The first of the laws in the parasha deals with the Jewish servant, both male and female, and is hinted at already in the first of the Ten Commandments. G‑d had liberated Israel from bondage to become exclusively His servants; we know (see Lev. 25:55) that "the Children of Israel are My servants". Rashi refers to this when he explains why the servant who chooses to remain in service [i.e. a slave] has his ear pierced with an awl (Ex. 21:6).

The Exodus from Egypt, mentioned regarding this commandment, is a reference to the renewal of the process of the Creation. As mentioned in the Fourth Commandment, the Shabbat reminds us of the six days during which G‑d created Heaven and Earth. The servant serves six years, corresponding to the six days of Creation…

The servant serves six years, corresponding to the six days of Creation, and in the seventh year he goes free. Just as the six days of Creation (being "G‑d's days") are viewed as the equivalent of one thousand years each, so the Kabbalists view this as a reference to the six thousand years this physical world will exist before a period of one thousand years of ruin, i.e. a period without creative activity. This process is supposed to repeat itself seven times until the year fifty-thousand, which is the secret of the Jubilee - ultimately meaning freedom.

The Exodus is to be viewed as a branch of the tree which represents universal history. This idea was hinted at already at the time of the Exodus, when Israel escaped the power (limitations imposed on all creatures) of the fifty levels of binah, insight. This is the deeper meaning of the verse: "And the children of Israel went out 'chamushim' - armed" (Exodus 13:18); the word "chamushim" can also be translated as the word "fifty" [in Hebrew, "chamishim"], thus the verse can be understood to mean that the target of their ascent was "fifty".

The idea is that when attaining the fiftieth level, one has achieved more than merely escaping a branch of the fifty levels of binah. …the exodus from Egypt is mentioned in the Torah exactly fifty times…

Editor's note: These "50 gates of bina" mentioned are perhaps identical with the 50 gates of impurity that we are all familiar with from Midrashic literature. At any rate, they represent different levels of restraint, exposure to the pull of the material universe.

The fact that the exodus from Egypt is mentioned in the Torah exactly fifty times may further reinforce the idea that after reaching level fifty, freedom becomes absolute.

The author suggests that the average lifespan of man - seventy years - is a further reminder of this concept, allowing for the fact that man is not judged by Heaven for misdemeanours committed during the first twenty years of his life.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk.]