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I've seen the statement עבודה צורך גבוה used in different places. I assume it probably has an original context in חז"ל. Could you point me to the location(s) of its original use?

Here's one text that uses the phrase and then goes on to give a list of other works that use it -- it is from the book הקדמות ושערים by the Leshem, sha'ar alef, perek tet:

כי אלולא התורה שבהעוה״ז היה מתבטל כל גילוייו אשר באצילות ג״כ והיה חוזר לא״ס כמקדם ורק ע״י עסק התורה וקיום המצוה שבהעוה״ז מעמידים כל גילוייו שבאצילות והוא ענין העבודה צורך גבוה כנודע מכמה ספרי קדושי עליון וכמו שהאריכו בזה הר״מ גבאי בספר עבודת הקודש והשל״ה והנפש החיים

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according to wikitext, the original phrase is from the Avodas HaKodesh –  Shmuel Brin Oct 18 '13 at 1:08
Can you include some locations where you have seen the phrase? That could help someone find you an answer. The more information you can give, the better. –  Double AA Oct 18 '13 at 2:00
okay, added an example of use (which also mentions avodat hakodesh, as per shmuel brin's comment). –  paquda Oct 20 '13 at 2:28

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