issue from the vessels. But the vessels of Atzilut be­come the soul of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, and therefore intellectual love and awe are comparable to the angels of the "osculation," of the external aspect of Chabad56 in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. The reason is that the inwardness of Cha­bad and the essential nature of the inward Light cannot be revealed except through the radiance of the vessels exclusively, that descend as does the seminal drop of man issuing from the brain. Thus the verse, "My face cannot be seen."50

Besides all this, even a soul (neshamah) of Atzilut, though it is of the vessels of Atzilut, and equally in the case of nefesh-ruach of the vessels of Yetzirah-Asiyah— their intellectual love and fear too, arouse the vessels of Yetzirah-Asiyah the state of elevation from below upward, through an arousal from below. However this is the state of departure alone, G‑d forbid.

But eliciting from above downward is of necessity through mitzvot of performance to draw Light into the vessels, and into the external aspect of the vessels, be it emphasised. The external aspect of the superior descends, while the internal of the inferior rises higher. This is the intent of Zohar parshat P'kudai cited above, that there is an order ...

Both of these are needed for the Divine purpose, the elevation, and the elicitation through elevation of mayin nukvin from sa'g by deed and speech. This is the ultimate purpose of the downward progression— to reveal the Higher Light below, and not to elevate the inferior. This elevation can only be momentary. Even so specifically the elevation of the vessels to the Higher Lights is the quality of Shabbat and Yom Kippur, but not the elevations and departure of the Lights, G‑d forbid, as written in Pri Etz Chayim.

The nefesh-ruach-neshamah of man compared to his physical body in This World is considered as lights compared to vessels. So too are intellectual fear and love compared to mitzvot of action. Therefore Moses offered prayers equivalent in number to Va'et'chanan, for the fulfillment of mitzvot requiring action specifically. So too for the physical utterance of their laws.

We must understand how an etrog, which is of the 288 sparks that have not yet been purified, and the parchment of the tefillin, can elicit Light into the vessels of zu'n of Atzilut, that have already been so purified and rectified through the Name ma'h, that they are a state of G‑dliness.

An illustration for this could be the process of planting. The seed stimulates the power of growth within the soil, which is G‑d's command, "Let the earth sprout forth ... fruit trees ..." through elevation of mayin nukvin to its source. In this manner the parchment and etrog arouse unto the loftiest heights, meaning the Name sa'g which is above the shattering of the vessels, which is the very essence of the Lights in Adam Kadmon, and not merely a radiance, as is the Name ma'h which issues from the "forehead."

Similarly the study and careful examination of their laws arouses the Chabad of the Ten Sefirot of the vessels of zu'n, and upward to the greatest heights, including Chabad of sa'g of the internal of Adam Kadmon issuing through the "eyes ..."

All the foregoing concerns positive commandments, but not the study of particulars of the prohibitions it would seem, particularly those that do not occur in practice at all, for example the detailed laws of pigul and the like.

There is yet a common characteristic, that all intellectual fear and love of the angels are considered created ex nihilo, and are nefesh-ruach of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. But the detailed laws are drawn from the Supreme Wisdom of the Emanator, blessed be He, which is clothed in the physical object. This investment is not similar to that of the Supreme Wisdom in intellectual fear and love, for there the garment conceals and completely obscures, just as the gross earth thoroughly conceals the Supreme Wisdom clothed within it, as it is written, "All of them you made with wisdom," that is the externality of the externality of the vessels of Malchut of Atzilut found in Asiyah, is absolutely hidden in the ruach-nefesh of Asiyah. So too in Beriah it is completely hidden in the ruach-nefesh', they are creatures, and Creator is concealed from the created.

This is not so, however, with regard to the laws— a radiance of Wisdom illuminates them openly. The garment of Asiyah is merely by way of passage, as on holy days when Chesed of Atzilut which is completely clothed in Chesed of Beriah vivifies the physical world through passage by way of Chesed of Yetzirah and Asiyah. This, too, is properly called investment for otherwise it could not affect the physical aspects of This World.

