[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: "Supernal Sabbaths".]

Now, humankind certainly requires the assistance of the celestial powers…and the supernal powers require the assistance of the nether powers [i.e. man, in turn]. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "Give power to the angels." (Psalms 68:35) It is only by virtue of what was elevated during the week that malchut ascends on the Shabbat

For this reason the worlds descend on weekdays and become vested in levels below their own in order to assist in the process of elevating the fallen Seven Kings.

Weekday consciousness is therefore one of being out of one's element, being an emissary sent on a mission. Feeling "at home" and "in one's element" is Shabbat-consciousness.

This is why the seven lower sefirot of Atzilut descend and become vested in the seven workdays - in order to elevate it all.

The Arizal now explains why he refers to seven workdays when there are in reality only six.

However, only Zeir Anpin, the male figure, has the power [to do this], so there are therefore only six workdays. The six extremities of Zeir Anpin elevate all the days of the week themselves. But with regard to the seventh day, the Shabbat, [the day of] malchut, malchut is incapable of elevating it. On the contrary, it is only by virtue of what was elevated [by Zeir Anpin] during the week that malchut ascends on the Shabbat.

The "six extremities" of Zeir Anpin are simply the six sefirot out of which it is constructed.

The higher one is, the less he is afraid to descend to a level lower than his.…

This will explain for you why the Shabbat, the holiest day, is associated with malchut, the lowest sefira, while the other days of the week are entirely profane. The reason is that the higher one is, the less he is afraid to descend to a level lower than his. This is not the case with malchut, as should be evident.

The energy and nature of malchut are such that is simply not "equipped" to elevate the lower realms on its own, as is Zeir Anpin. Feminine energy (associated with malchut) is too focused on the divine imperative to spread divine consciousness to contend with the dichotomy of divine consciousness and the material world.

But on the Shabbat, the [consciousness of] malchut [is ascendant], and malchut is incapable of elevating the seven fallen kings. Therefore, on this day the six higher extremities [i.e. Zeir Anpin] that were vested [in the lower worlds] during the six workdays return and ascend to their original status. When they are below, they elevate what there is to elevate below, but when they are above, in their proper places, there is nothing there to elevate. All they do there is couple with one another and produce new souls. This is the secret of the holiness of the Shabbat, and the reason why marital relations are prescribed for Torah scholars on the Shabbat - for on that day [the results of these relations] are new, "Shabbat" souls, originating in an [already] elevated source, and not in the realm [that requires] elevation.

As long as the pervading atmosphere in the lower worlds is determined by one of the six aspects of Zeir Anpin, "male" elevation can occur. As soon as the conduct of the world passes into the hands of malchut, however, elevation is not possible.

A married couple elicits a soul for their offspring relative to their state of consciousness during relations. The ideal time for relations is thus on the Shabbat night, since at that time consciousness is naturally more attuned to higher, divine levels.

The worlds were always on the level that they reach nowadays only on the Shabbat…

Still, the ascent of the worlds on the Shabbat is not a true ascent. As we have explained, when [the sefirot] are in their proper place it is enough for them to elicit new souls [through their coupling]. But when they go to elevate [the sparks of Tohu] they descend to levels lower than their own and become vested [in these levels]. This occurs on weekdays. It thus follows that it is only to their native, original position that they return on the Shabbat. During the week they are not in their true place, but below it, and they only descended there in order to elevate the Seven Kings.

Thus, what happens on the Shabbat is not an "ascent" to a level higher than the native level, but just a return to normality after the exceptional, unusual situation on the weekdays.

You can understand all this [better] based on what we explained in our exposition on Adam, that is, how he was originally on a higher level than Metatron is now. Based on this, you will understand that when Creation first occurred, the worlds were [always] on the level that they reach nowadays only on the Shabbat.

There is no elevation on the Shabbat; everything is new…

It follows that on weekdays [the sefirot] descend in order to elevate [the sparks], and on the Shabbat we restore them to their proper places, in order that they draw down new souls [through their coupling].

This is the reason behind the prohibition of work on the Shabbat, even those types of work necessary for the preparation of food [which are permitted on festivals]. For there is no elevation [to be performed] on the Shabbat; everything is new. Since everything is new, not the fallen remains of a primordial world, there is no need to elevate anything. This is the mystical significance of the "new" song sung on the Shabbat, as it written: "Sing to G‑d a new song" (Psalms 96:1), which we recite on the Shabbat.

Even separating is forbidden on the Shabbat.

