The old man now begins to explain the harm his soul incurs when a person acts wickedly, and why some children die in their infancy. [Note: This is not necessarily true in every case; the intention is only to explain why in some cases children die young.]

He began speaking again: "She [Sarah] said to Abraham, 'drive out this maidservant with her son [Hagar and Ishmael]'" (Gen. 21:10). The circle of disciples pointed out that Sarah wished thereby to remove idolatry from the house; therefore, it is written, "Whatever Sarah will tell you - listen to her" (ibid. v. 12).

Here it is written, "If a man will sell his daughter as a maid servant" (Ex. 21:7) — this refers to the soul as it is reincarnated for its wrongful deeds in this world. "As a maidservant" - this is the sitra achra. When the scales swing to the negative side, and the soul is captured by the forces of evil, when the time comes to extract it from there, it will certainly not "go out like the going out of the [Canaanite]slaves" (Ex. 21:7).

Canaanite slaves (male or female) must be freed if they permanently lose an eye, a tooth, or any, limb, in the course of their duties (see Ex. 21:26-7, Rashi). This rule, however, does not apply to a Jewish maidservant or manservant. If they suffer the same type of loss, their master must compensate them monetarily, but is not obligated to free them.

If allowed to remain alive they will do evil and cause others to do evil as well…

Whose are all those oppressed souls? This is the secret — they are the souls of small children who are still feeding from their mother. The Holy One, blessed be He, sees that if allowed to remain alive they will do evil and cause others to do evil as well. So He gathers them in while they are young, before their evil influence has a chance to spread. What does He do? He allows them to fall prey to 'the maidservant' Lil--, the female counterpart of Satan [Nukva d'Kelipah]. As soon as one is delivered into her hands, she rejoices in that child and imprisons him, removing him from the world while he still suckles from his mother.

Now if you will ask, what if some of those souls will do good in the world? Not so, for the following verse states, "If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master" (Ex. 21:8) - without doubt that person would have done evil in the world had he been allowed to live. That soul is captured; another is not. Regarding this it states, "I saw all the oppressions…" (Ecclesiastes 4:1). This is the meaning of, "If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master..."But the verse continues: "If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who did not designate her." Note that above we translated the verse as: "If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master, who designated her for him[self] …"The word lo [lamed-vav, "for himself"] is used in the k'ri [the pronounced] form of the verse, whereas lo [lamed-alef, "did not"] is used in the ketiv [written] form of the verse. Whenever there are a k'ri and a ketiv form, both meanings are valid. If you will say that the captured soul was designated for the sitra achra from the day of its creation, this is not so, for the ketiv [the way the word is actually written in the Torah] is lamed-alef, meaning "he did not designate her". But now, because the scales have swung to the side of evil, the verse must now be interpreted according to the k'ri -"who designated her for him…" - for the sitra achra. But this was not the case from the outset.

He will allow her to be born to the righteous of the other nations, or to a mamzer learned in Torah

"[Her master] must assist in her redemption" - what is the meaning of "he must assist in her redemption?" Although this is the literal translation of the words, the ostensible meaning is that "he should allow her to be redeemed [by someone else]". However, this is indeed meant literally, for it is the Holy One, blessed be He who extricates her [the soul] while she still exudes a pleasant scent. Before she begins to turn sour [literally, "before she begins to become leavened" - symbolizing the yetzer hara] He raises her up on high, to His Supernal Academy. And if you will say that since she was already captured by "the Other Side" He will allow her to be born to the righteous of the other nations, or to a mamzer learned in Torah (as mentioned above), the verse proves otherwise: "He does not have the right to sell her to a stranger, because he has betrayed her" - since the soul has been captured due to the imbalance in the scales and not because of any sin associated with that particular soul.

[Translation and commentary by Moshe Miller]