Note: The reader is advised to review our first three installments of the Arizal's teachings on parashat Behar. The following is a direct continuation of Shabbat: New Souls, New Songs".

Now, on the Festivals, the worlds do not ascend to the extent that they do on the Shabbat. Therefore, types of work associated with the preparation of food [namely, cooking] are permitted, and on the intermediate days of the festivals [chol ha-moed] any type of work that would result in loss if not done is also permitted, as we will explain.

In the sabbatical year, however, the ascent is least of all, and for this reason it is entirely mundane, and only those forms of work that involve working the earth are prohibited, i.e. planting, tilling, etc. This can be explained on the basis of what we have said, i.e. that during the sabbatical year there is no ascent whatsoever from malchut of Atzilut upwards. Thus, the only level that experiences rest and reprieve during the sabbatical year is malchut, which is called "the earth". Therefore, only working the earth is prohibited, while the other types of work - which are relevant to the sefirot above malchut - are permitted.

In Kabbalistic imagery, malchut is often conceptualized as the "earth" and Zeir Anpin as "heaven". The basis of this imagery is both that of the spiritual/material dichotomy, in which Zeir Anpin is the "spiritual", abstract domain of the emotions and malchut the "physical", concrete domain of expression, and that of the male/female dichotomy, in which Zeir Anpin is the male who "rains" his "drops" of fertilizing seed on the "earth" of malchut.

There are thirty-nine categories of work forbidden on the Shabbat:

The primary forms of work are forty less one: [1] sowing, [2] plowing, [3] reaping, [4] binding sheaves, [5] threshing, [6] winnowing, [7] selecting, [8] grinding, [9] sifting, [10] kneading, [11] baking, [12] shearing wool, [13] bleaching, [14] hackling, [15] dyeing, [16] spinning, [17] stretching the threads, [18] making two meshes, [19] weaving two threads, [20] dividing two threads, [21] tying and [22] untying, [23] sewing two stitches, [24] tearing in order to sew two stitches, [25] capturing a deer, [26] slaughtering, [27] flaying, or [28] salting it, [29] curing its hide, [30] scraping it [of its hair], [31] cutting it up, [32] writing two letters, [33] erasing in order to write two letters [over the erasure], [34] building, [35] pulling down, [36] extinguishing, [37] kindling, [38] striking the [final] hammer-blow, [and 39] carrying out from one domain to another: these are the forty primary forms of work less one. (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2)

Of these, the first three are considered "agricultural" forms of work forbidden in the sabbatical year. #4-11 complete the "order of making bread" (as it is called in the Talmud), but are not performed directly on the earth.

We will now explain the types of work associated with the earth, i.e. planting, harvesting, and the like. All these types of earth-work are ways of raising "feminine waters", while the other forms of work, associated with the male paradigm [i.e. Zeir Anpin] are ways of causing "male waters" to descend.

"Male" and "female waters" are the Zoharic terms for "arousal from above" and "arousal from below", the relative forms of initiative in the process of spiritual coupling of the higher, giving player and the lower, receiving player, respectively.

All forms of work elevate the seven fallen Kings….

We have explained that all forms of work elevate the seven fallen Kings and "sweeten" them. In other words, man [through his service of G‑d here on earth] works the supernal "earth" [as well]. But during the sabbatical year, there is no need for man's efforts, as we have explained and will explain further, please G‑d.

The mystical meaning of "sowing" is as follows: There are souls of the order of "feminine waters" that are hidden within the earth, that ascend and become revealed on the face of the earth. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "Light is sown for the righteous" (Psalms 96:11), which implies that [the light] has already been sown and now simply ascends and takes root, as explained in the Zohar. (Zohar II:166b)

Every day, through our Torah study and prayers, we elevate holy sparks out of the realm of evil….

The Arizal explains elsewhere (Etz Chaim 39:2) that every day, through our Torah study and prayers, we elevate holy sparks out of the realm of evil. These ascend into the yesod of Nukva and serve to "arouse", i.e. catalyze the coupling of Zeir Anpin and Nukva through their respective sub-sefirot of yesod. (This is the dynamic of "feminine waters" arousing "masculine waters".) This coupling produces "new" souls. However, when these holy sparks are first liberated from evil, they are not immediately ready to form new souls; they must first remain in the yesod of Nukva (the female "womb") until the next day's coupling.

