This secret has been transmitted to the wise ones. At midnight of this night [Shabbat], the Holy One, blessed be He, desires to enter the Higher Garden of Eden [in the World of Beriya, to delight the souls of the righteous]. The secret [of this delight] is that on weekdays at midnight the Holy One, blessed be He, enters the Lower Garden of Eden [representing the union of Jacob and Leah] to delight the [souls of the] righteous who dwell there. But on Shabbat, from Shabbat eve, the Holy One blessed be He [now represented in the partzuf of Israel], enters the Upper Garden of Eden [to unite with Rachel] in the secret of the Supernal Source [yesod of Zeir Anpin].

During the weekdays, all the souls of the righteous dwell in the Lower Garden of Eden. When the day becomes sanctified at the commencement of the Shabbat, all of those camps of holy angels that are appointed over the Lower Garden of Eden elevate these souls that dwell in the Lower Garden of Eden, to bring them to that firmament that stands over the Lower Garden of Eden. From there they call the Holy Chariots that surround the Throne of Glory of the King to come down and elevate all these souls to the Upper Garden of Eden [in the world of Beriya].

When these spirits ascend other holy spirits descend to adorn the Holy People [which is the secret of the extra soul that descends below], these ascend [to the Garden of Eden] and those descend [to crown Israel with the extra soul in the physical world].

BeRahamim LeHayyim: The Secret of Shabbat:

The Hasidic prayer liturgy created a sensation in its day by departing from the traditional Ashkenazic custom, instead adopting the order of prayer of Spanish and Oriental Jewry. But the Hasidic rite for Shabbat contains two additional prayers found neither in Ashkenazic nor in Sefaradic prayerbooks: namely, reciting Psalm 107 (Hodu) before Mincha on Friday afternoon, and inserting the Zoharic passage known as Kegavna, (Zohar II: 135a-b) wherein Shabbat is depicted as the great unifying principle, between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv.

The former custom was evidently introduced by the Ba’al Shem Tov himself, who also wrote a Kabbalistic commentary on this psalm known as Sefer Katan. Indeed, this is one of the handful of writings extant from the Ba’al Shem Tov himself; almost everything we know of his teachings is taken from his words as quoted by his disciples in their books.

The origin of the practice of reciting Kegavna after Lecha Dodi and the two psalms for Shabbat is slightly more ambiguous, but to the best of contemporary scholarship it originated in the circle sometimes referred to as "pre-Hasidic Hasidim", the Kabbalists who gathered early in the 18th century in the kloiz in the Galician city of Brody (or Broide). Moshe Halamish notes that clear references to this passage in connection with Kabbalat Shabbat appear in Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah, Hemdat Yamim and R. Immanuel Hai-Riki’s Mishnat Chasidim. In any event, by the second or third generation of Hasidism the custom seems to have spread to all Hasidic circles and the passage is printed in all Hasidic prayer books.

The central image here is of unification, both above and below. The supernal unification of the various sefirot represented is identified with the simple unity of the light of the Infinite, prior to the process of differentiation and separation involved in the process of Creation. Below, however, it corresponds to Shabbat, which in Kabbalistic thought is also equivalent to Malchut = Shechina = Knesset Yisrael, all of which unify below.

Shabbat is thus the mystery of oneness. This is also seen in terms of sexual imagery, as unification of the Holy King (Tiferet) and the Shechinah (Malchut).

The Shabbat as time of unity is also marked by cessation of all the inner conflicts and tensions within the universe. All powers of wrath and masters of judgment flee and no alien power reigns in all the worlds. The world, which is ordinarily a field of conflict between the powers of love and graciousness and those of wrath, is for one day ruled completely by harmony and love, a kind of foretaste of the Messianic future.

This idea also finds liturgical expression in the universal custom of omitting the verse "vehu rachum" (Psalms 78:38), ordinarily recited just before Barchu on weekday evenings, which mentions sin and transgression. The mere mention of sin, even in the context of its forgiveness by a merciful and compassionate God, is banned on Shabbat!

[From my teacher and colleague R. Yehonatan Chipman.]
What does this mean to you, and why is it revealed to you now?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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