As we track Avraham Avinu’s spiritual journey, we find him serving Hashem in a multitude of ways. In Parashat Lech Lecha, Avraham picks himself up and moves to Eretz Kena’an (BeReishit 12:1), saves his own life in Egypt by asking Sarah to lie (12:13), aids in the defeat of four powerful kings (12:1-24), and circumcises each male in his household (17:24-27). In Parashat VaYeira, we see many more examples of Avraham’s diverse methods of Avodat Hashem. Avraham runs to perform Hachnasat Orechim when he receives visitors (18:2), prays and intercedes for Sedom (18:23-33), uses his wit to navigate a potentially dangerous situation in Gerar (20:1-2), and endures the strenuous emotional roller-coaster involved in putting his beloved son Yitzchak atop the Mizbei’ach (22:1-18). This was all done for the sake of Avodat Hashem.
Upon reading about the innumerable amount of ways in which Avraham serves Hashem, one might be inclined to ask how to categorize the different methods through which one can serve Hashem. This question intrigues us, because as human beings, we tend to prefer to see things structured and organized. Particularly in this unique area of Avodat Hashem are we interested in finding form and structure, as this realm of life is the sole purpose of our existence. However, given the vast number of ways through which one can serve Hashem, and especially considering Rambam’s statement that even our mundane activities can be considered forms of Avodat Hashem when done with the proper intentions, is it even possible to classify these methods of Avodat Hashem into distinct groupings?
Fortunately, this question is answered in the affirmative by Chassidic and Kabbalistic thought. As RavZev Reichman explains in his Path to the Tree of Life, there are four different Olamot (worlds) that exist: the worlds of Atzilut, Beri’ah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. Chassidut teaches that man is a microcosm of the universe, and so each of these four worlds exists inside man. Leaving aside Olam HaAtzilut for one moment, the Olamot of Beri’ah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah correspond to man’s intellect, emotions, and actions. These three Olamot serve as three primary categories into which all aspects of Avodat Hashem fall.
Of the three, we are most familiar with the Olam HaAsiyah, which represents the realm of action. When man performs Mitzvot with his body, such as when Avraham travels to Eretz Kena’an or circumcises the men in his house, he serves Hashem via the Olam HaAsiyah. The other two Olamot, Olam HaBeri’ah and Olam HaYetzirah, which represent man’s cognition and emotions, are somewhat more abstract. Nonetheless we can understand them by viewing how Avraham Avinu uses them to serve Hashem. Avraham engages the world of Beri’ah by using his intellect to deal with sensitive situations with Par’oh and Avimelech, and he serves Hashem through the realm of Yetzirah by overcoming his feelings of love for Yitzchak to perform the Ratzon Hashem. The act of speech, in which Avraham engages when interceding for Sedom, is a subcategory of Yetzirah, as words are essentially the drawing out and expressing of emotions from the soul.
Once we understand these three Olamot, we can return to the Olam HaAtzilut. This realm corresponds to the lofty concept of Deveikut, total and complete attachment to Hashem. Asiyah, Beri’ah, and Yetzirah all serve as paths through which we can reach a state of Deveikut BaShem, the ultimate goal of Avodat Hashem.
Hashem, in His abundant kindness, has opened before us not one, not two, but three unique and distinct avenues through which we can connect with Him. Each individual has the prerogative to pursue whichever avenue he or she wishes. One person may have an affinity for intense Talmud Torah, another for spreading acts of Chessed, and yet another for engaging in joyous Shirah and sincere Tefillah. One can engage in whichever realm he finds to be most redeeming, or he can utilize all three, as did Avraham Avinu. With Hashem’s help, through awakening these holy Olamot which exist deep within us, may we all be Zocheh to achieve a lasting and enduring state of Deveikut BaShem.