The second great disaster is the popularization of science fiction. Now, worlds are understood as planets with alien civilizations, green antennas etc. And all English translations of kabbala or chassidic teachings sound like something out of Star Trek, instead of the deep analysis of Divine and human thought, emotion, and behavior.)
Back to Olamos. In the classical kabbalistic cosmogony, reality is subdivided into 4 “olamos”, four levels of reality. I translate them as the levels of Nearness to God, Intellect, Emotion, and Action. God could have stopped creating at any of those steps. The world would have been a chorus of angels chanting their glorifications of their first cause. Or man could have been a brain in a jar, a la matrix. Or a brain and heart. Why bother with a physical dimension at all?
God desired to dwell in the lower worlds. That teaching from the medrash, turned into the slogan of Chabad philosophy, states that God created a world of physical action to be the ultimate repository of His creativity. You can think and feel and grock all you want. What matters is action.
Any impulse that is valuable should be channeled as quickly as possible into an act, in order to give it lasting value. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, the late Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, said in a famous talk that even a powerful emotion like the revulsion one feels at seeing an adulteress magically explode before your very eyes is not enough to make you behave. It should fuel a vow to abstain from wine. It needs to change something in the world of action. The Talmud says that even the act of refraining from an activity is considered an activity.
Two changes take place in the world of action in Elul. Most communities begin reciting Psalm 27 at the end of Morning and Evening services. And many communities have the shofar blown at the end of morning services. They are minor changes in terms of the time they take. But something happens in the world of action.