Thus, these potential souls are "hidden", i.e. being stored, within the "earth", i.e. malchut (specifically, yesod of Nukva). They have already been "sown" in the earth as they have "ascended" from our material world into the spiritual realm of Nukva. The following day, they "become revealed on the face of the earth", i.e. they become active in yesod of Nukva and serve to arouse the yesod of Zeir Anpin to couple. This produces the new "souls", which are either actual souls that later descend into human bodies, heightened levels of divine consciousness that impregnates already living people, or simply divine beneficence that descends to improve the world.

The mystical meaning of "harvesting" is along similar lines: it refers to the supernal process of giving birth. The souls in utero inside Nukva are "harvested" from it and transferred into physical bodies in this world.

In order to understand all this, let us explain this concept as it is found in the Zohar. It is written in the Zohar (ibid.): "And these secrets are only given to those reapers of the workers."

The "reapers of the field" ("chatzdei chakla") is the Zoharic term for the students of Kabbala.

To explain, based on what I have told you in our exposition on Pesach regarding the Splitting of the Sea:

Malchut desires to give birth to the souls impregnated within it. Now, [it is written,] "sin crouches at the door" (Gen. 4:7) - this refers to the Supernal Snake who bites the reproductive organ [of malchut, opening her womb and] causing her to give birth.

The doe cries, and a snake, hearing the cry, bites the doe, tearing open her womb so the fawn can emerge….

We have explained this imagery previously, on parashat Tetzaveh, as follows: The imagery here is that of a young female deer giving birth for the first time. Since this is her first impregnation, the opening of her womb is still "virginal", i.e. narrow - too narrow, in fact, for the fawn to fit through. In her pain trying to give birth, the doe cries, and a snake, hearing the cry, bites the doe, tearing open her womb so the fawn can emerge. Although this benefits the doe, the snake is surely acting only out in its own interest.

When the Jewish people went out of Egypt, they were spiritually immature…. The seven-week period between the Exodus and the Revelation on Mt. Sinai was a maturation process (which we relive every year nowadays as the mitzvah of counting the Omer). Both the Splitting of the Sea, seven days after the Exodus, and the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after the Exodus, were revelations of divinity. But whereas the Jewish people were maturely prepared for the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, the Splitting of the Sea occurred at the beginning of their spiritual education, when they were still "young". Any revelation may be likened to a birth, but this birth was a first birth, and is therefore similar to the first birth of the doe just described.

This induced birthing of malchut thus applies when malchut is "immature", i.e. characterized by egocentricity. The snake is the power of evil - i.e. sin - that crouches at the "door" to malchut, i.e. her womb. Malchut is considered "immature" because of her sense of accomplishment in having rescued the sparks (the previous day) from the clutches of evil.

This is the secret of the divine name KRA STN [literally, "Tear Satan"], for the numerical value of the word "satan" [plus the kolel] is the same as that as the word for "snake" [in Hebrew, "nachash", = 358]. [This alludes to the fact that] "the snake is the one who tears open the womb of the doe". This "tearing" is accomplished by means of this divine name.

One of G‑d's Names is the "42-letter Name", known to us as the initials of the prayer of Rabbi Nechunia ben HaKaneh, often referred to as its first two words, "Ana B'Koach". This name is composed of seven sub-names of six letters each. The initials of the words of the second stanza of this prayer (i.e. the second name) spell the words which mean "tear Satan".

'Satan' in Hebrew means 'accuser', and refers to the angel whose job is to act as the prosecutor in the heavenly court….

"Satan" in Hebrew means "accuser", and refers to the angel whose job is to act as the prosecutor in the heavenly court. Based on the Talmudic saying (Bava Batra 16a) that "he is the Accuser, he is the Evil Inclination; he is the Angel of Death" - i.e. the same force of evil induces a person to sin, prosecutes against him in the heavenly court, and then carries out the sentence - the term "Satan" is often used to refer to evil in general. The Primordial Snake also is personification of evil.

"Satan" is spelled: sin-tet-nun = 300 + 9 + 50 = 359.

"Nachash" is spelled: nun-chet-shin = 9 + 300 + 8 = 358.

The "doe" is an allegory for malchut. Although the simple meaning of "tear Satan" would appear to be "destroy the accuser", it is here interpreted to mean "tear [open the womb of malchut] by means of the power of evil."

However, in order that the forces of evil not latch on to these new souls, they require the prayers of the righteous. Through their prayers, the supernal Nukva can give birth without recourse to the snake crouching at the "door".

Prayer is the means by which we increase our divine consciousness. The effect of this is that the divine consciousness of our "root", malchut, is increased concomitantly. Informed by this increased divine consciousness, the womb of malchut is more receptive to divine input and does not need to be bitten by the snake of egocentricity and self-interest- i.e. be convinced of how it will benefit - to open up.