Now although the physical nature of This World unquestionably conceals completely even the Chesed of Asiyah, still the law proper is not actually physical; it is the Will, drawn from the Supreme Wisdom for leniency or severity in the verdict. It does descend and illuminate in revealed fashion in the realm of the physical as water descends from a high place ... The physical object itself which the law discusses really does utterly obscure, as for example the law of exchanging a cow for a donkey, or flesh that is pigul, or is not pigul and is kasher. Just the law itself and its revealed rationale are Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah, of the state of neshamah, which is G‑dliness that vivifies and brings into being ex nihilo, the nefesh-ruach of the Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, which are the awe and love of angels and souls and their chabad.

Hence it slakes their thirst before its descent into This World like waters falling ... Even after descending into Asiyah it is far above chabad of Asiyah, everr the state of neshamah which is G‑dliness.

The reason is that chabad of Asiyah of the state of neshamah is the source of life of Chabad of nefesh-ruach and their offspring, and their existence ex nihilo with their offspring unto the ultimate stage of Asiyah, namely the earth and all its hosts.

But chabad of the laws with their rationales are in malchut of Beriah-Yetzirah. The aim of the chochmah is the rectification of the visages of Atzilut, upon whom are dependent all the rationales of the positive commandments in the Five Kindnesses, and of the prohibitions in the Five Severities. Therefore, even when they descend to be clothed in creatures, they are in malchut of Beriah-Yetzirah of the state of neshamah specifically, which is of the vessels of Atzilut, and not of nefesh-ruach.

Now although chabad of Beriah-Yetzirah of the neshamah state are far superior in quality over malchut of Beriah-Yetzirah of neshamah, still they are the source for chabad of Beriah-Yetzirah of the state of nefesh-ruach, namely the angels. How is this? The angels and souls are only of a drop drawn from chabad of the neshamah to the attribute of Yesod in the Minor Visage, then transmitted to nukva, and from there going forth in a state of "birth." For even if it is proposed that they are created from the radiance of the vessels of nukva of Atzilut, they themselves descend and become neshamah.

But the essence of chabad of neshamah extends into the "six sides" of zu'n and there they are the Six Orders of Mishnah and the Gemara.

As to the statement in Etz Chayim (and in Shaar Hayichudim) that through Kavana (intention) there is formed a garment for neshamah and through Torah study— a garment for ruach-of-ruach of Yetzirah through Mishnah, and for ruach-of-neshamah of Beriah through Gemara. This can be understood as referring only to Torah studied by man in This World that ascends above. But Talmud itself that was given on Sinai is in neshamah. Therefore it purifies ruach. So too with Mishnah of Yetzirah.

If it be suggested that even what was given at Sinai is in ruach of Beriah-Yetzirah, it is known that every angel, as an emissary from On High, is called by the Name of G‑d literally, for He dwells within the angel. However, when he is not a messenger he has some other name according to his function. Then he proclaims, "Holy holy holy is G‑d ..." meaning, that the name of G‑d is removed, distant from him. So it is actually in the state of investment of the Talmud, in the ruach state of Beriah, and the Mishnah in the ruach of Yetzirah— they are messengers of G‑d, meaning vessels of nukva of Atzilut: the external state in Talmud, the intermediate state in Mishnah.

Thus Mishnah and Talmud contain issue of Yesod Abba which receives from chochmah stima'a of the Major Visage, in which is clothed the blessed Infinite Light. The result is that the Infinite Light, namely the Name of G‑d, dwells in ruach of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in Scripture, Mishnah, and Talmud. When man studies he draws forth the blessed Infinite Light into This World, that it be included and nullified in His Light, blessed be He. For this is all of man. This was the service of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and all the Tannaim and Amoraim in the revealed Torah— to call forth His Light, blessed be He, and to make these purifications of nogah all through the period of the exile. Exile is the time of dominion of the Tree of Good and Evil, as we find, "The time that man dominates man ..." For this is the purpose of the descent, that the Higher descend below, and there be an "abode for Him among the lowly," in order to elevate them to become one in one.

In contrast, the service of the angels with intellectual fear and love does not call forth at all; rather there is departure alone ... Thus we may understand how angels are created ex nihilo through study of Torah, even without kavana, which is a state of ruach alone, which is not G‑dliness at all. Still, nevertheless, the name of G‑d does dwell ... This will suffice for the knowing.