From Tuesday’s Chitas, an amazing explanation, from the spiritual perspective, of the advantage of prayer over Torah study and performance of mitzvos. Don’t worry about the specific terms, the “anatomy” of Seider Hishtalshelus. The concept is simple and beautiful.
To understand the passage in Pri Etz Chayim, that in the contemporary period the primary purification is only through worship [i.e., prayer], though Torah study is superior to worship. The explanation is:
Through Torah and mitzvot additional Light is drawn forth into Atzilut [the first world]. 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, prayer 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 prayer. 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 prayer is called “Life of the moment”, for it is Malchut descending into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.While the study of Torah and performance of mitzvos results in the increased amount of G-dly Light in the world of Atzilus and “garments” of the lower three worlds (respectively), these changes are, so to speak, quantitative. They happen in already existing phenomena, strengthening them.
Prayer, on the other hand, invokes a change in G-d’s plan for the creation, so to speak. Somebody who was created sick becomes healthy; somebody who is poor becomes rich, be”H. In order to accomplish this, a completely new Light has to enter the creation to affect what is being prayed for. In a sense, the change is not just quantitative, but qualitative also. And this makes prayer an extremely special and lofty activity that must be approached with great devotion, seriousness and preparedness, not “mumble-mumble-mumble — three steps back — Aleinu — bye”.