Separating (birur) is one of the thirty-nine archetypal forms of work forbidden on the Shabbat. The type of separation forbidden is separating out unwanted elements from a mixture of wanted and unwanted things. For example, if there is a bowl of good and rotten fruit, it is forbidden to separate out the rotten fruit in order to be left with a bowl of good fruit. Separating the good fruit from such a mixture by hand, in order to eat it immediately is permitted, since this is considered the way of eating rather than separating as an end in itself. However, it is forbidden to separate the good from the bad if one is doing so for the sake of eating at a later time rather than right away, since, in this case, the act of separating becomes an end in itself. (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chaim 319:1-2) It is evidently to this type of separating "the wanted from the unwanted" that the Arizal refers to now.

The mystical reason why we do not separate out the wanted from the unwanted on the Shabbat is that on the Shabbat there is no such thing as separating something from refuse - i.e. from the Seven Kings - for everything is in the category of the "wanted" - new souls devoid of any refuse.

The spiritual correlate of "separating" is "elevating", i.e. removing the fallen sparks of Tohu from their material orientation in this world.

When a person does do some manner of work on the Shabbat, such as separating, he causes the supernal energies to descend below, just as they do during the workweek. The forces of evil can then attach themselves to these [energies].

When these energies are dragged down below and there is nothing for them to elevate, they can be easily diverted by the forces of evil for their own purposes.

The forces of evil are called "the realm of death"; it is therefore written [of the Shabbat]: "those who desecrate it shall surely die."

The Torah gives the death penalty to someone who has, on his own, already cut himself off from the source of life.

By working on the Shabbat, the individual has…misdirected divine energy…

Here, by working on the Shabbat, the individual has divorced himself from the divine energy informing the world and, even worse, misdirected divine energy, making it available to the forces of evil. Evil, as we have defined it previously, is the ascendancy in man's consciousness of self-awareness or ego. Attempting to "work", to accomplish and rectify reality, when it is not needed is an affront to G‑d's plan and purpose - as if one is saying that he knows what the world needs more than G‑d does. This attitude, rather than fostering divine consciousness, fosters human ego, which will in the end only oppose divinity.

You will be able to understand this [better] through understanding what we have explained regarding the mystical significance of the Shabbat boundary.

On the Shabbat, it is forbidden to walk further than two thousand cubits (roughly a kilometer) outside the city limits. This idea will now be explained in its mystical dimension.

On weekdays, [the realm of] holiness borders closely to [that of] evil, but on the Shabbat, there is a distance of two thousand "cubits", the Shabbat boundary, between them. Thus, the forces of evil do not cling to holiness.

In this imagery, the settled, civilized city is the metaphor for holiness, and the wild, untamed wilderness (desert, field, forest) surrounding it is the realm of evil. On weekdays, the lines between good and evil are somewhat blurred; it is very easy to slip from doing good into doing the opposite, so one must be constantly on guard.

On the Shabbat, however, evil "retreats" into the wilderness to a distance of 2000 "cubits" from the perimeter of holiness. Since evil is held at a distance, we can be more relaxed and "natural" on Shabbat, and need not be as concerned about falling into the trap of materialism and egocentricity.

Thus, one who works on the Shabbat causes holiness to descend into the realm of evil, and is liable to the death penalty.

This is also why it is forbidden to walk beyond the Shabbat boundary, for the mystical meaning of the boundary is that it extends for 2000 cubits, i.e. [the area originally occupied by] netzach-hod-yesod of Asiya, which ascend [on the Shabbat] to the position of chesed-gevura-tiferet of Asiya. Thus, the [original] position of netzach-hod-yesod of Asiya is left vacant. The forces of evil, whose position is [immediately] below Asiya, cannot ascend to fill this void; this realm is thus left vacant. We are allowed to walk in this [safe] area, but if we go beyond it we cause the supernal "man" to go outside the boundary as well, and he descends into [the realm of] evil.

As the Arizal explained previously, on the Shabbat, malchut ascends with netzach-hod-yesod to the level of chesed-gevura-tiferet.

The "supernal man" is simply the spiritual array of divine attributes (usually Zeir Anpin) that are organized into the form of a "man", i.e. a partzuf.

The feet of a man who walks outside the Shabbat boundary - which is [the physical manifestation of the area normally occupied by] netzach-hod-yesod of Asiya - descend below Asiya into the realm of evil. This is the mystical significance of the Shabbat boundary.

[Click here to continue on to the next installment: "Reapers of the Field".]

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Taamei 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.