"And these are the laws that you should place before them [or "to their inner selves"]: when you purchase a Hebrew servant: for six years shall he work and on the seventh he shall go free." (Ex. 21:1)

There are in general two types of souls: the souls of Atzilut, "human seed", and the souls of the lower worlds, "animal seed". These two types are referred to in the verse in Jeremiah (31:26), "Behold days are coming, says G‑d, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with human seed and animal seed." (In its literal context, this verse refers to G‑d blessing the land with fertile humans and livestock.)

The souls of Atzilut are few.

Most souls are of the lower worlds, Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya. These souls are called "animal seed" because, like animals, they lack daat.

As the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya (ch. 3), when a person has chochma and bina without daat - wisdom and understanding which are not internalized - his religious experience is not real. It is useless fantasies that have no bearing on the person's personality, his middot (lit. emotions). Daat is the act of attaching oneself to a concept, to unite with it…

A child, even one with great wisdom, lacks even the most elementary level of daat and cannot be held responsible for his actions. What he understands intellectually is entirely distinct from his conscience and sense of responsibility. Daat is the act of attaching oneself to a concept, to unite with it so much that it becomes more than an abstract intellectual matter and is actually felt in the heart.

As mentioned, the "animal" souls stem from the lower worlds. And even the loftiest of the three lower worlds, Beriya, does not experience daat. The consciousness of the world of Beriya is nullified to the Divine but only on the level of nullification of being (i.e. there is a distinct self, but that self is nullified - nullification is not natural to it). The angels of Beriya are therefore called beasts and animals, since they lack daat. Their nullification is only one which involves an independent self. The creatures of Beriya understand divinity, they know divinity, but their knowledge and understanding does not become them.

In Atzilut, not only does one understand that it is so, not only does one know that it is so - but one actually becomes this way.

In contrast, the consciousness of Atzilut is one of existential nullification. This state of consciousness is characterized by the lack of any distinct self to nullify. The self of Atzilut is inherently nullified; nullification is natural to it, not an extraneous concept superimposed upon its true psyche. Even the lower souls possess daat, albeit in primeval form…

The souls of Atzilut are therefore called "human seed", since "adam", the Hebrew word for "human" is numerically equivalent to the Hebrew word "mah", meaning "what", which signifies nullification (as when one asks a question).

It is Moses' task, as one of the Seven Shepherds, to nurture the souls which lack daat and draw daat into them.

[Moses' task…Seven Shephers: Micah (5:4) prophesies that "This shall assure peace: If Assyria will come into our land and if he will tread upon our palaces, we will erect against him seven shepherds and eight princes." The Talmud (Sukka 52b) identifies these shepherds and princes: "Who are these seven shepherds? David in the middle, Adam, Seth, and Methusaleh on his right, and Abraham, Jacob, and Moses on his left. And who are the eight princes? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedikiah, Mashiach, and Elijah."

In short, the difference between the shepherds and the princes is that the shepherds "feed" the people, nurture them in an internal way (or pnimi), while the princes influence the people in a transcendent way (makif). For example, within a tzadik there are these two aspects: when he teaches Torah, he is nourishing the student like a shepherd, affecting him in an internal way. By contrast, when the student watches the tzadik praying, this awesome and inspiring sight provides the student with nourishment as well, but not a specific nourishment. It is undefined manner, makif-like - similar to the impression made on a person from the regal and charismatic bearing of a prince as opposed to an actual thought that he has learned. See Torah Ohr 33d.]

How is Moses able to fulfill such a task?

Because, in truth, even the lower souls possess daat, albeit in primeval form. So Moses does not need to create a new phenomenon within them - which would be a far more difficult task; he need only reveal what is dormant within them.

Hence the command to Moses:

When you purchase the Hebrew servant. (Ex. 21:2)

The "Hebrew servant", in Hebrew "eved ivri", refers to a soul of the lower world. He is called a servant, not a son, since he serves G‑d in the manner of nullification of the existent self; he is nullified to G‑d's will, but this nullification is not his natural condition. He does not possess daat. He is not like a son, a tzadik, who is an extension of his father and who is inherently devoted to his father's cause.

Yet, primordially, he is an "ivri", which literally means "from the other side." (Abraham, father of all Jews, is called "ivri", a Hebrew, because he lived on the "other side" - in Hebrew, "eiver" - of the Jordan river and because he was conceptually on "the other side" of the world with his lonely belief in monotheism.) The eved ivri's soul is rooted in a place that does possess daat - even if it is not manifest. Moses…moves their daat from one domain to another, from the hidden to the revealed…

Moses is to purchase this soul. What is the significance of buying? When an object is purchased, nothing new is created. There is merely a change in ownership, a transfer from one domain to another. Similarly, Moses "buys" the Hebrew servant, meaning that he does not create anything new within the souls of the lower worlds, rather he moves their daat from one domain to another, from the hidden to the revealed.

For six years shall he work…. (ibid.)

Once the servant experiences daat (either by receiving it from the Moses of his generation and or developing it through meditative prayer), he is capable of "working for six years". As explained in Tanya (ch. 15), a man can be completely righteous in his actions but would not be called one who "serves" G‑d, since his service extends only as far as his natural inclination allows. Only with daat can a person truly and internally serve G‑d.

"Six years he shall work" refers to the six millennia of history, where it the task of the Hebrew servant to work at transforming his nature and to keep growing from one level to the next.

…and in the seventh year he shall go free. (ibid.)

In the seventh millennia, we will no longer exist in the realm of levels, i.e. ups and downs - but rather will experience tranquility for eternal life. According to some, the mitzvot will be nullified in the World to Come, but this opinion is not the accepted view. Rather, the mitzvot will continue to exist, but on far loftier plane. May the Merciful One grant us the day that is all Shabbat and tranquility for life everlasting.

Adapted from Torah Ohr, Vi'aileh Hamishpatim 5711

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