This is the mystical meaning of why our sages instituted in our prayers the recital of Psalm 20: "May G‑d answer you on the day of your distress…". As is known, it consists of 70 words corresponding to the seventy cries of the woman in labor.

It follows that the prayers of the righteous are required first to sew these souls [in the womb of Nukva] and again thereafter to enable [Nukva] to give birth to them, [the latter] being the mystical "reaping" of the supernal "field".

As mentioned above, the elevation of the sparks into the womb of Nukva is accomplished by our prayers, etc., in this world. Our prayers also obviate the need for Nukva's womb to be torn open forcibly, allowing for "regular" childbirth of the new souls into reality. Prayer is the means by which the sparks released by our other efforts in the world (encapsulated in the general categories of learning Torah and doing mitzvot) ascend.

All this happens by virtue of the deeds and prayers [of the righteous]. Therefore, the sages who understand the mystery of prayer are called "reapers of the field", i.e. those who reap the supernal field and gather its fruits.

Thus, those who accomplish this are called "reapers of the [supernal] field" - where the "fruit" (i.e. new souls) is produced - being malchut.

But in the sabbatical year, all this [effort] is not necessary, as we have explained. [This being the case,] we will now explain why we need to pray or do mitzvot in these periods of time, e.g., the Shabbat or the sabbatical year, inasmuch as everything is accomplished on its own. It would also be proper to know the difference between the Shabbat and the sabbatical year.

The explanation is as follows: On weekdays, we are required to accomplish two things by means of our prayers. The first [thing we have to do] is to rectify Zeir Anpin and Nukva until they reach the state of complete partzufim - each comprising ten sub-sefirot - facing each other back to back. Initially, Zeir Anpin comprises only the six "extremities" and Nukva is only a single point. By means of our deeds, however, they become reconstituted as complete partzufim and postured back to back. The second rectification is to turn them around face to face. They can then couple in order to produce [new] souls.

During the sabbatical year, all we need to do is…to turn them around face to face….

The initial, pre-Tikun state of Zeir Anpin and Nukva is as the six sefirot from chesed to yesod (the six "extremities" of a cube) and the single sefira of malchut. This is a situation of Tohu, characterized by lack of ability to interact fruitfully. Maturation, conferred by expanded divine consciousness, is the process whereby these one-dimensional sefirot are transformed into partzufim, full arrays of inter-included powers that can interact and couple, as we have explained on numerous previous occasions.

The first, a priori state of these partzufim is "back to back", i.e. each concerned with its own internal self-development. The second stage is getting them to interact with each other, so the "content" of Zeir Anpin can be fully expressed in reality through Nukva.

Now, during the sabbatical year, all we need to do is the second rectification, i.e. to turn them around face to face, because of themselves, without our prayers, they are already [full partzufim, but] facing back to back. Then, by virtue of our prayers, they turn around face to face. The Shabbat, however, is [an] even greater [level of sanctity] than this, for on it they even turn around face to face by themselves. When the Shabbat night begins, Malchut [Nukva] turns to face Zeir Anpin.

Our prayers [on Shabbat] are necessary only to elevate [these two partzufim] to a level higher than their natural state, i.e. up to the level of Abba and Imma, as is known.

On Shabbat, the emotions and means of expression become renewed and reinvigorated in the experience of new intellectual insight.

Thus, what is accomplished on weekdays by means of our prayers, i.e. turning them in their place to face each other face to face, is accomplished of itself on Shabbat. Our contribution [on Shabbat] is to elevate them and to ensure that on this higher level they also remain face to face.

On Festivals, Rosh Chodesh, and the intermediate days of the Festivals, [these partzufim] also experience various ascents through our prayers, but in these cases they both ascend simultaneously, as is known.

It follows that, were we to do work on these days, each on according to its level, it would appear (G‑d forbid) as if we were implying that there is something missing above, i.e. that the supernal realms require some rectification on our part. This has the effect of actually causing a defect above (G‑d forbid).

We see here a well-known psychological principle in action, namely, that implicating a deficiency in another actualizes that deficiency in them (as a so-called "self-fulfilling prophecy").

Inasmuch as in the sabbatical year, the "masculine waters" are elicited by themselves, as we have mentioned, all agricultural work is forbidden. Plants that grow on their own [called "sefichin"], however, may be gathered, because they grow by themselves. But whatever man grows through his own efforts is forbidden.

To be continued….

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Ta'amei HaMitzvot, parashat Behar; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.